The $56.2 billion FY 2024 budget that Massachusetts lawmakers passed includes $8.2 million appropriated for Marblehead’s state aid and special projects. Contingent on Gov. Maura Healey’s signature, the town is set to receive $25,000 for the Marblehead Counseling Center (MCC) and $25,000 for Redd’s Pond infrastructure.
“Redd’s Pond and the Counseling Center are two Marblehead treasures that serve the well-being of our community in different but important ways,” said state Rep. Jenny Armini, D-Marblehead. “The Marblehead Counseling Center is a frontline resource tirelessly addressing the breadth and depth of the mental health crisis. This funding is meant to support their work as they support us.”
Years of wear and tear
Redd’s Pond, a natural body of water located off Pond Street and nestled in the heart of town, covers 1.81 acres and offers skating in the winter and model boat races in the summer. The wall and walkway were built in 1934 as part of the Workers Progress Administration projects.
Years of wear and tear have led to noticeable infrastructure challenges. Residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the deteriorating state of Redd’s Pond, especially the surrounding sidewalks marked with temporary patches. They have also said the deteriorating sidewalks and eroding wall are not only dangerous and aesthetically unpleasing but also noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Marblehead Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer emphasized the importance of the $25,000 earmarked for Redd’s Pond.
“What we are looking to do with this money is for the engineering, architectural design work required,” Kezer said. “That will tell us what needs to be done and how to do it. And once that’s done, we’ll have plans to put this out to bid.”
Kezer said he particularly likes working on lining ducks up for the Redd’s Pond project.
“We (town administrators) typically address the regular day-to-day problems — paving roads, fixing sidewalks,” said Kezer. “Redd’s Pond is one of those special projects for which funding is often lacking.”
He added: “So it’s great when you ask for extra funding and receive it.”
Reducing the MCC’s waitlist
Kezer also praised the $25,000 earmarked for the Counseling Center.
“They are a key partner as they work closely with the Marblehead Public Health Department on mental health issues,” Kezer said, noting the town’s $145,000 support to the nonprofit through (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.
MCC President Ruth Ferguson said the nonprofit was surprised to learn of the allocation earmarked to support the work it does to serve the mental health needs in the community and surrounding areas.
Demand for services at the MCC has surged, with its current waitlist standing at 295 individuals. This number underscores the growing need for mental health resources in the community.
“Our waitlist is currently at 295 — 119 Marblehead residents and 48 from Swampscott — which is reflective of most other providers in our area,” said Ferguson.
The center has also observed the profound, lasting impacts of trauma on their clientele. Recent trends point to a notable uptick in psychiatric crises, many stemming from trauma.
“Our experienced clinicians help clients experiencing suicidal ideation and work through behaviors such as cutting and other self-harm,” said Ferguson. “We are seeing children come in as young as 5 years old with severe social phobias, most resulting from the varying impacts of the COVID pandemic.”
Particularly alarming is the rise in severe social phobias among children, a phenomenon the MCC partly attributes to repercussions of the pandemic.
Ferguson said MCC has been buoyed by crucial external support.
“Infusions of financial support are a game changer for MCC. Marblehead’s designation of ARPA funds illustrated the continued commitment of our town administrator, Select Board and Board of Health to the mental health needs of town residents,” said Ferguson. “Through that support, we have strategically positioned ourselves to enhance our technology and adapt our facilities to attract and accommodate additional clinicians to our community-based agency.”
Other state aid
Marblehead is slated to receive $8.2 million from the state to fund town projects and services.
The expected state aid is only $8,899 less than the amount approved at the Town Meeting in May.
“It’s the difference from our estimate for this year’s budget,” said Kezer.
Of the total, $6.3 million is allocated for Marblehead public schools, an increase of $80,000 from last year. Additionally, the town is set to receive $1.3 million, a rise of $15,080 from last year, for town services.
The final amount the town benefits from depends on the ‘net state aid,’ which is the aid remaining after Marblehead pays charges for state services or charter school assessments.
Furthermore, under the Chapter 90 program, Marblehead can seek reimbursement from the state up to $448,474.67 for road projects.