Knox County officials have received a request to spend $4 million of federal funding on a slate of housing projects that would create about 50 new units across the county.
The joint request from a trio of midcoast housing groups is the latest proposal submitted to Knox County Commissioners as they decide how to spend the $7.7 million in federal relief funding received through the American Recovery Plan Act. Statewide, Maine counties are slated to receive about $260 million in funding, which is intended to help state and local governments recover from pandemic-related losses and spur an economic rebound.
Knox County — like other counties statewide — is still determining how it will spend the funding based on what federal guidance allows, an assessment of county needs, as well as requests from individual towns and organizations.
“The county is trying to do its due diligence. We’re not committed to any one thing at this point. We certainly want input,” Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart said. “I think the county is going to look at all avenues before we move forward with anything.”
The joint-proposal from the Knox County Homeless Coalition, Midcoast Habitat for Humanity and the Isle Au Haut Community Development Cooperation includes $1.2 million for the homeless coalition to purchase and convert two former medical official buildings into about 30 housing units.
The proposal also includes a request for the county to contribute $320,000 to a housing development being pursued on Talbot Avenue by Midcoast Habitat for Humanity and the Knox County Homeless Coalition, as well as $400,000 to renovate three homes on the island for affordable housing purposes.
This is the second large proposal that has been submitted for the funds.The county has also received a proposal from a group looking to create a community-owned broadband network . The Midcoast Internet Coalition has asked that the county allocate the bulk of the $7.7 million to help build the regional utility.
Knox County has already spent about $500,000 of the funds. That was used for retention bonuses at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Knox County Jail. Commissioners said this expenditure was authorized because the county needed to take action quickly to address low staffing levels at the jail, which has nine vacant positions, and keep the sheriff’s office competitive with neighboring law enforcement agencies.
Hart said he has also received inquiries regarding the funding from six or seven individual towns, as well as other Knox County-based agencies. Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell suggested Tuesday that the county consider establishing a grant program with the fund that would allow Knox County towns to apply for funding.
Others want more discussion before decisions are made.
“I think it would be much appreciated across the county by all the municipalities if before you commit to spending any more ARPA funds you did a little more consultation with municipalities,” Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said.
The county is working to set up workshops — which will likely be held in September — to meet with towns and organizations that have requested funding to further discuss the proposals before making any decisions on how to spend the funding.