By Lani Duke
Promoting Rutland City
The city’s Aldermen recently voted to create a marketing committee to study how best to promote Rutland. According to Alderman Matt Bloomer, the committee would help coordinate with marketing organizations such as the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and Rutland Economic Development Corp. Plans are for the committee to “start small” as it gathers information toward a planned city website update. So far, Aldermen Chris Ettori and Ed Larson have joined Bloomer on the committee. Ettori has served on the RRA board as the Aldermen’s representative. Larson is the most active Alderman on social media, board chair William Notte said.
After 17 years, Peter Miller intends to retire at the end of the year from teaching orchestra and directing the fine arts program for the Rutland City school system. He intends to continue teaching at Castleton University, conducting the Lakes region Youth Orchestra, and teaching music privately.
The state Agency of Human Services recently objected to two board members at Rutland Mental Health Services, claiming there is potential for conflict of interest. Both Rob Bliss and Ellie McGary are employed by the Rutland City Public Schools: Bliss as assistant superintendent, McGary as special education director. The problem arises, apparently, in that, as RMHS board members, they oversee the new RMHS director, Dick Courcelle. Courcelle, however, chairs the school board. RMHS board chair Chris Keyser is committed to finding replacements for the two during the next three months.
Rutland Regional Medical Center recently named Brian Kerns its new vice president of Human Resources. He has more than 20 years of human resources experience and most recently was RRMC’s director of Human Resources. Kerns replaces Allison Wollen; she left to become vice president of Human Resources at Loretto Management in Syracuse, N.Y.
As Luey Clough stepped into the presidency of the Rutland County Agricultural Society, up from one of the two vice president positions, outgoing president Roland McNeil was elected to a vice presidential slot as was David Fitzgerald. John Maniery was elected treasurer. Secretary for the group is Christy Davis.
Rutland Regional Medical Center recently received a comparatively rare award for its nursing excellence. The American Nurses Credentialing Center renewed Magnet recognition for the first time; the hospital first received the award in 2010. It is one of only two hospitals in the state with Magnet recognition, and one of 375 of the 6,000 health care organizations in the United States. The only other hospital in Vermont to receive Magnet status is Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, receiving the award for the fourth time this year.
Incarceration of the mentally ill discussed with Vt. A.G.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell chaired a panel of eight at a meeting in Rutland on Dec. 8, designed to gather community feedback on a new state policy to reduce incarceration rates for people with mental illness. Alternatives range from electronic monitoring to hospitalization. Forty Rutland area residents attended the session. Participants told panelists about the hardship caused by having to visit an incarcerated relative out of state. Authorities must weigh the strain on families against the cost to the state, greater than $60,000 per inmate per year, compared to jail in a private out-of-state institution at a cost of $25,900, said panelist Keith Tallon, district manager for the Department of Corrections. But living conditions in a private institution like that offered by GEO Group, the aforementioned contractor, are substandard compared to public in-state confinement; GEO pays low wages and feeds inmates a 1,200-calorie-per-day diet, he said.
The state’s Corrections Commissioner, Lisa Menard, is committed to reducing the number of Vermont prisoners sent out of state, Sorrell said.
Participants discussed using social programs to help at-risk individuals stay out of jail and shortening prison sentences. Releasing offenders to a facility like the Corrections-funded Sanctuary House in Rutland is a cost-effective alternative too, said Eric Maguire, program manager for that long-term residence. A year-long sojourn in Sanctuary House costs $19,000 a year.
Not locking up parolees and probationers who violate “social expectations” does “an injustice” to the community, Rutland Mayor Chris Louras contributed. Louras re-used a phrase first brought to the discussion by Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility superintendent Phil Fernandez, that a Saturday night in jail may function as “a wake-up call” to improve general public safety.
Attorney Patricia Lancaster of the Prisoners’ Rights Office of the Office of Defender General presented the other side of a familiar argument, claiming Vermont relies too much on incarceration for non-criminal behavior. The state has given adult sentences to minors, imprisoned addicts instead of treating their addiction, jailed the homeless and mentally ill. The state is debating building a new, secured facility for people with difficult mental health problems.
Growing business the smart way
A proposed land-use map would encourage Rutland Town business growth while keeping visual standards high. The draft land use plan would re-designate Cold River road properties as “working lands,” terminology yet to be fully defined, but said to encourage agricultural and forestry businesses, according to Barbara Noyes Pulling.
A member of both the town Planning Commission and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Pulling said the intent was to consider what “makes the most sense” in terms of planning. “Sense” also considers quality of life and aesthetics, she elaborated.
Residential zoned rural lands in northern Rutland Town between Tamarack Lane and North Grove Street would become labeled working lands. Also joining the working land group is a southern portion of Rutland Town east of Creek Road and west of Route 3. Steeply sloped land in northwest Rutland Town would become conservation land; it is currently mixed conservation, agriculture, and residential.
Losing prime agricultural land is Selectman Don Chioffi’s most significant concern. Relabeling agricultural land as “working land” may lead to its use for something other than crop production, he fears.
The town Planning Commission was to begin evaluating the altered plan Dec. 17.