BARRE — Days after being told the price of upgrading and expanding the city’s 70-year-old swimming pool could far exceed expectations, local officials learned the federal government is readying to toss a $200,000 lifeline to the $1.1 million project.
Though a formal announcement is weeks away and an agreement that will provide the city access to the cash likely won’t be in place until early summer, City Manager Steve Mackenzie welcomed the news that the city’s application for a $350,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Program will be partially funded.
“It’s huge,” Mackenzie said Monday, noting the additional funds, coupled with a $720,000 bond approved by voters last year, should comfortably cover the core components of the pool upgrade, which a consultant has estimated at $835,000.
Mackenzie said when he first learned of the federal grant funds, which are administered in Vermont by the state Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation, he hoped to squeeze at least $200,000 out of the program but applied for the maximum amount allowable.
“I knew $350,000 was a big ask, but nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he said.
Mackenzie isn’t complaining.
“We are very fortunate,” he said, noting the grant award is a game-changing development.
Instead of scrambling to figure out how to bridge what preliminary estimates suggest could be a $115,000 funding gap to refurbish the deteriorating pool, replace its aging equipment and install an accessible “beach entry,” Mackenzie has an $85,000 jump on a $200,000 problem.
That’s the price the city’s consultant has placed on adding a “splash pad” with an assortment of fun fixtures to the pool complex. The new water elements, which would be gated and installed between the pool and the adjacent playground, could be used when the pool isn’t.
Mackenzie said while the soon-to-be-awarded grant won’t cover all the additional expense, it should cover at least some of it.
“As we move ahead, we’ll see what other potential funding sources there might be,” he said.
Mackenzie said operational savings, better-than-expected bids and the possibility city crews could cut costs by performing some of the required work before turning the pool over to the chosen contractor later this year were all possibilities.
“This (grant) allows us to have that conversation,” he said.
Though a grant agreement isn’t expected to be in place before June, Mackenzie said that isn’t an issue since the project won’t start until after the pool closes later this year and won’t be finished until late June next year.
“It fits our timeline perfectly,” he said.
The city’s application was a good fit for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is why Mackenzie was always cautiously optimistic some funding would be approved.
The federal fund was established “to create parks and open spaces, protect wilderness and forest and provide outdoor recreation opportunities.” Money from a variety of federal sources, ranging from federal recreation fees and oil and gas site leases to surplus property sales and motorboat fuel taxes, are underwritten grants awarded through the program.
Grants of up to $350,000 are available to provide up to 50 percent matching assistance for qualifying state and local projects.
Created in 1964, the federal program didn’t exist when Barre built its concrete pool in 1949. However, the city did receive a grant of $193,131 in 2011 for the construction of the BOR arena. Though the arena was enclosed with federal consent in 1981, the original design featured open areas on all four sides — a nod to the primary funding source’s mission to create outdoor recreation opportunities.
BOR is shorthand for Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, though the arena located next to the Barre Municipal Auditorium is better known by its acronym.
The grant for the BOR covered nearly 50 percent of the $400,000 project.
MONTPELIER — The maxim “old soldiers never die; they simply fade away” has growing significance for members of the military veterans’ organization The American Legion, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
The Legion was founded in Paris on March 15, 1919, to help care for soldiers returning from World War I. As the years passed, so too have many of the Legion’s members, down from a peak of 3.3 million after the end of World War II to 2.3 million in 2013.
The same is true for the membership of The American Legion Post 3 in Montpelier, but that didn’t stop members from celebrating the anniversary with all the bells and whistles and a dinner and dance at its Main Street facility on Saturday.
At its height, Post 3 boasted 500 members and currently has about 240, Post 3 Commander Dick Harlow said. Statewide, there are about 10,000 members.
“What’s happening is all the old ones are dying off, and we can’t get younger people involved,” said Harlow, pointing to the digital era as eroding civic traditions. “It’s a sign of the times.”
If the Legion’s numbers are dwindling, it wasn’t that evident at Post 3’s celebration on Saturday. The ground floor bar and reception room quickly filled up with members, family and supporters before the party moved upstairs for dinner. The Legion’s membership has also expanded thanks to the addition of the Women’s Auxiliary, which honors women veterans, and the Sons of the American Legion, which permits membership to men of all ages whose parents or grandparents served in the U.S. military.
Harlow is a 17-year veteran who served with the Vermont National Guard from 1955 to 1963, and is serving his fourth year as post commander. Harlow also managed Aubuchon Hardware in Montpelier for 50 years and is known locally as “Mr. Aubuchon.”
Harlow proudly pointed out old photographs and musical instruments of the post’s former drum and bugle corps that numbered 50-strong and won many state and regional contests between 1928 and the mid-1940s.
There were also pictures of the post’s baseball team, which still plays in state and regional leagues; former color guards and the soon-to-be commissioned nuclear-attack submarine, USS Vermont, the third Navy vessel to bear the state’s name.
There were also many awards and certificates for the post’s work on the “four pillars of service” the Legion champions: veterans affairs and rehabilitation; national security, Americanism, and children and youth.
Post 3 members and its color guard make regular appearances throughout the year at military observances and other major public holidays, such as Independence Day. But it is the post’s service to veterans and their families, war widows and widowers, and its community programs that are the true focus and mission of the veterans’ group.
“When the First World War ended, all these troops were coming home, and they had nothing and no place to go ... so, we honored these fellows and gave them a place,” Harlow said.
The Legion was also responsible for designing the GI Bill, legislation approved by Congress in 1944 that helped send veterans to college and join job training programs, and helped to establish the Veterans Administration.
Also attending was Legion State Commander David Woodward, who traveled from Bennington for the event. Woodward served in the U.S. Army with the 82nd Airborne from 1984 to 1988 and saw action in Grenada.
Woodward pointed to the Legion’s efforts to sponsor Boy Scouts and support student scholarships. The Legion also works with the VA Medical Center in White River Junction and five community-based outreach centers that serve as regional clinics for veterans. The Legion also supported a measure signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month to create a federal task force to prevent veteran suicides.
“I’ve seen what this organization has done for children and others and really believe in what we do,” Woodward said.
Others attending the event were Ken Wheeler, of North Montpelier, who served 10 years with the Marines, including in Guam and Korea, and 18 years with the Vermont National Guard; and Marty Lemnah, of St. Albans, the post’s national executive committee woman member, who served in Vietnam and married former marine Master Sgt. Richard Lemnah, the only Vermonter to die in the bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.
BARRE — Fine meat producer Vermont Salumi will open a facility in the former Homer Fitts building in downtown Barre.
Company owner Peter Roscini Colman said Friday the move will relocate production from Plainfield to Barre. Last week, the Barre Town Select Board heard from Barre Area Development Corp. Executive Director Joel Schwartz, who told members the company has outgrown its current facility.
Schwartz asked the board to sign off on a $180,000 loan to renovate the building and purchase equipment. The seven-year loan, at 6.3 percent interest, includes $50,000 from the town’s revolving loan fund and the remainder from the Vermont Community Loan Fund.
Board member Norman Malone asked Schwartz if he could think of any other production businesses that exist on the main street in Barre.
“I’d have to think about it, but the answer is no,” Schwartz said. “What’s happening, as you know, is the retail sector is getting hollowed out by the internet.”
Schwartz said the city’s zoning for the building requires a retail storefront component. Colman said Friday he’s not sure what the retail space will be, and Schwartz noted he doesn’t think the store could support only Colman’s wares.
“There’s some discussion about bringing other specialty foods into the storefront,” Schwartz said. “He’s not under any obligation to do what I think. He is under an obligation to lease some space at the front of the store. It makes sense to tie it to his business because he may not have to totally wall it off from the back end, in terms of construction costs, if he does that.”
Schwartz noted Colman has a lease for the property, which includes an option to buy the building from its current owner, Thom Lauzon. He said Colman will first focus on getting production up and running in the back of the building before focusing on the storefront.
The board unanimously approved the loan.
Vermont Salumi makes a variety of cured meats including sausage, salami and prosciutto.
MONTPELIER — It’s still a year away from launching, but there’s already momentum gathering to celebrate the commission of the nuclear attack submarine USS Vermont (SSN 792).
The submarine is under construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, and is due to be commissioned in a ceremony in late spring or early summer next year. It will be the third navy vessel to bear the state’s name.
The USS Vermont is a Virginia Class submarine, the latest complement of fast-attack submarines to succeed the Los Angeles Class, such as the USS Montpelier. When complete, it will be 377 feet long, 34 feet wide and will displace 7,800 tons. It will have a 132-person crew.
The submarine’s commissioning committee has 27 members from across the state who are planning a series of events to mark the sub’s launch. It aims to raise $250,000 for events and commemorative memorabilia to celebrate the commissioning.
Committee chairwoman Debra Martin, who organized many events for USS Montpelier crew members during Montpelier’s Independence Day celebrations, said the group has been busy reaching out to Vermont businesses to donate products for the commissioning ceremony, which is expected to draw as many as 4,000 people. At least 50 Vermont submariners, corralled by retired Coast Guard member Bill Mattoon, have agreed to volunteer for the cause, Martin said.
“This is the big event, and we want to have our Vermont products there, representing Vermont, who we are, and that we are proud to have another ship named after our little state of Vermont,” Martin said.
So far, the committee has planned a dinner for the crew, a lunch for boat sponsor Gloria Valdez, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy; and a reception for sponsors, donors, ship builders and VIPs.
The group is also developing products to promote the commission of the submarine. It’s partnered with Vermont Teddy Bear to create Dewey Bear, named after Admiral George Dewey, a U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet admiral from Montpelier known for his 1898 victory in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
The stuffed animal — which comes in a 15-inch traditional or 13-inch “floppy” style — wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the USS Vermont. A portion of proceeds will support the USS Vermont crew, Martin said.
In appealing for funding support, Martin noted the committee is responsible for raising money for all events associated with the ceremony while the Navy pays for the actual commission. She looks forward to traditions like bestowing a plank owner plaque — a token that signifies each member “owns” a plank on a newly commissioned vessel — and the unique sendoff.
The committee is working with the Coast Guard station in Burlington to transport several gallons of Lake Champlain water to the sub’s “float off” on April 1, the first time the vessel will enter the water. The lake water will be poured over the submarine before its launch ahead of a year of sea trials.
“It will be the first water to touch the boat, from Vermont,” Martin said.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’ve made some great strides,” Martin continued. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this. Let’s show our country how proud we are to have a third ship named after the state of Vermont.”
To learn more about the USS Vermont, visit www.ussvermont.org.
“Someday, these teenagers will run the country. Let’s hope they retain their clarity and courage, even into adulthood.”
In the news
A Rutland daycare owner has been charged almost two months after a 6-month-old Pittsford girl died in her care. A3
Arts Editor Jim Lowe reviews the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s latest performances in Rutland and Burlington. A3
Thetford, St. Johnsbury, Danville and Mount St. Joseph Academy take titles in their respective divisions in high school boys basketball. B1, B2, B3
The New Black Eagle Jazz Band
Fixtures on the international jazz scene for nearly 50 years. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Chandler Center for the Arts, 71-73 Main Street, Randolph, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-728-9878.