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Rutland Town
Rutland Town board juggles solar offers

With two solar companies claiming the town could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on its electric bills if it accepts their offers, the Select Board is considering creating its own Energy Committee to study these proposals.

Phil Allen, co-owner of Same Sun of Vermont, went before the Select Board at its Tuesday meeting with an offer that he said would save the town 10 percent on its annual electricity expenses for the next 25 years, with the town taking ownership of the array at the end of that period. His offer comes two weeks after Tom Garden, of Triland Partners, asked the town to be part of a similar net-metering program he said would save the town around $1,600 in the first year, then more each subsequent year.

Allen said he’s identified two sites on town-owned land that could host a solar array between 150kw and 500kw. He said an ideal situation would be the town voting to expend the funds to build its own array, but given that the tax credits and other incentive programs aimed at spurring net-metering programs will expire this year, that route is unlikely.

“But if you don’t have that desire or ability, a very good thing for Rutland Town is to allow my company to build either a 150kw, or something under 500kw, and I go back to what I presented here before, which is you get a 10-percent discount off of whatever kilowatt hours you need, then there would be, depending on the site, depending on the expense, what would be negotiated is a lease-to-own situation,” he said.

Allen had made a solar proposal to the board several weeks ago, said board Chairman Joshua Terenzini in an Wednesday interview. Terenzini said the board is already planning to take a look at existing committee assignments, and while it does that it will assign members to the new Energy Committee.

He said the board’s Energy Committee shouldn’t be confused with the Planning Commission’s Energy Committee, which looks more at siting issues.

At the Tuesday meeting, Allen said he’d assumed the town would want to own the array after a certain point. He said after a 25-year period, they’ll be at least 80 percent as productive as they were the day they were installed. If the town isn’t interested in owning the array, that could be a term in the contract.

He said he didn’t expect an answer from the board that evening, but wanted to know what he should do next. Selectman Joe Denardo said he should update the savings data he’d already provided with new information from the town on its energy costs. Terenzini said the board will talk about Allen’s proposal at its next meeting.

Several times during the meeting, board members said they didn’t want to rush to a decision.

“I don’t believe anything good happens in a hurry,” said Selectman J.P. Faignant. “Most of the disasters I’ve been involved with, there’s always somebody trying to beat the clock on something.”

Selectwoman Mary Ashcroft said Steve Costello, vice president of Green Mountain Power, attended a recent meeting of the Building Committee and offered some advice on vetting net-metering projects, saying the town should look at the technology involved, references for the companies making proposals, and establishing some kind of bidding process.

“I just need you folks to take it seriously. And as far as feeling any pressure, the pressure is not mine. Same Sun has been around eight years, we’re going to be around lots longer, we’ll do business at any time, the pressure is the state,” said Allen. “The pressure is timetables that have been imposed upon us, and you folks have been looking into solar for a long time, so in my opinion it’s time to put it on the front burner. Because if you put it on the front burner now, you’ll be able to look at this years later and say that you saved the town hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if you pause now for something else which I’m sure is very important, you won’t be able say that. Solar has been something Rutland Town has been involved in for many years, but this is your last, best chance to own it yourself.”

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Sister Shirley honored

Sister Shirley Davis, right, speaks to the audience in the Tuttle Hall Theater at College of St. Joseph after receiving the Sisters of St. Joseph Award from college President Jennifer Scott, left, Wednesday afternoon. The award was split between two recipients this year, the other being Jonathan Goldsmith, who has used his celebrity status as Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” to promote charitable fundraising.


Local
Comic book idol’s 80th anniversary
In foreword, Leahy pens tribute to Batman

Decades after meeting him in Montpelier’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library, the longest-serving U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is wishing a happy 80th anniversary to his best-known associate and Gotham City’s Dark Knight, the Batman.

DC Comics has published an 80th anniversary tribute to Batman to mark his debut in Detective Comics No. 27 in March 1939. The book, “Detective Comics; 80 Years,” ties into the 80th anniversary, which will be marked Saturday, March 30, with a foreword by Leahy.

“Entering Batman’s world through my imagination opened an early door into a lifelong love of reading though I’m sure my parents would have preferred comic books starring Donald Duck to one about a millionaire in a bat-suit. Especially for kids, and many Americans, the early 1940s and 1950s were sometimes unsettling times in our world. We saw the Batman as a hero who could protect us from forces that we couldn’t control — but that he could,” Leahy wrote.

On Thursday, Leahy said he had been an early reader, maybe because his parents owned a printing business in Montpelier. He said he was a frequent visitor to the children’s wing at the Kellogg-Hubbard, where he discovered Batman comic books.

Asked what about the character has stayed with him, Leahy said the Bruce Wayne character could have lived an easy life but “instead he spent his life trying to help other people.”

“He had no super powers, but he had to use his brain; he had to use his knowledge and his physical prowess. Someone else in his position might have just taken a nice easy life. Instead, he constantly risked his life to help others,” Leahy said.

Writing the foreword brought some unexpected pleasure to Leahy, he said. At first he said he wondered where he would find the time but once he started writing he found it was about more than just Batman.

“The happy memories that came back, sitting on the porch of my parents home in Montpelier, sitting on the lawn, reading with my friends, the fun of being in the movies but also the happy memories in that library,” he said.

Leahy’s fandom crossed over into his legislative career in a few ways. One of the most prominent involved the senator’s efforts to prevent the United States from exporting land mines. Leahy wrote the first law to reach that goal in 1992.

In 1996, DC Comics printed a special Batman comic book, “Batman: Death of Innocents: the Horror of Landmines.”

“That (comic book) was on the desk of every U.S. senator in the U.S. Senate,” Leahy said.

Vermont’s senior senator has not only been a Batman fan for most of his life — in the foreword, Leahy mentions Batman appeared one year before he was born — but Leahy has also made appearances in five Batman films, starting with “Batman Forever,” continuing through two of the films in the Dark Knight trilogy, “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” and most recently in “Batman v. Superman” in 2016.

Leahy said the cameo appearances in Batman movies started after he wrote the foreword to 1992’s “The Dark Knight Archives.”

Leahy said he was asked how he wanted to be paid. He said he tried to turn down the money, but decided instead to donate his pay for the films to the Capital City’s library.

“Even today, about every three months, I’ll get a bunch of residual checks. They range from 25 cents to sometimes something in the thousands. They all go to the Kellogg-Hubbard. … I’m happy to do it because it encourages kids to read,” Leahy said.

Leahy said he was volunteering at the children’s wing on one occasion and told the children there he had a problem. He said Batman’s villains had hidden their photos in the library and he couldn’t decipher the clues to find them so he needed the kids to help him and his friend, Batman.

“Well, you can imagine, a bunch of 4-, 5-, 6-year-olds, the looks on their faces. Batman couldn’t figure out the clues but the children could. … On the way out, in that deep, gruff voice, he said, ‘I want to thank you children.’ Almost in unison, (they answered,) ‘You’re welcome, Mr. Batman.’ Both the actor and I had a hard time keeping a straight face,” Leahy said with a laugh.

The senator also expressed delight with a comic book page DC made for him. Batman asks Leahy how he reacts after a busy day in Congress, and Leahy responds that he reads Batman comics. Leahy asks Batman how he relaxes, and the Justice League member tells the senator he reads the Congressional Record, which puts him right to sleep.

“Senator Leahy is a passionate fan of Batman and has had a long personal connection to the character that goes all the way back to our comic books,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio. “When we learned of his use of Batman comics in his negotiations on Capitol Hill, plus his involvement in the Batman films, we were happy to extend an invitation to him to write the foreword for the book.”

Leahy said the foreword was “not really something you expect a U.S. senator to do” but he acknowledged that people already identify him with the world-famous comic book character.

“One of the actors, he told me once, ‘So you have over 40 years in the U.S. Senate. What are you going to be remembered for? You’re a friend of Batman,'” he said.

patrick.mcardle @rutlandherald.com


News
April 1 Meeting Planned
Concerns arise over Route 103 paving

LUDLOW — There will be an April 1 meeting during which state transportation and Pike Industries officials will talk about the paving job on Route 103 that has residents concerned.

House Rep. Logan Nicoll, D-Ludlow, said he organized the meeting after hearing concerns about the paving job from his constituents.

The meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Heald Auditorium of Ludlow Town Hall, he said.

According to Logan, “senior level management of Pike Industries” will be at the meeting, along with Wayne Symonds, highway division director and chief engineer at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Jeremy Reed, a construction engineer with AOT, will also be present, according to Nicoll.

“There’s a lot of buzz in town about it,” Nicoll said Monday. “I’m expecting a large audience.”

Nicoll said he set the meeting up last week after speaking with AOT officials.

Route 103 between Rockingham and Clarendon was scheduled to be paved in 2018, said Ryan Darling, an AOT project engineer, in a past interview with the Herald. The 39-mile project had to be halted with 14 miles left to go, as winter temperatures set in. Darling said the unfinished portion was prepared for winter, but the road markings haven’t held up.

He said in a more recent interview that signage has been put up and delineators have been put in place instead of paint to mark the edges of the road as well as truck lanes. Some painting has been done, as recently as Feb. 23. The plan is to finish the project in spring as soon as weather allows.

AOT and spokespeople for Pike Industries said in past interviews weather was to blame for the delay. Dry stretches over summer and fall of last year were few and far between, leading to the project not getting done and having to be put off.

Ralph Pace, a Ludlow resident, said Tuesday his concern during winter had been for people not familiar with the road, tourists and second-home owners, who might be more confused by the lack of striping than someone who drives Route 103 regularly.

“I hope we learn, No. 1, what happened last year in the planning,” he said.

Pace said it appeared that the road was paved in intervals, and higher elevations were paved last, a problem because these places are the first to get snow.

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Taking Action

Shawn Mulholland, Fair Haven Union High School student and member of Our Voices Xposed, a student activist group, posts quotes on a board in the school’s lobby Wednesday morning. The quotes were written by other students about tobacco use. Students showcased tobacco industry facts from the Vermont Department of Health to discouraging vaping and smoking.


Spotlight

“Every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaking at a CNN Town Hall on Monday night in Jackson, Mississippi. — A6

Birth unit closed

Springfield Hospital’s board of trustees, trying to shave $6.5 million off its budget, votes to close the hospital’s child-birthing center. A3

High price to pay

U.S. Army tells environmental group it will cost close to $300,000 to release results of water testing related to potentially deadly contamination on military bases. A6


RHD Hotspot

Tonight

Sip-N-Dip

Artist instructor will walk you through the painting process. Leave with a completed canvas. $30, 6-8 p.m. Chaffee Art Center, 16 South Main St., Rutland, beyondmarketing@yahoo.com, 775-0356.