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Town hosts listening session for MVP certification

Public input valid for use of potential grant money and new hazard mitigation plan


PEPPERELL — Town officials furthered the process to achieve municipal vulnerability preparedness certification from the state by holding a virtual listening session on May 21.

Planning Board Adviser Lisa Davis said last month that the open public session was meant to gain community input on what the grant money should be put toward in terms of preserving the town’s environment and making the community more resilient to climate change. Davis said the listening session “went well” and the town will likely have the entire report prepared before the deadline of June 30.

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the MVP program awards local towns with grants to fund vulnerability assessments and the development of action-oriented resiliency plans. Before getting those funds, towns have to complete the MVP program and be certified by the state.

Davis said Pepperell first applied for the MVP planning grant last May and received the planning grant in July. Davis said the town has a final draft MVP report, which was discussed during the listening session. Members of the Tighe & Bond consulting firm and Beverly Woods, executive director of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, hosted the session. The report has to be finalized and then deemed official before being submitted to the state for certification no later than June 30.

“The biggest hazard we’ve identified is flooding and how to deal with it,” Davis said. “I think the MVP grant could be used to develop a floodplain bylaw to regulate activity within local floodplains. It could also update culverts, provide wetland restoration, go to vulnerable dams in town and emergency services. There’s a laundry list of mitigation strategies.”

On top of going through the MVP process, Davis said the town is also in the midst of establishing its own Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan, overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is similar to the purpose of the MVP program in that it educates officials and prepares long-term strategies for communities in case of any kind of natural disaster. If the HMP is certified by FEMA, communities are eligible to receive certain forms of nonemergency disaster assistance. Pepperell originally operated under a North Middlesex HMP, but now state officials want towns to establish their own HMP.

“It’s been a convoluted process so now the state wants us to do a community-exclusive HMP,” she said.

Davis said the HMP is still awaiting approval from the Board of Selectmen, which she expects to be completed by July.