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.
WRC Releases Forest Stewardship Report
Do you know what threats, both global and local, face our forests and our forest economy? Are you concerned that climate change and invasive species could change the composition of forests as we know them? Is Windham County really the “Timber Capital of Vermont?” The Windham Regional Commission’s recently-released report, “Landscape Based Forest Stewardship,” provides insight into topics such as these, including what strategies exist to preserve the region’s forestlands.
Highlights from the Emerald Ash Borer Workshop
Just ask the hundreds of communities that have already experienced the arrival of the exotic emerald ash borer (EAB): despite their small size, this iridescent green insect can have devastating impacts to our forests. Within a 6 to 12-year time period, the EAB can cause nearly 100% mortality of ash trees (which is one of the 10 most common trees in Vermont), leading to significant risk to public and private infrastructure, public safety, and our forest communities. Unfortunately, the burden of dealing with the impacts of the EAB falls heavily upon municipalities, utility companies, and landowners.
Study of Economic Impacts to Tri-County Area Due to Vermont Yankee Closure is Released
On December 29, 2014, the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station (VY) will no longer operate as an energy production facility. When fully operational, the facility had over 600 workers, most living in Windham County, VT; Cheshire County, NH; and Franklin County, MA. For over 40 years, VY has been an important component of this region’s economy. So what is the magnitude of economic impact to our tri-state region due to the discontinuing of operations and decommissioning of VY, especially the loss of local income? This is a question that four regional economic development planning organizations are seeking to answer. These organizations are: the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, the Southwest Regional Planning Commission, and the Windham Regional Commission. A study completed by the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute that begins to provide some insight can be found here: UMDI Study of Economic Impacts of VY Closure.
Upcoming Grant Opportunities
The Windham Regional Plan is Approved!
We are pleased to announce that the Windham Regional Plan was approved by a unanimous vote on September 30, 2014 during the meeting of the Windham Regional Commission. This concludes our regional plan update process that began in October 2012. We wish to extend our gratitude to everyone who participated in this effort.
Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative Brattleboro Community: Building Flood Resiliency
By some estimates, at least a quarter of businesses never reopen after a disaster. The Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative, or VERI, is hoping to lower that number, by working with five towns in Vermont, including Brattleboro. The goal is to help businesses affected by a future disaster to “bounce back, not break.” The first public forum for Brattleboro was held October 15, 2014. We'll be posting a summary of that forum soon.
Downtown and Village Revitalization Website is Launched!
A new website has been launched to assist southern Vermont communities with downtown and village center revitalization. This website provides a toolkit of information and resources to help communities build vibrancy and economic resiliency. Among the resources are links to useful guides and information, implementation strategies, funding sources, case studies, and government and non-profit entities that offer additional information
WRC Awards Brownfields Funding to Deerfield Valley Transit Association
In June, Windham Regional Commission signed an agreement with Deerfield Valley Transit Association (DVTA) for a loan/grant combination for $171,500 for brownfields clean up at the former Barnboard site in Wilmington. DVTA is the operator of a community transit system for the area around the Deerfield Valley and is known for their trademark buses with a Holstein motif. The grant is being used for the remediation of the Barnboard site as part of the construction of their new facility.
Recent Regional Highway Safety Forum a Success
On May 12, 2014, Chip Sterns, Town Manager, Rockingham, welcomed 50 attendees to the Rockingham Town Hall and the first Regional Highway Safety Forum in the Windham region. The all day event was presented by the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance (http://highwaysafety.vermont.gov/ ) and hosted by WRC and Southern Windsor County RPC. It provided an opportunity to learn about the resources and partners available to individuals and communities as they strive towards safety for all highway users.
EPA Awards Brownfields Funds for Two Windham Region Projects
EPA recently announced the award of more than $17.48 million in Brownfield grants to municipalities and organizations working to protect people’s health by assessing and cleaning up contaminated parcels in New England communities. In the Windham Region, EPA is awarding $475,000 clean up grants were awarded for two projects in Rockingham.
WRC Hires New Planner
The WRC is pleased to announce that Alyssa Sabetto will be joining our staff as a planner beginning June 2nd. Alyssa has a B.S. in Community and Regional Planning with a minor in Environmental Studies from Temple University Ambler and an M.S. in Environmental Management/Organizational Development and Leadership from Shippensburg University.
Main Street Arts Receives Brownfields Clean Up Grant from WRC
In April 2014 Windham Regional Commission signed an agreement with Main Street Arts (MSA), a non-profit community arts center located in Saxtons River, to grant the organization $133,658 for Brownfields clean up. The grant is being used for the remediation of their adjoining site (33 Main Street) to allow them to make their existing building handicapped accessible.
Speaker and State Treasurer Meet With WRC Commissioners and Energy Coordinators
Our conference room was bustling on February 24th as nearly 20 members from the WRC’s Energy Committee, Public Policy and Legislative Committee, and Town Energy Coordinators gathered to speak with Vermont Speaker of the House Shap Smith and State Treasurer Beth Pearce. The Speaker and State Treasurer each had other engagements in Brattleboro later in the evening, but generously arrived early to hear from constituents on energy issues and related policy. This opportunity was organized by Betty Frye, resident of Guilford, who was hosting the Speaker at a meeting afterward.
Local Emergency Operations Plans – New Format for 2014
Formerly referred to as Rapid Response Plans (RRP), and then Basic Emergency Operations Plans (BEOP), all towns are now required to prepared Local Emergency Operations Plans (LEOP) following a new format. Vermont statute requires every city and town to have an emergency operations plan on file at the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS). Adoption of an LEOP is one element of the new Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) Rule, which goes into effect on October 23, 2014. The Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund provide State funding to match Federal Public Assistance after federally-declared disasters.
WRC’s New Hire to Help with Village and Downtown Resiliency Planning
Kim Smith, a recent graduate of Conway School with a M.A. in Landscape Design, was recently hired to help us with village and downtown resiliency planning supported by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Disaster Recovery Grant. Kim’s prime focus at Windham Regional Commission is working with staff on village revitalization plans. Prior to graduate school Kim worked as a biologist in California on a bald eagle reintroduction project. Other areas of interest include gardening, sustainability and permaculture.
First Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Project Completed
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) is pleased to announce completion of its first Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative-Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (WRBRI-RLF) project: The Bellows Falls Historic Riverfront Park and Trail System.
WRC Presents Testimony on VY Closure Before House Committees
Below is a link to testimony presented on October 28, 2013 by Windham Regional Commission before the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee and the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee about the impacts of the closure of Vermont Yankee. Link to testimony.
Information Related to the Closure of Vermont Yankee
Information as of August 30, 2013, including:
- WRC Statement on Announcement by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee That the Plant Will Close in 2014
- VY Employees by Town
- Resiliency Action Plan for the Town of Vernon in Preparation for the Eventual Closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station
Creative Planning and Public Participation In Londonderry
Londonderry residents and a team from Marlboro College’s Center for Creative Solutions (CCS), in partnership with Windham Regional Commission explored how to best use soon to be town owned properties severely damaged by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. Participants in the six-day planning workshop held in early August generated three different options for how the buyout properties could provide opportunities for flood mitigation and at the same time be a multipurpose green space for the community. Conventionally, these purposes could be seen as mutually exclusive. However, there was nothing conventional about this community planning process.
I-91 Bridge Replacement Begins
On Tuesday, July 24th, there was a well attended public meeting on the design, engineering and pre-construction of Bridge 9 on I-91 that spans the West River. It was exciting to see this project so close to the actual construction phase. The development process for this project was compressed, but at the request of the WRC, VTrans allowed public involvement and input into the aesthetics of the bridge design.
WRC receives $400,000 in EPA Brownfields Grant Funding to use in the Region
EPA recently announced that the Windham Regional Commission will receive $400,000 in EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant funds (petroleum and hazardous substances). All together this funding has brought a total of $3.15 million dollars in federal Brownfields funds to the region since the program’s inception in 2000. Brownfields are land and buildings whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
WRC Awards First Grants, Loan, Through Brownfields Cleanup Fund
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) is pleased to announce the following grants and loans from the Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative- Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (WRBRI-RLF). A total of $272,266 will be made available to Deerfield Valley Transit Association (MOOVER), Main Street Arts and Bellows Falls Historical Society to provide resources to help them with the clean up of their Brownfield properties.
Commonwealth Dairy Wins Award for Brownfields Redevelopment
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and Commonwealth Dairy are proud to announce that the Commonwealth Dairy project was honored at the Phoenix Awards ceremony during Brownfields 2013 in Atlanta, GA, May 16, 2013. Created in 1997, this prestigious award honors individuals and groups working to solve critical environmental or social challenges, transforming blighted and contaminated areas into productive new uses, and sustainable development projects. The Phoenix Award winners represent outstanding Brownfield projects from each of the 10 EPA regions.
Energy Siting Commission Recommends Strong Planning Role
The VT Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission has released its report detailing its recommendations. Among the recommendations are robust regional and municipal energy siting planning, which can lead to greater standing of plans in the Section 248 process. I strongly encourage everyone interested in this issue to read the report in its entirety, including the dissenting opinion from Siting Commission member Louise McCarren. The report and minority opinion are available here. Thanks to the members of the Siting Commission for their hard work on a challenging subject.
Recent Forestry Forum Spawned Sharing of Ideas
WRC Natural Resources Committee hosted on April 18 their third forum in an ongoing series to bring together conservation minded people in our region to network and learn. The Spring 2013 topic covered two main topics on Forestry. Graduate students from the Conway School presented their research from last winter, where they collected stories from local foresters, and ideas and data to tell the story of cultural, economic, and conservation values of the working forest landscape of the Windham Region.
What's New With The Southern Vermont Post Tropical Storm Irene Recovery Project
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC), along with our correlating Regional Development Corporations, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation applied for and received funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration Disaster Recovery Grant program. An important part of this work is to bring added professional capacity to Southern Vermont to assist with economic recovery post Tropical Storm Irene.
January 2013 State Approved Town Road and Bridge Standards
The Town Road and Bridge Standards represent the work of a culmination of working groups (including VTrans, ANR, RPCs, and VT Local Roads) focused on infrastructure criteria to be adhered before hand when a natural disaster occurs. The January 2013 state-approved Standards include: reconstruction of gravel and paved roads, erosion control measures, culvert and bridge designs, installing guardrails based on project specificity, and access management. A copy of these Standards can be found here.
Town Profile Data Available
Parcel Data Now Available in Google Earth-Compatible Format
Have you ever wanted to look at a town’s digital parcel data but you don’t have the necessary GIS software? Now you can look at that data in Google Earth, a popular and free mapping software that many people already have on their computer. WRC GIS staff have recently converted all available digital parcel data in the Windham Region to “KMZ” files.
Conway Students Investigate Forestry in the Region
Three graduate students from the Conway School Graduate Program in Sustainable Landscape and Design are working on a project this quarter to tell the story of forestry in the Windham Region. The goal of their project is to prepare materials to build greater understanding of the cultural, economic, and conservation values of the working forest landscape of the Region.
WRC Releases Report on Undeveloped Waters in SE Vermont
Windham Regional Commission (WRC) has just released the report “Undeveloped Waters in Southeastern Vermont.” It is the result of several years of work by Commission staff to identify and characterize the nature of the undeveloped rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds in the southern portion of the Windham Region and a small area in the adjacent Bennington County Region. Undeveloped refers to the state of the land adjoining these water bodies.
Forty lakes and ponds, with shoreline totaling nearly 100 miles, and over 1,400 miles of rivers and streams, were analyzed. What did we find?
Complete Streets Implementation Guidance for Municipalities Now Available
In May, 2011, the Complete Streets Bill was signed into law. The guidance as to how the law is to be implemented at the municipal level has now been released. Complete Streets – A Guide for Vermont Communities was developed by the Vermont Department of Health in cooperation with a variety of transportation, health and aging organizations in order to demonstrate and provide examples of Complete Streets projects already in place, as well as overarching planning guidelines for future initiatives. Hard copies have been distributed to each town by the WRC. The guide is available from the Vermont Department of Health here, or AARP here.
EDA awards $470,000 in disaster funding to Regional Commissions for Capacity Building in Southern Vermont
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and the Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) have been notified by the Vermont Federal Delegation that they have been awarded $472,000 in disaster recovery funds by the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. This EDA investment supports disaster recovery capacity building for the Southern Vermont region. The project will establish two flood recovery offices that will expand the capacity of public officials and economic development organizations to work effectively with businesses and encourage the development of innovative public/private approaches to economic restructuring, revitalization and resiliency.
Windham Regional Mobility Study Completed
Over the past year, WRC staff has been working on the Windham Region Mobility Study: Coordination of Transportation Services to Improve Mobility for All of the Windham Region’s Residents. This Study came about through a collaborative effort among 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 through the coordination and integration of current and future transportation services, including public transit and school buses.
Southern Vermont Rivers Conference a Success!
Copies of the presentations in PDF format are below (we will be adding more as we receive them):
From the Director, August 2012 - HUD Approves $4.5 million for Windham County
In the last newsletter we explained that the Windham Region would have to compete for a very small pool of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. On Thursday, July 19th we learned from Jen Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development (DEHCD), that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the state’s request that up to $4.5 million in CDBG-DR funds be made available to Windham County out of the $17,328,169 that had been targeted exclusively to Washington and Windsor Counties. We appreciate the hard work of everyone at the state, federal and local levels to make this happen!
Report: Recommended Aesthetic Criteria for the Replacement I-91 Bridge Over the West River
On Thursday, August 16th the WRC hosted a public outreach meeting to gather public input on the aesthetics and design of a new bridge that will replace the current I-91 bridge over the West River and Route 30. Background information as to how this meeting came about is available here. Approximately 35 residents, local officials, professionals, and interested individuals participated in the meeting. Facilitated by WRC staff, the meeting began with a presentation of the history of the project, the task before the public at the meeting, and a review of design precedents to expose the participants to different types of structures and materials and how they relate to the surrounding context. The meeting participants as a group were then asked about qualities of the current bridge within the context of the surrounding landscape, and the current and desired experience created by the bridge by travelers on Route 30, I-91 and the West River.
More Census Tracts Eligible for New Markets Tax Credits
The good news is that more census tracts are now eligible to participate in the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. The bad news is that this eligibility has come about due to increasing rates of poverty and relatively low family income in the Windham Region. Congress created the NMTC program in 2000 to spur investment of private capital for economic development in both rural and urban low-income communities. Individuals and corporations receive a tax credit against federal income taxes for making investments in certain low-income properties or businesses when those investments are made through a “community development entity” (CDE). Prospective NMTC projects generally need to be located in qualified census tracts.
WRC Comments on Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Funds Action Plan
The Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development (DEHCD) of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development has developed a draft action plan that describes the proposed use of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
WRC Director Testifies Before Vermont Senate Committee on Economic Development, General and Military Affairs
On March 30th Executive Director Chris Campany provided testimony about decommissioning concerns related to Vermont Yankee, and town planning needs in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, before a community-based hearing of the Vermont Senate Committee on Economic Development, General and Military Affairs.
New West River Watershed Maps Released
WRC has just released a 2 page map of the West River Watershed. The first page is a richly detailed map of the entire watershed, showing every named river, stream, lake, and pond, along with wetlands, roads, buildings, villages and hamlets, public lands, and major recreation areas and trails. The second page introduces the concept of a watershed, and presents information on water quality and special designations of lands and waters in the watershed.
Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) Efforts Advance
The Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies Group (SeVEDS) is an organization driving the regional economic development dialogue for the Windham Region. SeVEDS, affiliated with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, envisions an economy that generates long-term growth and prosperity, improves our quality of life and sustains our quality of place. Members of the SeVEDS Board (Barb Sondag and Bob Stevens) presented the latest findings about the state of the economy of the Windham Region and economic development planning strategies going forward at the February 2012 WRC meeting.
Remembering Melinda Bussino
It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of our Chair, Melinda Bussino, over the weekend. Melinda gave so much of herself to so many, and the Windham Regional Commission counts itself as fortunate to have benefited from her active participation and leadership since she began serving as a Commissioner from Westminster in 1995. During that time she served as Vice Chair for 3 years, and this year was her fifth term as Chair, a position she assumed in 2008. Melinda was a tireless advocate for those in need and the importance of community, and an undeniable force for change. In addition to her work, Melinda shared with everyone an incredibly positive disposition and a beautiful smile. Our thoughts go out to her family for their loss, and we thank them for sharing Melinda with us. She will be missed.
Melinda's viewing will be held on Friday from 4 to 7 pm at Ker Westerlund at 57 High Street in Brattleboro. Please stop in and express your condolences to her family. Her memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church on Main Street in Brattleboro. It is also open to the public.
The family has asked that donations be given to the Drop In Center in lieu of flowers.
Vermont's Complete Streets Law and What It Means to You
For two years dozens of Vermont organizations, led by AARP Vermont, advocated for a Complete Streets law in Vermont. The Governor signed Vermont’s Complete Streets bill (H.198, Act 34) into law, effective July 1, 2011. What does this mean for you? To some extent the answers are a work in progress.
Irene by the Numbers: Town Road, Bridge, and Culvert Damage in the Windham Region
From the day after Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont, WRC has worked with towns to gather information about damage to their transportation infrastructure. Though the following figures are only initial estimates—the real numbers will come to light after towns and FEMA have tallied the final damage costs—they offer insight into the magnitude of the storm and its impact on the Region.