Greensboro Had an Eventful Year in 2020

Highland Center for the Arts

by Meghan Rublee
photo by Emmet Avery | Greensboro town meeting at the Highland Center for the Arts.

GREENSBORO – The year 2020 will certainly be a year we will all remember… not that anyone wants to remember it! Last spring at Highland Center for the Arts we were anticipating an exciting season – we had even booked Lucinda Williams – one of our biggest acts to date. Suddenly all bets were off, as they were for everyone in so many ways. We at HCA found ourselves in a serious pandemic predicament: How will we offer our community critical support through the arts when we were not able to be in the same room as the audience? In a unique twist on streaming services, we crowdsourced art from our community and reshared it to the broader audience. We asked our followers to send us their music and visual art and created two digital viewing platforms, The Show Must Go Online! And Battle of the Bandwidth. One of the most touching pieces sent to us was a grandfather’s letters to his grandchildren, full of colorful pictures.

We were also able to host a few outdoor, socially distanced, live performances by Vermont-based entertainers, and our outdoor trail showcased characters from Alice in Wonderland. Soon, the trail will reopen for skiing and snowshoeing with outdoor sculptures and winter whimsy. We are creative, and in the face of the pandemic we have been able to test some new ideas, some of which we want to keep. It has been an interesting year, but all in all, the best part of the season was that even though we were six feet (and more) apart, we got to know you better.

Greensboro Association and Greater Greensboro Community Vision

by Stew Arnold

GREENSBORO – In March, when the first wave of COVID-19 was beginning to impact Vermont and the uncertainty of the potential stress on our Greensboro community, the Greensboro Association created a Community Relief Fund. Through generous donations this fund grew to over $50,000, two-thirds of which has been distributed to local organizations to provide assistance with food insecurity and unplanned expenses such as personal protection equipment. All remaining relief funds will be distributed this winter during this second wave of pandemic. A year-end appeal is underway for additional needed support. Please visit the GA website at greensboroassociation.org for more information.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the GA manages the Greeter Program at the Caspian Lake boat launch to inspect all watercraft for invasive species. This program is funded by the Town of Greensboro and a grant from the Vermont Dept of Conservation. This year, we inspected a record number of watercraft, totaling 1,800, and found no invasive species. So far, Caspian Lake remains invasive free.

In the fall of 2019, the Greater Greensboro Community Vision chose four priorities and chartered task forces for each. Work by these committees has made progress through this tumultuous 2020.

The broadband committee created a hotspot in the village serving as far away as the beach. In addition, a Communications Utility District (CUD) has been created to facilitate future improvements in coordination of neighboring towns.

The wastewater infrastructure committee has secured a $198,000 grant and is now actively working with Hoyle/Tanner Engineering on a feasibility study to determine location, scope of project, and greatest need.

The Stewards of the Watersheds focuses on three areas: lakeside assessments on Caspian Lake shoreline, riparian assessments on various streams, and grant funding for overall watershed planning.

The Bike Ability/Walk Ability committee has been working on connecting the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in the Bend with the two village centers. In addition, the committee is developing a village traffic/pedestrian safety proposal with Locomotion/VTrans and mapping existing and future recreational trail possibilities.

Greensboro Free Library

by Paula Davidson

GREENSBORO – 2020 brought changes to Greensboro Free Library even before the pandemic. Librarian Mary Metcalf and Assistant Librarian Debbie Kasper retired after many years of service. Paula Davidson became the new librarian in January, and Mackenna Lapierre started as the assistant librarian in June, joining Youth Librarian Emily Purdy. March brought the statewide shutdown, and librarians worked alone in the library until opening May 1 for curbside service. The library expanded its online offerings, including Kanopy for independent and educational films.

photo by Vanessa Fournier | Thick smoke filled the air Friday as eight fire departments put out a fire that started in an empty multi-unit apartment building on Main Street in Greensboro Bend. The building has been empty for several years and is owned by Michael Goldberg of Alameda, California.

When the doors opened again for full summer hours in July, patrons faced new mask and distancing requirements, but also found fresh paint, a new sign outside and expanded book and magazine displays inside, as well as new federally-funded 100 Mbps internet service. A steady stream of grateful patrons browsed the collections, printed forms, and used the fast Wi-Fi to teach and attend online classes and even take part in a job interview. Jasper Hill supplied free cheese for readers on several occasions, bringing smiles all around. Families discovered new activity kits, allowing hands-on exploration of circus arts, puppetry, bird watching, and more. More kits are under development along with take-home craft activities, all funded with help from the Greensboro Association and WonderArts.

October brought the start of direct delivery service for inter-library loans, expediting this popular service. Material and advising support from the Vermont Department of Libraries and UVM extension and buy-in from patrons has allowed the library to remain open safely throughout the changing pandemic circumstances. Reading and discovery at Greensboro Free Library are alive and well as the calendar turns to a new year.

Greensboro Land Trust

by Clive Gray

GREENSBORO – The Greensboro Land Trust registered one conservation easement in 2020. The Green Mountain Monastery on Hillcrest Road conserved 133 acres out of its total holding of 153 acres, 95% of which is forest. The easement closed on December 11, with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and The Nature Conservancy’s Vermont chapter acting as co-holders.

photo by Vanessa Fournier | Members of the Bend Revitalization Initiative (BRI) committee have planted 23 trees and lilac bushes to enhance the Greensboro Bend streetscape. Preparing to plant a Lilac bush are (from left) Nancy Hill, Erika Karp, Judy Carpenter, BJ Gray, Lynette Courtney and home owner Madeline Molleur.

Greensboro Bend Revitalization Committee

by Nancy Hill

GREENSBORO – In early May, the Greensboro Bend Revitalization Initiative received a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation for its “Front Yard Beautification Project”, and members planted shrubs and trees in the yards of everyone in the Bend village who requested them.

On May 15, an important landmark in Greensboro Bend burned to the ground. Pope’s Hardware Store, built in the 1890s by James Pope, had most recently been an apartment building but was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

In July, the Greensboro Historical Society and the Greensboro Library worked together to post outdoor exhibits in Greensboro Village and the Bend. Throughout the summer people enjoyed taking self-guided History Explorer Walks to view the photos and history of historical buildings and sites.

Greensboro United Church of Christ

by Eleanor Guare

GREENSBORO – In January, the Greensboro United Church of Christ was bursting with song. The music of the East Coast Inspirational Singers brought folks to their feet and up to the altar, swinging and clapping to “Oh Happy Day.” Perhaps this jolt of inspiration was meant to help us through the remaining days of 2020.

courtesy photo | Carol Fairbank, executive director or WonderArts, stands in front of the Greensboro United Church of Christ’s bell tower, home to new WiFi equipment.

Later, the sweetness of the community pancake supper became the last event held in Fellowship Hall. Reverend Ed Sunday-Winters calmed the fears of COVID by keeping the spirit of the church going strong. Worship Service occurred every Sunday, with Ed at the pulpit graced with flowers from Cilla Bonney-Smith, Hal Parker at the organ, piano, and harpsichord, and with Kyle Gray behind the camera. Congregants near and far logged in to the livestreamed services and then enjoyed coffee hour via Zoom. As a gesture of solidarity, members placed photos of themselves in the pews.

Church committees continued to meet and work for social justice, to help make a difference in the lives of the community, and to demonstrate fellowship and love. Up went the Little Food Shelf, out went the art show, and grab-’n-go quiches made supper easier.

Celebrations of milestone birthdays of Marion Babbie and Judy Dales included drive by cake and fire engine fanfare. Flags of support waved for Black Lives Matter and for public servants. Youngsters came roaring out for The Village Trick-or-Treat Trail. Turkeys went home with kids at Lakeview, and the church made numerous contributions of time and money to food pantries and local agencies. With care, climate, and communication in mind, the building was painted, new insulation installed, and the steeple hosted the Wonder Arts’ fiber network! With the Advent Dreaming Tree and the joy of Christmas Eve, we are once again inspired and ready to do the work of the new year.

Rural Arts Collaborative

by Carol Fairbank

GREENSBORO – As part of a multi-year project in support of historic preservation and economic development, the Rural ARTS Collaborative (formerly Wonder & Wisdom), a nonprofit organization comprised of WonderArts, Spark, and Grass Roots Art and Community Effort (GRACE), entered into an agreement with the town to lease the third and newly vacated second floors of the town hall building. The building is central to our town’s culture and history, and the intent of the project is for the building to remain a vibrant center, open to all, and contribute to the rural creative economy. To this end, work will be done to preserve the historic features and architectural detail, while performing extensive accessibility, weatherization, and code compliance upgrades.

In 2021, the Rural ARTS Collaborative will perform an extensive community feedback exercise, to determine how best to build out the third floor as a creative community space. The format will include a series of community outreach and listening sessions, and the formation of working groups to plan and complete the project.

To date, the Rural ARTS Collaborative has received a $75,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation, and is working closely with the Vermont Community Foundation, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, USDA Rural Development and a matrix of other grantors to secure funding and matching grants for this multi-phase multi-year project. The work plan includes, but is not limited to insulating the third floor, completing electrical and fire-safety system updates, adding two ADA-compliant restrooms to the third floor, and building a small addition on the recycling side of the building to house an elevator or lift and shelter-in-place safety egress. Renovations and upgrades are expected to cost between $750,000 – $1,000,000.

To encourage continued utilization of the building during the renovation, and to respond to new needs that have arisen from the pandemic, some smaller projects are already underway. The building is now served with high-speed internet, and the front classroom has been outfitted with new desks and chairs to provide a comfortable workspace. Front and rear entryways have been outfitted with a coded-entry security system for accessibility. Smart lighting and thermostats will be installed to save energy. An audio privacy room will be made available soon, for confidential meetings or telemedicine appointments. Remote workers, students, and all needing high speed internet are invited to use the space, free of charge. All staff and volunteers associated with this project have completed the VOSHA pandemic safety training, and every measure is taken to ensure the space is safely maintained. Visitors must adhere to occupancy limits, wear a mask, maintain a 6′ distance, and follow established safety guidelines.

Greensboro Recycling

by Mike Metcalf

GREENSBORO – The pandemic led to some early anarchy in the recycle lot – people would drive in and park anywhere. Some people who take 25 minutes to unload and would block in folks who took only a few minutes. Some people would have to back up to get out – which wasn’t good for an area filled with pedestrians.

So, starting this last spring, we made efforts to streamline the process by systematizing the traffic flow and designating eight specific parking places that would allow drivers to exit going forward as well as social distancing the participants. We redoubled efforts to get people to separate their items before getting to the facility. We also handed out recommendations from the emergency committee with details about accessing various pandemic-related services. Early on with the volunteers directing people to numbered parking locations, we were only called ‘fascists’ once.

As people have gotten used to the new parking arrangements and the requests to socially distance in the recycle containers, the process has gotten smoother.

Greensboro Government

by Peter Romans

GREENSBORO – Vermont’s first coronavirus case was announced around town meeting day and the town began adapting to a new normal. The Greensboro Town Hall was closed to the public on March 16, to comply with the governor’s recommendations. Ken Johnston developed new protocols for recycling and the road crew adopted safe practices. Our town health officers acquired an unprecedented challenge. The select board and all committees initiated remote meeting, and the term Zoom took on a new relevance. Balancing safety restrictions and functionality became a central focus for all involved in town operations. Gradually, some initial restrictions were relaxed to allow access to town records by appointment only.

photo by Vanessa Fournier Lakeview kindergarten and first grade teacher Cathy Pollard teaches her eight students on her laptop from her home in Hardwick. Pollard can interact with her entire class through Google Meet. Students were supplied with a Chromebook from school to work with at home. Since the school closures all students are now having their lessons online.

A shrinking school population allowed Lakeview Elementary to consolidate, eliminating their use of town hall. The main floor is now occupied by Spark-WonderArts and an expanded Giving Closet which reopened by appointment only for the foreseeable future. This change in use of our venerable building has potential for adding new vitality to town as well as the structure.

In May, Brett Stanciu was hired as zoning administrator. She immediately became a valued member of town staff and as a resource for the DRB and Planning Commission. Gary Circosta joined the select board in June after Mike Lapierre resigned. Thank you, Mike, for your service to the town. Gary has ably assumed much of the financial oversight for the select board and is much appreciated for his role.

Our treasurer, Barbara Brooke, and her husband Glenn decided they’d had enough Kingdom winters and have moved south. To manage this transition, the select board appointed Kim Greaves as treasurer and Brett as assistant. Brett trained with Barbara for several weeks so that she can assume the day-to-day treasurer duties. By statute, the position must be held by a resident so Kim will hold the title until town meeting. Greensboro is fortunate to have a truly dedicated staff and volunteers to keep the wheels in motion. And speaking of the first Tuesday in March, this will be an historic day by virtue of its remoteness. Greensboro is looking at Australian ballot for the annual affair, which some towns are considering postponing until May. Town meeting in 2021 may be unlike any other. Stay tuned for more news on our annual meeting.

We have received some ugly predictions (9-13%) regarding next year’s education tax increase. Consequently, the select board is striving to keep the town budget as small as possible. The planning commission is working on the bylaw review and “Greater Greensboro” committees are progressing in their respective tasks. Thankfully, the budget is nearly complete, the election is over, and winter begins on the 21st. There’s much to be grateful for in spectacular Greensboro, Vermont.

Greensboro-Stannard Community Response Team (GSERT)

by Christine Armstrong

GREENSBORO – When Governor Scott sounded the alarm about COVID-19, the Greensboro and Stannard communities responded quickly and with a focused intention. The Greensboro-Stannard Community Response Team (GSERT) was born. Community volunteers with differing areas of expertise (communications, food security, health, businesses, clergy, municipal leaders) put their heads together to anticipate community needs and to plan for how best to serve our citizens during what has turned into a life altering and memorable year.

They organized food delivery and considered food insecurity; sewed masks; arranged for collection of and delivery of hand sanitizer when it was scarce; wrote communications about how to stay safe from infection; developed a network for mental health support; consulted privately with community members about issues of quarantine, testing, and rules of the COVID road.

It has been interesting to watch how these tiny communities have stitched together these actions, large and small, which have turned into this net of support. The effort was born of a culture of caring for one another and it has illuminated the best of small-town life.
But it will be more interesting to watch when the need for the team disappears into thin air. We look forward to the day.

Noted

by Nancy Hill

GREENSBORO – On March 1, singer and historian Linda Radke celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with a program of suffragette songs and history at Fellowship Hall. In 1920, 60 Greensboro women took the Freeman’s Oath to be able to vote in the fall election.