November 2021

  • Massachusetts House Passes First Round of ARPA Appropriations; Senate Unveils Its Own Proposal. Wait Continues for Federal Infrastructure Funding

    The Massachusetts legislature has made its first comprehensive move to distribute the discretionary portion of the State’s America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. In mid-October, the House Committee on Ways and Means (HWM) released its plan to spend $3.65 billion in federal funds and fiscal year 2021 surplus funds on a variety of programs and policies to strengthen the Commonwealth in response to COVID-19 impacts. The full Massachusetts House of Representatives then passed the legislation after attaching a variety of amendments and increased the bottom-line to $3.8 billion. At the start of November, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released the Senate’s proposal, which will start at close to $3.66 billion. While the Senate debate has not occurred as of the time of this writing, it is possible the Senate’s proposal could grow by as much $200 million, according to Senate leadership.

    In passing its ARPA legislation, the House exceeded Governor Charlie Baker’s earlier ARPA legislation by close to $900 million. However, unlike the Governor’s bill, the legislation passed by the House combined ARPA and surplus spending into one bill. For its part, the Senate proposal, unlike the Baker-Polito Administration and House proposals, does not assign spending from either federal or surplus funds, but directs the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) to determine the appropriate resource for each spending item within established spending limits contained in the legislation. The pools of available funds in the SWM legislation remains ARPA funding and surplus revenue from FY21.

    For employers generally, both proposals include $500 million to replenish the Commonwealth’s Unemployment (UI) Trust Fund. This represents half of the amount proposed by Governor Baker, meaning employers will still be required to pay additional assessments to repay federal UI advances and recapitalize the state fund. Employers, various trade associations, and regional think-tanks have argued that a higher level of state subsidy remains key for energizing the economic rejuvenation.

    Both proposals also set aside $500 million for essential worker premium pay, which far exceeds the $40 million in premium pay and essential worker payments included in Governor Baker’s plan. The House language requires that A&F determine eligibility for the program and make bonus payments by late January 2022 while establishing a minimum payment of $500. The Senate proposal differs from the House proposal in that it provides a series of steps for both determining eligibility, amount and form of payment. Specifically, the Senate proposal allows premium pay to be provided in the form of a tax credit; does not include the $500 minimum bonus level included by the House; and does not establish a deadline for payments.

    Of particular concern to UCANE members, the federal ARPA law contained six target areas for investment, including, but not limited to water infrastructure. While the Governor proposed directing $400 million of ARPA funds specifically towards water and sewer infrastructure, the House and Senate chose more tentative initial appropriations for water and sewer infrastructure. With an eye towards the federal infrastructure bill, the House and Senate proposed an initial funding amount lower than the Governor’s, but with the potential for including additional monies in a second late winter-early spring ARPA bill. As a result, the House appropriated $100 million directly to a reserve for the Clean Water Trust through the respective Drinking and Clean Water SRFs. The Senate, for its part, has initially proposed to include $175 million. During the House debate, additional funds of approximately $25 million were added in specific, earmarked line-item appropriations. For climate resiliency and environmental infrastructure projects, the House included another $100 million in funding, while the Senate included $125 million.

    Overall, Governor Baker proposed approximately $1 billion in infrastructure projects while the House proposed $427 million and the Senate proposed, before amendments, $515 million. Again, both the House and Senate have a keen eye on the federal infrastructure bill for purposes of determining whether additional funds are needed as part of the second round of ARPA distribution. UCANE wholeheartedly thanks Representative Carolyn Dykema, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, and Representative Sean Garballey, Chair of the House Committee on Global Warming, as well as 40 other representatives, who sponsored amendments to increase the overall amount of funding and incentives for using the SRF program.

    Baker-Polito Administration Announces Grants to Support Waterway Pollution Control Projects

    According to a press release from the Baker-Polito Administration, more than $1.15 million in grants administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to support eight projects targeting stormwater runoff and erosion across the Commonwealth were awarded in October. The grants, which utilize funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded under section 319 of the Clean Water Act, will fund projects based in Braintree, Milton, Monterey, and Sturbridge, as well as in Barnstable, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties.

    Each of the projects was reviewed and approved by DEP’s regional and program staff, and staff from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the EPA. The eight grants awarded are:

    §  Franklin Regional Council of Governments ($78,450). The project will update and align local land use regulations to protect healthy waterbodies and reduce pollutant loadings to impaired waters from new development and redevelopment projects.

    §  Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts ($241,848). The project will support two Agricultural Nonpoint Source Regional Coordinators across Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties.

    §  Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Testing Center ($72,385). The project will demonstrate the treatment efficacy of wood-based (lignocellulosic) denitrification systems for pathogens and selected contaminants of emerging concern to determine the feasibility of their implementation for the overall benefit to public health and the environment.

    §  Town of Milton ($158,500). The project consists of design and construction to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff discharging in the Unquity Brook watershed.

    §  Franklin Regional Council of Governments ($105,200). The project will provide towns with a simple way to assess their unpaved roads, classify them, and then use that classification to select sediment stormwater management BMPs and appropriately sized road drainage culverts for increasing stormwater flows due to climate change.

    §  Town of Braintree ($138,250). The project consists of design and construction to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff discharging into the Monatiquot River watershed.

    §  Town of Monterey ($139,000). The project will address the stormwater runoff that is affecting Lake Garfield.

    §  Town of Sturbridge ($225,000). The project will apply an alum treatment to reduce internal phosphorus loading in Quacumquasit Pond.

    The non-point source pollution grant program focuses on implementation of measures to control non-point source (NPS) pollution to both surface and groundwater. Common types of NPS pollution include phosphorus and nitrogen from lawn and garden fertilizers and agricultural operations, bacteria from pet waste and waterfowl, oil and grease from parking lots and roadways, and sediment from construction activities and soil erosion. The Commonwealth and EPA have provided more than $21 million since 2007 for 124 projects to address NPS pollution across the state. 

    Joint Committee on the Environment Hold Hearing on Water Infrastructure Funding Legislation

    The Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture hosted a public hearing on legislation proposing funding mechanisms for addressing the Commonwealth’s water infrastructure funding gap on October 13th. Chaired by Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senator Becca Rausch, the Committee is charged with reviewing all measures impacting the Commonwealth’s environmental resources. UCANE Executive Director Jeff Mahoney orally testified and submitted written testimony in favor of House Bill 920 / Senate Bill 505, An Act Relative to Funding Water Infrastructure and Addressing Economic Target Areas.

    The proposed legislation creates a flexible Commonwealth Water Infrastructure Trust Fund, which will be funded on connection fees charged to general contractors.  As many municipalities charge a “connection fee” for access to municipal water and sewer mains, the proposed legislation would increase the connection fees by $250 for residential properties and $1,000 for commercial properties paid by general contractors and, specifically, dedicate these additional funds to the newly created Commonwealth Water Infrastructure Trust Fund. The legislation would also provide funding directly to the DEP to work with communities identified as economic target areas.

    In its written testimony before the Committee, UCANE wrote:

    “Apart from certain region-specific initiatives, there has been limited progress made to close the funding gap since the 2012 MWIFC study was released. With climate change expected to result in increases in the magnitude and/or frequency of extreme events, as well as long-term changes in average climatic conditions, we cannot continue to delay the implementation of a consistent and reliable funding mechanism for water infrastructure. Funding from the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the potential federal infrastructure legislation represent one-time remedies that will not solve our water infrastructure funding gap.

    Finally, this legislation creates a proactive mechanism for assisting disadvantaged communities throughout the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s future growth depends on all municipalities having access to high-quality infrastructure. As proposed, this legislation will directly fund the DEP’s work with disadvantaged communities to make sure they are able to navigate the avenues necessary for seeking additional infrastructure funding.”

    Executive Director Mahoney indicated that the Association also supports House Chair Dykema’s legislation, House Bill 900, An Act Relative to Municipal Assistance for Clean Water and Economic Development Infrastructure, which would provide $100 million annually over a period of 10 years through a $1 billion bond bill. The Committee will continue to review legislation before it and, in accordance with Joint Rule 10, make a recommendation on all legislation before February 7, 2022.

    EOTTS Launches New Online Interactive Mapping Tool

    The Executive Office of Technology Services and Security’s (EOTSS) Bureau of Geographic Information Systems (MassGIS) announced the launch of MassMapper, a new online interactive mapping tool. The new tool will enable municipalities and private sector organizations – especially those in the land surveying, engineering, and real estate industries – to better interact with the Commonwealth. MassMapper will offer an enhanced user experience for many of its primary uses like site design, land inventory, and public policy planning.

    MassMapper will replace the existing, legacy online mapping tool, OLIVER, which has been in use in its current form for over a decade. The upgrade to MassMapper represents one of many ongoing initiatives in the EOTSS’ overall mission of modernizing the Commonwealth’s legacy IT and cybersecurity infrastructure. OLIVER will run concurrently with MassMapper through the end of the calendar year

    According to a press release from EOTSS, MassMapper offers a number of new features including, but not limited to:

    §  Map Markup: Users now have markup capabilities to customize the map, including the ability to add text, draw boundaries, etc.

    §  Geo-Fencing: Ability to geo-fence an area by drawing a boundary to pull data from a targeted location on a map – a task that is particularly helpful when downloading data for a targeted location into Excel/CSV files.

    §  PDF Work Product: Users can now create a PDF of a customized map for an improved final work product for users to share with their customers.

    • The interactive mapping tool’s new capabilities were developed through extensive outreach to solicit user feedback from the public and private sector, as well as thorough product testing prior to its launch. MassMapper can be accessed on any device: computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

      MassGIS also offers Muni Mappers, a by-request, custom-built mapping service that incorporates local data provided by the municipality for a more customized mapping tool at no cost to the municipality. This service is largely leveraged by smaller municipalities in the Commonwealth with limited resources for IT services, making the procurement of expensive commercial products infeasible.

      To access the new MassMapper tool, please visit:

      EPA Administrator Regan Announces Comprehensive National Strategy to Confront PFAS Pollution

      The middle of October saw EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan unveil the agency’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap (Roadmap) to confront PFAS contamination nationwide. The Roadmap is the result of a analysis conducted by the EPA Council on PFAS that was established in April 2021. EPA’s Roadmap is centered on three guiding strategies: (i) increasing investments in research, (ii) leveraging authority to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and (iii) accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination. 

      Of particular note, the Roadmap lays out:

    • Timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act;
    • Including a hazardous substance designation under CERCLA;
    • Timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories;
    • Increased monitoring, data collection and research;
    • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.

    In addition to the release of the Roadmap, the EPA announced a new national testing strategy that requires PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals. The PFAS to be tested will be selected based on an approach that breaks the large number of PFAS today into smaller categories based on similar features and considers what existing data are available for each category. EPA’s initial set of test orders for PFAS, which are expected in a matter of months, will be strategically selected from more than 20 different categories of PFAS. This set of orders will provide the agency with critical information on more than 2,000 other similar PFAS that fall within these categories.

    The EPA engaged with a wide range of stakeholders to continue to identify collaborative solutions to the PFAS challenge, including two national webinars held on October 26 and November 2. Additional information on the Strategic Roadmap:

    Municipal Election Season

    As previously covered in Construction Outlook, a wide variety of Mayors announced their intention not to seek reelection for the upcoming term. Their departures led to a changing political landscape for many regions as longtime incumbents sought work in other arenas or began planning for higher elective office. The myriad of races for the top municipal position created local and regional news throughout the Commonwealth. While not an exhaustive list, some of the interesting municipal races included the following:

    Boston. Well covered in local, state and national news, City Counciler Michelle Wu defeated fellow City Councilor Annisa Essabi-George in the Mayor’s race. In the race for Boston City Council at Large seats, Ruthzee Louijeune and Erin Murphy won the tight race for at-large councilors along with incumbents Michael Flaherty and Julia Mejia topping the ballot, respectively.

    Framingham. Incumbent Mayor Yvonne Spicer lost to former Selectman Charlie Sisitsky. Spicer was Massachusetts’ first popularly elected black female mayor and was also the city’s first mayor, elected in 2018 when Framingham transitioned away from a government with town meeting members, selectmen and town manager. 

    Everett. Incumbent Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr. narrowly defeated challenger Fred Capone, a city councilor who has been in city government for almost two decades. DeMaria will serve a sixth term after securing 51.2% of the vote.

    Somerville. City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne emerged victorious over City Councilor Will Mbah to replace Joseph Curtatone after his 18-year tenure. Unofficial results indicated Ballantyne took roughly 55% of the vote.

    Lawrence.  Interim Mayor Kendrys Vasquez was defeated by Brian DePeña, a two-term former at-large city councilor who took nearly 53% of the vote to Vazquez’s 46%. Vasquez was endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Boston Globe in the weeks leading up to the November election.

    Lynn. Three-term School Committee member Jared Nicholson received 63% of the vote to rival Darren Cyr’s 36%. Outgoing Mayor Thomas McGee, who took office in 2018, chose not to run for a second term and endorsed Nicholson. 

    Gloucester. Former School Committee member and City Councilor Greg Verga will replace Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken in January. Verga took 59% of the vote to Romeo Theken’s 41%.

    Salem. Mayor Kim Driscoll won her fifth term as Salem's mayor defeating Steve Dibble a city ward councilor.

    North Adams. Political newcomer Jennifer Macksey defeated Lynette Bond by just under 200 votes to become the first woman Mayor in the City’s history. Current Mayor Tom Bernard chose not to run for re-election.

    Holyoke. Joshua Garcia defeated Michael Sullivan. Mayor-Elect Garcia will become the city's first Latino mayor.

    Northampton. Gina-Louise Sciarra defeated Marc Warner as outgoing Mayor David Narkewicz's also opted out of a re-election effort.

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