Hartford to discuss whether to support $1 million loan request to help create jobs at WRJ senior facility

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On Wednesday evening starting at 6, the Hartford Selectboard will get its first chance to talk over a question that's been lighting up town-related social media: whether to apply for a loan to help the high-end Village at White River Junction hire workers.

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The new senior citizen residential community, which expects its first resident in mid-September, is 95 percent completed, according to an overview of its proposal prepared for Wednesday's meeting. So far, only 15 staff have been hired. The loan application envisions creating up to 65 jobs, including healthcare workers, maintenance staff and drivers, food and housekeeping staff, and even some supervisory positions. Pay will range from $14 to $40 an hour, averaging $16.91 an hour.

The request is to the Vermont Community Development Program, and has to be submitted by a municipality. The loan would be repaid by the developers: Half would go into the town's revolving loan fund, while the other half would go back to the state. Wednesday's discussion is only a first look at whether Hartford should submit the application. The Selectboard's formal discussion of the question will be next Tuesday, September 28.

After news of the possible application broke last week, residents weighed in with a variety of reactions on the "Town of Hartford Informational" page on Facebook. Though the development has its supporters as a much-needed private-sector boost to the town's employment and tax bases, for the most part responses were highly skeptical: Why should taxpayer money go to support a private development whose minimum rent will be $8,000 per month? As one commenter put it, "...Although there is no doubt that the success of this for profit facility will help the balance sheet of the town by bringing in an additional $700,000/yr in tax revenues and employ 65 people and put an additional 1/2 million dollars in an account for the town when the $1 million loan is paid back by the developer, it does seem like a misuse of federal dollars that are earmarked for "lower income residents and non-profits" like our own Twin Pines... I can understand how this project is bleeding money and how difficult it might be to sell units in an unfinished project. But to ask for funds that were meant to help the less fortunate, to keep a project solvent with average rental costs of $9,625/mo. X 80 units × 12 month or potential earnings of $9,240,000/yr seems once again like a misappropriation of public funds for the 1%."

No doubt, things will get interesting -- and technical -- starting Wednesday evening. The application overview is available in the Planning and Zoning office at Hartford Town Hall. 

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