Friday February 1, 2013

We need to talk Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to the selectboards of Grafton and Athens.

As you know, Meadowsend Timberlands Limited has owned and sustainably managed more than 5,000 acres spanning the towns of Grafton and Windham since 1996. This working forestland land has been open to use by our neighbors for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing and other traditional uses throughout this ownership. Not only are we happy to share the land in this way, but also we believe in the mutually supportive relationship it creates between us, the landowners, and our neighbors and friends in surrounding towns.

The purpose of this letter is to seek a meeting with the selectboard and planning commission about how we might work together to pursue a rigorous, meaningful conversation with the town about its future and any role Meadowsend Timberlands can play in that future.

The French Family, owners of Meadowsend Timberlands, believes strongly in the working landscape and how it can help sustain families, future generations, and communities. We care deeply about sustainable forestry and the role it can play in mitigating the hazardous effects of global warming and climate change, as well as provide a whole host of other benefits to the environment. But as you know, our economy is changing. It is becoming increasingly difficult to rely solely on sustainable timber management to cover the carrying costs of working forestland. We are under increased pressure to clear-cut, to liquidate and to manage this land in ways that do not meet our goals and values. Therefore, we are looking to other ways to maintain Stiles Brook Forest as a working forestland, with renewable wind power as one tool in that toolbox.

As you know, recently we successfully completed a wind project on another Meadowsend Timberlands ownership in Sheffield. We are proud of that project for the way it was built and for what it means for a clean energy future. That property now has a long-term conservation easement that protects it and allows traditional uses by our neighbors.

With the ongoing discussion about wind power in Vermont, we are increasingly concerned that an opportunity for meaningful discussion around our property has not occurred. Critical issues regarding the future of Stiles Brook Forest have not been adequately communicated and we would welcome an opportunity to begin these discussions now as we have learned there is much information to share.

We feel we owe the towns of Windham and Grafton a more complete explanation of our ideas, plans, values and thinking about the future of the property. Stiles Brook Forest potentially plays a major role in the future stability of these two towns. We are requesting an opportunity to speak with you about how best we can work together to protect this land forever by conservation methods we strongly believe in. Is there some sort of collaborative process we could pursue in which we share each other’s views and arrive at a working arrangement that is satisfactory to both the selectboard, planning commission, town residents, and our needs as owners of working forest land?

We stand ready to work with you on this important issue and hope that you will respond positively to a working meeting. We hope that this will lead to future meetings on an ongoing basis and a collaborative process in which together we can plan for a positive and exciting future based on sound conservation practices.

Jeremy G. Turner and Steven B. French,

Meadowsend Timberlands Limited, Jan. 29

Mixing facts, opinion and wrong info

Editor of the Reformer:

I recently read a letter from an anti-Vermont Yankee person asking the Public Service Board to deny Vermont Yankee a new Certificate of Public Good. She says she doesn’t trust Vermont Yankee, the NRC and the federal courts.

She is entitled to her opinion and feelings, but the letter is a good example of the arguments put forth by people who are perhaps too emotionally involved. It mixes facts with opinion and wrong information. For example, the author claims that Entergy is ignoring the costs of decommissioning. It is not possible for any facility to ignore decommissioning costs, because the decommissioning fund is required by law, and the amount is dictated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

When the stock market fell a long way in 2008, the value of the decommissioning funds of several nuclear power plants fell below the amount required by the NRC. These plants, including Vermont Yankee, got NRC letters requiring them to immediately contribute more to the fund. NRC oversight of the fund should be well known to Yankee opponents, who, like me, several years ago heard an NRC fund overseer explain and take questions about it at a public meeting.

The opponents assert that Vermont should stand up for "states’ rights." The Constitution also contains federal rights and the peoples’ rights. In the Cedar Creek Room at the State House hangs a painting of the Civil War battle of that name. This should be a reminder that the relationship between state and federal rights has been settled. This issue is at the crux of the lawsuit against the state. States’ rights is often raised by those who lose politically or legally (see segregation).

Howard Shaffer,

Enfield, N.H., Jan. 29

Health care update

Editor of the Reformer:

Despite recent confusion around federally mandated health care exchanges, work continues around the state to assure that we will have a single-payer system in 2017 that will result in more people getting better coverage for less money. This process doesn’t get much media attention, which is too bad because it is good news.

In an effort to reduce the growth of health care costs, the Green Mountain Care Board has pending proposals with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to test several payment models based around shared savings, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and pay for performance.

The GMCB coordinated and helped design several payment reform models. In St. Johnsbury, the board is guiding a coordinated oncology care project that’s somewhat experimental, with doctors and providers helping design the future payment contracts and Dartmouth Hitchcock researchers tracking performance.

In Rutland, the GMCB is working with doctors, the hospital and the federally health clinic to develop better payment systems. The GMCB is also developing standards for accountable care organizations and integrated care networks that can cover both insured Vermonters and Medicaid members.

The GMCB also used a process open to public comment and worked with the Department of Financial Regulation on setting insurance rates in 2012.

Having the medical community deeply involved in designing the single-payer system will help assure quality will not be sacrificed while costs are controlled.

David Schoales,

Brattleboro, Jan. 30

Stop the bond

Editor of the Reformer:

The changing Selectboard and the March Representative Town Meeting present opportunities to reverse the $14 million expansion (construction) bond and the tax hike that comes with it. Brattleboro residents who have time and energy are invited to plan ways of reversing the bond and tax on Saturday Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. in the Parlor of Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main Street.

Appropriate repairs can be proposed for the town buildings, and other services and programs which were cut because of excessive spending can be restored. For more information, e-mail me at brattleborocommonsense@gmail.com or call 802-257-4995.

Kurt Daims,

Brattleboro, Jan. 31