Rutland leaders discuss affordable housing at Candidates’ Forum
Too many of Rutland’s landlords don’t live in their own rental units, incumbent alderman candidate William Notte commented at a Feb. 10 public forum. He was responding to a question asking what the candidates might enact to bring down high rents that keep young professionals from living in the city. Notte also said that the city should enforce housing codes and its recent vacant property legislation. Razing derelict buildings would increase the number of desirable and affordable housing units, as would increasing the number of owner-occupied duplexes.
Other candidates expressed varying opinions.
Scott Tommola believes revitalizing blighted properties is important, but reforming the eviction process would help landlords retain property value and bring better living conditions for desirable tenants. As it is, “owning an apartment as a business in Rutland City is a losing proposition.”
Candidate Kam Johnston blames high rents on exorbitant taxes; eliminating poor landlords creates scarcity and would drive rental costs up higher. Candidate Dan White would like to see more low-income apartments built on the model of the former Forest Park (now Hickory Street), looking as though they are part of the neighborhood around them.
Vanessa Robertson suggested creating incentives for landlords to offer lower rent. Encouraging rent-to-own participation seems reasonable to both candidate George Gides and incumbent David Allaire. Improving the city’s entire economic picture would cure the housing problem, according to Gides and incumbent Gary Donahue. Discouraging absentee landlords and enforcing property codes seem reasonable.
The candidates also looked at the possibility of the city’s creating a help desk to aid landlords who decide to evict a drug-trafficking renter. How much involvement the city should have in the rental business is an issue in and of itself.
Stafford students win cash prizes for video
Partnering with Stafford Technical Center’s Leadership and Marketing department, the Stafford Video and Multimedia Communications program created a video that won first place in a 66-entrant Vermont Entrepreneurship Week contest. Their video addressed the topic “What entrepreneurship means to us.” Students Logan Guyette, Dean Hatt, Rebecca Patch, Sofia Ruiz, Harrison Steever, and Shyanna Withington all received cash prizes for their participation.
Rutland High mock trial rules against principal
Rutland High seniors decided in favor of a potentially inflammatory poem, saying that a high school principal should not have censored it. In a Feb. 11 mock trial, Rutland attorneys Lisa Chalidze and Karl Anderson acted as attorney coaches and presented opening arguments. District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford presided over the hearings.
Some 50 civics class students took part in the enactment, portraying the plaintiff and his supporters, attorneys, federal marshals, judges, witnesses, jourors, and courtroom observers. The free-speech civil case was over a satirical poem written by a student at the fictitious Forks High School, and removed from the school’s Facebook page by the principal.
The mock trial gave the student participants the opportunity to think about the meaning of the First Amendment and the right it affirms, especially so with its use of two juries, both of which drew the same conclusion.
Chalidze spoke to the students Feb. 9, discussing burden of proof in civil and criminal trials; a teacher at the College of St. Joseph, she also discussed free speech issues. During the students’ “day in court,” Crawford told the students the history of the Rutland Federal Court, why it is open to the public and why media are present. Federal marshals also took the students on a tour of their holding cell area.
Cold River Road solar proposal set forth
Ecos Energy developer Brad Wilson outlined his hopes for “finding common ground” with the Rutland Town Select Board when he came to its scheduled meeting Feb. 9 to discuss his planned 7.1-megawatt development. Plans call for clearcutting 40 acres of forest, leaving 100 feet of standing trees between Cold River Road and the solar arrays as well as buffers in other directions. Two adjacent wetlands would remain unaffected. Wilson estimates the site preparation and project construction would require some 35 workers. Overall cost will be between $14 million and $17 million, with property tax to the town of about $21,000.
Divided into two separate projects, the Ecos Energy project comprises two separate developments: Otter Creek 1 and Otter Creek 2. Sited on the same property, they are to be separated by a fence, each with its own access road and structural tie-in to the electrical grid. Vermont eligibility requirements for smaller projects necessitate separate access roads and tie-ins.
Wilson has already met with the town’s planning commission and several site neighbors. He expressed a desire for “an ongoing conversation.” Although he may not have said so, he seems to be trying to avoid the kind of wrestling match the town has been engaged in with groSolar, another solar developer that received a state Public Service Board permit for a nearby 2.2-megawatt development on Cold River Road, over the town’s objections.
Two Clarendon Select Board seats are under contention on Town Meeting Day. Incumbent Rick Wilbur seeks re-election to his seat, while Marjorie White Southard hopes to replace him. Southard is also running against Daniel Pinkowski for the seat that Robert Bixby plans to vacate, rather than run for re-election. Southard is a local farmer who has served her community on several committees and boards. Pinkowski operates the timber frame design and engineering company Timber Creek Post and Beam as well as the Pinkowski Corner Farm on Middle Road. Formerly a member of the Clarendon Fire Department, he has been a member of the Board of Civil Authority, ruling on local property tax grievances, and has been a Justice of the Peace for six years. A Wallingford High graduate, Wilbur is retired from the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department, and is Clarendon’s Second Constable.
ABCs of solid waste
Over the coming five years, the state Agency of Natural Resources intends to develop new plans for handling solid waste. The current Solid Waste Implementation Plan (SWIP), available online at www.rutlandcountyswac.org, delineates how solid and hazardous waste is to be managed in the Solid Waste Alliance Communities (SWAC) towns of Benson, Chittenden, Fair Haven, Middletown Springs, Pawlet, Rutland Town, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Tinmouth, and West Haven).
One SWIP requirement is for a survey of residents on what they know of variable rate pricing, recycling, organics, C&D (Construction and Demolition Debris), HHW (Household Hazardous Waste), CEG (Conditionally Exempt Generator), Electronic Waste and Universal Waste. The survey is available online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/S86DB77.