Athol Daily News – Royalston seeking USDA grant for Raymond building project<br />

  • The town of Royalston plans to seek a $2.5 million loan — $811,000 of which would come in the form of a grant — to transform the former Raymond School into town offices. The project will be considered at a Special Town Meeting later this month. staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Royalston Building Committee member Tom Musco, left, discusses details of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan and grant the town hopes to secure to fund the transformation of the former Raymond School building into the new home for several town offices. Selectboard chair Deb D’Amico looks on. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News

Published: 2/7/2022 3:16:59 PM

Modified: 2/7/2022 3:15:22 PM

ROYALSTON — Tom Musco, a member of Royalston’s Building Committee, has updated the town’s Selectboard on his efforts to find the funding needed to transform the former Raymond School into a new home for most municipal offices. Musco, the husband of Selectboard Chair Deb D’Amico, told the board at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, that he’s pushing ahead with plans to seek both a loan and a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He did tell the board he also explored the possibility of securing a commercial loan to pay for the work.

“Because of something I got in an email I got from the USDA that said getting the loan and the grant were not guaranteed,” he said, “(Building Committee Chair) Jim Barclay wondered if we might do better if we got a loan locally.”

Musco said a loan officer at Athol Savings Bank told him that interest rates from the bank would range from 4 to 5 percent. Interest on a USDA loan, Musco added, would be “3½, at the highest.” In addition, he was told that Athol Savings could provide a loan stretching no longer than 25 years, while a USDA loan could run for as long as 40 years.

The loan officer, said Musco, “totally recommended that we go with the USDA loan. It kind of speaks for itself.”

He then provided the board with some specifics on moving ahead with USDA funding.

“I got a list from the USDA for three different amounts,” he explained, “$2.25 million, $2.5 million, and $3 million. The actual cost of the project looks like about $2.3 million, and what the USDA told me was if the town, at the Town Meeting and at the ballot vote — we approve an amount of less than what it’s going to cost, we’ll have to have another (town meeting) vote and another ballot vote to approve a higher amount.

“So, my recommendation is we ask them for $2.5 million. Right now, at the high interest rate, that repayment would be $73,174 a year. If we get the lower interest rate — and I don’t know how they decide what interest rate to give us — it would be $60,727 every year.”

Musco said he was told by a USDA representative the town would likely get a rate of 3¼ percent.

“Is that payback amount figuring in that we would get the grant?” asked D’Amico, to which Musco responded in the affirmative.

“So, it’s really paying back 65 percent of $2.5 million?” she added.

“Yes,” Musco replied. “If we get a loan for $2.5 million, the grant would be about $811,000. So, the $73,000 (per year) is the amount to pay back on the difference.”

“I would definitely go along with Tom’s recommendation to go along with the $2.5 million level,” said board member Chris Long, “because we all remember how we had to scramble in the last days of the (Town Hall) elevator saga where, when we finally went out to bid, we didn’t have enough money to pay for the project. We scrambled and scrambled to make that happen. It was a nail-biter for quite a while.”

Musco said town treasurer Rebecca Krause-Hardie is in the process of ascertaining what the cost in property taxes would be for the average Royalston household.

“The last thing that has to be done that we can’t do to complete our loan application,” Musco continued, “is a financial feasibility report of the town’s finances. I spent about a month looking for a CPA or accountant who would do this. I contacted FRCOG, Tighe & Bond, Mass Municipal Association, NewVue Communities, the Mass Association of Accountants, the Athol town manager, Athol Savings Bank, and some individual accountants; either they didn’t have the time to do it, or they just didn’t want to do it because it was a government project they just didn’t want to deal with.”

Ultimately, Musco explained, he located a Denver, Colorado-based company, Wert-Berater, Inc., which specializes in completing the kind of report the town needs. He said the company recently did some work for Greenfield, which received a USDA grant to turn a commercial building into a city-owned facility.

The company’s fee for undertaking the Royalston project, he said, would be $9,500, adding that Wert-Berater said it would complete the report within 20 days. That, said Musco, would fit with the town’s timeline for submitting the USDA application. He cautioned, however, no agreement should be signed until after the Raymond building project had received formal voter approval at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on Feb. 26,

The board agreed to look at several potential sources of cash to pay the company’s fee.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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Royalston seeking USDA grant for Raymond building project – Athol Daily News

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