A $7 million push to upgrade the Roudenbush Community Center got the endorsement it needed on Jan. 31 to help Town Meeting voters decide whether to fund the project.
Overseeing a balance of $2.792 million in available funds, members of the Community Preservation Committee voted 7 to 1 to recommend bonding $6.3 million over 20 years for $447,300 per year. John Cuniffe, the Historical Commission liaison, was the sole dissenting vote.
“We supported aspects of the project but not the project as a whole,” he said of his Historical Commission colleagues.
Town officials will have to dig to find the remaining $700K to fund the cost of, among other upgrades, a new roof. In 2011, Town Meeting voters agreed to fund the partial replacement of Roudenbush’s roof with $28,000. However, according to accounting records, only $9,900 was spent.
In fiscal 2013 CPC approved the allocation of $88,500 to replace a sprinkler system. The funding was not used and the sum was closed on Jan. 31.
“We’ve had a bad history with Roudenbush” said member Christine MacMillan “Everyone here has a bad taste in his mouth. Nothing gets quite finished. Nothing gets quite done and the money sits and sits and sits. If it were a partnership you’d feel like somebody else had money at stake…”
“…there needs to be oversight and the project — there needs to be accountability,” said member Marilyn Frank.
History of the CPC
Community preservation funds come from an annual property tax surcharge of 3 percent. The 2000 Community Preservation Act required the funds to be used for historic and land preservation, recreational projects, and the creation of affordable housing. Each year, communities are required to allot 10 percent of total annual revenues raised to each of the categories.
The state matches a percentage of the funds and the amount varies from one year to the next. Westford received a match of $373,932 for fiscal 2016 which ended on June 30. The original match in 2001 when the law was first enacted was 100 percent and Westford was among the first 34 communities to adopt it. The town received the 100 percent match for the next six years, benefiting from a growing community preservation account. An online document written for the Community Preservation Committee in 2013 notes that over the 12 years voters had approved a total of 66 projects: “32 for historic, 17 for housing, 15 for open space and 7 for recreation.”
Among the most significant CPC recommendations came in 2005 when annual Town Meeting voters approved the purchase of 286 wooded acres off Depot Street known as “East Boston Camps.” By agreeing to apply CPC funds toward the land, voters allowed the parcel to remain undeveloped. The town bonded $8.5 million over 15 years, for a total purchase price of $14.770 million, according to Dan O’Donnell, the town’s finance director.
“It will be fully paid in April fiscal 2019,” he said.
2017 annual Town Meeting Recommendations
For the 2017 annual Town Meeting the Committee voted to recommend seven additional motions for a total of $978,710 in funding requests that will go before Town Meeting voters.
If approved, Community Preservation funds also will be allotted to the following:
- $15,000 from the undesignated fund balance to support Community Preservation administrative expenses for the fiscal 2018 budget.
- $350,000 for a renovation of the community track at Westford Academy. Members voted 7 to 1. Saying he preferred the funds to come out of the capital appropriations, Cuniffe dissented.
- $35,000 for the Stonewall restoration at Pageant Field at 13 Hildreth Street.
- $190,000 for future open space land purchases.
- $32,000 to the Community Garden expansion of Day Field from approximately 1 to 2 acres.
- $145,834 for unspecified historic resources.
- $225,876 for community housing.
Annual Town Meeting takes place on Saturday, March 25 at 10 a.m. at the Abbot School.
UPDATE: This story was updated on March 12, 2017, to add the $15,000 motion at the top of the list with bullets.