Tuesday, January 10, 2012


News to Know 1/10/12

Be sure to check out previous posts below.

Check the Berlin, Vermont Community News page on facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Berlin-Vermont/205922199452224

2012 FARMERS’ NIGHT CONCERT SERIES, first performance is January 11th at 7:30pm at the Vermont State House – the 40th Army Band. All performances take place in the House Chamber. For a complete schedule visit: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/schedule/farmersnight.cfm
TWO FREE SHOWS AT THE SAVOY in Montpelier http://www.savoytheater.com/special_events.html
Monday, January 16th 6pm FREE at the Savoy “A Class Divided” (not rated, 46 minutes) On the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in April 1968, Jane Elliott’s third graders from the small, all-white town of Riceville, Iowa, came to class confused and upset. They recently had made King their “Hero of the Month,” and they couldn’t understand why someone would kill him. So Elliott decided to teach her class a daring lesson in the meaning of discrimination. (see further details at the Savoy website)
Just discovered this can even be seen on line for free: http://motionempire.com/Watch_A_Class_Divided_Documentary_Online_for_Free_7622.html
Tuesday, January 17th 6:30pm FREE at the Savoy “Miss Representation” (not rated, 90 minutes). This documentary premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network in October. If you’re interested in the way women are portrayed by the media, you’ll want to attend. More information and a trailer are at:
FREE CALENDAR - Visit the Vermont Emergency Management website at http://vem.vermont.gov to request your free 2012 calendar filled with emergency preparedness tips. Also on their website are helpful booklets, of information to become better prepared (http://vem.vermont.gov/preparedness) The Family Emergency Preparedness Workbook can also be sent to you at no charge.

BERLIN PARENT TEACHER NEIGHBOR ASSOCIATION (PTNA) will meeting on January 19th at 6:30pm in the Berlin Elementary School Learning Center. All are welcome.
January 19th 7:30pm – 9:30pm DADS’ EXERCISE NIGHT at the Berlin Elementary School gym.
January 28 – Annual LATIN DINNER DANCE at U-32 6:30pm - 9:30pm hosted by the U-32 High School Music Dept.The evening starts with a gourmet Mexican meal including meat and vegetarian options along with a stellar salsa bar. The U-32 musicians will provide live Latin music throughout the evening during which you might make your way over the virgin margarita bar! Following dinner you will be invited to participate in a brief lesson in latin dance styles such as merengue, salsa and cha-cha. No experience necessary, just wear some styling threads and shoes you can move in. We promise to make you look good! The night will continue with open dancing to latin grooves, and we can't forget the pinata! Tom Cate, Director of Bands and Jazz Bands (and Mexican cook extraordinaire!) says, "The Latin Dinner Dance is a popular event that typically sells out so get your tickets early!" It is an evening of fun music, great food and a great way to show support for all of us that share a common love and purpose in music at U-32. On top of that, the fresh guacamole is FANTASTIC!" Guests are encouraged to reserve their tickets early by calling or emailing the U-32 box office: 223.0321 X5179 or swolf@u32.org . You may also purchase tickets directly from a U-32 High School Music Student. Tickets will be for sale in the atrium during most of the school day in the 2 weeks leading up to the event. Adults $15, Family $35, Student $7.
Saturday, February 4th “HEARTS FOR THE VALLEY”, a dinner and dance to benefit those affected by “Irene” at the Fireside Inn, West Lebanon, NH. Three choices: DINNER BUFFET ONLY $18/person 5:30pm – 8pm featured entrées – Sirloin Tips, Mediterranean Chicken & Salmon Wellington at the Garden Court Restaurant with entertainment by members of the North Country Chordsmen Barbershop Chorus Quartet: “The Clef Hangers of Hanover” ; DANCE ONLY $30/person 8pm – 11pm “The Moonlighters” 15-piece big band playing classic big band and swing dance music; DINNER AND DANCE $45/person. Each ticket includes: Fireside Dessert Garden Buffet during the dance, one raffle ticket to try for great prizes, displays, dance demonstrations by professions, photos and information regarding the flood. Advance tickets & info Lebanonchamber@lebanonchamber.com or (603) 448-1203. Donations go to Upper Valley Strong – the Long Term Recovery Committee http://www.uvstrong.org/ . Spend the night at the Fireside Inn at a special rate: Call Fireside Inn (603) 298-5900 and ask for “Hearts for the Valley Block”.
COMMUNITY PRESENTATION OF BERLIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BUDGET Monday, February 6, 2012, 6:30pm, School Learning Center The Berlin Elementary School Board of School Directors will meet to present the proposed FY 2013 school budget. The Board will review the budget and answer questions. Questions about the meeting may be directed to: Chris Dodge, Principal, at 223-2796.
BERLIN MALL AIMS TO ‘SUPER-SIZE’ WAL-MART http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120110/NEWS02/701109922 By David Delcore
Staff Writer - Published: January 10, 2012BERLIN — Owners of the Berlin Mall are hoping to super-size the largest store in that central Vermont shopping complex.
The plan to expand the local Wal-Mart — one of four in Vermont — is the subject of a newly filed permit application. It involves the construction of a sizable addition to the right rear side of the store, as well as some restructuring within the mall.
The application was filed with the District 5 Environmental Commission late last month on behalf of the limited liability corporation created when Developers Diversity Realty Corp. sold the mall to its current owners in 2010.
The net effect of the changes would increase the footprint of the local Wal-Mart by roughly 26,000 square feet, according to Berlin Mall LLC's application. It would amend the state land-use permit issued for the mall more than 25 years ago. The size of the store would increase from just over 67,000 square feet to more than 93,500 square feet, according to the application.
The proposal also seeks permission to create 50 parking spaces by adjusting the landscaping along the perimeter of the mall's existing lot.
The expansion plan itself essentially involves an 18,700-square-foot addition to the Wal-Mart store that would be built immediately behind — and connected to — at least three neighboring stores that collectively occupy nearly 7,500 square feet of existing retail space. Two of those stores — F.Y.E. and Payless Shoes — are currently occupied; the third is vacant.
All three would be absorbed by Wal-Mart as part of the expansion.
Both F.Y.E. and Payless Shoes could easily be relocated within the mall.
In a move that could expedite the district commission's review of the project, Charles Storrow, the Montpelier lawyer representing the mall's out-of-state owners, has asked the panel to exercise its discretion to treat his client's request as a “minor application.” That would negate the need for the commission to hold a public hearing on the proposal unless one is requested.
According to Storrow, that is appropriate given the “modest” nature of the proposal and the limited effect he says it would have on any of the criteria that are routinely considered as part of the state's land-use review process, commonly referred to as Act 250.
“The new development will result in only nominal changes to the mall as its overall size (roughly 175,000 square feet) would increase by only approximately 10 percent, the parking areas will not be physically expanded, and the increase in traffic associated with the expanded mall will be minimal,” Storrow wrote.
According to Storrow, his client has completed and submitted a traffic impact study along with a detailed analysis of how the project could affect some of the criteria Act 250 is designed to review. However, Storrow indicated he is confident that the expansion of an existing, approved retail structure would not have a “significant adverse impact” under any of those criteria.
As a result, he argued, there is no need for the commission to do a more thorough, and potentially more time-consuming, review of the proposed expansion.
Susan Baird, the acting coordinator for the commission, said the three-member panel had not yet seen Storrow's request but would be receiving copies this week. Baird said the commission would consider the request and make a decision after a planned deliberative session next week.
The permit for the mall itself was the product of an exhaustive and contentious process. And subsequent amendment applications — including one for what would have been the state's largest grocery store — were highly scrutinized by both the district commission and the state Environmental Board.
All of those environmental reviews occurred long before Wal-Mart arrived at the scene in 1999. Wal-Mart filled the vacancy that was created when the mall's original anchor — Rich's Department Store — closed in 1997.
Wal-Mart has expressed interest in expanding over the years and at one point was rumored to be considering abandoning the mall. The latest iteration of that rumor died down when the mall was sold to its current owners 18 months ago. One of Berlin Mall LLC's first orders of business upon acquiring the complex was to sign a lease extension with Wal-Mart, which also operates stores in Bennington, Rutland and Williston.
Although the Berlin Mall proposal would increase the size of the local Wal-Mart, the store would still be considerably smaller than the average discount department store operated by the nation's largest retailer. The average size of those stores is 108,000 square feet, according to the company's website.
Wal-Mart “super-centers,” which include fully stocked grocery departments, typically run 185,000 square feet. That's roughly twice the size of the expanded store being proposed in Berlin.

U-32 BUDGET IS UP 3.6 PERCENT http://www.timesargus.com/article/20120106/NEWS02/701069985
By Daniel Staples, Staff Writer - Published: January 6, 2012
EAST MONTPELIER — The U-32 school board approved a $13.6 million budget that will go before voters on Town Meeting Day, representing a 3.59 percent increase over last year, but with negligible effects to the local education tax rate.
While the calculations of the tax rate cannot be finalized until local elementary school budgets are set, towns are likely to see essentially no change in the rate.
In a final amendment to the budget presented by the finance committee, the seven-member board decided to use $50,000 in federal stimulus money to help bolster the AP, or advanced placement, offerings at the school. The board also used $45,000 of the federal money to add a seventh-grade math instructor. The school had $188,267 in stimulus money available and currently has about half of that money it can use for next year’s budget.
Allen Gilbert, a finance committee member, explained to the board that the increases in the budget were paid for from revenue surpluses not tied to property taxes.
The budget represents a 2.37 percent increase in per-pupil spending. The new budgeted rate was set at $14,199, which is a $328 increase over last year’s $13,871, said Lori Bibeau, Washington Central Supervisory Union business administrator.
Some cuts were made to the budget, including a 0.8 full-time equivalent living arts instructor, a 1.0 FTE para-educator, a 0.4 FTE business educator, a 0.5 FTE math instructor and a 0.5 FTE science instructor, both at the high school level. The cuts represent more than $180,000 in savings over last year.
Principal Keith Garrett said the cuts were made because of declining enrollment — a challenge the board has wrestled with for five years as the number of students at U-32 has dropped by more than 10 percent, down nearly 100 students from the recent high of 907 in 2007.
This year’s budget discussion brought on heated debate about the addition of AP courses and teachers, with parents and students rallying to make the courses available. AP courses use College Board-approved curricula and standardized tests allowing students to use the courses to gain college credits.
The school board’s move to increase funding for the programs trumped for now Garrett’s proposal of adding AP chemistry and biology for the 2014-15 school year. Already, U.S. history, physics and computer science will go from being AP equivalents to AP courses for next year.
Before making a final decision on the budget, the board heard the concerns of taxpayers, students and teachers on the proposed budget.
Tony Klein, of East Montpelier, who served for many years on the school board and is a state representative, encouraged the board to maintain the living arts program and to think about making cuts to staff that don’t affect students.
“Be bold, be creative, don’t cut programs, don’t cut things that make this place attractive for tuition students,” said Klein.
“I don’t see any administrative reduction in the budget,” said Klein. “And that is staff that doesn’t affect students.”
According to the budget, salaries in the office of the principal increased a total of $33,494 over last year, with $812,646 budgeted for 2013. The principal’s office represents about 6 percent of the entire budget.
Ed Deacon, of East Montpelier, agreed with Klein’s sentiments.
“Before we cut programs, we need to cut administration,” said Deacon. “We have three principals. Do we need three principals?”
Cindy Bruzzese, of Middlesex, who served on Rumney Memorial School boards for nine years and has two of her children attending U-32, also questioned the cost increases in the principal’s office.
“We could take slight reduction in administrative cost to maintain the status quo in programs,” said Bruzzese.
Brian Slopey, head of the science department, encouraged the board to maintain the math and science department.
John Pandolfo, math department chairman and curriculum leader, also voiced concerns about the cuts to the math department. He said a 0.5 FTE cut to his department would bring the staff from 5.6 full-time equivalent instructors to 5.1.
Several speakers voiced concerns for the cut in the living arts program, but Garrett said the enrollment in living arts has dwindled over the last couple of years, and currently only 65 students are in the program.
When the final decision came, the board rejected an amendment proposal of keeping all the positions that are to be cut in place and added the $50,000 for the expedited AP course additions.
The board approved the money for the additional AP courses but did not direct Garrett on exactly how and where those additions were to be made.
The U-32 board is made up of representatives from East Montpelier, Berlin, Worcester, Middlesex and Calais.

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