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Groups fail to reach agreement over mosquito pesticides

GOSHEN — Negotiations have broken off between the local mosquito district and the environmental group appealing the district’s state pesticide permit, and the matter will now go before a judge.

Last year, the Toxic Action Center appealed the Agency of Natural Resources’ decision to allow the BLSG Insect Control District to spray mosquito-killing chemicals under the state’s pesticide general permit. The center’s main claim is that the district hasn’t met its requirements dealing with monitoring the effects of the “adulticide” chemicals on water and organisms that aren’t mosquitoes.

The Toxic Action Center is a New England-based environmental group with an office in Montpelier and members who live within the BLSG Insect Control District. The district was formed in 1979 to control mosquito populations in the towns of Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury and Goshen. Pittsford has since joined, and Proctor pays for some level of service as well.

The district is run by a board of directors with representatives from member towns. The board’s chairman, Ben Lawton, said Tuesday that while the center’s filings claim it wants more information on the chemicals being used, what it’s been asking for is the district to cease using the chemicals altogether.

The district controls mosquito populations in two main ways, by using larvicide and adulticide. Larvicide only works on mosquito larvae. It’s a bacteria that kills the insects before they become adults. Adulticide is a poison used to kill mosquitoes after they’ve hatched. The district gets money from the state for larvicide, but not adulticide, which it pays for with funds from member towns.

Lawton said the district was willing to reduce some of its adulticide use, and he thought the two sides were close to a deal, but it didn’t happen. He said he plans to meet with the select boards of the district’s member towns to bring them up to speed on the state of the appeals case.

Woody Little, Vermont community organizer for the Toxic Action Center, said Tuesday his group is disappointed that an agreement couldn’t be reached. He said it’s a shame the district has chosen to spend money fighting the matter in court rather than complying with the law.

Mason Overstreet, staff attorney for the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, housed at Vermont Law School, said Tuesday that early on in the process, Environmental Court Judge Thomas Walsh strongly urged both parties to reach an agreement through informal negotiation. Since the parties weren’t able to, both will now file motions for summary judgment. Overstreet said each side has until April 1 to do so. Each party will then be allowed to file a response and a reply. Overstreet said the court indicated that a decision might be made sometime in June.

Fighting the case has led the district to spend substantially more on legal fees than it expected to, which led to it asking member towns for more funds this coming fiscal year.

Lawton said in a past interview that the district has budgeted $25,000 for legal fees in the coming fiscal year. It spent $20,000 in the last one, but had only budgeted for $150. The difference came from other places within the district’s approximately $99,000 annual budget.

“The pesticides at issue in this case — malathion and permethrin — are harmful chemicals used to control mosquitoes but also kill other wildlife,” said Little in a release. “The World Health Organization deems malathion a probable carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency determined that malathion is ‘likely to adversely affect’ the endangered Indiana Bat, which inhabits the BLSG district. Four other species of protected bats are likely to be impacted by the spraying. The neighboring Lemon Fair Insect Control District manages mosquitoes without using toxic pesticides.”


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Early Valentine’s flowers

Bea Walker, resident at The Meadows in Rutland, puts some finishing touches on her Valentine’s Day bouquet. Members of the Rutland Garden Club visited residents to help assemble bouquets.

Help for the helpers: agency offers support for family caregivers

Having a loved one with dementia can be stressful enough. Taking care of one can be exhausting.

The Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging and Rutland Mental Health announced a program Monday that offers free counseling services to people acting as caregivers for family members. The service is available to any unpaid family caregivers age 60 and older, or any family caregivers who are caring for an individual who is age 60 or older. Referrals can be made through SVCOA.

Aaron Brush, one of the coordinators, said there is some leeway on the ages because people in their 50s are increasingly being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but the key is that the caregivers are unpaid.

“They’re not doing this for a living,” he said. “They’re doing this on top of whatever else their life is, out of the goodness of their heart.”

The program is not necessarily limited to caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Brush said, but those diseases account for the majority of family caregivers. As such, the most readily available statistics on caregivers concern Alzheimer’s and dementia. Brush said in 2015, 30,000 Vermonters spent a total of 34 million hours taking care of relatives with the two conditions, and that effort took a toll.

“They call our agency, oftentimes they’re overwhelmed,” he said. “They’re burnt out or they’re getting burnt out. ... Most of them are already struggling financially, and they don’t have the means to pay for support.

Brush said a variety of respite care options are available, but that depression is common among family caregivers, and sometimes they need more support than just a break. The program will offer one-on-one counseling services, in the caregivers’ homes if necessary. Brush said the organization is limited to 15 caregivers who will be able to get as many as 12 sessions each in the course of a year.

“It definitely isn’t a lot,” he said. “Rather than try to get a large quantity of caregivers served, we’re trying to provide the highest level of support and counseling we can without stretching too thin. ... It’s going to be on kind of an as-come basis.”

Cinda Donton, who performs the counseling, said caregivers often don’t take good care of themselves and frequently don’t know how to maintain good boundaries with the family members they care for.

“If you’re dealing with people who have dementia, most of us aren’t equipped for that and they don’t know how to be with the person anymore,” she said. “You have to learn a whole new way of interacting with people.”

As an example, Donton said, it’s counterproductive to ask people with memory loss what they did during the day. She said caregivers also tend to get stuck in unnecessary conflicts they can’t find their way out of, and that counseling can help them see the situation more clearly.

Brush said that caregivers often don’t want to seek help.

“It’s kind of like the proud Vermonter thing,” he said. “They’re trying to juggle their own lives and their families. ... They don’t want to ask for help until they’re burnt out, very, very stressed. We want to get to them before they get to that point.”


Police search for missing ice fisherman

BENSON — State Police were still searching Tuesday evening for a Benson man who disappeared after setting up his ice-fishing equipment Monday night. While his vehicle was found submerged in about 22 feet of water late Tuesday afternoon, first responders and police dogs could not find the man and suspended operations for the night because of a snowstorm.

Sgt. Chris Scrodin said State Police are working as quickly as they can.

“Plenty of (local) folks are trying to help,” Scrodin said.

At around 7:13 p.m. Monday evening, Marsha Wiktorski began to worry when her husband, Lee Wiktorski, 61, didn’t return home from his ice-fishing trip on Lake Champlain.

“Out there is a fishing sled, tip-up, fishing poles and an auger,” said Scrodin, of the New Haven Barracks, who added he’d been on patrol on Singing Cedars Road since 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. “It kind of looks like he drilled a hole, set up the tip-up, put the bait on it ... it looks like he set them up, but not completely ... like he didn’t finish, for some reason.”

Scrodin said there are vehicle tracks both onto and off of the ice, and there can be anywhere between 1 inch and 10 inches of ice in some places.

At around 1:30 p.m. Monday, Scrodin said, a firefighter in Benson said he saw someone matching Wiktorski’s description inside a silver 2001 Dodge Dakota truck driving down to go fishing, something that locals told him happens often.

“My understanding is out here, sometimes there’s plenty of ice,” Scrodin said. “But in some cases there’s only a couple of inches.”

Wiktorski’s tip-up was set up a fair distance from the shoreline, Scrodin said.

A search effort overnight included multiple first responders on the ice in the vicinity of Singing Cedars Landing, and support from a helicopter crew from the U.S. Coast Guard based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“They flew until they had to go for fuel,” Scrodin said. “They walked from Buoy 39 up on Chittenden Point, they set flares off.”

Efforts were expanded Tuesday to include the Vermont State Police Dive Team and two airboats, along with an aircraft from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In addition to the above agencies, assisting in the search are Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife game wardens, Benson Fire/Ice Rescue, and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to police. Despite the frigid temperatures, scuba teams were dispatched to help.

In an update shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday, police said sonar had picked up a target in the water and dispatched divers to the scene. Though the divers were able to find Wiktorski’s vehicle, the truck was empty and Wiktorski was not found.

The search is expected to resume when conditions permit Wednesday, police said.

“We’re talking minutes,” Scrodin said. “Once you’re wet, it’s minutes.”

Anyone with information about Wiktorski’s whereabouts is asked to call the Vermont State Police barracks in New Haven at 802-388-4919.


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Jacob James, second-grader at Northwest Elementary School, posts a paper heart in the window of Speak Easy Cafe.


Be mine

Second-graders from two Rutland schools decorate downtown businesses with Valentine hearts. See a full page of photos. A5

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