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Recovery efforts continue with naming of advisory committee

Date: 7/18/2011

July 18, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The planning effort to rebuild the sections of the city hit by the tornado on June 1 continued with the naming of a committee to advise Mayor Domenic Sarno and the two men heading the recovery effort, Gerald Hayes and Nicholas Fyntrilakis, of the partnership between the Springfield Redevelopment Authority and DevelopSpringfield.

Fyntrilakis said the group would provide “grassroots advice ... from folks who’ve been impacted directly.”

The group includes: Leo Florian, president of the South End Citizens Council; Alicia Zoeller, member of the Maple High/Six Corners Neighborhood Council; Ethel Griffin, president of the Old Hill Neighborhood Council; Mattie Lacewell, secretary of the Upper Hill Residents Council; Chris Caputo, president of the East Forest Park Civic Association; David Jarnes, vice president of the Sixteen Acres Civic Association; Shalimar Colon, principal of Brightwood Elementary School; Rev. Bruce Shaw, senior pastor of New Hope Pentecostal Church; Attorney Laura Marino; Jill Russell, executive vice president of Springfield College; Raymond Jordan, Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership coordinator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Hector Toledo, vice president of Hampden Bank; Carlos Gonzalez, president of the Latino Chamber of Commerce; Don Courtemanche, executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District; and Peter Gagliardi, president of HAP Housing.

Sarno noted that a number of the group’s members live in the affected neighborhoods and are dealing with recovery efforts with their own properties.

He called the announcement of the advisory group six weeks after the tornado a “huge milestone.”

Besides advising Hayes and Fyntrilakis in the creation of a long-term recovery plan, the group will help guide the implementation of the plan and build a consensus of support for the plan in the city, Fyntrilakis explained.

The meetings for the group will be open to the public and the media and the first meeting will be July 20 from 3 to 5 p.m. when the group will tour neighborhoods affected by the storm with Hayes and Fyntrilakis.

Hayes said a Request for Qualifications has been issued from a consultant to assist in writing the plan. Hayes explained the successful candidate for the job must have experience in planning recovery scenarios for municipalities that have suffered from similar situations.

Hayes added the intent is to create the plan by Thanksgiving.

Fyntrilakis estimated the cost for developing the plan could be as high as $500,000 with another $200,000 to $300,000 for the administrative implementation of the plan — a sum that does not include funding for the actual projects.

The city is accepting donations as well as looking at various funding sources to underwrite this activity and Sarno noted the owners of the Bob’s Furniture chain, who have family roots in the city, recently made a $25,000 donation that will be used for the development of the plan.

Fyntrilakis added a group of school children in Connecticut were so moved by the recent events they sent a check to the city for $75.

The recovery plan does not include such immediate goals as the construction of temporary classrooms at the Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School and at the Mary A. Dryden Veterans Memorial School, nor for the repairs of those schools, Sarno said.

Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management, explained the school projects and the repair of infrastructure, such as broken sidewalks, are being handled separately.

Sullivan added both schools would be ready to accept its students at the beginning of the school year.

Zoeller, a resident of the Maple High/Six Corners neighborhood for 17 years, praised the city’s response to the tornado calling it “exceptional.”

As an attorney who has experience working in housing and community development issues, she added her neighborhood before the tornado was dealing with issues created by absentee landlords and housing designed for transients. Up until the advent of ward representation, the neighborhood didn’t receive the representation it deserved, she noted.

Zoeller called her neighborhood “a fantastic place to live.”

Sarno said with the creation of the advisory group, “It’s full steam ahead.”

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