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Nathan Sennett hands Adirondack chairs to Tori Grasse as they work in hip-deep water Dec. 19 on the patio at The Quarry Tap Room at 122 Water St. in Hallowell. City councilors voted recently to allocate $75,000 in aid to businesses affected by the historic storm Dec. 18. Robert F. Bukaty/AP file

HALLOWELL — City councilors have voted to create a $75,000 flood recovery fund that will allow Hallowell businesses affected by the December storm to apply for grants to help cover the cost of damages.

The storm Dec. 18 caused the Kennebec River to flood and damage many businesses on Water Street, some of which are still trying to get back on their feet.

The idea is to provide aid in two phases. The first phase is to direct $50,000 to businesses, with a cap of $2,000 per business. The money will be taken from the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, funds, meant for economic development in the downtown area.

“The TIF funds will be used because that money has been amassed for the downtown area, and it seems appropriate to use it,” Councilor Michael Frett said. “It’s very early in the process, but I know everyone is committed to moving on this as soon as possible.”

Along with Councilor Maureen AuCoin and Mayor George Lapointe, Frett a is part of the three-member-working group formulating the criteria and drafting an application form for the first round of grants.

“My hope is that applications will be made available immediately following the Feb. 12 meeting, with the funds released soon after,” AuCoin said. “Many (businesses) are facing significant financial challenges in rebuilding, with estimates in the tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars. The $2,000 direct grant offered by the city is just one form of assistance. As other opportunities become available, we are trying to get that information to the businesses.”


The second round is to include $25,000 — or more, if the city can find an individual or organization to double it. If the amount is matched, the $50,000 would be distributed under the supervision of the city government. Discussions to finalize the process of the second round of distribution would follow distribution of the first round of aid.

During a special City Council meeting Wednesday, AuCoin urged the city to dig deeper into its coffers, putting forward a motion to allocate up to $100,000 for aid. Other city councilors, however, felt that was too hefty an amount.

The council then voted unanimously to allocate $75,000 in two rounds. AuCoin also urged other councilors to be open to collaborating with local organizations — such as Vision Hallowell — that are working toward the same goal.

“The survey Vision Hallowell is conducting can be a good source of information for what the businesses need,” AuCoin said during the meeting.

Vision Hallowell is now surveying local businesses to diagnose the needs of the businesses and determine how much money will be required. The nonprofit organization has also partnered with the Hallowell Pride Alliance and the Arts and Culture Committee to set up a relief fund to assist businesses now and into the future.

“Hallowell is a community that cares deeply about its vibrant downtown,” AuCoin said. “It’s heartwarming to see our local organizations working so hard to support our local businesses and their employees.”

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