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Friday, June 24 2016

Greenfield's Vision of the Future Moves Forward

Adapted from a Town of Greenfield press release:

“Greenfield continues to make amazing progress on achieving its goals as laid out in Sustainable Greenfield, our Master Plan,” says Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee (SGIC) Chair Mark Maloni. “In the past six-months we have made significant progress toward our goals of improving our downtown and the health and well being of community members. In addition, we are making our community more resilient by improving infrastructure, such as our buildings and water systems, while reducing fossil fuel use. We have also made funding commitments and passed several ordinances that have set the stage for continued progress.”

Improving Downtown/Economic Development

“Over the past six months several projects have been completed to enhance Main Street, fulfilling Sustainable Greenfield’s vision of improving downtown resources that we already have in place,” says SGIC Member, and Special Assistant to the Mayor, John Lunt. Downtown growth includes the expansion of entertainment at the Arts Block to weekdays as well as weekends; the opening of a frame shop inside Greenfield Gallery and Fine Printing; the purchase of Magical Child by Jessica Mullins of the World Eye Bookstore; the expansion of the Franklin Community Coop and Green Fields Market into 170 Main Street; and the opening of three new stores: Mimosa Thrift Shop, The Dreamboat Health Collective, and Heart of Paris.

When Bob Cartelli, owner of the Toyota/Ford dealership on Main Street, unveiled his new $7.4 million sales and service building, he said that he is excited about what is going on in Greenfield and the positive growth in the business community and hopes other businesses will also invest in Greenfield. In addition, the Meadows Golf Course and Restaurant is open after major renovations and is now a full service family restaurant open for lunch and supper seven days a week. Owner Constant Poholek’s plans include adding a driving range, mini-golf course, and canoe and kayak rentals on the Deerfield River to create a Family Fun Center.

Community Wellbeing

In addition to an improved downtown, the wellbeing of our community has been enhanced by investments in lower income housing, several new programs for young people at our schools, and upgrades to parks.

The Community Builders, owner of Leyden Woods, is completely rebuilding their housing development, which serves as home to over 400 people, and the first phase of this $70 million project is complete. Greenfield Housing Authority, which owns Oak Courts, is celebrating their one-year anniversary of completely rebuilding the complex, and it looks beautiful! More good news is that permanent housing has been found for almost all of the families in transition staying in Greenfield hotels, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Franklin County Housing & Redevelopment Authority staff. The CleanSlate Opioid Center has also opened at 1 Arch Place, a result of tireless efforts by the Opioid Task Force.

As for our schools, better food, composting in the cafeteria, and a new program that helps students resolve conflict through peer communication and mediation, as well as substance abuse screening for 7th & 10th graders, are all contributing to their wellbeing.

"Breakfast in the Classroom" is now offered in most of our elementary and middle schools thanks to a grant from the Eos Foundation of Harwich Port. Greenfield Public Schools Food Service Director Madison Walker is bringing more fresh, locally-grown, food to school children through a partnership with Just Roots and the "Harvest of the Month" program offered through the Massachusetts Farm to School program. Additionally, composting systems are now in place in all the school cafeterias. The effort teaches young people good habits and over 75% of the cafeteria trash is now going to Martin’s Farm for composting. Greening Greenfield recognized Amy Donovan, of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, for her 3-year effort to bring composting to our schools.

Finally, a beautiful new "kids train" has been added to the Greenfield Energy Park and offers exercise and endless delight to toddlers, pre-schoolers, and their parents.

Energy-related Improvements and Accomplishments

Improving town buildings and cutting our use of fossil fuels are critical components to the Sustainable Master Plan implementation. In our schools, the installation of a new roof at Newton Street School became an opportunity to add ceiling insulation to save energy costs and increase comfort for students and staff. Gymnasium lighting upgrades also resulted in reduced energy use by installing LED lights that are not only energy efficient but very long lived. Green River School also has new energy efficient windows and several old underground oil tanks have been removed.  “The financial savings the Town is seeing from energy upgrades and solar farm production is impressive,” says Greenfield Energy and Sustainability Director Carole Collins. “Over the past 4 years, Greenfield has saved over $2 million on utility bills. Last year we saved over $400,000, and expect annual savings to increase as we make additional improvements.”

Greening Greenfield thanked Carole Collins for her work by giving her an award during their 10th Anniversary party in May.  Ms. Collins will be releasing a full report soon about how these savings have come about, including details about how the town has reduced its dependence on fossil fuels and its greenhouse gas emissions. In April, Mayor Martin was invited to speak at the Sustainable Communities Conference in Northampton about the many energy-related innovative efforts in Greenfield.

Town Government: New Services & Policies

January ushered in a new town council and Mayor Martin was sworn in for the next 4 years. Since that time, the stage has been set to ensure that many aspects of the mayor's vision for enhanced services for residents, such as communications, community and senior meeting spaces, and improved water systems, are now in place.  Special Assistant to the Mayor Lunt is proud of the town’s new website and promises further improvements.

The main goal was to join the “Open Government” movement and make it easy for citizens to look at processes such as the budget, requests for proposals (RFPs), and committee minutes.  Additionally, residents can report such things as potholes through the 311 service on the upper left corner of the town’s home page and the town calendar now includes events happening in the community in addition to town meetings.  Also, expanded Code Red services provide evidence that the town is now better connected to the National Emergency Broadcast System.  Looking to the future, the town council has made budgetary commitments and passed several new policies and ordinances that have set the stage for improving all our lives.

The most visible budgetary commitment was the April council vote to build a community/senior center on Davis Street, with promises that the $4.4 million project will not raise our taxes. Also in April, a “Complete Streets” policy was adopted, highlighting the town’s vision of a ‘multi-modal’ community with streets that are safe for bikers, public transit users, and walkers in addition to automobiles. The policy ensures that all future projects will contribute to this vision and Greenfield has taken steps to be eligible for enhanced funding and to secure grants for these projects.

A no less important budgetary commitment is $3 million for the DPW to start work on ensuring that our drinking water system is more secure and our rivers are clean. These funds will partially go towards repairing our 100-year old holding tank near Poet Seat Tower. This is where our three water sources come together before being delivered to us mostly, through the power of gravity. This tank has been leaking valuable water and its failure is unthinkable. These funds will also be used to repair leaks in the sewage pipes, in order to reduce the volume of water that ends up at our sewage treatment plant. “Greenfield has many sewer pipes over 70 years old,” explains Greenfield Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Don Ouellette. “Leaks allow rain and ground water to enter pipes and increase the volume of water the sewage treatment plant has to treat in heavy storm events. This puts the plant over capacity and can result in inferior treatment.”  The DPW is also offering up to a $500 rebate to homeowners who retrofit sump pumps connected to the sewer system in their basements. The money is to offset the cost to upgrade their systems so the water is instead pumped into the storm drain system that bypasses the sewage treatment plant and drains directly into our rivers.

In May, the town council adopted a new Tree Ordinance, the product of over two years of work. The ordinance supports the Sustainable Greenfield goal of increasing the town’s tree canopy by enabling the DPW and citizens to plant in the tree belt and has the added benefits of making our town more beautiful and walkable, and cooler in the summer. Votes cast in November at the ballot box are also closer to becoming policy. The town council voted to take out a loan to get Greenlight up and running to bring broadband to town, with the goal of completing the project in the spring of 2017. The loan will be paid off by users of the service. The town council is also voting on an ordinance to ban the use of Styrofoam take-out containers. “It is heartening to see the vision laid out by residents in our master plan come to fruition, one project at a time,” said Mark Maloni, SGIC chair, and town council member. “These achievements are possible through the efforts of many people throughout town and beyond, and we are optimistic we will all continue to work toward the vision laid out in Sustainable Greenfield.”