BERLIN — When it comes to Good Samaritan Haven’s bid to buy, redevelop and reopen the Twin City Motel as a hub for the homeless, the price of failure ticked up heading into the holiday weekend.
What was a refundable deposit on the Barre-Montpelier Road property isn’t any more. That deadline passed on Friday — less than 24 hours after a hastily arranged meeting of the Berlin Select Board turned out to be all talk and no action.
That wasn’t the plan, according to Rick DeAngelis, executive director of Good Samaritan Haven.
DeAngelis had hoped to check at least one more box off a daunting to-do list by securing the board’s endorsement before pushing more money into the middle of the table in what amounts to a multi-million dollar bet.
While the Select Board will have to sign off on the project for DeAngelis to eventually leverage operating funds from the state Department of Children & Families, that can’t happen until after all local permits for the project have been obtained.
DeAngelis discovered that after asking for the meeting, but before it convened and a short-handed board that has been cautiously supportive of the project was told it couldn’t yet do anything to help advance it.
It probably doesn’t matter, because unless it’s members were prepared to oppose the proposal, Friday’s deadline would have come and gone and the once refundable deposit would have become part of the price of pursuing a project about which DeAngelis and his all-volunteer board, feel strongly.
“We’re doing this because we think this has to be done,” DeAngelis said of a project that contemplates converting a well-run, family-owned motel into a much-needed short-term shelter for those who don’t have stable housing, or any housing at all.
It’s one that would be supervised round-the-clock and provide a range of services designed to help solve the homeless problem 38 residents at a time.
DeAngelis isn’t concerned about filling the 18 rooms in a motel Good Samaritan Haven doesn’t yet own, but hopes to.
“The demand is there,” he told the Berlin board last week.
What has DeAngelis slightly concerned is uncertainty over Good Samaritan Haven’s ability to finish what it started with the help of Downstreet Housing and Community Development. It’s why he was sweating that non-refundable deposit and why he is paying attention to the mounting costs associated with a project that still has some significant hurdles to clear.
“It’s an enormous risk for a very small organization,” DeAngelis said.
Though the deposit was less than $30,000, DeAngelis said it’s in that neighborhood and that’s real money to an organization that has been operating on a shoestring budget for 35 years.
“We’ve got more than $70,000 out there,” he said, noting architects cost money and so do engineers.
The property appraisal alone cost $5,000 and earlier this week they wrote they secured the additional sewer that will be needed by writing the town a check for nearly $15,000.
Downstreet, which has pulled off much bigger projects, understands that’s the price of admission. DeAngelis is still getting used to the idea.
“It’s a lot of money to spend just to be able to apply for a permit,” he said.
DeAngelis is looking to raise $300,000 in the community to improve the project’s chances of securing the $5 million it has requested from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. That ask is currently “under review” and the board is expected to make a decision when it meets on June 23.
DeAngelis has that date circled on his calendar, along with June 15.
The latter date is when Berlin’s Development Review Board is scheduled to consider the application for the project. Assuming a permit is approved, then DeAngelis can go back to the Select Board for the letter of support he’ll need to secure operating money.
DeAngelis said he has been heartened by the outpouring of support for the project.
“It’s been overwhelming,” he said, noting that was true of those who wrote testimonials that were shared with the Select Board on Thursday and those, like David Sanguinetti and Bernie Chenette, who attended the virtual session to advocate for the project.
Sanguinetti and Chenette both live in Berlin and have long histories with Good Samaritan Haven, which has operated a homeless shelter on North Seminary Street in Barre, for the past 35 years.
“If anybody is going to run it (the proposed shelter) right I put my faith in the folks at the Good Sam,” Sanguinetti said.
Chenette, who spent two decades volunteering at the shelter in Barre, vouched the well-established non-profit.
“This is a well-run organization,” said Chenette, who served on the Good Samaritan Haven board for many years. “I think that bodes well.”
Others, including Ken Russell and Susan Britto, echoed their support for the organization and the project.
“Good Samaritan Haven gets it done,” said Russell, who serves on Montpelier’s Homelessness Task Force.
According to DeAngelis, Montpelier officials invited him to apply for funding from the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
“They recognize homelessness is a regional issue and it is going to impact the City of Montpelier,” he said.
DeAngelis said he took the city up on its offer and has submitted a “significant request” that, if approved, will help with the matching money he is confident can be raised to leverage funding request from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board.
NORTHFIELD — The rain didn’t keep residents away with around 50 people in attendance for a Memorial Day event in Northfield Monday.
The event to remember those who lost their lives while serving in the military was held on Depot Square and put on by American Legion Post 63.
It was a cloudy, wet morning, but there was still a strong turnout for the annual event. After the ceremony, residents were offered hot dogs and other refreshments at the Legion.
The event started with the recitation of the pledge of allegiance and then the National Anthem was played. A wreath was laid in front of the Civil War monument which sits on the common.
Col. Michael D. Krause, retired, the post’s historian, said the day is about “service above self.”
“We honor our fallen comrades here, not only historically, but I’m going to suggest personally. We’re here to commemorate those who served and those who continue to serve,” Krause said.
He also called the event “the great unmasking” because no one in attendance at the outdoor event had a mask on. Krause said he was delighted to see unmasked neighbors and the event marked the beginning of the end of the coronavius pandemic.
Krause told stories about events he had witnessed or was involved in, to personalize the holiday and what it stands for.
He said it’s been nearly 20 years since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Krause said he was in attendance for a 9/11 memorial in New York City and the police commissioner told people to “never forget” what happened that day.
“To commemorate this Memorial Day, let us not forget,” Krause said.
In May 2011, he said he got a phone call late at night from a member of SEAL Team Six who left a message saying “We got him.” He was referring to the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.
Krause said he helped train the SEAL team, which was one of the highlights of his life.
In August 2011, he said he went to Virginia for a service for the SEALs who were lost when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. Krause said the service included large screens showing service members as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and lovers.
“You see, we sustained horrific casualties when a Chinook helicopter was ambushed and shot down. Thirty-eight sailors, airmen, rangers lost their lives, 22 of them from SEAL Team Six,” he said.
Krause said one of the team members was buried at sea. He said after the ashes were returned to the sea, his team members jumped in carrying a glass of tequila.
“To toast (the SEAL) in the same element, underwater,” he said.
Krause said the memorial service was packed and included over 300 family members of those who were lost from all over the country. He said they sat next to family members of those in special forces who were lost without acknowledgment.
Krause said because of the scale of loss in this shot down helicopter, the SEAL team could no longer operate in the shadows.
“Families needed to grieve and be sustained publicly in their grief,” he said.
Krause said there were moving speeches where the fallen were remembered as exemplary, dedicated and accomplished professionals.
Gov. Phil Scott also released a statement about Monday’s holiday.
He said: “Today, we pause to mourn, remember, and honor the brave men and women who lost their lives defending our country, our way of life, and the freedoms and liberties we hold dear.
“Since the birth of our nation, thousands of Vermonters have answered the call. They don’t do it for the glory or fame, they do it for our country and all of us. Their dedication often puts them in harm’s way and has, unfortunately, cost too many their lives. This is why we can never let their sacrifices be in vain.
“We must always strive to uphold the values of the nation they fought to preserve and work to build a more perfect union in their honor.
“So today, I ask all Vermonters to reflect on the courage of those who left their homes to serve all of us, but never made it back to the loved ones they left behind.”
MONTPELIER — It’s been two weeks since the Legislature adjourned, approving a $7.35 billion budget. The leaders of the House and Senate are now looking ahead with both optimism and concern.
“Honestly, I feel really good about the work that we did, and what I’m very concerned about right now is just how the financial picture nationally is going to impact the work that we do here in Vermont,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint D-Windham, on Wednesday. “I’m watching the concerns about inflation and I’m certainly hearing it here locally about building supplies, so I am concerned about how that’s going to impact our ability to get, we look at broadband, all those equipment and supplies to hook people up.”
Since February, the cost of building materials has risen dramatically, especially that of lumber. Those in the industry say several factors are involved, including the pandemic and the ice storms that caused mayhem in Texas during the winter.
“From the start of this legislative session, we have prioritized response to the COVID-19 pandemic and embracing long-term opportunities to apply lessons learned from the pandemic and build better systems of care,” stated Balint in a release.
She stated that this new budget supports children, workers, businesses, and communities.
“We’ve made progress on broadband, childcare, housing, climate action, and racial justice, while working to bring more voices into the conversations that happen in this building,” Balint stated. “There is always more work to do, but I am grateful for the work of my colleagues and the contributions of all Vermonters in this legislative session for the history books.”
Balint said she’s also concerned about how the political divide in Congress will impact Vermont, especially with regards to infrastructure spending.
The session was held remotely via Zoom, owing to the global coronavirus pandemic, which also saw billions of dollars in federal relief aid flow into the state. Many viewed those funds as a chance for Vermont to not only recover from the economic damage wrought by the pandemic, but to address long-standing issues that have plagued the state, such as lack of broadband infrastructure, child care, and affordable housing.
“Overall, I’m really proud of the work that we did,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, on Friday. “Everyone came together to find a path to create a recovery plan that leaves no Vermonter behind. I’m really proud of the work we did expanding access to broadband, childcare, and housing. Those were the three main priorities we looked at when I gaveled in the session.”
She said the amount of funds Vermont received in the last round of coronavirus relief was substantial and needed.
“The thing we’re so grateful for about this round of relief money is that earlier relief money had really tight deadlines, and with these ARPA funds we have years to think about how we spend it,” she said.
About $581 million in ARPA funds were used in this budget, leaving another $600 million, she said.
“And what we’re going to do over the summer and fall is we’re going to do a listening tour around Vermont to hear from Vermonters how they want to build back and how they think we should be using the remaining $600 million left,” Krowinski said.
What this budget does do, she said, is make needed investments into the mental health system.
“And we were able to allocate funds to stabilize our state college system with the largest investment in higher education in state history,” Krowinski said. “We must continue the work to make Vermont a more equitable and accessible place to all who live here and visit our beautiful state. We will continue to evaluate our laws and state systems to find areas of inequity and make the necessary changes, so all have equitable access to our Vermont quality of life.”
On Sunday, the traditional Memorial Day, guests and dignitaries honored the fallen at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Randolph. See more of Sarah Milligan’s photos of the event today on A7.
Win or go home
Spring teams enter a busy playoff stretch featuring a single-elimination format. B1