By Lani Duke
Changing of the guard
With Rutland Police Lt. Kevin Geno scheduled to retire in February, Sgt. Matthew Prouty is lined up for promotion to lieutenant and patrol division commander.
Prepping for winter
Like so many other improvements at the Vermont Farmers Food Center, the new sign at the VFFC on West Street is the result of collaborative effort and donations. Other changes are less obvious. The two main entrances are acquiring vestibules, designed to minimize heat loss as people enter and leave. A new pellet boiler is scheduled for installation soon. Thanks to all who donated time, labor, and materials, including: J.P. Carrara & Sons, Cheops Concrete Construction Inc., Mac Equipment and Steel Co., Melanson Co. metal fabrication division, Gagnon Lumber, Tedesco Masonry, and Green Screen Graphics, and to numerous individuals.
Proxy fight fizzles
Casella Waste Systems’ proposed slate of board of director nominees lost opposition when JCP investment company withdrew its slate of nominees. In what could be described as dueling press releases, JCP managing partner James Pappas claimed the purpose of his company’s challenge had been fulfilled, while the Casella company release stated the company was moving in a direction that has been its long-term strategy for some time.
JCP owns 5 percent of the Casella shares. The investment firm’s position has been that the Casella business suffers from underperformance, bad decisionmaking, and weak corporate governance. It pressured for board chair and CEO John Casella’s removal and sale of part or all of the company.
Pappas characterized his and his company’s role as that of “catalyst,” saying that he hopes the Casella company declassifies its board structure with annual director accountability, and increases the number of Class A public shareholders on the board. The positive changes that the Pappas-led company claims credit for include director John Chapple’s resignation and Jim O’Connor joining the board; the creation of several corporate governance restrictive and guiding policies; and Greg Peters’ resignation from the lead director position, replaced by Jim O’Connor.
However, the Casella statement indicates the changes stem from the strategic plan the company began implementing in 2012. “JCP’s 11th-hour concession reflects the feedback we, and undoubtedly JCP, have received regarding Casella’s strategic direction, the substantial progress we have achieved in improving our financial and operating performance, our refreshed Board and the new independent Board leadership that is now in place to oversee our strategic trajectory,” according to Casella.
White Memorial Park pool moves forward
Design for a new municipal pool at White Memorial Park is due at the City Recreation and Parks Department Nov. 20. The city Recreation Committee will see it next, and then the Board of Aldermen, who will decide whether it is added to the town ballot in March. The plan will include a new bath house and filtration system.
City parks get a boost
Improvements to Rotary Park continue. Work on the tennis courts and fields are finished. Phase three is underway: the building of a pavilion, funded by $55,000 from the Vermont Land Water Conservation Fund and being matched by $40,000 from a special fund set aside for recreation projects and approved by the aldermen. Phase four is a walking path along the park’s perimeter. The Rotary Club of Rutland, chaired by Mark Price, is considering work in the park to mark the club’s centennial in 2019.
Rotary has already voted to pick up the whole tab for a fence around the city’s newest park, the Baxter Street park in the Northwest neighborhood at the corner of Baxter Street and Library Avenue. That new park is for younger children, constructed at the site of a blighted, vacant residence bought and demolished by NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. The organization plans to build a park for older children in that same neighborhood, but the location has yet to be determined.
Head Start donated playground equipment for the Baxter Street park; the equipment formerly stood behind the Dana Building and then moved to the early childhood education project’s new Allen Street site. Alliance Community Fellowship plans to erect a pavilion on the Baxter Street park, utilizing design work donated by NBF Architects.
A study of the needs at Giorgetti Arena revealed about $2.5 million will be needed to bring the building up to code while adding insulation and air handling. The work would include updating maintenance and Zamboni rooms to properly handle air and separate mechanical features, installing new locker rooms with plumbing to be hooked up in the future, installing a code-approved air handling system that would increase user comfort, adding a sprinkler system, building a separate skate storage building to hold indoor turf when not in use, and upgrading the roof so it can be insulated and support other improvements.
Dorr Drive construction projects continue
Dorr Drive bridge signage should have been completed in the past week. Sewer line work along River Street is nearing its end.
Depending on the weather, work on the historic stone wall on Dorr Drive is continuing. Fencing installation continues in the spring. Use caution driving in this area.
Ripley Road bridge work continues with rebar installation for the Abutment 1 footing. Pile driving is nearing completion; next comes pier concrete pouring.
Mayor Chris Louras’s budget is up only about one-half of one percent over the previous fiscal year, slightly less than $19.5 million for fiscal year 2016-17. The aldermen are pleased.
One budget item that came under question is a new position, that of a safety officer in the human resources department, a job that focuses on reducing city workers’ compensation and other liability expenses, at a $76,000 salary. That person would be charged with implementing an overall safety program developed with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
What does drive up the budget is inflation in health care premium costs, especially in the police and fire departments, Louras observed. “Radical reductions” in worker’s compensation claims offset the higher insurance payments, he noted.
In the new budget, the contingency fund increases from $150,000 to $175,000, as the City will soon be negotiating contracts with both Police and Public Works departments. Also in the budget is a new five-ton DPW truck (repeatedly delayed) and funding to operate White Pool (assuming the bond vote passes). City department heads and aldermen are to receive training on “implicit bias” such as police receive, learning to work with “the demographic changes” in the city, a $16,000 budget item.
to Castleton University students and faculty plus Rutland Young Professionals who volunteered to clean up downtown Nov. 1, the morning after the Halloween parade. Special thanks to the Rutland Downtown Partnership for supplying trash bag pickup, RYP president Katye Munger for inviting help from Castleton students, and to Castleton senior/Student Government Association member Emma Faucher for organizing the Castleton student contingent.
to Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce annual meeting speaker Art Jones for recognizing and helping to fire up the spirit that is driving Rutland to reinvent itself.
to the Wallingford Fire Department for opening up the fire station on Halloween night for exploring the trucks, meeting the firefighters, and handing out candy. And to Wallingford Congregational Church for recognizing the vital contribution that the fire department makes to the community.
to Amanda McGuire for again staging a holiday pet photo shoot to benefit the Rutland Area Disaster Animal Relief Team, and thanks to Tractor Supply Co. for supplying the location.
to the Paramount Theatre and all who participated in The Really Big Show XX to raise money for United Way.
to LaFlamme’s Furniture, which held its ribbon-cutting Nov. 5 in the former JC Penney’s space in Diamond Run Mall.
to the nine Rutland-area young professionals making Vermont Business Magazine’s “Rising Stars” list: Lyz Tomsuden of Downtown Rutland Partnership; William Gormly, Mountain Cider Company; Malinda Humphrey, Green Mountain Power; Nicole Densmore, Rutland Recreation & Parks Dept.; Gwen Flewelling, O’Brien Shortle Reynolds & Sabotka PC; Amanda Wheeler, EightZero2 and PEG-TV; Korrine Rodrigue, University of Miami and Project VISION; Jon Skates, Casella Waste Systems Inc.; and Jessica Dennison, Vermont Manufacturing Services Inc.
to Fair Haven Grade School students Tanner Bolster and Jack Larson, and Wells Village student Jared Preseau, on having their artwork selected to be published in the Vermont Fire Safety Calendar. All are third graders.