ENOSBURG FALLS — Money talk dominated the village board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, but specifically grant money — several grants’ worth totaling more than $300,000.
Talking grants seems inevitable at any official meeting in the broader Enosburgh right now, in the midst of the SE Group’s “Vital Village” plan and constant action by the group of community volunteers calling themselves the Enosburgh Initiative.
Last night, the village board signed one grant agreement, supported applying for another, agreed to submit a letter of support for still another grant and discussed, again, how valuable a community economic development coordinator could be in directing Enosburgh’s grant work.
The board signed the agreement for the $11,000 “quick build” grant, funding work on the corner of Main and Depot streets.
That spun off from the Vital Village project. The Vermont Dept. of Health granted funding to each of the three communities utilizing the state’s Better Connections program — the program funding the Vital Village project — to spend on projects that could be rapidly completed for the benefit of community health.
Enosburg Falls’ project will place an information kiosk on that street corner and make cosmetic improvements to that corner, including the creation of a tiny park where visitors, especially those coming off the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail crossing nearby, can take a load off.
Enosburg Falls’ village manager, Jon Elwell, told the board last night he and Greta Brunswick, of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, met with Vermont Agency of Transportation officials to discuss project specifics. But Elwell said “nothing concrete” came out of that conversation, though he said he’s still hoping VTrans and the village can “find common ground” to swiftly move the project forward.
A component of the health department grant is that the village spend the $11,000 before Sept. 30.
Brunswick has led several of the village’s recent grant applications, including the application for the Better Connections program.
The board gave Brunswick, via the NRPC, permission to apply for a RiseVT mini-grant supplementing the quick build grant.
Elwell said the maximum mini-grant is about $1,500.
The board also agreed to submit a letter supporting Brunswick’s application for an AARP Community Challenge grant of up to $3,000.
Elwell said that grant could supplement future pop-up demonstrations, like temporary streetscape improvements planned for the week of June 10-17, in conjunction with the Vital Village project.
Elwell said Brunswick hopes to spend that grant, if awarded, on temporary solar-powered antique-style lamp posts for the central village, similar to those in streetscape improvements designs proposed by the SE Group. He said Brunswick would donate the lamp posts to Local Motion after the demonstration.
Toward the end of last night’s meeting, Jim Cameron tied those grant opportunities into a brief conversation about Enosburgh’s forthcoming economic development coordinator position.
Town voters approved creating a $60,000 full-time position on Town Meeting Day. The town selectboard is still designing the position, and met with the village board on April 1 to gather village officials’ input.
Addressing the village board last night, Cameron praised Brunswick’s ongoing work for the village, which he called “huge.” But he said Brunswick can’t be there for Enosburgh all the time. As a senior planner for the NRPC, she has commitments across the entirety of Franklin County.
Cameron told the board a group of residents plans to attend the town selectboard’s next regular meeting this coming Monday, April 15, to emphasize the importance of immediate action in developing the position — “to not have it languish and not have it sit there,” Cameron said, especially as the Vital Village project, which includes recommended next steps for village development, wraps up.
Cameron also told the board Brunswick and Tim Smith, the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation’s executive director, both agreed they would come to Enosburgh and help officials develop the position, if desired.
Sandy Ferland, in attendance at this meeting as a member of the public, praised village officials for their interest and enthusiasm at that April 1 joint board meeting. Ferland said she was encouraged and pleased by their conduct.
“I thought you guys were great,” Ferland told them.
Making his manager’s report toward the meeting’s end, Elwell informed the board that village staff have prepared a letter announcing the village’s intent to apply for yet another grant, this one significantly larger: about $296,000 in federal funding to complete the village’s diesel eco park.
That project gestated for nearly a decade before Guilmette’s Handyman Services completed its first phase in 2018, constructing a small museum, overlooking the titular Enosburgh falls, housing the village’s former diesel generator.
As originally designed by landscape architecture firm H. K. Wagner, the eco park included riverside access, public seating, and displays depicting the progression of power technology from diesel powers to means like solar and wind power.
By the time construction began on the project, as Elwell told the Messenger in August 2018, those futuristic means of power no longer seemed so futuristic.
Elwell said at that time that the project’s next stage now entails landscaping, a sidewalk, a formal parking area and a small veranda allowing visitors to walk off the back of the property and look over the falls.
He said last night that village staff estimate the next phase may cost nearly $600,000.
That’s where a federal grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission could help. The commission puts forth 50 percent of a project’s cost, meaning, in this case, the village would be responsible for the other 50 percent, about $296,000.
The village already received a Northern Border grant that paid for half of the eco park diesel museum’s construction cost.
Elwell cautioned that village officials are not sure the project warrants the projected amount, despite the village’s forthcoming letter of intent. Elwell said village officials will have to decide whether to move forward at the projected cost.
Mention of the eco park, and the diesel generator museum, prompted Cameron to raise his hand just before the meeting’s conclusion. Cameron said he feels the park is great, and that people don’t know about it.
Toward that end, he offered to conduct a catered tour of the facility during the aforementioned demonstration week, beginning June 10.
The board agreed to give Cameron access to the museum during that time, and seemed grateful for his offer.
Although visitors can see the diesel generator at any time, utilizing a light button on the side of the building to see the generator after dark, visitors cannot enter the building.
Cameron’s tour may be the lone opportunity to do so.
Stay informed. Subscribe to the Messenger.