City receives $1.9 million grant to rebuild Front Street
Belfast — The City of Belfast received a $1.9 million U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration grant that will partially fund the reconstruction of Front Street.
Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said he received an official notification regarding the city being awarded the grant April 8. He said the next steps for the city are to formally accept the grant and begin the design and engineering work.
Kittredge said the city received a preliminary notice from the Economic Development Administration regarding the grant asking for additional clarifications on the city's application. He said that slowed down the process by a few months before Belfast was recently notified it was selected to receive funding.
The scope of work, according to a press release from Kittredge, includes realigning portions of Front Street, reconstructing Front Street to allow the roadway to carry overweight loads, replacing sewer mains, water mains, and storm drains, reconfiguring the dangerous intersection of Front and Pierce Streets through acquisition of a 0.34-acre property there, modifying utility pole locations and overhead service wires and installing parking, sidewalks and pedestrian amenities to improve safety.
The project is estimated to cost around $3.8 million total, and the Belfast Water District will contribute $630,000 of its own funds to pay for the upgrades to the water and sewer lines.
Kittredge said with the federal grant and the water district contribution, the city will have to provide about $1.27 million in matching funds to pay for the project. During discussion about the work in August 2013, Kittredge suggested the matching funds could be taken from the city's Downtown Waterfront Tax Increment Financing fund.
Speaking to The Republican Journal April 9, Kittredge said the city's ability to secure the grant was due to the potential number of jobs that were preserved or could be created at Front Street Shipyard and Penobscot McCrum.
In the notice sent to the city from the Economic Development Administration, the department stated the investment “supports construction of utility and road improvements to serve business and industry located along Front Street. The improvements support expansion of Front Street Shipyard and continuing operations of one of the City's largest employers.”
When councilors heard the initial proposal for the project in 2013, City Planner Wayne Marshall noted the shipyard was having difficulties moving larger vessels from the storage yard to their buildings because Front Street was neither wide enough or strong enough to handle heavy loads.
Kittredge said the $3.8 million cost for the project could change as the design and engineering work is completed.
He also said he would ask councilors to accept the grant money during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, April 15. Because the water district is also involved in the project, board members will have to vote to accept the funding, as well.
He estimated that the reconstruction of Front Street would not begin until the spring of 2015.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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