City recorder Randy Sanders and Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner at the SYCC board's meeting April 7. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Stockert board identifies USDA grant as possible funding source for proposed multipurpose addition

BUCKHANNON – The Stockert Youth & Community Center board is contemplating applying for a USDA grant to help pay for a new multipurpose building.

Mayor Robbie Skinner said he and several other city officials have been talking to Stacy Karickhoff, a representative with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about applying for a Rural Development grant that would benefit the proposed SYCC multipurpose addition.

“What we found is it’s heavily demographic-based: they want to know specifically what our median income is for our service area, and that’s what we have to determine,” Skinner said at the SYCC Board’s April 7 meeting. “Then, we had another meeting with Dale Shannon and the Downstream Strategies group, and we talked him about our conversation with the USDA, and there could be an opportunity to deal with Downstream Strategies, but Dale had some different demographic information than the USDA did about our service area.”

He said both Upshur County and the City of Buckhannon would have to calculate what their respective median incomes are to determine whether or not they would qualify for the grant.

“The USDA had Upshur County’s income as higher than the City of Buckhannon’s, which is not correct,” Skinner said. “The City of Buckhannon has a higher median income than Upshur County as a whole, so Downstream Strategies confirmed that, and now we have to work with our numbers and demographics.”

“If [the median income] is too far over $40,000, we are not eligible for these grants,” Skinner added.

This means the SYCC board has to define their service area and identify where the majority of SYCC’s kids are coming from — the city or the county.

“Both the USDA and Dale Shannon’s group suggested that we need to hone in, drill down and find out exactly where our kids are coming from. And after we figure out where they’re coming from, we need to look at the demographics of those particular areas,” Skinner said. “If they’re coming from the Adrian area, if they’re coming from the Hodgesville area, Rock Cave, French Creek, Tennerton or wherever, we need to figure out what the demographics are of those areas, which is possible to do.”

The grant would cover 15 percent of the overall cost of the project, so if the project comes out to $3.2-3.5 million, it would be 15 percent of that cost, or somewhere between $480,000 and $525,000.

“That basically doubles the amount of money we have in the capital campaign (approximately $440,000), and I’ve spoken with Amby, I’ve spoken with Randy and I’ve spoken with a couple of other council members and I think if we can get this grant, plus potential other corporate investment, I think the council goes ahead and we finance the rest,” Skinner said. ‘If we can essentially take care of one-third of the investment and then if we finance the other two-thirds, it makes the payment much more attainable.”

City director of finance and administration Amberle Jenkins told Skinner that currently, a loan would take several decades to pay off.

“Amby got some quotes and basically, 40 years is the lowest that we can go; that’s a long time and that’s at the $3 million-dollar level,” Skinner said. “If we can pull this down and talk about $2.2 million, that’s a lot different. I think we have the support to do it and I think it makes much more sense to finance it.”

Jenkins said a feasibility study would need to be done and the city will need to clearly define the purpose of the new building.

“When I look at the loan application, I feel we might have about a 50 percent chance of getting it because we might have to explain how this building will be used and the demographics like [Skinner] said,” Jenkins said. “If we’re saying 70 percent of those children are out in the county, we definitely won’t qualify because the demographics are looking at the whole service area. I’m optimistic and I agree with the mayor, if we could have another $400,000, we want to go ahead with this building.”

Jenkins said the application process is going to be difficult and require a grant writer, and Region VII Planning & Development Council is currently slammed with projects. City Recorder Randy Sanders said the city may have to look into hiring a grant writer of their own, in addition to the agreement they currently have through Create Buckhannon and Downstream Strategies.

“Create Buckhannon obtained the initial grant in order to hire Downstream Strategies, but if we start consuming a huge portion of attention from Downstream Strategies, I think we’re going to have to create another deal, another agreement with them,” Sanders said. “As Amby said, Region VII has been overwhelmed and will continue to be very, very busy with the grants they already have, so I don’t know where this would fit in, so I think it’d be wise for us to look into a different grant writer.”

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