Brandon Library receives $1m fed grant through Sen. Welch


BRANDON—The Brandon Free Public Library (BFPL) received word last week from Senator Peter Welch’s office that it would receive a $1,000,000 grant toward its ongoing renovation and upgrade project.  BFPL was one of 19 recipients throughout Vermont chosen by Welch’s office for Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) funds in the FY2025 budget cycle.  Altogether, Senator Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representative Becca Balint have so far announced $75 million in 2025 CDS grants for Vermont, with more expected to come.

BFPL is currently undertaking a massive $4.5-million renovation and upgrade of its historic building on Park Street in downtown Brandon.  The project will bring the aging structure up to current standards of accessibility, including handicapped-accessible bathrooms and an elevator to all four floors, and will rectify issues with its structural integrity.  Built in the 1830s, and expanded in the 1960s, the edifice was suffering from significant structural deterioration that compromised its safety.

The project began last spring, when BFPL vacated Park Street and took up temporary residence in the basement meeting room at the Town Hall, and is expected to finish this coming summer.

“We’re overjoyed.  These funds will allow us to complete the last phase of the renovation,” said David Roberts, president of the BFPL Board of Trustees.  “The federal grant process is long and complex and depends on so many factors that are out of our control.  We’re extremely grateful to Senator Welch and his staff for all of their help in securing this money.”

The renovation had been projected to cost $2.2 million when it was first conceived in 2021 but, in part because of the skyrocketing cost of labor and materials during and after the pandemic and in part because of problems with the building discovered during the planning process, the estimate ballooned to $4.5 million by 2023, when ground was officially broken.  The $2.6 million in donations and grants that had been raised by BFPL and its auxiliary Friends of the Brandon Library was no longer sufficient to cover the cost of the entire project.

The specific federal source of the $1 million is the Community Facilities Grant program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Senator Welch and his staff selected BFPL’s application for recommendation to the USDA.  BFPL will still have to meet strict conditions set by the USDA for disbursement of the funds, which will not be available to BFPL until 2025.

“It’s not like the government just cuts us a check for a million dollars,” said Roberts.  “Senator Welch has directed the USDA to provide the money but, as with all federal grants, there are very tight rules as to how the money is actually ‘drawn down.’ We have to explain to the USDA how that money will be spent and, if they approve our specific plan, we can start accessing that money in 2025.  It’s really a reimbursement program: we will be reimbursed for $1 million of expenses incurred in 2025, when the funds kick in, if we can show that those expenses meet the USDA’s criteria.”

Though the main phase of the renovation is projected for completion this summer, with the first and second floors scheduled to re-open to the public in July or August, the basement and third floor, which will contain mostly public meeting spaces, will not be completed until 2025, when the CDS funds are available.

Other CDS grants obtained through Sen. Welch’s office include:

  • $5 million for the Champlain Housing Trust for the Bay Ridge Neighborhood Development, which will create 68 permanently affordably apartments and 26 shared-equity condominiums 
  • $5 million for the Bennington County Industrial Corporation for Mount Anthony House, which will result in 63 new apartments, two new medical facilities and additional retail locations in downtown Bennington 
  • $4.75 million for the Vermont National Guard for an addition to the National Guard Readiness Center 
  • $3 million for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) for the Central Vermont Transit Operations Facility 
  • $2.2 million for the Town of Waterbury to extend the water line to the East Wind Mobile Home Park  
  • $1.24 million for the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department to upgrade and modernize the emergency communication radio network   
  • $1.2 million for the Burlington School District to manage and treat stormwater from a new high school on the Burlington High School Campus 
  • $1 million for the Brandon Public Library to improve the public library’s safety and accessibility  
  • $1 million for the Springfield Regional Development Corporation for the Park Street School: Business Incubator & Accelerator  
  • $865,000 for the Town of Berlin to replace a pump station   
  • $825,000 for the Town of Fairfax for upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment facility  
  • $824,000 for the Village of Johnson to build a new maintenance garage for the Village  
  • $750,000 for the Town of Vershire to build a new garage for the Town 
  • $500,000 for the Vermont Woodlands Association for technical assistance, education and outreach, and financial assistance for forest management to Vermont families who own forested lands  
  • $408,000 for the Town of Highgate’s Recreation Facility roof and entrance repair  
  • $400,000 for the Town of Lyndon for the Sanborn Covered Bridge revitalization project 
  • $325,000 for the Town of Stafford for the preservation of the historic town office  
  • $250,000 for the Norwich University Applied Research Institute to partner with NASA for security improvements to computer architecture  
  • $45,000 for the Rutland Area Art Association for repairs to the Historic Chaffee Art Center 
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