Renovating Berlin, one house at a time



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Mitch Couture donated his time and the paint to repaint the house. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
July 01, 2009
BERLIN — The city of Berlin, Tri-County CAP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Agency on Thursday partnered together to do $20,000 worth of work to Lucille Frechette's house on Church Street.

Volunteers and contractors painted and insulated her house, built her a new porch, replaced her windows, redid her plumbing and wiring, trimmed the trees and mowed her lawn.

Mrs. Frechette, 74, lives with her dog Buster in the house she and her husband bought 27 years ago. They bought the house in 1981 with money from a USDA first time homeowner program.

Her husband is now dead, and Mrs. Frechette was having a hard time maintaining her home.

"I was desperate," she said, but now "I won't have to put plastic and rubber-backed drapes on the windows anymore."

The city contributed community development block grant money, Tri-County CAP provided the weatherization funds, and USDA rural development home repair grant funds.

The programs are aimed at low income and the elderly, to allow them to live in their homes as long as they wish, organizers said.

"It's very hard to be a low income homeowner and keep up with home repair," Kathy McCosh of Tri-County CAP said. "We work together to get more bang for the buck."

The bucks were helped by local donations. Sherman-Williams donated 20 gallons of paint, as well as several employees' time to help with the effort. Sherman-Williams manager Mitch Couture estimated they donated $1,200 in materials.

Other local contractors were involved too: North Woods Electric, Gosselin Plumbing and Heating, Carpentry By Dave Cordwell, Berlin Rec Department, AHEAD, Raffi's Painting, and HUD from Manchester. Janice Gingras, Rural Development loan specialist, said they like to support the local businesses, keep the money in the community. Any work that didn't get finished in the big effort that day would be completed by local tradespeople.

These critical repairs should cut Mrs. Frechette's home heating bills in half, said Mrs. McCosh.

Mrs. Frechette said she required fuel assistance last winter and spent almost $2,000 to heat her three bedroom home. When Tri-County CAP employees came by in March she had huge icicles hanging from her eaves. There wasn't a bit of insulation in the entire house.

"I didn't know," she said, but she was relieved to finally be able to do something about it.

Mrs. Frechette's house is one of many Tri-County CAP, Rural Development and the city grant money will help. City block grant money will go to 25 homes this year. In 2008 Rural development helped 44 individuals and families in Cos county buy or renovate homes. This is the fifth year the three organizations partnered to showcase a house in Berlin.

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