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Park’s second phase plans lose bid for state funding

Date: 1/24/2012

Jan. 25, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

AGAWAM — Plans to proceed with phase two of the School Street Park project are on hold, at least for now.

Christopher Sparks, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation told Reminder Publications that he received notification by phone on Jan. 13 and again in writing on Jan. 19 that the town’s application for a $500,000 reimbursable Parkland Acquisition and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Program grant from the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs had been rejected.

“There were 49 applications [for PARC grants this round] and they only funded 17,” Sparks said, adding that the PARC program is “a very competitive grant and unfortunately the state couldn’t fund all the projects they felt were worthy.”

He said that because funding for the project was “heavily relying on the $500,000 grant,” plans for phase two would need to be reevaluated.

Mayor Richard Cohen noted, “It’s always disheartening when you are not considered. We felt our project was, of course, worthy.”

Cohen said he was instructing the City Council to remove from consideration an application to use $2 million from the town’s Community Preservation Act funds for the phase two projects.

“I think our goal at this time is to formulate a plan that works and hopefully, we will be able to reapply for one of the grants [in the future]” Cohen said.

In the meantime, he said he hoped that the preliminary plan for phase two, drafted by Berkshire Design Group of Northampton could be “expanded with public input, Community Preservation Committee (CPC) input and City Council input.”

He added that previous public input had resulted in the addition of a proposed spray park, picnic tables, and increased parking and sports fields.

“We want to show that plan, get input and make a final plan and hopefully get the blessing of the CPC and the council and move forward for completion,” Cohen said, adding that new public hearings on the project would be scheduled “as soon as we come up with a new time line.”

Sparks said the town could reapply for a PARC grant for phase two, but would have to wait “until later this spring to see if [the state] will have another grant round” as the program is not funded every year.

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