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CDBG-funded housing projects to begin

Oct. 31, 2013
By Chris Maza


EAST LONGMEADOW – Housing repair projects funded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will begin shortly.

Members of the CDBG Committee met with a representative from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) on Oct. 28 to learn more about what they could expect to receive from the $750,000 grant award to be split between the town and its application partner Agawam.

Agawam is the lead community in the grant and therefore will receive a larger sum of money, including funding for a sidewalk project, however, the two communities will have a fairly even split in three other aspects of the grant, said Senior Planner Andrew Loew of PVPC, who is executing the grant, which was awarded by the state through federal funding.

As the lead community Agawam will oversee the procurement of consultants and contractors, the approval of all invoices and the execution of any grant amendments, extensions or closures. East Longmeadow would participate in those aspects as well, but the final say would belong to Agawam.

Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen has yet to sign the grant paperwork, but once that happens, expected to in the next week or two, Loew said, East Longmeadow would be able to address the needs of approximately five worthy homeowners through the Housing Rehabilitation program.

Loew explained that the original grant award called for a larger number of homes, but as the process continued, that number was slashed. Planning Director Robyn Macdonald expressed disappointment in that number, and questioned why the area of most need would be cut. Loew said it came down to funding.

“The CDF II program [for which Agawam and East Longmeadow qualified] is considered the low-need community program,” he said. “Of the $30 million or so, they only give about $3 million or so, if that, to CDF II. You were tied for second place statewide. Another pair of communities were ahead of you, so they got their full request … There were two applications with about $500,00 left for this, so they just cut that remaining money down the middle between the towns.”

Loew added that the number of projects is not exact and depends largely on their cost.

“Depending on the size of the projects, it could be four, or it could be six or seven,” he said. “The hope is to get the work done before winter, especially for any emergency projects.”

Macdonald said she was relieved to hear the work could begin quickly because timing was one of her major concerns going in.

Through this aspect of the grant, the homeowner would receive the funding directly for the purpose of utilizing it to complete the necessary work with a contractor selected from an approved list.

The first step in the process, which can begin almost immediately, is sifting through a waiting list of approximately 50 names of East Longmeadow residents and determining a short list – Loew suggested seven – of income-qualified candidates.

Candidates are most often addressed on a first-come, first served basis.

Council on Aging Director Carolyn Brennan voiced concerns with that system, stating that some older citizens may have been slower to express interest through no fault of their own.

Loew said that while those first on the list usually get priority, the town must also identify any properties with emergency situations, which could be moved to a higher priority, even if the home owner’s name was not on the original list.

The Americans with Disabilities Act transition and the Housing Authority windows and security projects would most likely go out to bid in the winter with work beginning in the spring, Loew said.

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