GROTON — At a meeting last Tuesday night, members of the Community Preservation Committee held their first run-through of applications for public funding on a number of projects including affordable housing, historic preservation and the restoration of Squannacook Hall.
Applicants hope to qualify for a share of public funds raised through the town’s acceptance of the Community Preservation Act in the form of a 3 percent surcharge on local property taxes.
Funds raised through the CPA are disbursed and approved projects periodically reviewed by the CPC and include such categories as community housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.
The Community Preservation Act was adopted and approved in 2004 by residents at Town Meeting. For those communities that adopted the CPA measure, funds raised through the surcharge were originally supposed to be matched by the state but over the years that goal has rarely been met. In fact, each year since Groton adopted the CPC measure has seen a decline in state matching grants.
Total CPC money raised for use in 2011 both through the surcharge and state matching funds is $720,000 with $36,000 earmarked for committee operating expenses and $72,000 each for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing.
In reserve will be an unallocated sum of $468,000.
In contention for the available funds were a number of town organizations and local groups including the Groton Affordable Housing Trust which has applied for two separate requests; one for $1,000 needed to pay for general operating expenses and another for $300,000 to help establish an affordable housing trust.
According to Chairwoman Colleen Neff, establishment of a fund was needed to give the Trust the ability to make decisions quickly when opportunities to buy land or housing units arose.
Currently, the Trust has no monetary resources of its own.
In voting last week, the Board of Selectmen already expressed its support for an affordable housing fund and by extension, more autonomy for the Trust itself.
For their part, CPC members were also supportive with Michael Roberts noting that the committee has often been “frustrated” in the past at the lack of applications for funding in the area of affordable housing.
The Affordable Housing Trust, along with the Affordable Housing Partnership, was also acting in a supportive role in the application by Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts for $62,000 in funding to be used to construct a three bedroom, single-family home on a lot off Drumlin Hill Road.
The funding request will be matched by a similar amount from other sources.
Also in the area of affordable housing, the CPC also received an application for $120,000 from the Groton Housing Authority to be used toward the purchase of a pair of condominiums at the Residential Gardens complex on Main Street.
In the area of historic preservation, the committee received an application from the Groton Historical Commission for $40,000 to be used to cover the cost of a project that would see the creation of design guidelines for signage around town and the installation of up to a dozen interpretive signs at various locations of historic significance. Also, prepared placards would be made available to owners of historic homes should they want to publicly identify their property as such.
The CPC also received an application from the Groton Historical Society, which hopes to renovate its headquarters at the historic Boutwell House on Main Street.
In its application, signed by Michael Flynn, Earl Carter, and E.J. Odell, it was stated that the building needed to have its plumbing and electric wiring replaced, ceilings repaired, and insulation installed. Cost for doing the work was estimated not to exceed $100,000 with the final price tag unknown until a successful bid for the work is accepted.
Resident George Wheatley, Jr. submitted an application for $200,000 for work needed to renovate the 133-year-old Squannacook Hall. According to the applicant, the building would need support posts replaced, plumbing and electrical upgrades, foundation work, and a new heating system installed.
Also required will be new insulation, plastering, a new handicap access, and a chair lift. Septic location has always been a problem at Squannacook Hall. In his application, Wheatley assured CPC members that he would continue to work on the issue.
Town Clerk Michael Bouchard has applied for $50,000 to finish a restoration project of the town’s earliest historical records that began in 2005. According to wording in the application, Bouchard explained that the need for finishing the restoration project this year was due to ever rising costs that could be saved if the work were to be completed as soon as possible.
Other applications to the CPC included the Conservation Commission’s annual request for money needed to help keep its conservation fund at the limit of between $750,000 and $1 million. This year, the commission is requesting $150,000 to make sure enough funds are available so that it can take advantage of any opportunities to buy land that may arise over the next year.
Finally, the Prescott School Reuse Committee will request an estimated $20,000 to pay for consultants to provide architectural services, cost estimation, and to conduct a market analysis to determine demand for housing in the current economic climate.
Following last week’s review, applicants were expected to incorporate input from CPC members and submit a more formal application by Jan. 7.
At a subsequent public hearing Jan. 17, the CPC will review the drafts with final versions incorporating its feedback due Feb.11. In order to be considered for inclusion on the Annual Town Meeting warrant in the spring, all final applications must be submitted by the February deadline.
A public hearing held to discuss and offer input by interested parties will be held by the CPC on March 1 with final voting on recommendations made on March 21.