[NEWS] USDA OK’s $2.1 Million Loan for Biomass Heating Facility at Vermont College
– by Eric Blaisdell, June 8, 2016, Times Argus
Goddard College has been approved for a $2.1 million federal loan for its proposed biomass-fueled heating plant.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than $8 million in loans and grants for projects around the state. Much of the money is given out in tens of thousands of dollars in loans and grants, but Goddard’s loan is the third-largest amount announced. Topping it are a $2.8 million loan to the Awakening Sanctuary in Montpelier for facility repairs and a $2.8 million loan to the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire for the purchase of office space.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Ted Brady, the agriculture department’s rural development state director for Vermont and New Hampshire, said: “By supporting Goddard College’s construction of a biomass heating system, USDA Rural Development fulfilled two of its commitments to the rural areas that it serves. First, the loan went to support an essential community facility. … Second, President (Barack) Obama and Agriculture Secretary (Tom) Vilsack directed the USDA to invest in projects which support the bioeconomy to bring jobs and sustainable economic growth to rural America. With this loan, USDA is both supporting an institution that contributes to the local community, and investing in the northeastern forestry industry.”
Bob Kenny, Goddard’s president, said Tuesday the plan is to put the $2.7 million plant out to bid, break ground this fall and have it completed by the end of the heating season. The school has been dealing with declining enrollment numbers recently, a trend familiar to many institutions of higher education in the state and across the country, but Kenny said he now feels the college has a handle on the situation.
Though he says the school needs students in order to operate, as it gets most of its funding from tuition payments, Kenny has no worries about repaying the loan as that money will come from energy savings. He said the plant will replace over 20 oil-burning heaters which use about 40,000 gallons of fuel oil every year.
Those who have been working on the plant have said in the past that the wood chips would cut energy costs by 55 percent when compared to fuel oil.
The plans for the plant have been contentious for years.
Resident Karen Bouffard has said the plant will be built about 20 feet from her driveway. Bouffard unsuccessfully appealed the state Environmental Court’s ruling in favor of the plant to the state Supreme Court.