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Residents wanted for combined planning initiative

The Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction are coming together to study how they can plan better as a single community. The overlapping municipalities have long had separate planning and zoning functions, with a planning commission and zoning board for each. But in May, the Essex Selectboard and Village Board of Trustees each voted to move forward with a study of alternatives to the planning governance structure called “Thoughtful Growth in Action: Re-Imagining Essex’s Planning Governance.”

According to town planner Greg Duggan, the project is an outgrowth of the Heart & Soul of Essex project, which found that thoughtful growth was one of six core values for the entire Essex community. Heart & Soul also called for “unified planning between village and town governments,” he said.

Community members are invited to participate at two community-wide workshops. The project will also rely on a smaller, focused volunteer groups to study the issue in depth and come up with a recommendation for the selectboard and trustees to consider.

Membership to this working group is open to any resident of Essex. Members will have to commit to a series of workshops and other events during the upcoming summer, fall and winter.

Anyone interested in joining the working group is encouraged to apply by July 10. More information – including an application to serve on the working group – is available online at www.essextgia.com.

For additional information, contact Duggan at 878-1343 or gduggan@essex.org.

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Senior center honors volunteers and van drivers

Van drivers and phone volunteers gathered for an appreciation lunch on June 18 at the Essex Junction Senior Center.  PHOTO | COLIN FLANDERS

Van drivers and phone volunteers gathered for an appreciation lunch on June 18 at the Essex Junction Senior Center.
PHOTO | COLIN FLANDERS

Colin Flanders
The Essex Reporter

Two words floated around the Essex Junction Senior Center on June 18 during an appreciation lunch for phone volunteers and part-time van drivers: The people.

For the volunteers, financial compensation is, of course, non-existent. And although Mike McKenzie and Bob Ransom, along with the four other van drivers, are technically part-time employees, they both agreed it’s never been about the money. Instead, both groups insisted they find inspiration of a more personal nature.

“You just know you’re putting a little sunshine in everybody’s day every time you pick them up. They’re so appreciative, and I walk away at the end of the day feeling that I’ve done something for somebody else,” said McKenzie, who has been a driver for eight years.

“You very seldom see a bad day,” added Ransom, who has worked with the service for six years. “It’s very easy to be easy going with them because they’re just a great bunch of people.”

As they ate lunch, laughter filled the room, weaving between periodic mentions of various recipes or updates on the progress of a newly established diet.

This camaraderie, coupled with the motivation to stay busy, is another selling point to volunteers such as Anne-Marie Dennis, who started as a phone operator for the van service after she retired from a full-time job.

“We’ve gotten to a point where we’re all trying to enjoy our life; we don’t have to work, we want to work. We want to feel useful and it’s part of enjoying life — which isn’t just sitting around doing nothing anymore — it’s a little of that, a little of this. We want to keep it that way in our lives, so we volunteer,” said Dennis.

The van service has even inspired one of the volunteers to move to Essex.

“I came [to the senior center] originally to play cards and meet people, and then I found out about the volunteering,” said Connie Marshall, who moved to Vermont two years ago. “I’m moving to Essex mostly because, in the future, I really want the availability of the bus.”

Lou Ann Piolli, the activities coordinator at the senior center, presented the volunteers and van drivers each with a laminated certificate commending their service.

Two vans attend to the 90 residents who regularly use the service, as well as around 25 who use it occasionally. Director of Parks and Recreation Ally Vile oversees the van drivers, while Piolli oversees the phone volunteers.

Since taking over in October 2014, Piolli has implemented various alterations in the scheduling system; changes that both volunteers and van drivers said have made their work much easier.

“There’s no way to say what she’s brought to the program. She’s made it amazing,” Marshall said.

McKenzie agreed, saying if there’s ever a problem, Piolli is “trying to solve it for you.”

“She’s brought more new things to the senior center in the short time she’s been here then the previous seven years I’ve known about this place,” McKenzie said.

“I thank the day I first set foot in the center and met all of these wonderful people,” volunteer Carlene Cota said. “It’s very, very nice to come here at all times.”

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Discount tickets available for amusement parks

N1407P57014C copyThe Vermont Recreation and Parks Association has announced its partnership with 39 Vermont communities to offer deeply discounted amusement park tickets to Bromley Mountain Adventure Park in Manchester; Arbortrek Canopy Adventures in Jeffersonville; Great Escape/Splashwater Kingdom in Lake George, N.Y.; and “Six Flags New England” in Agawam, Mass.

Save up to 36 percent off the gate price at these parks by buying good-any-day tickets from a parks and recreation department or town clerk near you. The discounted prices are $30 ($45 at the gate) for Bromley, $45 ($60 at the gate) for the Tree Top Obstacle Course and $13 ($20 at the gate) for the Climbing Adventure at Arbortrek; $37 ($56.99 at the gate) for the Great Escape, and $38 ($59.99 at the gate) for Six Flags New England. Tickets are good for the duration of the 2015 season.

Before heading to one of the parks, stop by the Parks and Recreation Department in, Colchester, Essex Junction and Essex Town or at the Town Clerk’s office in Westford. Tickets can be purchased during normal business hours. Not every community sells tickets to all for parks. Go to the parks association website at www.vrpa.org to find the list of ticket outlets under the “programs” tab and call ahead to be sure you can get the tickets you want.

If it is after hours and you want to buy your tickets at these same great prices, you can buy them online. For Bromley, go to https://store.bromley.com/e-commerce/grplogin.aspx” and use “3” for the group name and “15sum#vrpa%” for the password. For online tickets to the Great Escape, go to www.sixflags.com/partnerlogin and use “VRPA” for the user name and “SixFlags13” for the password. For online tickets to Six Flags New England, go to www.sixflags.com/partnerlogin and use “VTParkandRec” for the username and “sixflags2” for the password.

By purchasing your tickets through a Vermont Recreation & Parks Association ticket partner, you can save money and help out the state organization, which in turn benefits local parks and recreation departments throughout the state.

For more information, contact Betsy Terry at the Vermont Recreation and Parks Association at betsy@vrpa.org or 802-878-2077.