Community Preservation Committee backs preservation of town documents, fight against invasive plants

If Town Meeting approves, the fight to combat invasive plants on town conservation land and the town’s continuing effort to preserve its historical documents will both receive Community Preservation Fund grants next fiscal year.

The Community Preservation Committee (CPC), which recommends how to allocate fund money each year, voted last month to support the two projects, which were among the five applications the committee received. Two of those applications—$20,000 for restoration of the World War I memorial and $50,000 for accessibility improvements to the old library—were already approved by the Nov. 6 Special Town Meeting. A third, $200,000 to acquire land on Dean’s Hill, was withdrawn by the Conservation Commission when the deal fell through.

The CPC recommends that the invasive plant and document preservation projects each receive $26,000. In addition, the CPC must honor a past commitment to pay the principal and interest of debt associated with the historical preservation of Town Hall, an amount estimated to be $50,138 for fiscal 2019, according to Finance Director David Nalchajian. Finally, because state law requires that 10 percent of the money CPC collects each year must support affordable housing, the committee—having received no proposal from Harvard’s Municipal Affordable Housing Trust—will transfer $26,000 to a restricted affordable housing reserve for future use. The committee has also requested $2,500 to cover its operating expenses.

The money collected by the Community Preservation Fund each year comes from two sources: a 1.1 percent surcharge levied on every Harvard taxpayer’s bill, plus a matching grant from the state. As fiscal 2018 began, the fund balance was $216,000. Surcharges collectioned this fiscal year are expected to add $220,000 to the fund and the state match $37,000, an amount that has declined annually since Harvard adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2001. If the town approves the uses recommended by the CPC this year, the fund will be left with a balance of of $162,500 as fiscal 2019 begins.

An important funding source

CPC Chairman Didi Chadran has met with the selectmen, and he met with members of the Capital Planning and Investment Committee Monday morning this week. Chadran said that although the state’s contribution to the preservation fund has declined as more towns have joined the program, diluting the amount available to each municipality, the fund “remains an important source” of money for community improvements. Capital committee Co-chairwoman SusanMary Redinger recommended that given the capital needs of the town, the CPC should ask boards and departments to begin forecasting their needs for CPC money for the next three years.

Chadran told CPIC said that this year CPC had tried to be more “proactive,” keeping committees informed of its decisions and deliberations. But communication appears to remain a problem. Told Tuesday that CPC had voted in November to recommend money to combat black swallowwort and Japanese knotweed on Davis and Tufts-Smith conservation land, as well as a new field at Holy Hill, Land-Use Administrator Liz Allard said it was the first she had heard of the decision. Likewise, Town Clerk Marlene Kenney said she had not been informed that her request for historical document restoration money had been approved.

The proposed Community Preservation Fund allocations will appear as warrant articles this spring, subject to Town Meeting approval before they can be executed.

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