FARMINGTON — The sewer lines along Sawtelle Lane began to fail this winter, so last week the board that governs the mobile homes and apartments there voted to pursue a grant for water, sewer and natural gas lines.

The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, on a Community Development Block Grant application prior to a vote at the annual town meeting March 24.

The water and sewer lines are old and in need of upgrading, said Fenwick Fowler, chairman of the Development Committee for the 82 High Street board of directors.

After next week’s hearing, a letter of intent will be filed, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said. A full application is to be submitted after town meeting and considered over the summer. If approved, the project would go out to bid in early 2015 with the work expected to begin next spring, he said.

There is no cost or risk to the town as in other block grant projects such as the trailer rehabilitation project at 82 High Street or the Brookside Village apartment complex under construction on Fairbanks Road, he said.

The infrastructure work at 82 High Street, a dead-end street of affordable housing, will include installing 4-inch water and 8-inch sewer lines 800 feet in from High Street on Sawtelle Lane, Fowler said. While the property is dug up, the plan is to include a service line for natural gas in anticipation of future availability in town.

The cost for the infrastructure work is $396,000. The grant would provide $360,000, leaving the 82 High Street board to secure a $36,000 loan, Kaiser said.

“The lines are old and deteriorating,” he said. “They’ve served a lot of years but need to be fixed up for the future.”

The neighborhood has already gone through a couple of improvement phases, Fowler said. Some low-cost energy work was done during the first phase. In the second phase, 17 mobile homes were rehabilitated and made energy-efficient. The next phase is to tackle the 10 apartments in three wooden buildings.

The board has agreed that the substantial investment needed for work on the apartments is not worth it, Fowler said.

Twenty-five years ago, a grant of $1.2 million started improvements to the neighborhood. The ways of financing and the costs since have changed substantially, he said. To build a new apartment house would now cost roughly $3 million to $4 million, he said.

“This project created affordable housing in Farmington without any deep federal subsidy,” Fowler said. “The 12,000 hours of sweat that volunteers gave, grants and loans created unique housing just three blocks from downtown and two blocks from the university.”

82 High Street fills an important need, said Rachel Jackson Hodsdon, whose Creative Energy manages the housing.

The challenge is to make improvements to the apartments while keeping them affordable for tenants, many of whom are not receiving financial aid from other programs, she said. The apartments are basic but reasonable.

“There are not tons of options to improve it and keep it affordable,” she said.

During the application process, the board expects to continue its discussions on options for replacing the apartments.

“The goal is to create a nice place for kids to live,” Jackson Hodsdon said.

82 High Street is governed by a 15-member board composed of three tenants, representatives from six churches, a town representative, four community members and representatives from Western Maine Community Action.

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