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Steep competition for Hingham Community Preservation funds

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 11, 2012 02:56 PM

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Although Hingham School Committee members are hoping to get a portion of the funding for the high school fields project from the Community Preservation Committee, there will be steep competition for the funding.

This year, there are 14 requests totaling $5.3 million, yet only approximately $1 million to go around.

According to Community Preservation Committee Chairman Dan Coughlin, the committee hasn't decided where that money will go.

“We’re in the due diligence phase,” he said. “We’ve had one round of presentations from proponents, and have project managers assigned to each project.”

CPC members have also reported to selectmen to get feedback on the proposals, which include an $875,000 plan regarding preservation of a historic home on Home Meadows Lane alongside five acres of open space, $40,000 for the preservation of Ancient Hingham Trees, a $1.23 million request for historic preservation of the Hingham Heritage Museum, and a $325,000 request for historic preservation of the Ames Chapel.

Applications have also been submitted for a $100,000 project at the Hingham Historical Collections, $49,000 for the GAR Hall Exterior Preservation Project, $50,000 for the renovation at Bradley Woods Park Playground, and $181,500 for the renovation of the East Street Sate House.

Not to mention the $15,000 renovation request for Cronin Field Basketball Court and Outdoor Hockey Rink, $1 million for the purchase of the Noonan Property, $31,000 open space purchase for land owned by Boy Scout Troop 4, $25,000 for the Conservation Fund, and $120,000 for Thaxter Park Renovations through the Hingham Housing Authority.

All this alongside a $1.3 million request for the Hingham High School fields project.

There are several issues to be worked out before funding can be decided, Coughlin said.

“The biggest issue is one is the recreation projects. The state is allowing money to be used for recreation projects on land that hasn’t been acquired with CPC capital. We’re not sure that our bylaw follows the state statue,” Coughlin said.

Additionally, two of the projects suggest that the CPC float a bond to support them and pay off the debt with future years’ funding.

“We’ve never done that before, so we’re taking a new and hard look at it,” Coughlin said.

If anything, sorting through funding for projects has only gotten progressively harder.

While the state’s contribution to the town has stayed steady at 26 percent, or $273,000, for the past few years, the requests have surged.

“The requests the last two years have been record level. Last year we had over $7 million in requests…in prior years it’s never been anywhere near that level,” Coughlin said.

Although the town’s CPC surcharge will remain 1.5 percent on residents’ property bills, the state’s contribution is more likely to decrease than anything else.

“The state in the last round of the legislation back in June did allow for a potential to increase of the CPC funding by as much as an additional $25 million in the commonwealth, but the [funding] was intended to come from the state surplus,” Coughlin said. “Right now, it doesn’t appear there would be a state surplus this year, so I wouldn’t anticipate any increase than what we’re currently getting.”

Suggestions for CPC funding will be further vetted in public meetings in mid-January. Any appropriations would have to be voted on at Town Meeting in April.

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