Whately Town Meeting OKs church windows, creates stabilization funds

  • Whately residents approved the seven-article special Town Meeting warrant on Tuesday evening at the Town Offices. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2022 4:00:20 PM

WHATELY — Voters swiftly approved all seven articles at Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting, funding window restorations for the First Congregational Church of Whately and creating two special stabilization funds.

In a 15-minute meeting at the Town Offices, the only article that generated discussion was the first one, which called for appropriating $38,000 from the Community Preservation Fund for window restoration at the church.

A resident questioned if Community Preservation Act (CPA) money could be applied to a religious building that is not owned by the town because state law typically forbids using it in that manner. Community Preservation Committee and Historical Commission member Donna Wiley said a court case in Acton allowed towns to appropriate CPA money for historic religious buildings, as long as it does not go toward funding core religious activities.

“We, the Community Preservation Committee, were very much aware of this,” Wiley said, noting that the committee asked Town Administrator Brian Domina to check with town counsel, who advised that the church can receive the money.

Previously, Judy Markland, chair of the church’s Building Committee and a Planning Board member, said the church applied for CPA funding because the nearly $40,000 price tag would be a “heavy lift” for the church, and while it isn’t a town-owned building, the church is historic and continues to host many community events alongside its religious services.

With the money in hand, the church will undergo the process of restoring 10 “large triple-sash windows ... including replacing the existing single-pane glass with double-pane glass while preserving the existing original frames,” according to the CPA application submitted to the town. The church was built in 1843 and Markland said she was unaware of any recent window restorations there.

Beyond restoration work at the church, voters approved creating special stabilization funds for the opioid settlement money coming to Whately and for marijuana community impact fees. Typically, Domina explained previously, any municipal revenue is placed into the general fund, and these two funds are being created because the opioid settlement and community impact fee revenue can only be used for specific purposes.

Residents also approved appropriating $1,391 and $3,464 for the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library to increase the library director’s salary and to pay extra costs for the library’s accessibility renovations, respectively.

Other articles approved include appropriating $7,869 to help pay for a 2023 hybrid police cruiser for the Police Department, as well as raising the fee for opening graves for casket burials from $650 to $750.


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