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CPA panel sifts options for Amherst funding

Rehabilitating municipal parks, renovating and building new affordable housing and protecting open space are among requests coming before the Community Preservation Act Committee.

The committee is beginning its review of $1.11 million in proposals for funds, which can go toward historical, recreation and open space projects. At next spring’s annual Town Meeting, the CPA Committee will recommend projects to receive funding.

With the War Memorial Pool at Community Field having reopened in July following extensive grant-funded repairs, efforts are under way to continue making the area a summer destination. Leisure Services and Supplemental Education is requesting $40,000 to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for restoring the downtown park.

“After a successful summer for the pool, let’s think longer term about Community Field,” said Town Manager John Musante. “What does the community want?”

While the pool is now state of the art and new handicapped-accessible rest rooms are nearby, Community Field has an antiquated basketball court, dilapidated play structures, a wading pool with cracks in the foundation and limited areas for picnicking.

An additional $60,000 is being sought for improvements to the full-size outdoor pool and wading pool at Mill River Recreation Area in North Amherst. Both were opened when the recreation area was completed in 1974.

The town lost out on a $530,000 state Parkland Acquisition and Renovation for Communities grant to rehabilitate the North Common, the area in front of the Town Hall used for ceremonies and celebrations. The town is requesting $159,000 to begin the process again and provide a match if the grant comes through next year.

The Amherst Housing Authority is seeking $160,625 to rehabilitate 25 units of affordable housing at Ann Whalen Apartments.

New affordable housing could be developed at the Hawthorne Farm on East Pleasant Street, where the 1800s-era farmhouse is slated for demolition. Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity is requesting $80,000 to purchase construction materials that could be used for two new units at the site.

A total of $298,000 in requests were made for protecting open space. Of this, $60,000 would be used to protect prime agricultural land in North Amherst, a parcel that has not yet been publicly identified, $163,000 would be used to save an additional 13 acres of the Brunelle property on Potwine Lane, adjacent to Plum Brook Conservation Area, and $50,000 would be used to buy the 7.5 acres at 650 to 652 South East St., which has been proposed for housing development.

In addition, the South Amherst Conservation Association, a private group, is requesting $50,000 to $100,000 to be used for the purchase of the South East Street site, which was once known as the Rock Dairy Farm.

The Unitarian Universalist Society on North Pleasant Street is asking for $125,000 to restore “The Angel of the Lilies,” a stained-glass window created by the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1890. CPA money has been allocated to religious organizations in the past, including the Hope Church, which made renovations to its building prior to its 100th anniversary celebrations.

Amherst Media wants $53,994 to purchase equipment and hire staff to archive 2,577 hours of recordings, including municipal meetings, local shows and performances, now stored on deteriorating forms of media.

An $18,901 proposal comes from the Amherst Historical Society, primarily to purchase storage materials and hire a consulting curator. Of that amount $1,000 would go toward restoring and preserving a dress worn by Emily Dickinson. The dress will go to a conservation workshop in New York and then return to be displayed.

The smallest request is for $14,000 for roof repairs at the Jones Library, which would go toward replacing about 100 pieces of slate and fixing the deteriorating copper valley.

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