Springfield takes steps toward becoming a tech hub

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – On Monday, April 10, the Springfield Selectboard heard a presentation from Interim Executive Director Marguerite Dibble of the Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC). Dibble reported on BRIC’s involvement with the Springfield Regional Development Corp. (SRDC), a program to support entrepreneurship in the Springfield area.

Springfield, Vt.

BRIC has recently opened a shared workspace in the old school house at 60 Park Street, where people can get together and connect, and have access to the latest technology and high speed internet. “The goal is to provide an incubator,” Dibble said. “We run a 10-week program three times per year, to give companies everything they need to take their company from an idea stage to a concrete, groundbreaking launch.”

BRIC and SRDC are working together to reimagine Springfield as a thriving tech hub. One way they will move toward that goal is to support a local STEM education effort. “The idea is to expose students to a ton of different tech from early years,” Dibble explained. “Through afterschool programs, camps, and video game design, we will engage kids in a creative way to foster innovation within the community on an ongoing basis.”

Board member Walter Martone commented that the Inclusion Committee had scheduled a housing meeting at the shared office space on April 21, from 5-7 p.m., and he was excited for more people to be introduced to the space.

Executive Director of SRDC Bob Flint was in attendance, and shared enthusiasm for the BRIC-led programs. Flint reported that SRDC was a recent recipient of over $6 million, to invest in Springfield and other Vermont communities.

Regarding the demolition of the building at 43 Park Street, Flint said he was currently working through procurement requirements, such as a mortgage deed to put in place a review. Flint mentioned that they were working to be as coordinated as possible, not duplicate any of the work or remobilize repeatedly. Some of the assessment work began last week, Flint reported, now that the town has received some funding through ARPA and other resources.

The major water line project has begun on Clinton Street, near the site of the former J&L building, and as that work was getting underway, it became necessary to remove the maple trees in front of the building. According to SRDC, the trees have been dying or diseased for many years, but they’ve held off removing them because they mean so much to the Springfield community. SRDC fully intends to incorporate more appropriate and hardier trees ­– in consultation with state forestry experts – into the new site design.

Flint said, “it’s heartbreaking to see the trees go along Clinton Street, but we will put something in that will last for the next 70 years or more.”

Board member Michael Martin commented, “We knew the trees needed to come down three years ago. It is sad to see them go, and I really appreciate you, Bob… but we all recognized they needed to go.”

“Thank you, Mike. Every winter I was ‘fingers crossed,’” responded Flint.

SRDC is also working with the town to coordinate construction on the extension of the Toonerville Trail, which will run on the river side of the property.

The board approved an event permit for River Valley Tech Center to host a job fair at Riverside Middle School this Friday, April 14, from 3-6 p.m., which will also include food trucks staged in the parking lot.

The board ran through a list of liquor license approvals and committee appointments. Town Manager Jeff Mobus presented a noise ordinance for approval, and Martin noted it should be revised to detail what the permit is for. “Why are we issuing a waiver?” Martin questioned. “For fireworks? Drag racing? Live music?” The ordinance was approved pending the requested revisions, and the board authorized Mobus to act on all requests that are for less than 12 hours.

Mobus reported that the Eureka Culvert Plan is set to start in late September, and the town had received a structures grant covering all construction costs.

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