by Dot Helling
What’s in a number? A number is a total amount or quantity as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Using numbers is a way of keeping track of things. While numerology deals with the occult significance of numbers, number theory is the mathematical study of integers (whole numbers that can be positive, negative, or zero). Numbers fascinate, particularly exorbitant numbers, such as estimating the number of stars in the universe. Astronomer David Kornreich of Ithaca College estimated that number by taking an estimate of 10 trillion galaxies multiplied by the estimated 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and came up with a total of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s a “1” with 24 zeros after it.)
Montpelier is in the “802” state and is the smallest capital city in the nation. It can be defined by its numbers. Our 2017 population was reported as 7,855 — 3,637 males and 4,218 females. Of these residents 7,362 are white, 184 mixed race, 171 Asian and 166 Hispanic or Latino. Overall median age is 43 (40 for males and 45 for women). The number of kids under 18 totals 1,474, 19 percent of our population, while seniors over 60 make up 23 percent of our population. Interestingly, in the over-85 age category, 168 are women and only 62 are men.
Montpelier has three voting districts and 7,311 registered voters. The city issued 407 dog permits this year. As of Sept. 8, 11 registered sex offenders live in Montpelier.
Montpelier’s homeless population varies depending on how you define homelessness and, for police purposes, how many are spending overnights on the street. Using the police definition, the homeless number can be as low as 0 or as high as 14. Montpelier experienced a 10 percent increase in homelessness in 2017. The city has no shelters for these invisible people but does offer free meals at many uncounted locations during the week.
Montpelier covers 287,984,600 square feet, or 6,611 acres totaling 10.3 square miles. Its official elevation is 550 feet above sea level, from 507 feet near lower State Street to the high point of 1,123 near upper State Street. There are 55.8 miles of paved streets, 25 miles of sidewalk and 1.7 miles of shared-use paths. There are 26 travel bridges including railroad and pedestrian, of which 20 are bikeable and 15 are driveable. The city has 44 miles of sewer mains, seven railroad crossings, 124 crosswalks, 226 city-owned street lights plus 546 leased light fixtures. We have seven traffic signals, 175 stop signs, 405 metered parking spaces and 20 to 25 handicapped parking spaces. Including kiosk and permit parking spaces, the city manages more than 700 parking spots. Parking enforcers have three parking boots on hand. Sidewalk “Buttlers” for cigarette butts, a serious litter issue, total 15. Trash/recycle receptacles number 45 barrels in the summer, 20 in the winter, and there are 14 or more downtown benches, 43 flower barrels, 15 or so brackets for hanging flowers, and nine downtown sidewalk tomato plants.
Montpelier has three cemeteries, nine churches, six steeples, and one synagogue. There are 2,917 real parcels on the grand list, 555 business personal properties, 13 current-use parcels, 17 special exemptions, such as the Vermont Land Trust, and 106 nontaxable properties. Nontaxable properties include state-owned, city-owned, and county-owned parcels, plus schools and churches that pay no property tax. There are 456 contributing properties in the historic district and 72 non-contributing. Contributing means the property adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the district historical.
There are two major parks in town and at least six smaller parks, such as Blanchard, which is a 1.82-acre parcel. Hubbard Park is 196 acres with uncounted hand-hewn benches, five dog poop stations, and about 20 exercise stations. North Branch Park consists of 193 acres with 19 bridges, including two pedestrian bridges and 13 bridges on the mountain-bike path. There are 2,000 inventoried trees within the city’s rights of way, and close to 3,000 if you count what’s on the fringes.
Montpelier has at least six pizza establishments, 12 coffee shops, six restaurants with an Asian influence, nine gas stations, four bakeries, 12 bars, and three barbers. Kellogg-Hubbard, our only municipal library, has 8,542 active patrons, including 6,959 adults and 1,583 children. With a staff of 16, six of whom hold master’s degrees in library science, the library sees an average of 700 visitors daily and last year distributed 268,000 reading materials.
Montpelier has three schools and graduates 90 percent of its students. For the first time since Brian Ricca became Superintendent of Schools, district enrollment is over 1,000 students. The high school has 47 faculty members. Graduating classes have ranged in size from 83 in 2014 to 58 in 2016 to 71 in 2017. The high school expects to graduate 81 in 2018, including those who have taken alternative education paths.
Montpelier city government employs 112 full-time workers. Charlotte Hoyt and Sandy Pitonyak worked for the city for over 40 years. Jane Aldrighetti, Bob Gowans, Tom McCardle, Scott Powers and Dana Huoppi have been on board for over 30 years, and Neil Martel, Tony Facos, Steve Nolan and Sharon Olson for over 20 years. There are currently five boards, 17 committees, seven commissions, and two authorities. The City Council sits six members plus the mayor.
This piece merely touches on Montpelier’s numbers. Numbers record history, symbolism and the actualities of life. Our ages, our weight and height, the size of our families and so much more become a record of who we are. Please don’t hold me to these numbers, as they are changing all the time and I don’t always count correctly. The numbers are only as good as their sources. I looked to reliable sources, but not all were verified.
As you consider these numbers, think about what’s behind them. The value of what Montpelier residents reap from these city necessities and amenities falls to beauty, safety and efficiency. It’s all about how to make the city run successfully, and make it beautiful and appealing, as well as a safe and functional place in which to live. Yes, our taxes are exorbitant, but the compelling argument in support is that “you get what you pay for.” If, for instance, you want less “fluff” and more infrastructure, get yourself involved in city politics. Montpelier needs leaders and visionaries. Count yourself into the numbers that matter.