Hearing set on use of CDBG funds

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 23, on how the town should spend this year’s estimated $145,000 in Community Development Block Grant Funds. The figure represents the net amount available for both public facilities and social programs, once salary costs are subtracted for Anne Krieg, Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development.

A final decision on how the money will be used rests with the board, but recommendations were accepted at Tuesday’s meeting from the Community Development Committee, who worked with Krieg in reviewing applications submitted by various organizations and businesses.

Under the recommendations, the $25,000 for programs and services would be spent as follows:

Services/Programs

• $3,700 for food distribution from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank to both the Bridgton Food Pantry and the St. Joseph Food Pantry. The proposal would enable the St. Joseph Food Pantry to also have the distribution service that the Bridgton Food Pantry currently enjoys. Krieg said the two pantries are working collaboratively now, which is a positive step.

• $1,200 for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church’s Community Suppers. CDC members said the Community Kettle Suppers at the Bridgton Community Center have seen stronger support in recent years, and it makes sense this year to support the church suppers, which serves a different population.

• $6,100 for the Navigator Program at the Bridgton Community Center. The program was funded as a pilot effort last year, and CDC members felt continued support was justified.

• $2,500 for the BCC Fuel Program. Support in prior years had been at a higher level, but CDC members felt lesser funding was justified this year because the price of oil has gone down significantly.

• $5,900 for the Summer Camp. The Recreation Department still has around $2,000 left over from last year’s pilot effort, which was funded at $7,900.

• $5,600 for the Backpack Program at Stevens Brook Elementary School.

Public Facilities

• $11,000 to replace the electrical system at the Bridgton Community Center. Krieg said the lighting system is so outdated that the bulbs cannot be replaced because they are unavailable to purchase.

• $4,000 for the Central Fire Station. The funds would be used to renovate an office there, in keeping with increased administrative needs of the fire chief. This year’s budget includes a proposal to fund a full-time fire chief, and if passed, the chief’s office would be moved there from its current location within the Bridgton Municipal Complex.

• $30,000 for construction drawings for the Main Street Streetscape Design Project. Krieg said the drawings are necessary in order to apply for state and federal funding.

• $75,000 for Town Hall renovations. A portion of this would pay for clapboard siding and interior improvements, although selectmen have yet to finalize a list of tasks needed to complete the stabilization work. The board feels strongly that the project needs to be seen through to the end of phase one improvements.

Among projects that didn’t make the initial list was a downtown public bathroom, which is estimated to cost around $85,000, according to Krieg.

Another was a request by Bridgton Books for $9,500, which would be matched by owners Pam and Justin Ward. Their application states that the key need is to replace the old drug store’s windows, which are cracked, scratched and have pellet gun holes. The windows are also “terrible energy wasters,” and allow UV rays to enter and fade and warp their books and cards. The awnings and sign also need replacement, the application states.

“Bridgton Books has been a resource to our surrounding community for almost 23 years,” the application states, and “getting some kind of matching grant would be the difference between really coming in with a plan and doing it right, or just continuing to apply band aids to the storefront.”

CDC member Mark Lopez told the board the committee feels strongly that there are “better uses” for the CDBG program funds “than putting it into private property.”

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