by Jack Deming
Wilmington village could get a makeover if a design plan is approved and acted on.
WILMINGTON- The selectboard approved two projects totaling $11,000 for the 1% option tax fund allotment for the second quarter, .
At a meeting two weeks ago Alice Richter and John Gannon from the Wilmington Works advisory board presented a preliminary plan to create a walking tour to showcase the historic downtown’s eight architectural designs. The selectboard initially supported the idea and asked for a budget. Richter and Gannon returned this week with the breakdown of necessary funds, requesting $10,000 from the fund for researching, writing and editing, design and layout of the tour, publishing brochures, and creating number plaques to correspond with the brochures. The selectboard agreed to the allotment of funds with board member Diane Chapman, remarking that it was important to have a program that highlights the downtown as soon as possible.
The selectboard also approved spending $1,000 on installing Wi-Fi in the downtown. According to economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk, Wi-Fi would most likely be installed on South Main Street and West Main Street, and would work in conjunction with the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Vermont Digital Economy Project that the town approved in April. The purchase of the Internet services from FairPoint Communications will be a one-year contract that includes free installation and cost the town $79.95 a month.
According to town manager Scott Murphy, with a payment in August, the 1% fund will reach $200,000. Fiscal year 2013 saw four applications approved: $2,000 for the Moving Wall, $2,000 for the respect receptacle program, $500 for the Village Stroll, and $900 for the Independent Television and Film Festival.
In other business the selectboard held a public hearing for a community development block disaster recovery grant for the digitization of public records. The project will total just over $173,000, with $144,000 in direct funds, $12,603 in administrative funds, and a 10% match from the town’s matching grant line item ($15,754). According to board member Susie Haughwout, the total scope of the project will eventually include the digitization of 200,000 documents.
Havreluk presented the selectboard with a final draft of the Conway School for Architecture and Design’s plan for redesigning the landscape of the downtown. “The big thing they discussed was future flooding,” said Havreluk. “Because the downtown buildings are in a flood plain, it’s hard to find business owners who will take the risk of building there. Also flood insurance costs are rising and FEMA flood plain standards have been rewritten.” Havreluk also said the final draft took into account future threats from global warming, including the run-off from heavy snow.
The Conway School’s final draft included five goals: promote development outside the flood zone, reduce the effects of future flood events and storm run-off, create pedestrian-friendly streets, revitalize public parks, and better confine traffic and parking.
A few of the projects include improvements to Buzzy Towne Park that would eliminate the ballfield and create a pavilion to host parties and bands, and develop a better basketball court. Other projects include widening sidewalks to meet standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and extending sidewalks on West Main Street. Another proposal includes burying utility poles and creating better lighting to make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
The plan also asks the town to focus on construction of new businesses and possibly moving buildings to the Beaver Street area, out of the flood plain. The selectboard agreed that the best way to move forward with the Conway plan is to have the town’s committees review and work on specific pieces of it.