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Forum, Aug. 26: Rieseberg’s Contract; A Mess in Quechee; Life on the Mascoma River

Rating Hartford’s Manager

To the Editor:

As the Hartford Selectboard considers the extension of Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg’s contract, residents need to reflect on conflicting aspects of the town management’s performance. The response to Tropical Storm Irene for example, was arguably excellent. The town, and town manager, were fully engaged and provided assistance at all levels. Given the pace of public funding, not to mention the sluggish mechanism of FEMA and federal assistance, resources for damaged roads, buildings, parks and bridges were secured quicker than expected — few would dispute that Hartford’s public spaces are now in better shape than before.

We have to ask ourselves though, is Hartford really a better place than it was 18 years ago? Recalling the time prior to 2008 and then, the period of federal stimulus dollars after the financial crisis, it seemed that hundreds of thousands were directed to unnecessary replacements of serviceable equipment and infrastructure. In 2013, the town was blindsided when the health insurance contract for employees increased 50 percent. For unknown reasons, Hartford was suddenly hit with the largest insurance spike of 215 Vermont municipalities. “I’m really confused about what’s going on, only because I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Selectman Ken Parker, who owns an insurance agency. “I have a feeling the town’s being jerked around.” This remarkable public response begs the question of town management’s sensitivity to looming troubles of a less obvious nature than Irene.

Hartford’s population is decreasing — hardly a good sign. The town manager himself, making in excess of $123,000, with a town-supplied vehicle and other benefits, is so little invested in Hartford that he chooses to live in Hanover.

This year, we saw another huge increase to our property taxes in relation to property values. High taxes, low property value: is this solely a result of uncontrollable events or is the town not efficiently allocating resources? Last year, in the face of nervous budget wrangling and an unexplained lapse of communication, we nearly lost our recycling services. We happily pay taxes for public services and the future of our children, but the tax burden must be proportional to value and this can only be delivered by a competent government.

As the contract extension deadline nears, the Selectboard will hopefully take a close look at the scope of the problems facing Hartford and, if necessary, make some tough decisions regarding future management.

James B. and Sharon L. Goedkoop

Wilder

Clean the Mess in Quechee

To the Editor:

With the Quechee Gorge and Simon Pearce, Quechee is one of the most visited destinations in Vermont. Residents of Quechee Lakes are deservedly proud of their fine club with so many amenities, including two of the finest golf courses in New England and a restaurant that rivals any in the Upper Valley. There is a ski hill that is used by town schools, a town green where local schools play soccer and other games and Lake Pinneo is a town resource.

For the Hartford Selectboard to let the area around the new covered bridge remain in its current condition is simply a dereliction of duty. The chain link fence surrounding the hole that was once the Emporium Building makes the mill look like a prison. On the other side of the road are the remains of a wall that was battered by Irene and cement barriers that are graffiti magnets. It is a disgrace that thousands of visitors every year see this and take home photographs of the bridge with these surroundings.

At least the town should replace the chain link fence and the cement barriers with a continuation of the black fence that was started. The hole should be cleaned up so it doesn’t resemble some inner city vacant lot. Many area youths have begun using the part of the river from the falls to the bend in the river as a favorite swimming hole. Is this what a Vermont swimming hole should look like?

Lincoln Kerney

Quechee

When ‘Lilacs Last’ Became Song

To the Editor:

Nicola Smith, in her review of Street Scene, performed by Opera North, writes “if Walt Whitman were set to music,” the poem, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d might sound as referred to in the Kurt Weill opera (“Opera North’s ‘Street Scene’ Is Magnificent,” Aug. 14). In fact, the great composer Paul Hindemith did set that poem, an elegy for Abraham Lincoln, to music. The Hindemith work was the result of a commission arranged by Robert Shaw after the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. The Robert Shaw Chorale gave it its first performance in New York in 1946, a few months before Weill’s work made it to Broadway.

Hans Israelsson

Post Mills

Life on the Mascoma River

To the Editor:

As you may know, on the morning of Saturday, July 19, the Rotary Club of Lebanon and the Riverside Rotary Club organized the 10th Mascoma River Clean-up in 20 years. The first one was conducted on July 8, 1995.

Saturday the 19th was, as promised, a beautiful day with sunshine and just enough water to keep things interesting and our boats floating. The Hanover Rotary Club had by 7 a.m. already set up a breakfast treat of pancakes with blueberries and sausages at the skateboard park along Glen Road in West Lebanon, and shortly after volunteers from all over Lebanon and the Upper Valley began to arrive.

The river since time immemorial (20 years) gets scrubbed from exit 17 (I-89) going downstream all the way till it ends in the Connecticut River. It is divided into 12 easily manageable sections to which teams of four to six volunteers are assigned with a map and the necessary instructions. Pickup trucks patrol the shore to drop off boats and people and to pick up trash. A local waste management company donated two dumpsters, one for metal, the other for trash, and the city provided a dump truck for the tires — all parked behind the Carter Community Building, where we were allowed to use the pavilion for a free lunch provided by the Rotary Club of Lebanon.

About 50 volunteers were in the river and alongside it, with eight more people taking care of lunch and manning the telephone at “headquarters.”

Now what about the haul? We collected 500 pounds of trash and 860 pounds of metal for a total of 1,360 pounds. Plus, we did fill the city dump truck with about 30 tires. An interesting find was a seemingly intact dumpster standing upright on a sandbar in the middle of the river close to the mouth into the Connecticut. I surmise that it somehow floated downstream during one of the storms of the last few years.

After 20 years of biennial cleanups, I do find there is less trash and tires. Reading my report on the 1995 clean-up to this forum, I see that we removed 10 tons of scrap metal, two dumpsters full of trash and, hard to believe, approximately 100 tires. So, the Mascoma River is getting cleaner! And with the next flood we’ll have even cleaner water to deal with.

None of this could have been achieved without the interest and the active participation of so many citizen-volunteers. To all of you my heartfelt thanks and congratulations.

Ernst Oidtmann

Chairman, Community Service, Rotary Club

Lebanon