June 28, 2018
Placemaking in Montpelier
Between summertime and the nice weather, the end of the school year, and the new construction season, it feels like a time of collective exhaling for our community. It’s such a relief to be able to breathe the warm summer air.
Groundbreakings and Openings
My schedule has been packed lately with all kinds of delightful events, many of which are going to contribute to community and the “special sense of place” that Montpelier embodies. I have celebrated more new beginnings this year that I expected to. There was a great ribbon-cutting event for Roam, the new shoe and clothing store on Langdon Street, along with Onion River Outdoors, the new incarnation of Onion River Sports.
Very soon we’ll celebrate the official opening of the Guertin Pocket Park, along the bike path near Taylor Street, and I hope to soon resolve where the pocket park by Downtown Tees will live long-term. Speaking of Taylor Street, the groundbreaking event the other day was fun, and it felt only right to honor the many councils that have come and gone over the last decade or more that have shepherded this project along.
Caledonia Spirits will continue their construction this summer, and I look forward to visiting them when it’s open. Perhaps by then the new bike path extension will be done. This summer the City will start construction to extend the bike path from where it ends at Granite Street, near the Coop, further down Barre Street, then down Old Country Club Road, all the way to the edge of town! I can’t wait to take my nieces on a bike ride through town, from one end of Montpelier to the other.
In addition to construction, I am so delighted that Dan Groberg has stepped in as the Montpelier Alive Director; I already enjoy working with him. Laura Gebhart, our new director of the Montpelier Development Corporation, is active in and engaged with the community. We have some great people in place. We really are lucky to have them both!
In addition to this exciting work, I want to highlight a couple of items from our strategic plan, that I’m really excited for the council to begin discussing.
Making the WRRF Thermally Net-Zero
We need to upgrade our Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) down by Dog River. Since these upgrades need to happen anyway, we’ve asked our crew to begin crunching numbers for a plan that will take in more product for a fee, and then we can turn that material into energy. It would likely be enough energy to heat the facility or make it thermally net-zero. They will come back to us with a final proposal in the late summer or early fall, when the council give the project a final evaluation, and if appropriate, approval. We’ll need to examine the numbers carefully, but I’m hopeful that this will be a viable project for us.
At our last council meeting students from Montpelier High School presented to the council, asking us to ban plastic bags. They had conducted an informal survey and showed us the results. Most of the people surveyed were in support of a plastic bag ban. Anticipating that not everyone would love a plastic bag ban, I’ve started checking in with local retailers who currently use plastic bags to hear their thoughts. To my happy surprise, so far all the retailers I’ve spoken with are in favor of the ban.
This week I received a letter in the mail from a high school student asking us to please ban plastic straws as well. In the letter, she says, “I know it is possible to have biodegradable straws because I have eaten FroYo with a biodegradable spoon. It might be a little more expensive, but that expense would be worth a cleaner environment.”
Whatever direction this takes, if approved, the process moving forward would include a new ordinance, and it may also include a charter change. Either way, I look forward to a robust discussion about what this could mean for our community.
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
One unwelcome guest this summer is the Emerald Ash Borer. This little bug has decimated Ash Tree populations in southern New England over the last decade, and we have unfortunately recently discovered its presence in Montpelier. This has wiped out forests south of us, and beyond the ecological costs, it has been incredibly expensive for these communities to clean up the trees in the wake of the EAB. What does this mean for us? We’ll all be looking to our (active and admirable) Tree Board for guidance. They have been working on a plan, but now it’s time to execute it. They’ll be coming to our meeting in July (I believe), to let us know how to proceed. Many of our street trees are Ash, and there is a significant percentage of Ash trees in Hubbard Park. While the council comes up with a plan for protecting our Ash Trees as well as limiting the damage EAB can do, please also do not move firewood out of the City of Montpelier.
EAB aside, I’m looking forward to the upcoming changes in Montpelier. We have good work being done through construction, and we’re laying the foundation for good discussions to make Montpelier and even better place to live.