How to spend block grant money

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Citizens of Bridgton participated in a public hearing Tuesday night about Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds the town will receive and how they are proposed to be used over the next five years.

Improvements to the sewer system, installing sidewalks, supporting the food pantry program and eliminating slum and blight in the downtown are being recommended by Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz. However, in the end, it will be the Bridgton Board of Selectmen who have the final word as to what funding requests will be accepted.

The Town of Bridgton’s continued participation in the Cumberland County Community Block Grant Development Program as an entitlement community has been approved for another five-year period, Berkowitz said.

The CDBG funds that will be available in the Town’s Fiscal Year 2013 total approximately $170,000, Berkowitz explained.

Other suggestions as to how to utilize the CDBG grant funds were expressed at the Feb. 28 public hearing before the selectmen:

• Mike Tarantino of the Bridgton Community Center asked the Bridgton Board of Selectmen for up to as much as $13,000 for a generator at the BCC that is used as a shelter for the community in times of emergencies.

• Carmen Lone, Executive Director of the Bridgton Community Center, asked the selectmen to consider including monies “for food programs in the community and expanding resources to low income people for heat, housing and referral programs.”

Lone stated further, “This would help our low income residents and the middle class, which is moving down (into the lower income level).”

Process explained

“Part of the obligation placed upon the Town of Bridgton as a set aside community is to compete a five-year plan that identifies, through an assessment process, the needs of the community,” Berkowitz stated. “Using the categories that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has prescribed, the Town’s Capital Investment Program, we have found there is some overlap as to the nature of the Town’s needs as well as the priority of those needs. We are utilizing the HUD-CDBG categories as a template for this assessment. There are six categories that must be addressed which are: Housing, Public Services, Economic Development, Public Facilities, Public Infrastructure and Planning.”

“There is a two-fold purpose to this five-year assessment update,” the town manager said further. “The first is to identify what is required within each of the above categories, and secondly to ascribe a priority to the needs listed within each category. Over the course of the next several weeks, the Town will review and assess each of these categories by interviewing citizens, taking feedback from the Feb. 28 public hearing and from the Town’s own set of priorities as built into the FY 2013 budget.”

Those who may have other specific requests the CDBG funds could be used for are asked to forward their suggestions to the town manager and selectmen as soon as possible, in order to be considered.

“The public should know we are still taking (CDBG funding) requests,” Berkowitz told the selectmen Tuesday night, “and I will have to recommend what I see as a priority, and you, as selectmen, can say ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay.’”

The Community Development Block Grant funding has been approved for the federal fiscal year beginning in October while the Town of Bridgton utilizes those funds in its fiscal year, which is one year later. Example: Federal FFY 2012 is the Town of Bridgton’s FY 2013.

The following items are those being recommended to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen by Town Manager Mitch Berkowiitz. Other requests will be considered. (See accompanying story).

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The improvement shopping list

Town of Bridgton Community Development Block Grant Program Five-Year Plan for 2012 – 2016 — (This is a draft only) —

FFY 2012 – FY 2013 – Town:

The work on the Town Unified Waste Water System is not yet complete. Inflow and Infiltration work will continue in the Spring of 2012 by reconstructing the line on Flint Street as it merges to Route 117. Estimated cost — $60,000 from FFY 2010.

Continue and complete the I & I inspections in Spring of 2012 — Estimated cost — $8,000 from FFY 2010

Kitchen Cupboard program to address food supply and pantry distribution for those facing food insecurity — Estimated cost — $1,500 from FFY 2012

Harmon Ballfield Sewer System — Add a second Oxy Pro unit. Note: This will take two years of set asides to completely fund. Engineering will be done in FFY 2012 and Installation in FFY 2013. Estimated engineering — $17,500, Estimated Install (Partial) — $100,000.

• Prepare engineering for the reconstruction of Depot Street from Main Street to the first bridge near the Bridgton Community Center. Estimated Cost — $19,500 from FFY 2012.

FFY 2013 – FY 2014 – Town:

• Complete the installation of the second Oxy Pro unit — Estimated Cost — $100,000 FFY 2013.

Second Year Funding for the Kitchen Cupboard Project — Estimated Cost — $1,500 from FFY 2013

Funding for sidewalk extension to the intersection of Willett Road and Route 302 (Portland Road) to support a safe walking route to the elementary school and for citizens who must walk to the grocery store. Estimated Cost — $15,000 from FFY 2013 and Matching amount from Safe Routes to Schools.

Locally targeted façade investments to eliminate slum and blight in the Downtown — Estimated Cost — $13,000 from FFY 2013.

FFY 2014 – FY 2015 – Town:

• Funding for Sidewalk Project completion — Estimated Cost — $100,000 from

FFY 2014 and Matching funds from Safe Routes to Schools.

Development of the new Town Green between Main Street and Gibbs Avenue (Gibbs Street) — This will require the acquisition of two parcels that have marginalized residential housing. The first phase will be to acquire options on the property along with the development of the Town Green plan for this site. Estimated Costs — Development Plan — $15,000; and Acquisition Options — $25,000.

FFY 2015 – FY 2016 – Town:

• Complete the acquisition of the two parcels for the Town Green and site preparation in accordance with the plan — Estimated Costs — Acquisition costs — $130,000; and Site preparation — $10,000.

FFY 2016 – FY 2017 – Town:

• Complete the development of the Town Green and integrate it into the development of the senior housing project in Pondicherry Square — Estimated Costs: $140,000 from FFY 2016.

FFY 2017 – FY 2018 – Town:

• Target additional slum and blight eradication and investment in the Pondicherry Square neighborhood — Estimated Costs — $280,000 from FFY 2017-2018.

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