2016-04-08 / Front Page

City distributes federal grant money

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Five service organizations in South Portland will get parts of $412,033 in federal grants that also will go toward repair of city walkways and other municipal needs.

On Monday, the city council unanimously approved the distribution of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) recommended by a seven-member committee made up of residents.

The money comes from South Portland’s share of CDBG funds allocated to Cumberland County by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. According to Councilor Claude Morgan, an agreement was hammered out 10 years ago that brought South Portland under the county umbrella, even though the city was “doing quite well” securing CDBG dollars on its own.

Because CDBG money is designated in large part to help low-to-moderate income families though direct aid and economic development, the county “needed our demographics,” in order to secure the maximum slice of the pie, Morgan explained at Monday’s council meeting.

“The deal was that in order to join the county, we said he have to make out better than we do now,” Morgan said.

The result was an agreement that each year South Portland will get 23 percent of whatever CDBG funds are allocated by Cumberland County to the city of Portland. However, with South Portland’s lower income residents thrown into the pot, the county ends up getting a larger grant, which it can then distribute county wide

“The result is that someplace like, say, Harrison, can now get a playground that it would not have otherwise been able to afford,” Morgan said.

However, while South Portland gets a large grant that it used to when applying for CDBG funds independently, only 15 percent of the Portland set aside is allowed by HUD to directly to service groups, while up 20 percent can be used for city costs to administer the program. The rest is given to public facilities, infrastructure projects and housing.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, there was, as always, a great deal of competition for the maximum $61,805 that could go to service organizations. In fact, he said, the city received twice as many applications as it was able to fund.

“It’s always the hardest part for the CDAC (Community Development Advisory Committee), to allocate funds and have winners and losers under this section,” Gailey said.

Requests funded this year include:

 Family Crisis Services – $5,000 for domestic violence outreach support,

 The Opportunity Alliance – $16,000 to pay workers at the Red Bank Hub community building, and $ $1,700 for student intervention and reintegration programs,

 Southern Maine Agency on Aging – $10,000 for the Meals on Wheels program,

 The South Portland Food Cupboard – $10,000 for general operations.

Also funded from the service center pool are three city programs. The home heating fuel assistance program will get an $8,000 boost for next winter, $4,105 will go to fund a free bus pass program (supplying more than 300, 10-ride coupons) for needy residents, and $7,000 will be used to create scholarships to help the city’s poorest families cover participation fees in rec. department programs.

The larges part of the infrastructure funding ($110,000) will be set aside to build an addition onto the Redbank Community Center, while the South Portland Boys and Girls Club will get $12,000 to help fund a new learning center an to create storage cubbys for youngsters who use the site.

Among the other projects, $66,215 will be used to build sidewalks on Front and Preble Streets, $20,000 will go to refurbishment of the city’s Greenbelt Walkway trail between Harriett and Pine Streets , $24,000 will be used to install two solar-powered crosswalk signs in low income neighborhoods, $30,000 will be used by the city in partnership with the Opportunity Alliance to fund emergency home repairs, and $8,013 will go toward home weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades for low income families.

Gailey said five to eight homes are expected to be aided by the weatherization money, while the emergency repair fund should take care of anther two to three.

Meanwhile, $65,000 will go to the city for administrative costs, and an additional $15,000 will be used to help pay for a master plan to overhaul the Redbank center.

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