WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Welcomed news for local businesses that depend on western Massachusetts military bases.
The Massachusetts Military Task Force is looking for ways to help local bases and surrounding cities and towns. They held the first of six information sessions tonight here in Westfield.
The Military Bond Bill gives Governor Deval Patrick and future Massachusetts governors up to $177 million to spend on projects to benefit military bases and the local economy. The Military Task Force will help plan those projects.
The state’s first investment using the Bond Bill is the improved Barnes runway. The Task Force relationship with Barnes Air National Guard Base began last year with the runway improvement project. The Task Force contributed about $10 million in state funding to resurface the 9,000 foot runway here in Westfield.
Kate Phelon, Executive Director of Greater Westfield Cahmber of Commerce, told 22News, “When you have a $126 million that’s put back into the local economy, they have to buy procurements, there’s contracts, there’s of course the daily operations of the base.”
F-15 fighter jets on standby 24/7 use that runway.
“To be able to continue that mission without the fear of the runway deteriorating and damaging the aircraft, putting folks’ lives at risk, it’s necessary to keep up on the repairs and upkeep of the runway,” 104th Vice Commander Colonel Kenneth Lambrich said.
And private planes that bring visitors to western Massachusetts also take off and land on that same runway.
Going forward, the Task Force is looking for similar projects. Military Task Force Executive Director Adam Freudberg told 22News, “It’s a very important project. It creates jobs, construction jobs. It helps with the F-15’s, Gulf Stream. 87% of the planes that land here are not military.”
The Task Force will hold a similar information session for Westover in Chicopee on May 27th.