Sunday, January 17, 2016


Berlin News to Know January 5th

BERLIN NEWS TO KNOW January 5, 2016
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.
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Below you will find:

Please take the time to read this article and the comments also.
There is once again a petition for the Kellogg Hubbard Library to have a funding request on the Berlin ballot for Town Meeting Day. They are requesting the same amount as last year. There are a few folks going out to collect signatures and a copy of the petition can be found both at the library and at the Berlin Town office. Those on the voter checklist, please stop by to offer support by adding your signature. The 100 signatures need to be gathered by early January to meet the deadline for such submissions. It's a small cost to give all Berlin residents full access to all the services and materials that the library offers.
Kohl's plans to open in March up across from the Berlin Mall and needs to fill about 100 full and part time hourly positions.
Full-time jobs involve supervisory roles that range from merchandising and operations to service areas. Part-time positions include cashiers and customer service workers.
Interested applicants can visit for information on available positions and how to apply
Pub. 12/31/15 Times Argus by Eric Blaisdell
BERLIN — Local officials aren’t happy about a recently posted report that called Berlin the second most dangerous city in the state. They say the report lacks crucial context.
The report was written by Chris Kolmar in the infotainment site Rutland came in as the most dangerous community on the list and Hardwick was No. 5.
The list was made by using FBI crime data from 2011 to 2013.
“Violent crimes are defined as rapes, murders, robberies and aggravated assaults,” Kolmar wrote. “We only looked at cities that have populations of more than 2,500 people as of 2013, which is the last year the report was available. This left us with a total of 32 cities in Vermont to rank.
“Finally, we made 2013 factor more heavily than 2012, since more recent crimes are a bigger determining factor in how dangerous a place is,” the report read.
For Berlin, Kolmar wrote, “Located between Barre and Montpelier in central Vermont, Berlin’s recent explosion of crime makes it the second most dangerous place to live in the Green Mountain State.
“Between 2011-3, both violent and property crime rates nearly tripled, leaving residents with a 1 in 220 chance of being the victim of a violent crime and a 1 in 20 chance of being the victim of a property crime in 2013.
“That makes Berlin’s 2013 violent crime rate 16 (percent) higher than (No.) 1 Rutland’s, so if the trend continues, we can expect to see the town of Berlin top this list in a few years’ time.”
It’s unclear why FBI data from 2014 wasn’t used as that was made available in September. Attempts to contact Kolmar for this story were unsuccessful.
In the 2014 crime data, Berlin’s violent crime tally fell from 13 incidents in 2013 to four, and property crime such as burglaries and larcenies fell from 143 incidents in 2013 to 116. The report also doesn’t take into account three Berlin homicides allegedly committed by Jody Herring this past summer. Herring, 40, of South Barre, accused of fatally shooting Department for Children and Families caseworker Lara Sobel in Barre, as well as three relatives in Berlin. She is facing four counts of murder.
Select Board Chairman True Nelson emphasized Wednesday that Berlin is a safe place to live, work and raise a family. Nelson said using the population metric Kolmar used is misleading because, although Berlin has about 2,800 residents, there are many more people in town during the day due to the large number of businesses located in Berlin as well as the hospital.
“Between shopping and employment, Berlin’s population during the day swells greatly,” he said. “What other town of 2,800 can support three supermarkets?”
Nelson said he looked at some past town reports and discovered a large majority of the calls to police were made at businesses. He said because Berlin has such a small population, a few incidents can throw off the statistics. Nelson said the police department does a great job. While any crime is unacceptable, he said he is not concerned with the report.
Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams lives in Berlin. Williams said he was surprised at first when he read the report, particularly the statement that residents in town have a 1 in 220 chance of being the victim of a violent crime.
“That is a skewed number,” he said. “The majority of our crimes, generally in Washington County but definitely in Berlin, happen to a relatively small population group. ... The 1 in 220 (chance); that’s just simply taking the number of people and dividing by the total number of crimes reported. That’s not an accurate representation of any individual’s risk to be the victim of a crime.”
Williams said, for example if one couple is charged with a domestic assault incident, a separate disorderly incident and a later violation of an abuse prevention order, that’s three incidents in a year that just upped the crime stats significantly, and involved just two people.
He said there’s no doubt that crime does occur in Berlin, but the report is not an accurate representation of the data.
The report does come with a disclaimer saying, “We must note that this report is not an analysis of the effectiveness of local police departments. It simply states where crimes occurred most frequently.”
Williams said Berlin comes in second or third in the county when it comes to crimes referred to his desk that he reviews to see if charges are warranted, but most are for retail thefts and bad checks; crimes reported by businesses.
Berlin Police Chief William Wolfe said while the data is the data, the numbers do not accurately reflect the environment in town. Wolfe said Berlin doesn’t deserve to be labeled the second most dangerous town in Vermont and it is a safe place to live, visit and work.
He called the report “hurriedly put together” as it appeared there wasn’t much research put into it. Wolfe said he was certain there were other towns and cities in the state where more crime occurs.
Wolfe’s criticism of the isn’t the first time the site has come under scrutiny. Other responders to its articles echo the sentiments of those in Berlin, saying the ranking doesn’t reflect what’s actually happening in town.
Some might characterize the site’s content as “clickbait,” or stories and lists designed to be provocative or sensational so that the reader clicks on the story to read it.
Nick Johnson, who founded the site with Kolmar, said this to Iowa Public Radio in August, “One time we decided to flip the best lists upside down, and publish ‘Where are the Worst Places in Florida?’ Instead of ‘Where are the Best?’ And it was like an immediate hit. We had about 350,000 page views. We were all over the news. Everybody was talking about us.”
Pub. 12/23/15 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — A mud bog event that masqueraded as a birthday party this year has town officials looking to create an ordinance that would give them the power to regulate such events, but they agreed this week that might not be as simple as it sounds.
Hoping to avoid a slippery slope, members reviewed a draft ordinance prepared by Town Administrator Dana Hadley before proclaiming it a good start and noting that it needs work.
The challenge involves isolating what type of events should require town scrutiny and a $150 fee for a local permit that could include conditions governing things like parking and traffic control, noise and hours of operation.
Board members worried the language Hadley proposed was overly broad — roping in “any event where groups of people will gather to participate or observe.”
Arguably, that could include town meeting, chicken pie suppers, family reunions and lawn sales. Given the draft ordinance’s specific reference to sporting events, that would certainly include organized athletics.
“Would that mean a soccer game over at the school?” Select Board member Brad Towne asked, kicking off the discussion Monday that featured more questions than answers.
Based on the current wording, Hadley conceded it would. However, board member Jeremy Hansen wondered if simply excluding events on school property — some of which are rather large, generate significant traffic and have nothing to do with school — from the ordinance would resolve that issue.
Before the board had a chance to react to Hansen’s idea, member Roberta Haskin was asking whether a permit would be required under the draft ordinance for a backyard wedding with perhaps 100 guests.
“Is that considered an event?” she asked.
“If you’re on private property, I don’t think we have much say,” Hadley replied.
And there’s the rub. Board members reminded him that the mud bog event that Chairman Ture Nelson noted was “billed as a birthday party” over the summer was on private property. So too, Towne noted, was the annual carnival that spawned the closest thing the town has to an event ordinance.
That “amusement ordinance,” adopted in 1982, talks about carnivals, circuses and midways, but not much else. As a result, requests for permits have been few and far between, and in most cases voluntary.
Complaints involving the mud bog held since 2004 on the Herring Family Farm on Route 12 brought the issue to a head over the summer. Noise and traffic were among the concerns expressed. Organizers applied for an amusement permit they said they didn’t need — and ultimately never received — but hosted the three-day mud bog anyway.
The ordinance Hadley drafted is an attempt to clarify the town’s ability to regulate special events in the interest of public safety.
However, board members wrestled with what would trigger the need to apply for a permit.
“What’s the distinguishing element?” Hansen asked.
“Is it what’s happening, or is it where?” Haskin added.
Towne suggested the board look for ways to narrow the list of events that potentially would be regulated by the ordinance.
“Not all of these events are open to the public,” he noted — a distinction that would allow the town to ignore weddings and family reunions and the like.
“Is that the distinguishing feature, that it’s open to the public, or charges a fee?” Hansen asked hopefully.
Based on those guidelines, Nelson said the mud bog event, which he noted was publicly advertised, likely would require a permit even though it doubled as a birthday party.
Hadley agreed that modification was more in keeping with what he had in mind when he drafted the ordinance.
“I don’t want to penalize people who are trying to have a party in their backyard,” he said.
Hadley volunteered to amend the proposed ordinance to reflect the board’s suggestions and to review any similar ordinances in surrounding communities.
The board didn’t discuss how it would evaluate events such as chicken pie suppers and craft fairs that are open to the public or charge a fee. While the current language would require permits for those types of events, it gives the Select Board the discretion to waive the $150 fee.
Pub. 12/12/15 Times Argus by Neal Goswami
BERLIN — State officials have signed an agreement to create a Vermont Traveler Services Center at the site of a gas station and service center under construction just off Exit 7 on Interstate 89.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, Transportation Secretary Chris Cole and Buildings and General Services Commissioner Michael Obuchowski signed the public-private partnership agreement with representatives of Maplewood Ltd. on Friday morning at a news conference. The 24-hour Vermont Traveler Services Center will be the state’s first, officials said.
“Here’s the good news for Vermont taxpayers: It’s going to serve, has the capacity to serve, more than 5,000 customers a day,” Shumlin said at the construction site. “It’s going to be open 24 hours a day. You’ll be able to stop and get not only all the services that you’d expect at a rest area, but also all kinds of information about hotels, motels, tourist destinations in the area.”
The facility will be staffed by workers trained by the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing.
“And guess what, it’s not going to cost Vermont taxpayers one single cent. This is really the first rest area and traveler information center that’s going to be absolutely free to Vermont taxpayers,” he said. “The cost is going to be borne by the owners, the developers here at Maplewood.”
The state, under the agreement, will install and maintain signs on the interstate and Route 62 advertising the facility.
“This is an example of what we can do when we’re being creative to make sure that we’re serving the public, providing services, but doing it without costing taxpayers money,” Shumlin said.
Wayne Lamberton, a partner in Maplewood, said the $5.7 million, 9,000-square-foot facility will feature a diner and be powered by a 500-kilowatt solar installation. The facility will also count all vehicle and pedestrian traffic for reporting to the state and include an interactive information kiosk and courtesy phone that allows travelers to connect with additional hospitality services and area attractions.
“I’m excited that the governor and the administration has shared our vision for how we can provide traveler services to the taxpayers of the state of Vermont. I’m excited about the project,” Lamberton said. “It won’t cost the taxpayers any money, which is a big step.”
Obuchowski said the model could be used for other facilities and allows the state to create service centers without the traditional costs.
“It’s a situation in which entrepreneurs and the state of Vermont share the risk and share the reward,” Obuchowski said. “I want to thank the governor for letting us pursue private-public partnerships, because if we didn’t have that opportunity, we certainly do not have enough money to build these projects ourselves. It’s an example of Vermonters working together for the mutual benefit of all parties.”
Lamberton said the facility is expected to be open next fall in time for the foliage season.

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