Town to study jetport plan
by Mike Eldred
Nov 08, 2012 | 2341 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- At a special meeting Monday evening, selectboard members formed a committee to explore a proposal by Haystack owner Jim Barnes to expand the Mount Snow Airport to accommodate small jets.

Dover resident Don Albano suggested the committee at a previous meeting, urging the board to gather data on the possible impact of the proposed expansion on local residents. “I’m impressed with the data I can find on my own,” Albano said. “Particularly on the alternative cross runway. In my opinion, if Mount Snow had built the runway the way it was supposed to be in 1968, we wouldn’t have had five deaths at our airport, more than any other (airport) in Vermont.”

Although Albano has expressed concern about the expansion, he has said it could be an economic development opportunity for the valley. “I’m in the middle,” he said Monday evening. “As an entrepreneur, I’m excited about the airport; as a homeowner, I’m worried about sleeping at night. I can see how Haystack and Mount Snow can fly people in here, and that’s the exciting part of this thing.”

Albano suggested a slate of committee members, including Barnes and Mount Snow General Manager Kelly Pawlak, abutting property owners, Dover Economic Development Specialist Ken Black, and others. Albano urged the board to act quickly. “You have an Act 250 process coming down the line,” he said. “We hope to give you raw data so you can come up with your position on the project.”

But Matterhorn Inn owner Joe Kruszewski objected to the appointment of committee members. “The committee has been picked, and I don’t know who’s doing the picking,” he said. “It’s been stuffed. Do you have to have big money to be on the committee, or oppose it?”

Board member William “Buzzy” Buswell asked if the board should invite a member from Wilmington, as much of the expansion will take place on land in Wilmington. Albano recommended focusing the committee on Dover issues, and limiting it to Dover residents.

Board members approved the creation of the committee and the slate of members.

In economic development discussions, Colby Dix and Laura Sibilia, of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS), requested matching funds that would allow them to leverage as much as $25,000 in funding from the town of Brattleboro. Earlier this year, SeVEDS sought $50,000 from Brattleboro’s Community Development Block Grant program to fund a part-time position and a study.

SeVEDS is working on a number of initiatives, including a response to a post-Vermont Yankee economy in Windham County and workforce development. SeVEDS has applied for a federal Economic Development Agency grant to create a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) document. Sibilia said the CEDS would open up grant opportunities for local communities for things like municipal infrastructure necessary for economic development – such as water or wastewater systems.

Dix and Sibilia said SeVEDS was seeking $3,300 from Dover’s economic development fund, roughly $3 per resident.

“It sounds like a great concept for the county,” said Buswell. “My question is, what’s in it for Dover?”

In addition to the grant possibilities, Sibilia said Dover would benefit from improved employment opportunities in the county. “Right now we have a lot of seasonal employment, a low number of jobs, and few people to do them. It’s hard for employers to find qualified people, so it’s hard for them to stay.”

Buswell asked if SeVEDS would be looking for more money in the future. Dix said SeVEDS was looking for the $3,300 this year, and would also request funding for the next fiscal year to be included on the Town Meeting warning. But he said the group would also be looking for other funding. “The private sector is where we’re headed,” he said. “We’d like to see continued funding from towns, but we’re just looking for consistent buy-in. We’re not looking to come back next year and ask for twice as much.”

Board members thanked Dix and Sibilia for their presentation, but didn’t discuss or vote on SeVEDS’ request.

In other economic development matters, the board approved a request for $9,951.50 in funding for an Adventure Challenge event by Phil Gilpin Jr., of Green Mountain Marketing Group.

Gilpin said the Adventure Challenge will run from May 1 to September 15, and will be sold as part of a package deal through LivingSocial.com. Local inns and lodges will also be able to sell their own package deals. Gilpin said he would be, essentially, selling a ticket to an event that can be included in the deals.

“It’s basically a treasure hunt with elements of a scavenger hunt and letter boxing,” Gilpin said. “It’s sort of Great Race-ish. The idea is to bring people up here to enjoy the outdoors in the summer.”

The event is an expansion of the Adventure Challenge Gilpin promoted earlier this year. In addition to making money for local business owners, Gilpin said the event also raised money for the Jimmy Fund in Boston.

Gilpin told board members the money he was looking for would go toward marketing and the purchase of some promotional items, like T-shirts and water bottles. Gilpin said the items and a new lower price were intended to bring in more people. “Last year we had two complaints that the package was too expensive,” he said. “So this year we’ve reduced the price and we’re adding in other things. When people arrive they’ll get an adventure kit, including a bag with the event logo and Dover logo on it, filled with goodies.”

Gilpin said his marketing plans included newspaper advertising, web advertising, and fliers on college campuses.

Buswell grilled Gilpin about his budget figures. Noting that there was a line indicating a charge for the promotional items, Buswell asked if Gilpin would be paid twice for the cost of the items. “If the town’s paying for them, and you’re building it into the price of the package, aren’t you being paid twice?”

“No,” Gilpin replied, “you’ll notice there’s no expense line for labor. Since I’m putting on the event, labor and profit are interchangeable. If a person buys a package, any extra money is being used on labor and other event costs.”

Buswell continued to express concern over the budget, and Gilpin said that, if more than 300 people purchased packages, the cost of the items would be more than the amount that the town would be providing. “After that I would be spending my own money, so the town’s not paying for everything. With the town subsidizing some of the T-shirts and things, I’m able to take (those costs out) and put them toward the event production.”

Gilpin said he was hoping to get about 650 participants. Board members unanimously approved Gilpin’s request.
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