BERLIN – Berlin officials this week approved a resolution ensuring local residents of low income will have the opportunity for employment on two major improvement projects going on in the town.
The Mayor and Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an affirmative action resolution that will require private contractors hired for the Flower Street sidewalk construction project and the ongoing Cannery affordable housing project to at least offer employment opportunities to local residents at low-income levels. The affirmative action resolution is a condition in the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which is providing a substantial amount of funding for each of the projects.
The CDBG program is administered by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department and passes funding through the states to local economic development and affordable housing projects, for example. The program, which was started in 1974 and is one of HUD’s longest continuously running programs, comes with some basic requirements attached such as the inclusion of an opportunity for the local workforce to participate in the projects.
The Flower Street sidewalk project will cost an estimated $500,000 with $183,000 provided by a CDBG grant. The Cannery workforce housing subdivision, located on the east side of Route 113, will eventually include 51 houses, with 41 sold as affordable housing, and 10 at market rate. The houses will be built in sets of 10. The town has received a CDBG grant of $310,000 for that project, which will be used largely for infrastructure improvements.
Town Administrator Linda Bambary explained the council needed to approve the affirmative action resolution in order to continue to receive the federal CDBG grants.
“This is required for the Flower Street sidewalk project and, later down the road, the Cannery affordable housing project,” she said. “It requires the contractors on those projects to make an attempt to hire local persons and lower income persons in Berlin.”
Essentially, because the town is the official recipient of the CDBG grants, it will need to make sure the contractors hired for the two projects attempt to hire lower income workers from the area, but it does not force to town to make the hires itself.
“The onus for meeting the standards is on the contractors,” said Council Vice President Gee Williams. “There is no actual burden on the town other than making sure the contractors comply with this. HUD officials will monitor the hiring practices of the contractors on these projects.”