Killington residents look at the future of their town

02/29/08 5:30PM By Nina Keck
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(Host) On Tuesday, Killington residents will have a chance to vote on the specific nuts and bolts of running their community.

But as VPR's Nina Keck reports, another meeting was held Thursday night that allowed people with an interest in Killington to vote on what they want their town to become.

(Keck) The Vermont Council on Rural Development calls them community visits. Former Killington select board member Charles Demarest, describes it more as a Town Meeting for dreamers.

(Demerest) "It's different. It's attracting interest from people who we never see at Town Meeting."

(Keck) The council held the first meeting back in January and over 250 people took part. Their job was to brainstorm about what they want Killington to be like in 20 years. Their top 12 ideas were written down on poster board and taped to the wall of the school gym for the second meeting.

(Costello) "So, here's your opportunity to say - of the things on this blue sheet and on the things on the wall, what's most crucial to the future of this community."

(Keck) Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development passed around a microphone to the 150 or so people at last night's follow up.

(Crowd input) "I really believe that a performing arts center is extremely important fore the town. Many of the Floridians who used to come here - came because of the theater and the ballet and the other things we used to have. And those are the things that we really really need to bring back here to bring back the four season resort."

(Man) "Obviously we need to hold on to our old businesses, but what I heard people say was they want to expand the economic opportunities in the community and not have everything just oriented to the ski business. Thank you.

"I think that the partnership of Killington Town, the Killington ski resort and the Killington businesses is the foundation for all of what we're talking about. All of what we're talking about is dependent upon a partnership between the town, the mountain and the local businesses. . .

(Keck) That last remark, by long time Killington resident Beverly Anderson, touched a nerve and it was echoed by many in the audience. June Buttner owns a kitchen boutique on Route 4. She says Powdr Inc, the company that recently purchased Killington resort has rubbed many local residents the wrong way.

(Buttner) "The new owners came in with a mission of reducing skier visits and improving the mountain experience. I don't think the mountain experience has improved, but they have succeeded tremendously in decreasing the number of skiers coming to Killington and that's a problem for all business owners. (Nina) How has that affected your business? (Buttner) My business is down over 50% . My building is for sale. I'm ready to go."

(Keck) Dave Rathbun, sales and marketing director for Killington resort says the company does want to improve relations with the local community.

(Rathbun) "It has been a little bit contentious. We've made a lot of changes. And all of those changes were designed to help the company become stronger and more sustainable for the future. Now with that said a lot of the changes have had some negative impacts on residents in the community and some of the business owners. We were really sorry that that's how it's played out."

(Keck) While overall skier visits are down, Rathbun says the company's revenues are up. That's possible, he says becaues the resort stopped most of its free or discounted ticket offers. He says the resort needs a lot of capital improvements and once money begins flowing back into the resort, they fully expect skier visits to climb. In the meantime, he says the two public forums have improved the dialog between the company and the community dramatically.

Residents will meet for a final time to discuss implementing their priorities March 25.

For VPR news, I'm Nina Keck in Killington.


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