GREAT BARRINGTON -- A throng of state and local politicians gathered Friday in front of the former Housatonic School to applaud the award of $27.5 million in federal community improvement funds to a total of 54 commonwealth communities, three of which are in Berkshire County.
The federal Community Development Block Grant program is the state’s largest available resource for neighborhood revitalization projects, said Gov. Deval Patrick.
Berkshire County communities receiving funding this year include Great Barrington, Sheffield and North Adams.
A partnership of Great Barrington and Sheffield was awarded a total of $803,100 to provide assistance for a 15-unit housing rehabilitation and infrastructure design project in Housatonic, as well as an accessibility design project slated for Sheffield Town Hall.
In North Adams, according to Mayor Richard Alcombright, the city will receive $900,000 for a variety of capital improvements, the demolition of vacant buildings and upgrades to historic properties and various sites that provide social services.
In addition to Patrick and Alcombright, other area officials in attendance included U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield; state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield; state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox; Sheffield Selectmen Rene Wood and David A. Smith; Chester Town Administrator Patricia Carlino, who is also a Lee selectwoman; Great Barrington Selectmen Sean Stanton, Stephen Bannon and Daniel Bailly.
"The beauty of the CDBG program is that towns determine the best investment in their community," said Neal.
He also visited Jacob’s Pillow in Becket on Friday night to celebrate a total of $180,000 in grants awarded earlier this year to the dance festival through the National Endowment for the Arts.
"It’s a good day for the Berkshires," said Pignatelli. "Governor, just keep sending us the money."
Downing also thanked the governor and said, "We know how competitive this particular grant program is."
The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD), and is focused on supporting low- and moderate-income communities. Funds are distributed by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to cities and towns with populations of less than 50,000 people. The maximum grant for a single community is $900,000. Regional applications are accepted, and thus, some awards may exceed $900,000.
"I applaud the governor for his continued commitment to our small, rural communities here in Western Massachusetts. This grant money is much needed and I know it will be put to good use," said state Rep. Paul Mark in a written statement.
According to its records, the state has awarded more than 350 grants totaling $265 million during the Patrick administration. The state estimates that for every $1 of CDBG funds granted, an estimated $3.55 is leveraged in non-CDBG funding.
Other communities in the state will use the funds for projects such as the improvement of public parks and community centers; improving elderly services; homelessness prevention; providing food and child care assistance to families in need and improving other community services.
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