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Chicopee Comprehensive receives state grant

Date: 12/23/2014

CHICOPEE – Christmas – in the guise of state grants and allocations – came a few days early to Chicopee and Westover Air Reserve Base (WARB).

State Rep. Joseph Wagner and Mayor Richard Kos spoke about the funding on Dec. 22.

The city will receive $1 million for the demolition of 27 acres of former base housing and its preparation of land for a solar field to be constructed outside of WARB.

The city received the property in 2011.

Kos explained the new solar field should allow the city to decrease electric bills by 5 percent, which will mean the base – which spends nearly $2 million with the city for electivity –  would save about $100,000 a year.

Wagner said developments such as this one show the cooperation the city and the base have, which could prevent future realignments of the base’s mission or its closing.

“Anything that helps Westover helps Chicopee,” Wagner said.

Kos said the city will go out for bid at the same time for the demolition of the housing and the preparation of the property along with the contractor to build the solar field.

Chicopee Comprehensive High School is the recipient of an $83,086 grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, while $93,000 of a military bond bill will go to WARB.

The funding to the high school will allow the purchase of an Objet30 Pro 3D printer and other materials for the Machine Tool Technology Program. The printer will enable the school to add an Additive Manufacturing component to computer aided drafting and other programs.

Comp principal Derek Morrison told Reminder Publications he was “thrilled to expand the program offerings” at the High School.

He explained the school had submitted two grant proposals – one from the Mathematics Department and the other from Career Tech – in the competitive STEM Equipment and Supplies Grant Program.

“Anytime you can put state of the art equipment in students’ hands, it will improve their skill set,” Morrison said.

Wagner said, “This grant will ensure that our students have access to the necessary educational tools to prepare them for the 21st century job market. The funds will help introduce students to new course curriculum that is specifically designed to prepare them to meet the industry needs of the Pioneer Valley.”

An upgrade of the base’s central energy management system and boilers will be funded by $930,000.

“With the military bond bill, the Chicopee legislative delegation and the legislature as a whole sought to strengthen our bases as strategic and economic resources for years to come. Projects like these help further that important goal,” Wagner said. “The initiatives authorized today are cost-effective, energy efficient and will provide substantial annual savings for Westover. These savings will make the base an even stronger economic asset for our city and the entire Western Massachusetts region.”

Gov. Deval Patrick also announced on Dec. 19 a business plan for the military and civilian sides of the base. Among the plans are a $5 million aeronautics research and development partnership between the base and the University of Massachusetts housed at the base.

The plan also looks at having 24 hour runway access, as well as  a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Facility, a $100,000 study will explore the business case, design for hangar renovation, and potential for investment to attract an airline or private operator to provide MRO services.

Kos said he is excited about the possibility for join growth the latter idea has for the city and the region.

“Westover Airport and Westover Air Reserve Base are two stellar assets with so much potential for smart growth,” said Governor Patrick.  “To support the region’s economy and potential for more private and commercial air service, I commissioned this report to look at a wide variety of options.  I’m pleased with the team’s effort and with UMass Amherst’s plan to open a Research, Development and Training Center in Chicopee to tap into the innovative minds in the city and region.”