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The Bellwood Auditorium has served as a meeting spot in the local community for decades.

Located at 710 Esplanade St. in Bellwood, the building is used by residents for baby showers, family gatherings, community organizations and village meetings. But with the passage of time, the village has decided it’s time to modernize the facility.

“It’s very old. It’s time to get it done,” Mel Bomar, chairman of the village board, said about the renovation project. “I think if we were able to, it would be more accessible to the public and people would use it more”

The plan is to redo the roof, update the kitchen, restrooms and make it more handicap accessible. Bomar said it’s estimated to cost $350,000. Village Clerk Angie Wellman said the village has been discussed the project for the past five years but has struggled to find a funding source for the renovations.

In August, the village completed work on renovating two city blocks in their downtown district. Streets, curves, gutters and drainage was fixed up and funded by a loan of about $355,000. With this loan on top of another the village is already paying off for their new water treatment plant built a few years ago, Wellman said the village can't afford to pay for ma third loan.

“We can’t get the funding that we need to go ahead,” Wellman said. “We could get a loan, but we don’t want to have another loan with already having a water loan and a street loan now. So we can't really afford to get another loan.”

The village plans on using money from the Dorothea Smith Fund in order to finance the project, along with pledges from local residents and other funding sources. However, Bomar said it’s not enough. So the village has been applying for grants and awaits being approved for one.

For several years, the village has applied for a Civic and Community Center Financing Fund grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, but so far its application has been rejected each time.

“We’ve tried grants before, but we always seem to miss the boat,” Bomar said.

Although the project is warranted, Bomar said, it can’t move forward until funding is fully secured. If and when that will happen is unknown, but Bomar said he is hopeful.

“We really can’t know anything until we’ve got the funds because we don't want to start anything if we’ve got to quit," Bomar said. “I think we’re going in the right direction in this community, but’s going to take time and money."

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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