FORT KENT, Maine — The town moved a little closer to recovering from last spring’s disastrous flooding with news that the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development is kicking in $120,000 to help match federal assistance money.
“State funding will enable the hardy people of Fort Kent to continue the path of rebuilding and renewal after the devastating flooding that occurred earlier this year,” Gov. John Baldacci said in a prepared release. “I am pleased the state funds are dedicated to help this purpose.”
On April 28, runoff from a record winter snowfall pushed the St. John and Fish rivers well over their banks and created one solid body of water covering a portion of Fort Kent’s East Main Street.
Caught in the middle were several residences, an elderly housing complex and the town’s Catholic church.
Soon after the flood, President Bush declared the scene a disaster area, opening the door for federal relief funds.
In all, 30 dwellings were damaged to the point of no longer being habitable, and of those, 23 qualified for acquisition and demolition through the Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Under the mitigation program, FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost with a 25 percent required local match.
In Fort Kent the acquisition and demolition program costs are estimated at $1.11 million with FEMA providing close to $830,000.
This means Fort Kent had to come up with a match of just under $280,000. Some of that will come in the form of in-kind services such as the demolition of homes, the cost of which would be put toward the match.
“The state funds will make a world of difference,” Town Manager Don Guimond said. “It makes the matching component of this process achievable.”
The funds are coming to Fort Kent through the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Block Grant Urgent Need Program.
Under that program, the matching funds are available to help offset the match for acquisition of homes formerly occupied by low- to moderate-income families.
Guimond said six homes have been identified in addition to the elderly housing complex.
“We are now in the process of soliciting proposals for appraisals,” Guimond said. “This project must be complete by the end of 2009.”
Participation in the acquisition program is strictly voluntary, Guimond said.
“It takes time for communities to recover from a natural disaster,” Baldacci said. “We haven’t forgotten the struggles facing residents of Fort Kent. They are resilient and I am confident that they will emerge stronger than ever when these mitigation steps are completed.”
In other flood mitigation projects, Guimond said, work is nearing completion on the earthen berm that protected the town’s west end from the flood, and the Army Corps of Engineers has completed significant riprap projects along the banks of the Fish River where it meets the St. John River.
During the flood, members of the town’s Public Works Department hauled in numerous loads of dirt and gravel to construct a temporary berm that prevented the flooding Fish River from washing down Main Street.
Another plan calls for demolishing the elderly housing destroyed by the flood and relocating the town’s RV park to that location.