Does anyone have a comprehensive file on how much public monies were invested in the Robert Gibson River Garden? At a recent Selectboard meeting, a member of the Town Finance Committee asked the question. After some thought, the Town Manager said the Town probably could not answer that specific question. It could only account for Town funds that went into the property, not all public funds.
The Brattleboro Reformer ran an article on August 2, 2000, “Rivergarden project receives helping hand from governor,” by Tom Marshall that had some accounting, up until that time. It recounts former Gov. Howard Dean handing over a check for $148,725. Presumably this was the second $150,000 installment from the VT legislature, appropriated on May 24, 2000 (Act 148). The first $150,000 appropriation, the bulk of which went toward the purchase, was approved on May 19, 1999 (Act 29).
The article goes on to mention $323,000 in Federal Urban Revitalization funds. That article also notes the renovation project budget grew from $500,000 to $700,000 and $150,000 more needed to be raised.
Latter in 2001, Building a Better Brattleboro secured $40,000 from the Town in return for “a commitment from [BaBB] … to become a downtown tax district.” “BaBB Funded”, by Tom Marshall, Brattleboro Reformer, December 12, 2001.
Also on record, as of October 22, 2008, is a loan from the USDA for $140,000.
Nevertheless, the total is well over $700,000, and still counting.
It has been stated that there is a line of credit from the BS&L, but it’s unclear as of this writing what the balance or ceiling is on the line. Other amounts have not, as of yet, been nailed down: a rumored appropriation “earmark” from former US Sen. Jeffords’ office; the amount of the contribution from the BUHS Class of 1961 to renovate the River Garden Terrace, “that all may enjoy”. A review of both Town records and BaBB records, perhaps undertaken by the Town Finance Committee, could answer how much of the Tax Improvement District money financed the River Garden. Who else could take on the job to provide a full accounting?
From all of the above, however, it is clear that whether you are a business or business property owner in the Downtown Improvement District, a Vermont State taxpayer or Federal taxpayer, you surely have skin in this game.