Change in thinking: selectmen award CDBG grants

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen on Tuesday parted ways with the Community Development Committee in voting to assign $9,500 in Community Development Block Grant Funds to Bridgton Books as a matching grant in the bookstore’s plans to replace its windows and otherwise dress up its storefront façade.

The grant decision was one of the more controversial decisions in a list of public service and facilities spending using $194,571 in set-aside CDBG funds. The vote was 3-2, with Selectmen Bernie King and Greg Watkins opposed.

Selectman Paul Hoyt led off with supporting the Bridgton Books funding, noting that the CDBG budget included $9,156 in available prior year funds. He asked Planning and Economic Development Director Anne Krieg if the prior year funds could be applied in that way, and Krieg said, “Absolutely.”

Watkins sided with the CDC, whose strong position was that CDBG funds should be reserved solely for projects that will help lessen the burden on taxpayers, and not be used for private businesses.

Hoyt said the façade improvements at Bridgton Books, which are primarily needed to replace windows that let the sun’s UV rays shine through, are very much in keeping with the goals of the CDBG program.

“The idea behind those whole CDBG project is to help where help is needed — especially when a new building is going up next door,” Hoyt said, referring to plans by the new owners of the former Main Street Variety building to tear the building down and build a new restaurant/pub. He also noted that the rehabilitation of private property is listed as one of the eligible projects for CDBG funding, and “(Owners Justin and Pam Ward) putting in 50 per cent.”

Selectman Bob McHatton agreed with Hoyt, saying that the CDBG program is the only money that the town can use to help partner with downtown businesses on Main Street improvements.

It took some on-the-cuff spreadsheet work by Krieg, but after extended discussion the board agreed to apportion a total of $29,832 in Public Service CDBG funds in the following manner, from the requests submitted by organizations:

  • Fuel assistance — $4,344
  • Community Kettle — $2,000
  • Community Navigator — $6,100
  • School Backpack Program — $4,566
  • Lake Region Bus — $0
  • Domestic Violence Services — $1,500
  • St. Peter’s Church Lunches — $1,200
  • Food Pantry Purchase and Delivery — $5,000
  • Summer Camp Scholarships — $5,122

The board also agreed to apportion CDBG funds for public facilities/infrastructure as follows:

  • Main Street building rehab — 0
  • Bridgton Books — $9,500
  • Bridgton Community Center roof — $0
  • Bridgton Community Center replace electrical — $$11,000
  • Central Fire Station roof — $4,000
  • Town Hall renovation — $75,000
  • Downtown public bathrooms — $0
  • Salmon Point bathroom — $8,103
  • Main Street Streetscape Design Plans — $30,000
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