By: Amanda Thompson

The Community Preservation Committee put on their listening ears this week to hear some early pitches for uses of 2017 Community Preservation Act funds.

“Annually, we have a public hearing; it’s a chance for people to come in and say they’re thinking of this or they’re thinking of that,” explained committee Chairman Russ Bonetti. “No decisions are made.”

The Community Preservation Act, or CPA, is a state mandate that requires towns that adopt the statute to set aside funds for the purposes of historical preservation, open space and recreation initiatives, and the creation of affordable housing.

A percentage of local funds are matched by the state trust fund, raised through fees at the Registry of Deeds. Local revenue totals over $400,000 per year, with a state match of around 30 percent.

The Community Preservation Committee reviews community-nominated projects to determine the best use of these funds and then brings recommendations to Annual Town Meeting. The community is free to pitch ideas anytime during the year. At the Oct. 17 meeting, the committee heard about three.

First, the Historical Society has requested $128,500 for critical restorations to the Maritime Museum in the village, which is suffering water damage due to its proximity to the ledge.

Kathy O’Malley from the Historical Society explained to the committee that water comes down the ledge in warmer weather and snow collects there in colder weather, meaning there’s no such thing as a dry season. Additionally, squirrels and mice have started to find their way inside, which could pose a threat to the historical artifacts.

The funds would be used for replacing the building’s siding and weatherizing the interior, O’Malley said.

The second pitch came from Glenn Pratt regarding an 1848 fire truck that is also owned by the Historical Society. The truck has seen hard times: after sitting in a field for some years, it was moved into a barn that later collapsed on it during a storm.

Pratt said the truck would be worth $100,000 after restorations. The work, however, would cost around $80,000. There are a few places where the truck could be displayed, such as a potential future public safety building on 3A.

But the historical preservation account currently holds only $140,700, which is not enough to fund both projects. If the committee has to pick, the museum seems like a more immediate need, Bonetti said. Still, the committee plans to hear more details before deciding.

The third presentation at Monday’s meeting came from a representative for Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has worked with the town to provide affordable community housing options in the past and would like to do so again. The representative did not, however, have a specific project in mind.

The committee is currently sitting on $264,484 in the affordable housing account. That number makes Bonetti happy, since the committee has yet to invest in any affordable housing – despite continually trying to make it a priority – due to lack of opportunities.

On top of that, affordable housing has a bit of a stigma in town that Bonetti would like to break. He looks forward to partnering with the new Affordable Housing Steering Committee to make that happen.

“We’d like to do something small just to show people it’s not the end of the world,” Bonetti said. “It’s part of our charge. If that means teaming up with Habitat, or South Shore Housing in Kingston – if the opportunity is there, I wouldn’t hesitate to entertain it.”

Bonetti said there will be even more funds available this year as the committee reclaims some funding that was previously awarded to projects that never saw fruition.

Do you have an idea for a community preservation project? The committee is still fielding new suggestions and will gladly schedule another meeting to hear your ideas.

Ideally, they’d like to determine which projects they’ll recommend to Town Meeting by the end of February, since those recommendations will have to be reviewed by Advisory Board and the Board of Selectmen before being placed on the Warrant.

Follow Amanda on Twitter for updates: @MarinerAmandaT

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