City Hall Reporter's Notebook: Comeback edition
I’m back from hiatus and would like to thank the staff at Rutland Regional Medical Center for getting me through a nasty bout of pneumonia.
In the time I had to think between violent coughing fits, I did a certain amount of reflection on an event outside the city that many of us inside the city watched with great interest: the vote on Flory’s Plaza.
When the Rutland Town Select Board asked voters if they wanted to spend town money to clean up the property and place a lien on it, there was a sense that something was, at long last, going to be done about what many consider the most prominent eyesore in the county.
The voters didn’t go for it, though, and Select Board Chairman Stan Rhodes said he does not see anything else for the board to do.
“There’s no move on our part,” he said. “The voters said they didn’t want to use any of our tax money, so we’re not going to do anything. ... Majority rules, so that’s it. The monkey’s off the Select Board’s back as far as I’m concerned.”
Tony Flory, who has represented the family in discussions over the property, was quoted after the vote, saying that “things are in the works” at the property. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to elaborate.
“I don’t say nothing,” Flory said. “It’ll work out. The Florys have been in this town for 90 years.”
Flory had declined to comment every previous time I contacted him, but last week he had a few things to say about the public’s interest in the property.
“You seem to be worried a lot about a piece of property that the taxes are paid on,” he said. “I think that’s why the country’s going straight to hell. Instead of worrying about things that matter, they’re worrying about things like this.”
City residents and officials have been watching the process because, as they keep pointing out, Route 4A is a gateway to the city, and the city would benefit from a more attractive gateway. Might it then be in the city’s interest to prod town voters along by offering to kick in part of the cost from our own coffers? The mess may not be our responsibility, but perhaps it is, at least in part, our problem.
“Under the circumstances, if all of our blighted properties in the city were taken care of, that would be a fair thing to consider and explore,” Mayor Christopher Louras said.
Right now, though, Louras said the city has plenty of its own problems.
“I can think of a number of locations here in the city that are as much of an eyesore and create as much of a blight where money can be used,” he said.
I also put the idea to Alderwoman Sharon Davis, who chairs the Community and Economic Development Committee. Her initial answer was unprintable.
“I think the town suffers from a lack of zoning,” she said. “There’s a Flory family that has the ability to make a decision. The leadership in the town needs to have those conversations with the family. ... I think everybody, whether you live in Rutland City or Rutland Town or West Rutland or Proctor, wants to see that cleaned up, but would I throw them money to do it? Heck, no.”
Organizers of the Gift of Life Marathon are getting antsy.
“I’m a little nervous,” Steve Costello told me this week. “We’re not where we want to be.”
At issue is the number of appointments made by donors. The blood drive, scheduled for Dec. 18, needs to collect 1,969 pints if it is going to break the national record. Early last week, appointments had yet to top 1,000.
This year’s drive will be Rutland’s last chance of capturing the national record — currently held by Manchester, N.H. — for one-day blood drives as officials for the Red Cross in the Northeast have declared that they will no longer put their resources behind such marathon events, wanting instead to concentrate on multiple smaller drives.
Appointments can be made by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or visiting giftoflifemarathon.com. Potential donors are also encouraged to visit www.redcrossblood.org for eligibility requirements.
Downtown employees are being asked to think about where they are parking during the holiday season.
Downtown Rutland Partnership executive director Michael Coppinger sent out an email claiming that a parking space right in front of a business can mean $150 a day in revenue and asking employees to keep those spaces clear.
Coppinger also pointed out that a little-enforced section of the parking ordinance forbids remaining parked in one of downtown’s metered spaces for more than two hours and suggested that “there may be pressure for the city police department to begin to actively enforce this ordinance” if downtown spaces remain taken up by long-term parkers.
The city’s winter parking ban also kicked in over the weekend. From Dec. 1 to March 31, parking is forbidden on city streets from midnight to 6 a.m.
The Board of Aldermen meets at 7 p.m. today. The agenda includes grants for a community center on Hickory Street and the Wonderfeet Children’s Museum, the boundaries of the Special Benefits District, a proposed change to the charter, and an unclaimed loan from the downtown revolving loan fund.
The Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the water and sewer rate study.