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Pittsfield CPA Committee Recommends Funding For 11 Projects
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:22AM / Wednesday, May 02, 2018
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The committee recommended the projects. The City Council needs to confirm those expenses before funds are released.


A group opposing the turf field project lined up on Fenn Street during the meeting.
PITTSFIELD, Mass — The Community Preservation Committee is recommendating just about all applicants for the first year's distribution receive some level of funding.
 
The committee agreed on Monday to recommend a total of $320,000 from the fund be distributed to 11 different projects. The City Council will be asked to provide the final approval to the committee's recommendation before any funds can be distributed.
 
The newly adopted act adds a 1 percent surcharge on property tax bills, with the first $100,000 of value being exempt. The funds are collected and somewhat matched by the state's Community Preservation Act trust fund. It was voted on by ballot in 2016.
 
A total of $823,026 was requested from the fund but the committee had just $375,000 to spend. In total, $430,000 was collected but no projects were requested for housing, which requires at least 10 percent of the funding. That left money for administration of the grants and $375,000 to allocate. The unspent money will stay in the account for future years.
 
Instead of choosing winners and losers, the committee opted to split up what funding it did have and give a little bit to each project. The committee members did rank the projects based on internal criteria and City Planner CJ Hoss said the multi-sport turf field project at Berkshire Community College earned the top ranking.
 
That, however, has been a controversial project as a large group of residents have been protesting the use of artificial turf, citing environmental concerns. Protestors also held signs outside of the meeting hoping the CPA wouldn't direct any funds toward the project.
 
The committee, however, ultimately agreed to grant $75,000 toward the program. But members made it clear that those funds have nothing to do with the decision on what type of field will be at the college. Those funds will be directed toward making whatever facility constructed is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and for lighting.
 
"To be reimbursed, if we get a bill for something else other than lights or ADA compliant facilities, we won't fund that," Committee member John Dickson said.
 
Another top-scoring application was for repairs to the Taconic High School track. The fields and the track at the high school aren't being renovated with the construction of the new $120.8 school. The Parks Commission was looking for $180,000 to fencing in the fields to protect them from ATVs and repair the track. The CPA opted to fund just the $50,000 needed to repair and repaint the track.
 
"It is the only track in Pittsfield so that deserves consideration," Chairman James Conant said.
 
At Clapp Park, the committee approved funding $45,000 toward renovations to the baseball field there. And at the library, $13,000 is being eyed toward helping preserve Herman Melville artifacts.
 
"I think it is a more than worthy project because of the historical significance," said Committee member George Moran of the Melville request.
 
The committee also approved $4,000 for the removal of invasive plants at Burbank Park - which was $1,000 less than requested — and $15,000 for drainage repairs for Pontoosuc Lake's beach area - which was $1,600 less than requested.
 
The  Berkshire Mountain Pickleball is looking to build pickleball courts and the CPA committee looks to grant them $15,000 for a feasibility study to determine locations and get boid-ready drawings for construction. That too was $1,600 less than requested.
 
"This represents a good starting point to figure out if we can accommodate this community," said board member Simon Muil.
 
The committee is recommending $80,000 toward Springside Park — $75,000 for the Springside House and $5,000 to build walking trails. At Arrowhead, the group approved $8,000 to rebuild a stone wall.
 
The Thaddeus Clapp House was granted $15,000 toward a renovation. Berkshire Theatre Group had requested $50,000 for the renovation and the committee opted to just limits its contribution to the porch.
 
"This is a structure, a house, that has a long history in Pittsfield. I was pleased to see someone wanting to bring it back," said member Sheila Irvin.
 
The CPA is in its first year of funding. The projects will go before the council for approval, and changes can be made at that level.
 
"We set clear expectations about what we can do, how to apply for the funds, and I think everybody should feel some sense of pride and accomplishment that we've gotten to this part," Conant said of the process. "They all have some merit."
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