Townshend Town Hall
May 28, 6:30 pm:
Training: Basics of Town Planning
Townshend Town Hall
**All Committee Meetings take place in the WRC Conference Room unless otherwise noted.
**All meetings are subject to change, please check the website for updates.
UPCOMING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
National Endowment for the Arts
DEADLINE: July 23, 2015
DEADLINE: September 21, 2015
USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans
DEADLINE: Ongoing (contact USDA office)
For more information click here.
New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
(Seed Grant) and
September 15, 2015
For more information click here.
Vermont Community Development Program
For more information click here.
Vermont Community Foundation
Small & Inspiring
DEADLINE: August 3, October 1, and December 1, 2015
Special & Urgent Needs
For more information click here.
Vermont Downtown and Village Tax Credit
DEADLINE: July 1, 2015
For more information click here
VTrans Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
DEADLINE: July 17, 2015
For more information click here.
DEADLINE: August 5, 2015
For more information click here.
Upcoming Grants will be a regular column in the WRC Newsletter, for a complete list please click here.
For additional information about grant possibilities for your projects please contact Susan at
50 YEARS OF WRC
In observance of the 50th anniversary of the Windham Regional Commission, we'll be sharing perspectives about the history the Commission and our service to our towns.
WRC AND HUMAN SERVICES
By Bill Schmidt
Involvement in human services planning, development and in some instances operation was an interest of the WRC from its beginning. This was evident in 1969 in the Windham County Crime Prevention Project, a project funded with federal money through the 1968 federal Safe Streets Act. Strong support came from Attorney General Jim Oakes, the Brattleboro and Wilmington police chiefs, the county sheriff and State Corrections Commissioner among others. The project engaged in a study of the nature and extent of crime in the region, the region's judicial administration and law enforcement agencies, and crime prevention and juvenile delinquency. It ultimately focused on the subject of police-youth relationships. A regional Crime Prevention and Control Conference was held at Windham College in May 1970.
Some of the project's outcomes were the development of "contact sessions" between youth and police in Bellows Falls, Brattleboro and Wilmington and the development of legal and drug education curriculum for high schools. In cooperation with Family and Child Guidance Services of Brattleboro, the WRC helped create the Youth Services Commission (YSC) and Brattleboro's Community House through this project which stretched into the early 1970s. YSC offices were with the WRC in its early years. Community House is a structured short-term treatment program for children 6-13 with behavioral difficulties. Both organizations exist to this day. Brownie Towle was the primary staff person in the action phase of the Crime Prevention Project.
In 1969 as well a Human Services Committee was formed to provide oversight to the commission's interest in human service needs and relationship with human service agencies and programs. In the mid-1970s the commission published a regional human services catalog that was updated in 1981. In addition, this committee provided administrative and/or technical assistance in the organization of the Connecticut Valley Heath Compact and Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of SE Vermont, two organizations that offered hope for improved health care services in the region. Also, assistance was provided the state in reorganization of Visiting Nurse services in SE Vermont and technical and administrative support was given to the Windham District Advisory Health Council, an area health planning group formed by the Vermont Health Policy Corp. which prepared a State Health Systems Plan.
In 1973, the commission secured federal funds under the new federal Older Americans Act to establish the Council on Aging (COA) for SE Vermont, the first such areawide council on aging in Vermont. COA's purpose was to respond to the needs of Vermonters 60 and over in Windham and Windsor Counties by providing a range of options allowing them to choose the home and community-based services and living arrangements that suit them best. COA made it possible for older adults to "age in place" in their homes and communities, to socialize at senior centers, to receive meals-on-wheels when needing that support, and to have access to vital advocacy, legal services and other support services.
COA was a WRC program with offices at the WRC until the mid 1990s at which time it became independent and subsequently moved its offices to Springfield. In 2012 it changed its name to Senior Solutions. COA's first director was Irene Elders.
The Gathering Place, Brattleboro's adult day services for seniors, was established in 1989 with WRC's assistance. Until recently WRC continued to assist the Gathering Place with financial services and continues to provide this service for Brattleboro Senior Meals.
As part of a regional economic self-sufficiency program the WRC in 1974 helped organize the
Brattleboro Area Farmers Market. Its goals were to increase local production and sales of agricultural products, provide quality and economy in food service, and support development of the local economy.
In its early years the WRC provided further organizational, site location and development assistance and a full time market manager. In 1976 the Market's board thanked the commission for its help in making the Market the most outstanding in the State according to the Vermont Agriculture Department's Development Division.
Following the closure of Windham College in 1979 the commission formed a committee to find a new use or uses for the Windham College campus. The commission also undertook an evaluation of the demand at that time forpostsecondary educational opportunities and a review of existing such opportunities available to adults. One of the outcomes of this project was support for the University of Vermont to employ a continuing education coordinator for educational programs in SE Vermont.
WRC, over the years, continued with its commitment to assist with human service activities. GIS staff worked with municipalities on the mapping of the structures that aided in the establishment of Enhanced-911 system. In 2002 WRC staff, working with the Children First Partnership, prepared the Windham County Child Care Needs Assessment. The need for evening child care was one of the many needs identified in this report. Brattleboro Area Community Action soon after established an evening child care center.
The Windham Regional Mobility Study was completed in 2012 and was a collaborative effort of Windham Regional Commission, public transit providers, school supervisory unions, youth service organizations, institutions of higher education, human service agencies, non-profits, economic development agencies, and others. This diverse group of stakeholders came together to promote the common goal of increasing mobility in the Windham Region. An outgrowth of the study is the current work to establish a new public transit route in the West River valley on Route 30.
Recently Vermont Department of Health asked WRC to participated as part of the team working on the Opiate Addiction Solutions and be involved with a committee working on Healthy Communities.
50th Anniversary Celebration!
Please join the Windham Regional Commission in its celebration of 50 years of service to the towns and people of the Windham Region.
When: Tuesday, June 23, 2015
5:00pm - 7:30pm
Where: International Center
School for International Training
1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro, VT
Guest Speaker: Governor Peter Shumlin
Hors D'oeurvres Reception
RSVP by June 12th
Phone: (802) 257-4547
Please contact WRC with any questions:
(802) 257-4547 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Habitats Alive with Bees and Bats: A Public Forum on June 12
Concerned about the decimation of bee and bat populations? Are you interested in creating pollinator- and bat-friendly habitat in your backyard and community? Join us on Friday, June 12th for a free public forum about bees, bats and the habitat needs of these important populations.
White-nose Syndrome decimated Vermont's hibernating bats between 2008 and 2010 and the disease continues to be a threat to the remaining population. But there is hope. The drastic 90% decline has slowed and some individual bats have survived multiple years despite being exposed to the disease. Alyssa Bennett, Small Mammals Biologist at VT Fish and Wildlife Department, will share Vermont's nine fascinating species of bats, what research we are doing to understand White-nose Syndrome, how Vermont is a leader in bat conservation, and what you can do in your own backyard to help.
Similarly, many bee populations are in peril due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease. From the selection of pesticide-free plants to enhancing pollinator habitat in our yards and lands, there is much that we can do to improve our coexistence. Jodi Turner, owner of Imagine that Honey, will share information about pollinator populations and steps we can take to create the habitat conditions needed to help ensure the survival.
The evening will wrap up with an opportunity to socialize and network with peers. This event is co-sponsored by the WRC's Natural Resources Committee, VT Department of Fish and Wildlife, Imagine that Honey, Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, The Nature Museum at Grafton, and the Pollinator Awareness Initiative.
The event will take place on Friday, June 12 from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Marlboro College Graduate School (Room 2E), located at 28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT. Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP as space may be limited. To RSVP or for additional information, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com or (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
WRC Goes to Washington to Share Experience with Resilience Planning
The WRC was invited by the National Association of Development Organizations and the International Economic Development Council to participate in a one and a half day convening that brought together federal agency partners with experienced local and regional leaders for a discussion about how they can work together to achieve better resilience outcomes on the ground. Across the country, local and regional agencies are finding new ways of building resilience through their day-to-day decisions. By applying a new lens to not only disaster recovery but also plann
ing, zoning, capital investment and other routine services, they are making their communities better able to withstand and bounce back from natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. The Chittenden County Regional Commission, the Two Rivers-Ottauqueechee Regional Commission, and the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Commission were invited to participate as well.
The communities that were invited to participate have all
been impacted by natural disasters in the past five years. They shared how their recovery experiences have changed their approaches to everyday decision-making and how they are finding creative ways to use federal resources to fortify their regions against future hazards and disruptions. Federal partners highlighted recent efforts to support disaster and climate resilience through new and existing policies, programs, and investments. The goal was to inspire new ideas for strengthening resilience and institutionalizing it as an integral objective of participants' ongoing work. The WRC has been made use of funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, FEMA, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Forest Service in its work related to resilience which has ranged from local all hazard mitigation planning to invasive species response to replacement of town infrastructure. We've had many partners in this work including our member towns, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, fellow regional commissions, and multiple state agencies.
Vermont's Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program
Vermont's Downtown and Village Center tax credit program is one of the primary benefits of Downtown and Village Center designation, and supports revitalization seen in community centers across the state.
In 2015, $2,200,000 in state income tax credits are available to projects that enhance the historic character and improve building safety of older and historic commercial buildings in these designated communities. The credits support general rehabilitation work, code compliance work, data and network wiring, and exterior improvements, and may be combined with the federal program.
This year, legislative changes to the program include updates to make the tax credits more useful and effective. A new tax credit, of up to $40,000, is now available for affordable elevators known as LULAs (Limited Use Limited Application), and the cap for state building code-required improvements increases from $25,000 to $50,000.
Applications for the next round of tax credits are due July 1, 2015 by 4:30 pm and the Vermont Downtown Board will make is allocation decisions when it meets July 27, 2015. The application is now available on VT Dept of Housing and Community Development's website. For more information contact Caitlin Corkins (firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-828-3047).
Brattleboro Area Farmers Market Receives Grant from WRC
The Brattleboro Area Farmers Market (BAFM) received a $35,000 grant on May 18, 2015 through the Windham Regional Commission Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund. BAFM will use the funds from the WRC to remediate contamination on the former Planet Gas site, located at 70 Western Avenue in Brattleboro. As part of mitigation, the site will be re-graded and redeveloped with the creation of additional parking to serve the Saturday farmer's market, a safe greenspace, a sidewalk for improved connectivity, and enhancement to the site's aesthetic quality. The gas station building and canopy will be removed during redevelopment. The project is scheduled for construction in the summer of 2015.
WRC assisted BAFM with site assessment in 2014, due to the former use of the property as a gas station. Like many former gas stations corrective action is necessary to mitigate potential impacts to human health and the environment. Soils present at the site are contaminated with varying concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, (PAHs) Arsenic, Polychlorinated Biphenyls, (PCBs), and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPHs). None of these are airborne or pose immediate public health risks. The site will be remediated with a combination of geotextile fabric, a clean soil and/or gravel barrier, and sidewalk paving. Land use restrictions in the form of a deed restriction will also be implemented to ensure that the protective cap is maintained.
The Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative (WRBRI) was established in 2000 with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since that time WRC has been working hard to promote vibrant communities by facilitating brownfields redevelopment. The overall goal of WRC's program is to restore brownfield properties to productive uses that can range from business, industry, housing, community facilities, and public green space. The WRBRI has funding available to help from assessment throughout the reclamation process. More information about the program can be found here at or contact Susan McMahon, Associate Director (email@example.com) or (802) 257-4547 x 114.
ANR Releases Forest Stewardship Atlas
Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources has just released their on-line Forest Stewardship Atlas. Modeled after ANR's popular Natural Resources Atlas, the Forest Stewardship Atlas contains a wealth of data on Vermont's forests, from the landscape to the site level.
The work is in conjunction with the Forest Stewardship project that Windham Regional Commission and other RPCs in Vermont have been working on for the past few years. Many of the data sets in the Atlas are also included in WRC's recently-released report "Landscape-Based Forest Stewardship in the Windham Region," but are easier to view and analyze in this on-line web mapping format. The Atlas can be accessed here: http://anrmaps.vermont.gov/websites/ForestStewardship/.
WRC will be hosting a series of trainings on the atlas during June. Check the WRC website or Facebook page for dates, or contact Jeff Nugent at the WRC (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
2015 Downtown & Historic Preservation Conference
Friday, June 5, 2015
Main Street Landing
FROM THE DIRECTOR
Seeing Ourselves With New Eyes Going Into the Next 50 Years
The WRC is celebrating 50 years of working with the towns and citizens of the Windham Region this year. As I hope you've noticed from the ongoing series of retrospective articles, much of the history of the WRC is the history of planning in Vermont! I was asked to provide my perspective on the future of the WRC. The future I envision in 2015 is considerably different than what I would have written in May, 2011.
Regional commissions were viewed as dispensable by some in positions of state leadership in pre-Irene 2010. The opposite is true in 2015. Having demonstrated their capacity to serve as the essential link between state, local and federal government in the response to, and long-term recovery from, Tropical Storm Irene, state agencies also came to realize that it is at the regional level where most state programs come together. It's at the regional level where programatic "stove pipes" - the natural tendency of programs to be isolated from another - can be broken down. It's also where common municipal needs can be met.
In 2015 regional commissions - the omission of planning here is purposeful as we do much more than plan - are trying to strike the balance between being integral to the implementation of a wide array of state policies (especially land use, transportation, emergency, natural resource, energy, climate change and flood resilience, and most recently, water quality) and being relevant to our towns' specific and common needs. The distance between the state's perceived needs and the town's perceived needs is often quite great.
We strive to make state and federal programs work for our towns. A very practical reality is that we are reliant upon these programs to provide staff resources to provide a variety of services. We also pursue specific grant opportunities that we feel will be of benefit to the communities we serve. What we would like to do is be more responsive to our towns' own perceived needs. To that end, we have engaged in a discussion about shared municipal services with town officials. The goal is to more fully pursue our stated mission of assisting towns with effective local government.
We would like to work with our towns to have them identify among themselves services where they'd like to collaborate. What type of services? Anything from shared purchasing programs to animal control to zoning administration to road maintenance services. In some cases towns might be able to enter into effective agreements with one another. In other cases they might want the regional commission to organize and administer the service for them. For now we are taking an organic approach - supporting the towns as they identify their priorities and then figuring out what implementation model makes the most sense. In any case the towns by their own decision would provide full financial support of the effort, but this means they would have total control. This may result in cost savings, but as importantly these arrangements should result in greater value for money spent with less administrative burden. Another benefit could very well be the sustainability of Vermont's form of local governance. Shared services will allow towns to exert local control while sharing the burden of increasingly complex government administration.
We are also recognizing the value of looking beyond our region's boundaries to effect meaningful economic development that provides household income security. The closure of Vermont Yankee has prompted us to look at our "commute to work" patterns in a new light. Each day, the Windham Region exchanges workers with our neighboring regions in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. To be sure, we will want to pursue economic development, job growth, and labor development in the Windham Region. But if you look at where people work that live in our region, it becomes apparent that the Windham Region has a stake in the well being of the economies of Cheshire County, New Hampshire and Franklin County, Massachusetts. To that end the WRC and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation are working with counterparts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to identify what our economic development strategies have in common, and what common workforce development opportunities we can pursue together.
Looking into the future, the WRC will have a role in assisting state government in implementing - and shaping - statewide policy, and we will continue to seek federal resources in support of regional initiatives to benefit our towns. We will also work to shape federal policy where we have a useful perspective to share. These purposes hearken back to our founding. We will also continue to assist towns with their planning and plan implementation needs. This has been and will always be a core function.
The two new challenges before us, organizing our towns to share administrative functions in a way that preserves our valued form of governance, and working with BDCC and our counterparts in adjoining states and regions to shape our economic future, reflect the need for the WRC take the initiative to shape a future that turns around demographic trends. Our economy is stagnating, wages are declining, the working-age population is leaving, our population is getting older, and an extraordinary percentage of those who live here derive their income from someplace else and are thus somewhat disconnected from the local economy. But we have so much to build upon. For a rural area we have a remarkably diverse economy with no single dominant industry. Our villages and downtowns are remarkably intact. There remains an energy and enthusiasm about this beautiful place. We are blessed with a wealth of human and natural resources. We are resilient.
The future of the region really is what we make it. So the role of the WRC for the next 50 years is to do what we have done for the last 50 years - to empower self-determination through collaboration. We should be outward-looking to learn from the experience of other people and places to expand our knowledge and understanding and fertilize our imaginations, but do so knowing that our future will be our own invention. There is no formula to follow. We may need to work together differently, owning new realities that could give us reason to change the way we have been doing things for the last 5, 10, 20, 50 or 200 years. Above all we have to recognize the amazing things about the people and places that comprise the Windham Region; things that time and familiarity may cause us to take for granted. People invest of themselves in a place out of hope and affection. We need to explore new ways to revisit the people and communities and places of this region to renew that affection, and to effectively see ourselves again with new eyes. From that vantage point we'll have a better understanding of what is wanted and needed, what steps need to be taken to meet those wants and needs, and - if we do it right - the enthusiasm and commitment to take those steps.
Green Up Day 1978|
VT Route 30
Brattleboro, VT 1965