Two Years Of Community Preservation Requests To Go To Town Meeting

By: Tim Wood

Funds to analyze artifacts found during archaeological digs at the site of the Nickerson Homestead are being requested from the community preservation committee. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Expect a larger than usual number of community preservation grant articles on this year's annual town meeting warrant, as requests postponed last year will be joined by new funding applications.

A dozen requests for Community Preservation Act funds were not acted on last year after selectmen slimmed down the annual town meeting warrant. Those measures will be presented to voters at this year's annual town meeting, along with a handful of new requests, although selectmen have yet to decide if the annual session will be held on its bylaw-mandated date of Monday, May 10.

The community preservation committee has plenty of money to work with. At its meeting last Monday, Finance Director Alix Heilala told the group there is currently an undesignated fund balance of $1.9 million, with another $1 million, plus a $300,000 state match, expected to be available this year. There is also another $20,000 available for historic preservation projects and $433,000 in reserve for open space. Community preservation funding comes from a 3 percent surcharge on the property tax, along with a state matching grant, which this year amounts to 30 percent of local receipts, Heilala said. At least 10 percent of the funds must be allocated annually to affordable housing, open space and historic preservation projects.

Among the projects postponed last year were repairs to the town clock; archiving town records; a study of the Frost Fish Creek salt marsh; a Revolutionary War memorial; an ADA-compliant dock at Pleasant Bay Community Boating; disability access at town beaches; renovations to Sears Park; an erosion study at Jackknife Harbor Beach; stairs at Old Mill Boatyard; mile markers along the bike trail; bike trail crossing lights; and removal of invasive species at the Seaside Links Golf Course.

As of last week the CPC had received seven funding requests for the current year, four for affordable housing and two for historic preservation.

The town is seeking $500,000 for its affordable housing trust fund. Community Development Director Kathleen Donovan said selectmen are currently looking at purchasing private properties for affordable housing, and the funds could be used for that purpose. The trust fund also created a $150,000 emergency rental assistance program last year in response to the pandemic, administered by the Housing Assistance Corporation, and the community preservation grant would help fund its continuation.

The town is also seeking $30,000 to continue the services of a housing coordinator, contracted through the Lower Cape Community Development Partnership, and $50,000 for feasibility studies of the suitability of private or town-owned properties for affordable housing.

“Our hope is to have some idea for the May town meeting as to what we will be looking to purchase, if we are looking to purchase a piece of property,” Donovan said.

Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod is applying for $90,000 to support construction of two affordable homes on George Ryder Road South.

The Nickerson Family Association is requesting $31,100 for laboratory analysis of artifacts found during archaeological digs in 2018 and 2019 at the original homestead of William Nickerson. Included are several hundred soil samples, which could yield small artifacts missed during initial screening as well as seeds; already, dozens of pieces of 17th century corn, beans and cooking herbs have been recovered, said archaeologist Craig Chartier. He told the CPC last week that he is eager to get expert analysis of slag found on the site. William Nickerson apparently operated an iron ore processing foundry.

“That is especially exciting to me, because it's a very unique finding, something that's never been found in the northeast before, and definitely not on Cape Cod,” he said. “We want to make sure we get as much information about that as well.”

The artifacts are owned by the Chatham Conservation Foundation, whose property they were found on, but they will be stored at the adjacent Nickerson Family Association facility, said NFA Executive Director Debra Lawless. Eventually, a traveling exhibit will be developed and a publication about the dig and the findings will be available.

The Chatham Historical Society is requesting $41,225 to restore and rehabilitate the roofs on three buildings at the Atwood House Museum on Stage Harbor Road. The buildings include the Nickerson North Beach camp, the mural barn and the museum building. The barn and museum roofs were last replaced in about 1975, said Steve Nickerson, vice chairman of the society's board of trustees and chair of its building and grounds committee. The Nickerson camp roof is newer, but galvanized nails were used and have rusted. Red cedar shingles and copper flashing will be used on the new roof to maintain historical consistency, he said.

The private, nonprofit Protect Our Past is seeking $50,000 to help fund three films about historical restoration. Subjects of the films include the Stage Harbor Coast Guard boathouse; the historic buildings at 68 Shell Dr.; and the Monomoy Theatre compound.

The committee will meet next on Jan. 25 to review applications submitted by the deadline. The group will begin deliberating on its recommendations in early February, Tompsett said. Funding requests must be supported by the committee to be placed on the town meeting warrant.