Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 22, 2021
Uncertainty surrounds recovery funds
by Eli Forman
The timeline for when Castine will receive its share of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding remains uncertain.
At the select board’s meeting on Monday, July 19, Town Manager Shawn Blodgett described the process underway at the state level to dispense the funds to municipalities, noting that at the moment, no specific dates have been announced.
According to Blodgett, Castine will be allocated approximately $107,564. This will be disbursed over two fiscal years. It’s not just fast cash, however. “There’s 165 pages of rules governing how we can spend it,” said Blodgett. In general, the money can only be spent on infrastructure, community economic development or green projects related to recovery efforts from the pandemic, said Blodgett.
Another complication is that the money can only be spent through a town vote, as is the case with the town meeting system of government. The selectmen can authorize the receipt of the money but will have to go to the voters to decide what to use it for. Luckily, the money doesn’t need to be spent until 2026, said Blodgett.
As for spending ideas, a member of the public suggested improving the water and wastewater system. Blodgett responded that it may be “difficult to justify” some infrastructure projects involving the town’s water and wastewater system on the basis of COVID-related economic losses. Castine has about 380 water and wastewater customers, raising the additional question of whether it makes sense to spend municipal recovery funds to benefit only those living on-neck.
Recently, the state of Maine filed an extension with the federal government to allow more time to prepare a system for disbursing the funds to municipalities. Castine, and other area towns, may have to wait a bit longer before they see any cash.