April 2021 DVFiber update: Funding for fiber advances in the legislature: Think of it. The Deerfield Valley Communications Union District (DVCUD) was established by five towns in April 2020. In just one year ago, 16 more towns joined--including Vernon in July of 2020 as the 15th town--a governing board formed and established three all-volunteer working committees, and nearly 60 people in three counties are working to secure broadband access for every premise and business in the district. The Chicken and the EggOne of the most intriguing challenges facing DVFiber (DVCUD’s public persona) is how to begin work while securing the promise of necessary funding. “We cannot build an infrastructure without major investment, and it’s extremely difficult to secure initial funding without a proven track record.” That’s Ann Manwaring, chair of DVFiber, musing on the conundrum facing all communications union districts (CUDs) in Vermont. Many extremely complicated issues must be addressed at the same time, especially centered on the goal of serving all residences and businesses, even to the last mile. DVFiber is not alone: This puzzle of how to obtain initial investment offers the most strenuous challenge to all of Vermont’s CUDs.Well, it appears that help may well be on the way. Thanks to the ardent leadership of the House Committee on Energy and Technology (and the heroic efforts from Rep. Laura Sibilia, from DVFiber’s district), it seems that significant funding is likely to move from the federal government to the state and on to CUDs, through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the latest round of COVID-19 assistance from Washington, DC. The Vermont House has advanced H.360, a sweeping, game-changing bill intended to support the groundwork of Vermont’s CUDs. “We need a paradigm shift in order to build broadband to the last mile in Vermont. This bill intends to provide coordination, to require accountability, to focus on universal service, not just connectivity to the most profitable customers,” said Rep. Laura Sibilia, vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Technology, which is sponsoring the bill that calls for significant investment in the state’s CUDs and for the establishment of appropriate infrastructure to oversee development and support. While specific funding details were not available at press time, there can be no question about the intent of this legislation and the support behind it. What’s the latest news?Three important developments:1. Despite DVCUD’s expansion having slowed a bit, Winhall was welcomed into the district on February 24, 2021., and there are other towns considering joining.  DVCUD now encompasses 21 towns in Windham, Bennington, and Windsor counties. To get a sense of the reach of all nine CUDs in Vermont, visit the statewide map at https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/CUDs_v2_March24.pdf. This map reveals which towns are currently working in a communications union district, as well as which towns are currently unaffiliated. We recently learned that nearly 400 expert volunteers are at work on broadband projects statewide!2. To reach its goals, DVFiber will soon enter a public/private partnership with an existing Internet service provider. On February, 4, 2021, DVFiber issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from interested potential partners. The response deadline was in late March and nearly a dozen companies submitted proposals. DVFiber’s governing board, on advice from the Vendor Committee, will select a partner soon with the intent of beginning work this summer. While there remains much to negotiate, there is strong reason to believe that DVFiber is on a clear path to securing broadband service for all residences and businesses in the district. And yet, patience will be required. (You will hear this repeatedly!)3. DVFiber recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Southern Vermont Communications Union District (SoVT CUD). You may not know that two towns in DVCUD are also members of SoVT CUD, Londonderry and Winhall. While there are historical and cultural differences between the two districts, the two governing boards determined that working cooperatively and openly will advance the statewide goal of providing last mile broadband technology for all Vermonters.Intrigued? Want to get involved?Soon, there will be an enormous amount of work required to secure customers for DVFiber right here in Vernon. We will need your help: The district is powered solely by volunteers. Contact Munson Hicks at debandmunson@mac.com or Bronna Zlochiver at bronna.zlochiver@gmail.com to learn how you can help.Visit DVFiber’s website at dvfiber.net and subscribe to the DVFiber newsletter. DVFiber now has a Facebook page. If you use Facebook, please Like the page (search for DVFiber, or follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/DVFiber-113984150471692) and watch for more news of DVFiber’s growth and progress in the Vernon Community News and on the Vernon Facebook Group page.


Historians’ corner: The Bushnell Museum

By Sandy Morrison

Did you ever wonder what the story was with the large building overlooking the pond and dam on the site of another building housing the Vernon Post Office? While the building as it stands now was rebuilt in 1973, it actually has an interesting history.

Born in Lincoln, Massachusetts in 1797, Marshall Whithed settled in Vernon at the age of 23, becoming an enterprising businessman and a substantial landowner.  His store and hotel (next to today’s Union Church where the entrance to the Town Garages is) were the only ones in town for several years.  In partnership with David Ball of Winchester, New Hampshire he built a towering three-story mill on Town Brook, sometime between 1839 and 1856.  The stone dam and wheel pit were constructed for $6,500, while the slate-roofed building cost $800.

Power was furnished by a 25-foot overshot water wheel.  The basement held the gristmill, a sawmill was at ground level, and on the upper floor was a bone mill.  There, skeletons of farm animals were collected and crushed, producing bonemeal, an ingredient in chicken feed.  Reportedly the top floor was used for fairs and dances.

In 1867, Ball had full ownership and he sold the mill to John Hunt.  Then Lafayette Whithed, Marshall’s son, regained the property in 1869.  Much of the year the water supply couldn’t keep up with the demand for power and one crew of workers would saw lumber in the morning to allow the millpond to refill.  A night shift arrived later to grind grain, quitting at midnight so that water could once again restore the pond.  Succeeding generations of the Whitheds followed other careers and the family deeded their holdings to Vernon in the early 1900’s.  The town stored its snow roller and other machinery in the mill.

Jason Bushnell in his museum

In 1927, Jason Bushnell, a Brattleboro grocer, purchased the mill property, using it to house his vast and varied collections.  He called the property the “Old Red Mill,” but it has been known as “The Bushnell Museum.” It was described as “evidence of the packrat instinct at its worst.”  It held everything from a cassowary egg to cowtail holders, much of it for sale. An interesting attraction for visitors and local folk, the building and its contents were lost to fire in August, 1962.

In 1971 the site was transferred from Bushnell et al to the Nick George family. “The mill” was rebuilt in 1973 to overlook the pond/brook once again. The one story adjacent building, the site of the Vernon Post Office, was constructed in 1988. Both buildings have housed various businesses over the past 30 years.