WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's Community Preservation Committee this winter will have three requests for funding from Community Preservation Act proceeds.
The applications, posted on the town's website, come from three bodies: the Sand Springs Recreation Center, the town's Affordable Housing Trust and the town itself. And they total $159,800.
The CPC is the gatekeeper that evaluates funding requests and decides whether to send them on to May's annual town meeting, where voters decide whether to grant or deny the funding.
The committee is scheduled to begin considering the applications at its first meeting of the calendar year on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.
The largest of this year's application is from the Affordable Housing Trust, which has sought and received CPA funds each year since it was founded.
This year's application for $75,000 will allow the trust to continue its Richard DeMayo Mortgage Assistance Program, which, to date, has dispersed $280,500 in CPA funds to 19 income-qualified, first-time homeowners in town.
As part of its application, the trust included anecdotal information about some of the DeMayo MAP recipients, a group that includes, "a local first-responder who had just graduated from the police academy," and "a single mother who was moving back to the area."
The application includes a testimonial from a local lender:
"She was 'very proud to report that all of these mortgages have been paid on time with no late payments. … (D)oing this research has made me more aware of the wonderful things this program has accomplished."
As the trustees discussed in a meeting in December, the 2020 request to the CPC is unrestricted in the sense that the AHT could use some of the proceeds, if awarded, to support other small projects that promote affordable housing in town.
Last May, town meeting overwhelmingly approved a similar $75,000 request from the Affordable Housing Trust.
Likewise, 2019's annual town meeting approved a request for $34,800 from Sand Springs. This year, the non-profit that operates a popular, historic swimming pool is back to ask for the same amount for a different project after it was unable to spend the money it requested for fiscal 2019-20.
Disbursements to groups like Sand Springs generally are made after projects are completed. The town cuts a check after it has verified that the project is done as described in an application.
In this year's request, the Sand Springs board explains that it is abandoning its plan to make the second floor of its building accessible and trying a different solution to create usable "event space" that the board hopes will make the recreation center economically viable.
"The price of purchasing and installing an ADA lift continues to go up, and related issues have surfaced or been magnified," the application reads. "For example, even if we were to install a lift, we would likely have to rebuild the main access stairs as we are concerned that they are too steep and would present a danger to children. While the stairs could be rebuilt, such a project (along with the footprint of the lift) would significantly reduce the usable space on the second floor.
"We have considered alternate approaches to gain access to the second floor -- including an outdoor ramp and a commercial stair lift -- but for numerous reasons, these options also proved unfeasible."
Therefore, Sand Springs is back before the CPC with its Plan B: the construction of a 14-by-14-foot accessory structure on the south side of the pool area to serve as the new primary entrance to the pool. The new structure would have an ADA-compliant bathroom and a new welcome station for daily pool users.
"Rather than the main building primarily serving as an elongated entryway into the pool area, the bulk of the building could be utilized as the event and community space that the Center needs for its long-term sustainability," the application reads.
Since the request -- albeit for the same unspent amount already awarded in May 2019 -- is for a different purpose, the group has to come back with a new application.
The third applicant on the Jan. 22 agenda is another repeat applicant with a brand new proposal.
The Town of Williamstown is seeking $50,000 in CPA funds to augment $25,000 from the town's coffers for a $75,000 "study to assess feasibility of adding new playing fields at various locations in Town, including properties that might be acquired."
The proposal for a feasibility study comes out of the work of the 2019 ad hoc Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which identified a strong desire among various youth sports leagues in town for fields to reduce crowding and alleviate overuse of existing playing surfaces.
Town Manager Jason Hoch is listed as the project lead, with support from Community Development Director Andrew Groff and Craig Clough, who manages the town's parks and cemeteries. Select Board member Jeffrey Thomas and PARAC Chair Tim Carr are listed as advisers to the project.
"The study will inform plans to create new multi-use recreational fields in Town," the application reads. "Locations to be assessed include: School campuses, the 'Lowry Property,' and up to three additional properties not owned by the Town, to be determined. (Owing to FEMA restrictions, the Spruces park shall not be considered).
"This study will 1) identify potential locations for such fields, 2) determine optimal uses, including fields and other recreational and support amenities at each location and 3) assess feasibility (logistics, costs, site and environmental constraints, access) of installing fields at each site. The results of the study will inform the Town's strategy to create new multi-use recreational fields."
If approved by town meeting, the town hopes to issue a request for proposals to find a consultant in May and have results ready to review as early as October.
Williamstown adopted Massachusetts' Community Preservation Act in 2002, two years after it was signed into law. The act allows CPA funds to be spent on community housing, historic preservation, open space or recreation.
Williamstown's funds are largely generated by a 2 percent surcharge on property taxes (with the first $100,000 of valuation exempted). The CPA program includes a state match, but as more towns adopted the act, the percentage of that match per town has dwindled. According to the nonprofit Community Preservation Coalition, 176 of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns (just more than half) have adopted the CPA.
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