By Lani Duke
Mascot returns from sabbatical
CASTLETON—After an unauthorized “vacation” of a couple of months, Castleton’s Spartan mascot is back home. The year-old, green-caped costume returned to academic life when a custodian making maintenance rounds in the on-campus Glenbrook Gymnasium opened an unattended bag in a women’s restroom on Nov. 23. Although “Sparty” smelled like perfume, he was otherwise intact and was returned to the student government office where he will reside under lock and key.
The new, adventurous Sparty was purchased for $1,700, replacing an older mascot that had been showing its age. Perhaps the young fellow became disoriented after entertaining more than 6,000 people attending the school’s Homecoming game in late September.
His last-known residence was a red bag stuffed under a desk in the student government office after shelves collapsed in the storage locker where he had been resting. It seems unlikely that his disappearance was part of a college prank, since Castleton has no such tradition. School officials consider the incident ended and plan no investigation. If they did, a charge brought against any conspirators could be grand larceny because of the mascot’s monetary value.
Arts center gets new permanent home
POULTNEY—On Nov. 18, sisters Rita Fuchsberg and Irene Minkoff donated the former Fox Hill Center for the Arts, 145 E. Main St. in Poultney, to the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which intends to turn it over to Stone Valley Arts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed in 2013. The stone building was constructed in 1820 as a church before becoming a Masonic temple. The sisters and Minkhoff’s late husband Michael Castagnaro purchased the structure in 2007 with the intention of using it for the good of the community. Stone Valley Arts moves into its new home from its former location on the Journal Press building’s third floor. The arts organization anticipates using the two-story building for concerts, gallery showings, art classes, and receptions, according to Board President Erika Schmidt.
Budgeting in the black
FAIR HAVEN—Even if there are no changes to Fair Haven’s general and public works budgets, they are already lower than last year’s general budget by nearly $100,000. And the Select Board is hoping to bring them even lower.
All factors have not come to the table yet: possible errors and omissions, an under-negotiation union contract, and undoubtedly other considerations. The Board has already discussed increasing salaries for elected positions (like town clerk) but without reaching a consensus. Already reduced to a degree are police training, street light, animal control, and transfer station budgets. Streetlight expense should be significantly less than last year because the newly installed LED lights consume less electricity. The public works budget appears lower than that approved last year, but does not cover buying or leasing a new dump truck with plow.
Several components are larger. Three elections are scheduled for 2016: town meeting and the primary and general elections. The road budget is up too, finishing an uncompleted Mahar Road and beginning extensive work on Bolger Road, plus raising sand and salt expenses. In addition to regularly scheduled board meetings, the Board will hold special meetings Dec. 1, 15 and 29, and Jan. 19, with the intent of reaching a recommended budget and signing the warrant by Jan. 19.
Town agenda addresses transfer station operations
CASTLETON—Castleton’s Select Board voted Nov. 23 to rent an excavator for cleaning and moving its transfer station burn pile. A certified town employee will operate the equipment, rented from G. Stone Motors of Middlebury for $2,450. The project relocates the burn pile further into the transfer station, away from the entrance, with a berm erected to mitigate smoke issues. Traffic realignment will create a cul-de-sac so that vehicles can turn around. That work may be merely a beginning; the Select Board has prioritized reviewing transfer station operations in the fiscal year budget. Among the review objectives are consideration of available efficiency options, repair to the retaining wall, drainage for surface run-off, and addition of a water line to eliminate relying on bottled water and portable toilets. The transfer station has already increased bag prices and disallowed cash payment.
Other goals discussed at the meeting include progress toward a new town office, installing public safety building and emergency shelter generators, emergency coordinator recruiting, and finding and engaging a senior community investor for the Sand Hill Road property.
Voters to decide three school-related issues Dec. 5
TINMOUTH—Tinmouth voters will vote on three ballot items at 10 a.m. Dec. 5. Two concern Tinmouth Elementary School. As Rutland South Supervisory Union plans a merger that brings its member district into a single supervisory district under Act 46, ownership of school property becomes a matter of concern. The school building itself, built in four stages over 123 years, is on land that belongs to the town, as is Tinmouth Community Center, attached to the school. The first ballot item asks voters to approve the school’s selling the building to the town, with the school district to retain use and responsibility as long as it is used for education, a right that transfers to the new supervisory district if the merger takes place, according to School Board Chair Grant Reynolds.
The second ballot item enables the district to use money from its tax stabilization fund to cover deficits incurred this year. An additional high school student had moved into the Tinmouth district after the budget had been approved; using money from the fund to cover the unexpected expense, probably as much as $20,000 or more, requires voter approval.
The third ballot item covers disposition of the tax stabilization fund; if Tinmouth School District merges, the fund transfers to the town, minus any money already destined for the school as a result of circumstances during the 2016-2017 school year.
Poultney area trails getting onto the map
POULTNEY—The Slate Valley Trails organization launched its website, www.slatevalleytrails.org, in early November. Based in Poultney, the non-profit group offers an on-line map of 14 biking/hiking routes ranging from nine to 50 miles long, all beginning and ending at the Poultney trailhead on the Delaware & Hudson Rail Trail at Main and Depot streets. Printed maps and cue sheets are to be ready for distribution by spring.
The group is one of 25 Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) chapters in Vermont and the second one in Rutland County. Its first newsletter, published in early November, carries updates on new Poultney-area single-track trails on private land, scheduled to open next summer.
Slate Valley Trails is planning to work with Green Mountain College and the Community Mapping Lab’s digital mapping effort as well as cooperating with the town of Poultney and other groups to complete the three-mile multi-use River and Rail Trail in 2016. It has received $1,000 from the VMBA for trail building and maintenance tools.