No special scrutiny for AnC Bio

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Bill Stenger.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Bill Stenger. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle March 25, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Despite reports to the contrary the AnC Bio biomedical project is not being given special scrutiny by the state.

State regulators are taking a closer look at all EB-5 projects in Vermont in light of stronger federal requirements and increased use of the visa program by Vermont businesses.

Last summer Governor Peter Shumlin asked the Department of Financial Regulation to get involved in overseeing EB-5 projects in the state, said Pat Moulton, commissioner of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), on Monday.

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Keep small schools, school directors say

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Bobby Starr.  Photo by Micaela Bedell

Bobby Starr. Photo by Micaela Bedell

copyright the Chronicle March 18, 2015 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Legislators from the Northeast Kingdom were told in no uncertain terms to oppose Montpelier’s efforts to shut down small schools and consolidate districts.

That stern warning came from school board members from around Orleans County and was delivered Monday night at a gathering held at the North Country Career Center. About 20 legislators and school board members sat around a big table while another 30 or 40 people sat nearby.

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Wanted: foster homes

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Deb Richards (left) and Suzanne Shibley at the Newport District Office of Family Services.  The area is badly in need of foster homes.   Photo by Tena Starr

Deb Richards (left) and Suzanne Shibley at the Newport District Office of Family Services. The area is badly in need of foster homes. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle March 11, 2015

by Tena Starr  

NEWPORT — Erica Page always thought she was meant to be a foster parent. After years of unsuccessfully trying to have children of their own, she finally told her husband, Shaun Sykes, “Enough is enough. Let’s become parents in a different way.”

In May, Ms. Page and Mr. Sykes got their first placement, a boy, who is now four. They also have a four-month-old girl in their home.

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Industrial sugaring comes to Brighton

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Art by Brianne Nichols

Art by Brianne Nichols

copyright the Chronicle March 4, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

BRIGHTON — The days of making maple syrup to raise a little cash for property taxes have been gone for quite a while now. But an Island Pond sugaring operation getting ready for its first season could usher in a whole new era of industrial sugaring.

Sweet Tree, LLC, started and owned by a Connecticut-based investment firm, just finished tapping trees on 3,600 acres in Warren’s Gore and will be ready to fire up the steam-powered evaporators at the old Ethan Allen furniture plant in Brighton as soon as the weather breaks.

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Your GPS sent you where?

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Backroads are beautiful but can be hard to drive on.  Photo courtesy of Heidi Myers/the Dirty 40

Backroads are beautiful but can be hard to drive on. Photo courtesy of Heidi Myers/the Dirty 40

copyright the Chronicle February 25, 2015

by Natalie Hormilla

WESTFIELD — Here’s an increasingly familiar scenario: Friends, or strangers, visiting from elsewhere are stuck on a back road and need help.

Which road? you ask.

They say the name, and you can only wonder why on Earth they would choose an unplowed, class four road as the best option for getting to your house.

The GPS said so, they explain.

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Sanders calls for a political revolution

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Senator Bernie Sanders makes a point during a community meeting at Lyndon State College Monday afternoon.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Senator Bernie Sanders makes a point during a community meeting at Lyndon State College Monday afternoon. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle February 18, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

LYNDONVILLE — The U.S. needs a “political revolution” to rebuild a vibrant democracy, said U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders Monday afternoon.

“What I mean is not to burn down buildings or shoot people,” Senator Sanders said. He urged the approximately 75 students, faculty, and members of the public who gathered at Lyndon State College to become engaged in the political process and especially to vote.

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In Newport: Guns, drugs stolen from police evidence room

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Mikeal Rivers.  Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police

Mikeal Rivers. Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police

copyright the Chronicle February 11, 2015 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Police say they arrested a man Sunday night whose pockets bulged with drugs and guns stolen from the Newport Police Department’s evidence room. The thefts could place some prosecutions in jeopardy, according to the affidavit filed in the case by State Police Sergeant Matthew Amadon.

Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett declined to comment on what effect the theft might have on her office’s work. She said it will take several days to review cases connected to the stolen evidence.

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the Chronicle changes hands

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A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office.  The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office. The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle February 4, 2015

by Chris Braithwaite

To me the Chronicle will always be a novelty — a shot in the dark, a crazy gamble undertaken with almost no money but all the energy a 30-year-old immigrant could summon in himself, his wife, and a handful of friends.

But more than half the people living in Orleans County today had a Chronicle to read when they were old enough to read anything. And when my mind wanders up and down the streets of Barton Village, I can’t find a business that has been around, under continuous ownership, any longer than the Chronicle.

Those are hardly the trappings of a novelty. And at 70, I am a long way from the youngster who set out to see if small-town weekly journalism could be as complex, as challenging, as rewarding as the big-city journalism he’d left behind four years before.

After four decades I can report the result of that experiment. The stories I’ve encountered have been every bit as complex, and just as “good” — in the hard-eyed way that reporters evaluate their raw material — as the stories any reporter covers, anywhere.

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Opposition to background checks draws 500 to State House

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Rodney Chayer of Barton thinks Vermonters will lose a chunk of their history and culture should S.31 pass.

Rodney Chayer of Barton thinks Vermonters will lose a chunk of their history and culture should S.31 pass.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle January 28, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

MONTPELIER — Nearly 500 people showed up at the State House here Tuesday to express their opposition to a Senate bill that would require background checks when guns are sold.

The rally was organized by the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Inc., which invited all participants to wear hunter orange to show solidarity in the face of the proposed legislation, S.31. Those without orange clothing were given round orange stickers.

At 3 p.m. there were already approximately 100 people in the State House cafeteria despite the bad weather. Participants were invited to roam the building in search of their legislators to speak with them about the issue personally until refreshments and food were served at 4:30 p.m.

National Rifle Association (NRA) Foundation Projects and Legislative Affairs Vice-president Evan Hughes said the bill amounts to legislation in search of a problem, but that the validity of the medical portion remains to be seen.

“The aspect with regards to mental health, we’re going to let the medical community take the lead on that issue,” he said. “We’re going to watch with great interest.”

Others felt more strongly about screening for mental health issues and the actual repercussions. Senator John S. Rodgers of Glover said he’s concerned that mentally ill people would avoid seeking help for fear that their firearms would be confiscated.

Two Barton ambulance drivers, Luke Willard of Brownington and Jeffrey Youry of Troy, brought nearly 2,000 signatures against S.31 to present to their senators.

Two Barton ambulance drivers, Luke Willard of Brownington and Jeffrey Youry of Troy, brought nearly 2,000 signatures against S.31 to present to their senators.

“My position is that we’re the safest state in the nation, we have a very high per capita of gun ownership in the state of Vermont, and those two statistics should be enough to show people we don’t need any new gun laws,” he said. “All we need to do is enforce the laws that are on the books and we’ll be in fine shape.”

Barton resident Rodney Chayer agreed with the senator. He drove to Montpelier early to attend the rally. He believes that current laws are not enforced strictly enough and that offenders get let off with a slap on the wrist. But Mr. Chayer also believes that the proposed law is attacking the core of Vermont’s identity.

Food is served just before the official rally is set to begin at 5 p.m.

Food is served just before the official rally is set to begin at 5 p.m.

“I’m a gun owner and my youngest son shot his first deer at eight years old, so it’s a tradition,” Mr. Chayer said. “Some of this stuff keeps families together, shooting, hunting, trapping, fishing. It’s just a way of life, and if they start changing it, Vermont is going to lose a big part of its history.”

Mr. Chayer went on to say that Vermont’s hunting heritage is only part of what needs to be preserved. Others agreed.

Kevin and Kristen Shea of Shelburne are also gun owners and hunt with their family. They are concerned that giving a gun as a gift would turn law-abiding citizens like them into criminals. They also mentioned the importance of guns as a means of self-protection.

“A 300-foot restraining order is worthless when a guy makes up his mind that he wants to kill a woman. It’s a piece of paper,” said Mr. Shea. “If a woman at least has a means of defending herself as a last resort, then at least it gives her a chance.”

Luke Willard of Brownington and Jeffrey Youry of Troy, both ambulance drivers for Barton, drove down earlier in the day to meet with fellow gun owners and to bring almost 2,000 signatures from people in Orleans and Essex counties who also oppose the bill but couldn’t make it to the rally. Mr. Willard said that speaking to other attendees gave him new insight into the problems the bill poses.

Gun rally participants were invited to wear hunter orange to show their solidarity in the face of bill S.31.

Gun rally participants were invited to wear hunter orange to show their solidarity in the face of bill S.31.

“If they pass this bill, how are they going to enforce this?” he said. “I hadn’t thought of that until I just spoke to this guy 20 minutes ago.”

The fear is that the next step is to force gun registration.

Mr. Hughes was very pleased with the turnout and the positive atmosphere. “If there hadn’t been a snowstorm, I don’t know how we would have gotten everyone in here,” he said.

contact Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph at nat.gag.jo@gmail.com

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Medical pot users banned from guns

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copyright the Chronicle January 21, 2015

by Tena Starr

A North Troy man suspects that the reason he was not allowed to buy a .38 revolver last year is that he uses marijuana for medical purposes.

He may be right. Although no state law prohibits a medical marijuana user from buying or owning a gun, federal law does.

Steve Merrill said he’s been collecting guns since he was a kid and had his own store in Pennsylvania at one time. He moved to Vermont in 2001 and had no trouble buying guns here either — at least until a year or two ago.

In 2009 he got a certificate saying he could use marijuana to treat a chronic illness and a crippled foot. Mr. Merrill says he’s never been a recreational drug user, he doesn’t even indulge in a beer very often.

But the regimen of pills he was given to treat perpetual pain didn’t set well.

“God help you if you ever get sick and you look at food and want to wretch,” he said. “A lot of people underestimate pain.”

He said he asked his own doctor “how do you know I’m not scamming you?” when he sought the certificate that would permit him to use pot medicinally. “I’m sure you get a few bad apples who buffalo their scrips.”

The marijuana works, Mr. Merrill said. It restores his appetite, and there’s relief from pain — common comments from those who use medicinal pot.

Trouble arrived, however, when he went to Derby and tried to buy a revolver from Mr. O’s and was asked to fill out the form required when buying a gun.

“I checked off that I didn’t use illegal drugs because I figured it was a health matter,” he said. “It’s between me and my doctor.”

And medicinal use of marijuana is legal in Vermont.

The gun seller told him he couldn’t buy the .38, that he’d been denied with no explanation.

“I thought it was weird. I have no felonies, no hunting or fishing violations,” Mr. Merrill said.

He thought it might be because of his politics. He has testified in favor of Vermont’s medical marijuana bill, and he has a weekly cable show that, as he puts it, “makes fun of local politicians and the CIA.”

After talking to a friend, however, he wondered if the certificate allowing him to use pot for pain might be the problem.

“There is no state law that would prohibit a person who is on the registry from purchasing a firearm,” said Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Francis Aumand on Tuesday. “There is nothing that prohibits that based on state law.”

Federal law is another matter.

In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) wrote a letter to “all federal firearms licensees.”

It says that its purpose is to provide guidance since a number of states have passed legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“As you know, federal law…prohibits any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substance Act)…from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition,” the letter says. “Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.

“Therefore, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

Medical marijuana users should say yes to question 11 on Form 4473, the letter says.

Form 4473 is the document that must be filled out when a person wants to buy a gun. An untruthful answer to its questions is a crime. Question 11 asks about the person’s criminal history, drug use, citizenship, and more.

Although the letter is now four years old, Boston-based ATF spokesman Christopher Arone said that it’s still in effect.

There have been no changes in policy, he said on Tuesday.

However, he added, people who want to know why they weren’t allowed to buy a gun can, in writing, request an explanation from ATF. The explanation will not be given to the gun seller.

One thing that Mr. Merrill and others wonder is how ATF gets their information.

“I’m not sure how they would know, due to medical privacy,” Mr. Merrill said.

Bob DePino, field coordinator for Gun Owners of Vermont, said he’s long been aware that medical marijuana users are not permitted to buy guns, and he doesn’t approve of that rule. In fact, he doesn’t approve of background checks.

“Medical marijuana is illegal on the federal level,” he said.

Vermonters who are against guns are working at having all federal laws enforced in Vermont, he said. “They’re trying to get all the medical records. If you seek treatment, you are now on that list.”

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

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