CONCORD – The Concord Planning and Zoning Council proposed to the city’s board of directors that the Vermont Council for Rural Development (VCRD) be brought into the community to conduct a series of brainstorming meetings, which would begin with a dinner get-together, coming up with the best ideas on how to spend the nearly $ 365,000 in federal funds the city received in the form of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants.
The grants send injections of financial support to strengthen towns and villages during the ongoing pandemic and can be used for a variety of possible projects. Members of the city’s planning council were asked to help come up with ideas.
City zoning administrator Audra Girouard said on Friday: “The city has received half of the expected ARPA funds: $ 63,388.43 for the city part and $ 118,806.52 for the county funds.”
“The Select Board asked the Planning Commission to draw up a list of possible projects for these funds. The Planning Commission spoke to the Vermont Council on Rural Development about our community’s participation in their comments. The final decision on how to spend the funds will be made by the board of directors, ”according to Girouard.
Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Dale Urie said at the Jan. 4 board meeting that his board wanted to bring the discussion to a larger group and do it through the process. Brainstorming community that the nonprofit VCRD has brought to many cities in Vermont, including the Northeast Kingdom.
Uriah addressed the board at their meeting, via Zoom, and introduced VCRD’s community and policy manager, Jenna Koloski, to explain how the series and the community visit process would work, telling the advice that there is no cost to the city other than requesting that a community kickoff dinner be organized.
As the discussion began, one of the possible projects mentioned by the group was that ARPA funds had been referenced as a possible source of funding to redo the Miles Pond pavilion, or work for the museum. and the elevator in this historic building.
Calling on the VCRD to help community leaders and residents consider top priorities, “We thought this was a great idea,” Uriah said, and members of planning and zoning met with Koloski earlier to hear. how the process works and invited her to share the details. this month with the select jury.
Koloski told the board: “We only work where we are invited by board members. “
She said council staff were working to facilitate a community process. The nonprofit group is licensed under the Federal Farm Bill to do its work and has a unique board structure, comprising members of the governor’s office, federal officials, representatives from business, community and government. non-profit organizations, as well as the federal delegation. The agency is non-partisan.
Koloski guided the board through what the VCRD calls its community visitation process, which she said the group has been offering for about 20 years, and in which some 83 communities have participated. possible together from all walks of life… (ask) what are your ideas for the future of the city?
The series of meetings and the eventual creation of volunteer-led working groups, with the support of staff and agencies who can help link to the additional funding hoped for, also results in a roadmap that pulls together the work produced. through the series of meetings.
“We are helping the community decide which priorities they want to work on today,” Koloski said. She said the working groups and action plans developed at the end of the process also include advice helping to identify “potential resources to achieve these priorities”.
The process is a series of 3 months. A steering committee meeting with representatives from across the community takes place before that, Koloski said. Uriah offered to help coordinate the process with support from the Planning and Zoning Council.
Koloski said: “We don’t know what’s best for the community we’re working on – what does Concord want to talk about now? “
She said the brainstorming meetings will see residents discussing challenges, ideas for the future and more. She said the council will bring in leading state experts on generated topics, and those officials will be “mostly sitting there listening, not giving speeches,” but will serve as a resource for the people of Concord. as they seek to identify several of the areas. they identify collectively as immediate priorities for work or planning.
“We ask for volunteers to come forward to help,” Koloski said.
The process results in a final action plan and report “that captures all of this… cities have completed major water and sewerage projects, revitalized streetscapes of villages…” and some communities identified the need to bring more residents together for events “to bring people together; there is a range of what communities decide to do, ”Koloski said.
Uriah said that as the chairman of the city’s planning and zoning council, he thinks it’s important to get as much feedback from citizens as possible to help decide “how to invest those dollars.”
Koloski said the council had “a waiting list of communities interested in this process.” She said she didn’t need a decision at last Tuesday’s meeting.
Uriah proposed from his board, “We could organize the process.”
Koloski said, “What we don’t want to do is come into a community and do more work for the board. None of these decisions (which result from the community visit process) are an official decision or a community vote to spend anything that would depend on city support (and some official process).
Uriah said if the Concord Select board decides to invite the board to bring the community touring process to Concord, he hopes this will take place in the summer months, when more people are in town. and available to participate; the town has many owners of second homes with properties here including on the pond and lake.
“I recently moved to Concord,” said Uriah, who lives in Shadow Lake. “I wish I could meet more people and get more feedback from more people in town. I think that the more ideas there are, the better the choices the Select Board can make for the orientation of the city.
Contacted on Sunday, Uriah said: “I just hope the board is interested in using this as an opportunity to come together as a city, in a low stake, low pressure way to meet new people, see people that we haven’t seen in a while and to get the opinion of the people of the city. The board does a great job running the city, but it’s an opportunity to get possibly more ideas from more people in this proven process It is also an opportunity for the Planning and Zoning Council to update the Concord urban plan.