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Pelham Town Meeting allocates Community Preservation Act funds

PELHAM — Pelham residents approved several measures allocating funds to various projects from both the general budget and the Community Preservation Act account on Tuesday night in the second of the town’s biannual town meetings.

The gathering was presided over by Daniel Robb in his elected capacity as well as Select Board members William Martell and Linda Michaud and newly-elected member Mark Santos.

Four articles were put before several dozen attendees at the historic Old Town Hall on Daniel Shays Highway, all of them approved unanimously after some discussion. Articles 1 and 2 appropriated funds from the Community Preservation Act account to address general operating expenses for the coming fiscal year and made the remainder of the fund’s receipts for the last fiscal year available to future projects in other areas.

Pelham voted to become a partner municipality to the terms of the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act in 2011, making the town eligible to receive matching funds from the state in exchange for levying a 3 percent surcharge on residential property taxes for those over $100,000 in value. Monies derived from the program may be used for maintenance of public property and administration in a partner municipality in a variety of areas.

After a period of questions to both the Select Board and the members of Pelham’s Community Preservation Committee, voters agreed to both measures. Article 1 will require re-approval at a future town meeting session due to an inaccuracy in the language of the measure that transferred slightly more funds for administrative payments than allowed by the terms of the act. The discrepancy was explained by the Select Board members as a clerical error and will be corrected before a second vote is taken.

“The funds that we reserve tonight can be used in support of any upcoming projects that may come up for approval next year,” explained Joseph Larson, chairman of the committee. “If we don’t use the allocated funds, they’ll revert back to the main CPA account.”

Larson advocated for effective use of the funds, explaining that Pelham’s small size and limited budget made the act a compelling source of income. “We’re one of only seven towns that gets one hundred percent matching funds from the state for every dollar that we raise ourselves because we have limited means,” he said.

Article 3 raised the fee for late property and excise tax bill returns from five to ten dollars. “This will allow us to cover postage costs associated with sending out billing forms,” Martell said.

The final article approved a sum of $126,816.08 from Pelham’s stabilization fund to cover the third and final payment for a new fire engine, which the town voted to purchase in the spring.

Pelham maintains a biannual town meeting system in part to foster more activity in the Old Town Hall, which has become the oldest continually-operating town hall in the nation since its construction in 1743.

In remarks at the end of the meeting, Moderator Daniel Robb voiced his support of the building, which has been undergoing sporadic maintenance and repair. “We want to preserve the history of this building and everyone who has cared for it, even down to the strata of different paint jobs on the outer walls,” Robb said. “This hall has hosted 269 town meetings so far, and we have been working to continue that tradition.”

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