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Hartford to Seek $1 Million for Assisted Living Facility

  • Construction is underway at The Village at White River Junction in White River Junction, Vt., on May 9, 2018. The projects aims to be completed in July. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

White River Junction — Despite skepticism expressed by residents, the Selectboard on Tuesday voted unanimously to apply for a $1 million grant to aid The Village at White River Junction, an assisted living and memory care facility soon to admit its first residents.

If successfully obtained, the funds — from the Vermont Community Development Program via the federal Community Development Block Grant program — would come to the town as a grant, and subsequently be loaned to The Village after terms of repayment are coordinated between the town and the company.

Hartford would be eligible to keep 50 percent of the repaid funds, possibly to be used in its municipal revolving loan fund to assist other development projects.

The Village has said it would use the funding to supplement its working capital as it attempts to fill an 89-bed capacity on the corner of Gates and Currier streets. The funds are expected to provide cash flow for startup costs, including monthly expenses such as utilities, and the process of filling about 60 full-time low- to moderate-income jobs.

The vote came at the conclusion of a public hearing that drew 20 residents and lasted more than an hour, including input from the Selectboard.

Concerns ranged from possible lending caps — if this loan is awarded to The Village, would other, smaller businesses in Hartford still be eligible for the program in the near future? — to the quality of the jobs being created and the need for housing rather than lower wage jobs in White River Junction. The median pay scale for the jobs created, according to a company presentation, will be $16.91 per hour, or $35,173 per year.

“We have extremely low unemployment in White River Junction,” said George Abetti, who attended the meeting with his wife, Susanne. “The need isn’t for low-paying jobs, it’s for people who earn these low wages to be able to afford housing.”

Abetti also suggested that since the workers won’t be able to afford housing nearby, their need to drive to work at The Village will exacerbate already tight parking downtown.

At least 51 percent of the individuals benefiting from the loan funds must be low- or moderate-income persons at the time they are hired, which in Windsor County ranges from $15,650 per year for a single individual to $59,600 for a family of four.

Sue Buckholz, of West Hartford, the state representative for Windsor 4-1, voiced support for the project.

“We approved this project as a town, and that’s why it’s being built,” she said. “We had the opportunity to think about things like parking beforehand.”

As for whether the grant might remove the potential for other businesses to receive similar state-funneled grants, Town Manager Leo Pullar noted that this would be the third such loan in town, including one for the Twin Pines affordable housing developer.

“There is no credit limit; it’s just how you compare to others in the (application) cycle,” Pullar said. “It’s not a situation where (the community development program) will say, ‘Oh, Hartford has already received these funds, now they need to go somewhere else.’ We’ve been lucky that we’ve had strong applications that have met the criteria.”

Several Selectboard members voiced their own concerns, many of them similar to those of residents.

In the end, every Selectboard member felt it was in the best interest of the town to vote affirmatively.

The Village at White River Junction has proposed loan terms including no interest for the first 18 months and 1 percent for up to a five-year total repayment period. The facility has received “10-12” deposits for residency, according to developer Byron Hathorn, and hopes to move in its first residents in mid-October.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.