Local projects get millions via overrides, borrowing bills
The handful of budget line items for Dorchester and Mattapan that Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed last month were quickly restored by lawmakers in the final hours of the legislative session last week. The overrides came as millions in additional dollars for local projects were also approved in borrowing bills.
Most, but not all, of the override votes on last Wednesday and Thursday fell along party lines, with House and Senate Republicans sticking with the Democratic governor in an attempt to let his vetoes stand amid what they called a shaky economy.
The overrides included restoring $100,000 for the Joseph Timility Adult Day and Health Memory Loss Center in Codman Square, providing day care for seniors and their families dealing with Alzheimer's disease; $115,000 for the Suffolk County District Attorney's office; and $75,000 for matching grants for the Citizen Schools initiative, an after-school program for middle school students.
"We had a great year," said state Rep. Marty Walsh. "I think everything worked out pretty well for the district."
"I'm happy we were able to get it back to $550,000," said state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry of the Citizen Schools override.
"A lot got done this session," she added, pointing to $1 billion, 10-year life sciences initiative as one example.
Overall, the overrides totaled around $56 million, coming to nearly half of the $122.5 million that the governor vetoed from the $28.2 billion budget lawmakers sent to him in July.
Before the overrides, Patrick administration officials warned that money lawmakers restore could result in increased spending controls and midyear cuts.
Also making their way to the governor's desk are a number of bond bills totaling $11 billion, with millions for local projects in Dorchester and Mattapan. Lawmakers, who have adjourned to campaign in their districts for the upcoming primary and general elections, scrambled last week to finish the bills, blowing past a Thursday midnight deadline to take up several of the borrowing bills. The timeline allows for Patrick to veto any earmarks in the bond bills without worry of overrides.
In the rush, one project appears to have received more by accident, according to a Dorchester Reporter review.
In the final version of the $1.7 billion environmental bond bill (H 5054) sent to the governor's desk, funding for the clean-up of a state-owned, waterfront lot in Port Norfolk appears twice, once under a line item calling for up to $7 million and elsewhere in the bill under a line item calling for $3 million. It was not immediately clear before the Reporter went to press which number was the correct one, with some advocates saying the $7 million figure, while others pointed to the $3 million. The Senate version that emerged early last week pinned the figure at $7 million.
The 14-acre area was once home to Shaffer Paper company, as well as a lumber yard, a metal fabricating company and a manufacturer of wooden tubs and drums. Neighborhood activists have a subcommittee formed to create a park in the area once it's cleaned up of lingering chemicals and plan to meet with the Department of Conservation and Recreation in September.
"Anything we can get is okay," said Mary McCarthy, head of the Port Norfolk Civic Association.
The environmental bond bill also included $12 million for the restoration of the lower part of the Neponset River. The money would go towards the removal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the river's sediments and includes language calling for community involvement in the potential removal of a pair of dams in the area, including Baker Dam in Lower Mills. The bill also shifts control of the program tied to the Neponset River from the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"We're satisfied with that," said Steven Pearlman, advocacy director at the Neponset River Watershed Association. "They do own the dams and the land. We're still working with a citizens' advisory committee to see if we can reach a consensus on what the project will look like by this fall."
Other bond bills included $1.3 billion for transportation needs, including money for the study of improvements to the intersection at Gallivan Boulevard and Morton Street,widely considered one of neighborhood's more perilous crossroads.
The bond bill includes $750,000 for signalization at the intersection; $100,000 for Columbia Road, which is currently undergoing construction; $1 million for a sound barrier along Route 93 South in the section that runs through Dorchester; and $700,000 for the re-design and construction of Kosciuszko Circle, an area that has become the focus of the Columbia Master Plan task force.
The bill also includes $200,000 for repairs along Gallivan Boulevard; and money for fixes to Adams Street and Granite Avenue.
"That's going to be a huge improvement," Forry said.
For now, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has delayed the timing of the lighting at Gallivan Boulevard, at a left turn near Adams Village, according to Forry.
A $2 billion education bond bill includes $100 million for an academic facility at UMass-Boston. The campus is undergoing a master planning effort to build new academic buildings while tearing down parts of the current campus that have fallen into disrepair from lack of previous funds and shoddy construction.