Thursday October 25, 2012

A project
we can’t afford

Editor of the Reformer:

The people of Brattleboro were not well-served by the representatives at Town Meeting on Saturday, Oct. 20. The Selectboard had promoted the $14 million construction bond, hoping perhaps that it would force the reps to pay for it with Mr. DeGray’s option tax, but the reps overwhelmingly rejected the tax. That was a good thing. The bond has not been accurately represented to the public, and most people have only heard about necessary "repairs," "maintenance" and "renovations." There are repairs that the police station definitely needs. The official project description includes 5,000 square feet of renovations to the station. It also includes a 10,407 square-foot "addition." This is not repairs: it’s excessive expansion. The crime rate is slowly decreasing and the population has been steady for 20 years.

What they didn’t point out is that with interest the cost will be closer to $20 million, and that the price of the project is based only on a construction estimate? The cost to the typical taxpayer will be $2,000 to $4,000. The Selectboard has also predicted that the bond cost will go up if we don’t act quickly. They don’t know what is going to happen with interest rates. They’ve actually fallen a bit in the last few days.

We should be thankful the committee members who devoted their weekends to plan this project.


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They have worked for years and want some final results. But, although the entire project may have been advisable when the projects were first considered, times have changed. The people and businesses of this town are suffering from a bad economy and lingering effects of the Brooks House fire and Tropical Storm Irene, and they are already on the hook for other big bond payments for a $6 million parking garage (which was supposed to pay for itself), a $50 million high school, and a $32 million water treatment plant. The debt load compared to the tax base of our town is the third highest in the state.

The police and fire stations have been adequate for the troops to provide good service. The only complaint anyone hears is that there aren’t enough policemen. Chief Wrinn himself says he couldn’t choose between more construction and more recruits and that salaries are not adequate to keep many troopers once they are trained. The police and fire departments need raises and new recruits, not remodeling. Alternatives have been deliberately overlooked. For instance, the Home Depot building would be cheaper and is closer to highway access.

In sum, the project needs to be severely trimmed to fit the difficult times. We simply cannot afford this expensive excessive project. Another thing that wasn’t well reported: a referendum for a townwide vote was officially presented at the town meeting. With enough signatures the referendum will force a town-wide vote. People must bring their petition-cards to or sign petitions at Lotus Graphics 448 Canal St. or 16 Washington St. Today by 4 p.m.

Kurt Daims,

Brattleboro, Oct. 22

McGovern’s Lasting Legacy

Editor of the Reformer:

Last Sunday, we lost former U.S. Senator George McGovern. Although many will recall his disastrous 1972 loss to Richard Nixon and his subsequent leadership in getting us out of Vietnam, his truly lasting legacy will be his war on hunger and malnutrition.

In 1977, following extensive public hearings, McGovern’s Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published Dietary Goals for the United States, a precursor to today’s Dietary Guidelines. It marked the first time that a U.S.government document recommended reduced meat consumption.

The meat industry forced the Committee to destroy all copies of the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new edition. It then abolished the Committee, voted McGovern out of office, and warned government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again. ("Food Politics" by Marion Nestle, 2007).

Yet, after 35 years of studies linking meat consumption with elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other killer diseases, the MyPlate icon, representing USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommends vegetables, fruits, and grains, but never mentions meat, and shunts dairy off to one side. (www.choosemyplate.gov/).

And it all started with one brave senator from South Dakota.

Kyle Roberts,

Brattleboro, Oct. 23

More on energy consumption

Editor of the Reformer:

A few days back Peter Van der Does wrote a letter acknowledging that I was correct in stating that Vermont Yankee still supplies the grid no matter who actually pays for the power (Oct. 17). He did however take issue with my assertion that we need Vermont Yankee to continue to have a stable and adequate supply of electricity in the Southern Vermont area. This is what he said: "Every 18 months the plant shuts down for a full 30 to 32 days to change the spent fuel rods, do an inspection, and empty the Torus and the recapture pools. During this month’s time the plant is shut down but we still get our electricity. So ... no we don’t need Vermont Yankee."

He is right and he is wrong.

Electricity follows the rules of physics and supply and demand. What most people do not realize about electricity is that electricity has to be made at the exact moment that it is required. So for example if the grid needs 1,000 gigawatts the power produced must be exactly 1,000 gigawatts. If the producers make too much the voltage at your house would go up and all those sensitive devices you have in your home would be at risk for damage, if the producers make too little then your voltage would go down and again all those sensitive devices you have in your home would be at risk for damage.

When the grid has too much power coming or too little it is out of balance and the devices that are designed to protect you and the grid shut it down. This is called a black-out, and once shut down it takes a while to get it back into balance.

During the spring and fall demand for electricity is much lower than winter or summer, so power producers schedule maintenance on the power plants, so that they will be ready for peak demand in the summer. So Peter is right, spring and fall we do not need Vermont Yankee. The grid operators run Vermont Yankee when it isn’t in refuel because it is the cheapest source of base load generation. The law of economics applies.

But Peter is wrong, during the summer when we reach peak power demand Vermont Yankee, and all the other major power suppliers, are vital to keeping the power on.

No matter if you are for or against Nuclear Power, local suppliers vs out of state, wind/solar power, etc. electricity follows the laws of physics and they cannot be changed. You have to make it the millisecond you need it or the power goes out.

Ken Henson,

Brattleboro, Oct. 19

Support for Hoffer

Editor of the Reformer:

Recently I had opportunity to talk with Doug Hoffer, candidate for State Auditor. He impressed me as a person who’s tailored for the job of doing performance audits of State government departments, programs and projects and other governmental spending decisions. He’s definitely a numbers guy and knows State government well from contract work he did for the State Auditor’s Office and policy analysis of many State programs and projects over the past 24 years.

Hoffer is known as a person who does not shy away from controversial issues, asks tough questions, and lets facts speak for themselves in the audits he performs.

He has the skills needed for the job, passion for it, and will serve Vermonters well if elected.

Join me in voting for Doug Hoffer for Auditor on Nov. 6.

Bill Schmidt,

Dummerston, Oct. 22

On cancer ...

Editor of the Reformer:

I would like to add to the important article on breast cancer which appeared on Friday, Oct. 19, titled "The best defense is a healthy lifestyle and check ups."

The fact is that exposure to environmental toxins, especially those known as endocrine disruptors, is also a risk factor in developing breast cancer. BPA, fire retardants, PCBs and other chemicals have all been implicated in this far too common cancer. There are many people pushing to strengthen oversight of chemical safety in the U.S., and we can also familiarize ourselves with these chemicals and their sources, and alternatives that are safer.

Rebecca Jones, MD,

Brattleboro, Oct. 19