A baseball game underway Friday at the Carl R. Wright Baseball complex, located behind the Skowhegan Community Center. A long-planned expansion project for an athletic facility at 39 Poulin Drive includes two sports fields, pickleball and tennis courts, a concession stand, new Little League field dugouts and a maintenance garage. (Staff photo by Anna Chadwick/Staff Photographer) Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan may be millions of dollars short of what it needs to build an expanded community center athletic complex, but there may be fewer restrictions on the $3 million in federal funding than some officials and residents have said in recent months.

The town was awarded $3 million in Congressionally Directed Spending, previously known as an “earmark,” to use toward the project as part of an appropriations package signed into law in March. As town officials work to get the athletic complex construction moving forward there has been some uncertainty about how the $3 million can be used, based on the original plans submitted to Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King, who both backed the funding.

But the original request for funding submitted to the senators is not the same as what Congress approved, spokespeople for Collins and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said.

Congress approved $3 million, administered by HUD, for the town of Skowhegan to use for a “Community Center Complex,” according to a copy of the appropriations bill provided by Collins’ office.

“HUD receives the recipient’s name, project and funding amount from the appropriations law,” Christine Baumann, a HUD spokesperson, said in written responses to questions. “HUD does not receive the package prospective recipients submit to their members of Congress. After the funds are appropriated by Congress, recipients submit a budget and narrative to HUD that are supported by the language in the bill.”

Aside from recent concerns about funding, frustrations over the project, for which planning began in 2006, have been brewing among some residents and town officials in recent months. That is in part because the new facility is supposed to replace the previous homes of Skowhegan’s baseball and tennis teams at Memorial Field after it was sold to Maine School Administrative District 54 for its new elementary school. Those teams are playing this spring without home facilities in town.


Plans for the community center expansion project at 39 Poulin Drive include two sports fields, pickleball and tennis courts, a concession stand, new Little League field dugouts and a maintenance garage, among other infrastructure.

The town’s request for the $3 million, which detailed the project proposal and budget, included plans for “multi-use turf fields,” among other aspects of the complex.

A family walks across the lawn next to Skowhegan’s Community Center Friday where athletic fields are expected to be built as part of an expanded community center athletic complex. (Staff photo by Anna Chadwick/Staff Photographer) Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Skowhegan Parks and Recreation Director Denise LeBlanc said previously that since the town’s request was for turf fields, pickleball courts, and tennis courts, she was not sure if the funding could be used toward a grass field. Board of Selectmen Chairman Todd Smith later cited that reasoning in a vote last month to change plans for the baseball field at the complex back to turf, drawing criticism as it reversed previous plans for a grass surface for the baseball field approved by the board in November.

Town Manager Dawn DiBlasi said at a May 14 Board of Selectmen meeting that she was told by Collins’ office that the original request could be amended, though there could be some scenarios in which changing the playing surface could lead to loss of funding.

The only kind of change, however, that would put the town at risk of losing the $3 million would be if the scope of the project in the original proposal was changed, HUD and Collins’ office said.

In this case, the scope is defined as what is stated in the Congressional appropriation, “Community Center Complex.” Both HUD and Collins’ office said that the playing surface of the fields — turf or grass — would not be considered a change to the scope of the project.


In the coming months, HUD will require the town of Skowhegan to submit a grant package, including a project description and budget, and sign a grant agreement, the department spokesperson said. The town also needs to complete an environmental review.

After the town submits its plans and grant agreement, funds could be disbursed within 90 to 120 days, though the timing depends on how quickly the town submits the information, Baumann, the HUD spokesperson, said.

The funds expire in September 2032, according to HUD. At that point, any non-disbursed funds for this grant must be returned to U.S. Department of Treasury.

The funding can be used for a portion of the whole project, according to Collins’ office.

DiBlasi, who began as Skowhegan’s town manager earlier this month, said Friday that she is not sure how selectmen will proceed with finalizing plans to submit to HUD, as she is still new to the position. Town officials will continue to listen to public input, DiBlasi said.

“I think it’s going to be important to give the people what they want,” DiBlasi said. “That’s always the goal.”

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