Baker Pushes Fix for Vacant Stores; Hellen Sees Possible Boon for Franklin


Gov. Charlie Baker pitched lawmakers Monday on his $3.5 billion economic development package, saying at a hybrid hearing that COVID-era supply chain constraints, deadlines for using American Rescue Plan Act funding and general complexities in construction all mix together into a need for quick action.

Joined by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and new Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card, Baker cited recent delays in projects in Kingston, Easthampton and Ayer to make his point.

"If we don't get those dollars into the hands of cities and towns across the state now so that they can begin the process associated with planning, designing and reimagining and jump-starting their local economies and their downtowns, we'll continue to see empty storefronts and quiet main streets for years to come," Baker said.

Asked about his impression of the proposal, Town Administrator Jamie Hellen said, "I have not had time to read through the entire legislation, so I cannot speak to the details. That said, the funding affiliated with this bill seems to benefit Franklin in dealing with some town projects. I suspect there will be guidance on downtown recovery grants and we will find out if the $222,000 for Grove Street is supplanting the money already awarded or is in addition to the $2.2 Massworks grant award earlier this year for Grove Street."

The governor's bill (H 4270) pairs the state's remaining $2.3 billion in state American Rescue Plan Act money with $1.2 billion in state bond authorizations. It would direct dedicated project funding to each municipality in the state, steer $300 million to the Unemployment Trust Fund to address overpayments and green-light the sale of the Hynes Convention Center.

The Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee planned to take testimony both in-person and virtually Monday. Some committee members, including House Chair Jerry Parisella, were present in the hearing room. Others, including Senate Chair Eric Lesser, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, joined by videoconference.

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