From the Director, Summer 2023: Municipal Assistance Project Gets Underway

Chris Campany

The WRC has received funding to support 6 towns in the Windham Region identified by the Agency of Administration as being “high need.” Those towns are Athens, Brookline, Halifax, Readsboro, Searsburg, and Wardsboro. Other towns have the opportunity to request funding from the state by making a request to the Agency of Administration here. It’s been a pleasure to begin meeting with Selectboards.

Initial funding supports community needs assessment and opportunity assessment development. Community needs assessment entails conducting a review of community assets and needs, strategic planning, and identifying potential eligible projects in collaboration with the municipality. Opportunity assessment entails assessing the technical assistance and funding available from State, federal, and private sources; evaluating eligibility and compliance requirements; and conducting a feasibility analysis of whether the municipality has, or can develop, the capacity to complete a project and meet applicable requirements. Towns can then request additional funding to support application development, permit assistance, and project management and implementation.

It is great news that the legislature and administration have recognized the limited capacity of our rural towns, which for practical purposes is all of the 27 towns the Windham Region. With only a few exceptions, each has very limited if any staff capacity to do any project planning, application development, or project management. Most rely upon volunteers. To move our towns forward, and the state, we need to be able to provide towns with this capacity for the years to come – not just at this moment when federal and state funds are available in large quantities. When a request for applications comes down from the state or federal government, towns need to be “project ready,” meaning they need to have already deliberated upon the need and approach and to commit to a project and pursuit of funding. Towns that successfully apply for grants have typically spent the months and years that it takes to be ready. Deciding to discuss the matter when a request for proposals is issued is too late. To this end we need to establish the capacity to support towns on an ongoing basis. We can’t let this new recognition of town capacity needs fade because the fundamental challenges will remain.

Last Updated: 22 January 2024
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