Minutes approved February 9, 2010
McKnight Neighborhood Council
Board Meeting: January 12, 2010
PRESENT: *Gregory A Hession (Pres.), *Chip Gorra, *Donna Jordan, *Walter Kroll (VicePres.), *Jesse Lederman, *Ceil Lewonchuk, *Denise Moccia, *Liz Stevens, *Ben Swan Jr. (Clerk/Secy.), Tony Anthony, Sgt. James Brown, Caroline Cunningham, Stacey Drew, Sandra Hession, Elizabeth Lederman, Curtson Martin, Kat Wright (*Members of the Board)
Meeting called to order 7:05 p.m. 9 Board members present; Board members not present: *Keith Bozeman, *Katie Foster, *Ed Kelly, *Jeri Gardiner, *Arthur Jones,*Marianne Winters (Treas.)
Guests: Neil Greene, McKnight Trail Project coordinator; Darryl Moss, Mayoral Aide.
PRESIDENT’S REPORT: Pres. GAH reported
CDBG meeting which began earlier and is going on concurrently in RMJ School auditorium: New system and regulations for distribution of CDBG funds, major change being a move from ANNUAL grants to 5-YEAR grants; Every agency must apply through an RFP process to fund a 5-year plan, looking a generally larger projects; Deadline for applications 03/01/2010; Suggestions for MNC application: Neighborhood building for office, meeting and program space; a full-time administrator employee; money to rehabilitate houses; seed money for a proposed McKnight Land Trust.
Baystate grants: MNC is competing in a smaller pool, but for a larger amount of money; deadline and guidelines not yet released. (Perhaps in Feb. or March)
GAH will set up a meeting with our City Development liaison, Ed Whitley to discuss both of the above ASAP.
Youth Public Safety Forum, held on Friday, Jan. 8, brought out a lot of people, which has put MNC more firmly “on the map”; idea that neighborhood councils need to be taken more seriously was strengthened. Kudos to Jesse L. and the MNYC.
SECRETARY’S REPORT (Ben Swan Jr.): JL asked for a correction to the minutes of Dec. 8, 2009, which was done; LS moved that the minutes of December 8, 2009, be approved as amended; WK seconded. Motion passed.
TREASURER’S REPORT (Marianne Winters, Treas.): MW being absent, Pres. GAH presented the budget adjustments; Treasurer’s report TABLED by consensus until next board meeting; Accountant’s Compilation Report not taken up.
• McKNIGHT LAND TRUST: Tony Anthony proposed a revolving land trust in order to acquire, hold and dispense properties in the McKnight Neighborhood so that such abandoned, run-down, derelict or overgrown properties, with or without buildings, can be disposed to owners who have the means and desire to rehabilitate them, and thus return sound properties to good uses, private or public. The goal is to “empower ourselves” to take care of and market such properties in our own neighborhood; the objective is to sell them to people who will live in them. Discussion:
Trust defined as a legal, corporate entity with a charter, by-laws, in this case non-profit, charitable organization, which would record a property in the county Registry of Deeds to a trustee for a named beneficiary
Mission of this trust, as drafted, would be “To acquire, hold and dispose of property in McKnight consistent with the character of the neighborhood.”
Different purpose than most other land trusts which are set up to conserve the environment of individual parcels, or to preserve the character of a neighborhood or use of the land; an example is the Springfield Preservation Trust, which does not own any property itself, and whose mission is to preserve built structures in the city. A different example is Concerned Citizens of Springfield that buys, rehabs and sells city properties.
Questions raised on how to capitalize, how to define “character of the neighborhood” and maintain clear relationship with Historical Commission, how to manage any properties held in trust (by volunteers or by a property management company), how to remain differentiated from bad reputation of previous land-holding “McKnight Homeowners” organization.
Pres. GAH appointed an ad hoc committee to examine the proposal, develop a clear mission statement, and get factual answers to all the questions raised. Committee to report back to Board of Directors.
• McKNIGHT TRAIL UPDATE: Neil Greene presented an update on his work:
Has learned from the railroad that they are not being taxed, and they get fees for underground pipelines to carry jet fuel and Sprint cables; they are not willing to sell the property outright, but could sell surface rights; railroad has sold properties elsewhere.
If it is determined that the railroad does have to pay taxes, that could be used as leverage to get them to sell the rights for a reasonable price.
There probably exist many back issues, especially contamination; so far the railroad does no cleanup (although there is an effort by some to get railroads to clean up).
May need an environmental assessment, particularly of wetlands, streams, drainage issues – in the case of wetlands, there are building restrictions and detailed requirements to precede.
GAH and KF are doing tax and title research on the property; B&M Railroad was the last recorded owner, transferred to PanAm (but no records have been found); there is no parcel number for the rail corridor.
WORK proceeds on establishing a WORKING GROUP (MNC councilors and or others who will take responsibility and “ownership” of the project); vital to success of the project for people in the heart of the McKnight neighborhood, particularly those who live along the trail, to take it on; there may be small stipends available, but no criteria for distribution has been yet determined.
WORK proceeds on gathering information and getting support from the other neighborhood councils and other community groups as we get ready to approach the City of Springfield on land acquisition
McKnight Trail delegation met with Development Director John Judge, and Senior Planner Scott Hanson in November; delegation is planning to meet with Mayor Sarno, and Parks and Planning departments on how to go about acquiring the land.
MNC will search for grants (beyond the Baystate grant) to pay for the acquisition, but with the City as the negotiator, we have a better chance for getting the lowest price.
LS reported she spoke to Rep. Richard Neal, who helped East Longmeadow get funds to purchase their section of the trail, and he said he would be willing to help McKnight.
• HOUSING (Denise Moccia, Chair): Noted 151 Bowdoin St. has been taken by a bank, house is in bad shape, yard is seriously overgrown; bank owned houses in McKnight are generally in bad shape, in violation of code, should be reported.
• YOUTH COUNCIL (Jesse Lederman, Chair): Reported that Public Safety Forum (Jan. 8, 2010) went well, approximately 150 people attended; MNYC was recognized by the City Council on Jan 11, and was invited to present the public safety issue to the City Council in February, and was invited to work with the Mayor’s violence prevention task force (MYNC suggests the City fund programs already in place instead of starting more initiatives); MNYC is planning a mid-May community workshop to combat violence.
• MSLAC (Liz Stevens, Chair): City registered the deed for the Mason Square Library, 765 State Street, on Sept. 18, 2009; Urban League was notified and given 4 months to relocate; state specialist has been assigned to do that, but did not meet with UL until early December, and is now awaiting completion of an inventory of UL personal property; UL has not yet begun to identify a new location; LS and KW spoke out at City Council meeting yesterday, Jan. 11, to get their help to move UL out swiftly and the library back in; Councilor Twiggs’ committee will look into it and keep the public aware.
• RMJ PLAYGROUND (Liz Stevens, MNC liaison): City received $5,000 to build the playground at RMJ School; rally planned for Jan. 20, Wed., 9:30-11 am at the school; raffle ticket for B&B overnight prize will be drawn then.
• www.freecycle.org: TA noted on-line free exchange site, local or national (Springfield has its own group), to swap items.
• HELLO SPRINGFIELD: TA has recently become a producer for Comcast cable public access channel, planning a TV show to feature homes in McKnight, and other issues of neighborhood interest.
• MORINI PERFORMANCE COATINGS: 556 St. James Ave., CL reported opening on Jan. 25
There being no time left for further reports or new business, WK moved to adjourn; DM seconded. Motion passed.
9:05 pm – Adjournment.
Submitted by Kathryn A. Wright, Administrative Staff, 2/1/2010