By Lani Duke
Refugees to arrive this year
Rutland will begin receiving as many as 100 refugees from Syria and Iraq starting in October and throughout the ensuing year. Mayor Christopher Louras announced that the city is working with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program to bring them primarily into the revitalizing Northwest Neighborhood, believing that there is sufficient available housing and entry-level work positions.
In an April 27 meeting with Rutland County senators and representatives in Montpelier, Louras claimed his reason for not discussing the refugee program before its public announcement was that of federally required confidentiality. He detailed the refugee screening process, saying that he had spoken with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Office of Refugee Admissions in the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration (PRM) at the U.S. Department of State.
The first group of refugees will contain 30 families and begin arriving about every other week starting in October. He believes the city has sufficient housing capacity and appropriate programs for teaching the children English in the school system. The new arrivals would initially receive stipends from the Refugee Resettlement office and will be expected to become self-sufficient after the settling-in monies are used up (just under $1,000). Government officials are committed to helping them find housing, jobs, education, and other needs.
Among the business leaders saying they have open positions are John Russell of Russell Construction Services, Killington Resort, Tom Huebner of Rutland Regional Medical Center, and Beth Fleck of Coffee Exchange and Clem’s Cafe, downtown. Rutland Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Lyle Jepson has noted that numerous businesses have said they are unable to grow because there are too few people taking entry-level positions.
Certain aldermen expressed disappointment that the mayor had failed to notify them of his decision to accept the refugees before making his pronouncement April 26. Some in the community worry about Rutland’s carrying capacity as regards employment and housing. Alderman Ed Larson has proposed a delay in the process during which community forums will allow dialogue and answer concerns about the plan.
Indian take-out closes
People hungry for the food of India will no longer be able to find it at the Jia Indian Restaurant, dispensing that delectable cuisine from the rear of the West Street corner gas station. It had shut down operations about six months ago, on what was to be a temporary closure, but on April 27 Manager Rajish Harchind said the restaurant will not reopen soon. He said the closing is the result of unresolved labor issues and dwindling demand, but the gas station is doing well. The Harchind family bought the station in 2004 and started offering takeout during the winter of 2005-2006. Although the station will continue selling pre-made samosas, it has ceased offering full meals, at least for the time being.
Council on Aging acquires new digs
The Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging is acquiring the former Maple Terrace residential care home for its new headquarters, after having rented office space in the Rutland area for more than 40 years. The Maple Street property has been vacant since 2013. The SVCA plans do not ask for a non-profit property tax exemption on the building, purchased from the Markowski family for $87,000. The 5,000-square-foot building is in need of some $400,000 of repair and upgrades and SVCA is applying for a Community Development Block Grant. The Council worked with 6,000 clients in Rutland and Bennington counties last year and served more than 200,000 meals with Meals on Wheels. Its offices will provide space for caregiver classes and Medicare seminars and will provide work space for 26 employees.
NeighborWorks housing rehab makes progress
The freshly rehabbed property at 120 Library St. has been sold, with closing expected for May 20. It is one of seven city properties being reworked by NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. According to Gregg Over, project manager, the building was sold by an estate executor who was occupying the property. Although it had a sound foundation, it needed new drywall and plumbing, heating and electrical systems as well as insulation and 21st-century appliances. The project included razing a detached garage. The house is now brought up to Energy Star standards. His crew added a second-floor bedroom, porches, windows, a new stairwell, and new siding. They also installed an LP-fired boiler water-baseboard heating system and an electric heat-pump hot water heater.
Scheduled next is 59 Baxter St., already moved off its failing foundation until a new foundation is installed. Following that is 59 Pine St. Two other properties are due for demolition: 148 Library Ave. and 42 Cleveland Ave.
Rutland Blooms mounts an ambitious tree-planting campaign
Rutland Blooms is ready to begin its most ambitious campaign ever this year. Pulling together donations from organizers and sponsors, Rutland Blooms sports a 2016 budget of more than $42,000, more than double that of 2015’s $20,000.
The first project on the organization’s calendar is placing eight large trees in the new Baxter Street Park, followed by 54 trees on Stratton Road, 12 on Woodstock Avenue by the high school, and six on West Street; many are flowering crabapples. Holes for the Woodstock Avenue trees have already been dug. The third project will take place in the fall, installing numerous trees, shrubs, and other plants on Strongs Avenue.
Chief Kilcullen to be St. Joe’s commencement speaker
Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen has agreed to be the speaker at the College of St. Joseph commencement ceremony held in the school’s athletic center Sunday, May 15. He has a 20-year career in law enforcement and received Schenectady, N.Y.’s highest award, the Patroon Award, for his lifetime of service. Among Kulcullen’s career highlights are serving with the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command during the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. He has an undergraduate degree from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., and a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Road construction—go slow
Route 7 between Manchester and Rutland Town is receiving paving attention, with most of the work scheduled between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. VTrans promises business and home access is to be “maintained at all times.” Completion is projected for mid-September.