Residents asked for feedback on CDBG grant process

14 years ago

Residents asked for feedback

on CDBG grant process

By Kathy McCarty

Staff Writer

PORTAGE LAKE — A public informational meeting was held this fall for Portage Lake residents to obtain data on the 2011 State of Maine Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), with participants learning about grant opportunities available to help address the town’s most pressing development needs.

“The beauty of the CDBG program is that it offers the broadest selection of grant and loan programs in one stop — that being Maine’s Office of Community Development,” said Town Manager Francis Grey.

With tough economic times hitting communities across the state hard over the past couple years, CDGB grants are vital to towns and cities to improve infrastructure and stimulate job growth.

“Community development is a process by which the needs of a community are identified and which then leads to the development of the facilities, infrastructure, programs and services required to address those needs,” stated David Potter, the town’s grant writer. “Citizen participation is central to this process.”

Over a dozen citizens attended the meeting, identifying nine areas of need in Portage Lake.

Grey said directors of the non-profit Portage Lake Housing Development Corporation, who are spearheading an effort to develop affordable senior housing in the community, shared details at the meeting of what they hope to see take place.

“Twenty to 30 of our senior residents have expressed an interest in renting apartments when the project is completed,” said Jennifer Curran, PLHC director.

Curran said the project is presently designed as a single building with six apartments. PLHC is working with USDA-Rural Development on a Section 515 loan application to fund the project.

“In early 2010 Portage Lake was added to the State Place Ranking List, making it eligible to apply for 515 funds,” said Grey.

Other community needs identified at the meeting included a new fire station, road repairs, public sewer system, small business assistance, a historical museum building and local health care for seniors. In the area of tourism, participants identified the need for a garage for the trail groomer and a snowmobile clubhouse.

Grey said the meeting covered 16 grant and loan programs administered by CDBG that the town may qualify for.

“In each grant category, information was provided on eligibility, national objectives, funding levels, matching funds requirements and application timelines. One of the town’s greatest hurdles is in meeting one of three national objectives of the HUD-funded CDBG program,” he said.

Any CDBG-funded project must benefit persons of low- to moderate-income (LMI), or eliminate or prevent slum and blight or address an urgent need affecting the health and safety of persons, said Grey.

“Based on 2000 Census information, Portage Lake has a townwide percentage of low- and moderate-income persons of 41.2 percent. The CDBG program requires that a minimum of 51 percent of the persons benefitting from a project fall within that income range. This means that until new Census data is available in 2012-13, it would be difficult for Portage Lake to comply with this national objective for a townwide project like a road or fire station,” said Grey.

Grey continued, “The town may be able to meet the slum/blight elimination objective for the fire station or a targeted project like affordable senior housing — would meet the program’s LMI objective where the housing is being built specifically for low-income seniors.”

The town plans to give residents other opportunities to come forward and identify community needs over the next several months.

“Portage has made a lot of progress over the years and this is a continuation of this effort,” stated Grey. “We want residents to drive the process and help us prioritize the community’s needs.”

Any residents and business owners wishing to identify a community need or voice their opinion should contact Grey at 435-4361 or speak with one of the selectmen.