News Briefs
February 24, 2016

News Briefs: Rutland Region

by Lani Duke

Alderman contestants

Alderman candidate George Gides describes himself as an analyst with strong negotiation skills. At age 49, he is relatively new to Rutland, having moved to the city from Bristol in 2005. His private sector work experience has him integrating major software systems in the field of health care.

If elected, he hopes to aid the city in replacing old water pipes faster and more effectively, and in increasing recreational opportunities as part of Rutland’s anti-drug campaign. This election is his first attempt to run for public office.

In his third campaign for an aldermanic seat, Kan Johnston, 52, is running for Jon Skates’ unexpired term and for a two-year term, plus a School Board seat. Johnston has attended numerous aldermen’s meetings in the past few years, at times seeming so argumentative that the Board president refused to call on him. More recently, he has “learned to work with city government” and believes the Board could benefit from some of his ideas, including those on pedestrian safety.

He hopes to encourage the development of more four-way stops and for a program in which neighborhoods would compete to receive one or more of 12 planned new street lights. Johnson is currently looking for new employment.

If elected, Vanessa Robertson would be the youngest person ever to take a seat on the Board of Aldermen. A full-time student in political science and history at Castleton University, she is 21 and making her first run for public office.

Among her goals for the Board are replacing the city’s decaying, century-old water pipes and focusing economic development efforts on small business.

William Notte wants to be re-elected to the Board. He works at a local retailer and also freelances as an editor. At age 44, he is concluding an eight-year stretch as Alderman and a first as the Board’s leader. He says the Board has more young Aldermen and is more open to citizen discussion than it was when he started.

During the previous administrative year, the Aldermen revamped the tax abate process; next year’s work should focus on continuing work on the city’s infrastructure and continuing to improve public safety. Looking ahead, he advocates paying attention to the upcoming need for new fire trucks and the capital improvement plan.

Physical therapist and Community College of Vermont teacher Scott Tommola had thought about local involvement soon after he moved to Rutland in 1997, but set it aside until recently.

Scott Tommola, a 41-year-old physical therapist and teacher at Community College of Vermont, said he has had an interest in city government since not long after he moved to Rutland in 1997. Among his qualifications are business experience and the ability to understand general accounting, he said.

If elected, Tommola wants to work toward filling in the deficit in the city pension fund by working with the municipal bargaining units.

Dan White’s name is also on the ballot again, as it has been all years but two since 2006. He believes not enough is being done to combat crime and drug usage, and recommends increased neighborhood involvement. He says he’s frustrated that so little is accomplished and the topics of discussion do not change.

White is not new to serving the communities where he has lived. He has been on the Pittsford Planning Commission, and on the board of directors for both BROC and the Rutland County Solid Waste District. A retiree, White wonders why he has not attracted wider community support, but suspect that he may be too blunt and direct.

Former federal agent Jim Riley relocated to Rutland some three years ago, drawn to the area because of its lack of air-borne particulates that trigger his son’s allergies.

His background includes immigration and drug enforcement work as well as being a caterer. Holder of a master’s degree in criminal justice, Riley is working on a graduate degree in theology with hopes to teach college locally.

Providing a greater variety of recreation options would help counteract the lures of drug abuse, Riley believes. Cognitive behavioral therapy provides help for those already addicted. He supports barring employers from asking whether job applicants have a criminal record.

In addition to these challengers, Sharon Davis, David Allaire, Gary Donahue, and William Notte are all seeking a return to their aldermanic seats. Davis has been at the forefront of combating drug-related crime and blighted property. Tax stabilization and property revitalization are other aspects to addressing Rutland’s needs, as are infrastructure improvements. She wants to see a more integrated approach to capital planning.

Donahue agrees that his priorities are numerous but the top of his list is reserved for the unfunded pension fund liability. Repairing the city’s infrastructure is his second highest priority, he said in a candidate forum held February 18 at PEGTV.

The majority of candidates, including incumbents William Notte and David Allaire, favor the Rutland Redevelopment Authority’s plan to reconfigure the Evelyn Street corridor. Many details remain uncovered, they say.

While all candidates have said they support a $1.7 million bond to replace the city’s water pipes, Johnston said he has reservations about the project. He has also said he favors removing flouride from the city’s water supply to save $8,000. Johnston and Donahue are the only two candidates against the $2.5 million bond for a replacement outdoor municipal pool at White Park.

All candidates but Robertson and Tommola support a $1.3 million bond for the equalization water tank in the Campbell Road vicinity.

Leaking water pipes bring out city repair crews

February 15 was cold, really cold. It was the day after Valentine’s Day and the last day in a three-day weekend celebrating American presidents. Love for their community and patriotism were truly on display as city fire crews turned out to attend to broken pipes gushing water in commercial properties.

Frozen water melted and buckled a fixture in the American Legion Post 31 on Washington Street. High velocity water gushed out above a staircase that led to the basement, spewing several inches of water. That was about 1 p.m.

By the end of the day, four other properties had also been buffeted by the water invasion. In Bioscrip, 219 Woodstock Ave., a froze sprinkler pipe burst. A non-working furnace in the Red Cross offices, 117 Strongs Ave., led to broken pipes. A sprinkler leaked inside Freeman Marcus Jewelers, 76 Merchants Row. And two units in the Quality Inn,  253 S. Main St., were damaged when a frozen pipe burst there.

Rutland City Fire Department Lt. Mark Meszaros observed that damage at the Legion would have been far greater if there had been no automatic alarm. The alert enabled firefighters to arrive in minutes, first turning off water and electricity to the building, then removing dropped-ceiling panels to reach the split pipe. Overflow ran onto the sidewalk. The Legion planned to reopen once the basement was pumped out.

To avoid burst pipes, make sure pipes are insulated and that ares through which pipes run are heated. Be on the watch for burst pipes 12 to 24 hours after a cold snap ends, as the frozen water they contain warms again and finds its way out of ruptured areas.

Nonprofits on the rise

The Mentor Connector in Rutland recently received $3,500 from the People’s United Community Foundation, People’s United Bank’s philanthropic arm.

Hannaford at Green Mountain Shopping Plaza in Rutland is sending a $1 donation to the Homeless Prevention Center for every blue Hannaford Helps reusable bag sold at the Hannaford store in Green Mountain Plaza. Announced in February, the program is expected to yield $2,000 for the center in March 2016.

Aldermen turn down smoking ban

Rutland City’s Aldermen turned down a proposed ordinance that would have banned smoking within 100 feet of the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Those opposed to the ban indicated they thought the prohibition to be a government overreach in their decision on February 16. Alderman David Allaire went so far as to categorize the measure as “an example of Big Brother mandating a [legal] behavior on public property.” Alderman Sharon Davis agreed, noting that smoking is “not illegal.” Nor is watching someone smoke an unhealthy activity, Alderman Gary Donahue added.

However, taking up the other side of the measure earlier on were Mayor Chris Louras and Alderman Board President William Notte. A firm anti-smoker, Alderman Tom DePoy commented he will almost always vote to restrict smoking, with three family members deceased from smoking-related illnesses. However, he voted against the ordinance, saying a ban should be citywide on all parks or all sidewalks.

The hospital had asked for the ordinance after bans on smoking on hospital grounds had resulted in visitors and workers congregating on public sidewalks not far from the building entrance. Violation of the ban would have resulted in a $50 fine. Hospital CEO Tom Huebner commented to the alder board that the hospital wanted to be able to say that not smoking within 100 feet of a hospital no-smoking sign was a city ordinance and that the ordinance was a step in changing community culture.

In all, the ordinance failed 6 to 3.  Aldermen Matt Bloomer, Melinda Humphrey, and Christopher Ettori voted for it, while Aldermen Allaire, Davis, DePoy, Donahue, Ed Larson, and Chris Siliski voted against.

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