By Tim Calabro, as seen in the Randolph Herald
The Randolph Region Re-energized effort is ready to party. It's been a year since scores of volunteers set out to dream a brighter future for Randolph and the surrounding towns, and the coordinators of the program hope to draw a crowd next Wednesday, April 24, to celebrate the initiative's progress so far.
The event, held at Randolph Union High School, will include a community dinner and hightlight the work upon which four task forces embarked last April.
Next Wednesday's event will include presentations, explaining what the task forces have been up to since the program's grand kick-off; its organizers hope it will bring in the many more who have not yet become involved with the process.
Randolph Region Re-energized, which goes by the nickname "R3," is a product of the Vermont Council on Rural Development's Climate Economy Model Communities initiative. That statewide program aims to provide towns with a framework for implementing positive changes, particularly in the areas of economic development and responsible climate policies.
According to volunteers, who have been intimately involved in the four task forces, the groups' efforts have already yielded positive results in the town.
For example, Damien DiNicola, who leads the downtown development task force on attracting visitors to the region, and Rep. Jay Hooper, moderator of the task force on attracting visitors to the region, both pointed to the recent hiring of Joshua Jerome as the permanent economic development director in Randolph.
According to Hooper, that hiring, as well as a number of events in town - the wildly successful Winter Fest, the Parade of Lights, and a still-in-the-planning-phase art walk - can trace some connection to R3 efforts.
DiNicola added that having a number of people giving their energy toward optimistic thinking about bettering Randolph was having ripple effects.
Though much of the work the R3 groups have started is still in planning phases, DiNicola, Hooper, Gary Dir, and John Lutz did point to a number of accomplishments their task forces have undertaken.
Those included a series of home and business energy walkthroughs in collaboration with Efficiency Vermont, a handful of presentations focusing on various energy efficiency topics, work toward grants for an electric vehicle charging station (which Randolph did not win in the first round), as well as efforts toward a town-wide Wi-Fi network (which has been a focus of RACDC).
According to Hooper, work will begin this weekend on a new visitors' kiosk - an 8'x12' model sugarhouse - near the Exit 4 interchange, and a subcommittee is exploring mural project to bring art to area facades.
DiNicola's downtown economic task force is, among other projects, finishing up work on a survey of area businesses and has met with Randolph-area groups to try to get organizations with overlapping missions to coordinate their development efforts through the town's new economic development director.
Though the initial rush of the Model Climate Communities project drew hundreds to a series of forums last spring, over the winter, as the board work of the four task forces has marched on, the numbers of regular volunteers has dwindled.
Hooper said about 45 people were signed up for his task force, but only 20-25 regularly attended meetings.
This attrition was expected as the groups focused on somewhat wonky topics, but Lutz, Dir, DiNicola, and Hooper all agreed that the task forces would welcome new input from any interested people.
According to Dir, Wednesday's festivities will st art with music and food at 5:30pm, with speakers bebinning at 6pm.
The event, he noted, would finish early so people can get to BALE's ongoing soil series at Bethany Church.