Community Preservation Projects on tap for Town Meeting
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Each year voters are asked to review and approve a series of projects that are funded through the Community Preservation Fund. The dollars for the fund come from a 1.5% surcharge on everyone’s real estate bill as well as matching funds from the state. The match started out at 100% but has declined significantly as more communities have adopted the Community Preservation Act. Revamped legislation is hoping to put the match at a minimum of 35%.
Annually we collect a total of some $500,000 in CPA funds, assuming a 25% state match. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) solicits request for possible projects every fall and, after vetting the projects, develops a list of recommended projects for voter consideration. Both the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen review the proposed list as well and, for this year, are supporting all of the CPC’s recommended projects.
Projects must fall within three state –mandated areas: 1) Open Space and Recreation; 2) Community Housing; and 3) Historic Preservation. The Open Space and Recreation projects being proposed include advancing the design/engineering work for the expansion of Sweeney Park to possibly include a new turf rectangular multi-purpose athletic field ($50,000 to be combined with $55,000 in Town capital funds); landscape restoration at all Town Parks including Tuck’s Point ($35,000); upgraded park/beach signs, water bubbler for Masco, and lighting upgrades at Sweeney ($12,000) and funds for creating a management plan for town conservation lands ($20,000 to be combined with $10,000 in Town capital funds.)
On the Community Housing front, the Town’s Housing Production Plan needs to be updated every five years and is due for its next update. A request for $8,500 is before voters for this update. The Manchester Affordable Housing Trust is slated to receive $150,000 for their efforts to create more affordable housing units in Town assuming voters continue to support this important work.
Regarding historic preservation efforts, $35,000 is targeted for the continued restoration of our historic cemeteries. Another $25,000 is proposed for the new Veteran’s Honor Roll to be built on the Common in front of Town Hall. $50,000 was approved previously with a targeted goal of 25% of the cost. With the escalation in construction costs, another $25,000 is needed to maintain this 25% contribution level and to help get the project across the finish line. $39,000 is slated for the restoration of the exterior of Seaside 1. The First Parish Church seeks $30,000 to help with the restoration of the steeple (railings and bell wheel on their historic and publicly significant building.
Finally, $20,000 is sought to cover administrative costs of the Committee, including the cost of the clerk who prepares agendas, processes project applications and compiles meeting minutes. Other administrative costs are also covered by this appropriation.
All told, voters are being asked to approve $424,500 in Community Preservation funding under Article 8 at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting, April 6. This would leave the CP Fund with a balance of some $200,000 by the end of the new fiscal year.