By Lani Duke
Select Board vacancies
When Rutland Town voters make their selections in March, they will have three Select Board seats to fill. Chair Joseph Dicton has announced he will resign that day, although his term would not end for another year. The other two open seats are occupied by Don Chioffi and John Paul Faignant. Chioffi has already turned in a petition with the requisite number of signatures; Faignant has yet to gather his but fully intends to run for re-election. Select Board members Joshua Terenzini and Mary Ashcroft have terms that expire in March 2017. Rutland Town residents interested in running must pick up a petition from the Town Hall or find it online, gather signatures from 1 percent of the town’s voters—27 required—and file with the town clerk by Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.
Mall to lose three more stores
Three large multi-state retailers are in the process of closing their Diamond Run outlets. Vitamin World closed its storefront Dec. 28. Claire’s Boutique plans to close Jan. 31; and Olympia Sports, a week later.
Tenancy at Diamond Run Mall has been in flux for some time. One of the mall’s three anchor stores, Sears, announced it would begin liquidating in late-September 2014 with final closing in early December of that year. J.C. Penney closed in April the following spring. A photography studio and a gift shop have also closed.
In the meantime, the mall has gained one long-term tenant, LaFlamme’s Furniture, relocating from an address on North Main Street. Several stores and shops continue to serve the area’s basic shopping needs: K-Mart, Shoe Department, Eastern Mountain Sports, Joli’s hair salon, Christopher & Banks, a clothing outlet store, two auction storefronts, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, Maurice’s, a jeweler, Bath & Body Works, and small outlets currently keep the faith. Other mall spaces now house a church and a cheerleading studio. Only one vendor remains in the food court, and the children’s play space is still operating.
The mall’s ownership has been tumultuous, too. In 2007, New Jersey-based Gemini Real Estate Advisors purchased the mall for $53 million. By the end of 2013, Gemini surrendered the property to the mortgage holder, owing more than $30 million. Current owners of record BAI Rutland LLC, then claiming an Englewood Cliffs, N.J. address, bought the property for $4.3 million in February 2014.
Register your dog
Man’s best friend will be a tad costlier to keep in Rutland City, more so if owners do not make sure licensing is up to date. The General Committee voted to recommend the Aldermen adopt a new fee schedule, with extra incentives to keep licensing current. The fee for spayed and neuter dogs rises from $13 to $15 a year; unaltered dogs, from $16 to $20. The greatest increase is for people who license their dogs after April 1, presently $17 for spayed or neutered dogs, $22 for the unaltered; the late fee becomes $35. The primary purpose of dog licensing is not to generate revenue but to assure the animals are vaccinated against rabies, according to City Clerk Henry Heck. Vaccination is mandated by the state. Heck credits Tim Jones, the City’s new animal control officer, with raising awareness of the need for vaccination and licensing. Since Jones took over the position, the official registered dog count has risen from 1,100-1,200 to a figure approaching 1,500.
Taxi licenses not being enforced?
Nothing has changed since Rutland City created a taxi licensing ordinance, complained Ken Cormier of All-Occasion Transportation. He has been trying to encourage police to shut down unlicensed taxis in the city. However, “one or two” tickets were issued to unlicensed tax drivers, according to Rutland City Police Lt. Kevin Geno. Officers have recently been primarily busy with holiday-related concerns, patrolling to keep down retail theft and vehicle break-ins, Geno said.
Some drivers claim they are just picking up friends. Some are long gone before officers arrive at the site of a filed complaint. Geno encourages citizens to bring in business cards from people who are operating cab services without a license. According to city records, eight drivers, affiliated with six cab companies, are licensed. One is a limousine service.
The city ordinance establishes background checks for drivers as well as health and safety standards. Its chief purpose is assuring passenger safety and stopping illegal activity carried on via taxi.
Library website revamped
With the aid of Greenscreen Graphics, Rutland Free Library is working its way through the website healing process. Sometime in December or maybe earlier, the RFL website was hacked. Users reported inappropriate redirects and other difficulties when they tried to use the site. Library director Abby Noland hopes to have the site back to fully functional before Feb. 1. The glitches that flared up on user screens were the result of numerous viruses “riding on it,” she explained. The hack has cost the library in consulting fees and staff time primarily, but no data was lost, Noland commented. Users may still access the catalog and e-books. Databases are “slowly coming back up.” When complete, the reborn site will be better than ever, easier to navigate, more friendly to smartphones and tablet computers, and less bogged down in librarian tech-speak.
After taking on redrafting its town plan last spring, Clarendon’s Planning Commission has a product it intends to submit to the town Select Board. Under Vermont law, town plans must be updated regularly; if not, they expire, and the town becomes ineligible for a significant number of state-funded projects.
The community profile section of the plan notes that the town’s population continues to shrink, from its most recent Census high of 2,835 in 1990 to 2,571 in 2010, a 10 percent reduction. Clarendon residents are getting older, too. The median age was 33.0 in 1990, but rose to 46.2 by 2010.
The plan deliberately avoids designating any land-use districts as exclusively residential, an approach approved by 75 percent of residents in a zoning survey. The land use districts are agriculture and rural residential, residential and commercial, commercial and industrial, and conservation. Among its recorded goals is recognition for Village Center designations “in two core areas,” North Clarendon and Clarendon Springs, with an eye toward attracting state and federal funding to further cluster residences and develop increased “commercial and light industrial activity.”
Thanks are due Jackie Lorman for giving more than $5,300 to the Foley Cancer Center on behalf of her business, Shear Heaven Salon & Day Spa. In October, Shear Heaven hosted an evening fundraiser, offering mini-manicures, pedicures, massages, and other luxuries.
Thanks too to A.J. Marro, retiring after a work lifetime of pictures that capture life in Rutland, whether children fishing, adults playing, arts events, burning buildings, or beautiful vistas, for the Rutland Herald.