Wampanoag Tribe wins $1.4 million for housing
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has received federal grants totaling $1,382,819 for energy efficiency improvements and repairs to tribal housing.
About 100 people live in the development, including elderly and disabled people.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $750,000 grant for energy improvements. The grant will be supplemented with $10,000 in tribal funds, according to Jane Greene, housing administrator for the Tribe. The grant will fund a series of energy projects, including energy efficient appliances, fans, and programmable thermostats for the housing units. Also planned are emergency generators, to provide power to some of the homes during an outage, and solar power generating systems for several of its buildings.
"It's to begin to get us off the grid," Ms. Greene said. "We're going to put in solar panels, which we hope will power the sewer plant, the water plant, the office, and the three elderly duplexes." The tribe will also explore relatively new technology called vertical access wind turbines, described by Ms. Greene as small, ground mounted, cylindrical turbines that can produce small amounts of energy at very low wind speed.
Another $447,038 will come to the tribe in the form of a federal Indian Housing Block Grant. While the amount fluctuates year to year, the annual grant is used to maintain and improve tribal housing. This year the block grant will be supplemented with $185,781 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, widely known as the stimulus package. The stimulus money will go toward several projects, including replacement of deteriorating wood trim on the tribal housing units.
While the tribal housing is due for substantial upgrades, the Tribe's community center project remains stalled by a lack of funds and permitting issues. "Any devotion of resources to this particular project would require cutbacks in other areas," said Durwood Vanderhoop, grantsman and planner for the Aquinnah Wampanoag. "We've done our best to find funds."
The structure, described as a model of environmentally sensitive construction during the Martha's Vineyard Commission permitting process, was erected in 2004 at no cost by an Air Force Reserve construction battalion, as part of a training program. The 6,176-square-foot building, considered about 80 percent complete, was designed to include a gym, stage, locker rooms, and kitchen. Since the original construction, little work has been done. The community center sits in a clearing near the tribal administration building, partly open to the weather.
"Because the project has taken so long, costs have gone up," Mr. Vanderhoop said. "We've had to come up with more than we expected." He estimated in rough figures that $500,000 to $600,000 would be needed to finish the structure.
Mr. Vanderhoop said even if the Tribe had the resources to finish the project it would still need town permits. "We need an understanding between the town and the tribe to go forward," Mr. Vanderhoop said. "That's been lacking. It is being worked out."
He said the tribe is still working through details of the permitting process outlined in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the town of Aquinnah and the Tribe.
The MOA is an outgrowth of a long legal battle over the limits of tribal sovereignty and the extent to which the tribe must comply with town permitting. A lawsuit over a small shed constructed without a town permit on Menemsha Pond reached the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), which ruled against the tribe. The SJC ruling said the Tribe is subject to the same local zoning and permitting requirements as any other group or individual.
The community center was erected without permits from any town, regional, or state permitting authority.
In November of 2007, Mr. Vanderhoop represented the tribe in seeking a permit for the community center from the Martha's Vineyard Commission. The MVC unanimously approved the plan to complete the building.