Community Preservation Act Committee Recommends Grants For FY2023


The Strong House, is the second oldest house in Amherst and home to the Amherst History Musuem. Photo: Wikipedia

Report of the Meeting of the Community Preservation Act Committee December 9, 2021.

The meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.

Sarah Marshall (Chair), Ana Devlin Gauthier, Sarah Eisinger, Sam MacLeod, Andrew MacDougall, Tim Neale, Hetty Startup, David Williams, and Katie Allen Zobel

Staff: Sonia Aldrich (Comptroller) and Dave Ziomek (Assistant Town Manager)

As permitted by State law, Amherst designates three percent of its property tax revenue toward funding projects for community housing, historic preservation, recreation, and open space. These projects are recommended to the Town Council for funding by the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) , composed of representatives from various town committees. Applications are accepted in the fall, and the council vote occurs the following spring during budget consideration, although some applications can be received out of the usual cycle. 

At the December 9 CPAC meeting, the committee recommended the following projects to receive funding:

Community Housing
Town of Amherst and Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust: $500,000. Acquisition and development of transitional housing for those at risk for homelessness, This would be combined with $1 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds.

Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust: $250,000. Although no specific project was proposed for this money, Ziomek said several projects are under consideration, and some will most likely need funding in the coming year.

Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust: $30,000 over two years. Administrative support and consultants.

Town of Amherst: $100,000 for a part-time town housing coordinator, a non-benefited position in the Planning Department.

Amherst Housing Authority: $87,934 to be matched by state funding. Exterior repairs to the JC Nutting apartments on Chestnut Court.

Historical Preservation
Replacement of roof, chimney, and windows at the Conkey-Stevens House at 664 Main Street: $241,915. This project on a privately owned building was recommended by the Historical Commission. It excludes requests for interior painting and a new heating system, since those are not eligible for funding. MacLeod questioned the $3,000 cost estimate for each of the 12 windows, but Zobel said that there may be other factors, such as installation and framing that add to the window replacement cost. Although Neale questioned the funding of a private structure without imposing conditions such as public access, Startup said that the benefit to the public is that this building is part of the historic landscape in a historic district. Marshall noted that these awards indicate the maximum that can be spent and that receipts for work done will be scrutinized by the town liaison to the Historical Commission and the Finance Department to make sure they qualify for reimbursement.

Structural engineering study of the Strong House, home of the Amherst Historical Society, and its grounds: $18,800. The Strong House is the second oldest house in Amherst. The Historical Society wants a study of its structural integrity prior to the beginning of construction on the Jones Library next door.

Exterior repairs and painting for the Alice Maude Hills House (Amherst Women’s Club) on Triangle Street: $135,000. Painting of the associated shed was not allowed to be funded because no repairs are being made to it. Painting is only allowed under community preservation after repairs or to bring the structure back to its period color. MacLeod abstained from this vote, because he thought the $120,000 estimate for the painting was too high. Devlin-Gauthier pointed out that if the work came in at a lower cost, the difference would remain in reserves for future CPAC awards.

Establishment of the Mill River Historic Interpretation Trail: $12,900. This project was proposed by the District One Neighborhood Association (DONA) last year, but was rejected because it was unclear if it qualified for funding. Ziomek consulted with town attorney Shirin Everett, who said that the project, which involves marking the sites of old mills on the trail to the north of Puffer’s Pond, was eligible for historic preservation funds. Because DONA is not a registered nonprofit, the town will administer the funds and issue a request for proposals for the research, signage, and outreach required.

Installing a historically accurate fence at the West Cemetery and erecting signs to correlate some graves to the mural on the back of One East Pleasant Street: $50,000. Marshall said that CPAC money cannot be used to promote a work of art, but Ben Breger, town liaison to the Historical Commission, said he envisions signs with pictures that refer to the corresponding areas of the mural. 

Former CPAC member and member of the Historical Commission Robin Fordham suggested that CPAC consider having applicants for historical preservation projects get more than one estimate for the work and that they consult with an architect specializing in historical structures. She said the Historical Commission would be willing to give guidance on these projects. 

Recreation And Open Space
Trail improvements at Hickory Ridge (sale of the property to the town expected to be finalized in January 2022): $150,000

Pickleball courts at a site to be determined: $120,000. This request was submitted by pickleball supporters. The funding is estimated to cover the creation of three pickleball courts, but it could be fewer than three depending on the site.

Irrigation and drainage at Plum Brook Recreation Area: $38,000. This award was reduced from the $60,000 requested because the proposed moveable irrigation equipment is not eligible for funding.

Design work for the playground at Crocker Farm School: $50,000

Trail upkeep and improvements: $50,000. This is a recurring request every year to maintain the hiking trails around town.

Funding Request for North Amherst Community Farm Deemed Ineligible
North Amherst Community Farm (NACF) requested $25,000 to deconstruct an existing barn and use some of the materials to construct a pavilion. CPA regulations do not permit use of funds for demolition, however the construction of a pavilion would be eligible if there was public access to the structure. Ziomek will request that the applicant change the proposal so that the CPAC funding goes for the construction. A revised proposal can be brought back to the committee in January or resubmitted for next year’s funding. The proposal was tabled at this meeting.

Proposal For New Track At The High School Still Incomplete
Ziomek said he is working with Finance Director Sean Mangano and Regional Schools Finance Director Doug Slaughter to finalize the proposal to construct a new track and playing field at the high school. He said the plans and cost estimate should be ready in the next few weeks, and he will bring it back to CPAC for discussion. Because the project will need to be financed through borrowing, it is subject to the timeline for disbursement of available funds. 

CPAC authorized $25,000 in administrative costs for the committee to pay dues and to post legal ads in the newspaper, as required. About $15,000 of this total will be used for signage to identify projects funded by CPAC.

The committee also voted to allot $488,720 in debt service incurred for prior projects, and to use $66,894 of reserves for the projects currently recommended. This will leave $533,105 in the general reserve fund, but this amount may be reduced if the North Amherst Community Farm project is funded. 

Marshall will be preparing a report to be presented to the town council. CPAC will vote on the report at a meeting in January, date to be determined.


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