June 16, 5:30 pm:
Local Emergency Planning (LEPC)
June 23, 5:00 pm:
WRC 50th Anniversary
**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.
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 Celebrated 50 Years of Service to the Windham Region
On Tuesday, June 23rd the WRC celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gathering of current and past Commissioners and staff, elected officials, state agencies, and many other friends overlooking the Connecticut River Valley from the vantage point of the School for International Training in Dummerston. The warm and humid evening didn't dampen the energy among the approximately 150 people in attendance, and the threatening storms skirted north and south of the gathering. The Governor, and former WRC Commissioner for Putney, Peter Shumlin addressed the group, and was followed by the premiere of a 5 minute video about the WRC and its work. Former WRC staff member and current Citizen Interest Commissioner for Housing, Greg Brown, presented the 50th anniversary history he pulled together and edited. Copies were made available to all who attended. Thanks to the 50th Anniversary Committee - Bill Schmidt, Lew Sorensen, Jim Matteau, Greg Brown, and Piet van Loon for helping to organize all of this year's anniversary activities, and Associate Director Susan McMahon for staffing the effort. The 50th Anniversary book and the WRC video are available here. Thank you to the Windham Foundation for underwriting the production of the video and history.
Here's to another 50 years of service to the towns and people of the Windham Region!
Governor, and former WRC Commissioner, Peter Shumlin speaks at the WRC 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Guests listen to featured speakers at the WRC 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Meet WRC's Summer Intern!
The WRC has hired an intern to assist with transportation-related projects for the summer, Tilden Remerleitch of Guilford started June 1st and will be working through July. Tilden is beginning her sophomore year at UVM were she is working towards a major in Geography and a minor in Chinese. She recently spent a year abroad studying in Shanghai where she brushed up on her Mandarin and is now nearly fluent. Tilden has become very familiar with the Windham Region while completing sign inventory fieldwork for Weston and Marlboro. She has also collected data for Wilmington and Putney bridge and culvert inventories, and bike and pedestrian data on trails in Wilmington and Dover. Next up is a sign inventory for Grafton and Vernon, a parking space survey in Putney, and measuring town short drainage structures in Newfane, Wardsboro and Weston. Welcome Tilden!
New Local Emergency Plan Appendix Developed for Animal Planning
LEPC-6, at their April meeting, hosted the newly forming Windham Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) along with Joanne Bourbeau, the Northeastern Director of the Humane Society of the United States and the Vermont DART statewide Chair. What came out of that meeting was a desire for Emergency Planner and LEPC-6 Secretary, Alyssa Sabetto, to develop a an animal planning element to be included as part of the Local Emergency Operations Plan (LEOP) that gets updated yearly by towns. This was seen by the group as a doable step that may encourage more towns to pro-actively consider and plan for animals in disasters. Experience and research has shown that some people who would otherwise evacuate their homes will not do so if they don't know how their
animals, especially their pets, can be sheltered or otherwise cared for. It was such an issue during Hurricane Katrina that the Congress passed the PETSAct, which amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.
This newly developed addendum to the LEOP addresses planning for and caring for companion and domestic animals during a disaster. This document is meant to encourage consideration and planning for animals in a municipality by determining such things as where they can shelter, who can offer emergency veterinary care, and where there are animals at high risk during disasters. This draft document has been shared with Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for consideration of integration into the LEOP for use by towns across the state.
Vermont has the largest per capita rate of pet ownership in the country, with 71% of households claiming to have pets, so it's likely that pet owners and animal-related business owners will turn to their local emergency managers for assistance during times of crisis. Having the information on this form pre-determined and available during a disaster will enable town officials to answer questions, give direction and make connections quickly and easily.
VSECU Launches Windham Solar Loan Program
Made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding with Entergy Corporation through closure of Vermont Yankee, the state's Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) has designated $2.6 million to support economic development and increased production of renewable energy in Windham County. The WRC advocated for this use of funds in Windham County. While state incentives for solar installations have largely been discontinued, a portion of the CEDF Windham County funds have been allocated to the Windham Solar Loans Program. For a limited time, Windham County residents have the opportunity to take advantage of affordable, local financing for solar PV and solar hot water systems for residential or group net metered (aka, "community') systems located in Windham County. The program, administered through the VSECU, will run until the funding is depleted or March 2017. For additional information about the program, including eligibility and terms and conditions, please visit this website.
You may also call Laurie Fielder, VSECU's VGreen Program Director, at 802-371-3136 or email email@example.com. For all other questions and inquiries, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
Opportunity for Wood Heat Conversion in Windham County's Public Buildings
The Windham Wood Heat (WWH) Initiative has been developed to yield community benefits, business success, and high performance public buildings based on a sustainable local forest industry. This $1.6 million program-funded through of the state's settlement agreement with Entergy Vermont Yankee via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF)-will assist municipal and school buildings convert to heating with local, sustainable wood while addressing those buildings' energy efficiency and durability needs. This two-year program also includes public education, training for local building professionals, fuel supply procurement and other elements needed to make Windham County a long-term hub of advanced wood heat technology and practice.
CEDF defines advanced wood heating systems as those that utilize highly efficient technology, produce low emissions, support healthy forest ecosystems, and consume local wood (from within a 50-mile radius). To learn more about advanced wood heat, click here.
Public school and municipal buildings in Windham County that are currently heated by fossil fuels are eligible for assistance for a limited time. Participating public entities will be eligible for advanced wood heat assessments and energy and building envelope analyses. Buildings selected for installation of wood boilers will get one-on-one coaching through the project development, bid review, budget, and public approval process, plus incentives ranging from $10,000 to $75,000 based on project cost and size toward installation of a high-efficiency pellet or wood chip heating system. Loans, credit enhancements, performance contracting, and other financing mechanisms may also be available.
WWH is designed and administered by a Windham County-based project team. The Windham Regional Commission will provide program support through public outreach, project coaching to ensure that projects move forward successfully, and facilitation of wood supply discussions to support the expansion of a sustainable forest economy.
The WRC's partners in this program consist of:
- Sustainable Energy Outreach Network: a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a strong renewable energy and energy efficiency economy in southeastern Vermont.
- Building Green, Inc.: a consulting group specializing in an integrative approach to design, specification, and construction that minimizes ecological impact and maximizes economic performance of buildings.
- STIX, L3C: An innovative sustainable forest products company connected to the local resource, suppliers, and value added processors.
- Innovative Natural Resource Solutions: a consulting group specializing in forest policy, renewable energy, environmental auditing, land conservation and wildlife management.
- Northern Forest Center: a non-profit organization catalyzing economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests.
For more information about the program or to learn what the next steps are for prospective buildings, please contact Kim Smith: email@example.com or (802) 257-4547 x108. We will ask you for some basic information about your building, including your current heating system and average annual fuel bills.
Bees, Bats and Habitats Forum a Success!
News articles about our bee and bat populations in the last decade repeatedly emphasize the staggering losses of these populations and the many perils that have caused them: habitat loss, disease, pesticide use impacting bee populations, white-nose syndrome decimating bat populations, and the list goes on. On Friday, June 12, over 55 members of the public, from throughout the Windham Region, attended a forum entitled "Bees, Bats, and Habitats," at the Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro, VT.
Our first speaker, Alyssa Bennett, Small Mammals Biologist at VT Fish and Wildlife Department, shared information about bat biology, the 9 species of bats in Vermont, and recent findings about the white-nose syndrome. While the drastic 90% decline in bat populations has been devastating, the rate of decline has slowed in recent years and some individual bats have survived multiple years despite being exposed to the disease. This leads researchers to hope that remaining individuals have greater resistance to the disease. Bennett encourages all of us to learn how to respond if we discover a bat in need, to contact the VT Fish and Wildlife Department if bats are found in a building (and especially if you have a need to remove them from the building), and to put up bat houses in backyards to provide roost sites for these pest-eating creatures. With many of our bat species reliant upon forests, she stressed the importance of maintaining good forest habitat.
Jodi Turner, Owner of Imagine that Honey, spoke next, sharing her passion for bees and other pollinators. There is a growing body of evidence that pesticide use is contributing significantly to the decimation of bee populations. Turner shared that while far more work needs to be done, the White House issued the Presidential Memorandum -- Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators in June 2014 as a first and important step. The memorandum commits to organizing a task force to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy to protect and support pollinator populations. Each one of us can support pollinators in our backyards by creating habitat. Some simple things to start: plant flowering species (especially if done strategically), avoid (or eliminate!) the use of pesticides, and be mindful of the plants and seeds that you purchase at any garden supply store (many have been treated with pesticides).
This event was cosponsored 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. If you would like additional information and/or resources to get you started in supporting bat and bee populations, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
August 18th LEPC-6 Meeting Topic: Mobile Home Park Vulnerability in the Windham Region
Since 2005, UVM Professor Dr. Dan Baker with his staff and students have been engaged in the critical issue of vulnerabilities of Vermont's mobile home parks. The group has developed a partnership with the staff of the Mobile Home Project at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. This partnership has generated valuable information about park communities in Vermont through resident surveys, informed community organizing efforts, and raised awareness about park issues in the affordable housing community. More information about their efforts and who they are can be found here.
This group will be presenting information specific to the parks in the Windham region at the August 18th LEPC-6 meeting. The meeting is from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Brattleboro Retreat's Education Conference Center. Please share this information with others who may be interested in attending as this meeting is open to the public. An RSVP is requested to email@example.com or 802-257-4547 ext 109, so we have an idea of how many people to plan for.
We have a number of vulnerable mobile home parks in the region. The hope is that this meeting will spur further community-based collaboration and mitigation efforts around the region.
The WRC in
In May I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and the International Economic Development Council to participate in a discussion titled "Making Resilience the New Normal: A Convening of Local, Regional and Federal Leaders." Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission and Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission were also invited. The 1.5-day convening brought federal partners together with experienced local and regional leaders for a discussion about how we can work together to achieve better resilience outcomes - the ability to withstand and bounce back from natural disasters and climate change. Representatives from regional development organizations and local governments whose communities have all been impacted by natural disasters in the past five years 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 from a range of agencies highlighted recent efforts to support disaster and climate resilience through new and existing policies, programs, and investments. It was a worthwhile conversation.
Having had many places I know and love "disastered" over the last decade, including the Gulf Coast, I never feel like we can do enough around resilience planning. But we have done a lot over the last 4 years. When we were first asked by NADO to share what we had done, I compiled a list. If there's a theme here, it's the importance of partnerships.
- Collaborated with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and the Bennington County Regional Commission in securing a grant for $470,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration Disaster Recovery program to fund a project that provided capacity to work with businesses throughout the region on revitalization and resiliency, to work with villages and downtown organizations to develop revitalization strategies, and to develop a sustainable southern Vermont marketing strategy. The project description can be found here.
- Received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts through which we collaborated with the Marlboro College Center for Creative Solutions and residents of the Town of Londonderry to explore design solutions on the use of buyout properties along the West River to both build community and provide greater resilience in the face of future flooding. The report from this work can be found here.
- Working with the region's long-term recovery committee that was organized to coordinate long-term recovery needs and casework for individuals who suffered damage to homes during Irene into a Windham Region COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) in order to respond to future crises that involve individuals (as opposed to public infrastructure).
- Encouraging towns to broaden the stakeholder base they engage in the creation of local hazard mitigation plans. We draft each town's local hazard mitigation plan and shepherd it through the state and FEMA regional review process. The towns are necessarily very involved in the drafting process, including the identification of hazards and mitigation strategies.
- Working with town planning commissions to incorporate local hazard mitigation plans into town plans.
- Used our Local Emergency Planning Committee to develop an individual damage reporting form for use by town emergency management directors in the event of a disaster. DEMHS has indicated they'll use this as a statewide template. Local collection of individual damage status and needs was an observed weakness during Irene, due in large part to the fact that past disasters had primarily affected infrastructure rather than individuals.
- Conducted a river science and physics workshop for town officials and the general public with the goal of expanding understanding how rivers and streams "work" and why they behave the way they do.
- Continuing to streamline processes by which we most effectively collect information about damage to town infrastructure in collaboration with our VTrans District leaders. Regional commissions in the state have signed an agreement with the VT Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to serve as the state's local liaison to our towns. Part of this includes assisting towns with damage reporting in the wake of an event.
- Assisted towns with the pursuit of CDBG-DR grants to repair Irene-affected infrastructure that was not covered by FEMA. This included collaboration with UVM researchers on the use of a drone/unmanned aerial vehicle to gather stream and river geomorphic data in the towns of Readsboro and Wardsboro.
- Training multiple staff in river science and resilient infrastructure design.
- Preparing comprehensive bridge and culvert inventories for our towns.
Participated in the Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative (VERI), led by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and funded by the U.S. EDA, to evaluate areas in Brattleboro where economic activity and associated infrastructure are at a high risk of flooding. The goal was to better understand local flood risks and identify projects that reduce, avoid or minimize these risks.
If there's an area where we are lacking outreach, I'd say it's at the household level. What happened during Irene could easily happen again in any year and will happen again. More localized events, like last year's storm and flooding in Windham, Ludlow and Chester, happen with almost annual frequency and can produce Irene-type damage but at a smaller scale geographically. It's also important to be mindful that we are at risk of storms and flooding that rival Irene. Every household should have a plan whether near a stream or not, and should refrain from putting structures or anything else within harm's way.
While in D.C. I also had the opportunity to meet with our federal delegation. In Vermont we talk about ease of access to all of our elected officials and our Congressman and Senators are no exception. I met with their staff to discuss the need to convene communities that are hosts to nuclear power stations to provide meaningful, substantive input into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decommissioning policymaking process. They were generous with their time, attentive, and follow-up has been outstanding. Having worked on federal policy in the past I can say that such access and attention is more the exception than the rule, and another great thing about Vermont that we should not take for granted.