Deputy fire chief downgraded, a sad good-bye to an extraordinary man, and health center backs out of town

Rob Mullin will stay with CVFRS; creative gentleman David Garrett of Thompson's Point passes away from breakthrough covid infection; CFHC won't build in town

Photo by Robert Coleburn

Deputy fire chief’s title and position removed, Mullin to stay with department

Chea Waters Evans

Former Deputy Fire Chief and Head of Service Rob Mullin has lost his title and some job responsibilities, but will remain on staff at Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services. He was first promoted to that position in January 2019.

CVFRS Corporate Board President Fritz Tegatz said in an interview Wednesday that the title change is in response to department reorganization. “We don’t have volunteers anymore,” he said, “so the structure of the department is sort of changing a little bit. We’re just getting more paid employees and fewer volunteers.”

Tegatz acknowledged that Mullin was already a paid employee and not a volunteer. He said that fire and rescue is moving toward hiring more staff rather than relying on volunteers. “As a result of those changes . . . the structure to manage them has changed.”

Mullin confirmed with The Charlotte Bridge that he is no longer deputy chief and head of service, but declined to comment on the matter further.

The decision to remove Mullin from his position was made by the CVFRS board, Tegatz said. Though Mullin’s pay will remain the same, Tegatz said his responsibilities and managerial status has shifted. “He’s in the same role as the other new employees,” he said. “I’m sure he gets more money, because he’s been there longer. I wouldn’t call it a demotion, it’s a change. Change is hard. But it’s the direction that we feel we need to go to keep providing reliable service.”

He did not explain why removing Mullin from the position would ensure more reliable service, but said, “When you start getting more employees, you have to change the way you supervise and do other stuff, so that’s the direction we’re going. And we most likely will be continuing that when we have our budget discussion with the Selectboard.”

Tegatz said that, along with many other Vermont employers, CVFRS has had a difficult time finding and retaining staff. As for Mullin and the two new employees, they will perform fire and rescue duties but don’t have official titles yet, acknowledging that they “still struggle to keep up” with regular duties as well as internal office changes.

As for the deputy chief position, he said, “That’s not being filled. It still exists on paper, but we’re not doing it. We haven’t gotten around to rearranging titles, but that’s not a position that’s going to be filled.”

Fire Chief Dick St. George will continue to oversee all CVFRS employees.


David Walter Garrett, 78, of Charlotte, VT, died unexpectedly on August 17 from heart failure brought on by a breakthrough COVID infection. Though tragic, it was as he would have wanted it: over in an instant, at the end of a perfect Vermont summer day, at his home of four decades, the historic Cedar Farm, on Thompson’s Point in Charlotte.

A woodsman, artist, investment manager, entrepreneur and hotelier, he had extraordinary creativity and vision. Across all his endeavors, things that seemed impossible regularly came to be real—from a cabin deep in the Adirondacks that he built by hand, to a boutique hotel company that set new standards for ultra-luxury accommodation and historic preservation.

David was one of the most experienced developers of small, high-end hotels in the world—a credential he earned after years as a successful investment banker. His hotel career began in the 1980s, with the purchase and rejuvenation of an old Rockefeller Great Camp on Upper Saranac Lake, NY, known as The Point. The hotel became one of the most lauded luxury properties in the country, and led to the purchase of other historic hotels that commanded high room rates and delivered incomparable services to guests. 

David and his wife Christie ran the properties under the banner of Garrett Hotel Group, which at one point comprised The Point and The Lake Placid Lodge in the Adirondacks, The Wilcox in Aiken, SC, and The Inn of the Five Graces in Sante Fe, NM. David was also instrumental in the creation of Twin Farms in Barnard, VT, and advised on other properties. Over the years, David served as North American president of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel association and on its international board of directors.

He helped invigorate the boutique hotel movement in the U.S. and inspire a renaissance of all things Adirondack. Himself a master woodworker, he tapped into the Adirondack style of “rustic elegance” - a phrase he used often—and enlisted local craftspeople to build pieces for the hotels. He also made many pieces himself—from enormous twigged credenzas to wine cellars bedecked in branches. David’s works remain on display in his most recent hotel project, The Ivy, in Baltimore, MD; in the barn he turned into an office in Charlotte, VT; and on his website, Corkiture.com—named for his early fascination with using corks in his furniture making.  

David Garrett was born in New York City on December 12, 1942 and grew up with his older brother, Daniel, in Scarborough, NY. His parents, Daniel N. Garrett and Louise Benson Garrett, were transplanted Southerners, and David nurtured a lifelong fascination with the South and family genealogy, tracing Garretts and Bensons back centuries and often paying unannounced visits to distant relatives in his many travels.

As a boy, David was drawn to the woods and fascinated by the television show, Daniel Boone, impressed by the depiction of warm family life in a log cabin, with wild adventure all around. 

He attended The Williston Northampton School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A devoted Tar Heels fan, hardly anything could get between him and a Carolina basketball game. At Chapel Hill, his independent streak and passion for the woods were on full display: he skipped the dorms and lived in a log cabin. 

After college, while living in New York and working at his father’s printing business, he met his wife, Christie Coursen, then a flight attendant for TWA. The two would soon have their first of three daughters while spending a year in Paris.

During this time David made two key moves that would shape the course of his life. The first was to purchase 165 acres in the Adirondacks in 1967 and begin carrying out his dream of a cabin in the woods. He built the cabin on high ground above a still pond, surrounded by ancient wooded state land. He spent the next 54 years expanding and improving the cabin, making it his sanctuary and family retreat. All important life decisions, he’d say, were made at the cabin. 

The other key path David took was to begin working as an investment banker. The work suited his tolerance for risk, clear-minded decision-making, and keen sense of a good bet. He was a broker at Moseley, Hallgarten Estabrook & Weeden, and later First Albany, managing offices in Cambridge, MA and Burlington, VT. In the early 1980s, David also helped the Vermont Teddy Bear Company go from a small pushcart to a booming Bear-Gram business that continues today. 

In 2008, David and Christie started Garrett Hotel Consulting, where they worked with clients on the development and management of properties around the country. 

David is survived by his wife of 53 years, Christie of Charlotte; daughter Erin Garrett-Metz and her husband Andrew Metz and three children Lydia, Daniel and Miriam of Manchester by the Sea, MA; daughter Moriah Garrett and her husband Rob Arthur and three children, Samuel, Elouise and Olive of Baltimore, MD; and daughter Caitrin Garrett of Burlington, VT.


Charlotte Family Health Center is out

Chea Waters Evans

After more than a year of trying to move the Charlotte Family Health Center back into Charlotte, the practice has decided to give up. Dr. Andrea Regan confirmed this afternoon that they informed employees of the decision today.

Neighbors objected to the project for multiple reasons including concerns about traffic, noise, lights, and nearby wetlands. A group of mostly Greenbush Road neighbors, whose properties abutted or overlooked the property upon which the health center was to be built, filed an appeal to the Charlotte Planning Commissions’ site plan approval in Vermont Environmental Court. The CFHC had already stretched its timeframe and budget to get the project through local planning and zoning when they made the decision to bow out.

Let's get this ARPA party started.

Tonight, Selectboard meeting, 8 p.m. Be there or be square.

ARPA door opens at tonight’s Selectboard meeting

By Chea Waters Evans

The money isn’t yet burning a hole in Charlotte’s pockets, but things are getting warmer. Federal relief funds have been distributed to ease covid-related economic hardship, and Charlotte is getting more than $1.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. What is the town going to do with all that money, and who gets to decide? The Selectboard meeting tonight allocates 20 minutes, scheduled for 8 p.m., to discuss how it’s going to work.

ARPA funds don’t need to be actually spent until 2026, but they need to be obligated by 2024, which gives about two years for the town to decide how to spend it, plan any projects, and then implement those plans. The Selectboard ultimately has the authority to choose how the money will be spent, but Selectboard ARPA-preparation point-person Lewis Mudge and Chair Matt Krasnow both agree that the people of Charlotte are the real decision-makers. 

“I’d personally like to see the Selectboard agree to having any large allocation also approved by the voters,” Krasnow tells The Charlotte Bridge. “I feel it’s imperative (for the public trust and a productive use of the funding) that every step of this process needs to be transparent, accessible, fair, and open to improvement when needed.”

“This is not the Selectboard’s money,” Mudge agrees. “This is the town’s money. Before we get to any decision about how we’re going to account for a wide degree of opinions, we need to come up with a road map. We’re in an unprecedented situation.”

The process starts tonight. Krasnow says that during this time the Selectboard will “share with the community the general framework of ARPA, and then spend some time as a Board discussing [the] process and how to move forward, as well as asking for public input.”

Both Krasnow and Mudge used the phrase “once in a lifetime” to describe this chunk of change; the money amounts to almost a third of the town’s annual budget. Charlotters are already reaching out to Selectboard members to voice their opinions about how the money should be spent. 

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns provides guidance to municipalities. Mudge says that he has already sat in on meetings with the VLCT regarding how towns should manage the process. The organization also has people available to provide more specific help should the Selectboard need it. 

Krasnow says he has three goals as the process unfolds. The first is to create a process for how to spend the money that “maximizes community input.” In addition to asking current town committees for their opinions, he said it’s also important to provide “many opportunities for individuals to contribute ideas as well.” The second goal is for the Selectboard “to determine a clear and reasonable set of criteria by which ideas can be fairly and transparently evaluated and prioritized. I think it will be important to then publish the list of approved funding candidates and the allocation amounts for public review and feedback (before final approval).” The third, Krasnow says, is to determine what requests receive funding and then manage how that works.

Mudge, who has been outspoken about transparency since his election to the Selectboard in March, emphasizes that he thinks the process should be an “open, transparent conversation with the town, with the best ways of using this money. I see this as an opportunity for us.”

He also offers a reminder that the process needs to be carefully managed and projects chosen that definitively fit within the spending guidelines. “If we get this wrong,” Mudge says, “we have to pay the money back. This absolutely has to be done right. Any decision is going to be made in a way that is sober and fact-checked. This is how grants work, and if you don’t do it correctly, you can be on the hook.”

Krasnow says community input starts after tonight. “The two-week period before the September 27th Selectboard meeting will give residents and Board members the time to have discussions with each other, with friends and family, together on FPF, and at work with colleagues who may live in other towns. A significant amount of time will be carved out at the September 27th meeting to work on solidifying an iterative, transparent and productive process that ensures this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ community funding opportunity is invested well and benefits everybody fairly and responsibly.”

Memory: September 11

Louise McCarren remembers what it was like in New York that day.

911

Louise McCarren

A routine trip to New York City.  Catch the early morning commuter plane, cab to midtown for meetings and return.

A crystal clear morning. The plane came directly down the city and right above the Twin Towers. My seatmate observed that her son worked there. Landed at LaGuardia, caught a cab and headed into the city. As we were headed south through Central Park, the cabbie said, Listen to this. A small plane had hit one of the towers and papers and debris were falling.

When we came out of the park and through the square we could see the other tower and then the plane hit. Proceeded west to midtown. All appeared normal on the streets.

Went to the 42nd floor to meet colleagues and watch in horror as the towers fell.  There was ash everywhere. Fortunately the wind was blowing from the north so the ash was blowing away from the city.

Realized that below us was 20 floors of telephone switching, an ideal target.

We were able to secure hotel rooms in the theater district. As we left through the lobby the CEO was there saying that the office would stay open, and the cafeteria, in case folks needed to stay.

Several colleagues and I headed north on foot. We stopped at one hotel for one person and waited in the lobby. Suddenly police came in and yelled at everyone to leave because of a threat. Two Italian women were crying, I tried to comfort them and helped them out.

Headed to the hotel, loaned my cell phone to people in long lines at pay phones. Stopped by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and said a short prayer.

We are so rich.

ARPA fund amounts are finalized.

We got some more money, honeys! Now what should we do with it?

By Chea Waters Evans

Across the country, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, intended to provide relief from covid-related economic hardship, will put about $350 billion into the economy.

Vermont will receive more than $1.25 billion.

In June, Charlotte got the news that there’s $396,243.14 in Non-Entitlement Unit local government funding on the way. On August 20, Chittenden County’s town disbursement figures came out, allocating another $735,331.08 in ARPA funds to Charlotte.

As of Labor Day, Charlotte will be sitting on a cool $1,131,574.22.

According to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ website, “City councils and Selectboards will have discretion over how to spend their allocations. The State of Vermont will not be allowed to add any additional rules to the roughly $200 million distributed directly to municipalities.”

That sounds exciting, but it’s not like the Selectboard is going to use the money to take everyone in town on a yacht cruise in Ibiza with Beyoncé and JAY-Z. There are some rules already in place. Here’s how the VLCT lays them out:

“ARPA includes four broad criteria outlining eligible uses:

  • To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;

  • To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;

  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and

  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.”

The Selectboard is already in motion on this issue; more to come later this week on how it could look for Charlotters.

It's a BIG news week .

Appeal filed against health center in environmental court; ZBA adopts new ethics and procedure policy; plus, a super cute update on the twins born with the help of CVFRS

Before we get to the serious stuff—how cute is this?

Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Deputy Chief Rob Mullin had a play date this week with Rhodes Lampman, whom he helped to deliver at home in January along with AEMT Arron Barney. (Photo courtesy Willa Lampman, see the end of this post for more adorable shots of their visit.)

New ethics policy for ZBA 

By Chea Waters Evans

After a tricky year of conflict-of-interest kerfuffles, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has adopted a new procedure and ethics policy. Adopted at the Aug. 11 meeting, the policy lays out rules and expectations for current and future ZBA members. In a press release, Town Planner Larry Lewack wrote, “These rules provide clear guidance for board members who have an interest in a project from tipping their hand on the scales to influence the board’s decision.”

ZBA Chair Lane Morrison told The Charlotte Bridge on Thursday that one main theme led discussion and decision-making surrounding the new policy: “Our intent is to be transparent and open, and I think this is a step forward for that.” He said that the conflict-of-interest guidelines the ZBA had been using were last approved  in 2005 and that the new policy, which was shepherded by ZBA members Charles Russell and JD Herlihy, is compliant with the latest state regulations. 

Morrison said there are three major changes that the board hopes will make the zoning process work better for Charlotters. The most notable change is to the ZBA’s operating procedure. Going forward, decisions and deliberations will be held publicly and openly, rather than during closed deliberative sessions. Previously, an applicant would make their case in front of the board, and then the ZBA, which is a quasi-judicial board, would deliberate privately and then announce their decision. Under the new procedure, applicants will be able to listen as the ZBA deliberates, though they will still not be allowed to speak or add new evidence or information. Lewack said, “The board retains the option to close meetings when necessary. But this will be the exception, not the rule, going forward.”

The second significant clarification in the new procedures lays out clearer guidelines regarding conflict of interest. Morrison said the ZBA consulted with the town attorney, who gave them advice to help make the conflict-of-interest rules “more specific and clear as we move forward.” He also said, “There’s more definition of what a conflict of interest is, so that’s good.”

As part of their concerted effort to identify and avoid conflict of interest, Morrison said that in the future, as each application is considered, he will directly address the board to make sure there are no issues. “It’s a self-recusal process,” Morrison said, “and if the board disagrees, then the board can take further, more serious steps.” The policy also allows for the applicant to request a particular member to recuse him- or herself, though it’s only a request and not a requirement.

The third major change defines who interested parties are, and in what order they speak during a hearing. First the applicant, then the ZBA, then the general public will speak in that order; a time limit of three minutes per question will be given to the public if there’s a great deal of interest and many people want to speak.

The new policy also defines the term “conflict of interest” partly as “a direct or indirect interest or involvement of a board member, their spouse, partner, household member, child, stepchild, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt or uncle, brother or sister-in-law, cousin or other familial relation, business associate, employer or employee, in the outcome of a cause, proceeding, application or any other matter pending before the ZBA.”

Whether this will discount every person who lives in Charlotte remains to be seen but, for now, the rules and expectations are clearer.

Appeal filed against Charlotte Family Health Center decision

By Chea Waters Evans

A group of Charlotte residents has filed an appeal against the Planning Commission’s July 29 site plan final plan approval decision for a Charlotte Family Health Center on Ferry Road in the West Village. The group, whose designated representative is former Zoning Board of Adjustment and current Charlotte Conservation Commission member Ronda Moore, filed the appeal with the Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division through attorney Jon Anderson of Burlington law firm Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer.

The CFHC application has hit multiple hurdles over the past year; the PC’s approval was an indicator that the health center could move forward with construction that they previously hoped to complete by the end of 2021. (Click here here for past articles on the topic; there are several.)

Moore represents a group that consists mainly of Greenbush Road residents and other neighbors of the proposed health center site. Her fellow petitioners are Mark and Laurie Moser; King Milne; Alaina, John, Rhian, and Jalen Murphy; Thomas Bryce; Heather Murphy; Rene and Jeanne Kaczka-Valliere; Carla von Trapp Hunter; David Rothenbucher; Joanne Wallis; Jacinta Monniere; Gloria Slauterbeck; and Jason and Kelly Stockwell. 

The Charlotte Family Health Center did not immediately reply to a request for a comment this afternoon.

CVFRS Deputy Fire Chief Rob Mullin has his hands full on a visit with the Lampman twins. He delivered Rhodes, on the right, on the bathroom floor of the family’s home this past winter. Tully, left, waited until after the ambulance got to the hospital to make his arrival.

Willa and Eric Lampman and their cutie-pie kids spent some time this week with Rob Mullin, who delivered one of the twins at home in January. Willa fondly refers to him as her “birth doula” and said that they’re still full of gratitude for CVFRS. “We’re just so grateful for the Fire and Rescue squad, and  for Rob and Arron’s amazing efforts to deliver Rhodes. It was a pretty intense situation for me and my husband and they were so kind and supportive,” she said. (All photos courtesy Willa Lampman)

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