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Tri-Park Cooperative Housing picked for possible federal funding

If funds make it into the federal budget, the housing cooperative could get $1.3 million to help residents avoid damage from future flooding

BRATTLEBORO—Funding for infrastructure work at the Tri-Park Cooperative Housing is one of 10 projects selected by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., for Community Project Funding (known as earmarks) in the federal fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill.

If authorized, the organization could receive up to $1.3 million.

“This is very exciting and very wonderful,” Tri-Park Board President Kay Curtis said.

According to Curtis, in 2011, Tropical Storm Irene damaged 20 homes in the park.

If the park keeps losing homes to flooding, eventually not enough residents will remain to financially support the cooperative, she explained.

Approximately half of the organization’s earnings go toward paying debt, such as a loan to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure at Mountain Home, one of the three parks.

Tri-Park Cooperative Housing — comprised of Mountain Home Park, Glen Street, and Black Mountain Park — provides affordable housing to 1,000 residents, Curtis said. It is considered the largest mobile home park community in the state. Mountain Home houses almost 7 percent of Brattleboro’s population.

Curtis said that Tri-Park needs to move 42 housing units out of flood zones. The park is older than the federal flood maps, she added.

Some of the homes vulnerable to flooding sit in the Whetstone Brook’s floodplain, and some sit in its floodway, which means that the structures can be hit by the brook’s current during a flood.

The cooperative is also working to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure and to repair two bridges. A 2020 Master Plan created as part of the project estimates that more than $4 million is needed to implement the entire plan.

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board helped Tri-Park submit an application to Welch’s office in under a week, Curtis said.

If Welch’s earmark is approved by Congress, the $1.3 million request will go toward demolishing an existing maintenance building to make room for 18 homes, she said.

“We’ll get it all done eventually,” Curtis said.

Only the first step

According to a spokesperson for Welch, being nominated for inclusion in next year’s appropriations budget is good news — but it is also only the first step.

Welch’s recommendations will need to leap over multiple hurdles.

First, they must pass through the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s deliberations. The spending bill must then pass both the House of Representatives and Senate before going to President Biden for his signature.

Welch’s office announced the selected projects on April 28. Organizations from across the state applied for funding for such projects as building upgrades; supporting first-generation, low-income, and disabled students; opiate-use disorder treatment; and redevelopment of an industrial site.

Earmark spending is directed to specific projects or entities.

Welch’s website states that the House Appropriations Committee accepted up to 10 community projects from each member of Congress for possible inclusion in the federal appropriation bills.

Tri-Park was one of three Brattleboro organizations that presented their projects at an April Selectboard meeting, which Welch attended.

The Brattleboro Retreat had requested money for a worker recruitment and retention program, while Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Groundworks, The Brattleboro Retreat, and Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS) collectively sought funding for a health-care program for clients dealing with housing and mental-health issues.

Curtis says that she appreciates her fellow cooperative shareholders and wants the community to do so as well. Her neighbors are teachers, nurses, members of the town’s road crew, and custodians at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, she said.

If she needs to go to the hospital, Curtis said, she knows that the hospital is clean thanks to the work of her neighbor.

“The people in this park have retired from many years of providing services to this community at minimum or low-wage,” she said. “These are people to be celebrated.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #611 (Wednesday, May 5, 2021). This story appeared on page A5.

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