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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: CPA funding requests up over last year for more housing and preservation projects

Community Preservation Committee

The Community Preservation Committee decided that 11 of 13 applications for CPA funding were eligible for the program this year. The projects are vying for $715,000 in funding in a year when the committee has decided to cap allocations at $650,000.

PITTSFIELD — It’s been five years since the voters of Pittsfield decided to opt in to the state’s Community Preservation Act program. This year, city officials say the projects on the table are more focused on housing and more dependent on Community Preservation Act funds.

“This is probably highest request ratio of [Community Preservation Act] funds to other funding sources,” City Planner CJ Hoss said to the Community Preservation Committee last week. Hoss told the committee that applicants are asking for CPA money to cover $926,555 of an estimated $1,446,570 in project costs.

“This year the projects are all heavily reliant on CPA funds,” Hoss said.

The Community Preservation Committee reviewed last week the 13 applications for projects like park updates, cemetery restorations, stained glass salvation and affordable housing projects.

The committee ultimately decided 11 of the 13 applications were eligible for funding — passing on a renovation project submitted by the owners or Michelle Manor Apartments in Pittsfield’s Westside and a renovation project for the G&W Rentals on 549 North Street over eligibility issues. The rejected projects represented $210,000 of the total requests for funding requests this year.

So what comes next? Here’s your guide to understanding Community Preservation funding and what’s in store for this year’s projects.

What is the Community Preservation Act?

Massachusetts created the Community Preservation Act in 2000 to create funding for communities to support projects related to four categories: open space, recreation, historic preservation and community housing.

The results of Tuesday's election signaled a high-water mark for the Community Preservation Act, with more communities voting to adopt the open space protection measure than in any previous election. Of the 16 cities or towns that had the CPA on …

The act established a statewide fund that could be used for the acquisition, creation, preservation, support, rehabilitation or restoration open space, community recreation, community housing or historic properties.

Where does this money come from?

From you, dear reader — or at least in part. In Pittsfield, voters approved a 1 percent property tax-based surcharge to fund the city’s community preservation fund. That surcharge has some caveats: low-incomes and low and moderate-income senior property owners don’t pay in and the surcharge only kicks in after the first $100,000 in assessed property value.

So for fiscal year 2021, any property owners who had a residential property valued at $200,000 paid about $19.25 into the city’s community preservation fund.

View of Springside House (copy)

Springside House is getting a new roof, window renovations and historically appropriate storm windows, all at once. The Springside House restoration is one of the more notable CPA funded projects from the last five years.

The state also puts money into the statewide CPA Trust fund every year. That money is collected from filing fees from the Registry of Deeds, transfer fees from statewide real estate transactions and surplus cash from the state Legislature.

The money from the trust fund is used to at least partially match the money generated on the community level for CPA funding. The state divvies the trust fund money each year between the cities and town participating in the CPA — which as of 2021 was about 243 cities and towns across the commonwealth.

What’s Pittsfield used its CPA money for?

To date, Pittsfield has granted $2,047,081 to 51 projects since opting in to the CPA program. About 55 percent of that money has been used on historic resource preservation, about 25 percent has been used for open space and recreation projects and about 19 percent has been used for community housing projects.

There have been some notable examples of CPA projects along the way. In August, the City Council awarded CT Management $100,000 in CPA outside the normal funding cycle in order to complete a roof repair to the former Morningside firehouse. The CPA funds along with several other funding sources are allowing CT Management to transform the firehouse into four market-rate apartments.

Aerial view of the Morningside Fire Station (copy)

The Morningside Firehouse in Pittsfield received $100,000 in Community Preservation Funds in August so that new owners, CT Management Group, could save the building from further disrepair and replace the roof.

CPA funds have also been used to make athletic field improvements at Taconic High School, restore Springside House, restore the former St. Mary’s Church which now serves as the Morning Star apartments and purchase a new public dock at Onota Lake.

What’s on the table this year?

There are 11 projects that have made it past the eligibility portion of the CPA process: four recreation and open space projects, five historic preservation projects and two community housing projects. Five of these projects come from city departments.

Recreation and Open Space - Department of Community Development: $9,500 to restore the little league baseball building at Clapp Park.

- Department of Community Development: $7,500 to replace aging baskets, tee pads and signage at the Kirvin Park disc golf course.

- Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity: $16,000 to design and engineer a pocket park at the Francis Avenue lookout.

- Morningside Community School: $50,000 to add a basketball court, gardens and sitting area and remove bars to the former Second Street jail.

Historic resources- Department of Community Development: $15,000 to restore gravestones and add new marker signs to the West Part Cemetery.

- Office of Cultural Development: $15,000 to move and restore the “Lest We Forget” mural on West Housatonic and South streets.

STAINED GLASS (copy)

Stained glass windows in the chapel at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield depict the bible stories of the flight to Egypt, the nativity, and Jesus with the elders. Church officials have applied for CPA funding this year to save this window and others like it at the church.

- Berkshire Athenaeum: $87,815 to purchase a large, overhead book scanner to digitize the city’s tax records.

- Berkshire Theatre Group: $75,740 to restore the facade of “The Garage” portion of the Colonial Theatre.

- St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church: $150,000 to restore and protect the church’s stained glass windows.

Community Housing- Habitat for Humanity: $150,000 for the construction of two affordable housing units on Onota Street.

- Habitat for Humanity: $140,000 for the construction of two affordable housing units on Robbins Avenue.

So where’s the money going this year?

That’s still up to the Community Preservation Committee and City Council. The final applications for the 11 projects are due to the committee in mid-February. Once the committee finalizes its funding recommendations later this winter the projects are sent on to the City Council: perhaps to be the subject of a future Look Ahead column.

Heads-upTuesday marks the final City Council meeting for five city councilors. At Large Councilor Yuki Cohen, Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell will end their terms as city representatives at the upcoming meeting.

In January the council will welcome new — and returning faces — with the swearing in of Karen Kalinowsky, Ken Warren, Kevin Sherman, Charles Kronick and James Conant.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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