January 13

Weatherization program born in Maine in 1973


Your timely editorial about weatherization, “Weatherization best way we can cut energy costs,” Jan. 7, brings me to provide elaboration.

First and foremost, the program was born right here in Maine in 1973. Through the grant-writing talents of Bruce Reeves of Pittston, the federal Office of Economic Opportunity agreed to fund an experiment called Project F.U.E.L. As I remember it, the amount was around $300,000 and the local community action programs agencies ran the operation on the ground with the state OEO monitoring their activities. We passed post-program audits with flying colors.

What we saw, almost right away, was not only the huge impact on families’ lives, especially in the rural areas. We saw jobs generated, from workers in the field to building material suppliers. The usual factor of $6 generated for every federal dollar spent was way low. National TV crews came to visit, filming a news broadcast on the north end of China Lake on a day rivaling the ones we have just experienced.

The impact of this program has been historic for Maine and the nation. I have no totals in front of me, but I would wager that over the years, its value to Maine alone would be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Its success at all levels should remind us that the right investment, in the right place and time, can have terrific beneficial effect.

Although encumbered over the years by politics and what I saw as some unnecessary bureaucratization, Project F.U.E.L. remains a feather in Maine’s and Reeves’ caps. It was and remains a true example of the state’s motto: Dirigo.

Now is the time to invest again in the housing needs of our rural population. They have lost a great deal of ground lately and need this program more than ever.

Stephen R. AucoinWaterville
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