From TheDailyNewsOnline.com,Tom Rivers, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4 Oct 2011.
ALBION, NY – Orleans County legislators may pursue state funding that would pay the bulk of upgrading housing for farmworkers.
The program provides up to $750,000 for a county. The money, which comes from the state Homes and Community Renewal, would cover the full cost of replacing a trailer that was built before 1976.
The grant also would pay 60 percent of the rehabilitation costs for other farmworker housing, projects that could include replacing a roof, electrical wiring, upgrading a plumbing system, fixing walls, floor joists, rafters, foundation walls and upgrading a septic system or well.
Legislator Bill Eick, a retired dairy farmer from Shelby and past president of Orleans County Farm Bureau, strongly supported the grant. He praised many farmers for improving their housing in recent years, but Eick said more farmers could use help with repairs and upgrades.
However, Legislator Don Allport, R-Gaines, said the county shouldn’t be pursing government funds that help private businesses.
Legislators didn’t vote on the grant application last week. The state hasn’t set a deadline for the program. Emily Hamilton, farmworker housing director for the PathStone Corporation in Rochester, said she expects the state will set a spring deadline for applications.
She wants to help the county with the grant application. If the money is approved, PathStone also would be willing to facilitate the housing work and ensure the county is meeting grant requirements. Farmers must have the work done within two years and show farmworkers have used the housing for at least five years after the grant.
Hamilton said she will be meeting with Genesee County officials this month to encourage them to seek the grant. The counties have the option of submitting a joint application, she said.
She asked Orleans officials to create a list of interested farmers. The county would need income surveys of farmworkers, not the farm owners, to determine grant eligibility. The grant targets low to moderate income individuals. The application also needs an estimated cost of the housing upgrades.
If the county proceeds with the application, it will need to hold two public hearings.
Hamilton said four counties in recent years received funding for farmworker housing: Columbia, $400,000; Greene, $200,000; Rensselaer, $300,000; and Ulster, $1.55 million.