LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa, Aug 15, 2013 -- As students across the nation prepare to head back to school, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams today announced that USDA has committed almost $12 million for the construction of a public charter school building in Bear Creek Township. He also announced that USDA has loaned $16,900 for the purchase of a police vehicle in Pittston City through the Community Facilities program.
"These projects provide a significant benefit to rural Luzerne County," Williams said. "The school is providing innovative educational opportunities for young families, and the police vehicle is addressing public safety in a city that is in the midst of a downtown revitalization project."
Bear Creek Community Charter School currently operates out of a group of small, outdated buildings located along a highway. The existing facility was intended for an enrollment of 240, but it now has an enrollment of more than 400 and a waiting list exceeding 100 students. The $12 million in USDA funds will be leveraged with a $6.4 million borrower contribution to construct a two-story 63,000-square-foot building.
The new school will meet the demand for enhanced educational opportunities, including environmental education. Located on a 97-acre tract, the school will provide environmental learning opportunities, field work, and school-wide environmental leadership opportunities. Preliminary plans for the school grounds include an outdoor classroom, interpretive trail, rain gardens, educational stations, and soccer and softball fields. Construction is expected to be completed by the summer of 2015.
Pittston City leaders say the newly purchased police vehicle, equipped with a K-9 area, harness, siren and lights, will improve public safety in the community. In addition to the police vehicle loan, USDA also recently provided Community Facilities funding for renovations to Pittston City Hall, the third phase of a streetscape project, and a library expansion.
The Community Facilities Program supports essential community facilities for public use in rural areas. So far this year, USDA Rural Development has provided more than $61.5 million in Community Facility loans and grants to rural Pennsylvania communities.
USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
Williams said today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. He said a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, and that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio nearing $189 billion with programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
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