Pilot partnership expected to leverage $4.5 million in federal funds for soundproofing of Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski homes in 2021, and lays groundwork for multi-year investment to follow
Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a partnership between the Burlington International Airport and VGS in which the utility will provide the local match for the BTV Sound Mitigation Program, closing the gap needed to apply for $4.5 million in federal funds for soundproofing in 2021, and without any impact on the general funds of the communities around the Airport. Mayor Weinberger was joined at the announcement by South Burlington Council ChairHelen Riehle, Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott, and VGS President and CEO Neale Lunderville.
“From my first days in this office, one of my top goals for the Airport has been to put the millions of dollars that we receive from the federal government into improving homes instead of tearing them down,” said Mayor Weinberger. “Today we’re announcing that we’ve nearly turned around the ocean liner, and are now on a route that should eventually make hundreds of homes in Winooski, Burlington, and South Burlington more energy efficient, comfortable, and quiet in the years to come. I’m grateful to Mayor Lott and Chair Riehle for the collaboration that brought us to this point, and to VGS for coming to the table with an innovative and impactful solution. I also want to thank Vermont’s federal delegation for their work to secure vital federal funds, and the Airport team, with leadership from Nic Longo, for their tireless work to get to this outcome.”
Through the partnership, VGS will use Energy Efficiency Utility (EEU) funds to provide the 10 percent local match that is required to secure federal funding for the program. Starting in 2021, VGS is prepared to commit $550,000 in EEU funds to provide the local match for $4.5 million in federal funds. The years of 2021 and 2022 will be considered pilot years during which the program will be launched and adjusted as necessary, and VGS and the airport will work together to lay the groundwork for investment at similar levels in the years to follow. The Airport’s previous FAA noise mitigation program was in place for 30 years, and it is expected that the new program also could be in place for a decade or more.
“Weatherization is a cornerstone strategy for achieving both Vermont’s and VGS’s bold climate goals,” said Neale Lunderville, President and CEO of VGS. “By pairing up weatherization and soundproofing, we help reduce our customers’ carbon footprint, lower their monthly costs, and make their homes more comfortable. This innovative approach demonstrates the value of partnership and collaboration, and is the kind of thinking we need to fight climate change in the years ahead. I applaud our community leaders for their unwavering commitment to make this project a reality.”
“I welcome the collaborative approach and partnership that Burlington International Airport and Vermont Gas Systems are bringing to sound insulation efforts affecting the surrounding communities,” said Senator Patrick Leahy. “As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to do my part by advocating for the necessary federal funding for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program that supplies grants in support of those activities.”
The Airport and VGS have signed a Letter of Intent, and now will be seeking further approvals. As an immediate next step, VGS will work with the Airport and the Airport’s sound consultant, the Jones Payne Group, to continue planning for the rollout of the sound program. The pilot program will enable the design and construction of soundproofing for an estimated 10-12 homes in 2021, and position the Airport to apply for federal funds to design soundproofing for 50 homes in 2021, construct soundproofing for those homes in 2022, and continue serving a similar number of homes in the years to follow.
This partnership follows other recent advances in noise mitigation, most notably, a $3.49 million federal appropriation that did not require a local match for soundproofing and HVAC upgrades at Chamberlin Elementary School in South Burlington. The design of this project is currently underway, with construction anticipated to start in summer 2021.
New BTV Sound Mitigation Program Received Federal Approval on October 16, 2020
The partnership follows the recent approval of the new BTV Sound Mitigation Program earlier this month by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Previously, the Airport operated under a sound program that was in place from 1989 to 2019, which followed a model of acquiring and demolishing impacted homes as its primary noise mitigation measure.
The new program, which has been in development for several years, was formally approved on October 16, 2020, and adopts sound insulation as the primary noise mitigation measure. Under this program, the Airport will work with homeowners to determine if they qualify, and if they do, will then plan for and construct replacements of windows and doors, and in some circumstances, air conditioning and air sealing.
Partnership Follows Breakthrough Agreement between Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski
The partnership follows two years of discussions and negotiations between the cities of Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski, that improved strained municipal relations on Airport issues and culminated in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that Mayor Weinberger, Councilor Riehle, and Mayor Lott agreed to in the winter of 2020, and were on track toward finalizing when the process was interrupted by the pandemic. The MOU committed the municipalities to collaboration on multiple fronts including finding a source for the local match that is not the general funds of the three communities, and to work with local utilities to maximize weatherization money. Though the MOU is not yet finalized, the partnership with VGS flows directly from the work that led to this agreement.
“South Burlington has been committed to finding a way to preserve and improve housing affected by the military mission at BTV,” said South Burlington Council Chair Helen Riehle. “We have been very vocal at times and determined to achieve noise mitigation. This partnership is a real start and a classic example of the ‘Vermont Way’ — don’t give up, talk through the differences, find a creative approach that works for all, collaborate with interested parties, and voila, you find a path forward! The City of South Burlington is pleased and looks forward to moving ahead.”
“The City of Winooski has prioritized preservation of quality affordable housing throughout this process,” said Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott. “We’re very pleased to see this kind of collaboration that can bring joint benefits of both sound insulation and weatherization to many of our residents. This is a great start and I look forward to continued collaboration in the effort to fund mitigation for as many homes as we can as quickly as possible.”
That Memorandum of Understanding followed, in 2019, the Airport releasing an updated Noise Exposure Map that identified 2,640 homes in South Burlington, Williston, Winooski, Colchester, and Burlington that are within the contour lines of 65-plus decibels, and therefore may be eligible for Federal Aviation Administration funds for sound mitigation through the Airport Improvement Program.
“For over 30 years, BTV has committed to participating in the voluntary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sponsored Part 150 program that assesses and quantifies noise impacts from aircraft noise, which aids in the development of the Noise Compatibility Program (NCP) to minimize those impacts,” said Gene Richards, Director of Aviation at Burlington International Airport. “This partnership with VGS illustrates how the Airport has worked with diverse partners. The Airport is grateful for VGS’ commitment to generating a win-win for our community.”
For additional information, please see:
- To learn more about the BTV Sound Mitigation Project, please visit: btvsound.com
- To learn more about the MOU between Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski, please see the draft document.
- To learn more about the partnership with VGS, see the attached Letter of Intent.
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia, Mayor’s Office
Beth Parent, VGS