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Chittenden County

October 30, 2013

This Week's Issue: Hunting Trouble, Prison Sex and an M.I.A. Delegation

Cover103013While you're putting together your Halloween getup tonight — bonus candy for anyone in a homemade F-35 costume — give this week's news and politics stories in Seven Days a read. Here's what you'll find.

Pick up this week's issue in print, online or on the app. Finally, go Sox.

October 29, 2013

Morning Read: Housing Trust to Overhaul Motel for Emergency Housing

MorningreadIn fiscal year 2012, the 59-room Econo Lodge on Shelburne Road collected $184,732 from state coffers in exchange for housing homeless Vermonters with nowhere else to go. The motel was one of the top recipients of state funds for that service, which officials say is a last resort when shelter beds are full. 

Now the arrangement appears to be permanent. As VT Digger reported yesterday, the Champlain Housing Trust is converting the former Econo Lodge into an emergency housing facility called Harbor Place. Alicia Freese writes that CHT's plan goes well beyond rebranding the roadside motel:

There’s one key difference between Harbor Place and the state-administered program, according to Chris Donnelly, director of community relations for Champlain Housing Trust: “Under the current system, someone who was accessing the motel voucher program would be put into the Econo Lodge and then they’d wake up in the morning and try to get on with the rest of their life,” Donnelly said. “In this program, there will be services to help them right on site.”

The Econo Lodge overhaul comes after months of debate about how best to house Vermont's homeless population, particularly when shelter beds are full. Spending on motel vouchers spiked dramatically in recent years, reaching $4 million in fiscal year 2013, and lawmakers have been sharply critical of that spending. 

"Once we make that one-night investment, that money’s just gone," Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) told Seven Days last December

In response, the Legislature capped model spending at $1.5 million for FY2014, and the Department of Children and Families constructed a point system — which was subsequently amended — to limit those who received free motel rooms. Harbor Place, Freese reports, is designed to partially fill the void created by the downsizing. 

The Econo Lodge overhaul is happening fast. Digger reports that after Monday's $1.85 million sale, CHT plans to reopen Harbor Place within a week. Most of the funding is coming from a Vermont Community Loan Fund loan, and CHT has already signed on at least 10 partners in the effort, including the state and Fletcher Allen Health Care.

It's a deal that state officials can happily endorse. DCF is reserving 30 rooms at the former motel for its voucher program, for which CHT will charge the state just $38 per room a night. DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone estimates the new deal will save the state roughly $250,000 a year. 

And he's pleased about more than just the savings. Yacavone told Freese that Harbor Place has the potential to provide much better service for its residents than a motel ever could. 

“By bringing the [case] manager in, it makes it look entirely different than just putting someone up in a hotel,” he told Digger. “That’s a really exciting opportunity to provide wraparound services to families in a transitional housing unit.”

October 23, 2013

This Week's Issue: Front Porch Forum's Banhammer; Bernie for Prez 2016?


This week's issue of Seven Days gets into the Halloween spirit, so grab a growler of Donovan's Red and sit down with these news and politics stories:

Get this week's issue on newsstands — that creepy zombie gas-mask thing is hard to miss — at, or on the iOS app.

October 22, 2013

Burlington City Council Passes Three of Four Gun Control Measures

Photo (2)The Burlington City Council covered a lot of ground in its meeting last night. It passed a second round of amendments to the city’s livable wage ordinance, approved a purchase power agreement related to the possible installation of solar panels off Sunset Cliff Road, and heard from members of the public once again about the basing of F-35s in Vermont.

But the items that generated the most public interest throughout the evening were four resolutions related to gun control, which had been proposed by the council’s charter-change committee and that came to vote by night’s end. The council passed three of the four.

The three successful resolutions will ban firearms in any business with a liquor license; require gun owners to store their weapons in locked containers; and allow police to seize firearms when domestic abuse is suspected. But by a 10-4 vote, the council struck down a measure that would have required individuals concealing firearms to carry a permit.

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Passes Three of Four Gun Control Measures" »

October 17, 2013

This Week's Issue: The State of Tech in Vermont


The Vermont Tech Jam comes to Burlington this Friday and Saturday, and Seven Days is marking the occasion with a package of technology-focused stories in this week's issue. Read about the world-leading companies that call Vermont home, one of iTunes' most popular kids podcasts, and an eerily intelligent robot that lives in Lincoln.

If you're looking for something even newsier, we've got that, too.

Get this week's issue on paper, online or on the app.

October 08, 2013

F-35 Foes Making Final Push to Sway Burlington City Council

F-35-btvF-35 foes are escalating their protests against hosting the next-generation fighter plane at Burlington's Air Guard station in anticipation of a final decision after November 4. About 100 demonstrators jammed the hallway outside Burlington City Hall Auditorium on Monday evening to hear Progressive city councilors and leaders of the anti-F-35 coalition denounce the plan. A brass band on the steps of city hall serenaded protestors arriving for the rally (pictured, right).

"Burlington," activist Paul Fleckenstein told the cheering crowd, "can be the Waterloo of the F-35."

F-35 opponents are focusing their lobbying efforts on three Democratic city councilors: Kevin Worden (Ward 1), Bryan Aubin (Ward 4) and Tom Ayres (Ward 7). If the three targeted Dems vote with the council's four Progs and independent Sharon Bushor (Ward 1) — and if Mayor Miro Weinberger approves — Burlington could still go on record as rejecting the Air Force's plan to station up to two dozen F-35s at the city-owned airport. Such an expression of opposition by the Air Force's "preferred" host city might influence the final basing decision expected in less than a month.

Continue reading "F-35 Foes Making Final Push to Sway Burlington City Council" »

October 03, 2013

Burlington Council Grounds F-35 Vote Due to "Gap" in Insurance Coverage

F35The city council's contentious debate over basing the F-35s at Burlington International Airport has been temporarily grounded. The reason: lack of insurance in case the city gets sued.

On Thursday afternoon, Burlington City Council President Joan Shannon announced that she's postponed the debate and vote on a resolution that was scheduled for the council's October 7 meeting, next Monday. That resolution would have clarified the council's position on whether the next-generation fighter jets should be based at BTV — and possibly recommend that decision's delay. 

Also postponed was the scheduled public hearing, which was expected to draw a large crowd of both F-35 supporters and opponents.

"Our purpose is not in any way to avoid the vote," Shannon emphasized. "There still will be a vote."

Continue reading "Burlington Council Grounds F-35 Vote Due to "Gap" in Insurance Coverage" »

Forums Begin to Discuss Proposed New School Calendar

PhotoParents and students from all over Chittenden County packed the Essex High School cafeteria last night to respond to a proposal that would permanently change the school calendar. Members of the Champlain Valley Superintendent's Association were surrounded, literally. When their efforts to keep the meeting orderly — by getting attendees to write down their reactions on pieces of paper — failed, facilitators passed around mics instead.

The first in a series of four forums this month stayed mostly civil, but the parents who spoke up were largely against the idea of shortening the traditional summer vacation by two weeks to create three "intercessions" during the academic year. One of the goals of Calendar 2.0, which has been proposed for schools in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, is to increase the number of opportunities to identify and help struggling students. 

The idea is that the intercessions would allow students who fall behind in classes to catch up, while giving other students a chance to pursue internships and enrichment opportunities. 

Continue reading "Forums Begin to Discuss Proposed New School Calendar" »

September 28, 2013

Rachel Siegel Appointed Director of Peace and Justice Center

Lm-siegel-thorsen-073113Burlington City Councilor Rachel Siegel, a Progressive Party member and social-change activist, has been named executive director of the Peace and Justice Center.

Although the nonprofit center has been financially troubled in recent years, Siegel said it has regained enough financial security to be able to hire its first paid director in three years.

Siegel's position will be half-time initially, expanding to 40 hours a week when funding becomes available, she said. That may take "several months," Siegel added. She starts work on Tuesday, October 1.

Siegel declined to reveal how much she will earn in the post — except to say the center "practices what it preaches," and she'll be paid more than the "livable wage" of $13.94 an hour that Burlington sets for its own employees as per city ordinance. The PJC commissioned the study that determined that amount 13 years ago.The executive director job also comes with benefits, Siegel said.

The Burlington mother of two will be leaving her part-time jobs as a children's dance and gym instructor at the Burlington YMCA and as a social-skills coach for students at the University of Vermont's College of Medicine. Siegel said she intends to "devote 100 percent effort" to her council post and the PJC job.

Continue reading "Rachel Siegel Appointed Director of Peace and Justice Center" »

September 25, 2013

Vermont Remains "Preferred Alternative" to Host F-35, Air Force Says

* UPDATED below with links to final Air Force report *

The Vermont Air National Guard is well positioned to host a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, an Air Force official said Wednesday. 

A final environmental impact statement prepared by the Air Force and received by the Vermont Guard Wednesday lists its South Burlington air base as the military's "preferred alternative" to host the planes, Air Force spokeswoman Kathy White said. While that means Burlington's odds of getting the planes are "favorable," White said, it's not a done deal. 

Once the final environmental impact statement is entered into the federal register next week, Air Force leaders will have 30 days or more to make a final decision. 

"The Burlington Air National Guard station is the preferred alternative in the final EIS to receive the F-35 operational air craft," White told Seven Days. "So that means that right now it looks favorable the Guard's first operational F-35 will be stationed there."

Continue reading "Vermont Remains "Preferred Alternative" to Host F-35, Air Force Says" »

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