Williamstown community preservation committee faces demands of $ 500,000 / iBerkshires.com
Updated January 24, 2019 at 10:50 a.m.
The roof of the 1753 house needs to be replaced.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts – Last winter, some members of the Community Preservation Committee lamented that the city received fewer requests for funding than usual from Community Preservation Act funds.
Be careful what you want.
When the CPC holds its first meeting of 2019 on January 23, it will consider requests totaling nearly half a million dollars.
Nine requests totaling $ 501,096
$ 466,296, were received by Friday’s deadline for the FY2020 funding cycle.
Applications include: $ 200,000 from Berkshire Housing Development Corp. ; $ 80,000 from the Friends of the Linear Park; $ 75,000 from the City’s Affordable Housing Trust; $ 70,000 from Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity; $ 34,800 from the Sand Springs Recreation Center; $ 20,176 from the Hoosic River Watershed Association; $ 9,815 from the House committee of 1753; $ 7,325 from the Town of Williamstown; $ 3,980 from the Williamstown Historical Museum.
The money is there. The question is whether the committee will want to award it.
In recent years, members of this same panel have opposed giving all of the money from the CPC budget, preferring to accumulate a balance that would allow the city to have a major impact when a large project presents itself.
At his October 23, 2018 meeting, Chief Executive Officer Jason Hoch – a voting member of the CPC – indicated that the city expects to have approximately $ 515,000 for FY20 grants. This money comes from the unallocated balance carried forward from last year ($ 342,416) and anticipated city and state revenues plus interest ($ 297,572), less the $ 125,000 the city has already committed for the restoration of Cable Mills.
In October, the committee discussed options for building a reserve fund for the PCA, including: “[using] city âârevenue portion as a guideline, âfor an informal spending cap in any given year, according to October 23 meeting minutes.
The city’s CPA revenues come from a 2 percent surtax on property taxes (with the first $ 100,000 of valuation exempt) that the city adopted in 2002. A formula that uses the city’s estimated revenues for FY20 ($ 259,000 minus Cable Mills’ commitment would leave about $ 134,000 – or about 29 percent of combined claims.
The CPC is responsible for reviewing applications and recommending allocations to voters, who ultimately decide whether or not to allocate funds at the annual meeting in May.
In the past, the CPC has followed a two-step process to review requests. First, it decided if each request is appropriate under the law and fits into at least one of the stated goals of the PCA: community housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.
All applications that pass this first test (most have done so, historically) will be considered for full or partial funding.
Last year, the city received only one funding request, a $ 20,000 request from the Affordable Housing Trust; a separate City Conservation Commission claim for $ 19,000 was withdrawn over the winter.
The AHT is back before the committee this winter, seeking $ 75,000 to support the trust’s various initiatives to increase the availability of affordable – or subsidized – housing in the city. The trust was created at a municipal assembly in 2012 as a mechanism to distribute tax money for meritorious projects without having to wait for annual appropriations at the municipal assembly.
One of the trust’s most successful initiatives, the Richard DeMayo Mortgage Assistance Program, has, to date, allocated $ 220,500 in CPA funds which has enabled 15 income-eligible first-time homebuyers to move into town. The Trust also purchased two properties in town and partnered with Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity on a plan to build two single family homes on one of the properties at the corner of Cole Avenue and Maple Street.
This project led to one of eight other requests facing the CPC this month, listed here in descending order of magnitude:
Berkshire Housing Development Corp. : The Pittsfield-based nonprofit is seeking $ 200,000 for its $ 16 million development of affordable housing at the former Photech property at 330 Cole Ave. The request could be considered both community housing and historic preservation (preservation of the historic mill), but BHDC just ticked the community housing box on its request. The city already has a significant ‘skin in the game’, having spent money in the past to test and repair contamination at the site and agree to contribute city ownership to the project; Williamstown acquired the 5-acre site in tax proceedings. The $ 200,000 requested represents less than 1% of the total project, which will ultimately be funded largely by low-income housing tax credits and other funds dispersed by the Commonwealth.
Friends of the linear park: The local ad hoc group was formed last fall to fill in the gaps in the section of the park next to Water Street. An inspection of the playground’s equipment led to its withdrawal from the city park, “leaving a big void for families,” according to the group’s request. The $ 80,000 request falls under the recreation category of the law, and the money would be used to update the existing park with a new playground and add an outdoor pavilion. The $ 80,000 represents 40 percent of a project budget of $ 200,000.
Habitat for Humanity of North Berkshire: As noted, the group hopes to build two single-family homes on the corner of Cole Avenue and Maple Street on city-owned land. The homes will be owner occupied by applicants who invest “sweat equity” as part of their contribution and are deed restricted to remain affordable in perpetuity. The nonprofit is seeking $ 70,000, or 25% of its project budget of $ 280,000. As with the 330 Cole Ave. project, the city already has other financial commitments to the project, not least of which is the value of the land.
Sand Springs Recreation Center: The nonprofit that owns the Bridges Road Pool and Recreation Center received CPA grants from the city in 2015 and 2017, though $ 17,205 of a $ 25,000 grant awarded in 2017 did not not spent because the costs exceeded the funds available. This year, the center is seeking $ 34,800 to complete the project it tried to fund two years ago: an elevator that will make its second-floor community hall accessible, open to the public and – the nonprofit hope – a potential source of income. Applying under the recreation provision of the act, Sand Springs is seeking a FY20 grant that would represent 60% of the total cost of the project.
Hoosic River Watershed Association: Another request to the CPC concerned the city’s linear park. Under the provisions of the Open Space and Recreation Act, HooRWA is seeking $ 20,176 to construct a Linear Park Link Trail to connect the southern and northern sections of the city’s two parks that share the same name. The half-mile trail would follow the Green River from the Water Street section of the park to the Walley Bridge on Route 2 (Main Street). Along Route 2, park users can walk to the entrance to the northern section of the linear park. The $ 20,176 represents 80 percent of the cost of the project.
House Committee 1753: In 1953, a group of volunteers erected the replica of the house in Field Park, across from the Williams Inn, using methods and materials believed to have been used in the 18th century, as part of the town’s bicentennial celebration. . The house committee is asking $ 9,815, or 100 percent of the cost of replacing the structure’s roof, which must be repaired to prevent damage to the interior.
City of Williamstown: The city manager asks the committee to recommend $ 7,325 to preserve a piece of the city’s history, a 1920 interpretation of the memorial community building project that was never built. The said building would have housed a municipal library and women’s activities such as Goodwill and other associations, according to the Town Report of 1920. The plaster was discovered in the basement of the town hall two years ago. Hoch is asking $ 7,325, which would cover 100% of the restoration by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center at the Clark Art Institute.
Williamstown Historical Museum: The committee’s two smaller requests for FY20 both fall under the historic preservation provision of the PCA. The WHM is asking $ 3,980, or 80 percent of the planned cost, to preserve the town’s 18th century cattle mark register. âFuture projects related to this ledger could include a detailed account of the number of head of cattle in the city and, if used with other existing (even rare) records, reveal how the ownership of livestock and land was distributed throughout the city. Â»The application reads in part. The WACC is also consulting on this project, which would include repairing the artifact and creating a high-quality facsimile that can be used by researchers.
An earlier version of this story and title inadvertently left one of the applications outside of the total sought by all nine applicants.
Key words: Community Preservation Act,