News Briefs
April 15, 2015

News Briefs: Rutland Region

By Lani Duke

New church holds services at the movies

RUTLAND—Flagship Cinema in Rutland Shopping Plaza has begun hosting a different kind of audience, one that arrives Sunday morning to attend a worship service at what is called Rutland City Church, an independent congregation with Baptist affiliations. The pastor is North Carolina native Tim Owens. After serving in missionary work worldwide, Owens chose the Green Mountain State because it is reportedly the least religious state in the country. He believes people are disillusioned with the modern church and religion but can be most effectively reached in new churches that are less structured and more fun. The congregation has grown from its initial five families last fall, migrating from Owens’ West Rutland living room to a library, then to the Holiday Inn on March 1, a meeting that drew 100 participants. The hotel pool became a baptism site. The number of attendees has now outgrown the Holiday Inn’s conference room, hence the move to the theatre, with one cinema rented for the adult congregants and another for children. A five-piece band provides the music.

Downtown planners look both down and ahead

RUTLAND—Officials are assessing pedestrian safety conditions on West Street between Wales and Pine streets. Although the survey is part of a national effort, police hope to make use of the data collected while groups walk the corridor three times a day. So far, evaluators have observed that pedestrians may have difficulty seeing approaching vehicles as they walk from the transit center. Other issues that have become apparent include restricted accessibility for people who are mobility-impaired and uneven or broken pavement.

Merchants Row and Strongs Avenue are in line to receive major beauty treatments with a $100,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, combined with $170,000 in city funds left over from the Killington Avenue sidewalk program and $23,000 from Rutland Blooms. The project will result in bump-outs, new curbs, and plantings.

“Park, Walk and Talk”: cops on the beat in Rutland

RUTLAND—Community policing, long a watchword of law enforcement everywhere, has long gone through a series of changes, trying to reach an elusive goal, that of fully integrating with the community it serves. Rutland has experimented with bicycle beats and citizen policing, primarily in the downtown. The latest attempt to encourage stronger ties between police and community takes on the form of Park, Walk and Talk, a program similar to the cop-on-the-beat of generations past.

Uniformed officers now stroll through the Northwest neighborhood, stopping to visit with the people they happen to see. Residents who would hesitate to file a formal complaint about suspicious activity may be more likely to casually mention a concern about a vacant house or apartment that attracts odd visitors, suspect aromas, or late-night noise.

Aldermen consider additional smoking ban

RUTLAND—The city’s Aldermen ban smoking close to apartment buildings. At the Aldermen’s April 6 meeting, city resident William Jalbert proposed an ordinance that would prohibit smoking within a certain distance of multi-family residences, to minimize tobacco smoke entering through windows opened during the upcoming warm weather. The issue goes to the Charter and Ordinance Committee for consideration. Alderman Gary Donahue and Alderwoman Sharon Davis dissented on the vote to send the issue to committee. The board has previously voted to ban smoking in city parks and within the bounds of downtown during special events.

Leadership changes at Fire Department

RUTLAND—Rutland City Fire Chief Robert Schlachter plans to leave office on May 1, for health reasons and after more than 13 years of service. Schlachter has led the Department since 2001. While the search is on for an interim chief to serve for a year or two followed by a full-time replacement, deputy chief James Miles will act as fire chief. Schlachter likely return to the Department as a volunteer.

In honor of Dezirae Sheldon

RUTLAND—Stafford Tech human services students Delaney Chartier and Marie Whalen have taken the story of the death of Dezirae Sheldon to the annual Family Career and Community Leaders of America competition, as part of a generalized study on patterns of child abuse. The pair, working with the child’s aunt Patricia Holden, plan to use the toddler’s death as a touch point on which to build help for other children, saying that one in five girls and one in ten boys will experience sexual abuse. They hope to raise awareness of the problem and to erect a statue in the little girl’s honor.

New walk-in drug testing center opens

RUTLAND—Drug treatment program participants may now walk into a new downtown testing site. The Burlington Labs walk-in collections center at 10 Merchants Row adds a significant aid component for individuals who are trying to overcome addiction. Easily accessible testing facilities increase the likelihood that participants will stay in treatment programs. The Burlington Labs’ collections network includes nine centers across Vermont, and one each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Pine Hill park celebrates progress

RUTLAND—Pine Hill Park recently held its annual volunteer dinner and 2014 annual report. Among the statistics reported were: 3,560 volunteer hours and 708 Vermont Youth Conservation Corps volunteer hours, with work performed by 840 volunteers. Workers widened pedestrian bridges with Rutland Rotary South, rerouted trails, built kiosks, repaired ground fabric, and built French drains. The park also has a new webpage, www.pinehillpark.org.

The city already has a number of projects planned for 2015 and into the future. The first trail work day is scheduled for Saturday, April 25, beginning at 9 a.m., meeting at the Giorgetti entrance. More workers are always welcome.

Note that Pine Hill Park has closed its trails to mountain bikes until further notice. Riding will cause too much damage until they start drying out.

Building restoration seen to boost local economy

WALLINGFORD—The Housing Trust of Rutland County recently expressed interest in buying and renovating the three-story Odd Fellows (Sal’s) building, 15 S. Main St., with an eye to possibly refurbishing it for retail/mixed use as a definitive cornerstone of the community’s village center.

Built for the Odd Fellows Lodge, it hosted the group’s meetings on the third floor. Sal’s Pizza was once a general store. Both second and third floors apparently were declared unsafe and were closed to regular use in the 1980s. Restoration of this building should give a boost to the historic commercial district of the community.

Congratulations

to Northwest Primary School Principal Kristen Hubert, recently awarded the Distinguished Principal award by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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