School Re-Use Project Hits a Funding Snag

Front Page / May. 3, 2001 12:00am EDT

School Re-Use Project Hits a Funding Snag

An ambitious project to renovate the Randolph Village School for use by an engineering firm hit an unexpected roadblock last week when a key funding agency balked.

After months of sending positive signals, the U. S. Economic Development Agency (EDA) sent back an application that would have created a development region to receive EDA aid. The agency objected to technical aspects of how the plan was developed.

EDA funding is a crucial part of the funding package put together by consultant Al Moulton to support the renovation of the school. Nearly $2 million was anticipated from that source.

"Without the EDA, there’s no project," said Town Manager Mel Adams bluntly.

Project planners are guardedly optimistic that they can still get the project accepted, but this rejection may mean at least a two-month delay. It also raises questions about how quickly and smoothly funding may became available, even if the development region is accepted.

Some suspect that the EDA’s objections may be related to the change of administrations in Washington. The EDA may be under extra pressure to justify its projects, planners speculated, or the rejection may even be a sign of a new federal unfriendliness to Vermont, both of whose senators voted against the new President’s tax cut proposal.

Sen. Patrick Leahy specifically wrote the Randolph proposal into the federal budget, an act of largesse that may have riled some feathers in the EDA, some sources speculated.

The business partner in the project, William Baumann of Dubois & King, confirmed this week that he would "ride it out" for another two months before turning to new solutions for his space needs. D&K’s need for more space is driving the schedule for the school project.

The firm would put in $1.5 million of its own money, moving its business into the village while selling its Route 66 campus to Vermont Technical College for a business "incubator."

VTC’s purchase of the D&K buildings has already been enabled by previous grants, and Baumann told The Herald that even if the village school project isn’t funded, he is inclined to sell the Route 66 property to VTC anyway.

That would leave D&K needing a new facility. A new building might be built on the lot behind the existing offices, or somewhere else in Randolph—or elsewhere.

However, Baumann stressed he still looks forward to moving into a renovated Village School.

"I’m encouraged that the process is still viable, and the objectives are achievable," he said.

By M. D. Drysdale

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