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Pittsfield Crafting Guidelines For Using CPA Funds
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:30AM / Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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Residents were asked to place dots on the categories they felt were more important.


The first public outreach session was held Monday night. Soon a survey will be released asking for residents to weigh in on how the money should be used.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city hopes to accept applications for projects through the Community Preservation Act in early 2018.
 
Voters adopted the act last November, which places a 1 percent surcharge on tax bills, with the first $100,000 of value being exempted. That money is set aside and matched partly by the state.
 
A Community Preservation Committee makes recommendations on how to spend that money but it is restricted to projects in just four categories: historic preservation, open space conservation, affordable housing, and recreation.
 
"That surcharge won't be collected until Quarter 3 and 4 this year, so January," said City Planner CJ Hoss, who is administering the program.
 
The CPA committee has been formed. Now the city is drafting a plan for which areas, if any, are a higher priority, and how the projects will be ranked.
 
On Monday, Hoss led a community meeting asking those in attendance to identify possible projects and give priority to certain areas. Recreation was easily the favorite with numerous people placing dots on that to show their support for projects in that category.
 
"There is an attempt to see if there are priorities among the groups," Hoss said of the exercise.
 
On Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to approve a budget for the program. It is estimated that the surcharge will bring in approximately $420,000. A minimum of 10 percent is required to fall into each of the project categories.
 
Hoss said there will be multiple public outreach efforts this month and next and soon an online survey will be blasted out. In October and November, a draft plan will be crafted with a public hearing in late November or early December.
 
In January, the applications can start rolling in with a plan to release funds in July of 2018.
 
The Community Preservation Act Committee will be tasked with reviewing the submitted projects but it falls on the City Council to make the ultimate decision on the release of the funds.
 
Hoss used some examples of what the funds can be used for. With historic preservation, Hoss said the renovation of the Colonial years ago would have fit the eligibility. He cited numerous monuments and statues around the city as well.
 
"We've had some interest in some of the historic cemeteries in the city," Hoss said.
 
For recreation, he cited new playing fields and the planned West Side Riverway Park project. Ward 7 City Councilor Anthony Simonelli suggest some of the funds be used for the playing fields at the new Taconic High School.
 
"The monies that are put aside for the new Taconic High School, none of it can go toward athletic fields," Simonelli said of the high school project's budget.
 
Hoss said the only restrictions are that the facilities have to be outdoors. He also added that paved basketball courts are not eligible, which raised the question from those who have been looking to expand the current skate park on whether that is eligible. Hoss said he'd have to follow up on that.
 
For open space and conservation projects, expanding Wild Acres or preserving Pontoosuc Lake are the kinds of projects the funds can be directed toward.
 
"It is preserving farmland, preserving open space, preserving views that may be important to the community," Hoss said.
 
For housing, Hoss said the Rice Silk Mill would have been an eligible project. He also said mixed housing at the St. Mary's the Morning Star property could be eligible for would any downtown housing development that included affordable housing.
 
The city would be looking to release the funds in July but the committee doesn't have to spend it all in one year. Cities can stockpile funds for multiple years for larger projects. The state's reimbursement has been declining but about 12 percent is expected to be matched.
 
Voters approved the adoption of the act by 63 percent to 37 percent margin in November. 
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