Friday March 29, 2013

CHRIS MAYS

Brattleboro Reformer

WILMINGTON -- After about 18 months in the making, Wilmington Works will become a downtown designation.

"The critical thing is it’s going to benefit the downtown village in Wilmington," said Town Manager Scott Murphy.

The idea was created as a plan for long-term recovery after Tropical Storm Irene devastated a large part of Wilmington’s downtown area, including some businesses.

"(Former Selectboard Chairman) Tom Consolino started this whole thing," said Murphy. "He was the project leader. He and I worked together for several months on this. We got a lot of the base work done. Then Gretchen Havreluk got onto it and she took the ball and ran with it a little more. She did more of the nitty gritty work and got the applications down. The Windham Regional Commission did the maps for us. Gretchen put all the pieces of the puzzle together and got this application in on time."

On March 25, Murphy drove up to Montpelier with Selectboard member Diane Chapman and John Gannon of the Wilmington Fund VT Inc. They all sat down with the Vermont Downtown Program for Downtown Designation board and went over the application, which Murphy had submitted in advance.

Wilmington Works will be the name of the downtown designation and its committee’s mission statement is "to build, improve and support a vital downtown that benefits the entire Wilmington community."

The Wilmington Fund and Wilmington Works are going to work together in revitalization efforts for at least the next five years.

"We’re already a designated village, but by becoming a designated downtown, it makes us eligible for additional monies and tax credits and grants," said Murphy. "One of the key things besides the financial aspect is that we would get additional support and help for Wilmington Works because they’re very hands-on for the downtown program."

A board will be created for the Wilmington Works, which will include nine to 11 members.

"It’s going to be unrelated to the town, but (not yet)," said Murphy. "Except we will support it financially."

The members of this board will include two members designated by the Wilmington Fund VT, Inc, two designated by the Selectboard, two property owners within the Wilmington Works district, one Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce member, two business owners in the district and two community members.

After the board is established, a director will be chosen by putting out a letter of interest. This will be a volunteer position. Murphy said that over time, the position may become a part-time paid position, but for now, the job will go to a volunteer.

The board will then look at the bylaws for the designation and see if any of the board members want to change anything.

"Basically, they’ll be their own ship," said Murphy. "They’ll be sailing along."

The Wilmington Works board will get four sub-committees together that will be responsible for organization, economic development, promotion and design.

"Each (sub-committee) will have individual functions," said Murphy.

"There are a lot of town committees that may fit in as a sub-committee, at least partly."

The Wilmington Works board will have to receive review from the Vermont Downtown Program for Downtown Designation board after six months and then again after a year. The approval of the designation was contingent on this review timeline.

Wilmington is the 24th town to get a designated downtown in the state. The town will join the likes of Brattleboro and Bennington, which means it will have to adhere to guidelines set up within the National Main Street Program.

Murphy asked if they get a prize for being the 24th town to enter the program.

"They just laughed," he said. "It didn’t bring anything about."

In five years, Wilmington Works will have to get its downtown designation approved for renewal.