By Amy Porter
MONTGOMERY – On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito came to Montgomery Town Hall to meet with Hilltown officials and present two grants – one for $42,000 to the Hilltown Collaborative for marketing and promotion of the region, and one for $150,000 to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) to help the towns with Internet Technology upgrades and management.
Sean Cronin of the Division of Local Services and Senator Donald F. Humason joined Polito on the visit. Polito said she and Humason used to sit next to each other while serving in the House of Representatives. “It’s good to have the Lt. Governor come out to Western Mass. once again,” Humason said.
Also present were Joshua Garcia, Patrick Beaudry and Molly Goren-Watts of PVPC, who have been working with the towns since they signed Community Compacts with the Baker-Polito administration in May 2016, pledging to collaborate on regional issues. These are the fourth and fifth grants that the towns have received since first signing.
Polito, who has made frequent visits to Western Massachusetts, started the meeting by asking everyone gathered to introduce themselves and what they do in their respective towns. All of the representatives expressed their gratitude for the support of the state. Polito gave a lot of the credit to Cronin, who has also worked closely with PVPC and the Hilltown Collaborative.
“We recognize the need for more IT regionalization and efficiency,” Polito also said in presenting the Regional IT grant to PVPC for $150,000.
“We are really excited about this project. This is a great example of a lot of different programs coming from the state and working with PVPC,” said Goren-Watts, who will be the lead on the program. Through an earlier grant opportunity, she was able to do an IT assessment in each of the towns, looking for the potential for a shared IT director. Instead, they realized that having PVPC offer IT management services and help with procurement and hiring of third party vendors would be more stable for the towns than an individual hire, and also provide economies of scale.
With the grant, PVPC will start a pilot program, working with the Hilltown Collaborative and the Gateway Hilltowns to offer the service. They then hope to expand the program and offer it to all of their 43 member communities.
“That’s very innovative, and the economies of scale should improve the quality of service. I think PVPC is one of the only planning organizations doing this, pioneering this initiative,” Polito said. She also said the state has just opened up a new round of capital funds for IT projects that will be closing on Feb. 15.
Some of the grant funds will also be used to provide hardware, software, and rewiring that were identified as needs in the towns, along with some supplementing of initial service contracts, Goren-Watts said.