Recreation in focus with FY 2019 CPA projects

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Four separate recreation projects, a series of infrastructure improvements at the Paul Revere Heritage Park, and additional upgrades at the Rubin Court housing complex will all be in line for some form of Community Preservation Act funding in FY 2019 in what is shaping up to be another strong year for CPA spending in Canton.

The Paul Revere Heritage Site stands to benefit from additional CPA monies. (Jay Turner photo)

The Paul Revere Heritage Site stands to benefit from additional CPA monies. (Jay Turner photo)

At its meeting held earlier this month, the eight-member CCPC voted to recommend funding the six aforementioned projects for a total cost of $1.078 million. Last year’s batch of CPA projects also exceeded $1 million in funding, although one of this year’s big-ticket items — $311,000 for the Revere Heritage upgrades — would be bonded over a 10-year period pending final approval at the May town meeting.

Now in its fifth year in Canton following a successful ballot initiative in 2012, the Community Preservation Act is an optional state statute that enables participating cities and towns to set aside funds for the preservation of open space, historical resources, community housing, and outdoor recreation. Funds are raised locally through a surcharge on property tax bills — 1 percent in Canton’s case — and matched annually at a certain percentage through a statewide CPA trust.

In addition to administering the CPA program and managing the budget, the CCPC is tasked with reviewing all project proposals and making spending recommendations that align with the town’s Community Preservation Plan. The ultimate decision, however, rests with the town meeting voters, who can opt to approve, reject, or reduce — but not increase — the suggested expenditures by a majority vote.

Over the past few years, CPA monies have been used to finance more than two dozen community projects, including the renovation of the Canton High School tennis courts, restoration of the Civil War “Infantryman” statue in front of Canton Town Hall, and installation of a new copper roof on the historic rolling mill building at the Paul Revere Heritage Site.

The latest crop of spending recommendations, according to CCPC Chairman Lisa Lopez, address several more worthwhile projects that might not have otherwise made it through the regular municipal budget process.

“There continues to be positive trends for CPA and we’re able to use state monies to help leverage our resources here in Canton,” said Lopez. “I believe that even the naysayers now believe that [the CPA] has been a very positive program for many, many different constituencies in town.”

Among those constituencies that stand to benefit from the program in the coming fiscal year is the Parks and Recreation Department, which received a positive recommendation from the CCPC for two proposed projects: resurfacing and deck replacement at the Bolivar town pool ($300,000) and replacement of the Ponkapoag playground ($63,500).

The latter project is part of an ongoing program to replace the town’s aging playground equipment and comes on the heels of similar replacement projects at the Devoll and Tilden playgrounds, which were both approved for CPA funding in FY18. Lopez said that while the Recreation Department is currently conducting a comprehensive study of all of the town’s outdoor recreation facilities, those three playgrounds were deemed to be in such poor shape that they had become a safety concern and necessitated immediate upgrades.

“They felt that they just couldn’t wait,” she said, “and they are 100 percent confident that the study would rank these highly in terms of overall need.”

Also in the area of outdoor recreation, the CCPC approved the remaining portion of funding for the construction of restrooms and storage space at the JFK playing fields — a project spearheaded by Canton Little League with input and involvement from the town.

Plans call for the construction of a 1,200-square-foot restroom and concessions facility that would be located between Sullivan and Crawford fields behind the JFK School. A portion of the project costs — specifically with regard to the concession area — is not eligible for CPA funding and is being funded through private donations. The restroom component, however, was awarded partial CPA funding last year and recently received a positive recommendation from the CCPC to cover the balance of the costs ($173,500).

The fourth and final recreation project approved for funding was a request from the School Department to install lights at Walsh Field at a cost of $150,000. The field is located on the lower level of the CHS athletics campus and is used by several community programs, including Canton Little League, CHS softball, CHS freshman football, and the Canton Women’s Softball League.

School officials had also submitted an application for CPA funding to renovate the elementary school playgrounds, but they elected to withdraw the request at the CCPC hearing earlier this month. Lopez said school officials determined that they were not far enough along in their planning to move forward with the request at this time.

Regarding the Paul Revere Heritage Site improvements, Lopez said there are two components, both of which fall under the category of open space: installation of an irrigation system on the soon-to-be acquired public green, and installation of underground electrical conduit to accommodate future lighting needs along the diversion channel that winds around the site.

Lopez, who also heads up the PRHS Open Space Committee, said the costs for the upgrades, if approved, would be rolled in to the cost of acquiring the roughly seven acres of parkland that the developer has agreed to sell to the town. The land acquisition, which was approved in 2015, is estimated to cost $1.75 million and that figure, plus the $311,000 for the infrastructure upgrades, would be financed over a 10-year period and repaid using CPA monies.

The other project recommended for funding in FY19 was in the area of community housing and is for replacement of bathroom fans in some of the residential units at Rubin Court at a cost of $80,000. The Canton Housing Authority was approved for the same request last year, and this year’s allotment, if approved, would complete the two-phase project.

In addition to issuing six project approvals, the CCPC did vote to reject one request, which involved a plan by the Conservation Commission to remove the tennis courts at Pequitside Farm. The town-owned property is the subject of an ongoing master plan review by an outside consulting firm, which is looking at ways to improve parking and access at the site while possibly expanding its uses. Lopez said the CCPC determined that the tennis court removal would not be the best use of CPA funds as it involved the “elimination of recreation without a plan to create new recreation opportunities.”

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