St. Johnsbury To Receive $15 Million In USDA Rural Development Economic Recovery Funds For Water And Wastewater Improvements

Posted August 7, 2009

Delegation Highlights Fire Safety, Economic Development
And Environmental Benefits Of The New Investments

(TUESDAY, August 4) – Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch Monday announced that the Town of St. Johnsbury will receive a $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development grant and loan package to make much-needed water delivery and wastewater improvements.  Vermont’s Congressional Delegation had written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in support of the town’s application. 

The grant and loan package consists of a $10,531,000 grant and a $4,469,000 loan.  

The funds – a significant share of more than $150 million in ARRA funding awarded Monday nationwide by USDA Rural Development -- will be used to replace water and sewer lines and install storm water lines in the West Side area of St. Johnsbury.  The current system, including 100-year-old-infrastructure, threatens sewage discharges into the Passumpsic, Moose and Sleepers Rivers during large storms.  Water pressure in the current system could also threaten the town’s ability to fight fires and provide residents with drinking water.  After last month’s devastating Main Street fire, portions of the town immediately went under a boil water notice to ensure the fire suppression efforts had not drawn contaminants into the system. 

In a letter to Secretary Vilsack as decisions were being made on allocating the funds, Leahy, Sanders and Welch wrote:  “This West Side Improvement Project being proposed by St. Johnsbury will have both short- and long-term employment and economic development opportunities.  When drafting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama and fellow members of Congress envisioned exactly this type of project.”    

Hailing the selection of St. Johnsbury to receive the infrastructure aid, Leahy said, “With these stimulus funds, St. Johnsbury now will be able to invest in these vital changes to an ailing water and sewer sytem.  The improvements that come from this funding will have the short-term effect of creating a better system for current residents and businesses and the long-term effect of generating economic growth for St. Johnsbury.” 

Sanders said, “The stimulus bill is helping communities in Vermont and throughout the country rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and in the process creating millions of good-paying jobs.” 

Congressman Welch said, “I’m pleased that St. Johnsbury’s West Side Improvement Project will benefit from federal recovery funds. This project, which has been strongly supported by voters, will make much-needed improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems, while increasing St. Johnsbury’s capacity to grow and attract new business. Most importantly, this federal investment will bring quality jobs to the Northeast Kingdom.” 

St. Johnsbury Town Manager Mike Welch said, "The funding for this project will enable St. Johnsbury to take a significant step forward in the improvement of aging utility infrastructure. We appreciate all of the technical assistance and support that we received from Rhonda Shippe, USDA VT/NH Director, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch, and all of their staff." 

"St. Johnsbury's water and sewer systems are both getting essential upgrades.  Water quality and quantity improvements are needed as shown by the strain on the system in the recent Main Street fire," said Steve Campbell, Rural Development Area Director.  "Separation of storm drains from sewage will improve the efficiency of the treatment facilities."