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Williamstown Receives Nearly $400K in CPA Requests

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town has received six requests totaling $385,100 for Community Preservation Act funds for fiscal year 2025.
 
Two of the biggest asks come from town entities.
 
According to a spreadsheet on the town's website, the Community Preservation Committee is anticipating having up to $232,532 available for the FY25 funding cycle.
 
That is the result of taking the town's anticipated CPA revenue and deducting out the money needed to pay off prior commitments to support the development of the Cable Mills housing complex on Water Street.
 
The primary source of the CPA money is a 2 percent on local property tax bills, after the first $100,000 of valuation is exempted for each property owner. In addition to nearly $313,000 in anticipated revenue from the local property tax surcharge, the town is planning for $60,000 in a state match, according to the spreadsheet.
 
Starting later this month, the CPC will begin reviewing the six applications for funds that the town received by the Jan. 5 deadline last week.
 
The biggest ask comes from the town's Affordable Housing Trust, which is asking for $120,000 in unrestricted funds to support the body's continuing efforts to support income-restricted housing in town.
 
The second biggest application also was generated at Town Hall. The Town of Williamstown, in an application signed by Town Manager Robert Menicocci, is seeking $115,000 toward a projected $215,000 project to install an outdoor "fitness court" near the Mohican Trail multi-modal recreation path.
 
Menicocci's application mentions that outdoor recreation opportunities are a priority that comes out of the recently adopted townwide comprehensive plan. And it cites the National Fitness Campaign as a potential partner; the NFC has partnered locally with town's insurer, "to offer grant opportunities to make the installation of their product particularly financially attractive," the application reads in part.
 
Open space and recreation, affordable housing and historic preservation are the allowable uses of CPA funds under Massachusetts General Law.
 
This year's six applicants represent each of those objectives.
 
Another recreation project directly related to the Mohican Trail comes from the New England Mountain Bike Association's Purple Valley Chapter, which is seeking $75,000 in CPA funds toward a $750,000 project to renovate the town's 15,000-square-foot skate park, which is 20 years old and "at the end of its useful life," the NEMBA's application reads.
 
A more modest recreation ask comes from the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, which is looking for $14,000 in CPA funds toward a $40,372 project to rehabilitate the riparian forest habitat at the 10-acre Lehovec River Walk, which also is a few minutes walk from the Mohican Trail.
 
Recreation is also the purpose of a $11,100 ask from Sand Springs Recreational Center Inc., which is asking the town to fully fund work at the grounds of the historic pool in the northern part of town. Sand Springs, a non-profit that has received CPA funding in the past, is seeking the money to remove a large spruce tree that is at risk of falling and could injure users of the pool and to replace a platform that currently covers the main cistern of the spring but which has "fallen into disrepair," according to the application. Included in the $11,100 ask is $1,000 for an informational plaque to educate visitors about the site.
 
Another past recipient of CPA funds back with an FY25 request is the Williamstown Meetinghouse Preservation Fund. It seeks $50,000 toward a $105,753 stormwater drainage project at the meetinghouse on Main Street, also known as First Congregational Church. The WMPF is in the midst of a $6.4 million project to preserve the historic structure.
 
All six of the applications will be reviewed by the Community Preservation Committee, which first will determine whether the requests are eligible under the CPA and then decide how much — if any — funding for each the committee will recommend to town meeting.
 
Final allocations of CPA funds are made at the annual town meeting in May. The first CPC meeting of the calendar year is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

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Williamstown Charter Proposal Sparks Concern over 'Separation of Powers'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board and Planning Board this week clashed over a proposal that would add to the town charter a mechanism to ensure compliance with the foundation of town government.
 
The Select Board on Monday night finalized the warrant for the annual town meeting.
 
Most of the 42 articles on the agenda for the Thursday, May 23, meeting were recommended by the Select Board for passage with little or no comment. The primary exception was Article 32, one of five articles to result from deliberations of the Charter Review Committee.
 
The review committee spent about a year and a half reviewing the 68-year-old charter, which has not received a major revision over the last seven decades.
 
In consultation with consultants from the Collins Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston and after reviewing best practices from municipalities around the commonwealth, the Charter Review Committee developed a number of recommendations to town meeting.
 
Most of the proposed revisions clarify existing charter language and bring the document in line with town practices that have evolved over the last half century (Article 30). Two of the articles resulting from the CRC are not actually charter changes at all but town bylaw proposals (Articles 33 and 34).
 
Two proposals would make substantive changes to the charter: adding a recall provision (Article 31) and creating a mechanism to enforce the charter (Article 32).
 
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