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.