The Mountain Times

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News briefs from the Rutland Region

The proposed 2014 state budget includes $5 million for replacing jointed rail with continuously welded rail, rebuilding highway crossings, and replacing switches between Rutland and Burlington. The continuously welded rail allows trains to travel faster, enabling passenger trains to traverse the distance between the two cities as rapidly as a car can travel Route 7.

Rutland voters face a useless question on the ballot, the one asking whether they want to allow the use of chloramine to disinfect the city's water supply. There is no bond attached to it. Regardless of which way the votes fall, their result is moot. If necessary, the city will use the chloramine because it has to, according to federal regulations. When voters turned down the bond issue for a new filter system, they brought on the use of chloramine, if necessary.

Pay attention to the ticking clock if you park downtown. Downtown parking regulations won't get stricter, they'll just be enforced. At the request of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, the Public Safety Committee is discussing asking for more active law enforcement. "Feeding the meter" by throwing in more change while occupying a downtown parking space for more than two hours has been illegal, but most downtown workers probably don't know that.

People who fill a downtown on-street parking space all day long block others from shopping downtown. That can, over time, dry up sales at first-floor merchants and restaurants, and eventually drive business from downtown. Those who work downtown all day long need to search out designated long-term spaces.

Almost any TV watcher has seen law enforcement officials turning to surveillance cameras to solve crimes; Rutland's police may be able to do so too. Aldermen have been considering the installation of cameras to monitor some of the neighborhoods that have had the highest crime. Local landlord Cam Johnston supports the idea; a home invasion occurred recently on one of his properties, near the corner of Maple and Pine.

Security cameras around businesses and government buildings are not new to Rutland. Police Chief James Baker notes that surveillance has cut down crime in public places but that putting them in residential areas is trickier. Whether to bring eye-in-the-sky technology to residential Rutland should make for an interesting discussion.

The city plans to make the Center Street Alley more level this summer, discarding the terraced design that had limited use of the area, administered by the Rutland Recreation & Parks department. What may slow down the $703,884 project is resolution of rights of way.

Over time, it may yet fulfill the dream of Rutland's Creative Economy, becoming a public marketplace, outlined with cafes and little shops as buildings open up what had been their back sides onto an outdoor recreational and performance space. The alley is also scheduled to receive one of the 17 bike racks that the Agency of Transportation is placing in Rutland County.

According to that agency, Routes 4 and 7 will receive $4.4 million for reworking. There have been concerns expressed that railroad crossing issues may tangle up the agency's timetable.

Further ahead lies replacing the Dorr Drive bridge over Otter Creek. Although $400,156 of it is funded for fiscal year '14 and $300,000 the following year, the biggest chunk of the effort will be in FY 2016.

The former Friar's Tavern, 56 Strongs Ave., is scheduled for a facelift, using about one-third of funds the Downtown Rutland Partnership received from Green Mountain Power when GMP merged with Central Vermont Public Service Corp. Building owner Joseph Giancola hopes the exterior improvement - new paint, new windows, a new front door, and repairs to the storefront cornice -and other changes he plans to make will help attract a new tenant for the vacant property, once a grocery store.

Other façade facelift grants downtown have enhanced Ted's Pizza on State Street, Bloomfo Website Design on Cottage Street, and the Paramount Theatre.

Yet another solar energy project is in the works for the area. HelioSage has filed papers with the Public Service Board to build an 800-kilowatt solar farm that would provide power for 111 homes, with hopes to complete the project this year. It would occupy 5.1 acres of a 12-acre parcel owned by G. Housen & Co. off Seward Road. Approximately 1 acre is rooftop; about 2.5 acres require clearing, but the land is pre-disturbed with most of the vegetation in non-native species. Cost is estimated at $3 million.

Installed will be a series of 10-foot-high panels, mounted at least four feet above the ground, surrounded by a 6-foot-high fence. Revegetation will be in native plant species compatible with the surrounding area.

Improvements scheduled for the Rutland airport won't be obvious to the casual observer; creation of more flat land around the runway doesn't seem like construction to most people. But the Agency of Transportation is putting $5.36 million in expanding the runway safety area. If a plane lands long or short, the level ground offers a safe area for the plane to stop without running into anything.

Although these improvements bring the airport in North Clarendon closer to Federal Aviation Administration design standards, they still don't come up to the ideal. Currently, planes landing have a safety area of about 300 feet; that will grow to 600 feet with the improvements, but the ideal would be even larger, at 1,000 feet.

Work may start in July, but is waiting for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, allowing filling in 2.67 acres of wetlands. Although public comments may still be entered through Feb. 28, a spokesman for the Corps said approval is expected because there is no flood hazard.

Other construction at the airport includes a jet hangar retrofit ($400,000), terminal area layout work ($200,000), a parallel taxiway ($100,000), and a study of Runway 19's north end ($25,000). More safety improvements will take place in the following fiscal year.

Friday, Feb. 15 - Chaffee Art Center holds an opening reception with hors d'oeuvres and wine for its annual Full House exhibit, at the Downtown Chaffee, 75 Merchants Row. Featured artists are Brian Sylvester, Johanne Durocher Yordan, Richard Weis, and Katherine Langlands. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. Call 775-0356 for specifics.
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16 - Rutland County Women's Network benefits from the two nights of The Full Monty - Musical at the Paramount Theatre. Saskia Hagen Groom directs the production. Call 775-0903 for tickets.
Sunday, Feb. 17 - Wallingford Elementary School gymnasium hosts a series of yoga workshops and classes with eight different yoga instructors from 12-noon to 2 p.m.

Tagged: News Briefs, Rutland Region