By Sarah Heinonen
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is giving cities and towns across the state a hand in preparing for future climate–related disasters.
Through the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, $12 million in grants were given out to help, “municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps,” the administration said in a press release.
Two types of grants were awarded, an MVP Planning grant for cities and towns that had yet to design a response to climate-related disasters, and MVP Action grants to help communities take the plans they had conceived of and bring them to fruition. Municipalities that receive planning grants can then apply for action grants.
Of the $12 million, $1.7 million was awarded to 65 of the state’s communities to develop climate-disaster readiness plans and the other $10.3 million was awarded to 34 cities and towns with existing designs for climate change resilience projects. It is the largest release of climate change resilience funds to communities in state history.
Springfield received an MVP Action grant of $315,000 for their proposal, Community Resilience Through Urban Forestry: Improving Emergency Response and Environmental Conditions in Springfield Massachusetts.
West Springfield received $31,000, Agawam was given $24,000, and East Longmeadow was awarded $20,000 in funds to develop a preparedness plan for their communities. Marc Strange, director of Planning and Community Development for Agawam, said that the city was thankful for its grant.
“I think the state allocating these funds is an indication that all of the cities and towns are in need of preparedness planning," Strange said.
“The record participation in the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program underscores the real need for climate-smart solutions that promote strong local economies while reducing risks and avoiding future costs,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, and Wilbraham native, Kathleen Theoharides.
Agawam will now contract with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and conduct interviews with various boards and commissions, staff, and the public to identify the town’s strengths and weaknesses.
Strange said Agawam has older infrastructure and the city will be looking to update some, while also installing new “green” infrastructure, and taking steps to mitigate potential flooding from storms. They will also be looking at generators for “cooling centers,” public buildings that can provide air-conditioned respite from heatwaves.
“We want to ensure that we are finding ways to protect, preserve, and mitigate, not only climate change, but any other damage we could be doing to this community,” said Connie Brawders, East Longmeadow's Planning and Community Development director.