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VISION sees northwest progress~ RH April 10, 2015

VISION sees northwest progress
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
Staff Writer | April 10, 2015

Police, community leaders and volunteers are determined to make the northwest neighborhood a neighborhood of choice, and their united efforts during the past year are getting them closer to this goal.

“We don’t want the northwest to be a neighborhood of last resort, as the neighborhood where rents are cheap,” Brennan Duffy, executive director of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority said on Thursday as he recounted Project VISION’s 2014 successes during the group’s year-end report meeting. “We are working to change the mindset … we want people who could live anywhere to choose this as their neighborhood.”

Project VISION, not even a year old and housed on the second floor of the Rutland City police station, kicked off last July with the demolition of 37 Pine St., Duffy said. “Target acquisitions of blighted properties are underway … we want to reduce the number of vacant and blighted homes from 21 to 15 in two years,” he said. “We want to increase homeownership from 32 percent to 50 percent.”

In talking about the year’s successes, Duffy pointed to a $1.25 million state grant for the northwest neighborhood. “Part of this will be used for acquisition of properties,” he said. “We will tear down some and rehab others … we will be talking to residents of the neighborhoods about how to reuse the green space.”

The Project VISION effort brings together city police, a number of social service organizations, and a growing number of resident volunteers and community leaders to tackle core issues underlying criminal activity. And Thursday’s meeting, held at Alliance Community Fellowship Church in the Howe Center, highlighted a coordinated effort of change and success.

“When I sit here and listen to how much has been accomplished,” Joe Kraus, chairman of the Project VISION board said, “it’s extraordinary in such a short time.”

But creating a desirable neighborhood takes more than tearing down abandoned properties and fighting crime. It takes flower boxes and plantings; it takes ice cream socials and family fun days.

Duffy said the neighborhood volunteers and city police have helped such things take shape.

And sometimes letting people tell their stories builds bridges and breaks down barriers. A new project, Photo Voice, is designed to give neighborhood kids cameras so they can document their visual tales. A similar project will give residents an opportunity to tell their stories on videos that will be posted on YouTube and PEG-TV, Capt. Scott Tucker, the director of Project VISION, said.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” Tucker said. As part of Project VISION’s goals, substance abuse reduction efforts are also important, and one accomplishment this year was the creation of a universal consent form used by all treatment providers in the area, said the volunteer committee chairwoman, Traci Moore. “We are committed to reducing substance abuse in Rutland,” she said.

An audience member asked if someone could get treatment right away, and several audience members shook their heads “no.” It takes about two weeks for someone to get admitted to Serenity House.

Crime reduction is part of neighborhood improvement and Tucker presented results citing 60 drug arrests in September: 31 state and 31 federal. With a goal of reducing residential burglaries by 50 percent, Tucker said actual reduction has been 34 percent. “Tell everyone to lock their doors and we’d reach 50 percent.“

Tucker said that the top three burglary items in 2014 were cash, electronics and copper.

In 2015, Project VISION leaders hope to increase neighborhood enjoyment, continue existing programs and look for new ways to improve the neighborhood, Duffy said. “We have plans for a front porch cleanup,” he said. “We are looking for more suggestions for improvement and encourage more community involvement.”

kathleen.phalentomaselli@rutlandherald.com

Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo Rutland City police Capt. Scott Tucker makes a presentation during meeting of Project Vision Thursday noon in the Alliance Community Fellowship. 04/09/15

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