PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee accepted 19 projects as eligible for Community Preservation Act funds.
The committee agreed that almost 20 projects met the act's thresholds and moved them on to the next stage in the eligibility process.
"We will go down the list one by one and I think our goal tonight is to just determine if we believe these are eligible and should go on to file a full application," Chairman John Dickson said.
City Planner CJ Hoss said out of the 19 projects, 17 were clearly eligible. He said two were questionable.
CPA funds are generated through a property tax surcharge accepted by voters and matched by the state. They can be used for historical preservation, open space and recreation, and housing. For fiscal 2020, the city has about $548,000 for community projects.
The committee first considered recreational projects, including Berkshire Community College's request for $100,000 to build a concession stand near the turf field.
Hoss said it will have a partial kitchen and will be accessible to the public.
"If it turned into more of a restaurant than that is something different," he said.
• The committee waved on a $12,000 request from the Berkshire Community Rowing to purchase and maintain a new dock for Onota Lake that the public will be able to use.
Hoss said Williams College owned the previous dock and it will not return to the city this summer. The committee wanted more assurances that the dock will be always available to the public.
• The committee accepted a $69,325 request from the city to replace the sand at Burbank Park and another $15,000 request to make playground improvements at Allen Heights Park.
• The committee did have some questions about the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center's request of $100,000 to make improvements to Camp Stevenson.
Hoss said the proposal is to improve some trails and gardens but he did not know how open the camp would be to the public.
"What is the public access involved?" he asked. "It is a camp. It is not like it is a park that you can just walk on to."
• The committee accepted the project but noted it will require more information in the next phase of the project.
• The committee accepted a $4,400 request from Greenagers environmental group that wants to continue removing invasive kiwi at Burbank Park. The committee only questioned if Pittsfield youth were involved in the program.
• The committee accepted a $40,000 request from the Pittsfield Babe Ruth League to make improvements to the Deming Baseball Field.
• The committee moved on to some historical projects and accepted a proposal for $45,000 to continue barn restoration work at Arrowhead.
• It also accepted a $100,000 Berkshire Dream Center request to do some restoration work on Morningside Baptist Church.
In the next phase of the application process, the committee will seek more information on the renovation work. There was a concern if the work was truly for the public benefit or if it was work for which the congregation should be paying.
• The committee accepted a $200,000 request from the Pittsfield Family YMCA toward its $5 million renovation. Although the committee was positive that this amount would further the project, it wanted more details in the next application.
• The committee accepted a $30,000 request from the Berkshire Atheneum to continue special collections preservation work and two requests from the Historical Society: $30,000 for the preservation of West Part Cemetery and $10,000 to go towards preserving endangered properties.
Dickson said the society already has a list of these properties and this funding would allow them to further take inventory.
"The idea is to save the buildings before they come to the Historical Commission for demolition," he said.
• The committee made some final historical approvals and a $40,000 request from the Christian Center to study existing conditions in the building and see what it would take to bring the Robbins Avenue property up to code.
• The committee also accepted a $50,000 request from the Country Club of Pittsfield for chimney restoration.
Hoss said the club plans to restore five chimneys and the committee did question how these will benefit the public and if they can be brought up to code.
Hoss said he did not think they planned to actually use the chimneys and added that they have to figure out if all of the chimneys are historic.
"The building has been updated significantly over the century at this point," he said. "... are all of these chimneys actually historic?"
• The committee accepted a few more projects including two Habitat for Humanity housing projects and a late request from Berkshire Theatre Group.
It did not accept a $200,000 request from First United Methodist Church to help facilitate the move of Barton's Crossing Homeless Shelter to the church located downtown.
The committee needed more information on the project and Hoss noted that typically CPA funds only go toward permanent housing. He added that proposed construction on the property is not historic in nature.
The committee members agreed that although they did not support the project they wanted to continue a dialogue with the organization.
"It is a project we are interested in and we would like to encourage deeper conversion to answer some of these questions," committee member Danielle Steinmann said.
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Berkshire Humane Still Caring for Animals Despite Financial Struggles
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society has been forced to change operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic but its and care and support for animals will not waiver.
"We understand that this is a tough time for everyone. We just want people to know that the homeless animals in our care are still getting the same, nurturing level of care that they always do and we are continuing our programs to help pet owners keep pets in their loving homes," Executive Director, John Perreault said. "We appreciate the support the community has given us at this time. We'll work through this together and look forward to better times for both people and the animals they love."
The novel coronavirus has forced many businesses and organizations to close their doors or modify how they do business and this has been the case for the Berkshire Humane Society.
The nonprofit animal shelter has closed its doors to the public for the time being but is still allowing surrenders and adoptions, but only by appointment. Human contact has been limited and these appointments take place in a sterile area.
The online store features a variety of vendors and is open to all local residents. Those who have SNAP benefits or those who have recently lost their jobs or are facing economic hardship from the pandemic are eligible for $30 a week in free food from the Virtual Farmers Market.
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Inspired by the book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," which Susan Wrba likes to read with her 2-year-old son, Wrba is organizing a "bear hunt" across the Berkshires from Friday, April 3, to Sunday, April 5. click for more