CDC makes block grant funding recommendations to Bridgton selectmen

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

As Chuck Renneker and Community Development Committee members reviewed applications for funding, they initially wondered, “why do they need money?”

Then, they heard some emotional and desperate stories.

Given the task to review seven requests for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for public services helping low- or moderate-income people of Bridgton, the CDC was asked to review and recommend three programs for $25,000 (the conservative figure Planner Anne Krieg is using; she feels the final figure could be $27,000) in funding. CDC, however, will recommend four — still within the “magic number” Cumberland County seeks in the application process.

Total funds headed to Bridgton are about $180,000, of which 15% of the entitlement is for public services. The remaining funds will be used for public facilities and infrastructure projects, thus keeping the local tax rate down.

Agencies up for consideration were:

Family Crisis, $4,000 request

Bridgton Food Pantry, $7,500

Navigator, $6,100

Fuel Assistance, $3,000

Kettle Dinners, $2,000

Summer Camp, $12,500

Back Pack, $5,000

Last year, St. Peter’s Dinner was funded $1,200, but there was no request this year.

Total requests, $40,100.

Renneker pointed out that Family Crisis receives agency funding under the town’s budget, but is also seeking CDBG money (last year, Family Crisis was funded $1,500), bringing the total to $4,000. Family Crisis lost a source of funding, which is why it is looking to CDBG to cover that loss.

“Some organizations are walking both sides of the street,” Renneker said. “What was interesting at our meeting was that all people made good cases for receiving funds. The committee wondered why they couldn’t take care of themselves. We heard stories, wow!”

Despite a recovery in the economy, Renneker said food pantry use continues to rise, thus CDC recommends $7,500.

Meanwhile, fuel assistance requests were down and money remains from a year ago, thus CDC scratched that request off the list.

While the Kettle Dinners at the Bridgton Community Center are popular and a nice chance for seniors to meet and socialize, Renneker said the CDC feels that funding should be built into the Community Center budget.

Likewise, the Rec Department summer camp should also be part of the municipal budget. CDBG funds were sought to provide scholarships for campers unable to pay the $75 per week cost, which includes food, swim lessons, educational sessions and supervision.

Rec Director Gary Colello said present funding takes care of 18 scholarships, but suspects more children could be served, citing that Stevens Brook Elementary has a student body of 300-plus, of which over 60% are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

The CDC recommended funding for the Navigator program, housed at the Community Center, which assists seniors, veterans and other community members in locating needed services, as well as the Back Pack program, which provides food items for youngsters over the weekend and vacations.

Selectmen did question whether food items should be purchased from the local Food Pantry rather than grocery stores as a way to stretch funding.

Total CDBG funding recommended: $22,600.

Funding not used: $2,400.

Before selectmen give final approval, there will be a public hearing on the CDBG grant recommendations on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

In other business:

Position kept, title changed. After looking at restructuring the office of Community and Economic Development and hearing from townspeople who were against elimination of the position, selectmen decided to keep the town’s planner job.

They did, however, make a few title changes. First up, the job title is now Community Development Director.

Selectman Bear Zaidman felt Anne Krieg’s former title of Director of Community and Economic Development was a mouthful, and felt it was time to simplify.

Secondly, selectmen renamed the office as Community Development Office. Peabody said the office retains the previous three duties.

“There is no change in job responsibility, but there is an updated job description,” noted Peabody, who started advertising for a new planner Wednesday.

Peabody was glad to see that selectmen kept the planning position, noting that the present town office staff would not be able to absorb planning responsibilities.

“That person is your town’s cheerleader,” said Peabody of the advantage of Bridgton having its own planner and not sharing with other municipalities. He noted that the planner promotes Bridgton and Bridgton only, whereas the Chamber of Commerce’s director represents the interests of multiple towns.

The application deadline is March 17.

Board Chairman Greg Watkins thanked Krieg for her “dedicated service” to Bridgton. Krieg’s last day here is this Friday, Feb. 17.

In his manager’s report, Peabody also praised Krieg for her professionalism and commitment.

“Her position often came under criticism, particularly in regard to economic development, yet she soldiered on, always giving 110% as the town’s planner, community and economic development director and as Bridgton’s head cheerleader,” Peabody wrote. “I sincerely believe that the town will continue to reap the benefits of her efforts for years to come.”

Krieg has been hired as the director of the Mid-Coast Regional Planning Commission in Rockland. Her start date is Feb. 21.

Keeping up with the snow. It’s been a busy time for Public Works, police and fire personnel.

While Public Works has battled keeping roads clear and hauling snow away from Main Street, police responded to 13 motor vehicle accidents during the storm period, while firefighters handled 10 incidents, including back-to-back chimney fires.

Off the committee. Selectmen accepted with regret Peter Oberg’s retirement from the Wastewater Committee, effective Feb. 6.

“I feel a cost-effective expansion of our system is vital to continued economic growth in Bridgton and I will continue to follow the developments with interest,” Oberg wrote in his retirement letter.

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