Rutland City makes a new green move
The lighting of this year’s decorated Christmas tree in Depot Park marks what may be an ecologically significant change to the community’s holiday traditions. In previous years, the city searched for a large tree that a local homeowner would donate, most likely one that had outgrown its site and that would be subject to removal anyway.
This year’s tree, however, is not a cut tree, headed for the discard pile after use, but a live 15-footer, donated by Pratico’s Landscaping & Fence Co. and installed by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. The switch in practice is more environmentally friendly, said Mike Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership.
Instead of joining other dehydrating, needle-shedding evergreens in a landfill, the new tree will continue to stand tall and proud in Depot Park, waiting for further decorations in the future.
Parking ban begins
Rutland City’s winter parking ban takes effect Thursday, Dec. 1, and continues through March 3. No vehicles may park on city streets from midnight to 6 a.m., a regulation that ensures that snow plows may get through if their use is necessary.
The ban is in effect regardless of temperature or weather conditions. Vehicles parked on any city street during the banned hours are subject to fines and towing.
Contractor suing Rutland City for additional work non-payment
Waitsfield-based Kingsbury Companies filed a lawsuit against the city in October, saying it was asked to perform additional work beyond its contract with Rutland. While working on the northwest neighborhood stormwater separation project, Kingsbury was asked to haul and deposit soils as well as install covered slabs not part of its contract.
Filed in Washington County civil court, the lawsuit claims the work was performed “properly” and in a “timely” fashion. The contract specified payment on the amount of “work installed,” but that the city unlawfully required remeasurement of work already measured and then failed to pay the full amount. The suit asks for an unspecified amount of damages including prejudgement interest and attorneys’ fees.
Completed last year, the $5.2 million project installed a separate stormwater sewer system that diverted runoff into East Creek rather than to the wastewater treatment facility. The new system was designed to reduce stormwater-caused overflow from the sewer plant, to satisfy a state mandate.
St. Joseph leader passes away
Sister Mary Polworth, third president of the College of St. Joseph, died Nov. 10 at the age of 89. She became president of what was then the College of St. Joseph the Provider in 1974, leading the school for nine years. The college introduced business administration, human services, and liberal studies under her administration. It also debuted the women’s basketball team, the Saintinettes.
Concurrently with her role at CSJP, Sr. Polworth taught at Mount St. Joseph Academy and Southern Vermont College, later becoming SVC’s dean of women. She served the secular and religious communities in numerous capacities, including becoming president of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
Death claims beloved pediatrician
Pediatrician Dr. Arthur Wolk died Nov. 17, having lived 97 years, much of it in service to the people of Rutland. Community members describe his practice as holistic, saying that he cared for patients as being more than a disease or injury but treating minds and hearts as well as bodies.
He made home visits or met sick children after hours at his office or the hospital. In the military, he cared for officers on Okinawa and in Korea. He treated children with polio at the Caverly Preventorium, tuberculosis at the Pittsford Sanitarium, and disabilities at Brandon Training School and Vermont Achievement Center. May his successors be such a blessing to the Rutland area.
Discussing fire alarm charges
Rutland City Aldermen are discussing Fire Chief Michael Jones’ proposal to charge businesses if they have a fire alarm that rings in the Fire Department. Jones said many other communities do so, and that such a charge could be set aside to supplement the department’s equipment replacement fund. Alderman David Allaire told the Charter and Ordinance Committee he has reservations about the concept during the committee’s Nov. 16 meeting. Alderman Sharon Davis countered with the logic that taxpayers should not subsidize a private business and that businesses hardwired into the department would be realizing some savings.
The fee would be less than the cost of subscribing to a third party alarm service while the city budgets $4,500 a year for maintaining the systems. That observation, by Chief Jones, alleviated some of his concerns, Allaire commented.
Fire Department reorganization considered
Mayor Christopher Louras’ budget sent to the aldermen included a restructuring of fire department shifts, cutting shift size from seven to six while adding two administration
positions. Louras has said that such a restructuring is within the chief’s authority but the union does not agree, saying that parts of the organization plan may be subject to collective bargaining. Several of the Aldermen have indicated they want to know more about the plan before voting on the budget.
In a Nov. 18 discussion, Louras said he had been told by fire department members that how a fire scene might be managed and the blaze fought depended on which 24-hour shift the effort was taking place. He sees a need for “standardization,” for an individual who is in the department daily and interacting with all three shifts besides the chief.
Chief Jones is working toward a fire prevention program that would include specific plans for dealing with fires at specific buildings. Reducing shift sizes by one firefighter but having a specific plan for combatting a blaze in specific structures is a more effective approach, Jones concluded after consulting with other fire departments in the area, Louras said.
National Fire Protection Association materials specify that each “engine company” in a department have a minimum of four firefighters on duty, with firefighters only entering a building in pairs, with a second pair of firefighters in reserve outside the building, a practice known as “two in, two out.” Other firefighters’ organizations have similar recommendations.
NFPA stipulates 14 firefighters at a minimum respond to a fire at a single-family dwelling. In Rutland, that’s a most likely a cause for a second alarm.
Twelve firefighters on a shift used to be the norm when Deputy chief Miles began his career 30 years ago, he said. He has argued against the restructuring. The department had tried to keep a shift minimum at seven some years ago, saying even that number was too small, Miles commented.
Firefighting requires two men at the hydrant, which may need to be found and dug out in the winter. A pump operator must stay with the truck. That leaves a team of four if only the supervisor is also party of the team.
If he is maintaining the scene outside and trying to keep the scene safe, he can’t do so effectively if he is also part of the backup team, Miles elaborated.
Although station duties can be held to a consistency standard, emergency calls are each unique. The nature of the call must dictate the department’s response, Miles said.
Keeping up with the season
Participating downtown businesses plan to stay open for evening holiday shopping Thursdays until 8 p.m. on Dec.15 and 22.
Santa has put Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum on his calendar for Saturday, Dec. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m.
Blood drive appointments lower than usual
As the first day of the Gift of Life Marathon neared, organizer Steve Costello observed that appointments are below the figures for previous years.
Costello said he doesn’t know why, but appointments are down for this year’s Gift of Life Marathon blood drive. On November 22, there were only 169 appointments scheduled for the first three drive days. The goal for those three days is 500 pints.
The annual blood drive reached its highest number of pints in a single day in 2013, the last year it was a one-day drive and set the national record for the most blood collected in a single day. On the other hand, participation is spreading geographically. West Rutland joined the drive last year and collected 133 pints, the third largest quantity of the effort; Pittsford joined this year.
Local organizations receive Berkshire Bank funds
Berkshire Bank Foundation recently announced awarding $7,800 in grants and pledges to seven Vermont nonprofit organizations during BBF’s third quarter grants cycle.
Recipients included the Rutland Food Bank in Rutland and the Rutland Area Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice.
The grant to the food bank is to support the Food Bank’s VeggieGo mobile food van. The grant to RAVNAH supports Hospice programs.