SALISBURY — The town has been awarded a $1.7 million state grant allowing it to upgrade its water system throughout Salisbury Square and on portions of Elm Street, considered pivotal improvements needed for the new library and two upcoming affordable housing complexes.  

Town Manager Neil Harrington said he found out late Tuesday that Salisbury’s application was approved for a $1,708,769 MassWorks Infastructure grant from the state Department of Housing and Economic Development. 

A fully funded grant that has no local matching requirement or need for repayment, Harrington said, the town would have had to borrow the money to implement the needed project had the grant request not been approved. He said the improvements are needed to enhance water service in the square and surrounding area. Without it, there wouldn’t be sufficient water pressure to accommodate the new library under construction.

The enhancement of the water main network is also needed for two affordable housing projects planned in town. In an agreement with the Greater Newburyport YWCA and general contractor L.D. Russo, the former Spalding School, located on Maple Street, will be expanded and converted into 25 housing units for low- to moderate-income families and individuals. 

And farther up Route 110, at 29 Elm St., the former Brownfield site will be cleaned up and developed into an additional 16 units of affordable rental housing for families. 

Salisbury has a significant population that would benefit from the lower priced housing, and both complexes are considered important in helping the town achieve the state-mandated 10 percent threshold of affordable housing within its borders.

Salisbury already designed the upgrade, Harrington said, and with notice of the award coming now, the town can move ahead quickly to ensure all is ready by the time the library opens next fall. 

“We’ll be able to go out for bid this winter and start the project next spring,” Harrington said.

MassWorks is a competitive state funding opportunity, and Harrington said the town got a lot of help getting its application approved from state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport.

“Senator O’Connor Ives played a critical role in lobbying for this funding for the town of Salisbury,” Harrington said. “We’re very grateful to her for her efforts.” 

According to O’Connor Ives, she was happy to advocate in support of the grant for the Salisbury Square water distribution improvement project. Beyond its current need, she said, the infrastructure improvements “will help grow economic development in Salisbury Square.” 

Salisbury’s current project is within a regional Priority Development Area in the Merrimack Valley Regional Plan, according to O’Connor Ives, and the MassWorks award leverages $9 million in private investments for it, creating opportunities for additional redevelopment in the area. 

The MassWorks Infrastructure Program awarded 31 infrastructure grants totaling $67,357,379 to support housing, economic development and road safety in communities across the state, she added. 

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