NEWFANE — How to get the biggest bang out of the federal American Rescue Plan Act bucks is the focus of several upcoming meetings.
Knowing the money would be coming to town, the Select Board asked the Planning Commission for recommendations on how best to spend it.
“Since our town plan was a few years old, the decision was made by the commission to launch a survey to ask residents what their primary concerns were and what types of projects could address those concerns,” said Ann Golob, vice chairwoman of the Select Board.
Reviewing the survey findings at the end of last year, it became clear all the ideas supported by residents would take more funds than the town would be getting. Newfane has received $400,936.
Golob said the town might have enough to start one or more projects if additional state funding becomes available.
“To make an informed decision, we have to learn a lot more about how these projects could be implemented and what would be the best way to spend the funds,” she said. “We decided to start with some conversations with experts to understand what is involved in each of these efforts.’
Golob said the board wants to ensure it is making decisions the community supports and encourages all residents to attend Zoom or in-person meetings. Conversations on the use of the funds will be a part of the town’s regular Select Board meetings.
At a meeting starting at 6 p.m. March 21, Birchline Planning President Juli Beth Hinds and Windham Regional Commission Executive Director Chris Campany will discuss how to implement a water/sewer project in the town. They will be responding to recommendations from the Planning Commission to provide funding for renovating or upgrading septic systems for homeowners who want to create long-term housing units in their homes or as accessory dwelling units, and to implement a water/septic study to assess opportunities or obstacles to economic, business, and housing opportunities.
Hinds is originally from Vermont and has expertise in water resource management, wastewater and stormwater utility and program development.
“She has successfully overseen multiple water/sewer projects across the state of Vermont,” states a news release from the Select Board.
Campany said he will discuss existing conditions in Newfane, including “the public health concerns of having septic systems and wells in such close proximity to one another, the challenges that individual septic and well create for retaining existing homes and businesses, the near impossibility of doing anything that increases water and wastewater demands on existing systems thereby making business and residential expansion unlikely, and the need for the community to really think about the role of villages as centers for housing, business, and civic and social activity to inform all infrastructure needs to make that possible.”
“I’ll also encourage the town to think about how to plan for greater resilience in anticipation of more frequent and intense flood events,” he said.
Campany will return for the April 4 meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. He will discuss Planning Commission recommendations to purchase and/or renovate a building or buildings in Newfane to develop a multi-use center for housing, and to promote businesses and provide multi-generational community space, partner with neighboring towns to create a multi-use center providing multi-generational community space and create a shuttle service between Newfane and neighboring towns, and support healthy living by establishing bicycle and walking infrastructure. The community space is envisioned as place that could offer food service, entertainment and recreation such as a skate park, swimming pool or skating rink.
Campany will discuss why he suggests that Newfane apply for a municipal planning grant from the state as a way to address those recommendations.
The board also invited planner Maxwell Vandervliet, associate principal of Main Street Group and a recently arrived Newfane resident, to join the talk. As a town planner, he completed a housing analysis for Waterbury, Vermont.
“While Waterbury is a very different town from Newfane, the issues they are facing are similar in many ways to ours,” states the news release. “The Select Board thought it would be helpful to understand the research process, how the data is gathered and how the conclusions are drawn.”
At a meeting starting at 6 p.m. April 18, Deerfield Valley Communications Union District Board Vice Chairman Steven John and the district board’s Newfane representative Jane Douglas are coming to talk about the broadband rollout occurring throughout the county. The discussion is in response to the Planning Commission’s recommendation to allocate funding for broadband expenses to reach residents where service is not affordable.
The presentations and discussions at each meeting are expected to last an hour, with time for questions and comments from residents.