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Archive - Jun 25, 2008 - Page

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Date

Gas prices prompt creative town office hours

By KATHRYN FLAGG

MIDDLEBURY — Even after Fourth of July festivities die down for another year, every weekend will be a long weekend for employees at the Middlebury town clerk’s office. Beginning July 7, the office will be operating on four-day workweek.

The move comes as officials in Middlebury, like those in other government offices, look for ways to cushion the blow dealt by skyrocketing fuel prices.

The new schedule — which will include extended hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday — will be in effect until at least Aug. 29, allowing the office almost two months to test what Town Clerk Ann Webster termed a “pilot program.”

According Webster, the decision to test the new schedule rose first and foremost from a desire to save on transportation costs for employees — especially Webster’s two assistants, who commute daily from Ferrisburgh and Granville, respectively.

The pilot program comes in conjunction with an energy savings project undertaken by the Middlebury Area Global Warming Action Coalition. Using a “low carbon diet workbook,” MAGWAC, as the coalition is known, has worked intensively with groups of individuals to reduce energy consumption and the burning of climate-changing fossil fuels. It has also applied this same principal to several town offices and vehicles.

The town clerk’s office is currently the only Middlebury municipal office making the shift to a four-day workweek so the town will not gain the potential energy and cost savings that would be had by not heating or cooling the municipal building if all offices were closed on Fridays. But there still will be some savings, said MAGWAC energy coordinator Laura Asermily, as “flex time,” telecommuting and shortened workweeks provide increased flexibility for both town and private offices.

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Middlebury hikes water rates nearly 10 percent

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen on Tuesday approved a water rate increase of almost 10 percent, but Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo said that a corresponding decrease to the sewer rates would result in little or no overall change to households and business who use both town water and sewer.

On Colangelo’s recommendation, the selectboard at a regular meeting increased the rate for water district users from $2.60 per thousand gallons to $2.85 per thousand gallons in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Colangelo said that the rate hike was necessary partly because it hadn’t been changed since 2001, but wages and expenses have continued to grow in the meantime.

In addition, Colangelo said, the water district is also paying for debt service on the Palmer Springs chlorination project, which began after 2001, and the district’s revenues were down for the current year because business problems for two major corporate water users — Specialty Filaments and Standard Register Co. — resulted in less water use by those companies.

At the same time, the wastewater district’s fund balance was doing better than usual, Colangelo said. He couldn’t pinpoint any particular area where expenses or revenues were especially better than usual, but he told the board he found room in the sewer district budget to lower rates by the same amount as the increase in the water district rates, from a current sewer district rate of $6.19 per thousand gallons to $5.94 per thousand gallons.

That will not balance out exactly because people’s usage varies, and Colangelo said that many area property owners are members of one network but not the other. He said that for an average family of four that uses only town water and not town sewer, the water rate increase would amount to about $12 per year.

MBA BANNER PLANS

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Local, state officials seek lures for Tubbs

By KATHRYN FLAGG

BRANDON — For the third time in 18 months state and local officials are working to see what assistance and enticements they can offer a major local employer to keep the business in the area.

The 90 people who work for furniture manufacturer Vermont Tubbs are waiting to see if the new owner of the plant will keep it in Brandon or move it out of state. Economic development officials say that, as with any employer, they have a range of grants and loans available to BSF Transition LLC, the Whitefield, N.H., company that bought Tubbs for an undisclosed price earlier this month.

What’s available comes from a veritable alphabet soup of programs that, when accepted, sometimes keeps a struggling business in operation and keeps it pumping money into the local economy.

“Our goal … is to help foster business development here in the region,” said Jamie Stewart, the executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. “That sometimes means taking a higher risk than we would normally want to take.”

But that risk — and available public loans, grants and tax incentives — provide no guarantee that the jobs will stay forever.

Tubbs officials stated in a press release at the time of the sale that that they will continue to manufacture in the existing facility on Arnold District Road while Brownstreet assesses future production plans. A published report last week said the company may close shop in Vermont after 168 years of production, but Brownstreet officials did not return calls to confirm.

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