By Lani Duke
Pool approved for March ballot
Rutland’s Aldermen voted unanimously to place a $2.5 million bond to replace the pool in White Park on the March Town Meeting ballot. Voters for a number of years—and ballots—have repeatedly turned down a multi-function recreation center with pool, but that was when the community continued to have a summer-only operational pool. Now that White Pool is closed and the community has spent a summer without a pool, the voters have the opportunity to determine whether having a place to swim is worth the price tag.
An operating pool is more than just a place to cool off when the weather is hot, supporters say; it provides a vital youth gathering point. Children learn to swim and have the opportunity of taking the ability to school swim teams or into summer life-guarding jobs. Swim meets (and other area athletic events) draw visitors from out of town who eat in local restaurants, buy gas, and may even stay the night.
The new pool design retains the current footprint, while including a 3,800-square-foot “competition” pool and a 2,800-square-foot “leisure” pool. It could accommodate 380 people altogether. Approving the 20-year bond would result in about a $25 addition to the annual taxes on a “typical” house valued at $150,000.
Level city budget proposed
Rutland City voters will be asked to approve a $19 million budget in March. The only change made by the Aldermen was to remove $3,000 from anticipated stormwater runoff fees to the state. In all, it is less than half a percent lower than last year’s budget.
State Fair changes deemed necessary
The Rutland County Agricultural Societyis on its last chance to avoid mistakes or face the fair’s drawing to an end, new RCAS President Luey Clough said after his Dec. 9 election. Moving both date and length of the fair is dangerous, “our last hurrah” if mistakes of the past are repeated. Fairs that change their timetables have a 70 percent failure rate because they continue to make the same mistakes they made before, he theorized.
A professional concessionaire, Clough said that his experience leads him to believe that five-day fairs are more profitable than 10-day fairs. Changing the date was necessary if the fair is to include a carnival, Clough said. When he spoke with 49 carnival companies before the 2015 fair, all said they would not come to Rutland over the Labor Day weekend.
In addition to voting in new officers, the membership voted 85-21 to expel Chuck Wade from the RCAS rolls. In last year’s balloting, the members had voted to amend the group constitution so it would allow removal of members convicted of “violent or sexual” felonies. Wade is currently serving 30 years in a Florida prison for molesting two children in 2003; he had been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old boy in Rutland in 1981.
RCAS leadership will continue trying to resolve the fair’s $200,000-plus debt. An accounting of the previous year’s operations is still not complete, the result of not having all the snags of switching accounting software worked out. Treasurer Donna Stearns anticipates being able to send complete financial statements to all members by mid-January.
Among the available statistics are the admissions that sponsorships are down $14,000, and gate admissions are also down, but overall the fair did make a $10,000 profit for the year, according to auditor Ned Pike.
Combination Pond donation under fire
A number of homeowners living near Combination Pond attended the Dec. 9 Public Works Committee to oppose its donation to the city. However, the committee voted 3 to 1 to recommend the City accept the 6.6-acre donation.
Neighbors may have more input in the pond’s future when it is actually owned by the city, city officials said. Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg told the attendees that a grant could fund a study identifying the values stakeholders attach to the pond. Public ownership may open the way for protecting and enhancing the pond, he noted.
Neighbors had objected to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ insistence that the pond be drained to cool the waters of Moon Brook, asserted since 2005. ANR had claimed the pond’s sun-warmed waters compromised the watershed’s ecological health. Deeds to neighboring properties confer a right to access and use the pond, owned by landowner E&K Management LLC.
Becoming the pond’s owner will make combating the state’s initial proposal—stormwater infrastructure improvements that would cost millions of dollars—less complicated, according to city attorney Charles Romeo.
Smoking areas to become more restricted near hospital
Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC) is making another stab at going smoke-free on June 1. It has tried to do so before, banishing smoking on hospital grounds a number of years ago. When smokers took to the city’s sidewalks barely off the hospital grounds, the organization quietly gave in, setting up designated smoking areas. This time, the city will have a role in the process. The city’s Charter and Ordinance Committee is currently reviewing a proposal that would ban smoking on the sidewalks along Allen Street and Stratton Road near the hospital. Smoking is already banned in city parks and downtown during special events.
to Rutland native Anya Volz for winning second place in November’s Vermont Comedy Club’s Vermont’s Funniest Comedian Contest.
to Operation Bundle Up: Coats for Kids of Rutland County, on successfully giving approximately 700 free coats to children and adults Dec. 5 in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church gym.