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Rutland Town restricts panhandlers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland Town restricts panhandlers

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RUTLAND TOWN, Vt. -

Officials in Rutland Town are trying to limit the power of pan-handlers.

It's a busy Sunday at Green Mountain Plaza in Rutland Town. Though we didn't see any solicitors or pan-handlers -- shoppers like Sabrina Freeman, said they see them a lot. "Usually they'll stand up on the corner with their little signs. I've seen some in the parking lot but not a lot," Freeman said.
     
"There's been an increase in the number of panhandlers we've seen. Actually they sit out there by the red light and sort of just wait," said Seth Woodman, a shopper.

They stand at the main entrance -- often holding signs explaining their unfortunate circumstances -- is what dozens of shoppers told us.

"It's not so much bothersome. I don't think that they're aggressive per se," Woodman said.

But town officials say they've heard many reports to the contrary.  

"It got to the point where people were actually feeling intimidated -- feeling like the person that was asking them was taking them out of their comfort level," John Paul Faignant, a Rutland Town Selectboard Member.

According to Faignant, residents have submitted several complaints about solicitors standing in the parking lot and close to store entrances -- approaching shoppers and sometimes even touching them. "I was on the police department for six years and the type of stuff that people were complaining about was in your face kind of things that really they shouldn't have to be subjected to," Faignant said.

The Rutland Town Selectboard unanimously approved an ordinance restricting the rights of all solicitors in any place in town, Though they say it's most prevalent at the shopping plaza and at Diamond Run Mall.

"The ordinance will allow the town to do it's own enforcement if they deem it necessary," Faignant said.

While the ordinance doesn't ban soliciting all together, it does restrict it. Among other rules, it states that solicitors can't be within 15 feet of an ATM, handicapped parking spot, a storefront, or a bus stop. It also says you can't approach someone who has already said no once.

Shoppers told WCAX that they welcome the ordinance, but haven't felt bothered by anyone begging.

"Some people are poor and that's their way of getting money or asking for money. I think it bothers some people's conscience," said Kevin Lenfest.

"Unfortunately it's part of what we have to deal with in this economy and in the world I guess," said Trudy Beaman-Martinez.
     
The ordinance will take affect in February.

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