The Eastern Shore community of Bayview, one of Virginia's poorest towns, will get $1.55 million in aid for improved plumbing and housing under grants announced by Gov. James S. Gilmore III today.

Freed slaves settled Bayview more than a century ago, but its fortunes have declined along with the region's oyster and potato industries.

One-third of Northampton County's residents live in poverty, though few towns are as poor as Bayview. Many of its 114 residents live in shacks without plumbing--conditions Gilmore called "deplorable" when he visited last year.

"It gives me great pleasure to now be able to offer this financial assistance to Bayview," Gilmore (R) said in a statement.

The aid is composed of $1.25 million from a federal Community Development Block Grant and $300,000 in state indoor plumbing assistance. Coupled with a $3 million federal package announced by U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) in May, the total amount of new government aid to the community this year reaches $4.55 million.

The grants announced by Gilmore today will help build new rental housing and new septic systems and water lines. Many families now use wells that are contaminated by crude pit privies nearby. Rental assistance will also be provided to 40 families.

"The comprehensive package is to make sure that the residents of Bayview have access to decent, affordable housing and adequate plumbing and safe drinking water," said Joshua Lief, deputy secretary of commerce and trade.