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News
Rutland City Police agree to three-year contract

A three-year contract has been reached between the city and members of the Rutland City Police Department that will see department staff members get raises of 50 to 75 cents an hour, but will require greater health insurance contributions

Mayor David Allaire announced during Thursday’s monthly meeting of Project VISION that the new contract had been ratified by the police officer’s union and approved by the Board of Aldermen. The aldermen supported the new contract at its Monday meeting.

The contract is retroactive to 2018 and runs through 2021.

City Attorney Matt Bloomer said negotiations were primarily conducted by himself, Allaire, Judy Frazier — who is the administrative assistant to Bloomer and Allaire — and Police Chief Brian Kilcullen.

Bloomer said negotiations started a little later than usual for the most recent contract because the city police had changed unions to become members of the New England Police Benevolent Association.

Changes to the contract were reached in two stages. An agreement went into effect in January that included changes to the way new officers are hired. The agreement grants two consecutive days off for bereavement leave to a K-9 handler immediately after the death of a K-9 unit if the dog is active in the department.

Bloomer called the new contract a “fair compromise for both groups.”

“We negotiated from September to July, so almost a year’s time. We really got to understand each side’s positions and what they were trying to accomplish. I think this, like almost every non-arbitrated collective bargaining agreement, is a good mix of things for both groups,” he said.

Because the wage increases in the contract were not in place at the end of the last contract in June 2018, staff at the police department, which includes officers, clerks and dispatchers, did not receive raises last year.

But under the new contract, the raises are retroactive and staff will receive pay for about the past 11 months.

Bloomer said the union had requested an increase of 50 cents an hour for non-sworn employees like the property and records clerks and dispatchers, and 75 cents an hour for the sworn officers such as uniformed police and detectives.

The new contract adds another tier to the police department for wage increases. The city had previously had a specific tier for those who had been with the department for five or 10 years but a new tier for officers who have been with the department for 15 years seemed consistent with other police departments in Vermont, Bloomer said.

Another change to the tiers is the pay for new officers. Bloomer said the city had been hiring officers who still needed to attend the police academy and become certified but were being paid the same as a certified officer.

“This creates a slightly lower rate that, before they’re certified and they can’t really do all the normal duties that a normal certified officer can do, they will receive this amount that’s about $3 or $4 less an hour than a certified officer would make. …. That potentially is a significant savings for the city because a lot of the people that we’re recruiting now have not gone through the police academy yet,” he said.

For health insurance under the new contract, employees will go from paying 15% for their Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage to 20% by 2021.

However, the city will go from contributing 11.92% to the city pension to 13.05% by 2020. Also, employees will increase their contribution from the current rate of 7.08% to 10% by 2020.

Under previous contracts, an officer could collect the full value of unused sick time upon retirement and 50% of the value if the officer left before 20 years with the department but could keep some of that value if they were fired for “just cause.” Under the new contract, a staff member terminated for “just cause” forfeits all that value.

Officer Jeffrey Warfle, the union representative for the Rutland City Police Department, could not be reached before deadline Thursday.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com


Photo by Jon Olender 

A great blue heron stalks quietly along a private pond on Cider Mill Road Thursday afternoon in Cornwall.


News
Home may be tax billed twice because of line dispute

WALLINGFORD — Because two towns can’t agree on where their borders lie, the owners of a West Hill Road property will likely be taxed twice this year on the same buildings, possibly leading to court action, according to one board member.

Town records for Tinmouth and Wallingford show an agreement was reached between them in 2017 regarding the location of the town line that put the Stan Taylor property and some others in Tinmouth. There had been some confusion about it in the past.

According to Wallingford Town Clerk Julie Sharon, the 372-acre Taylor property consists of a house, a mobile home and some other structures. Altogether, it’s assessed in Wallingford at a value of $1,325,000. Tinmouth Town Clerk and Treasurer Gail Fallar said the house is assessed in Tinmouth at $500,000.

The 2017 agreement stood until March 18, when the Wallingford Select Board voted to “add the house, tennis court and pond value to the grand list, then notify the Town of Tinmouth,” according to that board’s minutes.

The Wallingford board did this at the suggestion of former Wallingford Town Clerk Joyce Barbieri, who’d researched the matter and said her findings showed those parts of the Taylor property as being in Wallingford.

This action led to a meeting in June where Fallar asked the Wallingford Select Board to abide by the 2017 agreement until the towns could sort out what property was where, perhaps by hiring a surveyor. Members of the Wallingford board agreed to meet with the Tinmouth board to talk about it.

That meeting was held July 23, and while it was a special meeting of the Tinmouth Select Board, it was held at Wallingford Town Hall. According to the minutes from that meeting, Wallingford Select Board members Bruce Duchesne and Rose Regula, Wallingford Assessor and Lister Lisa Wright and Barbieri met with the Tinmouth Select Board, Fallar and a few other Tinmouth officials.

Fallar said in a Thursday interview that the July 23 meeting didn’t lead to an agreement. Tinmouth officials say records show the Taylor property as being in Tinmouth, while those in Wallingford say their records are correct. Fallar said the Wallingford party didn’t discuss hiring a surveyor.

The Wallingford Select Board met Monday. According to the draft minutes from that meeting, the board voted unanimously to stick by the decision it made in March that moved parts of the Taylor property into Wallingford.

“We are going to send the property tax bill as normal,” said Regula in a Thursday phone interview. “We may end up in court.”

Regula said Wallingford’s records and research support her board’s actions.

Fallar said she has directed the Taylors to pay both tax bills, but to say they were doing so “under duress.”

About five other properties would be affected by Wallingford’s reading of the maps, Fallar said, but there’s no development on those parcels.

Attempts to reach the Taylors on Thursday weren’t successful.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


AP PHOTO  

Elena Manaenkova, left, WMO Deputy Secretary-General and Hoesung Lee, right, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) speak during a news conference on the Special Report on Climate Change and Land after IPCC’s 50th session in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday.


Ap
AP
UN climate report: Change land use to avoid a hungry future (copy)

GENEVA — Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the Earth’s land, and the way people use the land is making global warming worse, a new United Nations scientific report says. That creates a vicious cycle which is already making food more expensive, scarcer and less nutritious.

“The cycle is accelerating,” said NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a co-author of the report. “The threat of climate change affecting people’s food on their dinner table is increasing.”

But if people change the way they eat, grow food and manage forests, it could help save the planet from a far warmer future, scientists said.

Earth’s land masses, which are only 30% of the globe, are warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole. While heat-trapping gases are causing problems in the atmosphere, the land has been less talked about as part of climate change. A special report, written by more than 100 scientists and unanimously approved by diplomats from nations around the world Thursday at a meeting in Geneva, proposed possible fixes and made more dire warnings.

“The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel’s working groups. “Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable.”

Scientists at Thursday’s press conference emphasized the seriousness of the problem and the need to make societal changes soon.

“We don’t want a message of despair,” said science panel official Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London. “We want to get across the message that every action makes a difference.”

Still the stark message hit home hard for some of the authors.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep about what the science is saying. As a person, it’s pretty scary,” Koko Warner, a manager in the U.N. Climate Change secretariat who helped write a report chapter on risk management and decision-making, told The Associated Press after the report was presented at the World Meteorological Organization headquarters in Geneva. “We need to act urgently.”

The report said climate change already has worsened land degradation, caused deserts to grow, permafrost to thaw and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. That’s happened even as much of the globe has gotten greener because of extra carbon dioxide in the air. Climate change has also added to the forces that have reduced the number of species on Earth.

“Climate change is really slamming the land,” said World Resources Institute researcher Kelly Levin, who wasn’t part of the study.

And the future could be worse.

“The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said.

In the worst-case scenario, food security problems change from moderate to high risk with just a few more tenths of a degree of warming from now. They go from high to “very high” risk with just another 1.8° Fahrenheit of warming from now.

“The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” NASA’s Rosenzweig said. “Just to give examples, the crop yields were affected in Europe just in the last two weeks.”

Scientists had long thought one of the few benefits of higher levels of carbon dioxide, the major heat-trapping gas, was that it made plants grow more and the world greener, Rosenzweig said. But numerous studies show that the high levels of carbon dioxide reduce protein and nutrients in many crops.

For example, high levels of carbon in the air in experiments show wheat has 6% to 13% less protein, 4% to 7% less zinc and 5% to 8% less iron, she said.

But better farming practices — such as no-till agricultural and better targeted fertilizer applications — have the potential to fight global warming too, reducing carbon pollution up to 18% of current emissions levels by 2050, the report said.

If people change their diet, reducing red meat and increasing plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and seeds, the world can save as much as another 15% of current emissions by mid-century. It would make people healthier as well, Rosenzweig said.

The science panel said they aren’t telling people what to eat because that’s a personal choice.

Still, Hans-Otto Pörtner, a panel leader from Germany who said he lost weight and felt better after reducing his meat consumption, told a reporter that if she ate less ribs and more vegetables “that’s a good decision and you will help the planet reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Reducing food waste can fight climate change even more. The report said that between 2010 and 2016, global food waste accounted for 8% to 10% of heat-trapping emissions.

“Currently 25%-30% of total food produced is lost or wasted,” the report said. Fixing that would free up millions of square miles of land.

With just another 0.9° Fahrenheit of warming, which could happen in the next 10 to 30 years, the risk of unstable food supplies, wildfire damage, thawing permafrost and water shortages in dry areas “are projected to be high,” the report said.

At another 1.8° Fahrenheit of warming from now, which could happen in about 50 years, it said those risks “are projected to be very high.”

Most scenarios predict the world’s tropical regions will have “unprecedented climatic conditions by the mid-to-late 21st century,” the report noted.

Agriculture and forestry together account for about 23% of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet, slightly less than from cars, trucks, boats and planes. Add in transporting food, energy costs, packaging and that grows to 37%, the report said.

But the land is also a great carbon “sink,” which sucks heat-trapping gases out of the air.

From about 2007 to 2016, agriculture and forestry every year put 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air, but pulled 12.3 billion tons of it out.

“This additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever,” said study co-author Luis Verchot, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. “If we continue to degrade ecosystems, if we continue to convert natural ecosystems, we continue to deforest and we continue to destroy our soils, we’re going to lose this natural subsidy.”

Overall land emissions are increasing, especially because of cutting down forests in the Amazon in places such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Verchot said.

Recent forest management changes in Brazil “contradicts all the messages that are coming out of the report,” Pörtner said.

Saying “our current way of living and our economic system risks our future and the future of our children,” Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, questioned whether it makes sense for a country like Germany to import large amounts of soy from Latin America, where forests are being destroyed to plant the crop, to feed unsustainable numbers of livestock in Germany.

“We ought to recognize that we have profound limits on the amount of land available and we have to be careful about how we utilize it,” said Stanford University environmental sciences chief Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the report.


Local
Humane Society takes to the trails

The Rutland County Humane Society is calling on all dogs to bring their owners up to Pine Hill Park this Sunday to run or walk on the trails and raise money for the shelter. This is the first time the Humane Society has hosted a “Trails for Tails” event, and if it goes well, staff members hope to add it to their annual fundraising repertoire, according to events and fundraising coordinator Amelia Stamp.

Stamp said the idea for Trails for Tails came from staff members who love spending time in nature.

“We were looking for different events to mix it up and to attract animal lovers in the community,” she said. “We have a lot of hikers and runners and people who love going on the trails.”

The event will include a 5K and a 1-mile fun run, both of which Stamp said can be walked or run. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and participants are encouraged to bring their dogs along.

“I am excited to see how many dogs we get and maybe we will see a few alumni, which would be really cool,” Stamp said. “We love seeing dogs from here in their homes. That’s why a lot of us work here to see those kinds of happy endings.”

Also, the Humane Society plans to bring some adoptable pets to the event, and volunteers will walk these dogs on the 1-mile loop. This helps give the dogs more outdoor time and might introduce them to potential future owners.

Stamp explained that summer is a busy fundraising season for the shelter, which relies on these events to help pay for basic services.

“Almost all of our fundraisers raise money for medical expenses like spaying and neutering, and all of the expenses that go into animals when they come in the door,” Stamp said. “That and shelter supplies, like cleaning supplies, anything we need to keep the shelter running.”

All of the pets that enter the shelter receive some amount of medical attention, whether that means vaccinations, teeth cleaning or a microchip implant to help return them to their future owners if they ever get lost.

“We lose money on every adoption,” Stamp said. “We have a few (fees) just so we can cover enough that we can continue to care for more animals.”

Fundraisers help cover the rest of the cost. This summer, the shelter has put on cat yoga and a yard sale, and they have several events planned including the Pints for Pets homebrewing competition and a dock-diving event for dogs.

Trails and Tails is being organized in partnership with Rutland Recreation and Parks, and Outreach Coordinator Colleen Shattuck said she hopes attendees learn about new parts of the county.

“If it’s someone who sees the event because they like Pine Hill Park, they will get introduced to the Humane Society and visa versa,” Shattuck said. “I hope that more people know that the Humane Society is a great resource we have in Rutland County.”

Shattuck said Rutland Rec has partnered with the shelter on a number of events in the past, and she loves seeing people bring their pets to the parks.

“It’s really awesome to see how many great events they bring to the community because they use them as fundraisers, but it’s also something really great for families to do,” she said.

sarah.asch@rutlandherald.com


Spotlight

“Politics has stood in the way of action for too long, and I can tell you politics seems very petty when it is your friends and neighbors who are injured or dead.”

Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley, who, along with 200 other U.S. metropolitan mayors, are urging the Senate to vote on two House-passed bills expanding background checks for gun sales. — B4

Winning in the rain

Chloe Levins triumphs in the women’s state amateur golf championship, the first Rutland member to take that honor since Mae Murray in 1952. B1


Austin Danforth / Burlington Free Press  

Chloe Levins watches her tee shot on the par-3 12th hole during the 2019 Vermont Women’s Amateur golf championship at Ralph Myhre Golf Course in Middlebury on Thursday.


RHD Hotspot

Saturday

Sound Healing

An experience of sound and vibration that transports participants to a place of deep relaxation and inner peace creating an opportunity for healing. $25, 7-8:15 p.m. Sol Luna Farm, 329 Old Farm Road, Shrewsbury, register in advance: grace@sollunafarm.com, 492-9393.