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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes: Brother, Can You Spare A Circus School?

Big news, not from the board but from the public, at the most recent Brattleboro Selectboard meeting: there is internal turmoil that threatens NECCA, the New England Center for Circus Arts. Founders were forced out, and resignations of board and staff followed. More fallout is expected.

Many summer public works projects were pushed along by board action. The board also held a discussion of panhandling in Brattleboro accompanied by at least four ideas for changing the situation, including one to consider a program to give panhandlers temporary jobs.

Board members received a skatepark update, set property tax rates, and made a dance festival proclamation in their only July meeting.


Chair Kate O’Connor noted that David Schoales was absent.

She had thoughts about the 12 overdoses during the Fourth of July weekend, calling it a “very upsetting event, for so many reasons.” 

“We’re not alone in this,” she said. ”It’s a problem across the state and country. We’re lucky to have a small enough community that we can look out for one another.”

O’Connor said there were many different service organizations working on this issue, which is not easy to solve, and they were coming together to see what could be done. “It’s abnormal to have 12 in that period of time. It’s hard to say anything happy about it.”

O’Connor thanked the volunteers and organizers of Brattleboro Goes Fourth. “A very successful day.”

Skipping other agenda items, O’Connor began the topic of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival.

Southern Vermont Dance Festival Proclamation

The selectboard proclaimed July 13-16 as Southern Vermont Dance Festival Weekend in the Town of Brattleboro. It’s the 5th annual season this year.

Brenda Siegel said the event starts Thursday and is bigger than ever.

The proclamation, of course, came complete with many a “Whereas...”

Look for performances, classes, and other events in and around town.

Back To The Agenda

Town Manager Peter Elwell had no initial remarks.

John Allen gave a special thanks to Kevin O’Connor for organizing Brattleboro Goes Fourth. “He always does a fantastic job.”

Tim Wessel remarked that if anyone ever needed to feel good, they should march directly behind Alfred in the parade and hear the cheers for him along the way.

Brandie Starr appreciated the remarks on recent overdoses and thanked first responders.

Public Participation and NECCA

Sam Payne  came to tell the board about problems at the circus school, the New England Center for Circus Arts. He and his wife Sandra Feusi are circus performers who moved here to teach at the school two years ago.

“NECCA is in a state of crisis,” he said. He said the board of directors had forced resignations of the founders, Elsie Smith & Serenity Smith Forchion , and resignations and additions of board members followed.

Payne said the timing was unfortunate, as they had just moved into the new building.  “It’s one of a few purpose-built circus buildings in the U.S.,” he told the board.

Payne said the board has been having secret meetings, and so it was time to reach out to the community. “It’s very important, a jewel in Brattleboro’s crown,” he said. “If you care about the circus and the school, get involved.”

John Allen asked what people could do.

Payne said these were very new developments and groups were just being set up. “Visit the school, write to the board,” he said. He said people could stay aware and express concern. “We don’t know the motivation of the board,” he said, but added that other staff were resigning in support of the founders.

Bridgette,  a student at the school for five years, said that professionals come from all over to train at NECCA. That coaches were now leaving was upsetting, as Elsie and Serenity are members of the community.

She said people were just finding out Tuesday, and were crying on the phone. She said students were drawn to the school because of the founders and coaches. “We’ll withdraw and demand refunds if the coaches go,” she said, hoping everyone could resolve whatever issues were causing the rift.

“Elsie and Serenity are NECCA,” she added. “It is impossible to replace them. NECCA will flounder and fail without them.”

A mother of a child who takes classes said that without professional staff at the school, she had safety concerns. She reported hearing that someone without experience planned to rig a trapeze net. “Elsie and Serenity are world-class artists and know about security,” she said. “They are safety fanatics. I don’t see that level of concern with the board. I don’t trust they know what they are doing.”

Another student said she just heard of this and understood it to be a financial administrative decision. She said Elsie and Serenity are the heart and soul, and questioned if any circus artists would be willing to step in to replace them. “It will be hard to find replacements due to bad feelings.”

Tim Wessel said the board was just learning of this, and that it was upsetting. He hoped issues could be resolved.

John Allen praised the “beautiful building and site” and said it was disheartening to hear.

Payne said that, as a professional, the building is extraordinary. It had been planned for 20 years, it is in Brattleboro, and was designed intelligently to be perfect for circus use. “I hope NECCA and the building remain.”


Curtiss Reed Jr. wondered why diversity wasn’t on the agenda, as previously mentioned at an earlier meeting.  Kate O’Connor and Peter Elwell explained the recent meeting and offered to provide Reed with all the meeting materials. He will also be among those consulted during the exploratory phase of devising a plan.

Request for Abatement of Water & Sewer Fees

Acting as Water & Sewer Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard considered the case of Kirill and Irina Drozdova and their request for abatement of Water & Sewer late fees.

At issue is $15.71, assessed when the May 15 due date was missed. According to their request, the Drozdova’s have paid on time for over a decade, had a family emergency, and paid one day late on May 16th.

Town Ordinance calls for an 8% penalty plus 1% interest each month for any payments after the due date. Failure to pay penalties can result in services being cut off.

Drozdova said it was okay if they said no, and the board said no to the request.

“This was our first time being meanies,” said Wessel.

“It’s one of the not-good parts of the job,” replied Allen.

Welcome Center Wastewater Pump Station Upgrade Project

Earlier this year, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved of a plan to do work for the State of Vermont (and the Federal Highway Administration) at the Welcome Center pump station in Guilford. This will help the Welcome Center, but also serve Commonwealth Dairy, the Delta Business Campus, and the Algiers Fire District.

The state will pay for the generator, pumps, and switching equipment, and the Town of Brattleboro will take over ownership of the pump station when the work is complete. There will also be a $100,000 contribution to the project from the Windham County Economic Development Program (the “Entergy money”).

John Allen worried about costs of taking it over in the long run. “How long will this last?”

Elwell said it was designed for 20 years of use, but also that it would be generating income to pay for maintenance.

Tuesday’s action by the board finalizes agreements between parties and sets the purchase of pumps and equipment in motion.

The discharge capacity will be increased significantly over the originally-designed 80,000 gallons per day, to 250,000 gallons per day with the upgrades.

If anyone was wondering, the new pumps will be both plotted and vibrationally tested, and their motors are inverter duty rated to operate on variable frequency drives. We’ll also get a Flygt MultiSmart Intelligent Pump Station Manager (iPSM) with a FLS Pump thermal and leak monitoring system, operating via SCADA communication via a Modbus protocol.  This will, of course, be compatible with the MultiProbe.

Rebuild Headworks Conveyer at the Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Custom Conveyor Corporation was approved Tuesday for a contract to rebuild the headworks conveyor at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, an anticipated maintenance project combined with a slight modification that should extend the life of the equipment.

“It takes a good beating and the intent of the modification is to make for smoother operation,” said Elwell.

The work will cost $29,882.95.

This conveyor is in the first stage of treatment and removes grit and debris from wastewater. Over 500 million gallons get treated each year.

Western Ave Water Main Over I-91

The Brattleboro Selectboard, still as Water & Sewer Commissioners, approved of a bid of $32,300 with Dufresne Group for engineering services to oversee bidding and construction of the repair of the leaking water main at the Western Ave I-91 overpass.

Actual repairs will come later, likely starting in September, and are estimated at $460,000, including this preliminary work.

Police-Fire Facilities Project Update and Purchases

Town Manager Elwell gave his regular update to the board on progress with the two remaining facilities projects - Central Fire Station and the Police Station on Black Mountain Road. The police station should be fully operational by mid-September, and the fire station by the end of November.

The police, Elwell said, would move in slowly, unit by unit, in order to stay functional.

Kate O’Connor asked if there was a backup plan for moving the dispatch office. Elwell said that by having all new equipment at the new facility, it would be a simple matter of turning the old equipment off and handing it over to the new system, with no drop in service. 

Also, the board approved of additional, anticipated spending of $159,306.60 on the project. Just under $100,000 will be spent on police station furnishings, project manager Steve Horton will receive up to an additional $25,000 for his services, about $20,000 for a Dispatch Center Logging Recorder, more furnishings for the fire station (up to $20,000) including hose washers and driers, just under $8,000 for telephone cables, a weather station, and digital alarm master box, and just over $6,000 for new signs and relocating a compressor at Central Fire Station.

Horton’s increase was seen as a sound investment  - he has saved “much more than he has cost us,” said Elwell. His total compensation is not to exceed $130,000.

Set FY18 Property Tax Rates

The selectboard set FY18 property tax rates at Tuesday’s meeting. In a break for taxpayers, the rate will be slightly lower than the 3.5 cent increase approved at Representative Town Meeting, coming in at 3.07 cents. A small increase in the Grand List meant everyone could pay a bit less.

The rate is calculated after the Grand List is lodged. For FY18, it is $11,638,546.40

The municipal tax rate for FY18 is set at $1.2214 per $100 of assessed valuation. If your property is in the Downtown Improvement District add $0.1294, and if it is in Tri-Park add $6.8785.

Need an example? The municipal tax on a home valued $150,000 will be $1,221.38, an increase of $30.71. The total tax impact on that homestead would be $4,218.90, an increase of $9.57.

State-mandated education rates were also ratified, at $1.5976 per $100 of assessed value for homestead properties, and $1.4557 for non-residential properties.

Farm Tax Stabilization Program

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of Farm Tax Stabilization in FY18 for Robb Family Farm. 

Town Manager Elwell told the board that the farm is going through a generational transition that, on paper, shows farm income just under 67% of their total household income. For tax stabilization, it needs to be at least 67%.

After a review by the Farm Tax Stabilization Committee, it was agreed that all indications show a reinvestment in agricultural activity and continued farming of the land, so a waiver to allow continued tax stabilization would be a good thing.

“The land is actively farmed, and they have expanded and diversified,” Elwell said.

Capital Paving Program

A check for $146,178.50 will be making its way to Mitchel Sand and Gravel of Winchester, NH, for the FY18 capital paving program. They’ll do everything the town requested, and came in well below the $250,000 in the budget for the project.

The contract is for asphalt pavement overlays (1930 tons of bituminous concrete paving) and related work on Frost Place, Willow Street, Williams Street, Washington Street, Black Mountain Road, Terrace Street, Bradley Avenue, and Tyler Street.

Elwell said the really good price came because the paving company makes their own asphalt, and the savings are almost entirely from a lower cost of materials.

Skatepark Items

Jeff Clark of BASIC gave the board a quick update on the skatepark project. 

The budget for the project is $230,000, he said, $124,000 is still needed, and various grants are in process.

Clark said that a car club would hold a benefit August 19th with proceeds going to the project, and other events were planned for the fall. He said it was “time to give.”

“For the love of God, contribute,” said John Allen. “I want to see this built. It has been forever.”

Wessel joked that we should make a skatepark, not a wheelchair park.

Clark said that if they get to 75% of the goal, they will start the final design process.

Allen reminded those against the skatepark at Crowell Park to give; Clark said that some already had made donations.

The selectboard accepted $1,400 from the Crosby-Gannett Fund to be used for skatepark design and construction. They also approved of a grant application to the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services for $25,000 toward the project.

This came after an update by members of BASIC on the status of the project.

Panhandling Discussion

Kate O’Connor welcomed special guests Michelle Simpson-Siegel, Josh Davis, and Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald for a conversation about panhandling in Brattleboro. The discussion came at the request of board member Tim Wessel, who was then given the opportunity to introduce the topic in more detail.

“This has been discussed in the past, but it is time for another look.” Brattleboro faces similar problems to other communities, and regardless of opinion, it’s enough of a concern to give it some attention, he said.

Wessel said there were many issues contributing to the problem, and that those larger issues were not the focus for the evening. Instead, he hoped for Brattleboro solutions, especially for merchants, as how to reduce the problem of panhandling while approaching the issue with compassion.

He said the town has an anti-begging ordinance, but it was unenforceable. “It’s a first amendment right to ask for money on the street.” Harassment isn’t, he added.

Simpson, president of the Downtown Alliance, said she represented the Downtown Improvement District, both merchants and tenants. She said panhandling was a moral and even spiritual issue, and one idea is to collect data downtown to get numbers on the frequency and location of panhandling rather than rely on anecdotal evidence.

Davis, of the Groundworks Collaborative, said that trying to solve the panhandling problem was something going on all across the country. He said they surveyed a handful of panhandlers in Brattleboro and found that most were homeless or living on couches, agreed pandhandling was not lucrative ($20 a day), and that money was used to buy food, beer, cigarettes, phones, drugs, socks, and camping gear. All had limited or no support to fall back upon, and were interested in working if the opportunity existed. “No one reported enjoying it. They don’t like it at all.”

Davis suggested special meters to take donations from the public to pay for services, and/or a program to offer a job for a day in exchange for food and wages. “It needs to be a win-win situation for the town and the people involved.”

Chief Fitzgerald said there were many variables and moving parts to the issue and it it was hard to stay on track. “The underlying issues,” he said ”that’s how we correct this.”

He suggested forming an outreach team that consisted of mental health specialist, recovery specialist, police officer, and volunteer. The volunteer, he thought, might be someone who had previously panhandled.

The outreach team would help point panhandlers toward resources to try to get them self-sufficient again. Fitzgerald said this would be a long-term approach, with a focus on improving life in the community.

He suggested that a social service agency handle it, and consider police assistance as a component of the program.

“We’e going to try it,” he told the board. “Go downtown, talk to people, try to help them get what they need, and see if that will help.” He hoped it would have results, and was open to other ideas from the community.

Simpson wanted it clear that merchants were being impacted daily by pandhandling, but also that residents say they don’t mind and always give to them. “We have a spectrum of perspectives.” She said it was hard to quantify.

Chad Simmons said he hoped the board would ponder the economy, and for whom it works. “Tourists? Residents? All of us?” He agreed that the answer was in root causes and issues of poverty, our relationship with money, and income inequality. He hoped there would be collaboration on the issue.

Tom Zopf said that he keeps $5 in his pocket to give to panhandlers, but asks for details of their personal story. He said pandhandlers were our neighbors and needed our help.

Kate O’Connor summarized the suggestions thus far: a survey and data collection, a collection box, a jobs program, and an outreach task force.

“It’s a tough topic to talk about,” said John Allen. He said he wanted to be compassionate, but knows that his wife has been “really pressured” in Harmony Lot on her way to and from a flower class. “I don’t like to see it. It’s not the kind of town we are,” he said, admitting, though, that he had never panhandled and couldn’t really put himself in their shoes.

Chief Fitzgerald said that if it gets aggressive, it crosses the free speech line and the police should be called. He said if they are standing with a sign asking, it was free speech. “If they block you, put their hands on you, get loud or use profanity, by all means call us,” he said. He added that pandhandling next to an ATM was considered aggressive.

“Who is our economy for in Brattleboro? is a good question,” said Simpson. She said she felt a moral obligation to the poor, but also knew that closed stores damage downtown. One more idea, she said, was establishing panhandling zones.

George Carvill thought a monthly status report on panhandling could keep the issue alive and in focus. “It’s my challenge to you,“ he told the board.

Bob Oeser said he liked the outreach team idea, and thought they should also include volunteers who could be trained to assist. He felt solutions might be found in building relationships with people who panhandle.

Simone, of Groundworks, said that there were two distinct Brattleboro’s , and some are struggling and having a hard time making ends meet. “People don’t realize how much it takes to be on the street asking for money,” she said, adding that there was a loss of dignity in the process.  She suggested compassion and empathy.

Brandie Starr said she liked all the ideas, especially the jobs program and outreach effort.

Tim Wessel said he had hoped for more comments from merchants, and would love to see more data gathered. This prompted Dick DeGray to offer thoughts.

DeGray said he saw a majority of panhandlers in different catatonic states throughout the day. “That’s different than needing money for food,” he said. He said panhandlers worked the bridges and Harmony Lot. “Good PR can’t overcome bad word of mouth,” he said. “What’s the action plan? We talk about it, then nothing ever happens, then we’ll talk about it again.” He said not doing anything was not an option.

“We won’t solve the problem,” said O’Connor, “but we can fix it as much as we can.”

The final word came from woman who said that jobs were great, but it is hard for people living on the street to have energy for work. She hoped it would not be imperative for people sleeping on the street to get up and work. She added that she was very impressed by the community policing in Brattleboro, and the humanity of the police force.

Community Drug Interdiction Program Grants

An annual grant from the Vermont Department of Public Safety to fund local police participation in a regional anti-drug task force was accepted by the Brattleboro Selectboard.

For FY18, Brattleboro receives $90,000. In addition, Brattleboro will get an additional $5,000 for FY17.

Selectboard Goals Review

Town Manager Elwell has been keeping track of the list of 14 Selectboard goals set a few meetings back, and offered up a status report on said goals to the board for their review. This board was doing well, with progress on all but three or four of them, he said.

John Allen hoped they could pick up speed on work related to PILOT revenue.

A note from David Schoales about hoping for press coverage of how decisions weren’t made was a bit too cryptic for the other members, who decided to wait and ask him to explain when he returns from camping in a tent on a beach.

Committee Appointments

Tad Montgomery and RoseAnn Grimes were appointed to the Energy Committee.

Jackie Stromberg was appointed to the Cemetery Committee.


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The upheaval within NECCA is

The upheaval within NECCA is quite disturbing and sad. A school of this reputation should never be in danger of extinction due to poor communications or lack of direction from the board. When that also contributes to shortcuts on safety or professional staff resigning it becomes a dangerous situation. NECCA is the shining star of Brattleboro and I hope this situation can be worked through so that the town and it's residents don't lose this glorious tradition of training circus artists.
In regards to the panhandling situation much of what reported to be discussed seems like busy work. The bottom line or at least one of them -is that there is no affordable housing in Brattleboro. There are waiting lists of 2 -3 years for subsidized or low income housing. If people don't have a home it becomes more difficult if not impossible to hold down a job. If people can't work they can't eat or clothe themselves or care for their families. The shelters are full -especially in cold months. The town doesn't really offer a safe space for the homeless to go to during the day although I know several homeless folks spend a lot of time at the library. Taking a census or collecting data or whatever is all well and good but it's not a solution. Forcing all panhandling into a specific zone -as was suggested means that area becomes the high crime area and one to avoid. How is that a solution? When I owned my catering company in Boston there was a homeless couple who slept outside my kitchen door- I think because it was relatively safe and the stairs to the kitchen were covered so it offered shelter from inclement weather. When I got to my kitchen at 4 AM they were there, asleep. I'd wake them up when I unlocked the door, would let them in to use the bathroom, would offer them coffee and something quick to eat. The arrangement we had was that they were welcome to sleep there, we would leave food for them at night and would occasionally offer them a couple of hours of work helping unload orders or washing dishes, etc. In exchange they promised to never break into the kitchen, to not bring friends there to sleep and to not drink or do drugs on the property. Not a perfect solution but it worked for quite awhile. It wasn't solving the problem of homelessness but it was possibly saving the lives of 2 people who were down on their luck and let me feel that my property was relatively safe. I'm not suggesting that every business in downtown let a homeless person sleep in their doorway ( although I imagine many downtown doorways are used as beds) nor am I suggesting that businesses give away their food (although with the amount of food waste we generate as a country we could pretty much give away 3 meals a day to everyone). I just think this town has a tendency to collect data, and information and opinions and then discuss these collections in numerous meetings and never really accomplish much. And, I'm not naive enough to think that all panhandlers are homeless. But, I do think that most people who resort to begging on the streets are living pretty much on the edge. I've stated before that I never have had a problem with anyone panhandling. In fact I can count on one hand the number of times I've been approached for money in the almost 10 years I've lived here. I'm not saying it isn't a problem - I'm suggesting that not everyone is being accosted 24/7 by panhandlers. The fact that very few downtown business owners even bothered to attend or send in their thoughts on the problem says something, I think.
Social problems abound in this town; drug addiction, homelessness, unemployment,
runaways, not enough services. We aren't unique in that. There are good people trying to find solutions to these problems. trying to help those in need. Those people who are actually doing something concrete against enormous odds don't spend a lot of time collecting data, I'm guessing.
And, finally, just because this annoyed me so much. Mr DeGray- I'm almost positive that "people in a catatonic state" are not panhandling since the actual definition of 'catatonic' is : " in a stupor; unable to speak or react; void of any response". The situation is unfortunate enough. Why try to make it worse by ridiculous, exaggerated statements like that?


A matter of opinion

Your comment: "there is no affordable housing in Brattleboro" is right on.
However, I was at a Housing Authority (BHP) meeting when a prominent Selectman announced that "The problem with Brattleboro is that there's too much affordable housing". (I won't embarrass him by mentioning his name)

BTW, as of last Sunday there were signs that apartments were available in the building above the Co-op.


Wrong attitude and priorities

I was disgusted and disheartened to hear someone at my church, an intelligent educated individual active in the community, say that the affordable housing in the community, the social programs (Drop In Center, etc), and even the lunch programs sponsored by some churches here (Brigid's Kitchen, Loaves and Fishes) weren't good for the community because they just enable laziness and dependence.


That type of mind set is

That type of mind set is disheartening but, sadly, it's really prevalent in our society -even in a lovely little town like this one. The current political climate of "only the wealthy count" just reinforces that kind of small mindedness.


Define please?

Please define wealthy?


Obviously the infamous 1%.

Obviously the infamous 1%. Personally I define wealthy as anyone who has income of a half million dollars or more annually.
Those are the people who should not be getting tax breaks, finding loopholes or
generally asking for way more than they are entitled to or even need.


Two guesses and the first one doesn't count...

In order to be eligible for the co-op building apartments you need to be registered with Windham Windsor Housing and meet their eligibility requirements.
They are lovely apartments although the 1 bedrooms are a little small if you want an actual eating area.
I'm betting that with very little trouble I could name that Selectboard member.
I won't but I'm sure I could.
Most 1 bedroom apartments in Brattleboro are going for about $800 -$850 per month depending on whether heat is included or not. If you work at a minimum wage job there's no way you can afford that without help.
The problem with many ( not all) of the SB members is that they literally have no idea what it is to live in this town if you are low income or working class poor.
I'm guessing that most of them have never lived paycheck to paycheck or had to decide which bills you would pay on any given month and which ones you could get a little time on. It's a whole different world and one that several of the SB members have no interest in learning about. This makes me particularly glad that there is some new blood on the board with the ability to look at all the ways in which people live in this town.


No Guesses necessary

"I'm betting that with very little trouble I could name that Selectboard member"

I wouldn't take that bet. I'm sure you know exactly who I mean.


I'm not sure why everyone is being coy about this

John Allen, when he first ran for office, infamously stated in The Commons without any evidence that there was too much affordable housing in Brattleboro. I replied rather nastily in the Letters section the following week, taking issue with that noxious notion, and people have remembered my name from that time.



I don't know why we keep electing this Trumpertarian whose views differ so greatly from most Brattleboro residents.


Well, obviously some people

Well, obviously some people think he's doing a good job.
Or they're just too lazy to get information about other candidates.


I don't think anyone was

I don't think anyone was being coy about it. The two people involved in those posts knew that most people would know who we were talking about.
Sometimes it's not necessary to state the obvious.


definition of "coy", second sense, by Merriam-Webster

"showing reluctance to make a definite commitment". Quite fitting.


I think I've been pretty

I think I've been pretty clear and committed in several prior posts that
I feel John Allen has some views about various situations in this town that are quite unprogressive
and lacking in truth and compassion.
I was responding to a post where the author chose not to name the Selectboard member. That is the right anyone has when they are posting on here . Anyone who has ever attended s SB meeting, read one of Chris's excellent reports of the meetings or read any interviews with Mr. Allen certainly know what his views are. This post was about several unfortunate things happening in Brattleboro that involve lots of players and interpretations and various opinions.
Again, I don't feel that anyone was being coy or uncommitted. It seems odd to me that of all the various comments in this thread the only one that drew you in was the lack of John Allen's identification.
And, I actually already knew the definition of "coy" but thanks for the clarification.


unprogressive and lacking in truth and compassion.



curious how many would vote for…

"I feel John Allen has some views about various situations in this town that are quite unprogressive and lacking in truth and compassion."

This made me curious how many people in Brattleboro would vote for a candidate who is “unprogressive and lacking in truth and compassion.”

Sorry, I didn’t do very well searching iBrattleboro, so only found results from Mar. 2017. (http://ibrattleboro.com/sections/politics/brattleboro-march-2013-electio... Story - cgrotke - Mar 6 2013 )

But, then, John Allen got 710 votes, trailed by next highest vote for David Schoales at 580.

[Note that total eligible voters here runs at well over 8,700. Low turnout skewers most elections.]



It appears that Brattleburghers are more likely to vote for incumbency rather than ideology.


I agree. And that more often

I agree. And that more often than not is detrimental to the ability of a town to move forward.
I guess the catch 22 is that too often elected officials have no interest in moving forward and are way too comfortable with the status quo. Whether it's working or not.


Speaking of affordable

Speaking of affordable housing I just saw an ad for a one bedroom apartment in the Brooks House for $1.650.00. It's a lovely and spacious apartment but, really??
This must fall into the category of "too much affordable housing" mentioned by a SB member.



I really feel deeply for the many new (especially young, way too young) faces that end up on a street corner of last resorts peddling a help sign in hand having to constantly beg to eke or squeak through each and everyday with very limited relief suffering such friction, emptiness and harshness as they do. Being homeless must take a severe mental,spiritual and physical toll and degradation (some say self- inflicted) imposed as a blight on it's subjects/victims.

The passerbyer or select board person just can't walk around or drive by and turn away a gaze to pretentiously presume or assign fault implying either a drug induced state occurs and must be involved or a reckless, addictive indulgence determined what fate or event ended up sending the homeless into a downward spiral, every situation is different and can't be necessarily lumped together, thus the imperative need for data for particular needs besides throwing money at the problem.
When one resigns oneself averting this kind stigma in denial or conveniently categorizes this demotion of social standings and place is a heartless assessment but more importantly dismisses any dwindling hope for seeking immediate and long term recovery for these individuals by not allowing for or opening up possibilities for significant life changing intervention by a concerned community, rather than scoffing at and fostering by ignoring what appears to be a perpetually reoccurring state. This does nothing to break, address or resolve the bleak and dire existence and cycle of their desperation or alleviate their mere attempt at minimal survival living on the streets especially when it is all they can do to contend with barely scratching by in the moment.
My own two young adults have had their share of trial and tribulations securing decent jobs when opportunities are lacking in the area, and one has since moved to California not that is any kind of paradise or panacea but certainly offers in some areas more in the way of welcome and meaningful plenitudes for our working youth.

At one point I had decided to give up playing my weekly lottery money taking that same money to give to these people, but did not always follow through not willing to seek them out or go out of my way always in a rush, I want to change my own response and involvement somehow. I had a bottle deposit donation idea/suggestion written here on ibrattleboro to maybe generate money to help aid the homeless situation with basically nobody responding and I'm sure was met with such scrutiny as, how would this work, who gets what, and how would you distribute the funds to make a real difference?

Speaking of funds and lumping people together, I personally resent John Allen's insinuation people living around the Crowell Lot or those who cared to protect it as a vibrant, green, neighborhood playground area in the past, has once again somehow continually concluded/implied in all his ultimate wisdom that "they" are somehow delinquent in supporting the Skateboard Park Project at Living Memorial Park. Please get your facts straight before making such assertions and accusations in an old school begrudgingly reprimanding manner that in itself can inhibit or discourage further contributions by those disgusted of this relentless attitude of unfounded and unproductive blame.


It's gut wrenching and so

It's gut wrenching and so disturbing to see so many teenagers or younger on the streets. Brattleboro has a pretty significant number of kids who have run away or been thrown out of their houses trying to get by on a handful of change a day. Some are local kids but many come from other states - gravitating to Brattleboro, I suspect, because it's a small town so probably safer than being on the streets in a huge city;the people tend to be liberal and willing to help -at least to some degree; there are drugs to be had pretty easily ( that is not to assume that every runaway or homeless kid or adult is a drug user)Regardless of where homeless kids are- small town or big city or somewhere in between- they almost always reach a level of desperation where they are pushed to resort to some kind of illegal act; breaking into a car; selling drugs; prostitution. And, for anyone who will read that and think " This is Brattleboro. Nobody here is going to be buying sex from a 12 or 13 year old child." I cordially invite you to step slowly out of the cave you've been residing in and take a look at the real world. People who exist on the street are forced and/or lured into doing all kinds of things you have a hard time imagining.
I think we're quick to make assumptions; to jump to any conclusion that will justify the way we think about social and economical injustices.
I think when those irrational leaps are made without any compassion or ability to see beyond our own way of life- particularly if they are made by the people that are supposedly leading this town into a better place then we are in deep trouble and will continue to be a place that is lacking in equality, diversity and compassion.


It's a catch 22 where you

It's a catch 22 where you want to extend a helping hand ( I have had homeless people ask for more, but most are very appreciative of what you can give) but then again you don't want a situation where Brattleboro is overwhelmed with providing social services beyond it's capabilities and renowned as a safe haven for an over abundant influx of the transient population passing through here expecting to find refuge and relief where competition sets in for prime panhandling spots, it's a very complex issue that needs our attention and realistic coping strategies.


Rents Are Too High

In VT, a household needs to earn $21.90 an hour (43k/yr) (40 hrs a week, 53 weeks a year) in order to afford "fair market rent" for a two bedroom home without paying more than 30% of their income.

This is slightly higher than the national average of $21.21. (For a one bedroom housing wage, $17.14/hr ($34k) is required to meet the national average.)

Vermont is in the top 10 (yeah!) list of states with the largest shortfall between average renter wage and two-bedroom housing wage (oh, not that kind of top 10... bad!). Vermonters are more likely to need to work 40-60 hours to afford their 2 bedroom rentals.

Lack of affordable units and inability for many to meet mortgage requirements are, the article says, partly to blame.

More info here in this article from CityLab.



(40 hrs a week, 53 weeks a year)


NECCA story

This is all so obscure. Even today's Reformer story says nothing of significance.
What is really going on here?


Significant Journalism?

Does The Reformer ever have any articles with substance? Certainly not the place I look to for factual,quality reporting of significant news.

My understanding is that neither the NECCA board members or the founders have made public statements- I'm guessing for different reasons. Coaches and board members that have resigned have been more outspoken. I think there is probably a lot that has yet to rise to the surface. I hope when it does that the school will still exist.


Significant improvement

The Reformer has improved 1000% since local people bought it.
They still have a long way to go.

I quoted it because a search did not find any other publication that carried the story.
I was hoping the Commons had covered it.

FWIW, I haven't bought a Reformer since they dropped "Zippy".


Why Selectboard?

Regrettable & confusing news about the Circus school -- wasn't explained why it was brought to the Selectboard? Is there a Town connection?(other than that it's IN the town.) Maybe there's some town funding?


getting the word out

Seemed like people were just finding out and wanted to alert the town officials and public. It was during the public participation/not on the agenda portion of the meeting.

I don't recall any loans/grants from the town to NECCA.


This unfortunate situation

This unfortunate situation with NECCA was just made public ea few days ago.
I'm sure the Commons already had this print edition ready to go before they got wind of this story
I imagine we'll see a well researched article in next weeks paper.
Most of the news of the circus school situation is online via many, many FB pages and
personal sites. I would guess that legally some of the players have been advised to not speak publicly.


An open letter has been sent

An open letter has been sent out to the community stating that there were 2 high level resignations from NECCA and asking for the community to support NECCA so that it doesn't have to close it's doors. I guess the board saw the resignation of many staff; the cancellations from many students; the multiple letters that were posted on various social media platforms explaining what is happening ( or a few versions of it) and the general dissatisfaction with the way the school's founders were treated as being something other than support for NECCA. It isn't the school that people are unsupportive of. NECCA, it's teachers, founders and principles have always been supported and loved by the community.
Hopefully these resignations will bring about some progress in getting the school back to where it should be.


Open Letter

Where/How can we see this letter?


I got a FB post from WTSA. FM

I got a FB post from WTSA. FM - Olga Peters.
I imagine if you go to their site there may be a copy of it
I did err in saying it was a letter to the public. It was a letter to the founders that was then made public.



Thanks. The letter IS available on WTSA's site.

The gist of it is:

According to letters sent to the school's coaches and Founders Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith-Forchion, the school's and community's response to the ousting of the founders has shaken NECCA.

The Executive Director and Board President have stepped down.

The board is asking the community to support NECCA again to keep the school's doors open.


Reformer and NECCA

I dunno... I thought the Reformer article was very informative. It covered a whole lot of things that have been happening at NECCA with the board, the executive director, the coaches and staff over the last few months while many of us were thinking the new building meant everything was coming up roses. The Reformer does not usually publish full page stories. I think they did a decent job on this story considering it only came into the light over the last 72 hours.

Some folks have claimed on Vt Digger that this is just the natural maturing process of an organization needing to separate itself from its "founders". I do not think there is anything natural about alienating the entire community by firing the creative souls who started the whole show. Other arts organizations in this town have moved on from their founders without blowing up their organization. This behavior on the part of the executive director and the chair of the board (a married couple?) shows no awareness of how this community works and what it values. I applaud the coaches, staff, students and families that are taking a stand against this disastrous lack of leadership. Maybe NECCA can be saved as the transformative organization it has come to be known as. I hope so.

PS The Reformer just ran a fabulous article on 19th century copper mining in Vermont. Wow, what a story!


Firing Founders

It's sort of the equivalent of if NEYT had suddenly fired Stephen Stearns and Peter Gould. Not good!

I hope things can work out for the best at NECCA.


Good analogy

Sort of puts this all into perspective.


Sort of

I don't know the history of NECCA in the least, nor even much about NEYT's history, but it seems to be a choice was made by both Stearns/Gould and the founders of NECCA to restructure their respective creations under a board of directors. Certainly there are good reasons and models for doing this. But there are just as good reasons and models for staying small and independent of a board (e.g. Sandglass Theater). As for NECCA, the whole story isn't out there, but if it is true that there was some sort of conflict between the Nimble Arts thing and NECCA then it would, perhaps, seem to be as much a question of the founders wanting their cake and to eat it too, as it is of something nefarious by the board of directors.


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