On June 26, 2015

News Briefs: Rutland Region

Sharing sheriffs

The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department will continue to provide patrol coverage for Wallingford for at least another year, per recent approval by the town select board. One deputy splits his time between Clarendon and Wallingford, funded by a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant which will have to be funded by the two communities if they feel the need to continue it after June 2016. The grant is not renewable.

Wallingford has been struck by vandals several times recently. Among the incidents were the destruction of a wooden canoe launch on Otter Creek, spray painting at the park basketball court and picnic tables, and graffiti on a recreation area bridge.

Center Street Alley marketplace gets go-ahead, finally

Rutland City finally secured all the leases necessary to proceed with its Center Street Alley renovation. The $974,000 grant to make the alley more accessible and usable was announced six years ago, but meeting the exacting legal requirements for rights-of-way on 40 parcels (some created by ancient surveying errors) took time. The city is now free to level the alley, add picnic benches and make other improvements aimed at converting the open space, much of it once a stock yard for a livery stable, into a  marketplace.

Solar development: public good vs. local control

The Vermont Supreme Court is looking at the amount of control a town has to override what the state considers a public benefit. Rutland Town  has opposed groSolar’s building a 2.3-megawatt solar field on Cold River Road since the project proposal first appeared, but the state issued a Certificate of Public Good over the town’s objections.

Rutland Town Select Board Chair Joe Dicton says the town has cited aesthetic, agricultural, and historic concerns about the planned 15-acre development bearing 524 solar racks, which proponents say would produce enough electricity for 400 average-sized houses. Construction would provide work for 65 to 85 individuals during the preparation and installation.

The solar company has tried to mitigate local objections by increasing the number of trees and shrubs from 250 to 560 and giving up tree and hedgerow removal on the property’s east fence line, said Rod Viens, executive vice president of operations.

Increasing the planting of shrubs and trees from 250 to 560, and scrapping plans to remove trees and hedgerows along the property’s east fence line, Viens said groSolar has tried to minimize the aesthetic impacts of the solar field. But David Fucci and others who own property on Cold River Road feel sure that the solar farm will reduce their land’s worth by a minimum of 40 percent, or an estimated value loss of some $2 million total. Those estimates are from attorney Peter Langrock, who is prepared to file a nuisance action if the town’s appeal fails.

Not only would property owners lose land value, but devalued land would also add cost to Rutland Town because property taxes on devalued property are lower.

Fair looks at alternative dates due to booking challenges

The Rutland County Agricultural Society has decided to adjust the traditional date of the Vermont State Fair in 2016. Although the 2015 fair will begin Labor Day weekend, as it has for many years, the 2016 one will take place over either the weekend before or the weekend after. Finding a carnival company to bring rides and games to this year’s fair on that three-day weekend was a struggle this year; negotiations are still not finalized for this year’s ride provider.

Instead of the 10 days that Rutland area fair-goers have come to expect,the 2015 fair will last only eight days from Sept. 4-12 and the main attraction for Labor Day itself has yet to be signed. The fair’s final concert performer is Pink Floyd cover band The Machine, and other entertainment announcements will be soon.

Divided into two segments, the fair will feature the carnival during the earlier part of its run, followed by “a state fair with a country flair.”

Clifford resigns from Select Board due to out-of-town schedule

Rutland Town Select Board member Paul Clifford resigned his seat on that body during its June 16 meeting. Clifford, former Rutland City director of public works, recently began a new job as sales account manager for HD Supply Waterworks; the new position takes him out of town more frequently, often overnight, and would impair his ability to be a dedicated Select Board member.

He had been elected to to the board for a three-year term in March, running unopposed.

School seeks full time officer

Rutland Town School has applied for a four-year federal grant to fund a school resource officer. The grant would pay for half of the proposal’s $250,000 price tag with the rest paid from taxpayer funds.

Currently, deputy chief John Sly has been the school’s SRO but on a limited schedule, 10 hours a week. He also served as the town’s police chief but stepped down from that position as well as that of  having been the town’s first constable for the past seven and a half years.

However, Sly has expressed interest in being the school’s SRO full-time, working five days a week there and also some evenings. He has already been working with the school crisis team and responding to serious disciplinary infractions; in a full-time position, he would also smooth out custody disputes and offer family mediation.

A 34-year veteran of the Rutland City PD, Sly retired from there as an executive sergeant, beginning work for Rutland Town in 2004.

Fighting blight

Revitalization in Rutland is taking on a new face, that of demolition. NeighborWorks of Western Vt. has taken ownership of 65-67 Baxter  St. with intent to flatten it.The house has stood vacant for some three years, surrounded by other blighted property, a couple of them vacant, and a vacant lot where local children often play.

Purchased with federal funds, buying it was more expensive than taking it down will be. It cost NeighborWorks $15,000 and will require about $30,000 in demolition. Expense may hinge on what tests reveal — is there asbestos insulation? If so, its presence will trigger more all-encompassing demolition procedures to be sure that the risk of asbestos fibers becoming airborne is minimized.

The lot could become a park, in line with the city’s being given a $1.25 million grant intended for purchasing blighted properties to demolish and “de-densify” tightly packed neighborhoods. Rutland City’s Recreation and Parks Department will aid in organizing community forums to gather consensus on the property’s eventual use, according to Brennan Duffy, executive director of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority.

Memorial erected

Thank you to all who have given time and energy to the West Rutland World War II memorial, a granite monument bearing the names of the 609  men and women from the town who served in the conflict, with special recognition to the 12 who died in service or in combat. Erected on the town office lawn, it will help define a vest pocket park that gives visual harmony to the already existing war memorials on the site.

City pool options

Summer is upon us, without a public pool in which area young people may splash and shriek and forget the heat of summer.  The aldermen have authorized mayor Chris Louras to send out a request for proposals on a design to build a new one at White Park.

Online surveys and community forums indicate that a new pool should be competition-length, containing a diving board and a gradual slope for “zero-entry.” The pool is not the only element in need of replacement. Drainage must be re-engineered, and there must be a replacement for the battered bathhouse.

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