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Seed Sales

Audubon annual event at two locations: Garland’s Farm and Garden, 70 Park St., Rutland, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Brandon Blue Seal Feeds, Route 7, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Social media

With Twitter’s total ban of political advertising on its website, pressure mounts for Facebook to follow suit. A7

Premiums stabilize

But more Americans go without health insurance and stable premiums plus greater choice next year under the Obama health law aren’t likely to reverse that. A10

Peace talk

The Syrian government and its opposition take seats for their first face-to-face peace talk with no guarantee of accord in sight. B4

Feds fund fire gear

From air packs in Poultney to air bags in Rutland, federal money is buying new equipment for Vermont fire departments.

Vermont’s congressional delegation announced Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to Vermont’s fire departments totaling more than $2 million this week, though some of the grants had already been announced individually in September.

Poultney got the largest grant in Rutland County, with $136,333 for new air packs

Poultney Fire Chief Aaron Kerber said the recommended lifespan for air packs is not a specific number of years, but the number of times National Fire Protection Association guidelines have been updated since the air packs were manufactured. He said the NFPA recommends not using air packs more than two updates out of date, and that since the department bought their current packs in 2002, the guidelines have been updated three times.

One of those newer guidelines, he said, has to do with the heat rating on the face pieces. He said the change isn’t so much increasing caution as a reflection of changes in building materials over the years — newer materials burn hotter.

“Hotter and faster, dramatically,” he said. “We were just at the academy on Sunday with the Castleton Fire Department doing some live-fire training and getting a refresher on fire behavior. The older houses, you’ve got 15-20 minutes before the fire reaches its flashover point (when a fire suddenly engulfs a room) ... whereas the new materials, a room can reach its flashover point in 5 minutes or less.”

Similarly, the city is replacing extrication gear, some of which is more than 40 years old. Aside from the fact that replacement parts are no longer available for the older gear, city Fire Chief James Larsen said the newer equipment will make it easier for firefighters to get people out of newer cars, which are made of stronger metals than their predecessors.

Larsen said the city has already purchased the gear with the $47,317 FEMA grant.

“It’s all been approved by the Board of Finance because there’s a 5% match,” he said. “We’ll start training on it in November.”

The Vermont Fire Academy in Pittsford got $124,584. Chief of Training Peter Lynch said they were buying personal protective equipment and breathing gear for instructors to use in live fire training, technical rescue equipment for rope operations and water rescue training, hand tools and power rescue saws

“We are very pleased to be awarded this funding and it will help us to be able to continue to offer the most up-to-date training to Vermont’s emergency responders in areas that they have identified to be critical to their mission,” Lynch wrote in an email.

Other grants included $95,595 for Springfield, $162,273 for Burlington and $305,209 for Williston in partnership with Essex Rescue and Colchester Rescue.



Gareth Henderson / Staff Photo  

Decorating the city

Jason Swett, left, and Sarah Elliott, of the Rutland-based company Professional Decorators of Vermont, adorn the city trees with lights for the holiday season along Strongs Avenue in Rutland last Friday. Matt Candon (not pictured) also helped with the job. The company has been putting up the festive lights for the city for over 15 years.

Win some, lose some, town wins half its FEMA appeals

KILLINGTON — The town won’t have to pay back $196,534 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but it’s not completely off the hook and will have to reimburse the federal government for $137,403.

Select Board Chairman Steve Finneron said in a Wednesday interview that during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 two large culverts, one on Stage Road, the other on Ravine Road, washed out. The town replaced them with concrete bridge structures and was reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, only to later learn that the federal agency thought the town went beyond the scope of the agreed-upon work and wanted the money back. This was prior to Finneron joining the board. He said the town appealed the decision, and that process has been going on for several years, coming to an end in late October with the final decisions being issued.

Finneron said the town has been budgeting for the possibility it would have to pay back the roughly $333,000 for several years.

He said the town briefly thought both final appeals had been denied, but learned Thursday that wasn’t the case. Finneron said the news is welcome, and the Select Board plans to explore ways of paying the $137,403, for the Stage Road project, back. He said there might be “after-the-fact” grants the town can apply for, or possibly a loan or payment plan.

Ben Rose, recovery and mitigation section chief with Vermont Emergency Management, said Wednesday that only about 20% of the appeals towns make to FEMA are ultimately granted. While the town will have to pay back on one of the projects, this could be considered a good outcome.

The Select Board discussed this in December, after being denied. It sought to ask U.S. House Rep. Peter Welch for assistance on the final appeal, which it got.

“In addition to staff work advising Killington on how best to proceed, Peter visited Killington and discussed that and other issues with the previous town manager, Debbie Schwartz, in January of 2017,” said Lincoln Peek, spokesman for Welch’s office. “He also partnered with the delegation on this issue.”

The town was supported as well by other members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom is currently running for president.



Otter Creek flood maps getting an update, input sought

The federal government plans to make changes to floodplain maps in the Otter Creek watershed, which could impact property owners living in or near commonly flooded areas.

“It’s not an annual thing — it’s a big deal,” said Ed Bove, executive director of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, which assists Rutland County municipalities with planning and similar efforts.

Bove said towns with floodplain regulations should be aware this is going on and be involved in the process, as these maps identify the areas where said regulations apply. Also, they affect properties with flood insurance.

The remapping is being done with new technology that’s more accurate than past methods and will digitize the data collected, making it far easier to update in the future, Bove said. The effort is being undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Bove said these agencies are seeking feedback and information from towns in the Otter Creek watershed. They’ve been asked to contact Scott Olson, a hydrologist with the USGS, in Pembroke, New Hampshire, before Nov. 27. The agencies want to know what people living in these communities know about how floodwaters behave versus how the current maps describe they do.

He said it’s always been possible to update floodplain maps as conditions change, but the way that’s done now is a time consuming, costly process.

The new maps, he said, might take some people off a floodplain and put some others into one, which comes with financial implications. People who live in or near a floodplain should monitor what happens.

Bove said the regional planning commission doesn’t make laws or regulations, nor does it require towns to do anything. The organization’s role here, he said, is to help towns get the needed information to FEMA and USGS. The group will assist in reviewing existing maps and help towns draft comments.

Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock said in a Thursday interview he recently attended a meeting about this issue hosted by FEMA and USGS. He was led to understand the entire process would take a few years and this is the initial information gathering phase. The federal government, he said, wants to know what major changes need to be looked at on the flood maps.

Haverstock said he told them about a dam that was removed about eight years ago near Sugar Hollow Road and some other observations the town has made during floods from Tropical Storm Irene up until now. He expects that after a year or so, towns will be asked to weigh in on the new maps FEMA and USGS will have drafted.



Photo by Jon Olender  

White Rocks vista

A late October sky graces the scene from the White Rocks Vista on the Ice Beds Trail in the Green Mountain National Forest in Wallingford on Wednesday morning.