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Brattleboro Reformer Article: Wilmington hailed for Irene recovery efforts

31 Aug

By CHRIS MAYS / Reformer Staff

Posted:   08/30/2013 09:32:28 PM EDT | Updated:   about 3 hours ago

 

This aerial photograph taken following the historic flooding of August 2011, shows downtown Wilmington, looking south down the Deerfield River. (Austin Danforth/Bennington Banner)

WILMINGTON — As you look down Main Street, activity is steadily building after two years since Tropical Storm Irene ruined many of the downtown businesses.

On Aug. 28, at Gov. Peter Shumlin’s press conference at Memorial Hall on the day of the second anniversary, people gathered to hear the message that Vermonters had worked together to rebuild the communities that had been destroyed by Irene.

“It was a good way to close the two-year celebration because he was here right after the flood and here again last year, when they met at Dot’s to do the reconstruction of Dot’s,” said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy. “This is a closure issue for the state.”

One resident had remarked that the day was similar to the day after the storm: sunny with blue skies and a comfortable breeze. Together, the community is still picking up the pieces.

Employees of Dot’s Restaurant, which is scheduled to open next month, handed out free bowls of their famous homemade chili. They had set up a table outside their building, which had been destroyed by Irene.

A special fundraising effort called Rebuild Dot’s had assisted with costs associated with reopening its location in Wilmington.

The Wilmington Fund Vermont was established by Dan and Tamara Kilmurray, two long-time second homeowners. They have worked with residents whose efforts have assisted in the funding of several projects, including the re-paving of a village parking lot.

The Friends of the Valley is a group made up of second homeowners who wanted to support recovery efforts after Irene. The Wilmington Flood Relief was another charity created to aid the town during the days following the storm. Both were named during the press conference

While places like Bartleby’s Bookstore and Wahoo’s Eatery had reopened almost immediately with monumental recovery efforts, there are still empty storefronts that Shumlin had noted.

Since Wilmington’s village was approved for the Vermont Downtown Program, the organization Wilmington Works was created. It has worked with other groups to attempt to make use of those buildings and accomplish other goals towards restoring vibrancy.

“One of the best outcomes of Irene has been the ability of people to work together and solve problems today,” said Wilmington Works Board Co-Chair John Gannon. “We can really move this town forward in the next couple of months, next couple of years. We look forward to making the town of Wilmington a better place.”

Fellow Co-Chair Lisa Sullivan spoke of how the community was back to work putting itself back together. She mentioned the long term recovery efforts that several residents are enthusiastic about.

“I wish I could say the economy has recovered but there is still a lot of work,” Sullivan said. “There are still too many empty buildings, which is the primary focus of recovery (now).”

State Treasurer Beth Pearce briefly mentioned the story of how Wilmington Town Clerk Susie Haughwout saved important records of the town. Her car was destroyed on Main Street due to the flooding that occurred after she rescued the documents.

Haughwout’s most recent efforts have been focused on making all the town records digital to prevent the risk of destruction.

“This is a success story that came out of Wilmington,” Pearce said of the town’s recovery efforts.

Murphy told the Reformer that there were still at least a couple of people waiting on buyout programs to be completed. But as far as a municipality, the Whites Road Bridge is the final recovery project for the town. It is slated to be done by the end of September.

“We’re happy to be done with Irene and looking forward to moving forward,” he said.

State Sen. Bob Hartwell weighed in on the efforts as well. He has lived in Wilmington since the middle of April.

“Based on what we see, I think we’re going to go a very far way,” Hartwell concluded.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.

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18 July 2013 Deerfield Valley News

18 Jul
Star power will be on display at Saturday fundraiser and concert
by Jack Deming
2 hours ago | 94 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joan Osborne

Joan Osborne

WILMIGTON- The Wilmington Fund VT was created after Tropical Storm Irene to promote and raise funds for the economic vitality and recovery of Wilmington. This Saturday, the fund is calling in some star power to help, as seven-time Grammy-award nominee Joan Osborne is slated to perform at the Hermitage Inn.

Osborne may be most famous for her multiplatinum 1995 hit “One of Us,” but her career has spanned multiple decades and genres from blues to country, and soul to pop. She has played with Motown sidemen and post-Grateful Dead reunion bands, but Saturday night she will play to a tented audience of 300, with all proceeds going to the Wilmington Fund VT.

According to Wilmington Fund VT secretary Julie Lineberger, Osborne’s performance is sure to be high-energy. “I am beyond happy,” said Lineberger. “It’s such an intimate setting and it’s us supporting ourselves, and the valley supporting each other. We’re going to have a blast.”

The Wilmington Fund VT reached out to Osborne’s promoter to find out if she was interested in performing, and the date chosen just so happened to work with Osborne’s schedule. Local musician Colby Dix will kick off the evening with an acoustic set, starting at 8 pm, which will feature songs off his new album. Dix is excited to be what he called “another layer to an exciting event. I’m a big fan of Joan Osborne’s because she stayed true to herself through so many career passages and styles of music. I’m quite excited to be opening for her.”

Last year the Wilmington Fund VT hosted Aztec Two-Step as part of a similar concert fundraiser for rebuilding Dot’s Restaurant, one of nine businesses Lineberger says the fund has helped rebuild or open since Irene. This year, they helped to fund the Moving Wall, Wilmington Works (Downtown Designation), and the Independent Television and Film Festival coming to Wilmington and Dover in September, as well as a parking lot in downtown Wilmington.

“The Wilmington Fund VT is great because we are a private organization,” said Lineberger. “We can move quickly and nimbly to provide financial assistance unlike the bureaucracy of a state or federally funded program.”

The next step for the Wilmington Fund VT will be to focus its efforts on filling more unoccupied buildings in the downtown, while continuing to help the existing ones. Lineberger says Wilmington Fund VT may focus its efforts on Wilmington, but that’s because it is the hub of the valley. “We feel it is vital not just for Wilmington but for the valley to have a vibrant historic district in the town of Wilmington,” said Lineberger.

Tickets for Joan Osborne live at the Hermitage Inn are $100 and can be purchased at TheWilmingtonFundVT.EventBrite.com. Complimentary beer and wine are included with purchase of a ticket.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Star power will be on display at Saturday fundraiser and concert

23 May 2013 Deerfield Valley News • The Wilmington Fund VT helps to Establish Wilmington Works through the Vermont Downtown Program

4 Jun
New board holds first meeting
by Jack Deming

WILMINGTON-At their inaugural meeting Wednesday morning, the newly formed Wilmington Works advisory board got to work with an organizational session, opting for two co-chairs instead of a chair and vice chair, and selecting representatives for the group’s subcommittees.

Wilmington Works is a nonprofit committee, created through the Vermont Downtown Program, which will work on improving and supporting the downtown by following the program’s Main Street Four Point Approach, which focuses on organization, economic restructuring, design, and promotion. The work involved with each category will be delegated to four subcommittees, which can add members and volunteers for projects as needed.

After approval of the downtown program in March, an advisory board was put together consisting of 11 members. Program requirements included two selectboard members, Diane Chapman and Susie Haughwout; two members of the Wilmington Fund VT advisory board, John Gannon and Bob Fisher; and a member of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, a role filled by executive director Adam Grinold. Other members of the board include Tom Fitzgerald, Doug Laplante, Susan Lawrence, Lisa Sullivan, Sheila Osler, and Alice Richter.

The Wilmington Fund VT will serve as the committee’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt financial sponsor for a minimum of five years, as required by the program, but over time the group will consider creating their own 501(c)(3). Bypassing this process and using the Wilmington Fund VT for the time being will speed up the group’s immediate effectiveness, says Gannon. “Rather than move into an area which takes months to establish, we can begin work immediately and worry less about the financial side of things.” Wilmington Works has also received financial support from the town to the tune of $8,000.

The advisory board’s first big decision was to elect an advisory board chairperson. After the nomination of Gannon, Sullivan, Haughwout, and Lawrence, those nominated had difficulty saying for sure if they would be able to fulfill the role. Since Wilmington Works will be responsible for reporting to both the Wilmington Fund VT and the selectboard, Haughwout said that it would be best to not appoint a chairperson who also serves on one of those two boards.

“It would be nice to have a business owner be chair,” said Haughwout. “That way no one from those boards has too much control and instead we have someone working in the depths of the business community in charge.”

The board decided instead to create two co-chairs who will delegate their responsibilities between them, such as running meetings and creating agendas, and Sullivan and Gannon then agreed to serve as the group’s one-year co-chairs, while Haughwout volunteered and was affirmed for the “unrewarding” job of secretary.

While the Wilmington Fund VT will handle the group’s finances, the board decided to appoint Diane Chapman as treasurer to oversee the group’s bookkeeping. The board will also need to appoint a project coordinator who will oversee the daily work of revitalization.

The board also voted to approve a memorandum between Wilmington Works and the Wilmington Fund VT, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of each through the program.

Meetings of the advisory board will be open to the public. The board will create a set meeting day at their next meeting, Wednesday, May 29, at 8 am.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – New board holds first meeting

Wilmington receives downtown designation • 28 March story in the Deerfield Valley News

30 Mar
by Jack Deming
2 days ago | 522 views | 1 1 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print

 

WILMINGTON- After an 18-month-long application process, the VT Downtown program has given its stamp of approval, awarding Wilmington village downtown designation.

This paves the way for implementing Wilmington Works, a committee that will work to enhance the business and economic environment of the downtown. Wilmington Works will be a committee of the Wilmington Fund VT, which serves as the committee’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt financial sponsor, as required by the program. The Wilmington Selectboard has also committed funds to Wilmington Works for this, and next year’s, fiscal years, using matching grant funds.

After Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA worked with the town to establish a long-term community recovery plan, and identified approximately two dozen projects that could have positive impacts and help the town most in achieving recovery goals.

Downtown designation was chosen as a high priority by the town, and former selectboard chair Tom Consolino was named project champion. Consolino, town manager Scott Murphy, economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk, and Wilmington Fund VT member John Gannon spent 18 months putting together the plan, and applying.

According to Murphy, Wilmington Works will provide structure and support for downtown businesses, and organize efforts to improve the town’s economy. This will be accomplished through four subcommittees that report to a board of nine to 11 volunteers. Those subcommittees will consist of organization, economic development, promotion, and design.

For business owners, Murphy says Wilmington Works will provide multiple benefits by consolidating the efforts of the many existing committees in town, which, he says, with time might evolve into parts of the subcommittees. “The one benefit they’re (business owners) going to see first and foremost is the organizational affect,” said Murphy. “Right now we have various committees that work randomly and not in conjunction with each other and this will pull them all together.”

Murphy also noted the financial impact of the program, which opens the town up to apply for more 50-50 match grants that are easily accessible, and were not available under the town’s former status as a village. “Now that we’re a designated downtown, when we apply for other state grants, they can look at that and it will help us get extra credit points toward getting more grants.

“This would also be an asset to someone looking to move into our downtown, and will help to create a vibrant downtown.”

Part of the program’s criteria was proper mapping of the proposed downtown, and with help from the Windham Regional Commission, the town was able to create maps for the application, a process which Murphy says was easy due to Wilmington’s well-defined downtown business area. The program requires that the proposed downtown area not stretch unreasonably past the downtown businesses in any direction.

The Wilmington Works board will be composed of two members designated by the Wilmington Fund VT, two designated by the selectboard, two property owners in the district, two business owners in the district, and a member of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as other community members. The majority of Wilmington Works board members must also be residents of the town. Each position will be a three-year term, and Murphy says there has already been a great deal of interest.

The program application was supported by nearly 60 signatures from downtown business and property owners alike.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Wilmington receives downtown designation