The Mountain Times

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News briefs from the Rutland Region

New businesses open downtown
New clothing store Raw Honey opened Nov. 1 at 5 Center Street, in space formerly occupied by King's Fine Furniture. Owner Rebecca Buonadonna describes her business as urban oriented, "reasonably priced quality fashion." She already owns Fruition Fineries at the corner of Merchants Row and West Street.
The former Aubuchon Hardware at 122 West Street will become a baker café, owned by Roots the Restaurant chef/owner Don Billings. It's great news to see these two local business owners making the commitment to fill additional storefronts downtown.
$1 million grant to aid the city's fight against crime, rejected
A $1 million federal grant to map and analyze Rutland's crime data was recently rejected, which was a disappointment and somewhat of a surprise to project officials. Police chief James Baker noted that, although the grant was supposedly targeted for smaller, rural cities, all recipients were larger communities than Rutland. Planners had hoped that the three-year grant would facilitate linking more than 30 local social service agencies, municipal offices and the Rutland Police Department in combating the city's illegal drug culture.
Baker says the rejection necessitates a change of focus. In the nine months or so since applying for the grant, the city has made significant strides. In May, police began mapping crime data to identify trends and locations where criminal activity is likely. What the grant would have done was to enable hiring a coordinator to liaise police activities and crime data with Project VISION and social workers, mental health workers and domestic abuse advocates.
Giorgetti Park bike shop closing for good
The bike shop at Giorgetti Park is closing. It has been a little-known amenity, occupying a single room at the arena, renting bikes and selling parts and repair services. Too invisible and isolated to be a commercial success on its own, it was run by the city with a single employee. No more.
Much of the gear it contained will be offered on Craigslist. A list of equipment to be sold was given to the aldermen at a recent city meeting; it includes a variety of 44 repair tools, in all with an estimated wholesale value of $1,142, plus five Kona bikes, valued at $300 to $350.
Depleting mall funds opens discussion for different approach
Concern over the Zamias fund (from the Diamond Run Mall) eventual depletion occupied the Rutland City Finance Committee recently. Mayor Chris Louras is calling for prudence so that the money is available for future needs; recent requests for funds have been growing, and he fears there will be nothing left when "high-priority projects" develop.
Louras has criticized the beautification project where Church, West, and Wales streets intersection, saying that the money could be better spent on sidewalks connecting "challenged neighborhoods" to downtown. He believes the money may be needed in revitalizing the Northwest quadrant.
Finance Committee chair Chris Siliski presented proposed guidelines calling for a minimum 20 percent match from an organization applying for the money along with criteria for job creation, business growth or other economic impacts. He has also proposed depositing part of the fund in longer-term investments with an interest rate exceeding inflation.
Over the upcoming seven years, the fund is scheduled to receive six more $100,000 impact fee payments and a final payment of $88,000 from the Diamond Run Mall's owners. The money is intended to compensate for revenues lost to the city when the mall was built outside the city limits. The fund currently contains nearly $800,000, with some $175,000 committed to projects that the aldermen have already approved. Currently held in a money market account, the fund generates minimal interest, but is always available for projects that the aldermen approve.
Of the four projects recently funded with Zamias money, Louras says he recognizes benefit from two: parking deck equipment and the Paramount Theatre's new video system, but the Baxter Street Alley improvement and beautification of the West, Wales, and Church streets intersection would not have made the Department of Public Works project list.
Aldermen differ in their approach to the fund. Should it become a loan source rather than grant funds? Alderman Jon Kiernan thinks so. He promotes developing a policy for maximum grant sizes and maximum annual expenditures.
Alderman William Notte believes the current approach works well, that it is effective and transparent, that, although the money should be spent wisely, the aldermen need to retain as much flexibility in the fund's use as possible.
Look for similar discussions in the future.
Discussion: How best to deal with violent students
Do new policies put teachers more at risk for injury?
Teachers and staff who work with students who have emotional or behavioral issues may face injury, Rutland City school Board members learned at a recent meeting. Rutland Education Association representatives complained to the board on behalf of an unidentified member who resigned after repeated injuries inflicted by students in more than 10 years of teaching; that resignation was subsequently discussed in closed session.
Although not specifically identified, the board accepted the resignation of Stacey Ladabouche, a school counselor at Rutland Intermediate School, at the same meeting.
Rutland Intermediate School staffers receive insufficient training and monitoring, a recent complaint to the Department of Labor alleged. 
Should the state consider modifying that part of Special Education law that promises "least restrictive" environments for all students, regardless of ability, or how the practice is applied?
Rutland City Public Schools superintendent Mary Moran noted that the self-contained classrooms at both Rutland Intermediate and Northeast Primary schools provide close supervision in self-contained classrooms in an environment that provides for emotionally and behaviorally challenged students. Those students are provided educational opportunity in a more supportive environment than other students but enter the "mainstream" of school culture in such public activities as eating lunch and attending assemblies.
A complaint from Don Whipple, manager of the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Department of Health, incorporates OSHA logs containing claims of "scratches, bites, contusions, concussions and other problems" from aggressive students. During the 2012-13 school year, OSHA records note 13 staff injures, 10 of them in classroom environments. Since the current academic year, staff has already received six injuries, five of them suffered in classrooms, but there have been no injuries to students, Moran said.
District policy calls for paraeducators to receive Crisis Prevention Intervention, a course that covers dealing with emotional or violent outbursts as well as physical restraint methods. When an incident occurs, the student's special education team is to meet afterwards to debrief, examining what led to the incident, what the staff response was, and what can be done for different results. The district's safety team, containing both staff and administrators, meets quarterly for an overall discussion of safety concerns.
The district's position is that a protest to raise safety concerns was the wrong approach; school board chair Peter Mello sent a memo stating just that to all Rutland City school employees the day after the meeting.
Stop sign experiment
A new three-way STOP where General Wing Drive (home of The Maples) intersects with Stratton Road is an experiment. If it works well, the signage and the STOP will remain in place. If motorists are unhappy with the arrangement, the STOP will disappear after several weeks.
Lani's weekly picks
Saturday, Nov.r 9 - Comedian Drew Carey performs at the Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St., 8 p.m. A performance for only those 16+ years old.
Sunday, Nov. 10 - The Paramount Theatre hosts Catwalk for a Cause, a hair and fashion showcase for the talents of local hair stylists and make-up artists, featuring fashion trends from area clothing stores. Benefits United Way of Rutland County. 4 p.m.
Thursday, November 14 - Learn to weave wampum, America's first currency. Chaffee Art Center, 3:30 p.m.