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Checking In on Randolph Region Re-Energized

2018-11-22

By Patricia Moulton, as seen in the Randolph Herald: https://www.ourherald.com/articles/checking-in-on-randolph-region-re-ene...

How can the Randolph region grow our economy and increase affordability while also serving as a model of rapid rural response to climate change? When the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) selected Randolph to participate in the Climate Economy Model Communities Program, this was the question we were invited to answer as a community.

Over 300 people from the region participated in community meetings of the R3 (Randolph Region Re-Energized) process during the spring, and as a result, four local task forces have come together to implement community-selected priorities. They are focused on attracting more visitors to our community, strengthening downtown Randolph and our region’s economic development, and helping homes, businesses, schools and municipalities take advantage of energy opportunities. These groups have been meeting regularly and with strong participation this summer and fall and are beginning to make great progress. As the chair of the R3 process, I wanted to share with you a few updates on the progress of our work and to invite you to get involved.

Tuesday, Nov. 6, five electric vehicle (EV) charging station installers toured sites in town as they prepare to bid on projects at a few different locations. Catalyzed by the R3 process, a small sub-group of the larger task force working to increase economic development and strengthen our downtown has come together to facilitate the construction of more EV charging facilities here in the area. They are working with Vermont Tech, Gifford, and the Town of Randolph to pursue grants that would pay a large portion of the cost of these new chargers at these three locations. In part, the motivation is to serve local residents and employees who drive EVs, but it also is about making our region more appealing to those multitudes of EV-driving visitors from both the north and south. A quick glance at a map of publicly available EV chargers in Vermont shows a gaping hole between Montpelier and South Royalton. At the same time, the province of Quebec aims to have 100,000 EVs on the road by 2020, and in Vermont sales of EVs are steadily climbing, with EV owners living in over 85% of Vermont’s 251 towns.

This same R3 task force is busy surveying many businesses in the region to better understand their reasons for locating in the Randolph region, what their needs are, and how they fit into the climate economy. The group is also working to engage, map, and coordinate the efforts of the many players supporting economic development in the region.

Another R3 task force is working to assist homes and businesses with their energy costs for heating, electricity, and transportation. This group has launched a campaign to promote home energy visits provided for free by Efficiency Vermont and will also be promoting a similar effort focused on businesses. You can sign up here: www.efficiencyvermont.com/randolph.

The group is making big plans for the winter and spring including convening area landlords, organizing other workshops and launching another community campaign with a yet-to-be determined focus.

The R3 task force focused on schools and municipalities reached out to all area schools and towns. Their first goal is to document energy usage and expense across electric, heating, and transportation. They will then work with the towns and schools to identify and move on opportunities for savings.

A final task force has come together with the goal of attracting more visitors to the region. This group is focused on new lodging options, recreational resources, and how we market all the great things that entice people to visit. As an example of this group’s can-do attitude, the chair, Rep. Jay Hooper, has torn down the aging and decrepit informational kiosk up near Exit 4. We all look forward to seeing this re-built in a format much more useful and attractive.

As you can see, each of these groups is pushing forward with ambitious to-do lists. While staff from VCRD is very helpful in pushing this forward, nothing is going to get done without strong local participation. The chairs of each task force and I agreed another community meeting for R3 would be productive to provide more detailed updates, gather input, and to allow more citizens to join task forces. Stay tuned as we work out the details. And in the meantime, feel free to e-mail Jon Copans at jon@vtrural.org if you want to join the mailing list for any of the task forces.

Patricia Moulton is the President of Vermont Technical College and chair of Randolph Region Re-Energized (R3).