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Holyoke Will Spend First Round Of ARPA Funds On Housing, Infrastructure Projects

Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy announces allocations for $14.9 million in funds the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Paul Tuthill
Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy announces allocations for $14.9 million in funds the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Allocations also for small business assistance, turnout gear for firefighters

The city of Holyoke, Massachusetts is among the first in the region to announce how it will spend a sizable chunk of COVID relief funding from Washington.

Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy has announced that $14.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will be spent on a number of projects with an emphasis on housing, repairs to public buildings, and water and sewer infrastructure.

“This $14.9 million, I think, is going to make a significant difference,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s announcement Tuesday at City Hall followed a three month review of 62 proposals from various entities that totaled almost $100 million. There were public presentations, analysis by multiple city departments, and debate by the City Council. Murphy had the final say.

“I do believe Holyoke has had if not the best, one of the best open transparent processes for all of the ARPA funds that are being distributed in this area,” Murphy said.

More than $2.5 million is being awarded to several nonprofit groups to assist with projects to build new or rehab hundreds of houses and rental apartments. Murphy said this helps realize a goal to revitalize neighborhoods.

“These homes are going into where there are vacant lots and boarded up buildings that were torn down,” Murphy said. “We need to reinvest in those neighborhoods. We’ve got to change the image of this city. We are far better than the picture people get when they come by.”

The Valley Opportunity Council will receive $196,000 that executive director Stephen Huntley said will be used for rent and mortgage assistance.

“We hope we won’t need the money, but our experience is folks are going to get evicted, homeowners are falling behind on mortgages and it is only getting worse now that this second wave of COVID is coming in and there is less flexibility with employers,” Huntley said.

$4 million is being earmarked for what Murphy said will be a variety of improvement projects at a number of municipal buildings including City Hall, the Holyoke Library, the police headquarters, and fire stations.

“And if we learned anything else with the pandemic, we’ve got to improve the air quality, we’ve got to improve our ventilation,” Murphy said.

A sizable chunk of the ARPA funds will be spent on water and sewer infrastructure with $2 million to replace a water line that services the Holyoke Medical Center and $2.6 million for sewer system projects.

Murphy announced $800,000 will go to the city’s Office for Community Development to make grants to struggling small businesses.

“It is our expectation that we can help those hurt by the pandemic and give them a shot in the arm and those who have been doing okay but could use a boost give them an opportunity,” Murphy said.

Lastly, Murphy said he will spend $339,000 to purchase turnout gear for Holyoke firefighters.

$1.7 million is being used to offset lost revenue in order to balance the city’s budget.

There is more ARPA money in the pipeline to Holyoke. The city is getting $3.85 million as its share in lieu of county government and plans to allocate that this fall.

Murphy said entities that were not funded initially should try again.

Applications for the new round of funding are due September 21.

The city of Holyoke will receive a second ARPA payment totaling $14.9 million in the spring of 2022.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.