The meeting was facilitated by members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s long-term task force. Thom Rounds, leader of the FEMA team, told the audience that the evening was the beginning of a two-month identification process. That process will result in a community-driven planning document the town will be able to use as it recovers and rebuilds from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August.
“Our goal is to lead the town to a recovery best suited for it,” said Rounds. “This is a collaborative process, with yourself and other partners.” Those other partners, according to Rounds, include state and federal development agencies, and private organizations.
“But the drive and energy come from you here in the room,” Rounds added.
Rounds described the process as fast, something that will get the town moving forward again. The goal of the process is to produce a final planning document by the end of March. After that is produced, the FEMA crew will move on, and it will be up to Wilmington officials to move the plan into action.
Wilmington Selectboard chair Tom Consolino told the assembly, “It’s really heartening to see so many people here.” He also pledged the town’s commitment to the long-term process that was being initiated.
Prior to the opening remarks, people who attended the meeting were asked to walk around the gym and place sticky notes on display boards broken down by various categories of reconstruction and development.
Those categories were then lumped into more broad categories identified by the FEMA task force earlier in the discovery process. They are natural resources and recreation; health, housing, and human services; infrastructure; community development and capacity building; and the historic village.
After opening remarks, and a FEMA-produced video showing a similar Long Term Community Recovery process in a Georgia community, the audience broke into work groups centered around the five general categories. Participants then reviewed the notes added to the display boards, and came up with lists of items that could be included in the final plans for the town.
At the end of the work group session, the ideas that had been winnowed down were added to the overall planning process for the next round of work. Most of the work group participants agreed to continue to meet over the next month to refine the ideas generated on Tuesday.
FEMA staffers are now transcribing all of the notes, and those documents will go back to the groups for their first meetings.
Those groups will work to set the priorities for the town to focus on, and those priorities will eventually be used to develop a list of projects to undertake.
After the meeting, Rounds commented on the large turnout. “That’s what we love to see,” he said. “Our hope is people will stay involved.” Rounds also commented that he hopes locals give the process a chance. “There’s nothing more aggravating than people who are out there lurking, and who come back and snipe as the process is winding down.”
Another general public meeting will be held in February, where attendees will be asked for more input and to set priorities for the projects identified. For those who would like to get involved in a working group, meeting times and days will be available at the Wilmington Town Office once schedules are established.