The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

News briefs from the Rutland region

Growing budget an irritant

Rutland voters have a promise from Chris Louras, mayor of the city, that a NO vote for the city's 2012-2013 budget will lead him to "start with" trimming City Hall's planned disbursements. Those dissatisfied with the budget as written, are reasoning that since the budget apparently can be lower, smaller figures should have been his starting point.

The group Rutland City Watch points to a high percentage of vacant properties and a dwindling population, both in terms of city residents and of public school enrollment. Other points of contention are increases in city employee health care costs and non-profit requests, salary raises for all city employees and department heads and a paving contract and a bridge bond to be paid this year.

Two new police officers added to a department already 1.15 percent larger than the national average ratio, new employees in a recreation department losing $1 million a year, and an "out-of-control" school budget also are among their complaints.

The form of the budget presentation also angers some taxpayers. Other communities receive a listing of expected revenues with their budgets, they say, a format that helps them in making informed decisions.

New Rutland Redevelopment

After several months on the job, new Rutland Redevelopment Authority executive director Brennan Duffy recently updated the public on what's happening at the RRA. Created as Rutland City's economic development arm, the organization was set up to reduce residential homeowners' property tax burden, redevelop dilapidated/blighted structures, revitalize commercial and industrial sectors, and generally encourage economic opportunity.

The RRA has an updated focus; Duffy says, specifically on grant administration for the city, blighted property redevelopment, expanding the grand list, downtown designation maintenance, and city planning coordination and representation.

About 150 properties in the city are vacant, some residential and some commercial, excluding properties that are for sale, under renovation, and used seasonally. Vacant properties are a cot to the city, he explains, not only in reduced property values, additional maintenance expense, and falling municipal revenues from associated tax delinquency. As vacant properties decay, those pose added dangers, becoming illicit activity sites, and fire and safety hazards. The RRA is working with the Rutland Region Planning Commission, Board of Aldermen, and city officials to create a volunteer committee that will create a formal process for remediating blighted properties and to write an ordinance covering compliance and enforcement. 

The RRA is encouraging redevelopment of the former Armory at 15 West St. so that its future use creates jobs and generates taxes. The planned Energy Innovation Center holds great promise to "aid in the commercialization of renewable energy, efficiency and environmental technology products and lead to future associated businesses calling Rutland home, Duffy states.

He is also highly aware of the importance of aiding existing as well as developing businesses in site selection, financing, job creation incentivizing, and work force training, plus other types of encouragement for investing or reinvesting.

He sees a number of encouraging signs: the new Casella Waste Systems facility, retail shop openings, the Center Street Alley project and the new Community College of Vermont. 
Thanks for the van!

Central Vermont Public Service for donating its used 15-passenger van to the Boys and Girls Club of Rutland County, and to TD Bank of Rutland for providing secure, convenient parking for the van. Also thanks to Awesome Graphics for design and production of the van's paint job.

Train service improved

Repairs plus new track and ties for Vermont Rail Systems (VRS) have enabled the Amtrak host to move up status from poorest performing to one of the best. Travel time between Rutland and Whitehall, NY, is 15 minutes faster.

In December 2010, the Ethan Allen Express ran a total of 11,068 minutes behind schedule; in December 2011, the number had dropped to 135.

Ridership is up too. The stretch from Albany to Rutland gained 1200-plus riders October to December 2011 above those figures for the previous year.

$750,000 in track repairs had already been planned, with a late-October completion, but the timetable was in for a change once Tropical Storm Irene blew across the state. VRS suddenly had not one, but three company lines damaged by flooding, with 11 miles of track lost; five bridges damaged severely, and track washed out in 111 places. Having repair supplies and workers already on the site enabled VRS to start track work earlier than would have been possible otherwise.

Congratulations to new owners

Linda and Scott Kuiken for their purchase of Sal's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, 148 West St., Rutland. Sellers were Jerry Kyhill and Nick Ronfeld. Kyhill and Ronfeld are continuing to own and operate Sal's in Wallingford.

24-hour eatery downtown

The Yellow Deli on Center Street now serves breakfast five days a week, bringing its hours up to 24 hours a day, five days a week. Run by the religious community The Twelve Tribes, the Yellow Deli closes for the weekend at 5 p.m. Fridays and re-opens Sundays at 5 p.m.

Breakfast downtown

Although the Denny's restaurant on South Main is the only other 24-hour restaurant in the area, there are a number of other eateries that serve breakfast, including the Rutland Restaurant and The Sandwich Shoppe on Merchants Row; and Café Terra on Center Street. Sabby's Pasta House, also on Center Street, recently began opening Saturday mornings for breakfast. Another breakfast stop and coffee shop may soon open in the former Clem's spot on the corner of Center Street and Merchants Row, according to Mike Coppinger of the downtown Rutland Partnership.

Don't park there, either

The KeyBank building's parking lot is off-limits for after-hours parking, property owner John Kalin recently announced. Violators will be- and have been - towed. Only KeyBank customers and tenants are permitted in the lot.

Increased unauthorized use of those spaces has crowded out employees of the building's tenant Home Service Store, who often work past what may be deemed a normal closing time.

The conflict has mushroomed beyond filling employee parking spaces too. Unauthorized vehicles have been parked in handicapped spaces and in the bank's automated teller lane.

Utility updates info online

As Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service prepare to merge, they've launched a new website - www.gmpcvpsmerger.com - to keep the public informed. It includes information on the merger benefits package, and a calendar that highlights the steps toward merger as they take place.

Half the necessary approvals have already taken place, with five more to go.

Rutland library second in e-checkouts

As the use of electronic literature grows across the community, Rutland Free Library patrons are busily checking out more and more electronic files. During 2011, Rutland checkouts of e-books and downloadable audio grew to 2,166 items, second highest in the Green Mountain Library Consortium, second only to Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro.

Learn to download content to an eReader in a Friday, Feb. 28 demo at 6 p.m. The library offers a number of other free downloads, available for use on desktop computers, mobile devices, tablets and eReaders.

Rent a garden

The Rutland City Recreation Department starts registration for community garden plots off Woodstock Avenue, behind McDonald's and on Allen Street next to the Rutland Middle School/High School Allen Street campus on March 1 for city residents (non-residents registration begins April 1). Users pay a small rental fee and a refundable cleanup deposit.  Call Cindi, 282-1092, to find out more.

Looking for Chess Mates?

The Charles Edgar Memorial Chess Club meets Tuesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. at Godnick Adult Center, 1 Deer St (intersection with Woodstock Avenue). All skill levels are welcome; membership is free. Find out more by calling 773-1853.



LANI'S PICKS

Friday, Feb. 17 - Local Audubon representative Roy Pilcher discusses Vermont's Wilflowers: A Birdwatcher's Appreciation, at the Osher institute for Lifelong Learning, Godnick Adult Center, 1 Deer St., 1:30 p.m. Call 492-2300 for info.

Friday, Feb. 17 - Cirque Mechanics: Boomtown! fuses acrobatics, circus arts, machines, slapstick, and magic set in mythic 1865 mining town Rosebud. 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St., Rutland. Tickets: 775-0903.

Monday, Feb. 27 - Annual meeting of Rutland Natural Resources Conservation District, US Department of Agriculture Service Center Conference Room, 170 S. Main St., Rutland. 9:30 a.m. Topic: The Effects of the 2011 Spring Floods and Tropical Storm Irene on Water Quality in Lake Champlain. Pre-register by Feb. 20 by calling Nanci McGuire, 775-8034, ext. 17.

Tagged: rutland report, Lani Duke, rutland