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Town approves funds for feasibility study for proposed Groundworks site

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard unanimously approved two funding sources for a feasibility study by Groundworks Collaborative for 39 Frost St.

First, the board approved submitting a grant application to the state for its Vermont Community Development Program. The board also approved a municipal grant to help fund the feasibility study.

Groundworks seeks to move some of its services and programs now at the cramped Drop-In Center at 60 South Main St. to a new location. So far, 39 Frost seems to be the new location, although Groundworks has yet to purchase the property.

Town Manager Peter Elwell told the board that the Brattleboro community has held many discussions around homelessness and how to best help people affected by the issue.

It’s a challenge the whole community must face together, he said.

The board approved an application to the state’s Vermont Community Development Program for $30,000.

Staff also recommended, and the board approved, a town-based grant of $5,500. This grant came from program funds in what is commonly called the revolving loan fund.

Groundworks, a nonprofit, can receive funds from the program in the form of a grant.

Before a relocation can happen, Groundworks needs to determine whether 39 Frost St. is affordable, can be redesigned to meet program needs, and requires environmental contaminant clean-up.

Conducting a feasibility study to determine what can happen at the property and at what cost is the first step.

Two organizations, Morningside Shelter and Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center, merged this year after a three-year process.

While services under the new Groundworks have not changed, said Executive Director Joshua Davis, the collaborative wants to establish a single point of entry for people needing its services.

The organization also must find a new home for the emergency winter shelter. For eight years, the seasonal shelter has operated out of the First Baptist Church on Main Street. Groundworks hopes to have a permanent home for the shelter by year’s end. 39 Frost St. might be that new location.

Davis told the board that expanding the building at 60 South Main proved too difficult and expensive. The former auto body shop on Frost Street was available and has the potential to expand.

Groundworks is working on the relocation project with Stevens & Associates of Brattleboro. The company aims to complete the study by the end of this year.

The feasibility study will look at such items as building costs, environmental hazards, brownfield mitigation, funding sources, and building design, said Bob Stevens.

“We’re really just getting started,” Stevens told the board.

The initial project phase is estimated at $41,000, according to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland. The feasibility study will take approximately $30,000 of that budget.

Selectboard member John Allen said he hoped the project moves quickly, as the community needs Groundworks and the longer projects take the more expensive they become.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #322 (Wednesday, September 9, 2015). This story appeared on page D4.

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