The “memorandum of understanding” lists several actions Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company must take to maintain compliance with Wilmington’s town plan. Under the agreement, Hermitage representatives must meet with the planning commission quarterly to update them on progress. At the end of the meeting, however, planning commissioners and Hermitage representatives agreed to meet only once a year.
The first item listed in the memorandum concerns the development of the East Tract, an area of land sandwiched between Coldbrook Road and Old Ark Road, and a requirement to fund workforce housing that is attached to the property. At the time the memorandum was drawn up, the land was owned by the Hermitage and was intended to be part of the Hermitage Club master plan Act 250. In an attempt to move the master plan approval forward when it appeared stalled at the district environmental commission, however, the Hermitage sold the land to Brian and Keith Jurgens, owners of Comtuck. Planning commissioners agreed to strike the section from the agreement.
Under a a second item in the memorandum, the Hermitage Club agreed to work with Twin Valley Middle High School to establish school-to-work programs that will develop skills applicable to local employment. Hermitage Human Resources Manager Renee Mulkey said the club has worked with Twin Valley career counselors and SeVEDS Workforce and Education Specialist Alex Beck to bring in high school juniors and seniors to talk with Hermitage managers and tour the resort’s facilities. She said there are a number of students from around the region working at the Hermitage. “Currently, we have 21 high schoolers working as golf car attendants, pool attendants, bussing and dishwashing in the restaurant, and working in the child care facility.”
Hermitage Club Vice President of Construction and Development Bob Rubin responded to an item on the memorandum seeking to encourage day visitors to the town to stay overnight by allowing last-minute reservations at the Vermont House. “We’ve placed signage on the Vermont House that gives the number for central reservations, where people can get instructions and a key code to enter the Vermont House and get room keys,” he said.
Under another memorandum item, the Hermitage agreed to mark its public hiking trails and access points. “We were asked to keep one marked trail open to the top of the mountain, and that starts at the bottom near the gatehouse,” Rubin said. “People can park their car at the gatehouse and hike up. Once they get to the top parking lot, the trail follows the Dutchman (ski trail) to the top, through the glebe land.”
Rubin said he wasn’t sure there were signs at key points along the route, but said the club will eventually install them. “We’re still in cash conservation mode at the club, but we hope that changes in October.”
Under an existing agreement, the club can sell up to 275 ski passes per day to Wilmington residents and, under the planning commission’s memorandum, the Hermitage Club agreed to publish information on lift ticket rates, where they can be purchased, and what identification is needed. Planning commission chair Cheryl LaFlamme suggested the town should provide a link to the Hermitage Club’s information. Rubin said last year’s ticket rate was $100, and Wilmington residents could purchase a lift ticket at the clubhouse front desk.
Regarding a memorandum item in which the club agreed to “keep as many opportunities as possible in the USA,” Mulkey said she has targeted her employment advertising to potential employees living within a one-hour traveling radius. “Of our current workforce of 205 people, 170, or 83% live in Vermont. After that, most live in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”
Mulkey said the club has recently hired several southern Vermont residents for senior positions, but has had difficulty filling some positions. “A local payroll specialist would be ideal,” she said. “To relocate someone and find a house for them would be difficult.”
Hermitage Club Mountain Manager Aaron Sherritt said the Hermitage trains people as tramway mechanics, sending them to a paid apprenticeship program, after which they are certified tramway mechanics. “That’s a high demand job right now,” he said. “Every ski area in Vermont and out West is looking for certified tramway mechanics.”
Under the final memorandum item, the Hermitage agreed to provide employment and contractor data, with a breakdown of local and regional workers, their benefits, and whether the work is seasonal. Rubin said the construction is “finally” underway again at the resort with the start of two four-unit buildings. He said a number of the contractors are locally-based. “The excavator is from Wardsboro, the plumber is from Manchester, the concrete contractor is from East Dover, the crane operator is from Wardsboro, the electrician is from Wilmington, and the materials are from WW,” he said. “The more we move into residential housing construction, the more local we’ll be able to stay.”