Williamstown Community Preservation Committee Sets Deadline for Applications

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee expects the town to have up to $300,000 to award to new applicants for Community Preservation Act funding in fiscal year 2024.
Last month, the CPC met at town hall to, among other things, review its financials heading into the FY24 application cycle.
The committee agreed to set a date of Jan. 6 for applications for new CPA grants. The committee then will review those applications this winter and recommend the applicants it deems appropriate to May's annual town meeting, which has the final say on awards.
Chair Philip McKnight opened the November meeting by reviewing a spreadsheet that lays out the town's current CPC fund and its expected revenue and expenditures in the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2023.
The bulk of the revenue, $286,533, is expected to come from the local property tax surcharge. In 2002, the town voted to accept the provisions of the Community Preservation Act and impose a 2 percent surcharge on property taxes, with the first $100,000 of a parcel's value exempted, to fund the town's CPA account.
Added to that $286,000 are nearly $99,000 in unexpended CPA funds carried over from FY23 and matching funds from the commonwealth. The town will not know the size of the state match until after it decides on the applications to send to town meeting, McKnight explained, and instead “conservatively” penciled in $75,000 for the match, equal to the town's award from the state in FY23.
After totaling the expected revenue and subtracting the known liabilities from previous town meeting expenditures of CPA funds, the town accountant has advised the committee to plan for up to $300,000 in new grants for next May's town meeting, McKnight said.
The largest liability on the books for FY24 is the next-to-last payment on a bond to cover the cost of town meeting's 2007 commitment to contribute $1.5 million to the first phase of the Cable Mills apartment complex.
Another $50,000 on the books for next year is a commitment to pay down a $400,000 commitment from this year's annual town meeting toward Phase 3 of the Cable Mills development.
Both grants to the Cable Mills project are tied to keeping some units in the Water Street housing complex income-restricted. In the case of the $400,000 grant from this year's town meeting, 27 of the 54 apartments in Phase 3 of the Cable Mills complex – new construction on the south end of the property – will be linked to the Area Median Income. Eight units will be restricted to families making 30 percent of the AMI; 19 units will be for residents making up to 60 percent of the AMI.
Affordable housing is one of three purposes allowed for CPA funding. The other two – historic preservation and open space/recreation – also were addressed in the 2007 decision to support Phase 1 of Cable Mills, which preserved an existing mill building and created walking trails for public enjoyment of the Green River.
Historically, the CPC has recommended some additional funding to support the town's efforts to create affordable housing each year and town meeting has agreed. The trustees of the town's Affordable Housing Trust last month discussed drafting an application for the FY24 funding cycle for funds to support the trust's projects, like its mortgage assistance and rental assistance programs and its financial support of Habitat for Humanity's construction projects on residential lots the trust previously acquired with CPA funds.
Last year, town meeting awarded the Affordable Housing Trust $100,000.
The Community Preservation Committee again this year is holding informational sessions for any parties interested in applying for CPA funds in FY24. The meetings, which are designed to give potential applicants feedback from a few current CPC members about what the committee is looking for, will be held on Dec. 12 from 9 to 11 a.m. and Dec. 14 and 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. at town hall.
In other business at the November meeting, the CPC elected Jane Patton to serve as chair and Joe Finnegan as vice chair for the FY24 funding cycle.

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Clark Art Screens Experimental Animation Short Films

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — On Feb. 2 at 7 pm, the Clark Art Institute screens a selection of short films covering experimental animation from the 1960s and '70s in its auditorium. 
The showing is the third event in the Clark's Film and Drawing series, inspired by the exhibition, "Promenades on Paper: Eighteenth-Century Drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France," on view through March 12.
According to a press release:
In the midst of the Cold War, animation artists explored alternative realities. Their artistic explorations enabled them to venture outside of the ideological boundaries of international politics. Some of these realities reached back to fairytales, like the animations of the Soviet Union's Yuri Norstein. Other artists, like the Canadian-Scottish animator Norman McLaren, pursued abstraction, looking for basic first principles that might be shared across the animation frame.
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