The Arlington legislative delegation joined its colleagues in the state Legislature to override Gov. Baker’s veto of language requiring a project-labor agreement from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home bill financing the construction of the new home.
Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) added their votes to the override.
In May, Baker signed the bulk of a bill authorizing $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new soldiers’ home facility in Holyoke and $200 million in bonds to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for veterans across the state, but struck a provision requiring the home to be built with a project labor agreement, under which nonunion workers would have to affiliate with construction unions to have a chance to work on the new facility
Overturning the veto ensures that construction of the project uses a diverse work force and provides for well-paying, middle-class jobs. The inclusion of the language requires a prebid, prehire labor agreement for the construction of the new facility in Holyoke, ensuring that the work force is local, diverse, inclusive, well-trained, safe and skilled. Historically, such agreements on large taxpayer funded projects result in the completion of construction on-time and on or under budget.
“Rebuilding the soldiers’ home in Holyoke and increasing access to services for our veterans is necessary and long overdue, especially after tragically losing many residents of the soldiers’ home to a Covid-19 outbreak last year,” said Friedman, lead Senate negotiator of the Soldiers’ Home Conference Committee, in a July 6 news release. “This funding will ensure that the Commonwealth’s veterans are met with the services that they deserve and that address their unique and changing needs and that this construction project creates lucrative jobs for everyone.”
“I was pleased to join my colleagues in voting to override the governor and prioritize our veterans of the Commonwealth and the reconstruction of the Holyoke Soldiers Home,” said Garballey. “This funding for a new soldier’s home in Holyoke will provide a new facility that is long overdue and is something that is critical for our veterans.”
Rogers said: “Voting to override the governor’s misguided veto was an important step in ensuring the safe, timely, and modernized reconstruction of the Holyoke Soldiers Home that is so desperately needed. In the wake of the tragic loss of so many of the Commonwealth’s veterans last year, funding for a new facility for our veterans was an absolute priority here in the Legislature. I am pleased to see it get done.”
Built in 1952
The existing soldiers’ home in Holyoke was built in 1952 with many triple- and quadruple-bed rooms. Those capacity and facility issues became clear last year as the highly contagious Covid-19 virus spread throughout the home leaving more than 70 veterans dead.
The legislation will advance the construction of a modern facility with a “small house” concept to meet the needs of future generations of veterans. To further meet the needs of veterans in all corners of the Commonwealth, with an emphasis on those areas not primarily served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke, the $200 million in bonds authorizes the establishment of regional or satellite veterans’ homes as well as new or expanded supports for community-based care services and home-based care services.
In passing the $400 million bond authorization for a new soldiers’ home in Holyoke, Massachusetts is eligible to receive up to 65 per cent in federal reimbursement through the Veterans Affairs State Home Construction Grant Program.
Mandating bold action to establish, recruit, and assist women, minority, and veteran owned businesses who may participate in the design and construction of the facility, the legislation also establishes the Access, Inclusion and Diversity Committee to help set and monitor progress of diversity and inclusion goals and recommend solutions and programs to meet them, throughout the design and construction of the facility.
This news summary was published Wednesdy, July 7, 2021. It was provided by Liuz Berman of Friedman's office.
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