KBIC gets $1.2M for housing projects

BARAGA – The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was recently awarded $1.2 million in grant funding for a pair of housing-related projects.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Housing Block Grant Program, which was announced Aug. 27, will be divided between two projects: $600,000 each for a KBIC transfer station, which is currently under construction, and a new community center in Zeba, on the L’Anse side of the reservation.

“These grants help to forge solutions to improve housing and economic conditions for some of America’s most culturally rich neighborhoods,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a press release. “I’m ecstatic to see these communities using public funds creatively and intelligently to create lasting results for countless families.”

The transfer station has been in the works for several years and is now under construction to complement low-income curbside trash service for about 500 tribal and non-tribal customers. Dan Connor is the project manager at the transfer station, which is expected to be completed by December, and KBIC Public Works Director Bruce LaPointe is also providing project oversight.

The second $600,000 in grant funds was awarded specifically to the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Housing Authority for the new community building in Zeba, where the only other community building is a head start facility run through the inter-tribal council.

“I was excited and glad to hear (about the grant),” said KBOHA Executive Director Eddy Edwards. “… The tribe had applied for the grant two years ago and missed it. This year – we’re a separate legal entity – we applied under our name and we were funded. We were hopeful, we were confident, we have a pretty successful history securing funding.”

The community hall is actually an $800,000 project, with KBOHA providing $200,000. The community center will be available for weddings, funerals, tribal council meetings, college meetings and many other uses, and it will allow for several services now offered in Baraga to expand into Zeba, such as commodity food, outpatient and college programs.

“The reason we’re building it is to bring services to those people, bring our programs out there and make it more accessible to community members out there,” Edwards said.

An environmental review will be done on the site this fall, and ideally ground would be broken before winter.

“Otherwise, first thing, for sure we’ll be breaking ground in the spring,” said Edwards, who is also a tribal council member. “We’d like to have the project done this time next year.”

In addition to the $1.2 million in targeted grant funding, HUD provided $1.7 million to the tribe this year, based on U.S. census data, to operate 268 low-income homes and other rental and home ownership assistance. Most of the homes are in Baraga, with about 70 homes on the L’Anse side and another 40 near Marquette in Harvey.