WELLFLEET — The top priority for the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) in the upcoming funding cycle has been the Wellfleet Elementary School playground. Members of the group plan to recommend that the playground be given more than half of the money being distributed to seven applicants this year. The requests will be voted on at the annual town meeting in the spring.
The CPC is being financially conservative this year because the town’s finances aren’t yet unsnarled. About $1.2 million in community preservation funding requests were submitted. The committee will recommend that annual town meeting voters approve allotments totaling about half of that.
“We should have substantially more money next year,” said committee chair Gary Sorkin.
Elementary School Playground
The Wellfleet Elementary School has not had a playground since 2020. Built more than 30 years ago, the old wooden equipment at the school playground suffered wear and tear. In recent years, playground inspectors flagged needed repairs during annual checks, and the school had been dismantling components one by one. When a child was hurt on the equipment in August 2020, the town condemned and removed it.
Paying for a new playground from the school’s capital budget was back-burnered a few times because of more pressing priorities, like installing a sprinkler system in the school building. Of the $385,000 needed for the project, fundraising has so far garnered $25,000.
The school’s playground committee submitted a request to the CPC last fall for $370,000. The preservation committee spent a great deal of time considering the request. Sorkin initially recommended awarding $310,000, which would fund the first two of three phases, leaving only a zip line to be funded later.
“That would give them a great playground,” said Sorkin at a recent meeting. “Not everything, but a good start.” Ultimately, the committee voted to ask town meeting to authorize $315,000 in community preservation funding.
Based on a social media post, the playground committee has predicted that the entire funding goal may soon be reached so that every phase can be built this spring.
A range of requests on the housing front were considered. For the Wellfleet Housing Authority’s buy down program, the committee recommended an award of $185,000; for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, $35,000; and for the Community Development Partnership’s Lower Cape Housing Institute, $7,500.
Affordable Housing in Orleans
One housing-related request was not taken up by the committee. Developer Pennrose LLC asked for a grant of $100,000 to help pay for converting the former Cape Cod Five Bank building in Orleans into affordable units. The committee decided to defer any recommendation on that request this year.
The CPC will recommend funding the commission’s full request of $20,300 to continue to work on filing the paperwork on local historic houses with the Mass. Historical Commission’s inventory and to continue to offer workshops for the public.
Historical Society and Museum
The Wellfleet Historical Society initially submitted a request for $375,000 to help defray the cost of renovation and expansion of its museum but told the CPC at a meeting in late fall that its members realized the request greatly exceeded what the committee could offer this year. They said they would be grateful for any amount from the preservation fund. The committee recommended $20,000.
Dawn Walsh, executive director of the nonprofit hospice organization called Lily House, submitted a request for $92,000. The house, on Pocahontas Road, was bequeathed as a community home where people who don’t have the financial means or support to stay in their homes can get round-the-clock care at the end of their lives.
The house can accommodate two people at a time. Walsh expects that Lily House will serve 20 to 25 people per year. Preference would be given to Wellfleet and Outer Cape residents. Presenting her proposal to the CPC, Walsh said Lily House will reach out to other Outer Cape towns for community preservation funding in the future, but there wasn’t enough time to do it this year. The cost of the care provided at Lily House is estimated at $250 per day, but some will likely pay more and others less, based on their means, Walsh said.
CPC member Janis Plaue lobbied to boost the proposed allotment for Lily House at the committee’s last meeting. “It’s impressive that we in Wellfleet have our very own hospice,” she said. Member Rhonda Fowler argued for a lower amount, saying projects like Lily House will attract private donations. Ultimately, the CPC members settled on $20,000.