News Briefs
April 20, 2016

Rutland Region News Briefs

by Lani Duke

RUTLAND CITY NEWS

Dorr Drive bridge name change considered

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars have asked the Rutland Aldermen to consider renaming the new bridge on River Street in honor of Aldo Manfredi. Although the Board voted to send the proposal to the Board of Highway Commissioners, comprising Mayor Christopher Louras, Aldermen Board President William Notte and Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennbrg, Louras expressed reservations against changing the name. The Dorr Bridge was named after Julia Ripley Dorr, a prominent Rutland writer and poet, not the road to which it connects, Louras commented.

Dorr was one of the earliest published American women novelists and poets; her stories portray young women lifting themselves from poverty thorough education and persistence. Living in The Maples, near the intersection of the bridge and Dorr Drive, she corresponded with Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier. She was instrumental in founding the Rutland Free Library and served as its first president.

Bolgioni honored at Evolve Rutland

Building Bright Futures’ Regional Coordinator Peg Bolgioni was one of about 200 women honored March 28 during Evolve Rutland’s first annual Celebration of the Women of Rutland County. The former Women’s Professional Development Center of Rutland focused its efforts on an event to “commemorate and celebrate the influence of Rutland County women in creating a strong and vibrant community for all to enjoy.”

Opening speaker Kiki McShane acknowledged that there are many other equally deserving women who were not honored at the “Start Making History” event. Some men objectify women in the political process, McShane said. Women lack equal representation on professional boards, experiencing pay inequity and unequal reward for their potential. Other speakers included Brittany Bosch, Wallingford native who swam the English channel in 2014, and Mary Moran, the Rutland city schools superintendent.

Bolgioni has held her current position with BBF since 2014. One of her accomplishments is producing the Community Access program “Building Bright Futures,” on which community partners discuss issues impacting young children and families. Her goal is to strengthen the local community-state connection, and improve policies and laws so that children “grow up happy, healthy and ready for a lifetime of learning.”

The BBF Vermont Insights program collects data on early childcare services, health and education of pregnant women, as well as children through age eight and their families. Bolgioni and her 11 fellow regional coordinators across the state analyze data to highlight where the education system is challenged.

Asking city for flood repair reimbursement

Sanford and Susan Bassett have asked the city to assist with a portion of the cost of the $32,000 drain they installed on their property at 17 Melrose Avenue. Last year, their home and neighbors, on the downhill side of Main Street, received significant, unprecedented flooding—from an undiscoverable source. Although it seemed likely the water must come from the city water system, an thorough search found no leaks large enough to have so large a result.

Their attorney, William Meub, said in a letter to the City that because the project protected not only their home but also that of other properties in their neighborhood, the city should partially compensate them. However, according to City Attorney Charles Romeo, the city also spent more than $30,000, not including city staff time, trying to locate the water’s source. The City’s position is that since it spent an amount roughly equal to that spent by the Bassetts, the City has taken enough action on the matter.

Meub counters that the flooding apparently resulted from a century-old drainage system discovered during the drain’s installation, dating from the neighborhood’s initial development. Tied into the city system and lacking any record holding the landowner responsible for the old drainage, the defunct system therefore is the city’s responsibility.

No evidence exists that the city ever took over the old drainage system, Romeo said. It apparently was and is privately owned. Rutland City had no prior knowledge that the system existed. Even though no single municipal source could be found for the escaped water, tests showed that it was a mixture of ground and drinking water, Meub said. That’s reason enough to hold the city at least partially accountable.

Board of Aldermen President William Notte sided with Romeo, describing the city as “an active partner” that has contributed enough.

CSJ plans major expansion

The College of St. Joseph has applied for a permit to build a 10,075-sq.ft., 288-seat dining hall and a 33,045-sq.ft., three-story dormitory on the school’s campus. Erecting the dorm would increase on-campus housing from 160 to 280 beds, or by 75 percent.

The $10.7-million project would affect 11 acres of the 117-acre campus, according to an April 4 Act 250 construction application. Project completion will result in 2.8 acres of structures and other impervious surfaces, including parking lot and a loop road. Although construction borders protected wetlands, the Agency of Natural Resources foresees “no adverse undue effect on protected functions of the wetland,” the application indicates.

Okays have already been filed by the Regional Ambulance Service, the city Public Works Department and the state Agency of Agriculture. Also giving its okay is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying plans to fill 4,666 square feet of the wetlands with dredged or fill material have minimal individual or cumulative impact on water in the area.

Parking spaces around the new dorm add 35 more to bring the campus total to 311, 124 of them around the three dorms. The new parking lot will also sport an electric-vehicle charging station.

The school’s main access road from Dorr Drive will see reconstruction and elevation to the 100-year floodplain level, realigned and widened from two lanes to three, at a cost of $170,800. The school will hire 22 full-time and two part-time new employees as part of the project.

Who knew?

VTrans recently proposed dropping Business Route 4, West Street, Merchants Row and Strongs Avenue from the designated National Highway System, according to Alderman Ed Larson. The state’s rationale is that the city will not have to comply with higher standards of bridge and pavement maintenance.

Neither the Rutland Region Transportation Council, recipient of a letter from VTrans to that effect, nor Public Works Commissioner Jeffery Wennberg favors the VTrans recommendations, made with the underlying assertion that the routes are parallel to existing routes and no longer fit NHS standards. VTrans says that the roads would remain part of the federal aid highway system and be eligible for federal funds. Wennberg is encouraging the City to oppose the changes.

Non-profit ruled tax exempt

Although the non-profit Rutland County Parent-Child Center directly serves a defined population, parents and children designated by the state and not the population at large, it provides a benefit to the public and is therefore exempt from local property taxes, Rutland civil court Judge Mary Miles Teachout ruled April 11.

The City had argued the Center’s restricted criteria for its clientele eliminated it from exempt status. Teachout ruled that the public as a whole benefits from the Center’s activities although it serves only a subset of the community. She likened its status to that of a school that similarly serves a subset of individuals (youth) while enabling its students to be productive members of their society; the Center’s programs “create a community of stable families.” Its programs include parenting classes and services for children with developmental issues.

The Center owns two properties in Rutland. The Pleasant Street property, valued at $371,700, is for sale. The Chaplain Avenue property consists of two buildings and is valued at $422,000.

City opens new park

What had been an abandoned and blighted house at the corner of Baxter Street and Library Avenue and the lot next door were reborn as Baxter Street Park during an April 2 groundbreaking. In spite of a cloudburst, about 100 people turned up for the event, listening to congratulatory remarks from Mayor Christopher Louras; the then homeownership director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont Mary Cohen; City Recreation and Parks Director Cindy Wight; and Board of Alderman President William Notte before about a third of them grabbed spades to turn over some soil and get drenched in the downpour. Wight predicted that the park would be completed in 30 days, with the exception of a permanent fence yet to come. Thanks are due the Rotary Club for its $10,000 donation for the fence.

TOWN NEWS

Vermont Wood Pellets fires up again

CLARENDON—Everyone is working again at Vermont Wood Pellets in North Clarendon, after a temporary plant shutdown that began in January. An unusually mild winter had reduced demand enough to flood the market with wood pellets, and other wood pellet producers were forced to sell off stock at a loss, said owner Chris Brooks. His two main competitors, Blazer Wood Fuel Pellets of Oregon and Okanagan Wood Pellets of British Columbia have both suffered from the low prices. Blazer has gone out of business. Okanagan is not currently operating  as its management weighs the company’s future. Brooks used his company’s downtime to upgrade equipment and make plans for a second plant in the Northeast Kingdom. He intends to break ground later this year and begin operating in 2017.

Clarendon gets a new eatery

CLARENDON—Not enough praise can be lavished on individuals who invest in our communities, providing needed goods and services. Among them are Dennis and Loretta Clark. Already owners of an old-time general store in Benson, the Clarks purchased the former Clarendon General Store, located at 638 Route 103 in North Clarendon, in 2013. They closed it and gutted it to build a deli, adding groceries, frozen food and freshly baked goods every weekday morning at 6 a.m. Hot lunch is also served, beginning at 11.

Mid-day break questioned

RUTLAND TOWN—Rutland Town Clerk-Treasurer Donna Zeller and her sole full-time assistant Susan McGee have their office doors open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, other than a one-hour lunch break from 1 to 2, and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday. Friday afternoons are set aside for technical training, Zeller says.

The 34 hours a week that the office is open is not enough, believes Selectwoman Chris Kiefer-Cioffi, newly elected in March. She believes the town would be better served if the two women were to stagger their lunch breaks so that the doors would be open from 8 to 5, five days a week.

Zeller’s predecessor Marie Hyjek kept the office open all day long five days a week with no lunch break. She has also questioned her successor’s office hours and need for an assistant.

Zeller defends her office hours. The clerk-treasurer is an elected position, not subject to select board authority. Taking care of the 6,000-inhabitant town’s official documents needs—

mortgages, land surveys, vital statistics, taxes and budgets—is too stressful to do alone, Zeller maintains. Other town hall offices close for a lunch break, including that of Town Administrator Joseph Zingale, hired by the select board. Zeller says she deserves the same consideration.

But Zeller’s ability to set her own hours may be subject to some less obvious controlling factors. The select board has “power of purse,” Selectman John Paul Faignant has commented.

Community caring

RUTLAND—One of the joys of living in the Rutland community is the extent to which its people care about each other. The Rutland Area Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice recently graduated its spring 2016 hospice volunteers. Thanks to all past and current graduates and their trainers.

In Wallingford, neighbors were gathering their resources to help Phil Rogers and his wife Janine, following a heart attack that put him in the cardiac ICU at Massachusetts General. Phil died April 11, but there are still numerous projects that Janine will need help with as she recovers from the loss of her spouse. To help out, e-mail nathanastin@yahoo.com or check in at the facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/PhilRodgersFamily/.

Students at Stafford Tech Center recently gave haircuts for minimum $5 donations in support of Avanti Hair Salon cosmetologist Rose Bolintiam, recently diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer. They are also supporting a gofundme.com campaign and had raised more than $13,000 within the effort’s first two weeks.

Biz Route 4 corridor improvement

RUTLAND—Broadreach Planning & Design Project Manager Jim Donovan presented more than three dozen recommendations for improving the Route 4 corridor to a joint meeting of Rutland Town and West Rutland select boards April 11. Some were small, such as adding a unified way-finding system. Others were more extensive, including creating roundabouts, reducing the highway to three lanes, and adding protected bike lanes. The changes all grew out of the 45-page Smart Growth Connection Plan. To proceed, the towns must endorse the plan and then take it back to their communities, Donovan explained.

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