Mort Smedley, a long-term community recovery specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told board members that Dover and Wilmington, the Mount Snow area, was selected as one of two communities in Vermont to receive federal economic development assistance in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. “One of the things we do is come in and help with the economic development aspects of recovery,” Smedley said. “Wilmington, Dover, and Mount Snow are tied together, so we thought it would be advantageous to get all three in our study.”
Smedley will be partnered with Matt Suchodolski, an economic development specialist with the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Suchodolski’s two-month deployment to the area may be seen as a major economic development coup; regional economic development groups such as SEVEDS have been soliciting US EDA attention.
Suchodolski said his role will be in the “initial groundwork” of creating an economic development study with FEMA. He described a three-step process with three meetings. At the first community meeting, economic development specialists would gather information about the community and its needs after Irene. The result of the meeting would be a “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats” (SWOT) analysis, and an implementation report. The second meeting would gather together various economic resources, from state and local agencies and groups to the creator of the local bitown plan, John Mullin. In fact, Suchodolski said the so-called “Mullin Report” would be a “springboard” for their post-Irene study. “That was a long term plan,” Suchodolski said. “The effort here is to engage with the community so a clear set of steps can be put in place in response to Irene.”
The result of the meeting would be a compilation of resources, a permitting guide, and a list of funding resources.
The third community meeting would be a summary and review of previous work, as well as a presentation and discussion of economic development goals. Within three weeks of the final meeting, the team would produce a final report.
“What’s it going to cost us?” asked board member William “Buzzy” Buswell.
“Nothing,” said Smedley, “all you have to do is pass a motion tonight.”
“And you’ll work with (Dover Economic Specialist Ken Black and economic development assistant Linda Anelli)?” Buswell asked.
“Absolutely,” said Suchodolski. “We’re here at your pleasure.”
Board members unanimously approved the federal help. On Wednesday, Smedley and Suchodolski presented the same offer to the Wilmington Selectboard. Like Dover, Wilmington board members also welcomed the economic development assistance.
In other economic development matters, Black told the board that he met with a technician regarding the feasibility of installing a wireless zone along Route 100, a project that would receive some state funding under the town’s designation under the E-Vermont program. But Black said there was a discrepancy between the equipment specifications that he had expected and those which was discussed at the meeting. “The unit they brought had an effective distance of 250 feet,” Black said. “When I looked at the specs on line, it said 400 meters, almost a quarter of a mile.” Black said the technician offered to phone the company and investigate the discrepancy.
Black said the town could also opt for a more powerful wireless unit with a signal that would have the same effective distance, but would be less affected by trees and buildings. The upgraded units are $200 more than the units the state would pay for, Black said. “We’d need 10 of the units at $700 each, the state grant would pay for four, so there would be six at our cost.”
The units would be mounted on buildings along the Route 100 corridor. Board members asked Black to develop a written agreement with building owners who agree to host the units.
Anelli asked the board to approve $2,000 for holiday lights to be used on municipal property as part of the valleywide Bright Lights effort. This year the Bright Lights campaign, once a Dover Economic Development Committee project, has been expanded to include other towns. Anelli noted that communities from Readsboro to Wardsboro would be participating.
Buswell encouraged Anelli to create a bigger town display, and raised the requested amount to $5,000. The board passed Buswell’s motion unanimously.