Rutland Town is in a dispute with the state about access to public records related to a rail spur over which the town is suing contractors.
In October, the Select Board voted to file a lawsuit against the contractors who allegedly built a rail spur on top of a town-owned water line and manhole cover. The town fears that train traffic over the water line will damage it. The board says it tried for several months to contact Vermont Rail System about the issue to no avail.
Named in the lawsuit are two Poultney companies, RA Filskov & Sons Inc. and Filskov Brothers Inc.
Ryan Filskov, owner of RA Filskov & Sons Inc., told the Herald when the lawsuit was filed that neither he nor his father’s company, Filskov Brothers Inc., did the work about which they’re being sued.
On Friday, Alan Filskov, president of Filskov Brothers Inc., filed an answer to the complaint in which he denies, or says he lacks the knowledge to admit or deny, the town’s claims. RA Filskov & Sons Inc. had not filed its own response as of Tuesday.
According to email records provided to the Herald, on Oct. 26, John Dunleavy, senior assistant attorney general for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, requested by email from Town Clerk Kirsten Hathaway “Inspection reports, maintenance records and engineering assessments of the town-owned Pipes, from January 1, 2003, to the present. Also, any records confirming that or questioning whether the Town-owned Pipes actually were installed as shown on the Windcrest Road Sewer Extension plans and the specifications referenced therein.”
Dunleavy referred to a 1975 agreement between Vermont Railway Inc. and Rutland Town allowing the town to install water lines across state-owned property leased to Vermont Railway Inc.
On Oct. 30, the town’s attorney, Kevin Brown, of the firm Langrock Sperry & Wool LLP, sent a response to Dunleavy.
“I gather from your email to the Town Clerk that you have become aware that the Town of Rutland has filed suit in Rutland Superior Court against the contractor or contractors that installed the rail spur, without notice to the Town, over the Town’s sewer and water lines, and the sewer manhole that provides access to the sewer line installed pursuant to the 1975 Agreement referenced above.”
Brown wrote that since the records are currently involved in a lawsuit, they don’t qualify as public records and are exempt from Dunleavy’s request. “As a result, the Town will not produce the records that you have requested…”
On Oct. 31, Dunleavy sent an email to Joshua Terenzini, chairman of the Select Board, appealing the denial. He wrote that the General Assembly has specifically stated that the Public Records Act be interpreted liberally in favor of disclosing documents. He adds that his request isn’t specifically related to the lawsuit and the records he’s looking for pre-date the “incident” in question. His appeal indicates that the Vermont Agency of Transportation wants these documents to, “... assess available information about the condition of Town-owned sewer and water lines located within the State-owned railroad right-of-way and, if serious problems are corroborated, consult with the Town of Rutland and the railroad operator as to an appropriate course forward.”
Finally, he writes that this request isn’t an attempt to work around the legal system’s rules for information disclosure. Dunleavy writes that AOT isn’t a party to the lawsuit, and just because the information it wants is “tangentially related to the Filskov litigation,” doesn’t make it exempt from a public records request.
The Select Board met Tuesday and discussed Dunleavy’s appeal in executive session for about 15 minutes. Terenzini said upon leaving executive session that the board would take no action that evening.
Shelley Lutz and a handful of volunteers were struggling to get a pair of large wooden benches onto a trail in Pine Hill Park when six cyclists from New Hampshire happened by and lent their hands to the effort.
“It just shows how popular the park is,” Lutz said Tuesday.
The last remaining founding member of the Pine Hill Partnership — the others have all moved away — Lutz stresses the partnership and the park are much bigger than she is.
“It’s not about me,” she said. “I don’t like to talk about myself. There’s a collective group that makes things happen. I just seem to be the one who pulls things together.”
That role recently resulted in Lutz being honored by the International Mountain Bike Association, a development that helped convince her to talk about herself just a little bit.
Lutz came to the area from Grand Island, New York, in the early 1970s, studying at Castleton State College to become a teacher. Her relationship with Pine Hill Park began in college — a suitemate had a brother who went fishing at Rocky Pond.
“We used to traipse all along that hillside back in the ’70s,” she said. “There’s a lot of cool history to the place.”
The park was created when Henry Carpenter donated the land to the city in 1921, Lutz said. In the ensuing decades, it was used on and off.
When Lutz graduated, instead of a school, she went to work at UPS.
“I made more money working part-time than I would have as a teacher,” she said.
It was that job that led her to mountain biking. Lutz said she had been athletic her entire life, with team sports giving way to cycling as she became an adult. One day in the late ‘70s, she said, she was delivering a package to the now-defunct Pedal Pushers bike shop in Manchester.
“They said, ‘Hey, Shelley, you gotta try this,’” she said.
The store set her up with a Haro bicycle.
“Fully rigid,” she said. “It was like a tank. At the time it handled great — I didn’t know any different. If I got on it now I’d probably kill myself.”
Now she said she prefers biking on trails instead of roads.
“No traffic,” she said. “The distracted driving has definitely moved a lot of us to ride in gravel and ride in the woods.”
Lutz said the Pine Hill Partnership had its genesis in the backlash to a proposal in the year 2000 to develop the area around the pond. Among the people who came out against the proposal were Lutz, Michael Smith, Keith Wight and Tim Vile. She said the group organized a few years later, initially with the focus of turning the old carriage trail from the park to Proctor into a running path.
“It was Tim Vile’s idea,” she said. “He wanted a 10k running course through the woods like the Crowley Race is on the road.”
Lutz said they knew they would need to have a formal organization to approach landowners about access rights as well as to raise money. The Pine Hill Partnership was created, she said, and found that developing mountain biking trails in the park itself went much more quickly than unifying the Carriage Trail.
Perhaps the most impressive single effort, she said, was the suspension bridge on the Overlook trail, for which volunteers poured 1,700 pounds of concrete that had to be hauled to the site bag by bag. Fifty-one people joined the effort, including the Rutland High School cross-country team.
“I dragged some people from UPS who had never even been there before,” she said. “We poured the concrete, and we were all done and cleaned up in 3 hours because we had so many people.”
Today, she said, the partnership has 100 dues-paying members and a professional executive director working to bring in corporate sponsorships. Lutz said among the group’s hopes is hiring a paid grounds crew. She said they are also working on using old logging roads to connect the park to the bike trail network in the Killington-Pico area.
“That was a pipe dream of mine 20 years ago,” she said. “The details haven’t been worked out yet. It’s a concept. ... It’s in the beginning stages.”
POULTNEY — As part of a nationwide initiative, 92 high school students won the opportunity to travel to the Boston Opera House on Nov. 8 to see “Hamilton,” the groundbreaking musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda inspired by a 2004 biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton.
“This made me excited to possibly dive into more history in general,” said senior Christopher Wade. “It’s not a subject that I’m super-super into, and this opened a window of opportunity for me.”
The initiative was created to help students travel to the closest location where the show was being performed, and even get the chance to perform an original work they created at school, said Poultney High School history teacher Liz Lebrun.
“I knew that they had been doing this in New York City, taking groups of students,” LeBrun said. “And I had a friend who lives in Michigan who took her students to Chicago as a part of this program. They wanted to reach schools who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to see a show, and I got an email last winter that they were expanding to Boston, so I applied.”
The Hamilton Education Program by the Gilder Lehrman Institute enables students to see “Hamilton” for $10 per ticket. Students had to ham it up and create their own works of art. A faculty board at Poultney then chose a winning piece to submit to the Institute.
Administrative assistant Becca Putnam said every penny of the trip’s cost for the 92 students and the 10 teachers came from the school’s “donation fund.”
“They begrudgingly did the project,” Lebrun said. “We changed the schedule for six days, and had six one-hour classes, where the whole school would go to one spot and work on it.”
Regardless of their normal discipline, every math, science, English and history teacher at the school dropped what they were doing for one hour per day through the course of one week to help their students cultivate artistic endeavors.
All in the name of history.
Poultney junior Kelly Stone said her piece was about Hamilton’s love affair and his wife’s forgiveness, and how even after his death she strove to have her husband’s journals published.
Wade took the musical route.
“Me and a buddy of mine are really into music, so we decided to write a song,” Wade said. “We wrote a four-part piece with lyrics based on the Founding Fathers.”
The focus of the project was to teach students how to find and use primary sources, research, rehearse and perform their piece. Students earned up to 15 points according to the rubric provided by Gilder Lehrman along with an online encyclopedia of primary sources accessible only by the winning schools’ students, LeBrun said.
On 5:30 a.m. Thursday, students clambered onto buses for the four-hour bus ride straight into the heart of Boston for a morning filled with student performances and a question-and-answer session with the cast of “Hamilton,” followed by lunch and a matinee performance of the musical.
“They had 40 buses coming to the show, all students and teachers,” Lebrun said. “It was huge.”
Though Poultney winner Ruth Dailey’s musical number wasn’t chosen to be performed onstage at the Opera House, the students said they learned much more through the interactive process and were stunned by the live production.
“It’s very inspiring to see someone from those roots become the sage of the American uprising,” Wade said. “He was the sage of old America.”
Though the musical inspired the students, the stark reality of current events cast a solemn shade on the performance, students said.
“I was inspired, but also sad,” Stone said. “Just hearing what’s happening with our immigration laws. Our president is talking about taking away birthright citizenship. Immigrants formed this country, and our president is trying to keep them out.”
Lebrun said the experience transformed the way her students digested what would normally be dry required learning.
“It really made it easy for the kids to understand,” LeBrun said. “This was cross-curricular as far as the teaching went. Everybody stepped up and was willing to teach.”
Wade was so touched by the music that he’s holding onto his experience and going to perform one of the numbers, “Not Gonna Throw Away My Shot,” in the spring Broadway-themed musical concert, he said.
“The trip was beyond worth it,” Wade said.
“I’ve been doing this job for 31 years, and probably in the last five, maybe seven years, every year seems to get worse.”
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