News Briefs
March 23, 2016

News Briefs from the Lakes Region

Latest Act 46 snag

The new district consolidation law stands in the way of what could be a successful merger on Rutland County’s western boundary. The folks who created merger mandates failed to consider that laws permitting districts to designate schools across state boundaries must be rewritten to cover the newly formed merged districts.

Pawlet, Rupert, and Wells cluster together in western Rutland County. All three may be said to operate preK-6 schools after which students attend middle school and high school in New York state. Pawlet and Rupert combine their efforts so that all 35 grade-school students attend Mettawee Community School in West Pawlet. The elementary school in Wells serves 95 to 100 students.

Wells currently belongs to the Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union. Rupert and Pawlet are in the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union. In late February, the three decided to formally explore merging, joining in a study committee. The union district governing the Mettawee Community School—which Rupert and Pawlet share—was to count as the fourth district in a possible merger that would have allowed the three towns to comply with and access tax incentives under Act 46.

However, the state law that allows Pawlet, Rupert and Wells to send students to New York schools for middle and high school appears to refer specifically to just those districts. The state legislature will have to write more new law to cover its lack of forethought.

In the meantime, without any additional laws, parents may continue to send their children to school in New York and their home districts will continue to pay tuition to the schools attended by those children, according to Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Joan Paustian.

Casellas become first VSC Hall of Fame inductees

John and Sue Casella became the first Castleton alumni inducted into the Vermont State Colleges’ inaugural alumni Hall of Fame class. The event, held March 9, raised more than $100,000 for student scholarships. Members of the classes of 1972 and 1975, the Casellas are strong supporters of Castleton University. John Casella co-founded Casella Waste Systems, one of Vermont’s top 10 businesses, and is considered a national leader in recycling and resource recovery. Sue Casella received a Master’s degree from Castleton and is now a retired teacher. It was John Casella’s challenge that brought on the school’s commitment to recycling and sustainability. That led to the school’s instituting the largest student-run recycling initiative in the country, buying hybrid vehicles, constructing LEED Gold energy efficient buildings, and more.

Pawlet mourns community supporter

PAWLET—The Pawlet area mourns the loss of Clarence Decker III, who died March 11 at age 76. His community connections spanned a wide range of interests, including the state and national Grange, UVM Extension 4-H Shooting Sports program, American Legion, and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. He served Pawlet as a Select Board member, constable, and Planning Commission and Development Review Board member.

Too little snow = fire danger

FAIR HAVEN—Be on watch for grass fires. A historically mild winter with lower snowfall than normal and temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above normal has left Vermont with dry grass along its roadsides. The up side is that there have been no ice jams creating flood conditions; the down side, grass fires have already begun. Fair Haven has already marked its first, reported March 9 on Scotch Hill Road. Fair Haven Fire Chief David Ward reported that the fire was extinguished easily. Crews had completed their tasks, returned to the fire station, and were cleaning up 45 minutes later. The fire probably started with a non-extinguished cigarette flicked out a moving vehicle’s window, Ward noted.

It seems likely that the state may institute a Vermont-wide burning ban this year, according to Lars Lund, state forest fire supervisor in the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

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