Homeless family shelter planned for downtown
Homeless Prevention Center Executive Director Deborah Hall asked the city for support in developing a shelter to house as many as 10 families in the former Red Cross building, 117 Strongs Avenue. Hall told the aldermen she is not asking for funds but a document of local support to use when applying for state, federal, and foundation grant funds. Early estimates on the building’s conversion to a congregate family shelter are as high as $450,000.
Board of Aldermen president Sharon Davis referred the request to the Community and Economic Development Committee. Davis said the request can be back from the committee by the first aldermanic meeting in May, in time to be available for the center’s state funding request, due May 19.
Hall hopes to have the shelter open before the 2017-2018 school year begins. The building’s owner is aware of the proposal and supports its use as a family-oriented homeless shelter, Hall said. The converted shelter would be able to offer on-site services, which produce a better outcome, especially for children, Hall said.
City passes fifth consecutive “clean” audit
The accountancy firm Bruce J. Courrette & Associates of St. Johnsbury gave the City of Rutland a fifth consecutive “clean” and unqualified opinion, saying that the city’s financial statements through the end of June 2016 “represent fairly” the city’s activities, funds, and cash flow according to accepted accounting principles. City Treasurer Wendy Wilton said the ability to maintain that validity indicates that the city treasurer’s office “is now mature,” especially in the knowledge that the audit found no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies for three years.
The outcome “gives the public, our lenders and grant funders confidence that the city’s financial information is credible and that the operation is well-run,” Wilton said in a statement as she presented the audit report to the Board of Aldermen, April 17. Courrette is expected to formally present its opinion at the board’s May 1 meeting to. Rutland had received adverse opinions on its audits for more than 30 years prior to its 2011 audit, the first fiscal year it received an unqualified opinion, Wilton commented.
Receiving unqualified audits “frees us up from any loopholes when we’re seeking federal money,” Board President Sharon Davis added. Davis thanked Courrette accountant Randall Northrup for his collective and individual work with aldermen to realize the problems facing the city and to set checks and balances in place.
Water main replacement scheduled
Five sections of Rutland City’s water main, all more than 120 years old, are scheduled for replacement between May 1 and Labor Day, Rutland City Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg announced. Replacement sites are along the north side of Park Street and along stretches of East Street, Jackson Avenue, Spellman Terrace, and Engram Avenue, all part of a 100-year plan to upgrade Rutland’s municipal water infrastructure.
The plan, intended to combat the water main deterioration rate, relies on replacing about $1 million worth of water main each year for 100 years, Wennberg said. This project has a value of about $1.3 million, authorized by voters at Town Meeting 2016. The Vermont Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund pays about 40 percent of the cost, with the work being performed by SUR Construction Inc. of Rochester, N.H.
Downtown theatre burglarized
Sometime between overnight between April 15 and April 16, the Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St., was broken into. Gone are four older-model Hewlett-Packard laptops used in the office. Also taken were $300 in cash and a souvenir baseball signed by former Red Sox batter David Ortiz. None of the laptops contains patron credit card information but they do contain information the theatre uses in day-to-day operations, including contracts, contact information and programming initiatives. The Paramount is offering a $1,000 reward for their return and the information on them. Theatre management said there is no interest in pursuing criminal charges.
Conviction yes, sentence up in the air
The Vermont Supreme Court upheld the 2015 hit-and-run conviction of former Rutland City Attorney Christopher Sullivan’s 2015 conviction April 14, but rejected his sentence of four to 10 years in prison. The sentence must be reargued, the Court ruled in a 22-page decision, saying that the Court did not allow Sullivan enough time to arrange for testing and testimony by a psychologist after rejecting Sullivan’s request that the state pay for the $3,000 evaluation.
Sullivan struck and killed Mary Jane Outslay as she attempted to cross Strongs Avenue the evening of April 10, 2013, neither slowing nor stopping after the impact that threw her onto his hood and windshield, reports allege. He told police he had had a few alcoholic beverages earlier in the day.
The Supreme Court rejected two arguments to overthrow the guilty verdict: one that a clinical pharmacologist and toxicologist lacked relevant expertise to determine Sullivan’s level of intoxication, and the jury was allowed to rule that Sullivan was guilty without attributing the crash to Sullivan’s intoxication.
Although Sullivan will not be penalized for making the appeal itself, he could receive a longer sentence because the state will again ask for an 8- to 15-year sentence.
Aldermen discuss adjusting tax, fee due dates
A proposal before the aldermanic public works committee would keep property tax due dates at their current dates while shifting water and sewer bills so that both major expenses do not come due at the same time. Property taxes would be due in August, November, February, and May. Property and sewer fees due dates would move on the calendar to October, January, April, and July. City Attorney Matt Bloomer is studying the proposal to determine whether the change in due dates in calendar year 2018 will necessitate a change in Rutland City ordinances. Alderman Board President Sharon Davis said that, in the past, the city allowed a longer time period between billing and due dates, and also a longer “cushion” between due dates and the imposition of a late fee. Department of Public Works Business Manager Gail Gorruso presented a spread sheet indicating the first water and sewer bill would cover a shorter period and therefore be for 20 percent (or $310,000) less than usual if the proposal were enacted. After that point, bills would be about the same as they are currently.