PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee was generous with its disbursement of 2022 Community Preservation Act funds, recommending that 10 applications be fully granted and the 11th, partially funded.
The slate of recommendations totals about $670,000 and will go to the City Council for final approval next month.
“I know we said we weren’t flush with money in the past, we didn’t have as much money, we had to make these decisions, but I think it’s been good stewardship of the resources,” Historical Commission representative John Dickson said.
“The state’s been giving us extra money so that we could provide more, we didn’t have difficult decisions on what to leave out.”
The committee’s top-rated project was from Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, which requested $150,000 for the build of energy-efficient, affordable homes on a vacant lot at 84 Robbins Ave.
The second highest-rated requests were the Morningside Community School inclusion project planning for $24,000 and another Habitat for Humanity build at 266 Onota St. for $140,000.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was recommended $125,000 of its original request of $150,000 to preserve stained-glass windows. The CPA funding was reduced because the scope of the overall project cost was lessened.
The church wants to install protective glazing on 14 of its stained-glass windows: one balcony window, 11 nave windows, and two chapel windows.
It intends to install frames that mimic the lines of the stained glass as best as possible. Some repairs on deteriorating window frames are also needed.
This was the largest request and there was previously some questioning about the eligibility of this project because of a state anti-aid amendment that prohibits the use of public funds to private entities for private purposes.
City Planner CJ Hoss consulted City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta on the matter.
Because of the historic nature of the building, members said they view this project as eligible for the funding. The various community organizations that use the church were also highlighted.
“I view this project as a historic building project and so I don’t think that it violates the anti-aid amendment of the CPA,” Community Development Board representative Libby Herland said.
“They could put regular windows in there and they could just fix them and they could still do everything that they’re doing but the building is a historic building. They already know about the [U.S.] Department of Interior secretary standards and are going to comply with them for preservation and they do so much for the community that it’s a community-building so I feel really comfortable funding this project.”
The church has three current tenants: The Cathedral of the Beloved, the Berkshire Immigrant Center, and Jewish Family Service, which have been supporting Afghan refugees. It also has a full kitchen that serves 150 meals a week and also lends its space for community groups and performances.
The committee considered not fully funding two other proposals but ended up agreeing to the full amount in the end.
There was also some discussion over the eligibility of the Francis Avenue Lookout Park proposed by Habitat for Humanity. The $34,000 was requested to cover the design and engineering costs for the creation of a parklet at the top of Francis Avenue and upgrades to the neighboring stairwell that leads to the Big Y area.
The committee originally proposed funding half of the requested amount because there were concerns about how much the project actually relates to recreation. The conversation then took a turn to how it would improve an existing drainage issue in the area and the benefit it would have to the surrounding community.
A $15,000 ask for the move and restoration of the “Lest We Forget” Vietnam veterans’ memorial from the city of Pittsfield also stirred conversation between the panel members. One concern was that the project was not actually restoration because it was revealed that the mural will be recreated using as much restoration as possible.
The other concern that arose was that the city has not yet secured the mural new location at 50 Pearl St. near the James E. Callahan Chapter 65 Vietnam Veterans building.
The mural was deemed historically significant by the Historical Commission, which led to support from committee members.
The panel did make a condition that the funding was approved for that location and if the location changes, the applicant would have to come before the commission again.
The committee also approved a base allocation for the fiscal year 2023 of about $623,000.
The 2022 CPA funding recommendations:
• Berkshire Athenaeum/Tax & Vital Records digitization, $95,217
• Berkshire Theatre Group/Garage Facade restoration, $57,275
• City of Pittsfield Cultural Development/Lest We Forget mural, $15,000
• City of Pittsfield DCD/Clapp Park Little League Buildings, $9,000
• City of Pittsfield DCD/Kirvin Park Disc Golf, $7,500
• City of Pittsfield DCD/West Park Cemetery restoration, $13,325
• Habitat for Humanity/Francis Ave Lookout Park, $34,000
• Habitat for Humanity/266 Onota St, $140,000
• Habitat for Humanity/84 Robbins Ave, $150,000
• Morningside School/Playground Planning, $24,000
• St Stephen’s Church/Stained Glass Window restoration, $125,000