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Dover e-town steering committee ponders community programs

DOVER—Dover e-Town Steering committee members have discussed potential projects for residents as part of its participation in e-Vermont: The Community Broadband Project.

Five committee members met with Philip Petty, the e-Vermont Community Director with the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD), last Friday to discuss which projects the town wanted to roll out for residents as part of their two-year participation in e-Vermont.

Dover is the only Windham County town participating in the program designed to increase Vermonters’ Internet literacy and usage.

The steering committee is developing a list of proposed projects in the context of bringing the list to an April 2 community-wide meeting. Residents can give feedback at the meeting on the proposed projects and suggest others.

According to Petty, e-Vermont partners like Digital Wish and the Snelling Center for Government will help towns develop and execute six to nine “doable” projects. These town projects would be carried out in addition to pre-designed programs offered to all the e-towns.

“Think a lot about what would benefit the entire community,” Petty said.

Economic Development Specialist Patrick Moreland submitted five potential projects as part of Dover’s e-Town application to VCRD, such as improving the municipal website.

Petty thought Dover’s town website “compared favorably to the other 24 Vermont e-Towns,” but Moreland felt the town would benefit from working with someone able to help the town learn how to effectively maintain the site over the long-term.

Moreland also mentioned that only 2 percent of users accessing the town website have dial-up connections. This percentage, he said, points to the possibility that the website is dial-up-death.

Households in East Dover do not have access to high-speed Internet service.

Other draft projects included offering business-training classes with an emphasis on the hospitality business, using the Front Porch Forum website to connect residents, enhancing the technology curriculum at Dover Elementary School, and developing a public access Wi-Fi zone along Route 100.

Petty said that Dover’s plan for a public Wi-Fi zone along Route 100 from the town offices to the post office could prove prohibitively expensive.

The five other e-Towns working to set up such areas, said Petty, have concentrated commercial areas. Ludlow, Bristol, West Rutland and Newport City’s dense downtowns translates into reaching more users with less equipment.

By contrast, Dover wants to cover about a mile stretch of road.

Petty suggested that the steering committee consider setting up multiple, but separate, Wi-Fi hotspots.

Moreland said that because the town relies on tourism, and on travelers who may or may not know the area, it would serve the town better to create a Wi-Fi district.

Dover Free Library Director John Flores reported that he’s exploring using a portion of the $3,000 awarded to the library through e-Vermont to offer library patrons online courses. Flores is working with Amy Howlett, regional consultant for Bennington, Windham, and Windsor counties for the Department of Libraries.

Dover Elementary School Principal William Anton said that Digital Wish, an e-Vermont partner with the mission to increase grade-school technology curricula, will visit the school later this month. Representatives will perform a technical audit in preparation for wiring the school with fiber optic cable.

“It’s going to explode the capabilities of my school,” Anton said.

The steering committee considered ways to get more community members signed up for Front Porch Forum. The online forum (http://frontporchforum.com) connects neighbors in a specific neighborhood or municipality with a mission to foster community. It acts as a virtual town green, and provides space to post events and other news.

Flores said he hands out flyers about Front Porch to library patrons and Anton has included a mention in the school’s bi-weekly newsletter. Still, according to Petty, only a handful of residents have signed on.

“It is something I think is worthwhile,” said Moreland about the forum’s ability to help community members connect.

Michael and Valerie Wood-Lewis launched Front Porch Forum in 2006 after the success of their Burlington’s Five Sisters Neighborhood Forum. According to the forum’s website, 60 towns have signed up.

An agenda for the April 2 public meeting is in the works. The steering committee hopes that both year-round and seasonal residents will attend. For more information, contact Moreland at dovereds@sover.net or 802-464-5100, ext. 4.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #88 (Wednesday, February 16, 2011).

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