Clock Tower Restoration Highlighted By Springfield Supporters Of Community Preservation Act
Springfield is considering adopting a Massachusetts law that allows for a property tax surcharge to create a local fund for historic preservation projects, protecting open space, and supporting affordable housing.
Springfield City Council President Mike Fenton announced the appointment of an advisory committee Tuesday to study and hold public meetings on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) as a possible prelude to asking city voters this November to adopt the 15-year-old state law.
" I stand behind CPA," declared Fenton. " There are a lot of moving pieces to making this thing work, including the overall percentage of the levy, whether or not we make any exemptions and the like. Because of the complicated nature I have appointed a committee to advise me and the council."
The CPA authorizes communities to put a surcharge up to 3 percent on property tax bills. The money goes into a locally-controlled fund that is restricted for use in the areas of historic preservation, open space, and affordable housing. Additionally, matching funds are available from a state fund financed through transaction fees at the Registry of Deeds.
Municipalities must adopt CPA by ballot referendum.
Because communities including Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Hampden, and West Springfield have all adopted CPA, Fenton says it means projects in those towns have been subsidized by city residents who paid fees at the Registry of Deeds.
" I my opinion, for far too long the suburbs have been eating Springfield's lunch and we are not going to do it any more," said Fenton
Fenton said he believes a focal point of the campaign for Springfield to adopt the CPA would be the restoration of the Italian Campanile clock tower that stands between City Hall and Symphony Hall.
" This the type of leadership and initiative that will allow us to fund that project which has been a black eye for the city of Springfield for far too long," said Fenton.
The more than century old 300-foot tower is covered in black meshing to prevent chunks of limestone from falling to the pavement. The bells in the tower that once played 16 notes of Handel’s Messiah have not made a sound in more than 30 years. The four clock faces have not told the correct time in a decade.
Springfield City Councilor Ken Shea, named by Fenton to chair the five-member advisory committee, said he tentatively plans to hold meetings in each of the city’s neighborhoods, gather information from experts, and report to the full city council at the end of August.
" Our goal is to try to get this on the ballot for November," said Shea.
Another member of the advisory committee, Bob McCarroll, who spent a decade on the Springfield Historical Commission, said this is the first time the city has looked seriously at adopting the CPA.
"It is an option we have failed to avail ourselves of, while about half the communities in the Commonwealth have decided to do that," said McCarroll.
161 communities, or 46 percent of the state’s municipalities, have adopted CPA.