CPC mulls Air & Transportation Museum

WESTFIELD – Proponents of the Pioneer Valley Military and Transportation Museum are seeking a building to display its collection of military and transportation artifacts.
The museum group currently has a 50 year lease for land at Barnes Regional Airport, but does not have the financial capability of construction a building to display its collection.
Paul Dion, a member of the museum board of directors and Harland Avezzi, vice president of the 501-C3 corporation, appeared before the Community Preservation Committee to gauge the board’s level of interest in an alternative option to house the museum.
Dion said the group is working with Airport Manager Brian Barnes to flip the lease from the present site to a hanger in dire need of repair.
“Hanger #2 was built in 1939 by the WPA (Works Program Administration),” Dion said. “We are looking for funds to rebuild this historic hanger to display our collection. The hanger is in a tough state of disrepair. We estimate that it will cost $250,000 to refurbish it.
“We’re here tonight asking if this is the type of project this commission could help fund,” Dion said.
Preservation of historical or architecturally significant structures is a basic component of the Community Preservation Act.
However, the board had a number of questions and legal concerns about participating in the project.
Commission Vincent Olinski questioned if the commission could justify funding a group that does not own the property which would be improved through CPA funding.
“We have not funded a group that does not own the facility,” he said. “That’s the only fly I see in the ointment.”
Dion said that the group currently holds a 50-year lease and is trying to transfer that agreement to the hanger building.
Olinski said that if the transfer is approved by the Airport Commission, the CPC may be able to participate.
“A 50-year lease is considered ownership by the funding source because it will still be in effect after we’re all long gone,” Olinski said.
Olinski said the group would have to provide documents to show the commission that the project is “sustainable. You need to put a packet together showing some validity, comparing this project to similar museum operations, showing partnerships. Answer those kinds of questions and you’d be a leg up when you submit an application if you already have documentation.”
Avezzi said the museum group has received several grants and conducted fund-raising events. The group has already generated a business plan to make the museum a financially viable project.
The museum proponents said they plan to make a formal application this fall to qualify for CPA funding.

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