A postcard of the Rockingham Memorial Hospital in the 1950s. The building’s renovation got a big boost with a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project.
A postcard of the Rockingham Memorial Hospital in the 1950s. The building’s renovation got a big boost with a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project.

For 11 projects in state, $4.6 million from the feds

Grants will fund home repair program, renovations to former Rockingham hospital building, and other work

The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust (WWHT) and Greater Rockingham Area Services (GRAS) are two of 11 applicants in Vermont to receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Recovery Housing Program (RHP) federal funding awards through the Vermont Community Development Program.

Governor Phil Scott and the Department of Housing and Community Development announced the recipients of a total of $4,591,000 on Dec. 14.

In Brattleboro, WWHT is the sub-grantee that will receive a $440,000 CDBG supplemental award to administer the Green Mountain Home Repair Loan Fund to provide affordable home repair financing and housing counseling services to eligible homeowners in Windham and Windsor counties.

WWHT Executive Director Elizabeth Bridgewater says the program includes providing low-cost loans and/or grants to income eligible homeowners to make repairs and/or undertake rehab projects to "improve the health and safety of their homes." Examples include installing new roofs or new heating systems, replacing outdated electrical wiring, and addressing mold.

"The Green Mountain Home Repair Program is a wonderful resource for homeowners in southeastern Vermont to improve the quality of their homes," Bridgewater says. "The low interest rates, small grants, and support from our team of home repair specialists help homeowners navigate the sometimes complicated process of developing a project, hiring a contractor, and getting the job done."

Hospital building renovations

A $250,000 award, funneled through the town of Rockingham, is to help sub-grantee Greater Rockingham Area Services replace its oil heating system with a biomass wood chip system and make associated renovations to the building, the former Rockingham Memorial Hospital, at 1 Hospital Court.

GRAS Administrator Marty Gallagher has been working to raise the needed $1.9 million for the project for several years.

"I don't think it's unusual when raising this much money that it takes this long," she says. "I think that's the norm. You have to be persistent. And every grant gets us one step closer."

The total project to upgrade energy systems at the former hospital includes replacing two boilers, 33 and 58 years old, respectively, with one new energy-efficient biomass boiler, a boiler backup system, and a silo to store the wood chips used as fuel.

The plan will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 507%.

Tenants collectively employ about 85 people and serve about 150 clients daily. Along with the Rockingham Health Center, GRAS tenants include Springfield Hospital's Windham Center for Psychiatric Care, North Star Health, HCRS (Health Care and Rehabilitation Services), Front Line Foundations of North America, the Rockingham Dental Center, and Greater Rock Fitness.

Falls Area Community TV (FACT), the region's local access cable studio, also operates from the facility.

To date, Gallagher has also received a $817,980 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), a federal/state partnership for economic and community development within the most distressed counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York; a $72,000 grant from the Vermont Capital Investment Program; $50,000 in Efficiency Vermont incentives; and $100,000 from the Bellows Falls Village ARPA fund. She has also successfully raised $100,000 from community donations.

She has also applied for two additional grants, about which she should hear in 2024.

"If I get those two grants, we'll be fully funded," Gallagher says.

Enhancing communities

"The Community Development Block Grant program continues to enhance communities throughout the state," said Scott. "With these grants, we are making child care more available, making public spaces more accessible, and adding affordable housing to cities and towns across Vermont."

Scott thanked the state's congressional delegation - Sens. Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Becca Balint - "for their continued work to keep these federal dollars coming to Vermont."

In a joint statement, the three lawmakers wrote that the CDBG program "helps create stronger and more resilient communities here in Vermont and around the country."

"This federal investment will jump start meaningful improvements in towns and cities across the state," they said. "CDBG funds provide the resources our communities need to make critical projects a reality. We look forward to seeing Vermonters benefit from this important work."

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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