Director of Disaster Recovery Tina Quagliato Sullivan discusses the new Neighborhood Enhancement Fund during a press conference at Greenleaf Park in Sixteen Acres on June 25.
Reminder Publishing photo by Chris Maza

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno joined members of his staff, City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce and representatives of neighborhood councils citywide at Greenleaf Park to announce nearly $3 million in funding that will be directed specifically toward neighborhood projects and initiatives.

At the June 25 press event, Sarno introduced a new Neighborhood Enhancement Fund, which will fund projects identified as needs by neighborhood residents during meetings between the mayor’s staff and each of the city’s neighborhood councils and civic associations. This first round of funding totaled $2.87 million. This money is in addition to $100,000 in ARPA funding neighborhoods received last year for what Sarno called “pet projects.”

“This comes from listening to my neighborhood councils and the multitude of meetings I’ve done with them, especially during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and what they’d like to see done,” he said. Sarno called the neighborhood council “the extra pair of eyes and ears” that keep him abreast of the needs of their communities on a more granular level.

Sarno said the benefit of this fund is it will support neighborhoods citywide. Director of Disaster Recovery Tina Quagliato Sullivan, speaking on behalf of Chief Development Officer Tim Sheehan, explained that some neighborhoods are often not eligible for other funding sources because those funding sources usually target more disadvantaged census tracts.

“A lot of the prior pots of funding, particularly Community Development Block Grant funding and the ARPA funding were really targeted towards qualified census tracts and CDBG-eligible areas,” Quagliato Sullivan said. “This pot of funding allowed us to be able to put funding in neighborhoods where otherwise our hands are tied and we can’t put funding in there.”

Neighborhood council representatives included Jose Claudio, COO of the New North Citizen’s Council, who thanked the mayor for listening to residents and their representatives in determining uses for the funding. Other neighborhood representatives echoed the sentiments.

Sarno made the announcement in front of the tennis courts at Greenleaf Park in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood where one of the largest pools of money was to be allocated to convert two of the three courts into pickleball courts. The courts, which are anticipated to be open by next spring, come with a price tag of $450,000.

Click-Bruce, who represents the Sixteen Acres neighborhood as part of Ward 5, celebrated the fact that these would be the first public courts in the city. He noted that pickleball has been among the fastest-growing sports over the past few years, calling it a “national phenomenon,” and an activity local residents would enjoy.

The Sarno administration also touted almost $50,000 invested in anti-panhandling signs. These signs, which are currently being designed and will be sent to neighborhood councils for approval, will advise motorists not to give to panhandlers and direct them to resources to which they should donate. Neighborhood councils and city officials identified high problem areas and will install the signs in the near future.

Sarno claimed that the coronavirus pandemic had undone much of the positive gains the city had made in homelessness mitigation, resulting in fewer panhandlers and there has been a resurgence in the activity in both urban centers and more affluent communities.

“What I’ve heard from all neighborhood council members is they’re sick and tired of it,” Sarno said. The mayor noted similar signage had been used in other communities but also noted the possibility of legal challenges related to the signs. He also mentioned the Springfield Police Department conducts outreach operations in concert with BHN mental health professionals in an attempt to assist and address the needs of panhandlers and those experiencing homelessness.

Other investments included park and sidewalk upgrades and repairs, speeding enforcement and safety initiatives, roadway redesign work, affordable housing plans, and lighting and beautification efforts.

The complete list of investments is as follows:

$49,500 for signs citywide to encourage residents to donate to charity in lieu of providing monetary support for panhandling
$80,000 to install pedestrian safety upgrades including crosswalk/flashing beacons at Bay & Aster streets in the Bay area
$250,000 for HVAC, lighting, security and accessibility improvements to the Kenefick Park Field House in Brightwood and Memorial Square
$72,450 to support the completion of Neighborhood Investment Plan for East Springfield
$100,000 for the installation of picnic tables, bike racks and trash receptacles at Marshall Roy and Angelina Park
$218,016 to repair and replace broken and patched sidewalks throughout the Forest Park neighborhood
$75,000 for lighting improvements to exterior of Hungry Hill Senior Center
$255,000 for the creation of a pocket park on the vacant lot at Carew and Penacook streets
$32,000 for electronic speed boards to reduce speeding in Indian Orchard
$24,000 for electronic speed boards to reduce speeding in the McKnight neighborhood
$40,000 for the development of a design plan to redesign Thompson Street and St. James Avenue intersection
$50,000 for the creation of a housing plan for the Memorial Square neighborhood
$150,000 for lighting improvements and programmable lighting projection at Court Square
$30,000 for trimming of existing trees to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety and planting new trees
$120,000 for the repair and replacement of brick sidewalks on Mattoon Street
$37,484 for improved lighting and holiday lights in Stearns Square
$467,800 for holiday lighting and American flag installation for two years along Main Street in the South End, Memorial Square and Metro Center areas
$40,000 for development of a design to address pedestrian safety concerns at Allen Street and Talmadge Drive
$150,00 for a design and master plan and improvements and activation at the Six Corners roundabout amd Gerrish Park in the Maple High/Six Corners neighborhood
$8,000 for the installation of plantings and lighting at the Sixteen Acres neighborhood sign
$450,000 for the installation of pickleball court and lighting improvements
$40,750 for electronic speed boards to reduce speeding in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood
$30,000 for the design and master plan for expansion and improvements at Angie Florian Park in the South End
$50,000 for a reuse and feasibility study for former the MCDI site in the Old Hill/Upper Hill neighborhood