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Wallingford set for brainstorming ‘community visit’


By SUSAN SMALLHEER as seen in the Rutland Herald:

WALLINGFORD — Residents are invited to come for dinner later this month to kick off the Wallingford Community Visit Day, a collaboration between the town and the Vermont Council for Rural Development.

The event will be held April 26, starting at 2:30 p.m., and will provide residents with an opportunity to discuss the town’s assets, the challenges facing Wallingford and opportunities for action, said Jenna Koloski, a VCRD staff member.

The Select Board first invited VCRD to perform the community visit back in 2015, Koloski said, adding the council only gets involved with towns if they are invited.

“We don’t know what’s best for Wallingford,” she said, noting the council would act as facilitators to help residents examine the issues important to them.

Koloski said VCRD has been conducting “community visits” all over Vermont for the past 20 years. She said the council had performed more than 60 visits, most recently spending most of its time in the Northeast Kingdom.

She said the last time the council conducted a visit with a Rutland County community was in 2002 in Poultney, although she said the group worked with Rutland City on its creative communities initiative in 2006.

“We haven’t been in Rutland City for a while,” she said. “We’re really excited to be working in Rutland County.”

Six focus forums will be held throughout the day April 26, Koloski said, addressing the issues of Main Street, restoring historic buildings, economic development and infrastructure, Wallingford’s “identity,” and community communication, as well as events and celebrations.

The sessions will start at 2:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m., with a break at 7 p.m. for a community dinner. Sessions will be held at either the First Baptist Church or the Wallingford town offices.

Koloski said the second step will be a townwide meeting in May, when residents will be able to talk about action ideas and set priorities, and also have the option to sign up for different task forces.

A third event called a community resource day will be held in June. A visiting resource team of Vermont leaders will come to help support the local community’s work, she said.

Neither Bill Brooks, chairman of the Select Board, nor Nan Dubin, who is acting as the local coordinator, were available for comment Friday.

The free community dinner will be catered by Sal’s, with desserts prepared by a local high school student. Local musicians will perform, and there will be childcare available during the forums at the First Baptist Church. The dinner will be held at the Wallingford Elementary School.