The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center at 280 Water St. in downtown Gardiner has crossed the first hurdle in its effort to secure $350,000 in federal funding as part of a new congressional earmark program. Above, workers on a scissor lift paint windows at Johnson Hall last September as part of an ongoing project to renovate the 1864 opera house. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

GARDINER — One of three organizations in Gardiner seeking federal funding under a new congressional earmark program has crossed the initial hurdle in the competition for approval.

U.S. Reps. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, and Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, released the list of projects Wednesday evening that will move ahead under the Community Project Funding Program in their respective congressional districts.

The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center at 280 Water St. in downtown Gardiner — in Golden’s district — received word its application for $350,000 will go to the next level of consideration in the federal appropriations process.

Johnson Hall was one of three organizations planning to submit a joint application for $1 million in federal funding under the Community Project Funding Program through Golden’s.

Under the program, 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.

Not all requests are expected to be granted. And if granted, they might not be for the full amounts requested. Successful projects will be included in the federal budget.

Initially, Johnson Hall had joined with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley and the city of Gardiner’s Cobbossee Trail Committee for a combined request of $1 million.

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

But near the deadline for submitting applications, the organizations learned they would have to submit individual requests for a process expected to be competitive.

Michael Miclon, artistic executive director at Johnson Hall, said Thursday he knew the performing arts center was at the first step in a lengthy process.

“For us,” he said, “this is phenomenal, but we’re not counting any chickens yet.”

And pleased as he was for Johnson Hall’s request to get an early nod, Miclon said he hoped the other Gardiner projects will be able to secure funding, too.

“We’re supportive of every way in these other projects,” he said, because they will improve the quality of life in the southern Kennebec County city.

More than 100 projects were submitted for consideration, according to Nick Zeller, Golden’s communications director.

The earmark program is expected to continue as long as the current congressional leadership is in place.

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