PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Community Preservation Committee reviewed a series of applications that it may recommend for funding in July.
Late last month, the committee heard from five applicants looking to utilize Community Preservation Act funds for various projects.
"It makes sense to have a meeting at some point in July to pool our thoughts ... and make some funding decisions," Chairman John Dickson said.
Many projects were put on pause with COVID-19 halting some construction and fundraising efforts. The committee entertained not accepting applications for a year but ultimately decided to consider a few projects that may not be hampered by the pandemic.
Ann-Marie Harris, local history and Melville collections acting supervisor at the Berkshire Athenaeum, requested funds to archive and digitize Pittsfield Parks Department scrapbooks going back to 1943.
She said these scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and other artifacts from past city events.
"There are a lot of rich events in the city's history," she said.
Harris said the scrapbooks were held at the Springside House, where they were not stored properly.
They are now stored at the library, and although they are now in a humidity and temperature-controlled environment, they are still just stacked up and bundled together with string.
"These scrapbooks were and still are in pretty awful condition," she said.
Harris said the goal is to properly store and archive all of the scrapbooks as well as digitize them so they are available to the public and searchable.
There is some urgency because some of the collections are moldy and cannot be restored. She said they can only be digitized in these cases.
"They are falling apart and can't last much longer," she said.
If given partial funding, the materials that are on the verge of being lost will be addressed first.
Tourists, scholars, and writers come from all around to use the library's resources and properly archiving these documents would not only save a part of the city's history but attract people to the city, Harris said.
Next up was Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath who also requested funds to preserve some of the city's history that is quickly deteriorating: West Park Cemetery.
McGrath said initially the request was going to be for a full assessment of the historic cemetery that has grave markers going back as far as 1810. However, McGrath noted that many of the stones have deteriorated beyond recognition and there is now a need for a more aggressive assessment and restoration project.
"I hope this imparts a sense of urgency to the committee because in the past years we have seen further deterioration of the graveyard," he said. "The markers themselves are really in a state of disrepair and the effect of time and the weather has really taken its toll on the historic site."
There are 48 markers, some have fallen over while others are leaning. He said some of the markings are completely indecipherable and the city needs to hire a specialist who can come in quickly address some of the damage.
He thought this work could be completed for $8,000.
Lesley Herzberg, executive director at the Berkshire County Historical Society at Arrowhead, updated the commission on a longer-term project to repair the Arrowhead barn. Specifically she was seeking funds to replace the roof.
She said the project is anticipated to cost $77,000 and the new Alaskan yellow cedar shingles will not only be historically accurate, but last 30 to 50 years.
Other grant funds are being sought and the nonprofit is also planning to fund raise. She said the hope is to start the project in the fall.
"We would like to not go through another winter with this roof if we don't have to," she said.
Matthew Scarafoni, a member of the Pittsfield Family YMCA board of directors, updated the commission on another long-term project: the YMCA facade restoration project.
He spoke to the larger renovation project and said some changes to the design were made in regard to the pandemic, such as adding more hand washing stations.
The pandemic has created funding challenges but he said through fundraising, grant opportunities, donations, and other funding sources, around $7 million has been secured for the project that is slated to cost $11.2 million.
It can still move forward without CPA funds but it would likely mean the YMCA would take on more debt that will take away from actual programming and services for families.
Katelynn Miner of the Berkshire Dream Center was the last to come before the board requesting $100,000 in CPA funds to repair the facade of its location on Tyler Street.
"It will allow us to remain where we are currently located as well as make repairs to historic property," she said.
The Dream Center leases the Morningside Baptist Church and Miner said they would like to one day purchase the property.
The center is the only food pantry in the neighborhood, she said, and plans to open up a soup kitchen.
The committee will review the applications and make recommendations to the city council at a July meeting.