HANCOCK - There is more money available to small communities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, and that could be good news for Laurium.
At the regular meeting of the Laurium Village Council Tuesday, village engineer Eric Waara of U.P. Engineers & Architects, said as he was trying to determine if there was a chance the village could get some money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he learned of another funding possibility.
"At the same time, I started talking to Rural Development," he said.
What he found was the agency has money available at a low interest rate.
"They have a significant amount of money they have to spend by June," he said.
Because of that, Waara said the village might be able to fund projects the federal government may have considered "marginal" in the past.
After his discussions with Rural Development representatives, Waara said he was encouraged.
"They're definitely looking at Laurium," he said.
Village administrator Ed Vertin said he was in contact with Rural Development and U.P. Engineers & Architects about possible projects in the village before President Barack Obama was inaugurated and before he announced the economic stimulus plan.
"I jumped every hoop I could as quick as I could," Vertin said.
He said possible funding for the village from Rural Development could be between $1 million and $2 million in a combination of loan and grant, which would be determined by the agency.
Waara said if funding is available from Rural Development, the continuation of the upgrading of the water system on the north end of the village could be done.
However, Waara said the council needed to hurry if they want to apply for funds.
"They need to get everything in by June," he said.
The council voted unanimously to allow Vertin and Waara to begin the process of applying for Rural Development funds.
On another possible federal funding issue, the council set its priorities for three projects which may be able to receive money from the Federal Transit Administration Small Urban grant program.
Vertin said the resurfacing projects he's identified are Osceola Street near the entrance to Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital from Boundary Street to Isle Royale Street, most of First Street and Third Street from Hecla Street to Isle Royale Street.
"Osceola Street should be the No. 1 priority," Vertin said.
The No. 2 project should be First Street, and Third Street should be No. 3, Vertin said.
The council voted unanimously to set the priorities as Vertin listed them with Councilman Kevin Harju, who is also the Houghton County Road Commission engineer, abstaining because the road commission may also be applying for some Small Urban program money.
In other business, the council:
re-appointed Randy Golus to the Laurium Housing Commission.
approved sending a letter to the Legislature requesting that the Michigan State Police crime lab in Marquette not be closed.
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at email@example.com.