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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, December 10, 2023

Medford, Somerville awarded grants to address climate change

The Mystic River is pictured in Medford, Mass., on Feb. 19.

Medford and Somerville were awarded nearly half a million dollars in Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grants on Feb. 5, as part of an approximately $1.2 million grant package awarded to the Resilient Mystic Collaborative, a group of 18 municipalities of which Medford and Somerville are members.

Projects that are awarded this funding are focused on developing strategies to address climate change, according to the press release.

Breanna Lungo-Koehn, mayor of Medford, wrote in an email to the Daily that both the Medford Department of Health and Department of Energy and Environment were awarded the MVP grants to better understand the needs of diverse populations in the city.

She emphasized the city’s duty to recognize the effects of climate change and work to reduce its harmful impact.

“I believe that it is important that we are inclusive in everything we do and that climate change is considered in every department in the city,” she wrote. “Our staff will be working with critical regional infrastructure managers to identify operational and capital improvements needed to protect our communities during and after extreme coastal storms.”

Alicia Hunt, director of energy and environment for the city of Medford, explained that the grant application process consisted of clearly outlining the city’s reasons for requesting funding and the ways in which it would use it.

“When we apply for grants we apply very specifically ... in order to receive a grant you need to write out exactly what you’re going to do with it … you need to develop your program and initiative beforehand,” Hunt said.

She indicated that the first grant Medford applied for was for the city's Energy and Environment Office, which oversees and enforces environmental programs in the city, according to its website. 

The grant amounted to $36,136 for a project titled “Equity-Centered Process for Climate Action and Adaptation Planning,” according to the press release. Hunt explained that the office’s goal for the funding was to aid vulnerable communities in the city. 

"The energy and environment office is working on establishing an adaptation plan for the city of Medford," she said. "For the grant what we wanted to do was to connect and engage with under-served populations."

The office plans to host equity trainings and will host a speaker who specializes in equity and climate issues. This guest will lead a workshop with those who have participated in the development of the adaptation plan, according to Hunt.

Apart from these trainings, the office is partnering with the Medford Family Network to better serve underrepresented communities.

“The Medford Family Network is working with us to set up two dinners that are targeted to specific populations … they are helping us figure out how to engage populations that don’t normally participate in general public meetings with the city of Medford,” Hunt said.

Andreanne Breton-Carbonneau, the climate, health and equity project coordinator for the city of Medford, was the primary author of the second MVP grant awarded to the city.

This grant, titled “Suitability Assessment for Equitable, Community-Driven Resilience Hubs,” consisted of a $65,259 award.

Breton-Carbonneau said that she reframed a previous grant idea in order to satisfy the MVP grant requirements.

“The office of outreach and prevention had already kind of written this grant that looked at a resilience hub-type center,” she said. “Since this is a climate change grant I looked into that idea and found that there were these hubs that address community resilience as their primary objective but also have elements of climate change.”

Breton-Carbonneau emphasized that understanding the resources available in various communities is important to implementing this initiative.

She detailed the central plan of this grant and Medford’s effort to strengthen community relations and engagement.

“Interviewing community-based organizations to understand what programs and services they would be interested to have in these spaces is very important … also surveying vulnerable populations and having community discussions,” Breton-Carbonneau said.

She added that they will search for specific sites and locations to build the resilience hubs. Communities will decide which resources will be available in the spaces, according to Breton-Carbonneau. Her goal is to have these hubs in every neighborhood.

Somerville was one of six cities part of the “Critical Regional Infrastructure and Social Vulnerability in the Lower Mystic Watershed” project, which totaled to an award of $389,995.

The city’s proposal called for the hiring of consultants to lead two assessments. The first will consist of a vulnerability assessment conducted by infrastructure managers to identify weaknesses and potential cascading failures following an extreme storm, according to the project application. The second will involve identifying the possible impacts of infrastructure failures on residents. 

Kate Hartke, director of Somerville's grants development office, expressed her excitement at Somerville receiving the grant.

“This was one particular grant we were especially thrilled to receive," Hartke said. "[The grant process] is part of that necessary but not always glamorous work that will affect really big decisions later on.”