WILLARD, Mo. — The United States Department of Agriculture plans to invest $222 million to build and improve critical community facilities in 44 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.

This community infrastructure funding aims to benefit nearly 2.5 million people in rural communities. It also includes $132 million to support health care, food security, and emergency response services for more than 850,000 rural residents in 37 states.

In Maine, five community facilities, including one in Harmony, will receive a total of $176,800 in grant funding.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is delivering on its promise to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild our economy,” USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small said, according to a news release from the USDA. “Rural Americans need emergency response, hospitals and medical facilities, and USDA’s loans and grants invest in critical infrastructure to make that possible. USDA Rural Development puts rural people at the forefront of investment and opportunity to help us all build back better, stronger, and more resilient.”

USDA Rural Development Acting Maine State Director Tommy R. Higgins said, “This Rural Development funding supports multiple projects in Maine that benefit critical community facilities. From repairing a rural library to expanding a food pantry to upgrading other essential and important facilities, this key funding is improving the quality of life for residents in rural communities.”

In Maine, the organizations receiving a total of $176,800 are:

• The Patriarchs Club is receiving $50,000. This investment will be used to expand the Harmony Cares Food Pantry in Harmony. This project involves the construction of a 28- by 30-foot addition that will provide the space needed for food distribution, storage, and a restroom.

The food pantry also serves the neighboring towns of Cambridge and Wellington. Since the opening of the pantry in 2017, the number of food insecure families served by this facility has tripled. Additional food distribution/storage space and refrigeration/freezer capacity is desperately needed to meet the growing demand.

The project also will provide facility upgrades, an emergency generator, and commercial refrigeration/freezer units.

• The Downeast Salmon Federation Inc. is receiving $23,500, to be used to replace the deteriorated roof shingles with a metal roof system at the East Machias facility. In addition to roof replacement, the flashing, trim, soffits, ridge vent and cap, fascia bird wire protection and other supporting appurtenances will be replaced.

This facility operates a conservation fish hatchery and administrative offices. The Downeast Salmon Federation through a formal partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rears endangered Atlantic salmon from egg stage to parr stage and releases fish into the waters of the East Machias river on an annual basis.

• The Well of Mars Hill Maine is receiving $25,300, to be used to complete minor renovations to an afterschool children’s center in Mars Hill. The repairs will include new flooring, updating the electrical, painting the interior, new lighting and replacing doors.

The Well of Mars Hill Maine offers after-school and evening programs, tutoring, mentoring, real-life classes, internet access, educational and cultural programs. They will also remain open during school vacations to provide a safe environment for youth along with free drinks, snacks and a meal.

• Eastport Public Library Association is receiving $50,000, to be used to replace and repoint nearly 1,000 square feet of brick on the Peavey Memorial Library in Eastport. Over the past few decades, the masonry façade, roof and cupola have suffered significant deterioration. Completing these repairs will ensure the library’s preservation and availability to support and serve future generations.

Since 1893, the library has been providing a gathering space for residents, visitors, and researchers. It is the learning center of the community offering educational and cultural services, a balanced collection of books as well as other materials, and free public internet access seven days a week, year-round. Designated in 1982, the library was included among 29 other structures of the Eastport Historic District of late 19th century and early 20th century structures.

Center Theatre Inc. is receiving two grants totaling $28,000 ($15,600 and $12,400). This investment will be used to renovate Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft. Center Theatre is the only professional performing arts venue in Piscataquis County, and is a major resource for the schools and community. Funds will be used to fix the columns and footings supporting the theater over the banks of the Piscataquis River.

The theater is a historic building, and over time there has been damage caused by flooding, ice and erosion. Damage has also been caused by improper roof drainage, which will be corrected as part of this project.

Many of the theatre’s programs focus on children and education, including drama camps, after school programs, educational programs and children’s theatrical productions in cooperation with Foxcroft Academy. The theater also produces a number of live theatrical productions during the year as well as host concerts, meetings, and community events. Another component of the theatre’s programming is first- and second-run movies, along with documentaries and art films.

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