WRC NEWSLETTER                                                 WINTER 2019
Website  |   About  |   Meetings & Events  |   News  |   Committees  |   Publications  |   Towns |   Contact
IN THIS ISSUE
QUICK LINKS
WRC Commissioners
WRC CALENDAR
February 20, 12:00 pm:

February 21, 5:30 pm:
 
February 25, 12:00 pm:

February 26, 6:00 pm:
Austine Campus, Holton Hall, Brattleboro, VT
 
February 28, 5:00 pm:
 
**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.
UPCOMING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES

New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
Seed Grant
DEADLINE:  Rolling
For more information click here.

USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans & Grants
DEADLINE:  Ongoing (contact USDA office)
For more information click here.

Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Vermont Community Development Program
DEADLINE:  Rolling

Vermont Community Foundation
Special & Urgent Needs
DEADLINE:  Rolling


Vermont Housing & Conservation Board

Windham Regional Commission
For additional  information about  grant possibilities  for your projects  please contact WRC at   wrc@windhamregional.org .
WRC Sponsored Emergency Management Director / Fire Chief  Roundtables
 
Windham Regional Commission has held two of our first Emergency Management Director (EMD) and Fire Chief Roundtables. This began after WRC ceased work with the Local Emergency Planning Commission 6 in Summer 2018. WRC's Emergency Planner felt there was a need to engage EMDs as a group and the first quarterly roundtable was held in Fall 2018. The idea was to host an event that was casual enough to promote open discussion, while also bringing up topics to keep the conversations productive. The EMDs present at the first roundtable gave it praise and encouragement for continuing. Paul Fraser, EMD in Jamaica, suggested that the group expand to include Fire Chiefs since EMDs and Fire Chiefs work together very closely during events (and in some towns are the same person). That idea took hold. Rich Werner kindly offered the West Dover Fire Department for the second Roundtable, which took place on January 15 th . That Roundtable was even more successful with both good participation and great conversation, as well as good food.
 
These Roundtables are meant to provide EMDs and Fire Chiefs an opportunity to skill share with each other, learn from each other, learn about new and emerging emergency management topics, network, and get direct feedback from their counterparts about issues they are facing in their roles or their towns. At the January Roundtable the need for better communication with Green Mountain Power (GMP) was raised and widely agreed to be a common concern. WRC subsequently reached out to GMP with the concerns and invited them to the next Roundtable on April 9 th at the Putney Fire Department. GMP kindly accepted and was happy for the opportunity to talk about a topic that they also feel is vital. We look forward to hosting this and future EMD/Fire Chief Roundtables. Please encourage your town's EMD and Fire Chief(s) to join us, or ask about their experiences if they already have. 

Contact Alyssa Sabetto  with any questions.
WRC Annual Town Officials Update

Please note:  As we approach Town Meeting Day, WRC will be sending blank Town Officials & Commissioner Appointment Forms to all towns to collect updated and accurate information. 

We ask towns to please appoint commissioners by April 1 st  to avoid any lapses in representation on the Commission, and to have appointments made before our new commissioner orientation session.
 
Please help us keep our records up to date by sending in your forms as soon as the information is available. Forms from previous years are available for your town upon request. 

Please contact Ashley Collins with any questions.
Town Enhanced Energy Planning

The Windham Regional Commission is working with member towns to develop enhanced energy elements for town plans. These enhanced elements meet state standards therefore making the town plan eligible for Substantial Deference in Section 248 proceedings.. So far, WRC has assisted nine towns in the development of these plans. The planning process involves an in-depth review of the towns' energy consumption currently and how they're projected to transition to renewable sources by 2050. This includes planning for a substantial amount of efficiency and conservation as well as identifying where renewable energy generation is feasible and preferred. Two towns- Westminster and Londonderry- have completed the local adoption process and received a Determination of Energy Compliance from WRC.

The next round of technical assistance is ramping up with the WRC working with four more towns. The draft plans are due to be completed by the end of the calendar year.
WRC STAFF
Executive Director

Associate Director

Office Manager

Finance Manager

Planner

Transportation Planning Tech

Planner

Senior Planner

Planner

Senior Planner
WRC Welcomes New Senior Planner!

Susan Westa, AICP, joined the Windham Regional Commission in January 2019. Susan will be the new Community Development lead at WRC, including the Brownfields program and the regional plan update. Susan comes to WRC from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in western MA where she was working with Planning Boards reviewing large scale solar applications and helping develop marijuana zoning bylaws. She also led the development of a Joint Land Use Study with the Westover Airbase and surrounding communities.

Previously, Susan was the Community Engagement Director for the Connecticut Main Street Center where she led the Center's Come Home to Downtown Program. Susan also worked as an Extension Educator with the University of Connecticut where she served as Co-Director of the Green Valley Institute. She served as Coordinator for the Borderlands Village Innovation Pilot Project, the pilot of the Orton Family Foundation's Heart and Soul Planning Program. Prior to that Susan worked as a planning consultant in upstate New York.

Susan is a Certified Planner and has a Master's degree in Environmental Science. She served as the APA Connecticut Chapter's Professional Development Officer and Program Committee Co-Chair, and was on the Program Committee of the Southern New England APA conference. Susan also served on the Town of Mansfield's Planning and Zoning and Inland Wetland Commissions.
Statewide Parcel Mapping Project
 Moving Forward

Imagine having up-to-date information on ownership and generalized boundaries for every parcel in Vermont at your fingertips. This is well on its way to becoming reality, as we found out at a recent Statewide Parcel Mapping Project update meeting.

WRC hosted the meeting for town officials in conjunction with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI). The goal of the project is to create current, standardized, parcel data across the state that is linked to each town's grand list. So far, 14 towns in the Windham Region have these standardized data. You can use the Vermont Parcel View web app to access these new data. The remaining towns should be available by early 2020. WRC created parcel maps for Somerset in 2013, and like many other contractors, is working to bring the town's data up to the new standards.

It's worth mentioning that while it's the "Statewide Property Parcel Mapping Project," it is less about actual mapping and more about updating and standardizing GIS parcel data. Paper maps, and improvements to the accuracy of parcel lines, are not part of this project. Still, having information on generalized parcel boundaries (note the word "generalized," these are tax maps, not surveys) and property ownership as conveyed in the Grand List publicly available in one place is huge! Everyone benefits, from town officials to residents, surveyors, foresters, planners, real estate agents, homebuyers, hunters, developers, natural resource specialists...the list goes on.

A bill in the legislature this year contains two initiatives tied to parcel mapping: 1) creating a central library of digital parcel surveys, and 2) requiring a survey for property line changes (e.g., subdivisions). Easily accessible digital survey data would potentially make tax map updates, and improvements to accuracy, easier.

For more information, contact Tim Terway at VCGI, Tim.Terway@vermont.gov, or Jeff Nugent at WRC.
WRC Commissioners Visit Rich Earth Institute, Windham County SWMD
 
On November 15,  2018, the WRC's Energy and  Natural Resources Committees attended a field trip to the Brattleboro-based Rich Earth Institute (REI), and the Windham County Solid Waste Management District (WCSWMD). The theme of the trip was energy-efficiency, resource recovery, and closed-loop systems, or sustainable processes that intentionally convert "waste" products into resources. This field trip was especially relevant to the Committees following the approval of the Windham Regional Energy Plan, which containspolicies that encourage resource-conscious practices and industries.

With its depot located on Old Ferry Rd in Brattleboro, "The Rich Earth Institute engages in research, education and technological innovation to advance the use of human waste as a resource." Co-founders Kim Nace and Abe Noe-Hays showed the attending Commissioners how the REI collects and processes diverted urine from local donors, turning human waste into fertilizer for local farms. This process not only removes a profoundly impactful volume of waste from entering into our waste-management infrastructure (like septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities), but also provides local farms with an alternative to purchasing synthetic fertilizers for their crops.

Immediately following a tour of their facility, the Commissioners then visited the municipal composting operation and 5MW net metered solar installation on top of the capped landfill. District Manager Bob Spencer explained how the commercial composting operation works, and the amount of "waste" (in the form of residential and commercial food scraps, cardboard, yard waste, etc.), that is turned into value-added compost available for purchase. The Commissioners then walked through the relatively-new solar installation, discussing the details of how that renewable energy contributes to grid dynamics. The group ended the trip with a discussion of the potential for an anaerobic digester, which would link energy generation with the commercial composting facility. In this process, organic materials are decomposed in the absence of oxygen, thereby creating biogas to be combusted and turned into energy.

This one field trip is part of a larger effort and collaboration between WRC staff and Commissioners to be better rooted in the context of the Windham Region; where we explore local opportunities, project momentum, burgeoning technologies, and all the associated impacts on regional planning. Both Committees hope to resume a series of field trips to local areas of interest in spring/summer 2019.

For more information please contact Emily or Marion at WRC. 
Northern Border Regional Commission Now Includes all of Vermont

Thanks to our Congressional delegation, passage of the federal Farm Bill included expansion of the territory eligible for grants under the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), to include the entire State of Vermont. Formerly, only the northern-most counties were eligible.

Between $1.5 - $2.5 million will be available for economic and infrastructure projects, with a $500,000 maximum award for infrastructure projects and $250,000 for other projects. Applications will be available on the NBRC website early March. A letter of notification is due March 30th and full applications are due in May. (You can reference last year's application and criteria here .)

Eligible applicants are public bodies, 501(c) non-profits, Native American Tribes, and state government, for projects that focus on:
  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Basic public infrastructure
  • Telecommunications infrastructure
  • Workforce development, entrepreneurship and businesses and technology development
  • Resources and open space conservation, tourism, and recreation
  • Renewable and alternative energy.
The Department of Economic Development will be holding several informational sessions around the state of Vermont to provide information to potential applicants for the 2019 NBRC grant round. Points of discussion will include the goals of the NBRC, the application process and the scoring criteria used by reviewers.

The informational sessions listed below are the two closest for the towns in our region. 
For information on the NBRC program, click here  or on the Vermont NBRC page here:  ACCD or contact Tim Tierney , Director of Business Recruitment and International Trade with the Vermont Department of Economic Development.
People Are Hitting The Trails During The Winter Months

What were people in Brattleboro doing on Christmas Day? How about New Year's Eve? Would you believe that dozens of people each day were out on the West River Trail?

Windham Regional Commission has expanded its pedestrian count program to the winter months, and recent data both surprised and pleased us. Counts on the West River Trail in Brattleboro from December 11, 2018 through New Year's Day 2019 were only about 15 percent lower than the long term average during non-winter months. It was probably the short days as much as, if not more so, than the cold though that kept people from getting out. We came to this conclusion because while weekday counts for that period were lower than average, weekend counts were exactly the same as the long term average of data recorded in spring, summer, and fall.

We recorded 110 "trips" on our West River Trail counter Christmas Day. A "trip" is one person passing in one direction on the trail. At a location like the West River Trail where most people go out and back, we can estimate the number of persons using the trail to be about half the number of trips. That would mean about 55 people were out on the West River Trail on Christmas Day, about 50 on New Year's Eve day, and a high of about 68 on December 29.

We placed counters on several other trails in January. Usage on the Holden Trail, a hiking trail to The Pinnacle in Westminster, was about one-third the number of trips recorded in September of 2018. Still, that means about five to six people each day were getting out.   This is the same number of people we estimated to be using the trail to the summit of Putney Mountain, though that's considerably less than counts from the summer months, which are over five times higher. Guilford's Weeks Forest Carriage Trail was nearly as popular this summer as the Holden Trail, but its January use averaged only about two people each day.

If you're looking for a good reason to get outside this winter, don't forget that seven libraries in Windham County have snowshoes available for loan (along with information on where to use them) through the efforts of the Vermont Department of Health Brattleboro Office. Those libraries include Brattleboro, Dover, Guilford, Jamaica, Townshend, Westminster West and Whitingham.
   
  • Weeks Forest, 31 average hits per day in June, 4 in January 
  • Ridgeline Trail, 74 average hits per day July 2017, 13 in January (<20%)
  • Holden Trail, 34 average hits per day September, 11 in January (one-third)
  • West River Trail, 62 average hits per day in spring, summer, and fall, 12/11-1/1 was 53, only 15% less, but weekend usage was exactly the same at 77! (Shorter daylight hours makes getting out during the week difficult). High use over holiday period, Christmas day has 110 hits! New Year's eve day 99, and 136 on 12/29.
FROM THE DIRECTOR
  
Staffing Changes
at the WRC


We've had some staffing changes at the Windham Regional Commission. We welcome Susan Westa to our team as a Senior Planner, and are glad to have Lisa Donnelly, who joined us as a transportation field work intern this past summer, now transition into a full-time Planning Technician. We've also shifted some responsibilities among current staff. Here's an update on who is serving as staff lead on our different programmatic areas of work. Note that these are broad categories. Most staff oversee one or more special projects, and they collaborate on work in different programmatic areas.
  • John Bennett, Associate Director: municipal planning assistance, WRC management assistance
  • Ashley Collins, Office Manager: keeping the place running
  • Emily Davis, Planner: natural resources, including water quality
  • Lisa Donnelly, Planning Technician: technical support for all areas, transportation technical assistance
  • Marion Major, Planner: energy, transportation planning program coordinator
  • Jeff Nugent, GIS Planner: geographic information systems and mapping, transportation technical assistance, website development
  • Alyssa Sabetto, Planner: emergency management, project review (Act 250, Section 248, etc.)
  • Mike Shaughnessy, Finance Manager: financial management, information technology
  • Susan Westa, Senior Planner: community development, brownfields, regional plan update
We're fortunate to have a great team that cares about the work of the Commission and the support we provide to the region's towns. If your town has a need, let us know!
Windham Regional Commission 
139 Main Street, Suite 505
Brattleboro, VT 05301
Phone: (802) 257-4547
Fax: (802) 254-6383