Peters still holds CDL at 95

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Bill Peters' children recently gave him a plaque, honoring him for possibly being the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL.  He's 95, and was a longtime road commissioner in Albany.   Photo by Tena Starr

Bill Peters’ children recently gave him a plaque, honoring him for possibly being the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL. He’s 95, and was a longtime road commissioner in Albany. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle May 27, 2015

by Tena Starr  

NORTH HYDE PARK — Former Albany Road Commissioner Bill Peters could well be the oldest man in Vermont who still holds a CDL. That’s a commercial driver’s license, which, among other things, allows a person to drive the big trucks that maintain town roads.

Mr. Peters’ children recently presented their father with a plaque that says: “Congratulations on being the oldest person we could find that still has a CDL and medical card in the state of Vermont. Turned 95 on March 31, 2015. We are proud of you.”

The plaque was the idea of Mr. Peters’ son Donald.

He said he was out shoveling snow in March and thought, what do you get a man who’s 95?….To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

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A look at the internal struggles of an early feminist

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WEB marthas mandala bookcopyright the Chronicle March 25, 2015

by Natalie Hormilla

Martha Oliver-Smith of Albany has written something like a memoir, except it’s not really about herself.

The main character of Martha’s Mandala is another Martha, the author’s maternal grandmother, Martha Stringham Bacon, who went by the name of Patty. Ms. Bacon was a talented artist and writer who lived mostly in the first half of the twentieth century, but you had to personally know her to know any of that. She was better known during her life as the wife of Leonard Bacon, an accomplished writer who won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for a collection called Sunderland Capture.

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Albany students meet a musher and his dogs

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Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund.   Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Pictured, from left to right, are Austin Smith, 12, Allison Powell, 13, and their science teacher Cheryl Ecklund. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 18, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

ALBANY — Albany Community School teachers had a stroke of genius when they decided on a dog-based teaching unit this winter.

“It really energizes the students, even my students that are the most difficult to get to want to read and write are focused and are interested and have questions and have stories,” said teacher Jennifer Schoen.

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VEC will seek help from FEMA for storm damage

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The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week.   Photos by Tena Starr

The heavy wet snow that stuck to trees in last week’s big snowstorm has caused power outages to continue throughout the week. Photos by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle December 17, 2014 

by Tena Starr

Orleans County got off relatively lightly in last week’s big snowstorm. Several towns received a good foot of snow on the night of Tuesday, December 9. And they got it in a hurry.

But the county was not as affected by power outages as other places in Vermont.

By Monday afternoon, the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) said that just 260 VEC members were without power. Line crews had repaired more than 35,000 outages since the storm, said spokesman Liz Gamache.

You could call last week’s storm the gift that kept on giving. After the initial mess was cleaned up, utilities warned that the heavy snow could continue to bring down trees and branches, causing more outages. And that’s just what happened.

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Is the postal service shooting itself in the foot?

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The Post Office in Craftsbury Common has strange hours these days.  Residents say they are inconvenient, but the USPS says decreasing hours is the only way to keep some of these offices open. Photos by David Dudley

The Post Office in Craftsbury Common has strange hours these days. Residents say they are inconvenient, but the USPS says decreasing hours is the only way to keep some of these offices open. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle October 29, 2014

by David Dudley

In May of 2012 the United States Postal Service (USPS) implemented the Post Plan, which was devised to curb mounting debt, and prevent thousands of offices, many of them rural post offices, such as those in Greensboro Bend, Craftsbury Common, and Albany, from being shut down altogether. The USPS estimated that the plan would be up and running by September of 2014.

For many rural offices in Orleans County, the Post Plan means decreased window hours, which is affecting local businesses that depend on the Postal Service for shipping. Also, many employees have seen their hours cut, and people who work full-time are having trouble getting to the post office while it’s open.

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At 91, Francis Whitcomb recalls varied career

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Judy Bevans, former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, looks on while Representative Sam Young of Glover reads a resolution honoring Francis Whitcomb of Albany.   Photo by Donald Houghton

Judy Bevans, former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, looks on while Representative Sam Young of Glover reads a resolution honoring Francis Whitcomb of Albany. Photo by Donald Houghton

copyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

by David Dudley

ALBANY — At 91 years of age, Francis Whitcomb has held any number of titles, formal and otherwise: Lister, moderator, planning commissioner, justice of the peace, chairman of the Orleans County Democratic Committee, teacher, principal, farmer, sugarmaker, singer, advisor, father, and husband, among many others.

Mr. Whitcomb tried to add state Representative to that list, but the title eluded him through seven campaigns.

Sitting at the head of the kitchen table in his old farmhouse in Albany Monday, Mr. Whitcomb had the air of a preacher. He’s tall and was dressed simply, as though he were going to spend the day in the garden, in the sugarhouse, or engaged in one of his favorite pastimes, walking.

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In boys AAU basketball: Orleans County Challengers go to the nationals

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Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers.  In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne.  In the front are:  Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou.  Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers. In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne. In the front are: Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou. Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

copyright the Chronicle July 23, 2014

by Isaiah Braithwaite

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — We are the Orleans County Challengers. Players from Glover, Irasburg, Albany, Orleans and Derby compete for us. We got together for our first practice in March after our junior high basketball season ended. Despite being competitors just days before, we all immediately got along. Not only playing basketball but off the court, too, we were all friends before teammates.

It was obvious in our first game, that in Vermont, we would be a force to be reckoned with, scoring 79 points in our first game together. After four tournaments, with four games in each one, we were champions — we hadn’t lost a single game.

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Memorial Day weekend

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday's tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor.  Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday’s tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor. Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday.  The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday. The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany.  Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq.  Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right.   Photo by Paul Lefebvre

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany. Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day.  Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day. Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday.  Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs.   Photo by Tena Starr

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday. Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs. Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons.  Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday.  Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons. Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday. Photo by Tena Starr

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department's 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror.  Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday's Memorial Day observances.  Photo by Richard Creaser

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department’s 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror. Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday’s Memorial Day observances. Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice "Joe" Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday's Memorial Day observances in Orleans.  Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women's Auxiliary follow close behind.  Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice “Joe” Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday’s Memorial Day observances in Orleans. Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women’s Auxiliary follow close behind. Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton's annual Memorial Day parade on Monday.  Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers.  The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053.    Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton’s annual Memorial Day parade on Monday. Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers. The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053. Photo by Richard Creaser

For more photos, pick up a copy of our May 28, 2014 edition, or subscribe to our online edition.

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Editorial: Fight tar sands oil — for the right reasons

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

Next week at Town Meeting four Orleans County towns will vote on a resolution that basically says they don’t want tar sands oil to be shipped through the Portland Pipeline’s Northeast Kingdom oil lines.  They are Albany, Glover, Westmore, and Charleston.

Unfortunately, none of those towns are host to the pipeline and would not be directly affected by any such plan.

For years now, Vermont environmentalists have warned about the possibility of the flow of the lines being reversed and Canadian tar sands oil being shipped south and west through them from Alberta to Maine.  For two years, 350 Vermont has attempted to show opposition by persuading towns to adopt resolutions at Town Meeting.

Although their efforts were a bit more organized this year, they still seem to be inept at best.  One of the towns that would be most severely affected by any oil spill is Barton, yet that town will not be voting this year on a tar sands resolution.

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Photos and beer can trail lead to arson arrest

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State Police fire investigators have concluded that the fire that totaled all four of the Albany Fire Department's vehicles was deliberately set.   Pictured is smoke blackened engine number one, where the fire started.  Photo by Tena Starr

State Police fire investigators have concluded that the fire that totaled all four of the Albany Fire Department’s vehicles was deliberately set. Pictured is smoke blackened engine number one, where the fire started. Photo by Tena Starr

by Tena Starr

ALBANY  — An Albany firefighter, who allegedly told police he has a problem with fire and needs help, has been accused of trying to burn down his own department.

Elmer Joerg, 45, of Holland pled innocent last week in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court to a count of second degree arson and another of reckless endangerment.  He was held on $250,000 bail.

The fire, which occurred at about 1 a.m. on August 11, ruined all of the Albany department’s vehicles and much of their equipment.  The department is back in business, though, due to the generosity of other communities that have donated everything from helmets to trucks.

Police affidavits say that a trail of Natural Light beer cans, as well as game cameras set up in the fire station, led investigators to Mr. Joerg.

The game cameras were set up because of an earlier gasoline theft.  Although they were damaged in the fire, the photos were eventually recovered and included several images of an individual inside the firehouse at the time of the fire.

When Albany Fire Chief Donald Peters looked at the pictures he told investigators he believed the man might, in fact, be one of his firefighters.  He identified the man as Elmer “Jim” Joerg, Lieutenant James Cruise of the State Police Fire Investigation Unit says in his affidavit.  Mr. Peters also had gone by the Joerg residence and noticed an ATV in the yard that matched the description of an ATV a neighbor saw leaving the scene of the fire, police say.

Last Tuesday Chief Peters scheduled a mandatory meeting for all fire department members, in part to regroup and familiarize themselves with their new equipment.  Also, a State Police fire investigator individually questioned firefighters, both past and present, in the hope of shedding some light on the fire.

Mr. Joerg was the only Albany Fire Department member who did not attend the meeting.  Investigators were told that Mr. Joerg had been taken to the hospital by ambulance the day before with an unknown illness and was in a coma.

Sergeant Jeremy Hill and Lieutenant Cruise went to Mr. Joerg’s home where Jacqueline Joerg said her husband was still in the hospital.  She indicated that she did not know the nature of his illness, but it could have been an overdose of some sort or a suicide attempt, she told police.

Mrs. Joerg told police her husband had been very upset that “someone could have started a fire at the station and destroyed all the equipment.”

Investigators found a number of Natural Light beer cans in a barrel on the Joergs’ porch and more on the ground in front of his car.  Later they saw a Natural Light can on the side of the road on the Hitchcock Hill Road in Albany and took it as evidence, noting the “born on” date was the same as that on the cans at Mr. Joerg’s house.

On another trip between the Joerg house and the fire station they noticed a second Natural Light can, again with the same “born on” date as those at the Joergs’ home.

On August 14, the day after the fire department meeting, police investigators were able to interview Mr. Joerg at North Country Hospital.  He initially denied being involved in setting any fire at the Albany fire station.

But when police explained to him that they had pictures, his beer cans, and that his ATV and jackets matched those witnesses saw, “He bowed his head and was nodding yes and finally agreed that it was him,” Lieutenant Cruise’s affidavit says.

Mr. Joerg allegedly told police he’d gone to the station on his ATV and used his firefighter’s access code to get into the back door of the station.  He’d forgotten to bring a lighter with him, so he used the kitchen stove to set some paper on fire, lit cardboard with that, and ultimately lit the cab of fire engine number one, he allegedly told police.

Mr. Joerg said he then fled the scene and later returned as an Albany firefighter.

Monica Grondin told State Police Fire Investigator Detective Sergeant David Sutton she saw someone inside the firehouse about 1:15 that morning.  After leaving the building, he started his ATV and drove along the shoulder of Main Street past her home with the headlights off, she said.

In the course of the first interview with investigators, Mr. Joerg allegedly told them “he set the fire because he had a problem with fire and thinks about setting fires often, and has urges to set fires that he is usually able to control.

“He also advised that he is a danger because he set this fire and admitted that he would not have minded dying in this fire,” Lieutenant Cruise says in his affidavit.

Police interviewed Mr. Joerg a second time, and he went into more detail, saying he’d also tried to set fire to the rescue vehicle.

He also allegedly said that he’d panicked and pulled down the smoke alarm in the building.

Mr. Joerg said he’d set about seven fires over the past ten years but no one had been injured in them, police said.

His criminal record includes charges in Vermont, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

He has been charged with giving false information to a police officer and possession of marijuana in Vermont.

In the late 1980s, in New Jersey, he was convicted of sexual assault, arson and larceny.  A charge of making a terrorist threat was reduced to disorderly conduct.

In Rhode Island in the 1990s Mr. Joerg pled no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering.

If released from jail, Mr. Joerg is ordered by the court to have no contact with any member of the Albany Fire Department and to stay at last 300 feet away from the fire station.

A competency and sanity evaluation has been ordered.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

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