ENOSBURG FALLS — The Enosburgh Initiative discussed two committees at the Initiative’s Thursday night gathering. One is already in the works. The other is, as of Thursday night, still a proposal. But both could be pivotal for the community.

Sean Kio proposed the “technology innovation committee” to the town selectboard at a September selectboard meeting. The selectpersons reacted positively, according to the selectboard’s Sept. 10 meeting minutes. They told Kio to create bylaws for the committee and come back.

The committee’s purpose is to integrate technology into Enosburgh in ways that serve the community. Not abstract ways, but specific ways, like publicly accessible, village-wide wireless internet access, education for those without experience using the latest technology or access to that technology for those who don’t have it.

Basically, Kio told Initiative members Thursday night, the committee’s purpose is “closing the digital divide.”

Kio will co-chair the committee, if the selectboard approves the committee going forward. Kio lives in Enosburg Falls, but works for Burlington Telecom as a graphic designer, marketing strategist and web master.

Kio has already found previously unutilized digital resources here, specifically fiber optic cables of the sort used for high-speed data connection. The Vermont Electric Power Company installed the cables years ago at the initiative of then-CEO Christine Hallquist. Now they’re “just waiting to be used,” Kio said. Probably not for home fiber-optic data connections — installation costs are expensive — but possibly for the proposed village-wide wireless network.

Kio said the committee plans to use a survey designed by the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit behind the Firefox web browser, to determine what, technology-wise, the Enosburgh community is looking for. Kio said he plans to distribute the survey through the local American Legion to start.

In the meantime, potential committee members have written the committee’s bylaws, and Kio is actively looking for grant funding, like U.S. Dept. of Agriculture rural connectivity grants or U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs grants. Kio is a veteran.

Kio’s committee is already in the works, but Jim Cameron proposed a new committee: a grant writing committee.

“I’m not really asking to add another committee to the world,” Cameron told the group, “but if we need one, it’s this.”

Cameron said the Town of Fairfield, where he lives, has had a grant writing committee for more than a decade. The committee oversees a part-time grant writer, paid by the hour, and funded by municipal organizations like the town selectboard, or the Bent Northrop Memorial Library. The grant writer works on grant applications for any local organization in need: the highway department, the library, any one.

A paid grant writer in Enosburgh, Cameron said, could coordinate applications so two organizations don’t try applying for the same grant, and could keep track of the broader grant schedule to tell organizations in need about grant opportunities well ahead of time, instead of the week before the application is due. Mainly, though, the grant writer could navigate the dense application process more efficiently than less-experienced applicants.

Cameron said one Initiative volunteer, Heather Moore, spent over 100 hours working on just three grants.

If the idea seemed a little out of reach, Cameron urged those at the Initiative meeting to compare Fairfield’s economic foundation to that of Enosburgh, with its varied businesses and organizations.

Sandy Ferland suggested the position include smaller neighboring communities, like Berkshire and Sheldon, “if the pool of money isn’t big enough” to fund the position for Enosburgh alone. Cameron said that wasn’t a bad idea.

But Cameron is focused on an Enosburgh-specific position right now. He said he plans to pitch the committee to Enosburgh’s municipal boards as a joint position between the village and the town, similar to the zoning administrator position.

Cameron said he hopes the position will jointly include grant writing and economic development.

Attendees at the Initiative meeting seemed enthused about Cameron’s proposal. Stephan Wadsworth said it is “a critical concept that needs to be fleshed out.”

Wadsworth has written several grant applications for the community now. One resulted in the community kayaks now available in the village. But Wadsworth said he has missed funding opportunities because he wasn’t aware of them until the week before they were due. He said an experienced grant writer could make his work, and the work of other volunteers trying to get grant funding for community efforts, much more effective.

The Messenger will report more of this Initiative meeting, including a preview of Enosburgh Eats, news about the sale of Halvy’s Café and several updates on local volunteering in tomorrow’s weekend edition.

 

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