During a news conference in Chester Monday, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials announced eight organizations across the state will share $430,326 in USDA Rural Development Community Facility grants, loans and loan guarantees to purchase, improve or construct essential community assets. The federal funds provide rural communities with an incentive to invest in facilities and equipment that improve the quality of life across Vermont’s rural communities.
The Brighton Fire Department, the Burke Town School District, Chester’s Whiting Library, Hancock’s Town Clerk’s Office, Heartbeet Lifesharing Corporation of Hardwick, the Paramount Theatre of Rutland, the Sheffield-Wheelock Volunteer Fire Department, and Turning Point of Windham County in Brattleboro each received a portion of the funding.
"Small rural towns and the non-profit organizations that serve them depend upon Rural Development for grants, loans and loan guarantees to help provide essential community services that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive or place an increased burden on already cash-strapped Vermonters, " said USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. "These grants will help expand healthcare services, reduce energy costs, protect firefighters, ensure the hearing impaired have access to arts venues, and help towns invest in their physical infrastructure. "
During the news conference in front of Chester’s Whiting Library, one of the grant recipients, Brady presented certificates to the eight grantees:
· Brighton Fire Department: $33,100 grant to purchase turnout gear including helmets, hoods, gloves, boots, jackets and pants for 19 firefighters.
· Chester’s Whiting Library: $41,900 (grant) and $57,900 (loan) to repair and renovate the historic Whiting Library building.
· Rutland’s Paramount Theatre: $8,900 grant to purchase a portable assisted-hearing system to accommodate hearing-impaired customers and LED stage lighting that will cut Paramount’s energy costs by over $6,000 a year.
· Burke Town School District: $50,000 grant to replace an existing oil heating system at a K-8 public school with a wood pellet furnace and backup generator to improve heating efficiency.
· Hancock: $50,000 grant to renovate the 1850 school house to serve as a town clerk’s office and community library.
· Heartbeet Lifesharing Corporation: $10,000 grant to purchase a vehicle to transport developmentally disabled adults and their caregivers to work and community events.
· Sheffield-Wheelock Volunteer Fire Department: $16,400 grant to purchase a wild lands truck to replace an older, less versatile pumper and a rescue vehicle to promote increased safety in remote locations of the Northeast Kingdom.
· Turning Point of Windham County Corp: $162,126 guaranteed loan in collaboration with Brattleboro Savings and Loan to purchase and renovate a Brattleboro facility to facilitate addiction treatment.
"Living in a rural state like Vermont is not something we do because it’s easy. It’s something we do because we love this land and the way of life that comes with it, " said Lt. Governor Phil Scott. "That way of life isn’t always easy, and these eight loan grants reinforce the vital role that rural communities like ours play in shaping our national landscape. From energy efficiency to addiction treatment to providing gear for some of our state’s 5,500 volunteer firefighters, I know these USDA Rural Development dollars will be put to good use and improve the lives of countless Vermonters. "
In a joint statement, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Representative Welch said: "This practical leverage will go a long way in these eight communities to move many worthy projects from the wish list to reality. The USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program has a proven track record of making quality investments in the infrastructure of the community. We believe that should be a high priority. These investments improve the quality of life for Vermonters, and this is a program that works and one we fought for in the 2014 Farm Bill. "
Brady noted that more than $100,000 of the grant funding announced Monday was awarded due to Senator Patrick Leahy’s recent efforts to reauthorize the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone program in the Farm Bill. The designation affords organizations in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont -- Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties – access to a reserved set of USDA funding for the nation’s five REAP Zones.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $197 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development Website (www.rurdev.usda.gov/nh-vtHome.html) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.