Douglas County takes first step in $3 million competition | RecordCourier.com

Douglas County takes first step in $3 million competition

by Caryn Haller
challer@recordcourier.com

Representatives from all walks of the community have identified areas in Douglas and Alpine counties that could use $3 million in improvements.

The team submitted their initial application for the America's Best Communities competition this week after five months of discussion and multiple rewrites.

"What this stage is about is getting to the next stage. Our goal was to be as compelling as possible, yet as open as possible," said Bill Chernock, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director about the application. "Should we get to the next stage, then we can have a good old-fashioned argument about what we want to do next."

Some areas the team identified that are needed to attract, retain and grow local infrastructure or population included redesigning historic Main Street sections with lighting, sidewalks, landscaping and undergrounding overhead utilities, expansion of transportation options to connect communities, such as local and regional bus services, gondolas, water taxis and rail, creating Main Street Programs in Minden and Markleeville and establishing WiFi Center clusters in historic downtowns, and establishment of a Broadband Fiber Co-op to attract industrial development.

"The list has items that have been identified, time after time, as needs for our communities and all of them can have a positive impact on both the quality of life for residents and the ability of businesses to thrive here," said Marcy Fox, Gardnerville Frontier Communications manager. "They tend to be medium to large scale efforts that require the attention of multiple groups and all have need for public and private energy and resources to happen. Overall, these initiatives have long term positive effects."

Alpine County was included with Douglas in the competition since they have a population of less than 9,500.

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"I'm thrilled we can reach over state lines and do a project together," Alpine County Supervisor Mary Rawson said. "When we first started nobody knew what was going to happen, but we were able to isolate how we are both similar."

Chernock will be notified April 29 if the application is chosen as one of the 50 quarterfinalists.

"I'm hoping the judges are going to recognize Douglas County for one, the collaboration, and two, everything we have to offer, the history, tourism, beauty," Fox said. "Those are the qualities that make these communities unique."

America's Best Communities competition is focused on rural communities with a population base between 9,500 and 80,000.

The goal is to provide financial incentives and other support to small communities who develop and implement revitalization plans to improve their lifestyles and livelihoods. Several hundred communities have applied.

The top 50 applicants chosen in April will receive $35,000 in seed money to improve their initial plans and begin to implement them.

Those communities could also be adopted by a mentor company such as Xerox, AT&T, Campbell Soup, Boeing and others to help with the execution of their plan and receive an additional $15,000.

In early 2016, the top 15 teams will be invited to a summit to present their proposals, and eight of those will be awarded $100,000 to further bring their plan to life. In April 2017, three prizes will be awarded in the amounts of $3 million for first, $2 million for second and $1 million for third.

The competition is sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network and CoBank, with country musician Vince Gill announcing his support in January.

The application is viewable online at http://www.americasbestcommunities.com