The head of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development has granted a waiver to Gardiner City Councilor Terry Berry so his application for funds to help fix the facade of a fire-damaged property he bought on Water Street can proceed.

“The city followed the proper process and met the criteria for the waiver,” Doug Ray, spokesman for the department said Friday. “We accepted their determination at the local level that there is no conflict of interest.”

Berry said the decision puts his project “back on track.”

“We’re moving forward,” he said.

Berry, who represents City Council District 1, applied for funds earlier this year along with a number of other Gardiner property and business owners on Water Street. He said he is hoping to use the funds to pay for new doors and windows and some siding.

The Facade Program, which is funded through the state from the federal Community Development Block Grant program, provides money to fix up the outside of buildings. The ultimate goal is to stop blight.

To use these funds, participants must spend their own money as a match.

A review of program rules in July showed that under the federal regulations governing the grants and the Microenterprise Assistance Grant program, city councilors are among those prohibited from benefiting from block grant funds unless they have obtained a waiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this case, that authority is delegated to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

To secure a waiver, Berry was required to publicly disclose his intent to use money from the program and to abstain from any future public discussions or votes on the Facade Program, which he did at the council’s July 26 meeting.

He was also required to supply a letter from the city attorney attesting that no state or local conflict-of-interest laws have been broken.

In a letter dated Aug. 4, Jonathan Pottle, the city’s attorney at Eaton Peabody, concluded that Berry’s actions violated no local or state law governing conflicts of interest because at the time he voted on the city applying for and accepting the funds, he didn’t own 243 Water St. And when he did own it, Pottle said, he had no role in the Facade Committee’s decisions.

While the committee had announced in May its funding decisions and reserved funds for all the applications, including Berry’s, no money has been transferred.

Under the terms of the Facade Program, all the work bid out is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Berry said he has shown the building a few times to leasing prospects, but the renovation project is still in early stages and he’s not yet able to say when the work will be completed.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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