by Barbara Van Reed
When press releases came from Governor Duval Patrick and Senator Richard T. Moore last week announcing that Webster had received a $900.000 federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant, we decided to find out how Webster had qualified it. Clearly, this doesn’t happen by magic.
But, there does seem to be a magician of sorts behind the scenes in the Webster Town Hall. Her name is Carol J. Cyr, and she’s the director of the Office of Community Development, and has been since 1995. And, magically, Webster has received a community block grant every year since then.
This year the money will be used to completely redo the section of Negus Street between Mechanic Street and Church Street. The aging water line will be replaced, the roadway rebuilt from the gravel up, and there will be new sidewalks with handicapped accessible crosswalks. “The street is old,” Ms. Cyr said, “and everything will be brought into compliance with new codes and regulations.”
This section of town was chosen for infrastructure improvement because of its proximity to the planned senior housing project at the A.J. Sitkowski building and the downtown area.
Ms. Cyr explained that the process for applying for the annual CDBG grant program starts in December, and the applications are due each April. The state has very tight timelines for spending the money once it's appropriated, she said. Work on a project has to be well underway before a community can apply for further grants. In the case of Negus Street, the town had sufficient money to design and engineer the road, basically getting a head start on the project, making it “shovel-ready.”
Because of this planning ahead, bidding for the Negus Street improvements can be done in the next three or four weeks, she said.
Come December, Ms. Cyr will be getting ready for next year's application, which will be for Phase II of the Negus Street project, continuing the improvements from Church Street to Lake Street. She works with all town boards to identify the most needed projects each year, and also retains an outside consultant to ensure the application is complete, professional, and accurate.
The CDBG program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD), and funds are distributed by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to cities and towns in Massachusetts with populations of less than 50,000.Communities with populations greater than 50,000 receive the funds directly from HUD. Ms. Cyr said the $900,000 received by Webster is the maximum allowed based on its size.
Kudos to Ms. Cyr for making these grants a reality for Webster year after year.
A year and a half ago Webster made news headlines when selectmen decided that the town would post on the side of a building the name, address and phone number of the owner of a property that had been condemned or fallen into disrepair. The first 4 x 8 plywood sign went up in May of last year on Granite Street..
Several weeks ago a resident of Goddard Street called this newspaper wondering if we knew whether the town was still posting nuisance properties, as he hadn't seen any lately. He explained that a house in his neighborhood, #29 Goddard St, had been abandoned by its owner, who he said had also dumped garbage on the property after losing it to foreclosure.
The neighbor said the building was an eyesore and, worse, dangerous, because a garage on the back of the lot had caved in. He was worried that kids in the neighborhood might decide to play in the rubble, and more of the structure might collapse.
We called Health Agent Cathleen Liberty, who told us that her office and the building inspector were aware of the problem garage and that the inspector had been working on it with the bank that owns it to remove the structure for several months.
Ms. Liberty said she would inspect the house and lot periodically to make sure it's secured and being maintained. The building is structurally sound, she said, even if it is an eyesore.
Usually the bank will hire a service company to maintain its foreclosed properties, she said. If this house is not being maintained as required, she will add it to the town's nuisance properties list.
Now back to the initial question about the posting policy. “It's worked very well,” Ms. Liberty said. “We send letters and notices to the owners, and they don't want to be posted. We've had good cooperation. Just the threat of it is working.”
But, she continued, there is one owner who has defied all attempts to clean up his property. There's nothing more we can do before going to court, she said. And so, the building is scheduled to be posted this week.
Here again, we may not always see it, but town hall people are diligently working behind the scenes.
- Wednesday, 20 June 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor