WRC NEWSLETTER                                              JANUARY 2016
Website  |  About  |  Meetings & Events  |  News  |  Committees  |  Publications  |  Towns |  Contact
WRC Commissioners
January 5, 6:00 PM:
January 6, 5:30 pm: 

January 11, 12:00 pm:
Road Foreman Meeting, Townshend, VT 

January 11, 4:30 pm: Transportation Committee, Brattleboro Public Library

January 11, 5:30 pm:
Planning Coordination Committee

January 11, 6:30 pm:
Trout for Clean Water Future for VT,
Marlboro College Graduate Center, Brattleboro, VT 

January 12, 6:30 pm:
Putney Town Plan Review Public Hearing, Putney, VT

January 13, 2:00 pm:
Natural Resources Committee

January 13, 6:30 pm: Whitingham Town Plan Review Public Hearing, Whitingham, VT

January 14, 4:30 pm: Community Development Committee

January 14, 5:30 pm:
Southern Windham COAD, Brattleboro Retreat

January 15, 9:00 am: Brownfields Steering Committee

January 19, 5:30 pm:
Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC),
Putney Fire Department

January 21, 5:30 pm:
PSB Section 248 Workshop, Windham Regional Career Center
January 26, 7:00 pm:
Full Commission, Townshend Town Hall

January 26, 9:00 pm: Executive Board,
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.

National Endowment for the Arts
DEADLINE:  February 18, 2016
DEADLINE:  April 14, 2016
New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
DEADLINE:  Rolling (Seed Grant) 
For more information click here.
USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans 
& Grants
DEADLINE:  Ongoing (contact USDA office)
For more information click here.
Vermont Community Development Program
DEADLINE:  Rolling
For more information click here.
Vermont Better Roads Grant Program
DEADLINE: April 15, 2016
For more information click here
Vermont Community Foundation
DEADLINE:  April 14 and October 13, 2016

DEADLINE:  April 14 and October 13, 2016

DEADLINE:  March 8, July 26 and October 11, 2016

May 25, 2016 

DEADLINE:  Rolling
For more information click here.
Windham Foundation
DEADLINE:  February 17, May 18 and August 17, 2016
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 
Executive Director

Associate Director

Office Manager

Finance Manager

Senior Planner

Planning Technician

Senior Planner

Senior Planner


Assistant Planner
Southern Windham COAD Holds Second Meeting  
The newly forming Southern Windham COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster), or SWCOAD, met for the second time on January 14, 2016.  There was a good turnout at the meeting and folks expressed enthusiasm about the effort.  Attendees included representatives from: Red Cross; the Windham County Sheriff's Office; the Vermont Department of Health; the Vermont State Housing Authority; Vermont 2-1-1; LEPC-6; Deerfield Valley CERT; town officials from Dummerston and Brattleboro; the Brattleboro Retreat; the MOOver; SEVCA; and United Way of Windham County.  
Tracy Rogers, of Franklin Regional COG, presented on the Berkshire County and Pioneer Valley COADs, both of which she helped set up for Western Massachusetts.  The SWCOAD is looking for member organizations to form the base of the SWCOAD structure.  Under the Franklin Regional COG model, members are put in subcommittee(s) based on their area of expertise/ways that they could assist following a disaster.  Subcommittees each have a chairperson who communicates with fellow subcommittee chairs and the overall COAD chair during times of crisis, or when a disaster is warned.  Subcommittees are activated as needed by their subcommittee chair.  Towns would request assistance directly from the SWCOAD, which would give them one point of access to all member agencies.  The structure of the SWCOAD will be determined by its membership and will evolve as its membership grows.  Windham Regional Commission will continue to provide administrative staff support for the effort.  For a membership form, or if you have any questions, please contact Alyssa Sabetto at 257-4547 ext. 109 orasabetto@windhamregional.org.
Public Meetings to Support Clean Water for our Region's Communities
January 11 was chock full of discussion about Act 64, the new Vermont Clean Water Act and its implications for towns, farmers, water quality, and swimmers of all kinds (including humans and trout). The WRC co-hosted three events in the Windham Region to raise awareness among town officials and the general public about 2015 legislation to improve the waters of our region. Attended by approximately 55 people total, the first two meetings were geared toward municipal officials and focused primarily on new municipal road standards and requirements as part of the Municipal Roads General Permit. The evening public meeting brought in representatives from around the State to talk about the impact of clean water on trout (and other aquatic organisms) and introduce Act 64. For more information about the Vermont Clean Water Initiative, please contact Kim Smith: ksmith@windhamregional.orgor (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
Next Stage Arts Reopens
In mid-December, the former United Church of Putney in Putney Village reopened after a $1.2 million  renovation.  Putney Historical Society, owner of the 1841 church, partnered with Next Stage Arts on the six month theatre renovation. The building is now fully accessible with a new elevator to the 160-seat auditorium on the second floor.  
As part of the renovation WRC's Brownfields Cleanup Program provided a $38,000 loan and grant for asbestos and lead removal. A final phase of the project will occur in 2016 which will include painting and landscaping.  For more information about WRC's Brownfields Program contact Susan at susan@windhamregional.org or 257-4547 x114.
Planning and Zoning
January 2016
Four towns request Town Plan review and approval
Three towns, Putney, Whitingham, and Wilmington, requested WRC review and approval of their town plans at the end of 2015. WRC has reviewed those plans and will vote on approval of the plans and confirmation of the towns' planning processes at the January Full Commission meeting. In January Halifax requested review and approval; WRC has begun the review process with anticipated action within the statutory 60-day requirement. We expect additional requests in the near future. Regional commission approval of the plan and confirmation of the town's planning process is a prerequisite for town eligibility for certain grant programs, as well as for town application for new or renewal state designation of village centers and downtowns by the Downtown Board.  It has no bearing on the standing of a town plan for regulatory processes or purposes (Act 250, Section 248, etc.). 
Five towns embark on new Planning and Zoning projects; five other projects continue
Congratulations to the five region towns that received FY 2016 Municipal Planning Grants for planning and zoning projects. They are: Athens - for creating a town plan; Dummerston - for updating its town plan; Londonderry - for updating its town plan; Newfane - for updating its town plan; and Windham - for updating its zoning. WRC looks forward to working with these towns. We will be continuing work with two towns under municipal service contracts: Stratton - for updating its subdivision regulations and Townshend - for updating its town plan. We also will be completing FY 2015 MPG plan updates with Whitingham, Wilmington, and Readsboro.
Brownfields Redevelopment from Beginning to Completion
Main Street Arts (MSA), a non-profit community arts center located in Saxtons River, recently received a Certificate of Completion (COC) from Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for their brownfields redevelopment project.   The project included brownfields cleanup, building an addition that housed accessibility features including an elevator, a handicap accessible bathroom, and an exterior ramp. Receiving the COC is the final step in brownfields redevelopment and it provides liability protection to MSA and future owners of the site.    
MSA first began working with WRC on the brownfields portion of the project in 2012 when WRC completed a Phase I environmental assessment to assess the environmental conditions of a property by documenting areas of concern given historical uses of the property, visual inspection and documented evidence. In 2012, Phase II Assessment, which focuses on environmental testing of the property, was completed. The cleanup plan was completed in 2013 and the remediation and project was completed in 2014.  Concurrently, MSA finalized its design for the site and raised funds for the project.  
More information about WRC's Brownfields program can be found here or by contacting Susan 257 4547 x114 or susan@windhamregional.org.  
Council of Government: Exploring an Idea to Help Towns Collaborate on Services and  Administration

A bill has been introduced in the legislature that would enable Regional Planning Commissions, based upon a decision by their boards and a supermajority of their municipalities, to become a Council of Governments (COG).  The idea is to give the regions and their towns the option of more formally organizing to collaborate on the delivery and administration of town government services while also continuing to provide the same services to towns that a regional commission does at present.  This would not preclude the ability to continue to organize such cooperation between themselves, but the proposed legislation could facilitate collaboration at a larger scale. The legislation is available here and answers to frequently asked questions is available here.  
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) staff have been involved in the development of the concept of what a COG might look like in Vermont.  This has been informed by our discussion with towns over the last year and a half about shared municipal service needs and opportunities.  The reason for considering the idea is simple. It is worthwhile to explore tools that empower towns to easily collaborate on the delivery and administration of a wide array of services, and to reduce costs or get more and better value for taxpayer dollars.  A COG could be such a tool.  But like any tool, it would have a specific purpose and may or may not be appropriate depending upon the need.  So, for the moment, the idea of forming a COG is just that - an idea.  And within the WRC we have had no discussions about whether or not the transition to a COG would make sense should legislation pass enabling such.    
A COG would not create another level of government, would have no power or authority to govern, and would have no ability to tax.  It would simply provide the structure by which towns of their own volition and with approval by their respective select boards would join together to share in the delivery of government administration and/or services and pay for the total cost of doing the same.  For instance, if 11 of the Windham Region's 27 towns wanted to participate in a shared purchasing program, it would be only those 11 towns that would participate, pay the full costs of such a program, and benefit from such a program.  The select board of each town would be required to approve the participation.  Towns that do not want to participate wouldn't, nor would they bear any burden of the cost.  Under a COG structure only those services that make economic sense and which are capable of being financially sustained by the towns that choose to participate would be provided.  
We have an example of such an organization immediately to our south - the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).  FRCOG has been very generous with its time, sharing with us how they were formed, how they operate, lessons learned, and how they continue to evolve.  Whether or not the WRC should become a COG is a matter to be discussed among its Commissioners and the towns of the region if legislation is passed.  But empowering regional commissions to provide the structure for voluntary, self-selecting, self-sustaining, selectboard-approved collaboration to help towns provide better service to their residents, and greater value for taxpayer dollars, could ultimately help towns preserve their autonomy by working together.  
Windham Regional Commission 
139 Main Street, Suite 505
Brattleboro, VT 05301
Phone: (802) 257-4547
Fax: (802) 254-6383