WATERVILLE — Divvying up American Rescue Plan Act money is not as easy as it may seem to those who do not have that responsibility.

The Waterville City Council spent hours Tuesday night discussing the need to fund housing projects with the city’s remaining $750,000 in ARPA funds, while hearing pleas from several nonprofit entities to also give them money so they can help those in need.

The council considered a request Tuesday to earmark the $750,000 for long-term housing initiatives, including possibly a proposed landbank fund and revolving loan fund which the city’s housing committee is exploring. Those funds must be obligated by Dec. 31.[mtm-related-link

Councilors over the past three years identified more housing as a top priority, according to Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, who said a proposed plan would be submitted to the council in a couple of months. The city’s ARPA committee, of which Green is a member, also identified housing as a top priority, as well as mental health and child care needs.

The council previously allocated about $800,000 of the $1.6 million in ARPA funds given to the city, with $300,000 given to diversion efforts to help people avoid homelessness; $200,000 to Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, for general operations; $100,000 for renovations of the City Annex at 46 Front St.; $150,000 for city staff bonuses; $103,000 for city positions, including code enforcement; and $50,000 to outside agencies.

The council voted 6-0 Tuesday to take the first of two votes needed to earmark the $750,000 for housing, which included an amendment that the housing committee submit a plan for the funding by the first meeting in September. The amendment was made after Councilor Rien Finch, D-Ward 6, asked that a plan be submitted in time to be revised, if needed, before the Dec. 31 deadline. His request generated considerable discussion, with Green and Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, reiterating that housing is a priority.


“I think that with all the work the housing committee has done, they deserve a chance to put it before the council,” Green said.

Then the council considered another request, sponsored by Finch, to take the first of two needed votes to approve spending $175,000 in ARPA money to support various nonprofit agencies, some of which sent representatives to the meeting, and give each $25,000. Doing so would decrease the $750,000 to be earmarked for housing.

Those seeking funding Tuesday included Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Maine Children’s Home, Starfish Village, Greater Waterville Area Food Bank, Winslow Community Cupboard, Waterville Historical Society and Waterville Community Land Trust/Kennebec Messalonskee Trails/South End Neighborhood Association. Central Maine Recovery Group, which a few months ago opened a 12-bed home for those with substance use disorder, also requested funding for the first time at Tuesday’s meeting.

Green said, however, that ARPA funds were allocated in the fall for outside agencies who were told they were being given a maximum of $10,000 each. She recommended the council not consider giving more funding to outside agencies until councilors decide what to do with the housing funds and how much to use for that purpose. Green made a motion to table consideration of funding outside agencies until Sept. 3.

Rev. Maureen Ausbrook, co-director of Starfish Village, which helps those in need and particularly those in danger of losing their housing, asked that the council not table outside agency funding. She said the housing initiative has been in the planning stages a long time, no decisions have been made, and the outside agencies exist now and are doing work in the community.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to make us wait for an initiative to come to fruition that has been percolating for a very long time while we’re out there in the trenches,” Ausbrook said.


Representatives from other agencies agreed with Ausbrook and stood to speak, after which Green rescinded her motion to table.

Councilor Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, made a motion to amend the order by adding the recovery center to the list of agencies to receive $25,000, and her motion passed 4-2, with Green and Klepach voting against. Green said the center needs to apply in writing before the council takes a second vote.

Councilor Brandon Gilley, D-Ward 1, said some outside agencies, including the soup kitchen, received some funding last year, but the soup kitchen asked for more money this year and the council voted Tuesday to give it $50,000. He wondered aloud what makes the soup kitchen different than any of the other agencies seeking funds. He said he thinks the soup kitchen deserves the money but the other agencies do as well. Green said she didn’t necessarily disagree with Gilley but her vote against was “not really no; it’s ‘not now.'” She said she is hoping to do something big and lasting for housing with the ARPA money.

Councilors voted 4-2 to approve the amended order. And then they voted 4-2 on a motion by Finch to give $550,205 to the housing initiative and the rest to the outside agencies. Klepach and Green voted against in both instances. Another vote is needed to finalize the two items.

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