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Hopkinton prioritizes CDBG list

June 21, 2011

HOPKINTON – At its June 6 meeting, the Town Council prioritized and approved its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application, which seeks $400,000 from the state of Rhode Island.

During their public hearing on the list, the council ran through each program on the application and, when deemed necessary, discussed adding or subtracting the dollar amounts for the programs as well as their final spot on the prioritized list.

Sitting at the top of the council's list was $80,836 to fund repairs at the Crandall House. This money would go toward relining the chimney, replacing the beams on the porch, sanding and painting the porch, and repairing the sidewalk in front of the building. It would help to replace the roof on the facility's shed, which houses various equipment, and the floor in the activity center's exercise studio, where numerous senior activities are held.

The town also had a preliminary energy audit done for the building, which suggests that the building needs several upgrades. Those include programmable thermostats, energy-efficient lighting, and a new air-conditioning system. On top of that, the senior meal site's dishwasher/sanitizer and stove have to be replaced and stove while the activity center's bathroom needs a new sink.

Affordable housing implementation was next on the list in the amount of $100,000. This program aims to develop and adopt a program for the conversion of existing rental units into affordable housing units.

Next was $37,500 in funds for townwide housing rehabilitation, which is used to repair and fix eligible housing units. Following that was $25,000 for South County Habitat for Humanity. The organization is looking to building a single-family, three-bedroom cottage on Laurel Street in town.

Then, coming in at number five was one of the more discussed activities – $20,000 for Wood River Health Services. According to documentation, this funding would help cover the costs of hiring a patient outreach education, who will provide information to residents about the health center through outreach activities.

The goal with this position is to bring in 1,000 new patients from the surrounding area by the end of this year and then a total of 3,000 new patients by the end of 2012.

This was all described by the center's executive director, Michael Lichtenstein, and program coordinator, David Henley. The latter explained that he expects the center to take in some 400 new Hopkinton patients as his figures indicated there at that many low-income residents they are not yet reaching.

Lichtenstein said that the increase in patients is all dependent on increasing staffing at the center. He added that it's kind of a chicken-and-the-egg approach as they have to make sure the patients are coming in so revenue can be made to support the staffing.

“It will be a balancing act,” Lichtenstein said.

He went on to say that the patient outreach coordinator will contact people in the area to inform them about the treatment opportunities at the center. In answering an inquiry by council Vice President Thomas Buck, Lichtenstein said the impact on the patient waiting list is dependent on how the center modulates getting new staff members.

The council then chose to move up two programs presented by the WARM Shelter. They also increased one of them by bumping up $8,000 for a job readiness program to $11,264. The $65,000 for renovations of the shelter's existing 19-bed facility remained at the same amount.

Pushing for the WARM Shelter's job readiness program was councilor Barbara Capalbo, who said that job readiness is “crucial to us for Hopkinton citizens.” Many residents in town, she said, “are helped by [WARM] and I know they've been very helpful.”

Capalbo didn't believe that the town should provide so much funding for the renovations, though, as she only wanted to directly support her town.

The rest of the council disagreed. In particular, councilor Scott Bill Hirst noted that the shelter allows for folks to “catch their breath” when they're unable to pay their rent or find a place to live. He added that Hopkinton doesn't have an equivalent agency.

“I think the WARM Shelter is a good investment,” Bill Hirst said.

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