By Diti Kohli
The City Council approved all eight grant applications for town projects, totaling $637,549, from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) at the council meeting on March 19.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will go towards the improvement and preservation of Malden’s recreational areas. The largest grants went for the fields outside of the Salemwood School known as Roosevelt Park ($250,000), followed by Fellsmere Park ($75,000), the Malden Community Garden ($63,022), Trafton Park ($45,000), pocket parks in Malden Artline ($40, 643), and the High Rock Memorial Park ($5,300).
Additionally, more than $4,000 will aid the restoration of the original plaque on Malden’s World War I Memorial and finance the addition of two bronze plaques with the names of more veterans. The Malden Public Library will use $154,364 of grant funding to restore and rehabilitate its archives. Part of this money will help fund the library’s display of historical photographs and artwork, as well as the digitization of town records dating back to 1600.
CPC chairman Julianne Orsino beamed in the back row of the Markey Senior Center’s temporary council chambers when the proposals passed.
“I think all the projects that have been put forth are really amazing projects that are going to give back to the city,” said Orsino.
One percent of annual property taxes are funneled for the Community Preservation Fund, as allowed by the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act. The money that will soon be distributed to applicants very closely matches that received from tax revenues in fiscal year 2019, said Orsino.
Every proposal was unanimously adopted, except for Roosevelt Park which Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley opposed. O’Malley, like many community members, worried about potential safety concerns from the usage of artificial turf on the Salemwood School fields. As per the Roosevelt Park application, the CPC grant money will not fund turf installation, but part of the $250,000 is slated to finance the fields’ preparation for the material.
Councillor-at-Large Debbie DeMaria, who ultimately voted yes on the proposal, said she understood the concerns.
“I did hear from residents against the turf,” said DeMaria. “But is grass really the best way to go for that particular park? It’s always been flooded in the past.”
Councillor Barbara Murphy said she and Mayor Gary Christenson requested the park’s architect to consider fill products made of organic materials, rather than rubber, for placement under the turf. She said this would ease heat production and make the fields safer.
Though eventually unanimously approved, the Fellsmere Park proposal also faced obstacles. The Finance Committee tabled Fellsmere’s application at its March 12 meeting over concerns that the presented preliminary budget does not clearly state where the money would be going. After city councillors reviewed a revised, more specific budget at the recent meeting, every councilor agreed Fellsmere should be granted the money.
“That’s a park that’s in our city,” Councillor Neal Anderson said. “It’s a beautiful park. I’m glad we are putting the money in.”
Officials also argued over whether the city owned the park––some questioning if the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) held possession of Fellsmere. An email from the DCR confirmed Fellsmere Park remains Malden property, though ownership is not a legal prerequisite for city grant funding.
Initially, the CPC received 20 applications late last year. But the committee eliminated 12 over approximately 30 weekly meetings before sending funding recommendations to accommodate the money in the budget. Orsino and her colleges also rejected applications that did not aid one of the four CPA missions––preserving open space, enhancing outdoor recreation, maintaining historic resources, or expanding affordable housing.
In upcoming meetings, the CPC will write letters of intent to grant recipients and create plans to oversee the implementation of the projects. The committee is also initiating the funding process for fiscal year 2020 with a public hearing on March 27.
“This is our first time walking through the process so hopefully it’ll get smoother moving forward,” Orsino said.
Diti Kohli is an intern at MATV. She is currently a journalism major at Emerson College.