The Mountain Times

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News briefs from the Rutland Region

Mexican restaurant opens downtown

Two new restaurants in downtown Rutland provide alternatives for local diners. Mexican restaurant Nacho Mamas recently opened at 118 Merchants Row, a space formerly occupied by Ojala's beauty salon. The 20-seat Mexican restaurant offers both eat-in and take-out food, plus beer, wine, and malt beverages. Owners are Katherine and Brad Barker, who also own Kelvans a few doors down the street. Alan Waldo, former daytime chef at Kelvans, is managing the new establishment. It's open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Gastropub takes tavern up a notch
Also new to Rutland is Griffin's Publick House - not a bar but the city's first gastropub, taking bar food and moving it upscale with top-drawer ingredients. Pizzas have become "artisanal flatbreads," cooked in a wood-burning oven; other menu items employ classic French techniques. The chef is Paul Kropp, formerly with Al Ducci's Italian Pantry in Manchester; sous-chef is Brian Garvison. An iPad at each table conveys orders to the kitchen. Located at the former Downtown Tavern at 42 Center Street, it also includes 14 lines of artisan beer on draft.

Furniture store to close
Ladabouche Furniture is closing. Castleton alum Gary Ladabouche accepted a position as his alma mater's director of corporate giving and major gifts. A liquidation company is helping close the store at 162 S. Main St., which will remain open until it is empty. A 1980 graduate of the college, Ladabouche has owned his own furniture store for some 16 years, downtown on Center Street for the first 13, and another 3-1/2 at its current site.

Bouncing around Vermont
Bounce Around VT has opened an office in West Rutland, renting inflatable bounce houses in southern Vermont. Customers rent its inflatable devices for family parties, weddings, corporate parties, and college and high school proms. There is no size or age limit for participants.

The six-year-old company originated in Franklin County, deciding to expand into Burlington and Montpelier as well as West Rutland. Customers receive free delivery throughout Rutland, Washington, Chittenden and Franklin counties; other localities pay a delivery charge. The West Rutland office currently employs two individuals; owner Joe Sinagra hopes that number will grow.

Streetscape enhancement proposed
Alderman Chris Siliski recently proposed spending $50,000 of Zamias fund moneys to improve the corner of West, Wales and Church streets. He described his streetscape enhancement as a "leverage investment initiative," a sort of reward to enhance the ambiance around the new $15 million Community College of Vermont. His idea is to "green up" the intersection of West Street with Church Street with a green strip, then running the green area half a block up West. Sidewalk improvement as needed, adding some trees, and sprucing up for the school district's buildings are also on Siliski's mind, as a way to make this downtown gateway more appealing.

VFW works for New Korean War Memorial
Main Street Park is on the way to sprouting a new memorial, this one to those who fought in the Korean War (1950-1953), spearheaded by members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post 648. VFW members George Bates, Ed Perkins, and some 24 or 25 others are working to raise about $13,000 for a monument. The project is at the "preliminary design" stage, and has received no site determination within the park, but the design is yet to be fine-tuned" and the precise location is not yet finalized.

Other war memorials in the park were donated by private groups: the Green Mountain Boys and World War I monuments by the Daughters of the American Revolution; the Civil War monument by the Daughters of the Union Veterans. Parks Department superintendent EJay Bishop plans to bring the proposal to the Aldermen's board when it is ready for a formal presentation.

New boards in city government
Rutland's aldermen have re-instituted both a Housing Board and a Health Board. The city had a housing board in the past, created in 2007, but after the founding members' two-year terms expired, they were neither reappointed or replaced. On the Building and Zoning Office's recommendation, the aldermen re-started the board to hear municipal housing ticket appeals; decisions of the housing board are appealable to the county civil court.

According to city attorney Charles Romeo, the state requires any city that has a housing code to also have a housing board. The 2007 policy stipulates a five-person board containing two aldermen and three members of the general public, with a third alderman serving as an alternate, all appointed by the board president and confirmed by the board of aldermen.

The aldermen on the board are Chris Siliski and John Cassarino with Melinda Humphrey as alternate; general public members are Terry Norton, Bill Gillam and Scott Tanner.

Unlike the Housing Board, the Board of Health is mandated by the city's charter, charged with enforcing public health ordinances like quarantines. Alderman Gary Donahue had proposed re-purposing the board to gather information on environmental issues affecting public health and be prepared to bring that info to the community. The aldermen are considering how and whether the board would be helpful for the community and is looking for individuals who served on the board of health in the past, to ask them about their duties and efficacy.

Fire station looks to expand.

Omya recently donated the former Clarendon and Pittsford rail line behind the Center Rutland fire station, to the town, a transfer that opens the way for enlarge the building. A larger building will enable the fire department to provide better fire protection.
A proposed design for the new station encompasses 5,875 square feet, including three truck bays and a 1,275 square foot training/meeting room. It not only provides better training space, but will serve the community in a variety of ways, including serving as an evacuation center for community disasters and long-term power outages, as well as providing economic stimulation for the Route 4 corridor.

The newest formal dissatisfaction with Rutland police comes from the police union, who recently filed an unfair labor practice charge. The union disagrees with a new restriction police chief James Baker put into practice this spring.

New hires can no longer have a second job unless there is "extraordinary justification," according to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees complaint to the Vermont Labor Relations Board, although senior police officers and staff who have prior approval will not have to give up their extra jobs.

The problem is less the rule itself but more the way it was created and set in place without prior negotiation.

However, Police Chief James Baker and police commission chair Larry Jensen take the position that the city has both authority and need to make the restriction because "double badging," working for more than one municipal law enforcement agency simultaneously, may create conflicts of interest and even lead to liability difficulties. Currently both Ed Dumas and Ted Washburn work for the Rutland Town police department as well as Rutland City, while Joseph Warfle, on administrative leave from the city, is Pittsford's chief of police.

There is also concern that an officer working more than one job may become too fatigued to perform either effectively or safely.

Although the union has claimed the rule extends to any and all outside employment, the police commission and Chief Baker say that was not their intent. A high proportion of police officers perform other work outside their official duties, including garden service, Baker said recently. But their primary employer does need to know who their business partners are and the type of business in which they are involved. Because there is litigation over its wording, the text of the email itself is not open to public scrutiny.

Water quality improving
The haloacetic acid level in Rutland water is continuing to drop, Public Works commissioner Jeff Wennberg recently told the aldermen. That's good news to those Rutlanders who fear that switching to the water purification chemical chloramine runs the risk of releasing chemicals that are far more dangerous.

As long as the current trend continues, there is no worry. Levels keep dropping. And, if it were not for recent, more stringent federal regulation, the topic would be of no concern whatever.

Be that as it is, none of the experts are sure why the levels are dropping. Interaction of the disinfectant chlorine with organic matter in the water creates haloacetic acid. Saying that the levels dropped back into compliance is a bit misleading, because what constitutes compliance has changed. Tests of city water in May reveal one-year averages below 50 parts per billion, well below the new compliance requirement of 60 parts per billion.

Why so low?

Tropical storm Irene, some suggest, scouring the Mendon Brook streambed of organic material. However, levels had begun to drop before the storm, leveled off, then rose in November 2011, staying comparatively high through February 2012. Then the ppb began a sharp decline.

Some would credit increased emphasis on flushing out the system, an effort that began the following May after the levels were already dropping. Putting fresh sand in the filter was not the cause either; the first substitution was August 2007, which seemingly caused a sharp increase, not a decrease. The sand apparently "matures," becoming more efficient over time.

Possible credit, according to city engineer Evan Pilachowski, may lie with draining Beaver Pond after May 2010. He promises the city will continue to monitor water quality closely.

Area promotions and recognitions
Manchester attorney Marianne Kennedy recently became new executive director of the Rutland County Women's Network & Shelter. She is a private consultant, health policy analyst, and consultant on health policy design, implementation, and strategic planning.

The Society of Animal Welfare administrators recently named Rutland County Humane Society director of operations Jessica Danyon as a certified animal welfare administrator. The new designation, held by fewer than 100 animal welfare pros, recognizes nonprofit and municipal execs in the U.S., Canada, and Australia who have displayed excellence while generating accomplishments in their field.

Congratulations to...
Saryna Hier of West Rutland, who recently received a Holly D. Miller award from the Vermont Women's Fund. Nominated by Lynn Bodurant, director of the Rutland Region Workforce Investment Board's Three Steps Forward Program, Hier used Three Steps to complete her high school diploma on her way to beginning a career as a personal care assistant for children with autism.

Lani's weekly picks
Friday, June 7 - Zumba Dance For Hope fundraiser for Rutland County Relay For Life at Peak Performance Studio, Howe Center, 7 p.m., 772-7339.
Sunday, June 9 - The 37th Annual Crowley Brothers' Memorial 10K Road Race Half Marathon and the 5K race are Sunday at 8 a.m.
Sunday, June 9 - The Vermont Center for Dance Education recital at the Paramount Theatre, 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 9 - The Dismas House 23rd annual Dinner & Auction at the Holiday Inn, 4 p.m. registration. Keynote speaker is Richard Stack.
Tuesday, June 11 - The first Summer Sunset 5K Running Series at Pine Hill Park. 6:30 p.m. trail run.

Tagged: News Briefs, Rutland Region