By JOHN FLOWERS
MONTPELIER â€” Addison County will reap more than $2.5 million from the fiscal year 2007 state capital bill, money that will be used to pay off a new vocational education building; complete a new Vermont State Police barracks in New Haven; and purchase a harvester to trim milfoil from the southern portion of Lake Champlain.
Sen. Phil Scott, R-Montpelier, confirmed on Monday that Senate and House negotiators had agreed on all money items to be included in the capital bill, which includes a list of more than $50 million in construction projects throughout Vermont that have been budgeted for the next fiscal year.
The stakes were high for Addison County going into the 2006 legislative session. The biggest item on the countyâ€™s capital bill wish list: $2.2 million to pay off the stateâ€™s share of a major renovation and expansion project for the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC). The $4.3 million plan includes a new, 20,000-square-foot building under construction off Middleburyâ€™s Mainelli Road, a structure that will house the career centerâ€™s diesel/automotive technology programs. The project also includes renovations to the centerâ€™s headquarters off Charles Avenue.
With state finances tight, career center officials did not know when the state would be able to come up with its share for the project. Career center directors had budgeted $74,000 to temporarily cover the stateâ€™s interest payment on its share of the bond.
Now, it appears that wonâ€™t be necessary.
Also receiving good news this week were members of the Lake Champlain Restoration Association, who learned the capital bill will contain around $300,000 to buy a milfoil harvester, and related equipment, to clip the invasive weeds that have been making rapid inroads into the southern portion of lake Champlain.
An early Senate version of the capital bill had called for the $300,000 to be diverted from the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. House members objected to that proposal, as the CREP money is designed to help farmers prevent phosphorous runoff into Lake Champlain.
Instead, the harvester money will be come, in part, from the recent sale of a 6-acre parcel of state land in the Marble Works complex in Middlebury. A developer recently purchased the land for $285,000. Plans call for a condominium complex to be built on the property, which is adjacent to the Addison Independent offices off Maple Street.
Addison Countyâ€™s third cut of the capital bill involves $100,000 to help finish construction of the new VSP barracks on Route 7 in New Haven. The 10,000-square-foot headquarters will provide more roomy accommodations than the small, rented space off Route 7 south the VSP currently occupy in Middlebury.
Scott, chairman of the Senate Institutions Committee, credited Addison County lawmakers for effectively lobbying for their capital bill priorities. He gave particular kudos to Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, a colleague on Senate Institutions.
â€œHe worked hard for his constituents,â€? Scott said.
Giard was pleased the countyâ€™s wish-list made the cut of final projects. House and Senate conferees were scheduled to sign off on the bill by this Wednesday, May 3.
â€œAddison County has done so well in this legislative session,â€? Giard said, calling the $2.2 million for the career center â€œa huge coup for us.â€?