USDA invests $243 million in rural community facility improvements

Assistant to the secretary of agriculture for rural development Anne Hazlett May 16 announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $243 million in 50 rural community facility projects in 22 states.

“Rural communities represent a wealth of opportunity,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary (Sonny) Perdue’s leadership, USDA is a partner in bringing those opportunities to life—whether attracting jobs, accessing additional capital, or improving the quality of life in these towns through access to modern community services.”

USDA is making the investments through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The recently passed 2018 omnibus bill increased the fiscal year 2018 budget for the program to $2.8 billion, up $200 million from FY 2017.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for funding, such as schools, health care facilities, libraries and infrastructure improvements. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally and state-recognized Native American tribes in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. There is no limit on the size of the loans. Loan amounts have ranged from $10,000 to $165 million.

Projects were announced in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Regional awardees include:

In Colorado:

Cache la Poudre Fire and Emergency Group, Inc., $1.8 million—this Rural Development investment will be used to purchase two fire stations, one of which will be demolished and rebuilt because it is too small to meet the service area’s needs. The new facility will have 3,500 square feet on the main level and 700 square feet on the second floor mezzanine. The second floor will be exclusively used for equipment storage. In addition, the facility will include a four-bay building with support spaces. The fire station will incorporate environmental and sustainable design components that reduce operational costs and its carbon footprint. The new station will reduce emergency response times by 15 minutes. The 60-mile-long district serves residents adjacent to rustic Bellevue and Poudre canyon.

In Kansas:

Osborne County, $18.735 million—this Rural Development investment will be used to construct a 38,739-square-foot hospital in Osborne, Kansas. The county’s current hospital is aging, and has structural, mechanical and other problems. The new hospital will have 16 inpatient beds, an outpatient clinic, laboratory and radiology departments, food service, physical therapy and administrative offices. Emergency services will also be located in the new hospital. This project will serve a population of 3,858.

Dorrance Fire District Number 4, $265,000—this Rural Development investment will be used to expand the Dorrance Rural Fire District #4. The fire department lacks adequate space to store all of the district’s equipment in a safe and secure building. The addition will be large enough to house all of the district’s fire trucks. A shower and restrooms will be added. The population served by the project is 185.

In Nebraska:

City of Pawnee City, $2.248 million—this Rural Development investment will be used to repave 3.8 miles of asphalt with concrete. Culverts will be replaced, and a box culvert will be converted to twin 72-inch diameter culverts. The existing asphalt and rock streets have deteriorated to the point where repair is no longer feasible. Complete replacement is necessary to provide safe, navigable streets.

In South Dakota:

City of Sturgis, $4.6 million—this Rural Development investment will be used to make improvements to the campus of the public works department. The city will demolish three buildings and build a 38,000-square-foot one. The new main building will be made of two 100-foot by 120-foot shop buildings—one for maintenance and one for vehicle/equipment storage. These two buildings will be connected by a structure that will house administration office spaces, crew and training spaces, and areas for utility service vehicles and the shop functions. Additionally, a salt storage building, a three-sided vehicle storage building, a fueling station and a public water outlet will be constructed.

In Texas:

Moore County Hospital District, $4 million—This Rural Development investment will be used to renovate the hospital and add approximately 55,000 square feet in a two-story structure located next to the hospital. The addition will include an emergency department, surgery rooms, obstetrics, a new patient registration department and 25 medical/surgical beds. It will house virtually all of the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient services. The Hospital District serves nearly 20,000 people.

In April, Hazlett said USDA would prioritize investments to address the opioid crisis in rural communities. In Community Facilities Grant Program, rural communities, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized tribes can apply through the usual Community Facilities grant application process for grants up to $150,000 for innovative projects such as mobile treatment clinics. Community Facilities grants may fund up to 75 percent of an eligible project.

Last year, President Donald Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

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USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit