THUMBS UP to the Waterville Community Land Trust, which this month purchased its first property, a two-story home on Water Street in the city’s South End.

The nonprofit land trust will fix up the house before selling just the building to a low-income family. The trust will maintain ownership of the land the house is on, and receive a substantial share of profits of any future sale, allowing someone to buy the home at a substantial discount.

That mechanism can bring investment to areas that might not otherwise receive it, and provide stability in housing to low-income families who might otherwise have to move from rental to rental. Both outcomes improve neighborhoods and spur more investment.

It is a program that has worked in Burlington, Vermont, where it was started by then-Mayor Bernie Sanders, now a presidential candidate, in the 1980s.

The Champlain Housing Trust, once the Burlington Community Land Trust, now has 566 homes and 2,100 rental and cooperative units in the Burlington region.

The Waterville group hopes to complete seven to 10 homes in the next five years. That’s comparatively modest, but it would make a huge difference in the lives of a few families who otherwise would not be able to own a home, and it would help breathe new life into neighborhoods where derelict houses make any improvement a struggle.

“Basically, we’re targeting the working poor,” said Ashley Pullen, the trust’s president. “We know that a lot of the employment opportunities in this area do not pay very highly. You have maybe a single parent working two jobs and supporting a family, and it makes it tough to save and make a payment.”

THUMBS UP to efforts to maintain funding for an intensive case manager in the Augusta Police Department.

Greg Smith has served in that post since last August, after previously filling the position until funding was cut in August 2012.

Riverview Psychiatric Hospital picked up the tab for the position in its last budget, bringing Smith back after a three-year hiatus, but the state funding runs out in August and it is unknown if the position will be included in the next spending plan.

Funding is always tight, and Riverview has bigger problems to deal with, but the case manager should be considered part of their operational responsibilities. The city is home to Riverview’s out-patient services, and is otherwise a regional hub for social services.

That means even more than other departments, Augusta police deal with mental health crises, and Smith’s presence on a call can help officers relieve tense situations.

“We are not trained mental health workers,” Chief Robert Gregoire said. “We aren’t trained advocates. We try to do what we can with the training and the abilities we have, but I think Greg is a great help to us. We can do a better job with Greg’s abilities.”


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