Improvements coming at War Memorial Pool area in Amherst

The Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee is recommended improvements to the area surrounding War Memorial Pool in the latest round of project requests.

The Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee is recommended improvements to the area surrounding War Memorial Pool in the latest round of project requests. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-05-2024 9:11 PM

AMHERST — Improvements to the area surrounding the War Memorial Pool, including possible reconstruction of the pool house and basketball courts and future affordable housing developments across town, are being supported by the committee making recommendations for how Community Preservation Act money is spent.

The CPA Committee, in several unanimous votes at its Dec. 21 meeting, is advising the Town Council to spend $2.38 million on projects, including $1.86 million in new initiatives. An additional $520,250 is set aside for previously obligated debt service, such as paying a portion of $1 million toward the special collections room in the renovated and expanded Jones Library and $800,000 for a new track and field complex at Amherst Regional High School.

The largest new expenditure endorsed from the CPA account, which can go toward affordable housing, recreation, open space and history preservation, is $750,000 for revitalizing the property surrounding the town’s oldest swimming pool, located between Triangle and Mattoon streets near the high school. This money will serve as a match for a Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities state grant and a Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant the town is seeking.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek earlier said that this project could cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, including demolishing the 1950s-era pool house, to be replaced by a new building with public bathrooms, and constructing new basketball courts, playground and seating areas, with other amenities to be determined.

The $450,000 recommended for affordable housing is reduced from the $775,000 sought by the Amherst Municipal Housing Trust and town officials for developments planned or discussed at the former VFW on Main Street, as well as sites on Strong Street and at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course on West Pomeroy Lane.

While the town withdrew a $100,000 request for building new pickleball courts at Kiwanis Park on Stanley Street, the committee is recommending $60,000 go toward fixing cracks in the tennis courts at Mill River Recreation Area on Montague Road and $85,000 be used to rehabilitate the softball fields, leveling the infields and replacing aging backstops at Community Field next to the high school, as well as at Kiwanis Park and at Groff Park on Mill Lane.

“We owe that to the town now that we have backed up with the pickleball courts and other recreation type of activities,” said committee member David Williams.

Ziomek said when the new elementary school is being built at the Fort River School site, more softball fields will be needed elsewhere, though there is uncertainty the Department of Public Works has enough staff to do upkeep. “We’re going to have step up our game to provide those spaces for field sports and those sports that depend on a diamond, like softball,” Ziomek said.

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Meanwhile, the CPA Committee is applying $6,000 in surplus money to improving the town’s trail system, meaning that $86,000 will go toward trail work

“$6,000 can do something for a single trail, so I think it’s a valuable use of money,” said committee member Michelle Labbe.

The committee is suggesting $100,000 go toward restoration of the North and South Amherst town cemeteries, though that is less than the $150,000 the town sought for repairing 125 headstones and a small number of monument stones.

The Amherst Zion Church in North Amherst center, in advance of the building’s bicentennial in 2026, would get $182,911 for roof repairs and other improvements, $5,000 more than it sought.

Committee Chairman Sam MacLeod said the committee wants to ensure there is sufficient money for the project. “I think this church is in dire need of work, and I’m glad the applicants persevered,” MacLeod said.

The committee is also recommending $20,000 to hire consultants for the East Amherst local historic district study committee, $74,350 for the Amherst Historical Society to complete an accessibility and existing conditions study at the Strong House Museum on Amity Street and $46,875 for the District One Neighborhood Association’s history trail project along the Mill River.

Aside from the pickleball courts, the only other project submitted that eliminated by the committee was a $98,000 request from Michael and Kimberley Como to place their home, located off Northampton Road at the edge of the Westside Historic District, on a new foundation.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.