Ferrisburgh aims for grant for slaughterhouse hoping to move to Middlebury

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard agreed on Tuesday to apply for a state grant that could help a town slaughterhouse remain in business — and eventually follow through on a plan to move to Middlebury.
At the request of Middlebury Business Development Director Jamie Gaucher, the board on Tuesday moved to apply for a $25,000 infrastructure grant from the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services.
If awarded, that grant will help fund a new $100,000 septic system for Vermont Livestock, a slaughterhouse on Depot Road doing business out of a building owned by the Castanea Foundation. Gaucher told selectboard members he would write the grant, and it would require no town funds or administration time.
Gaucher said on Wednesday that Vermont Livestock owner Carl Cushing, the Castanea Foundation and possibly “other sources” would come up with the remaining $75,000.
Cushing has been trying to move his business to a Middlebury site served by town sewer for several years, a process that has been delayed because one deal, a move into a warehouse owned by businessman Tony Neri, fell through.
Gaucher told the Ferrisburgh selectboard that Cushing is focusing on a new deal that could well bear fruit, possibly within a year, but in the meantime faces pressure from state officials to fix a failing septic system at the Depot Road site.
If the business — which Gaucher said has had to turn away work because of strong demand — does not survive, the move to Middlebury would fail, and a dozen jobs would be lost in the short and long term in both communities.
“My interest is helping Carl,” Gaucher said. “I want him to stay in business. I want his employees to stay employees.”
Ferrisburgh selectboard members were at first reluctant to help a business that might pull up stakes.
“It seems shaky to me,” said Selectman Jim Warden.
Board members also asked for more time to consider the implications, but Gaucher said the grant deadline was Friday, and if Ferrisburgh chose not to apply that Middlebury was ready to seek the grant — each town in the state may apply once a year for these infrastructure grants to help a town business, he said.
Gaucher said the town should not apply if the board had another Ferrisburgh business in mind that could benefit from the program.
“If there were other businesses that required infrastructure, I would suggest to you they move up the list,” he said.
Selectboard members said they saw logic in backing the grant. Selectman Steve Gutowski said other businesses could find the Depot Road site more attractive with a functional septic system, Selectman Jim Benoit said the new system would increase the property’s value, and Selectwoman Sally Torrey noted the grant would not cost Ferrisburgh anything.
Resident Bob McNary also weighed in, noting that Cushing’s move to Middlebury is not a sure thing, and that demand for slaughterhouses remains strong in Vermont.
“Even if Carl moves, there is still a shortage of slaughterhouses in Vermont. More than likely someone will move in there,” McNary said.
If Vermont Livestock were to move, Gaucher also pledged to help Ferrisburgh.
“I would work with you to fill this building as well,” Gaucher said.
Ultimately, the selectboard voted unanimously to support the application.
Gaucher on Wednesday shed some light on Cushing’s plans in Middlebury. Before working with Neri in 2013 to fill up to two-thirds of a roughly 31,000-square-foot building on Industrial Avenue, Cushing had eyed a roughly 11,000-square-foot building on a 5.1-acre parcel in Middlebury’s Industrial Park, off Exchange Street.
Now, Gaucher said, the building “currently being considered by all the players is larger than 11,000 square feet.”
Many pieces remain up in the air, Gaucher said, but he is confident a project focused on the Middlebury Industrial Park can be completed, but not until next summer at the very earliest.
“There is a new group of players,” Gaucher said. “We are currently engaged with various lending institutions, and we are engaged with a real estate firm.”
In the meantime, he is grateful for Ferrisburgh’s support, and hopes state officials can seize an opportunity to provide for what he called regional economic development.
“It’s important for this company to be able to be sustained in the current location,” Gaucher said.
Ferrisburgh selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said she was happy to see cooperation between communities.  
“I’m excited about partnering with Middlebury,” Lawrence said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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