Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fire In The Sky!

The Evergreens is owned by Amherst College and is part of the Dickinson Museum Complex

While in overly educated Amherst you don’t really have to worry about “some stupid with a flare gun” burning an important building to the ground, fire is by its very nature a devastating creature born of surprise:

A pot left unattended on a stove, a cigarette disposed of in the wrong way or the spark from a plumber’s torch, and before you know it the ravenous beast is in full feeding frenzy. 

 First Congregational Church is located in the Dickinson Historic District

Yes AFD Central Station is less than a mile away from either The Evergreens or the First Congregational Church, but these days chances are the first engine on the scene of a box alarm may not have enough staff aboard to actually start fighting the fire.

So in mere minutes hundreds of years of history could be lost ... forever.

The Community Preservation Act Committee heard both fires suppression proposals last Tuesday night -- a $358,000 request from the First Congregational Church and $200,000 for The Evergreens.  

Amherst College plans to match the CPA grant so that is why their request is comparatively low, although CPA Chair Mary Streeter wondered why the College was not paying more.

Another member pointed out the CPA Committee has less than $2 million to fund all the requests before them while Amherst College has $2 billion in its endowment. 

The First Congregational Church packed the meeting with supporters but the CPA Committee was not overly receptive, wondering why for instance the Amherst Historical Commission ranked their request last in a recent recommendation letter to them even after suggesting the amount be reduced to $200,000 for "parity" with The Evergreens request.

Church supporters point out that in addtion to the "dramatic gothic presense" it provides the building is also used by Not Bread Alone,  Alcoholics Anonymous as well as the presence of a pre-school.  

 More than half the room cleared out after First Congregational Church hearing

And the Church is know for taking public stands on sometimes controversial social issues like gay rights, race issues or taking an anti-war stance.  A cowardly thief stole both their rainbow flag and an anti racism banner last summer demonstrating not everyone in Amherst is a tolerant progressive.

Some on the CPA Committee worry that by giving these two privately owned buildings expensive fire suppression systems it would open up the floodgates for others to apply.  And at the age of 257, Amherst has a bevy of historical buildings.  

 Henry Hills & Son matching mansions would probably love a new fire suppression system

The CPA Committee will make their final report to Town Meeting by the begining of March.  A positive recommendation is not 100% guarantee that an item will be funded,   but a negative recommendation is certain death.

Grace Church in town center.  Not asking for CPA money (yet)


Anonymous said...

The public shouldn't be paying for a church. This is an active church not a historical site. That's what the congregation is for.

Anonymous said...

The poor subsidizing the rich....

Anonymous said...

Did the church members point out that the church has a 1 million dollar endowment?

Anonymous said...

Last June the tree dept told me they did not have enough money to buy the loam or dirt to finish a job at my house. But we have tax money for this type of shit. My God when is this crap going to stop?

Larry Kelley said...

Not directly. But they are doing a ton of other work as well mainly a very expensive elevator.

Anonymous said...

Mary Streeter will give these projects a very close look. She has been a sensible and conservative steward of CPAC funds in the past and has a good eye for proposals that are not appropriate. I don't think they will pass muster with the committee.

Anonymous said...

CPAC money would be more appropriately used to fix the North Common, which is a public space.

Anonymous said...

Answer to your question...When you run for (and are elected as) mayor.

But then DPW won't be able to do work at your house any more.

Anonymous said...

Sure more stained glass windows, that was a real great use of my taxes.

Anonymous said...

Don't you mean the mayorial mansion?

Dr. Ed said...

The fact that the ALLEGED Congregational Church advocates controversial political views means that this expenditure is a violation of the First Amendment's Freedom of SpeechClause as defined by the US Supreme Court in the Southworth Decision.

While public monies may be used to benefit a religious order (MAYBE), an equal amount of money must be given to all other groups promulgating political opinions.

In other words, you gotta give the VFW $200K as well. Even if they already have sprinklers, you still gotta give them the money. Google "Content Neutrality."

And as to the religion issue, the schism in the Congregational faith is as big as the one Martin Luther caused in the Catholic faith -- it would be like St. Bridgs declaring that the Pope was a fraud and that they openly rejected all Catholic theology -- something a lot of Catholics might find a tad offensive.
Larry, how would you feel about having to fund such a church?

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to leave Amherst. Playing with our money as if it is a toy. If either CPC or town meeting was a fiscally responsible body, it would reject these ridiculous ideas.