WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee will have requests totaling $346,000 when it meets on Jan. 20.
Four agencies submitted requests by Friday's deadline for grants ranging from $50,000 to $160,000. Together, the aggregate is more than 8 percent over the total funds the committee is expecting to be available for fiscal year 2022.
The largest request is from the town's Affordable Housing Trust, which settled on a sum of $160,000 in new Community Preservation Act funding during an open meeting last month. The committee also had an inclination in the fall that the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation would be seeking town funds to support the acquisition of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction at Fairfields Farm; that request came in at $56,000.
The other two applicants also will be familiar faces to the members of the committee.
The Williamstown Historical Museum seeks $50,000 for the restoration, transport and reassembly of an historic barn to the museum's New Ashford Road (Route 7) home. Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity wants $80,000 to support the construction of a second single-family home on a lot at the corner of Cole Avenue and Maple Street that Habitat received from the Affordable Housing Trust for that purpose.
The town generates CPA funds primarily from a 2 percent surcharge on property tax bills (with the first $100,000 valuation exempted). Municipalities that have accepted the provisions of the act, which Williamstown did in 2002, also receive a partial match from the commonwealth.
CPA funds can be used for the following purposes: community housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation. The committee vets applications each winter and has the sole authority to put requests before town meeting for final approval in the spring.
In November, Town Manager Jason Hoch advised his colleagues on the panel that the town anticipated having about $324,500 available for fiscal 2022 appropriations. In a Monday email to iBerkshires.com responding to an inquiry about the budget, Hoch said that after re-evaluating revenue projections, he has revised that figure down to $319,482 -- $26,518 less than the total of the four applications the town received.
Each of the applicants will have a chance to make their case before the committee at the meetings that start next Wednesday. But their applications, available on the town's website, provide background information for the panel to consider.
The Affordable Housing Trust is hoping that town meeting grants it an additional $160,000 and frees up $18,722 in previously restricted CPA funds to support various initiatives of the trust, including its Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program and Richard DeMayo Mortgage Assistance Program.
The latter, the DeMayo program, since 2014 has helped 20 first-time families at or below 100 percent of the Area Median Income to become first-time homebuyers in the town.
The two emergency programs are a response to the need to support current residents impacted by the financial crisis that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with Berkshire Housing Development Corp., the housing trust got the rental program off the ground in the summer; the members of the trust board are in the process of making an emergency mortgage assistance program operational.
The $18,722 refers to the remainder of money appropriated by town meeting in May 2018 (FY19) to support the trust's partnership with Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity on the latter's Critical Repairs/Brush with Kindness program. According to the trust's FY22 application, the local non-profit has said it is devoting all its labor to building a new home at the corner of Cole and Maple (and, hopefully, a second in the near future), and the Brush with Kindness funds are not being utilized.
"Thus, there are no prospects for using the unspent funds for several years," the trust's application notes. "If Habitat does unexpectedly undertake a repair, the Trust would be able to use unrestricted funds to aid the effort."
Since it was created by town meeting in 2012 with a $200,000 CPA grant, the Affordable Housing Trust has consistently asked for unrestricted CPA funds with the exception of 2018, when it asked for funds for a specific purpose in response to requests from some members of the CPC for more specificity in applications.
Habitat for Humanity is seeking $80,000 of CPA funds toward an expected $220,529 cost to build a home at 14 Maple St. The nonprofit currently is in the final stages of completing a home next door with frontage on Cole Avenue.
"NBH will advertise for appropriate families under guidelines approved by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development," the nonprofit's application reads. "The selected families would assist in the construction and would buy the houses. The price will be limited to what the buyer can afford to pay under the affordable housing guidelines and so will be within the means of the buyers.
"Habitat will build the [house] using significant amounts of volunteer labor and additional specialized labor, services and equipment that are often donated or [provided] on a discounted basis. The properties will be subject to a restriction that provides that future owners must also be able to afford the house based on affordable housing guidelines, thus limiting the future sales price and ensuring the long-term status as affordable housing units."
Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity anticipates construction on the 14 Maple St. property to begin this spring.
The Williamstown Historical Museum has applied for $50,000 to defray the cost of a $301,000 project to disassemble, preserve and reassemble the Dolan-Jenks Barn, currently at 1101 Green River Road, to the museum's site at the former South Center School near the Five Corners intersection of Routes 7 and 43.
"The prospect of opportunities to connect with the past while engaging with the present is inspiring," museum Executive Director Sarah Currie wrote in a letter to the CPC that accompanied the application. "On the grounds of the WHM, the barn will be available for visitors to learn more about the town's agricultural past and the methods of construction used in previous centuries."
The barn is believed to date from between 1840 to 1860, the museum's application reads. The WHM says it has $171,000 on hand from individual donors, accounting 57 percent of the project's projected costs. It has another $20,000 pledged from donors and intends to raise another $60,600, the application reads.
The WHM's goal is to have the barn reassembled on the museum grounds by summer 2022.
Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation will be before the CPC looking for $56,000 toward the $460,000 cost to acquire an Agricultural Preservation Restriction on 18 acres owned by the Galusha family, operating as Fairfields Farm.
The town contribution would be used to leverage private donations and $327,450 from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, which requires a local match of at least 10 percent against state funds.
"Agriculture Preservation Restrictions protect prime agricultural soils," the WRLF application reads. "The Galusha land currently produces corn and silage for the family's dairy herd, but it could produce vegetables or other row crops in the future. The important thing is to protect good farmland while it is available. And, with food insecurity growing because of the pandemic, it's vital to source our food locally. All Williamstown residents benefit when we can produce food within our community."
The application is supported by letters from MDAR's APR field representative, the town's Agricultural Commission and Conservation Commission and former WRLF Executive Director Leslie Reed-Evans.
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Northern Berkshire EMS had personnel on scene all day Saturday at the firefighters' base of operations.
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And people all over town joined the fight to put it down.
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"I'm in my 19th year, and we've had a few forest fires, brush fires, and I gotta say this is probably the largest response we've had from our community as a whole," Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said on Saturday afternoon.
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