Wednesday, June 19, 2013


News to Know June 19th

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Yesterday I was listening to WDEV and they had the director of the Waterbury Festival Players talking about "Noises Off".  This particular performance sounded very funny about what's happening back stage with a production.  Best part was that if you haven't been to one of their productions then your first one is 1/2 off as they think they can hook you to coming back.  Regular price $25.  This is the first of three weekends for this production.  It's located over on Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe.

June 22nd Children Helping Children….. A group of 5/6 grade girls from the Sting Basketball team (Berlin, E. Montpelier, Worcester, Barre and Montpelier) with parents and family members are having a car wash/bake sale for two children going through Cancer treatments in Burlington, Vt and will need to spend time in Boston for the next phase of the treatments.  Shaina Herring- 11 years old from Worcester, Vt & Konner Drury- 9 years old from Northfield, Vt.  The Car Wash/Bake sale will be June 22nd at Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, which is located next to the Movie Theater in Montpelier, VT.   Any donation is welcome.

Notice in the first article there is information regarding other topics besides Berlin Pond, including the water system and sharing the police chief.

Included below please find:


Pub 6/18/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — More than a year after the Vermont Supreme Court struck down century-old restrictions on recreation at Berlin Pond, at least one lawyer will be taking a hard look at just who owns a triangular parcel of property on the north end of Montpelier’s public drinking water supply.
   In a move that could pave the way for creating a formal access area for outdoor enthusiasts looking to get out on the pond, the Select Board unanimously agreed this week to ask the town’s attorney, Rob Halpert, to determine whether Montpelier really has the right to post property that records suggest might actually belong to Berlin.
   The decision came on a night when the board also got a bad bit of news involving financing for a proposed water system, declined a request to consider sharing their police chief with neighboring Northfield, and agreed to schedule a special election next month so voters can weigh in on proposed zoning changes.
   However, with the agenda including the fresh recommendation of a citizens committee appointed to explore alternatives to an informal access area on
Mirror Lake Road, it was Berlin Pond that attracted a small crowd to the town offices Monday night.
   Among those in the audience were Oreste Valsangiacomo Jr., the Barre lawyer who convinced the Supreme Court that
Montpelier had no authority to regulate recreational use of Berlin Pond, and one of his clients in the precedent-setting case, Barre Town resident Rick Sanborn.
   Both men were silent spectators on a night when Robert Wernecke did most of the talking.
   As expected, Wernecke, the chairman of the committee that has spent the past several months evaluating potential access areas around the pond, urged the board to verify his informed opinion that
Montpelier does not own quite as much land around the pond as the “No Trespassing” signs it has posted would lead one to believe.
   Specifically, Wernecke pointed to the grassy parcel on the north end of the pond through which, he believes,
Brookfield Road once ran before it was moved to accommodate construction of Interstate 89.
   There is no record of the old road ever being discontinued by the town, according to Wernecke, who said decades-old records suggest surrounding land that the state condemned as part of the interstate project was relinquished to
Berlin — not to Montpelier.
   The land in question is roughly located between an existing parking area in the right of way of
Brookfield Road and a large concrete culvert that runs underneath Paine Turnpike South and the interstate.
   Wernecke, a professional engineer, relayed the committee’s recommendation that the board enter into a memorandum of agreement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to pursue development of a small access area at the north end location.
   “The first step is verifying my work,” Wernecke said. “(Confirming) that, in fact, the property is owned by the town and can be used as a public access to Berlin Pond.”
   Board members agreed to take that step but opted not to sign an agreement that exists in draft form and includes a provision for the town to be reimbursed for 50 percent of the cost of the work Halpert will be doing — an estimated $1,000 — provided the town owns the land.
   Mike Wichrowski, who works for the department and has consulted with the committee, assured the board that offer would stand with or without a signed agreement.
   “We’re not going to leave you guys high and dry,” he said. “We want to provide access (to the pond).”
   Although there is no dispute that Berlin owns a separate parcel on Paine Turnpike South, Wichrowski said working around wetlands at that location would be significantly more expensive than creating an access on the north end property.
   “There are just a lot of things I view as being a lot easier going to the north end,” he said.
   After listening to a brief back-and-forth that included questions about who would be able to use the proposed access area and one woman’s concern about the ecological impacts associated with increased activity in a chronically shallow end of the pond, the board settled on a course of action.
   Acting on the suggestion of Selectman Pete Kelley, board members agreed to schedule a site visit to the pond to familiarize themselves with the property in question while instructing Halpert to determine whether it is owned by the town. They deferred action on the proposed agreement with the state and never addressed the committee’s companion recommendation that they take down the signs posting the town-owned parcel on Paine Turnpike South against trespassers.
   “We see no reason for limiting pedestrian access to town-owned property,” Wernecke said.
   In other business Monday, the board learned that the town will not be eligible for favorable financing through the Vermont Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to cover construction of a $5 million municipal water system proposed for the Berlin Four Corners area. It also agreed to say “no, thanks” to
Northfield when it comes to sharing a police chief, and scheduled a special election for July 23.
   A series of charter changes proposed by the Planning Commission included one that would lift a relatively recent prohibition on new structures in the special flood hazard area along the
Barre-Montpelier Road. The proposed change would make those new structures a conditional use in that area — a move Selectman Jeremy Hansen argued would be a mistake.
   “I don’t think we need to re-expose the town to flood damage,” he said.
   However, after being assured by Town Administrator Jeff Schulz that the proposed language satisfied state and federal requirements, the balance of the board supported a change that would give the town some flexibility in dealing with projects proposed in the flood hazard area.
   A public hearing on all of the proposed charter changes will be held July 15, and voting will be from
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 23 — a Tuesday — at the municipal office building on Shed Road.

Pub 6/15/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — A committee that was formed in February to explore options for creating a more formal access area for folks to get out onto Berlin Pond is ready to make a recommendation to the Select Board.
   After months of discussions, the committee is suggesting the town enter into an agreement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to pursue the potential for developing an access area on a parcel near the outlet on the north end of the pond.
   Though the land is part of the property posted against trespassing by the city of
Montpelier, Bob Wernecke, chairman of the committee, said he is confident it actually belongs to Berlin.
   Wernecke said he believes a survey and a little deed work will confirm that the property, which is a stone’s throw from Interstate 89 next to an existing parking area on
Brookfield Road, was part of the land the state condemned in 1967 to make way for the interstate. It was “relinquished” to the town in an agreement that was signed by the Select Board on Aug. 6, 1979.
   “In my opinion it’s not a hunch,” Wernecke said. “The reversionary document is very clear.”
   The state relocated a section of
Brookfield Road as part of the interstate project and, Wernecke said, there is no record the town ever discontinued the original Brookfield Road, which may also be part of the property that has emerged as the committee’s preferred option for an access area.
   Although Wernecke said he would prefer an access area on a small parcel the town owns on Paine Turnpike South, he acknowledged representatives of the Fish and Wildlife Department like the north end location.
   The north end site “is significantly less expensive (to develop) and culturally has a lot less impact,” he said.
   Given its proximity to the interstate and its location at the junction of
Brookfield Road and Paine Turnpike South, the north end site has the bonus of being highly visible.
   However, two members of the town’s conservation commission — one of whom also serves on the committee — expressed reservations about the north end site given their shared concerns that increased activity in a portion of the pond where the water is only a few feet deep could disrupt well-established habitats.
   Phil Gentile, who serves on both the commission and the committee, and Andrea Chandler, who is a member of the commission, both raised that issue.
   Both worried aloud about the potential effects a north end access could have on what Gentile described as a “shallow and fragile” habitat, and questioned the wisdom of executing an agreement with the state before taking a serious look at that issue.
   “We have a beautiful habitat here, and we want to make sure we do the right thing,” he said, suggesting science should come before any signatures on a document committing the town to anything.
   “Let’s get the right science and make a smart decision,” he said.
   However, Wernecke and other members of the committee argued that the concerns Gentile and
Chandler raised could be easily addressed by incorporating them into the draft agreement that will be presented to the Select Board for its consideration Monday night.
   Wernecke said he suspected the last-minute addition to the memorandum of agreement was unnecessary, given the department’s interest in protecting and preserving wildlife habitats, but he saw no harm in making it a condition.
   “I would hope as part of (the department’s) due diligence that they would look carefully at those (environmental) issues,” he said.
   According to Wernecke, the proposed agreement would provide state officials the nod from the town they need to begin seriously exploring creating an access area that would be managed by the department, while assuring town officials that, with limited exceptions, all of the costs will be covered.
   “Neither side wants to get involved in this thing without some kind of gentlemen’s agreement,” he said.
   Based on Thursday’s discussion, the draft agreement would require verification of Wernecke’s belief that the town has unfettered access to the property being targeted for an access area and a threshold environmental analysis of what increased activity in that area might mean to wildlife.
   The agreement contemplates the town being reimbursed by the state for 50 percent of the cost of any deed research and 100 percent of the cost of a survey. All of the cost for permits and developing the access area would be covered by the state under a yet-to-be-negotiated lease agreement.
   Nothing in the agreement precludes the town from returning its attention to the parcel it owns on Paine Turnpike South, and the committee agreed to recommend that the “No Trespassing” signs currently posted on that property be taken down to allow for pedestrian access.
   Gentile pushed back on that idea, arguing that opening the land could attract more than pedestrians — creating a parking problem that could quickly evolve into an enforcement issue.
   However, committee members Paul Irons, Val Cyr and Scott Smith all agreed with Wernecke, noting the land is owned by the town, voters overwhelmingly expressed their interest in seeing it opened for public use last year, and there was no point in continuing to post the property.
   “We the taxpayers and the townspeople of …
Berlin own that land,” Irons said. “Why are we prohibited from crossing it?”
   Irons said those who park illegally do so at their own risk and that it shouldn’t take too many tickets or towed vehicles to hammer that point home.
   Wernecke agreed, noting that unless the road is widened or parking is created on the town-owned lot, it would not be the preferred method for those with kayaks and canoes to access the pond.
   For the time being the preferred access point is on the south end of the pond at a culvert on
Mirror Lake Road. That’s where the public right of way for the road overlaps the edge of the pond, which is surrounded almost exclusively by land Montpelier has posted in an effort to keep people off its public drinking water supply.
   Considered off-limits for more than a century, Berlin Pond was effectively opened to outdoor enthusiasts a year ago when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled
Montpelier lacked the authority to regulate recreational use of its water supply.
   The unanimous opinion reversed a lower court ruling in a legal battle that spanned three years and was spawned by repeated acts of civil disobedience on the pond — one by the owner of a Barre sporting goods store and his wife, and several others by one of their former employees.
   In the wake of that ruling,
Berlin officials polled voters on the subject and appointed a committee to review options for creating access to the pond on town-owned property.

Pub 6/14/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — Take one last look at the building that last housed Friendly’s and was originally home to a Howard Johnson’s, because demolition of the abandoned restaurant built in 1950 is slated to start Monday, and the vacant Vermonter Motel won’t be far behind.
   Paperwork confirming that
CVS Pharmacies has acquired both neighboring commercial properties was filed at the town offices Thursday — hours before Town Administrator Jeff Schulz signed a permit for construction of a 13,255-square-foot pharmacy on the Barre-Montpelier Road.
   The project, which has been in the works for more than a year, should take less time to build, according to project superintendent Gary Neel.
   Neel, who works for Ohio-based general contractor Fortney & Weygandt Inc., said Thursday if all goes as planned, construction will be finished by October and the
CVS will open in time for the holiday shopping season.
   Though there is a 15-day appeal period for the permit, Neel said that won’t hamper plans to start tearing down the two structures built on a former baseball field and originally owned and operated by Fernando “Firpo” Saldi.
   Saldi, who made a name for himself as the welterweight boxing champion of
New England, brought Howard Johnson’s to Berlin in 1950 and opened The Vermonter Motel behind the restaurant three years later.
   In 1981 the Saldi family sold the restaurant, which eventually morphed into a Lum’s and most recently a Friendly’s, while continuing to operate the motel for several years.
   A year ago
CVS targeted both properties as part of its plan to break into the central Vermont market and, according to newly filed documents, acquired both of them at a collective cost of just over $2.1 million.
CVS bought the abandoned restaurant and the 0.84 acres on which it was built from Benoit Properties Inc. for $1.24 million, according to documents filed with the town.
   In a separate but related transaction,
CVS acquired the 27-unit motel and two acres from The Great Cedars LLC for $885,000.
CVS paid a premium for both properties. The restaurant, which features frontage on the Barre-Montpelier Road, was most recently assessed by the town at $969,200, and the fair market value of the neighboring motel was pegged at $542,700.
   According to Neel, the first order of business will be to demolish the two 60-year-old structures to make room for a pharmacy, 75 parking spaces and a retention pond to handle stormwater runoff.
   Neel said a crew from New Hampshire Demolition is scheduled to mobilize on the site Monday to start tearing down the restaurant. Demolition of the motel will likely have to wait at least a couple of weeks until asbestos-related permits are in hand.
   According to Neel, site work should be underway before the motel demolition starts and work should progress swiftly once both buildings are gone.
   Locking down the
Berlin location represents CVS’ first foray into central Vermont and will be its fifth Vermont pharmacy. The company, which operates more than 7,500 pharmacies in 45 states, has stores in Bennington, Essex, Rutland and Williston.

Posted 6/12/13 WCAX By Kyle Midura
  NORTHFIELD, Vt. - The village and town of Northfield are home to about 6,000 people. The two communities recently won approval from the state to merge, as area residents search for ways to trim costs, and by extension, lower one of the highest local property tax rates in the state.
  Select board chairman John Quinn says now they're looking for similar consolidation savings at the police department.
"With the departure of our police chief it was a good time to talk to Berlin about sharing responsibility," Quinn said.
  Northfield currently relies on an interim chief to run its seven-member department. Quinn says the operating budget is just less than $900,000 a year, similar to that of neighboring Berlin.
   He recently pitched a plan to his board-- and that of his neighbors-- to allow Berlin's chief to manage both departments, saving both towns some dough.
   "I think there's a lot of details to work out, this isn't something that's going to happen overnight," Quinn said.
   Berlin's police chief says they handle about 6-10 calls a day on average, but he declined to comment on whether or not he felt he could handle the responsibilities of managing two departments.
   "There is a number of specific issues that need to be looked at and concerned," said Jeff Schulz, the Berlin town administrator.
   Schulz says Berlin will need to be convinced that shared savings can make up for potential issues with logistics, accountability and a desire for complete local control. He says budgets already agreed to by voters of both towns means any change is unlikely to happen this year.
   "The board is still taking the issue under advisement, it's still talking about it, no actual decision has been made," Schulz said.
   Berlin's board is expected to tackle the proposal again at its next meeting June 17.
   Northfield's interim chief says he's not convinced the proposal would work, but is onboard with whatever his select board decides.


Pub 6/11/13 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — Town officials have been approached by their counterparts in neighboring Northfield about the possibility of sharing one top cop.
   Berlin has a police chief in Bill Wolfe, and Northfield is between chiefs, prompting officials there to float the idea of at least test-driving a model in which the two communities would rely on a single chief for what would remain two autonomous police departments.
   That’s the concept John Quinn, chairman of the Northfield Select Board, pitched to the Berlin Select Board last week.
   Quinn said he has been “kicking around” the idea since former Northfield Police Chief Chris Outten resigned to take another job earlier this year.
Northfield has the opportunity to look at different options for the police force and how it is managed,” Quinn said, noting the possibility of splitting the cost of Wolfe’s position — even if his salary were bumped up to reflect the increase in responsibility — could translate into a significant savings for the two communities.
   Quinn stressed he wasn’t proposing the merger of two comparably sized police departments, but instead described the law enforcement equivalent of a supervisory union where autonomous school districts split the expense of a superintendent.
   Quinn said members of his board weren’t completely sold on the idea.
   “In concept they’re behind it, (but) … there are a lot of questions to be answered and a lot of details to work out,” he said.
   Quinn suggested a six-month experiment. “If it’s not working then we would go our separate ways,” he said.
   Members of the
Berlin board didn’t rule out the idea, but some were skeptical about the savings.
   “I’m just not sure (sharing a police chief) is going to put extra money in anybody’s pocket,” Selectman Pete Kelley said.
   Kelley was among those who openly wondered whether Wolfe would be interested in taking over the helm of a neighboring department that is similar in size — seven full-time officers — to his own.
   Last week’s overture amounted to food for thought for members of the
Berlin board, who asked Town Manager Jeff Schulz to discuss the idea with Wolfe. Schulz said Monday he had not yet had that conversation.
Northfield, Municipal Manager Rob Lewis said Monday officials there are serious about cost control and the police chief proposal was part of a much broader evaluation.
   “We are taking a look at everything we have and everything we do in an effort to find ways to increase efficiencies and decrease taxes,” Lewis said.
   Lewis said he isn’t in a rush to hire a permanent replacement for Outten, who resigned in March after three years on the job. He said the interim arrangement with acting Chief James Dziobek Jr. is “working out well” and the interim tag will likely remain in place through the fiscal year that starts July 1.
   According to Quinn, the idea was inspired by Barre’s out-of-the-box decision to consolidate the responsibility for running the city’s police, fire and ambulance departments under a single position.
Northfield, he said, isn’t ready for anything that radical, but town officials are interested in trimming expenses while maintaining services. Reaching out to Berlin was potentially one way to do that, he said.
Berlin is already a participant in the ongoing study of the potential for creating a single, stand-alone public safety authority that would also include Barre, Barre Town and Montpelier. However, Kelley lamented that effort had apparently stalled.
   “The regionalization plan has been a plan for a very long time,” he said. “Actions speak louder than words, and we’re not seeing it come together.”
   That said, Kelley was skeptical that an alliance with
Northfield targeted at the police chief’s position would yield much more than a time-consuming debate over each community’s expectations.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - some about Berlin Pond, one about Campaign for VT

June 19th

   In the past year I have read and listened to many “antis” make statements that can’t be backed by science or logic. I feel compelled to pen a response to Bob Green’s most recent outrageous claims.
   A) Otters have historically been viewed at the north end where the pond doesn’t completely freeze during winter months. Otters need to dive below the ice to catch fish, and the north end provides this habitat. I personally saw otters at the northern part of the pond this past winter.
Canada geese will aggressively defend their nests. Try to chase a goose from her nest and you’ll most likely end up with some battle wounds. I do not believe an angler chased a goose in order to catch a bass. It doesn’t make sense — and as a famous judge says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t true!”
   C) Worried about the loons? Take a trip over to Nelson Pond and you’ll see anywhere from four to six resident loons thriving on a pond that is surrounded by camps and receives traffic from speed boats pulling skiers.
   D) Trash around the pond?
Montpelier’s water department historically picks up two truckloads of trash on roads surrounding the pond each year. This is a statement of fact and was issued as testimony during the Supreme Court case. It’s convenient to blame it on anglers now, but that bucket won’t hold water.
   E) Traffic has increased twofold? After the novelty wore off, usage by anglers and kayakers plummeted to normal levels. The usage this summer has been minimal. Three to five anglers/kayakers will be found on a nice weekend day. On most weekdays, there are zero to three people on the pond. Contrast that with 20 to 30 cars (as many as 12 or more at one time) that park along the pond daily to walk or bird-watch. Anglers/kayakers are not creating traffic or safety issues, and there is zero evidence to support such an over-the-top claim.
   F) The bald eagle is still around. I saw it last week.
   G) I’m running out of space, but the last issue is water safety. I believe the Agency of Natural Resources has our best interests in mind. Anglers/kayakers do not pose a threat to water quality, and there’s zero evidence to support this claim.
   Nate Smead,

June 15th
   My wife and I have lived on Berlin Pond since 1975. We have enjoyed the beauty of the pond and the quietness that it has provided. In the summer there is nothing like the sounds of the loons talking to each other early in the morning and late evening. We have enjoyed seeing the many flocks of
Canada geese that use the pond as a resting place before moving south for the winter months. We have also enjoyed watching the snow geese cover most of the south side of the pond by the thousands as they make their journey south.
   That has all changed over the past year since the Supreme Court opened the pond for recreation. We saw only a few flocks of geese on the pond last fall and this spring. I have witnessed boaters chase the geese from their nesting place so the fishermen can catch the bass that they cannot keep. I never saw an otter on the ice this past spring. The bald eagle has not been seen thus far. My wife picked up more than 10 bags of trash that was left behind this spring for Green Up Day. The traffic has increased twofold, and the safety of the walkers, bikers and joggers has decreased.
   All said, this is minor compared with what could happen to the drinking water that is supplied to the residents of the town of
Berlin, Montpelier and the businesses that depend on this pond. Just imagine if the water treatment plant could no longer provide you with safe drinking water. You would not know you are drinking gasoline until you got sick. You would not know that zebra mussels covered the intake and no water was coming out of your faucet. To fix these problems costs money, money that in the end will come out of your pockets.
   If I were on this water system and depended on it for my health and the health of my loved ones, I would do everything I could to protect the water from harm. There is no other alternative to provide you with some of the purest drinking water in the area than Berlin Pond. Protect Berlin Pond for your health.
Bob Green, Berlin

June 13th
   I must take a moment to respond to another misleading and inaccurate letter in Wednesday’s Times Argus. While Ms. Kerrin, in her “Time is critical” letter, feels that allowing access to Berlin Pond will destroy the wildlife and water quality, there are simply no facts to support this. None.
   The right of the public to access the pond has been upheld by the courts and the residents of
Berlin. How much more traffic does she really think will result from a few people being able to safely park and put a canoe or kayak into the water? The area is already overrun every afternoon by joggers and the like (who also have every right to be there). Again, I would refer anyone who disagrees to Title 10, chapter 49, section 1424-c: “The secretary shall attempt to manage the public waters so that the various uses may be enjoyed in a reasonable manner, in the best interests of all the citizens of the state. To the extent possible, the secretary shall provide for all normal uses.”
   The “fuels and other contaminants” she cites as a potential problem for the water treatment plant is not a valid argument — motorized boats are not permitted anyway. The issue at hand here is not environmental, despite what the author would have you believe. It is elitism and nothing more.
   There are those who feel the pond should just be enjoyed their way and no other. How should we as hunters and fisherman feel about that when we are the ones more responsible for the financial burden of maintaining our natural resources (look up the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell Johnson acts if you care to understand)? I can tell you how I feel: sick to my stomach. Politics touted as environmentalism are still nothing more than politics, and in this case of the worst kind.
Keith Zandy, Berlin

June 12th
   I would like to address some issues concerning
Berlin and Montpelier residents. It is my understanding the Berlin Select Board is currently working with Vermont Fish and Wildlife to create a binding agreement that would allow Fish and Wildlife to install a fishing access on the north end of Berlin Pond.
   If this occurs, the state will likely determine accessing rights and restrictions; residents will relinquish the ability to control what happens in and around the waters of Berlin Pond, potentially forever. This could result in detrimental drinking water contaminations, an overabundance of traffic on a rural road, a late-night “party zone,” and potential harm to the waters, fish, wildlife and fowl that currently reside in and around Berlin Pond. This will affect many
Berlin residents and organizations and all Montpelier residents by risking the purity of the water they are currently receiving from Berlin Pond.
   Montpelier’s water treatment plant has the ability to filter some contaminants through its system, but high costs would likely be incurred if it had to modify its treatment plant to filter chemicals such as fuels and other contaminants that potentially could be introduced by access; the costs distributed to Montpelier residents and Berlin residents and organizations receiving drinking water from Montpelier.
Berlin residents: If relinquishing more control to the state is something you are not in favor of, contact Berlin Select Board members and influence this decision before this agreement becomes fact.
Montpelier residents: If you are concerned about maintaining costs and the purity of drinking water for Montpelier residents and Berlin residents and organizations, take the same action. Berlin Select Board member contact information can be found on the town of Berlin website.
   Time is critical.
  ~ Maggie J. Kerrin,

June 12th


   I am writing to let those who live and work in Washington County know that Campaign for Vermont, Vermont’s fastest-growing grass-roots advocacy group, will be hosting a community forum June 26 at the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce in Berlin from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
   The forum is open to all and will feature a panel of area professionals from a range of sectors such as local business, industry, education and economic development, among others. The forum will be moderated by Campaign for
Vermont founder Bruce Lisman. It will consist of a discussion with the panelists and participants about how to best advance nonpartisan policies that will allow us to build an economy where no one is left behind and everyone can prosper.
   If you are someone, like me, who is concerned about the future of Vermont — in terms of our economy and jobs, health care system, education, energy and government accountability — I encourage you to attend the forum to share your point of view, the challenges you face today and your aspirations for the future of our state.
   I am very excited by the work that Bruce Lisman and other partners from Campaign for Vermont are doing; the position papers that CFV has issued to date, such as the recent document on transparency; and CFV’s outreach efforts that focus on encouraging Vermonters to get involved. It’s a grass-roots, nonpartisan effort that I would encourage you to become familiar with.
   You can learn more by visiting and by attending the
Washington County community forum. Your participation will help CFV develop its overall advocacy road map, which will in turn direct CFV’s efforts both inside and outside of Montpelier.
   If you have any questions about the forum or CFV, please contact me at 371-7080.
Pat McDonald, Berlin

Monday, June 10, 2013


News to Know June 9, 2013

Sent by Corinne Stridsberg and also posted at:
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I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Open House at the Berlin Historical Society on Sunday.  I learned a bit about the 250th celebration, purchased some commemorative envelopes with a special cache that was cancelled at the post office on June 8th ($2 each and still available if you'd like to buy one), met a few people and spent quite a bit of time looking through the scrapbooks the Berlin Historical Society keeps.  The scrapbooks are newspaper clippings pertaining to our town.  I was reading about when U-32 considered a four day week back in 1974, when a stunt plane landed on a station wagon (with a special landing roof) in 1978 at Knapp Airport, controversy about the mall being built, water issues, the town debating on whether or not to have a town manager, the selectboard increasing from three to five members and so much more.  All of this information is indexed!   
Many thanks to Norb in particular for doing the special envelopes/postmark to commemorate the occasion. 
The Berlin Historical Society would love to have additional members - more information on them can be found on their page on the town website
Earlier on Saturday I went to two plant sales, stopped at the Farmers Market and then took my portable radio out to work in the garden while listening to WDEV 550 "In The Garden with Ed Smith" (author of the Vegetable Gardener's Bible & The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible: How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs, and other Containers) who broadcasts with Joel Najman.  It's great to listen to them and the folks who call in with gardening questions on Saturdays from 12:30 - 1:30, whether you're in the house, at the computer (streaming available), in the car, or actually out in the garden.
I'm still gathering information for an issue on fresh food available in Berlin.  Please send me details you're aware of.
Included below please find:

Might there be interest amongst Berlin residents in putting together some special parade floats to further commemorate the special occasion of the 250th Anniversary of Berlin's Charter?   What would be a good float?  What do you think of when you think of Berlin, Vermont?
I received a few comments regarding solar.  Recommendations were given for SunCommon and Daedalus, perhaps there are additional companies some of you have experience with?  It was Sunward that we looked at when we thought about solar hot water a while back but chose not to go that route.
Also I was told that there is a "Solar Power for Dummies" book that could be of help.

I found this about Solar power in Vermont on which seems to hold true in the research we've done: "Solar power in Vermont on rooftops can provide 18% of all electricity used in Vermont A 2012 estimate suggests that a typical 5 kW system costing $25,000 before credits and utility savings will pay for itself in 10 years, and generate a profit of $34,956 over the rest of its 25 year life."

When I put the question out there as to who was already using solar and if there were any tips or advice, we had already booked a visit with SunCommon.  SunCommon has a program where it's with the idea that you will pay a set monthly rate equal to or less than your current electric bill. 
One of the SunCommom Solar Evaluator & Designers took a look at where our house is situated, what type of roofing we have, and any trees of our own or neighbors which would change the amount of sun the solar panels would receive.  In our case the neighbors trees are an issue to making as much use as we otherwise could of our garage and carport roof.  Tools were used to measure the amount of solar exposure.   We talked about panels being installed by roof mount versus ground mount.  We also suggested the possibility of building a "carport" off the back of the house where we could get unblocked sun. 
There was discussion about current and future electricity needs.   We're thinking at some point we won't have as many people living here and therefore the electrical needs would drop.  Currently GMP credits you for energy that goes back into the power grid when you are generating more than you are using.  They are not required to do this but for now they are.  What might extra electricity be used for if in the future you don't need as much as your solar system provides?  You could add something to your home such as a hot tub which would require electricity.  Or maybe switch what you currently have set up for propane to electric.  You could buy an electric car.
There are both purchase and leasing options with SunCommon.   The initial cash/finance amount for the system subtracts the state rebate and the $500 down payment required.  There is also a Federal Tax Credit they estimate for you.
Another way to find out more about solar systems and companies and what they can offer you is to attend the annual Solarfest. 
This year the very popular SolarFest will be held July 12, 13 and 14 in Tinmouth, Vermont at 12 McNamara Road.  Cost is $15 per person, children 14 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.  Weekend passes are available.  When we attended a few years ago we enjoyed the booths with many knowledgeable people to discuss solar options along with workshops, vendors and music.  Complete details can be found at:
Recently I posted a chart "Vermont Traffic Violations and The Fines Assessed" on the Berlin, Vermont facebook page which hundreds of people have checked out.  The details it gives are both what the fine will be depending on how much of the speed limit you're traveling (both general speeding fines and work zone speeding fines) and also there is a list of traffic violations and the fines assessed for these infractions.  To see the chart go to the following link and scroll down to find it:
The recent bad weather is a great example of why it's helpful to be part of the Berlin Emergency Management Google Group. By receiving a notice both by text and email I turned on WDEV for updates and was able cut my errands short and get home just as a big storm was breaking. "The Berlin Emergency Management Team has an email group to better keep you informed on emergency situations and dangers facing the town. To join this list click on click on “Join this group” in the right hand column."
Vtrans has a facebook page which offers information on road and bridge construction, Amtrak train service changes and more:
There are lots of good blogs out there.  One I enjoy is One Good Thing by Jillee.  She has a variety of ideas, recipes, homemade solutions, do it yourself (DIY), and crafts.
ORCA Media, located in City Center down in Montpelier is having an open house on Tuesday, June 11 5:30-7:30pm.  They will have a tour of the facilities, introduce some of their staff and also present their annual report.  ORCA provides content on cable channels 15, 16 and 17 and on  ORCA is a nonprofit providing free and reduced rate video production and distribution services to local community organizations, municipalities, schools and individuals.
Information on this endeavor can be found through several links:
All dances taught; no partner necessary. All ages welcome. Bring shoes not worn outdoors.  8–11 p.m. Capital City Grange, 6612 Rte. 12 (Northfield St.), Berlin. $8. 744-6163 or Event happens every first, third and fifth Sat.
Note: The owner's name is George Gross, not Cross as this article state
Pub 6/7/13  Times Argus by Kathryn Eddy
   The strawberries and tomatoes are ripening fast at Dog River Farm on Route 12 in Berlin, and with a great 2012 season under their belts the outlook for this one is good — and that means a lot to owner and operator George Cross after being hit hard by both the May 2011 storm and Irene that August.
   “I lost my shirt. But we got through it, everybody rallied. My goal is to recover 100 percent by the end of this year. With the crew I have now, I think we’ll be able to do it,” says Cross. “Last year we had an awesome year, spectacular year. It was the best season I’ve ever had.”
   Cross started farming in 1996, with business partner Tony Lehouillier, while at Johnson State College getting his master’s in education. They started Foote Brook Farm in 1997, then a few years after Cross left to find a teaching position he and Lehouillier bought Dog River in 2001. While teaching middle school science in his native New Jersey, Cross slowly transformed the 200 acres, refurbishing, rebuilding and clearing. In 2004 he met his wife, Julie O’Keefe, moved back to Vermont and started teaching in Williamstown, where he stayed until last year.
   They recently bought out Lehouillier’s share of Dog River. 
   The farm now offers a full line of certified organic vegetables and berries. Cross hopes eventually to be a year-round operation, offering pick-your-own pumpkins in the fall, and when the farm’s Christmas trees reach maturity it will be open until Dec. 26.
   “We’ve got awesome strawberries and the best organic sweet corn in central Vermont,” Cross says.
   Cross and his crew rotate and farm about 30 acres every year; winter rye is their main cover crop, which they use for mulch and strawberries and sell the surplus as straw. Cross says that after the floods he has continued to invest, putting in a new irrigation system, another greenhouse and a cooler. He has plans for a new farm stand, which he hopes to break ground on in the fall.
   “There’s a little agricultural revival going on here in the Dog River Valley. Our hope is to have a stand that the neighborhood could sell products. We have folks up the road who have beef, organic chicken, bees, wine — there’s a bunch of startup ag things going on. We could have a place to pull it all together and then do spring and fall festivals centered around our strawberries and pumpkins,” he says. 
   “But no corn mazes,” he adds.
   For now, the farm stand is a self-serve building — cash or check — that is filled with fresh produce daily and continuously restocked throughout the day. Dog River is offering different community-supported agriculture options this summer, June 27 through Oct. 10, including a vegetable, fruit and local product share; a fruit and veggie-only share; and, new this year, the Dog River Farm season pass. The card sells for $250, is loaded with $300 and is reloadable in $100 increments after that; customers can go to the farm on Thursdays and Fridays between 4 and 7 p.m., pick out whatever they want and swipe their card.
   “It’s exciting and a win-win. We get to move away from packing boxes and bags, and the customers, if they don’t want kale one week or their garden is flush with something, have much more flexibility,” says Cross.
   Cross enjoys wearing the many hats a farmer must in order to keep things going, but he admits it is one of the most challenging professions out there.
   “Farmers work so hard, and there is nothing in their favor; you cannot control anything. And then to top it off people get upset about prices. I feel like farmers are so unappreciated, and not in Vermont, more like in the country as a whole,” says Cross.
   “You have no problem spending whatever you spend on a cellphone each month and yet gripe about the price of food. It really surprises me. I think if people got their hands into a garden and more connected they would appreciate the farmer a heck of a lot more.”
   Cross says the connection to the outside through his land is one of the best things about what he does.
   In about two weeks Dog River’s strawberries will be ready, with some pick-your-own offerings this year and more to come next year. Salad greens, spinach and tomatoes will also be ready; whatever the farm is offering is always on its sign.
   Cross posts updates on his website,, as often as possible, and you can find Dog River Farm on Facebook.
(letter to the Editor - published in Montpelier Bridge)
To the Editor: Each day, volunteer drivers for Green Mountain Transit Agency (GMTA) provide hundreds of miles of service to those needing access to medical appointments, shopping, community centers and other essential needs.  So many that we serve are without any other source of transportation, living alone and with limited friends and family. Our drivers become more than a reliable connection to their daily needs, they become an everyday hero. Recently, a longtime GMTA volunteer driver went to pick up a client in a rural town for his dialysis appointment. As the volunteer had done numerous times before, he knocked on the door to let the client know his ride was there. After waiting with no response, he peered in the window and saw that the client was slumped in a chair and unresponsive. He immediately entered the house and woke the client with some success but noticed a slur in speech and inability to answer simple questions. He feared that the client had begun to go into a diabetic coma or worse. He called 911, waited for the ambulance to arrive and comforted the client while keeping him awake and calm. Because of his actions and, more important, because he was there, we were told he most likely saved this man’s life. Now what is a hero? A handsome person in a cape with extraordinary strength? A three-point shot to tie the game? Or is it the quiet and humble person who each day volunteers his or her time to care for those who sometimes have no one else. It wasn’t a superman who saved a life today, and the papers will not offer a headline in his honor, but to me this man is a hero and someone I am very proud to have as part of the GMTA family.
—Tawnya Kristen, Community Relations Manager, Green Mountain Transit Agency, Berlin
Free movies at the Ben & Jerry factory in Waterbury.  Shows begin at dusk.  Bring your own blankets/chairs.  Also receive free ice cream samples.
6/29 - The Hobbit
7/6 - Rise of the Guardians
7/13 - The Lorax
7/20 - Brave
7/27 - Wreck It Ralph
8/3 - Madagascar 3
8/10 - Escape from Planet Earth
8/17 - The Avengers
Barre outdoor concerts start this Wednesday at 7pm.  In case of rain they move to the Universalist Church at 19 Church Street.
June 12 - Starline Rhythm Boys
June 19 - Green Mountain Swing Band
June 26 - Still Kickin'
Check out the complete listing at:
On Sunday afternoons from 1pm - 3pm Green Mountain Coffee presents Music on the Porch
June 16 - Don & Jenn
June 23 - Doug Perkins
June 30 - HouseRockers
A schedule I always keep tabs on is when I might next be able to attend a puppet show put on by the No Strings Marionette folks - Dan & Barbara.   They make their own puppets and sets and do a phenomenal performance.  Two shows that are nearby this summer are:
August 2 Nick of Time at 7 pm at the beautifully refurbished Old Town Hall in the lovely Pond Village of Brookfield, Vermont.
August 31 The Snowmaiden at 1 p.m. on the Green in Northfield as part of Northfield Vermont's Labor Day Celebration.
Check out their complete schedule though as it's worth the drive to go see them whenever it might fit into your schedule:
Below is just one posting... there have been many more
Membership is free - to join go to visit
Plastic Bags
Cassandra Hemenway-Zero Waste Outreach Coordinator, CVSWMD, Central VT
Posted to: Berlin, Middlesex  No. 143  May 30, 2013
Please note that all plastic bags that we have been accepting at the Additional Recyclables Collection Center (ARCC) can go into all major supermarket bag recycling containers. Our ARCC staff is currently overwhelmed with plastic bags and requests that people drop those items off at their supermarket bins during your next shopping trip.
Here is a list of bags you can bring to your grocery store plastic bag recycling:
- Polyethylene plastic bags with the #2 or #4 recycling symbol (But NOT water softener salt/potassium bags)
- Other retail single-use plastic “shopping bags” (no cardboard bottoms or handles made from string or other materials)
- Dry-cleaning bags (NOT Gadue’s Dry Cleaner’s of Chittenden Co.)
- Over-wraps from newspapers and bulk purchases of toilet tissues and paper towels
- Bread and veggie bags (clean and dry)
- Clean garbage bags
Go to the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District website for a complete list of what we accept at the ARCC:


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