Paper City Notes: Council approves $500,000 CPA funding for playground and preservation work

HOLYOKE — City Council approved half a million dollars in Community Preservation Act funding for two projects, one of which sparked nearly an hour of debate in council chambers.

In a unanimous vote, the city council voted April 5 to award a $350,000 grant to the Miracle League of Western Massachusetts to build a playground at Kennedy Park that will be accessible to children with disabilities. Another project — $150,000 for nonprofit Girls Inc. to carry out preservation work on its historic building — passed with just one “no” vote, pending approval from the city’s legal department. city.

This second project, which would pay for brickwork, facade and roof repairs as part of a larger $5 million renovation, has been met with intense back-and-forth after several councilors called it quits. interrogates. In particular, General Councilor Kevin Jourdain expressed his dismay at funding the work of a non-profit organization, given that it does not pay municipal taxes, and questioned whether the money was going to the building maintenance, which is prohibited by state law.

“I think we’ve been very generous to this particular group, which is a wonderful group,” Jourdain said at one point. He said he feared funding from a private group would set a precedent. “My concern is that if it’s noble, many other things will be noble.”

Girls Inc., which seeks to empower young girls in the community, has long sought its own space. Last year, it purchased the historic former headquarters of famed property developer The O’Connell Companies, located at 480 Hampden St.

Several councilors pointed out that the city has already awarded CPA funds to private institutions and nonprofits, from a playground at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club to restoring horses on the Holyoke Merry-Go- Round.

“The money we’re investing is in the building,” said At-Large Councilman Israel Rivera, who is the city council’s representative on the city’s CPA committee. “For me, this is a project that will bring long-term and short-term public benefit.”

Several other councilors questioned whether the organization’s proposal constituted upkeep of the building, leading councilors to ultimately vote to approve the project subject to the city’s legal department answering this question. . Jourdain was the only councilor to vote against the funding.

Miracle League’s “Everyone’s Playground” is a fully accessible adaptive playground. Meg McGrath Smith of the city’s CPA committee explained to the city council’s finance committee on March 28 that the playing field will be located on city-owned land adjacent to the playing field that is already at Kennedy Field. This will benefit families who may have multiple children with different abilities, she said.

“The benefit of being able to put it next to an existing playground is that it really becomes a really usable space for families that have multiple children,” McGrath Smith said.

Menstrual Fairness Initiative at HCC

Students on the Holyoke Community College campus will now have access to free menstrual hygiene products as part of a “menstrual fairness” initiative.

Last month, the college announced that it had begun placing menstrual fairness boxes on campus. The boxes contain free menstrual products for those who need them. There are currently nine clubs on campus. In a statement, Rosemary Fielder, coordinator of the college’s Thrive Student Resource Center, said menstrual products are expensive and students on federal food subsidies cannot use those benefits to purchase the products.

“It’s about breaking down non-academic barriers,” Fielder said. “It goes hand in hand with school supplies, housing, food and transportation. It’s a small thing we can do as an institution that can profoundly improve a student’s everyday experience, and that’s what Thrive’s mission is all about.

J. Gi, a former school counselor, helped lead the campaign. A computer science major at school, Gi also designs a computerized inventory management system to track supplies in the boxes, which include tampons, pads and Diva cups, which are reusable menstrual devices.

“Access to menstrual products not only affects health, but can also impact school attendance,” Gi said. “Providing products to people who just don’t carry them in their bags all the time means they can take longer exams and stay in class all day.”

Planned restaurant week

The city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development has announced that it is hosting an “Explore Holyoke Restaurant Week” to promote restaurants in the city.

In partnership with Glammoré Premier Events, the office announced that the week was scheduled for June 6 to June 12. The initiative is part of the city’s 2019 tourism plan, which aims to promote local businesses and tourism.

“Explore Holyoke Restaurant Week will be a fun way for people to find their new favorite restaurant and support great businesses in the city,” Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Aaron Vega said in a statement. “The week will include cooking demonstrations by many of our unique and ethnically diverse restaurants.”

As part of Restaurant Week, attendees will be able to track their “Food Journey” with stamps in a “Food Passport” that can then be used as coupons at those same restaurants. Restaurants must confirm their participation in the event by May 6.

Dusty Christensen can be contacted at [email protected]

Harold B. McConnell