I am writing for two reasons—the district heat vote in Montpelier and a flood update.
On Tuesday Montpelier voters will consider allowing the City to bond for $2.75 million for a district heating system. A yes vote means the City will continue considering whether a district heating system for the city and the state, with the opportunity for some downtown properties to hook on, is in our best interest. A no vote stops the process—it releases the state’s commitment of $7 million and the $8 million federal grant will be lost to the city.
This is a complex and evolving project. All of us have questions, which have to be answered before we make a commitment to building the district heating system. There is a lot of information on the project on the city’s web site: http://www.montpelier-vt.org/ . I’ll just recite three basic facts here. 1.) The project is designed to cost no more than the city is currently spending heating three municipal buildings and two school buildings with oil. In other words—the cost of bonding and the cost of heating with the new system will be the same or less than the City is currently spending when it buys 100,000 gallons of oil a year. 2.) The approximately $300,000 we project to spend heating the five buildings will not be available to spend in another way if the bond is not approved. 3.) If this project does not work we will not move forward with it.
And I made a mistake in my op-ed piece in the paper when I said the bond would increase the bonding of the city by 1%–it is 10%. A big difference. I stand by the statement that it does not endanger the city financially. I apologize for that.
Can we afford to make this investment? We have to heat our buildings; do we believe that oil will stay below $3.05 a gallon, adjusted for inflation, over the next 20 years? Or should we make an investment in our community to move to wood? I think the question is can we afford not to pursue this investment?
The visible effects of the flood are mostly behind us. But there is a lot of work that continues in repairing the public infrastructure. And that means that the normal spring time work has been delayed. Painting cross walks, cleaning the streets, paving and sealing work will begin. The crosswalks need dry weather in order to be painted. The City Council and the voters significantly increased the budget for paving this past March, so we will start to see a difference on our streets.
What isn’t behind us is the very rough financial consequence of the flood to our businesses and some home owners. The flood was particularly hard on restaurants; they need to see you at their tables.
If businesses haven’t already, please provide the city with information on your losses—we are gathering this for the state. Homeowners should call 211 to report losses. The City has a housing preservation program which may be able to provide assistance to homeowners who experienced flooding damage. Information on the flood and resources are available at http://www.montpelier-vt.org/ . The Governor has an initiative to make $3 to $4 million available to businesses and non profits which sustained losses. If the State’s emergency board approves this proposal on Thursday, the Vermont Economic Development Authority will begin the process of making loans of up to $25,000 (terms will be 0% interest in the first year, 1% interest for the duration of the loan) available state-wide on a first come first serve basis. The program will be designed to have a very simple application process and very quick turnaround. Watch VEDA’s web site for info. http://www.veda.org/ . This money will go quickly.
As always, please be in touch if you have questions or concerns.
Mary S. Hooper
802 828-2228, state house