Tuesday, February 26, 2013


News to Know February 26

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted athttp://socialenergy.blogspot.com
If you're not already receiving this news by email, send an email to request this to corinnestridsberg@gmail.com
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The Berlin Elementary School Budget overview has only had about 40 views so far... please take the 11 minutes to watch before it's time to vote!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CA6T9-gKVI
Included below please find:




The Berlin Volunteer Fire Department asks for you to:
Please vote YES on Article 19 "Shall the Town appropriate $180,000 to the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department to establish continuous, in-station staffing at the Four Corners Station by paid employees and by volunteers via a stipend program?" 

Your fire department is interested in improving response times and outcomes in order to enhance the services we have been providing to you for over 50 years.  In a recent test period, volunteers have been staying within the station and have already cut our response times from an average of 10 minutes to 3 minutes in many cases.

#Fire exponentially increases in size every minute it goes unchecked.  By reducing the time it takes to get fire trucks out the door, we are able to reduce injuries and property damage.

#By staffing our station continuously with employees and volunteers, we are able to better maintain our equipment, level of training and presence in our community.

#The approximate increase in cost will be negligible when compared to establishing a full time, paid department.

#On duty staff will be available for pre-incident planning and pre-hazard awareness.  This will greatly increase the level of safety to residents, businesses and visitors in the Town of Berlin.

#With an increased level of service available, our firefighters and EMTs will provide increased community interaction and safety education programs.

#Compared to the average costs of similar departments, the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department will continue to be the lowest in overall cost per emergency call for the services provided.

If you have further questions, please contact President Mike Sweeney or Fire Chief Miles Silk, Jr at the Four Corners Station: 338 Paine Turnpike N, Berlin or call 802-223-5531  website: http://www.BerlinVolunteerFireDepartment.org

Note the above article requesting funds is in addition to the BVFD article: "Shall the voters of the town of Berlin vote by Australian ballot to appropriate $190,985 for the operation of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department?"


Return your overdue or billed items to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library from Monday February 25 through Saturday March 2, and no fines will be charged. We will accept all types of materials from the adult or children's sections — including books, DVDs, audiobooks, and magazines — no questions asked.
If your account has been restricted because you received a bill, when you return the billed item we’ll erase the fine and reactivate your account.
Returned items must be in usable condition. Items that are not readable or playable would still have to be paid for.
We will erase fines only for materials returned from February 25 through March 2. The amnesty does not apply to interlibrary loan items.
Adult Library Hours: Monday - Thursday 10am - 8pm, Friday & Saturday 10am - 5:30pm; Children's Library Hours Monday - Saturday 10am - 5:30pm

Three days of spring the first weekend in March!!  Take a journey filled with flowers and fragrance, walk through the woods, gardens, and plants galore.  There are seminars and educational workshops included in the admission fee.  The Vermont Railway Society will have a large, landscaped train display.  Hands-on activities for children and scheduled performers to entertain them including the No Strings Marionette performance of Handsome and Gretel at 11am & 2pm on March 3rd.  Cooking from the garden demonstrations will be held on all three days.  There will be lots of vendors too.  Admission $15 for adults, $12 seniors and $3 for children.  Hours are Friday and Saturday 10am m- 6pm and Sunday 10am - 4pm. http://www.cvexpo.org 


The Northwestern Vermont Model Railroad Association will host Vermont's largest model train show, Saturday, March 16th from 10am - 4pm.  The show will feature multiple operating HO, N, G, and O-scale layouts in addition to exhibits and vendors with model railroading supplies.   There will be a railroad clown to entertain the children with face painting and balloons and hands-on train activities for children.   Here's a video on the event from last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw-vHpGIisw

This presentation will be on Tuesday, March 12, 6:15 PM TO 7:15 PM at the Berlin Elementary School in the Learning Center (library) and is presented by Energy Co-op of Vermont and sponsored by Berlin's Energy Coordinator. 

Learn:  How solar hot water systems work; What incentives, financing, and rebates are available in Vermont; How the Energy Co-op has partnered with Shelburne-based Sunward Systems, the Vermont State Employees Credit Union for financing, and local installers such as ReSOURCE to make going solar easier and more affordable through the Co-op Solar program; How to get a Free site assessment for your home or business

For more information or to sign up for a free site assessment, go to www.co-opsolar.net or contact Berlin's Energy Coordinator, Andrea Chandler at andreachandler@ymail.com.

The Energy Co-op of Vermont is a not-for-profit, member-owned, fuel cooperative with the mission of helping Vermonters make their homes healthy, comfortable, and energy-efficient. Since its founding in 2000, the Co-op has sought to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. The Co-op Solar hot water program is the latest way the Co-op is making the transition.

Benjamin Ray Griffin, Co-op Solar Program Coordinator| www.Co-opSolar.net
Marketing and Communications Manager | www.ECVT.net
t: 802-395-1388 | e: ben@ecvt.net

Questions, comments, etc. can be sent directly to Ben and/or Andrea Chandler, Berlin Energy Coordinator, at andreachandler@ymail.com.

Pub 2/22/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Town officials are being asked to make a contractual commitment for the final design of a municipal water system that may never be built.
   A week after a sliver of the town’s 1,917 registered voters narrowly approved a bond issue to build a water system to serve the Berlin Four Corners area, the engineer who has been working on the project since 2007 said he needs more than a nod and a handshake to take it to the next level.
   Mark Youngstrom of Otter Creek Engineering told the town’s water supply committee Wednesday that he is eager for the Select Board to approve an amendment to an earlier contract so he can recoup more than $42,000 for work he has already performed “in good faith” and begin the final design of the system.
   According to Youngstrom, the agreement he provided the town months ago includes roughly $20,000 for helping with preparations for last week’s bond vote and lining up financing, as well as $52,500 for fieldwork and $150,000 for the final design.
   However, committee member Gary Beem said he believed Youngstrom’s request was premature, and not just because the 30-day window for petitioning to revote the bond issue won’t close until March 15. The bond was approved 122-108.
   Of greater concern to Beem is that a household income survey, which will help determine whether the $5.5 million project is financially viable, is still weeks away from being completed.
   “I don’t think we have a project yet, and you’re putting the Select Board and the town … out there,” he told Youngstrom, suggesting the risk was unwarranted.
   According to Beem, the income survey, which was recently mailed to residents who live in the area that would be served by the water system, will determine whether the project is eligible for favorable financing and dictate what the town will need to charge for water.
   “I really think the income survey is the key to this project,” he said.
   The data collection phase for the survey is scheduled to conclude March 4, and the committee was told the results should be in hand in about a month.
   However, Youngstrom said his firm has carried the project to this point. At a minimum, he said, he needs to be paid for the work he has already performed, but would “like to get going on the design right now.”
   Although Youngstrom acknowledged the importance of the income survey, he said it wasn’t the only thing that could trip up plans for a municipal water system.
   “There are all kinds of things that can stop this project dead in the water,” he said. “It’s an act of faith to move ahead, and one act of faith is starting the design while you’re working on all these other things too.”
   Ultimately the Select Board must decide how to handle Youngstrom’s request. The plan has been to roll all preconstruction costs — including the now-completed drilling, testing and acquisition of three wells on
Scott Hill Road — into the cost of the project, to be paid for by future ratepayers.
   However, if the water system is never built — and town officials have said it won’t be if available financing doesn’t allow them to deliver water to users at an affordable rate — taxpayers at large will be on the hook for any money that has or will be spent on planning and design.
   david.delcore @timesargus.com


Pub 2/20/12 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — With three competing proposals in hand, Select Board members must now decide whose name will be on the side of the ambulances that transport patients in and around their community come July 1.
   It won’t be an easy decision because there is something to be said for all three proposals — two of which involve services that don’t yet exist and the third submitted by the town’s longtime ambulance provider.
   Just how loyal the Select Board is to Barre Town Emergency Medical Services will be put to the test as the board weighs alternatives that range from investing in their volunteer department’s expansion plans to accepting a no-cost offer that sounds too good to be true but might not be.
Central Vermont Emergency Medical Services offered an incentive-laden proposal, underscoring the town’s status as home to a regional hospital.
   For the moment, CVEMS is just an acronym for a proposed paramedic-level ambulance service being pitched as part of a public-private partnership that — at least at first blush — is all upside for
   Matt George, who briefly outlined the plan for board members Monday night, said
Berlin would not be charged any per-capita fee under a proposed five-year contract that could be trimmed to three years if the board preferred.
   Additionally, George said, the town would receive 5 percent of the ambulance service’s annual profits and be given four seats on its governing board, which would also include a representative from
Central Vermont Medical Center. As a bonus, he said all Berlin residents would be offered “free subscriptions” to the ambulance service — essentially guaranteeing they would not be billed for costs that weren’t covered by their insurance for the duration of the agreement.
   George, who is the clinical services coordinator for White River Valley Ambulance, would serve as executive director of CVEMS, though he said the proposed service would be run by Jim Baraw, who is director of emergency services in
   The semi-private structure of CVEMS coupled with the fact that it would not rely — even temporarily — on a population-based per-capita fee as a source of operating revenue set that proposal apart from the other two — one submitted by BTEMS and the other by the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department.
   Both organizations were represented at a Monday night board meeting that produced no decisions. That day was the deadline to submit proposals.
   At the outset, Town Administrator Jeff Schulz recommended the board take the three decidedly different proposals under advisement so members would have an opportunity to dissect them.
   “It’s a fairly weighty, complicated issue,” he said.
   That may be an understatement given what Berlin’s business means to Barre Town’s stand-alone ambulance service and what it could mean to the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department’s plans to launch a fire and ambulance service that is staffed around the clock.
   Barre Town Manager Carl Rogers told board members that BTEMS is keenly interested in keeping
Berlin, and its 1,800 calls for service a year, as a customer of its semi-regional ambulance service. However, he said, that would come at a cost to the town.
   The annual per-capita fee, which has been a feature of the local ambulance contract since BTEMS lured Berlin away from Montpelier in 1996, would start at $26 and increase 5 percent a year over the life of a proposed three-year agreement. The fee would increase to $27.30 per-capita next year and $28.67 in 2015.
   According to
Rogers, the per-capita fee would increase 3 percent a year if Berlin exercises an option for two additional years. Under that scenario the fee, which is assessed on all but the Riverton section of Berlin, would climb to $29.52 in 2016 before topping out at $30.41 in 2017.
   If the Select Board decides to stick with BTEMS, it would pay $65,676 for the ambulance service under the first year of the agreement.
   BTEMS is already licensed by the state, fully staffed and has five ambulances that were all purchased in the past year. Two of those ambulances and their paramedic-led crews are assigned to handle
Berlin’s sizable call volume. Much of that call volume can be traced to lucrative transfers involving the hospital and two nearby nursing homes.
   Meanwhile, members of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department have renewed their request that the town award them a contract they say will enable them to staff the Four Corners station around the clock, providing swift response to all emergencies — both medical and fire.
   Though the service doesn’t yet exist, Chief Miles Silk Jr. said it will by July 1 if the fire department is awarded the contract. He said the department has been training its members and is ready to move swiftly on a plan to lease two ambulances for the five-year duration of the contract it has proposed.
   Silk and other department officials told the board there would be a per-capita fee to start, but the goal would be to gradually phase it out over the life of the contract.
   According to department officials, the per-capita fee would start at $28 if voters approve a ballot item asking for an additional $180,000 to establish continuous staffing at the
Four Corners station. If that request is rejected, the per-capita fee would jump to $89.02 to provide a paramedic-level ambulance service to the entire town of Berlin.
   After listening to brief overviews of the three proposals, Chairman Brad Towne said the board had some reading to do. No decision will be made before the Town Meeting Day vote, but the board is expected to discuss the ambulance contract at its March 11 meeting.
   david.delcore @timesargus.com

Pub 2/20/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — The town will receive much more than a payment in lieu of taxes in exchange for hosting the state’s new 25-bed psychiatric hospital.
   On a night when Select Board members hired a new town treasurer and tabled action on a proposed parking ordinance, they were told that negotiations with the state went very, very well.
   According to Town Administrator Jeff Schulz, the state has agreed to pay the town $25,000 a year to offset any costs associated with emergency services responding to the facility that is under construction off
Fisher Road. That, he said, will be in addition to the more traditional PILOT installment of $58,000 a year that the town will receive, and it doesn’t include a promise to continue providing free emergency dispatch services for the Berlin Police Department for the next 20 years.
   Schulz has estimated the current value of the dispatch services the town receives at roughly $60,000. Officials have long feared that free arrangement, which dates back to the days when
Berlin had a one-member police department, could end as local call volumes have climbed.
   Based on the signed agreement with the state, that won’t happen for another 20 years unless the psychiatric hospital is abandoned before then.
   Given the state’s $12,000 opening offer, board members and at least one resident were pleased with the outcome of negotiations.
   Resident Bob Wernecke commended the board for its efforts in securing $83,000 a year in revenue and free dispatch services for the foreseeable future and urged members to open similar negotiations with officials at
Central Vermont Medical Center.
   “I would encourage you to pursue a similar agreement with the hospital,” he said. “I really think it’s in (the town’s) and the hospital’s best interest, and I don’t know why they get off scot-free.”
   Meanwhile, the board tabled action on an ordinance aimed at prohibiting parking on a town road that has become the primary access point for people interested in getting on Berlin Pond.
   Some residents who live around the pond have urged the board to enact and enforce a parking ban on
Mirror Lake Road, but Wernecke said he believed that would be an overreaction to a problem that appears to have abated.
   In any event, Wernecke said, pursuing an ordinance that applies exclusively to
Mirror Lake Road seemed “punitive” and, he believed, was little more than a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent a Vermont Supreme Court decision that struck down century-old recreational restrictions on the pond last year.
   “Is this about banning fishing and boating on Berlin Pond, or is this about a parking problem?” Wernecke asked, noting local police have indicated cars parked on the side of
Mirror Lake Road didn’t pose a safety problem.
   What’s more, Wernecke said, finding cars parked in that same fashion elsewhere — out of the traveled way, but not completely off the road — isn’t hard in
   “If this was a yard sale you wouldn’t hear a peep,” he said. “It’s not a yard sale; it’s fishing on Berlin Pond.”
   Board members agreed to wait until a committee that is being led by Wernecke concludes its evaluation of access alternatives at the pond. That committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon with officials from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
   After a brief executive session at the end of Monday night’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to hire Marcie Carver as town treasurer.
   Carver, a self-employed accountant from
Bradford, will be the permanent replacement for former Town Treasurer Patti Lewis, who resigned last year.
   david.delcore @timesargus.com

Pub 2/18/13 by David Delcore
   BERLIN — A newly formed committee has launched its effort to identify optimal areas for outdoor enthusiasts to get on or near the water of Berlin Pond.
   The seven-member committee got off to something of a slow start during its first meeting Thursday, but before it was over participants expressed a shared desire to conduct a swift but thorough analysis of potential access areas and report their findings to the Select Board later this spring.
   Committee members are clearly of two minds when it comes to an issue that has been the source of local controversy since the Vermont Supreme Court ruled last May that
Montpelier lacked the authority to enforce century-old recreational restrictions on the pond that serves as its public drinking water supply.
   That honest difference of opinion surfaced early on in Thursday’s 90-minute session — first when Bob Wernecke was nominated to serve as chairman and again during a brief debate over Wernecke’s interpretation of the committee’s charge.
   Over the course of the past nine months Wernecke has been a vocal proponent of finding a reasonable and safe way for those interested in canoeing, kayaking, or fishing on the pond to actually get to the water — a fact that committee member Phil Gentile suggested might make him ill-suited to serve as chairman. Gentile, who lives on the pond, serves on the town’s conservation committee and has been equally vocal on the other side of the issue, wondered whether someone “more neutral” should run the committee’s meetings.
   However, Wernecke argued individual “leanings” on the subject shouldn’t enter the conversation because the access question has already been answered by the Vermont Supreme Court,
Berlin voters, and most recently the Select Board.
   “I don’t think we’re here to debate that issue,” he said.
   “We’re here about finding the best way to accomplish this, not whether it should be accomplished,” he added.
   Wernecke went on to say that, in his view, the committee’s evaluation should not focus solely on the tiny, town-owned parcel of land that was the subject of a lopsided, non-binding referendum last November.
   That assertion provoked some initial push-back from another committee member who lives on the pond and has repeatedly raised concerns involving access to the pond over the past year.
   Kathy Hartshorn argued the committee shouldn’t waste its time evaluating other possible access areas, when the vote last November specifically involved the town parcel on Paine Turnpike South.
   Members discussed whether to seek clarification from the Select Board, but after reviewing the notice that the board crafted in order to recruit the committee, agreed that wouldn’t be necessary. Though the notice stated the committee would be created as a “...follow-up” to the town vote, the board specifically expressed an interest in having the committee “... review and identify other possible sites for access to the pond as possible alternatives.”
   “That’s part of what we’re being asked to do,” Wernecke said.
   “It seems pretty clear to me,” committee member Paul Irons agreed.
   Once that threshold question was out of the way, Wernecke was elected chairman, Gentile, vice chairman, and committee member Scott Williams volunteered to serve as secretary.
      In plotting their next steps, the committee plans to call in two representatives from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That could happen as early as next Wednesday, but if scheduling is a problem would likely occur when the committee meets on March 7.
   Members aren’t yet sold on the state’s offer to develop a formal access area on the town’s land, which include 82.5 feet of frontage on Paine Turnpike South, roughly 85 feet of shoreline and is estimated to be between 150 and 180 feet deep.
   According to Williams, options involving that parcel range from simply stripping down the “Posted” signs that went up last year — “That’s access,” he said — to the “gold standard,” a more formal area for people to park their vehicles and launch their kayaks and canoes.
   Although all agreed it would be prudent to pick the state’s brain, Gentile said he was leery of an offer to develop and operate an access area because, he feared, the town would relinquish control and the pond might become more of an attraction than it otherwise would be.
   “The greater issue maybe we want to think about is: ‘How big a sign? How is it identified? Is it all over the maps now? Are we going to encourage so many cars to the pond because the... body of water is right between the metropolitan areas for rural (central)
Vermont?’” he asked. “We could get a lot of usage if all of a sudden it becomes advertised.”
   Gentile predicted that he and other pond residents would look to the town to restrict or prohibit access in areas that are currently being used — most notably along
Mirror Lake Road — if an alternative access area is created.
   “This is our front yard,” he said, suggesting many of those who live around the pond continue to be concerned by the level of use it has received.
   “There are a lot of taxpayers up there that pay a lot of taxes that aren’t necessarily thrilled with the idea of seeing 59 cars (parked) on the road,” he said.
   However, Wernecke suggested the “novelty” of being able to get out on a pond that had been off limits for so long would soon wear off and the number of people who use it would drop.
   Irons agreed.
   “I sailed it once, I’ll never go back,” he said.
   Wernecke said he would like to invite
Montpelier to send a representative to the committee’s meetings, if only because the city owns the vast majority of the land around the pond.
   “We should offer,” he said. “If they (
Montpelier officials) don’t want to participate that’s fine.”

Pub 2/18/13 Times Argus STAFF REPORT
   BERLIN — The Blockbuster Video store on the Barre-Montpelier Road began liquidating its inventory recently and town officials say the store is expected to close for good by April 1.
   The store’s manager declined to comment and the company’s corporate headquarters did not return phone calls. But Town Administrator Jeff Schulz said he learned of the scheduled closing date during a recent conversation involving the tax bill for the store that is located in a building it shares with Bond Auto Parts next to Kinney Drugs.
   Used DVDs and games are being sold at cut-rate prices as part of the sale.
   The closing of the
Berlin store is presumably part of Blockbuster’s recently announced plan to close 300 of its 800 U.S. stores, laying off about 3,000 nationwide.


   Town budget
   Proposed $2,459,279 – $26,480, or about 1.1 percent, more than this year’s budget of $2,432,799.
   Budget includes $831,067 to operate the local police department and $933,391 to maintain town roads.
   The police department budget is up $43,553, or just over 5.5 percent, while the highway budget reflects an increase of $1,409, or 0.1 percent.
   School budget
   Proposed $3,266,890 – $216,800, or 7.1 percent, more than this year’s budget of $3,050,090.
   Budget will be voted in two parts because the school district’s spending per pupil last year was more than the statewide average and this year’s proposed budget is greater than last year’s budget adjusted for inflation. Voters will first be asked to authorize the school board to spend $3,166,235 on the operation of the town’s pre-K-6 school during the coming fiscal year. They will then be asked to authorize the board to spend an additional $100,655 on school-related expenses. The board’s primary budget request must be approved in order for the vote on the secondary appropriation to be considered.
   The Berlin School Board has scheduled an informational meeting at the elementary school on March 4 at 6 p.m.
   Union high school budget
   Proposed $14,101,074 – $506,862, or 3.73 percent, more than this year’s budget of $13,594,212.
   Budget reflects a $140,389 reduction in the debt service payment on the school bond and $398,058 in increased costs associated with negotiated salaries and benefits for the faculty and staff at U-32 High School. Transportation costs are expected to climb by almost $37,000 and the budget includes funding for a paraeducator and several part-time positions.
   The fate of the U-32 budget will be collectively decided by voters in
Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester. The U-32 School Board has scheduled a public information meeting on March 4 at 6 p.m. in Room 131 at the high school.
   Special articles
   Shall the voters of the town of
Berlin vote by Australian ballot to appropriate $190,985 for the operation of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department?
   Shall the voters of the town of Berlin vote by Australian ballot to appropriate an additional $180,000 for the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department so that members can “… establish continuous in-station staffing at the Four Corners Station” by establishing a stipend program for its members?
   Shall the voters of the town of
Berlin vote by Australian ballot to appropriate $26,925 for the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier?
   Shall the voters of the town of
Berlin agree to hold any surplus funds that are available after the Berlin School District’s books are audited later this year in a fund that can be spent at the discretion of the Berlin School Board?
   Shall the voters of the town of
Berlin vote by Australian ballot to authorize any surplus funds that are available after the U-32 School District’s books are audited later this year be placed in a reserve account that can be spent at the discretion of the U-32 School Board?
   Contested races
   There are no contested races in
Berlin this year. Selectmen Brad Towne and Ture Nelson and School Director Christopher Rice are among the incumbents running for re-election. Jeremy Hansen is running unopposed for the Select Board seat now held by Craig Frazier. Mike Law, who was appointed to the U-32 board last year, is the lone candidate for the two years remaining on that three-year term, and nobody is running to replace School Director Mike Stridsberg on the Berlin School Board.
   Meeting location
Berlin voters will gather for a floor meeting in the gymnasium at Berlin Elementary School at 10 a.m. on March 5 to consider any town and school questions that do not involve the appropriation of money. All money matters, including the town, highway, school and union high school budget requests, will be decided by Australian ballot. Polls will be open at the school from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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