By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Three Rocky Boy organizations - Head Start, the Rocky Boy Health Board, and Stone Child College - can proceed with their construction projects after being awarded a total of about $385,000 in rural development grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As part of the grants, Head Start will receive $100,000 to finish the interior and exterior of its new facility behind the new Stone Child College campus. Stone Child College will receive $184,861 to put in sidewalks, handicap-accessible ramps and outdoor lighting near its new academic building. The Rocky Boy Health Board will receive $100,000 to help build a new health clinic.
The Fort Belknap Indian Community also received a grant of about $50,000 to study the possibility of an ethanol production facility.
Those projects were among 309 approved grant requests - for a total of about $45 million - in 34 states, according to a press release from USDA Rural Development.
The grant for the Head Start program will help its new facility meet federal standards that require a minimum number of square feet per child, both in the building and on the playground, said Barbara Stiffarm, program development specialist at RJS & Associates, a Rocky Boy-based private service firm. The firm wrote the grant applications for Early Start/Head Start and Stone Child College.
The building was built with the help of another funding source, and this money will help finish the project, Stiffarm said.
Judith Henderson-Wood, the Early Head Start manager at Rocky Boy, said the building cannot be used until the improvements are made. Until then, teachers make home visits to children up to age 3, and children ages 3-5 go to two different centers at Rocky Boy. Once the building is finished this fall, all the children will be in one building.
"We were really fortunate in getting help from the USDA to help complete some of the work we weren't able to get funded for," she said, adding that the organization has been unable to finish the project because it ran out of money last spring. "It's a brand new building and we've been really anxious to get in that building for the last year," she said.
The Head Start program at Rocky Boy serves about 167 children.
The total cost of the project is more than $2 million. Work on the building should be completed by December, Stiffarm said.
The money for Stone Child College will pay for part of the cost of sidewalks, handicap-accessible ramps, exterior lighting and landscaping at the new facility.
"That particular grant, at least for this project, was the last of the necessary funding we needed to completely do the project," said Stone Child College president Steve Galbavy. He said the entire campus project will have cost about $5.5 million by the time it is done.
Stiffarm said that when the main academic building was built last year, a temporary gravel parking lot was installed, and sidewalks and lighting were left undone until a later date.
That caused difficulties for handicapped students, and night classes at Stone Child made the lighting important.
"We will finish up all the sidewalk so a handicapped individual can get from building to building," Stiffarm said. Lights will be put in, and a culvert will be installed between the main academic building and the library to prevent erosion. Handicapped parking spaces in the parking lot will also be paved, she said.
Galbavy said the college hopes to pave the entire parking lot next spring.
The grant for the health facility was written by the Rocky Boy Environmental Department, Stiffarm said.