BRATTLEBORO — Bradley House officials met with residents, surveyed the property and looked at the conditions of the building. Then they decided on expansion.
"We said, 'This is the right thing to do. We need to keep the control of this building and this facility local. It's the right thing to do.' And the board has followed through over the last six months," said Bradley House Board Chairwoman Linda Rice. "It's scary at times but it's the right thing to do. And thank you, governor. It's the right thing to do to give us this money."
Gov. Peter Shumlin had the licensed residential care home as his backdrop during a press conference on Wednesday. The nearby facilities of the Holton Home and Bradley House in Brattleboro merged in December 2015.
The town will receive $450,000 in Vermont Community Development Program funding to assist the Bradley House with renovations and expansion. The project carries an overall price tag of $5.3 million and will ensure senior residents "can live in dignity," said Shumlin.
A 9,000-square-foot addition will bring a new kitchen, dining room and common areas in the first stage of renovations, which the Bradley House hopes to begin on Nov. 1 and finish by May 1.
Then everyone living in the three-story mansion will be moved for about seven months while existing units are updated. Each room will get its own bathroom and accessible shower. Seven new suites with a bedroom and living area will be added. The goal is to complete this aspect of the project by the end of 2017.
Bradley House Executive Director Cindy Jerome said the building needs improvements as some sections are in "terrible shape." New wiring, plumbing and fire alarm systems are part of the plan along with updates involving energy efficiency.
Currently, the facility has enough space for 28 residents. Capacity is expected to jump to 36 after construction.
The suites will cost more to live in, Jermone said. But the extra money will help her group underwrite residents who cannot pay their bills or whose Medicaid only covers a little bit.
One of the 36 rooms is going to be built specifically for a couple.
"It even has a two-sink vanity in the room," said Jerome.
The expansion should make for approximately three-and-a-half new jobs. Right now, there are 19 staff members.
"The staff and residents are like a family here," said Shumlin. "That's what makes Bradley House Bradley House."
He would know. His former mother-in-law worked there, he said.
Shumlin was in Brattleboro to announce $2.8 million in VCDP grants being awarded to various projects. The funding is made available through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"That's really going to make a difference across Vermont," Shumlin said. "What this does is take federal money that our congressional delegation is so good at finding and bring it home so it really can make a difference for Vermont."
Shumlin looked at the Brooks House redevelopment downtown as a rebirth for Brattleboro and a model for what can be done in other places.
A pilot program in Bennington is expected to encourage small-scale rental property owners to reinvest in their units via a grant-and-loan combination. The town will provide a subgrant to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
"Bennington's a part of making sure that we have jobs and job creators to be able to say, 'Hey, we got housing in our downtowns. It's vibrant,'" Shumlin said. "It means a lot having folks living downtown."
A $550,000 loan to turn a former paper mill into a wood-pellet manufacturing plant in Lunenburg is expected to create 21 new jobs. The project also would help with climate change, which Shumlin called "the biggest challenge."
"That's a big deal," said Shumlin. "Since I've been governor, we have 10 times the number of solar panels we had when I was elected. We have 20 times the number of windmills generating good clean energy. We're doing energy efficiency right. But Vermont needs wood pellets to ensure Vermonters can heat their homes with a good renewable resource and keep the money right here in the community instead of shipping it off to Saudi Arabia."
One in 17 jobs in Vermont today, he said, are in the renewable energy sector and are a result of the "green energy revolution that we are creating in this state to make sure that we get climate change right."
The town of Arlington will administer a $375,000 loan to Shires Housing and Housing Vermont. Together, the groups will rehabilitate 22 units of affordable rental housing in Arlington, Bennington and Shaftsbury.
The town of Bradford was given $450,000 to be loaned to Downstreet Housing & Community Development, which will update 21 affordable apartments for seniors and families in Bradford Village.
The town of Rochester is receiving $455,000 for Rochester Community Care Home Inc. to complete improvements around safety and energy, and modernize the Park House, which is described in a press release as a community housing development for frail seniors.
The city of Rutland received $250,000 that will go to Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging as a grant to assist with renovating a 5,000-square-foot property for senior housing.
The town of St. Johnsbury was given a $29,535 grant to conduct an assessment of the housing stock in town.
Brattleboro Select Board Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor noted the importance of the funding. She served on the Community Development Board, which reviews applications for these grants, for 12 years.
"I can say on behalf of the town of Brattleboro, we appreciate that the Bradley House was awarded the money," O'Connor said. "This is a wonderful facility and it allows people who can live independently to be able to do that with just a little bit of extra help."
Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy could not make it to the press conference. But they were busy fighting a "terrible bill," said Shumlin, referring to proposed legislation around transparency for labelling of foods with genetically modified organisms. The senators had representatives attend the event.
"We're incredibly proud of Senator Sanders all over Vermont for his great efforts to try and make this country better," said Shumlin. "I know Congressman (Peter) Welch wishes he could be here as well. He's doing a great job for us, working with some of the best minds of the 17th century down there in Congress."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.