EAGLE LAKE — Thanks to $1 million in USDA Rural Development funds, the more than 300 clients and patients of Northern Maine General have a new state-of-the-art facility for programming and administrative services.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” said Norman Fournier, president of Northern Maine General’s board of trustees. “The older building we had was basically a firetrap.”
In fact, it was two electrical fires in 2009 in the old building that prompted the organization’s staff and directors to actively seek funding and start construction of the new building.
“As early as 2007 we had spoken to a design engineer and were told it was more prudent to build an entirely new structure than try to renovate the old one,” Fournier said. “At the time we did not have the funding for new construction.”
Then came stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided the $1 million loan through USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Program.
The new building, which provides essential daily living skills and skills development programs for mentally disabled adults, cost $1,211,900.
The original 3,500-square-foot structure, which Fournier said has been torn down, was built in the 1940s and at one time served as housing for Catholic nuns.
The new building, which officially opened earlier this month, is almost double in size and includes two wings that allowed the addition of new client services and created 10 new jobs.
“Without the involvement of USDA Rural Development funding and the American Recovery and Reinvestment funds, this building would not have been possible,” Fournier said. “This is a great thing for the [Northern Maine General] corporation and for the community.”
Northern Maine General offers programs in mental health services, nursing care and assisted living, adult case management, child and family counseling, housing and physical and occupational therapy.
“This new building is really allowing us to expand our social services offerings,” said Melissa Boutot, Northern Maine General account supervisor. “This gives us an additional licensed facility to provide more programs.”
At the same time, the new building includes some upgrades for the staff.
“It’s all air-conditioned,” Boutot said. “We were all anxious to come to work when it got so hot and humid.”
Maine’s rural development director, Virginia Manual, was on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility last week.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds have been a great resource to bring about critical projects like this facility in Eagle Lake,” she said. “This is the kind of project that we should be supporting, ones that provide critical services to rural residents in northern Maine.”