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.
And nothing to fix the dreadful conditions of our roads.
Getting the basics done is never a priority in this State. “Behavioral health efforts” versus patching potholes. Great.
But we knew that already.
There is a whole lot of roads money coming soon. The federal infrastructure bill is going put our construction industry into overdrive fixing roads, bridges and transportation systems.
Does anyone know how this will be allocated? Federal v. States, Other States v. MA, and then our little [now] City of Watertown? It just gets my attention that the funds being released now got the aforementioned allocation – hence my comment about priorities. I guess the proof will be in the proverbial pudding.
Y si esto occurre como a mi me gustaria anticiparlo, por supuesto estaria muy agradecido. (Cc Mr. Camacho).
There’s also $25 million for trees and tree planting!
Thank you Senator Brownsberger and Representative Owens. This is great news. It may be a one time investment but it’s a welcome one. Although there are other needs as well I am grateful that so many needs will be addressed. Thank both you for all your hard work.
Will and Steve, thanks for the update. I and I’m sure many others appreciate your timely communication about such important matters. Good to know that our ‘hard’ and ‘human’ infrastructures will be improved, hopefully with the funds wisely spent.
Thank you for this detailed update.
One question, if you are able to answer. Will Watertown Food Pantry volunteers be eligible for the bonus to essential workers? The Food Pantry was open every week during the pandemic, along with only Fire and Police.
Great thanks to those volunteers, but the bonus only will go to employees — I can see how that isn’t entirely fair, but there’s no way to do the accounting for a bonus to volunteers.
Thank you both for the advocacy you may have contributed to help this all come to fruition. Lots of good stuff in here. The Greenway project was a huge surprise but I’m happy to hear that the money was found to solve the problems. Do you feel that this $250k gets us to the optimal solution there or is this the best and least expensive alternative?
I seem to remember hearing that when the ground was broken there, a large stopped-up pipe opened and a third of the stormwater from Watertown poured out. Meaning, the issue is not one of helping out another “frivolous” bike path project but, rather, a critical city infrastructure problem discovered and in need of remedy. I know its probably a long story but, can you tell us briefly if $250k does the trick?
Are there any materials posted online somewhere that we can see to envision what the systems will look like?
Much more money was spent by DCR itself to solve the Greenway drainage problems and it is coming along well. This just funds some work on Watertown property off the Greenway that continues to contribute to some flooding.
Thanks so much to our hard working representatives! Love the environmental and energy-related initiatives especially. Even my alma mater (Simmons) kicked in!
Happy holidays indeed, Will and Steve!
My deepest thank to you Senator Brownsberger and Representative Owen’s for a job well done. Kamilah Kamilah.
I LOVE trees, but a number of traffic control lights have been obscured by branches for long stretches of time on Mt. Auburn St. and in many areas in and out of the Senator’s purview. Is monitoring dependent on individuals calling in?
Who is brave, or stubborn enough to travel 25 mph on Greenough Blvd? I try every time, but fearfully feel the eyes on the back of my neck when I do. It used to be 40 mph, and still is in practice- though not by me. A bigger problem is the crazy lane drop at the elite school driveway. To the bigger car goes the lane.
Hi, Will homeowners with slightly broken old Lead service pipes be able to apply for financial assistance in replacing pipes? Most of us can afford to have the tree-root damaged pipes cleared each year but cannot afford to replace them. I would welcome taking the money for an AM faucet flushing pamphlet and applying all of it solely towards removing the hazard so that such outreach is not necessary.
Related, I hope all will please bear in mind planful tree proximity and type when adding new trees to the street strips or in the yard near neighboring property.
I’m not sure I understand the question. The town is slowly trying to replace affected service connections. Call me if you want to discuss and clarify.
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