By Lani Duke
Changing roles, models
Change is inevitable in organizations. It has come to the Vermont State Fair at a time when fairs themselves are changing. The fair started out as an agricultural exhibition, an annual time for comparing crops and livestock, gathering to celebrate the end of a successful harvest season. The site’s land is, legally, tied in to that end. If the Rutland County Agricultural Society were to cease hosting at least one agricultural event a year, the land would revert to descendants of the families who donated it.
There was a time when the fair—or at least the Midway—was not open to the public. Men and boys could go. Girls were kept home by their moms. There were “girly shows,” I’m told.
More recently, the Midway became much more family-friendly, and the fair seemed to be gaining a better place in the community, but fairs in general appear to be falling out of fashion. Attendance has been declining since 2008 at theaters, museums, and plays as well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Could be all are losing out to electronic media that can be watched amid the comforts of home.
Be that as it may, the Rutland County Agricultural Society has been holding fairs since 1846, and it was located permanently at its current site in 1856, then known as the Rutland County Park. It took on the title of Vermont State Fair in 1972. For the past year and a half or so, its board of directors have been working to re-invent the fair, trying to evaluate what can be done to bring it out of debt and make it self-sustaining. It is updating its constitution and devising a way to draw in younger members.
RCAS has already altered its proxy voting process. Like numerous other societies, it allowed members not attending its annual meetings to give their proxy votes to the organizational chairman to vote for them. Now, proxy votes are handled more like absentee ballots, giving members more control over their proxy vote.
Finally, RCAS is working with Rutland City to clear outstanding debts of about $65,000 for last year’s permit fees, police and fire personnel, and water and sewer, which it must do in order to receive an entertainment permit to hold the fair this fall.
The fairgrounds could see far more use than it has recently. More activities and more use generate more revenue to help the fairgrounds approach sustainability. Being as self-supporting as possible is not a new goal. The fairgrounds is open for both large and small events. It has acted as winter storage for boats and other summertime recreational equipment as well as a venue for concerts, livestock shows, festivals, and campouts.
The 2015 fair is envisioned as a return to a simpler kind of fair, beginning Friday, Sept. 4, and running only through Saturday, Sept. 12. Each day will feature less Midway and more hometown acts.
Two candidates, no decision
Rutland Town’s Select Board is in a quandary over its own vacant seat. When Paul Clifford resigned last month, the board shrank to four seats, occupied by Joseph Dicton, John Paul Faignant, Mary Ashcroft and Don Chioffi. Two individuals applied to fill that seat for the board’s next three meetings before voters choose a new selectman August 25.
Both 28-year-old Joshua Terenzini and 75-year-old James Hall applied. Terenzini plans to run for the seat in the upcoming election; Hall doesn’t. Terenzini is, so far, the only candidate for the position.
Dicton and Faignant voted to appoint Terenzini; Ashcroft and Chioffi, Hall. Two for two. A tie.
Chioffi commented that putting Terenzini in the temporary position would put him in an unfair advantage in the August special election. Ashcroft agreed. But board members pushing for an interim replacement believe state law requires the seat be filled in the interim.
In addition to deciding who will fill the vacated seat, Rutland Town voters will also vote on whether to accept a contract for building a 5,700-square-foot highway garage for $593,678.
The new highway garage would give department workers plumbing and heating as well as move equipment from a corrosive salt storage shed. As it is, the delay on the vote (originally anticipated for July) caused by the Select Board vacancy shifts construction windup forward to December or January.
Rutland Mental Health under scrutiny
The Vermont House Human Services Committee is considering closing Rutland Mental Health Services. Advisory panels recommended RMHS be taken from its position as the Rutland area’s primary mental health services provider, citing among their concerns a pattern of deficiencies, improper use of restraints and non-secure medication handling procedures. The state agency itself may also be in hot water over whether it provided the kind of guidance and assistance that would help an agency in trouble, according to committee chair Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington. RMHS is informed it has 30 days to create a corrective action plan and six months to implement it. Failure to do so could cause the loss of its designated agency status.