By Lani Duke
Combination Pond makes the ballot
City voters will consider a non-binding ballot item on the future of Combination Pond and associated waterways. Alderman Gary Donahue cast the only vote against putting the pond on the March ballot during the Board of Aldermen’s Jan. 19 meeting. Both city and state officials have blamed water warming caused by the pond’s dam as a major contribution to making Moon Brook an unsuitable fish habitat. Gaining possession of the pond allows the community to have more say in preserving and beautifying that part of the city, Alderman Ed Larson has commented. The local Kiwanis Club organized a petition to put the issue on the ballot, but had collected too few signatures by the deadline date. The resolution appearing on the ballot, rewritten by Alderman Sharon Davis, makes no reference to draining the pond. It asks if voters want to “reclaim, renew and preserve Combination Pond, Piedmont Pond, Moon Brook and all of its associated waterways for the purpose to improve water quality and meet Vermont state water quality standards.”
Flouride makes ballot
The citizen group Rutland Fluoride Action, led by Jack Crowther, opposes adding fluoride to the city’s water supply Crowther and his group began gathering signatures on a petition that asked the question: “Shall the commissioner of public works fluoridate the public water supply of Rutland?” on July 31, to be added to the Town Meeting Day ballot. The signed petitions turned in on Nov. 19 bore 800 signatures, more than the requisite 500. On Jan. 19, the Board of Aldermen approved including the item on the March ballot.
Jeff Wennberg, commissioner of public works, has already said that he would approve eliminating the addition of fluoride if voters indicate that is their desire and if the voters have received accurate information. The city charter gives the public works commissioner the authority to make that decision, regardless of popular vote.
MLK addresses at CSJ explore racial bias issue
Rutland Police Commission Chair Larry Jensen hopes to recruit an African-American officer, he told an audience in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day address held in the College of St. Joseph’s Tuttle Hall. The college’s criminal justice division chair, Lisa Chalidze, spoke about two accusations of racial bias brought against the city in recent years. The school’s African-American Director of Diversity, Paula McGhee, commented on her own nervousness in the presence of a uniformed officer. That discomfort might lead to an officer’s viewing her as a potentially guilty person.
Rutland police chief Brian Kilcullen spoke of his previous job in Schenectady, N.Y., which is more racially diverse than Rutland and struggles with bias and corruption issues. He plans a series of community forums to which individuals may bring their concerns of police misbehavior. More than half, 25 of 40, of the Rutland PD’s officers were hired since the time that the last police racial problems surfaced in the city, he noted.
Superannuated fire truck needs replacement
RUTLAND TOWN—Reaching age 25 is entering maturity for a human, but not for a fire engine. Rutland Town’s Engine 1 pumper-tanker has reached that age and has grown rusty in service to the town. Its pump is even older, about twice that age. The time has come.
Six manufacturers have already discussed bid specifics with local officials. The next step is a formal request for purchase by the Select Board’s fire committee to the entire Select Board. The board may then request competitive bids. Money for replacing the truck is already in the town’s $600,000 depreciation fund. Property-tax income puts some $150,000 in the fund annually.
Dispatched from the McKinley Avenue station, the pumper-tanker is often the first truck to respond. The new truck will carry six firefighters in its cab compared to the current two, and 1,500 gallons of water, rather than its current 1,200. The replacement will also bring the department’s pump-intakes all to 6 inches; Engine 1 had a 5-inch intake. Standardization enables switching equipment among all engines.
Quarry to reduce its carbon footprint
WALLINGFORD—Troy Minerals quarry plans to install 660 solar panels that will generate more than 237,000 kilowatt hours annually to power as much as 85 percent of its own operations. Project contractor SameSun of Vermont, owned by Marlene and Philip Allen of Rutland, will place the 8.5-foot-tall panels on an acre of the 20-acre Troy property. The power will stay at the quarry rather than being sold “into the grid.” Owner Stephen Chmielewski’s plan to retire renewable energy credits and keep power local becomes a component of Vermont’s push to meet clean energy goals. Marlene Allen estimates the array eliminates the release of more than 3,500 tons of yearly carbon waste.
Expectations are that the panels may last as long as 30 years and pay for themselves before that time, Chmielewski said. He plans to screen the array from public view.
The town is requesting that the State Public Service Board grant it party status when considering the permit application.
West Rutland school, town budget woes
WEST RUTLAND—There have been no reliable solutions when cutting school budgets to meet Act 46 spending caps, Rutland Central Supervisory Union business manager Cheryl Scarzello told the West Rutland School Board. The group has already eliminated three positions and cut the budget by $141,000. Rather than waiting to see whether the Legislature would revise spending caps, the board opted to “move forward” with the assumption of a worst-case scenario, cutting $54,000 more from the budget. That revised figure allows $14,210 per pupil.
Also before the board were renovations to the West Rutland School, developed by architecture firm Nimtz, Berryhill and Figiel. The retrofit proposal extends from parking lot to locker room, restrooms, cafeteria, library, gymnasium and electrical system. Among the more expensive items on the project list are $160,000 for new first and second floor windows, $80,000 for new science room casework, $80,000 for elevator replacement, $50,000 for new cafeteria ventilation, $40,200 for new window shades, $38,000 for a new acoustical blanket ceiling in the gym, and $30,000 for new toilet partitions.
West Rutland’s town budget generally is up more than 14 percent, some of that increase from a new truck and some from the number of claims filed in the group of insured in the Vermont League of Cities and Towns coverage. There is some dissatisfaction with the new truck: it has required a pump wire change and needs a new pump clutch. Coming up is work on its frame. In addition, the Highway Department is searching for a new tandem before next winter.
The budget also grew from $65,000 to $70,000 for road salt; $75,000 was spent last year.
Projects for the next year are the Whipple Hollow Bridge, Sheldon Road Project, a sidewalk from Crescent Street to the Carving Studio and the parking lot across from the town hall. Estimates for the sidewalk are $26,000, without prep work. The cost for hot mix is $14,000; while sur pak expense would be $3,000, figured without boundaries, forms or edging. Some of the sidewalk expense may come from the VTrans bike/ped grant, which needs an $82,000 or 10 percent match.
A planned town computer software upgrade will include online payment.
West Rutland may change how it values taxpayer properties. Lister Lisa Wright is proposing a switch to a lister/assessor combination, using the listers once a month or to settle grievances. The town’s three listers—one of them being Wright herself—are paid $14.50 per hour and work about four hours per week. She asks to be hired as an assessor at $45 per hour for seven hours per week.The Select Board is considering switching to the assessor/lister format and intends to issue a Request For Proposal. Its budget will increase to $12,500 for the year.
Final work session on Business Route 4 to be held Jan. 27
Plans for improving the connection between Rutland and West Rutland along the Business Route 4/Vermont Route 4A corridor have been under revision and have already been the subject of two public work sessions. The study identifies short and long term goals for transportation improvements, streetscape enhancements, redevelopment scenarios, and business development opportunities. The draft provides a market snapshot of West Rutland and Rutland Town, identifying gaps, retail leakage, and opportunities for new development. Those interested are encouraged to attend the Jan. 27 meeting in West Rutland Town Auditorium.
The firm Broadreach Planning & Design led the work with assistance by Stantec Consulting Services, Brovitz Community Planning & Design, Doug Kennedy Advisors, and T.J. Boyle Associates. The plan is available online through www.broadreachpd.com.