News Briefs
March 9, 2016

Rutland Region

RUTLAND CITY

Dorr Drive bridge work resumes

With the return of construction season, crews are scheduled to resume work on the bridges crossing Otter Creek. Preparations are being made to remove the old Dorr Bridge. Removal of the deck and sidewalk is scheduled for March 9-11. Measures will be taken to keep debris from landing in the water and the riverbanks. Ripley Road Bridge work will start in April.

Business changes

The Rutland law firm of Kenlan, Schwiebert, Facey & Goss, P.C., has changed its name to Facey Goss & McPhee, P.C. As chair of the firm’s litigation practice group, Rodney C. McPhee has been a valued shareholder/partner for the past 18 years. Although most of his practice has centered on insurance defense work, he also represents plaintiffs in serious personal injury claims and other types of cases.

Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty’s Rutland office recently added two new associate brokers, Jean Chamberlain and Freddie Ann Bohlig. Both are top sellers with decades of experience. Chamberlain is a member of the newly formed Green Mountain Board of Realtors, and Bohlig was inducted into the Rutland County Board of Realtors Hall of Fame for more than 25 years of service in 2004.

Two new aldermen, three returnees

Rutland City voters elected Vanessa Robertson and Scott Tommola as first-time aldermen during the March 1 balloting. Robertson, 21, is a junior at Castleton University and the youngest member of the board ever. She will fill the one-year half term remaining on the seat that Alderman Jon Skates vacated, having received 1,789 votes compared to 1,279 for George Gides Jr. and 669 for Kam Johnston. In addition to being the youngest board member, Robertson adds a third female perspective to the 11-member board.

David Allaire, Sharon Davis, Gary Donahue, and William Notte, all incumbents, were returned to their seats as a result of the election. Allaire attracted the highest number of votes among the eight candidates for two-year seats—3,265. Second highest in voter confidence was Davis, with 2,866 votes. Board president Notte came in third, with 2,790, while Tommola was fourth at 1,983, and Donahue fifth at 1,894.

The three individuals in the race who attracted lower voter numbers were Dan White, Kam Johnston, and Jim Riley, receiving 1,215, 1,044, and 754 votes, respectively. Some have questioned how many voters Riley would have garnered had the public not learned that he was convicted of false imprisonment and charged but acquitted of numerous rapes while a federal agent in the early 1990s.

RUTLAND TOWN

Did ballot shortage skew results?

Sixty percent was not enough, some Rutland Town voters learned when they tried to cast their ballots during the March 1 town meeting. The secretary of state’s office usually prints and sends enough presidential primary ballots for 50 percent of a town’s registered voters. This year, the office printed and sent enough for 60 percent of registered voters, but that was still not enough.

Town Clerk and Treasurer Donna Zeller printed 1,500 town meeting ballots, 500 more than normal. Voters used all of them. At 5:30 p.m., Zeller was rounding up extra ballots. About an hour later she had to resort to photocopies, which could only be hand counted. Advised they might have to wait as long as 30 minutes for a ballot, some voters said they had to leave and did so. No one counted how many individuals left without voting.

Former selectman Don Chioffi has questioned whether he would have lost his bid for re-election, 742-674, if there had been a sufficient number of ballots available. He said he, two attorneys, and the secretary of state are exploring the possibility that the election was so flawed as to be a “significant breach of democracy.”

Chioffi, who has fought against solar projects not in keeping with the town plan, lost his three-year seat to former fire chief Joe Denardo. Fellow candidate Phil Allen said he would support Chioffi in a lawsuit, saying there should have been enough ballots for every registered voter to participate. The SameSun of Vermont owner had lost 513 to 839 to former Rutland City police detective Chris Kiefer-Cioffi in a contest for a one-year seat.

Rutland Town was not the only town to come close to running out of town meeting ballots, according to Will Senning, director of election and campaign finance for the Vermont secretary of state’s office. The furor surrounding the presidential primary encouraged the high turn-out, Sennings commented.

Rutland Town voters approved the $954,867 general budget, 1,100-334; the $282,405 police budget, 908-374; the $194,274 fire department budget, 1,136-297; and the $149,799 recreation department budget. Other budgets also approved were the school budget; the $16,216 Rutland Regional Ambulance fund, 1,179-257; the Rutland Free Library, 903-509; and the $400,000 Rutland Town Elementary School repair and refurbishment fund, 890-594.

Rutland County

WEST RUTLAND—A commercial real estate firm out of Portsmouth, N.H. recently acquired Westway Mall in West Rutland. WJP Development spent $3.5 million for the 26.41-acre property. Co-owner of the corporation Stuart Scharff said his firm specializes in buying, developing, and managing well-located commercial properties, re-energizing them with new tenants and upgrading infrastructure.

Restaurant owner Don Woods said he has a four-year lease to stay in place. According to Scharff, the mall’s largest tenant, presumably Price Chopper, has agreed to stay. The developers are familiar with the recently conducted Smart Growth Study that identified a plan to strengthen the Route 4 corridor. They already own and manage five retail properties across New Hampshire. Westway is WJP’s first venture into Vermont.

IRA—With receiving voters’ voice approval of $825 to support Ira Historical Society incorporation, the group is now poised to officially become a non-profit complete with checking account and geographical location. Society president Daland Potter anticipates developing exhibits and storage upstairs in the Town Hall. The group grew out of Ira resident Lew Hoffer’s research into town history and website publication of what he had found. Learning that the community once boasted seven one-room schoolhouses spurred his enthusiasm. The group has already added markers to a pair of gravestones in Riverside Cemetery on Route 133. One marks the oldest stone, dated 1784; the other, the grave of Joseph Baker, great-great-great grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill. The group plans a meeting for 6:30 p.m., March 30, at the Town Hall.

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