The president of the Board of Aldermen has used his authority to compel a committee meeting for the first time in recent memory.
Board President Matt Whitcomb said Wednesday he is scheduling a meeting of the General Committee for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 5 on the subject of whether to place a referendum on the March ballot regarding Rutland High School’s use of the “Raiders” nickname.
The School Board voted last week to retire the team name and the arrowhead logo as culturally insensitive — the duo are relics of when the team name was the “Red Raiders” and the school had a Native American chief as its logo and mascot.
Last week’s decision triggered a backlash that included a pair of threatening electronic messages sent to Chairwoman Alison Notte.
Prior to that, in early September, while the issue was already generating significant discussion in the community, the Board of Aldermen voted to have a committee discussion on putting the issue to a city-wide vote.
Alderwoman Melinda Humphrey, the committee’s chairwoman, refused to schedule the meeting, saying she felt the subject was outside the board’s purview, pointing to an instance last year of a committee chairman declining to schedule a meeting.
“I’m someone who, if someone makes a referral because they feel there’s conversation warranted, I don’t want to shut down conversation regardless of whether I agree with what’s being discussed,” Whitcomb said on Wednesday.
Whitcomb said he did not immediately use his authority to compel a meeting after Humphrey’s refusal because he did not want to interfere with the School Board’s process. With that process complete, he said he still sees a “burning desire” for discussion. He said he also sees a need for discussion, though not necessarily the one that could happen at the General Committee meeting.
“There is a much larger issue in this community that centers on identity and nobody’s talking about it — or they try to talk about it and get shut down,” Whitcomb said. “If we have this conversation, it needs to be followed very soon by a conversation on bias and the way it affects the community.”
Meanwhile, Whitcomb said the discussion at next week’s committee meeting needs to be limited to the advisability of placing a non-binding resolution regarding the name on the March ballot.
“You’re going to hear commentary around understanding or lack of understanding where people are coming from and why a vote could be helpful to the community or damaging to the community,” he said.
In an exchange of emails, Humphrey stated she would be “unable” to attend the meeting, so responsibility for running it would fall to the vice chairman, Alderman Paul Clifford. Asked whether she was truly unable to attend, or her absence was a protest, Humphrey replied, “Right now, I don’t know of a time that I won’t be unable to attend that meeting.”
A rusty frame will take the town’s most heavily used fire truck off the road by summer, while its replacement won’t be in for a few months after that.
The Select Board voted Tuesday to purchase a Rosenbauer firetruck from Specialty Vehicles Inc., pending a review of the contract by the town’s attorney.
The truck will cost the town about $670,000, with 90% of the cost being paid up front, which will get the town a $22,000 discount.
The Select Board will take most of this from the firetruck depreciation account, leaving about $100,000 in the account for emergencies, while obtaining the balance from another account.
The new truck will replace Engine 3.
Select Board Chairman Joshua Terenzini said that during the summer the town learned this would be the last year the truck could pass state inspection, given the rust damage to the vehicle’s frame. The truck is 22 years old and according to the town’s replacement schedule wasn’t set to be swapped out for another two or three years.
He said Fire Chief Chris Clark worked quickly with the department’s firetruck replacement committee and the board’s fire department committee to seek bid proposals for a new vehicle.
At the meeting, Clark said the proposal from Specialty Vehicles Inc. met all the town’s specifications. Some bids were rejected because they didn’t meet the town’s specifications.
“Roughly 40% of Rutland Town’s fire department 911 calls are for automobile accidents,” Terenzini said, adding that he believes this is because both routes 7 and 4 run through it.
Engine 3, because it holds most of the town’s extraction equipment and can spray foam onto burning vehicles, is the engine that’s sent to all vehicle crashes, in addition to most other calls.
“The argument can be made that this truck is utilized just as much if not more than any other truck in our fleet due to the sheer volume of calls we get for car accidents,” he said.
The engine will have to be inspected again in June, meanwhile it’ll be over a year before the new truck is in service.
Joseph Bevilacqua, of Specialty Vehicles Inc., said many people don’t realize how customizable firetrucks are and that the town did a good job of making its needs clear. He said it takes about 395 days from when a contract is signed to deliver a truck. At the 365-day mark, the buyers typically travel to where it’s being built for a final inspection that leaves the company with enough time to address anything that was missed.
“You’re really looking at 14 or 15 months, maybe 16, before the thing is sitting in the station ready to respond to calls,” he said.
Clark said the department will figure out a way to transfer the vehicle crash equipment from Engine 3 to another truck while the town awaits the new engine. He doesn’t think this will be a problem, but the details haven’t yet been worked out. He said the department was waiting to see whether it would get the new truck or not.
Terenzini said that because this throws the truck replacement schedule off a bit, some board members were thinking about increasing the annual amount put into the replacement fund. Right now Rutland Town taxpayers put about $156,000 per year into the fund. Terenzini said this has allowed the town to get what it needs in a timely manner without having to borrow money or raise taxes.
A Rutland man is facing the possibility of at least six years in jail after police accused him of sexually assaulting a woman in Castleton on July 27, 2019.
Jacob Lorman, 19, of Rutland, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Rutland criminal court to two felony counts of sexual assault.
If convicted, Lorman, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident, would face a mandatory minimum penalty of three years on each and a maximum term of life in prison.
Lorman was released without bail but ordered not to contact the woman who accused him of sexual assault.
The charges are based on an affidavit written by Detective Sgt. Jesse Robson, of the Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation from Troop B-East in Westminster, who said he became involved in the case on July 28, 2019, after the case was referred to the State Police by the Castleton Police Department.
Robson said he interviewed a 20-year-old Rutland woman on July 29, 2019, at her home. She said the alleged assault took place July 27, 2019, after she went to a party in Castleton with friends.
The woman, who is now 21, said she had been drinking at the party and eventually, she, Lorman and two other people, a man whose age wasn’t given and a 17-year-old girl, left the party and went to a nearby field. She said she brought the 17-year-old girl because Lorman and the other man had said they were going to make a sex tape even though she said she took that as a joke.
The woman said she and Lorman separated from the other two and she said he took her hand and forced her to touch him. She said he forced her to perform oral sex even though she told him she didn’t want to do it.
According to the woman, Lorman was so aggressive, she began to vomit. She estimated he continued for about 20 minutes although she was crying and telling him she didn’t want to continue.
Robson said the woman told investigators that Lorman insisted she get on top of him. She said after a brief time he let her remove herself “cause I was crying so much.”
The woman said she was on her back on the ground trying to get her clothes back on when Lorman got on top of her and eventually forced her into oral sex again. She said she was vomiting again.
The woman said she managed to send a text message to a friend who found her later. She said she left and didn’t know what happened to Lorman.
Both of the woman’s parents told police she told them what happened on the same night as the alleged assault. They said they took her to Rutland Regional Medical Center to get a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination.
The woman’s friend said she had gotten texts from the woman that night asking for help. She said when she talked to the woman, the woman said, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do.” The friend said the woman couldn’t breathe because she was crying so hard.
In early August 2019, police recorded two conversations between the woman and Lorman. The affidavit said Lorman apologized repeatedly but said he didn’t remember what happened that night.
The 17-year-old who was with the woman, Lorman and the second man told police on Aug. 20 that the woman had been “all over Lorman” and was “being flirtatious.”
Robson said in the affidavit that he had approached Lorman’s attorney Heather Ross, about interviewing Lorman on Oct. 22, 2019, but the interview wasn’t arranged until 10 months later, and more than a year after the alleged incident, on Aug. 20.
Lorman said he didn’t remember the incident but said “he thought he was taken advantage of.”
“Jacob wished to clarify that the apologies he gave to (the woman) while being recorded by police were his way of sympathizing but not accepting that he hurt her,” Robson said in the affidavit.
A call to attorney Heather Ross, who represents Lorman, was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
A news release from the Vermont State Police about the Lorman case was sent around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, although Lorman was arraigned Monday. Releases are usually sent earlier, allowing the media to be present for an arraignment.
By email, Adam Silverman, the public information officer for the VSP, said the delay was because of a miscommunication between the State Police and the Attorney General’s Office. The Vermont Attorney General is prosecuting the case because the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself.
“For that same reason, the Vermont State Police investigation was assigned to a detective from outside the greater Rutland area, to ensure the investigation’s impartiality and ability to proceed without favoritism to any party. VSP policy is to send news releases prior to arraignment, and we have addressed this issue,” Silverman stated in the email.
CASTLETON — Castleton University opened to a very different kind of semester this fall. The coronavirus pandemic kept some students away, with more than 80% opting to stay off campus. Also, those living on campus had to adjust to a different experience that included remote classes, facial coverings, social distancing, quarantines and limited opportunities for social gatherings.
The pandemic also presented a challenge to students and clubs working on social issues, forcing them to find new ways to engage the school community and get their messages out from a safe distance.
Earlier this month, the Student Government Association raised the Black Lives Matter flag on campus. The dedication ceremony drew more than 50 people, according to the Spartan student newspaper.
Matthew Patry, director of student activities, said a Pride flag will be displayed alongside the BLM flag in a ceremony scheduled for next semester.
Senior Raynolds Awusi is an SGA delegate who was involved with the BLM flag effort. He is also president of the soon-to-be-approved campus chapter of the NAACP.
In an email, Awusi wrote that the chapter, which is in process of being approved, has resorted to virtual meetings because of COVID-19.
He stated that his goals with the new chapter are “to be an outlet to combat racism, and to support anyone who is afraid of discussing any discriminatory or racist issues they may experience on campus or even off.”
“My long-term goal is to educate, educate students who may not understand what their peers have to go through, but are willing to learn,” he wrote, adding that he would like to similarly engage faculty and staff so they will be more receptive to having conversations on race with students.
Awusi stated he plans to educate people about what Black Lives Matter “truly means.”
“Saying ‘BLM’ does not discredit other races, we are simply pleading for basic human rights.”
“Too often we forget what others go through because it does not affect us,” he noted. “This NAACP chapter will shine light on issues minorities deal with each day, and, hopefully, everyone can have a better understanding and can be more helpful.”
Viviane D’Amico is a senior and president of Spectrum Pride, an LGBTQ-inclusive club that works to create a comfortable environment for people within the CU community. D’Amico noted that although the club is LGBTQ-inclusive, it is not LGBTQ-exclusive and allies welcome to join.
D’Amico, who is living on campus this semester, said things are “definitely different,” and acknowledged that people have been exceptionally busy.
“It’s been hard to do much more than just make sure the club is still running,” D’Amico said.
In the past, Spectrum has advocated for more gender-inclusive housing on campus and led trainings for community advisers. D’Amico said the club plans to hold another such training this winter.
A small club with about nine members who meet weekly, D’Amico said they have worked to keep the bond between members strong. To that end, D’Amico started a pen-pal initiative to keep members on and off campus connected.
Another Spectrum member is working on creating an infographic poster explaining various “terms and identities” that would ultimately be displayed around campus, pending SGA approval.
Looking toward next semester, D’Amico said they are working on a project to provide faculty and staff with educational resources about gender and sexual identities to help them better support LGBTQ+ students.
“I’ve overall had a positive experience (at CU), but I’ve heard that some people have had less positive experiences,” D’Amico said. “I think it kind of depends on the people you encounter while you’re on campus and the departments you end up involved with.”
Junior Aris Sherwood is a journalism major living off campus in Rutland. In June, Sherwood was one of the co-organizers of the Black Lives Matter rally held in the city.
She agrees that the pandemic has made it difficult to connect and organize with people.
“It’s definitely really difficult to feel like you’re in a community when you’re not there, and community is one of the biggest things when it comes to activism,” she said, adding that she has tried to stay connected virtually.
A copy editor at the Castleton Spartan, Sherwood said she has been writing about issues such as Black Lives Matter. She recently wrote an article about the police department reform protests in Burlington. She said her writing has been her outlet for activism.
“I think the most important thing to remember is that even though you are home, and you are alone, these are still conversations we need to have,” she said.
Senior Adrianna Maher is a global studies major living at home in Burlington this semester.
“I had originally planned for being on campus and being active, setting up voter registration tables and things like that, but my plans have since shifted,” she said.
Maher has been using social media to get the word out and texting friends to remind them to vote.
She also writes for the Spartan. Recently, she wrote a piece about why voting matters.
Maher characterized political engagement and awareness of social issues as low among CU students, calling poor voter turnout numbers among students in recent election cycles a “disappointment.”
According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University, CU students who are eligible to vote consistently turn out in fewer numbers than students overall at public four-year institutions.
“We’re on campus — it’s a little bubble, and I think it’s hard to try to convince (students) to pop that bubble for themselves,” Maher said. “They want to stay comfortable.”
“I think that’s kind of the big thing that myself and some others are trying to accomplish is popping that bubble.”
With the inevitability of winter on the way, the region’s recreation departments brainstorm to find way forward. A3
Race to finish
Democrat Joe Biden vowed he’d rely on science to fight the COVID pandemic while President Trump said a Biden victory would result in U.S. depression. A6
Louisiana gets slammed by the latest Atlantic storm, Hurricane Zeta, with heavy rainfall, power outages and sustained winds up to 110 mph. A8