Heartland Communities of America expects to begin permitting on its plan to redevelop the College of St. Joseph campus next month and is open to resuming talks with Rutland Free Library, the company’s representatives said this week.
The project, which would see the campus converted into 200 units of senior housing and related facilities, also has a new overseer. John Kalish, who developed the Community College of Vermont campus in downtown Rutland, has joined Heartland as its director of regional development.
“John came to us as an interested developer, and we saw the benefit of having him alongside us,” project manager John Weatherhogg said.
Kalish said he had been sad to see the college closed, but encouraged by Heartland’s interest in the campus.
“It’s the right project at the right location at the right time,” he said.
Kalish said they have partnered with Ziegler, a Nashville-based private equity firm, on financing the $66 million project. He said the company hopes to make its applications to the city next month and start the Act 250 process in September, closing on the property, which is still owned by Heritage Family Credit Union, by the end of the year.
“We are in the process of now compiling that application, all the consultant reports,” he said.
The current version of the plan involves taking down all of St. Joseph’s Hall. Early on, Heartland had planned to sell the building to the library to serve as a new location for the library. Heartland pulled out of those talks, however, in part because of concerns that some of the opposition to the library moving could derail the overall permitting process.
“We did want the library to tidy up their situation,” Weatherhogg said.
Kalish and Weatherhogg said they were open to resuming talks with the library and are looking for other partners to purchase parts of the property for uses that will create “synergy” with their facility and the city recreation center in the former CSJ gym.
“We haven’t heard from the library folks,” Weatherhogg said. “If the library folks were to come back and come strong, we’d have that conversation.”
Library director Randal Smathers said he was surprised to hear that Heartland had any interest in resuming discussions since it was the company that had kicked the library out of the project.
“I don’t think it is our role to invite us back to their project,” he said.
Smathers said the library was still sorting through its facilities options, but had “not even a starting point.”
“We have been working with Casey Gecha from NBF Architects to see what our options might be at 10 Court St. ... and doing what I was doing previously, which is talking to anyone who has interest in the location of the library,” Smathers said. “We had sincere interest in CSJ. When that went away, we needed other options. ... It was clear talking to the public about the move that many more people than we thought did not like this facility.”
Smathers said they hope the possibility of increased federal money for library projects might add to their options. In the meantime, he said, one of the library’s boilers has died, and Smathers said he has been unable to find a contractor who can even give him an estimate for its replacement.
“As far as the building, I’m trying to get just the basics taken care of,” he said. “We cannot run this building with just one boiler. ... This is one of the big-ticket items we’ve been worried about coming down the pike.”
The city is retuning its shopping cart ordinance as it tries to figure out how to get Walmart’s attention.
The Charter and Ordinance Committee held a second meeting Wednesday on keeping shopping carts off city streets. Stores that make use of shopping carts had been invited to send representatives. Managers from Price Chopper and Tops showed up, but city officials said Walmart — identified by at least one alderman as the largest source of rogue carts — was unresponsive.
“What we really need to do is get Walmart to the table,” Alderman William Gillam said.
Price Chopper manager Dave Bishop said the locking system the downtown supermarket installed on its carts the last time the city made an issue of them was not working, but they were getting a new one in the “very near future.” Meanwhile, he said the store had someone going out to collect carts twice a week, which they were willing to increase to four times a week.
Bishop said people who want to leave with the carts have found ways to disable the locking system.
“It does alleviate, probably 75% of the carts, I would imagine,” he said. “The system is a very expensive one for us. Repairing the carts is also an expense.”
Bishop said Price Chopper would like to see the city ticketing the people who take the carts.
“If we do not enforce that side of it, they’re going to keep doing it,” he said. “Locks are made to keep honest people honest. ... If we both do our parts in the ordinance, it’ll go away.”
Similarly, representatives from Tops said they regularly collect their shopping carts and have a small enough inventory that they can usually tell when some have gone missing.
Judy Frazier, the city’s director of risk management and government operations, said she also sent letters about the meeting to both Dollar General locations in the city. She said the manager of the North Main Street store called and said that they checked the carts nightly and none were missing. Frazier said she had not heard from the other location.
Alderman Devon Neary said the city should look at the issue as a “public transportation gap,” but also supported firming up the ordinance, which allows the city to seize stray shopping carts and then sell or scrap them if stores don’t pay to get them back. The committee ultimately recommended the full board have the city attorney draft an update that would require stores to submit cart control plans to the city, outline what the city expects to see in this plan and to have a more specific enforcement mechanism.
BRANDON — After 44 years in education, Judi Pulsifer is moving on.
The longtime principal and teacher at Neshobe Elementary School retired last month, capping a career that touched the lives of scores of area children.
Growing up in Rutland, Pulsifer first got a taste for teaching in high school where she worked with children in special education classes. The experience stuck with her. She attended College of St. Joseph, initially deciding she wanted to be a special educator.
After graduation, she took a job at Forest Hills School — the predecessor to Neshobe — first as a reading teacher and then as a combined first- and second-grade teacher. She also kept her hand in special education, overseeing the school’s program with fellow teacher Melody Wilson.
In the early 2000s, she made the jump to the administrative side, becoming Neshobe’s assistant principal. Six years later, she was promoted to principal.
Throughout her career, Pulsifer said she strove to created a sense of community.
“I feel very strongly that every child needs to feel they belong,” she said. “The closest thing to a community they had was their family at home. So we created a school family here at school. And when I became an administrator, it was my goal to create that kind of feeling throughout our school.”
Molly Bull, who is a counselor at Neshobe, believes Pulsifer succeeded.
“She created a family at Neshobe School,” said Bull. “There was just such a feeling of connection and kindness and accepting of everybody no matter what. And that really started from her.”
Bull said she didn’t know Pulsifer prior to arriving at Neshobe two years ago, but said they have become close — especially as they worked together during the pandemic.
“As a school counselor, we sometimes have to deal with the most difficult situations. And Judi has such an incredible relationship with so many people in the community and so many parents that difficult conversations coming from Judi just fall differently,” she said. “Just watching that connection she could have and calm a student down and help them through really difficult things was just amazing to watch.”
Bull said the lessons she has learned from Pulsifer went beyond the practical matters of running a school, noting how she interacted and connected with students, families and other professionals “in a kind, compassionate way.”
Along the way, Pulsifer has learned some lessons of her own.
“The one thing I’ve learned is, you can learn a lot of book knowledge and you can certainly increase your expertise and your skills, but the most essential thing is that you can look into the heart of a child and see each child as an individual,” she said.
She’s also seen a lot change in education during the past four decades.
Pulsifer explained that schools are now better attuned to identifying and addressing learning disabilities that went undiagnosed in the past, as well as using trauma-informed practices to address students’ social-emotional needs so they are best equipped to learn.
“I think back to when I was early teaching — how little we knew about how the brain really worked,” she said.
But Pulsifer acknowledged that while times have changed, it hasn’t all been for the best.
“Our children are exposed to a lot of things,” she said. “In the course of my 44 years, I’ve seen what drug addiction has done to families. I’ve seen, certainly, violence has increased — what they see on television, what they’re exposed to in video games. I think our children are growing up much faster than they did in the past.”
Those challenges aside, she said she has enjoyed every single day at Neshobe.
“I have loved my career,” she said. “For 18 years, I’ve unloaded the buses every single morning and greeted every child coming to school. Working with children has certainly brought joy to my life.”
In an email, Jeanne Collins, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, called Pulsifer a “consummate principal.”
“Her stable and child-focused leadership has made Neshobe School a state-of-the-art learning environment. Her dedication to this community has come through over and over,” she wrote. “I thank her for her years of leadership and contributions, and I wish her the very best as she moves forward in her own journey.”
On the school’s Facebook page, parents and former students also wished Pulsifer well.
“You have always been my favorite teacher. I am very blessed and thankful to have had you a part of my life during a tumultuous childhood in 1st and 2nd grade back in the early ’90s. Thank you! Enjoy your retirement you’ve certainly earned it,” wrote Jerilyn Langsdon.
Lori Mohan stated that all children should be lucky enough to have Pulsifer as “a part of their schooling years.”
Ethel Disorda thanked Pulsifer for her service, writing, “You have made a lasting impression on not only the kids, but the parents.”
“I can’t even imagine Neshobe school without Mrs. Pulsifer,” stated Wendy Coons Bizzarro. “I am forever grateful for all you have done for my girls. You will always hold a special place in all of our lives. Thank you so much for your selfless dedication to all of our children, and I hope you have a long, happy and relaxing retirement.”
In retirement, Pulsifer plans to take some time to enjoy life.
“I have two adult children, I have a husband, and I have a grandson — and I have lots of friends. I really would like to have a less scheduled life that I really have time to truly enjoy the people in my life,” she said.
“My goal was that I wanted to retire while I still loved what I did. And I certainly have achieved that goal.”
Kick the tires
Sticker shock has alleviated somewhat as bloated used-car prices deflate just in time to offer a sliver of hope for those of us jonesing for a post-pandemic deal. A8
Manchester’s Applejack Stadium is getting lauded by people outside of Vermont as a must-visit field for sports fans. B1