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Residents to meet again on June 24

Date: 6/22/2011

June 22, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Ward Three City Councilor Melvin Edwards, whose representation includes the tornado-battered neighborhood of Maple High Six Corners, wants the residents of that neighborhood to have a voice in decisions about how the neighborhood should be re-built.

Neighborhood residents will be able to ask questions of city and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials about re-building and other tornado-related matters at a meeting at the J.C. Williams Community Center, 116 Florence St. at 6:30 p.m. Jun e 24.

At the Maple High Six Corner Neighborhood Council meeting on June 14, Edwards, who is also president of that group, said he has met with City Solicitor Edward Pikula to discuss potential overlay zoning that could restrict new construction to buildings with no more than two families in the neighborhood.

Edwards said"a lot of the people planning the re-building, don't live here," and he is advocating for local voices to be involved.

Re-building is taking place in the neighborhood as the owners of houses are repairing storm damage.

Edwards cautioned about the selection of contractors.

"Don't pay for services not rendered," he said. "Use only contractors licensed in Massachusetts. You need to ask, you need to do your due diligence."

He noted, "Generally, crime has been down in the neighborhood since this has happened."

With the neighborhood's only park, Ruth Elizabeth Park on Hancock Street, damaged and one of the two schools in the neighborhood, Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School, closed prematurely this school year for repairs, Edwards also expressed concerns about this summer and what kind of recreational opportunities there will be for children.

Although some people at the meeting spoke of having programs for children at Ruth Elizabeth Park, Edwards said budget-wise the city is already "strapped" and is employing furloughs and layoffs to cut expenses.

"[Programs for children are] so far down the line right now," he said.

The emphasis has to be fixing or demolishing condemned properties and regaining residents, he added.

There is a debate going on, he said, whether to not the city will be able to afford turning on spray parks and opening pools this summer. Ruth Elizabeth Park does have a spray park.

Edwards said there is a "huge amount of services" for victims of the storm but communications has been a problem "[we've] probably not done the best job getting the info out."

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