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Four towns team up to get federal CDBG money

The towns of Sunderland, Shutesbury, Conway and Bernardston are working together to get more federal money for housing rehabilitation projects and the local Meals on Wheels programs.

Partnering will make the application for four small towns more competitive, said Bruce Hunter, the assistant director of community development at the Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which is administering the program for the towns.

In the application, Bernardston will be the lead community because it has the highest community needs score. The higher the score, the more federal dollars a town would receive, Hunter said.

Currently, there is a waiting list of 22 people in the four towns hoping for housing rehabilitation money. This breaks down to six dwellings in Bernardston, four in Conway, six in Shutesbury and six in Sunderland. The total funding request for the four towns is $787,600. Shutesbury, Sunderland and Bernardston are each seeking $214,800 of that sum. Conway is hoping for $143,200.

The housing rehab money can be used to meet building and sanitary codes or remove lead paint. The money can also be used to improve energy efficiency of homes by making general weatherization improvements, insulating homes and replacing old heating systems.

The towns also plan to create a four-town regional Meals on Wheels program, which would be implemented by the Franklin County Home Care Corp. The Meals on Wheels program provides hot, nutritious afternoon meals daily to elderly home-bound residents. Meals are delivered by trained home care volunteers.

Funding for the program has failed to keep up with costs, Hunter said. Fifty-nine individuals are served in the four towns by Meals on Wheels. This amounts to 9,590 meals over 18 months. With the existing funding, 12 people will not be covered and there will be a shortage of 1,785 meals. The grant money would provide $15,152 in funding to fill the gap and cover the 59 individuals.

Last year’s funding gap was $1.58 per meal. Current revenue for the program will cover $6.91 per meal but the actual cost of each meal is $8.49.

If the grant is awarded, Bernardston will contract with the Home Care Corp. to implement the Meals on Wheels program on behalf of the four towns.

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