Not a member? Become one today!
         iBerkshires     Williamstown Chamber     Williams College     Your Government     Land & Housing Debate
Williamstown Select Board Awards ARPA Funds to Remedy Hall
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:09AM / Friday, March 29, 2024
Print | Email  

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday allocated $20,000 in COVID-19-era relief funds to help a non-profit born of the pandemic era that seeks to provide relief to residents in need.
On a unanimous vote, the board voted to grant the American Rescue Plan Act money to support Remedy Hall, a resource center that provides "basic life necessities" and emotional support to "individuals and families experiencing great hardship."
The board of the non-profit approached the Select Board with a request for $12,000 in ARPA Funds to help cover some of the relief agency's startup costs, including the purchase of a vehicle to pick up donations and deliver items to clients, storage rental space and insurance.
The board estimates that the cost of operating Remedy Hall in its second year — including some one-time expenses — at just north of $31,500. But as board members explained on Monday night, some sources of funding are not available to Remedy Hall now but will be in the future.
"With the [Williamstown] Community Chest, you have to be in existence four or five years before you can qualify for funding," Carolyn Greene told the Select Board. "The same goes for state agencies that would typically be the ones to fund social service agencies.
"ARPA made sense because [Remedy Hall] is very much post-COVID in terms of the needs of the town becoming more evident."
In a seven-page letter to the town requesting the funds, the Remedy Hall board wrote that, "need is ubiquitous and we are unveiling that truth daily."
In January, Remedy Hall's third month of operation, the non-profit distributed 735 items, mostly "hygiene items and cold weather clothing." In February, it distributed 645 items despite being closed Feb. 13 to 19. As of March 15, the date of the letter to the town, Remedy Hall had distributed 851 items, surpassing each of its four previous months.
"On Friday (March 22) alone, we had about 180 items leave," Remedy Hall founder Andi Bryant told the Select Board. "That's just one day."
In addition to hard numbers, the Remedy Hall board also provided the Select Board with testimonials about the impact the non-profit has had on individuals.
"Having been disabled and receiving SSDI as my only income, most of my funds go towards rent, gas, heat and electric bills," one note began. "Very little funds remain each month to buy much as my food stamps have been cut to $225 a month, and I always have to spend what little cash is left on food, which leaves nothing for clothes, soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, and any basic hygiene products. Remedy Hall provided for me, for free, all of my basic necessities; including toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothing, shoes and boots. I had no winter jacket with a working zipper, and Remedy Hall found me an extra-large, high quality jacket; one of the nicest that I have ever owned."
And there is an impact that goes beyond the tangible items.
Part of the board's budget for continued operation is $4,472 per year for a part-time social worker. Part of Remedy Hall's mission is to listen to its clients and help connect them to social services.
"I don't want to call it counseling, because [Bryant is] not a counselor, but she's a counselor to the folks in need in this community," Greene said. "A lot of these are families with small children who are just enrolling in the school system. They may be coming from another part of the state or another part of the country or another country entirely.
"It's as close as this town has to wraparound services … connecting people to resources that can help them transition to a community they hope to call home. In addition to the basic goods, it's the time spent assuring these people that someone has their back. One thing we don'ave that we could use is some professional guidance. That's the request for a part-time social worker."
The response from members of the Select Board was swift.
"You're not asking for enough money," Patton said of Remedy Hall's request for $12,000. "To have this kind of impact on someone's life simply by giving them a toothbrush and some toothpaste is extraordinary. We should support this as much as we can."
Chair Jeffrey Johnson asked for a motion to commit $20,000 of the town's remaining ARPA funds to Remedy Hall, a motion that quickly passed on a 4-0-1 vote with Randal Fippinger, a Select Board member and member of the Remedy Hall Board of Directors abstaining.
Monday's meeting again was dominated by discussion of a proposed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The Select Board did conduct a fair amount of other business before that debate began.
The meeting included a public hearing — but no resolution — on a request from the homeowners association of residents on Sweet Farm Road to accept the street off Henderson Road and its associated water and sewer infrastructure as public.
Department of Public Works Director Craig Clough recommended to the board that the town not accept the privately built development.
Clough said he looked at the conditions of the infrastructure and the minutes of Planning Board hearings going back to 2002, when the subdivision was proposed.
"[The infrastructure] is not up to town codes, does not have an adequate water system and would require significant hardship for the town to take it on," Clough said.
"I'm very concerned this could create a slippery slope and result in similar requests to accept water systems not up to code."
One issue is that the neighborhood, which is served by its water pump, includes homes above the 971-foot elevation that the town's water system currently supports, Clough said. Another is that the water system that serves the neighborhood includes PVC piping where the town code would require copper tubing, he said.
Clough also referred to the slope of Sweet Farm Road itself, a grade that would present concerns when it comes to winter maintenance.
"I urge the Select Board to leave it a private way," Clough said. "In my opinion, the risks are too large to take on a privately built and owned development."
Gerard Smith, the president of the HOA, told the Select Board that the group that the association's attorney was unable to attend Monday's hearing and asked for the public hearing to be continued.
Smith did address one of Clough's concerns by noting that the existing pump station for Sweet Farm Road has redundancy built in with four separate pumps to maintain flow to the highest residences if there was a problem.
"There are some things here that we need to look at," Smith said. "But I'm a little worried that, because this HOA is the first one to come before you with the pump supply, that we seem to be being penalized for some of the understanding of what it is we have to do."
The board agreed to continue the hearing to its next meeting on April 8 and allow town hall to continue its discussions with the Sweet Farm HOA.
In other business on Monday, the Select Board:
Heard from Johnson that the date of the annual town meeting has been changed from Tuesday, May 21, to Thursday, May 23, due to a scheduling conflict at Mount Greylock Regional School, which has a concert scheduled for the Tuesday evening. The Select Board moved the meeting from Williamstown Elementary School to Mount Greylock a couple of years ago to take advantage of the larger gymnasium, which allows for more social distancing.
• Met jointly with the board of trustees of Milne Public Library to fill a vacancy on the latter body. Jared Della Rocca, a town resident and librarian at Bennington College, was unanimously named to the library board to fill the term of Timothy Cherubini, who earlier this month was named by Gov. Maura Healey to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
• Announced that the board still is accepting input on a plan to designate an off-leash dog park area in the Spruces Park on Main Street.
• And began the process of evaluating Town Manager Robert Menicocci. Johnson asked his colleagues to, as soon as possible, submit to him a list of the five people they would like to interview as part of the evaluation process. Johnson will coordinate to make sure there is no duplication among the lists.
More Featured Stories is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Sreet, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384
© 2011 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved