By Isha Marathe and Laura Hayes
HUDSON – Elected officials and Hudson residents have recently suggested a number of possible uses for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at a Select Board meeting on Nov. 29 and at public input sessions this month.
Speaking at that Nov. 29 meeting, Executive Assistant Thomas Gregory announced a request for the purchase of an electric-powered “small to midsized SUV” to be used by Hudson’s public health services. The item was yet to be approved by the Select Board, but Gregory stressed that it did not need to be voted at that meeting.
“I have reached out to some neighboring towns and haven’t received much of a response on how the towns are handling the review for electric vehicle acquisitions,” Gregory said. “The [Hudson Select] Board doesn’t have a policy in place at the moment.”
He asked for direction and further feedback on how to approach the matter.
“If we do look at an electric vehicle, we would also need to look at the charging station,” board member Shawn Sadowski said. “And the cost of those in addition to the vehicle.”
Sadowski added that a reasonably priced small vehicle with a charging station near Town Hall might make the electric option viable.
Two electric charging stations are currently placed on South Street. But the town wants to install more if there is interest shown, Select Board member Fred Lucy said.
“One of the main capabilities we would like this vehicle to have is to be able to tow our trailer with medical supplies in it,” Director of Public and Community Health Kelli Calo said. “We are offering more and more COVID clinics and vaccination clinics. That’s going to be around forever.”
The Hudson Fire Department currently delivers this equipment. And it will do so until Calo’s team has access to a vehicle.
Hudson resident Tina Grosowsky suggested further use of ARPA funds to pay for environmentally-conscious projects.
“[An opportunity] to use ARPA funds would be in the electrification of low-income public housing which will be going in on Packard Street,” Grosowsky said, noting plans to convert the old Hudson Police Station on Packard Street into affordable housing. “Heating systems in these buildings can be electrical heat pumps.”
Grosowsky added that she hopes for more electric vehicle charging stations.
Hudson receives ARPA allocations
The federal government passed ARPA earlier this year. The state then finalized its ARPA spending bill this month.
Local communities, in turn, are in the process of determining uses for funds at their discretion. Hudson has been allocated a total of $5.9 million.
The Select Board has already authorized $3.9 million of that to be spent on six projects ranging from the replacement of an aging culvert under Main Street to the acquisition of a new fire pumper truck.
The town has until the end of 2024 to determine what it intends to spend the funds on. It then has until the end of 2026 to actually spend those dollars on the projects.
Residents, town officials speak at listening session
Beyond the Select Board’s Nov. 29 discussion, the town held two listening sessions this month to gauge what projects the community is interested in as uses for remaining ARPA funding.
Resident James Carvalho specifically echoed Grosowsky’s comments about electric vehicles at a recent session on Dec. 15.
“They reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, and as long as you’re making the purchase of a van, you should look into that,” Carvalho said.
Other residents had additional ideas for ARPA funds that they shared during that Dec. 15 event.
Mass in Motion Program Coordinator Kali Coughlan suggested using funds for food access, sidewalk infrastructure and to establish safe routes to schools. She also expressed interest in using funds for pool COVID-19 testing in the schools and playground infrastructure.
“Hudson, aside from the schools, doesn’t have a ton of playground infrastructure,” Coughlan said. “I think the pandemic really highlighted a need for safe space outdoors where people can have some social distancing and get some physical activity.”
Fire Chief Bryan Johannes, who was speaking in his capacity as chair of the Housing Authority, discussed projects at both Brigham Circle and Norma Oliver Village.
He suggested emergency generators at both locations, specifically in their community centers, which don’t have standby emergency power.
“During peak demand in the winter and in the summer during peak demand for energy, sometimes we have power outages due to weather-related issues, system-demand issues,” Johannes said.
The generators would guarantee that the residents would have cooling and warming centers that they could go to without leaving their communities.
Although the authority hasn’t identified costs for the project, Johannes estimated it would cost around $100,000.
Though this month’s listening sessions are now complete, there will be more opportunities to weigh in as Hudson staff intend to hold additional public hearings in the spring.