Vargas Bill Would Create Fund to Pay for Energy Efficiency Renovations of Public Buildings

A bill proposed by Rep. Andy X. Vargas to help pay for energy efficiency renovation of public buildings is set to be heard Wednesday by House members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Vargas’ bill would create a “Zero Carbon Renovation Fund” to pay “costs associated with the renovation of existing buildings including affordable housing, public housing, homes rented or owned by low- and moderate-income households, municipal buildings.” Covered buildings would include public schools and small businesses with Massachusetts State Supplier Diversity Office Certifications. Money from the fund could also be used where such buildings first require “mitigation of mold, asbestos, insect and animal infestation, lead paint, electric system upgrades to meet current code or facilitate building electrification, accessibility upgrades required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The Zero Carbon Renovation Fund would be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy meetings Wednesday, July 19, 10 a.m., both in-person at State House Hearing Room A-2 and online. Written testimony is also accepted.

Vargas Says State House Training Helps Reverse Stigma Around Opioid Overdose Treatment

More than 150 Massachusetts legislators and their staffs recently learned how to use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. Reps. Andy Vargas, Kate Donaghue and Smitty Pignatelli and Sen. John Keenan hosted the training at the State House for legislators and staff. Naloxone is commonly known by its brand name Narcan. The event, named the Brian Donaghue Simpson Naloxone Training and Advocacy Day, was held in honor of Donaghue’s late son Brian, who died of an overdose in 2018 when he was 32.

Haverhill YMCA’s Fuller Receives Honors During Commonwealth Heroines Celebration

Tracy Fuller, Haverhill YMCA’s regional executive director, was honored last week at the Massachusetts State House during the annual Commonwealth Heroines Celebration. Rep. Andy X. Vargas nominated Fuller in honor of her work in our community and her outstanding contributions to the YMCA. “Tracy works diligently every day to support Haverhill families. Most notably her leadership in providing childcare and after-school programs at the YMCA is critical in assisting our working parents and providing high-quality early education and care. Tracy is an incredible partner, and it was an honor to nominate her for this year’s Heroines award,” Vargas said.

West Newbury Man Among 11 From Massachusetts Sent to Fight Canadian Wildfires

Benjamin Jennell of West Newbury is one of 11 state wildland firefighters dispatched by Gov. Maura Healey’s administration to Quebec, Canada to help battle some of the more than 124 wildfires that have burned since the beginning of the month. Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper and officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation joined together last Thursday morning to send off the firefighter crew at DCR’s Bureau of Forestry and Fire Control headquarters in Carlisle. “Over the last several years we have seen the impacts of the climate crisis here at home and around the world, in the forms of extreme weather and increasingly severe wildfires that continue to ravage our forests,” said Healey. “We are proud of these 11 Massachusetts wildland firefighters who are heading up to assist our Canadian partners in battling these intense wildfires.”

The deployment came in response to a request the state received last week from the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center at the White Mountain National Forest in Campden, N.H. The firefighters will travel to La Touque, where they will be assigned to one of many ongoing fire incidents throughout the province. The crew, which is also referred to as a “Wildfire Suppression Module,” will engage in direct fire suppression, working on the fire line for about 14 days—building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires and protecting structures.

Essex County Greenbelt Secures State Grant to Help Protect Haverhill’s Crystal Lake

Essex County Greenbelt Association was awarded a $162,500 state grant Wednesday as part of the nonprofit’s continuing efforts to preserve land adjacent to Haverhill’s Crystal Lake drinking water supply. As only WHAV reported last fall, Greenbelt laid out plans to work with the city to jointly purchase development rights to 54 acres, buying 19 acres of land outright and accepting a donation of 15 acres of lakefront. At a neighborhood gathering last November, Greenbelt Vice President Christopher B. LaPointe outlined the urgency of the preservation effort. “If you can imagine these properties without trees…and with lawns and homes and driveways and dog waste and swimming pools and septic systems. All of that has to go somewhere and, in this case, that’s running into your drinking water,” he said. The grant is aimed preserving and using 18.61 acres of land for passive recreation, wildlife habitat and watershed protection purposes and is a part of a larger 88-acre protected area.

Payano Calls for Auto Insurance Formula Change to Reduce Costs in Urban Areas

State Sen. Pavel Payano, representing Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, wants to reduce auto insurance rates in urban areas by making the statewide average part of the rating formula. Payano and other lawmakers are looking to change how heavily a resident’s ZIP code weighs in determining the cost of their auto insurance, claiming that people of color in low-income and urban areas pay higher rates. But insurance companies say the move would take away one of the only tools left for them to determine rates, and could raise insurance payments for all. “Right now in Massachusetts, residents living in urban and diverse communities are being forced to pay substantially more than their suburban counterparts for auto insurance,” said Payano, who filed a bill that would change the rating formula to give no more than 75% weight to a person’s local area and 25% weight to a statewide average, aimed at tempering the rates in urban areas. Payano based the formula off of Connecticut’s insurance rating territory policy.

New State Economic Development Undersecretary Stanton Launched Career at Haverhill City Hall

One of the new undersecretaries in the reorganized state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development received her start as a Haverhill City Hall staffer 16 years ago. Sarah A. Stanton is taking charge of one of the “three pillars of economic development,” Economic Strategies, under Housing and Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini told WHAV he hired Stanton right out of school as his executive assistant. He said he is not surprised by her advancement over the years. “She was a really bright kid.

Rep. Vargas Secures Haverhill-Specific Business, Housing, Art and Reading Grants in Budget

Grants of $50,000 each to Haverhill groups to support small business, defray the cost of building accessory apartments at private homes, help pay for a public art project and aid grade-level reading are among priorities Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas won this week in amendments to the House spending plan. Vargas also said support for veterans’ programs, repairs at two city parks and permanent free school meals were included in the proposed state budget for the year beginning July 1. The budget remains to be reconciled with a state Senate version and be signed by Gov. Maura Healey to take effect. “This balanced budget represents the needs of families and of Haverhill. The funding secured for local projects will help our community’s veterans, assist in restoring our parks, support public art and boost accessible housing,” Vargas said in a statement.