Grants aimed at city arts, public safety

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WESTBROOK — City Councilors have signed off on the first step in Discover Downtown Westbrook’s efforts to seek a Maine Arts Commission grant to create and implement a “cultural plan” for the city.

The council also accepted two grants to improve public safety.

A first reading Monday, councilors awarded a $20,000 bid to Reinholt Consulting of Phippsburg to create a cultural plan for the city. The plan is the first step in being eligible for a $75,000 Maine Arts Commission Creative Economy – Economic Development grant.

A cultural plan “is designed to bring communities together to position themselves around economic or community development through the arts and culture,” according tot he commission.

The $10,000 planning grant from the arts commission required a $10,000 match and funds have been secured from the Cornelia Warren Community Association ($4,500), Warren Memorial Foundation ($4,500) and city of Westbrook ($1,000).

Westbrook Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson said the grant is a “great way” to connect with the community about the arts and cultural offerings in the city.

Reinholt Consulting will research and assess the arts and cultural offerings in the city, including speaking with residents, business owners and organizations. The firm has developed cultural plans for Lewiston/Auburn, Waterville, Skowhegan, Houlton, Freeport and north Franklin County.

The planning process will take 12 to 18 months. Once the plan is completed, Stevenson said the city will be eligible to apply for the $75,000 Maine Arts Commission Creative Economy – Economic Development grant to implement the it. That grant, like the phase 1 grant, requires a one-to-one match.

Councilors Monday also preliminarily accepted a $77,620 FEMA Assistance to Firefighter grant (with a $3,880 local match) to improve fire safety at the Prides Corner Fire Station on Bridgton Road, and they officially accepted a $3,277 United States Department of Justice grant (with $3,277 local match) to replace seven of the police department’s ballistic vests.

The FEMA grant will outfit the Prides Corner station with a new sprinkler and fire alarm system. The building was constructed in 1969 before any sprinkler requirements were put in place. Fire Chief Andy Turcotte said use of the building has grown over the years and there are now five firefighters staffed there and upwards of $1 million in equipment housed at the station.

Councilor Ann Peoples was glad the city was getting a federal grant to do the work.

“I am really glad to see we will be doing this. This is something that desperately needed to get done,” she said. “We were lucky to get grant money to do it with, because it needed to be done one way or another.”

Turcotte said the Assistance to Firefighters grant is highly sought after.

“This is a challenging grant to be awarded and to be awarded a (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant) and an AFG in the same year is unheard of,” he said.

This is the second grant the police department has received for new ballistic vests. In November, Westbrook received $8,629 from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase 20.

Police Chief Janine Roberts said the vests are used in active shooter situations. Though not common in the city, police have responded to calls “that could have turned into active shooter situations,” Roberts told the American Journal.

“We’re trying to be prepared if something like this happened,” she said. “It’s emergency preparedness.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Discover Downtown Westbrook has received the go-ahead this week to apply for a Creative Communities = Economic Development grant from the Maine Arts Commission. If successful, the organization would use the grant money to create a cultural plan for the downtown corridor.

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