Classification and Compensation Study
In 2021, Blandford was awarded funding under the Community Compact Cabinet’s Best Practices program to develop a formal Wage and Classification Plan. Such plans detail job descriptions, employee grades, and salary ranges, thus providing municipalities with a tool to make pay decisions that are reasonable in comparison to similar work being carried out in all areas of town government. The Town contracted with the Edward J. Collins Center at UMass Boston to carry out a study which would form the basis of this plan. Throughout 2021, the Collins Center worked with the Town to document current positions, salaries, stipends, and wages. Additionally, the Center surveyed 17 surrounding communities for comparison purposes.
The final report is available for download here. Town employees reviewing the report should be aware that position titles and compensation may not reflect the most current information in all cases as the study was undertaken in 2021. Those interested in reviewing the full survey results of surrounding communities, or those with additional questions, should contact the Town Administrator.
Resilient Master Planning and Open Space and Recreation Planning
The Town received a Massachusetts Vulnerability Preparedness Grant award for $102,824 to develop a climate resilient focused Master Plan for the community, including an update to the Open Space and Recreation Plan. The Town worked with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to execute the project. The planning process and resulting document assures integration of nature-based solutions and climate resilience with the Town’s land protection and recreation development work. The project also included researching and drafting improvements to Blandford’s stormwater management regulations and other code as appropriate to integrate nature-based solutions and green infrastructure.
Local Rapid Recovery Planning
The Town worked with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) on Local Rapid Recovery Planning efforts to develop a set of short-term actionable objectives for post-pandemic transition that reflect the needs and priorities of local businesses and residents. A local stakeholder group worked with PVPC from mid-June to mid-August to help guide and assist our rapid recovery planning efforts with their ideas and opinions as various projects are considered, refined, and ultimately included in the final plan.
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Local Rapid Recovery Plan
Design and Rehabilitation of the Town Commons
The Town has contracted with GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. for professional engineering and landscape architectural design services that will help the town guide rehabilitation efforts of five Town-owned parcels known as the “Town Commons” which are located at the juncture of Route 23, North Blandford Road, and North Street. The scope of the project will include not only drafting a cohesive and resilient plan for the Town Commons, but also to include the realignment of North Blandford Road to meet route 23 perpendicularly. By doing so, not only can we make the intersection safer and in-line with MassDOT specs, the Veteran’s Park area of the Town Commons may be expanded and be continuous with the Historical Society property and the hillside behind it, instead of being separated by a roadway. The result of this project will be a plan that incorporates the Town’s goals and objectives which include:
- Reconfigured North Blandford Road and improved Highway (later Fire Station) access
- Revitalize Town Commons
- Celebrate the Site’s historical significance
- Provide for low maintenance, slow growing ornamental trees and shrubs
- Revision of Veteran’s Park area and placement of monument/s, cannon, cannonballs, flag pole, new monument/s, lighting
- Restore Town Commons hillside-cleared of invasive plants, protect trees
- Allow for pedestrian connectivity/accessibility
- Design with climate resiliency/sustainability
It is expected for the design to provide accessible routes as practical for people of all abilities, and depict a revitalized, cohesive Town Commons. GZA will identify ways to promote climate resiliency through landscaping and stormwater management. Where practical, GZA will introduce bioretention swales with deep‐rooted plantings and free‐draining soils that will aid in storing stormwater between storm events. Furthermore, as practical, GZA will propose locally‐sourced materials as opposed to materials that are imported and have larger “environmental footprints”.
Highway and Fire Building Project
The Town has contracted with City Point Partners for Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) services to help guide the Town through the process of getting to construction phase of building a new highway department facility and re-purposing the existing highway department facility as a new fire station. It is expected for the OPM to help guide the Town’s decision-making process with reliable cost analysis, constructability reviews, and construction oversight. This project is being pursued to help right-size the needs of both the highway department and fire department who have both outgrew their existing facility arrangement. To support the department needs, a newly configured municipal campus for these departments will protect our assets and enhance the utilization and life of trucks, plows, backhoes, and roadwork materials, as well as improve the efficiency of Fire Department services. The need for this new facility is critical for the Town to care for roadways and property, as well to provide the necessary emergency response services for residents.
Belle Fleur, LLC Marijuana Cultivation Project
On January 14, the MA Cannabis Control Commission issued a Tier 11 Provisional License for marijuana cultivation. The site location for the proposed project is located at 140 Otis Stage Road. An application for a special permit was approved on May 5, 2021. Currently, the project is in process of getting all of its building plans and permits submitted for review of the Planning Board. It is being proposed to build a 78,476 SQ. FT. two story building. Of the 74,746 SQ. FT., approximately 27,500 SQ. FT. is proposed to be used for canopy cultivation. A host community agreement has been negotiated between Belle Fleur and the Select Board and approved.
Pudding Hill Farm, LLC Marijuana Cultivation Project
This proposed project is a cannabis cultivation micro-business with cultivation canopy of roughly 150 SQ. FT. The site location for this proposed project is 1 Julius Hall Road. A host community agreement has been negotiated and accepted between Pudding Hill Farm, LLC. and the Select Board.
Housing Rehabilitation Program
The Town of Blandford was awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the MA Department of Housing and Community Development to coordinate a Housing Rehabilitation Program for eligible homeowners to make necessary repairs to improve the quality-of-living conditions in the effort to eliminate unsafe or unhealthy living conditions for qualifying homeowners that earn up to 80% of the median income. Through this program, income qualified homeowners can apply for up to $40,000 in non-interest bearing deferred payment loans. This is a payment-free and interest-free loan, based on a 15 year forgiveness schedule. Some of the eligible projects through this grant includes:
- Chimney or foundation repair
- Lead paint/asbestos removal
- Septic repair/replacement
- Well repair/replacement
- Roof repair/replacement
- Storm window installation
- Plumbing/heating/electrical systems
- Handicapped accessibility
- Wall repair
The Town contracted with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to coordinate this program on the Town’s behalf. A portion of the grant will be to engage a consultant for drafting an ADA Compliance Transition Plan at our public buildings.
SCADA Upgrade Project at Water Plant
The Town of Blandford recently entered into a contract with Wright & Pierce for the design phase of upgrading the SCADA system at the water plant. The Water Treatment Plan was built in 2006 and currently uses a manual operation for Raw and Finish Water Pacing and Control. Pre-identified difficulties include:
- Ozone Disinfection and its effect on the Schmutzdecke Layer;
- The Slow Sand Filtration System – lack of level control, backwash control, and chemical dosage monitoring issues;
- Lack of an integrated automation system that would provide reliable monitoring control, trending, and alarming.
The need for these upgrades came after receiving a letter from the MassDEP with a directive to address recent Haloacetic Acids (HAA) and Trihalomehtanes (THM) violations. The Town hired Wright-Pierce as a first step in understanding and eventually addressing these violations with future SCADA and process upgrades/enhancements. Key findings included:
- Ozone ineffectual as it kills Schmutzdecke Layer;
- No Level Instruments and Control of Filter;
- No flow control, potential overflows;
- No automated backwash valves and control;
- No backup power for instruments;
- Main PLC will be designated as obsolete 12/20/2020;
- Soda Ash PLC is obsolete;
- Insufficient PLC Inputs and Outputs for any upgrades;
- No computerized alarming; limited alarm dial-out information;
- Unmanaged Ethernet Communication Switch;
- SCADA Computer Operating System (OS) is no longer supported;
- No file backup system for; OS, programs, and applications;
- Some instruments are obsolete.
It was concluded we need automation and SCADA upgrades to both the plant’s chemical dosing, filter control, and data collection/reporting systems.
Shepard Hill Farm
The Town was granted the Shepard Farm property in 2009 by the Springfield Water & Sewer Commission for historic preservation and land conservation. It is located in the General Knox Historic Trail Area and locally significant due to its history, architecture, and landscape, and for agricultural and recreational potential. The current conservation restriction coupled with deterioration of the residential building present barriers to reactivate even a small portion of this underutilized property. The deteriorated state of the currently stabilized built resources and lack of funding for major capital improvements to the buildings and site for these uses presents another barrier. An Article 97 land exchange for a five acre portion of land that contains the buildings and is adjacent to Otis Stage Road has been explored with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) as a potential option for lifting the conservation restriction on a small portion of the property, but challenges with determining clear title on currently designated town-owned land proposed for the swap has slowed down that process.
Currently, the Town is attempting to leverage state resources to engage a targeted study of this property showing existing natural and built conditions along with feasible options for reuse such as for housing and/or agriculture and/or recreation in harmony with conservation of the remaining land as well as understanding the potential of a land exchange. Such a study will be extremely beneficial to determine best next steps for phased reactivation of this underutilized asset.