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Council approves $301,105 in CPA projects

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 20, 2011 11:21 AM

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Braintree's Town Council on Tuesday approved $301,105 in Community Preservation appropriations for projects Mayor Joseph Sullivan said “will offer a great value for today and in the days ahead.”

Improvements include $29,705 on storm water infrastructure at Sunset Lake, $233,000 on restoring the exterior of the Old Thayer Library, $3,400 on signage for the Town Forest, $10,000 on compiling historic property inventory forms of selected historic buildings or structures within Braintree Square, and $25,000 on preserving historical vital records held by the Town Clerk.

The money, which is collected from an annual surtax of one percent (out of a possible three percent) of residents’ property taxes, is matched by the state from fees received from statewide real estate transactions.

Although the size of state matches have dwindled as of late, Sullivan still commended Braintree officials for their choice of projects.

“There is a lot of work that goes into this, because some communities have made mistakes and have not properly utilized the money, and money has been pulled. However, our CPA funding has been used in the right manner,” he said.

There is currently around $4.5 million in the CPA account, $1 million of which has already been allocated to projects that have not yet begun.

Even though the $300,000 allocation approval last night will shrink the account further, council members approved a reallocation of $700,000 from money left over from finished or uncompleted projects.

Councilors expressed concern that some of the projects, including a match to a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for new windows in the auditorium, were never even started.

Yet according to Peter Morin, chief of staff and operations for the Town of Braintree, the specifications of the grant, which was meant to transform the auditorium into an emergency shelter, would have meant the purchase of giant metal shutters to cover the massive side windows, a project the town wasn’t willing to go through with.

As for projects the town plans on starting this year, some are only the beginning on larger initiatives, city officials said.

According to Christine Stickney, director of planning and community development, the improvements to the Old Thayer Library are only for the exterior of the building.

A grant for $40,000 from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, in addition with CPA money, will help replace the 137-year-old slate roof as well as install new gutters, downspouts, and complete façade work.

“We’re working with the state through the project, and we hope to go out [to bid] in the fall or in the spring of 2012,” Stickney said.

To make the building fully operational, however, the town will have to invest significantly to make the building handicap-accessible, and bring the plumbing and electricity up to code.

“We’re looking for ways not only to preserve that building but rebuild it and reuse it,” Sullivan said.

Other projects will bring initiatives the town has been working on for years to a close.

Sullivan said the preservation of historical vital records and also of historic inventory forms was an important project.

The Sunset Lake improvements will also help with flooding that the area experiences in heavy rain. Because the area is used for outdoor concerts, the stor mwater project will “take care of a situation that has troubled us for a few years,” Sullivan said.

Councilors are also hoping to appropriate $275,000 in CPA money towards the construction of a Highlands Playground at the 22 acres off of Washington Street recently purchased by the town.

The zoning request for a municipal public park will go to the Planning Board on Aug. 9. Councilors will review the CPA request at their revised meeting date on Aug. 10 in order to appropriate the funds.

Councilors attempted to vote on the matter last night, but were told the item needed to be publicized for a public hearing and also needed Planning Board approval prior to a vote.

The acceleration of the project, which already has a vendor on board, is being done so that the playground might possibly be built before the summer’s end.

“We’ll do what we have to do to make it happen,” Councilor Leland Dingee said.

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