In Rutland, demolition crews began tearing down a dilapidated three-story dwelling which will soon be replaced with a brand-new 1,500-square foot, energy-efficient New England-style farmhouse.
And if all goes according to plan, it’ll be given away to a lucky winner in a nationwide contest.
Rutland City came to own the property at 60 Cleveland Avenue because of unpaid taxes. It's one of a number of blighted properties in the northwestern part of the city that Rutland officials have been trying to renovate.
But, asbestos levels made rehabilitating this particular home too costly. That’s when Green Mountain Power stepped in.
The utility bought the house from the city for just $1 and suggested the city and utility team up to build a new house that would showcase the latest energy efficiency technology and bring attention to the city’s "Real Rutland" marketing campaign.
Rutland Mayor David Allaire says he loved the idea of a contest: “I think it’s going to create a lot of excitement for potential residents to come to Rutland and, you know, take a chance — and, you know, maybe their dreams will come true.”
Allaire and other local leaders spoke about the giveaway at a press conference Monday.
Green Mountain Power officials say the contest will run through May 18, and it is free for legal U.S. residents, age 18 or older, to enter. Entrants need to submit a 500-word essay explaining why they want to live in an energy-efficient home and what they would bring to community life in Rutland.
Steve Costello, a vice president at Green Mountain Power, pointed to a sign next to the demolition site that listed more than 60 local businesses and organizations that are taking part. So far, he says, about $400,000 worth of goods and services have been donated toward the effort.
“If you look at the list of businesses that are on that sign, many of them wanted to get involved because they want to raise awareness to the fact that they need to hire people,” Costello said.
Like many parts of Vermont, Rutland’s population is shrinking and projections show the problem will only get worse, putting the squeeze on local employers.
“When we talk to our large customers, we hear it every single day — they cannot hire enough people in Rutland. General Electric, the hospital, even GMP ... we all feel it, and it’s clearly one of Rutland’s biggest challenges,” added Costello.
He says organizers hope the contest will not only showcase the many job opportunities in the area, but also raise awareness of energy efficiency efforts being undertaken by Green Mountain Power.
Brennan Duffy, executive director of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, says this public-private partnership also showcases the city's creative and ongoing efforts to reduce the number of blighted properties in the city and create more attractive and affordable single-family homes.
“Yes, the city sold this house for $1. But in this situation when you talk about a $400,000 investment and the long-term benefits of having this come back on the tax rolls — I mean, it’s tremendous,” Duffy said.
Tanner Romano, vice president at Naylor & Breen Builders, who will oversee construction, says the new home will be finished in June.
Officials with Green Mountain Power say a committee of nine people from throughout Rutland will read the contest entries, do interviews and background checks and choose a winner this summer.