Friday, April 17, 2009

Southern York County to Get
Federal Stimulus Funds

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
Federal stimulus money is in the pipeline for the state, but other than some reinstated previously cut education funds, the programs have had little impact on southern Maine.
The Baldacci administration trimmed back state aid to education twice, but with the arrival of $27 million in federal funds the second of those cuts, the smaller of the two, have been returned. These funds have been earmarked for stabilization in that they are to retain current jobs and programs.
Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said in a telephone interview that additional money earmarked strictly for Special Education and Title I are in the pipeline and could be announced this week.
Mr. Connerty-Marin said another $27 million will be distributed for the ‘09-10 school year.
All the education money will be distributed through the state’s current education formula that will direct the bulk of it to northern Maine.
York received $133,000 this year and could receive $157,336 next year.
“That’s what I know we’re getting,” Superintendent of York Schools Henry Scipione said of the $133,000.
Earlier the state had reduced York’s aid to education by $937,000 the first time and $133,00 the second.
Other estimates for next year include $605,844 for School Administrative District 60 (Noble), $583,362 for SAD 35 (Marshwood), $993,816 for Kennebunk, $53,389 for Wells/Ogunquit and $929,988 for Biddeford.
Little federal money has been seen as yet on the municipal side.
The town of Berwick was originally awarded $1.7 million for five Water Department projects but that has since been adjusted to $1.2 million for four projects, Town Manager Keith Trefethen said.
Mr. Trefethen said he’s not aware of any more awards “at this juncture” but added the town will be “aggressively pursuing money for fire stations projects” when it becomes available.
The Water Department money will be used to “replace decrepit water lines,” he said.
These projects must be accomplished in a defined time frame and he hopes “local contractors will be competitive to get the work” so he can “keep a lot of the money right here in town” to further benefit local taxpayers.
Things aren’t as bright for the town of Kennebunk according to Joel Downs, the town’s financial director.
The town hasn’t received any funds thus far and looking ahead Downs said he’s not aware of anything in the future.
“We haven’t seen any,” York Town Manager Rob Yandow said. “But in all honesty I didn’t expect any.”
York has been working with the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission and hopes some projects may eventually be funded.
Mr. Yandow said the Maine Department of Transportation has received some funds but there are “a lot more by way of requests than there is money available.”
Projects he hopes to see receive stimulus funding includes $750,000 for York Beach drainage. “We’re not done yet,” he said.
South Berwick Town Manager John B. Schempf said his town hasn’t received any federal money and “we have no idea” if any is on the way.
He said with the federal funding becoming available “your odds are better than they were” to receive funds from the state but added, “There’s no spigot for stimulus money.”