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Swelter skelter
Swelter skelter: Vermont prepares for high temps, high humidity

You may just be able to fry an egg on the sidewalk this weekend, thanks to a spell of hot weather slated to hit Vermont. Experts warn the sunny days ahead may be the perfect excuse to stay inside.

Meteorologists at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury warned of temperatures sneaking past 95 in some places Saturday, with a heavy blanket of humidity and a heat index of 100 or more.

Officials are urging Vermonters to take heed in the heat and make sure they stay calm, cool and well-hydrated if they choose to brave the rays.

“High temperatures over the next few days pose serious health risks, so I encourage all Vermonters to take the necessary steps to protect themselves as well as their families, neighbors and pets against the heat,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a release. “State agencies and partners will be providing safety tips and resources to help keep all safe and cool this weekend.”

The governor’s office also advised wearing lightweight, light-colored clothes to avoid retaining any extra heat, and to avoid using tools, lights and appliances that might raise the temperature further. Residents are urged to research where public cooling stations might pop up in local churches, volunteer locations and community centers.

Barre City has opened cooling stations at Barre Congregational Church, which is open 7 to 11 a.m., and Aldrich Library will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Faith Community Church will be open from 2 until 7 p.m., with water and a children’s movie screening.

Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier as well as public libraries in Pawlet, Castleton, West Rutland, Poultney, Waterbury, Middletown Springs and Williamstown will also be open as cooling centers during the heat spell, according to a partial list from the state.

Green Mountain Power reminds Vermonters to dial 211 to find cooling shelters in local communities, and to keep any activity low-energy, especially during the hottest hours of the day. GMP officials are tracking any thunderstorms that could cause outages in the heat, storms that the Fairbanks Museum indicated could become severe on Saturday night into Sunday.

In Rutland, City Police Cmdr. Greg Sheldon said generally people know how to take care of themselves during the dog days of summer, but heat waves do bring on welfare checks, especially for the sick and elderly, and the occasional call for a pet left in a hot car.

“If the dog is in distress, we would take action, (though) I can’t think of a time when we’ve had to,” Sheldon said.

Should any passersby notice a panting pup in a hot car, Sheldon urged them to call the department rather than breaking the window themselves, as police can enter a car without damaging it.

“Temperatures can rise to over 120 degrees in a matter of a few minutes,” said Dr. Rob MacPherson, of Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center. “There’s a lack of oxygen, and very quickly there’s just not enough oxygen for them. Ten minutes in that heat they’ll have difficulty surviving.”

Under extreme temperatures, animals will first go into respiratory distress — they won’t be able to breathe, their lips and gums subsequently turn blue and their organs begin shutting down, he said.

“Some get kidney failure, liver failure and some develop intestinal disease, sometimes to the point of seizures and a loss of consciousness,” MacPherson said. “All of this can happen in a matter of minutes.”

MacPherson encouraged dog owners to seek out grass instead of walking pets on the asphalt, as dog foot-pads can easily be burned by scorching pavement.

“Get them something soft like a cold wash cloth applied to the surface of the burn, and keep them clean,” MacPherson said.

But even on the grass, dogs may be so determined to chase that ball that they don’t notice how rapidly their bodies can overheat, and after 5 to 10 minutes of vigorous activity, MacPherson said their internal temperatures can rise to a life-threatening degree.

“Any type of physical exertion needs to be curtailed,” MacPherson said.

But cooling off the pooch may not mean a close shave: a layer of air between the coat and next to the skin keeps the dog cool, and MacPherson advised wetting a dog down to cool them off rather than giving them a hair cut.

“If you clip a dog down, you’re losing that layer of air and the protective barrier so heat doesn’t contact the skin directly,” MacPherson said.

As far as ice cubes go, the vet gave his seal of approval as long as the dog isn’t downing buckets of ice and advised to be on the look out for cracked teeth.

As far as the fur-less go, Kandis Charlton, training and education coordinator, and critical care paramedic for Rutland Regional Ambulance, said the most important thing was for people to take care of each other.

“People need to be checking on their family members and neighbors,” Charlton said. “The elderly sometimes don’t like air conditioning, and as we get older our body sensitivity changes.”

People with co-morbidities, or pre-existing conditions, the extremely young and the elderly are especially prone to heat and humidity exhaustion. By the time someone’s condition surpasses heat stroke, their temperature will be up above 104 degrees, they’ll have stopped sweating entirely, and will have bright red skin and a severely altered mental state, Charlton said.

“That’s when the body is losing its ability to manage the temperature,” said Matt Stephens, physicians assistant at Community Health Rutland. “That’s the emergency room.”

In the event that someone is found with severe heat exhaustion or heat stroke, Stephens said, loosening the clothing and cooling the body with wet cloth is far less dangerous than ice-cold drinks of water, which could result in vomiting and more dehydration.

When rehydrating, electrolyte and fitness beverages with sugar in them should be matched one-to-one with water, and people should avoid high-sodium foods, caffeine and alcohol, Charlton said.

Especially if you’re one of the brave out running one of Vermont’s summer races, like the Goshen Gallup, a 5k and a 10.2k run slated for Saturday on Goshen’s Blueberry Hill.

“We’re in collaboration with the Brandon Fire Department to get a misting fan out there, some excess ice and extra water bottles,” said Jordan Stage, chief operations officer for the Brandon Area Rescue Squad.


Nora Moulton joins the Cub Scouts

Nora Moulton has been an honorary Cub Scout since she was 4 years old. That is because her mother, Angela Moulton, is her older brother’s troop leader, and used to bring Nora along to meetings and events.

Nora learned the same skills as her brother and his friends but wasn’t able to officially join the organization until last year, when the Boy Scouts of America voted to let girls into their ranks.

Nora, who is now 9 years old and is going into fourth grade at Underhill Central School, said she was excited to join her own troop last fall. She now spends time with children in her rank, one year behind her older brother, and she gets belt loops for the new skills she learns like the other Scouts do.

“I wanted to do it because I was tagging along with my brother for four years,” she said. “I was happy when the girls could join because I would get to be in my own troop with some of my friends. And I think girls should be able to join because it’s really fun to go out adventuring and sing different songs.”

Moulton was thrilled when the Boy Scouts said they would allow girls to join, but when that policy changed, it was not guaranteed that every troop would admit girls, at least not right away. Moulton was part of the effort to get troops in their area to make the change.

“You needed permission from your sponsoring organization. So we went to the church that sponsors us and had their agreement and approval,” Moulton said. “We had some good debate, but it was pretty well decided that we would follow the council.”

During the debate, Moulton said some objected to the change on the grounds of tradition, saying that the Boy Scouts should stay for boys only. Others voiced concern that too many girls would sign up and the system would be overwhelmed. This has not been an issue so far.

“It ended up being just Nora, and they were like, ‘Oh, she’s already been with us forever anyhow.’ So it was a nice transition, pretty easy,” Moulton said.

The troops in Underhill decided to let girls join in the fall of 2018, when all new Scouts join for the year.

Nora said she has not received any negative attention for being the only girl in her troop, but when she joined in the fall her troop leaders would sometimes forget to change their language.

“Sometimes they forgot there was a girl, because they’re used to saying ‘boys’ and not ‘girls and boys,’” she said. “It took them a minute to remember.”

She said now her leaders remember “most of the time.”

Nora was a Girl Scout for one year, back when she was 7, but she says she likes Cub Scouts better because the activities align better with her interests.

When asked what she likes about the Cub Scouts, she said, “They have banging on the table, which is really fun. And singing songs. They do less banging on the tables at Girl Scouts.”

Moulton said her daughter enjoyed her time in the Girl Scouts, but the activities were really different.

“You earned patches for listening to a story or making up a dance with the girls versus here you get a patch or a belt loop for whittling and cooking on a fire,” Moulton said.

Part of the reason for this disparity is that there are fewer Girl Scout troops in the Underhill area, which leads to a wider range of ages per group.

“They run multi-age so they can’t meet the needs of each level as easily,” Moulton said. “When you have a kindergartner and a fifth-grader or a sixth-grader in one meeting, you end up doing things like dancing, reading stories. ... It ends up having to be more one size fits all.”

Moulton said the transition has been slow but more girls are joining Boy Scouts. Nora was one of four girls at Boy Scout sleep-away camp called “Camp Sunrise” in Benson this week. At camp, Nora swam in the lake — her favorite activity — shot BB guns, went hiking, built fires and went fishing. This was her first year at the camp, and she said she loved all the outdoor activities. As a fourth-grader, Nora is a Webelo this year, and she said she’s excited for Cub Scout meetings to start back up in August.

For her part, Nora’s mother is happy her daughter found an activity with her friends that she enjoys.

“Nora’s the kind of girl — and there’s a lot of girls like Nora — who really enjoy being hands on and outdoors,” she said. “It’s nice to have a well-rounded activity for her to be part of.”

rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Sailing into port

Hope Fisher, left, and Amara Clark bring their Sunfish sailboat into port during the final day of beginner sailing class Friday on Lake Bomoseen.

Otter Creek solar project
Solar developer responds to regulators

A “temporary driveway” doesn’t count as “shared infrastructure,” according to a solar developer in response to questions from a state regulator about two projects being built off Cold River Road.

On Wednesday, attorney Thomas Melone, president of Allco Renewable Energy Limited, responded to the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) June 13 order requiring him to demonstrate why the Otter Creek 1 and Otter Creek 2 projects aren’t in violation of their certificates of public good.

On June 13, the PUC ordered that Otter Creek Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Allco Renewable Energy Limited, to show why its activities don’t violate the conditions of its certificate of public good, to describe the work done so far, to explain why the access road being used to clear the site “constitutes ‘shared infrastructure’ under 30 V.S.A. § 8002(18),” to explain why it decided to access Otter Creek 1 from Cold River Road and not Windcrest Road, and to “Explain why Otter Creek did not inform the Commission of this change before beginning work.”

Whether the projects are separate from one another or not could impact their standard offer contracts, which are capped at 2.2 megawatts.

“This investigation will examine this issue and determine whether the Commission should revoke Otter Creek’s (certificates of public good) and standard-offer contract or take other steps if the Commission finds that Otter Creek’s facilities are in fact a single 7.1 MW plant,” wrote the PUC in its order.

In his response, Melone said for a group of facilities to count as one plant, four things need to be true.

“First, the group of facilities must be constructed or viewed in their post-construction state,” Melone wrote. “Second, the constructed group has to be part of the same ‘project.’ Third, the group must use common equipment. Fourth, the group must use the same common infrastructure such as roads, control facilities and connections to the electric grid.”

Melone said none of the four conditions for the two projects being considered have been met. He said the “temporary access driveway” isn’t permanent and doesn’t make the two facilities one. There’s also a difference between roads used for clearing, construction and maintenance access.

Melone said any changes to Otter Creek Solar’s plans haven’t been significant enough to request an amendment to its certificates of public good.

Both projects were granted certificates of public good in February 2018. The PUC’s investigation came about because of a comment filed by the environmental watchdog group, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, saying Otter Creek Solar was in violation of its state permits. This prompted an investigation by the Department of Public Service, which recommended the PUC open its own inquiry.

“Thomas Melone’s response to the PUC offers no legitimate reason for the failure to construct the project according to plans and testimony, which plainly said that Windcrest Road, and specifically not Cold River Road, would be used for clearing and construction,” wrote Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, on Thursday. “Instead, he claims the Cold River Road entrance is ‘temporary,’ as though it doesn’t count, and now he’s showing another road off Cold River Road to be ‘permanent’ after the project is built.”

Smith said she feels what the developer has done, and plans to do, qualifies as a substantial change.

Melone didn’t respond to attempts to contact him on Friday.

According to past documents Melone has filed with the PUC, he said it was initially thought that the town owned the entire length of Windcrest Road, but further research showed that the IsoVolta company controls the road south of the railroad tracks. Melone told the Department of Public Service that his company was in talks with IsoVolta about gaining access, but then communication from the company stopped. Melone blamed Vermonters for a Clean Environment and its allies for this.

Smith denied this on Friday. Calls to IsoVolta were not returned.


Sentence agreement reached in sex assault cases

A local teenager is expected to spend 4½ years in jail after pleading guilty to charges related to allegations he sexually assaulted two young girls.

Ronald Hall Jr., 18, pleaded guilty on Friday in Rutland criminal court to three felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct, one felony count of second-degree unlawful restraint and one misdemeanor count of domestic assault.

Under a proposed plea agreement, the state would dismiss three felony charges of second-degree unlawful restraint, a felony charge of sexual assault with no consent and a felony charge of aggravated sexual assault by use of a weapon.

Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy and defense attorney Mark Furlan told Judge Thomas Zonay they expected Friday’s hearing to include Hall’s change of plea and the imposition of the agreed sentence of 4½ to 7 years.

Zonay said he was not willing to sentence Hall without a pre-sentence investigation report from the Vermont Department of Corrections.

Hall’s sentencing is now scheduled for Nov. 26.

The charges against Hall were spread across four dockets. He pleaded guilty on Friday to one charge from each docket but at least one charge each from three of the dockets are expected to be dismissed when the plea agreement is finalized.

Hall was charged Friday with a new felony from a fifth docket. He pleaded not guilty to the felony charge of aggravated repeated sexual assault, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in jail and a maximum term of life.

The new charge is expected to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Kennedy said she was required to file the case in juvenile court, but through the plea agreement, the charge was now filed in Rutland criminal court.

“I wanted the arraignment to happen for the record. It involves conduct to one of the four victims that he now admits criminal activity against. If the judge rejects the plea agreement, the state will now have those dockets in criminal court,” Kennedy said by email.

The first charges against Hall attracted attention because police said Hall, who was 16 at the time, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl July 5, 2017, at what had been Lynda Lee’s Fashions Dress Factory on Cleveland Avenue. On July 11, 2017, the unused factory was set on fire in what police said was an arson.

Hall was never charged for the fire. Kennedy said Friday she didn’t believe she could prove an allegation that Hall was involved in the fire beyond a reasonable doubt.

During Friday’s hearing, Zonay described the charges to which Hall pleaded guilty.

On July 5, 2017, Hall bit a 14-year-old girl’s chest without her consent.

In November 2016, Hall forced himself sexually onto a 15-year-old girl.

Between January and July of 2016, Hall held a 13-year-old girl down and tried to force her into sexual contact with him.

In June 2015, Hall tried to force a 14-year-old girl to have sexual contact with him while her hands were tied behind her back and without her consent.

Kennedy said the proposed sentence was based on input from representatives of the Vermont Department of Corrections and Department for Children and Families.

“I think I can represent that everybody is on board that he needs to do sex offender counseling, and he needs to do that inside,” she said.

Kennedy said another reason she had planned to have the sentencing take place Friday was that there were “four young people who are looking to have closure.”

At least one of the victims was in the courtroom Friday.

“The court understands that these cases took place a while ago. I understand your patience and desire to have things resolved, but we want to make sure that when we get it done, we get it done in a way that gives us full information to make an informed and appropriate decision,” he said.


Rail topper

All-Star match

Vermont will face off against New Hampshire in the Lions Twin State Soccer Cup pitting recent high school graduates against each other Saturday afternoon at Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton. B1

Courtesy photo  

Girl Scouts enjoyed a hike at Button Bay State Park on Saturday, July 13, 2019, as part of Girl Scouts Love State Parks weekend.


Girl power

Outdoor adventure is one of several new offerings for Girl Scouts, in addition to other programs that meet the needs and interests of today’s young girl. C1


Save the world

“It is time for us all to stand up everywhere and just say no: We will not tolerate the destruction of our precious Earth and the lives of our children for greed.” C7

JLowe / Jeb-Wallace Brodeur / Staff photo  

Rob Millard-Mendez: “Argus Ring”

Rail — ARTS


“Eye Spy,” an exhibition focused on the eye, opened at Studio Place Arts last week and continues in the Main Floor Gallery through Aug. 23. The show features work of 29 artists. D1