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Washington Gridlock Brings Woodbury Windfall

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courtesy drawing
Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department emergency services and operations center phase one artist’s rendering of the view from Vermont Route 14.

WOODBURY – Fire Chief Paul Cerutti could hardly believe the news when a friend called on Friday, March 8, with news that a Senate appropriations bill had just passed with $1,125,000 for an addition to the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department emergency services and operations center.

The next day President Biden signed the bill into law and Cerutti began to imagine how a plan that has been in the making for 10 years might come together.

On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office announced that the funds for Woodbury were included with more than $42.5 million in his Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) on behalf of 36 Vermont projects addressing critical needs across the state. The $460 billion package of fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills passed the U.S. Senate in time to avoid a government shutdown of many key federal agencies.

That same day Cerutti spoke with Outreach Director Haley Pero from Sanders’ Burlington office who told him that the money was really going to be there.

courtesy drawing
Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department emergency services and operations center phase one site plan.

Cerutti had a call directly with Sanders on Friday, March 15, and knew for certain the funds would be forthcoming. Sanders assured him that his office staff would assist with working through the detailed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding process that could take considerable time and effort.

With this funding, the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department will build an addition to the planned emergency services building to bring all of the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department’s equipment, training and meeting space under one roof.

“Through this process, I am always glad to work with Vermonters across our state to identify and secure funding for critical projects that would have a real and positive benefit for our communities,” said Sanders. “In these difficult times, too many have lost hope that government is listening to what they need and taking real action on their behalf. I was proud to see these projects through the Senate and look forward to seeing them have a real, meaningful impact in Vermont communities and in the daily lives of Vermonters across our state – as quickly as possible.”

Woodbury’s journey to being awarded the funds began when Cerutti filled out an application almost a year ago. He admits that he wasn’t expecting much and didn’t put a lot of effort into filling out the form. It seemed like such a long shot, but the project to add an addition onto the new Woodbury Emergency Services Building is important because it will allow the department’s equipment and FAST squad operations to be under one roof.

courtesy drawing
Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department emergency services and operations center floor plan.

Cerutti received a letter in June with notice that Sen. Sanders had selected the Woodbury project for further consideration. The department prepared and submitted a budget proposal. Several times Sanders’ CDS, that included the Woodbury project, were added to bills that went nowhere. Cerutti began to think there wasn’t much chance of the funding coming through.

The department’s goal had been a 7,000 square foot building. Cerutti and department President James Dailey wrote in a recent letter to the town that the 2014 “proposal . . . for $ 2.2 million dollars was withdrawn as it proved to be too expensive, and in the wrong location.”

They continued, “We are writing to ask for your support in providing funding for our new emergency services and emergency operations center. The total project cost is expected to be 1.3 million dollars to be paid for by a bond with an annual cost of $85,000 for 20 years.”

The project has had recent challenges due to the summer’s flooding. VTrans needed access to the property to replace a culvert under Route 14 that required destroying the septic system. With that culvert replaced and VTrans off the site, Cerutti says the project was ready to proceed.

Voters on Town Meeting Day approved the bond. Spates Construction of Derby is now scheduled to begin work in May.

The new 4,000 square foot emergency services facility is being built on property that was donated to the fire department. It will house the department’s trucks, a meeting room and the training space.

Before this recent award, the plan would have addressed maintenance items in the existing 1,800 square foot fire station to house the department’s trailer, boat, and a smaller vehicle. Dailey and Cerutti wrote, “This proposal checked all of the boxes and created a balance between our needs, the town’s emergency facility location needs and the cost.

Damage to that building in this past summer’s flooding complicated the project, but the new funding from Sanders will resolve that. The existing fire station will only need to be used temporarily for equipment and storage during construction of the approximately 2,500 square foot addition it will fund.

Cerutti looks forward to the vision for Woodbury’s emergency services and operations center being realized and is pleased to see this last piece of funding come through, but sees a big job ahead for the department. They will be managing construction on the first phase of the project as they begin working with the USDA to plan for the addition. Cerutti says looking into what FEMA funding might be available to cover some portion of the cost will add a layer of complexity on top of an already full plate.

In their letter, Dailey and Cerutti wrote, “We understand that this is still an expensive project and a big ask of the Woodbury taxpayers. We commit to working hard to keep the costs down and to continue to raise money to offset the total project cost. Any savings and donations will be applied directly to the project. We are working to raise funds for this important project. We are selling bricks that will be used to create a memorial park at the site. If you would like to purchase a brick, please go to the website at One hundred percent of the proceeds will go directly to the fire department. You may also donate directly to the fire department by mailing your check to our mailing address with a note directing the funds to the building fund. The Woodbury Fire Department is a 501 (c) 4 non-profit corporation so your donations are tax deductible.”

The Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department is a full service operation with a FAST (First Aid Stabilization Team) squad, off-trail, cold water and ice rescue services, and is located at 3618 Route 14.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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