By Susan Smallheer, as seen in the Brattleboro Reformer: https://www.reformer.com/stories/rockingham-in-action-priorities-meeting...
ROCKINGHAM — The second meeting of Rockingham In Action, the community visit by the Vermont Council on Rural Development will be this coming Wednesday.
The second step of the "Let's Take Action" visit will be held at the Rockingham Town Hall, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
"We're right in the middle of a six-month process," said Paul Costello, the executive director of the council, which visits a handful of Vermont communities every year for the intensive brainstorming and planning process.
The town's steering committee insisted on the name: Rockingham In Action, Costello said.
Costello said on Wednesday the 20 to 25 main ideas garnered from the Dec. 4 round-robin meetings in Bellows Falls will be presented, and people at the meeting will prioritize them by the end of the evening.
"They will set the focus," he said, stressing that the meeting is open to all members of the public.
More than 200 people attended the nine meetings last month, and Costello said the steering committee went through what he called "26 pages of dense notes," to help define the important things for Rockingham's future.
"We see the same things being repeated. We block out the key ideas and we'll put them up on the wall. We expect a good turnout again and we will share what we heard, and correct it if we missed it," he said.
He called it a "championing session."
"It's not a debate. People will celebrate the thing they think is the most important," he said.
He said during Wednesday night's meeting the issues will be pared down to about eight areas that the town and its villages want to focus on.
At the end of Wednesday's session, people will be asked to sign up for the various task forces that will be focused upon, he said.
"We expect a good turnout again," Costello said. "We review all those ideas together."
He said the top two dozen ideas will not be released until Wednesday night.
"All the decisions are made by local residents," he stressed, "and all the action steps."
The Rockingham visit steering committee is made up of a broad group of area residents, from all areas, and all levels of income. "We had ministers to artists to farmers and businessmen, to help us build a cross section of town," Costello said.
The chairwoman of the steering committee is Teresa Matracia-Janiszyn of Bellows Falls, who is the farm stand manager of her family's vegetable farm, Pete's Stand in Walpole, N.H. Matracia-Janiszyn couldn't be reached on Friday.
Costello said Matracia-Janiszyn will be working to coordinate the task forces. "We find it really works to have that core person to be the centerpiece of the wheel," he said.
Costello said that while local residents are making the choices and decisions, the council has a network of state experts who can lend expertise.
"Rockingham wouldn't be rebuilding the wheel," he said. He said those experts would provide everything from the best funding sources and how to get the funding, as well as technical assistance.
The last meeting will be held in February, and a final report will be written and issued later in the year.