A local housing authority has been awarded over $200,000 in grant money to help seniors remain in their apartments.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Friday it awarded $239,000 to Rutland Housing Authority. The funds are among $28 million HUD has awarded to public housing authorities across the country for promoting employment and self-sufficiency, according to a release from HUD.
Kevin Loso, executive director of Rutland Housing Authority, said Friday the grant money will be spent during the next three years. It funds the housing authority’s residential services coordinator position, which serves the residents of Templewood Court and Sheldon Towers. Many of these residents, he said, are elderly and the housing authority works with VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region, Vermont Council on Aging, Rutland Regional Medical Center, primary care providers and others to help residents continue to live on their own.
Loso said the residential services coordinator works with residents to put them in contact with the services they need. Also, the coordinator plans community events aimed at preventing social isolation among residents. Loso said while the housing authority isn’t an assisted-living facility, it’s often a few little things that lead to seniors having to move into nursing homes or other care facilities.
He said the coordinator also helps residents move back and forth between hospital stays and rehabilitation facilities.
The position serves residents in 134 units, Loso said.
“There’s never a shortage of something to do, that’s for sure,” Loso said.
Loso said the housing authority first received this grant in 2008 and has been happy to see it renewed every three years since. The program also helps seniors get jobs or volunteer positions if they’re able to work and want to do so.
According to HUD, this funding is through its Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency-Service Coordinators Program. Visit bit.ly/1222HUDprogram for more information.
“Providing families who live in public housing the opportunity to invest in themselves is a win-win as it helps them to gain economic and housing independence,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a statement. “Today, we’re investing in our residents, offering them the tools they need to build a brighter future for themselves and their children.”
A familiar face around Rutland County has been lending her talents to Planned Parenthood.
Tabitha Pohl-Moore, of Wallingford, was recently named to the board of trustees for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Pohl-Moore said in an interview Friday she was contacted a year ago by a current trustee, Kesha Ram, a former Vermont House representative and candidate for lieutenant governor, who thought Pohl-Moore would make a good trustee.
Pohl-Moore is president of the Rutland area branch of the NAACP and Vermont director of the NAACP. She’s also a training coordinator at the University of Vermont, a member of the Vermont State Police Fair and Impartial Policing Committee and a member of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council’s Fair and Impartial Training Committee. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and school counselor as well.
“It’s a very diverse board. It’s people from all over New England,” Pohl-Moore said.
The terms are for three years, she said. Pohl-Moore sits on the board’s Development Committee, which handles fundraising.
Pohl-Moore said she believes the board tapped her because of her experience with underserved and marginalized populations. Bringing those populations “reproductive justice” is one of Planned Parenthood’s goals for the coming years and Pohl-Moore feels she can help further them.
The board meets quarterly, Pohl-Moore said, but between committee meetings and other projects it’s more of a time commitment than four meetings a year. She joined the board in the fall.
One of the projects she’s working on with fellow board member Melinda Moulton is a series of forums for people who used Planned Parenthood services to hear how the organization could improve.
She said the organization seems to be in a good place right now, but is keeping an eye on elections and who is holding federal offices. Since 2016, the organization has been concerned about federal funding being cut. Pohl-Moore said the group hopes to do more with public education and outreach regarding the services it provides and where money for those services comes from.
According to Eileen Sullivan, Vermont communications director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Pohl-Moore received an individualized bachelor’s degree from Wells College in the psychology of Latin America in the context of its language and culture, and a master of arts degree in marriage and family therapy from Syracuse University. Pohl-Moore also has an advanced certificate in diversity, social Justice and inclusion from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
Pohl-Moore isn’t the only person with a Rutland County connection to join Planned Parenthood recently. The group announced that Karsen Woods, a Castleton University graduate from South Burlington, joined the board of trustees as well.
According to Sullivan, Woods graduated from Castleton in 2017. Two years prior, she founded “Castleton Generation Action: The Student Voice of Planned Parenthood,” the school’s first feminist-action club.
“As someone who has benefited from health care at Planned Parenthood, I wholeheartedly support its mission and look forward to doing all that I can to ensure access to essential and equitable health care for all,” Woods wrote in a statement. “Health care, rooted in choice, enables women to live a life of self-determination, as it should be.”
There are 16 people on Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s board of trustees, according to the organization.
“Our board members’ energy and commitment to our mission make our work possible, and we’re incredibly fortunate that (Pohl-Moore) and (Woods) are committing their time and talents to PPNNE,” said Meagan Gallagher, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a statement.
For years, according to Chief James Larsen, the city held off on replacing equipment for firefighters in order to pay for firetrucks.
That’s changing, Larsen said this week, with Rutland City approving the replacement of a wide variety of long-outdated items, but the trucks still need replacing, too.
“We have a tower ladder truck that is well beyond its expected life,” he said, referring to a 1986 vehicle — tower ladders have an elevated platform similar to a cherry-picker. “Typically, we like to replace those every 20 to 25 years.”
Asked how the 32-year-old tower ladder truck was working, Larsen smiled and paused.
“It’s been out of service for its annual inspection for several weeks,” he said. “The problem is, it’s so old that no one stocks the parts. We have some front-end and tie-rod work that had to be done and those parts have to be manufactured because no one makes them for it because it’s so old. ... Our tower ladder is the only remaining one in Rutland County.”
Larsen said the city is waiting to hear on a $1 million federal grant application, but even if the city gets the $1 million — the most the feds will give a municipality for a piece of fire equipment — the city will still have to come up with $300,000 to $500,000 to cover the remainder of the truck’s cost. After that, he said, the department will have a few years’ respite, but not many — the ladder truck is due to be replaced in 2026 and Engine 3 reaches the end of its life expectancy in 2030.
While firetrucks are large single expenses, plenty of other pieces of fire equipment can add up quickly. New turnout gear for the department — the pant-and-coat combos worn while fighting fires — purchased earlier this year cost a total of $68,000. Larsen said the outfits had a 10-year lifespan — it’s been 14 years since they were last replaced — and that they had greater implications for firefighter safety than people might realize.
An extensive study published in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that firefighters suffered from an increased incidence of a wide variety of cancers. In particular, it found firefighters were twice as likely to develop mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure.
“We are exposed to very harmful products of combustion,” Larsen said.
Those substances need to be kept not just out of firefighters’ lungs, Larsen said, but off their skin, and the protective outfits need to be washed frequently and thoroughly.
“The good news is, we have the equipment to launder it,” he said. “The bad news is, every time you launder it, guess what happens to the gear. The protective qualities start to diminish over time.”
The air bottles for the department’s breathing gear can no longer be certified after 15 years, Larsen said, and half of the 80 packs the department keeps on hand are up for replacement this year at a cost of at least $1,000 each.
In the proposed FY ‘20 budget, Larsen intends to buy new radios. He said the ones the department has are like those used on construction sites, but firefighters benefit from more rugged radios that are more heat-resistant and less likely to break if dropped.
“Accidents happen in public safety,” he said. “People fall through floors, things are dropped. You need equipment that can withstand it. ... Of course, all that comes with an increase in cost. Today’s portable radios are in the $5,000 range.”
In the early 2000s, the newly created Department of Homeland Security handed out grants left and right so fire departments could buy thermal imaging cameras. Those, which have a $10,000 price tag, have started to wear out. Larsen said the city has replaced one already.
“We have one that’s original to the grant,” he said. “We still use it, but the technology has changed. ... You can’t buy everything you need in one fell swoop.”
So how do you juggle all that?
“I guess what you do is you sit down, and you make a plan,” Mayor David Allaire said.
Allaire said an increase in the equipment fund and a renewed attention to equipment other than trucks was going a long way, but the trucks themselves were going to prove tricky. He said he hopes the city will be able to rely on grants to a significant extent, and he was not sure if voters would be ready to bond for fire trucks if it came to that.
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