WRC NEWSLETTER                                                 WINTER 2019
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WRC Commissioners
January 2, 6:00 pm:

January 7, 6:00 pm:
January 9, 5:30 pm:

January 13, 4:00 pm:
Transportation Committee
January 14, 6:00 pm:

January 16, 5:30 pm:

January 16, 6:00 pm:
Broadband Kickoff Meeting
Newbrook Fire Dept
January 21, 4:00 pm:
January 23, 5:00 pm:

January 28, 6:00 pm:
Newbrook Fire Dept
**All Committee meetings take place in the WRC Conference Room unless otherwise noted.
**All meetings are subject to change, please check the website for updates.

New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
Seed Grant
DEADLINE:  Rolling 
DEADLINE:  March 15, 2020 

USDA Rural Development 
Community Facility Loans & Grants
Communities with populations of 20,000 or less
DEADLINE:  Ongoing (contact USDA office)

Communities with populations of 10,000 or less
DEADLINE: Ongoing (contact USDA office)

Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
DEADLINE:  Rolling
Vermont Community Foundation
Special & Urgent Needs
DEADLINE:  Rolling
Windham Foundation
DEADLINE: Feb 12, 2020
For more information  click here
Windham Regional Commission
DEADLINE:  Rolling 

DEADLINE:  Rolling 
Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program
Caring for Canopy Grants
DEADLINE: Jan 17, 2020

Emerald Ash Borer Management Grants
DEADLINE: Jan 17, 2020
For more information click here

For additional information about  grant possibilities for your projects please contact Susan Westa at 
Windham Region Broadband Project to Get Underway with Award of Broadband Innovation Grant

On November 22, 2019  Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Public Service Commission announced the winners of the state's new Broadband Innovation Grants (BIG). The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) was one of three successful applicants for this round of funding. WRC applied to the BIG program in conjunction with ValleyNet and Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. (RISI). The grant will provide $60,000 for technical assistance and community engagement for a broadband feasibility study and to develop a business plan.
In early 2020, WRC will engage all 27 towns to determine the need and level of interest in pursuing the development of fiberto the home in unserved and underserved areas and the formation of a Communications Union District (CUD). CUDs will bring multiple towns together to pursue implementation of fiber to the premises in underserved areas. It's logical for communities to work together to develop new infrastructure such as broadband, especially in rural areas. WRC received letters of support from seventeen towns for this grant application and from many other stakeholders.

ValleyNet and RISI will be the primary technical service providers. Both organizations have extensive experience with broadband development. They will also lead the development of a survey of individuals throughout the region to determine the level of interest and willingness to pay for broadband services. The early engagement activities will inform the best path forward and the feasibility of developing a CUD or multiple CUDs in the Windham Region. Once the feasibility study is complete, ValleyNet and RISI will develop a business plan that will identify construction costs, an ideal finance and operations model, and a risk management plan. Communities throughout the region can use this information to identify their best path forward.

For more information about WRC's partners see below:

Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc (RISI) is dedicated to helping clients bring prosperity to rural areas in the digital age. RISI uses data-driven strategies, modern geospatial tools, and deep experience in rural economies to develop new modes of rural economic development for communities and stakeholder organizations.
ValleyNet has provided organizational, financial, and technical assistance to the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District ("ECFiber") since its formation in 2008. It designed, built, and now operates the network.

For more information on the Broadband Innovation Grant please contact Sue Westa 
New Phone Tree in Place to Assist Independently Living Vulnerable Residents

A new "Vulnerable Population Phone Tree" between towns and organizations that serve independently living vulnerable residents is now in place to facilitate communication to Town Emergency Management Directors regarding vulnerable people who may need to be checked on following hazardous weather events.  The issue this is trying to address is that many towns (and this likely isn't unique to the Windham region) aren't maintaining vulnerable population lists, for various reasons, but in part because of HIPAA requirements. 

To try to resolve this issue, the WRC Emergency Committee created a plan for a phone tree whereby towns would have connection to an agency contact person per agency that serves their town, and each agency would internally phone tree out to their clients/patients to check on them.  Agencies included in the Tree are those that assist independently living vulnerable people, and include Bayada, Bayada Hospice, Visiting Nurses and Hospice (VNH) of VT and NH, The Gathering Place (adult day services), Senior Solutions (senior centers and Meals on Wheels), Brattleboro Hospice, the CARES groups in the region, SASH, and the Community Health Team from Grace Cottage Hospital. The phone tree would utilize those organizations to internally phone tree out to their clients/patients.  Those clients that couldn't be reached would be reported back up to a supervisor (the phone tree contact), and that contact at the agency would call the town EMD back to let them know who couldn't be reached.  This would spur the EMD to ask for perhaps the Fire Department and/or Road Crew to check on those individuals.  The Fire Department and Road Crew would both be equipped to clear the roadways, or do whatever necessary to reach and check on the stranded client(s).  This would serve to help vulnerable residents get assistance and perhaps rescue if needed, help the agencies to assist their clients that they couldn't otherwise reach, and help the towns to check on and assist their residents without having to contact each one themselves.

The Phone Tree was exercised at an early October tabletop organized by Vermont Emergency Management. The agencies mentioned above, as well as the Putney EMD/Fire Chief, Jamaica EMD, Westminster EMD, Windham EMD, Vermont Department of Health, VT Department of the Aging and Independent Living, numerous CARES groups, Grace Cottage Hospital, Green Mountain Power, Windham Regional Commission and numerous representatives from Vermont Emergency Management were involved. This is a new tool for the region, and we hope it streamlines the task of checking on our most vulnerable fellow residents after hazardous events. For questions, please contact  Alyssa Sabetto.
Executive Director

Associate Director

Office Manager

Finance Manager

Transportation Planning Tech



Senior Planner

Senior Planner

Senior Planner
WRC Welcomes New Staff Members!

Margo Ghia
joined the Windham Regional Commission, as the new Natural Resources Planner in September 2019. Margo comes to the WRC from the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District where she was working with communities and landowners in Windham County to address a wide array of natural resource concerns including water quality, agricultural best management practices, and education.

Previously, Margo was the Managing Director for Main Street Arts in Saxtons River where she led the organization through significant physical and programmatic growth. With a background in Environmental Education, Margo has also been a public school teacher and developed a broad education program in regional schools, libraries and for the general public while at The Nature Museum at Grafton.

Margo has a Master's degree in Education with an emphasis in Science and Environmental Education and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning. She currently volunteers for several organizations in the region, including serving on both the Rockingham School Board and the Bellows Falls Union High School Board. She is excited to be working with her new colleagues at Windham Regional and working with municipalities in the region on their natural resource concerns.

Inessa Muse  joined the Windham Regional Commission as Finance Manager in August 2019. Inessa will assume daily finance management and employee benefits operations and grants management, as well as financial reporting to external entities and the WRC Executive Board and Full Commission. Inessa comes to the WRC from Vermont Academy and the Monadnock Waldorf School where she held positions of billing and accounting, parent relations, and Business Manager, being responsible for cash flow, daily operations, human resources, personnel policies, and safety and sustainability of the school as a whole.

Previously Inessa worked for a local oil and heating business and was involved in customer support, accounting and finance, and led a project for updating company's website.

Inessa has a Master's degree in Musicology from Kazakh State Conservatory, a Bachelors degree in Finance from Franklin Pierce, and is working on her MBA in Leadership with the same university.

When she is not working Inessa enjoys reading, gardening, and spending time with her family.
Through Collaboration, a Dam is Removed
Over the summer and early fall, Windham Regional Commission, in partnership with the Connecticut River Conservancy, worked with landowners in Dummerston to remove a dam on private property on Crosby Brook.

This defunct dam was impairing the natural flow of the brook, causing sediment buildup behind the dam, and raising the temperature of the water, which harms wildlife that call the stream home. With this dam's removal we are helping to restore natural conditions to the brook, as well as expanding the flood storage capacity upstream so that when the next large water event hits the region, downstream infrastructure will be better protected.

Dam removals are very complicated projects and wouldn't be possible without a lot of project partners. This project was made possible through collaborations between the Windham Regional Commission, the Connecticut River Conservancy, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vaughan-Johnson Dam owners, Paula Sagerman Historic Preservation Consultation, United States Army Corp of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, VT Division for Historic Preservation, Town of Dummerston, Ripple Natural Resources LLC, and Canonica Farm and Forest Services, LLC.
Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup Funds NOW Available
The Windham Regional Commission has funding available to help property owners or prospective property owners assess the extent of potential contamination by hazardous materials or petroleum products. WRC also has funds to help with the cleanup of substances identified through assessment work. These funds are made available through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Please help us spread the word about this important opportunity!
        Saxtons River Park
In the Windham Region, Brownfields funds have been used to assess and cleanup sites that have been redeveloped for industrial and commercial uses, affordable housing, and community open spaces. The recently opened Saxtons River Park received assessment and cleanup funds from WRC and the town partnered with WRC to administer it's own cleanup grant.
WRC also provided cleanup funds for the first phase of the Putnam Block downtown revitalization project in Bennington VT.  Brownfields funds can help leverage other grants and funding to bring a  redevelopment project to life.  The Putnam Block  project was the focus of sessions this fall at the Northern and Southern New England conferences of the American Planning Association.
Putnam Block
Planners were eager to learn about the many partners and funding sources needed to bring a downtown historic block back to life. WRC Chair Gabby Ciuffreda, WRC Senior Planner Sue Westa, and Bill Colvin from the Bennington Regional Commission presented at Bretton Woods in NH and in Springfield MA.
For more information or questions about WRC's Brownfields Reuse Initiative, please contact Sue Westa or 802-257-4547 ext 108.
Emerald Ash Borer in Windham County
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that was first detected in Vermont in 2018, is likely going to have a devastating effect on our ash tree populations in the next decade. On an individual tree level, an EAB infested tree is likely to be gone within 3-5 years. A stand of Ash can all become infected and die within 6 years of one tree's initial infestation. The quick spread of EAB is what is most concerning for our state, where 5% of our forest cover is Ash trees.  
In the Fall of 2019 Emerald Ash Borer was officially found in Windham County in Londonderry. With several of our communities now in the infected zone, EAB management plans are increasingly important. Many of our region's towns have begun preparing for the arrival of EAB and others are still thinking about how to best approach it in their communities.
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) Natural Resources Committee is working on helping our region's towns address EAB. In January, there will be two presentations in our region on EAB. Working with the Town of Londonderry, an informational meeting on EAB for landowners will be held on January 9. Later in the month, on January 29, the WRC will host an EAB panel and workshop for municipalities on different management methods that can be implemented in towns. More information on each of these programs will be available soon.
The WRC's Natural Resources Committee is also planning further trainings for our region's towns, including working with road foremen and assisting individual municipalities in connecting with resources in developing management plans.

For further information please contact  Margo Ghia.

Ready for a New Year and a New Decade
It's been a year of much change at the Windham Regional Commission, but we are ready for and looking forward to the new year and decade ahead. We've had transitions in the roles of Associate Director, Finance Manager, Transportation Planner, and Natural Resources Planner, and after the normal adaptation and settling in process we end 2019 on very solid footing. Thank you to the Windham Region towns, our Commissioners, our agency and foundation project partners, other stakeholders, and our staff for your unwavering commitment and engagement throughout this past year.

We will begin the year kicking off the much-needed Windham Region Broadband Project, through which we will conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan to extend high-speed broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the region as a whole. With the engagement of our towns, we believe we have the right technical assistance partners, Valley Net and the Center on Rural Innovation, along with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, to develop a plan based in reality that will succeed.

We will resume the process of updating the Windham Regional Plan, with an eye towards answering the question: when growth comes, where will it go? To do this we will continue examining the policies and implementation measures necessary to achieve compact settlement, we will develop hazard mitigation implementation strategies to make these settlements more resilient in the face of the climate change-driven flood events we're seeing now and which are predicted to become more extreme, and we will continue our work through the Windham Connectivity Collaborative to explore policies and strategies to maintain and improve habitat connectivity and avoid further forest fragmentation.
We now have funding through Efficiency Vermont to support town energy committees and implement the Windham Region Energy Plan. Through this effort, along with extensions of the Windham Wood Heat Initiative and the Windham County Renewable Energy Program, we will work with partners throughout the region to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We will continue to support towns in their broad array of planning efforts, and will work to improve understanding of how different planning areas relate to one another. For instance, how does habitat connectivity relate to both watershed protection and the outdoor recreation and forestry economies? How do transportation and land use planning relate to energy and resilience planning? Why are wastewater and water infrastructure foundational to achieving economic and community development, housing, land use, transportation, energy, water quality, conservation, and climate change resilience goals?

This past decade saw the great recession, the destruction and rebuilding related to Tropical Storm Irene, the closure of Vermont Yankee, and the strengthening of our relationships with our neighboring regions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, critical public-private development partnerships, the emergence of regional economic development planning through the Southeast Vermont Economic Development Strategies, the continued evolution of how businesses and consumers are responding to changes in the national and international economy, major shifts in higher education, local school district structure, and more. The Windham Region faces numerous challenges and opportunities going into the 2020's. Working together we'll respond to changes both anticipated and unforeseen.
Windham Regional Commission 
139 Main Street, Suite 505
Brattleboro, VT 05301
Phone: (802) 257-4547
Fax: (802) 254-6383