Sunday, April 24, 2016


Berlin News to Know March 16, 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.
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
For current news look for "Berlin, Vermont" on facebook for a constant flow of information.  You don't need to be a facebook user to access it, but if you do use facebook, be sure to "Like" it:

For historical news look for "Berlin, Vermont Memories" on facebook.
Note:  I am looking for a couple more people to pledge $25 to the new Banjo Dan fundraiser for the recording of the Sleeping Sentinel album which will include the Big Bang of Berlin!  I am gathering ten pledges to be made on behalf of the Berlin Historical Society to have the Berlin Historical Society mentioned on the Thank You credits.  Please contact me today if you’re able to do this!  Thanks - Corinne

The Green Mountain Trading Post published a story that Berlin’s Gale Harris submitted.  It’s on newsstands now.  This publication can be found at small stores in the area for 75 cents.

Below you will find:

The 2016 Vermont State Scholastic Chess Championships take place on Saturday, April 2nd at the Berlin Elementary School for grades K – 12.  Now is a great time to sign up if you haven't already.  
Pre-registering saves you money and helps ensure a smooth start on tournament morning.
Rochester Chess will again be on hand once again with a large collection of chess supplies and novelties for sale.
Food concessions, including reasonably priced breakfast and lunch items, will be provided by the Women's Auxiliary of the Berlin Fire Department.
Complete rules, schedule and registration information can be found on the web site at:
Dan Lindner's music is such an incredible way to document history. Turns out "Song for Margaret" isn't the only Berlin song he's recorded. Here's what I heard from Dan this week - "I don't think I've mentioned my song "Black Cemetery," which appears on the third volume, Mystery and Memories. I walk my dog around the pond quite often, and regularly visit Black Cemetery. There are some great inscriptions on those stones, and many years ago I collected every one I could read and created this song where each verse consists of one of these. On the CD I had a group of really great singers record the song with no instrumental accompaniment. It's probably my favorite number on the album."
"The various pledge levels for my campaign offer "rewards" of additional CDs, and I think Berlin people might be interested in pledging at a level where they can get extra CDs. Although specific albums are mentioned at different pledge levels, I know a lot of my backers already have certain CDs, so substitutions on a one-for-one basis can be made. In effect, anyone pledging above the basic level can specify any CDs they'd like to have."
Of note, the campaign wraps up on March 31st, with the pledges already over the halfway mark. Hoping we'll all get to hear the "Big Bang of Berlin" in the near future! Think about who may appreciate a CD as a gift or if there is somebody who would want to know about this and perhaps they don't have a computer.  If you haven’t yet, check out the five minute video Dan has made to talk about this album – you can find it on his Kickstarter page (or visit and look for the Sleeping Sentinel link on the black bar)
Pub. 3/7/16 Times Argus Letter to the Editor
On Berlin Pond Berlin Pond being in the news again, there are certain facts that need to be clarified in the current public dialogue.
First of all, we did not kayak on Berlin Pond with the intent of being arrested. Others before us had done so, been cited, and upon appearing in court found that the Washington County State’s Attorney had dismissed the charges because the No Trespass signs that Montpelier had erected in the pond were illegal and Berlin Pond was a public body of water. Believing this proved our right to do so, we went for a paddle. We were arrested by a Montpelier officer, went to court, and again the case was dismissed.
Months later, we were slapped with a civil lawsuit by the city of Montpelier, seeking fines and damages in the tens of thousands of dollars for this two-hour kayak. It was this suit, filed for the purpose of obtaining a court decision on control of Berlin Pond, that resulted in the Supreme Court’s ruling — certainly not the one the city expected. We can only guess at why we were chosen over any number of others who were on Berlin Pond during those months.
Berlin Pond is a body of water of over 20 acres (actually, more than 10 times this size). The public trust doctrine, formally adopted in Vermont’s Constitution and statutes, holds that such waters belong to all and cannot be privately owned or controlled because of their inherent importance to each individual and to society as a whole. In 2009, at a time when groundwater withdrawals were allegedly depleting wells and damaging trout streams, and bottled water companies were proposing large-scale operations, the Vermont Legislature clarified that the public trust doctrine also includes groundwater. Thus, our water resources are under the control of the state of Vermont to prevent their exploitation and to regulate their use for the benefit of all Vermont’s citizens.
Questions such as “If Barre can have control, why can’t we?” confuses control-of-use with control-of-access. Montpelier does not own all of the land around the Pond. The city can legally post its own property against trespassing, and vigorously enforces this right through regular police patrols. However, Berlin allows access to the Pond across the property it owns, and access is also available via a section of water that laps a public highway right-of-way. In the case of Barre, the city owns all of the property around its water source, which gives it control of access to that body of water, but not of allowable uses. There is a designated access for fishing.
It has been more than three years since the Court’s decision. Under existing regulations, Berlin Pond’s waters are open for recreation with some restrictions, including non-motorized boating only. The scientists at the Agency of Natural Resources have repeatedly affirmed that such uses do not pose a health risk. The Agency and the town of Berlin are working together to construct a safe and controllable public non-motorized access to the pond via town property. Fish and Wildlife biologists are monitoring fish populations, and have imposed some catch limitations to better manage the pond’s fish. It is certain that a raised awareness of pollution from runoff will bring added protections from the more than 80 manmade polluting sources around the pond. The pond is being looked after. The water quality has not changed.
What has changed is that more Vermonters have backyard access to a beautiful pond. Research has proven the value to mental health of access to open water (“blue spaces”). More people are less stressed, and that’s good for us all.
Cedric and Leslie Sanborn
Barre Town
Pub. 3/11/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Mud happens!
Just ask Berlin Road Commissioner Tim Davis, who this week sought and received the Select Board’s permission to close Crosstown Road to through traffic as long as he provided those who use the popular central Vermont shortcut 48 hours’ notice.
Turns out, Davis waited 24 hours too long.
Crosstown Road slid into the danger zone thanks to Wednesday’s balmy weather and continued to take a beating Thursday. With deepening rain-filled ruts and a forecast calling for a continuation of spring-like temperatures, Davis decided Thursday morning 24 hours notice would have to suffice.
In the interest of protecting the town’s investment in a key connector that runs between the Route 12 corridor in Riverton and the Berlin Four Corners area, Crosstown Road will be closed to through traffic until further notice starting today.
Town Administrator Dana Hadley acknowledged Thursday the notice was shorter than required by the Select Board, but said the alternative would be to risk the softening road turning into a sinkhole for gravel and manpower even as the road crew scrambles to deal with other trouble spots that have cropped up.
“They’re hauling stone everywhere today,” Hadley said of the road crew on Thursday. “Thing have really changed dramatically in the last couple of days.”
Wednesday’s frost-sapping 60-degree weather took its toll on roads around the area and Thursday’s light rain only made things worse.
What a difference two days makes.
Monday night members of the Berlin Select Board were openly wondering whether there would be much of a mud season this year — an honest question Davis answered with a time-will-tell shrug and a better-safe-than-sorry request for pocket authorization to close a road that is heavily used by people traveling to and from Northfield and Riverton.
The board agreed, but included the 48-hour notice requirement; an acknowledgement that past decisions to close Crosstown Road haven’t always been well telegraphed or well received.
Closing the road during mud season has become an annual decision some view as an unnecessary inconvenience, as it forces residents to drive many miles out of their way on a daily basis.
However, Davis has consistently maintained the pounding the road takes due to its strategic location make it prohibitively expensive to maintain during mud season.
Past traffic counts have indicated 1,800 vehicles traverse Crosstown Road on an average day, with only a tiny fraction traveling to and from homes along the road.
Access to those homes will be maintained, but the road will be barricaded from the top of Erhardt Hill to roughly halfway down the hill, between 3000 and 3496 Crosstown Road.
According to Hadley, the barricades will prevent motorists from using the road as a shortcut, while allowing those who live on the road to get to and from their homes.
The road will remain closed until further notice, allowing the road crew to deal with mud-related problems that aren’t so easily solved.
Pub. 3/19/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Seven might not be Police Chief William Wolfe’s lucky number. Just when it looked like he was finally on the verge of having seven fully trained, full-time officers at his disposal, he lost one of them.
Wolfe’s two-year-old plan to expand the local police department encountered another roadblock this week when an officer he hired away from the Caledonia County Sheriff’s Department in 2013 was hired away from him.
The Select Board accepted Officer Jonathan Bullard’s resignation Monday night, paving the way for Bullard to take a comparable job in neighboring Barre and temporarily leaving Wolfe two officers down.
Ironically, Wolfe’s department has been operating short-handed ever since voters approved a budget reflecting his phased plan to add a seventh officer on Town Meeting Day in 2014.
That has never actually happened, though Wolfe had hoped to finally boast a full roster when the Vermont Police Academy graduates its next class in May.
Berlin is paying to train one of the members of that class, but, barring any setbacks, Brookfield resident William Pine won’t be Wolfe’s seventh certified full-time officer, he’ll be the sixth. With Pine at the academy, Bullard’s departure leaves Wolfe with five full-time officers for the moment.
Town Administrator Dana Hadley said the current staffing level at the police department will require Wolfe to temporarily abandon a plan to provide round-the-clock police coverage four days a week.
Using part-time officers, Wolfe was finally able last month to experiment with the staffing pattern that was the justification for requesting a seventh officer two years ago. Hadley said the enhanced coverage plan will be shelved at least until Pine graduates from the academy.
Bullard’s resignation, effective Friday, amounts to a case of same story, different year for Wolfe.
Last year, Officer Kyle Kapitanski resigned to work full-time for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Though Kapitanski agreed to continue working as a part-time officer in Berlin, his resignation created a second vacancy in a town that was already struggling to fill the first.
After a hiring misfire a year ago, Wolfe offered the seventh patrolman’s position to Joseph Carriveau, only to learn weeks later that Kapitanski was leaving. That resignation led to the hiring of Pine, who like Carriveau was offered the job contingent on completing town-financed 16-week training at Vermont Police Academy.
Carriveau graduated from the academy in November, Pine enrolled in January and Wolfe is once again looking for his elusive seventh officer.
Berlin’s police force has experienced a fair amount of turnover in recent years, and, perhaps more troubling, has become a poaching ground for other area departments.
Though Wolfe, Sgt. Mark Monteith and Sgt. Chad Bassette are all veterans with the department, one officer — Carriveau — is fresh out of the academy, another — Pine — is currently in training, and two others — Cpl. Kevin Blanchard and Officer Jared Mitchell — were hired away from other departments, just like Bullard, in 2013.
Negotiations between staff and the Berlin Police Department are scheduled to start Monday. Officers are currently working under the terms of a contract that will expire June 30.
Pub. 3/11/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN – Planning commissioners are officially sold on the extreme makeover being pedaled by owners of the Berlin Mall and have recommended the Select Board formally apply for a special state designation that could make or break that proposal.
Two weeks after entertaining Berlin Mall LLC’s conceptual plan to bring a decidedly downtown feel to its suburban shopping complex, the commission agreed Wednesday to urge the Select Board to apply for a “new town center” designation from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
The designation would provide financial and regulatory incentives for developing a “downtown” on a yet to be defined package of properties that would be anchored by most – if not all – of the mall’s 65 acres.
Commissioners were told late last month the designation is crucial to the mall’s conceptual plans for an area of their community that has been targeted for high-density, mixed-use, multistory development.
Though the commission took no action at the time, Chairwoman Karla Nuissl suggested they rectify that Wednesday by formally endorsing the mall’s request that the Select Board initiate the process for obtaining a special designation like those that have been granted to Colchester and South Burlington.
“Are we in favor, or not?” Nuissl asked, suggesting the mall’s proposal was in keeping with the commission’s evolving vision for the area.
Members agreed, approving a letter urging the Select Board to act on the mall’s request, while accepting its offer to cover the staffing costs associated with the application process.
The commission’s vote was a baby step for a potentially massive project — one that according to recently floated illustrative plans would involve the phased construction of nearly 500,000 square feet of new space. Those plans range from retail and commercial space to a new hotel and subsidized housing, with the overarching goal of turning the road that runs in front of the existing mall into Berlin’s equivalent of a two-lane Main Street.
Cabot consultant Michael Rushman, who initially pitched the mall’s proposal to the commission, was on hand for Wednesday’s vote, as was Bill Moore, president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
Both thanked the commission for its recommendation and left the meeting before members resumed their review of a comprehensive rewrite to the town’s subdivision and zoning regulation.
That review focused on sections of the regulations involving the district where the mall is located, as well as the neighboring district proposed along a stretch of the Paine Turnpike in the vicinity of the Berlin Four Corners.
The new town center concept cropped up several times during that two-and-a-half hour discussion as commissioners sought to ensure nothing they were thinking of writing into the new regulations would trip up an attempt by the town to obtain the state designation.
Brandy Saxton, the consultant who is assisting the commission with the zoning rewrite, said members might want to drop some of the allowed uses – most notably gas stations – from the proposed town center district, but needn’t sweat the name of the neighboring village center district.
Though the state reserves new town center designations for communities that don’t have existing historic downtowns, Saxton said the proposed village center district didn’t remotely qualify as historic, much less a downtown.
“I don’t think there are conflicts with the zoning,” she said.
Saxton, who worked on Colchester’s new town center application, did hint the one contemplated for Berlin was by no means a slam dunk.
“I’m not saying they’re aren’t other challenges,” she said, suggesting whoever handles the application would do well to rope in at least one of the nearby civic facilities to bolster the request, assuming the Select Board decides to apply.
Berlin Elementary School and the Berlin Volunteer Fire Station are both possibilities, as is the Central Vermont Medical Center, according to Saxton, who said the yet-to-be-proposed boundaries for the district, which cannot exceed 125 acres, will be important.
Saxton said the two car dealerships located between the mall campus and the regional hospital could make it difficult to sell the concept of a new downtown to state decision-makers.
“I think the auto-oriented issue is going to be the one the application will face,” she said.
According to Nuissl, the new zoning regulations may need to be approved and the town plan amended in order to satisfy some of the criteria of the state application process.
Pub. 3/4/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Supervisors of the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District this week officially scrapped plans for a November bond vote and rolled back a never-implemented rate increase that would have financed the newly shelved $1.5 million project.
Though some lamented the abrupt change of plans was an unwarranted step back for the 18-town district, others portrayed it as simply slowing down a process that, based upon the sharply negative reaction from officials in Barre Town and Williamstown, arguably got ahead of itself.
Wednesday night’s decision likely keeps one of them — Barre Town — in the fold, though officials in Williamstown are still hoping to unlock the district’s exit door after being narrowly denied the key at their town meeting on Tuesday.
Opposition from those two communities clearly drove a largely symbolic, in some cases reluctant, but ultimately unanimous decision — one that capped what supervisors agreed was an “awkward” few weeks for the inter-municipal district.
How awkward?
A month ago the board adopted a business plan for the proposed facility and — still eyeing a November bond vote — approved a Town Meeting Day flier outlining the justification for the carefully planned facility. Things quickly unraveled from there.
Within a week, members of the district’s executive board called an emergency meeting at which they voted to recommend work on the project be indefinitely suspended. That decision made headlines the day after district staff met with officials in Calais and Middlesex as part of the planned public roll-out for the project.
The facility, which was initially proposed to position the district to meet the phased mandates of the state’s universal recycling law — Act 148 — has been in limbo ever since, awaiting Wednesday night’s monthly meeting of district’s board of supervisors.
That meeting, ironically, started with a previously scheduled presentation from Eric Law, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program. Law spent the front end of the meeting urging supervisors to seriously consider applying for a “highly incentivized” long-term federal loan, given historically low interest rates.
“If you have to do a project, I would argue vehemently now is the time to do so,” Law said during a persistent pitch that was almost comical, given the district’s current political predicament.
Chairman Fred Thum, who represents Barre Town on the district board, told Law he was “preaching to the choir.” However, Thum added, Law shouldn’t expect an application from the district before the April 15 deadline, based on some of the blowback caused by the facility proposal.
“We almost got tarred and feathered,” he said. 
In a move designed to leave no doubt about the district’s plans for the foreseeable future, the board approved a four-point motion offered by Berlin Supervisor Matt Levin.
Among other things the motion directed staff to “suspend investigation into the purchase of any specific piece of property, or the construction of any specific new facility” between now and June 30, 2017. It also explicitly stated what the board had previously agreed to when it voted late last year to double its population-based membership fee from $1 to $2 per capita during the coming fiscal year. 
That increase, board members agreed in December, would only be triggered in the event of a successful bond vote. With the bond vote off the table, Plainfield Supervisor Laura Zeisel questioned why the board was again voting to do something it had already decided.
“I don’t want people to think that we’re doing this because of actions or threatened actions that have been taken by some of our member towns,” she said. “We anticipated that the facility might not go forward for any one of a number of reasons and that, to my mind, is why we are doing it.”
Levin didn’t dispute Zeisel’s interpretation, but argued in favor of erasing any ambiguity.
“Let’s say that clearly,” he said, describing the motion as an attempt telegraph the outcome of what quickly became a muddled process to the district’s member-towns.
“This is not necessarily intended to break new ground, but to say the things we’ve all been mulling over and discussing,” Levin said.
In addition to punting exploration of a new facility for a full fiscal year and rescinding the contemplated increase in the per-capita fee, the motion approved by the board directs staff to explore options for programs to meet the needs of district, comply with state mandates and address current and projected infrastructure deficiencies. 
It also tasks the executive board with additional oversight and outreach responsibilities while reporting regularly to the board.
East Montpelier Supervisor Ginny Callan said the motion crafted by Levin and tweaked slightly by the board, provided a clear explanation of the direction the board is now headed.
However, Washington Supervisor Peter Carbee said he was far from certain the board should embrace a course-correction. 
Though he was initially a severe skeptic of the now-abandoned project Carbee said he was “sold” when the price tag dropped considerably and the plans came into sharper focus.
“I came on board with it,” he said, expressing misgivings about veering off course because the “take-our-marbles-and-go-home” mentality of officials in two towns. 
“I do not like the idea of being threatened by a selectman, or a select board,” he said. “If this organization has no more testicular fortitude than that we are nothing more than a paper tiger and we might as well shut down the stop.”
Carbee said his strong preference would be to press ahead with the bond vote, lamenting what he viewed as a waste of time, money and resources that went into crafting the proposal.
However, others — Levin and Callan among them — argued the work wasn’t wasted 
“The intent is to build on the work that we’ve done and move forward,” Levin said.
Callan agreed, suggesting that may mean leasing existing space that is better suited to the district’s expanding operational needs, instead of buying property and bonding to build a new facility. 
Callan said she didn’t view the reaction of officials in Barre Town and Williamstown as a reflection on the work the district had done, but as a signal that it had more work to do.
“It’s a bit of wake up call,” she said, suggesting it wouldn’t be prudent for the district to alienate communities while trying to determine how best to meet their needs.
“We are our towns, and if we lose a number of our towns the facility is not financially viable,” Callan said, echoing a sentiment expressed by General Manager Leesa Stewart.
With Stewart scheduled to wrap up her work with the district in May, supervisors were told the executive board will be interviewing prospective replacements Sunday night The hope is to fill the position in time for Stewart to work with her replacement allowing for a relatively seamless transition.
Board members also decided how to deal with a $179,000 year-surplus. They appropriated $150,000 of that money to a fund to finance future capital needs, $5,000 to a grant fund, while using the balance — roughly $24,000 — for operating revenue.
Pub. 3/4/16 Times Argus by Gina Tron
MONTPELIER — On Town Meeting Day, capital city residents voted overwhelmingly for a charter change that gives the city, pending legislative approval, authority to regulate and protect its sole water supply. 
According to the city, 86 percent voted for a charter change they hope will give Montpelier the ability to regain control over Berlin Pond, but lawmakers still have to approve the change before that can happen. 
“It’s really great. People understand that we have to protect the source of our drinking water. I’m very pleased and I hope we make some progress in our State House with our charter,” said Dona Bate, Montpelier councilor and an advocate for city control of Berlin Pond, in an interview Thursday. 
“Montpelier has been trying to regain control ever since the (Vermont) Supreme Court took it away from them,” Berlin Selectman Pete Kelley said Thursday. 
Tuesday marked a pivotal point in an already four-year heated battle between Montpelier and people who want to use the pond for recreation. 
In 2009, Barre Town residents Cedric and Leslie Sanborn were cited by Montpelier police to appear in court for kayaking on the pond. Bate said they were kayaking with the intention of being arrested. The couple brought that incident all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court, which, in 2012, ruled that the state — not Montpelier — had the right to regulate recreational activity on Berlin Pond. Before this, Montpelier regulated activity on the pond. 
The ruling essentially created open access to Berlin Pond for state-sanctioned recreational purposes unless the state decided to cede its authority to regulate the pond to Montpelier. That is something it refused to do, and a legislative fix proposed by Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D-Montpelier, met resistance in committee and fizzled last year.
In 2014, a group called Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond was formed, and it petitioned the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to restore the pond to Montpelier’s protection. That petition was backed by Montpelier Mayor John Hollar, the Montpelier City Council, Montpelier Conservation Commission and the Berlin Conservation Commission. 
The state Agency of Natural Resources rejected that petition to restrict access because experts concluded recreation was safe for the drinking water source.
“I expected Montpelier to be in favor of the charter change (on Town Meeting Day.) I know the demographics of that town. But I do not expect that it is going to go anywhere in the Legislature,” said Nate Smead, a Montpelier resident and spokesman for the Friends of the Berlin Pond, a group that advocates for access, in an interview on Thursday. 
He claims Montpelier is trying to overthrow the Vermont Constitution. 
“We are guaranteed the right to hunt and fish,” he said. In addition to that, he claims that if Montpelier gains control it will overturn the Public Trust Doctrine, which deems the pond a part of the public domain. He claims it would also conflict with the Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights, which was a law enacted in 1988 that bars municipalities from regulating firearms, hunting and fishing. 
“For me, it’s not the Vermont way,” Smead said of the charter change. “There’s a lot of different types of people in our state and we are very proud that we are very accepting of all different walks of life. This would be a slap in the face of that.”
Smead called it a class issue, and claims he witnessed examples of such in public hearings around the issue.
“They acted as if we were just a bunch of lowlifes,” he said, adding that there may have been some “Barre bashing” involved. 
“I’m an outdoorsman, but I’m an environmentalist,” Smead said. “I care about the environment and a lot of outdoor enthusiasts feel the same way. When we see a slob leave trash around, and we pick it up.”
Smead said the charter change is a step toward excluding a certain type of person based on outdated stereotypes of outdoorsmen. 
ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz said Thursday she could not comment on any potential constitutional issues. She said they weren’t fully examined yet. The fact that some people own private property around the pond makes that issue more complicated, she said. 
“The Agency of Natural Resources was involved and the Department of Environmental Conservation made the determination that public access to Berlin Pond with nonmotorized vehicles pose no risk to Montpelier water supply or to the environment to the pond,” Markowitz said. “So, our Department of Fish & Wildlife has been working with Berlin to create an access for canoes and kayaks.” 
Despite that, she is all for the democratic process.
“We understand that this is a very heartfelt issue by many in Montpelier and we respect the democratic process,” she said. “I respect Montpelier’s right to seek a charter change but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t change the credibility of the decision made by our technical staff in respect to the safety of the drinking water.”
Bate said many have misread the Supreme Court ruling. 
“Indeed the state could again give control of its water source, Berlin Pond, to the city of Montpelier, and in its ruling it confirmed that delegating that authority to municipalities over their public water source is constitutional and conforms to the Public Trust Doctrine,” she said. 
“It’s a matter that Montpelier didn’t have its paperwork in order,” Bate added. “It’s not that the state isn’t able to let Montpelier (regain control of the water supply.)”
Some Vermont towns have charters that allow them control over a water source that sits in another municipal boundary. Barre’s drinking supply is in Orange. St. Johnsbury’s water source is in Waterford.
“Why give control to Barre City and not Montpelier?” Bate said. 
She said she hopes Tuesday’s overwhelming vote in favor of the charter change will be taken into consideration by the Legislature. 
Kelley said that soon the Berlin Select Board will review Fish & Wildlife’s plans on the issue, which will include a public comment period. He said he does not know the date.
“It’s all about municipal control, over the water we drink and the water we pay for,” Bate said.
Pub. 3/3/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — The Kellogg-Hubbard Library finally broke through in Berlin, though the likely silver bullet — Tuesday’s 45 percent turnout — may not translate into sustained success for its annual funding requests.
That won’t matter this year because, barring a petitioned revote, Berlin voters agreed, 451-362, to appropriate $28,271 to the Montpelier-based library.
The 89-vote margin might sound close on a day when 833 of the town’s 1,846 registered voters approved everything that was asked of them. However, it is a veritable landslide for the library that didn’t even seek funding from Berlin in 2014 or 2015 after voters rejected, 159-287, a request for $26,925 on Town Meeting Day three years ago.
The 2013 vote snapped a five-year string of razor-thin approvals of far more modest requests.
In the four years leading up to that failed vote, Berlin voters narrowly approved identical $12,557 appropriations for the library with the difference between passing and failing in each of those years ranging from five and 20 votes. In 2008, the library’s $12,074 request passed by 36 votes.
Though it has been a source of embarrassment for some in the community, Berlin’s support for the Kellogg-Hubbard has been both soft and spotty ever since library trustees decided 22 years ago to ask surrounding communities — Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester — to share in the cost of operating Vermont’s second-largest public library. 
Since 1994, requests ranging from $1,450 to $26,925 in library funding have been on the Berlin ballot 20 times. Although those requests have passed slightly more often than not, support softened as the number grew and evaporated when the request more than doubled in 2013.
It took a petition drive to get the library’s latest request on the ballot and the work of community residents, who believe Berlin should share in the cost of Montpelier’s library, paid off with Tuesday’s successful vote.
Another petition would be needed next year if the library increases its requested from a community that, according to a population-based formula, should be contributing roughly $40,000 to the library.
Voter in East Montpelier, which is slightly smaller than Berlin, easily approved $38,614 for the library on Tuesday, while voters in Calais ($25,760), Middlesex ($27,760) and Worcester ($15,984) all approved similar requests.
The bulk of the library’s funding — more than $350,000 — comes from Montpelier, where voters separately approved $316,698 for the library in addition to the $37,541 bond payment that is included in the city’s general fund budget.
Pub. 3/2/16 Times Argus by David Delcore
BERLIN — Residents mulled it over for a bit before deciding to grant the Capital City Grange tax-exempt status for the next five years.
At Town Meeting Day at the Berlin Elementary School on Tuesday, voters debated an article asking if the Grange should be given tax exempt status for 10 years. 
The article also included language saying that if the tax-exempt status were awarded, then Berlin residents would be able to use the Grange at least twice a month for free, schedule permitting.
Grange Master Tim Swartz told the gathering that the organization’s biggest expense is its property tax — over $7,000 annually. He said in exchange for not having to pay those taxes, the Grange would then be providing the town a place to hold events. 
The Grange complex includes a large hall with a stage suitable for performances, dances and the like, as well as a cafeteria and full kitchen where dinners could be held. Swartz noted that the Grange also has parking space for over 100 cars.
The property, which sits on Route 12 just south of the Interstate 89 overpass, is owned by the nonprofit organization, so if the Grange were ever to leave or cease operations, the tax exempt status for the property would end.
After the article was introduced, an amendment was made to give the Grange tax exempt status for just two years to see how it goes. A second amendment calling for the tax exemption to last five years was passed by a standing vote of 30-9, and the article itself was then approved in a voice vote.
With tax exempt status granted, Swartz said the Grange can look into reducing the rent that it charges for use of the hall. He said rental rates vary, depending on what day and time of day the rental is requested.
Swartz said he was very pleased with the voters’ decision on the issue.
Much of Tuesday’s business came by way of Australian ballot.
Town officials had discussed having residents decide on Town Meeting Day whether they wanted to approve a local option sales tax of 1 percent. Select Board member Jeremy Hansen said Tuesday that instead, they are planning to put the issue on the ballot in November so that they can have a better turnout for the vote. 
According to Hansen, if the town had gone forward with a vote Tuesday, it would have to be by voice vote. Putting it off to November, he said, allows residents to vote for a charter change by Australian ballot.


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