The Dexter Organization seeks ARPA’s assistance in launching the Resource Center

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DEXTER — Dexter city councilors will consider dedicating some of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to a local organization that has begun restoring a building along Main Street to serve as a food pantry and center of resources. The Heart of Maine Resource Center, in partnership with the Piscataquis Regional Food Center, distributes free food each month to those in need.

DEXTER — Dexter city councilors will consider dedicating some of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to a local organization that has begun restoring a building along Main Street to serve as a food pantry and center of resources.

The Heart of Maine Resource Center, in partnership with the Piscataquis Regional Food Center, distributes free food each month to those in need. About 3,000 pounds of food are being distributed in the parking lot behind the Bangor Savings Bank in Dexter, said Andrew Bermudez, chairman of the board.

Cities and towns in the Maine area make decisions about how to spend federal aid, which has limits. Dexter has already committed $32,000 to complete the Spectrum cable project along Zions Hill Road, leaving approximately $163,000 remaining from the first round of funding. City councilors agreed at a meeting Thursday to consider the Heart of Maine’s request for ARPA assistance, as well as other potential projects around the city, once they begin allocating the funds.

The city will receive an additional $195,706 in August or September, City Manager Trampas King said at the meeting.

Photo by Observer/Valerie Royzman
Carol Sherburne reads a letter from the Heart of Maine Resource Center Board of Trustees to Dexter City Councilors during a meeting Jan. 13, 2022. The center has applied for ARPA funds to help restore a building on the street Main in Dexter which would serve as the food pantry and resource center for the area.

In a letter to city councilors, the Heart of Maine Board of Trustees requested ARPA funds — though they didn’t state a specific amount — to help get the space at 6 Main St off the ground. .. Food could eventually be stored and distributed there, and community members struggling with food insecurity, mental health, and other issues could go there for a variety of services.

The Heart of Maine Resource Center, which has applied for nonprofit status and several grants, is renovating the building, said Carol Sherburne, who serves on the board. A renovated exterior would enhance the beauty of Main Street, which is one of the city’s strongest attributes, she said.

“We hope to provide services to the more than 6,000 inhabitants of this area, which has a food insecurity rate of 17%. … As the work continues, we hope to provide counseling offices, addictions services and other needs that may be identified,” she said.

The center’s volunteer committee spent three years pushing the project forward, Sherburne said. Along with gutting the building, an electrician assessed wiring needs, an asbestos issue was resolved, and an energy efficiency assessment was completed.

Repairing the roof and restoring the first floor of the three-story building are priorities so the space can serve as a “central hub” for the community, said Bermudez, who also serves as city council president. He estimated the projects would cost between $50,000 and $80,000.

“We might not be able to give it away ourselves,” he said of every article or resource a community member might need, “but we can connect them with the person who can give him this resource”.

The New Hope Baptist Church runs the city pantry, but those overseeing the program may be ready to give it up soon, he said.

“I think this is an opportunity for us as a city,” he said, adding that freezers at Dexter Town Hall would be available.

King shared an updated list of possible projects the city could pursue, which he first presented in December. It includes renovations to City Hall estimated at $10,000 exterior and $25,000 interior; updated signage in town, estimated cost $5,000; and a new fence at Crosby Park, estimated at $20,000 and a project that Dexter Regional High School could help fund.

Although some residents have expressed interest in a new community center, King said he wants to take it off the list. The city does not have the capacity to deal with another building, he said.

Councilors will meet soon to decide on which projects ARPA funds will be spent. Residents are encouraged to contact King at the Dexter Municipal Office with more ideas.

The next Heart of Maine food distribution will take place on January 25.

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