NEWPORT, Maine — Town officials are aiming for the end of January or the beginning of February for the opening of the $1.1 million Newport Cultural Center, which will house the public library and the local historical society’s permanent collection.
Town Clerk Paula Scott said the opening originally had been scheduled for last weekend, however a major shipment of furnishings and shelving was delayed.
“The opening now is sort of a moving target,” she said Wednesday. “We’re a little gun-shy of setting an exact date because every time we think we are ready, there appears a new setback.”
Town Manager James Ricker said the library is expecting a tremendous increase in popularity once it opens. “It is state of the art. Marble countertops. Oak floors. A wonderful place for the children,” he said.
In addition, because the building has community meeting space, Ricker envisions a series of workshops, lectures and talks at the center.
“We’ve already had a request to use the community space for a meeting in April,” Scott said.
The town has been raising funds for several years to build the center, which will replace a tiny, outgrown library with no handicapped access and little room for programs, as well as the Newport Historical Society’s space on the third floor of the Gilman Building across the street.
The 10,640-square-foot cultural center will be a place for the community to gather, Ricker said, and part of a desire to revitalize the town’s downtown area.
Earlier this year, Newport received a $113,000 federal grant and a $357,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program, which enabled construction to begin. Although a contractor oversaw the construction, much of the work was done by Charleston Correctional Center inmates.