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Community Preservation Committee readies to vote on projects

Date: 1/18/2010

Jan. 18, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW - At their next meeting, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) will take final comments from the public and vote on which projects they will recommend to town meeting this spring.

The eight projects submitted this year are the American Legion Building Project, Town Hall Restoration, Blinn Tennis Court Restoration, Center School Exterior Restoration, the Community Garden Improvement Program, Community House Window Replacement, a Residential Home Modification Fund and Storrs Library Ceiling Repairs.

The CPC spoke with two of the applicants during their Jan. 12 meeting to gather some final input from them before they head into deliberation. The decisions on whether or not to support each project must be submitted to the town by Feb. 11.

Karen Michelman, Executive Director of the Council on Aging, submitted the application for establishing a Residential Home Modification Fund. She explained that the fund would allow anyone who needed repairs or improvements made to their homes so they could stay in them to apply for funding to have that work completed, as long as each project was $5,000 or less. These projects would include everything from installing hand rails and ramps to repairing heating systems.

"It would be a valuable service and there's a real need," Michelman said.

She added that the fund would aim to help those with low to moderate incomes dealing with financial difficulty - with a salary cap of $51,000 for a single, $77,000 for a couple. A panel would be established to determine which applicants would be eligible to use the funds for home improvement projects.

"I think it's a fabulous idea and it's needed in this town," Arlene Miller, clerk of the CPC, said.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Mike Wrabel discussed four projects with the CPC, one of which Superintendent of Schools E. Jahn Hart joined him on. The application for the final phase of the Center School exterior restoration includes the scraping and painting of the windows, replacing nine sets of exterior doors and repointing the brick exterior.

The doors, which are made of wood, need to be replaced because of rotting issues. "The Historic District is ... amenable to using fiberglass doors [as replacements]," Hart explained.

Bill Hoff, chair of the CPC, asked if the committee would be better off recommending that money be spent on replacing the old single-pane windows instead of painting their sills and frames.

"That doesn't solve the problem of the sills that need scraping and painting," Adrian Phaneuf, Facilities Director of the Longmeadow Public Schools, stated.

The other projects discussed included repairing the Storrs Library ceiling, which has "severe cracks ... that need to be repaired so the library is presentable to the public," according to Wrabel; replacing the windows in the Community House "to lower energy costs and maintenance for the future"; and the Town Hall restoration project, which would involve lead paint abatement, a door replacement, repointing of the brickwork, some window replacements, carpentry repairs and making the bathroom on the main floor Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.

"This does not solve all our issues [at Town Hall]," Wrabel explained. "The second floor is still not accessible without an elevator."

Offices that are located on the second floor do have a system in place to assist those who cannot physically come to them, however.

Those who submitted the other three project applications were unable to make last Tuesday's meeting, but the applications are available for viewing on the town Web site.

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) allows cities and towns in the Commonwealth to adopt a property tax surcharge to fund certain projects. The residents of Longmeadow voted to adopt the CPA in June 2006 at a property tax surcharge rate of one percent.

The CPC is responsible for making recommendations for how CPA funds should be spent in the four CPA program areas: community housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The committee welcomes comments and suggestions, and encourages people to attend its meetings and speak during the public comment period.

The CPC's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Fire Station Meeting Room.

For more information on the CPC and the project descriptions, visit towngovt/commpreservation.htm.