This piece was submitted jointly by Representative Steve Owens and Will Brownsberger to the Watertown Tab.
We are pleased to announce that the state’s positive financial position combined with additional federal support has allowed the legislature to make new contributions to Watertown’s health, housing, and environmental programs.
We have just approved a $4 billion one-time spending bill, funded from $2.5 billion in federal relief and $1.5 billion in state surplus.
Statewide energy and environmental programs receive $370 million in the package. We were able to additionally allocate $150,000 directly to Watertown to help replace lead pipes that connect service lines to water mains and to conduct a public outreach campaign targeted to all residents and property owners served by lead pipes so that they know to take appropriate precautions, most importantly flushing their faucets in the morning before drinking.
We additionally allocated $250,000 for the construction of stormwater infiltration systems to reduce flooding of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway in the vicinity of Cottage street. The Watertown-Cambridge Greenway is the new bike path segment starting on Arlington street in Watertown and connecting through to Fresh Pond. The project was delayed to address drainage issues at several points along the path in both Watertown and Cambridge. The path design had to be modified to include flood control structures, but it is finally nearing completion.
Unrelated to the current bill, but also in the environmental-good-news category, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation is finally moving forward with a set of sidewalk improvements, river path improvements and landscaping improvements along Charles River Road. This project is funded in part by $500,000 that Simmons College provided as part of its compensation to the state for use of the Daly Field across the river in Brighton.
The bill devotes $1.15 billion to statewide public health and health care systems. Of that amount, $400 million is devoted to behavioral health, including $122 million to help young professionals who commit to the field. Behavioral health and public health remain centrally important as the COVID pandemic continues.
We were able to invest $125,000 directly to support behavioral health efforts in Watertown through the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network. Wayside is the nonprofit which houses the Watertown Social Services Resource Specialist positions as well as the Watertown Youth Coalition.
Of the $617.6 million that the bill devotes to housing and homelessness, $150 million will go to local housing maintenance needs statewide. We were able to additionally allocate $57,000 directly to the Watertown Housing Authority to conduct a feasibility study for the redevelopment of the Willow Park family public housing development in East Watertown.
The bill also devotes $1.578 billion to supporting workers and businesses statewide. It allocates $500 million to support front line workers through premium pay, $500 million to support businesses through relief for their contributions to unemployment insurance and $578 million to a range of other economic development and work force measures.
Finally, the bill provides $271 million for education on multiple levels, including $100 million for HVAC upgrades to protect health in local public schools.
In selecting programs to benefit from the large amount of funding made available by the federal government and the strength of the state’s economy, the legislature solicited input across the state and deliberated at length as to how to most effectively use the funds. We also kept in mind that the funds are available on a one-time basis and cannot be used to fund permanent program expansions.
Watertown stands out for the effective financial management that has allowed it to be very self-sufficient in its public investments, but we are pleased to be able to support and complement those investments and we are grateful for the ongoing collaboration we have with Watertown’s very effective leadership team.
Will Brownsberger is the state senator serving Back Bay, Fenway, Brighton, Allston, Watertown and Belmont. Steve Owens is the state representative serving much of Watertown, and parts of Cambridge.