Matching Funds for Stim Grants?
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
The first thing you learn about Panton, Vermont on its website is its population: People 700, Cows 2000
The town sits on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Look to the east and you see Vermont’s Green Mountains. Look to the west and it’s New York’s Adirondacks. It sounds absolutely gorgeous.
Like most old New England towns, Panton has a town hall that needs help. The bathroom, unheated, is closed for the winter. The building has no insulation, a faulty septic system, and ceilings in danger of falling on people’s heads.
“I hope it doesn’t fall down on anyone at town meeting,” said Town Clerk Sue Torrey, quoted on WCAX-TV
“It is definitely a safety hazard,” added selectboard member John Viscup. ”This is the center of this small municipality and we hope to get some funds to renovate it.”
Cost of repairs is estimated at between $500,000 and $600,000. The town also hankers to build a bike path along the roads that cut through the area, a safety measure because of the narrow twists and turns the road takes. The price tag for that is $1.5 million.
So Panton applied for a stimulus fund grant — and learned it must come up with 20 percent in matching funds. Twenty percent of $2 million is $400,000 — staggering for a town the size of Panton.
Apparently, though, the 20 percent rule is Vermont’s, not the Fed’s. According to the TV station, a speaker for Vermont’s Economic Stimulus and Development Office, which is administering the stim funds, says the office is following existing policy. It wouldn’t be fair to towns that have made the 20 percent match on highway projects in the past and will have to do so in the future if a town like Panton got their money match free.
Panton’s selectman says the match puts small towns at a great disadvantage. But the state official says it’s a matter of scale — that the city of Burlington has to raise proportionately the same amount because its projects are bigger and more costly.
WCAX says Panton will probably get the funds to repair the town hall, but the bike path will likely have to wait.
photo credit: redjar/flickr