Tuesday, December 25, 2012


News to Know Dec 18, 2012

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at http://socialenergy.blogspot.com
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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.
   david.taube @timesargus.com
(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 rbidnick@kellogghubbard.org)

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