On January 25, 2018

Rutland Region News Briefs

Town Meeting ballot additions

Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum in Rutland has gathered signatures to be put on the ballot in Rutland City with a request for $12,000; in Rutland Town, for $4,500; in Mendon, for $2,500; and in Chittenden, for $2,500, Executive Director Kheya Ganguly told the Rutland Herald. This year is the first time the organization has asked to be on the town ballots with funding requests; the amounts requested are intended to be in proportion to each community’s population.

Bowse Health Trust chooses three health-promoting projects

The Bowse Health Trust, which supports programs to promote good health in Rutland County, has selected three projects to back, starting in 2018. The new recipients, chosen from 15 applicants, are: the peer recovery support services for substance abuse program at Turning Point Center, 141 State St.; the Opioid Family Mentoring program at the Mentor Connector, 110 Merchants Row; and the Job Connection program at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. Each will receive as much as three years of funding.

Named for James Bowse, Rutland Regional Medical Center president and CEO until his 1996 death, the Bowse Trust has distributed more than $4 million to some 60 programs over its 20-year existence. The selection committee makes its choice based on the most recent community health needs assessment, Marianna Barber-Dubois, RRMC community benefits supervisor, told the Rutland Herald. This year’s choices, from the 2015 assessment cycle, are substance abuse, access to care, and healthier lifestyles, she said.

Turning Point Executive Director Tracie Hauck said the funding will help her organization reduce recidivism by turning prison support groups into a formal program, providing peer support by recovery coaches after prisoners are released from incarceration. Working with Turning Point will be Sanctuary House, the Homeless Prevention Center, the Rutland jail, and the Vermont Department of Corrections’ probation and parole office.

Working to shut down the cycle of generational substance abuse, the Mentor Connector will support families in which a parent is in treatment for opioid abuse. Mentoring services for the family as a whole and the individual children will increase resiliency and improve life skills and self-sufficiency. Included in the effort will be the Rutland County Court Diversion program and Restorative Justices, Rutland Mental Health, and the West Ridge Center.

Goodwill intends to help people find jobs, develop the local workforce, and aid those whose personal problems hamper those who struggle to find work. Working with Goodwill will be BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont, Project Vision, the Rutland Regional Workforce Investment Board, and Casella Waste Systems.

Sheriff’s department contracts grow, room for promotion

RUTLAND COUNTY— Adding a regional patrol to cover Ira, Middletown Springs, Tinmouth, and Danby and the transition of semi-retired Lt. Frank Wilk from part-time work to full-time retiree status, the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department is restructuring and promoting. David Fox has moved up from the rank of lieutenant to that captain’s post, the first captain in Rutland County since current Sheriff Stephen Benard moved up from the captain’s position in 2004, reported the Rutland Herald. Fox, second in the chain of command, will oversee recruiting, training, and community outreach.

As the department takes on more patrols and the consequently larger work load, it was time to bring on a full-time administrator, Benard commented. Sgt. James Bennick also advanced to the rank of lieutenant and command of the patrol division, leaving open a position for a deputy who wants to advance a career. His department is always hiring, Benard said. It has 18 full-time and 11 part-time deputies now in addition to 9 civilian employees.

Winter “cold snap” not a record, despite impacts

The National Weather Service recently said that the Rutland area has not made records with its recent cold snap, although the thermometer dropped to minus 23 F. in Rutland Jan. 7 and recorded seven consecutive days of below zero weather from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2. Still no record. The area saw 12 straight subzero days in 2015, 11 in 1979. The Rutland record is for 15 consecutive days below zero, recorded in 1918.

The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association released figures that the two weeks following Christmas were 39 percent colder than normal, 59 percent colder than that period last year – meaning the demand for heating fuel is much higher than normal, Stephen Mills of the Times-Argus summarized.

The demand at BROC Community Action in Southwestern Vermont is up, with more requests for fuel help, food, and other services. More than a dozen people a day are booking appointments with BROC’s fuel crisis and outreach staff.

Burst pipes and resultant water damage have warped the basketball court at the College of St. Joseph athletic center and in classrooms at the main building St. Joseph’s Hall.

The extreme cold has also stressed car batteries, AAA New England’s Public Affairs Manager Pat Moody commented. That extremely cold two weeks following Christmas generated four to six times the normal road service call volume.

The weather was so cold it hampered outdoor recreation. Some Vermont’s First Day guided outings at state parks were cancelled, especially in the morning. Worried that skiers, staff, and rescuers would be at risk, some resorts shut down lifts, trails, and nighttime skiing over the Jan. 5-6 weekend.

Rutland Town asks dismissal Zingale suit

RUTLAND TOWN—Vermont law did not give Joe Zingale protection from being fired from his town administrator position in September, attorney James Carroll wrote in a motion to dismiss Zingale’s lawsuit against Rutland Town. The suit claims that, although Zingale held the title of town administrator, he was, in reality, the de-facto town manager.

Vermont law protects town managers from being terminated without cause, but Zingale was, instead, an “at-will” employee, and therefore subject to being fired without grounds, summarized the Rutland Herald. Carroll asserts that the town Select Board more than complied with its personnel policy of one public hearing by holding two meetings to discuss Zingale’s discipline, but that Zingale did not attend either one.

Route 4 sewage line breaks

Sewage surfaced near Johnny Boy’s Pancake House, 182 U.S. Route 4, about 9 a.m. Jan. 18. Jim Insinga, Alpine Pipeline Corp. vice president and treasurer, told the Rutland Herald. Insinga had not learned the cause of the break or how extensive the damage is, he said, theorizing that either the cold temperatures or the age of the system could have caused the leak. Crews were on the scene repairing it.

Alpine, a private company that serves Killington, Mendon and Rutland Town, contracts with Rutland City to maintain the pump station to serve the pipes, Jeff Wennberg, Rutland City Department of Public Works commissioner, explained. A DPW crew turned off the pump station, so that more sewage would not be forced into the damaged pipe, but the cessation did not interrupt service. Septic haulers moved sewage from tanks directly to the city’s sewage treatment plant.

Fearing that some sewage could have escaped into a wetland, the Rutland DPW reported the break to a state website that tracks sewage overflows and incidents, noting that some sewage might have entered Tenney Brook.

LaFlamme’s closing Diamond Run store

RUTLAND TOWN—A court-ordered bankruptcy liquidation order has forced LaFlamme’s Inc. to close its store in Diamond Run Mall. Heritage Family Credit Union, People’s United Bank, and Avid Capital LLC said the company repeatedly missed payments, as they asked Northern New York Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Littlefield to move the case into liquidation under Chapter 7 laws.

Company owner Christopher LaFlamme of Wells told the Rutland Herald that his company had been close to catching up on its debts, a condition exacerbated by the extreme cold in the two weeks following Christmas. He felt that he was only three days away from “getting over the hump.”

Company attorney Richard Weiskopf, of Schenectady, N.Y., described the circumstances as a perfect storm, saying furniture sales are often slow in December and January. The unusually extreme cold hampered individuals from buying.

LaFlamme said he is working to get furniture on order into customers’ hands and to help his nine employees. Some of the furniture was purchased on-site.

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