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Swelter skelter
Swelter skelter: Vermont prepares for high temps, high humidity (copy)

You may just be able to fry an egg on the sidewalk this weekend, thanks to a spell of hot weather slated to hit Vermont. Experts warn the sunny days ahead may be the perfect excuse to stay inside.

Meteorologists at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury warned of temperatures sneaking past 95 in some places Saturday, with a heavy blanket of humidity and a heat index of 100 or more.

Officials are urging Vermonters to take heed in the heat and make sure they stay calm, cool and well-hydrated if they choose to brave the rays.

“High temperatures over the next few days pose serious health risks, so I encourage all Vermonters to take the necessary steps to protect themselves as well as their families, neighbors and pets against the heat,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a release. “State agencies and partners will be providing safety tips and resources to help keep all safe and cool this weekend.”

The governor’s office also advised wearing lightweight, light-colored clothes to avoid retaining any extra heat, and to avoid using tools, lights and appliances that might raise the temperature further. Residents are urged to research where public cooling stations might pop up in local churches, volunteer locations and community centers.

Barre City has opened cooling stations at Barre Congregational Church, which is open 7 to 11 a.m., and Aldrich Library will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Faith Community Church will be open from 2 until 7 p.m., with water and a children’s movie screening.

Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier as well as public libraries in Pawlet, Castleton, West Rutland, Poultney, Waterbury, Middletown Springs and Williamstown will also be open as cooling centers during the heat spell, according to a partial list from the state.

Green Mountain Power reminds Vermonters to dial 211 to find cooling shelters in local communities, and to keep any activity low-energy, especially during the hottest hours of the day. GMP officials are tracking any thunderstorms that could cause outages in the heat, storms that the Fairbanks Museum indicated could become severe on Saturday night into Sunday.

In Rutland, City Police Cmdr. Greg Sheldon said generally people know how to take care of themselves during the dog days of summer, but heat waves do bring on welfare checks, especially for the sick and elderly, and the occasional call for a pet left in a hot car.

“If the dog is in distress, we would take action, (though) I can’t think of a time when we’ve had to,” Sheldon said.

Should any passersby notice a panting pup in a hot car, Sheldon urged them to call the department rather than breaking the window themselves, as police can enter a car without damaging it.

“Temperatures can rise to over 120 degrees in a matter of a few minutes,” said Dr. Rob MacPherson, of Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center. “There’s a lack of oxygen, and very quickly there’s just not enough oxygen for them. Ten minutes in that heat they’ll have difficulty surviving.”

Under extreme temperatures, animals will first go into respiratory distress — they won’t be able to breathe, their lips and gums subsequently turn blue and their organs begin shutting down, he said.

“Some get kidney failure, liver failure and some develop intestinal disease, sometimes to the point of seizures and a loss of consciousness,” MacPherson said. “All of this can happen in a matter of minutes.”

MacPherson encouraged dog owners to seek out grass instead of walking pets on the asphalt, as dog foot-pads can easily be burned by scorching pavement.

“Get them something soft like a cold wash cloth applied to the surface of the burn, and keep them clean,” MacPherson said.

But even on the grass, dogs may be so determined to chase that ball that they don’t notice how rapidly their bodies can overheat, and after 5 to 10 minutes of vigorous activity, MacPherson said their internal temperatures can rise to a life-threatening degree.

“Any type of physical exertion needs to be curtailed,” MacPherson said.

But cooling off the pooch may not mean a close shave: a layer of air between the coat and next to the skin keeps the dog cool, and MacPherson advised wetting a dog down to cool them off rather than giving them a hair cut.

“If you clip a dog down, you’re losing that layer of air and the protective barrier so heat doesn’t contact the skin directly,” MacPherson said.

As far as ice cubes go, the vet gave his seal of approval as long as the dog isn’t downing buckets of ice and advised to be on the look out for cracked teeth.

As far as the fur-less go, Kandis Charlton, training and education coordinator, and critical care paramedic for Rutland Regional Ambulance, said the most important thing was for people to take care of each other.

“People need to be checking on their family members and neighbors,” Charlton said. “The elderly sometimes don’t like air conditioning, and as we get older our body sensitivity changes.”

People with co-morbidities, or pre-existing conditions, the extremely young and the elderly are especially prone to heat and humidity exhaustion. By the time someone’s condition surpasses heat stroke, their temperature will be up above 104 degrees, they’ll have stopped sweating entirely, and will have bright red skin and a severely altered mental state, Charlton said.

“That’s when the body is losing its ability to manage the temperature,” said Matt Stephens, physicians assistant at Community Health Rutland. “That’s the emergency room.”

In the event that someone is found with severe heat exhaustion or heat stroke, Stephens said, loosening the clothing and cooling the body with wet cloth is far less dangerous than ice-cold drinks of water, which could result in vomiting and more dehydration.

When rehydrating, electrolyte and fitness beverages with sugar in them should be matched one-to-one with water, and people should avoid high-sodium foods, caffeine and alcohol, Charlton said.

Especially if you’re one of the brave out running one of Vermont’s summer races, like the Goshen Gallup, a 5k and a 10.2k run slated for Saturday on Goshen’s Blueberry Hill.

“We’re in collaboration with the Brandon Fire Department to get a misting fan out there, some excess ice and extra water bottles,” said Jordan Stage, chief operations officer for the Brandon Area Rescue Squad.

katelyn.barcellos

@rutlandherald.com

katelyn.barcellos@rutlandherald.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

To Market

Elise Magnant, who operates Littlewood Farm in Plainfield with her partner Kagen Dewey, sets out a selection of organic vegetables Friday during the weekly Plainfield Farmers’ Market. The market also offers fresh bread, meat, honey, syrup, foraged mushrooms, baked goods, a massage therapist and live music every Friday afternoon.


Local
Scoping study to address traffic conflicts

MONTPELIER — A “scoping study” in the Capital City will explore options for the most conflicted intersection at Main and Barre streets at two upcoming public meetings.

Public meetings will be held at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center on Thursday and at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library on July 31. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.

The “Main-and-Barre-Street-Corridors” study is a preliminary assessment of issues and potential solutions to problems along the length of Main Street, and along Barre Street between Main Street and the Recreation Center, where cyclists can pick up the recreation path on Stonecutters Way.

The study also will look at the Main and School streets intersection that can also be problematic for pedestrians and cyclists.

The study is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Agency of Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Program with the city also contributing $20,000. It precedes other work that aims to improve traffic-free pedestrian and cyclist recreation paths that will connect Taylor Street to Barre Street, and Granite Street to Gallison Hill, with both projects scheduled for completion this year.

Corey Line, project management director with the Public Works Department, will work with contractors Dubois & King to coordinate the study, and the public is invited to submit comments and suggestions online. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

“The public meetings will start off with a brief presentation and that will cover the inception of the project, how it started, when it started, and go through the timeline to where we are now and what we’ve heard for concerns,” Line said. “It will also cover the different possible alternatives.”

Line said there would be “stations” set up around the room at each meeting, with visual presentations of various locations in the city that have been identified by study participants online, and participants at meetings will have the chance to add their comments.

“Obviously, the Main and Barre street intersection has received a lot of interest in fixing that (problem),” Line said. “The Main and School streets intersection received a lot of interest in fixing that (problem) as well.”

City officials agree that the Main and Barre streets intersection is the most pressing problem to solve, particularly with the imminent opening of the recreation path connection between Taylor and Main streets that will bring more pedestrians and cyclists into conflict with the intersection.

Proposals discussed include: making the junction a four-way stop intersection; installing an “adaptive signal control” at a cost of about $200,000 that would adjust the timing of lights, depending on traffic conditions at the Memorial Drive and Main Street intersection and the Main and State streets intersection, to reduce congestion; or placing a roundabout at the Main and Barre streets intersection (although placing a roundabout between two sets of lights is likely to cause traffic congestion, officials concede).

A proposal to safely connect the recreation path link from Taylor Street to Main Street with the recreation path on Stone Cutters Way would require the removal of several parking spaces along the south side of Barre Street up to the Recreation Center, where users can access the recreation path heading east to Gallison Hill Road, a new section of the path due for completion this year.

Councilor Dona Bate, who has been involved as a member of the Scoping Study Committee, said she favors putting roundabouts on Main Street at its intersections with Memorial Drive, Barre Street, State Street and School Street.

“We’ve been looking at this for over a year and we have a lot of ideas, but we want to increase the amount of public participation,” Bate said. “We want to address the conflicts that are going on, make it safer and make it run smoother for everyone — pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles.”

To submit comments to the study, visit: www.montpelier-vt.org/999/Main-and-Barre-Street-Corridors.

stephen.mills

@timesargus.com


Local
Public records case
Vt. Supreme Court sides with WCAX in public records case

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court has sided with a media company deciding to publicly release a judge’s decision blocking the state’s request for raw footage of a police shooting.

The case involves Nathan Giffin, who was shot and killed by police after a standoff at Montpelier High School in January 2018. News station WCAX was at the scene at the time and one of its cameras caught the shooting.

Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault sought that footage through an inquest subpoena as part of his investigation into the shooting to determine whether any officers should be charged. All of the officers were later cleared of any wrongdoing.

WCAX’s parent company Gray Television refused to hand the footage over so the matter went before a judge. The hearing was confidential because it was part of an active investigation, but according to court records, in February 2018, Judge Howard E. VanBenthuysen sided with the news station and denied the state’s request for the footage, citing the state’s new shield law. After the decision was made, Gray Television filed a motion asking for the decision to be made public.

VanBenthuysen denied that motion, saying because the decision was based on a confidential matter the decision itself was confidential, as well. Gray Television appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, saying the judge abused his discretion.

Thibault had argued VanBenthuysen made the right decision because proceedings and rulings in a case like this are confidential and not subject to be released publicly.

He brought up search warrants saying a denied search warrant is never made public, but is kept under seal by the court. He said when a search warrant is granted it is kept under seal as well until the search has been conducted.

Thibault argued an inquest subpoena is one of the tools he uses as a prosecutor as part of the executive branch. He said those proceedings, while taking place in court, are governed by the executive branch rules, not court rules.

The state Supreme Court agreed with Gray Television. According to the decision released Friday, the court viewed VanBenthuysen’s decision as a public record and so it is subject to disclosure under the state’s rules for public access to court records. The court said, “there is no basis for sealing the record in this case.” Justice John Dooley wrote a concurring opinion in the matter. Dooley said the case raises two points he wished to address.

The first being the balance that needs to be struck when dealing with public court records. He said the balance is between a need for transparency in judicial decisions and protection from disclosing confidential information to protect privacy and other reasons. Dooley second point touched on Thibault’s argument regarding inquest subpoenas. He said inquest subpoenas in the past worked by a prosecutor calling witnesses under the subpoena to give testimony under oath in an effort to see if a crime was committed before filing charges.

“In the modern ‘inquest’ there is no evidentiary hearing with witnesses testifying to facts relevant to the commission of the crime. If there is an evidentiary hearing, it involves only the validity of the subpoena,” Dooley wrote, meaning the judiciary only gets involved if someone challenges such a subpoena.

For public records, he said this shift has “significant consequences.” He said by dropping the part of the subpoena that statute designated as secret, all inquest subpoenas are now expected to be public.

“In my opinion, the current situation is untenable. Having the Judiciary make ex parte decisions on whether to seal documents is not a desirable process and can too easily become rote. The Legislature needs to decide whether there is a need for a secret investigatory subpoena power, either by amending the inquest statute or by generally authorizing the issuance of investigatory subpoenas in the executive branch, without court involvement where there is no dispute as to the validity of the subpoena,” he wrote.

Chad Bowman, the attorney representing Gray Television, said in a Friday email, “We are pleased that the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously re-affirmed the strong presumption that court proceedings and records are open to the public, including decisions written by judges. As Justice Dooley recognized, in a democracy judicial decisions should rarely be kept secret.”

Thibault said Friday the court made the appropriate decision on a narrow basis and the decision was expected. He reëmphasized the importance of an inquest subpoena as a tool at his disposal.

“Certainly there needs to be a balance and well-defined rules for when inquest materials can become publicly available. Ultimately (Justice Dooley’s) advice that this should be a legislative solution is appropriate. I specifically note that right now it is a very odd construct where it is primarily and executive function and yet we also have the courts becoming involved. So the question of which standard or release of records applies is answered at least for today, but some of the other timing mechanisms there are still left undefined. … I’m hoping that the Legislature will take a look at how to best strike the balance between transparency for the public and the need for investigations in support of public safety,” he said.

Thibault later said in an email, “Inquest proceedings will, for the time being, be subject to sealing at the court’s discretion. The ability to maintain confidentiality over these proceedings is critical to the integrity of investigations, and ultimately, to public safety.

“In this particular case, there is little harm in release of the court’s February 2018 opinion. However, there are other situations where release of such materials could compromise on-going investigations, or reveal personal information or unflattering behavior of community members that did not lead to a criminal prosecution.”

The now-public order from the judge was not available Friday afternoon.

eric.blaisdell@timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

Taking Form

Kate Townshend, of Northfield, tidies up an ornamental garden Friday in Montpelier. The planting is on the side of the building, which houses Downtown T’s on Main Street and is the brainchild of building owner Kelly Sullivan.


Local
Berlin taps surplus to acquire well easement

BERLIN — The Select Board has agreed to float a $50,000 loan to its cash-strapped water department to facilitate the acquisition of an easement for a new well members were told likely won’t be needed for more than a year.

The municipal water system, which serves the area of town just off Exit 7 of Interstate 89, still owes the town $143,000 for money that was fronted during the early exploration of the public utility that was finally launched nearly four years ago.

That system is fueled by three wells that have ample capacity to supply the current customer base, but a Public Works Board bracing for future growth is in the process of investing $90,000 from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund in developing a fourth well.

Money to drill and test the well, which — like the other three — is located on Dodge Farm Road, has come from the state. Town Administrator Dana Hadley told board members he recently learned that the town has until the end of the month to obtain an easement from the landowner for $50,000.

Though the town’s sewer fund is flush, Hadley said using that money on a water-related project wasn’t possible. Hadley said the board could either borrow the money from a bank, or avoid interest expenses by using a portion of the town’s general fund surplus to cover the cost.

Hadley said there weren’t any other options unless the board was prepared to walk away from a productive well that exceeds the capacity of the other three combined.

“We need to come up with $50,000 of total cash quickly,” he said.

Hadley recommended the board tap its surplus to acquire the easement and give the Public Works Board a year to repay the latest inter-fund loan.

“I think you need to put a time specific on it,” he said, noting that may require the Public Works Board to consider a rate increase for the system to repay the money it owes the town.

Under a previous agreement, Hadley said Friday, the first payment on a five-year $143,000 loan isn’t due until June 30, 2021.

Hadley and Town Treasurer Diane Isabelle said they first learned of the July 31 deadline to acquire the easement earlier this month and while the Public Works Board was prepared to borrow the money from a local bank, members determined it doesn’t have that authority.

That authority rests with the Select Board, which agreed Hadley’s recommendation was the most sensible solution and unanimously agreed to approve a one-year loan of $50,000.

Hadley said the fourth well is located near the town’s existing well field, but is on a separate parcel of property on Dodge Farm Road. The well has been drilled and now-concluded pump tests have revealed it has good production.

The extra capacity isn’t immediately needed, but Hadley said the Public Works Board wanted to be able to move swiftly to accommodate additional development that could exceed the capacity of the current system.

david.delcore

@timesargus.com


Rail

Gallery

It may seem early to be thinking about milkweed and monarchs ... but apparently not! A6


Courtesy photo  

Girl Scouts enjoyed a hike at Button Bay State Park on Saturday, July 13, 2019, as part of Girl Scouts Love State Parks weekend.


Rail — MAGAZINE

Girl power

Outdoor adventure is one of several new offerings for Girl Scouts, in addition to other programs that meet the needs and interests of today’s young girl. C1


Rail — PERSPECTIVE

Save the world

“It is time for us all to stand up everywhere and just say no: We will not tolerate the destruction of our precious Earth and the lives of our children for greed.” C7


Jeb-Wallace Brodeur / Staff photo  

Rob Millard-Mendez: “Argus Ring”


Rail — ARTS

Wide-eyed

“Eye Spy,” an exhibition focused on the eye, opened at Studio Place Arts last week and continues in the Main Floor Gallery through Aug. 23. The show features work of 29 artists. D1