Thursday, December 27, 2012


News to Know December FIRE

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
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This News to Know is to share information regarding the devastating fire in Berlin on 12/26/12.   Sadly, the Towne family home and attached barn was leveled in a blaze that started in the barn and quickly spread.  Berlin fire fighters and 10 other area departments all fought the blaze and some were still on scene early this morning.  Red Cross and the Berlin Ladies Auxiliary provided food to those on scene and Red Cross also provided additional support for the family.  Friends, neighbors and especially their network of horse people are all rallying to support the Towne family.   There are many people who aren't close friends but are all asking "what can we do to help?"
Towne-Ayr Farm does have a facebook page.
If you have any photos of the Towne family that you can scan for them or otherwise share with them they would appreciate it!
The Town of Berlin is accepting donations for the Towne family.  Berlin Town Office Attn: Jeff Schulz, 108 Shed Road, Berlin, VT  05602 802-223-4405  Checks can be made payable directly to the Towne family.
   Erin Longworth Performance Horses (ELPH) is saddened to learn about the fire at the Towne Ayr Farm on Wednesday night. Everyone is safe and sound including the animals but they need help.
   Please read the article below and share with everyone!
TOWNE AYR FARM: Wednesday Night Fire Destroyed Home and Hay Barn in Berlin, VT. Assistance is needed from the Horse Community.
   I have just gotten off the phone with Rita and Bethany. Sad, exhausted and waiting for various agencies to arrive. Clothing sizes: Ladies 10 and medium Ladies 14 and large. Men’s size xxl tall. They need everything folks!! Donations can be mailed to: 523 3 Mile Bridge Road, Berlin, VT 05602 or 802-272-8379 or Loretta Wilson at 802-522-6777 Please contact Martha Heavesides-Linnebur or Loretta before delivering anything. The Towne family is overwhelmed at the moment and while we all mean well we could easily add to the stress of this horrific event. Hay storage is limited so we need to schedule deliveries accordingly.
   From Martha Heavisides-Linnebur
Pub 12/27/12 Times Argus by David Taube
   BERLIN — A fire destroyed a hay barn four and a half stories tall and a neighboring historic farmhouse late Wednesday on Three Mile Bridge Road.
   Brad Towne, who lived there with his family, was still wearing a sweater Thursday morning that he had received for Christmas, one of the few items the fire did not destroy.
   The barn had 1,500 large bales of hay, which was not as much as the 20,000 the barn sometimes had held. The massive fire tore through the structure, bringing the sides to the ground within a few hours.
   Motorists along Interstate 89 could see the flames, and smoke and ashes billowed twice as high as an old maple tree next to the home.
   The home was rebuilt in the 1880s after a fire destroyed the original structure. The adjacent barn had remained standing from that first blaze, though. At one point, the cellar of the barn was connected to the summer portion of the home.
   “As kids, we had a great time playing hide and seek,” Towne recalled on Thursday.
   Towne’s grandfather acquired the property in the 1920s, and his mother, Ruth Towne, who served in the Vermont Legislature for 26 years and died in 2007, had also lived in the home.
   Brad Towne’s wife, Rita, was in the home when the barn fire began, but a passing motorist stopped and alerted her to the blaze.
   She said she went back into the home to call 911 from a landline because that was the quickest way to reach firefighters. Her husband, who is chairman of the Berlin Select Board, was at a meeting.
   The passerby then told her to leave as the barn quickly was consumed by flames, Rita Towne said late Wednesday.
   The fire began from a piece of farm equipment, and the cause was not suspicious, state investigators determined.
   Berlin Fire Chief Miles Silk Jr. said a skid steer, similar to a Bobcat used by cities for plowing sidewalks, presumably malfunctioned inside the barn.
   The fire was called in to a Montpelier dispatcher around 8:40 p.m.; initially it was believed there were horses inside the barn.
   Fortunately, the horses were in a nearby barn that serves as a stable and arena and that was unaffected by the fire, Rita Towne said.
   Many neighbors helped form a line to guide the 12 horses and a pony into a fenced area farther away from the fire, but several animals panicked. Rita Towne said they recognized her voice and eventually responded, but one knocked into a volunteer.
   Silk, the fire chief, said the barn was almost on the ground when East Montpelier reached the scene — a town department closer to the property than Berlin’s fire department.
   Brad Towne owns and rents out a house across the road, and he recalled Thursday that he didn’t realize the fire was at his own home until he saw the blaze.
   Around 10:20 p.m., flames from the back of the house rose from the ground as high as the remaining portion of the two-story home. An interior wall quickly dropped.
   The historic home had three chimneys, all of which fell to the ground. The home had been divided into two living quarters because, in the past, families would cook in one section of the home to avoid the additional heat generated from cooking during the summer, Brad Towne said.
   Berlin firefighters and 10 other area fire departments responded. The fire became under control around 2:30 or 3 a.m. Thursday, and as firefighters prepared to leave, a 6- or 7-foot flame re-emerged from a house cellar, said Silk. Fire crews cleared the scene at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
   The couple spent the night in a small heated room next to the stable where saddles go.
   A house cat named Jack was injured in the fire and was being treated by a veterinarian Thursday. Rita Towne said late Wednesday that she had not seen the two barn cats.
   The couple’s daughter, Bethany, 20, was having Christmas dinner with her boyfriend and his family at the time of the fire. The couple’s son, Nathan, 23, was at a friend’s house.
   Others have offered help, from providing hay to living quarters. The family has a relative nearby.
   The home and barn were insured.
   Brad Towne said they could rebuild.
(link includes photos)
WCAX-TV by Alexei Rubenstein 
   BERLIN, Vt. - A charred, smoking foundation is all that's left of the Towne family farm. It was about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday when a neighbor on Three Mile Bridge Road spotted flames and banged on the door of the attached two-story house.
   "When she came to the door she says, 'I think your barn is on fire.' And when I looked-- yeah, that's a fire," Rita Towne said. "Running up to the house to get to the landline, I was trying to run as fast as I could and I felt like I was running in slow motion, that was the worst part."
   In the few minutes it took to call 911 and her husband, the fire consumed the barn, moving toward the house. For Rita, protecting her dozen horses in a separate, adjacent barn was top priority.
   "On the way out I started grabbing pictures and then when I saw the explosion I thought the side of the arena was burning, I dropped the pictures for some reason, I didn't hang on to them, I threw them down and ran. I said I got to get to the barn," she said.
   Meanwhile, Brad Towne who was away chairing a town select board meeting, raced home.
   "The barn was pretty much skeleton remains and it was already going into the house," he said. "So, the fire departments were here-- it was just dry wood and it went."
   His grandfather bought the now 150-year-old farm back in the 1920s, when it was operated as a dairy. Former state legislator Ruth Towne and her husband raised Brad and his brother in the rambling farm house. And Brad and his wife raised their two kids there.
   "So, we lost all of my mother's stuff and what not... nobody got hurt," Brad said.
   Neighbors dropped by Thursday to deliver supplies and words of encouragement.
   Fire investigators confirmed a skid steer sparked the blaze.
   "I don't know if it was a short in the skid steer or what it was," Brad said. "We've had the skid steer in the barn before."
   The horses, although spooked, are OK.
   "They're trying to get back to a routine of eating and drinking a little water, that's what they wanna do is have a routine, so we're just waiting to see what our routine's gonna be," Rita said.
   The family will stay with relatives in the neighborhood until they figure out their next move. The assessed damage is estimated at over $200,000. But it's the loss of family memories that looms large.
   "The house was in the family... but we move on," Brad said.
   The Towne family's cat, Jack, was singed in the fire, but is reportedly doing OK.
More photos:!/media/set/?set=a.175672049223457.6101.115562575234405&type=1
Worth noting about this corner of Berlin - Junction Road becomes Three Mile Bridge Road at the Three Mile Bridge and then at the corner of Jones Brook Road where the town line is the road becomes Moretown's River Road.  Jones Brook Road includes sections of Berlin and Moretown.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


News to Know Dec 25, 2012

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
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The Parent-Teacher Association of the Newtown, CT, school that was the location of the recent tragic shootings has requested donations of paper snowflakes to decorate the new school building that the children will return to in January. Many of you have asked what we can do to support this school, the children, and their community. Here is your opportunity. The Berlin Elementary School will host a snowflake-making event on Thursday, December 27th, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. All materials will be provided. All members of the Berlin Community are invited to meet at the school and make paper snowflakes to be sent to Newtown, CT. Hot chocolate will be provided. Please consider joining us. Everyone is welcome. Questions may be directed to Chris Dodge, Principal, at Those unable to attend this event may drop off snowflakes to be included in the mailing. Drop-off may take place at the school office anytime Wednesday, or Thursday before noon.
Note: Although significant snow is in the forecast, they are not able to postpone this event as the snowflakes must be in the mail on Friday to meet the deadline.
Marcia Clark is once again offering a Music Playgroup at Berlin Elementary School.  This is on Tuesdays from 10:15 - 10:45 am and is for Berlin children ages birth - 4 years old.  Sign-up by calling the school office at 223-2796.  Marcia is Berlin's Music Educator who has over 20 years of experience teaching elementary music and prior to that experience working in preschool.  Come enjoy this free music filled class of songs, games, listening, and movement.
I believe the next time they meet will be January 8th, so mark your calendar!
Parents, families and friends: Please mark your calendars.  Berlin Elementary School's Winter Concert is January 10th at 6:30 p.m. in the Gym. 
Spreading the word for a friend and fellow Berlin resident -
"Starting after the 1st of the year I will be starting my own part time business called "All Jobs Small".  I will be doing home repairs and handyman services. indoor painting, wood working, hanging and building shelving, repairing walls and doors etc., some plumbing (new faucets, toilets etc) and small electric repairs (switches and receptacle replacement)..  any small job that you may need done.  I will be available weekends for the most part, some evenings too. I have an e-mail address for this and a phone #802-272-3054 along with a facebook page.  Call or e-mail me for more info if you are in need of my services.  Jeff Richards"
Pub 12/22/12 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Owners of the Berlin Mall didn’t get everything they asked for from the District 5 Environmental Commission this week, but they did receive permission to pursue the planned expansion of the shopping complex in order to accommodate its largest tenant.
   Translation: Walmart will soon be getting bigger in Berlin.
   Ken Simon, of Lerner-Heidenberg Associates, welcomed word that the commission signed off on the central feature of his company’s application for an amendment to the land-use permit for the mall which it acquired as part of a joint venture in 2010.
   Simon said Friday he hadn’t yet had time to thoroughly review the commission’s 24-page decision, but said he was pleased that plans to construct an 18,700-square-foot addition to the mall were approved.
   “We’re gratified that we got the permit and we look forward to beginning this project as soon as possible,” Simon said.
   Simon said work will start in the spring, though he opted not to put a timetable on a project that involves the construction of the newly permitted additions, as well as the conversion of three existing storefronts that collectively occupy roughly 7,500 square feet of retail space.
   Once construction is complete, Walmart’s footprint will increase by roughly 26,000 square feet — almost all of it needed to accommodate a greatly expanded grocery section.
   Walmart currently occupies 67,260 square feet, a figure that will increase to 93,539 square feet when the work is finished.
   Although the district commission ended its year-long review of the permit amendment by conditionally approving the expansion, as well as a plan to create 136 new parking spaces, it denied a companion request to install an internally-lighted pylon sign at the mall’s entrance on Route 62.
   The commission concluded that the sign, which would have been nearly 19 feet tall, would have been jarringly out of character on the limited access highway that runs all the way from Interstate 89 down into Barre.
   All other aspects of the application were approved.
   However, in granting permission for the expansion of the mall, the commission imposed a number of traffic-related conditions — including some that representatives for the mall had argued were unnecessary.
   Most notably, the commission concluded that the traffic signal located at the Fisher Road intersection the mall shares with Central Vermont Medical Center will need more of an upgrade than was initially proposed.
   Though the commission acknowledged the re-striping plan advanced by representatives of the mall would be an improvement at the high-accident intersection, it concluded modifying the traffic signal to create exclusive left-turn phases for mall-bound vehicles heading in both directions would also be necessary.
   Responding to concerns about pedestrian safety at the intersection shared by the mall and the hospital, the commission also agreed that a formal crosswalk — including a “Walk” phase button programmed into the traffic signal — be incorporated into the project. The permit also calls for a formal sidewalk to be constructed in the footprint of a gravel pedestrian path that had been proposed to be constructed connecting the mall to Fisher Road, as well as a bus pull-off area. The mall owner has one year from the start of construction to meet those requirements.
   The commission did not require the mall owner to make any adjustments to the nearby intersection of Route 62, Fisher and Airport roads, though it left open the door the mall may eventually be required to contribute to a future upgrade of that intersection.
   Simon offered no comment on those conditions.
   “We just got the permit,” he said.
   Expanding is a key feature of plans for a mall that is scheduled to lose one of its anchors early next year when Jo-Ann Fabrics moves to the Vermont Shopping Center on the Barre-Montpelier Road.
   Simon said the mall’s owners are aggressively courting potential tenants for a shopping complex that is anchored by Walmart and J.C. Penney.
Pub 12/23/12 by Eric Blaisdell
   BERLIN — A local family who’s been making candy for five generations has seen a few changes in the confectionery business, but they’re happy to stick with exactly what’s worked so sweetly for them over the years.
   Make that over a century.
   The year was 1911 when Allen Mack Nelson decided to set up a candy shop of his own. Nelson had already worked for eight years making peanut brittle at the Cross Baking Company in Montpelier.
   Maybe a few things have changed a little bit — like cars replacing horses and buggies — but the Nelsons today still make their fudge, peanut brittle, chocolate pops and other treats with the same recipe they created decades ago.
   “We haven’t changed one grain of sugar,” said third-generation candy-maker Donald Nelson. “That’s what keeps us apart from other candy manufacturers. People can get peanut brittle that tastes the same as it did 50 years ago.”
   Candy-making is in the Nelson family’s blood. Donald Nelson’s brother runs a candy shop in Wilton, N.H. and his sister operates one near the beach in Hampton, N.H.
   Here in Central Vermont, Donald Nelson’s grandchildren now help him sell his confections. And while he’s proud his granddaughter has a master’s degree, there’s nothing like the hands-on experience of putting on an apron and dishing out the fudge.
   “Working behind the counter is worth a degree because you learn so much about people,” he said.
   Nelson, 72, still operates Nelson’s Candy Farm, even if he’s semi-retired now. He only sells his candy at about 18 locations around New England as opposed to 40 in his heyday.
Nelson sells at the Berlin Mall for a few days around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and for about 20 days before Christmas. Nelson said he’ll be selling his candy right up to the close of business on Christmas Eve.
   Besides the mall, Nelson sets up his candy counter at fairs in Tunbridge, Barton, Deerfield, NH and Fryeberg, Maine. It’s the fairs that keep Nelson going. He says fairs are for people to come and enjoy themselves and leave their problems at home.
   “Being a part of that is worth working 12 hours,” he said.
   Nelson previously sold his candy on Easter, but no longer — he now spends his winters in Florida, leaving the confectionery sales for that particular holiday with a little store further down the mall-way.
   “I surrendered that business to Wal-Mart and they do a good job of it,” he said laughingly.
   Nelson has noticed some changes in the candy business during his stewardship of the family enterprise over the past 50 years. He said that while he still sells as much candy, if not more, than in previous years, the amount that people buy has changed. Nelson said people are buying fudge by the half pound these days, cutting back from earlier times when they’d buy by the full pound. He said there is also more demand for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. In fact, Nelson said on Saturday, he had already run out of dark chocolate with two full days to go before Christmas.
   “People are more up to date on health issues than before,” he said. “They know sugar isn’t a good thing. I shouldn’t be saying that as a candy-maker, but sugar is in everything.”
   Nelson said his grandchildren probably won’t pick up the business after he truly retires, but he hopes they will still make and sell candy at some of the fairs and other bigger locations.
   He said people would be disappointed if Nelson’s Candy Farm suddenly stopped selling candy, as grown men and women with a few years behind them still come up to tell him how they had bought fudge from him as children with their parents.
   For countless Central Vermonters, getting candy from the Nelsons has been a tradition — a sweet one.
Pub 12/20/12 Northfield News by Bill Croney
   When the gavel comes down in the State House, in Montpelier, next month Northfield will be part of a new two-seat district consisting of Northfield and Berlin. And, Northfield will have one new (to Northfield) Legislator. The two seats in the new district went to Anne Donahue, who had been representing Northfield in the old two-seat district made up of Northfield Roxbury and Moretown, and Patti Lewis, who represented the old Berlin-part of Barre City district since 2010.
   Ms Lewis may be new to Northfield as far as government goes but she is no stranger to the community. She was born in Montpelier, grew up in Waterbury and graduated from Harwood High School. She and her husband, Albie, who grew up in Northfield, raised their three grown daughters in an old farmhouse in Berlin, not far from I- 89’s Exit 6. She said she has always been interested in the area. ”I am very familiar with Northfield. I know a lot about the community and my husband, Albie, and I have a lot of friends there. We even lived in Northfield for a little while. We have lots of family roots there,” Patti Lewis said.
   While she was already a legislator for Berlin, she became a Northfield representative through a process called re-districting last year. “ It is based on the Census. There are 150 seats in the House Of Representatives so they divide the population by 150 and try to establish districts in such a way that each Representative has about the same amount of people (plus or minus 10 %). It works out that each Representative has about 4,500 constituents. It worked out, according to the Census that Barre City became large enough to have two Representatives and Berlin was too small to have it’s own. By combining Berlin and Northfield the population is 9,092-enough for two seats. Incidentally the Northfield-Berlin district is the largest two-seat district in the state,” Ms Lewis said.
   Her first foray into politics was when she ran, successfully, for the Berlin Treasurer-Tax Collector position nine years ago. When she was approached to run for the Legislature back in 2010 Ms Lewis was not exactly excited about the idea- at first. “ When Pat MacDonald decided not to run in 2010 she asked me. I really didn’t want to give up my job as Berlin Treasurer and Tax collector. I really loved my job and was afraid I couldn’t be both a representative and the town Treasurer but the Selectboard was very supportive so I was able to do both even though it meant a lot of extra hours. I just gave up my Treasurer’s-Tax Collector job recently because I feel that being a representative of a much larger district will mean a lot more hours taking care of legislative business,” Ms Lewis said. She also added that she learned a lot about how things work in the State House in her term as the Berlin-Barre City representative. “You meet with the people in your Caucus (in her case the Republican Caucus) and you form friendships as well as working relationships. You learn from your Caucus members and from your Committee members. No one can be an expert on everything but you learn from those around you. Last session I was on the Education Committee and when I started I knew very little about Education. But with the help of the committee members and with input from my Caucus members I was able to make sound decisions regarding my assignment. This session I have asked for Government Operations, Correctional Institutions or Transportation as my committee assignment. I’m leaning toward Transportation,”Ms Lewis said.
   Should she receive a spot on the Transportation Committee she just might be able to work on the possibility of getting a train stop for Northfield. “ Anne Donahue and I are going to work together to serve both towns. She called me about trying to get the train stop in Northfield and that is of interest to me. She is interested, even passionate, about the new mental health facility in Berlin. So we are going to work together not just have one representative take care of each town,” Patti said.
   She feels that there will be a lot of big issues that come before the Legislature in the up-coming session. “ Death With Dignity will come back. The Child Care Workers Union will be back and a big one I’ve heard a lot about is licenses for illegal immigrants. I’m opposed that. I’m sure the Marijuana issue will be back. Making small amounts legal. It has been said that it costs as much to try a small amount of Marijuana case as it does to try a DUI case. That’s a lot of money. And, I’m positive we will revisit health care again. We don’t know how much it’s going to cost or how we’re going to pay for it. It’s a scary thing,”Ms Lewis said.
   Whatever the issue, Ms Lewis’- constituents (and those of Ann Donahue) can be sure of one thing- they will be heard. “There will be issues about which I have a definite opinion but if my constituents feel I should vote the other way then I will go with the Constituents. I think that is what being a representative is all about,” she said “our Caucus doesn’t tell us how to vote. If the Caucus decides one way but I feel that my district may not benefit or my constituents feel another way then party leadership has said vote the way that is most beneficial to your constituents,” Ms Lewis said.
   Like any job being a representative has its’ good points and its’ bad points. As far as the good points Patti Lewis said that she really likes helping to make good decisions on things that are going to be good for Vermont. For the bad points she said frustration can set in. “ It’s really frustrating to be part of a small minority (Republicans) constantly going up a supermajority (Democrats) that knows they don’t even have to listen to the debates before they vote. They just vote because they know they can get their things through. That’s the most frustrating thing for me. We are all of equal intelligence and we should all listen to the debates and think things through before coming to a decision. Not just voting a certain way because that’s what your Caucus tells you,” Ms Lewis said.

Ms. Lewis said she is proud to be representing Northfield citizens as well as those in her home-town of Berlin. “ I love my district. I’m Thrilled to be part of Northfield. It’s a great community. There’s just so much there,” she said.


News to Know Dec 18, 2012

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
If you're not already receiving this news by email, send an email to request this to
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LOCAL BREAK-IN - I received an email this evening from a Berlin resident -  "There was another break-in on Paine Turnpike South, the 2nd in less than 2 weeks. I've posted this for the next FPF but I thought you might also like to send it out in your next news blast. It's just good to let folks know.  I don't know the exact date but it was sometime between Friday and Monday (yesterday)."

Included below please find:
Pub 12/16/12 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — Local voters will again be asked to double-down on their annual contribution to the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department in order to cover the cost of round-the-clock staffing at one of its stations.
   That idea was rebuffed earlier this year when voters narrowly rejected, 247-295, a special appropriation of $180,000, which would have underwritten the department’s plan to “continuously” staff its Four Corners Station.
   However, the Select Board learned this week that Town Meeting Day decision wasn’t the last word on the subject and the department plans to resurrect the request that failed by fewer than 50 votes when the town’s annual elections roll around again in March.
   Fire Chief Miles Silk Jr. said Saturday that Monday’s meeting with the Select Board “went well” and he is optimistic that the second vote will be successful given the level of support the idea received earlier this year.
   “Obviously there’s an interest within the town for elevating staffing (at the fire department),” Silk said, referring to the close vote that didn’t go the department’s way.
   Voters did approve a near-identical amount — $185,215 — to cover the department’s annual operations in March, but weren’t quite willing to commit to what was pitched as a plan to provide an enhanced service that would feature swifter response times.
   That much hasn’t changed, according to Silk, who said the department remains focused on providing town residents with a superior service and believes paying members stipends to staff the station at all times would be an important step in that direction.
   “It would be an increase of service to the town,” he said.
   The plan would come at an increased cost to taxpayers. If approved, the $180,000 appropriation the department is requesting would add roughly 4.5 cents to the local tax rate. If the ballot item is approved, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would have to pay an extra $90 a year in taxes to cover the cost of the department’s staffing plan.
   Silk said that additional cost is independent of the department’s plan to again make a play for a lucrative contract to provide ambulance service for most of Berlin. Since 1996 that contract has been held by Barre Town Emergency Medical Service. The latest agreement, a three-year deal that was struck between the Berlin Select Board and BTEMS in 2010, is set to expire on June 30, 2013.
   Silk said the volunteer fire department, which now has nearly 10 certified emergency medical technicians and counting, will again compete for that contract as it did unsuccessfully three years ago. At that time the department submitted a five-year proposal that was passed over by the Select Board, which opted instead to continue its long-standing relationship with Barre Town’s standalone ambulance service.
   According to Silk, the department is evolving and that includes changing the way “volunteers volunteer.” Instead of responding to calls as they come in, volunteers are now being asked to commit to provide coverage during specified hours of the week — a model Silk said is used in several southern states.
   The department’s regular operating budget would require only a modest increase in town support. That figure, which will again be voted separately from the staffing request, will increase from $185,215 to $190,985.
   The single biggest increase in the budget that was shared with the Select Board last week involves retirement expenses for the all-volunteer department. Those costs are expected to climb to $28,000, an increase of more than 51 percent next year, making it the single most expensive line item in the department’s budget. Rounding out the top five are: $26,000 for insurance, up 4 percent; $25,000 for dispatch services, up 4.17 percent; $24,000 for vehicle repair, up 20 percent; and $20,000 for capital replacement needs, level-funded.
   Those five line items account for more than half of the department’s operating budget.
   Potential changes to Berlin’s volunteer fire department, including the prospect of providing round-the-clock coverage and getting into the ambulance business, come even as a citizens committee is laying the groundwork for a vote next fall on the idea of consolidating emergency services in Berlin and three other central Vermont communities.
   The committee, which includes members from Barre, Barre Town, Berlin and Montpelier, has proposed the creation of an autonomous public safety authority that could provide police, fire, ambulance and emergency dispatching services to all four communities.
   By harnessing the resources now being spent on a patchwork of fragmented services — more than $13 million across the four towns — the committee believes the proposed authority could provide enhanced services while containing future cost increases.
   The committee, which is working with funding appropriated earlier this year by all four communities, is hoping to have a refined proposal ready in time to be put to a vote as early as next October.
Pub 12/14/12 Times Argus by David Taube
   MONTPELIER — Kellogg-Hubbard Library will make area patrons pay for library cards if their communities don’t increase funding, according to the head of the library.
   Kellogg-Hubbard Library could open for some hours on Sundays if town and city funding requests are met, but Library Director Richard Bidnick said residents of dissenting municipalities would have to pay $40 for library cards that have been free.
   Bidnick said he is trying to make the funding from each municipality equitable as Kellogg-Hubbard seeks more money in town and city budgets that support the library.
   Berlin would have the most drastic change under the proposal, more than doubling its one-year contribution from $12,557 to $26,925. Montpelier would have a 5 percent, or $14,698, increase to $308,673.
   Berlin’s current contribution comes out to about $4 per town resident for library services — a rate significantly lower than other municipalities that support the library.
   The library, however, calculated funding requests based on the number of registered library users for each municipality. A theoretical $25 per person was used in the calculation.
   “The library really had to come up with something that was more fair and equitable for all the surrounding towns,” Bidnick said Thursday.
   The library plans to gather the petitions necessary to put the question on the city’s March ballot as well as other towns’ ballots.
   On Thursday, Kellogg-Hubbard planned to post petitions in the library for each municipality that needs signatures in order to get the funding increase requests on the ballot. Petitions are not required for East Montpelier and Calais.
   While some areas just need a couple of hundred signatures or fewer, Montpelier will need 600, and Bidnick asked the City Council on Wednesday to waive the requirement. Council members refused, saying while they are supportive of the library, granting the exemption would set a precedent for other nonprofits.
   As one way to address funding issues, Bidnick, who started the job this summer, said he hopes to have self-checkout available to patrons.
   Bidnick noted Montpelier’s funding for the library’s operations has remained the same for several years while other spending for the city has increased.
   Montpelier also is paying nearly $44,000 this upcoming year for a bond for the library.
   Bidnick said he plans to be at Berlin on Town Meeting Day to advocate for the plan.
   The smallest proposed funding increase is $786 in Worcester, for a proposed $17,525 contribution.
   Calais would increase by $3,461 to $27,950. East Montpelier would go up $4,479 to $36,775. Middlesex would increase by $1,257 to $26,800.
   Residents of towns that don’t fund the library already pay for library cards.
(note - after this article regarding funding for Kellogg-Hubbard Library was published Library Director Richard Bidnick and I exchanged some emails and I'll send along more details on this topic in an upcoming News to Know, meanwhile, if you have questions the library phone number is 223-3338 and Richard's email is

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


News to Know November 30, 2012

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at
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Although the school lunch articles I've shared previously and the links below for another story are from other schools, keep in mind all public schools in Vermont are dealing with these issues.  Berlin & U-32 were doing great with freshly prepared and local foods so I hope these dictated changes aren't getting in the way of what they were already doing.

This week I found out our daughter, Lora, is supporting the animal shelter by selling raffle tickets which seems like a great way to support them and have a chance at winning some great items.: "I'm selling raffle tickets for the Central Vermont Humane Society's holiday raffle. Here's how it works. Look at the list of prizes. Then decide which ones you want to buy a ticket for. When you buy a ticket, the number of the prize you want to be entered for is put on the ticket. One number per ticket, but you can enter as many times as you want for as many prizes as you want. Ticket's are $1 each but you can buy 6 tickets for $5, 12 tickets for $10 or 24 tickets for $20. You can visit the website to see the list of prizes and more details. You can buy tickets on the website too, or via me. :)"  Tickets must be purchased before December 25th to be included in the drawing, you do not need to be present to win, drawing is on 12/28.  There will be more than 40 lucky winners.

Included below please find:
WCAX by Keith McGilvery November 20 & 21
Can't find what you're looking for?  Ask a librarian!
What have you been wondering??
Don't forget there are two great places on line to find family activities:
Find and Go Seek
 And KidsVT
There are always great activities happening at Kellogg-Hubbard Library on Main Street in Montpelier.  In addition to the activities they offer, they have passes for museums, parks, historical sites, and points of interest that can be borrowed -  passes can be signed out for a three day period and will make your next family outing cheaper!  Call or stop in for more details.

Yearly the Kellogg-Hubbard Library asks Berlin for financial support and because the voters support this, all Berlin residents are able to get a library card (with proof of residency) and make use of all their services.  Visit the library website at: or call them at 223-3338.

   The Town of Berlin, VT seeks a qualified person to fill this position on a temporary basis.  Primary responsibility for the financial accounting, reporting and tax collection for the town, including: payroll, accounts payable, accounts reconciliations, oversight of computerized accounting system, tax collection, and preparation of tax bills.  This is an appointed position that reports to the Town Administrator and Select Board.  This is a part-time temporary position (28 to 32 hours per week).  In addition to maintaining regular business hours in the office, there is an expectation that the Treasurer will attend Select Board meetings.  Deadline December 10th.  See more details on the town website

   The Town of Berlin Select Board and the Town’s Water Supply Committee will hold a public informational meeting on December 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM at the Berlin Elementary School on the Town’s plans to develop a public community water system to serve lands bounded by and adjacent to the following roads in Berlin: Paine Turnpike, Fisher Road, Airport Road, Scott Hill Road, Industrial Lane, Granger Road, Comstock Road, and Crosstown Road to I-89.   This meeting will be the first of several Town informational meetings in preparation for a bond vote on the project early next year.
    The Town of Berlin has planned a municipal water supply facility for the Town, and has recently begun the final design of the water system which will consist of the groundwater wells already developed by the Town, transmission and distribution mains lines, and a 400,000 gallon storage tank.   It is the Town's intention to complete final design, schedule a bond vote, bid the project, and be operational by the end of 2013.    A Town water supply study was completed and the study outlines plans for the Berlin community water system (see Berlin website).  
   It is critical for the Town to determine the continued level of interest in a public community water system for the service area.  Attendance by residents, land owners and business is important to the Town and Water Supply Committee.
    For more information contact the Town Administrator, Jeff Schulz
There are several ways you can support the Parent Teacher Neighbor Association (PTNA) on an ongoing basis.  The following programs translate into money or merchandise which the PTNA can use for their support of teachers, staff, students and the school in general.  There are collection bins at the school and at the town office for the labels and box tops.  Friends, neighbors and relatives who may not have children in school are also encouraged to participate if they can!
 - LABELS FOR EDUCATION - With this program, the portion of the label that is essential is the entire UPC code.  In addition to Campbell’s soups and products, eligible UPCs can be found on products such as Spaghettios, Swanson broth, Emerald nuts, Pop Secret, Post cereals  and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, cookies, crackers and breads.  For V8 juices, please submit the cap.  Points earned are used to order school merchandise.  An informational pamphlet is being sent home. For an entire list of eligible products, please go to
 - E-LABELS FOR EDUCATION – Sign up for this program online at   Every eligible purchase made using your Shopper Card from participating retailers will automatically earn 1 point our school can redeem for FREE educational merchandise.  This is in addition to clipping and redeeming UPCs to earn points.
 - PRICE CHOPPER TOOLS FOR SCHOOLS PROGRAM  -   The Price Chopper Tools for Schools Program has begun and runs until March 30, 2013. If you would like to help Berlin Elementary School earn free educational equipment, please register your Price Chopper AdvantEdge card (10 digit number on the back of the card) at under Program Sign-up. **OUR SCHOOL CODE IS 15281.** Every time you use your Price Chopper AdvantEdge Card, BES will earn credit towards free educational equipment. Please note that if you had previously signed up prior to August 2010, they require that you re-register your card.
 - BOX TOPS FOR EDUCATION  - Box tops coupons can be found on hundreds of food and household items.  Some companies include General Mills, Pillsbury, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Hamburger Helper, Nature Valley, Huggies, Ziploc, Hefty, Scott, Kleenex, Cottonelle and many others.  Coupons are worth 10 cents each and are redeemed for cash for school.  Please look for the pink Box Tops coupons!  For an entire list of eligible products and for more information, please see
 - HANNAFORD HELPS SCHOOLS – Purchase participating products at Hannaford Supermarkets from now until December 1, 2012 and you’ll earn money for BES by earning “School Dollars”.  If you receive a “School Dollar” slip at check out, please deposit it into the collection tower at Hannaford for BES or send them to school.  An informational pamphlet is being sent home.
Pub 11/20/12 WCAX by Gina Bullard
   BERLIN, Vt - The Wal-Mart in Berlin, Vt., will soon be expanding.
   Right now, the 65,000-square-foot store is the discount retailer's smallest in the country.
    The addition of more than 90,000 square feet will include an expansion into the Berlin Mall, as well as adding on to the current building.  The town approved the extension but is waiting to issue a zoning permit until it receives traffic drawings.
   Each year, the Berlin Elementary School looks to support students and their families by donating holiday gifts and food to families in need. This year, the need for food far exceeds our capacity to serve, and we are only in November. More than 20 families have reached out to the school for holiday meals.
    Through Wednesday, December 19, 2012, we will be collecting non-perishable food items to box into holiday meals for families. There will be a collection box in the school lobby. Gift cards to local grocery stores will also be accepted and a school official will shop for needed items.
    Thank you for supporting your hungry Berlin neighbors.
   - Chris Dodge, Principal
Pub 11/22/12 by Times Argus
   MONTPELIER — The state appears unlikely to meet its goal of starting construction on a psychiatric hospital in Berlin before the end of this month.
    But acting Mental Health Commissioner Mary Moulton and local officials in Berlin say they think the $22.5 million project is still on track.
   “I don’t think anybody saw show-stoppers,” Berlin Development Review Board Chairman Robert Wernecke said Wednesday.
    Board members had questions including what sorts of trees and shrubbery would be planted on the facility’s grounds and what materials would be used to build a retaining wall.
   Wernecke said he expected the state would be able to provide satisfactory answers to the questions in time for his board’s next meeting Dec. 4. He said the five-member panel would then deliberate and likely issue its findings later in December.
    That would delay what state officials earlier this year had said they hoped would be a November start of construction on what has been a fast-tracked project since the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury was forced to close due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
    Wernecke scoffed at the idea the state might have expected approval from his board in time to start construction this month.
   “To think they’re going to have a shovel in the ground the same week we have a hearing is ... optimistic,” he said. “I think that would be a very, very high expectation. I’m sure they recognize that.”
    Now the challenge will be the onset of winter weather, Moulton said.
   “We’re hoping that it doesn’t freeze over in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
   Wernecke said the project has drawn little opposition. Three parties asked to intervene in his board’s review: the town of Berlin; the Berlin Mall shopping center; and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont. The shopping center and Blue Cross Blue Shield are near the site of the planned psychiatric hospital, which is to be built along a road northwest of Central Vermont Medical Center.
    Wernecke said the town has been pushing for a promise from the state that if the town sets up a municipal water system — something it’s considering — the state hospital would be a customer.
   Moulton said she will be talking with the town police department about any increased police coverage that might be required and how the state might support that.
   The state has been under intense pressure since Irene to map the future course of its mental health system. Lawmakers last winter approved a plan to replace the 54-bed Waterbury hospital, which long had been viewed as antiquated and in need of major updating or replacement, with a 25-bed facility in Berlin and a series of smaller psychiatric units scattered around the state.

Pub 11/20/12 Times Argus
   MONTPELIER— In an unusually speedy process, the state on Monday granted itself a certificate of need — essentially a state permit — for a new public psychiatric hospital in Berlin to replace the Waterbury facility that was closed by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Irene.
    Just three days after a public hearing to air the merits of the proposal, the Department of Mental Health’s plan for a 25-bed hospital near the Central Vermont Medical Center won approval from the Department of Financial Regulation. Officials hope to have it open by January 2014.
    DFR Commissioner Steve Kimbell noted Vermont has been scrambling since Irene hit in late August 2011 to find places for its mental health patients. By last winter, a plan gelled and won legislative approval to have the 54-bed Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury replaced by the smaller hospital in Berlin, along with a series of still smaller psychiatric units around the state in Brattleboro, Morrisville, Rutland, Burlington and elsewhere.
    While that plan has been in the works, officials have struggled to find adequate placements for patients who would have gone to Waterbury. Some have languished for days under police guard in the emergency rooms of community hospitals, waiting for an inpatient bed to open up.
    “This has put tremendous pressure on the state’s ability to care for Vermonters will serious mental illness,” Kimbell said in a statement announcing his approval of the certificate of need. “Our mental health care providers are to be commended for their hard work and dedicated service during this difficult time.”
    A call to Mary Moulton, the acting mental health commissioner, wasn’t immediately returned.
   The head of an advocacy group called Monday’s announcement “great news.” Floyd Nease, executive director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health, said the Berlin facility would be “the anchor for the new system that we’re building. Rather than months and months worrying about achieving a (certificate of need), they’ve managed to do it in very short order.”
    Rep. Anne Donahue of Northfield, the top Republican on the House Human Services Committee who closely follows mental health issues, also called the announcement good news. The new hospital will have “excellent outdoor space,” as well as state-of-the-art treatment areas, a vast improvement over the Waterbury hospital.
   The Waterbury hospital was first opened in the 1890s and was widely viewed as antiquated and in need of replacement. The new hospital will be “no comparison to Waterbury,” Donahue said.
 Pub 11/19/12 by Andrew Stein
   State officials planning the new psychiatric hospital in Berlin are preparing for a “worst-case scenario,” which would cost the state and taxpayers roughly $38 million — $10 million more than originally projected.
    Officials from the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Building and General Services submitted the hospital’s financing plan to the Department of Financial Regulation at a Friday public hearing in Montpelier.
    Steve Kimbell, commissioner of financial regulation, issued a certificate of need for the plan on Monday.
   The 25-bed in-patient facility will partially replace the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury that was ruined by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene more than a year ago.
 The Shumlin administration’s new community-based mental health system for the highest need psychiatric patients in Vermont was approved by lawmakers last legislative session. In addition to the 25 beds slated for Berlin, the Brattleboro Retreat is scheduled to provide care for 14 “level one” patients with serious needs and the Rutland Regional Medical Center will offer another six beds.
   The 45 beds that will be made available in Berlin, Brattleboro and Rutland facilities will replace the former 54-bed Waterbury facility, which officials said had 51 patients when it was inundated by floodwaters.
   The financing plan that officials unveiled on Friday showed funding from one source: State bonds at an interest rate of 3.4 percent. Officials said they have to prepare for this contingency, as the state currently has no insurance reimbursements in hand for the former state hospital and no funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    This fiscal arrangement would drive the cost of the project up from roughly $28 million to $38 million. The additional $10 million would be for debt financing expenses, including interest and bank fees, according to Kimbell.
    Judy Rosenstreich, senior policy adviser to the Vermont Department of Health, told Kimbell and other financial regulators on Friday that the state expects to hear from FEMA in January.
“Do you have any idea what the FEMA contribution will be?” Clifford Peterson, general counsel to the regulatory department, asked Rosenstreich.
    “No, we do not have any specific figure,” she said.
   Mike Kuhn of Buildings and General Services explained how the costs break down and how difficult it has been dealing with FEMA.
   “The cost figures you have before you are a worst case scenario, assuming all of the funds come from the capital construction budget,” he said. “Anything that we receive from the insurance company … as well as funds from FEMA … will only go to reduce the cost for the state’s general obligation funds.
    “We have been working very closely with FEMA … to maximize our reimbursement funds from FEMA, and it’s a struggle,” he added.
   The Shumlin administration has maintained that the Brooks building, where the Vermont State Hospital was housed in the Waterbury State Office Complex, was destroyed.  FEMA officials have said the structure was damaged.  In order to qualify for public assistance and a 90 percent reimbursement level, the state needs to show the building was destroyed. The federal agency reimburses based on replacement value.
    Kuhn expects to break ground on the facility in December and finish by January 2014. Bids for the project and the demolition of five structures on the property are out, and he expects to complete the permitting process by the end of November. He said the project still needs permits from the Agency of Natural Resources and a conditional use permit from the Berlin Development Review Board, which it will meet with on Tuesday.
 Kimbell, who signed the certificate of need on Monday, explained why the project was fiscally sound.
   “Even if it doesn’t have funding from (FEMA and insurance), it has the financial wherewithal to be complete,” he said last Friday after the hearing. “From my standpoint, the question is not do they have the financial resources to complete the project, it’s just a question of where it’s coming from.”
For those interested in more reading regarding the Waterbury State Office Complex, VTDigger has an article: "Officials say state to get FEMA determination this week; Irene insurance claims won't be final until early 2013"

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