By Keith Whitcomb Jr., as seen in the Rutland Herald: https://www.rutlandherald.com/news/mendon-to-go-on-the-move/article_21a29c4c-9d29-5e29-95bc-e95a105bb162.html
MENDON — After being delayed for a year by the pandemic, the town is set to hold a pair of community-wide forums to figure out what its priorities are and how to get them done.
The first forum will be held March 24, said Jenna Koloski, community and policy manager at Vermont Council on Rural Development. The council has been facilitating community forums all over the state for several years.
The forum will be held virtually at 6 p.m. March 24, Koloski said. Visit bit.ly/MendonOnTheMove to sign up ahead of time.
She said there would be opportunities for people to submit written comments as well.
The first forum is essentially a brainstorming session, she said. There will be one big discussion, then break-out sessions with smaller groups. The Vermont Council on Rural Development will then collect all of the ideas, identify the ones that came up the most, and on April 21, will host a second forum where townsfolk will work on developing action plans. VCRD will be there to help with what resources are needed for the town to take the next steps.
“This is now our second time doing a community visit fully virtual, we’ve also done the county recovery visits around the state as well, so we’ve got some Zoom time under our belts now,” she said.
The first virtual community forum was held for Londonderry. Koloski said it went well and that Londonderry was able to identify affordable housing, developing the village center, and building a community center as top priorities.
While many miss the in-person meetings, doing them virtually has let some people participate who otherwise might not have, she said.
In Mendon, the plan was to do this in April 2020, but the pandemic put it off. Koloski said towns who’d been working with the VCRD on forums in 2020 had the option to put them off until the pandemic is over.
“Some are opting to wait until it can be in person and others are deciding that now is the time they want to move,” she said. “In Londonderry, in particular, they already had some folks organizing around some initiatives in town, and they felt like if we wait a year and a half from now, we won’t have the same energy and momentum that we have today, and I think that was right, the timing was right in Londonderry.”
Mendon on the Move is the name of this process, she said. The name was chosen by Mendon residents, business and community leaders, who formed a temporary committee to get the process started.
For the VCRD to organize a forum, it has to be asked to do so by the Select Board, which then takes a back seat to the proceedings.
“But at this point we work for the whole community, we don’t work for any one board or group in town,” she said. “We consider ourselves working for the whole of Mendon.”
Select Board Chairman Dick Wilcox said Wednesday that the board had seen VCRD working with other communities and it looked to be a positive experience.
Wilcox said VCRD’s work with Proctor is what impressed him personally, particularly how the community came up with ideas for the former Vermont Marble Co. buildings.
“My involvement is marginal,” he said. “This is a nontraditional town operation, and basically it’s just to pursue what other people are thinking, and that’s where my curiosity is.”