News Briefs
January 18, 2017

Rutland Region News Briefs

By Lani Duke

Town weighs meeting venues, spruces up town hall
The Rutland Town Select Board finalized its meeting room policy Jan. 6. Meeting room use throughout the town is limited to town or regional government groups or non-profit groups with a local connection. Public meeting space is available in the Center Rutland fire department building, Cheney Hill School, the town hall in Center Rutland, the McKinley fire station, and the town highway garage. Each of the locations has certain limitations. Center Rutland Fire department has space inside for a 50-person meeting, but parking is limited to 10 to 12 vehicles. A fire department member or town official familiar with the building must be present at any meetings. Scheduling use of the room is through the fire chief or his designee. Although Cheney Hill School has a newly repaired handicapped ramp, restrooms are not ADA compliant. The Select Board is considering whether to retain or sell the building, and what renovation should be done. Repairs in progress at the McKinley station make it unusable, probably until spring. It has a small meeting room that will accommodate about 20 participants. The Boy Scouts have used it to work on their fire badges. A fire department official or town official familiar with the building must be on site for any meetings. Scheduling is through the fire chief or his designee. The Select Board meeting space in the town hall building is the only public space for meetings; it has a capacity of about 20. Restrooms in the basement are not ADA compliant, barring the lower level’s use for meetings. The town’s five-year plan calls for renovating that area into a large meeting space in a few years. The new town highway garage has a small meeting/lunch room, but it is difficult to secure while a meeting is taking place. The town’s building committee is studying which elements of the five-year plan to undertake in the coming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017. Among the considerations for the town offices are a generator, painting and carpeting for the listers’ office and hallway, pressure washing the building, cleaning window treatments and tracks so that windows open and close properly, and re-cutting names on the World War II memorial in front of the building. Some of these items will be postponed because of last year’s cost overruns. The town has $50,000 budgeted for maintenance. Town clerk office renovations are on schedule for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Education extras
Stafford Technical Center was unexpectedly closed for two days Jan. 9 and 10. The failure of a heating and ventilating unit in a ceiling of the wing housing digital arts, health careers and cosmetology flooded a portion of the building, causing significant water damage. Classrooms received damage as did the school’s learning center, but damage was confined to only one side of the wing’s hall.

Mayoral candidate Coppinger unveils sales tax plan
Rutland City mayoral candidate Michael Coppinger announced a plan to seek a local option sales tax of 1 percent for infrastructure and pension deficit reduction, earlier this month. The city already has a local option tax on rooms, meals, and entertainment. Rutland Town, Killington, and Middlebury already have such taxes, Coppinger said. Net revenue from adding the tax in the city would come to $1.3 million, according to the Vermont Tax Department. His plan calls for using 75 percent of the tax income toward infrastructure improvements, and applying the remaining 25 percent against the city’s unfunded pension obligation, without being lumped in the general fund. He believes such a tax would offset property taxes to a degree because a survey indicates half the people who shop in the city come from outside the city limits. Coppinger said he would seek voter approval before implementing the tax, although he doubts doing so is legally necessary. Adding a purchase and use tax may require a change in either state law or the city charter, current Mayor Chris Louras opined. Relying on his experience on the board of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Louras said that towns may institute such a tax but cities may not. The VLCT has been lobbying to make the option available to all municipalities but has not succeeded, he added. VLCT’s director of public policy, Karen Horn, commented that the city could change its charter to allow the tax, but that charter changes require the Legislature’s approval. The town of Colchester has argued for an entire legislative session “to convince the Ways and Means Committee it was something that had to happen.” Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce President Bill Ackerman said he wants to confer with Coppinger on what the plan could do for Rutland. There are many things that the city needs to do and “This is the first clear proposal I’ve seen put out there,” he said.

City changing water pressure tactics
A $1.2 million line replacement may improve water pressure problems southwest of Otter Creek as much as or more than the $1.7-million water tank that voters approved in a bond issue last year. Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg told the Public Works Committee that engineer Mark Youngstrom came up with the idea while doing preliminary work for a new 12-inch main from Route 7 to Granger Street, intended to replace a 6-inch line along Park Street. Youngstrom theorizes that extending the new line under Otter Creek, connecting to the system at Dorr Drive and Campbell Road, will increase water pressure as much as or more than the planned new tank. The cost for the extension saves taxpayers half a million dollars too, a saving that Youngstrom suggested be used in two other places. Recognizing the value of Youngstrom’s innovation, the Public Works Committee voted Jan. 10 to ask voters for a new $1.7 million bond and thereby scrap the water tank plan. In addition to adding in the two other pipe replacements, the change saves the city in yet another direction. Not having a tank means none of the extra maintenance a tank requires nor the concomitant water quality issues, Youngstrom reported. Another advantage is that the city need acquire no additional land on which to install a tank. Wennberg noted that the change would also eliminate three “dead-end mains,” one of the city’s long-term goals because they negatively affect water quality. Choosing this alternative necessitates voter approval, City Attorney Charles Romeo said, because the ballot item specified that funding would be to build a water tank. The city must therefore cancel the previous bond vote on the new project. Alderman Scott Tommola urged caution, remembering how far over budget the bids had been on both White Pool and Center Street Alley construction. In response to Tommola’s questioning, Youngstrom replied, “This is what we do. What we do is water and sewer and roads, and we keep pretty good track of what the bidding conditions are.”

City changing water pressure tactics
A $1.2 million line replacement may improve water pressure problems southwest of Otter Creek as much as or more than the $1.7-million water tank that voters approved in a bond issue last year. Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg told the Public Works Committee that engineer Mark Youngstrom came up with the idea while doing preliminary work for a new 12-inch main from Route 7 to Granger Street, intended to replace a 6-inch line along Park Street. Youngstrom theorizes that extending the new line under Otter Creek, connecting to the system at Dorr Drive and Campbell Road, will increase water pressure as much as or more than the planned new tank. The cost for the extension saves taxpayers half a million dollars too, a saving that Youngstrom suggested be used in two other places. Recognizing the value of Youngstrom’s innovation, the Public Works Committee voted Jan. 10 to ask voters for a new $1.7 million bond and thereby scrap the water tank plan. In addition to adding in the two other pipe replacements, the change saves the city in yet another direction. Not having a tank means none of the extra maintenance a tank requires nor the concomitant water quality issues, Youngstrom reported. Another advantage is that the city need acquire no additional land on which to install a tank. Wennberg noted that the change would also eliminate three “dead-end mains,” one of the city’s long-term goals because they negatively affect water quality. Choosing this alternative necessitates voter approval, City Attorney Charles Romeo said, because the ballot item specified that funding would be to build a water tank. The city must therefore cancel the previous bond vote on the new project. Alderman Scott Tommola urged caution, remembering how far over budget the bids had been on both White Pool and Center Street Alley construction. In response to Tommola’s questioning, Youngstrom replied, “This is what we do. What we do is water and sewer and roads, and we keep pretty good track of what the bidding conditions are.”

Engineers study Moon Brook temperature fixes
Engineers continue to study the best way to lower the water temperature in Moon Brook while keeping Combination Pond, a community resource. If the entire water flow were diverted around the pond, it seems likely for either to become stagnant or dry up further. Engineers are studying the pond to see what the most effective solution would be. One possibility under consideration is running overflow into the pond only during high water, but that may not give enough freshening effect to keep the pond from deteriorating. At a community forum held Oct. 24, 2016, participants offered several suggestions, including increasing shade and dredging. Defending the preservation of the pond, they pointed out that the pond proved its worth during Tropical Storm Irene; at that time, the pond held back 300,000 cubic feet of stormwater in addition to the 300,000 cubic feet it normally contains. Finding a solution that will work for all concerned is a bigger problem than just a 2-acre pond and 70 deeded property owners. The entire watershed comprises 1,800 acres including the tributaries of Paint Mine and Mussey Brook, and ultimately drains into Lake Champlain via Otter Creek.

Creek Path 4 delayed
Act 250 tie-ups and lack of conferring with the Agency of Natural Resources may delay the construction of the fourth segment of the Creek Path for another year. The first two segments of the path are complete, running from the end of Earl Street near Pine Hill Park to West Street. Segment 4 is 1,300 feet long, running from Meadow Street Park’s parking lot to River Street. Segment 5 will link segment 4 with the College of St. Joseph on Dorr Drive. Section 3 will be the last completed, after funds are raised for a new trail bridge over Otter Creek to join the other completed sections. Project manager Susan Schreibman said the engineers overlooked a meeting with the ANR to get sign-offs. Regulations may change in the middle of project development, and the number of environmental regulations has increased since the project began.  When Lamoureux & Dickinson met with state officials, its engineers learned they had to re-engineer part of the project, and then return to ANR for sign-offs. Although alignment will not change, “fill and other criteria will change because two of the properties are under Act 250,” Schreibman told the aldermen, Jan. 3.

Local students  recognized for achievements, leadership
Rutland High’s Molly Engels was recently nominated as a Presidential Scholar, one of three Rutland County young people given this honor. The award recognizes graduating high school seniors showing outstanding scholarship, leadership and service to their communities, and is given to 25 Vermont students each year.  Engels was one of the principals in organizing fellow students against cyberbullying two years ago. She has been a junior assistant in the Tapestry Program at Rutland Northeast Primary School and a Key Club leader. The College of St. Joseph named Brittany Hance to be Student of the Month for November. The Chittenden senior is completing a degree in human services. The honor recognizes her dedication to academics and to the CSJ community as a Provider Program scholar. Among her numerous achievements, she has spent a weekend in-service at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and served meals at COTS, a temporary homeless shelter, in Burlington.

Downtown business bits
The Vermont Truffle Company, 37 Center St., is receiving $13,750 from the Downtown Revolving Loan Fund for renovations. Websites for the Rutland Herald and sister paper Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus have a new look as of Jan. 12. Editor-in-chief of both papers Rob Mitchell said the new website is intended to be more appealing to readers using smartphones and other mobile devices.

Share This Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *