Pelham committee rejects $53K in funding for track project

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:32 AM

PELHAM — The town’s Community Preservation Committee has rejected a $53,380 funding request to go toward a $4.7 million project at Amherst Regional High School that would rebuild and reorient the track, and put an artificial turf field inside it.

The committee voted unanimously on Dec. 22, with two abstentions, against granting the money sought by the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District for the Amherst Regional School Committee preferred project, an eight-lane track and synthetic field.

The vote means that the CPA spending will not be placed on the warrant for next spring’s annual Town Meeting, CPC Chairman Tom Fanning said.

Committee member Judith Eiseman said even though advocates for the project have said they can use an eco-friendly artificial turf, there remains questions around what product will be chosen and the implications for the environment, with the possible leaching of PFAS substances becoming a concern.

“Rather than making the same mistakes repeatedly, it might be better to set an example for our kids that continuing to pollute the environment is avoidable even if everyone else is doing it,” Eiseman said.

Eiseman previously sent a letter to the Town Council in Amherst prior to its decision to award $900,000 in free cash to the project that puts the decision in the hands of the schools to choose between synthetic turf or a grass field inside the track.

Whether the Pelham decision will have an impact on the project is uncertain, as the town’s have already approved $1.5 million in borrowing, and another $957,500 has come from Amherst’s CPA account, which represents a sizable portion of the $1.2 million anticipated from that funding source.

Superintendent Michael Morris said the private fundraising being done by the Hurricane Boosters will have to make up the difference between what is coming from the towns, and Pelham’s rejection of CPA funding means it will have to do more.

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“It puts more pressure on private fundraising to meet the target funding,” Morris wrote in an email.

Applications are in to the other two regional communities for CPA money, but the district won’t know how those fare until next spring.

Both Shutesbury and Leverett’s committees have requests in hand that will be acted on prior to their Town Meetings.

Shutesbury’s committee on Thursday voted that the project is eligible under CPA guidelines and the Shutesbury Preservation Plan, said Chairman Matteo Pangallo. But the committee won’t begin reviewing and discussing projects until February, will hold a public hearing in March and vote them up or down on April 6.

Leverett, similarly, will hold a public hearing on all projects in March and then will take a vote, with those recommended for inclusion going on the warrant, said Chairwoman Danielle Barshak.

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