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$800,000 grant awarded for two-county development plan

October 20, 2010

By Tory Bonenfant
St. John Valley Times

St. John Valley - A series of meetings will soon be held in the Valley to discuss an $800,000 award by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou.

The grant funding, which will affect Aroostook County, will cre­ate an "integrated regional plan" to address housing, transportation, water infrastructure, environmental planning, economic opportunity, and workforce devel­opment, according to Ryan Pelletier, executive director of the Aroostook-Washington Counties Local Workforce Investment Board.
Pelletier will be the project manager for the grant.

"It was a big project," said Pelletier on Monday. "We're going to be developing a sustain-ability plan for Aroostook and Washington County that will touch upon different compo­nents."

Pelletier said the grant was a collaborative effort between him-self; Mike Eisensmith, economic development director at NMDC; Judy East, executive director of Washington County Council of Governments; and Jennifer Peters, assistant director at the Sunrise County Economic Council. "Mike and Judy did the bulk of it, and Jenn and I helped piece it together," said Pelletier. "It was a multi-pieced effort."

The two counties are both in "severe economic distress" as defined by HUD, and it would be the first time that a common strategic planning exercise would be undertaken by groups from both counties, according the grant application.

The initiative is intended to build economic competitiveness by connecting housing with jobs, schools and transportation. One of the initiatives includes state-of-the-art geographic infor­mation system, or GIS, modeling in cooperation with area universi­ties to assist with "visioning and scenario planning" to allow both planners and the public to discuss alternative futures, according to the grant abstract.

NMDC will use strategic plan­ning initiative to provide discus­sions throughout Aroostook County and the St. John Valley to engage non-profit, municipal and county organizations and include area residents and organizations.

Nationwide, $9.6 million is being awarded as part of a federal effort called Partnership for Sustainable Communities.


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