Big News: SERG Joins Vital Communities

Big news from the Vital Communities Energy Program:
Sustainable Energy Resource Group (SERG) is merging into Vital Communities.

The Sustainable Energy Resounce Group (SERG) is an Upper Valley nonprofit with a strong legacy of local energy action in the Upper Valley. Since its founding in 2002, SERG has pioneered many innovative local energy projects that have since been replicated throughout the Northeast.

After 14 years as an independent nonprofit organization, we are thrilled to announce that SERG has decided to combine forces with Vital Communities’ growing Energy Program. Vital Communities and SERG have been close allies since Vital Communities first began work on energy issues in 2009, collaborating on many projects and working together to support our region’s expanding network of town energy committees. In combining our two programs we are confident we can accomplish more together than we ever could on our own.

Just a few highlight’s from the long list of SERG accomplishments over the past 14 years:

  • Established the first town energy committees in Vermont and New Hampshire in 2002 (there are now more than 200 across both states)
  • Inspired and helped develop the “Button Up” weatherization workshop series that has been presented dozens of times throughout the Upper Valley
  • Led an effort that tripled the number of weatherized homes in Thetford in one year, and helped launch a Vermont Home Energy Challenge to get other towns to do the same
  • Created an online resource library and e-newsletter to help residents in the Upper Valley improve their energy footprints
  • Organized and hosted dozens of public forums on everything from solar hot water to electric vehicles

In the coming year, SERG Founder and Executive Director Bob Walker will work directly with Vital Communities as a consultant and mentor to ensure a strong transition.

We’re seeking partners and supporters in this exciting transition – make a gift today to support Vital Communities in carrying forward SERG’s legacy of inspiring sustainable energy action in the Upper Valley.

The move will be official as of January 1, and we’re planning a big old party in February to celebrate SERG’s accomplishments and kick off our exciting new work together. Stay tuned!

Have questions, comments, or well wishes? Email Sarah@VitalCommunities.org.

New Study on Funding Local Transportation

Vital Communities is pleased to release a new study that examines an optional vehicle registration fee used by over a dozen New Hampshire municipalities. The fee, authorized under RSA 261:153 VI, allows municipalities to collect up to $5 per registration to establish local transportation improvement funds for projects as diverse as basic road maintenance, sidewalk construction, and public transit.

Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown, the report’s author, concludes that a growing number of communities are interested in the fee and that towns and cities have benefited greatly from their local transportation funds.

“The municipalities that collect the fee range in population from under 2,000 to more than 100,000, but they share a common theme: the revenue collected under this program is essential for maintaining good local transportation options.” —Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown

Representative Patricia Higgins, a Democrat who represents Hanover and Lyme, recently introduced a bill that would raise the maximum amount that a municipality may add to their vehicle registration fee from $5 to $10, but only if the voters of that municipality decide they want to raise more revenue.

“Towns and cities can no longer rely on state funds to meet their important transportation needs, be it repairing a bridge so goods can reach a market, funding public transportation so commuters can get to work, or making a bike route safer for students to get to school. This fee, totally optional, allows localities to identify and solve their own problems. I’m grateful for the work of Vital Communities in educating towns and cities all over the state of the existence of this enabling legislation, and I hope my bill will allow local residents more flexibility to arrive at local solutions.”

Read the full report: A Look at the Municipal Vehicle Registration Fee

Meet Our Board: Ronald G. Shaiko

Ronald G. Shaiko brings a long career of academic excellence to Vital Communities, having taught for more than a quarter century at the university level. This includes 15 years at Dartmouth College and 10 years at American University, where he is credited with founding and serving as the academic director of the Lobbying Institute. Currently, he serves as a senior fellow and associate director for curricular and research programs at The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences. He is past Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Politics in the American Studies Center at Warsaw University in Poland, American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democracy Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development. In addition to teaching, Ronald is a sought-after presenter and published author widely quoted by media. He holds a BA in Political Science and History from Ursinus College and an MA and PhD in Political Science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Modern Wood Heating Forum

Modern Wood Pellet Heating Forum
Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont – and ONLINE

This forum will focus on central wood pellet heating technology for residential and commercial settings. This technology is highly efficient and more affordable than ever thanks to several new incentives in both New Hampshire and Vermont. A modern wood pellet boiler can completely replace a conventional oil boiler for a fraction of the annual heating cost. And there are no heavy pellet bags to haul. Central pellet boilers are fed automatically from a hopper, and the hopper is filled with pellets by a delivery truck.

Experts in wood pellet modern wood heating technology will discuss:

  • Central residential and commercial modern wood heating technology, including efficiency
  • How wood pellets are processed, delivered, stored, and automatically fed to the boiler
  • Environmental concerns (sustainable harvesting, short vs. long term carbon release, particulates, etc.)
  • Pricing and availability of boilers and pellets
  • Economics of modern wood heat vs. fossil fuels
  • Incentives and financing

Participants include:

  • Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center
  • Maura Adams, Northern Forest Center
  • Charlie Niebling, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions
  • Scott Nichols, Tarm USA
  • Morton Bailey, Lyme Green Heat

Thanks to Bob “The Green Guy” Farnham, we will post the video for viewing after the event at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNT2NFOgrO0

Sponsored by Lyme Green HeatTarm USAPellergy and Kedel Pellet Boilers

Organizational cosponsors: Sustainable Energy Resource GroupVital CommunitiesEfficiency VermontNorthern Forest CenterBiomass Energy Resource CenterRenewable Energy VermontSierra Club Upper Valley GroupTwo Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission,Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning CommissionAlliance for Green Heat

For more information contact Sarah@VitalCommunities.org (802.291.9100 x109) or SERG@SERG-Info.org (802.785.4126).

Meet Our Board: Bill Geraghty

Hanover resident and Vital Communities Board Chairman Bill Geraghty is no stranger to leading people. His accomplishments include nearly a quarter century leading human resources teams at the Upper Valley’s two largest employers, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College, and before that, a combined 15 years at Princeton University and nearby Middlesex County College. Currently Bill is an adjunct faculty member at both Franklin Pierce University and New England College. In addition, he leads his own consulting practice focusing on leadership development, coaching, positive employee relations, labor relations, hiring processes, and communications. Bill’s track record of volunteering is just as impressive as he willingly shares expertise gathered during his four-decade career by serving on the boards of several nonprofits. Bill also currently serves on the Hanover Board of Selectmen.

And the Winners Are…

Caption: Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discusses the Mascoma River Greenway at the TMA 13th Annual Meeting.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Resource Systems Group, Advance Transit, and a Hartland bicycle commuter were honored at the 13th annual meeting of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA), a program of Vital Communities. The annual awards recognize organizations and individuals making it easier to bike, walk, carpool, and ride the bus in the Upper Valley.

“This year’s award winners demonstrate our region’s commitment to healthy, affordable, and sustainable transportation options,” said Aaron Brown, Vital Communities’ transportation program manager. “Though we live in a rural region, the Upper Valley serves as a model for providing access to good transportation in small-town America.”

The TMA honored one individual and three organizations:

  • Commuter of the Year: Bicycle commuter Jesse Hills of Hartland was honored for his commitment to biking year-round to his job at Mt. Ascutney Hospital.
  • Large Workplace of the Year: Dartmouth-Hitchcock was recognized for its years of support for public transit and its new sustainability council, which features a transportation team.
  • Small Workplace of the Year: Resource Systems Group was honored for innovative programs including co-locating near transit and offering subsidies to employees who purchase homes close to the workplace.
  • Project of the Year: Advance Transit’s Green Route expansion, which improved service to every 30 minutes and increased the route’s ridership 50 percent.

Keynote speaker Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discussed the unique fundraising success that will make the Mascoma River Greenway a reality in the coming years.

The Upper Valley TMA is a program of Vital Communities that works to reduce reliance on driving alone. The TMA’s members include local municipalities, transit agencies, major employers, and three regional planning commissions.

21 Local Leaders Graduate from Leadership Upper Valley

Twenty-one leaders from around the region graduated in June from Leadership Upper Valley, a program of Vital Communities that inspires, educates, and engages citizens to better serve their communities. The graduation was held Wednesday, June 10, at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor.

“In contemplating the extent of all we have learned, I am left with one overarching word that describes this year: empowerment,” said Havah Armstrong Walther, the class speaker for the ceremony. “Yes, we have met a hundred new and amazing leaders in our community, learned things we never knew before, and traveled to new places. However, we have also grown as citizens and as leaders ourselves.”

This year’s graduates include:

Alijah Swasey, Kendal at Hanover
Bill Blaiklock, Mascoma Savings Bank
Brandy Blackinton, Claremont Savings Bank
Deborah Mozden, Turning Points Network
Havah Armstrong Walther, Hartford Area Career and Technology Center
Heather W. Prebish, Recover Together
Duncan McCutchan, Jarvis Hill Farm
Jim Larrick, Mascoma Savings Bank
Jed Putney, Mascoma Savings Bank
Karen Ganey, Henderson Tree Service and Creative Lives
Kathy Labbe, Harvest Hill Assisted Living
Laurie Sepulveda, Opera North
Miranda Pizinger, Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Nik Fiore, Engineering Ventures
Paula Maville, City of Lebanon
Robert Starkey, Hypertherm
Samantha Estes, Co-op Food Stores
Shanon Hounshell, Green Mountain  Economic Development Corporation
Shawn Courtemanche, Kendal at  Hanover
Teresa Thurston, The Lyme School
Theresa Minelli, Lake Sunapee Bank

Including this year’s graduating class, there are now more than 175 Leadership Upper Valley alumni.