Knox County Commissioners took no action July 13 on a request by housing advocates to use some of the county’s federal recovery money on five projects.

Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether of South Thomaston said she was under the impression the county would only act on emergency items with the American Recovery Plan money until September, when commissioners will hold meetings to hear from the community about how they would like the money spent.

But Commissioner Sharyn Pohlman of Rockport voiced support for the proposal from the Genesis Community Loan Fund, which is the project consultant for the Knox County Homeless Coalition, Midcoast Habitat for Humanity and the Isle au Haut Community Development Corporation.

“The need is now,” Pohlman said.

She said the groups’ plan was developed and would be ready to go.

“Housing is the foundation from which everything else can built,” she said.

Pohlman said if the county expends some of its $7.7 million on the housing project that does not preclude the use of some of it for the regional broadband initiatives or other projects suggested by various municipalities.

The county used some of the federal aid thus far for retention bonuses for employees in the sheriff’s patrol and jail. That will cost $431,000. Commissioners declined to extend the retention bonuses to dispatchers.

The commissioners received a letter for the meeting from municipal managers of Rockland, Camden, Rockport and Thomaston, asking the board not to take any action on the housing developers request for aid.

“At your June 8, 2021 meeting, you committed to further engaging with the municipalities in Knox County to better understand how County ARPA funds can be used for the benefit of residents in the County. We ask that you honor this commitment before you make any further decisions on how the County will allocate these funds,” the letter is signed by Tom Luttrell of Rockland, Audra Caler of Camden, Jon Duke of Rockport and Kara George of Thomaston.

“The County has a once in a generation opportunity to support investments that will make our communities resilient to a changing economy. However, the continued expenditure of County ARPA funds without any input or consultation from municipalities will only result in investments made by the County that are out of touch with the economic realities our region is facing.

“Municipalities, not the County, are closest to the issues in our communities, and are expected by the citizenry to solve these problems. We implore you to work with us so that $7.7 million is not wasted on endeavors that will have little to no impact on people in Knox County,” the managers’ letter ends.

The Midcoast Internet Coalition asked the county to allot money for its project to expand broadband internet across Knox County.

Pohlman said the discussion does not need to be adversarial with the competing parties that want some of the county money.

“There is a need for housing across the board. If you don’t have a home, do you want to access broadband in your car or tent?” Pohlman asked.

Mark Primeau of Genesis and Stephanie Primm of the Knox County Homeless Coalition made the July 13 presentation to commissioners.

The single largest project is a proposal to spend $2.7 million for the Knox County Homeless Coalition to purchase 6 Madelyn Lane in Rockport. The property consists of six acres and two former medical office buildings that included offices for Pen Bay Family Medicine and Pen Bay Pediatrics. Those offices relocated to the new office building on the Pen Bay Medical Center campus.

The property would be converted to approximately 30 housing units for the homeless and “integrated services from our web of partners,” according to Genesis.

Other projects included in the letter are $320,000 for Habitat’s proposed housing development on Talbot Avenue; $180,000 for Habitat’s project on Philbrick Avenue; $500,000 for a program with the Homeless Coalition and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to help inmates transition from jail or prison to the community. The proposal calls for the money to be used to purchase and renovate a residence, which has not yet been selected, for the re-entry program.

The fifth and final project is $400,000 for the Isle au Haut Community Development Corporation to purchase three houses owned by the island community off Stonington. The town no longer wants to own them and rent them as they have done, the Genesis letter states.