$33M dairy plant could bring 46 jobs

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BRATTLEBORO — Town officials are involved in talks about developing a $32.5 million dairy processing plant at the Exit One Industrial Park.

"The project will create

46 new jobs in the next two years at this facility, with no less than 51 percent made available to households of low or moderate income," Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland wrote in a memo last week, noting that such a description would make plans more favorable for grants. "[W]e can expect substantial job creation as the project reaches its full potential at some point late in its first five years of operations."

On Tuesday night, the Select Board will decide whether to approve a $1 million grant application to the Vermont Community Development Program and commit to using money from the town's utility fund to improve water/sewer capacity for about $840,000.

The grant would help Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. serve as project developer to Culture Made Vermont LLC.

The BDCC would acquire equipment and renovate its 343 John Seitz Drive property, previously leased to defense contractor L3 KEO. The Northampton, Mass., company closed its Brattleboro facility last year, saying the decision had to do with the need to "streamline business operations and achieve operational efficiencies."

Select Board members are expected to weigh in as the Culture Made project develops over the summer.

"Some future matters will be fairly straightforward, such as discharging a mortgage and approving the sale of property," Moreland wrote. "Others, such as the wastewater discharge permit, will require more careful consideration, as the Select Board exercises its duty to responsibly manage resources within the town's public utility."

Other funding sources are anticipated to include tax credits, rebates and grants. About $28.3 million of the project will come from private investment, according to the memo.

Culture Made is registered as a Brattleboro-based business on the Vermont Secretary of State's Corporate Divisions website.

In other business:

- The Select Board will discuss the "tax implications" of an Act 46 merger on property taxes in Brattleboro. Board member David Schoales is asking fellow board members to sign a letter to the state's Secretary of Education and Board of Education expressing concerns about how a merger with other school districts "would result in a transfer of resources from schools with the highest poverty rate in the region to schools with lower poverty rates and much smaller academic achievement gaps."

"The economic health of Brattleboro will be adversely affected if a school merger is forced on the community," the proposed letter says. "The unique town meeting system that has proven over decades to be sustainable and transparent would be jeopardized. Brattleboro is clearly a prime example of the exception anticipated by our legislators in Act 46, Sec. 5(c): 'An Education District as envisioned ... may not be possible or the best model to achieve Vermont's education goals ...'"

Schoales, who also serves on the Brattleboro Town School Board, previously asked the Select Board to take the subject up as the state considers mergers for districts that have not yet merged under the law. A proposed merger between Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney was overwhelmingly defeated in November.

- The Select Board will get an update about how funding for the skatepark at Living Memorial Park is coming along. It will be asked to accept and appropriate a grant from the Tarrant Foundation for up to $15,000. The figure will depend on matching funds from other donors.

- Terry Carter, of Brattleboro, will discuss her concerns about old tires found in the wetlands near the West River Trailhead.

- The board will be asked to authorize the town manager to order the new aerial ladder trail to avoid a higher cost due to the increasing cost of steel.

"We have been notified by Pierce Manufacturing that the cost of the truck will increase on May 1 by an estimated $26,150 (just shy of 3 percent) due to the rise in the cost of steel because of the tariffs," Fire Chief Mike Bucossi wrote in a memo last week.

He also received notification that the department will not receive grant funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the purchase. But other factors in the financing process are believed to lead to an overall savings of $37,905.

- Other topics at the meeting will include annual goal setting, rules for conduct and Representative Town Meeting "follow-up matters."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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