BELLOWS FALLS — The project to make the old Rockingham Memorial Hospital more energy efficient got some additional support from the Bellows Falls Village Trustees Tuesday.
The board gave Greater Rockingham Area Services (GRAS) $15,000 from its federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for a required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluation of the facility, which is needed by GRAS to apply for and hold on to state and federal grants. GRAS wants to replace the building’s old heating system with something more environmentally friendly and efficient.
GRAS administrator Marty Gallagher told the trustees that she needs to have an environmental review done as a condition of a $817,000 grant she has already received from the Northern Borders Regional Commission, and a new state-administered grant she applied for recently. She’s working with the Windham Regional Commission on the environmental review.
The motion by the trustees follows last week’s move by the Rockingham Select Board to apply for a $500,000 community development block grant on behalf of GRAS’ $2 million wood boiler conversion project. GRAS needs to cut its energy bill, and Gallagher has described the current oil-fired system as expensive and inefficient and said it threatens to shut down the entire complex because of its cost.
Gallagher wants to replace two, 60-year-old oil-fired boilers with a woodchip fueled system, with a propane backup.
The project has been at the top of the list of the village trustees when considering various projects that would receive a portion of the $800,000-plus ARPA funds.
Greater Rockingham Area Services has over the years converted the former local hospital into a center for health-related services, including the Windham Center for Psychiatric Care, a 10-bed facility run by Springfield Hospital, a health clinic, doctors’ offices and other medical services such as physical therapy, and a dental office. Other tenants include the local public access television station, FACT-TV, and a private health club.
The small community hospital closed in the 1990s, but maintained its position as a source of medical care in the region.
Gallagher said the state’s community development block grant board meets June 10, and she will hear more after that.
“Nothing has been granted from them as of yet,” she said.
Last year, she said she hoped to have the new heating system in place for the 2023-24 winter.
A NEPA study is an environmental assessment required by both the Northern Borders Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant prior to any release of their funds.