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Social services funding proposal before Amherst Select Board Monday

Town Manager John Musante said he expects to present the formal proposal to the Select Board Monday in advance of a Feb. 15 application deadline.

The proposal, prepared by associate planner Nathaniel Malloy and Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, includes a series of services that have been vetted by the Community Development Block Grant Committee.

Among the social service projects expected to be included in the proposal, as recommended by the committee, are $90,000 for operations of the Craig’s Place homeless shelter, $30,000 for a resource caseworker for Family Outreach of Amherst and $25,000 for a mentoring program by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hampshire County.

Non-social service activities include $250,000 for accessibility improvements at the East Street School, $250,000 for modernizing 55 units at the Ann Whalen Apartments and $105,000 for an improved sidewalk on South East Street.

The attempt to get funding from the state’s competitive grant pool comes after the town lost its designation as a mini-entitlement community, under which it automatically had been receiving between $900,000 and $1 million in CDBG funding annually.

The town appealed to the state about how it determined whether the town had maintained this mini-entitlement status, but the appeal was denied. Officials are now hoping to get at least half of their request under what is called transition funding, Musante said. “The odds grow longer as you get over $450,000,” Musante said.

Musante said Town Meeting will likely be presented with a warrant article to provide up to $90,000 for social services to ensure that these programs remain whole should the state not provide full funding. Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said this means of keeping the social services intact is seen as a temporary measure to get through the fiscal year 2014 budget. “This gives us a year to work out how it gets funded into the future,” O’Keeffe said.

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