SOUTH PORTLAND — The city is considering 10 applications for grants to fund community projects.
Among the requests are a community hub and policing center in Redbank Village and increased funding for Warm Home Cool Cities, a home energy auditing program that has struggled to get off the ground this year.
The Community Development Advisory Committee, which on Tuesday listened to presentations from each of the applicants, must draft a recommendation to the City Council, which will set the final allocations.
Assistant City Manager Erik Carson said he expects the city this year will receive at least $475,000 in Community Block Development Grants, which are funds allocated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Although there are only $147,000 in new funding requests, the CDAC will have to trim nearly $20,000 from the funding requests since roughly $60,000 in previously approved projects (a bus transit hub in Mill Creek and improvements to the Sawyer-High Street park) are expected to be funded this year.
Meanwhile, the city is eyeing approximately $175,000 worth of public improvements – including paving Broadway from Wescott Street to Exit 3, Waterman Drive improvements and Pleasantdale sidewalks. Another $66,000 in the proposed budget is earmarked for administration and salaries.
Carson said he hopes the committee will not budget every penny, since worthy projects may pop up over the course of the next year. He pointed to a recent allocation of $2,500 from last year’s pot of CDBG funds to purchase carbon monoxide detectors for qualifying homes.
This year’s CDBG program will consider investing nearly $125,000 into the Redbank Village area of the West End, a high-crime neighborhood where the city has reached out to residents in neighborhood meetings that have produced a core of about two dozen people interested in establishing a community policing center and neighborhood crime watch.
The proposed community hub would be housed in an unused portable classroom to be donated by the School Department. It would be placed next to the Redbank General Store, which may give the city an easement.
The goal is to co-locate police, a Department of Health and Human Services child protective worker and other social service providers in the hub. Residents would be able to pick up information packets or seek out team meetings to resolve more complex issues.
Andrea Paul, vice president of advocacy and strategic initiatives for Youth Alternatives Ingraham, a social service agency based in the Brickhill subdivision, said the community hub could potentially give residents a stronger sense of ownership in the community.
“We’re trying to develop a sense of shared responsibility to take care of our youth,” Paul said. “(We’re) working to get upstream in terms of strengthening families, rather than just responding in moments of crisis.”
An estimated $30,000 would be needed to rehabilitate the portable building and another $15,000 would provide staffing. Meanwhile, another $40,000 is being sought for area street improvements, which would be prioritized by the neighborhood. Those improvements could consist of speed mitigation, landscaping and street paving.
A $40,000 playscape is also being sought for Redbank.
CDAC member Kevin Glynn suggest the city explore using Tax Increment Financing funds for the Redbank projects to free up more money for other programs. TIF funds were used to build the Redbank Community Center, he said.
Meanwhile, Green South Portland, a volunteer nonprofit organization, is seeking $20,000 for Warm Home Cool City, a program that subsidizes home energy audits for qualifying owners. The group received $9,500 in city funds this year.
Warm Home Cool City coordinator Dave Owen said that while the group is struggling to develop a working partnership with the Maine Housing Authority and Efficiency Maine, he expects it will be better positioned next year.
“We feel like we’re in a much better position to get more done next year,” he said.
Owen said WHCC is working with the MSHA on a collaborative program, where the city would conduct pre- and post-energy audits, while the state agency would fund the necessary efficiency upgrades to the qualifying homes.
Other funding requests include: $10,000 for the School Department’s 21st Century Program for English language learners; $9,960 for the People’s Regional Opportunity Program’s Senior Volunteers; $8,000 for Easter Seals of Maine and the Center for Therapeutic Recreation; $6,850 for benches and trash cans for the Mill Creek area; and $7,200 for the Boys & Girls Club.