New Norwich community development supervisor held the post 11 years ago

Norwich — The city’s new community development program supervisor has a familiar face.

Kathy Crees, who served as what was then called the community development director for 13 years, returned this week to her former department on the second floor of the planning and development building at 23 Union St.

Not quite the same office, though. Crees used to be situated in the rear of the department, down a hallway and through a conference room. Her office now is more prominent, just inside the main door and adjacent to the desk of Gus Desrouilleres, the new lead program liaison for the department.

“Now that I have gone away for 11 years, I have a whole different skill set,” Crees said.

She had left Norwich for a position at the Access Community Action Agency, with offices in Danielson and Willimantic. As she did in Norwich, Crees managed housing and service programs funded through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In that role, she saw and then felt the effects of shrinking federal funding. Her position was eliminated July 7.

Crees had been in contact with Norwich city officials and when her former position was advertised again, she applied and was hired.

The shrinking federal funding will be a reality in her new position, as well. When Crees left Norwich, the annual Community Development Block Grant the city received totaled more than $1 million and helped fund numerous social services and civic programs for youths and low-income residents. This year, the CDBG grant totaled $753,993 and funds few, more restricted programs, such as job training, housing and city infrastructure.

Along with managing the CDBG grant, the office runs the popular lead abatement and popular property rehabilitation programs. Earlier this month, Desrouilleres started promoting a new heating system replacement program after a successful pilot ran last year.

In the new program, eligible homeowners can apply for no-interest loans of up to $15,000 to replace failing or inefficient heating systems with new, energy efficient systems. The pilot program served 20 families last year, and Desrouilleres hopes to serve more families prior to this winter.

Crees said she spent much of this week getting reacquainted with city officials she has known for years and meeting new ones. She has contacted HUD Connecticut officials and asked for a meeting to discuss issues and will review the city’s grant and programs underway.

But first, after discovering an old coffee mug that was hers 11 years ago still sitting on a shelf, she called for a general office cleanup day for Friday.

c.bessette@theday.com

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