Board of Alderman contest gets early start
RUTLAND—Although petitions to run for the Board of Aldermen are due in late January, Alderman Christopher Ettori has already announced his intent to run for reelection. Alderman Tom DePoy has also confirmed he intends to run for reelection, saying that he feels there are important projects underway that he wants to see to completion. DePoy chairs the Recreation and Special Liquor committees; he is vice chair of the Public Works Committee and sits on the General Committee that works on the city’s budget.
Ettori chairs the Marketing and Human Resources committees. He is also a member of the Public Works and Community & Economic Development committees, and serves as representative on the Rutland Redevelopment Authority and Capital Improvement Committee.
Other aldermen whose terms expire March 2017 are George Gides, Melinda Humphrey, Edward Larson, and Vanessa Robertson.
Larson, first elected to the board in 2010, has already announced he will not seek reelection, wanting to spend more time with his grandchildren. Larson is chair of the Public Works Committee and vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. He serves on the Charter and Ordinance, Community & Economic Development, Finance, and Marketing committees, and is representative to the Rutland Downtown Partnership.
Although Robertson, Humphrey, and Gides have indicated they are not ready to declare a candidacy, Gail Johnson has said she intends to run for a seat on the board. She worked in finance in the U.S. Navy, the first female finance officer assigned to the then largest stateside naval base at Charleston, S.C., during the Vietnam War.
Aldermanic committees mull pension funding, firefighter contract, pool plans
RUTLAND—The Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee voted not to reduce the doubling of pension fund contributions as delineated in the proposed budget when the committee met Dec. 13. The $650,000 is intended to bring the amount in the fund up to $1.3 million.
Some aldermen object to that increase in a year when the initial budget placed on their desks totals about 10 percent more than last year’s, but the aldermen agreed their concern is that the public realize how much needs to be in that fund. Alderman Ettori proposed halving the city contribution, attempting to balance the pension fund’s long-term good against taxes on the community, but none on the committee made a motion to do so.
Himself a pension beneficiary, Alderman Larson abstained from voting, as he has on other pension concerns. To him, the pension and the budget are distinct from one another.
The city has about $300,000 earmarked for the pension, left from last year’s surplus, City Treasurer Wendy Wilton said. A “quirk” in the city charter prevents that money from being used, but it could be used the subsequent year to cushion the effect of increased pension funding on the tax rate.
The vote to recommend the full board approve the pension money was 2-1, with Sharon Davis and Scott Tommola voting “yes” and Ettori dissenting.
The Public Safety Committee discussed fire department restructuring in an executive session as its Dec. 12 meeting began, deferring to the mayor’s request for a closet session. Mayor Christopher Louras requested the closed session to protect the city’s position in collective bargaining discussions. His letter to the union had proposed that initial formal proposals and all negotiations be public. Firefighters’ union president Seth Bride said he must consult with membership before making a public statement, but he is not happy that Louras first requested an open discussion before cloaking it.
The proposed budget reflects a restructuring that would reduce the size of initial response teams by one member per shift and add two administrative positions. Many firefighters say doing so will make their jobs more difficult and dangerous.
The Recreation Committee asked Recreation Superintendent Cindi Wight for another redrawing of White Pool plans, cutting expense for the pool house in half to put more money into the pool itself. Voters approved a $2.5 million bond for a replacement pool after the pool had closed at the end of summer 2014. Bids were nearly $1 million above the bond level.
The design Wight brought to the committee was for a single pool rather than two, no diving board but provision to install a slide later. The aldermanic consensus was that the pool house could be improved at a later date more easily than changes could be made to the pool.
Wight said that codes prevented construction of a smaller building. A steel or wooden structure rather than masonry would be less expensive but would have a shorter lifespan and higher maintenance costs. However, Alderman DePoy said that using the construction savings for putting the slide and diving board back in would be worth the shorter building life and higher maintenance.
The committee suggested considering whether layout changes would save money that could be used for the desired features.
Agricultural Society adopts new constitution
RUTLAND—Rutland County Agricultural Society members approved a new constitution at their 171st annual meeting held Dec. 14 at the Ponderosa Steakhouse. The new framework expands membership from 175 to 200, with $25 annual dues.
In the past, there was a waiting list to join the group; those who applied for membership might wait years for a vacancy. The group’s leaders now want to bring in new, younger members, people who will be more actively involved. At the same time, the group will work to shed members who are not attending meetings nor participating in the voting process.
President Luey Clough said that adding dues ensures that members are serious about being part of the society. Without active participants and monetary commitment, the RCAS is “in danger of becoming extinct,” he said.
The members at the meeting unanimously elected Clough to a second term. The group is on its way to a more solvent future, with the goals of implementing financial controls, audited reports and a profitable operation.
Clough cautioned that the financial hole in which the RCAS stands is “too deep to recover at the present time,” although it has elected three different boards and three presidents since firing Richard Rivers from its presidency and management in early 2014. Clough compared the New York State Fair to the Vermont fair as an organization to emulate; it received an $85 million “infusion” from the state of New York.
The Vermont State Fair has received a $190,000 loan from an unnamed supporter, but is still $33,000 short on its bills, Clough observed. Although audited financial reports are not available yet, Treasurer John Maniery said the year’s net loss is $63,321. The 2016 fair, shortened from 10 days to five, had a better -per-day attendance than the previous year, but fell about 3,500 attendees below the number needed to break even, Clough said.