First annual March Madness Basketball Tournament held at Brownington school

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The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16.  The team, pictured from left to right, starting in the front row, included:  Alaina Zenonos, Olivia Lacoss, Molly Horton, and Tia Martinez.  In the back row, from left, are:  Faith Kempton, Katie Willard, Kennedy Falconer, Bria Lacoss, and Coach Mike Lacoss.  Photos courtesy of Mike and Barb Lacoss

The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16. The team, pictured from left to right, starting in the front row, included: Alaina Zenonos, Olivia Lacoss, Molly Horton, and Tia Martinez. In the back row, from left, are: Faith Kempton, Katie Willard, Kennedy Falconer, Bria Lacoss, and Coach Mike Lacoss. Photos courtesy of Mike and Barb Lacoss

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16.  The Troy girls were runners up.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division.  The Brighton boys were runners up.

Nine teams from six schools played in the tournament, which was a fund-raiser for the eighth-grade field trip and the new Brownington Athletic Fund.  — submitted by Mike and Barb Lacoss

The Troy girls were runners up.  In the front row, from left to right, are:  Makayla Ban, Alicia Farrell, Brook Gentry, Sammy Barcomb, Katie Lacasse, Ally Santaw, and Mckenna Marsh.  In the back row, from left, are:  Darcy Mayhew, Abby Baraw, Rebecca McDonald, Abbie Desjarlais, Fayth Columbia, Jessica Carr, and Coach Shannon Bowman.

The Troy girls were runners up. In the front row, from left to right, are: Makayla Ban, Alicia Farrell, Brook Gentry, Sammy Barcomb, Katie Lacasse, Ally Santaw, and Mckenna Marsh. In the back row, from left, are: Darcy Mayhew, Abby Baraw, Rebecca McDonald, Abbie Desjarlais, Fayth Columbia, Jessica Carr, and Coach Shannon Bowman.

The Brighton boys were runners up.  In the front row, from left, are:  Jacob Kocis, Troy Sanville, Alex Barnes, and Josh Rivers.  In the back row, from left, are:  Asstistamt Coach Cooper Densmore, Nicholas Bingham, Zach Letourneau, Aaron Verge, Kyle Hackett, and Coach Bill Burns.

The Brighton boys were runners up. In the front row, from left, are: Jacob Kocis, Troy Sanville, Alex Barnes, and Josh Rivers. In the back row, from left, are: Asstistamt Coach Cooper Densmore, Nicholas Bingham, Zach Letourneau, Aaron Verge, Kyle Hackett, and Coach Bill Burns.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division.  In the front row, from left, are:  Noah Rivard, Alex Fearino, Zachary Vill’neuve, and Michael Martin.  In the back row, from left, are:  Coach Tony Lamoureux, Cody Bingham, Austin Oleskiewicz, Curtis Bowen, Garrette Blake, and Coach Bob Bowen.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division. In the front row, from left, are: Noah Rivard, Alex Fearino, Zachary Vill’neuve, and Michael Martin. In the back row, from left, are: Coach Tony Lamoureux, Cody Bingham, Austin Oleskiewicz, Curtis Bowen, Garrette Blake, and Coach Bob Bowen.

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Profile: Bennett retires after 30 years of service to town

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Jeannine Bennett.  Photo courtesy of Mrs. Bennett

Jeannine Bennett. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Bennett

copyright the Chronicle March 19, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

CHARLESTON — Town Clerk Jeannine Bennett retired at Town Meeting this year, after 30 years of service to the town.

Actually, she did not attend Town Meeting because she wanted to avoid a big fuss.

“They did the whole cake thing two years ago,” she said.  Instead, she took a trip to Maryland to visit her daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Heath Wilson, and her 12-year-old grandson Jeff.

When Mrs. Bennett started working for the town, a lot of the town records were hand written.

“I knew shorthand.  That’s one of the reasons I got hired,” she said.  She also had excellent penmanship.

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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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Huge land purchase worries neighbors

Bob and Sharyl Devaney stand outside their vegetable stand on the Hudson Road in West Charleston. The couple also sell fresh eggs and Jack Russell Terriers. A sticker on the wall inside the stand says, “No farms, no food.” Photos by Paul Lefebvre

by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle, 9-26-2012

The acquisition of more than 2,000 acres of land by a Nebraska clothing tycoon in three Orleans County towns during the last five years is provoking questions and anxiety among neighboring property owners over what may be coming next.

Contiguous parcels of land in Brownington, Charleston and Westmore have been bought by the limited liability company Three Town Farms.  The company is headed by Daniel Hirschfield of Kearney, Nebraska, who is also the founder of a clothing company, The Buckle, Inc., which has retail stores throughout the country.

According to Vermont’s property transfer tax returns, Three Town Farms began to acquire property in 2008.  In August of that year it bought land straddling all three towns that was formerly used as a commercial hunting preserve.

This steel gate custom built for Three Town Farms denies access to a private road off Route 5A in Brownington that leads to the Mount Bliss property.

Recent purchases in 2012 include Hinton Hill in Westmore and Charleston, which together total 500 acres.  According to figures in the property transfer files, Three Town Farms has spent over $4-million acquiring roughly 2,400 acres of land.

The acquisition and the location of such a large block of property has ratcheted up fears among opponents of industrial wind projects.  They point to the property’s elevation and the push by Three Town Farms to purchase abutting property, and argue these are telltale indicators that another wind farm is likely coming to the Kingdom.

Katie Anderson of Westmore, who opposes industrial wind projects along Vermont ridgelines, said in a recent interview she has been trying to get the owner and/or his agents to host a “meet and greet” meeting to explain their intentions for the land.

She said she has received assurances from the owner that he has no plans to construct an industrial wind project on the property.  But she still has doubts.

“We’re getting kind of surrounded,” she said in an interview Sunday, referring to the recent purchase of Hinton Hill.

“It’s got better wind than either Sheffield or Lowell,” said a neighboring property owner who has studied a wind map of the state, but asked that his name be kept out of print.

Employees and those associated with Three Town Farms say fears of a potential wind project on the property are based on rumors and run contrary to Mr. Hirschfield’s preferences.

“He hates wind turbines,” said Pam Barber, whose husband, Bob, manages the property on behalf of Three Town Farms.

She said she has been harassed and abused in public by people who believe that Three Town Farms is buying property to host an industrial wind project.

At Ms. Barber’s suggestion, an e-mail was sent to the owner Monday and a phone message was left with his answering service in Kearney.  Neither one were returned by Mr. Hirschfield, who was said to be visiting his property in Stowe, Vermont, where Three Town Farms has its corporate headquarters.

But while rumors may be fanning fears of a wind farm, suspicions continue to persist due to the ongoing efforts by Three Town Farms to acquire more and more land — efforts that have left some property owners feeling they are being bullied.

Charleston Selectman Dean Bennett said that Three Town Farms has been “very aggressively” pursuing the 200 or so acres that make up the old town farm.  He said the group has been trying continuously to buy the property for three years.

The town has said thanks, but no thanks, because in “this day and age there are fewer and fewer places a fellow can go in the woods without fear of being kicked out,” said Mr. Bennett.

Over the last 18 months William Kranz of South Hadley, Massachusetts, has been receiving letters and phone calls with offers to buy his seasonal home in Westmore from Century 21 real estate agents, acting on behalf of Three Town Farms.

Mr. Kranz owns 100 acres at the end of Perkins Lane, and is an abutter to the Hinton Hill property and the Mount Bess Road property acquired by the Three Town Farms as one of its earlier purchases.  He said a certified letter from realtor Dan Maclure prompted him to respond.  He said he was told nothing about who was making the bid, or why.

“No indication of what the use would be after or anything,” he said.

Whatever the bid, it wasn’t enough.

“They haven’t made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Mr. Kranz, who bought the property in 1978 and built a large log house that still lacks water and electricity.

Another seasonal property owner who has been fielding repeated offers from Three Town Farms is a hunter from Colchester.  Scott Bevill’s Westmore property is close to where Perkins Lane meets the Town Farm Road — a rough, wooded road that extends down a steep rise and intersects with the Hudson Road just south of the Charleston Elementary School.

Mr. Bevill is one of the co-owners of roughly 100 acres of land and a hunting camp that he estimated is worth about $3,000.  “Maybe a little more, but not much,” he said in a phone interview Saturday morning.

He said he doesn’t know what kind of agreement the real estate agent has with Three Town Farms, but “we made it very clear we were not into selling.”

Mr. Bevill characterized the offers as not very much above the listed value.  And when he asked the realtor why Three Town Farms was so intent in buying the property, Mr. Maclure reportedly characterized its interest as an investment in northern woodland.

Initially Mr. Bevill said he like the idea of the surrounding property coming under one owner as a way of keeping the land intact.  But as buying patterns began to change — with Three Town Farms buying property on the northern side of the Hudson Road that included an old wooden one-room schoolhouse that had been retrofitted into a home — his suspicions began to mount.

“Something weird for someone so far away to be interested in this,” he told himself.

West and less than a mile down the Hudson Road is a small vegetable stand with the enterprising name of Devaney Farm & Greenhouse.  Bob Devaney and wife, Sharyl, have owned the stand and the house across the road for about eight years.

Over the last few years they have seen Three Town Farms buy up the neighboring properties.

“They own everything around us,” said Mr. Devaney.

He added that if things keep on going the way they had been going, their vegetable stand was going to be left surrounded by corporate-owned property, and they would be left “like Custer making a last stand.”

The couple has rejected at least two offers from Three Town Farms, including one from Pam Barber, who bristled during a recent interview at the characterization that she serves as an agent for Three Town Farms.

Instead, she said she only helps her husband in managing the property, although she recalled telling neighbors that “if they every wanted to sell to remember us.”

One of the offers to the Devaneys was sweetened by the promise they could remain on the land as long as they liked.  But Mrs. Devaney said she didn’t want to live under those conditions.

The couple said they were told “any place on the Hudson Road was worth only $1,000 an acre.”

One family who may have come out ahead from selling its property to Three Town Farms is the farm family of Burton Hinton.

“We didn’t want to sell, but I would have lost the whole damn thing,” said Mr. Hinton, whose family has owned the farm through four generations.

“I’m a dairy farmer.  I’ve been milking cows since I was 12 years old,” he said, adding that the high price of feed and the low price for milk had left him with no other option.

“It’s not what I wanted to see happen, but it was best for us and our two little girls.”

What cinched the deal, he said, was the decision by Three Town Farms to increase its offer by $100,000 and to give the family three years to stay on the farm without paying rent.

“They wanted it,” he said, speaking of the 356-acre farm that sold for $730,000 — a hefty hike over the town’s Grand List appraisal of $597,300.

While the Hinton Hill farm purchase may have pushed some wind opponents over the cusp, Three Town Farms leases the fields it owns at the end of Mount Bliss Road.  Three Towns bought property on both sides of the Mount Bliss Road in August 2008, getting a good deal on 265 acres by paying $117,820 for property listed at $145,300 by the Town of Brownington.

Tim Nadeau is the live-in hired man for Three Town Farms, and during a recent interview he said rumors have been spreading like wildfire that an industrial wind farm is going up on the property his absentee-landlord boss is buying.

He said he couldn’t go anywhere, whether it be shopping or to church, without being asked when the wind farm is coming to town.  The land he oversees is posted — he said Mr. Hirschfield is opposed to hunting and any use of his land by motorized vehicles that are steered with handlebars.  Both sides of the town road leading up to the house and the outbuildings have been cleared, and there are plans to install a guardrail on one of curves.  Three Town Farms is reportedly paying for the improvements

Presently, the town school bus won’t climb the hill during the winter, and Mr. Nadeau’s wife has to bring the kids to the bus at the junction with the Hudson Road.

Three Town Farm has employed Mr. Nadeau about a year, and he said he was happy with his job, which also provides he and his family with an attractive, sturdy looking house.

He said he heard Westmore is going to have a meeting over whether an industrial wind project should be sited on ridgelines within the town limits.

“I don’t know why they’re having a meeting to protest something that isn’t even here,” he said.

Westmore recently conducted a survey to see what its residents and taxpayers value when it comes to such natural resources as water quality, open fields, and high-elevation development.  Some say the survey was fueled by concerns over the protracted land-buying pattern of Three Town Farms.

But the head of the town planning commission, Louisa Dotoli, downplayed that motivation.  In a Tuesday interview she said the survey was part of the process of updating the town plan, and had not been triggered by concerns about a wind project coming to town.

Meanwhile Mr. Bevill, speaking from Colchester on the property he owns on Perkins Lane, said that he has come to form an attachment to the land and the people in Westmore.  Still, he expressed concern that his neighbors might sell out and leave him and hunting pals surrounded by posted land.

“We don’t want to pack up,” he said.  “We have become attached to it and don’t want to be displaced by some wind project by some guy from out of state.”

And regardless of Three Town Farms’ intent, he added, its large land purchases deserved public scrutiny, “even if we’re totally off the mark.”

contact Paul Lefebvre at paul@bartonchronicle.com

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