PITTSFIELD — In a year flush with funds, the Community Preservation Committee voted unanimously on Monday to recommend fully funding 10 of the 11 projects before the body, including two community housing proposals and a plan to relocate a Vietnam memorial mural.
The odd project out — the restoration of the Tiffany glass windows at St. Stephen’s Church — received a recommendation that would cover more than 80 percent of its original funding request.
The committee started the year with nearly $880,000 to use on community projects this year. An out-of-cycle request to cover the cost of roof repairs to the former Morningside firehouse and the Arrowhead barn restoration took that initial amount down to about $774,000. The Monday night vote by the committee recommends using $670,317 of the available money this year across the 11 projects.
Here are the three takeaways from the meeting and what you need to know about what happens next.
Housing was a top priority
Throughout the application process, members of the committee score each project based on the project’s expected impact, its alignment with city priorities, feasibility and level of outside support.
This year, only two of the 11 projects deemed eligible for funds were community housing proposals. The projects, both submitted by Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, requested $150,000 for the construction of two affordable housing units on Robbins Avenue and $140,000 for the construction of two affordable housing units on Onota Street.
The projects were ranked first and third, respectively, by the committee members who said that the benefit to funding the projects was more than evident.
“These are projects that may or may not happen without this level of funding,” committee member Tony DeMartino said. “We have the funds to do it and [Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity] has a track record that’s well proven.”
Chair John Dickson agreed, saying that “given the urgency of housing in the city I think that would be a good use of this funding.”
When in doubt, fundFor the most part, the committee came in to the meeting ready to meet the funding requests of all of the applicants. The two projects that produced any real disagreement all ended up funded.
Members debated whether a plan to construct a pocket park at the Francis Avenue lookout and a stairway connecting West Side residents to nearby grocery stores and the Salvation Army fit the Community Preservation Act’s definition of open space or recreation projects.
Similar questions about the letter of the act generated discussion around whether a proposal to relocate the Vietnam memorial mural on West Housatonic Street truly counted as a “historic preservation” if most — if not all — of the painting would need to be recreated.
“It does show that we’re not just a bunch of people sitting around saying I like this project or no I don’t like that,” committee member Libby Herland said. “We really are trying to comply with the act and the purpose of the funding.”
After members consulted the Act, the committee agreed that both projects were within bounds and each proposal received a funding recommendation.
What comes next?
The committee’s recommendation will be presented to the City Council for consideration during the council’s May 10 meeting. The council will decide whether to accept, amend or reject the committee’s recommendation.
City Planner CJ Hoss told the committee he believes the council should have a vote on the projects by late May or early June.