Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has awarded the City of Winooski a package of loans and grants totaling more than $8.5 million for upgrades to the City’s drinking water and wastewater systems. The infrastructure upgrades are a key element in the City’s vision to undertake a $23 million effort to revitalize Main Street north of downtown. The proposed project also includes improved pedestrian and bike amenities, undergrounding telecom and cable lines, and rebuilt sidewalks and streetscapes.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “This project is a transformational one for residents of Winooski. We applaud the leadership shown by the City to invest in infrastructure that will ensure access to safe drinking water, increase vibrancy and livability, while also growing business and housing. We fight hard for these resources in Congress precisely so that cities and towns like Winooski can use them to realize their vision for what they want their community to be.”
The federal funds come from USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs (WEP), a program that was targeted for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 budget submission to Congress. Leahy, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked in a bipartisan fashion to reject the President’s proposal and instead include $500 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill to focus on rural communities with the highest level of need. The Vermont delegation has made a priority of trying to address Vermont’s aging infrastructure by proposing significant and prolonged investment at the federal level. Instead of cutting rural water infrastructure funding like the Trump administration has proposed, they believe Congress should dramatically increase support for these types of critically important projects. WEP provides funding for the construction of water and waste facilities in rural communities and is the only Federal program exclusively focused on rural water and waste infrastructure needs of rural communities with populations of 10,000 or less.
Winooski City Manager Jessie Baker said: “After a decade-long community process to articulate the community vision for Main Street and update the zoning, we are thankful to the USDA and our congressional delegation for supporting the modernization of infrastructure along this route. This Revitalization project will guide the City toward improved economic sustainability and support needed housing and business development along this gateway corridor.”
In March, Winooski voters passed a bond that allowed the City to move forward with State and Federal applications to secure outside funding. These new federal resources will enable the City Council to consider a total financing package before making a final decision on how the project will move forward.
David Carle (w/Leahy): 202-224-3693
Dan McLean (w/Sanders): 802-862-6695
Kate Hamilton (w/Welch): 202-440-3340
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