WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee will meet later this month to consider six requests that, combined, seek more funds than the town will have available under the Community Preservation program in fiscal year 2024.
Those six applications add up to $515,000 in funding requests.
According to town officials, the CPC will have a total of $370,604 in Community Preservation Act funds to recommend to May's annual town meeting.
That is more than the $300,000 the CPC discussed at its November meeting because it reflects actual receipts of matching funds from the commonwealth, according to Town Manager Robert Menicocci, who, by statute, is a voting member of the committee.
But the funds available still represent just more than 70 percent of the funds requested, meaning that the committee will have to turn away applicants and/or ask some petitioners to accept lower recommendations to town meeting over the course of the next couple of months.
While the town does receive a partial state match from funds generated by taxes on transfers of real property, the bulk of its CPA fund comes from a 2 percent local property tax. Town meeting members self-imposed the tax in 2002, including a provision that exempts the first $100,000 of a residence's value.
Under the CPA, those funds can be granted to projects that achieve one or more of three objectives: community housing, historic preservation or open space and recreation.
The first step for the CPC is to decide which of the applications qualify for funding under the act. Then it will proceed to debate which projects to recommend to town meeting and at what funding level. While the committee is the gatekeeper and the only way to get CPA projects before the meeting, the meeting has the final say in a series of up-or-down votes on warrant articles for each funding request.
The requests for FY24, viewable on the town's website, range in value from a $10,000 ask from the town's Housing Authority to $150,000 from the Williamstown Meetinghouse Preservation Fund.
The meetinghouse group is one of four repeat applicants to the CPC. The Williamstown Historical Museum is seeking $35,000 to complete the restoration of an historic barn on its property; the town is seeking $100,000 to help address overages in a bicycle/pedestrian path project; and the trustees of the town's Affordable Housing Trust are seeking $120,000 in unrestricted funds to put toward the body's multiple efforts to support lower- and middle-income residents.
This year's applicants also include two newcomers: the Williamstown Housing Authority and the Mount Greylock Regional School District, which seeks $100,000 in CPA funds to support a field and track project at the middle-high school.
The CPC and town meeting have supported the AHT financially every year since the trust was established in 2012. Last year, the meeting awarded $100,000 in CPA funds to the trust.
The town has sought funds in the past, including a 2019 request for $7,300 to preserve a "1920 rendering of the proposed Memorial Community Building that never was built." This year's ask is significantly larger and seeks to defray the town's share of a $6.7 million project funded largely by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Menicocci recently told the Select Board that Williamstown continues to haggle with the state Department of Transportation about how much of the overrun cost should be borne by the town, but he admitted it would be an uphill battle with the state agency.
"We'll have to wear people down to get that money," Menicocci said. "That's going to be a lot of conversations."
Menicocci also is recommending to the Select Board that it allocate some of the town's American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the bill for the trail.
The Williamstown Meetinghouse Preservation Fund was created to renovate and preserve the 19th century Main Street building currently owned by First Congregational Church. The WMPF emphasized in its application that it is a distinct entity from the church.
"In order to emphasize separation between religious and community use of the Meetinghouse the request for CPA funding includes only areas of need that address community access and provide community benefit," the application reads in part. "The Meetinghouse has a distinguished architectural history and is visually and functionally central to Williamstown. Funds are needed to renovate, restore, and update the building, funds that are beyond the resources available from the congregation."
Town meeting last spring allocated $50,000 toward what is projected as a $6.4 million project. This year's $150,000 ask represents 2.3 percent of the expected project cost.
The Williamstown Historical Museum is a regular applicant to the CPC for historic preservation funds.
The WHM's Dolan-Jenks barn preservation project previously received $50,000 in CPA funds from town meeting in 2021. If the requested $35,000 is added, the town's contribution would account for nearly a quarter of the $352,600 total project cost.
Two of this year's applicants will be before the CPC for the first time when it meets on Jan. 25.
The Williamstown Housing Authority seeks $10,000 toward a $14,000 project to improve access and security for the WHA's community building at 35 Adams Road and address deficiencies in Stetson Court housing units. The project would install an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant door with a keypad lock and handicap push button at the Adams Road site and replace cracked flooring in the kitchens and bathrooms at Stetson Court.
The door at the community building will provide residents with safe round-the-clock access to the facility's laundry machines, Internet-connected computers, library, kitchen, lounge and meeting space. "Residents will always be able to access the community building by entering a security code on the keypad," the WHA's application notes.
The other first-time applicant, the regional school district, hopes the CPC and town meeting will support its fund-raising efforts toward a projected $4.125 million project to improve athletic fields at Mount Greylock Regional School. "Through public access to the track in particular, this facility will provide a space for adults, neighbors, and the community to have access to a walking and/or running track," according to the district's application.
The district's application does not address whether it plans to seek similar taxpayer-funded grant support from Lanesborough, the regional school district's other member town. As a rule, taxpayers in the two towns fund operating expenses at the middle-high school on a roughly 67/33 split based on a rolling average of enrollment at the school.
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Clark Art First Free Sunday
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.—The Clark Art Institute's First Sunday Free program continues on Sunday, April 2, offering free admission to the galleries and special exhibitions from 10 am–5 pm, a series of special activities from 1–4 pm, and a pop-up display of works on paper on view from 11 am–1 pm. April's theme is "Portals," complementing the Clark's latest exhibition "Portals: The Visionary Architecture of Paul Goesch."
According to a press release:
After walking through "Portals: The Visionary Architecture of Paul Goesch," transport yourself through a portal of imagination and creativity. Build your own "fantasy architecture" (one that's big enough to play in) using giant sheets of cardboard. This activity takes place in the Clark Center lower level and galleries. Then, experiment with color while designing a suncatcher and be ushered into the fantastical with award-winning storyteller Rona Leventhal's Kaleidoscope of Stories at 2 pm in the Clark's auditorium.
In conjunction with other portals-related activities, the Clark's Manton Study Center for Works on Paper hosts a pop-up exhibition inspired by Paul Goesch's architectural designs. See how artists from Dürer to Turner used lighting effects and enchanting decoration to enliven doors, arches, and other passageways, and illustrate their own imaginative portals. The pop-up display will be on view from 11 am–1 pm in the Manton Study Center for Works on Paper, located in the Manton Research Center.
Alfred Weissman Real Estate of Westchester County has entered an agreement with Southwestern Vermont Health Care to purchase the 371-acre campus the Bennington hospital acquired in December 2020.
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