Sunday, January 26, 2014


News to Know January 26

BERLIN NEWS TO KNOW January 26, 2014

This  communication is put together and distributed on a volunteer basis by resident Corinne Stridsberg simply in an effort to share information and build community, it is not from the town of Berlin.
Please share this with your Berlin friends and neighbors.  If you're not already receiving this news directly by email, send an email to request this to
Check out the Berlin, Vermont Community News page on facebook to find bits of current news:


Included below please find:




Have you attended Farmers Night events at the State House before?  There is a lot of Wednesday night fun to come this season.  Check out the schedule at this link:
Winter concert at Berlin Elementary School will be on Thurs., January 30th at 6:30pm
The monthly Parent Teacher Neighbor Association (PTNA) meeting will be Wednesday, February 5th at 6:30pm
Monday, February 10th from 5pm - 6pm will be a community and parent forum to determine the skills, knowledge and traits that Berlin needs in its next principal.
Thursday, Feb 13th at 6pm is Community Bullying Education Night
There will be a Talent Show on February 14th at 9:15am.
More details on these events can be found in the current school newsletter or by calling the school at 223-2796

An event for all ages - snowshoe demos, guided snowshoe tours, educational workshops, face painting, crafts for kids & adults, naturalist walks, dog sled demo, winter camping/cooking clinic, S'mores, winter animal tracking, outdoor gear displays, raffle prizes and food!  More details including a schedule at Location: 4711 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center  Registration 8:30am - $10 general public and kids with adults get in free.


Carl has turned in his petition to be on the ballot for one of the board of director positions at Berlin Elementary School and submitted this to be shared:
My name is Carl Parton and I am running for Berlin Elementary School Board.  I have two children that attend Berlin Elementary School.  I am running for School Board for several reasons but I do have core motivations for wanting to serve.
1)      Restore local control over curriculum and spending.
2)      Maximize the potential of every student, regardless of educational competency or family socio-economic status.
3)      Ensure the protection of our children’s privacy of information and data from hackers and over-reaching national data collection institutions including Federal governmental and private or corporately contracted entities.
4)      Give back to my community by serving and representing my friends and neighbors with a prioritized approach:  Quality of education for Berlin’s students, fiscal accountability to my neighbors for spending decisions and support for our teachers and staff.


Annual Vermont Homestead Declaration "This form must be filed EACH YEAR by ALL VT residents who own and occupy a VT homestead on April 1 even if a claim for property tax adjustment is not made."
Good news!  There will be a meeting of the Berlin Historical Society this month.  The meeting will be held at the Berlin Town Office on Wednesday, January 29 at 7:00 PM.
     The agenda for this meeting will include:
-Traditionally the January meeting has been the time for election of officers for the coming year.  This may be delayed until a later date.
-A review of Chapter 7 of  A Place to Pass Through - A Look at Farming in Berlin: 1850-70.
-Review of the 2013 BHS Annual Report to be published in the Berlin Town Report.
-Update on our scrapbook project.
-The prospect of our receiving a donation of two more fire files.
-Our upcoming potluck dinner meeting in May.
-Our participation in the 2014 Vermont History Expo in Tunbridge.
Richard Turner

Pub 1/25/14 Times Argus by David Delcore
   BERLIN — The Select Board in business-friendly Berlin wants to know what local voters think about an alternative tax they have rejected once before and which has typically inflamed the area business community.
   However, with the town courting customers it needs to launch a municipal water system, board members were told during a special meeting Friday that now is not the time to call for a public vote — even a nonbinding one — on a local option tax.
   “I think there is work that needs to be done first,” said Patricia McDonald, a former board member who is active in town affairs and is assisting efforts to persuade customers to commit to buying water from Berlin.
   According to McDonald, the prospect of a new tax could complicate those conversations at a crucial time — particularly given the limited public discussion of the tax idea that has occurred.
   “I would be opposed to it for sure,” she said, suggesting the proposal is premature, the public is ill-informed and the concept — a 1 percent local sales tax as a new revenue source — isn’t going anywhere. “Do it at some point when it makes more sense,” she said. “There is a lot of education that needs to happen first.”
   Board members initially balked, noting the idea of putting a nonbinding question on the Town Meeting Day ballot was intended as a springboard for a public conversation. According to the ballot question crafted by Selectman Jeremy Hansen, the tax would create a new funding source for the local police and volunteer fire departments.
   “(Town meeting) is the right place to initiate the conversation,” Hansen said.
   However, after listening to McDonald and Town Administrator Jeff Schulz, the board agreed to scrap plans for a nonbinding vote in favor of bringing the idea up under other business, along with a proposed regional public safety authority and discussion of a state bank — both initiatives the board opted not to include on the warning.
   Despite the change of plans, board members are hoping town meeting provides a forum for them to explain the merits of a 1 percent sales tax that, according to Hansen’s estimates, would generate roughly $380,000 a year in new revenue. Based on their limited public discussion, board members don’t believe the local sales tax, which is already being charged in nearly a dozen Vermont communities — Burlington, Williston and Rutland Town among them — would drive businesses or shoppers away.
   Given the history of past alternative tax proposals in the Barre-Montpelier area, there are those who vehemently disagree. Over the past 13 years, the idea has been rejected by Berlin and Barre voters and twice defeated in Montpelier — most recently in 2012.
   However, a lot of time has passed since Berlin voters shot down a 1 percent local option tax by a nearly three-to-one margin in March 2001. Though the vote was decisive, the idea was revived by officials in Berlin, Barre and Montpelier in 2004 and considered by voters in the two cities in November of that year.
   The results of those votes prompted the Berlin board to abort its plans to seek voter approval of a 1 percent additional tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol on Town Meeting Day in 2005.
   Montpelier voters defeated the package of taxes 2,475 to 2,023, and Barre voters were far more emphatic: 2,871 to 781.
   In each of those cases the business community, largely through the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, vehemently opposed what it argued was a regressive tax that would hurt existing businesses, discourage others from locating in the Barre-Montpelier area, and potentially alienate shoppers.
   Those arguments resurfaced two years ago when Montpelier separately asked voters to consider a 1 percent local retail sales tax and a 1 percent local rooms and meals tax. The sales tax was handily rejected, 1,739 to 827, on Town Meeting Day 2012, while the rooms and meals tax was defeated 1,376 to 1,197.
   Things have been comparatively quiet in Berlin — possibly because the board hasn’t spent much time publicly discussing an initiative that has appeared on its published agenda only once. That was Jan. 6, when resident Bob Wernecke — a former board member — predicted the under-the-radar proposal needed to be thoroughly discussed.
   “I think you need a lot more public input on this,” he said, sounding very much as McDonald did Friday.
   “In the past we have talked about it, and it’s been a pretty negative response,” he said.
Below is a recent posting .... there have been many more about a variety of topics, looking for services, garage sales, meeting announcements, events, etc.  Membership is free - to join go to:

2013 Budget "Executive Summary"

Jeremy Hansen • Selectboard Member, Berlin
Posted to: Berlin
Hi everyone! A few people have requested a more in-depth explanation and summary of what's actually in the 2015 budget that the Selectboard has been kicking around for a few months now. Here is my "Executive Summary" of the nearly-final product for all of you:
The proposed municipal budget ($2,526,804.36) reflects a 2.75% increase over last year's budget ($2,459,279.00). Please note that this budget is unrelated to the education budget that pays for Berlin Elementary and U32. Exactly how much this will affect next year's property tax rates is not yet clear. If (and this is a big if) we come in exactly on budget, and the grand list (essentially the total of all assessed property values in the town) stays the same, the increase would be right around 2.75%. (So if you currently pay $2000 per year, your payment would go up to about $2055.) Should we end up with a surplus or the grand list grows, that percentage would drop. If there is a deficit (which has not recently been the case) or the grand list shrinks, the percentage could be higher. This is also not factoring in any homestead credit you get from the state due to your income level, or the "Special Appropriations" that you vote on at Town Meeting which may or may not be approved.
Let me summarize some of the most noteworthy changes from last year (with the dollar amount and percentage increase/decrease from last year in parentheses)
* The Treasurer is now a full-time position. (+$14,976, +42.86%)
* The Assistant Town Clerk replaces the Office Support Staff position. (+$5,089, +50.89%)
* There's a primary election this year, which drives up the cost of ballots and election workers. (+$3,500, +116.67%)
* Not as many employees are taking advantage of the Health Insurance Buyback (-$4,500, -50.00%)
* Health insurance costs are rising, and we have more employees (not counting the Police Department) (+$6,094, +96.15%)
* The cost of ambulance service has risen (+$5,129, +7.68%)
* We will hire a new police officer 6 months into the budget year to offer 24 hour coverage over the weekends and reduce our dependence on part-timers. This figure also includes some other increases in police costs. (+$46,950, +5.65%)
* As we replace them, we will be using more expensive, but more resilient culverts (+$4,000, +66.67%)
* Forthcoming state mandates on erosion control on roads require some additional materials (+$4,000, not previously budgeted)
* Hooking up the Town Offices to the water system, not purchasing a police cruiser this year, a new highway truck, and a loan that's about to be paid off (-$66,074, -37.88%)
Obviously, these items don't add up to the whole budget, which you can still see over here:
If you have questions that weren't answered here, please let me know and I'll do my best to get you the information.
pub. 1/24/14 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Town officials have all but concluded that the city of Montpelier doesn’t own as much land as it is posting around Berlin Pond, but they aren’t sure what to do about that. On a night when they again tabled action on a long-running request that they impose new parking restrictions on Mirror Lake Road adjacent to the pond, Select Board members turned their attention to a triangular property on the opposite end of the pond — a parcel some see as a potential access area despite the “No Trespassing” signs currently posted by Montpelier.
Proponents of that idea were buoyed by reports from the town’s attorney, Rob Halpert, and Paul Hannan, a surveyor from Calais. Both men said their research indicated that, due to transactions that date back to the construction of Interstate 89 decades ago, Berlin owns perhaps half an acre of once-condemned property that could be developed into a formal access area.
The land is a grassed-over portion of an old road that the state relocated when the interstate was built and then relinquished to the town after that work was complete. The land is generally located between a parking area on Brookfield Road and a nearby concrete culvert that funnels water from the pond under both the interstate and Paine Turnpike South.
Based on his research, Hannan said it isn’t a question of whether Berlin owns the posted parcel but how large it is.
“It may be a little more than the old road that you’re entitled to,” he told the board and several interested residents.
At a minimum, Hannan and Halpert agreed that records strongly indicate the relocated section of what was once the original Brookfield Road belongs to Berlin and could easily be isolated — both on the ground and on a map — without a formal survey.
Halpert suggested that would be the prudent next step for the board — one that he said should involve the state Department of Fish and Wildlife given the department’s standing offer to develop an access for outdoor enthusiasts who want to get out on the pond. Before a 2012 Vermont Supreme Court ruling, the pond had been off-limits for more than a century.
According to Halpert, before incurring costs associated with his drafting a certificate of title for the property and paying Hannan to conduct a formal survey, the board should first confirm with the state that the location is workable.
“The goal line here is to build a fishing access, and where that fishing access goes depends … (on) where physically on this parcel that folks are going to actually access the water,” he said, describing it as a logistical concern that could likely be inexpensively addressed more than a legal issue.
“I think it would be a pretty poor boat access if you couldn’t access (the pond) by boat,” he said.
Hannan said in an interview Thursday that answering that question would require some surveying but not an actual survey. He added that a review of maps on file in Berlin and Montpelier made him pretty confident the parcel has some shoreline.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve got some water,” he said, echoing an opinion he expressed at Monday night’s board meeting.
Berlin does own a separate parcel on Paine Turnpike South that goes all the way to the pond. Representatives of the Department of Fish and Wildlife have indicated the north end location could be more easily and inexpensively developed provided the town could verify that it owned the property.
Halpert did suggest the board initiate the process to re-establish and reclassify the abandoned section of road, which he maintained is an “unidentified corridor” under the state’s ancient roads law. Barring action by the town before July 1, 2015, the old road would revert to adjacent property owners — in this case Montpelier, which purchased most of the land around the pond in an effort to protect its public drinking water supply.
As has been the case since the Vermont Supreme Court struck down long-standing recreational restrictions on use of the pond, opinions among residents about the prospect of a second access were mixed.
Some urged the board to aggressively pursue an access area at that location even though one of the proponents suggested it probably wouldn’t be much good during the winter because the pond rarely freezes in the vicinity of the outlet.
However, Phil Gentile wondered whether it was worth pursuing what was described as an improved access given the town’s inability to regulate the informal entry point near a culvert on Mirror Lake Road at the south end of the pond.
“If we develop one on this end (of the pond) there are two access points,” Gentile said. “Don’t think they won’t use the south end. They will.”
Gentile said board members should consider that reality before acting. He also worried that the shallow nature of the north end raised environmental questions that should be evaluated and wondered whether voters should be asked if they are interested in expending money for survey and legal work associated with a possible north end access.
Board Chairman Brad Towne said voters spoke 2-to-1 in favor of gaining access to the pond over town property last year. And while the town probably couldn’t stop people from getting into the pond off Mirror Lake Road, he said, that access is “not ideal.”
“The least we can do is try and make it safe,” Towne said.
The board, which has been asked for nearly a year to impose parking restrictions on Mirror Lake Road, tabled action on a proposed solution it was told may no longer be needed and probably didn’t make sense.



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