Wednesday, February 13, 2013


News to Know February 13 - Vote today Town Office 10-7pm

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(reposted from Berlin Front Porch Forum)
   Several events of late have caused schools across the US to reexamine their safety procedures and the security of their buildings in general, with an eye on preparedness and doing everything possible to keep school communities safe. Berlin Elementary is no exception. We have an established Safety Team that meets regularly and works diligently to design and implement procedures and systems to prevent and respond to a variety of issues. Our team includes members of the Berlin Fire Department, Barre Town Ambulance, Berlin Police, school staff, families, and the community.
   The Berlin School Safety Team recognizes that our larger community plays a critical role in keeping everyone here at school safe. As a result, the Team will host a School Safety Forum on Thursday, February 21, 2013, at 6:00 p.m., in the school library. This is an opportunity for families and the community to learn more about the work of the Team and offer thoughts and ideas. Please consider joining us for this community dialogue.
Questions may be directed to Chris Dodge, Principal, at or 223-2796 x 120.  Regards,  Chris Dodge, Principal
(vote is 2/13/13 10am - 7pm at the Berlin Town Office)
Pub 2/8/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — Plans to construct a water system that would serve part of the community drew mixed reviews during a Wednesday night hearing on the $5.5 million project, which will be the subject of an up-or-down vote next week.
   Members of the Select Board said they stand solidly behind the project, and some in the audience agreed that creating a reliable source of water in an area just off Exit 7 of Interstate 89 could be a game-changing move for the town.
   But others claimed they weren’t yet sold. They openly worried that the risks could outweigh the potential rewards, complained of fuzzy math and suggested that — pre-election promises notwithstanding — taxpayers could be left holding the bag.
   “If (the proposed water system) fails, we’re hosed and the town as a whole is hosed,” Trudy Marineau said, offering her blunt assessment of a proposal that town officials believe has been studied to death and whose time has finally come.
   The engineer who has been working on the latest iteration of the project since 2007 said the risk was minimal that the water source — three wells that were drilled on the Dodge Farm and exhaustively tested at the town’s expense — wouldn’t perform as expected.
   “Can I guarantee it?” Mark Youngstrom said. “No, I can’t guarantee it. But do I feel 99.99 percent sure that you’ve got a really good (water) source that’s going to last you forever? Yes.”
   Youngstrom, of Otter Creek Engineering, told nearly 30 residents at Berlin Elementary School that Wednesday’s bond vote will represent a make-or-break moment for a project that could resolve a water quality problem in the Berlin Four Corners area and set the stage for development on and around Paine Turnpike and Airport Road. Improved fire protection would be a bonus, he said.
   Select Board members took turns expressing their support. They maintained the project would expand the town’s tax base and focus commercial development in an area that is already home to the town offices, the elementary school and the fire station, as well as the region’s hospital, E.F. Knapp State Airport and the Berlin Mall.
   “I think it’s a very positive thing for the town,” board member Roberta Haskin said.
   Chairman Brad Towne agreed, suggesting a municipal water system would be welcomed by owners of existing commercial properties and remove a long-standing impediment to the creation of a true town center.
   “I think it’s very important that if we’re going to have development here in the town that it stays up here on the plateau, and this (water system) will take and pretty much guarantee it,” he said.
   Several residents, including Bill Snyder and Bob Wernecke, spoke in favor of the bond issue whose fate will be decided by voting at the town offices on Shed Road between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday.
   Snyder said the benefits of the proposed system would be “phenomenal” in an area where finding a suitable water source is a challenge and maintaining one can be cost-prohibitive.
   “I think (the proposed system) is what we need to move forward and to break away from being a bedroom community for Montpelier and Barre,” he said. “We have the potential to be so much more viable and independent.”
   Wernecke agreed, commending the board and its water supply committee for their efforts and urging voters to turn out Wednesday and support the project.
   “We’ve heard the problem: We have a hodgepodge of public systems that are privately operated …,” Wernecke said. “We need a public water supply system not only to serve the present, but to bring us into the future.”
   Not everyone was sold. Some worried the town was painting an overly rosy picture of the project, and others questioned why detailed financial information that is buried in studies conducted at the town’s expense wasn’t more readily available.
   “The people of Berlin are being asked to vote without knowing what they’re voting on,” said resident Henry Lague. “It’s all pie-in-the-sky stuff.”
   Lague pressed Youngstrom for specifics on the term of the bond and the projected annual payment.
   Youngstrom said there was some guesswork involved but he was projecting the annual payment would be between $126,000 and $161,000. The plan, he said, is for that debt to be paid for by the system’s users and not by taxpayers at large, prompting some to question why the ballot article doesn’t say that.
   Airport Road resident Jim Hartson said he feared the plain language on the ballot could lead some to mistakenly conclude all town taxpayers were being asked to finance the water system.
   “There’s nothing on there that says: ‘The ordinary guy is not going to pay for this,’” he said. “Is it going to affect everybody, or is it going to affect a select few?”
   Youngstrom said the current Select Board has clearly stated that the system will be paid for by its users, or it won’t be built. However, he acknowledged that pledge probably wouldn’t bind future boards and that voters would have to take “a leap of faith.”
   “There has to be trust built in, otherwise it’s not going to pass anyway,” he said.
   Youngstrom told those in attendance that he projected the annual cost of water for an “equivalent residential unit” in the proposed service area should be in the $500 to $600 range. That, he said, compared very favorably with another option that was explored but abandoned — building the system and buying water from Montpelier.
   “To keep the project affordable for the user base that’s here, this is the only alternative that works,” Youngstrom said of plans to use water from the wells and construct a 400,000-gallon water storage tank.
   Assuming the bond issue is approved next week, Youngstrom said the town would move swiftly to lock down financing and lock in users. The goal, he said, is to be in a position to put the project out to bid this summer and start construction in the fall.
   However, Youngstrom said that time frame assumes the town can secure financing that keeps rates affordable and persuade enough private users to commit to hooking onto the system.
   Although many aspects of the project won’t come into sharper focus until after the financing package is determined, one thing is certain: If the water system is never built, town taxpayers will be required to repay a $170,000 no-interest loan that has paid for engineering costs to date. The same would be true of an additional $200,000 loan that the town has applied for to finance final design of the system.
   If the system is built, those loans would be rolled into the total project cost and, barring a change of plans, would be built into the rate structure and repaid by users.
Pub 2/12/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — The field of potential suitors for Berlin’s ambulance business might be growing as town officials await responses to their recent request for proposals.
   Bethel-based White River Valley Ambulance Inc. is said to have expressed interest in providing paramedic-level service to the vast majority of Berlin as next week’s deadline for submitting multiyear proposals approaches.
   Attempts to reach WRVA Operations Supervisor Pat Edwards were unsuccessful Monday.
   The nonprofit organization serves Barnard, Bethel, Braintree, Brookfield, East Granville, Pittsfield, Randolph and Stockbridge. However, if it is serious about adding Berlin to that list, it can expect some competition.
   Barre Town Emergency Medical Services has held the ambulance contract with Berlin since 1996 and is eager to keep a coveted customer that is home to Central Vermont Medical Center and two nearby nursing homes.
   Though Riverton is served under a separate contract with neighboring Northfield, the balance of Berlin generated 1,780 calls for service, including 550 emergencies and 1,230 non-emergencies during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Many of the non-emergency calls involved billable transfers of CVMC patients or nursing home residents.
   That’s what makes Berlin more lucrative than most comparably sized communities, and it’s why others have tried to pry its ambulance business away from the Barre Town service.
   Berlin officials have welcomed that competition and are hoping it continues, right up to the deadline for proposals at noon on Monday.
   It probably will.
   Representatives of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department have said they plan to renew their pitch to provide round-the-clock ambulance coverage for the community. They submitted a similar proposal three years ago and remain interested in expanding the services they provide Berlin residents.
   That interest is reflected in a revived Town Meeting Day request for $180,000 in additional funding needed to “establish continuous in-station staffing at the Four Corners Station” by creating a stipend program for members of the department.
   At least one other established ambulance service is seriously considering submitting a proposal.
   Although officials in Montpelier have all but ruled out responding to Berlin’s request for proposals, their counterparts in Barre have not.
   Barre made its own play for the Berlin contract in 2009 and again in 2010. City Manager Steve Mackenzie said he was scheduled to discuss the possibility of submitting yet another proposal with Chief Tim Bombardier today.
   “We are looking into it,” Mackenzie said Monday. “We haven’t made a firm decision.”
   Berlin officials are interested in another multiyear contract and have reserved the right to reject any and all proposals.

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