By Lani Duke
Seeing beauty everywhere
RUTLAND—Rutland’s Photo Voice Project, currently on display at the Chaffee Art Center, 16 South Main Street, has the ability to change people’s perspectives, says photographer Donna GoodHale, who acted as advisor to the nine-member group who took the photos. Growing from ideas on revitalization put forth at last fall’s community Leadership Institute and subsequent brainstorming at NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, the project became funded by a $2,000 NeighborWorks America national grant and a $1,000 Project VISION Pearl Grant, which paid for cameras, matting and framing.
The exhibit contains nearly 100 images depicting everyday life in northwest Rutland. The photographers—teacher Cindy Murray, Rutland High junior Dylan Smith, middle school students Elivia and Evangeline Lapre, Dismas House resident James Tibbits, sculptor Nick Santoro, Alderwoman/nurse Sharon Davis, mediator Sherri Durgin-Campbell, and artist Stacie Mincher—each chose 10 of their own favorite images for the exhibit and worked together to frame their works.
Given the opportunity to depict what they consider important and significant about their neighborhood, they saw beauty.
New options proposed for dispatch services
RUTLAND—Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard recently offered an alternative to the planned consolidation of dispatch services in Rockingham and Williston, at least for Rutland County. It could merely require a modification to the countywide mutual aid fire dispatch system and be funded by a countywide tax. Benard estimates the cost for two dispatchers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be $750,000 to $775,000 and significantly less if only one dispatcher were on duty and fewer towns were participating. If all 20 towns participated, the cost per town would also be less.
Rutland City’s dispatch center could be utilized. Rutland Town Selectman Don Chioffi views collaborating with the city as a better alternative, as it has both dispatch stations and qualified personnel.
New business development fund
RUTLAND—Although Rutland City’s treasurer Wendy Wilton begged them not to, the Aldermen have voted unanimously to create a business development fund to fund loans and grants for green technology businesses. As enacted July 5, the fund begins with $50,000 of Zamias fund money (impact fees paid by Diamond Run Mall) and $50,000 from Stafford Hill solar farm lease payments. Over the upcoming four years, half the city’s revenue from solar project taxes and lease will also go into the fund.
The renewable energy promotion fund would be an effective marketing tool for the city, mayor Chris Louras said, as he promoted the fund’s development.
Wilton believes the money should, instead, stay in the city’s bank account as working capital. Decreases in the city’s fund balance have put Rutland City close to violating its policy of keeping 10 percent of the budget in its bank account. The city may have to raise taxes to restore that cushion.
Tax incentives rescue blighted properties
RUTLAND—The first business to use Rutland City’s blighted property tax stabilization policy is the Vermont Farmers Food Center, using the tax break to help it buy the former Mintzer Lumber complex on West Street. Now, landscape installation and maintenance company Carpenter & Costin may use the incentive to buy, renovate, and occupy the former Griswold Masonry site at 133 Forest Street. The policy freezes the 5.8-acre property assessment at its current level of $160,000 until April 1, 2021.
WEST RUTLAND—No construction will be necessary on the balcony of the West Rutland Town Hall Theater. Civil and structural engineering consultants Engineering Ventures, PC, of Burlington recently studied the balcony, declaring it safe as long as occupancy is limited to about 50 people, sitting in fixed seats, and none of them are on the lower tier. The Preservation Trust of Vermont financed the inspection in response to concerns that that balcony seemed to be cracking away from the building’s east wall.
Picture looks brighter for Business 4 businesses
RUTLAND TOWN—Construction to extend a municipal sewer line from West Rutland along Business Route 4 in Rutland Town is scheduled to begin in mid-August, formalized with the signing of an intermunicipal agreement on July 6, but still relying on signatures of approval from both Rutland Town and Rutland Town Fire District No. 1.
With municipal services, it is far more likely businesses will be able to revitalize themselves on the east-west corridor. Businesses along Business 4 are currently limited in the number of employees they can hire. If they sign up for a hook-up soon, before construction begins, they also avoid a connection fee and receive a connection from the piping itself to their property line.
Aggregating leads to upgrade
RUTLAND—As the Vermont Farmers Food Center celebrated its third anniversary, president Greg Cox announced plans to to develop a local food aggregation center on the VFFC property. Refurbishing the current buildings is part of the upgrade, which would provide storage space for tons of produce that farmers could rent, thereby reducing their infrastructure and energy costs. Adding an industrial kitchen is also part of the plan, as is increasing the size of the farmers’ market. Expect the organization to begin a fundraising campaign in August.
Congratulations to Limoges Antiques owner Debbie DuBay, whose miniature poodle Oliver has been chosen to compete in the small dog agility division of the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge. At age 4, he already has been in agility training for a year and a half.