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Murray announces new initiatives for tornado victims

Date: 8/22/2011

Aug. 22, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray used a tour to see the tornado damaged the Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start headquarters on Madison Avenue to announce a new initiative to assist communities that were damaged by the June 1 tornado.

Murray said the state is making $230,000 available to communities for competitive planning grants.

The funds, which municipalities can apply for beginning this week through the Department of Housing and Community Development, can be used for hiring a professional planner or regional planning agency to assist a community in its rebuilding efforts, he explained.

The grants will be awarded late September and are coming from the $15 million for state emergency response efforts included in a supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick in June.

Murray said the grants will fund effort to “re-look [at] and redesign” communities.

He did not know how many grants would come out of the $230,000 pool or how large the grants will be. He noted that many of the communities affected by the tornado do not have either “capacity or the staff” to address planning issues of this kind.

He acknowledged it would take “months if not years to the communities back to pre-storm levels of building.”

Murray said there has been discussion about the state financially assisting cities and town with the removal of tornado-related debris.

Noting the cuts in federal spending, Murray expressed concerns about the future and how the decreases in money from Washington, D.C., would affect the state.

“It’s just the beginning,” he predicted.

He said he is worried about Congressional authorization of the federal monies for transportation. There could be a cut in the transportation budget of 30 percent, which could negatively impact many necessary infrastructure projects.

After meeting with the press, Head Start Executive Director Janis Santos took him on a tour of the building, which was damaged by the tornado. The large Victorian era building was once the home of the Putnam family — including the former Springfield Mayor Roger L. Putnam — and then converted to a school.

Santos brought Murray through the building pointing out damage that ranged from broken stained glass windows to a leaking roof that has damaged plaster walls on the third floor.

Like many properties in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood, there was significant tree damage as well.

Murray said his visit was intended to call attention to people who have “worked hard to come back [from the tornado].”

He added, “We remain committed to supporting our municipal partners as we continue the important work of rebuilding communities affected by the June 1 storms. While it is encouraging to see the Head Start program in Springfield back to work, helping children and families in the community, there is more work to be done. We thank the Legislature for their support, and we look forward to seeing this funding help severely impacted communities become stronger than they were before.”

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