By: Dennis Hohenberger
Article Credit: MassLive
HOLYOKE — The City Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday that gives property tax abatements to Massachusetts National Guard or reservist members deployed overseas. The Board of Assessors must draft policy on the new program.
Last week, Jesus Pereira, who directs the city’s Veterans Service Department, asked the council to approve Massachusetts General Law 59. Sec. 5, which gran a “local option” on tax abatements up to 100%.
Pereira proposed waiving part or all property taxes for guard members on extended deployments, which can last a year or more. The Commonwealth does not reimburse communities for the reductions.
When implemented, the tax break would cover the period the service member is deployed.
Pereira proposed waiving part or all property taxes for guard members engaged in extended deployments. He noted that most Massachusetts Guard members served at least one overseas duty in the past five years.
Pereira cautioned councilors not to classify military service members into those who serve in war zones or not. He said not all military personnel are “kicking down doors” but still provide critical support stateside and globally.
Holyoke offers tax abatements for eligible senior property owners and work-off programs for the elderly and veterans. Seniors can save up to $750 on their tax bills by working as a volunteer in a city department.
The council also approved a $6.56 million MassWorks grant for infrastructure improvements around Carlo Vega Park in South Holyoke. The work coincides with a multistage rental and owner-occupied housing project.
Councilor Rebecca Lisi, who chairs the Ordinance Committee, said the funding would enhance pedestrian and bike traffic and calm traffic in the neighborhood. She said the grant would improve quality-of-life in South Holyoke.
Ward 2 Councilor Terence Murphy said new raised sidewalks would offer safer routes to the park.
The Holyoke Housing Authority plans to construct 66 rental-units and 24 private homes around Hamilton and Clemente Streets. The park honors the life and legacy of Carlos Vega, the former director of Nueva Esperanza.
The MassWorks grant pays for a new traffic configuration, stormwater bump-out planters, new trees, curbing, sidewalks, street lighting, bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and landscaping.
The project also includes new alleyways and an 18,950 square-foot greens pace. Gov. Charlie Baker announced the grant award in December 2019.
The council granted an exemption for the housing authority related to prevailing-wage laws.