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Runner-up from house giveaway takes $10k offer to come to Rutland

Candice Britt knew she wanted to come back to Rutland, and Green Mountain Power made it a lot easier.

Britt and her husband, Matt Britt, were among the finalists last year in GMP’s house giveaway, and they are the first of the finalists to take advantage of the utility’s consolation-prize offer of $10,000 to help relocate to Rutland. Originally from North Carolina, Britt previously lived in Rutland from late 2015 to early 2017.

“I used to work at a bed and breakfast in Killington,” she said. “One of the things I loved about Rutland was when I moved, it was an instant sense of community. ... Within a month’s time, I was going to Rutland Young Professionals events. Within two months time, I was helping out with the events committee. ... I loved how everything revolved around helping each other. The school’s having a raffle or the Rotary’s selling Christmas trees in the park. That was lacking where I come from. I came from a large metropolis. I wanted the small-town feel, and now I have it.”

Organizer Steve Costello said the regional marketing initiative has stayed in touch with several of the semi-finalists, applying the same approach it does to families that have visited Rutland for Stay-to-Stay weekends. He said they avoid “selling” people, but focus on building connections to locals who will help answer the sort of questions that crop up when someone moves to an unfamiliar community.

“I think we’ve been trying to provide really honest and accurate information and trying to show them the community, warts and all,” he said. “We don’t want people to make a life-changing decision they regret. ... This isn’t Shangri-La, but some people do like it.”

The Britts, who closed on a house on Davis Street earlier this month — Matt Britt has a job in graphic and digital design at Heritage Family Credit Union while Candice Britt said she expects to do something in hospitality — already had some of those connections. Candice Britt said they have been living in Ballston Lake, N.Y. for the past two years, but since they married they have talked about where they wanted to live, and Rutland kept coming up. She said they likely would have come to Rutland eventually even without $10,000 from GMP.

“It would have taken us a lot longer,” she said. “We knew we wanted to get back to Rutland and that would have been our plan regardless. The incentive made it happen sooner.”

Costello said the $10,000 comes from a GMP charitable giving fund not fed by ratepayer revenue. Also, he said other finalists may yet take advantage of the offer.

“There’s a couple other families that we’re optimistic (about) — you never know,” he said. “They’re giving it serious consideration.”


Spartan Death Race picks up fallen Town Hall chimney

PITTSFIELD — The Town Hall chimney has fallen down, but participants in the Spartan Death Race were on hand this week to gather up the bricks.

The chimney collapsed Saturday, and it just so happens that the 2019 Spartan Death Race is being held this week. The race has participants complete various obstacles and challenges and has been held around Pittsfield since 2010, said race director Jason Barnes in a Thursday phone interview.

Barnes said the race has a tradition of incorporating public works projects. He said Select Board Chairman Charles Piso contacted him after the Town Hall chimney collapsed. About 70 racers worked Wednesday to clear up every bit of brick left on the ground in less than an hour.

Barnes said fostering a sense of community is one of the things the race aspires to do, and events like this help make that happen.

“The roots of the Death Race, Peak and Spartan are here in Pittsfield, and we couldn’t host the event without the support of the community,” said Andrew Hostetler, a Spartan Death Race leader, in an email. “While we want to make life for Death Race participants as difficult as possible, we always want to support the town and give back as much as we can to make life easier for residents and help improve the community — whether that be through public service projects like picking up after a storm or collecting canned goods and money to support the place we owe so much to.”

The chimney’s collapse wasn’t a complete surprise, said Selectwoman Ann Kuendig, since people noticed last year that it was leaning out a bit. This is what prompted the town to have the entire building looked over by an engineer, who then concluded the floor was unsafe as well. The town then discontinued the building’s use as a meeting hall.

On Town Meeting Day, held in the nearby Pittsfield Federated Church, voters approved the creation of an exploratory committee to see what could be done with the Town Hall. Kuendig, who serves as chairwoman of the committee, said it has met about four times since March and is about to roll out a survey aimed at gauging what residents’ feelings are regarding the historic building.

She said the survey will be on the town’s website soon, and is going out with the tax bills next week.

About 14 people had expressed interest in joining the committee when it started, said Kuendig, but eight now regularly make meetings.

“It’s a wonderful variety of people,” she said. “They bring a lot of different experiences to the table. We have engineers, designers and long-term residents who can show us a historical perspective.”

She said the committee has reviewed the engineering report that declared Town Hall unsafe for gatherings and is working on outlining what it would take to make the building usable as a meeting hall. She said extremely rough, early estimates indicate doing this might cost between $35,000 and $40,000.

She said it costs about $7,000 per year to keep the Town Hall where it is.

The committee doesn’t have an official position on what should be done with the building, she said. Its mission at this stage is to find out what the options are, what the costs might be, and what most townsfolk want done with it.

Aside from surveys, Kuendig said there will be public forums during which people can talk about what they want to see done, but those have yet to be scheduled.

According to the committee’s research, Town Hall was built in 1830 by Methodists to serve as a meeting hall.

It got moved from one end of the Town Green to the other in 1855.

In 1859, the town bought it and moved it again. It moved to its current location in 1934.

Town Hall consists of a ground floor and a basement, said Kuendig. Some of the beams in it are so old they’re round logs with the bark still on them. Under the false ceiling, there are lightbulb outlets covered by iron framing implements. Kuendig said these were put there to protect the bulbs when the place was used as a basketball court.

The potential costs would be a concern at any time, Kuendig said, but right now the town is grappling with more than $1 million in storm damage from rains in April. She said there’s been a federal disaster declaration, which will pay the majority of those costs, but Pittsfield has a small tax base and any large expense is easily felt.


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

To Infinity and Beyond

Rutland Free Library was out of this world Thursday afternoon during the Astronauts in Training program it held for the public. Seen here, aspiring astronauts wear helmets they created from paper bags after completing various space-themed activities in the library’s Fox Room.

Citizenship question
Trump abandons bid to include citizenship question on census

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump abandoned his controversial bid to demand citizenship details from all respondents in next year’s census Thursday, instead directing federal agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

“It is essential that we have a clear breakdown of the number of citizens and non-citizens that make up the United States population,” Trump said at a Rose Garden announcement. He insisted he was “not backing down.”

His reversal comes after the Supreme Court blocked his efforts to include the citizenship question and as the government had already begun the lengthy and expensive process of printing the census questionnaire without it.

Trump had said last week that he was “very seriously” considering an executive order to try to force the question’s inclusion, even though such a move would surely have drawn an immediate legal challenge.

But he said Thursday that he would instead sign an executive order directing agencies to turn records over to the Department of Commerce.

“We’re aiming to count everyone,” he said.

The American Community Survey, which polls 3.5 million U.S. households every year, already includes questions about respondents’ citizenship.

Critics have warned that including the citizenship question on the census would discourage participation, not only by those living in the country illegally but also by citizens who fear that participating will expose noncitizen family members to repercussions.

Keeping the prospect of adding the question alive could in itself scare some away from participating, while showing Trump’s base that he is fighting for the issue.

Trump’s 2016 campaign was animated by his pledge to crack down on illegal immigration, and he has tied the citizenship question to that issue, insisting the U.S. must know who is living here.

An executive order, by itself, would not have overridden court rulings blocking the question, though it could have given administration lawyers a new basis on which to try to convince federal courts the question passes muster.

Trump had previewed his remarks earlier Thursday at a White House social media event, where he complained about being told: “’Sir, you can’t ask that question ... because the courts said you can’t.’”

Describing the situation as “the craziest thing,” he went on to contend that surveyors can ask residents how many toilets they have and, “What’s their roof made of? The only thing we can’t ask is, ‘Are you a citizen of the United States?’”

The Census Bureau had stressed repeatedly that it could produce better citizenship data without adding the question to the decennial census, which had not been done since 1950.

The bureau recommended combining information from the annual American Community Survey with records held by other federal agencies that already include citizenship records.

“This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost,” deputy Census Bureau director Ron Jarmin wrote in a December 2017 email to a Justice Department official.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, ultimately rejected that approach and ordered the citizenship question be added to the census.

Trump’s administration has faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, beginning with the ruling by the Supreme Court temporarily barring its inclusion on the grounds that the government’s justification was insufficient. A federal judge on Wednesday also rejected the Justice Department’s plan to replace the legal team fighting for inclusion, a day after another federal judge in Manhattan issued a similar ruling, saying the government can’t replace nine lawyers so late in the dispute without satisfactorily explaining why.

Refusing to concede, Trump had insisted his administration push forward, suggesting last week that officials might be able to add an addendum to the questionnaire with the question after it’s already printed. He has also toyed with the idea of halting the constitutionally mandated survey while the legal fight ensues.

Trump has offered several explanations for why he believes the question is necessary to include in the once-a-decade population count that determines the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years and the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending.

“You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons,” he told reporters last week, despite the fact that congressional districts are based on total population, regardless of residents’ national origin or immigration status.

If immigrants are undercounted, Democrats fear that would pull money and political power away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants tend to cluster, and shift it to whiter, rural areas where Republicans do well.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called Trump’s efforts “outrageous” and accused him of pushing the question “to intimidate minorities, particularly Latinos, from answering the census so that it undercounts those communities and Republicans can redraw congressional districts to their advantage.”

“He thinks he can just issue executive orders and go around the Congress, go around established law and try to bully the courts,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. He predicted the effort would be thwarted by the courts.

House Democrats next week will vote on holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Ross in contempt for their failure to comply with congressional subpoenas investigating the issue.

Alarmed by last week’s change of course by the administration, the plaintiffs in the New York census citizenship case already have asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to permanently block the administration from adding the question to the 2020 census. Furman has set a July 23 hearing on the request.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United Way gets shoe program off on the right foot

The United Way is looking to make sure local children are covered from head to toe.

The organization’s Rutland County chapter intends to double the size of a hastily launched program buying shoes for children in need and develop companion programs for hats and gloves, Executive Director Caprice Hover said Thursday.

“It was something we started off the cuff last year because we saw the need,” she said.

Hover said during discussions at a local food bank, she learned that a number of school teachers were paying out of their own pockets to buy shoes for their poorer students. She said she managed to scrape together $2,500 out of the United Way’s budget and got Carris Reels to match that with another $2,500, paying for 100 pairs of shoes. These were distributed in Rutland City, Fair Haven, Castleton and Brandon.

“Unfortunately, we live in a high-poverty area,” she said. “Parents can buy some shoes at Walmart, but they don’t last. They’re wearing them for everything — indoors, outdoors, recreation. We thought we could partner with businesses and get some high-quality shoes and then maybe if they outgrow them, they could bring them back to the school.”

Rutland City Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Rob Bliss, who worked with Hover on the project in the city schools, called it “another great example of how United Way of Rutland County sees a need and works to fill it.”

Now, Hover said, she wants to cast a wider net.

“We did not get countywide schools,” she said. “When schools open in September, we’ll be making a personal visit to each school and dropping off a flyer. ... We had an anonymous donor that provided $5,000. We need to match him.”

At the same time, she said, they are working with BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont on getting gloves and Foley Services on getting hats.

Hover said it was hard to guess the total need.

“I could easily see 30 per school, and there’s a lot of schools,” she said. “I would gauge, if we did this right, we’d be looking at 500 to 1,000 pairs of shoes a year.

Hover said the United Way fell short of its fundraising goal this year — the $550,000 they are projected to finish with is better than last year’s $480,000, but still short of the aimed-for $575,000.

“We need to get back up closer to $600,000 to even start to meet the need,” she said. “I think we’re really in a rebuilding mode.”



“It sickens me that this is this is the United States of America. We are so much better than this.”

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington state, a former immigrant advocate, commenting on the Trump administration’s plans for a nationwide immigration enforcement operation this weekend targeting migrant families. — B4

Drake takes it

With a masterful final round, Drake Hull soared to his third straight Vermont Am championship, matching the record set by Rutland Country Club’s most celebrated member, Tom Pierce. B1

Water rising

New Orleans, already seeing widespread flooding, in anticipation of Tropical Storm Barry, threatening to blow ashore with torrential rain and punishing wind. B4

Courtesy Brandon Music  

The Twangtown Paramours – Mike T. Lewis and MaryBeth Zamer – perform at Brandon Music Oct. 13.

RHD Hotspot


Acoustic duo

Twangtown Paramours, a husband and wife acoustic duo. A hybrid of the Nashville and Austin music scenes. 7:30 p.m. Concert tickets $20. BYOB. $20, 7:30-9:45 p.m. Brandon Music, 62 Country Club Road, Brandon,, 247-4295.