SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — State leaders and lawmakers Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch have all found themselves wandering the streets of Springfield in past weeks to tout, among other things, state funding for developing brownfields sites and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
At a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 16, Scott joined other local, state, and federal officials outside the 270,000-square-foot former Jones & Lamson Machine Co. building on the corner of Clinton St. (Route 11) and Bridge Street to announce the availability of $25 million in state funding to remediate and redevelop old industrial sites known as “brownfields,” or properties where redevelopment may face complications due to the presence of previous commercial or industrial activities.
“These types of facilities once supported their local economies but because the environmental cleanup makes it too costly to redevelop, they sit vacant and have been a barrier to the community’s economic growth. Helping communities overcome these funding hurdles will not only create new economic opportunities across the state, but has tremendous environmental benefits,” Scott said. “This is exactly why my Administration proposed we use $25 million in surplus dollars for brownfields and I’m grateful to the Vermont Legislature for supporting this initiative.”
Funding for brownfields has historically originated from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or, in some cases, from municipal budgets. However, this funding has been made available through a joint effort by the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Agency of Commerce and Community development (ACCD).
“The remediation funding for these sites will be a driver for economic development,” said ACCD Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. “The level of funding will speed up a process which will no doubt result in business retention and expansion, job creation, and housing development, like we’ve never seen in Vermont.”
Throughout the years a total of nearly $2.5 million has been spent on site cleaning and assessments, which includes $1.2 million from the EPA, according to Kurrle.
For Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., which currently owns the 14-acre property, the announcement of available funding for the site of the former Jones & Lamson Machine Co. building is “a game changer,” one that has come after a decade-plus of hard work.
“It’s an understatement to say this is just another brownfield site,” said Bob Flint, the executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., which owns the 14-acre property. “This beats them all.”
The state has already identified around 70 sites that are eligible to receive funding, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
On Saturday, Sept. 4, Sen. Sanders was welcomed to Springfield by a crowd of local residents for an outdoor town meeting at Comtu Cascade Park as part of a five-stop Labor Day weekend outdoor series.
More than 320 people in attendance listened to Sanders and fellow speakers Congressman Peter Welch, Josh Dufresne, Mark Curran, Ariana Cioffi, and Bob Flint discuss issues of local, state, and national interest, including the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan, universal preschool, and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that, if passed, would become the largest federal social spending plan ever enacted in the nation’s 245-year history.
“If passed, this bill will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] and the New Deal of the 1930s,” he said in a statement prior to the Springfield event. “Not only will this bill go a long way to improving life for working families, it will also in an unprecedented way address the threat of climate change and create millions of good paying jobs. Now is the time for bold action. Now is the time to restore faith in ordinary Americans that their government can work for them, and not just wealthy campaign contributors. I look forward to speaking directly with Vermonters about the details of this bill and hearing their thoughts.”
In a speech to the hundreds in attendance, Springfield High School senior Ariana Cioffi recounted her journey through the American education system — both prior to and throughout the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic — and spoke to the benefits to individual children, communities, and society as a whole of having access to quality, affordable education.
“For students to want to be involved in their communities they need to have a positive mindset to motivate them. And it all begins when their brain begins developing skills,” Cioffi said. “Preschool is where children learn to make positive connections with both people and academics in a way that is fun and engaging. And with universal preschool for all we will see more students becoming actively involved members of their community.”
The event in Comtu Cascade Park was also supplemented with free food by Riverside Restaurant, COVID-19 vaccinations, and music by Nick Charyk and members of the Western Terrestrials of the White River Junction area.
“It was super sweet and moving to be here and a part of it today,” said Charyk, who has worked with Rights & Democracy as well as other activist organizations in the past. “It’s what Bernie does: bringing people together, feeding people, and giving people some hope and also some hard truths.”
Charyk, who was contacted by the senator’s office to play the event, kicked off his set with an original song, “Ashes to Ashes,” something that he will remember for a long time.
“I just felt at home,” Charyk said. “I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing with the right people.”
Charyk and Western Terrestrials had “a busy summer” but they unfortunately foresee “another long winter” in terms of bookings.
Sanders also made stops in four other towns, including Newport, St. Johnsbury, Brattleboro, and Middlebury, which each saw crowds of 280, 330, 500, and 600 people, respectfully.
To listen to music by Western Terrestrials, visit balladofethanalien.com.