Frozen ground, wet neighborhoods
A leaking line connected to a fire hydrant on North Street Extension brought out the City Public Works Department the morning of February 23. Northbound traffic squeezed into a single lane while crews salted the road and chipped ice away.
Although solving the problem sounded simple—“Turn a valve; clean up the mess,” according to Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg—doing so was cold work. Wennberg plans to consult with the fire department to see whether that hydrant should be returned to service or be relocated elsewhere.
Rain on top of frozen ground, especially without snow cover that might otherwise soak up the precipitation, results in sheets of runoff. Give thanks for stormwater catchment basins where they exist.
Even so, the DPW authorized discharging combined stormwater and wastewater into East and Otter creeks three times to prevent them from backing up into buildings and streets. All three periods were relatively short, 11:30 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 3 p.m., and 5 to 6 p.m.
Also, Rutland should be thankful for the relatively warm winter, at least in terms of pipe breakage. Frost has stayed relatively near the ground surface and so far no service lines have frozen, according to the Department of Public Works. That’s a tremendous relief in comparison to last year, when 87 properties suffered from frozen lines.
Planning Commission ponders commercial signage districts
At its February 17 meeting, the Rutland City Planning Commission spent most of its time looking at signage, all of which is restricted to natural light. Woodstock Avenue should be its own district, with free-standing signs no taller than 8 feet, with a maximum area of 12 sq. ft. There should be one sign per building. Still under discussion is how to regulate signage for commercial buildings with more than one tenant.
The Gouger Hill, Gateway Business 1 and 2, Courthouse and Main Street Park district signage should be shorter, with a maximum height no taller than 6 feet. They also would be allowed a maximum area of 12 sq.ft., plus an additional 4-sq.-ft. directory sign.
There are no free-standing signs in the Downtown District.
Along North and South Main, free-standing signs may be no taller than 10 feet, with a 32-sq.-ft. maximum area. Building-mounted signage may have a maximum area of 1 sq.ft. per linear foot of building frontage, and must be no taller than the roof.
Buildings in the State and West Planned Office Park and Neighborhood Business area are allowed a single free standing sign no taller than 8 feet, with a maximum area of 12 sq. ft.
Residential neighborhood signage should be no larger than 4 sq. ft., with a maximum height of 5 feet. Signage should receive no illumination.
Crime stats promising
Burglaries in Rutland City have dwindled in the past calendar year. So have larcenies and most violent crimes, statistically speaking.
In total 38 of the 58 aggravated assault complaints were for domestic violence, a statistic that Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter Executive Director Avaloy Lanning said is a positive indicator. The 650 individuals who use her facilities each year are more willing to interact with the police and report domestic violence. They are developing trust in law enforcement, due in large part to increased responsiveness on domestic violence calls, she said.
Police Chief Brian Kilcullen credited success in combating drug addiction to likely be a major factor in lessened burglary and larceny reports, 129 down to 79 and 620 down to 490, respectively. These crimes tend to often be committed by people supporting an addiction, he noted.
Employing data-driven policing is proving itself as a useful tool in fighting drug abuse activity, Sgt. Joseph Bartley commented. Police can concentrate their resources in the areas with the highest crime. He relayed anecdotal evidence: an informant working a sting operation was unable to find a dealer recently.
Building use changes promise growing vitality
In a long-anticipated move, Goodwill Industries is about to open a store in the former Laflamme’s furniture store at 230 N. Main St. with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. March 4. The store is scheduled to operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The resale store will offer clothing for all ages, furniture, jewelry, books, and other commonly needed items. The 10,000-sq.-ft. operation already has 20 employees and has plans to hire four more. Goodwill also maintains a donation center and has been accepting donations since last fall.
Another building anticipating a new use is the Clement Block, on the northeast corner of West Street and Merchants Row. Building owner Mark Foley Jr. is applying for state and local permits to restore the brick-faced exterior and create 16 student housing units on the second and third floors. The ground floor houses the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Rutland Partnership, and Little Harry’s Restaurant.
The housing units, complete with kitchens, living space, a shared common space and a second floor laundry area, would be ready to house 40 Castleton University upperclassmen and graduate students in August. Working with Green Mountain Power, Efficiency Vermont, and the building owner, Castleton plans to puzzle out high-tech energy innovations in the residential space.
Diamond Run breaking contract
Diamond Run Mall intends to drop its law enforcement contract with the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department on April 19. Doing so would violate the mall’s agreement with the Town, written in 1996 when the mall was built. The contract specifies that there be “on-site security personnel . . present during the hours of operation” and that “security personnel will have law enforcement capability, ticketing authority and the authority to have vehicles towed at the owner’s expense.” Rutland Town’s Select Board learned of the planned contract breach from its police chief, Ed Dumas, at its Feb. 23 meeting. Without a letter of intent that indicates the mall wants out of the contract, the Select Board can take no action.
Apparently, the mall had tried to stop contracting with the sheriff’s department in 2003, according to Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard. The Select Board resolved the issue then, and Benard expects the Board to do so now, he said. His position is that the sheriff is a mere “ vendor of police services,” but not a party to the contract that the mall intends to violate.
That contract, though, yields about 9 percent of Sheriff’s Department budget, or $132,000 annually. As a result, two full-time officers patrol the mall, working frequent complaints of trespass and shoplifting. Before two of the mall’s anchor stores closed, calls were more frequent, making up approximately a third of the department’s requests for service. Officers face a range of concerns, generally speaking, as if the mall were its own village: domestic violence, workplace violence, drug abuse, and even homicide.