The ABCs of CDBG in Bridgton

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The town of Bridgton has received $1.6 million over the past eight years from the Cumberland County Community Development Block Grant Program, and nearly half of that, or $760,000, has gone toward improving the downtown sewer system.

Another $580,000 has been split equally between improvements to Depot Street and community facilities such as Town Hall, said program director Aaron Shapiro in an overview Tuesday of the town’s history as one of 1,200 “entitlement communities” in the U.S. under the 41-year-old CDBG program. Cumberland County has been receiving CDBG funds from the federal U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development since 2007, and only Bridgton and South Portland receive annual allotments, based on population, without having to compete for funding.

Bridgton gets around $200,000 a year, and will get slightly less, $180,000, in the upcoming year, Shapiro said. Without the need to make a specific grant application each year, Bridgton has more leeway in how the money will be used, although only 15% of it is allowed to be set aside for public services such as the Bridgton Community Center and other nonprofits, he said.

Only a small portion of the total, $58,000, has been used for private façade improvements to Main Street buildings, including the William Perry and Moses Houses on Main Hill and the Rufus Porter Museum’s Webb House. Most of the $42,000 that has gone toward public services has gone toward the town’s emergency fuel assistance program.

Shapiro did not give his opinion on how Bridgton has spent the CDBG money, but he did say that 20% of the CDBG funds in Cumberland County is spent on housing rehabilitation projects to provide weatherization and new heating systems. Many towns have also used the money to upgrade or install water systems and build or repair sidewalks. He added that “Bridgton has been a little slow getting the grant funds out the door,” in terms of spending the money in the same fiscal year in which it has been awarded.

Shapiro also suggested that selectmen focus on long-range planning in their decision-making process on how to spend the money.

“It’s better to have long-term planning than deciding at the last minute,” he said.

Shapiro also stressed the importance of keeping up with the program’s reporting requirements, and noted that Bridgton Selectmen have struggled with the notion of having to pay for someone to do that task.

Currently, Maeve Pistrang from the county’s program office provides CDBG administrative support in Bridgton one or two days a week. A proposal to hire a full time person dedicated to CDBG program responsibilities is currently part of the budget for the next fiscal year.

Please follow and like us: