Ellen Karlberg, left, speaks during an interview Oct. 22, 2019, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in Gardiner, as Emma Roberts, center, and Juliana Montell listen. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

GARDINER — Three organizations in Gardiner are collaborating in an effort to secure federal funding to advance their projects.

The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley and the Cobbossee Trail Committee are expected to submit an application by Wednesday for $1 million from the Community Project Funding program. They are making the application through the office of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District.

If the application is successful, the organizations would split the funding three ways to pay some of the costs of ongoing construction projects.

“I am a big fan of making sure we finish what we have started,” Logan Johnston, a former city councilor and co-chairman of Johnson Hall’s capital campaign committee, said earlier this week at a Gardiner City Council meeting. “All three of these projects have started, and they are nearing completion. If we’re fortunate enough to get the grant, it will allow us to build very soon.”

Johnson Hall is seeking funds to pay for life/safety improvements as part of renovation project at the historic opera house; the Boys & Girls Clubs is looking for additional funding to complete playing fields, as part of its project to build a new facility; and the city’s Cobbossee Trail Committee is seeking money to extend the trail from its current endpoint at the Bridge Street bridge west along Cobbosseecontee Stream, to the railroad trestle.

Johnston said the projects are tied together in the city’s 2014 comprehensive plan, and efforts city residents would like to see completed.

“This is a difficult process, and there will be lots of competition to get this grant application into Rep. Golden’s office next week,” Johnston said.

He was seeking councilors’ approval to apply for the grant on the city’s behalf, which they gave.

Every congressional office may submit up to 10 Community Project Funding grants for consideration to any one of more than a dozen federal agencies, which have different match requirements. Because funds are being raised or already exist for these projects, they could be used as matching funds.

Not all requests are expected to be granted, but if they are, not all are expected to be granted in full.

Nick Zeller, communications director for Golden, said for the first time in nearly a decade, this program marks the return of congressional earmarks, which allow federal legislators to designate money for projects in their districts. The requests will be considered as part of the appropriations process and be part of the federal budget.

“I am positive we’re going to get well over the 10 submissions, so I think the congressman is going to have some difficult decisions to make,” Zeller said. “But one thing that’s important to remember is that this will continue after this year. This is not the only bite at this apple.”

Johnston said the money could be awarded later this year.

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