BRATTLEBORO -- Turning Point of Windham County Executive Director Suzie Walker has learned a lot about the federal funding process while taking on a rehabilitation project for the organization's new downtown location.
Turning Point is a recovery support center that helps people who are working to remain sober after bouts of addiction, and it has been trying to rehabilitate a downtown building after operating off of Putney Road for about two years.
Back in the fall Walker was scheduled to tour the group's new proposed center on Elm Street with representatives from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, who were going to help approve a guaranteed loan for the project. She learned that morning that a government shutdown was imminent. The tour was canceled and the loan application was delayed.
Once the federal government got its act together, Walker was able to get her application in and while she was assured that USDA Rural Development would back the project, she had to wait while the loan application made its way through the slow bureaucratic process.
The work started at 39 Elm St., but Turning Point was told it would have to be patient until the money was secured. On Monday Walker found out that the money was indeed on its way.
USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady announced at a press conference in Chester that Turning Point will get a $162,126 guaranteed loan through Brattleboro Savings and Loan, which will cover about 90 percent of the Elm Street project.
Brady made the announcement at Chester's historic Whiting Library, which also received a $41,900 grant and a $57,900 loan to repair and renovate the building.
Brady announced more than $430,000 in federal funding for projects in Brattleboro, Chester, Brighton, Burke, Rutland, Hancock, Hardwick and Sheffield-Wheelock.
"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," Brady said. "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 infrastructures."
"It's taken a long time to get through the process," Walker said. "We knew we were in good shape, and that it was going to happen, but we heard late last week that is was really happening. This is very good news."
Turning Point is a non-profit organization that offers a safe, supportive gathering place which includes peer support, an education meeting place and resources for anyone who has been affected by addiction. The group used to have a location off of Elliot Street, but had to cut back on expenses and they moved out to Putney Road back in August 2011.
After about a year, while compiling statistics the group has to track for its funding, Walker said visits were down by about 60 percent. She said it became apparent that a new downtown location would have to be secured.
"It was definitely a barrier for our people to get out to Putney Road," she said. "We need to be downtown to better serve the people in recovery."
They found the building at 39 Elm St., which had received extensive damage in Tropical Storm Irene, and Turning Point was able to purchase it at a discount.
The budget for the whole project, which includes the purchase price, is about $190,000.
While she was waiting for the USDA money to be finalized Turning Point was able to purchase the building and volunteers have been able to start work on the structure.
With the federal money now on its way, she said, contractors can be hired and she hopes Turning Point staff will be at their new location in late August or September.
"We knew we would have the funding, but it took a while to find out for sure," Walker said. "It's taken us a long time to get through the process. There was some red tape to cut through but we got there."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.