By Lani Duke
Combination Pond ballot item in contention
Yes, no, maybe. That’s the pattern for the appearance of an advisory question on the Rutland City ballot regarding whether “the voters of the city of Rutland [should] 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.” Proponents had passed around a petition to add the question to the ballot but started the process too close to the legal deadline. The Aldermen voted 9-1 on Jan. 19 to put the issue on the ballot anyway. Mayor Chris Louras vetoed its addition on Jan. 28. The following day, Michel J. Messier filed a request with U.S. District Court in Rutland, asking that the veto be blocked. Messier claims the 70 property owners who live near the pond and enjoy its use are deprived of due process because they have not been legally served to participate. Alderman Board President William Notte predicts that, if the court grants a stay to extend the ballot deadline, it seems likely a Board member would move to override the veto.
Funding delay leaves antique rail coach exposed
The Feb. 3 rain was unexpected and unseasonable, giving a thorough watering to the 1913 Rutland Railway coach car parked at the Vermont Farmers Food Center. VFFC president Greg Cox had hoped to get a covering over the car but funding to build a protective shelter for the car arrived too late in the construction season to get the job done.
The Rutland City Board of Aldermen voted $33,000 in construction funds in August, well past time to schedule craftsmen on the site, Cox noted. Arriving in Rutland in 2013, the car had been promised shelter as a condition of its donation. It had originally been thought to find a home close by the downtown train station.
Building supply donations continue to trickle in, helping to ensure that construction, once begun, would be fully completed. Currently, the final design nears completion, and the committee overseeing the project continues to receive pledges of pro bono work. “You can’t even get a garage built for what we’re going to be building this thing for,” Cox asserted.
Once the open-air shelter is in place, the car will receive repairs on its north side. When the shelter is in place, the car’s delaminating plywood will be replaced with marine plywood, formulated to better resist moisture.
Serving their community
The Downtown Rutland Partnership recently welcomed two new members to its Board of Directors: Shannon Poole of Heritage Family Credit Union and Stephen Montanex of The Vermont Truffle Company. However, the DRP still has three empty seats on its Board. Applicants are welcome. To qualify, members must own property or a business or be employed in the Downtown Rutland Special Benefits District.
The Rutland Economic Development Corporation (REDC) Board of Directors recently elected three new members. They are John Casella II of Casella Construction, Shana Louiselle of Vermont Electric Power Company, and Mark Werle of Ryan, Smith & Carbine Ltd.
Rutland Town voters face momentous decisions March 1
On March 1 Rutland Town voters must choose between Philip Allen and Chris Kiefer-Cioffi, rivals for the second year of the seat vacated by Select Board Chair Joe Dicton in December.
Allen, co-owner of solar device company SameSun of Vermont, hopes to remove the rigid solar guidelines enacted in the board in recent years. He says the litigation against groSolar’s planned Cold River Road siting misuses taxpayer money, cheating the town of jobs and property tax revenue.
Kiefer-Cioffi is a former Rutland City police detective and a Rutland Town justice of the peace. A Rutland town resident for some 20 years, she is taking her time to study current issues before announcing her positions.
Selectman Don Chioffi is running to retain his three-year seat on the Board. His opponent is former fire chief Joe Denardo. Chioffi says he is not opposed to solar, but only industrial-scale development. He has also supported the proposed BJ’s Wholesale Club on Route 7. Denardo has taken no official positions on these issues.
A third Select Board seat is also on the ballot. Attorney John Paul Faignant’s two-year position is expiring.
Careful planning and budgeting have given Rutland Town voters five budgets with relatively small increases. Voters will approve or reject individual budgets for the general fund, fire department, police department, highway department, and recreation department. Added together, they total $2,572,239. The highway department is the largest item, with $990,895.
First-ever fundraising shortage for United Way of Rutland County
The recent United Way annual fundraising campaign fell short for the first time in its 70-plus-year history. Campaign committee chair Collin Fingon told attendees at the organization’s Feb. 4 annual meeting that the campaign had realized about $510,000, a bit less than 90 percent of its $570,000 goal. Fingon found a positive sign in the number of new donors taking part. Their donations will increase in the future, moving the organization toward an inspiring future. United Way’s Patricia M. Wiener award was presented to the Meals on Wheels program. Former Executive Director Traci Moore received the Volunteer of the Year award.
New principal For Mill River
WALLINGFORD—Todd Finn will take over leadership of Mill River Union High School on July 1. Relocating to Vermont from Georgia, he hopes to bring Mill River back to being one of the state’s premier high schools. Finn signed a two-year contract, with a $100,000 salary, having competed against 24 other candidates for the job.
The Massachusetts native is eager to return to New England after successfully inaugurating a completely new school, the 1,200-student Hampton High School near Atlanta, Ga., under the concept of personalized learning. Hired as principal in January 2014, he led the Georgia school to the highest attendance rates in its county, with a one-to-one computing ratio and a $500,000 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant for personalized learning initiatives.