Monday, March 12, 2012


News to Know March 12

Look back at previous posts for more information
Facebook user? Check out the Berlin, Vermont Community News page
Many thanks to all the folks who made it possible for us to go in and cast our votes on Town Meeting Day! Here are the results:
Berlin Town Meeting Articles:
Berlin Town & School Elections:
CENTRAL VERMONT LITTLE LEAGUE SIGN-UPS Wed., March 14th 6:30pm to 7:30pm at Berlin Elementary School. This is for all levels T-Ball, Farm League, Softball, Minors, and Majors. Looking for players and volunteers. Contact Deb Smoller with questions at
2012 VERMONT STATE SCHOLASTIC CHESS CHAMPIONSHIPS, Saturday, Apriil 14th at Berlin Elementary School. Registration 8:30am - 9:30am, first games 10am. All Vermont students Kindergarten through Grade 12 are eligible to participate. State champions for each grade K through 6, plus Middle School and High School champions will be determined. USCF rated. Swiss pairing will be used, all players play each round (no eliminations). Full details and registration information at: or contact Mike Stridsberg, 802-223-1948
SPRING CLEANING BOOK SALE at our community library, the Kellogg-Hubbard on Main Street in Montpelier. With the continued support from the Berlin taxpayers, all Berlin residents are able to make full use of the Kellogg-Hubbard (once they get a library card by showing proof of residency). Details on programs, hours, and more can be found at:
“DISASTER SERVICES: AN OVERVIEW” is a wonderful way for someone to take that first step toward helping area communities prevent, prepare for and respond to disaster. We are very pleased to be offering “Disaster Services: An Overview” in Berlin this month. March 21, 6pm - 9:30pm at Berlin Elementary School.
The devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, record spring flooding and a busy winter fire season have all been vivid reminders that disaster can strike close to home. If you are part of the American Red Cross, you are part of a team that brings help and hope to our neighbors when they are devastated by disaster.
American Red Cross disaster responses are carried out on a local level by volunteer Disaster Action Teams. These teams assist those affected by disasters such as fire, flood, winter storms, as well as other natural and man-made disasters. “Disaster Services: An Overview” is an instructor-led, basic level course and serves as an introduction to Red Cross disaster services.
While the presentation serves as an introduction to becoming a Red Cross volunteer, and serves as a prerequisite for other Red Cross disaster training, anyone in the community who is interested in hearing the materials presented in this class is welcome.
To register, contact Natalie Barrett of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. She can be reached at or by calling her at 802-660-9130, ext. 106.

Facebook user? Look for the "Vermont & New Hampshire Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross" page

American Red Cross Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Winter 2012 Newsletter can be found at:
By Art Edelstein
Arts Correspondent - Published: March 8, 2012
Tropical Storm Irene, which ravaged the state at the end of last August, may seem like a long gone bad dream to many, but for a good number of local people it remains a nightmare. There’s still a lot of rebuilding to do and many central Vermont families suffered deep financial losses and ruined homes as a result of the storm.
With the devastation still on the minds of many, U-32 High School in East Montpelier is hosting a benefit concert, Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. (doors and dessert at 6:30), in hopes of raising funds to help those harmed by the storm.
“We are all employees of U-32 in varying capacities,” said Kenneth Saxe who works at the school, “with the common goal of wanting to do something for our immediate communities of Berlin, East Montpelier, Worcester, Calais and Middlesex that were so devastated by last year’s flooding.”
“We have teamed up with Central Vermont Community Action (Hal Cohen), as they already have a fund established for exactly that purpose,” Saxe said.
The concert, “Let’s Not Forget Irene,” features Paul Asbell, Dave Keller, and Sara Grace in acoustic sets.
Each is a formidable Vermont performer. Keller, from Montpelier, was recently featured in The Times Argus for having won an award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis for best self-produced CD. He collaborated with The Revelations for his album, “Where I’m Coming From.” He’s an authentic blues singer and guitarist.
You may know Grace as a member of Sara Grace and the Suits. She will solo for this concert but her “soul folk” sound and percussive guitar style along with her funky arrangements give Grace a signature sound.
Asbell, from Burlington, is as good a guitarist as you’ll find anywhere on acoustic and electric guitar. The price of the ticket for this show would be worth it to hear him alone. Asbell currently plays with the band Kilimanjaro. He was a member of the Big Joe Burrell Unknown Blues Band, and was also guitar mentor to Trey Anastasio of Phish. He has two highly acclaimed acoustic guitar albums, and has been featured in Acoustic Guitar Magazine. He is also a highly sought after teacher. His music covers a wide spectrum from the blues, to jazz and Americana.
Concert organizers hope to raise $10,000 for families in the U-32 district who are still struggling to recover from the storm. Each ticket holder will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win several prizes, including a weekend stay at the Pitcher Inn in Warren, an overnight stay and two lift tickets at the Stowe Mountain Resort, two lift tickets to Jay Peak, four lift tickets to Bolton Valley and other prizes.

Let’s Not Forget Irene

U-32 High School is hosting a benefit concert, “Let’s Not Forget Irene,” on Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. (doors and dessert at 6:30), at the school’s auditorium on Gallison Hill in East Montpelier. Tickets are $30, $20 for students, and are available in the U-32 office or by calling Paul Dayton at (802) 229-0321, ext. 2242, or by email at
Come Share Your Story, Listen to Others, Learn Coping Skills, Build Community, Support Your Neighbors. Location: Berlin Elementary School, Date: Thursday March 15, 2012 (ongoing April 12, May 10, June 10), Time: 6:00 pm, Refreshments Provided. Led by: Christina Ducharme and Ellia Cohen of Starting Over Strong VT for more information call Christina at 802-279-4670. Starting Over Strong: Providing Free Short-Term Relief For Those Impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. For More Information please visit:, and Facebook, or call our tollfree number at 855-SOS-VT00 (855-767-8800)
Do you work with people who were affected by Irene? Come Share Your Experiences, Learn Coping Skills Learn from Each Other, Support Each Other, De-Stress. Location: Unitarian Church, 130 Main, St Montpelier. Date: Monday March 5, 2012 (ongoing every 2 weeks 3/19, 4/2, 4/16, 4/30) Time: 3:30 pm. Refreshments Provided Led by: Christina Ducharme and Ellia Cohen of Starting Over Strong VT. Starting Over Strong: Providing Free Short-Term Relief For Those Impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. For More Information please visit:, and Facebook, or call our tollfree number at 855-SOS-VT00 (855-767-8800)
By Thatcher Moats
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU - Published: March 10, 2012
MONTPELIER — Vermont officials were in a state of “sticker shock” Friday after being presented with plans for replacing the state office complex in Waterbury that ranged from $108 million to $143 million.
During a meeting in Montpelier attended by lawmakers, Waterbury officials and members of the Shumlin administration, the architecture firm Freeman French Freeman laid out four options for replacing the office space in Waterbury that flooded during Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.
Jeb Spaulding, the secretary of administration for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said the proposals — which range from a new building on a new site to rehabbing the offices in Waterbury — “are great and could be exciting.”
“But I have to admit there’s a certain element of sticker shock when you look at the total project costs,” Spaulding said.
Many Waterbury residents, business owners and officials want the state employees displaced from Waterbury to return, because they bring an economic vitality to the central Vermont village. About 1,500 workers were based at the complex; 1,200 worked there regularly.
Advocates for Waterbury have pleaded with Shumlin since Irene to bring the workers back, but he has been unwilling to make a commitment until he understands how much rehabilitating the complex would cost taxpayers.
The report Friday brings some clarity to those costs but not enough for the administration to take a stance on whether to rebuild in Waterbury.
“I think we should all realize this is not the end of the road,” Spaulding said. “I’m not sure if it’s the end of the beginning or another important milestone, but we obviously have a long way to go.”
As of Friday, the governor’s first choice remains placing more than 1,000 employees in Waterbury, said Spaulding. But the administration has always worried Waterbury might be too expensive, saying when it comes to the decision to go back to Waterbury “the numbers matter.”
“And those numbers were higher than we expected,” said Spaulding.
Freeman French Freeman, with help from the firm Goody Clancy, spent the last eight weeks compiling the presentation unveiled Friday. The architects’ goal was to deliver the facts and not advocate for one option or another.
The four proposals outlined in the Freeman French Freeman report are:
Option A: This would be a full reuse of the Waterbury complex and would entail rehabilitating and flood-proofing many of the 48 buildings in the complex and demolishing several of them that are closest to the Winooski River. This would leave the complex closer to its current state than any of the other options. It would cost an estimated $143 million.
Option B: This envisions a partial reuse and new construction at the Waterbury complex. It includes demolishing many of the buildings, flood-proofing the remaining structures, and building a large state-of-the-art building that would make up most of the new complex. The estimated cost is $134 million.
Option C: This would entail not returning to Waterbury and instead building in Montpelier. The state would demolish the Department of Labor building off Memorial Drive and put up a five-story building and parking garage there. The estimated cost is $119 million.
Option D: This would entail building a structure on a yet-to-be-determined site in central Vermont. The estimated total project cost is $108 million, including buying land. Spaulding said there are potential sites in Berlin.
Spaulding wasn’t willing to rule out Option A but said he was struggling to find an upside to it because it’s the most expensive, it maintains a poor layout of office space and includes a lower level of flood protection for some buildings.
“Quite frankly, I’m trying to figure out why anyone would want to do (Option) A,” said Spaulding.
Rep. Tom Stevens, who represents Waterbury, wasn’t discouraged by the higher projected costs of rebuilding in Waterbury and still views it as the best option.
A major unknown is how much money the Federal Emergency Management Agency will give the state for the flood damage in Waterbury, something the administration and lawmakers hope to determine as soon as possible. Stevens pointed out that the level of reimbursement from FEMA is one important factor not evident in the cost estimates for the four options.
“Just because the last option seemed to be the least expensive option, it doesn’t include FEMA participation if we build elsewhere,” said Stevens. “The wild card there is: What’s the FEMA participation going to be?”
When it comes to FEMA reimbursement, the state is “probably going to leave some money on the table” if it decides to rebuild outside Waterbury, Spaulding acknowledged.
But he pointed out the costs of building in Montpelier or at a new site are less, and he is skeptical the FEMA money will drastically reduce the cost of going back to Waterbury under Option B.
“I don’t know whether the amount of assistance we’re going to get from insurance or FEMA will lower the current Option B, the partial reuse, to a level that’s affordable,” said Spaulding.
The administration expects to get $13 million to $25 million from flood insurance.
Stevens and other lawmakers argue that factors other than cost also need to be considered when deciding where to rebuild.
Sen. Bob Hartwell, who is chairman of the Senate Institutions Committee, said it is state policy to try to keep Vermont’s downtowns vibrant. He pointed out that the Waterbury complex is in a downtown and the proposed Montpelier site is not.
“Waterbury has some attributes that are really important in terms of location and its historic value,” said Hartwell, a Bennington County Democrat.
Exit 8 on Interstate 89 near the proposed Montpelier site would see significantly more traffic if the state chose to construct an office building off Memorial Drive, said Hartwell, another problem with that location.
“That’s not a great interchange to begin with, and it would be made worse unless we could mitigate it in some way,” he said.
The Legislature needs to make a decision about the future of the office complex this legislative session, Hartwell said.
“There’s going to be a lot of work done on this over the next six weeks, a lot of work to get a road map laid as to what the Legislature thinks is the right thing to do,” Hartwell said.
Under all four options, the project would not be finished until 2015.

"Waterbury Office Complex Feasibility Study issued March 9, 2012" bottom of page at following webpage:
By David Delcore
Staff Writer - Published: March 6, 2012
BERLIN — Patti Lewis isn’t running scared today, because Berlin’s veteran town treasurer isn’t running at all.
Although Berlin voters have traditionally elected their town treasurer, that changed today when Lewis’ latest three-year term expired and a two-year-old charter change finally kicked in.
That change involves how the position that Lewis has held for eight straight years is filled. Given the mounting complexity of tracking the expenses and revenues of a multimillion-dollar town operation, as well as controversies that have arisen in other Vermont communities, Berlin voters agreed to relinquish their role in choosing a treasurer.
The theory behind the charter change was that not everyone who might run to be treasurer is qualified and three years is a long time for voters to wait before having the opportunity to select a new chief financial officer for their town.
The charter change wasn’t aimed at Lewis, who is widely viewed as both competent and qualified.
After a search that attracted eight applicants from Berlin and beyond, Lewis said, a hiring committee composed of three Select Board members and four town residents chose three finalists and interviewed two of them last month.
Lewis said she was one of them and emerged as the committee’s choice to be appointed to an office that she was elected to four times —twice to one-year terms and, most recently, to a pair of three-year terms.
Lewis, who also serves as Berlin’s elected state representative, isn’t complaining about not having to campaign to keep her day job in the run-up to Town Meeting Day.
“It’s kind of nice not to have to run — at least not for this (treasurer’s) race,” she said.
The Select Board was scheduled to discuss making a choice at its meeting Monday night.
The treasurer’s duties won’t change. The official will simply become answerable to the Select Board instead of directly to voters.

Posted on March 6, 2012
By PETER HIRSCHFELD | Vermont Press Bureau
BERLIN — A plan to consolidate emergency services in four central Vermont municipalities went on life support Tuesday after residents in Berlin said they’re ready to scrap the idea. In a voice vote from the floor, approximately 70 residents on hand for town meeting shot down a nonbinding resolution to study further the “regionalization” plan proposed for Berlin, Barre, Barre Town and Montpelier.
“I don’t know if this means it’s dead,” Berlin Selectman Brad Towne said of the long-running effort to consolidate police, fire and ambulance services in the area. “But it’s definitely hurting.”
The Select Board must now reconcile the will of the voters with the contents of its budget. The spending plan for next year — voted on by Australian ballot Tuesday — includes $15,000 for Berlin’s share of a study to analyze the merits of the regionalization proposal. Voters in Montpelier and Barre each approved $15,000 appropriations for the study Tuesday, and Barre Town will decide how to proceed in May.
But Berlin’s vote could scuttle the plan.
Towne said given the vote Tuesday, “I don’t see any reason to go forward and spend the money.”
“My feeling is we’ll just leave the money in the budget, and at the end of the tax year we’ll just carry it forward as a surplus for next year,” he said. Patti Lewis, one of two Berlin residents on an eight-member regionalization committee, said she’ll urge the Select Board to proceed with the funding, Tuesday’s vote notwithstanding.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed in the result today, but there are a lot of people who support this concept who aren’t physically here at this meeting today,” said Lewis, who also represents Berlin in the Vermont House. Consolidating dispatch services alone, Lewis said, could yield savings for local taxpayers.
“Even if it’s just dispatch, it makes sense to do the study,” she said.
Lewis said initial projections suggest that a full-on consolidation might result in modest cost increases for Berlin, in large part because the town has an all-volunteer fire department. But she said those same estimates indicate that residents would enjoy more expansive emergency services, including 24-hour police coverage, something the town lacks right now.
“We’re at a point where we need an expert study to determine whether this makes sense,” she said. “Consolidation is happening all over the country, and we’re selling ourselves short if we don’t do this due diligence to see if it makes sense for us, too.”
In a speech before the vote, Deputy Fire Chief Scott Bagg urged voters to squelch the study and save their money.
“We’ve had three studies on regionalization in the past two decades — three of them. And in all three of them it was determined that the town of Berlin would be paying significantly more than it is now,” Bagg said. “The reality is we have volunteers providing this (fire) coverage pretty effectively, and the elimination of that is probably not the best thing for this community.”
Staff Report - Published: March 6, 2012
BERLIN — The Berlin Volunteer Fire Department’s bid to step up its service to the community was dealt a serious setback Tuesday when voters rejected a request for the money that would have paid for it.
Voters also ousted an incumbent selectman and easily approved municipal and school budgets.
But they narrowly rejected a $180,000 request that would have financed the Fire Department’s plan to provide “continuous, in-station staffing at the Four Corners station.” The article was rejected 293-244, though voters approved a companion request for $180,000 that will fund the annual operation of the volunteer department.
The results of the Australian ballot vote came hours after 70-some voters rejected a nonbinding referendum renewing the town’s support for a regional public safety study on the floor of Berlin’s open town meeting.
Those were the only items that went down to defeat. Voters approved the $2.4 million municipal budget, 415-124, and the $3 million budget for Berlin Elementary School, 311-213.
There were a few close calls. The Central Vermont Community Action Council’s $500 funding request passed by just 20 votes, 276-256, and the $12,557 appropriation for Kellogg-Hubbard Library narrowly passed, 275-260.
Pete Kelley was the runaway winner of the only contested race in Berlin this year. Kelley received 280 votes, pacing the field in a three-way race for the two years remaining on a three-year term on the Select Board. Former longtime Lister Mike Domingue finished a distant second with 137 votes, and Selectman Jonathan Goddard finished last with 96 votes.
Goddard was elected as one of Berlin’s representatives to the U-32 High School board in an uncontested race.

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