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Pittsfield Finance Committee Backs 11 CPA Applications
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
11:50AM / Tuesday, June 26, 2018
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The projects received the endorsement of the Finance Committee.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's Finance Committee is on board with funding at all 11 qualified applications for the Community Preservation Act — at least somewhat.
 
A total of 12 applicants requested a total of $823,026 worth of funding in the first year of the new program. The Community Preservation Committee ultimately decided it would fund every one -- except one which withdrew -- at least somewhat with $320,000 of the $433,819 available.
 
"The 11 applications are really the 11 that stuck with this process," City Planner CJ Hoss said. 
 
Hoss said 20 applications were received -- totaling some $1.4 million in requests -- but eight of those weren't eligible for the program.
 
The money is from 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 -- though not until next year for Pittsfield because of the timing of getting it organized. It was voted on by ballot in 2016.
 
Those funds can be used on parks and open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Each one of those categories must be funded at minimum amounts and there is a carve-out allowing for some administrative fees to be absorbed. 
 
The projects recommended for funding include $13,000 for the preservation of Melville artifacts at the Berkshire Athenaeum; $75,000 for the turf field project at Berkshire Community College; Berkshire County Historical Society's rehabilitation of stone walls at Arrowhead for $8,000; $15,000 for the rehabilitation of the Thaddeus Clapp house by Berkshire Theatre Group; $4,000 for Greenagers to continue removing invasive species at Burbank Park; $75,000 for the city to continue restoring Springside House; $5,000 for Greenagers to rehabilitate trails at Springside Park; $15,000 for the city to site and design pickleball courts; $15,000 to for stormwater management work at the Pontoosuc Lake beach; $45,000 for improvements to Clapp Park; and rehabilitation of the Taconic High School track and new fencing for $50,000.
 
The subcommittee questioned a few of the expenses. Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell asked about invasive species removal at Burbank, questioning the difference between that and the annual treatments to the lake. Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath said this project is one headed by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and it is for the woodland areas, which are not treated by the city.
 
"It is taking over portions of the Burbank woodlands and if left unchecked we could see the demise of much of the woodlands," McGrath said.
 
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo questioned money spent on design for the Springside House and for pickleball courts. She questioned whether that is a good use of those funds. 
 
Hoss said there is no restriction on using the money for design and it was clear that those two projects needed funding to be able to move to the construction ready phase. McGrath added that only a portion of the funds for the Springside House are for design and the majority of that is for the actual work.
 
Mazzeo voiced support for the turf field project while Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi questioned what the money is will be spent on. Fran Marinaro, a committee member for the project, said it will be spent on lighting, fencing, and making sure the facility is handicapped accessible. 
 
Councilor at Large Earl Persip, however, had his reservations, saying there is no guarantee that the field will be available to the public and city teams in the future. He doesn't want to see public funds shuffled there without that promise.
 
Morandi questioned repairs to the track. That project is of a larger scope and include repairs to the baseball field and new fencing all around. But, the CPA committee opted to fund just repairs to the track area.
 
"These are things that probably wouldn't have been able to get done or would have taken a lot longer to get addressed," Morandi said, praising the program.
 
There were no projects eyed for the housing portion so those funds will roll into the next year's budget. Administratively, Hoss said while there is $20,000 allocated, only $1,000 has been spent. The rest will also roll into next year's budget but is no longer pigeonholed to only being spent on administration and can be used for projects in any of the three categories.
 
"The administrative line carries just over to the reserve and can be used for any eligible project," Hoss said.
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