Teams from Black River, Otter Valley, West Rutland and Fair Haven are heading to finals. B1, 3
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DANBY — Students from the Currier Memorial School seemed to believe they were at the Smokey House Center on Tuesday having fun.
But there was a lot of learning and community building going on.
Breann Thompson, a fifth-grader at the school, said she likes partaking in hikes and activities available at Smokey House.
“We get to learn a lot when we go on the hikes and learn what they had here. … They like build tepees and stuff, which is up on the hill up there,” she said.
Thompson showed great patience as she was interviewed, as she was clearly eager to go dashing off with her peers again.
Michael Luzader, who teaches students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades, said he thinks the outdoor activities help students learn an “appreciation for nature.”
“I think they see what it takes to produce food. I think they have a real great connection to the land. A lot of these kids live right around the corner from this place so this is kinda like their backyard,” he said.
Jesse Pyles, executive director of Smokey House, said the entire Currier school body visits at least twice a year, once to help with planting and once to help with harvesting, and many students and their family will receive produce at no additional cost for their effort.
The center grows food to be given away to needy families, so they are not primarily supported by agriculture. Pyles said Smokey House is funded by various grants, from the Stratton Foundation and others, fundraising efforts and other activities on the grounds like the one-week summer camps that run through the summer.
Among the food crops grown at Smokey House are carrots, pumpkins, onions, potatoes and cabbage.
This is the fourth season, dating back to 2016, that Smokey House staff have run a community farm project, primarily with Currier Memorial School and kids from Danby.
“The community farm project grows food with local kids, volunteers and other visitors to give it away to hunger relief and community food programs. We distribute food through the Vermont Foodbank, through the Vermont Farmers Food Center’s (in Rutland) Farmacy project and through a fall Currier-supported agriculture program to local families through the school. Our pitch to the local folks is, ‘Your kids have helped us grow it, we’ve asked you to come out and grow food, so, take some home and eat it,’” he said.
Pyles said one goal is to increase awareness of the value of local food, supporting local agriculture and connections between residents and local farms and farmers.
In addition to the student activity, Tuesday is also the weekly day for volunteers to do some work at the farm. Using a hoe to clear a row for onions, Susan Sutheimer, of Poultney, said she was a “big fan” of Pyles.
She said she brought him to the Rutland County area when she hired him during the time they both worked at Green Mountain College.
But her love of the soil has been bringing her back to volunteer year after year.
“I love farming and gardening so it gives me an opportunity to help out with something that I love to do,” she said.
The relationship between Currier and Smokey House is continuing to develop. Luzader said the students visiting the center on Tuesday were looking at what Smokey House had done on its grounds with the goal of developing an outdoor classroom of their own that will allow students to learn about nature and the environment.
Pyles added that Smokey House staff can do a lot on its grounds but “we’re doing it in a way that we hope complements what they’re doing at the school.”
Most of the kids who attend the camp are from Danby or students at Currier, but that’s not a requirement. Pyles said spaces are available at the camps. More information can be found online at the center’s website at www.smokeyhouse.org.
A new statewide addiction recovery center for women — many of them victims of sex trafficking — will be opened soon by Vermont Adult & Teen Challenge.
A spring gala to celebrate the center and launch a capital campaign to support it will be held at the Killington Grand Hotel Resort on Saturday, June 15, at 4 p.m.
The women’s center is a response to the growing crisis of opioid addiction and sexual exploitation of women who need a safe place to live while in recovery. The location of the future center is not being disclosed to ensure the safety and security of women.
In 2017, opioid overdoses killed over 72,000 Americans, a 45% increase on 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Between 2014 and 2017, officials estimate there were 250 cases of human sex trafficking in Chittenden County, but the numbers are believed to be much higher, according to the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force.
The women’s center would be the latest addition to addiction recovery services by Vermont Adult & Teen Challenge, which has operated a men’s recovery and rehabilitation center in Johnson since 2005. Pioneered by Executive Director and Pastor Rick Welch, the men’s center is home to residents in recovery from addiction. An additional 12-bed dorm at the campus in Johnson is being built to meet increased demand.
Welch stressed that the women’s center is still a work in progress.
“Before we bring in women, we have to train leaders, which is what we’re doing right now,” Welch said. “Our focus right now is to train leaders for future women’s work in Vermont.
“We’re going to design and develop a program that will work for women in need to ensure the successful outcome of the vision we have to minister to women in the state,” Welch added.
Vermont Adult & Teen Challenge has also expanded services to Rutland, with a crisis center and transition house at 197 West St. helping residents safely re-enter the community after completing the recovery program. The Rutland house has a café that has served over 1,000 meals since the start of the year, a clothing bank and other services.
Money raised at the gala will help launch the new women’s center. Preventive and protective services would cost $25,000 to $30,000 a year per person, and also support the expansion of the men’s facility and services in Rutland.
“The gala is a way for us to reach out to the southern part of the state and celebrate our Rutland project, which is a transition program for them to get reintroduced to society,” Welch said. “We’re hoping this gala will help support and raise money for our Rutland work, as well as our future work with women in the state.”
Tickets for the Spring Gala at the Killington Grand Hotel Resort are $50 until June 9, rising to $65 after that date.
For more information about the Teen Challenge Spring Gala, contact Robert Giles at 760-7676 or email@example.com or visit www.tcvermont.org.
Thanks to $2.5 million in community development grants from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, nine municipalities across the state are getting a boost, whether it be to build homeless shelters or update elevators.
“There’s no shortage of good ideas in Vermont and these grants are a great tool to bring them to life,” Gov. Phil Scott said in an announcement Monday.
Fair Haven received $200,000 toward its long-term project of revitalizing the top floor of the town hall and transforming it from an equipment storage unit into an events hall and community center, said Town Manager Joe Gunter on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Gunter said the roughly $600,000 project would cover a total overhaul of the heating system, installation of sprinklers, updating the fire exits and installing an ADA-compliant lift to bring the building up to code.
“Seven years ago, this was requested,” Gunter said in February, regarding the project. “In October, (the Select Board said) they want to focus here. So that’s what we started to do.”
Gunter said Rutland-based NBF Architects estimated the changes would cost about half of what he predicted would be $1.5 million in renovations to the empty classrooms, vast entertainment space and several bathrooms.
“He’s doing the heavy lifting,” said Tyler Richardson, executive director of the Rutland Economic Development Corp., referring to Gunter in a prior interview. “We think it’s obviously a great thing for the community. We’re trying to connect the community to assets ... and providing letters of support.
“It gives folks that third place,” Richardson said. “You have home, work and this is the third place ... A place for young kids to go after school to hang out, to keep them out of trouble ... a place where (people can) show up, have meetings and engage with one another.”
In late January, Fair Haven’s Select Board voted to spend $6,450 from the building fund for an environmental study and signed the resolution to apply for the grant. Gunter maintains that the revamping of the space should be completed in a year and a half.
The town Historical Society would be given a special section of the revitalized space, and one of the rooms would potentially be transformed into a community reading area, Gunter said.
Gunter said the modernization is just one of several projects to hit the downtown, as a survey conducted last year revealed a community desire for more places to eat and a sporting goods store.
“(Downtown) is a good spot to put in a little restaurant, or a store too,” Gunter said. “We get a lot of traffic down here in the summer, and lots of folks cruising up north, coming from the lakes.”
In Montpelier, the 46-year-old elevator in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library will benefit from $200,000 in updates, $75,000 of which was granted by the state.
“(The elevator) is well past its life expectancy,” said the library’s executive director, Tom McKone. “But it’s not a danger to the people riding it.”
The remaining money came entirely from fundraising efforts, McKone said.
Rather than getting a new elevator, McKone said the controls and the mechanics are being updated, and the controls computerized.
“The controls are from 1973, they look so old fashioned,” McKone said. “The elevator was built in the early ‘70s as an attachment to the building that is no longer there.”
With an elevator so old, McKone said there are two major risks: if the elevator breaks down, the parts might no longer be available to fix it, or it would be extremely expensive to do so.
Along with evolving into the modern age, the two-month-long project will speed up the ride significantly, increasing elevator speed from 50 feet per minute to 100 feet per minute, bringing the 125-year-old building into the modern age.
“This is our central focus, but every year there’s something,” McKone said.
Also from the community development grant money, Shaftsbury and Vergennes received funding for housing development, Brattleboro for a seasonal overflow homeless shelter, Bolton for wastewater infrastructure improvements, Bridgewater for the creation of a community center in the Bridgewater Village School, Alburgh for the creation of a new childcare center and Bradford for the renovation of the Old Church Theatre.
PROCTOR — What began as talk of forming a neighborhood watch turned into a discussion about increasing police coverage to address crime in town.
West Street resident Michael Kingsbury addressed the Select Board at its May 28 meeting, saying that given recent events, there might be a need in town for a neighborhood watch program.
Kingsbury said a number of incidents have occurred over the past several months that have people concerned. He alluded to the death of Alicia Harrington, 44, of Rutland, whose body was found in early March inside a vehicle on Florence Road. Shawn Michael LaPlant, 28, pleaded not guilty later that month in Rutland criminal court to a second-degree murder charge filed in connection with Harrington’s death. The case is still pending.
Kingsbury also alluded to the May 18 death of Melanie Rooney, 31, of Proctor, who police said was struck and killed outside her home by a vehicle driven by her boyfriend, Anthony J. Reynolds, 48. Reynolds has pleaded not guilty in Rutland criminal court to several felonies in connection with Rooney’s death, manslaughter being among them. That case is also pending.
Recent events aside, Kingsbury said there have been other incidents over the years and he wondered if setting up a neighborhood watch program might address some of them. He said he wasn’t sure about how to start the discussion and thought the board would be a good jumping-off point.
“I know a number of years ago there was some talk of it, I’m saying 10 or 12 years ago, but it never got off the ground,” said board Chairman Bruce Baccei. “I think it’s worthwhile.”
Selectwoman Judy Frazier said the board was a good place to start, but ultimately a neighborhood watch should be done by the community working with other partners.
“I think it’s good to bring it to us for attention, but I think it’s a community thing, and if you started something, like who’s interested, and bringing in different community members that would be interested, then bringing in the sheriff’s department and talk to everybody, that’s a better platform, because I don’t think we have the the jurisdiction to make people do this kind of thing,” she said.
Proctor resident Rob Oberg said he doesn’t feel the crime problems in town are best addressed by a neighborhood watch.
“Since I moved back eight years ago, my family has been threatened on multiple occasions with harm, I’ve had trespassers all hours of the day and night on my property, I have had parties all night long, and on occasions sometimes I contact the sheriff, sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad. I have had bad experiences in this town,” he said.
He said there’s information online about what the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department has been doing in town. Some of it is on the town’s website in the form of reports, other information is on social media.
“All the information is available on the website as to what the sheriff’s department is doing in this town, it’s all over Facebook whether they’re out at the school, whether they’re out doing traffic stops, people know whether the sheriff’s are in town or not, and they know we have limited coverage here and they know they’re not here all the time,” he said.
When sheriff’s deputies aren’t on duty, police calls are routed to the Vermont State Police, which Oberg said can add more complications.
“I do like the town as a whole, I think it’s a decent area, a decent place to live,” Oberg said. “I’m not advocating that this is a bad town, I’m just not sure a neighborhood watch is the best approach.”
He said depending on how the watch is structured and how much power it has, there could be the potential for abuse. The Select Board, he said, should have oversight on any neighborhood watch, “... to make sure it’s not overrun by people who want to serve their own agenda.”
Oberg said he would like to see the town look into contracting with the sheriff’s department for a full-time deputy to patrol the town.
Several others at the meeting agreed that exploring more police coverage was worthwhile. The board agreed to invite Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard to a future meeting to discuss a neighborhood watch, and the possibility of contracting for more patrol hours.