Shelter rehabilitation projects need more money as costs skyrocket

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“The cost of materials and construction overall have really skyrocketed over the last year or so,” Weatherly said. “So a project that was conceived and applied for in early 2020 now experiencing cost overruns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” But during Thursday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee, James Weatherly, planning technician with the Southwest Region Planning Commission — which routinely administers the block grants on behalf of the city — said more money is needed. Labor costs have also risen, Thibault said during the meeting.

Southwestern Community Services operates several housing facilities in Keene and the Monadnock Region, and offers emergency housing at shelters in Cheshire and Sullivan counties. One property is a two-unit emergency shelter and the other is a five-unit residential apartment building, said Keith Thibault, Southwestern Community Services’ chief development officer. Work on both properties includes new doors and windows, heating systems, kitchen updates and insulation. He declined to say where the shelters are located, citing confidentiality for the people using them.

In March 2020, the city was awarded $500,000 through the federal CDBG program, most of which was subgranted to Southwestern Community Services for this project. The nonprofit agency received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) last year for a project that includes rehabilitating its transitional shelter and its family shelter, according to the application summary for the project.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the council authorize the request for extra funds. A public hearing on the proposal, for up to $190,000 in funding, is scheduled for May 20 at 7 p.m. Thibault said Friday the goal is to complete the work by October, though it may be delayed because the contractor hasn’t purchased the materials yet. The CDBG program directs federal dollars to states and municipalities for developing urban communities, providing housing, and increasing economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income workers.

“Around $900,000 has been made available statewide to essentially allow for the project to retain some critical construction items,” Weatherly said. However, Weatherly said there is federal money aimed at helping projects that were funded with CDBG money but have experienced higher than expected costs because of the pandemic.

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