|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE Mayor Michael Sullivan made an initial case at his monthly Industrial Advisory Committee meeting on April 4 for the creation of a redevelopment authority for the city.
A redevelopment authority would be a public administrative unit given the responsibility of renovating blighted areas.
Sullivan said such an authority is "a necessity for the city of Holyoke."
A redevelopment authority can access more federal funding, he explained, and could develop a comprehensive plan for the city.
He said that under current rules most of the city would fall under a redevelopment authority. The exceptions would be a small part of west Holyoke and the part of the city that is closest to Northampton.
There are currently 200 buildings in the city that need demolition, Sullivan said. The estimated cost is $21 to 22 million and he added that is not a burden he is willing to put on the taxpayers.
He has spoken to the congressional delegation for earmarks in the federal budget that amount to $50 million.
"I doubt that we will get $50 million, but I'll take whatever millions they give me," he said.
A discussion on the status of the city's infrastructure also took place at the meeting. Jack Bonomo, vice president of Aquarian Operating Service Company, outlined the number of improvements the company has made on the city's wastewater treatment plant and discussed the progress made on the combined sewer overflow (CSO) facility on Berkshire Street.
There have been numerous equipment upgrades and additional training of the operating personnel, Bonomo said.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that cities and towns in the region separate sewers that carry both rain water and sewage. With substantial rainfall, raw sewage can be swept into the Connecticut River.
The CSO facility is about 80 percent completed and is expected to be on-line early next year. Bonomo said the project was "well ahead of schedule."
The Berkshire Street facility will correct 85 percent of the city's CSO problem, and Sullivan said that the remaining CSO projects would be more expensive than this plant. He said he is hoping the EPA will give the city "some breathing room" by extending the deadline it has order the city.
City Engineer Matt Sokop briefed the committee on the status of other projects including the restoration of Commercial Street. Sokop said the project is about 43 percent finished and is costing $3.3 million. Upcoming projects include a renovation of Pleasant Street.
Sullivan said he has requested the City Council approve $1 million from the free cash account for road and sidewalk repairs.
"If we get less than $1 million, we will fall significantly behind," he said.