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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lunderville to Leave Burlington Electric, Serve as CEDO Director

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 2:28 PM

Neale Lunderville - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Neale Lunderville
Mayor Miro Weinberger has appointed Burlington Electric Department general manager Neale Lunderville to serve as interim director of the city's Community & Economic Development Office.

Lunderville will replace Noelle MacKay, who announced last month that she will step down to take a job at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a renewable energy nonprofit in Montpelier.

He'll start as acting CEDO head at the end of this week and, if the city council approves the appointment, would begin as interim director on July 16. He'd stop working for Burlington Electric at that time, according to a city press release.

Lunderville would serve until December of this year and, according to a memo from Weinberger, does not plan to apply for the permanent CEDO post. The city would conduct a national search to fill Lunderville's old job at Burlington Electric. 

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

United Way Cuts Some Funding, Frustrating Nonprofits

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 2:32 PM

The Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf is among those organizations losing funding. - COURTESY OF THE CHITTENDEN EMERGENCY FOOD SHELF
  • Courtesy of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf
  • The Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf is among those organizations losing funding.
The United Way of Northwest Vermont did not award grants this year to several Chittenden County nonprofits, some of which have received funding from the organization for decades.

The changes sparked an outcry from some nonprofit leaders who said they were counting on the money. Last Friday, Rita Markley, executive director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, posted on Facebook that she had not received $57,600 for two programs for the homeless.

"The Daystation is the ONLY daytime shelter in Chittenden County for single adults with nowhere else to turn," Markley wrote. "Just the worst possible news."

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Burlington Councilors Take a Ride Along the Champlain Parkway

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 11:27 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger and Councilor Joan Shannon conferring over Parkway plans - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger and Councilor Joan Shannon conferring over Parkway plans
Burlington city councilors on Monday left the confines of City Hall for a field trip to the South End.

The group boarded two buses to scope out the route of the Champlain Parkway, the long-planned, 2.3-mile strip of highway that would connect Interstate 189 to downtown Burlington. The journey was part of a necessity hearing, where property owners whose land would be purchased to make way for the project could voice their objections.

The council's "yes" vote later Monday evening took the city one step closer to completing the four-decade-old project. Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2019.

But it wasn't all business for the councilors, Mayor Miro Weinberger, city and state workers, and a couple dozen members of the public who came along for the ride. From one of the two University of Vermont buses, councilors waved cheerily to a family at a barbecue outside a home on Batchelder Street and convened a brief council meeting on the pavement in front of the Department of Public Works.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Bike Ferry Won't Run This Year Due to Causeway Damage

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 4:43 PM

The Colchester causeway in April 2018 - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • The Colchester causeway in April 2018
The bike ferry that carries cyclists to and from South Hero won't operate this year due to storm damage to the Colchester causeway. Cycling organization Local Motion, which operates the ferry, announced Friday that the service has been canceled indefinitely.

Strong winds and heavy rains on May 4 caused sinkholes along the bike path that extends on a former rail line into Lake Champlain.

According to the Colchester town website, local officials have found that the storm also caused structural damage to a bridge on the causeway. The total cost of repairs has been estimated at $563,000.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vermont Railway Extends Track Along the Burlington Bike Path

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 5:27 PM

Railway ties along the new section - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Railway ties along the new section
Vermont Railway is building 1,200 feet of new track alongside a section of the Burlington Bike Path.

Construction began about a month ago, according to Selden Houghton, the railway’s vice president, and will be completed in about another month. Crews cleared trees and brush to make way for the track, which extends from the waterfront dog park through an area known as the Urban Reserve, almost reaching Texaco Beach.

Houghton said he’s unsure how the railway will use the new track. Rails were once there as part of the line to the Champlain Islands, but were removed in the 1980s, he said.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Some Councilors Cry Foul As Obeng Gets Residency Exemption

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 11:01 PM

  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Yaw Obeng
Updated on May 15 at 1:51 p.m.

The Burlington City Council agreed to allow Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng to continue living outside of the city — but not before reigniting a lengthy debate about residency requirements.

The council voted 9-3 to extend the residency exemption for Obeng, who settled in South Burlington from Canada when he took the job in 2015. This time the measure extends the residency exemption indefinitely — "as long as Dr. Obeng holds the position of superintendent," according to the resolution.

Some city department heads are required to be Burlington voters, which means they must live in the city. Obeng contended on Monday that his family's suburban setup met the requirements for a "hardship exemption" under city ordinance.

The first vote, when he took the job, triggered controversy as Burlingtonians argued that Obeng should be subject to the same taxes and policies he implements as superintendent. On Monday, some spoke up with similar concerns.

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Count Finds Homelessness Rose 19 Percent in Chittenden County

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 5:22 PM

  • Kim Scafuro
A group of nonprofits reported a spike this year in the number of homeless people living in Chittenden County.

January's annual "point in time" event, when volunteers track the number of people spending the night in cars, on the streets or in emergency shelters, tallied 359 homeless people, according to the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance, which released the figures on Friday. That's a 19 percent increase from 2017, when volunteers counted 291 homeless individuals.

The increase comes after the number of homeless people had declined for two consecutive years from a 2015 high of 471. The alliance counted 332 homeless people in 2016.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Burlington Telecom Employees Face Benefits Reduction Under Schurz

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Once Schurz Communications takes over, Burlington Telecom employees won't receive the same sweet benefits package they currently enjoy as city workers.

Each staff member will lose at least 12 — and up to 17 — days off annually,  according to BT spokesperson Abbie Tykocki. The retirement benefits and health care offerings from Schurz are also less generous than employees' current options from the city of Burlington, she said.

During the lengthy sales process last year, "we all had felt or had heard that the benefits [would be] comparable," Tykocki said. In retrospect, she acknowledged, "what the definition of comparable is up for debate." Currently, 24 of BT's full-time 26 employees get benefits through their jobs, she said.

The city offers a pension plan and 24 days off, including federal holidays, as well as a lengthy list of discounts and other perks.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Muslim Teen Poets Invited to Elks Club — Which Called the Cops

Posted By and on Tue, May 8, 2018 at 1:25 PM

From left to right: Hawa Adam, Kiran Waqar, Balkisa Omar, Lena Ginawi - COURTESY OF KIRAN WAQAR
  • Courtesy of Kiran Waqar
  • From left to right: Hawa Adam, Kiran Waqar, Balkisa Omar, Lena Ginawi
Slam poets Muslim Girls Making Change were invited to dine and perform last week at the Burlington Elks Lodge — where a club officer called the police on them. The teenagers have slammed the incident as racial profiling.

"This kind of stuff happens all the time and we're sick of it," member Kiran Waqar told Seven Days on Monday.

"Being a woman of color, I'm going to be getting all these experiences," said another one of the poets, Balkisa Omar.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Vermont Supreme Court Overturns KKK Flyers Conviction

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 12:28 PM

  • Burlington Police
  • William D. Schenk
A divided Vermont Supreme Court on Friday overturned the disorderly conduct conviction of a Ku Klux Klan member who left recruitment flyers at the homes of two minority women in Burlington in 2015.

In a 3-2 opinion, justices ruled that William Schenk's action did not convey an "imminent threat of harm" as required by the law to support the charge.

Schenk, 21 at the time, told investigators that he was on a KKK recruiting mission and distributed around 50 flyers that read "Join the Klan and save our land." But authorities said he left flyers for just two people: One of the women is African American, and the other identified herself as Mexican, according to court documents.

"The flyer is a recruitment solicitation — its overt message is to join the Ku Klux Klan," former associate justice John Dooley wrote. "It contains no explicit statement of threat. To the extent that it conveys a message of personal threat to the recipient, it is that the Klan will recruit members and inflict harm in the future."

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