By JESSICA CRAWFORD • Daily Leader
Many may only associate the one-cent sales tax with projects like the new aquatic center or the renovations currently underway in Light Park. What some individuals may not realize is the one-cent sales tax is also being used to “reinvest in the community” by helping senior citizens and disabled individuals with three home improvement possibilities in the form of grants.
The three programs: Weatherization and Home Security, Emergency Home Repair Assistance and Exterior Enhancement Rebate Program have been created by Karen LaFreniere, director of the housing and community development department.
“It’s a program for senior citizens, it’s not just weatherization – there are three programs that are available,” LaFreniere said. “It is all funded through the one-cent sales tax and it was approved by the city commission on Feb. 10 at their meeting to begin April 1.”
Weatherization and home security loans are offered up to the amount of $3,000 for the elderly and disabled. The things covered under the grant include things that may make a home more energy efficient such as:
o Insulation for attic walls;
o Weather stripping for doors and windows; o Security lighting; o Security doors and security screen doors and; o Energy efficient windows.
“Weatherization and home security is for windows, insulation, doors, energy efficiency added to their houses and they can apply for up to $3,000 for that program,” LaFreniere said. “The income limits are the same on all three. It is a little higher than they would normally be because it is a city grant and because we want to be able to help more people and basically reinvest what the taxpayers have given us.”
The emergency home repair and assistance offers up to $2,000 for repairs on the home and modifications such as ramps. The repairs that may qualify for the grant are:
o Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural systems which show obvious signs of deterioration or require emergency repair; o Drainage improvements to prevent or correct flooding of structures; o Roof, if due to water leakage, damage or severe deterioration; o Building security; o Stoves or refrigerators if existing equipment is unusable or unsafe; o Replacement of fencing or tree removal if damage could result to structures; and o Improvements and modifications to the residence for physically disabled persons.
“The emergency home repair and assistance is up to $2,000 and it is for elderly and disabled,” LaFreniere explained. “If someone does become disabled and needs a ramp, there’s money for that. Emergency repairs would be mechanical, electrical, drainage, roof repairs, security for the house, stoves or refrigerators if they are unsafe or unusable.”
The exterior enhancement rebate covers things that are a bit more cosmetic. Such things could improve the value of the home or simply enhance the look of a neighborhood. Such things are:
o Replacement of existing fencing;
o Roof repairs or replacement;
o Improvements to front yard landscaping; and o Driveway repair or replacement.
“Then there is an exterior enhancement program also and that is for exterior painting, replacing a fence that might be deteriorated, again roof repairs, most likely not replacement,” LaFreniere said.
“But that is up to $2,000 and improvements to the front yard, land scaping and driveway repair.”
A major part of LaFreniere’s position as director of housing and community development has been to come up with programs that would better the community and help the individuals that would be utilizing the programs.
“These programs are about reinvesting in the community – that is what we are trying to do,” she said. “One of the things they asked of me when I was hired for this job was to come up with positive programs that we could do in the community to help out. I think this has kind of turned into our own little stimulus package, really.”
LaFreniere added that those qualifying for the three grants can only apply for one per year. She also stated that the application for all three are the same. She encourages those getting involved in the programs to find their own contractors, however, she has tried to make contractors aware of the programs.
“I sent letters out to the contractors and let them know that we are doing this and asked if they wanted to participate – some did,” she said. “The thing is that I wanted them to respond so they knew what the program was when people started coming to them. That way they are familiar with the program and they are working with us on it.
“If there are contractors out there that want to contact me and be involved on our list, they can,” she continued. “We have a list but it is up to the people to find who they want to do their work. If they find somebody and it is over the amount allotted, they are responsible for the rest of that amount.”