The Dover-Foxcroft Theater said it could apply for a USDA grant without county support

The Dover-Foxcroft Center Theater will move forward with a plan to undertake structural repairs, despite the lack of support from the Piscataquis County commissioners. The US Department of Agriculture informed him that the project was eligible to apply for a grant that would fund part of the project.

While applying for a structural grant doesn’t appear to be an inflammatory problem, the application process over the past month has ignited political boondoggles in the region.

Last month, commissioners rejected an application from the nonprofit theater, when the organization requested a letter of support for a USDA community facilities grant application, which the theater hoped to use for repairing buildings. The no was an unusual decision, given that the theater has applied for and received similar grants in the past.

The three-member commission, which rejected the 2-1 request, questioned whether a company should use federal money, but also referred to the fact that members of the organization had protested against the anti- resolution. mask of the january commission.

Support from the government entity that represents the service area is one of the factors that go into approving grants, said theater general manager Patrick Myers. He told Mainebiz that the theater had applied for previous rural development grants from the USDA with no problem.

The theater presents films, hosts live performances and community events, educational programs and hosts the annual Maine Whoopie Pie festival

The USDA told Myers Friday that the theater has “significant community support” moving forward with the app. USDA’s rural development office in Bangor did not immediately comment this morning.

The commissioners say no, the community says yes

On March 23, commissioners said they would not support the project, questioning whether the money was going to a business. The commissioners also approved a resolution to verify previous theater grant spending.

Another problem, board members Jim White and Andrew Torbett said at the meeting, is that Myers and theater board chair Cynthia Cyr had harmed local businesses by speaking out against the January commissioners anti-mask resolution.

The resolution calls the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” and says that “research and study of the history of pandemics shows that face covers and locks only worsen and lengthen the duration of the virus” and “the same research shows that facial covers, while not preventing the virus, cause respiratory illnesses and pneumonia, with far worse devastation for the population. ”

Torbett also edged out Myers in the District 2 commission seat election in November.

Cyr and Myers said they opposed the resolution as individuals and did not speak for the theater when they protested.

Commissioners initially submitted the grant application aid request on March 9, saying they needed more information.

Myers appealed to the community for their support and recognition of the economic impact of theater. Myers told Mainebiz that the theater is an economic and cultural anchor for the community.

“In a typical year, we attract over 20,000 people whose entertainment dollars would otherwise be spent elsewhere,” he said. “We are also a tourist attraction and an asset to local businesses looking to recruit professionals to relocate.” He said the Maine Whoopie Pie Theater Festival “has also created a flagship event that brings immense financial and promotional benefits to the entire region.”

Before the March 23 vote, the county had received 105 emails, letters and phone calls in support of the theater and only one in opposition, county manager Michael Williams told the Bangor Daily News.

The USDA description of the program, which also provides loans, indicates that community-based nonprofits are eligible. The program provides funds to help “develop essential community facilities in rural areas”. The list of eligible entities includes community centers that provide community support, including things like fairs, childcare centers and more, as well as public institutions, health care centers, educational entities and other.

Priority is given to cities with a population of 5,500 or less and whose median household income is less than 80% of the state’s median non-metropolitan household income, both of which apply to Dover-Foxcroft. Its population is just over 4,000 and the median income is $ 35,521, according to US Census data; 80% of the state’s MAI is $ 37,700, according to the latest statistics from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The money can be used to buy, build or improve the property, as well as to buy equipment and pay for project expenses.

Courtesy / Théâtre du Center

The concrete pillars that support the Center Theater in Dover-Foxcroft are in need of repair, which may be partially funded by a grant from the USDA.

An expensive repair

The grant, if approved, would pay 55% of the cost of repairs to the 20-year-old concrete pillars that support the building, which juts out onto the bank of the Piscataquis River in downtown Dover-Foxcroft. The theater would increase the remaining 45%, Myers said. The submission process was delayed during the grant application process, so there is no cost estimate, but he said he had heard from engineers that it could be around $ 32,000. , but maybe over $ 50,000.

He said the USDA nod does not mean the request is approved. “But that means we are eligible to apply for the grant and the whole process can move forward.” The next steps are to complete the application and send the application file to know the cost of the work.

There is no timeline, but grants are usually decided within 45 days of application, the USDA said.

James Sewall Co. in Old Town is doing engineering work to assess the scope of the project.

Cyr said the work is in an area below the theater on the steep bank of the river. “Considering the difficult location and lack of easy access, we would expect this to be quite expensive, but we take our responsibility to take care of this special building very seriously,” she said. in a press release from the theater organization in March.

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