Strong House Amherst History Museum located next door to Jones Library
The Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee held their required public hearing last night to seek input on 15 proposals totaling $2.1 million, with the available pot of funds being "only" $1.8 million.
The overall nest egg is generated by a 3% surcharge on properties, although residential homeowners are exempt from the first $100,000 of their valuation.
CPA Committee Chair Mary Streeter (center)
Chair Mary Streeter called the meeting to order a few minutes late and explained to the sizable crowd they would go down the list of all the projects and accept comments or questions first, then the Committee would talk among themselves and possible vote on some of the projects.
The only two projects to generate public (supportive) discussion were the First Congregational Church request for $357,647 to install a fire suppression system and the recreation request of $600,000 for a spray park and other improvements at Groff Park in South Amherst.
Good crowd on a potentially snowy night
Although most of the speakers voicing support were pretty much connected to the projects.
After 45 minutes all 15 projects were done as many did not generate any comments at all and the Committee then took up their discussion of the projects. The first problem to deal with was some of the historical preservation requests were questionable as to being eligible for CPA spending.
The request from the Strong House/Amherst History Museum for $18,000 to pay for legal counsel to break the will of the Emerson family (who donated the Strong House to the Amherst Historical Society) so they can sell property to the Jones Library was ruled illegal by the town attorney.
There were also questions/concerns about the legality of $10,000 in "due diligence" money for the Amherst Historical Commission as they seem to be treated differently than the Conservation Commission where due diligence money is routinely funded by CPA.
And a $5,000 request for a headstone to mark the grave of a black soldier who served in the Civil War was also found somewhat questionable, although if the CPA ruled it was a "rehabilitation of West Cemetery" it would pass muster. Chair Mary Streeter seemed uncomfortable making that declaration.
A $10,000 historical preservation request to photo archive Amherst College owned Little Red Schoolhouse slated for demolition this spring was withdrawn by zealot Carol Gray.
In the end the Committee voted support for the non controversial projects -- previous debt that must be paid, and $3,500 annual dues to the coalition of CPA committees, and will take up discussion and votes at their next meeting March 7.
Town Meeting has the final say on all CPA spending, but they usually act as a rubber stamp for Committee recommendations.
Little Red Schoolhouse will be demolished in May to make room for Amherst College $200 million science center