EPA grants $500k to Windham Regional Commission

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BRATTLEBORO — On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $500,000 to the Windham Regional Commission to replenish its Brownfields Clean Up Revolving Loan Fund.

"We have a lot of projects in the pipeline," said Susan McMahon, Associate Director at the Windham Regional Commission. She noted that WRC has seven projects that might qualify for funding. If those projects qualify, they could require more than $1 million in loans and grants, she said.

"To date, the WRC RLF has made eight grants and four loans," said McMahon. "We have another grant and loan closing soon. This all results in $1.5 million in funds distributed."

McMahon noted that while the amount of a loan or grant may not always be large, they are essential in making redevelopment possible on brownfields sites in Windham County and Bennington County.

"WRC's funds contribute to the leveraging of over 22 million dollars in redevelopment funds in southern Vermont," she said.

Recently, said McMahon, the WRC fulfilled funding requests for the Saxtons River Park and for ongoing work to the Putnam Block in Bennington.

"This has resulted in the distribution of $1.5 million," she said, adding the funds from the EPA will revitalize the WRC's revolving loan balance.

WRC disburses grants to nonprofits and municipalities and loans to privately owned businesses.

Porjects that the WRC's revolving loan fund have helped or are helping to pay for include New England Youth Theatre's Livery Building project; Robertson Paper Mill in Bellows Falls; the Saxtons River Mill; the Bellows Falls Historical Society Trail; Main Street Arts renovation; the conversion of a factory in Wilmington to a bus transit facility for the Current; the demolition of the former Tri-State Auto building on Elm Street; the demolition of Planet Gas on Western Avenue; the renovation of Next Stage Arts in Putney; the restoration of a hydro-electric facility in Pownal; and the cleanup of property at the former Estey Organ factory.

McMahon said southern Vermont may have more than its share of brownfield sites due to its proximity to the Connecticut River.

"The Connecticut River Valley was one of the first to be developed and it contains some of our most important industrial heritage," she said.

The $500,000 disbursed to WRC is part of a $5.3 million package issued by the EPA to communities across New England.

"Brownfields redevelopment is a win-win for New England communities" said EPA regional administrator Alexandra Dunn. "These supplemental funds can help cleanup projects get to completion and ready for redevelopment."

In Vermont, in addition to the WRC, the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development each received $500,000.

The Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund program supports EPA's commitment to assist communities in addressing environmentally challenged properties and meet their local revitalization priorities. The supplemental funds announced today will help communities reuse vacant and abandoned properties and turn them into community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, health facilities, social services, transportation options, infrastructure and commerce opportunities.

More information on EPA's Brownfields program is available at http://www.epa.gov/brownfields.


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