Legislature: city’s local option tax must return to voters - and other news

The proposed city charter approved by voters in March cleared one legislative hurdle this week, then hit another.

As reported in the April 18 Winooski Bridge, a statewide sportsmen’s group last month told lawmakers they oppose a city charter provision regulating firearms possession. The gun language predates the changes approved by voters this March. It was discussed by city officials during pre-vote discussions, and was left unchanged. Last month, however, the sportsmen feared that approving the new city charter might be seen as state approval for local gun-control regulation, which they saw is forbidden by a “sportsmen’s bill of rights” law passed in the 1980’s. According to Rep. Clem Bissonnette, this problem was resolved by language changes that satisfied all parties concerned.

However, the House Government Operations Committee did recommend another significant tweak: before exercising the one percent local option tax made lawful by the charter change, it must seek voter approval. If the city waits several years before levying the tax, voters may see matters differently then, the committee reasoned. A similar requirement was made for the St. Albans charter, Bissonnette said.

City officials welcome discussion about dog concerns

by Gail Callahan
It started as a handful of postings on Winooski's Front Porch Forum, and the topic is a matter of concern for some residents and city officials alike.

Winooski City Manager Katherine “Deac” Decarreau indicated she hoped residents, who have concerns about dogs, or who would like to see a dog park established within city limits contact the City Council. She also asked residents to speak with law enforcement officials, and not to assume complaints are known just because they are posted on Front Porch Forum.

"People need to go to City Council meetings," Decarreau said. "If people are interested in (a dog park), they should make requests and start the conversation."

Decarreau said city officials will also shortly begin to examine best use for open land in Winooski. She also noted that there's been mention around town about the construction of a dog park, but no one is certain about a location.


City charter OK delayed by gun rights challenge

 Vermont’s oldest sportsmen’s organization has challenged the Legislature’s approval of the proposed charter changes approved at the March City Meeting.

Evan Hughes of Barre, vice-president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, told the Vermont House Government Operations Committee Wednesday, April 17 that his organization is concerned that legislature approval could be seen as state government acceptance of local gun control. A section of the Charter not put before voters appears to give the city the power to control the possession and use of firearms. The language predates 1980’s legislation called the “Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights,” which was written to pre-empt and override local gun control ordinances, he said.

With City Manager Deke Decarreau and Reps. Clem Bissonnette and George Cross looking on, a Gov Ops committee member asked whether the Federation had brought this issue to Winooski’s attention before the March vote. Hughes responded that they didn’t know about it and that it is impossible to track every municipal vote. Now is the time to amend the charter because a “yes” vote could be construed as legislative approval of local gun control ordinances, he said.

It is unclear whether the Legislature or the City may satisfy the Federation without voter approval. The Legislature Council promised Gov Ops to study the problem and report back.

City Council news:
Non-profit would renovate city’s tax sale homes, rent to new American families

A community organization told the City Council Monday, April 15 about its plan to renovate tax-delinquent Winooski homes and rent them to new American families.

The Vermont Children’s Foundation said its plan would turn delinquent properties into full-value property taxpayers, and would “boost neighborhood values with tasteful renovations,” according to a presentation by spokesperson Cyrus Patten.

Here’s how VCF’s plan would work: the city would acquire the tax lien at auction, and hold the property for a year while VCF plans renovation. The city would then turn the property over to VCF for cost. VCF would renovate the home and begin the family support program, which would help new American families into an affordable, sustainable rental situation that could, possibly, lead to home ownership.
Proceeds would help fund VCF programs providing low-income children with therapeutic, wellness, and sporting activities not otherwise paid for.

The Council listened attentively to the preliminary presentation but took no action. Winooski is the first city to be approached with this proposal, and VCF plans to “start small,” Patten said.

Other news from 4/15 City Council meeting:
Food shelf open this Saturday - The city food shelf will be open Saturday at 10 am, at the Winooski Methodist Church across from City Hall. Donations may be dropped off at Sally’s Flowers on Main Street. The third Saturday of the month is the scheduled day for distributions at the food shelf.

$1000 raised for scholarships - A Dollars for Scholars dance held last Saturday, April 14 raised $1000 for local scholarships, Councilor Seth Leonard reported.

School, city score big, five-year afterschool grant - the Winooski school and city together have won a $96,000 “21st century” federal grant that will enhance the city and schools’s afterschool programs, city official Ray Coffey reported. The grant provides $96,000 for K-12 for each of the next five years. Afterschool assistance has been identified as a major need for helping Winooski’s young new American population successfully adjust to their new lives.

The federal grantors repeatedly praised the city and school for their outstanding cooperation, citing it as one of the major reasons for Winooski winning this extremely competitive grant.

Green Up Day - will be held Saturday, May 4, beginning at 9 am. For more details, contact Dan Conant and the City Environmental Board at Winooskieboard@gmail.com.

F-35 data manipulated? - Eileen Andreoli, an opponent of the F-35 deployment to the Vermont Air National Guard base, told the council about a recent Boston Globe article citing manipulation of data about the F-35, which may have a bearing on actual noise levels of flights over Winooski. More information can be seen at Vermont Digger, the state’s premier online newspaper. The article also includes information on Rep. George Cross’s unsuccessful anti-F-35 legislation.

Winooski seeks more airport input - Mayor Michael O’Brien reported that the City is interested in developing representation in the governance of the Burlington International Airport. Adding a city representative to the airport’s board would require a charter change by the City of Burlington, which owns the airport. At present only Burlington and S. Burlington have seats on the airport board. O’Brien reported there has been some discussion of either privatization or regionalization of Vermont’s largest airport. Privatization is rare and has a mixed track record, he noted.

At present the airport is looking for a new executive director and has recently hired a marketing director. As a subsidiary of the City of Burlington, its ability to borrow money is saddled with the City’s poor bond rating.

Public Works Director search down to final three - a pool of 37 applicants for the city’s Public Works Director position has been whittled down to three, City Manager Deac Decarreau said. Former director Steve Palmer left earlier this year to join a new business that trucks natural gas to business sites.

Youth want more protections from smoking - a video produced by Thane Asselin of Weaver Street was a key part of a presentation to the city council by several local teens about youth smoking. The video, which includes some scenes from Winooski, may soon be viewed at the website for the Winooski Coalition for a Safe and Prosperous Community, www.wcspc.org.

Asselin, a senior at Winooski High, has studied video editing at school for several years. “Children are easily manipulated, and to be constantly exposed to advertising is not something I would like to see in a small community like ours,” he told the council. Mayor O’Brien commended the young people saying, “if you recommendations to make to the council, please come in and we will listen.” WCSPC said results from a Winooski survey about youth smoking will be available soon.

Non-profits receive city funding - Eleven not for profit organizations received a total of $20,000 of donations from the City of Winooski for 2012, the council decided. Eighteen organizations submitted requests for $36,815. The council agreed that all of the organizations are, worthy, but that resources are limited and difficult decisions needed to be made.

Recipients included Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, $2000; Chittenden County Humane Society, $1000; Local Motion, $1000; St. Francis Xavier School, $1000; VT Cares, $500; VNA, $2000; VT Center for Independent Living, $500; Winooski Family Center, $5000; Women Helping Battered Women, $1000; Child Care Resource Center, $2000; and YMCA, $4000. Those denied funding included American Red Cross, COTS, GBIC, the Howard Center, Northern VT Resource, and the Winooski Valley Park District. All of the applicants had petitioned for funding earlier this year, emphasizing the services they provide to Winooski residents.

Winooski news round-up:

VSAC Selects Scott Giles As New CEO - Scott Giles, a vice president of Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) on East Allen St. since joining the organization in 2003, has been chosen to succeed longtime President and CEO Don Vickers. Giles will take the reins on July 1, when Vickers retires after 42 years with the organization.

Prior to joining VSAC, Giles held positions in Washington, D.C., both on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. He staffed the House Committee on Science; the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions during Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords' chairmanship; and the office of Congressman Frank Horton of New York State.  He also worked as a public affairs consultant in private practice and for Cassidy & Associates.

Library storytime hoursTuesdays, 10:30 Winooski Library next to the O'Brien Community Center. All preschoolers welcome. Parking available, activities include stories, songs, fingerplays, sometimes games and arts and crafts.

HAM DINNER at Methodist Church April 20 – the Winooski United Methodist Church across from City Hall will hold a ham dinner with all the fixins’ April 20. Adults $10, children $5. For reservations call 879-2841.

Internships, apprenticeships offered – Omega Electric on Commerce Ave. in South Burlington, just off Lime Kiln Road, is looking for career-track apprentices for its electrician program, company officials announced at a press conference last week. Anyone with an interest or background in the building trades is encouraged to apply. The company’s phone number is 862-0517.

Also, Winooski High School students looking for a fun and interesting internship, or a meaningful summer job, might want to consider the organic farm at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps which also has an organic farm. The Farm at VYCC is offering a brand new spring internship to WHS students this spring. Interns will learn how to grow organic vegetables and put on a community meal using the commercial kitchen in the Monitor Barn. Their work will be part of a season-long program that provides fresh, local vegetables to 300 families all summer. Interns will also have scheduled time to complete homework with help from teachers. Participation could lead to a paid summer job on the farm. The internship runs April 29 through June 7, school days, 3:00 - 6:00 pm. Transportation provided.

This opportunity is funded by the Partnership for Change. For information and to apply, students may contact Ms. Charron in the guidance office, or call John.Woodward@vycc.org - 434-3969 x136. Reach out today - Deadline to apply is Friday, April 19.

WHS Baseball, softball games at home Saturday - Saturday, April 20 Varsity baseball and softball teams will play at home vs. Williamstown at 11am.

Historical Society movin’ on up to the Third Floor of Champlain Mill

The Winooski Historical Society Museum located on the 2nd floor in the Champlain Mill for the last 8 years has been closed since the first of the year in preparation for its move up to the 3rd floor of the Champlain Mill.  The new location of the Winooski Historical Society Museum will be just inside the 3rd floor entrance and across the hall from the Mill Museum. 

The Tarrant brothers (Owners of the Champlain Mill) have made this new location available to the Winooski Historical Society. The Tarrants believe this new location will attract more attention and that the Mill Museum and the Historical Society Museum are an important part of the history of Winooski.

Members of the WHS have been working ion removing walls and building display stations in the new location. They are close to finishing the remodeling.

 The Historical Society Museum moved their collection of artifacts to the 3rd floor location on the 16th of April and hope to have it all sorted out and properly displayed and open to the public once again some time in early May. The self-guided Museum will be open Monday through Fridays from 8 Am till 5 PM daily. Those seeking information about the Museum may Contact society President Rita Martel at 655-1846 or Al Blondin at alalfie@comcast.net.

Click here to read back issues of the Winooski Historical Society newsletter.


Vermont education commissioner wants school consolidation study

Armando Vilaseca, Vermont Commissioner of Education, told the Winooski School Board Dec. 12 he will recommend a Vermont Department of Education study on possible consolidation of services with other school districts.


School board names new superintendent

Editor’s note: the Bridge intentionally “skipped” a week knowing that the big “breaking news” for Winooski was set for this week – the selection of a new superintendent of schools. Longtime community newspaper reporter Gail Callahan makes her Bridge debut below. The next issue will be published as scheduled Thursday, April 18.

By Gail Callahan

The Winooski School Board named Sean McMannon Wednesday evening as the District's new superintendent.


High-tech manufacturer considers expansion that could add 100 jobs

A large Winooski manufacturer and employer has announced tentative plans to expand. According to district environmental commission documents on display at City Hall, Biotek Instruments has filed for permission to build a 180’ x 60’ two-story addition on the southern end of its building on Tigan Ave.


Voters elect Tipson, Leonard to Council, approve all charter changes

City voters March 5 approved all of the proposed charter changes, including (narrowly) a local option tax. The changes must now go to the Vermont Legislature for final approval.