Wilmington celebrates digital success


WILMINGTON -- Excited to see all the familiar faces, Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk was clear with her message.

"We have some successes," said Havreluk. "We need to start celebrating those."

On Nov. 21, the town of Wilmington invited everyone to come hear about the recent progress, which included the wifi zone set up in the downtown district and the new town website. They were also invited eat cake.

Before Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy cut the cake, Havreluk cut a wire presented to her by representatives from the Vermont Digital Economy Project, which has been funded through the Economic Development Administration and the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

After floods from Tropical Storm Irene had caused significant damage to a handful of communities within the state, the Digital Economy Project was created to help towns make a speedier recovery and stimulate the economy. Grants became available in January and Wilmington applied by March.

"We knew for certain that Wilmington would be one of the first towns we'd visit," said Vermont Digital Economy Project Director Sharon Combes-Farr.

Murphy had applied for the grant, which provides services instead of actual funds. The grant has assisted in several different sectors.

"We had lots of help with the new website, the wifi zone and help for non-profit (organizations) to get their websites up and running," said Havreluk. "Deerfield Valley Rescue took advantage of that."

The town's website was always a popular draw. It contains up-to-date minutes from meetings as well as other useful notifications.

A representative of the Vermont Digital Economy Project told attendees that Wilmington's website visit counter "blew everyone else out of the water." There had been on average 8,000 views a month.

Front Porch Forum, which is a website for residents to communicate between one another, is in the process of going live. Unlike Facebook, the site is only town-by-town basis.

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It needs 100 users to become active in Wilmington. As of the celebration, there had been 66 people signed up.

"Tell your neighbors," said Caitlin Lovegrove, an outreach and network coordinator for the Vermont Digital Economy Project. "It's also moderated. It's a civil form of conversation."

The wifi zone reaches Bartleby's Books and Memorial Hall on West Main Street. It goes to the park beyond Pettee Memorial Library on South Main Street and to the Old Red Mill Inn on North Main Street.

An intern is currently working with seniors at the library with digital literacy.

State Sen. Bob Hartwell, D-Bennington, discussed how the town was heavily hit during Irene. He came to see the wreckage and assist in any way he could in the days that immediately followed.

"It's a very sobering thing to go through," said Hartwell. "But in the aftermath with all the things going on here, the Governor said it first: ‘We'll be better off than before it happened. I think we already are in a sense."

He went on to compliment the cooperation between members of the community.

"It's being replicated in other places as well," said Hartwell. "I'm very appreciative of everything everyone has done. It's a good experience to be a part of."

Rep. Ann Manwaring spoke of how happy she was that the town decided to celebrate the recent successes. Before her days as a representative of the House, she had been a Selectboard member in Wilmington.

"There's just an energy going on in town that really has been here since the recovery method we got into," added Manwaring. "Now, we're seeing some things happen."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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