The City of Barre is poised to cash in on tens of millions of dollars thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
At a Monday press conference, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it will give Barre City $24,000. The cash will cover slightly more than half the cost of replacing a failing exhaust system -- a repair that's waited four years for financing.
"But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the farm bill and these rural grants have done for Vermont," said Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R-Vermont).
Since 2008 the city has received about half-a-million dollars in grants and more than $20 million in loans and loan guarantees. The funds put a new roof on city hall, bought police cars and helped pay for other necessities. Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon says in this case -- as in every case -- it's not about the money the federal government forks over. "It's about what we're going to do with the $23,000 that we don't have to put into a ventilation system," he said.
All of that federal money indirectly flows through the controversial Farm Bill. When lawmakers in Washington D.C. re-authorized the measure it meant stability for dairy producers, but it also makes a difference for urban Vermonters. "The Farm Bill is not just about dairy -- it's a very important piece. The Farm Bill is not just about supplemental nutrition assistance payments. The Farm Bill is not just about what happens on farms. The Farm Bill is about Vermont. The Farm Bill is about Barre. The Farm Bill is about the Barre City Public Safety Building," said state Director of USDA Rural Development Ted Brady.
Officials say it may not always make sense to regular Vermonters that the federal government funds these investments through a farm initiative. But they say another $23 million or more over another five years makes sense for Barre and its residents.
The installation of the new exhaust system is expected to begin in a few weeks.