City to hold second meeting for $500K housing grant on May 3

ELLSWORTH — A plan to apply for a half-million-dollar grant to improve homes and apartment buildings in the city’s core section took a step forward this week, and the public will soon have a chance to learn more about the program and who can benefit from it.

On Monday night, the City Council unanimously approved City Planner Michele Gagnon’s request to move forward with the process and officially apply for $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

If the application is successful, the money would allow low- and moderate-income residents to make improvements to their homes, and for landlords to make improvements to buildings where those residents live.

A public meeting on April 13 drew 50 residents, and Gagnon said a second meeting will soon be held to allow residents who were not or could not be at the first one a chance to find out what the grant might mean for them.

“We had such great interest, but we realized some people couldn’t be there,” said Gagnon. “So we decided to hold another one.”

That public hearing will take place Tuesday, May 3, from 5-6 p.m. at Ellsworth City Hall.

If the city does secure the grant funding, qualified residents who apply for and receive funding could then use it to make improvements such as new windows, improve plumbing or fix a crumbling chimney.

“We are looking at investing in housing as a tool for strengthening the city, the downtown and the neighborhoods, and consequently improving the quality of life for all citizens, regardless of income,” Gagnon wrote in a memo to the City Council.

She said better housing can make for better neighborhoods, ones that are appealing to people looking to move to Ellsworth and that have more stability than neighborhoods with buildings in need of repair.

Gagnon said the grant funding would help “move the city forward as an attractive and desirable place to live.”

Judy Blood, who recently moved into her family’s old home in Ellsworth Falls, spoke Monday night at the council meeting.

Though she would not qualify for money from the grant funding, Blood said she would like to see those who do qualify have the chance to get some help and be able to do the sort of repair work she and her husband are doing to their home.

“As we breathe life back into the home, we would like the whole neighborhood to rise up to that as well,” she said. “I would certainly be in favor of this.”

Gagnon told of how she and Economic Development Director Micki Sumpter drove around the city and did a “windshield survey” of the city’s housing stock to get a sense of what the needs are.

Gagnon noted much of the city’s housing stock is very old, and she said of the 750-plus buildings she and Sumpter looked at about a quarter showed some degree of dilapidation.

“The level of disrepair that we visualized negatively impacts entire streets and neighborhoods,” she wrote in her memo.

“What we’re trying to do is make a big effect for these neighborhoods and pick up Ellsworth as a whole,” Sumpter told the council Monday night.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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