FEMA Director of Long Term Community Recovery Corey Nygaard recapped the initial planning process for attendees. “My team, which consisted of 35 people, spent nine months in Vermont working with Wilmington, Waterbury, and Brattleboro focusing on the community’s vision for long term recovery. Disasters get a lot of attention during the response phase, but that tends to wane pretty quickly.” Nygaard told residents not to get discouraged if some projects take longer to implement. “I know that if I come back to the community in five years and ask about a project, Scott (Murphy, Wilmington Town Manager) and Tom (Consolino, selectboard chair) will say they’re still working on that. It doesn’t happen fast.”
But Nygaard offered praise for local participation in the long term recovery process. “Wilmington did a very good job of letting the community be ‘visionary,’” he said. “At the vote (to choose the top projects) we had close to 400 people come through the door. There were close to 200 people at a visioning meeting, and that was during an ice storm. It was impressive to see the community participating.”
Project “champions” were on hand to explain the projects and talk about future efforts with local residents. Cliff Duncan said he was working with Mary Wright and her village circulation committee on sidewalks and lighting. “We want to see what it would take to upgrade and improve lighting to a more period correct look, and with more energy efficiency,” he said.
Gretchen Havreluk, who also served as a business assistance coordinator in a joint Dover/Wilmington/Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation program, said she was a champion for a business resource center. “Right now we’re just waiting on a federal Economic Development Administration grant that would jump-start us.”
Meg Streeter said she was working with Dover Economic Development Specialist Ken Black to improve broadband Internet access and cellular communications in the area. “Some of the things that are happening are independent of (Tropical Storm) Irene, but they’re happening. FiberConnect is on its way, and will make a big difference when it goes live in 2013.”
Nicki Steel said she was a champion for a “buy local” project that would have surveyed residents to see what kind of items they would buy in the valley if they were available. “We pulled the project by mutual agreement, but I would be interested in resurrecting it if people said it was a great idea,” she said. “There are a few key pieces, including a study to figure out what people go out of the valley to buy, and determine whether they would rather buy it in the valley. Existing businesses may be able to add the items to their own store, or people might want to start a store.”
Adam Grinold said some of the projects he was involved with had “morphed,” but several of them would be included in an application for an EDA-funded position. “We’d have someone here, in the chamber office, working on southern Vermont branding. Other projects happening without a direct initiative from us fall under the business assistance program.”
Jeanette Toro-Linnehan said her group was working on a volunteer community emergency response team. “We’ve already started training and hope to have a response team.” Another project is the expansion of health services in the valley, and Toro-Linnehan said the group was pushing the Deerfield Valley Health Center to open for another day during the week. “And, from the Red Cross, we did get a commitment to keep a shelter stored in town that can be set up in the event of a future disaster.”