CPA & Maintenance

One thing that is very tricky about the Community Preservation Act is the issue of ‘maintenance’.    It expressly forbids the money being used for regular upkeep.

But if you look at the program, it clearly says preservation in its title.     Isn’t maintaining and up keeping a building preservation?       The very act of maintenance therefore becomes part of the process.      

It is because of these hard-questions that both applicants and the CPA committee spend much time agonizing over this rule.       I watched last night one of the affordable housing representatives almost apologizing over the concept that the money would be used to replace a ghastly furnace in the building and that CPA money will probably be used to do it.

Well, I think if people look at the simple face of it, a lot of confusion can be avoided by looking at the following posted on the CPA website:

“While maintenance is prohibited, replacing a roof or doing major reconstruction can be framed as preservation if the building in question is considered a historic structure under the Act. Generally, the use of CPA funds is not allowed for routine maintenance that would normally come out of an operating budget. Expenditures that would most likely be approved are those that can be considered capital improvements. Each community is responsible for securing the non-CPA funds necessary to maintain any properties that have been improved or purchased through the CPA.”

Can you imagine somebody being accosted because they wanted to replace the roof?      Or do a major restoration that would involve floor and wall refitting and structural shoring?              

Maintenance is sweeping the floors, scrubbing down the bathroom and kitchen and changing light bulbs and doing minor repairs around a facility.     Sometimes it involves upgrading worn out bath fixtures and replacing smoke detectors with current ones that fulfill present-day safety standards.    Or it is replacing an analog thermostat with an electronic version, etc.          All these involve quick trips to K-mart & Lunt & Kelly’s or Port Paint & Paper.      

Capital improvements require major expenditures: replacing a furnace, replacing a roof, restoring the floors, replacing modern plastic ‘crap’ from the seventies with quality material, etc.       Installing contemporary kitchens for example on affordable housing units and Energy Star washers and dryers.

And of course (I’m back on my soapbox!) this means that CPA projects that use our tax dollars aught to be maintained on a regular basis from here on forward.    

NO MORE OF THIS DELAYED MAINTENANCE that has scandalized our City!

So, an applicant shouldn’t have to apologize for replacing a roof, or even a major project as painting a church (with its massive walls).        Whether an historic structure or one of the affordable housing units, we shouldn’t settle for early twentieth century standards!*

-P. Preservationist

* This is no contradiction.     I am for historic preservation of the authentic architectural style of our historic buildings with design materials that are consistent to the age of the building.      Besides, most of the old houses didn’t have bathrooms, kitchens, electric wiring or forced-air heating, gas lines or even water lines.       You can’t restore what never was!         I visited King Henry the VIII’s palace outside London.    The Royals had two choices: a bed pan to do your business or eight flights of stairs down to the privy.      It is good to be in the 21st century!


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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