FORT KENT, Maine — For about two years following the disastrous flood of 2008, Adrienne “Toots” Lamore moved four times before finding a permanent home in the new Village Apartments high and dry above any of Fort Kent’s floodplain.
Lamore, 75, and her senior citizen neighbors were displaced when the St. John and Fish rivers merged into one body of water that inundated the six apartments in the Guy Drive Housing Complex.
On Friday morning, officials with Fort Kent Housing Inc., managers of the Village Apartments, joined municipal, state and federal representatives to celebrate the completion of the final four units of the new $3.5 million, 20-unit housing complex on the town’s newly named Blueberry Lane.
“It took a lot of hard work from many people and agencies to get from the 2008 flood tragedy to today’s celebration of these beautiful apartments,” Louis Albert, director of Fort Kent Housing, said at the gathering. “If what you celebrate here today is any indication of Fort Kent’s resiliency, our future will be brighter than ever.”
Funding for the new complex came from a $1.2 million USDA Rural Development Rural Rental Housing direct loan, $1.53 million from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and $420,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“For us and for you, this is a monumental day and a monumental project,” Virginia Manual, USDA Rural Development state director, said. “It has been a long time coming.”
The flood of 2008, Manual said, took residents’ belongings and safe housing.
“Many partners came together to identify every resource possible to help resurrect the tenants’ lives,” Manual said. “Today, we celebrate the new homes for 20 elderly families and individuals who can now take pride in rebuilding their lives.”
Manual stressed that her agency’s involvement with the housing complex will not end now that construction is complete.
“We will continue to support [the residents] with rental assistance,” she said.
Thanks to the USDA money, the apartments managed by Fort Kent Housing, including the new Village Apartments, are available to qualified senior citizens for reduced rent.
The celebration of the new apartment on Friday was about much more than bricks and mortar, according to Don Guimond, Fort Kent town manager.
“It’s about the folks sitting in the back today,” he said, indicated a handful of the complex’s residents. “They have been a huge part of our community, and the least we can do is provide them with safe, affordable housing after they have provided for this community all of their lives.”
Among those attending the celebration was Lamore, who remembered that night four years ago when she got word the river in front of her apartment was likely to flood.
“I had come home from work, and everyone was telling me to get packed and be ready,” she said. “My brother came over and helped me lift things up off the floo,r and we waited.”
She didn’t have long to wait. By 8 p.m. members of Fort Kent’s police department were knocking on her door and telling her to get out.
“The next morning, I went back down to look, and there was 5 feet of water in my apartment,” Lamore said. “Everything was gone except what was up on the top shelves — everything else was floating down the river.”
For the next two years, Lamore stayed with friends and family before moving into her new home at Village Apartments.
“It’s just wonderful,” she said.”I just love my apartment.”
Residents Joe and Dorothy Cyr opened the door of their two-bedroom apartment for tours on Friday — asking only that visitors use the supplied paper “booties” before walking in.
“This is just fabulous,” Manual said after her tour. “It’s so spacious and has such a homey feel to it.”
The apartments fill a real need in the area, Guimond said.
“This is quality, affordable housing,” he said. “You don’t have a community unless you have housing for all of its age groups.”
Representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation and the state office of emergency management also attended the event.