Washington and Aroostook counties seek $1M grant

Posted Aug. 06, 2010, at 4:02 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — When the economic development districts of Washington and Aroostook counties are partnered next summer, there is a good possibility they may have an additional $1 million in the bank.

A consortium of partners led by Northern Maine Development Corp. has submitted an application for a $1 million Housing and Urban Development grant.

Due to a realignment of the economic development districts statewide, Washington and Aroostook counties will be partnered effective July 2011. Washington County now is aligned with Bangor.

Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments, said the Sustainable Regional Planning Grant Program would support the counties’ effort to mesh housing, land use, economic and work force development, transportation and infrastructure investments.

“The benefit of planning in general is to lay the groundwork for good decisions,” East said. “This grant is big and will open up opportunities for good decisions and for federal funding to flow for housing, transportation, green infrastructure and economic development.”

“Money is tight and competition will be intense, “ East said.

The proposed consortium includes Northern Maine Development Corp., both county governments, Washington County Council of Governments, Sunrise Economic Development Council, Washington Hancock Community Agency, Aroostook Community Action Program, Aroostook and Washington Counties Workforce Investment Board, Four Directions, the Maine Department of Transportation and the State Planning Office.

East said another 45 potential partners already have been identified.

A special bonus for the effort would be achieving preferred sustainability status, which could happen even if the grant is not awarded.

East said obtaining that status, which happens when a grant score meets a certain threshold, would qualify the consortium for a broad spectrum of benefits including access to resources and points when seeking other funding opportunities through HUD, DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This could help with future requests for brownfields assessment and cleanup funds, or with drinking water system infrastructure funds from EPA,” East said. “It could also improve our chances with federal transportation funding to support the port of Eastport or other renewable energy projects in Washington County. So even if we don’t receive the funds this year, we position ourselves well for next year and for other pots of federal money.”

East said the grant, if awarded, would require a 20 percent match, or $200,000, over the three-year life of the grant. She said that with Washington County’s active tax increment financing program — which provides loans and grants to businesses and persons in the Unorganized Territory — that match already has been met.

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