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Delayed bridge work underway

The River Street bridge closed for repairs after all, but state officials said work there should be done Tuesday.

Resurfacing of the notoriously choppy crossing from River Street to Madison Street took place Friday, and Vermont Agency of Transportation spokesman Nick Cartularo said that workers were installing plug joints — devices that act like shock absorbers when heavy loads cross the bridge. The bridge was closed for at least part of Monday morning despite an AOT official saying in May that they did not expect that to be necessary, but Cartularo said Monday afternoon that at least one lane should remain open while contractors put on the finishing touches.

Cartularo said the work was originally slated for July, but was held up by a delay in getting materials. It is still expected to be done well ahead of the required completion date of Sept. 6.

The bridge and a connecting stretch of River Street are considered among the worst sections of road in the city, according to Rep. Mary Howard, D-Rutland, who helped move the project through the Legislature. Rutland Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said the top layer of River Street was replaced in concert with the bridge work by the same contractor on behalf of the city.

“It’s one continuous seam between what the state’s paying for and what we’re paying for,” Wennberg said.

Wennberg said work is complete on the simplest portions of the more than 2 miles worth of paving planned for this summer, leaving the sections of roads that need to be reclaimed still to do. Reclaiming involves digging up roads to a 10-inch depth and replacing both fill and the 3-inch surface.

He said none of those had been scheduled as of Monday afternoon, but that drivers in the near future will want to avoid Marble, Coolidge and Dana avenues as well as Church and Granger streets.

“The whole bad section of Grove on the south end,” is also up for reclamation, Wennberg said, but “not the bad section on the north end.”

Wennberg has said that the city’s annual paving budget is only half what is needed to just keep up with the annual degradation of the city’s 77 miles of streets, much less catch up. Mayor David Allaire said he is exploring a bond issue for the March ballot to accelerate the paving schedule.


Photo by Jon Olender  

ruffing the passer

Jarred Denis, right, of Proctor, gets his 12-week-old puppy, Jacks fired up to go out for a pass before the start of football practice at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon on Monday afternoon. For a glimpse at local teams preparing for the upcoming season, see page B1.

Town to issue notice of violation for campaign signs

POULTNEY — After residents voted not to amend town zoning bylaws over a month ago, black and yellow campaign signs urging a “yes” vote on Article 2 still pepper the parking lot outside the VEMAS building on Route 30.

After residents urged the Select Board to take action against property owner Len Knappmiller to have the signs taken down, Town Manager Paul Donaldson agreed on Monday to send a letter of notice of violation within the week.

“This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill violation,” said resident Neil Vreeland, who earlier this year filed a complaint against Knappmiller alleging he was shining a floodlight directly into the Vreeland’s home to harass them. “He’s been sticking his thumb in our eyes for two months now. It’s not one or two, it’s about 12 signs. Everybody sees it coming into this town and it’s a horrible eyesore. I don’t think he’s going to do anything unless someone pushes him to do it.”

Donaldson said the issue was simply time. As the town manager, zoning administrator and animal control officer, Donaldson has been busy getting the Slate Valley Trails set up and expanded, and is working with the USDA and state agencies to redevelop the downtown (including hashing out the idea of convincing a bank to come back).

“I’ve tried to go the easy route with Mr. Knappmiller,” Donaldson said. “I’ve tried to stay neutral this whole time. ... In my job, you have to prioritize things.”

Poultney zoning bylaws allow up to two signs displayed on a given property, and signs may contain up to 35 square feet of area on one side unless more than one side of a sign is used, in which case the area of all sides shall be included in the total allowable area.

Select Board Chairman Jeff King asked residents attending Monday’s meeting how much money they think the Select Board should spend on environmental court fees to legally address the issue, but Vreeland said that measure wasn’t necessary, and the select board should send Knappmiller a notice of violation of the town zoning bylaws.

“That’s typing up a letter,” Vreeland said.

Donaldson said he has attempted to correspond with Knappmiller via email. Donaldson said Knappmiller told him in previous correspondence that he would take the signs down, but was busy with other matters.

Resident Peter Woelfel claimed he might be responsible for getting one of Knappmiller’s signs taken down — by calling the State Police.

“It was too big, it was above the ordinance, it was on an unregistered trailer with no taillights,” Woelfel said.

It was a resounding “no” in early July to zoning changes that could have eased the way for a Dollar General after residents shot down Article 2, 549-302, according to town officials. However, Knappmiller’s signs urging a “yes” vote have remained up.

Article 1, which would put in place more restrictive zoning policies, raked in 414 votes for and against, and poll workers said they double-checked.

Because of a tie vote, Article 1 was rejected. Twenty-five voters left their vote for Article 1 blank. Only two left Article 2 without a vote, officials said.

The two articles in the special election were spurred by two petitions submitted earlier this year, one by legal counsel for Poultney Properties LLC, owned by Knappmiller, and one on behalf of the “legal voters” of the town of Poultney.

At an informational meeting the night before the vote, residents questioned how each of the zoning amendments would affect the district. Planning Commission Chairwoman Jamie Lee said the ballot item regarding Knappmiller’s petition would allow for very little oversight by the town on future projects in the Poultney Properties buildings at 61 Beaman St., including parking, lighting, environmental impact and traffic studies.

“He bought it with the intention to put a Dollar General there almost two years ago,” Donaldson said in an earlier interview. “There are summary judgments pending in environmental court. In the meantime, he petitioned to get the zoning.”

Poultney resident C.B. Hall spoke often against Knappmiller’s petition, claiming that the installment of a Dollar General would result in an immediate drop in sales for local stores while only providing a handful of low-paying jobs.

Hall said rather than waiting for the “ax to fall” and a large box store to move into town, residents could seek a future focused on investing in small communities and providing quality employment.

“Our zoning needs to protect that future, and we need to bend our energies in that direction,” Hall said.


Vermod: Modern modular homes with zero energy output

Gleaming bamboo floors, triple-pane windows and zero electric or heating bills forever — a ZEM Home, or Zero Emissions Modular Home, is a dwelling made by Wilder-based Vermod that made its debut in Rutland during an open house Saturday by Efficiency Vermont, showing local residents how to live sustainably for a moderate price tag.

“There is no fossil fuel in this house,” said Efficiency Vermont Account Manager Brad Long. “Ultimately, this house embodies a lot of the technologies we endorse (at Efficiency Vermont).”

Vermod was inspired by the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene and the particular damage it caused to mobile home parks, according to Cathy Reynolds, senior account manager with Efficiency Vermont.

“The thought was, ‘Oh, people are replacing mobile homes — this is the time to make them efficient,’” Reynolds said. “There will never be an oil or a propane bill … The grid is storing the energy for you.”

So the Vermod mission began post-flood: Embracing the ecological mission of Vermont and reducing personal carbon footprints as much as possible while living in a clean, well-insulated, modern home and paying a fraction of the price of a new, three-bedroom, wood-based architecture home.

The brick-red home with wooden accents is parked in the Vermont Farmers Food Center until Sept. 18, and boasts long, wide windows, energy efficient appliances, a spacious living area and full bath, complete with several closets and 7 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof that power the entire home through the summer and winter with the use of net metering credits. Prior to this past weekend, the house was in Bellows Falls, and will be taken to Swanton next as it tours the state.

“There’s a continuous ventilation system that does heat recovery,” Reynolds said. “The heat pump blows the heat down the hall and recovers the heat from outside … so you always have clean, warm, fresh air.”

Vermod offers two different styles of one-bedroom homes, three styles of two-bedroom homes, and two styles of three bedroom homes that range in price from $122,600 to $167,400 for a three-bedroom, two bathroom 28-by-36-foot home each with 10-inch-thick walls for optimum heat and air retention.

Several of the homes have already been implemented in Addison County, Reynolds said, and they’re hoping to spread the message of the availability and affordability of the ecological dwellings.

“The cost of retrofitting a house is expensive,” said Long. “Vermont has the second-oldest housing stock in the nation … most of our houses predate 1940s construction … this is quiet, it’s comfortable, even on the hottest days.”

One more uplifting aspect of the home is the price tag: Buyers with below 80% median income are eligible for a $10,000 solar incentive, while higher income buyers are eligible for tax credits on their efficient house.

Those same buyers and buyers financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture RD Direct Loan can acquire a $8,500 Efficiency Vermont incentive, and buyers below the 120% median income through the Champlain Housing Trust for mobile home replacement can acquire a $35,000 boost off of their purchase price, according to Vermod’s affordability offerings.

Buyers have the option of paying more money for solar arrays, certain utility hook-ups, and have additional costs for the delivery and set-up of their home as well as any site work required to ready the land, which can range anywhere from $10,000 and $35,000, the notices said.

For households with below a $60,000 income, interest rates can be as low as 0% for the first five years of ownership, while more than $90,000 incomes only bring a 5.49% interest rate for the first five years with Efficiency Vermont’s Heat Saver Loan.

The homes, built to suit the needs of Vermonters while remaining efficient, convenient, affordable and sustainable, are still an under-utilized utility in the Green Mountain State, especially where many smaller homes still prove to be energy inefficient due to air leaks and aging infrastructure, Long said.

When buying a home, Long said often the cost of running the home isn’t information readily available — such as heating and fuel costs, energy efficiency and electric, so the cost of owning one’s own home can turn out to be far more expensive than the price tag leads one to believe.

“It just makes sense,” Long said. “These homes are going to last just as long (as any other brand-new home) ... our goal is just to provide options. To show people what’s out there.”


Winter in August returns to Merchants Row

Winter is coming to Merchants Row.

Winter in August, the Rutland-area business community’s annual salute to the ski industry, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, rain or shine.

“We’re anticipating it might be a little wet, but it’ll be great,” Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Cohen said on Monday.

Now in its 38th year, Winter in August is a fundraiser for the chamber and one of the bigger social events downtown — an aldermanic committee meeting originally slated for Tuesday night was rescheduled to avoid conflicting with it. Merchants Row will be closed off and dozens of restaurants and caterers will serve food under two giant tents. The restaurants frequently show off their best work, and awards for taste and presentation are decided by a panel of judges while visitors cast votes for a people’s choice award.

For several years, the event was held in the Center Street alley before that location was closed down. Following a drawn-out, million-dollar renovation, the alley opened last year as “Center Street Marketplace Park,” but organizers said the newly planted grass needed longer to take root before the park could hold such an event. Cohen said the park was not a part of planning discussions for Winter in August this year.

“That might be an option for us in the future,” she said. “We were still focused on Merchants Row.”

Even Merchants Row has proven problematic as a location, with weather fears frequently triggering relocations to the Vermont Farmers Food Center.

In addition to the food, Cohen said there will be activities including a putting green supplied by Otter Creek Fun Center and a performance from Born to Dance, a newly opened downtown dance studio. On top of all that, Cohen said, the event will host a delegation from Vermont Brew.

“It’s a new organization that’s trying to get an arena football team going up in Middlebury,” she said. “They’re going to have some players there and a throwing contest.”

Admission is $15. Children under 10 get in free.


ap photo  

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.


“Elizabeth has a super organization and her campaign is hot. But we’ve seen hot candidates before. August is no guarantee of what happens in February.”

David Axelrod, who helped run former President Barack Obama’s winning Iowa campaign, on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s momentum after Democratic candidates visited the Iowa State Fair this past weekend. A2

Tough rules

Officials say federal guidelines make it difficult for a senior companion program in Rutland County to find volunteers. A3

Jail issues

Attorney General William Barr says there were “serious irregularities” at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life as he awaited trial on charges he sexually abused underage girls. B4

RHD Hotspot


“Tunesdays” on the Farm Featuring Pittsford native, Logan Riesterer. Bring a blanket and a picnic dinner, or visit our food vendors. $5 per family suggested donation, 6-8 p.m. Pittsford Village Farm, 42 Elm Street, Pittsford,