Possible $2 million in fed funding found for new $3.2 million library

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RUMFORD — After 10 years prospecting for funding while planning a new $3.2 million Rumford library facility, members of the Rumford Public Library Growth Committee finally hit pay dirt this month.

The catch, however, to potentially scoring $2 million from the U. S. Department of Agriculture in both a grant and loan, is that they’ve got to quickly apply for the money before other towns across the nation do.

That’s what committee members, Friends of the Rumford Public Library, Town Manager Carlo Puiia, and Selectmen Brad Adley, Greg Buccina and Jeff Sterling all learned early Thursday evening during a workshop in the municipal building.

“There is hope again,” Karl Aromaa, head librarian, said.

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“I just can’t wait to have a letter of obligation in hand that we can take to the store,” committee member Linda MacGregor added. “It changes everything.”

What the committee hopes, she said, is to get 35 percent of the $3.2 million in USDA grant assistance and a $1 million USDA loan at 4.18 percent interest for 30 years. The library’s growth and steering committees would then be responsible for raising the third million.

“The sweetness of this opportunity is that if the USDA says yes to a grant and yes to a loan, there are a couple of things to be aware of,” MacGregor said.

The first is that as soon as the letter of obligation arrives, she said it will open many private funding doors for the project. The other aspect is that it’s very likely there won’t be any money available in the government’s new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, she said.

“So, we should move to go after this money now, understanding however, that for whatever reason — like we say we don’t want that money after all — we can call Dennis and say, ‘Nope,’” secure in the knowledge that it’s nonbinding, MacGregor said. She was referring to Dennis Beaulieu of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Community Programs.

She explained that they would like to get the Board of Selectmen’s encouragement to have Puiia work with them on an application for the grant and the loan.

Beaulieu cautioned that the grant amount might not be 35 percent.

“What’s impacting it is the availability of remaining grant money,” Beaulieu said. “By law, it can’t be any higher than 35 percent. Worst-case scenario — $500,000; best-case scenario, you get $2 million or whatever it is, or $1.1 million.”

Rather than apply for both a grant and a loan, Beaulieu said they would be applying for assistance.

“What will drive the application are the financials of the town and the way you present it, but I don’t think there will be a problem,” Beaulieu said. “You’re demonstrating a need for the grant, and we know you have the capacity, because you can tax. It’s a team effort if you want to do this.”

He urged them to also be aggressive.

“Realistically, you want to have a serious fundraising,” Beaulieu said.

Selectmen couldn’t vote to encourage submittal of the application during a workshop, but would do so at their next regular meeting  Thursday, April 1, Puiia said.

Adley, however, stressed that the library groups should start raising community awareness to both the project and the funding opportunity.

“It will be nice to get it to the citizens and get direction,” Adley said. “You guys are going to have to sell it.”

MacGregor said the library growth committee has already started doing that, producing a stack of letters they’ve gotten so far.

“There doesn’t seem like a whole lot of risk at this point,” Adley said. “I can’t see a downside at all.”

Selectmen Buccina and Sterling agreed.

“It’s not going to hurt to put an application in, but ultimately, it will involve a referendum” by the town, Buccina added.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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