Lowell will get money to improve its parks, Belmont to design a skating rink, Lexington to buy electric school buses.
The $4 billion COVID-19 relief package signed this month by Governor Charlie Baker will pour funds into projects large and small across Massachusetts, from dune restoration on Martha’s Vineyard to solar panels at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham.
The lion’s share of the spending plan is devoted to housing, healthcare, education, and workforce development to speed the state’s pandemic recovery, but about $300 million is earmarked for more than 840 individual projects and programs.
There’s money for schools and youth centers, museums and memorials, bike trails and beaches, broadband and sewers. In addition to much-needed funding for infrastructure, the bill includes small but visible projects such as $50,000 to renovate Townsend’s gazebo.
“COVID had a drastic impact on many sectors of our economy, but it also had a drastic impact on many communities,” said state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In Boston’s North End, for example, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy will receive $1.3 million toward planning a revitalization of Cross Street, including a new memorial to Italian immigrants.
“We feel it’s a gateway to the North End,” said Michlewitz, whose district includes the neighborhood. “It was an appropriate piece from an economic development standpoint.”
Not everyone agrees, however, with how the earmarked funds are being spent.
Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said money should not have been devoted for projects unrelated to COVID-19. There were better uses for the money, he said, such as covering costs associated with the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.
The Legislature agreed to funnel $500 million into the fund, but business groups had called for as much as $2 billion.
Charlie Chieppo, a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute, criticized the amount of money allocated to local projects and said the purpose of the spending package was to put people back to work.
“Earmarks are a fact of life in the legislative process, but it’s not ok when they crowd out priorities like funding the unemployment insurance trust fund that go directly to the main purpose of the legislation,” Chieppo said.
Here’s a glance at some local projects included in the final spending package, according to the text of the measure.
Monuments, memorials, and museums
In Sheffield, $75,000 will be used for the construction of a monument dedicated to Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman. Freeman was a Black woman who was born into slavery and, alongside a man known as Brom, successfully appealed for freedom in the state’s courts. Their case was one of a series of lawsuits that helped lead to the end of slavery in Massachusetts.
In Cambridge, the People for Riverbend Park Trust will receive $25,000 for a marker commemorating the contributions of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Eliot to Riverbend Park.
The legislation set aside $300,000 for the construction of the Major Taylor Museum in Worcester. Marshall “Major” Taylor, who was also known as the “Worcester Whirlwind,” was a groundbreaking cyclist at the turn of the last century.
In Chicopee, $500,000 will go to the city so it can complete the Western Massachusetts Post 9/11 and Service Dog Memorial Park.
The legislation includes $150,000 for the remodeling of the historic Lexington Depot community building to improve public access and community engagement for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington.
It also allocates $50,000 for a renovation project at the Middlesex Canal Museum in North Billerica.
In Canton, $200,000 will go to the Paul Revere Museum of Discovery and Innovation.
Schools, libraries, youth centers, and public facilities
Quincy will get $600,000 for capital projects, including a new roof on the Thomas Crane Public Library. Another $60,000 will be spent to upgrade the historic United First Parish Church, where presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were buried, along with their wives, Abigail and Louisa Catherine.
Belmont will get $250,000 for a new public library project and $250,000 to plan and design a new skating rink.
At the Walter D. Stone Memorial Zoo in Stoneham, $3 million will go to the Commonwealth Zoological Corporation for a solar array to provide nearly 100 percent of the zoo’s electrical needs.
Brookline’s teen center will receive $100,000, and the Boys & Girls Club in Chicopee will get $250,000 for ventilation and other improvements.
Some schools will receive aid for information technology projects, including Braintree, which gets $500,000, and Holbrook, which gets $300,000.
Money is set aside for improvements to building ventilation systems for schools in places like Hopkinton, West Springfield, Walpole, Braintree, Lowell, Leominster, Grafton, Southborough, Shrewsbury, and Milton.
In Lexington, a $350,000 is earmarked for the town’s public schools to buy electric school buses and charging infrastructure. Haverhill’s schools will get $200,000 to buy an electric school bus.
Trails and river walks
The Southern New England Trunkline trail, which currently spans 22 miles from Douglas State Forest to Franklin State Forest, received $700,000 to extend the pathway to downtown Franklin.
The bill allocated grants for local trail projects in several communities, including $500,000 for construction and expansion of a rail trail in Lawrence; $400,000 to complete the Assabet Riverwalk and riverbank stabilization project in Hudson; and $125,000 to extend the Danvers Rail Trail in Middleton.
In Lowell, $300,000 will go toward a riverwalk project along the city’s Route 110 corridor between Cox Bridge and University Avenue Bridge by community groups Coalition for a Better Acre Inc. and Lowell Litter Krewe.
Framingham’s Chris Walsh Memorial Aqueduct Trail will get $250,000, and an expansion of the Squannacook River Rail Trail in Townsend will get $100,000.
A $75,000 grant for the Edgewater and Doyle parks in Boston will be used for a project to provide Neponset River access to Hyde Park’s Belnel neighborhood.
Newton will share with Needham a $200,000 grant for a study on a bicycle and pedestrian trail between the two communities.
Parks and open space
The Frederick Law Olmsted North Park in Fall River will receive $210,000 for outdoor seating enhancements. Chelmsford will get $200,000 for its parks, while Medford’s historic Dugger Park will receive $150,000 for construction, upgrades, and improvements.
Open space parks in Lowell’s Centralville and Pawtucketville neighborhoods will receive a combined $700,000 environmental grant.
Separate $100,000 grants will go toward improvement projects at South Boston’s Marine Park, Winnekenni Park in Haverhill, and the Ipswich River Park in North Reading. Another $100,000 grant will be used for energy efficient lighting upgrades at Lynn’s Keaney Park.
Several local communities will create new parks, including Boston, where $100,000 will be used by the city to develop urban open space at 581 Dudley St. in Roxbury. The project is intended to improve climate resiliency and provide outdoor recreation space, the legislation said.
Burlington will also get $100,000 to create a pocket park in its town center, while Upton will receive $35,000 for the design and construction of a park.
Amesbury is due to get $25,000 for recreational improvements, including the installation of kayak racks at Lake Gardner.
Public beaches — a vital lifeline during the pandemic — will get millions of dollars to support improvements.
Swampscott and Lynn will each receive receive $2.5 million for water quality improvement projects at King’s Beach.
The restoration project for Havey Beach and its boathouse on the Charles River in West Roxbury will get $600,000. In Quincy, an effort to dredge the channel in Quincy Bay and for beach restoration in the city’s Merrymount neighborhood will also receive $600,000.
A $250,000 earmark will go to Hull for improvements and emergency repairs to the Nantasket beach boardwalk area. Money will also go to beach restoration projects in Danvers — $125,000 for Sandy beach and nearby areas — and Edgartown, where a $100,000 grant will be used to restore dunes and coastal habitat on Norton Point Beach.
In Boston, a project to clean a brownfields site at Dorchester’s Prince Hall Grand Lodge will get $100,000. The city will also get $150,000 for Meadow Road improvements to preserve and protect the Fowl meadow in Readville.
Worcester’s Indian Lake will receive $150,000 for cleaning sediment, and inspecting and repairing its water level control system gates. The city will also get $500,000 grant for cleaning Salisbury Pond’s forebay.
Peabody‘s cleanup of the Proctor and Goldthwaite brooks and the North River will get $100,000.
Many communities are gearing up for broadband projects, including Milton, which will receive a $250,000 grant to develop the town’s municipal broadband network. A $200,000 earmark is aimed at a broadband project in Marlborough.
Northbridge will receive $100,000 for public safety broadband infrastructure improvements, while Barre will get $20,000 to facilitate access to broadband services.
In western Massachusetts, a $230,000 earmark will be aimed at upgrading and providing municipal broadband services in low-income and underserved communities in Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Hancock, Lanesborough, New Ashford, Williamstown, and the city of North Adams.
More than a dozen cities and towns are receiving support for projects related to sewer infrastructure. That includes separate $1 million grants in Westport, for water and sewer improvements along the length of the Route 6 corridor, and for the Ludlow Mills redevelopment project in Ludlow.
More than a $3.3 million in combined earmarks are assigned to sewer projects in Marion, Holliston, Belmont, Littleton, Methuen, Swampscott, Stoughton, Auburn, Winchendon, Scituate, Agawam, Norwood, Foxborough, and Barnstable, along with Framingham State University’s Warren Conference Center.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.