Two vie for Wilmington Selectboard seat

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WILMINGTON >> A three-year seat on the Selectboard is up for grabs and two guys are feeling up to the task.

Vince Rice, born and raised in Wilmington, also lived in Burlington, Florida and Cape Cod, Mass. He came back in the early 1990s and has served on the Planning Commission for about three years.

Running for Selectboard, he said, seemed "just kind of the next logical step."

"One of the reasons I joined the Planning Commission was to learn more about the whole process of local government and, I would imagine by extension, state government. But the real reason is to learn about it and help out," Rice said. "I know some people I talked to said they could really use some help on the Planning Commission so I said I would give it a shot and try to help out and do my part."

Rice plans on being honest, saying he's going to speak his mind while trying to do the best job possible. His running of two businesses at the same time, he said, should help in the budgeting process.

"I know if you don't have the money, you really shouldn't spend it," he said. "I know governments of all levels like to overspend."

When Jake White announced he wasn't going to seek re-election, Rice said he decided he would try to help out a little more. He thought having some experience on the commission could be of use.

Rice is no stranger to the "hoops you got to jump through" in the town planning process; there's drafting ordinances, presenting those documents then approving and adopting them. Besides satisfying individual citizens' concerns, there are also the legal requirements. The commission also acts as a party to local projects during state permitting hearings.

"It's pretty intense," said Rice.

Hoping to offer another perspective to the Selectboard, he said he is looking to make the entire situation better if he can. That means addressing the "appropriate growth" of the economy, and attraction or retention of residents and businesses.

The former Twin Valley High School building "needs some resolution," Rice said, noting the increase of drug issue in town but acknowledging it's no different throughout the entire East Coast.

As a bus driver for The Moover, Rice has heard a similar refrain.

"Many different school kids talk about Twin Valley and how other schools are better," he said.

He wants to see if he can help improve that as he hears people are moving to other towns for educational opportunities.

Revenue from the town's 1 percent local option tax, according to Rice, should be prioritized and go to what is needed most.

"If we're stuck with it, we might as well use it," said Rice, who says he'd like to see repairs of some stone walls around town. "Regardless of what it is, I don't think it (1 percent tax) needs to be limited to something like say sidewalks or strictly beautification. If there's a genuine need for a little financing, I think we need to use it to help people. Using it to help the town is great but it can also be used to help people."

Jamie Brunn, owner of Wellman Farm since 2001, said he would have been a resident sooner but the tax situation made it compelling to stay in New York. He previously lived in Suffern, N.Y. He is a member of the Deerfield Valley Rotary and has worked with Deerfield Valley Community Cares.

"We've been in the valley for almost 20 years," he said. "I saw the way the valley was being developed with tens of millions of dollars pouring in. I'd like to see it done in a very sustainable manner. But I don't want to inhibit any job growth. I think we can work together."

Brunn expects his background — 20 years in banking, another 20 running his own company and working with non-profit organizations — combined with his desire to be a concerned citizen will help in making important decisions.

"We live in a very special area. I want to keep it economically strong and maintain a tight-knit community but without sacrificing our beauty," he said. "I'm good with numbers and economic decisions. I think I can get along with my four other Selectmen well."

Brunn is putting job creation at the top of his priority list, saying a lot of two or three-day-a-week jobs are being counted as full-time ones. He would like to see a program in which people looking for work could add their names to a list then a supervisor, perhaps the town's economic development consultant Gretchen Havreluk, would facilitate placing people in positions at valley resorts. The names on the list would be kept confidential, he said. Besides helping Mount Snow and the Hermitage Club with finding employees, the program would be a way to keep track of how many local people are being hired and the duration of their employment.

"We're not asking them to hire local people," said Brunn. "We're just trying to make it easier and quicker instead of putting ads out. We'll get people over there in 15 minutes."

In addition to jobs, Brunn's focus is on getting better fiber optic Internet service in town. He said it will help create a lot of jobs and also help mom and pop shops grow. More telecommuting can be done, too.

Existing services are not efficient, according to Brunn, and they are expensive.

"If we build good infrastructure I think more people will come," he said, adding that people wanting to extend their weekends may stay longer with improved service. "I'm a little disappointed with Fairpoint, Sovernet and VTel. They had all gotten huge grants five or six years ago and that money has really just gone into thin air."

While acknowledging the task may be difficult, he pointed at a Federal Communications Commission fund called Connect America where a potential 30 percent grant could help establish a fiber optics system.

In keeping with the character of the town, Brunn said he would like to try and hold the line on taxes for senior citizens and farmers. He also sees many people in the valley working two to three jobs to make ends meet.

"We have to push back on Montpelier and not always be dictated by them," he said.

Brunn said he is very much in favor of the 1 percent local option tax and believes it should go towards building infrastructure and helping local businesses, not reducing taxes.

"Nobody will move here if we don't have proper infrastructure," he said.

The former high school building could be used for private operations to help build the tax base, Brunn said, but it could also be used as a public place. His ideas included using it as a space for senior citizen programs or hosting small individual workforces within the different rooms, which are currently unoccupied besides the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union's office.

"At the end of the day, it needs to be voted on by the public," he said of the school, aware there is already a feasibility study underway.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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