Tag Archives: Governor Peter Shumlin

14 December 2103 – New York Times

14 Dec
Wilmington Journal

In Vermont, a Town That Would Not Let Its Diner Go

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times:  John Reagan eying orders in the kitchen during the lunch rush.

WILMINGTON, Vt. — In the months after the Deerfield River overtook their diner, Patty and John Reagan began to imagine letting it go after more than 30 years of greeting people for breakfast, saying good night after the dinner shift and hearing their stories during the many hours in between.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times: A waitress (Annabel Tobey) greeting a customer at Dot’s Restaurant.

“We once entertained the idea of not opening till 6:30 a.m. but knew our regulars would be here at 5:30 anyway,” Mrs. Reagan said recently, seated at a gleaming oak table in an empty Dot’s Restaurant. “They’d break in. It happened once, when we were late during an ice storm.”

Perched over the river at Wilmington’s only intersection, the building housing the diner has stood since 1832. It has often been the only place on this stretch of Main Street to buy a cup of coffee, and, in fact, is one of the few year-round stops along the quiet Green Mountains roadway that winds from Bennington to Brattleboro.

The Reagans are Dot’s owners, but everyone, it seems, has a claim. Patrons dissect local issues here; travelers count on it. Not long ago, a couple passing through on their second honeymoon were able to order the same Dot’s breakfast they had enjoyed on their first, 50 years earlier. Every Vermont governor since at least 1980 has appeared for a photo op at Dot’s, and Gourmet magazine once called the berry-berry pancakes a “national treasure.”

But Tropical Storm Irene taught the Reagans something new about Dot’s: that the joy of ownership carried the burden of keeping it going — no matter what. Patrons who would not put up with a later opening time certainly were not prepared to let it disappear, even if an insurance adjuster declared the building “finished.”

“We’d have other shop owners say, ‘We knew you were a draw for the town but didn’t realize how much of a draw. Is there any way you can rebuild?’ ” recalled Mr. Reagan, 60, who like many residents first came to the area to ski. “We had to say that basically there was nothing we could do. ‘Look at it, what would you do?’ It was really hard.”

Irene pummeled southern Vermont on Aug. 28, 2011. That Sunday morning, water rose eight feet in 15 minutes. The Reagans grabbed what they could, cut the power to the small gray saltbox and joined onlookers watching their buildings succumb. Dot’s was shoved off its foundation and walls toppled. Water even lifted all nine oak tables and deposited them at the front door. “They were still set, too, with all the silverware,” Mrs. Reagan said.

Dot’s was among 48 businesses along this classic New England streetscape that were flooded out. Two floated away; 32 have since reopened.

First, the Reagans adjusted to losing contact with customers they had seen every day for decades. Then, months of decisions began. With the flood insurance settlement they could afford to pay the mortgage and walk away, but not to rebuild. The diner was not only battered and saturated, but also out of compliance with every modern building code.

“We could have gotten other jobs,” said Mr. Reagan, who has worked in restaurants since age 14. “I wanted to bring a food truck here. We could use the property and earn an income and still be off all winter.”

But it was too costly for the Reagans to demolish Dot’s themselves. Then they were rejected for a buyout that would have paid them to demolish and leave. With no way to rebuild and no building to sell, Dot’s was done.

The couple stood outside the restaurant and sold off their supply of Dot’s T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts. They expected people would not ask too many questions. “People figured we were out of business and stopped by out of the goodness of their hearts,” Mr. Reagan said. “After all, how many T-shirts do you need?”

In fact, the town was just getting organized. Gretchen Havreluk, an economic development consultant, got the Preservation Trust of Vermont interested. The organization brought in engineers, pledged money and established a recovery fund.

Dan and Tamara Kilmurray, who own a second home here, started the Wilmington Fund Vermont to provide financing to bring businesses back. That organization was among many that sponsored fund drives for Dot’s. With generosity came hope.

“We wondered, ‘Why should someone donate to open a business? ” Mr. Reagan said. “We have certainly donated a lot to people in need. We never thought of ourselves as the people who need help.”

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times:  Patty Reagan with customers.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times:  A photo the Reagans took while the flooding raged in August 2011 shows how high the waters reached. Dot’s was left a ruin.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times:  John Reagan, the owner, came out of the kitchen to see customers on the day Dot’s reopened.
The New York Times:  On a road that meanders from Bennington to Brattleboro.

Gov. Peter Shumlin was on hand in March to announce that Dot’s would be back. But the work had just begun. Estimates seemed to rise $100,000 every time an engineer looked at the project.

To qualify for historic grants, the original walls, twisted in the storm, needed to be straightened so they could be contained within new walls. To meet flood-resistant standards, the restaurant had to become what Mrs. Reagan called a “diner on Botox,” with a concrete basement and retaining walls befitting a bunker.

“They once wrote me a thank-you note for the help and it made me sick because I wondered ‘Did I put them in this situation?’ Ms. Havreluk said. “I worked with them to rebuild, but I was earning a paycheck. I’m not the one who has to pay their debt back.”

Rebuilding meant having a crane hoist Dot’s skyward and set it down after a foundation was built. It meant hearing people grumble that Dot’s did not warrant the fanfare and expense.

Even as the next chapter of Dot’s was being written, Mr. Reagan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. His condition required radiation five days a week 40 miles away. But once again Dot’s prevailed. It was too late to stop. The diner helped the couple, who met there when Patty was a waitress. “It kept us busy and focused on what we had to do,” said Mrs. Reagan, 52.

Dot’s reopened on Thursday, a $1 million diner. Fund-raising generated $200,000, with the project receiving $90,000 in tax credits. There was also free tile work and carpentry, the contractor who simply came by one evening and stripped the damaged siding and the stores that gave discounts without being asked. Donated materials and labor saved $300,000.

Even so, they reopened $400,000 in debt, more than berry-berry pancakes will ever generate.

“It will never be worth the money. But in a way this place is not really ours,” said Mrs. Reagan, whose family has been in the region for generations. “It’s a gift to the community. If we didn’t rebuild it would never be again.”

A version of this article appears in print on December 14, 2013, on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: The Town That Would Not Let Its Diner Go.

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.

The Wilmington Fund VT • Video Link

16 Aug

Please check out the video produced for The Wilmington Fund VT!

On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused flooding the tore through Wilmington, Vermont. The devastation was staggering. But Wilmington’s community sprung into action. Before long, the Wilmington Fund VT was born. Its mission: support recovery and future development in the historic downtown. Watch the video to learn more about Wilmington Fund VT’s efforts and its plans for the future.

Thanks to Ann Manwaring for shepherding this project through to completion.  Video production by Mondo Mediaworks          mondomediaworks.com

Thank you!

Deerfield Valley News Article re: 20 July 2013!!

28 Jul
Fundraising event a big success for Wilmington group
by Mike Eldred
3 days ago | 1515 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Peter Welch, actress Meryl Streep, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Hermitage owner Jim Barnes were all smiles during a fundraiser dinner for the Wilmington Fund VT at the Hermitage on Saturday evening.

Rep. Peter Welch, actress Meryl Streep, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Hermitage owner Jim Barnes were all smiles during a fundraiser dinner for the Wilmington Fund VT at the Hermitage on Saturday evening.

WILMINGTON- Members of the Wilmington Fund VT are celebrating the success of last Saturday evening’s fundraising events.

The evening kicked off at the Hermitage Club with an exclusive dinner with special guest, actress Meryl Streep. Also in attendance were Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Congressman Peter Welch. The fundraising dinner was sold out, with 115 guests paying between $1,000 and $5,000 per plate. Donors paying for the $2,500 and $5,000 plates also had their photos taken with Streep.

Streep was at the event at the behest of her friend, Wilmington Fund VT founder and president Dan Kilmurray. Kilmurray says he has known Streep’s family for years. “Her brother and I met and became dear friends when I was about 18,” Kilmurray said. “I met her when she graduated from Vassar. When I was in the process of launching this fundraising event, I asked her if she would help.”

During an after-dinner chat hosted by Kilmurray’s wife and co-founder of Wilmington Fund VT, Tamara Kilmurray, Streep said that one of the reasons she was willing to help the Wilmington Fund was because she was familiar with the town. After she left Dartmouth College for Vassar, she said, she continued to travel between the two colleges on trips to visit her boyfriend at Dartmouth. “Wilmington was my halfway point,” she said. “I used to stop at a little ice cream place on Route 9 that isn’t there anymore (Gene’s KreeMee).”

Streep also found an unexpected connection to the area. Rep. Ann Manwaring told her that the bottles of Vermont maple syrup on the tables were donated by local business owner Ed Metcalfe, who had attended elementary school with Streep. “Oh, little Eddie Metcalfe?” Streep said. “Is he here?” But Metcalfe wasn’t in attendance.

In a brief address to donors, Rep. Peter Welch recalled the devastation he saw in Wilmington on his first visit after Tropical Storm Irene. “I remember talking to Steve Butler at North Star Bowl, where he showed me the mud line on the wall that marked the high point of the flood.”

Shumlin also recalled his first visit to the town, just hours after flood waters receded, when he flew in by helicopter with Gen. Michael Dubie. At that time, valley towns were still virtually cut off from the rest of the state because all of the major routes had been washed out.

In thanking those who attended the dinner, Kilmurray remarked that Wilmington has made a lot of progress in its recovery from the flood. He introduced John and Patty Reagan, who are nearing completion of an extensive rebuild of their downtown landmark, Dot’s Restaurant. Kilmurray also introduced Marsha and Barry Reardon, who donated the walking bridge in Wilmington Village, which ties the new village trail to a riverside trail that will terminate at the Fairview Avenue picnic area.

The dinner was followed by an outdoor concert by local musician Colby Dix and headliner Joan Osborne. Kilmurray said the concert attracted another 175 donors, who paid $100 per ticket.

Although the fund hasn’t released any figures from the fundraiser, Kilmurray and other board members say they’re “very pleased” with the success of the evening. “We were blessed with the weather,” said Kilmurray. “Everything went perfectly. We had a lot riding on this, and it was important to meet our goals and financial commitments. It turned out to be very successful.” Kilmurray credited Hermitage innkeeper Steve O’Hern and event manager Rebecca Lewis for much of the evening’s success. “It would have been impossible to put on that event without them.”

Kilmurray says it was time for a fundraiser for which the proceeds hadn’t been earmarked for a specific project. When he and his wife started the fund, the initial fundraising was done through a letter he sent out to friends, asking for their help in supporting the town that had just been devastated by flooding. A second fundraiser, a barbecue, raised money specifically to keep supporting Dot’s Restaurant.

Although Kilmurray says the event might have yielded more donations if it had been held in Greenwich, CT, he said it was important to have the event in Vermont, not only to bring people into the area, but also to make the event accessible to people in the valley. Although the cost of donations to the dinner might have been out of the question for many local residents, the concert was priced so that locals could also attend – and there were many more local faces in the crowd at the concert.

“I really wanted this to happen in Vermont,” Kilmurray says. “I wanted people in the area to be able to come and enjoy the concert, to be able to come and have a good evening. I wanted it to be a rallying cry for the town; for everyone who has been through so much.”

But Kilmurray says he realizes that not everyone in the valley could afford to go to one of the events.

In addition to physical recovery work, the fund also strongly supports businesses and general economic development. To that end, the fund has contributed to the creation of the municipal parking lot on West Main Street, the Moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and Wilmington Works, the nonprofit organization created as part of the Wilmington Downtown Designation program.

Although flood cleanup and the town’s physical recovery may be well underway, Kilmurray says there’s still a lot for the fund to do – which includes getting businesses into empty buildings. “There are still a lot of essential services that don’t exist – there’s no coffee shop, no bakery. There’s a ton of work to be done, and our future is to get the essential services back into the village. It would be nice to declare victory, but we’re just a third of the way there – a year and a half into a five-year project.”

Board member Julie Lineberger says the fund is also seeking business owners, and potential business owners, to work with. She says grant requests have to meet the fund’s mission, the long-term economic viability of the village. Lineberger says one of the goals is to find businesses to reoccupy empty commercial spaces in downtown buildings. “If anyone is interested in opening a business in one of those buildings, we can offer financial assistance,” Lineberger said. “All people need to do is send us a grant request letting us know what the shortfall of money is, along with their business plan. We don’t offer full funding, but we can offer supplemental funding.”

For more information about the Wilmington Fund VT visit their website at http://www.thewilmingtonfundvt.org.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Fundraising event a big success for Wilmington group

Thank You!!! 20 July 13 Fundraiser THANK YOU!

25 Jul

Meryl & Tamara • Photo by Carolyn Bates

Meryl Streep & Tamara Kilmurray • Photo by Carolyn Bates

The Wilmington Fund VT extends its sincere appreciation to its generous supporters, state and local leaders, the staff at The Hermitage Inn and Meryl Streep for contributing to what we thought was a very special night in the Deerfield Valley.

The event earlier this month was our most ambitious fundraiser and so many people rose to the occasion.  Money raised that night through a fantastic dinner, for which gracious Oscar-winning Streep served as hostess; an energetic concert by opener Colby Dix and headliner Joan Osborne; and a silent auction will now be reinvested in Wilmington as it continues to recover from the damage left by Tropical Storm Irene and grow into a more vibrant, diverse economy and community.

The presence of Gov. Peter Shumlin and Rep. Peter Welch underscored the importance of this period of redevelopment here – and the opportunities that could come from it. We thank them for coming.We also thank all of the attendees for their commitment to the town of Wilmington.

The Hermitage staff, especially Rebecca Lewis and Steve O’Hearn, went above and beyond to make sure guests had a good time, and Barry Weisblatt from Whiteleaf Productions helped produce a top-notch show.

Wilmington is “where amazing happens.”

The board of directors The Wilmington Fund VT
Daniel and Tamara Kilmurray
Samantha Critchell
Deborah Emmett-Pike
Robert Fisher
John Gannon
Bruce Mullen
Julie Lineberger
Ann Manwaring