See also: Reprints of recent newsletter articles.
Please also check our Event Calendar for training, workshops and other events.
The Vermont Planners Association will present Water Works, a summary of current water quality issues, innovation in planning, and best practices on Friday, December 11, 2015, at the St. Albans Historical Society in St. Albans, Vermont. The day-long conference will focus on big-picture water quality planning in the morning and best practices in the afternoon. Big picture planning will include presentations on more rural watershed-based clean water initiatives as well as a more urban holistic water quality plan. An update will be provided on current watershed planning efforts the state has initiated with regional planning commissions. The VPA annual meeting will occur prior to lunch to facilitate the election of officers to update membership on the implementation of the Strategic Plan. A briefing on Act 64 and the state’s efforts to date will follow lunch (provided). The remainder of the afternoon will focus on best practices for improving water quality and will include low impact development standards, green infrastructure, and stormwater utilities. Lessons learned from different implementation techniques will be shared and a walking tour of green infrastructure will be provided.Read more >>
The Department of Environmental Conservation's Rivers Program is planning training opportunities for municipal officials involved in floodplain management and river corridor protection. If you're a floodplain administrator, zoning administrator, town manager, planner, or a member of a local review board, please take a few minutes and complete this brief survey by Friday, November 13.Read more >>
USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Programs serve non-profits and public bodies located in rural areas of up to 20,000 in population. Use our loans and grants to renovate, repair, purchase or construct buildings which house community services. Read more.
In FY15, RD’s Water Environmental Program (WEP) invested $15.5 million in 14 Vermont communities and $12.1 million in five New Hampshire communities. FY16 WEP applications are being accepted now. Read more.
If you sign up for Rural Development's GOVDELIVERY service, you can select the type of information you want to receive. Sign up here.
For more information on the Public Assistance Program, visit http://vem.vermont.gov/publicassistance.Read more >>
A disease called the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) affected a number of farms in the Midwest last year. While no human case of HPAI virus has been detected and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from HPAI infection to be low, domestic poultry are veryy susceptible to HPAI H5 virus, which can spread rapidly from bird to bird and typically results in high mortality rates. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) encourages poultry owners, producers, and enthusiasts to prepare for HPAI, which is expected to impact the East Coast by the spring of 2016.Read more >>
A webcast on October 15 focused on the recently released draft report, “Case Studies on Implementing Low-Cost Modifications to Improve Nutrient Reduction at Wastewater Treatment Plants.”
As many studies have shown, nutrient pollution is one of America’s costliest and most challenging water quality problems. However, many of the nation’s wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) were not designed for nutrient removal and major retrofits may be a significant hurdle. The recent EPA draft report showcases a number of communities that were able to achieve better nutrient treatment at WWTPs through relatively low-cost modifications without requiring costly infrastructure upgrades. Nitrogen discharge levels in 12 case study plants were reduced by 20% to 70%. Two case studies also documented low-cost phosphorus reduction of 40% to 58%. In many cases, these facilities also reduced energy consumption and lowered operational costs. The webcast will summarize the report and highlight two of the case studies in Crewe, Virginia, and Victor Valley, California.
EPA is also interested in learning of additional communities’ successes and intends to update this document to help more of the nation’s WWTPs make progress towards additional nutrient reductions. You can submit comments and additional case studies by December 15, 2015 to POTWOptiNP@epa.gov. The draft report is posted here.
The Public Service Department is hosting five hearings around the state in October on its draft Comprehensive Energy Plan to solicit Vermonters’ thoughts on the state’s energy future. The goal of the Comprehensive Energy Plan, set for release the week of September 21, is to meet 90% of the state’s energy needs by renewable energy in 2050. Vermonters have an opportunity to shape how their state achieves this goal.
To find information about the CEP update and the five October public hearings or to comment on the plan, visit http://www.energyplan.vt.gov.
Under state law, unless the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues the final Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by October 1, 2015, all projects requiring an operational stormwater permit for discharges within the Lake Champlain watershed will be required to show no increase in phosphorus. This requirement will apply to all applications for coverage under GP 3-9010, 3-9015, or individual stormwater permits, which are received after October 1st. This requirement is in addition to existing requirements to meet “net zero” in stormwater-impaired waters as described in Environmental Protection Rules Ch. 22 (Stormwater Management Rule for Stormwater Impaired Waters).
Section 31 of Act 64 of 2015 amends our stormwater statute (10 V.S.A. § 1264). Among the changes to statue is a new section (1264(h)(2)) that covers requirements for issuing permits. It effectively requires that projects within the Lake Champlain watershed not increase phosphorus load if there is no TMDL for the lake. This applies to both new projects and to the renewal of existing permits. To renew an existing permit, a feasibility-based upgrade to meet the WQv, Rev, and CPv standards of the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual will also be necessary. Per section 54(2) of the act, these requirements will take effect on October 1, 2015.
EPA’s comment period on their proposed TMDL ends Thursday, October 15, a 30-day extension over the initial deadline. Based on this timeline, it is very unlikely there will be a TMDL in place by October 1st. Please note that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does not control the timeline for issuing the TMDL, but we remain optimistic it will be issued relatively soon. Information on the TMDL is available here.
We anticipate that we will issue a procedure in the coming weeks to guide applicants who need to meet these requirements. You may direct any questions you have in the interim to the Stormwater Program staff person covering the district of the project in question.
DEC’s longer term plan for managing stormwater once the TMDL is issued is contained with our draft Lake Champlain TMDL Phase I Implementation Plan. DEC will commence a public process to finalize this plan once the EPA adopts the TMDL.
As a VLCT member, your organization has access to the wide range of training and application support services provided by KnowledgeWave, a Microsoft Learning Partner located in South Burlington. VLCT is making the KnowledgeWave Learning Site available to all members at a special yearly rate. The membership includes access to the online learning site so that you can learn at your own pace, monthly webinars, access to live classes, and much more.Read more >>
On August 13, 2015, Jenna Calvi, Stormwater District Manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation, made this presentation at the Associated Industries of Vermont's Environmental and Regulatory Seminar in Montpelier.Read more >>
The Security and Sustainability Forum has scheduled five webinars for August and September. Topics include Peace, Conflict, and the Scale of the Climate Risk Landscape; Rethinking Our Land: Growing Sustainable and Resilient Communities; and Why Investing in Nature Makes Economic Sense. More information is at http://securityandsustainabilityforum.org/.Read more >>
The Vermont Clean Diesel Grant Program was developed with funding from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to reduce air pollution associated with diesel-powered engines, vehicles, and equipment. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is seeking information from potential applicants for projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions from diesel-powered engines, vehicles, and equipment operating in Vermont. DEC will be posting a Request for Proposals for this grant opportunity in the near future.
Who will be eligible to apply? All interested local, State and regional agencies or departments as well as businesses, institutions, and nonprofit organizations operating in Vermont.
What vehicles and equipment are eligible? Diesel-powered engines, vehicles, and equipment currently operating in Vermont, including buses, locomotives, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, marine engines, nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo, agriculture, mining or energy production (stationary generators and pumps).
What projects are eligible? Eligible diesel emission reduction projects include:
$1.1 million of Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding is reserved for applications addressing environmental mitigation efforts relating to stormwater and highways. Also, the former $50,000 cap on federal funding for salt/sand shed construction projects has been omitted. Potential project ideas include:Read more >>
The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) is launching a program to provide Vermont organizations with the technical assistance and financing they need to convert their fleets to electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. VEIC is seeking participants for a pilot of this program, which will run through the end of the summer. More information is here.Read more >>
Updates are now available for two Vermont Labor Relations Board publications: the Evolving Vermont Labor Relations Law, 3rd edition (updated through the end of April 2015, and the revised Guide to Vermont Labor Relations Statutes (updated through the end of May 2015). Please complete and send in this order form to order these publications.Read more >>
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is implementing ECO AmeriCorps, a new program, as part of its effort to protect Vermont’s lakes and streams. DEC is looking for host sites and AmeriCorps members for the 2015-2016 service year. There are a limited number of host sites and member slots (15), which will be filled before the program start date of September 14.
Through this program, towns, watershed groups, and conservation districts will work with motivated college graduates to help plan and implement projects related to improving water quality and flood resilience. In order to participate, each host site will need to provide a cash match of $5,500 in exchange for one full-time ECO AmeriCorps member who will serve for one year (a total of 1,700 hours). Vermont DEC will provide training and mentoring. Host sites are asked to provide a meaningful service opportunity and regular supervision for their AmeriCorps member. Water quality-related work that AmeriCorps members could perform includes outreach and education, technical assistance, and project selection, design, and implementation.
Please contact Linnea Myers (email@example.com or 802-272-1462) or Carey Hengstenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-595-1632) if you have questions or for help in identifying projects for members. More information is available at http://ecoamericorps.vermont.gov.
Over the past year, staff from the State Revolving Loan (SRF) programs and the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank have been working to complete a combined "smart" application for all municipal funding applicants. This new application allows municipalities to apply for any loan or grant that is funded by the Water Infrastructure Financing Programs and the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank in one document. Here is a link to the new application.Read more >>
In 2012, the Vermont Agency of Transportation underwent a Crash Data Improvement Program review and a Traffic Records assessment, both conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The final reports for both reviews recommended that Vermont improve upon the data quality measurement of "accessibility." As a result, the Public Crash Data Query Tool was built to provide the public with access to non-personal motor vehicle crash data. Local officials, highway safety advocates, and the general public can use this user-friendly, interactive online data query tool, which is posted at http://apps.vtrans.vermont.gov/CrashPublicQueryTool/.Read more >>
The Public Service Department is updating the Comprehensive Energy and Electric Plan for Vermont. The plan will chart the course for Vermont's energy future and affects every Vermonter. Local officials' voices are vital to developing a workable plan for addressing patterns of use, efficiency, renewable energy, climate change, siting, and our landscape in the future. Now is your opportunity to be involved in the conversation. Plan to attend this summer's meetings!Read more >>
Beginning with Vermont municipalities’ fiscal years ending on June 30, 2015 – and which will continue for future fiscal years – a new government accounting requirement will affect the audited financial statements of those municipalities participating in the Vermont Municipal Employee Retirement System (VMERS). A portion of any VMERS “net pension liability” will need to appear as a liability on the balance sheets of participating municipalities. Even though VMERS is 98.32% of being “fully-funded,” the requirement will mean that the 450 municipal and school entities participating in VMERS will have to show a share of $9.127 million in net pension liabilities for their fiscal years ending in 2015.
This PowerPoint presentation is on what is referred to as “GASB 68” by Beth Pearce, Vermont State Treasurer, to the Vermont Town and City Management Association on May 16, 2015. The State Treasurer’s office provides administrative support to VMERS and the two other state retirement systems.
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is the independent organization that establishes and improves standards of accounting and financial reporting for U.S. state and local governments. Established in 1984 by agreement of the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) and 10 national associations of state and local government officials, the GASB is recognized by governments, the accounting industry, and the capital markets as the official source of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for state and local governments. Its standards are not federal laws or regulations and the organization does not have enforcement authority. Compliance with GASB’s standards, however, is enforced through the laws of some individual states and through the audit process, when auditors render opinions on the fairness of financial statement presentations in conformity with GAAP.
GASB 68’s official title is “Statement 68 – Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions. The full text of the Statement can be found here.
On March 1, 2015, Vermont updated its residential and commercial building energy codes. The final versions of these codes – the Residential Building Energy Standards (RBES) and Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES) – are posted on the Public Service Department website. Although they are listed as “drafts,” they are the final energy code requirements. These draft versions represent the final code language as adopted by Vermont. The PSD is currently working with the International Code Council to complete the official formatted versions of RBES and CBES. The only changes that will be made will be formatting, correction of typos and numerical errors, and internal references. The final drafts for publishing are being reviewed now and should be available soon.Read more >>
As the spring thaw gives way to potential flooding of Vermont rivers and streams, heating fuel providers throughout the state are participating in a tank safety education campaign. Propane and fuel oil tanks can shift during floods, breaking fuel lines and even dislodging tanks. The outreach effort reminds Vermonters that there are a number of things homeowners should do before, during and after a flooding event to protect their family and home.
Each year, all jurisdictions must submit updated Local Emergency Operations Plans to their regional planning commission following Town Meeting Day but before May 1st. Additional information, including the template for your Local Emergency Operations Plan, is at http://vem.vermont.gov/local_state_plans/local. Please contact your planner at the regional commission with any questions.Read more >>
On February 3, 2015, public assistance disaster DR-4207 was declared for a December 9-12, 2014 severe winter storm in Addison, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Washington, and Windsor counties.
Last week, applicant briefings were held to update towns and utility companies on new FEMA program information and explain how to seek reimbursement. If you missed the briefings and want to see one on-line, you can view an unedited taping of the February 13 applicant briefing on the DEMHS YouTube channel.
To be included in DR-4207, an applicant must submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) to email@example.com by Thursday, March 5, 2015. Applicants will be eligible to receive up to 75% federal funding, as well as a 7.5%, 12.5%, or 17.5% state match. In order to continue to qualify for a 12.5% state match , towns must have in place four elements: up-to-date Local Emergency Operations Plan; adopted Hazard Mitigation Plan; up-to-date Transportation Codes and Standards which meet or exceed the 2013 VTrans template (as shown in the 2014-2016 Orange Book); and participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (if applicable). Communities also can qualify for a 17.5% state share by having all of those items and also taking steps to protect river corridors from new encroachment. To find out your town’s Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) state share, visit http://floodready.vermont.gov/. Towns have until March 5 to submit documentation to influence the ERAF percentage for this disaster. Here is a summary of how the State of Vermont evaluates and tracks ERAF criteria.
DR-4163 and DR-4178 update
The 2015 annual Special Investigations Units (SIU) Report to the Legislature covers major activity and current operational status for SIUs in Vermont during 2014.Read more >>
The Connecticut River Watershed Council has produced six videos to help communities prepare for flooding:Read more >>
Lake Wise standards apply to the land surrounding a lake that is within 250 feet of the lake's mean water level. Managing Vermont lakeshores according to consistent standards will maintain property values, good water quality, good aquatic habitat, good fishing, swimming, boating, bird-watching, and more favorite activities around and benefits of Vermont lakes. Using Best Management Practices ensures lakeshore standards are met.Read more >>
The purpose of the Vermont Agency of Transportation's Guidelines for Pedestrian Crossing Treatments, newly updated for 2015, is to ensure that pedestrian crossings are treated consistently throughout the state, on both state highways and local roads, by providing guidance on the location of marked and unmarked crossings and the associated pavement markings and signs. It supplements the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).Read more >>
On January 16, the Joint Fiscal Office released this one-page Education Fund Outlook.Read more >>
Marijuana legalization is a controversial and multifaceted issue and the subject of serious debate. Last May, the governor signed Act 155, which required the Secretary of Administration to produce this report about various consequences of legalizing marijuana, whose aim is to inform the debate in Vermont but not to make any recommendation about whether Vermont should change its marijuana laws.Read more >>
On December 30, Governor Shumlin released Green Mountain Care: A Comprehensive Model for Building Vermont’s Universal Health Care System, which formed the basis for his decision to not pursue single-payer health care.Read more >>
Vermont law gives municipalities the authority to approve in-stream work to address imminent threats of significant damage to life and property. However, the 2012 Rivers Bill requires that in-stream work be authorized by a municipal legislative body to address imminent threats and to meet specific reporting requirements and implementation standards established by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). In accordance with the Rivers Bill, ANR adopted new rules that create a process for local authorization of Emergency Protective Measures. This video provides information on this new process.Read more >>
The Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is in the process of preparing the 2015-2020 HUD Consolidated Plan. This is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency that governs the funds that the department receives. Vermont’s Consolidated Plan guides the investment of more than $10 million annually from HUD for three formula grants: Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnership funds (HOME) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG).
The Agency of Natural Resources recently posted a Base Map of river corridors on its Flood Ready Atlas. A river corridor is delineated to provide for the least erosive form toward which a river will evolve during floods over time. River corridor maps guide state actions to protect, restore, and maintain naturally stable meanders and riparian areas to minimize erosion hazards. Land within and immediately abutting a river corridor may be at higher risk to fluvial erosion during floods.Read more >>
The four public outreach sessions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Vermont recently conducted in the Lake Champlain Basin are summarized in this presentation, which describes how EPA proposes to set the allocations in each segment of the lake. The document also includes information on how Vermont would implement programs to meet those allocations. Questions about the material? Please contact Jeanne Voorhees (Voorhees.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Stephen Perkins (Perkins.Stephen@epa.gov).Read more >>
There are a few recent changes within FEMA’s Public Assistance program. Effective October 1, 2014, the small project threshold minimum amount increased from $3,000 to $3,040 and the small project threshold maximum increased from $120,000 to $121,600. In other words, damage to a site must total at least $3,040 to be considered eligible, and damages over $121,600 will be written up as “large projects” which eventually require a close-out version based on actual documented costs. Other changes include the countywide per capita indicator raising 1.7 percent to $3.56, and the statewide indicator to $1.41 per capita. The State and counties must meet these thresholds in eligible damages prior to the Governor submitting a federal disaster declaration request. These changes apply to all disasters declared on or after October 1, 2014. Another big change is ERAF implementation. The Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) rules which will go into effect for any future disaster declared after October 23, 2014.Read more >>
In 2012, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 138 requiring the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to adopt a procedure to:Read more >>
On September 30, VLCT Advocacy submitted these comments to the Department of Public Service's public comment draft Vermont Telecommunications Plan.Read more >>
On September 25, VLCT Advocacy sent this letter to Vermont's congressional delegation regarding proposed legislation that would increase the size of tractor trailer trucks allowed on Vermont thoroughfares.Read more >>
The National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) will competitively award nearly $1 billion in HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Disaster Recovery funds to eligible communities to help them recover from prior disasters and improve their ability to withstand and recover more quickly from future disasters. To complement these funds, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide technical assistance and training workshops to every eligible state and local government. More information is here.
Eligibility. All states with counties that experienced a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster in 2011, 2012, or 2013 are eligible to submit applications. In addition, 17 local governments that received funding under PL 113-2 are also eligible. A full list of eligible grantees can be found in the attachment “NDRC Eligible Applicants.”
Program Format and Timeline. The National Disaster Resilience Competition is a year-long competition structured in two phases: (1) the framing phase and (2) the implementation phase. The competition is structured to guide applicants in the framing phase through broad consideration of their disaster recovery needs, vulnerabilities, stakeholder interests, resilience and other community development investment alternatives. Then they can refine those needs and design potential solutions in the implementation phase.
On October 1, Vermont's statewide ban of cell phone use in vehicles went into effect. Do you know what that means? If not, visit highwaysafety.vermont.gov/phonesdown.Read more >>
It has been another busy year for Vermont disasters. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) encourages towns to plan ahead. How will you respond to and recover from future flooding events? A good resource is the new Flood Ready Vermont website, http://floodready.vermont.gov/. This site can help you:Read more >>
Gov. Peter Shumlin and Joe Flynn, Director of Vermont Emergency Management and Homeland Security, recently urged communities to prepare for new criteria related to state disaster relief funding that will go into effect in October.
Flooding is the most common and costly hazard faced by Vermont communities. After a federally-declared disaster, 75 percent of qualified public losses may be reimbursed by FEMA’s federal Public Assistance program. In Vermont, the Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) also contributes to help cover repair costs. Municipalities that take the following four specific actions to prepare for and mitigate flood damage will qualify for higher percentages of state support (12.5 percent state share) after declared disasters:
On July 25, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Karen Horn submitted these comments to the Public Service Board in response to the PSB's July 10 memo regarding "good cause" and "substantial deference."Read more >>
Vermont local officials have a new online tool to help their municipalities become more flood resilient. Flood Ready Vermont (www.floodready.vermont.gov) compiles maps and information from around the state to help community leaders work to avoid damage from flooding and help their towns become more flood resilient. The website contains information on post-disaster funding and how well communities are prepared. Is your town prepared to avoid flood damage? Visit www.floodready.vermont.gov to find out. And be sure to attend the “Is Your Town Ready for the Next Flood?” workshop at Town Fair, where the website will be described in detail.Read more >>
Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act, passed by the legislature last session, went into effect on July 1. The shoreland protection legislation applies to activities within 250 feet of a lake or pond’s mean water level for all lakes and ponds greater than 10 acres in surface area. The Act establishes a new state regulation for guiding shoreland development. The intent of the Shoreland Protection Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands by defining standards in creation of buildings, driveways, and cleared areas in shorelands.
The Act recognizes that many shoreland properties in Vermont are already developed or are small parcels that cannot meet the new standards. Developed properties are “grandfathered” until the owner proposes redevelopment. On existing small parcels, the Shoreland Permit Program staff will work with homeowners so that the standards are met to the extent possible in cases of development and redevelopment.
The Shorelands Protection Act requires the use of Vegetation Management Practices to protect vegetation within 100 feet of the mean water level of lakes and ponds. Within the first 100 feet the Act requires that new development be setback at least 100 feet. On existing small parcels the specification is setback as far as the parcel allows. Additionally, the Act requires the permit applicant to demonstrate building on a slope greater than 20% will not compromise slope stability. It also creates a maximum 20% impervious surface and 40% cleared area coverage; unless best management practices are utilized to mitigate the effects of additional impervious surface and cleared area.
Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer recently released the findings of an investigation into a state database that sheds light on prices, trends, and variation across Vermont’s health care system. The Vermont Health Care Uniform Reporting and Evaluation System (VHCURES) is a digital catalogue of all fees for medical services and products that insurers paid over the last seven years for Vermont residents. Hoffer’s inquiry found that while the State has made great progress in developing this resource, its entities have yet to fulfill the statutory duty of using the database to better inform consumers about health care. The report, called “VHCURES: Past, Present, and Future – Opportunities for Health Care Price Transparency and Greater Consumer Information,” is broken into three main sections based on the inquiry’s chief objectives, which were to:Read more >>
Act 172, Vermont's shoreland protection legislation, took effect on Tuesday, July 1. The Lakes and Ponds Program of the Watershed Management Division recently published this Handbook for Shoreland Development to guide activities in protected shoreland areas.Read more >>
To encourage Vermont residents to build more energy efficient homes, Efficiency Vermont prepared a Municipal Guide to Vermont Energy Codes and Above-Code Programs that provides information on energy code requirements, explains the energy code process from application through documented compliance, and outlines the support available from Efficiency Vermont for builders and homeowners. Zoning and planning officials can influence the long-term affordability and environmental impacts of the building that occurs within their town by advising builders and home or business owners how they can build to meet or exceed Vermont’s energy codes. This document provides clear and relevant information so that zoning and planning officials can easily respond to permit applicants.Read more >>
Recently, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Shoreland Permit Program issued this Fact Sheet for wastewater system and potable water supply designers and installers. The document summarizes the requirements of the Shoreland Protection Act, which regulates clearing and construction of impervious surfaces on lake shoreland parcels, and describes how those requirements interact with the requirements of the Wastewater System and Potable Water Supply Rules.Read more >>
Governor Peter Shumlin responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's critique of Vermont's plan to reduce phosphorus in Lake Champlain with this May 29 letter.Read more >>
Norwich University's partnership with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns provides a ten percent tuition discount, as well as an application fee waiver for the student and his or her immediate family members (spouse or child) for any of the online master's degree programs. Learn more here or telephone 800-460-5597Read more >>
The American Lung Association has teamed with the University of Vermont Certification for Sustainable Transportation to launch Vermont Idle Free, a free online certification for Vermont diesel truck drivers and fleet managers about the benefits of idling reduction.Read more >>
To help reach the goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. As part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, the Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity aims to help communities develop solar deployment plans that focus on building strong public-private partnerships to deploy commercial-scale solar. Communities will establish innovative financing mechanisms and launch creative community-based initiatives, such as shared solar programs. Find more information on the Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity, including application requirements, here.Read more >>
A new law requires owners of certain tax exempt properties — including municipalities, we believe — to report each property's Insurance Replacement Cost (IRC) to their local assessing officials by April 1 of every year starting this year. Municipalities must both collect completed forms for non-municipal properties in their jurisdiction and provide their local assessing officials with a completed form for each municipal facility that is listed in their property insurance coverage document. If you haven't reported yet, there is a helpful form with a list of the property categories that are subject to this reporting requirement at www.state.vt.us/tax/pdf.word.excel/forms/pvr/CR-001.pdf. Call 800-649-7915 for more information or if you are a PACIF member seeking your IRCs.Read more >>
On Monday, March 31, the Department of Environmental Conservation sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency its Draft Phase One Plan to clean up Lake Champlain. The plan attempts to engage all contributing sectors in reducing phosphorus to the lake and ensuring that scarce money is spent to achieve the most significant reductions possible in phosphorus and sediment loadings.Read more >>
Vermont’s Universal Recycling law (Act 148) requires all Vermont municipalities to “implement a variable rate pricing system [also known as unit-based pricing] that charges for the collection of municipal solid waste from a residential customer for disposal based on the volume or weight of the waste collected” by July 1, 2015. The Waste Management and Prevention Division of the Department of Environmental Conservation has published this guide to unit-based pricing for waste disposal and recyclables. Additionally, the division has created this sample variable rate pricing ordinance by volume or weight for municipal solid waste collection (not reviewed by VLCT).Read more >>
If you are looking at funding options for a new facility, facility upgrade, or equipment, long-term, low fixed rate loans are available from USDA Rural Development. Direct loan money is plentiful and Rural Development is dedicated to assisting Vermont public bodies. Projects may include public safety equipment, town vehicles, town halls, fire stations, libraries, police stations, schools, water treatment, and just about anything to do with improving or sustaining the economic vitality and livability of a community. To learn how Rural Development funding can provide the low rate and fixed term to ensure an affordable project, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/NHVTCommunity.html.Read more >>
The Vermont Housing Finance Agency maintains a housing matters blog www.vhfa.org/about/news/blog that's worth the occasional read.Read more >>
The Floodplain Manager regions have changed for 2014. You can see the new regions on the Flood Hazard Management website. Municipal permit applications for flood hazard area development can be sent to the Floodplain Manager for your region.Read more >>
The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) has just released a new local emergency operations plan template, which is posted at http://vem.vermont.gov/local_state_plans/local.Read more >>
The draft MMP amends the previous solid waste management plan that was readopted in 2006 and includes significant changes to the structure and layout of the previous plan. The draft MMP is based on five material specific chapters and a chapter addressing general planning needs. Each chapter contains tools of action, state goals, and performance standards. The state goals and performance standards establish deliverables for the planning period that include reporting, outreach and education, and convenience requirements. The draft MMP includes revisions that incorporate recommendations from an ANR solid waste stakeholder group that convened in 2008. The public comment period ended February 21, 2014. A link to the Draft Materials Management Plan is here. Additional information relating to the Universal Recycling law (Act 148) is here.Read more >>
State and Federal Reports Focus on Mitigating Impacts of Climate Change on Vermont. Recent reports from the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detail recommendations to mitigate the effects of climate change on Vermont. For more information, red the ISC report, “Vermont’s Roadmap to Resilience, Preparing for Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change in the Green Mountain State,” and the EPA’s “Disaster Recovery and Long-Term Resilience Planning in Vermont.”Read more >>
Do you wish there was an easy and timely way to let everyone in town know about planned special events, upcoming meeting agendas, or other town announcements? Front Porch Forum (FPF) offers just that—and at no cost. In times of need, such as during and following natural disasters, your FPF becomes even more powerful.Read more >>
A Sharepoint website has been set up to support planners working on flood resilience. Anyone working on a first generation resilience plan can use this site to find data and share ideas. And as you develop draft plans, please use this site to share your work with others. A separate website is in development to support the Flood Resilient Communities program. When released next summer, it will supplant this temporary site. Your feedback on the Sharepoint will inform the design of the final site.Read more >>
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will receive an additional $17,932,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. This second allocation of HUD CDBG-Disaster Recovery funding was secured through the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriation Act and is in addition to the $21.6 million received last year. The rules governing the use of the allocation are essentially the same as the first with the major exception being, funds must be spent within two years. As was also the case under the first allocation, the Federal Notice requires the state to target at least 80 percent of this funding ($14,345,600) to Washington, Windham, and Windsor Counties.
DHCD has developed an Action Plan that is presently under review by HUD which identifies the method of distribution and the unmet and long-term recovery needs of areas most impacted as the result of declared major disasters in Vermont in 2011 and 2012. These disasters include FEMA Disaster Declaration 1995 (April 23-May 9, 2011 flood), 4001 (May 26-27, 2011 flood), 4022 (August 27-September 2, 2011: Tropical Storm Irene), 4043 (May 20, 2011 flooding) and 4066 (June 29, 2012, tornado and flooding). Funds will be available to help communities with the necessary expenses related to disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas receiving major disaster declarations. Of the funding available, DHCD has proposed that $4.8 million be made available for Community Infrastructure projects.
Regional Planning Commission Assistance with Municipal CDBG-DR Community Infrastructure Applications
The newest publication of the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), Community Strategies for Vermont's Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action, is now available on its website. Over the years, VNRC has supported Vermont communities by offering proactive solutions to reduce forest fragmentation and parcelization in Vermont to maintain the rural character of our state. There are many different ways that communities can help sustain forests and wildlife at the local and regional levels, and the Guide provides town officials and interested citizens with the tools—both regulatory and non-regulatory—to do just that. You can download a copy from www.vnrc.org/programs/forests-wildlife/guide/.Read more >>
This Irene Recovery Status Report serves as the final written testimony from the Irene Recovery Office and builds on previous reports submitted by the Irene Recovery Officers.Read more >>
Federal Finance Facilities Available for Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Clean Energy Deployment is a resource guide to federal financing programs that lists 31 different programs to which local governments and others can apply. A link to the document is here.Read more >>
The Building Communities Grants Programs consist of five grant programs established and funded by the Vermont Legislature to “help communities preserve important historic buildings and enhance community facilities”. All of these grant programs, with the exception of the Barn Grants, require that the applicant be a non-profit organization or municipality. The deadlines for all five occur in the fall, and selections are made by individual boards through an established selection process. All grants require matching funding. Funds raised from local fundraising efforts are encouraged. You may not apply to more than one of the grant programs for the same project in one calendar year. More information and the grant applications are here.Read more >>
In July, FEMA issued the 2013 Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program guidance for the HMGP, PDM and FMA grant programs. Here is a summary of the top ten changes from earlier FEMA policies:Read more >>
The Vermont Healthy Community Design Resource, Active Living and Healthy Eating, is now posted on the Vermont Department of Health’s website. In addition to the full document, each subsection is posted as a stand-alone file here: http://healthvermont.gov/family/fit/target.aspx#community.Read more >>
The Vermont Agency of Transportation has made available this spreadsheet of FY 2014 Town Highway aid/funds by town. You can also look up grant information for individual towns on this VTrans' webpage.Read more >>
If you are a community employee or volunteer, your community participates in FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some of the homes that are located in the FEMA mapped floodplain (called the Special Flood Hazard Area, or SFHA) have flooded in the past two months, please be aware of Substantial Damage determinations. Part of the flood hazard area regulations that your community has adopted includes language about Substantial Improvements in the development standards. Language in Substantial Improvements includes the term Substantial Damage. It is the community's responsibility to determine if a building has been substantially damaged, and there are a few different ways to go about this process.
In the aftermath of the Lake Champlain flooding and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, VTDEC created a website that provides information about Substantial Damage determinations and flood recovery. The site contains links to documents that may be helpful as you and your community try to figure out what work be needed after the flood waters recede. As always, your regional floodplain manager can help with substantial damage issues, reviewing repairs and applications, etc. You can find out your regional floodplain on this Floodplain Manager Regions map. Others who may be helpful include Certified Floodplain Managers (CFM) in your area, or another Zoning Administrator who may have had to deal with damaged buildings following the 2011 Lake Champlain flooding or Tropical Storm Irene.
During the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers implemented changes to the pet merchant licensing program that had historically been managed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. For details, please read this letter from the agency. You may use the agency's pet dealer permit form to issue permits to qualified individuals. Town clerks are required to keep a copy of the completed form in their office; the permittee is required to post a copy of the same. If you use this form, you should print out and complete two copies.Read more >>
FEMA announces three new mitigation planning publications:Read more >>
Tropical Storm Irene’s damage to the state’s infrastructure and river stability created the need for increased awareness of how Vermont's highway infrastructure and river systems interact, and why our river system is so important when repairing or constructing highways.Read more >>
On Monday, April 8, Governor Shumlin issued the third Irene recovery report. Titled “Sustaining our Progress,” the report charts the accomplishments since the June 2012 Recovering Stronger Report, sets goals for the second anniversary of the storm, and outlines recovery efforts that will continue into the recovery’s third year and beyond. The complete report is at http://vtstrong.vermont.gov.Read more >>
The Clean Energy Development Fund’s Small Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program (SSREIP) is now accepting new incentive reservations for photovoltaic, solar hot water, and small wind systems. New revised forms as well as the SSREIP Terms, Conditions and Requirements are at http://www.rerc-vt.org/incentives/forms.htm. For more information, call the SSREIP program administrator at 877-888-7372.Read more >>
Northeast Regional Energy Efficiency Database Goes Live. The Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) has launched its Regional Energy Efficiency Database (REED), a public resource that currently includes 2011 electric and gas energy efficiency program data for Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Energy efficiency data for the year 2012 from these eight states, along with data for Delaware and the District of Columbia, will be added to REED this autumn.Read more >>
EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative Announces Extreme Events Workshop Planning Tool. 2012 was the second most expensive year on record for extreme events in the United States, and events like these are expected to occur more frequently and with greater intensity in the years ahead. Extreme events, such as the current prolonged period of drought, can have devastating impacts on drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities. It is important that water utilities identify actions that can be taken today to better prepare for these events.Read more >>
New Website Helps Local Governments Advance Solar Energy Initiatives. The SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, has created a new website to help local governments adopt solar energy. The site includes a resource database, a calendar of events and trainings, a blog, and access to “Ask the Expert” services and technical assistance offerings. State and local officials interested in additional information about developing and implementing cost-effective climate and energy strategies that help further environmental goals and achieve public health and economic benefits may visit EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program site.Read more >>
The Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) provides Public Assistance grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Vermont cities and towns to repair damaged infrastructure after a presidentially declared disaster. The state typically contributes half of the required 25 percent non-federal match for approved projects. Under the new ERAF rule, which went into effect on October 23, 2012, municipalities have 24 months to adopt additional flood hazard mitigation measures to maintain the state cost share for FEMA Public Assistance grants. Municipalities that adopt higher standards can achieve a higher percentage of state funding for post-disaster repair projects – from 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent. Municipalities that adopt the standard set of hazard mitigation measures will continue to receive state funds to cover half of the required non-federal match, or 12.5 percent. Municipalities that have not adopted the basic set of measures will see a decrease in the state match, from 12.5 percent to 7.5 percent. Thus, the state contribution toward the local match requirement will vary from 7.5 percent to 17.5 percent of the total project costs, depending upon the level of adoption of recommended mitigation measures.Read more >>
Applications are encouraged for USDA Rural Development Community Facilities loans and grants. Now you can finance your planned capital projects. Low interest rate loans (rates are currently 3.5%). Some loan terms can be as long as 30 years. No pre-payment penalties. Community Facilities serves non-profits and public bodies. Detailed program and contact information as well as an application are here.Read more >>
The Vermont Council on Rural Development is sharing toolkits and lessons learned from the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project. These resources will help rural communities in Vermont and throughout the United States make better use of online tools for community and economic development.Read more >>
How does a municipality ensure the safety of its residents and businesses? What options are available to it? What combination of state, county, or local law enforcement services will meet a town’s needs? These and other questions have led to VLCT’s updated Policing Options brochure for local officials, which summarizes the alternatives that municipal officials can consider if ensuring the public’s safety is a topic of discussion in their community.Read more >>
Vermont's goal is for its streets to safely accommodate all transportation system users, regardless of age, ability, or their preferred mode of transportation, including walking, biking, driving, or the use of transit. The Complete Streets law, which became effective July 1, 2011, supports the Fit and Healthy Vermonters' goal of increasing the number of Vermonters who engage in regular physical activity by creating communities where all modes of transportation, including walking and bicycling, are made safe and accessible. Municipalities are partners in this goal.Read more >>
Strong Communities is a free quarterly newsletter published by the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development that highlights news, trends and best practices to strengthen your community. Each issue will spotlight planning and revitalization successes throughout Vermont, outline upcoming grant and training opportunities, and provide tools you can use in your community. Here's the current newsletter. You can subscribe to it here.Read more >>
A new Federal Highway Administration transportation resource called Federal-aid Essentials for Local Public Agencies puts key information about federal aid requirements online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/federal-aidessentials. The website is a centralized hub for guidance, policies, procedures, and best practices for administering federal aid projects. Its main feature is a library of videos covering key aspects of the project development and delivery process.Read more >>
A motor vehicle covered under the Lemon Law is defined as new if it is under the manufacturer’s express (written) warranty, which begins when the vehicle is delivered to the first owner or lessee. This means in addition to a motor vehicle purchased new by a first owner or initially leased, some vehicles designated as used on the purchase contract are new under the Lemon Law.Read more >>
Efficiency Vermont has updated its step-by-step guide, “Improving Efficiency in Municipal Street and Public Space Lighting.” Street lighting is an important part of a municipality’s nighttime landscape. Lighting can enhance public safety and security and improve the aesthetic appeal of the surrounding properties. However, street lighting represents a large electrical load and can be one of the highest costs for a municipality. By eliminating unnecessary street lighting and converting older lighting technologies to LEDs, municipalities can reduce the cost of outdoor lighting while enhancing the nighttime environment. The guide is part of a larger effort by Efficiency Vermont, in partnership with the state’s utilities, to help municipalities improve the efficiency of their street lighting and upgrade to LED technology.Read more >>
VLCT and the VLCT Board of Directors’ Financial Responsibility Committee are pleased to announce the availability of the new Municipal Internal Controls Checklist and accompanying guidelines. The checklist, which complies with current professional standards, can help municipalities improve their financial controls, and the guidelines describes the checklist in detail.Read more >>
Communities are increasingly investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy to achieve their air quality, economic, and energy goals. In doing so, they have found that the up-front costs of improving energy efficiency and increasing renewable energy generation can be a barrier for many homeowners, building owners, and businesses. One way to address these barriers is by adopting clean energy financing programs that can make efficiency and renewable energy more affordable for these sectors. EPA's State and Local Climate and Clean Energy Program is supporting these efforts with an online Financing Program Decision Tool and Financing Program Decision Guide.Read more >>
As a result of Tropical Storm Irene, many towns received an unprecedented number of requests for abatement, the quasi-judicial process for relieving taxpayers from the burden of property taxes, penalty, and interest. To assist VLCT members, the Municipal Assistance Center has produced a set of model abatement request forms, hearing schedules, rules of procedure, and decision forms. The forms are in Word format and you can download them here.Read more >>