Western Massachusetts Food Bank cuts Chicopee’s $199,000 check for infrastructure work

CHICOPEE — The Western Massachusetts Food Bank awarded the city nearly $200,000 after the cost of infrastructure work at their new headquarters on East Main Street ended up being higher than expected.

Officials presented a $199,000 check to the city in August to pay for rising costs of work such as installing water and sewer lines and connecting them to city utilities, paving parking lots and other works on the site.

The food bank is currently constructing an approximately 60,000 square foot headquarters in the Chicopee Business Park at the corner of East Main and Carew streets. It will replace the building the nonprofit has long taken over in Hatfield.

“The food bank has made the decision (to) provide the necessary funds through a donation to the city to cover the difference of $94,577 between available grant funds and the lowest qualified bid, in addition $105,323 in emergency funds to allow the project to move forward,” city planner Lee Pouliot said in a letter.

The state’s MassWorks infrastructure program awarded $1.62 million for work at the project site, but the lowest qualified bid was higher than budgeted for the work, it said. -he declares.

“The MassWorks grant went to the city of Chicopee and they are overseeing the work on the site,” said Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the food bank. “The offers have been a little higher than expected and we are filling the void.”

MassWorks provides grants to communities to improve infrastructure that will attract housing, spur private development and create jobs. The money is usually awarded through a partnership with a private entity, or in this case a non-profit organization, but it must be the city overseeing the work.

By making the payment to the city, it means local ratepayers won’t have to pay for the increased costs of the work, Morehouse said.

The project is expected to cost around $22 million and is being funded by corporate and individual donations, including $1.5 million each from Big Y and MassMutual. He also received $5 million in federal COVID relief funds championed by State Senator Eric Lesser and $4 million in sales of new market tax credits.

“We are grateful for the support from the wider community and want to be great neighbors,” Morehouse said.

The project has been controversial in the city, with neighbors saying it is too big for the area near single-family homes and that trucks coming and going will further aggravate traffic on the busy street. In addition, the Food Bank will not pay property taxes because it is a non-profit organization.

But supporters argue that the land is properly zoned for business and that the building is essential to help address food insecurity issues. It’s in a more central location, making it easy to access many pantries, especially since it’s near the Interstate-291 on- and off-ramps.

As part of the MassWorks funding, the food bank granted the town easements that will allow the food bank to be used as a shelter in the event of an emergency. Schools will also be allowed access to Poor Brook on the property to be used for educational purposes, Morehouse said.

Morehouse said he was happy to sign the agreement, but added that the food bank would still support schools whenever teachers wanted to use their property.

Site work and construction of the structure began simultaneously. Morehouse said he expects the building to be closed by November and completed in April.

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