Selectmen gave the go ahead for the town to begin work with the Town of Stockton Springs on an application for a $500,000 grant aimed at improving single-family homes in those communities during the regular board meeting Tuesday night, March 5.

Carlton Pinney, a private consultant from Hampden who said he had assisted with administering those types of grants in the past, explained the nature of the grant funding.

As part of the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which Town Manager James Gillway explained is administered through Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development, Pinney said Searsport and Stockton Springs must go in on the application because for the first time this year the applying entity must have a population greater than 3,000.

Pinney said he would help the town administer the grant if the towns are successful in their bid for the funds, noting 15-percent of the money would go toward paying him for those services. Pinney said he is a certified state rehabilitation technician, and he also carries the state certification needed to manage the jobs and inspect the work once it is completed, which will mean the towns will not need two separate people to fulfill those requirements of the grant.

"My involvement will be spread over two years," said Pinney.

Much of the actual work on the homes would occur during the final phase of the grant, which he said would span about a year. Homeowners must earn less than 80 percent of the area median income, a figure that Pinney said is typically set through the U.S. Department of Housing and Rural Development, but is usually equal to the county median income level. The $500,000 grant, said Pinney, should cover the cost of repairing about 30 homes.

But since the level of funding provided in the grant has jumped from $250,000 to $500,000, Pinney said the funds can be difficult to secure.

"Competition is tough and getting tougher," he said. "There could be two, maybe three grants for the whole state."

Right now towns are competing against projects that would improve Veterans Administration housing in Augusta, for example, which are hard to compete against.

If the towns are unsuccessful in their bid for the money this year, Pinney encouraged Gillway and selectmen to keep the application on file and be prepared to submit it during the next grant cycle.

"If you don't ask, you don't get it," said Pinney.

After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to authorize Gillway to begin the application process.