CPC agrees to fund second phase of park
Date: 1/17/2012Jan. 18, 2012
By Debbie Gardner
AGAWAM The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) brought School Street Park one step closer to completion by agreeing to allocate $2 million to the project during its Jan. 9 meeting.
The allocation now moves to the City Council, which is expected to vote on the matter at its Feb. 6 meeting.
Jennifer Bonfiglio, Community Preservation Act (CPA) administrator for Agawam, told Reminder Publications
that the committee voted 7-1 to allocate $2 million of the $2.5 million in its undesignated account to fund phase two of the park’s development. She said the allocation would leave a balance of $525,000 in the undesignated account, which can only be used to fund recreation projects.
“We do have money in the open space and affordable housing [account],” Bonfiglio said. “There are still funds for other projects coming in, and future revenues coming in.”
Christopher Sparks, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said CPC approval of the allocation was crucial to keep the town’s July 2011 application for a $500,000 reimbursable Parkland Acquisition and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Program grant viable.
“We had to fund it 100 percent,” Sparks explained, adding that the expenditure must still receive final approval from the City Council.
The grant, Sparks explained, would allow the town to submit $500,000 in project expenses to the state for reimbursement, effectively providing up to $2.5 million to fund the project.
CPC member Richard Maggi, who cast the dissenting vote on the allocation, said he was concerned that by agreeing to spend the $2 million the committee was essentially “clearing out” its account.
“Where is the additional monies that might be necessary to complete the project? Where are they going to come from?” he questioned, adding that there was no guarantee Agawam would receive the full $500,000 in grant money for which it is applying.
“They might not approve it and we have no way of knowing,” Maggi said. “I’m just not in favor of spending such a large amount of money when it compromises the assets of the entire fund, and on a project on which there are still open questions in terms of design, materials, bids, etc.”
Sparks said his office has worked with Berkshire Design Group of Northampton, the architectural firm responsible for phase one of School Street Park, to develop a conceptual plan for phase two.
The initial plan includes amenities such as a spray park, picnic area, additional playing fields and a parking lot. He said the plan is available for public review at the Parks and Recreation office, adding that a public hearing on the project would be scheduled for sometime in the spring. That input, plus information from a wetlands survey, is expected to alter the plan, Sparks added.
Maggi said he still feels the community would be “better served through a bond issue [for the project], which the CPA would have paid for over time rather than allocating the funds in one lump sum.”
He added that the CPC had already provided $1 million to fund phase one of the park’s development a few years ago.
Monies to fund CPA-sponsored community historic and open space preservation projects come from a tax levy surcharge of not more than 3 percent. In Agawam, that surcharge is 1 percent.
Mayor Richard Cohen said he supported the use of CPC funds for phase two.
“It’s taxpayer money and it is there for three purposes: historic preservation, open space preservation and recreational development,” Cohen said. “It is the utilization of these funds in a very positive fashion that will benefit everyone.”
For more information about the CPC, including the balances in its accounts and ongoing projects, visit http://www.agawamcpa.com. Debbie Gardner can be reached by email at email@example.com