Amherst TM OKs extra $60,000 for social service agencies

Staff Writer
Published: 4/28/2017 12:10:53 AM

AMHERST — Social service agencies could be in line for $60,000 in municipal aid following a decision by Town Meeting to reinsert the funding into the town budget.

By voice vote at the second session of annual Town Meeting Thursday, members added the money to the $1.8 million community services budget, which includes money for the operations of the Senior Center, Veterans Services and Leisure Services and Supplemental Education.

Jim Oldham of Precinct 5 proposed the addition, calling it a restoration of funding that would help with issues such as crisis intervention, sheltering homeless and youth programs.

“Putting $60,000 back into social services would give us flexibility to work with additional agencies that provide these kind of services,” Oldham said.

While the town uses $165,000 from a Community Development Block Grant to fund five agencies, Oldham said this funding is unreliable because it fluctuates, and caps the number of agencies that can benefit.

The Select Board opposed the budget amendment. Board member Andy Steinberg said such an increase needs to be part of a budget process that looks at all town needs, and the new money could require staff to spend time overseeing a process to disseminate the money.

Select Board Chairwoman Alisa Brewer said the board will have a meeting in late summer or early fall to discuss all needs for community services in the operating budget, which will come prior to budget guidelines being issued and the town manager developing a budget proposal.

But Leo Maley of Precinct 5 said it was imperative that the money be put in the budget, and that there is sufficient reserves for the spending.

“The need is now, and the money is here,” he said.

It would also benefit a small agency, such as Amherst Community Connections, which operates on a $30,000 budget. Hwei-Ling Greeney, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 10 who founded the nonprofit, said extra money could help keep homeless housed and reduce the number of people living on the streets.

“It would be an investment in the quality of life for town residents and the tourists alike,” Greeney said.

CPA money approved

Meanwhile, Town Meeting approved $862,163 in Community Preservation Act spending, including $100,000 for a pool pump and filter replacement at Mill River Recreation Area, $25,000 to complete a historic structures report for the Jones Library and $244,683 that will go toward repairing the steeple at the Jewish Community of Amherst’s building on Main Street.

But Abby Jensen of Precinct 4 called this spending for the Jewish temple “an enormous amount of money” going to a religious organization, and John Coull of Precinct 2 said he had a “measure of unease” related to the spending.

Others, such as Select Board member Jim Wald, said the historic landscape of the town should be preserved, as the building once housed the Second Congregational Church. Diana Stein, a member of the CPA Committee, said that the building’s architectural configuration is not essential to the Jewish temple and the steeple will be lost without town support.

In other business, Town meeting approved a $2.34 million to cover debt on projects, including renovation for Crocker Farm Sc hool and improving the exterior of Town Hall, and four enterprise funds, including $3.97 million for the sewer fund, $3.91 million water fund, $469,862 for solid waste fund, $850,818 for the transportation fund.

Town Meeting resumes at 7 p.m. Monday at the middle school auditorium.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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