South Burlington Residential Electricity Reduction by Neighborhood
By Kristan Hatfield
Program Manager for Efficiency Vermont
The South Burlington Energy Committee, Front Porch Forum, and Efficiency Vermont partnered together to create a map of the city that displays changes in residential electricity consumption. The incorporation of neighborhood boundaries has added a relevant new dimension to the tool’s visualizations. The tool calculates changes in each of the Front Porch Forum neighborhood’s average kWh use per home.
A new understanding of community electricity use in the residential and municipal sectors has been inspired by three Vermont teams, South Burlington, Montpelier, and Waterbury/Duxbury, who are participating in the Georgetown University Energy Prize. The City of South Burlington and their partners have worked together to develop innovations in communicating trends in residential electricity and natural gas use. The result: South Burlington used less electricity per capita in 2015 than had been used in 2013 and 2014.
South Burlington Residents can look for the Map Update in The Other Paper this Fall (pp. 14-15) to see how each neighborhood is performing in 2016.
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More than 2,000 local public officials across Vermont use their Front Porch Forums to engage with their constituents, providing public service, sharing information and increasing civic participation. Here’s an example from the Williamstown FPF yesterday…
“Drone flying late at night – if you are flying your drone right now in the First Avenue/Hubbard Street area- knock it off. It’s 10:40 pm and completely disrespectful to be hovering drones outside people’s bedroom windows. This was not a mere flyby, but extended hovering.”
• Stephen, Montpelier Front Porch Forum
“This post was disturbing. I didn’t realize it was legal for people to fly drones around other peoples’ property, let along hovering near windows. Can the City comment on this re regulation or someone from the state comment if there is state legislation? Thanks.”
• Kathy, Montpelier FPF
“It’s legal to use a shotgun here in Montpelier to hunt.Pretty easy to blast it ! lol”
• John, Montpelier FPF
“It may be legal to shoot a shotgun in Montpelier, but downright stupid to fire into the air. What goes up also comes down with the possibility of injury to property or people.”
• Ken, Montpelier FPF
“We’ve been following the report of drone use in the city and have received a few direct calls about nuisance or inappropriate use. We’re compiling information from the Federal Aviation Administration and Vermont Agency of Transportation regarding the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) to shared at a later date. Please see the FAA website on drones below: https://www.faa.gov/uas/ Please contact the Montpelier Police Department if you have a concern about drone use within the city limits so we may respond and investigate. The municipal ordinance regarding the use of firearms in the City of Montpelier is included below and does not permit the use of firearms against drones. ARTICLE V. USE OF FIREARMS, BB GUNS, BOW AND ARROWS, AND SIMILAR WEAPONS. Sec. 11-500. USE OF ARMS. No person shall discharge or fire or cause to be discharged, or fired, any revolver, pistol, rifle, shotgun, air rifle, BB gun, or other similar firearm or weapon within the limits of the city of Montpelier. This prohibition shall not apply to the use of firearms or weapons by any duly constituted police officer or other public official when such use is reasonably necessary in the performance of his duties as such officer or official; nor shall it apply to the use of shotgun, air rifle, or BB gun, by a hunter in the active pursuit of game, except that such shotgun shall not be used with ammunition containing a single slug, pellet or missile in any one cartridge or shell, nor shall either shotgun or air rifle be discharged within a distance of 200 yards from any building and shooting within 100 yards of an accepted street or highway, and provided further that this ordinance shall not prevent the discharge of firearms on any properly constructed firing range or in the conduct of a contest, shoot, meet, or game when reasonable precautions are taken for the protection of the public safety; nor shall it prevent the use of firearms for the disposal of vermin when permission for such use has been first obtained from the Chief of Police of the City of Montpelier. If you have any questions please contact me…”
• Officer Philbrick, Montpelier Police Dept., Montpelier FPF
“There is no city ordinance that addresses drones per se, but there is one that addresses the use of firearms. Sec. 11-500 of the Montpelier Ordinance Code states: ‘No person shall discharge or fire or cause to be discharged, or fired, any revolver, pistol, rifle, shotgun, air rifle, BB gun, or other similar firearm or weapon within the limits of the city of Montpelier. This prohibition shall not apply to … the use of shotgun, air rifle, or BB gun, by a hunter in the active pursuit of game, except that such shotgun shall not be used with ammunition containing a single slug, pellet or missile in any one cartridge or shell, nor shall either shotgun or air rifle be discharged within a distance of 200 yards from any building and shooting within 100 yards of an accepted street or highway,…nor shall it prevent the use of firearms for the disposal of vermin when permission for such use has been first obtained from the Chief of Police of the City of Montpelier.’ So it appears that since Montpelier is so densely populated, there are very few places that a firearm can be legally discharged, even in the pursuit of game, because of the compact spacing of homes and streets.”
• Ken, Montpelier FPF
“In lieu of a shotgun maybe get out the hose, press your thumb against the nozzle, and wash it away.”
• Ivan, Montpelier FPF
“DO NOT ATTACK DRONES (unless you are at immediate risk of harm from the device). Unmanned Arial Aircraft is the formal designation for what we commonly call ‘drones’ by the FAA. These drones have specific restrictions on their use, such as line-of-sight operation, service ceiling restrictions, and certain limitations on where they can be operated. They are fully allowed to fly in unrestricted airspace, which generally includes all property over the tips of the grass. The owner who is flying line-of-sight cannot trespass however. They are however FAA protected aircraft with some of the same rights as a small Cessna or Bell helicopter flying over your house. They are federally protected, and damaging, destroying, or attempting to cause harm to any aircraft is a FEDERAL CRIME, the same as shooting at an airplane. Do NOT attempt to damage a Drone when in flight. There are numerous examples of folks attacking drones and, at the very least, having to pay out of pocket for possibly very expensive (>$1000) drones. 15 seconds of spraying water, shooting with a BB Gun, tossing rocks etc at a drone could cost you $1000. Your only recourse is call the police or address the operator/owner. Montpelier has ordinances for disturbing the peace and generating disturbances, and the State has laws against voyeurism.”
• Stan, Montpelier FPF
“I want to express my appreciation to Rep. Robin Chestnut-Tangerman for posting legislative updates on Front Porch Forum, and for his obvious commitment to his work on our behalf. It also seems clear that you (Robin) really enjoy what you are doing and your passion shows. I feel well represented by you, and thank you for keeping us all informed.”
• Paul & Margaret, Tinmouth FPF
“During the past weeks, several thefts have occurred in West Brattleboro. A purse was stolen from a truck on Meadowbrook. And an iPhone was stolen from a car at another address. A resident on Pleasant Valley Road also reported seeing a car parked in front of his house “sizing it up.” When the owner came outside, the car rapidly departed. Please lock your cars and homes and report thefts or suspicious activity to the police. Thank you.”
• Valerie, Brattleboro Front Porch Forum
Vermonters share news about break-ins and other local crime with their neighbors on Front Porch Forum every day across the state. Yesterday, e.g., the following three incidents were reported on Burlington FPFs:
“My Toyota RAV4 was stolen out of our driveway last night. We live on right on Colchester Ave. I reported it to the police but please if you see a blue 2008 Toyota RAV4 let me know. It is the only car for me and my husband. Make sure everything is locked up… turns out we don’t live in the most secure neighborhood. Please please help us find our car.”
• Rebecca, Centennial FPF
“We had an intruder on our property Sunday morning who said he was working for Comcast and left as soon as confronted. He was obviously casing our home. We called the police who stated he was looking for an ‘opportunity.’ This is just an FYI.”
• Lindy, South Union FPF
“Has anyone else had their car windows broken? This is the second time this spring our car has been vandalized while parked in the road near our house.”
• Jennifer, Oakledge FPF
The Rutland Herald reported recently that…
A proposed social media policy that would cover both town employees and elected officials was met with pushback last week in Rockingham, with Select Board members saying they felt the proposed policy was a threat to their First Amendment rights…
Abby Friedman, director of the municipal assistance center for the [Vermont League of Cities and Towns], said Friday that many larger towns and cities in Vermont have social media policies, but she said she didn’t know whether they had adopted the one drafted by the league.
She said Barre City, Williston and Colchester were among the larger communities that had policies.
“The policy was written back in 2010. It was before Front Porch (Forum) existed. We need to look at our policy too to see if it needs any updating,” she said, noting that a lot of towns were concerned about the social media issue.
Chris Winters, deputy director of the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, said his office so far had not given towns and town officials any official guidance on the issue.
“Eventually, this summer, we were thinking of putting together some guidance,” he said. “And give the towns some help on online and social media behavior.”
In many Vermont communities, more than half of the households participate on their local FPF. So many more residents of these Towns read comments on FPF than would ever attend selectboard meetings. If we want healthy local democracy, we should update state and local policies to encourage participation… not the opposite.
One correction… FPF has been serving Vermont Towns since 2006, and we’ve had public officials participating during each of the past ten years.
One day and 3,000 miles apart, two local TV newscasts took diametrically opposed approaches covering crime and local online forums.
KGET-17 in Bakersfield, CA asked multiple times in their story (Neighborhood safety apps and websites, are they actually safe?) if services such as Front Porch Forum, NextDoor, EveryBlock and AmericanTowns are safe to use. While a local police sergeant advised caution about what a user shares — which is good, common sense, advice — his point that the Bakersfield Police Dept. has “only seen the programs used in a positive way” was buried in the closing sentence.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated story the next day in Burlington, VT (Police see city-wide spike in burglaries), WPTZ-5 reported that the local police chief had just posted on Front Porch Forum — to which more than 75% of local households subscribe — about a string of burglaries. The Chief provided details and told his FPF readers that “the department is using plainclothes, unmarked and patrol units to track down those responsible.”
We’re pleased that law enforcement in Vermont finds value in Front Porch Forum, and that local media here mine FPF for story leads. FPF is part of a healthy local media ecosystem and we’re glad to play our role.