BABB looks to community for ideas


BRATTLEBORO -- Building a Better Brattleboro is in a period of transition.

The downtown development organization is without a director and the board is currently interviewing candidates to fill a part time role.

The organization's Main Street property, The Robert H. Gibson River Garden, has been sold and the group will soon close on the deal, which will relieve BaBB of costly maintenance bills but also change its downtown presence.

And in light of the ongoing economic downturn downtown merchants are asking for more help even as donations to the group's various programs are slowing down.

BaBB held its annual meeting Thursday at The River Garden.

The annual meeting is a requirement of the designated downtown group and officers presented the budget and talked about some of the committee plans for the coming year.

But beyond that, Board president Donna Simons said, the group was looking for new ideas, and help, as it prepares for an uncertain future.

"We need your help to revitalize this organization," Simons said. "It takes time and it takes energy. We are trying but it has been frustrating. If you think you can bring positive energy encourage your neighbor to get involved."

About 20 people showed up to the meeting and the crowd was made up business owners and members of the public.

A good portion of the meeting was spent talking about the group's 2015 work plan, which will be voted on by the board on Nov. 5, and then presented to the Selectboard for approval in December.

Ideas ranged from trying to find a way to keep stores open later to creating a welcoming committee to new business owners to make sure they are up to date on issues.

Sam's co-owner Stanley "Pal" Borofsky said he would like to see quarterly business owner breakfasts to give merchants a chance to share ideas informally.

Everyone's Books co-owner Nancy Braus said with Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College coming to The Brooks House, the town needed to address a potential parking crisis.

The BaBB board was also asked to help business owners work with Town Hall and assist them in finding out about local regulations that might affect their business.

Simons said that without a director it has been hard for the group to take care of some of the group's responsibilities, such as maintaining a website and reaching out more to merchants.

Brattleboro was visited recently by a Downtown Action Team that was put together from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development.

One of the findings of that group, BaBB board member Jake Roberts said, was that too many groups in Brattleboro were working independently on their own projects without knowing what other organizations were doing.

He said he would like to see more collaboration to help move the whole town forward.

As challenging and uncertain as the future might be, the importance of volunteer work was recognized.

Dick DeGray and Missy Galanes have taken it upon themselves to raise money and plant flowers around town.

DeGray said it took time and energy, but it was possible for anyone to make a difference by taking on a project and seeing it through.

Bill Knowles also talked about the work he has done to develop gardens in vacant parcels around town.

Alison Macrae was given the Larry Cooke Memorial Award for the work she has done beautifying Pliny Park.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or Follow Howard @HowardReformer.


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