The_Valley_Reporter - News http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news Wed, 28 Jan 2015 07:15:50 -0500 en-gb December fire exposes safety issues with older buildings http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10425-december-fire-exposes-safety-issues-with-older-buildings http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10425-december-fire-exposes-safety-issues-with-older-buildings

By Rachel Goff

Recent fires in condos surrounding Sugarbush Resort are prompting the town of Warren to look into zoning laws.

On December 13 at 12:30 a.m., a fire at Summit Condos in Sugarbush Village resulted in damage that took two units out of the rental rotation. In February of 2014, 36 units were destroyed due to a fire at Mountainside Condominium, just up the road.

With the exception of the resort's most recent developments, most of the lodging in Sugarbush Village was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, when building codes were very different than what they are now. Newer developments on the mountain, such as Rice Brook Condominiums that were completed in 2014, don't have any wood-burning fireplaces.

"I think that with construction methods today, gas is a cheaper and safer alternative," Warren Volunteer Fire Department chief Peter DeFreest said. Vermont State Police traced the source of the Mountainside Condominium fire back to the building's fireplace inserts, which are known to heat up over time.

As for the Summit Condos fire, the fire department is taking samples to investigate the source of the flames, but DeFreest thinks it could have to do with the material surrounding the fireplace.

"The suspicion is that, over time, the wood kind of becomes like charcoal," he said. In addition, the fireplaces at Summit Condos are zero-tolerance," DeFreest said. They need air space around them in order to cool, he explained, "but some people have put glass doors in front of them, which affects how hot they get."

Right now, Summit Condos is under a no-burn order from the state. In order to avoid future fires, "I do think the no-burn order is something we should look at," Warren Select Board member Bob Ackland said at the board's meeting on January 13.

It's something the town should look at "for all the condos," chair Andy Cunningham echoed, and the board discussed whether there was some change it could make to the town's zoning laws to prohibit wood fires in older resort lodging, although working with insurance companies is "probably where we could get the most leverage," Ackland said.

Besides older construction codes, one issue that could be contributing to fire damage on the mountain is the accessibility of the buildings in Sugarbush Village. In terms of getting trucks to Summit Condos, "It's always been that there's one lane in and we have to deal with it," DeFreest said. "But I don't know if we have to deal with it. ... We're starting to get a little pushier," he said. "We're starting to look at what we can change."

Looking at changes, however, requires time and money, and "at some point, we need to start looking at it like a paid department," DeFreest said.

Indeed, "In communities such as ours across the nation, they've begun to realize this," Ackland said, resulting in things like impact fees for buildings that help fund local fire safety.

Moving forward, increasing stipends for volunteer firefighters in Warren is up for discussion. If the town were to transition into having a paid fire department, "It would probably start with one or two guys, and then it would go from there," DeFreest said.

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News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:01:16 -0500
WWSU to consider all options on school spending http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10424-wwsu-to-consider-all-options-on-school-spending http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10424-wwsu-to-consider-all-options-on-school-spending

By Rachel Goff

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 14, Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) voted unanimously to apply for a grant from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) to hire an outside consultant to look at school spending.

For next year, "All of our budgets are not set," WWSU superintendent Brigid Scheffert said of the supervisory union's schools, "but we're at a point where we can look at them collectively," she said, and despite the boards' efforts to keep costs down, expenditures are going up.

Right now, Harwood Union High School has a 5 percent increase in overall expenditures and 2.8 percent of that increase is in special education costs as mandated by the state. To offset that increase, the board is looking into cutting programs such as world languages and gymnastics, Scheffert said, "but how much longer are we going to be cutting?" she said. "Where we're at now, there's nothing left to cut."

If it receives an AOE grant for up to $25,000, Scheffert hopes the supervisory union can use it to look at a variety of options to curb school spending while maintaining and even increasing programming. If WWSU is awarded funding, it will form a subcommittee to hire and work with an outside consultant "to look at absolutely everything," Scheffert said, such as consolidating or establishing joint merger contracts between schools.

According to Scheffert, WWSU could use the information they learn from the consultant's study to implement changes, or they could take the information and decide that things work best the way they are.

"When you go after a grant to study something ... you do it to study every opportunity out there and to show that you studied every opportunity out there," Scheffert said. If, in the end, the supervisory union chose not to pursue any of those opportunities, it would have a "greater justification" in continuing to operate as it has been. "We owe it to taxpayers to look at every option out there," Scheffert said.

One option Scheffert gave as an example would be to combine two of The Valley's elementary schools. "Right now we have four schools in The Valley pretty much operating as silos," Scheffert said, and class sizes are becoming so small that some of them are unable to offer the same courses and programming, she explained. "When is too small too small for equal opportunity?" she asked. "Is there a way to share?"

Another opportunity Scheffert gave as an example would be to combine Harwood Union Middle School and Crossett Brook Middle School and divide them up into two separate academies – one for science and math and one for language arts.

According to Scheffert, "This is the one people are probably most invigorated in talking about," she said. In combining the two middle schools, "ideally there could be more money to build what we want to build, which is a more robust after-school activities program," she said, that includes more than just sports teams but also clubs such as a debate club or a culinary club.

As it stands, Valley residents will likely see large increases in their taxes as a result of education spending for next year, and WWSU is acknowledging this by applying for the grant. "I think we have a pretty good chance at it based on our size and our variety," Scheffert said of WWSU. If the supervisory union is awarded funding, "It's a win-win," she said. "Information is knowledge."

Associated: >>WWSU budget up 7 percent, benefits up 10 percent<<

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News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:58:22 -0500
Vermont Music Fest’s fate uncertain http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10423-vermont-music-fest-s-fate-uncertain http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10423-vermont-music-fest-s-fate-uncertain

By Rachel Goff

Last summer, over 4,000 people flocked to Lareau Farm in Waitsfield for the fourth annual Vermont Music Fest. This summer, it might not happen.

"Essentially, I'm debating whether to shut it down," Vermont Music Fest founder Jeff Mack said of the free August event, which evolved organically over the past five years from its first run as Jeff and Kelly Mack's wedding after-party in 2009 to include 79 musicians and 19 food and drink vendors.

"We had a very successful year," Mack said. He always said 2014 would be his last time running Vermont Music Fest so that he could move on to other projects, but "I always wanted it to be beyond me," he said of the event. Now, "what I'm trying to do is find someone who's interested in taking it over," he said. "The idea is there. It's the execution that I'd love to help someone with."

While he is currently spending the winter in Maine, Mack will return to The Valley in May, so he'll be on hand to help someone who is interested in taking over the festival. "I can walk people through anything," he said.

Already, Vermont Music Fest received $1,000 from the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce for next year, but it's an expensive event and it needs more backers, Mack said, suggesting that it could benefit from a crowd-sourcing website such as Kickstarter.

Mack thought he had someone to take over the festival, but that did not work. He is hoping to make a decision on whether or not to continue Vermont Music Fest within the next week, so those interested in becoming involved with the event should contact him at (802) 224-6880 or email jmack@northernreliability.com.

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News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:56:31 -0500
Waitsfield continues work on dog ordinance and will be issuing tickets http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10421-waitsfield-continues-work-on-dog-ordinance-and-will-be-issuing-tickets http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10421-waitsfield-continues-work-on-dog-ordinance-and-will-be-issuing-tickets

By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield's animal control officer can issue tickets to dog owners whose pets are violating the town's dog ordinance.

The tickets are civil infractions that are enforced by the Vermont Judicial Bureau. "Any law enforcement official, constable or dog officer may act as an issuing municipal official and issue and pursue before the Vermont Judicial Bureau a municipal complaint for any dog found to have violated any provision of the ordinance," the ordinance reads.

The first offense costs $50, the second offense $100 and the third offense $150. Dog owners who are issued tickets have the option to pay a waiver fee if they choose not to contest their ticket. That penalty is $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for the third. Subsequent offenses will be ticketed at $200 and the waiver fee will be $100.

The select board, at its January 12 meeting, discussed the issue of how to handle at large dog situations with dog warden and animal control officer Marie Leotta. Leotta and the board discussed the town's practice of taking dogs that could not be easily reunited with their owners to be boarded at Valley Animal Hospital where the owner is charged a boarding fee and a town penalty fee.

The board discussed the fact that issuing civil fines through the Vermont Judicial Bureau would mean that contested tickets would require a town representative to be present during any hearings or disputes.

Other towns, such as Warren, have a dog ordinance that includes the ability to issue tickets up to $500 for each infraction and those tickets are paid directly to the Warren town treasurer. In Moretown, the animal control officer may also ticket dog owners and those tickets are paid directly to the town within five days. The penalties in Moretown are $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $100 for the third with the penalty for subsequent offenses also $100.

Leotta said she thinks the fines will help keep more dogs at home and also said that stricter policies about what happens when lost dogs are found are necessary. As a case in point, she referred to an incident that played out on the social media site Front Porch Forum earlier this week when a woman posted about losing her golden retriever and the owner of a nearby dog grooming business posted about having one dropped off to her. The posts went back and forth between dog owner and business owner with references made to Leotta being called.

Leotta said she took issue with the business owner accepting the lost dog and reiterated that all lost dogs were to be taken to Valley Animal Hospital. She said that in the past she had reached out in a variety of ways to reunite lost dogs with their owners, but she is no longer going to do so if those who lose or find dogs don't call her directly.

"Let's say the dog owner does not read Front Porch Forum; how is posting on a nonsanctioned website going to help?" Leotta wrote in a post on the forum.

The select board will revisit the issue of the dog ordinance in February.

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News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:45:47 -0500
Red Hen Baking Company partners with Quebec farm for locally sourced flour http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10419-red-hen-baking-company-partners-with-quebec-farm-for-locally-sourced-flour http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10419-red-hen-baking-company-partners-with-quebec-farm-for-locally-sourced-flour

  Red Hen Baking Company, Middlesex, has developed a new partnership with a mill and farm located just 150 miles from the bakery in Les Cedres, Quebec. Les Fermes Longpres, operated by the Dewavrin family, is a 1,500-acre organic operation growing wheat, sunflower seeds, corn, buckwheat and soybeans.

The farmers use their own seed saved on the farm for nearly all of their crops and are involved in the development of several new varieties of wheat and other crops. This fall, Les Fermes Longpres has begun the operation of a roller mill located on the farm. This new venture, named Moulin des Cedres, is the culmination of a three-year project undertaken by the Dewavrin family to process the approximately 400 acres of wheat that they grow annually. "Their intention is to partner with just a few bakeries that they can work closely with and Red Hen is excited to be their first U.S. partner," said Red Hen co-owner Liza Cain.

In late November, Red Hen began using the Moulin des Cedres flour in all of their baguettes. In January the mill will be prepared to supply Red Hen with approximately 7,000 pounds of flour every week. "This exciting new partnership with Moulin des Cedres means that when the mill is fully operational in January all of our grain will be sourced within 150 miles of the bakery," said Randy George, co-owner and Red Hen founder.

Red Hen has been a pioneer in the use of Vermont-grown grain for many years. Their popular Cyrus Pringle and Crossett Hill breads are made exclusively with grain grown on two Vermont farms, Gleason Grains and Aurora Farms/Nitty Gritty Grain. Red Hen currently purchases all the flour they can from these two operations.

"Not only will this mean that we are making a huge leap forward with sourcing from local farmers, but we feel that the quality of the Moulin des Cedres flour is exceptionally good. This new flour will make our breads even better," George said. Red Hen Baking Company, which started in Duxbury in 1999 and is now located in Middlesex where they operate a cafe alongside their wholesale bread bakery, bakes and delivers Certified Organic bread throughout Vermont seven days a week.

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News Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:42:38 -0500
Three new business owners report on their first year in business http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10414-three-new-business-owners-report-on-their-first-year-in-business http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10414-three-new-business-owners-report-on-their-first-year-in-business

Editor's Note: The Valley Reporter checked in with the owners of three new businesses that enjoyed their first full year in The Valley in 2014 to see how things were going. Read on for details about Mad River Barn, The Elusive Moose and White Horse Inn.

So far, so good at The Elusive Moose

By Rachel Goff

It's been over a year since Marty Locke and Ginger Delin opened The Elusive Moose Pub & Eatery in the purple bungalow on Route 100 in Waitsfield and so far business has been good.

"Obviously, when the mountain's busy, we're busy," Locke said, referring to the hordes of out-of-staters who flock to The Valley ski areas, lodges, restaurants and bars during the winter. But in addition to the snow seekers, "We seem to have a very dedicated following of locals," Locke said.

In opening The Elusive Moose, the biggest change for Locke and Delin, who used to own a restaurant in New Jersey, has been adjusting to the "abrupt seasonality" of The Valley," Locke said. At times, it feels like "an on-off switch," when ski season starts and ends, he said, but he's excited about the growing popularity of summer sports like mountain biking and moving forward would like to make The Elusive Moose "more of a focal point" for those Valley visitors.

Eventually, instead of restaurants catering to those coming to the area for outdoor recreation, Locke is hoping people will come to the area for the restaurants themselves. "I'm hoping that over time we can make this a food destination," Locke said of The Valley. "There are so many talented people here."

Right now, The Elusive Moose Pub & Eatery serves breakfast and lunch on one side of the building and dinner, bar bites and drinks on the other. Before, the building was split into two separate businesses, Purple Moon Pub and Easy Street Cafe, and "I think if there's anything we need to work on, it's messaging," Locke said, so that people know the two sides of the building are now operating in conjunction.

"Someday, we'd like to knock this wall down and make it one big space," Locke said, but the owners' future plans for the restaurant will honor its history. "This building has been a lot of things since the 1960s," Locke said. "I think eventually we'll pay some homage to that," he said, maybe in the form of putting up old signs or bringing back old bar stools, but for now, "I just want to thank all the locals for being so supportive," Locke said. "What makes this business so rich is not the sales but the relationships we've formed."

Things got busier sooner than expected at Mad River Barn

By Lisa Loomis

"We got busier sooner than we thought we were going to," said Heather Lynds, who with her husband Andy re-opened Mad River Barn on Route 17 in Fayston shortly before the start of the last ski season, after an extensive renovation.

"We've been thrilled. Living here is everything we thought it would be. We're so grateful for the support of the other business owners in The Valley," she said.

How quickly the business grew caught the Lyndses off guard. They exceeded their first year expectations and were delighted to find that they formed such strong relationships with their staff.

"They feel like family to me. We wake up and have fun with the people we work with. We had a feeling The Valley would be like this. We researched it before picking it and it turned out to be true. I love the people here," she said.

The success of the restaurant has been their biggest surprise. The upstairs pub and game room is packed many nights of the week with people ordering a la carte and kids playing foosball.

"We weren't really counting on that when we started but it works for people who tend to enjoy the barn. We try to be very honest with people about the fact that it is loud and there's a lot of activity and people have to be OK with that," she said.

Initially they were offering menu service upstairs and family-style buffet dining downstairs in the dining room, but after this holiday season they've gone to menu service in both places.

In terms of their guests, they found they had a lot of guests from before the inn was closed and renovated as well as a host of new ones and they found that their guests enjoy how social the inn is.

"Andy and I walk around with a grin most weekends. We get so much joy from watching families make memories here. We've got kids who are growing up here at the Barn. It's their weekend getaway," she said.

They have a number of rooms that are small suites where there is room for kids and a separate sleeping area for kids. Those rooms are their most popular and were already booked for the entire ski season by the end of October. So next spring they are going to remodel four of the eight units in the annex building just up the hill from the inn into similar suites.

They are looking for a new name for the annex and are accepting suggestions from locals and guests. The winner gets a free dinner.

Sold out every weekend at White Horse Inn

By Lisa Loomis

In their first year of owning and operating White Horse Inn, Bob Heffernan and Alan Zeiner hosted 5,378 guests, surprising themselves and exceeding their business plan by 71 percent.

"That's pretty surprising considering the place was closed for two years," Heffernan said.

"The biggest surprise was that we were sold out every weekend from July 1 to November 15 at a time we were supposed to be slow. Our year was heavy with weddings and we did some retreats, conferences and foliage buses. We went after the group market because we can, with 26 rooms. Needless to say, a cool thing about White Horse Inn is that the place has paid its bills in its first year," he added.

Their guests were a mix of former customers who had stayed their 5 or 10 years ago and new guests. Last year they had a group of Cornell medical students, the leader of whom had stayed at the inn as a child.

"We have those Cornell students coming in two weeks. It is very gratifying to have all that," he said.

The biggest surprise for the innkeepers was how busy they were on the off season.

"There was no off season. October was as high in sales as a big ski month. That was nowhere in our planning. The Valley is such a vast wedding destination that there's a shortage of hotel rooms on most weekends from July to October. I just had people jockeying for a weekend in July because of a wedding. The Valley can support 5 to 15 weddings a weekend and with each of them attracting 100 to 200 people, there aren't enough hotel rooms," he said.

And with the guests come the questions about what to do and where to eat.

"We didn't realize we had so much power to recommend where people go to eat. We weren't prepared for that. We have a book of menus. It's amazing how much guests lean on us for their recommendation," Heffernan said.

"We found ourselves a big, huge family destination and our guests have big families and there are lots of kids here. We're heavy with children, which is fine by us. Sometimes we get phantom groups, which are groups of people who book independently and when they all get here they show up and have a party. We've had a lot of fun with that," he said.

He and Alan enjoy what happens when a phantom or wedding group take over the inn.

"It's really fun when people know each other and are there to have a great time. It's great to see people telling stories and laughing and having a party," he said.

They are learning how to balance all their new duties and the simple things like going to the post office. They had a rare night with no guests in November so they drove to Montreal for the night. Other times they've sneaked over the hill to Bristol where Heffernan's mother lives.

They've been heavily lobbied by locals to open a breakfast restaurant, but they don't see that happening soon due to parking lot and kitchen limitations. They were sold out for 10 days over the Christmas holiday and are sold out another 10 days coming into the Martin Luther King birthday weekend.

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News Wed, 21 Jan 2015 22:49:02 -0500
Mad 12 fundraiser is successful! http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10413-mad-12-fundraiser-is-successful http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10413-mad-12-fundraiser-is-successful

Thirteen chefs from Mad River Valley restaurants joined together at Round Barn Farm on Monday night to present the Mad 12 Tasting Dinner. Thirteen elegant tasting portions, starting with hors d'oeuvres and ending with two dessert courses, were served to 120 diners during the four-hour meal.

The event, hosted by Charlie Menard of Round Barn Farm and Adam Longworth of The Common Man, required teamwork and close coordination throughout the evening. Chefs, many who were meeting for the first time, helped plate and garnish one another's creations, and the courses were served at 15-minute intervals throughout the night.

Longworth says the dinner built great camaraderie among the chefs: "This is the first event like this since I have been in The Valley that required that the chefs all work together. This will strengthen our restaurant community. We hope to do more events like this in the future."

Charlie Menard was confident that the dishes would be exceptional. However, having never done an event of this magnitude, he knew that the execution of the courses and keeping to the necessarily tight schedule could be a challenge.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the Mad 12, it helps to know the china and glass requirements alone. Each diner had a four-wine flight tasting that required 480 glasses. Some 1,560 plates were needed for the 13 courses.

Menard's plan to keep to a necessarily tight schedule included turning the middle level of the round barn into the food preparation area.

"We had several long tables set up for plating the dishes and as one course went out, we immediately started the next. Servers were steadily streaming between the second level and the upstairs dining area, delivering food all night long," Menard said.

The waitstaff were servers from many of the restaurants participating in the event; all volunteered their time for the evening as did bartenders, bussers and dishwashers. The wine was donated by Joerg Klauck of Vermont Wine Merchants, plates and glasses were donated by Celebration Rental, Dole and Bailey provided some of the restaurants with meats for their dishes and Round Barn Farm provided the space and staff to coordinate the event.

Vermont Farm Fund was the beneficiary of the dinner and 100 percent of the ticket proceeds went to the organization that will in turn use the money to make loans to farmers recovering from emergencies or building their businesses. A silent auction and raffle helped bring the total amount raised to over $20,000.

Chefs participating in the Mad 12 were Tyler Lightheart, Mad River Barn; Ryan Mayo, Hyde Away; Jeff Lynn, Bridge Street Butchery; Iliyan Deskov, Mint; Ethan Chamberlain, American Flatbread; Rich Strub, Big Picture; Adam Longworth, The Common Man; Chris Harmon, The Elusive Moose; Charlie Menard, The Inn at the Round Barn Farm; Todd Dibkey, Timbers; Sue Schickler, The Pitcher Inn; Johnny Vitko, The Sweet Spot; and James Gioia, The Warren Store.

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News Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:52:57 -0500
Waitsfield proposes adopting charter http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10412-waitsfield-proposes-adopting-charter-011515 http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10412-waitsfield-proposes-adopting-charter-011515

By Lisa Loomis

The town of Waitsfield is again holding public hearings on the issue of whether the town should change its charter.

At Town Meeting this year Waitsfield voters will be asked to adopt a new town charter that would have the select board appoint the town clerk and treasurer, rather than have voters elect those town officials.

Last fall the town started the process in hopes of bringing the matter to voters at the November 4 general election, but the timing of the public hearings was off by one day so the issue got moved forward to this year.

The town will hold two hearings, both at 7 p.m. at the town office, one on January 26 and the other February 9.

The proposed charter change comes at the request of the town's budget committee which asked the select board to make the change so that the town treasurer would be more readily available to the select board in terms of financial reporting and accountability.

Currently, under state statute, town clerks and treasurers set their own hours and work agendas. For towns to create their own ways of governance, voters and then the Legislature must approve adopting a town charter that spells out that the select board now has powers formerly vested with voters.

The charter would give the town select board the specific ability to appoint the town clerk and treasurer and "all town officers whose appointment is required by law."

If the charter is adopted, incumbents will serve out the remainder of their terms.

Under a section entitled "Powers of the Town," the proposed charter notes that the town "shall have all the powers granted to towns and municipal corporations by the constitution and laws of this state together with all the implied powers necessary to carry into execution all the powers granted; and it may enact ordinances not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of the State of Vermont or with this charter."

It further notes that the town (select board) can exert powers not spelled out in the charter: "In this charter, mention of a particular power shall not be construed to be exclusive or to restrict the scope of the powers which the town would have if the particular power were not mentioned."

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News Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:49:07 -0500
Local residents create Affordable Education Funding (AEF) proposal http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10411-local-residents-create-affordable-education-funding-aef-proposal http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10411-local-residents-create-affordable-education-funding-aef-proposal

A group of local residents, meeting from May to December of last year, have drafted an education funding proposal to address Vermont's rising education costs.

Members of the group include businesspeople, retirees, parents, teachers, former and current legislators, academics and school board members. The group was formed by Heidi Spear, Fayston, after an education funding summit.

During the course of their meetings, group members created a proposal for legislators and have passed that proposal on to Washington County senators, Washington 7 representatives and House Speaker Shap Smith.

A two-page summary of their proposal outlines their efforts, noting that participants focused on spending and property tax containment.

"The AEF Proposal encompasses three core elements vital to cultivating greater equity of opportunity, sustainability and prioritization of education investments:

1. Establish a data-driven, reasonable cost standard for Vermont public education to target resources and inform voters.
2. Increase predictability and expenditure controls with an equitable and sustainable approach to raising and distributing statewide revenue to school districts.
3. Establish accountability mechanisms that incent local school districts to provide high quality educational opportunities at a reasonable cost, establish a floor on education opportunity and eliminate unfunded mandates," the authors note in their summary.

To implement those measures they propose establishing a reasonable cost standard for Vermont public education, implementing an equitable and sustainable approach to raising and distributing statewide revenue to local schools. They note income sensitivity would be retained for raising the statewide property tax, which they would keep. Spending above the established reasonable cost would be supported only locally with no income sensitivity. They also advocated for accountability mechanisms, more work on cost effectiveness and consolidation where appropriate.

"To prevent excessive spending disparities, a tiered luxury tax is applied to local education spending at defined percentages above the reasonable cost standard," the summary reports.

Questions can be directed to Heidi Spear, the founder and coordinator of the AEF working group: heidimspear@gmail.com.

The full proposal and the summary can be read at http://fixvtedfunding.com/.

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News Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:46:22 -0500
Public forum about Waitsfield’s Scrag Forest Trail Design Report http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10410-public-forum-about-waitsfield-s-scrag-forest-trail-design-report http://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/en/news/news/10410-public-forum-about-waitsfield-s-scrag-forest-trail-design-report

The Waitsfield Conservation Commission is issuing a final call for public input on the Waitsfield Scrag Forest Trail Design Report.

The town of Waitsfield Conservation Commission (WCC) is wrapping up Phase I of the recreational trail development process for the 640-acre town-owned Waitsfield Scrag Forest (WSF). Scrag Forest contains over a mile of the Northfield ridgeline and much of the scenic vista forming The Valley's east side.

Guided by existing goals and objectives set forth in the Scrag Forest Management Plan, the WCC has contracted with Sinuosity LLC to complete a Trail Design Report. The ultimate objective is to expand the current trail system, address existing problem spots and create more accessible recreation opportunities on the west side of the WSF. Phase II will encompass the actual implementation of the plan.

In addition, a timber harvest with the objectives of improving and creating wildlife habitat as well as generating revenue and/or timber and firewood for community projects is in the contract phase. The trail design has taken into consideration the harvest so as to realize efficiencies with addressing erosion issues and site access.

The work by Sinuosity included conducting on-site research and discovery, completing a draft trail layout and summarizing an inventory and construction plan into the final Trail Design Report. The final deliverable of the contract is to introduce the project to the community and overview the report to acquire final input and support prior to the build phase.

All are invited to join the Conservation Commission for a public presentation of the Trail Design Report at 7 p.m. (refreshments at 6:30 p.m.) on Wednesday, January 28, at Waitsfield Elementary School. Discussion will include a brief overview of the timber harvest status followed by a comprehensive overview of the Trail Design Report. Final plan revisions will be based on this public input. Everyone is invited to come learn more about the forest and what is planned for its future and to share thoughts and ideas. Questions? Contact Waitsfield Conservation Commission chair Leo Laferriere at 496-2515.

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News Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:45:00 -0500