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Rutland Report 10.13

POWER MERGER

Rutland City wants to make sure that the state public service board keeps in mind that the city has a stake in the planned merger of Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power. Rutland's chief interest is in making sure that CVPS jobs remain intact.

In many ways, CVPS has been an ideal business-citizen to Rutland. Not only does it provide jobs, but it also provides brains and bodies that help out whenever the community is in need. CVPS staff went far beyond normal job requirements when tropical storm Irene inundated our community, and have done so everytime wind and rain storms have downed trees and power lines over the years. They also perform valuable volunteer work for many of the organizations that keep our community running.

The developing company has promised the city that there will be no layoffs except of "executive officers," that it will create an operations headquarters in downtown Rutland, with care to retain redundant staff until natural attrition remove the excess, and divide lost positions so that neither Rutland nor Chittenden bears a disproportionate undue share of laid-off workers. Official recognition of City status as an intervening party allows the City to write those promises into the official proceedings.

Historic buildings

The former Watkins Avenue school in Rutland may become senior housing if the school district accepts the sole bid on the property, offered by the Housing Trust of Rutland County. After renovation, the 1892 building would become six units of affordable housing for senior folks. The Housing Trust would also erect a new building on the property, to contain an additional 9 -10 similar units. The conversion includes rezoning from single- to multi-family housing for the two-acre property.

Converting historic commercial structures into multi-family housing is a fairly common practice for the Housing Trust. In the downtown, it turned the 1906 four-story Tuttle Building, erected to house a printing and engraving firm, into ground-floor commercial space, second floor offices, and 13 units of affordable housing. Another successful conversion is the two-story Kazon building in West Rutland, erected originally as a clothing factory in 1925, now containing both office space and apartments. All in all, it lists some 20 property renovations, 45 buildings and 247 apartments on its "resume."
One of Rutland's special charms is its densely packed downtown core. A walk on the sidewalks of its major intersections takes you past building facades rich in history, some as old as the Civil War, others that that recall the days of speakeasies and Prohibition, and a few that try to recapture the ambiance of the past with new materials. Every so often, cities must decide what of their streetscape to retain and what to modify as they change to meet the developing needs of current residents and businesses.

Downtown traffic flow

The new Community College of Vermont building, now under construction, and the continued growth of the downtown farmers market, semi-weekly during warm weather and weekly (in a different location but still downtown) during cold weather are among the determining factors behind a traffic analysis of Wales and Evelyn streets. Some members of the aldermen's board are excited about the economic development possibilities that might arise as a result. Among the proposals are changing Wales Street traffic flow and redesigning Evelyn Street.

The next step in the process is to bring together a stakeholder focus group of business owners located on Wales and Evelyn streets. What are the implications if traffic from West Street to Washington Street on Wales becomes two-way, resulting in the loss up to 16 parking places? Does increased convenience compensate for lost parking slots? How about easing access to the transit center's parking deck? Would allowing two-way traffic on Wales cut back on short-cutters rabbiting down Court Street?

There are even more questions on possible changes to Evelyn Street, lying on a pattern created when the town railroad yard lay where the Shopping Plaza now sits. One plan extends Center Street through Depot Park. Other possible modifications include more park space along Evelyn Street or making a four-way intersection to tie Evelyn to the old Freight Street running behind the plaza.

Flory's Plaza

It used to be the little food stand at Flory's Plaza offered what were arguably the best hamburgers in town, or the best value for your money, or the most entertaining for children because you could pet the goats. But that was back then, and this is now. The Rutland Regional Planning Commission has been looking into the best way to take down the decaying buildings there and how best to use the site.

The site has been under assessment through the federal Brownfields program, looking at whether or not the site may be contaminated or maybe it's not contaminated but the community thinks it is. Flory Plaza seems likely to fall into the second category; it's been looking neglected for quite a while but that's a perception problem rather than the presence of any real threats. Findings indicate there is no need to remove soil around the old fuel tanks and that any lead or asbestos leavings are miniscule. Rutland Town planning folks are eager to demolish the existing buildings so that this highly visible access point to Center Rutland be made more physically attractive.

Development, a ha, is another story. There are a number of people who each own a financial interest in the property. They are not expected to agree on any plan for re-development.

Lani's picks

Some weeks are incredibly rich in activities and entertainment. This middle-of-October week is an outstanding example:

Friday, October 14 -- The Paramount Theatre in downtown Rutland hosts the theatrical staple Of Mice and Men presented by the Middlebury Actors Workshop. Saturday, October 14 -- Music lovers will have to choose between the Curbstone Chorus's third annual show, A Cappella Extravaganza, at Rutland Intermediate School, and the Christian cross-over group Jars of Clay at The Paramount.

Friday, October 14 -- Indulge yourself gastronomically this week with the Chocolate Fest & Silent Auction at the Holiday Inn, sponsored by the Rutland United Methodist Church.

Sunday, October 16 -- America's favorite surrogate daddy, Bill Cosby, takes over The Paramount stage. What a touchstone he is for all that's best about our country with his good character and gentle but pointed humor!

Wednesday, October 19 -- Lewis Black presents In God We Rust, a more intense barbed variety of humor, also at The Paramount.

Tagged: rutland report, rutland, CVPS, Community College of Vermont