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Letters to the Editor (12/25/19) 

Published December 25, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

Happy at Bradley

I am writing in support of Bradley House, a residential care home in Brattleboro mentioned in your series on eldercare [Worse for Care, December 11 and November 27]. My 90-year-old mother-in-law has been happy living there for the past five years, often commenting, "They're so good to me here." She chose to live at Bradley House based on its excellent reputation in the community and her experience visiting friends there, after she was no longer able to drive or manage her own home.

We visit frequently and have been impressed with Bradley House's homey atmosphere, the caring staff and their attentiveness to my mother-in-law's needs. She has enjoyed socializing and participating in their program of activities, including exercise classes, arts and crafts, concerts, and field trips. We just returned from a wonderful holiday party for residents and their families.

Though I support your apparent goal of improving state oversight of residential care and assisted living facilities to protect elders, by focusing solely on the negative and singling out a few egregious cases, your series has failed to present a balanced picture of residential care homes in Vermont, and it's done a disservice to the good ones, such as Bradley House. Neither has it addressed the difficult choices that confront families when their loved ones can no longer live independently.

Susan Shea


The Shame of St. Albans

I want to thank Colin Flanders for his article "Nothing to See Here" [December 4]. He sheds light on pretty disturbing details of what looks like a cover-up of both excessive force by St. Albans police officer Jason Lawton and lying by St. Albans Chief of Police Gary Taylor — not to mention deflection of responsibility by City Councilor Mike McCarthy, City Manager Dominic Cloud and Mayor Tim Smith, as well as the besmirching of the character of an ethical cop, retired corporal Paul Morits.

Additionally, it sounds like Cloud and Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes are both creating smoke screens designed to deflect attention and confuse citizens. The use of excessive force by Lawton, deceit by Taylor, and smearing the character of whistleblower Morits and minimizing his statements are so much more than "personnel matters."

I'm a long-term resident of Franklin County, and it now seems deeply questionable to me that we can trust any of these public officials. If they won't hold the chief of police accountable for lying, then I think it is time to clean house in St. Albans. I voted for T.J. Donovan, but Vermonters need our attorney general to have the backbone to investigate the power brokers around the state so that, in Vermont, we can trust that no one is above the law.

Maybe whistleblower and "shit stirrer" Morits would be a good candidate for the job.

Diana Bailey


Word From Woodside

[Re Off Message: "Officials Want to Close Woodside, Vermont's Only Juvenile Lockup," November 25]: There are two sides to every story, and we want to ensure ours is also being told. We care about these kids, and so should Vermonters.

The caricature of the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center that has recently become popular bears almost no resemblance to the therapeutic environment we work in. We are nationally recognized as a top-tier facility by the U.S. Department of Justice's "performance-based standards," the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Woodside gained this recognition because our clinicians and counselors are able to provide vitally important treatment to our youth, so they can have a better chance to live healthy, productive lives.

The majority of the youth placed at Woodside are also making significant academic improvement in a short amount of time. Often, our students' math and literacy skills increase one to two grade levels in just a 90-day period. These kinds of results occur because our facility offers a safe, secure environment that is unique and, unfortunately, necessary for some of Vermont's youth. Of all states, Vermont is the one that should embrace a youth facility that offers both rehabilitative services as well as short-term custody for youth in crisis — a place accountable to the public that, unlike private contractors or out-of-state "solutions," will not turn away Vermont's most vulnerable population. 

Woodside has been a place of healing for hundreds of Vermonters. We should all protect this vital community asset and ensure that it can remain such a place.

Matt Messier


Messier is an employee of Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center.

Power Playful

Reading the article "Charging Forward: Battery Projects are Surging in Vermont" in the November 27 edition motivated me to research the production, use and disposal of batteries. One area of research showed the mining of minerals from the earth, transporting them to manufacturing plants, producing batteries and, upon their expiration date, disposal as hazardous waste. Another line of research indicated that the battery containers held only excrement from unicorns fed exclusively leaves from the hemp plant. Upon the expiration date, the container cracks open, releasing a flock of doves, each holding hemp seedlings to further cultivate the earth. I suspect that Tesla and Green Mountain Power subscribe to the latter explanation.

Ralph Young


Protect Wildlife

I'm grateful to Game Wardens Lt. Carl Wedin, Dana Joyal and Robert Currier for protecting the spawning rights of salmon and the superb human restoration effort at the hatchery in Grand Isle, which dates back to 1972 ["Poached Salmon," December 4].

The detective work on the part of the wardens, which led to an arrest of a salmon poacher, would inspire awe in the heart of Sherlock Holmes. Hard for Sherlock, or any other law-abiding citizen, to imagine that someone would not respect a clearly spelled-out sign: "CLOSED TO FISHING: Spawning Waters."

On the subject of signage, we in Vermont need to post signs in villages as well as county, state and federal hiking areas to warn hikers and their progeny that there are leghold traps that can lock down on children's ankles, curious toddlers' hands and the paws of their pets. There are, surprisingly, reportedly no signs warning of leghold traps, which seem like they can be set up anywhere.

Please correct me if I am mistaken, but I understand that there appear to be no rules governing the placement of bone-crushing snares intended to snag unsuspecting foxes, bobcats, raccoons and other innocent wild fur babies. This can lead to a cruel, slow death, after starving and freezing while their family watches helplessly. What would you do if your loved one got caught? Wild things have been known to gnaw off their own paws in panic.

Gwen Donovan

Grand Isle


Regarding Courtney Lamdin's December 11 article "Ranked-Choice Voting Not Likely to Be on March Ballot in Burlington": I attended the December 9 Charter Change Committee meeting at which Democratic City Councilors Joan Shannon and Franklin Paulino executed their antidemocratic maneuver to kill off the proposed ranked-choice voting item for the March ballot, with assistance from fellow Democratic Councilor Adam Roof.

Lamdin quotes Councilor Shannon as saying: "My intention wasn't to limit discussion but rather expand it." Not true! Shannon, supported by Paulino and Roof, ran out the clock to prevent any discussion, knowing that would make it impossible to send the item to the full city council by the December 16 deadline for March ballot items.

A dozen members of the public spoke in favor of ranked-choice voting at the start of the meeting. It was clear that the topic was of primary interest to the audience.

At 6:15 p.m., immediately following the votes on the other three agenda items, Shannon announced she had to leave, thus ending the meeting! She could have reminded everyone earlier so the councilors could have ensured time for discussion on the ranked-choice item. She did not.

Not only did Shannon blow off the public in the room, she also ignored the opportunity to truly "expand" the committee's discussion. She ignored the internationally known expert on ranked-choice voting, Terry Bouricius, who was available at the meeting.

The charade that the meeting just ran out of time is offensive and not supported by what actually happened.

Solveig Overby


Modular = Substandard

[Re "The Cost of 'Affordable,'" December 11]: Wake up. "Modular homes" are not built to current national, state or local building codes. They are built to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, which are far below any current quality standards. The workmanship is substandard, as are the materials. When problems arise, the manufacturers will: 1. ignore the complaints, and 2. blame everybody else, including the homeowner.

I have more than 45 years in the building trades, with continued education. When I get calls for problems regarding modular homes, I cringe. Then I have to explain to the owners why their home is falling apart and why the manufacturer will not provide any solution other than putting the blame on everybody else.

Rick Loew

Phoenixville, PA

Love Our Vermod

I was very surprised to read the article maligning Vermod homes ["The Cost of 'Affordable,'" December 11]. We built a Vermod home for my aging mother that she has lived in for three years. It has been a warm, cozy, bright and very comfortable home for her.

We had looked for a single-floor, handicap-accessible home for her in the existing local marketplace, but that seems an impossible find in Vermont. When we discovered Vermod, it answered our needs and more. Not only was it the most affordable option at the time, we could customize it. And it has proven to be very inexpensive for her to live there. Her total energy bill — heat and electricity combined — is always between $100 and $150 per month, no matter the weather on a cold, north-facing slope.

At 90, she cranks the heat way up in the winter, and in the summer she loves the AC. Minor issues that came up (as they do in any newly built house) were addressed to our satisfaction. In fact, Steve Davis dropped in to check on us the first winter, when the temp went to 20 below, to make sure she was comfortable. We are considering building another, larger Vermod for us as we get older.

I think Vermod is giving us efficient solutions for housing that are climate-friendly and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The company has been earnest, hardworking and a pleasure to deal with.

Carol Stedman


'Moving Forward'

I recognize and can relate to some of the complaints detailed in ["The Cost of 'Affordable,'" December 11]. I own a Vermod and, yes, I have Sheetrock cracks I'd love to see fixed. And although I absolutely feel for the homeowners profiled, early adopters always endure the pain of the cutting edge.

Homeownership in general isn't for the faint of heart; I had disappointments with an old stick-built home, too, and there are always maintenance issues, regardless of dwelling type. For additional perspective, I have at least as many complaints about the site work — excavation, concrete foundation, below-grade waterproofing — done by outside contractors that were not Vermod. In my estimation, all of these vendors made some mistakes.

What's beyond question is that my Vermod is always warm in winter, always cool in summer and does it all for an annual cost of a few hundred dollars — the monthly cost I used to sink into my stick-built house. I run all my yard equipment off the solar-powered electricity, as well.

Moving forward, it's incumbent upon us to build new construction at least to the energy-efficiency standard of Vermod. There's always a learning curve with new technology; let's not abandon ship when things aren't perfect. My advice to the company and customers alike is to be resilient and continually learn and improve.

Incidentally, I got turned on to Vermod in the first place via an article in this very publication, "Vermod: Redesigning the Mobile Home for the 21st Century" [January 7, 2015], so thanks!

Lovejoy Dole


More to the Story...

After reading through "Guarded Secrets: Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Drug Use Plague A Vermont Prison for Women" [December 4], I wanted to share some reflections as a former, female corrections officer in Vermont's women's prison. 

I am speaking as an individual on my own time and not on behalf of or as a representative of the state. 

First, we all must strive to take responsibility for how our state is structured and accept that articles like "Guarded Secrets" can have the unintended consequence of feeding our collective ignorance by allowing us to feast on a few horrific stories that should be told, but they leave the reader with a stronger sense of satisfied voyeurism rather than a clearly articulated set of solutions. 

After working at the Department of Corrections, I had the opportunity to work with the state's former finance commissioner, Jim Reardon. 

I loved Reardon through and through. I was always struck by his humility. He would often discuss what he considered to be his failures, referring to certain items in the state's budget. When I asked Jim what he meant, his answer was always the same: State buildings, including our prisons and the state's IT infrastructure, needed more financial support. 

Please, Seven Days, finish this story.

One of Reardon's truisms was: "Don't give me a problem without giving me a few solutions." Present some veritable solutions to the broader discussion and ask the legislative committees who handle the Corrections department to make policy changes. Hand-wringing and finger-pointing will not solve the core issues. 

Mary Andes



I just wanted to thank you for the Hooked series. It's so well written and well researched and, most of all, so heartfelt and real. I'm grateful for Kate O'Neill's willingness to explore and expose her own experiences and feelings and those of her beautiful sister, Maddie. What she's offered is a guide to and model for compassion, as well as a thoughtful and thorough look at this crisis and its effects. It's truly some of the best journalism I've ever encountered.

I have a friend who works with harm reduction in Maine, so I've been aware of the concept for a while, but I'm always shocked at how few otherwise knowledgeable people have ever even heard of it. I'm so glad O'Neill wrote about it in such a clear and concrete way in her last installment ["Hooked: A Love Story From Vermont's Opioid Crisis," December 11]. 

I imagine that writing this series has been wrenching for her; I hope it's also been somewhat cathartic and healing. 

Ellen Miles


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