I am happy to continue the email newsletter circulated by my predecessor, Michael Quinlan. While I will focus on issuesand events of particular interest to Ward 1 residents, I also will include other items that have broader citywide interest. I expect to deliver a newsletter roughly every other week, with more frequent messages as needed. Please contact me with contributions or suggestions for the newsletter.

Thank you Michael Quinlan
Michael has made many contributions not only to Ward 1, but across Northampton, as a community leader, including his time as a teacher, coach and city councilor. I appreciate all he did to serve Ward 1 during the past two years and his help as I made the transition to be your new councilor.

City Council
During the first meeting of the year, Jim Nash of Ward 3 was elected president (5-4 vote) and Karen Foster of Ward 2 was elected vice president (9-0 vote) and I supported both of them.

The City Council also unanimously adopted rules for this term with changes that call for up to two minutes of public comment per person, for a total of no more than 90 minutes during meetings of the full council and its subcommittees.

And the council voted unanimously to continue meeting remotelyat least through March 31. That also applies to its subcommittees. I will serve this term on the council’s Finance Committee and Legislative Matters Committee.

Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center redevelopment
The 6.2-acre property at 737 Bridge Road, last known as the Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, has been vacant since 2011 and was purchased by the Miami-based Pointer Fund and Pointer Development for $1.9 million at an auction last April.

Valley Community Development Corp. in Northampton is negotiating to purchase that property, likely by March, with the goal of renovating it into 60 units of affordable housing. The plan, which is in its earliest stages, calls for conserving the exterior, gutting the interior and maintaining the same footprint for the renovated two-story building. The apartments would range in size from studio to three-bedrooms.

Valley CDC plans to seek Community Preservation Act money from the city this spring and apply for permits from the Planning Board later in the year. If approved, Valley CDC would then seek federal and state funding during 2023. The project is expected to cost about $25 million and construction is not expected to begin until 2024 at the earliest.

I had conversations about the project last week with Wayne Feiden, director of planning and sustainability for the city, and Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, and both are committedt o providing ample opportunities for hearing from neighbors and others in the community with an interest in this project. I will ensure that there is robust community engagement.

The first formal public discussion of this project will be at a meeting of the Housing Partnership at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, which will be held remotely.

Board of Health and vaccine requirements
The Board of Health on Dec. 28 heard three hours of public comment on a possible vaccine requirement for certain businesses in Northampton, including restaurants, gyms and other large venues. Several hundred pages of additional testimony were received via email, and the Board of Health will continue its discussion when it meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13. The agenda for that meeting has not yet been posted, but it should be available no later than Tuesday on the city’s website at: https://www.northamptonma.gov/AgendaCenter/Board-of-Health-1

Northampton Senior Center vaccine requirement
The Board of Health has issued a vaccination requirement for the Senior Center beginning Monday, Jan. 17. It requires that all members, volunteers, contractors and visitors who enter the building during regular operating hours be fully vaccinated (including a booster shot if sixmonths past the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine).This requirement does not apply to organizations that partner with the Senior Center or to the general public that use the building for activities including farmers markets, municipal voting and the brown bag program.

MLK Day 2022
The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice will host the 38th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Northampton from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 17. This year’s theme is “Land Justice Here Fosters Justice Everywhere” and starts with an African-American history walking tour beginning at 9 a.m. from the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Florence (participants must be masked).The remaining activities are virtual, including a convocation with speakers from noon to 1:15 p.m., and workshops with opportunities to get involved in social justice work from 1:30 to 4:15 p.m. Among the scheduled speakers are my colleague, At-large Councilor Jamila Gore, and Rhonda Anderson, Western Massachusetts Commissioner on Indian Affairs and co-director of the Ohketeau Cultural Center, who will deliver the keynote address. You may register for the events here: https://www.theresistancecenter.org/mlkday/

Edward McColgan
I want to acknowledge the passing of Edward McColgan, who died Wednesday at age 89. Ed made many contributions to the political and civic life of Northampton and beyond, serving as the Ward 4 city councilor from 1966 to 1968, a state representative from 1968 to 1973, and executive director of the Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission later in the 1970s. In 2017, he was the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association parade marshal. The McColgan family will hold calling hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Ahearn Funeral Home.