WILTON — The LEAP Explosion Fund Committee is seeking creative ideas to address the need for affordable housing in Franklin County.

Up to $50,000 from the LEAP Explosion Fund has been earmarked for the Affordable Housing Challenge. Applications for the challenge, available at at [email protected], will be accepted through Nov. 30. They should be mailed to Megan Goodine, 128 Weld Road, Suite 1, Wilton, Maine 04924.

Within an hour of the propane explosion at the LEAP (Life Enrichment Advancing People) offices in Farmington on Sept. 16, 2019, United Way of the Tri-Valley Area created the LEAP Explosion Fund to help those affected. More than $218,000 was contributed.

Farmington Fire Captain Michael Bell was killed in the explosion. Six other firefighters and LEAP’s maintenance supervisor, Larry Lord, were injured.

The blast also destroyed 11 homes in a nearby mobile home park, displacing 30 people.

According to a release received last week from LEAP and UWTVA, over $164,000 has been allocated to address a diverse variety of needs directly to 48 affected people for basic support including housing, food, replacement of lost items, and a heating system. Funds were also allocated to the Fireman’s Benevolent Fund, various housing and commercial clean-up from the event, mental health services, and a memorial art installation, the release said.

The LEAP Explosion Fund Committee, made up of town officials, LEAP staff, EMA staff, first responders, and mental health and social service providers, has made all allocation decisions. The committee continues to meet monthly.

Due to the extreme challenge of finding temporary and long-term housing for the 14 families who were affected at the time, the ongoing needs for affordable housing in the area and donors’ wishes to “rebuild Farmington,” the remaining funds have been designated for an affordable housing project yet to be determined, the release said.

“Anyone with an idea to address the housing crisis is encouraged to apply,” Committee Chair and LEAP Residential Services Director Megan Goodine said in an email Friday, Sept. 25. “This could be an individual, a business or non-profits. During the application process, we have asked people to provide a very detailed description of their project which could include the number of units, geographical location, population served, etc.”

In keeping with donor wishes, the rebuilding of Farmington and needs of Franklin County will be considered first, she said.

“As the United Way serves the Tri Valley Area, other neighboring county proposals may also be considered in the absence of a reasonable option in Franklin County. All proposals will be vetted through the LEAP Explosion Fund Committee for review,” Goodine said.

The committee has agreed to be open with the type of proposals that may be presented by interested parties, she said.

“Someone may have an idea that we have not thought of yet and we would like to consider it,” Goodine said. “If a construction project already in process presents the best solution to address housing needs, it may be considered for the allocation particularly if it adds a component that due to budgetary concerns it could not offer, or fills a gap in services.”

More than one project could be provided with seed money to get a project off the ground or contribute to a work already in progress, she said.

“The allocation is capped at $50,000 as this is what we agreed early on to set aside to honor donor wishes and help to rebuild Farmington after the events of September 16,” Goodine said.

The committee hopes to make an announcement about the Affordable Housing Challenge early in 2021. The timeline to complete the project will be flexible, depending on its scope.

“The LEAP Explosion Fund Committee is very excited to put this challenge out to our community in hopes that someone or several people have a great idea to address this issue,” Goodine said.

The committee is interested in expanding the number of people serving on the existing committee to ensure diverse perspectives. If interested, contact Megan at [email protected].

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