Wells River site named to replace Woodside juvenile facility
Police monitoring Slate Ridge firearms center controversy
By Guy Page
October 30, 2020 – The Scott administration “will be forced to do something about it” if Vermont cases continue to rise, Gov. Scott said at his press conference today. He urged Vermonters to stay vigilant so that more restrictive measures will not be necessary.
“As Dr. Levine has said, we are seeing pandemic fatigue.” Scott said in his opening remarks. “It seems as though we are getting to the point where after eight months, people are willing to take more risks. I get it. But we must stay vigilant.” Reading from a prepared statement, Scott said, “If we want to keep our schools and economy open, we need to double down on our efforts to control this virus.”
Health Commissioner Mark Levine seconded Scott’s statement. “Now we’re seeing what happens when we let our guard down.” With Covid levels rising nationwide, “this is the worst time to let Covid fatigue set in.” On a recent call with northeastern state health commissioners, “Several of my colleagues were actively discussing implementing dramatic changes,” Levine said.
Given these statements, Vermont Daily asked: “Is limiting in-person access to businesses back on the table, and if so what would that look like?
No. Everything is always on the table,” Scott said. “We will do what we can to protect Vermonters in any way possible. We’ve learned a lot. We don’t want to move backwards. That’s my point. If we follow the guidance we won’t have to move backwards, we can move forward. If we see the uptick….we will be forced to do something about it, and I’m not sure what that will be yet. But it’s nothing we’re talking about now.”
Gov. Scott and Commissioner Levine urged the following:
Limit travel – “Since we’re surrounded by red and yellow counties, it may just not be worth the risk,” Levine said. Visitors to Vermont from outbreak counties, including college students coming home for the holiday, must quarantine.
Limit interactions – “Keep six foot spaces, Keep masks on faces, Avoid crowded places,” Levine repeated the new Covid prevention slogan. Deer hunters needing to quarantine might consider doing so at deer camp during the two-week deer season.
Co-operate with contact tracers – “If you’re contacted by a contact tracer, be forthright.” Scott said.
Vermont hospitalizations are up, including some in the ICU, Levine said. Vermonters should beware the mentality that says, “So few Vermonters have died, so few have been hospitalized. What are we worried about? This is a benign disease,” he said.
Slate Ridge firearms center controversy – Gov. Scott and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling both said that no extreme risk protection order is merited at this time against the Slate Ridge firearms training facility in Pawlet.
According to a VT Digger story today, neighbors of Slate Ridge are “terrified” by firearms noise, training and alleged aggressive rhetoric emanating from Slate Ridge. When VT Digger reporter Anne Wallace Allen asked Scott “what would it take?” and reminded him of the ERP order placed against Jack Sawyer, who threatened to shoot students at Fair Haven HIgh School several years ago. Scott said he is unaware of any evidence meriting state intervention, but assured her the State of Vermont is monitoring complaints against Slate Ridge. If she has information, she should report it to authorities, Scott said.
DCF announces replacement for Woodside facility
Yesterday the Scott administration recommended to the Legislature a proposed privately-run six bed juvenile treatment center to replace the closed Woodside facility in Essex Junction. The new facility would be located in Wells River, an Orange County community on the Connecticut River.
AHS/DCF is working with the Becket organization of Orford, NH, which operates a continuum of safe and supportive living and learning environments for youth ages 11-21 struggling with significant behavioral and mental health issues throughout New England.
The Becket proposal would cost $1.5 million less than a proposed state facility and $2 million less than the current Woodside facility. The Vermont State Employees’ Union (VSEA) has opposed the closure of Woodside.
Becket owns a 280-acre property in Wells River with a large 3-level building and are interested in operating a secure 6-bed residential treatment program for the Vermont Department of Children and Families.
“Becket would bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise in assessment, treatment modalities, and educational/vocational services for youth with complex behavioral and mental health needs,” DCF Commissioner Sean Brown said in his report.