Sunday, November 04, 2012


News to Know Nov 4th 1 of 2 posts today

BERLIN NEWS TO KNOW NOVEMBER 4, 2012 general news

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at

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I hope you will all make the time to vote on Tuesday.

Voting is at the Municipal Offices on Tuesday November 6, 2012 from 8AM to 7PM.

A separate News to Know is being sent on Berlin Pond vote

IF Hurricane Sandy had done more damage to Vermont, were you prepared? Did you already have emergency items on hand or did you have to depend on getting out to the stores before the storm was to hit (thank goodness for the retailers!!). What would you have done differently? Where/how do you depend on getting news of emergencies in your community?  I would love to hear back from you on this. 

Not sure how to prepare?  Check out the Family Emergency Preparedness Workbook:

Wondering about relief efforts for those who weren't as fortunate as we were during Superstorm Sandy?  Visit the Vermont Emergency Management website at:


Included below please find:




Currently the honey the Daut's sell and Fresh Tracks Farm Vineyard & Winery are the only local foods listed.  There are many other local sources for wonderful products.  Please send your listing (or link) to Norbert Rhinerson to be included on this page.


There is a Energy Resource Page on the town website, look on the left side bar.  There are also items available from the town for you to borrow:

   A 30 minute DVD demonstrating simple weatherization measures to Button-Up you home is available for you to borrow at the Berlin Town Office on Shed Road. (turn to the right after you enter the main door, DVDs are on the shelf of the hutch on the left). There are 5 copies at each location, just return the DVD after you have viewed it.  All local libraries also have a copy and may be viewed on their computers.
   A foam gun
is available to town residents for their personal use in their homes to seal air leaks. It is located in the Town Office on Shed Road (after you enter the main door go to the right, gun is on the shelf of the hutch on the left). You should also take the gun cleaner spray can. You will need to buy the foam and the directions for use are in the box.


The next U-32 Parents Meeting for parents of students in all grades will be the second Thursday in December (13th).  In conference room at the back of the library.  6:30pm - 7:30pm.  Always informative and a good way to connect with some parents from the other towns.


Pub 11/2/12 Times Argus
Bruce Edwards
   Vermont was spared the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, which focused its fury on New York and New Jersey, with East Coast storm-related damage estimated at upwards of $50 billion.
   Unlike Irene, which pummeled the state last year with floodwaters that washed away roads, homes and businesses, causing millions in damage, Sandy was forecast to be a wind event — hitting the state with gusts of up to 80 mph. But the worst of
Sandy bypassed the state, with damage limited to downed trees that caused power outages to several thousand Vermonters.
   “I always check every morning after we have events like this with our Consumer Services Department, and we really haven’t had any calls from consumers at this point,” said Susan Donegan,
Vermont’s deputy insurance commissioner. “It really was a very minor event here in Vermont.”
   But storms like Irene and now Sandy are a reminder to homeowners, renters and businesses of the importance of property insurance.
   Irene’s devastating floodwaters caught many homeowners without flood insurance. That’s because flood damage isn’t covered by homeowner’s insurance. Coverage has to be purchased separately through the National Flood Insurance Program. However, wind-related damage is covered by typical homeowner’s and renter’s policies.
   Donegan advised Vermonters to check their insurance policy to see what’s covered and for how much and what deductibles apply.
   She said people unsure of what their policy covers or who have other questions should contact their insurance agent or the company directly.
   “The other thing we always tell people is to have a home inventory so that you know what the heck is in your house if you ever have to put in a claim for your contents,” she said.
   Donegan said another sound idea is to take pictures of the contents to go along with the inventory list and to take pictures if there is any damage. She said it’s also a good idea to jot down the serial numbers of items like computers and other equipment.
   The National Association of Insurance Commissioners website ( has a downloadable home inventory checklist for homeowners and renters.
   According to the NAIC, less than 50 percent of consumers keep a home inventory. Last year, weather-related damage alone totaled $43 billion.
   Although flood damage isn’t covered by a typical insurance policy, Donegan said water damage caused by wind is covered. For example, she said if water enters a home because of a broken window or hole in the roof, the damaged contents would be covered.
   When it’s vehicles, she said that someone with collision insurance would be covered in the event of wind-related damage from a falling object like a tree.
   Paul Gladding, president of the Vermont Insurance Agents Association, said based on initial feedback from around the state, there was little storm damage this time.
   Gladding said the state was fortunate in that it didn’t experience the high winds that were forecast.
   “I can say for our agency here … we have had one wind claim where a tree blew down,” said Gladding, president of Holden Financial Services in
Rutland and Middlebury.
   Jonathan Jamieson of Jamieson Insurance in Waitsfield had a similar experience, saying there was “little or no activity related to the storm.”
   Jamieson said that even before
Sandy’s arrival last week his office didn’t field an unusual number of calls from policyholders. He said in an email his clients “have a good grasp on their coverage particularly considering the Irene experience.”
   In the event of wind damage, Gladding said a standard homeowner’s policy will cover damage to a home. If it’s tree-related damage, he said, the policy will cover getting the tree off the home or building and up to $500 to have the tree cut up and hauled away.
   If a tree is uprooted and doesn’t cause any property damage, he said, most homeowner’s policies carry an enhancement that covers tree removal up to $500.
   While most homeowners have insurance, the same can’t be said of renters.
   Gladding estimated that less than half of those who rent have insurance.
   He said that’s unfortunate because renter insurance is inexpensive, with an average premium between $125 and $150 a year for $25,000 of coverage.
   Gladding said many renters either “don’t think anything is going to happen or mistakenly believe the landlord’s policy covers them.”
   A homeowner’s policy premium is based on several factors: value of the home, construction material and location.
   Gladding said a home located near a fire hydrant and in a town with a full-time fire department will have a lower premium than one in a more rural area.
   Although it costs more, he said insurance agents will recommend getting a policy that covers the home’s replacement value.


Editor’s note: The following article was contributed by Berlin Elementary School’s principal. The Times Argus is devoting space to interesting projects taking place in area schools. Send your school news to

Pub 10/27/12
By Chris Dodge, For the Times Argus
BERLINWhen Berlin Elementary School math teacher Cindy Gauthier talks about “planting a seed” with her students, she means it both literally and figuratively.
   For two years, the school had hoped to offer summer enrichment for students in mathematics. Gauthier knew that traditional textbooks and tests would not hold the interest of the shorts- and T-shirt-clad children, who otherwise might be spending their summer doing just about anything other than ciphering. Knowing that she had a long row to hoe keeping kids engaged in the summer, she invited them to do part of the digging, planting, harvesting — and mathematics.
   Gauthier began with a plan she called Math Mondays. Students would come to school and do some traditional math work but spend much of their time designing, planting, maintaining and harvesting from a school garden. Math Mondays became known as “math in the garden,” and, like any good mother who sneaks the occasional vegetable into an unknowing child’s dinner, Gauthier cooked up a plan to infuse the agricultural with the analytical.
   After creating a grid of string and marking off plots, students planted a variety of flowers and vegetables.
   “When the kids arrived in the morning,” Gauthier said, “they usually rushed to the garden to see what has been growing and what has changed since last time.”
   Each Math Monday began with a morning meeting, in keeping with the school’s “responsive classroom” approach. The four components — greeting, sharing, activity and morning message — generally incorporated mathematical skills. One morning, students were given written coordinates that they needed to use to locate a particular section of the garden’s grid and numbering system, for example.
   Counting, measurement, data collection and other math skills learned in the garden became the basis for classroom activities and lessons on skills such as identifying the range, median and mode of a group of numbers. Students were given ample time to discuss the strategies they used to solve problems of all kinds.
   “When they are asked to complete these tasks in the future, I hope that they will remember our work,” Gauthier said.
   The seed is planted.
   Even the daily snacks became a math lesson. Groups of students dissected green, yellow and red peppers and counted the seeds. Similarly, groups counted and graphed the number of seeds in various size tomatoes.
   Mid-day students worked on computation and some multiplication, sometimes drawing from a second garden — a sunflower circle — that the group planted on the school playground. Observations such as smaller plants sometimes have more and larger leaves led the group to more measuring and the occasional hypothesis.
   Conversations about perimeter, circumference, area and other key math concepts abounded after lunch as students continued working outside, including on the school’s nature trail, where they wrote in journals about their mathematical experiences and observations.
   To top off the day, students worked collaboratively to solve released tasks from the New England Common Assessment tests.
   Gauthier, a student at the
University of Vermont’s Vermont Mathematics Initiative, believes all of this practice will pay off in the long run.
   “On every single NECAP test there is going to be a question about perimeter. There is going to be a question about area. There is going to be a question about fractions. If students have had a chance to see these things and work them out, they are far more likely to be successful on assessments and in life,” Gauthier said. “I want students to have fun and enjoy math as they learn new skills. It is so much more meaningful when it is in real context, instead of just pulling out raw math that doesn’t connect to anything.”
   Math Monday students continue to monitor the garden and harvest the results.
   - Chris Dodge is the principal of
Berlin Elementary School.


Pub 11/4/12 Times Argus by Phyllis Arata-Meyers
"No one can do everything, but everybody can do something." - Change the World Kids
   A group of determined teenagers is planning to provide locally-grown produce year-round at the Woodstock Community Food Shelf. The teen members of Change the World Kids, a Vermont nonprofit, have been growing and donating more than 100 pounds of fresh produce to the food shelf each week during the growing season. Now that they have constructed a new root cellar, they are poised to offer locally-grown produce in all seasons.
   According to the Vermont Foodbank, statewide demand for charitable food has increased every year since 2007. The Foodbank’s Judy Stermer says, “Since Irene, our network of 280 food shelves, meal sites, senior centers and after-school programs are reporting a 15 to 20 percent increase in demand for charitable food.”
   Federal commodities provided to food banks around the country are down about 50 percent this year. Stermer notes, “We have had to get creative around securing other sources of food, and one of those sources is farm-fresh produce — both from
Vermont growers and others. More than 1 million pounds of our donated produce consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. And we are hearing more from our agencies that they want this type of product, because that is what they are hearing from their customers.”
   Two years ago during a weekly delivery to the Woodstock Community Food Shelf, one of the teenagers asked what produce was available during the winter. The answer was little — or none.
   “We were dismayed that so many families did not have access to nutritious, locally grown produce during the winter months,” says Anna Ramsey, project co-chair. “The kids set out to find a long-term solution with the challenge to provide the produce without using nonrenewable energy and precious funds on a fancy cooling system.”
   After researching online and consulting local farmers, the teens realized that an old-fashioned root cellar was the best option for keeping produce at a constant humidity and temperature throughout the winter, one that required nothing more than the insulation of earth.
   “We learned that the best place to build a root cellar was into a steep, northern facing hillside, and we were lucky to find the perfect spot right behind the
Woodstock Elementary School,” explains Finn McFarland, project co-chair.
Woodstock Elementary School is part of the Vermont Farm to School Program, which aims to integrate local foods into cafeterias, classrooms and communities. The root cellar project fits right in with these goals, as the school will be able to store locally-grown produce throughout the winter months just outside the cafeteria doors.
   “We look forward to the many learning opportunities the root cellar will provide our students by teaching them how food can be stored using the earth as refrigeration,” comments Gretchen Czaja, the school’s healthy foods educator and provider.
   The requirements for permission and permitting to build behind the school at first seemed daunting. “When we heard about all the permits we would have to get for this site, we questioned whether or not it was really the best choice. We wanted to complete construction by mid-fall in time for harvest,” says Ramsey.
   McFarland sketched the design and reviewed it with local structural engineer John Kamb, who donated his time and expertise. “He helped us determine the necessary building specifications and design to bear the weight of about three feet of soil that could weigh a lot when it is wet,” explains McFarland. Additionally, several of the building permits required Kamb’s stamp of approval.
   McFarland, Ramsey and Change the World Kids’ food justice committee members presented the project to the Woodstock Elementary School Board, the Woodstock Design Review Board and the Woodstock Village Development Review Board. “We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to obtain permission for our project,” comments McFarland. Once they received their final permit from the state of
Vermont, they were ready to build.
   With permits in hand and the volunteer help of local builder Erik Tobiason and excavator Craig Mosher, the Change the World Kids broke ground in August. But Mosher ran into a solid rock ledge just a few feet from completion. The teens teamed up to remove some of the ledge with drills, chisels and hammers. They helped bend rebar, shovel tons of gravel, build frames for concrete and tamp the gravel floor. They even created a bucket brigade to hoist more than 100 buckets of concrete for the rooftop retaining wall. Wooden wing walls flank the sides of the doorway to hold dirt back from the road once the hillside is restored.
   With cold weather on the root cellar doorstep, they plan to have a stocked and functioning building by mid-November. “Next year we hope to dramatically increase our garden space to plant more winter storage vegetables,” says Ramsey. “But this year we are seeking donations of produce to help fill the root cellar shelves.”
   Their shortages don’t end with produce this year. The cost of the concrete and rebar necessary for the project was more than they planned. “We had to build this much stronger than we first calculated last year when we started to raise funds,” observes McFarland. The teens are now trying to raise more money to finish their project.
   “We have a motto at Change the World Kids that we really try to live by,” said Ramsey. “We say, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,’ and we feel this project is just another way for us to do something for our community.”
   Phyllis Arata-Meyers is a facilitator for Change the World Kids, a teen-run
Vermont nonprofit organization. Members provide more than 10,000 hours of volunteer work in their communities annually, while tackling global humanitarian and environmental issues as well.
NET Change the World Kids:


   Washington West Supervisory Union Superintendent says new federal nutrition guidelines are wrong for kids, wrong for Vermont
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 5:00pm
   As a Superintendent of Schools, I am speaking out to report on and fight for hungry students in Vermont, but not likely for the reasons most readers might think. It’s time to tell the real story here. This fall, schools throughout Vermont began grappling with the implementation of the new federal nutrition guidelines for school food service programs. This has got to be the worst case of serious unintended consequences resulting from the best of intentions I have seen in my 28 years in public education and here’s why.
   Like NCLB, we are once again faced with one size fits all legislation that does not consider the vast differences between a state like Vermont and other states. But, what is far worse is the inability for those individuals working in positions of authority within our wonderful state to not recognize and advocate for more reasonable flexibility in implementing these standards, knowing that the needs of individual communities differ, and so do the individual needs of students.
   The new regulations are a no brainer. Any reasonable person could support more fruits and vegetables, red and yellow vegetables, whole grains, and less sodium and trans fats in school breakfasts and lunches. However, the ill thought-out, rigid, one size fits all plan as to how to achieve this is already creating seriously hungry students in our schools who are choosing more and more each day to not participate at all in our programs. They are flooding to fast food restaurants and quick stops if campuses are open, hitting vending machines hard and carrying in backpacks less than healthy choices because they are desperate. As if this is not bad enough, those of us who can see the up close and personal ramifications of this already know that the farm-to-school and localvore initiatives will be in serious jeopardy, local businesses will see a serious decrease in revenues from local schools, and local budgets will revert back to large subsidies to support school food service programs as they did in the past, because they no longer will be self sustaining, costing Vermont taxpayers and increasing the demands on the Ed Fund. Let me give you some specifics.
   For the past six years, the seven schools in the Washington West Supervisory Union have worked hard to provide award winning food services programs. We employ highly talented food service directors and on-site chefs. We already are nearly all wheat/whole grain, largely organic and offer students an all-you-can-eat wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables. Our once robust salad bar at Harwood Union High School, which in my own opinion, is a close second to the Windjammer Restaurant in South Burlington just to give you a point of reference, is down 50% in participation in just four weeks of school. The HUHS hot lunch line is down 10-20% depending on the day. Every day my email inbox and voicemail are filled with messages from parents with their own personal stories, begging me to help. Why is this really happening you ask? Consider these points.
   First, because of the severe calorie restrictions, not only are portion sizes smaller and certain ingredients eliminated or used sparingly, students are not allowed to self serve at the salad bar as they knew it in the past. The Harwood Union salad bar is a mere shell of itself. It still offers the same unlimited wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, but can no longer contain hard-boiled eggs, lean turkey and ham, blue, feta, and cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, broccoli, cabbage, and whole wheat pasta salads, beans, nuts and seeds, whole wheat rolls, and yes, homemade pumpkin bread once in awhile. The main reason for this is that students in kindergarten through 5th grade are allowed up to 650 calories, in grades 6-8 700 calories, and in grades 9-12 850 calories. The school cannot enforce this requirement if students are self serving. If students are actually eating three square meals a day, this might work fine, but for most kids this isn’t the case. Many high school students skip breakfast, rely on lunch as their main meal of the day, and don’t return home until 9 p.m. because of co-curricular activities. For many of our free/reduced lunch students, this is their big meal of the day.
   The new enforcement paperwork requirements for our chefs now add an additional 30-40 minutes most days. In addition, the stringent requirements to calculate all the measurements of all ingredients are forcing programs to do the following:
-Condiments need to be premeasured. Schools that have made them from scratch and/or served them in bulk can no longer do so because the students might exceed the calorie restrictions. Our elementary students were not allowed catsup with their mac and cheese because they would have been over the limit.
-Canning and freezing from our gardens are impacted due to time constraints and lack of scientific expertise in easily calculating nutrient contents. Paul Morris, Food Director and Chef at Harwood Union, prepares and freezes pesto for the year from basil from a local farm. This year he was unable to do so.
-We will need to purchase more prepackaged/processed foods because the nutrient information is already located on the side of the bag or box, increasing the amount of preservatives in the food. Scratch recipes will simply take too much time to calculate to this level of detail.
-Menus will become “forced rotational”, say every six weeks, and far less “scratch” cooking will be possible, creating boredom and seriously reducing the ability to reuse ingredients, including fruits and vegetables. Yesterday’s roasted vegetables will not show up in that whole wheat balsamic pasta salad on the salad bar the next day.
-We will increase waste, driving up costs and straining the environment. Schools like Warren, where serving family style meals has long successfully been in practice and has kept costs down will no longer be possible for several reasons under these guidelines.
-On the financial front, at first blush one might conclude that if schools are using more fruits and vegetables, this would be great for our local farms. Not so if the students simply don’t buy the lunch. It really isn’t going to matter what we want to have kids eat if we cannot get them through the line!
   The Harwood Union program already reports purchasing 50% less Cabot products. They also annually spend about 50 K between KC Bagels, Red Hen Bakery, and Flatbread Pizza, all within a 5-mile radius. While all of these local businesses are working closely with us to change what they can, when the now 52% whole grain requirement goes to 100% next fall, we likely will not be able to use these products. For example, the organic wheat bread that we have used from Red Hen for years uses about 5 ingredients. The flour is milled differently than the enriched wheat flour we are now required to use. Therefore, we will be forced to purchase bread products from a commercial distributor whose bread contains some 32 ingredients and more preservatives. This is just one example of many.
    In order to give the reader a point of reference, the seven schools in the WWSU spend approximately $1,076,197.00 dollars on our food service programs. The Harwood Program in 2005-06 was running a $113,000 deficit. We hired a chef, reinvented the program with “buy local” and farm-to-school and finished FY 2011 in the black by $7,000.00. We, along with other large schools in Vermont, are quickly going to return to those deficits if we do not act. Hence, thousands of increased dollars will be needed from the Ed Fund.
   In summary, the student, parent, and chef testimonials are many and extremely heartfelt as well as practical. Reports from our coaches are filled with examples of athletes nearly passing out, and loading up on junk food right before a meet. These regulations and smaller portions would have you believe that the 6’5” senior football player has the same caloric needs as the 4’ 10” 7th grade non-athlete. Our kids are hungry, and they are not making smart choices after school and before practice. Our cross country runners expend a huge amount of calories during training (and meets) and not being properly fueled is dangerous to these young athletes. Hunger leads to fatigue in all athletes, and fatigue leads to injuries as surely as poor training and holes in a playing field. The lack of protein available during school lunch through the salad bar for cross country runners that may run up to 50 miles/week is dangerous and unacceptable. Coaches and parents are bringing in food because their students have so little energy. John Kerrigan, HUHS cross country coach for the past 37 years reported, “I had one girl almost pass out this week in a workout. I asked her what happened, and her words not mine, “I did not have enough to eat at lunch."
   The schools in our SU, like many in Vermont, gave up French fries and onion rings from a fryer years ago. We are about scratch cooking, using fresh fruits and vegetables, buying local, improving the bottom line and, most importantly, customer satisfaction with students and parents. Childhood obesity is a serious problem. The solution, however, cannot be to put ALL students on a serious calorie restricted diet. We also should be teaching students how to make healthy choices, not to have those choices prescribed and regulated, to achieve balance and moderation in food selections necessary for their individual needs, and most importantly, what to take and not what to throw away because it had to be on their tray.
   The situation we find ourselves in is NOT one of growing pains, nor can it be resolved with creativity and tweaking as has been suggested by those in charge. The train is coming, and we are standing right on the tracks. It is only a short matter of time before our food service programs in Vermont will all be “failing” under this rigid, one size fits all legislation. It is time to rewrite this legislation. The solution is simple. Most schools in Vermont had already achieved the goal, while continually striving to improve each and every year. The problem does not lie with the minimums, mandated choices of fruits and vegetables, etc., but rather with the maximums and the inability for individual families and local communities to make choices beyond that. I encourage each of you to speak out to our senators and representatives on both state and national levels. Vermont can lead the charge. While we wait for relief, supervisory unions like mine will be forced to investigate and evaluate the costs, financially and otherwise, of non-compliance.
   Brigid S. Scheffert, Superintendent
   Donarae Dawson Pike, Director of Student Supports
   Michelle Baker, Director of Finance
   Sheila Soule-Rivers, Director of Curriculum


Pub 10/28/12 Times Argus by Cristina Kumka
   The state has formed a new commission to review quality standards in schools, including how conducive a traditional school calendar and limited class times are to progressive learning.
   The state Board of Education announced last week the formation of a 17-member Education Quality Standards Commission, which takes up work started by the 2009 Education Transformation Policy Commission.
   This commission’s goal is to come up with a proposal that recommends new policies to be adopted by the state board. These could include new graduation requirements, the amount of time spent in classes and other broad policies that could affect how schools operate and how an education is given.
   While the commission’s goal is separate and secondary to preparing schools for new standardized tests in 2015 called the Common Core, both will align sometime in the future.
   The Common Core, a nationally adopted set of school rules that stresses college- and career-ready preparation for kids, also asks that graduation requirements be modified and that’s something the new commission will investigate.
   “It’s a pretty big shift and responsibility,” said Jill Remick, the commission’s project manager. “Most of the folks in schools would be welcoming to some change to school quality standards.”
   The commission will use a recent report, by a task force formed by the Vermont Superintendents Association, that aimed to answer the question: “What is it that the public education system is expected to accomplish for every child?”
   The report, called “Welcome to
Vermont: Home of a world-class public education system dedicated to fulfilling the aspirations of each student,” stressed a new education for kids that included a “personalized, responsive, rigorous, engaging, flexible and relevant and meaningful” learning design.
   The report also looked at historical accomplishments in education and built on them.
   For example, universal access to education is to be followed by an education with high standards.
   Standardized solutions were replaced by customized learning plans and processes.
   Limited choices were replaced by expanded choices. Progress measured by time in the classroom, credits and annual school schedules were replaced by an education delivered anytime, anywhere and measured more directly, according to the report.
   “They (the VSA) are really about not just measuring students after they’ve gone through the system, but making sure kids have access to all those things before it’s too late,” Remick said.
   That includes distance, or online, learning, interactive lessons, and requiring students to take subjects sooner, according to Remick.
   The education system in
Vermont is too susceptible to schools pushing students through from grade to grade, without giving them personalized learning, according to the state Education Department.
“The VSA Task Force has succeeded in distilling into a very simple message what we should expect for every student through his or her public education experience in
Vermont,” said Stephan Morse, chairman of the state Board of Education.
   “The challenge is clearly daunting, but it is achievable through wise deployment of resources, family participation and conscientious stewardship of every student by every adult in the public education system,” he said.
   The first meeting of the EQS Commission is Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Education Department’s Licensing & Business office at 1311 Route 302 in Berlin.

Berlin: Transitional housing needs permit
By David Delcore  Times Argus pub
BERLINBerlin’s zoning administrator has ruled that a single-family home on Chandler Road would become a “state facility” if it is rented to four men who are currently jailed for crimes that include sex offenses.
   Town Administrator Jeff Schulz, who doubles as the local zoning administrator, arrived at his conclusion in the wake of a Monday night meeting during which dozens of residents — some angrier than others — demanded the town do whatever it could to stop or stall plans to establish transitional housing in a four- bedroom home on their rural road.
   Schulz’s determination is significant because — barring a successful appeal — it would require the Community Justice Centers of Washington County to obtain a conditional use permit from the town’s Development Review Board before moving four men into the home, which is owned by former Berlin Police Chief Bill Jennings.
   Although he admitted it is “a gray area,” Schulz said Tuesday the fact that the four prospective tenants are still under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections prompted him to determine the home would be a state facility if they moved in. He said that belief was buttressed by his understanding that the lease agreement would be with the
Montpelier Community Justice Center.
Berlin’s zoning regulations don’t define “state facility” but do contain a provision titled “Equal Treatment of Housing” that raises questions about Schulz’s ruling. Among other things, that provision states: “Group homes occupied by six or fewer residents … shall be treated as a one-family dwelling under these regulations.”
   A one-family dwelling is an allowed use on
Chandler Road.
   Yvonne Byrd, executive director of the
Montpelier Community Justice Center, said it was unclear whether Schulz’s ruling would affect plans to execute the lease with Jennings this week.
   Byrd did say the determination would likely be challenged.
   “I don’t think we’ll be taking it at face value,” she said, standing by her belief that the proposed lease doesn’t run afoul of
Berlin’s zoning regulations.
Jennings could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
   Schulz’s ruling Tuesday afternoon created some uncertainty about a project that was widely criticized at Monday night’s Select Board meeting.
   Those who live on and around Chandler Road told board members they want absolutely no part of a program that they view as a threat to their neighborhood, their families and their property values.
   That point was hammered home Monday night as a standing-room-only crowd sent the clearest of signals to Schulz and the Select Board.
   Brian Divelbliss, who lives next door to the house owned by Jennings, kicked off the unscheduled discussion with a prepared statement that left no doubt where he stood when it comes to the plan he and his neighbors learned about just last week.
   Divelbliss said he and others flatly rejected the “give it a chance” philosophy advocated by justice center personnel.
   “Innocence, safety and security cannot be bought and sold if lost,” he said.
   “Regardless of how you explain it, this community will not accept this program,” said Divelbliss. “If the philosophy of this program is to reintroduce their clients back into the community, then they need to find another community.”
   Divelbliss’ remarks kicked off a 20-minute tirade during which tempers occasionally flared, voices frequently were raised and Schulz was all but threatened to deliver an opinion that would force a local regulatory review of the proposed housing arrangement.
   “The zoning administrator needs to step up and shut this down and get it in front of the (Development Review Board),” one man said, suggesting a ruling — “right or wrong” — that went the neighbors’ way would buy time.
   “It’s potentially the most important zoning decision that (Schulz) will make while he’s in office, and he needs to step up and make it,” the man said.
   Another resident worried that if Schulz didn’t hastily weigh in, the lease would be signed and it would be too late.
   “Once they move into that house it’s going to be almost impossible to move them out,” he said.
   “It needs to be stopped before that happens,” a woman chimed in.
   Schulz said he wrestled with the question over the weekend and later told board members the issue wasn’t as clear-cut as several residents seemed to suggest.
   Schulz did say Monday that the Select Board, which just learned about the proposal late last week, was powerless to prevent it.
   “The Select Board does not have the authority to definitively stop this project,” he said, acknowledging the town’s zoning regulations could — at least temporarily — provide neighbors with the relief they sought if he concluded that a conditional use permit was required.
   Longtime resident Kenneth Partlow was among those who argued that introducing a use that he viewed as inconsistent with a rural residential neighborhood should be stopped at all costs.
   “I feel the town of
Berlin owes the residents the right to stand up for them,” he said, expressing concern that the transitional housing arrangement would drive down property values in the neighborhood.
   Partlow also objected to what he considered the “we’ll do what we want” attitude and questioned how effective the state-sponsored re-entry programs actually are.
   “(The state’s) programs don’t work, and we don’t need them in our neighborhood,” he said. “We want our area to stay the way it is, and we’re asking you to support us on it.”
   Lover’s Lane resident Linda Fordham, who like Partlow shared a story of a family member convicted of a sex offense, was even more emphatic.
   “I’m speaking for the children,” Fordham screamed at the board. “Who’s going to take responsibility for the community for the state if one child — just one — becomes raped or molested by one of these people? (And) don’t tell me: ‘They won’t do it again!’”
   Residents used words like “underhanded” to describe what they viewed as an attempt to do an end run around the local regulatory process. They also raised concerns ranging from the time it would take for emergency response in their neighborhood to the durability of
GPS ankle bracelets that would be worn by program participants.
Chandler Road resident Delbert Haskins said he trusted that the board and Schulz got the message.
   “I think you understand now it is your responsibility and you can’t sidetrack it and we are going to hold you responsible,” he said.
   At one point,
Chandler Road resident Ron Tucker sought to dial down the rhetoric as several of his neighbors took turns shouting at the board.
   “(Board members) are feeling about as misinformed and as uninformed as we are,” Tucker said. “It’s not their fault.”
   However, Tucker was in lock-step with his neighbors and politely provided Schulz with the blueprint for the ruling he issued Tuesday.
   “The fact of the matter is … it does not fit this (town) plan, it does warrant a little more looking into, and it does warrant conditional use review (because) this is going to be a state facility,” he said.


Pub 10/30/12 Times Argus by David Taube
BERLIN — Discussion of a proposed labyrinth at the new Vermont state hospital in Berlin was revisited Monday.
   While the labyrinth, similar to a maze, is considered a “wish-list” item, one architect involved with the project downplayed any concerns, suggesting its price tag would be minor in the context of the overall cost of the project.
   The work group for the new state hospital met to continue discussing external design aspects of the facility.
   The labyrinth could be used for therapeutic purposes for patients. According to architect Anthony Garner, yoga practitioners frequently use labyrinths in their work with clients.
   The cost of the labyrinth could be a few thousand dollars to as much as $20,000, depending on its surface and on how intricate it is. It would have no walls and would be about 24 feet in diameter, architects said.
   Monday’s work group meeting was the latest step in a process that takes on some urgency. Architects hired by the state want to have bids ready for the new $22.5 million state hospital project within two months to meet Gov. Peter Shumlin’s aggressive timetable to have patients begin occupying the facility in January 2014.
   “We want to make sure we’re moving in the right direction, because as you know time is of the essence,” said architect Sara Wengert of the overall project. “We’ve made a commitment to have the site designed and ready to bid within two months.”
   Wengert said the work group should make all its decisions about the external aspects of the facility within the next month.
   Garner, her colleague at the firm Architecture +, said every individual decision about the new facility can potentially create a bottleneck for the entire project at this point.
   The new 25-bed hospital, which will be located on
Fisher Road next to Central Vermont Medical Center, will be part of a statewide network of mental health facilities to replace the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, which suffered significant flooding damage last year as a result of Tropical Storm Irene.
   The exterior design for the new one-story structure in Berlin features an inner courtyard, created from building corridors wrapping around the area, and an outer courtyard, enclosed by a fence. Planners hope to clear part of a treeline beyond the fence to create a more open feel.
   The outer courtyard will include space for a basketball court, and officials hope to create a trail to be used by walkers, joggers and wheelchair users.
   Also as part of the design, the lowest portion of certain rooftops and walkway canopies will be 14 feet above the ground to prevent patients from escaping,
Montpelier architect Jim Drummond said.
   Any design changes in the project are based on input from the various work group members.
   JP Hayden, a psychologist who works for the state, said the labyrinth was a wish-list item, but she could imagine patients using it on a routine basis. She conceded, however, that other activities could provide comparable therapeutic value.
   The work group already has agreed on some cost saving measures, cutting the proposed size of the building from 53,000 to 44,500 square feet earlier this summer. That reduction helped cut the estimated cost of the hospital from $28.5 million to $22.5 million, according to
Vermont Buildings and General Services Department staffer David Burley.
   Among other items discussed Monday, Anne Donahue, of
Northfield, said she has repeatedly heard concerns about potentially increased traffic along Fisher Road, where CVMC is located.
   Plans for the state hospital project envision using the
Fisher Road entrance, but Donahue has heard concerns that the Berlin Development Review Board might want traffic from the new state hospital not to go directly onto Fisher Road but instead onto an access road that CVMC already uses. That access road has a stoplight where it meets Fisher Road.
   Berlin Development Review Board member Muriel Morse said the board hadn’t discussed the state hospital project because it hadn’t yet seen the state’s application paperwork.
   The application has been received by the town of
Berlin and includes a traffic study. The study suggests additional traffic on Fisher Road would be minimal, said town Zoning Administrator Jeff Schulz.
   Previously, when the review board has required significant changes for property access to a highway, traffic studies have generally justified the changes, Schulz said.
   The Development Review Board is slated to discuss the state’s application at
7 p.m. Nov. 20 at the town office.
   The state Financial Regulation Department will also hold a public hearing on the proposed state hospital at
1:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in Montpelier in the third-floor conference room of City Center, at 89 Main St.

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