Former addicts discuss routes to recovery

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copyright the Chronicle February 1, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — A panel of a dozen people, all with experience in the field of opioid addiction and treatment, engaged in a freewheeling discussion Monday night. The two-hour conversation, moderated by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen, was the second part of a program called Conversations of Hope, sponsored by the HealthWorks Coalition, a project of Northeast Kingdom Learning Services.

In the course of the lively evening, Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett announced her intention to start a new drug diversion program that will allow some defendants to avoid a criminal record if they get treatment for addiction problems.

Three panel members: Gilles Gentley, associate pastor at New Beginnings Christian Church; licensed vocational nurse and graphic artist Savannah Bradshaw; and Community College of Vermont student Mitt Lyman, testified to the possibility of freeing oneself of drug dependency.

Another six panelists spoke of ways that goal can be accomplished.

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Willoughby claims ice fisherman

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copyright the Chronicle February 1, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

WESTMORE – In the wake of Richard Leblanc’s death last week, officials are warning ice fishermen to be leery of thin ice.

Mr. LeBlanc, 62, of Orleans went through the ice on Lake Willoughby on the morning of Thursday, January 26.

Sue LeBlanc, his wife, said that he usually fished the ponds, like Parker in West Glover, which tend to be frozen harder than deep and unpredictable Willoughby. But he’d caught a huge trout in Willoughby earlier and was tempted by the prospect of more.

“We devoured that down, and then he caught another one and said I’d like to save that for mom and dad. And I’ll get one more to share,” Ms. LeBlanc said.

But it never came to pass. He fell through weak ice that day, and efforts to save him were too late.

His wife said she’s heard varying information, but either carpenters or loggers saw him walk across the lake and fall through and called 911.

“He can’t swim,” she said, “but in cold water there’s nothing you can do anyway.”

A game warden who lives in Barton tried to rescue him, Ms. LeBlanc said, and he fell in, too, “but he grabbed him. The fire department was there; they worked on him as much as they could. But it was too cold.”

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NCUHS search for principal narrowed to two

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copyright the Chronicle January 25, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT—The committee set up to find a new principal for North Country Union High School narrowed the field to two applicants at its meeting Monday night. At a meeting earlier this month the 16-member group picked four potential leaders for the school from an original group of 16, according to North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent John Castle.

The committee interviewed all four before deciding to place the names of Chris Miller and Jessica Puckett before the high school board for its consideration.

Ms. Puckett already works at North Country, serving both as director of special programs and as one-third of the tri-principal group that has been leading the high school this year. The other two in the group are assistant principals Anita Mayhew and Bob Davis.

Mr. Castle said that neither Ms. Mayhew nor Mr. Davis applied for the job.

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State plans new parking area for Willoughby’s south end

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copyright the Chronicle January 25, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

WESTMORE — About 20 people attended the select board meeting here Monday, where construction of a parking area at the south end of Lake Willoughby, and a request from snowmobilers to use a stretch of Long Pond Road to get to the Willoughby Lake Store were the major items on the agenda.

Louis Bushey from the St. Johnsbury office of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) unveiled the department’s plan for dealing with traffic and crowds at the south end of Lake Willoughby.

Anyone who has headed south along the lake on Route 5A knows the road can be nearly impassable near the beach area, with vehicles parked along the shoulder and sticking out into the road.

In summer, it’s swimmers. In winter, it’s ice climbers.

Trails down to the lake are steep and eroding. And with no bathroom facilities except a cluster of Porta Potties, a lot of people slip into the woods when nature calls, creating a health hazard.

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Open season on coyotes questioned

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copyright the Chronicle January 25, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

Recently, a statewide group called Vermonters for Ethical Co-existence with Coyotes started a petition addressed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and its citizen board, asking for limits on the year-round hunting season on coyotes. Their goal is 2,500 signatures — as of press time they’d collected 1,813.

And last week, Representative David Deen of Westminster presented a bill — H.60, an act relating to the hunting of coyotes — that would require the Fish and Wildlife Board to prepare a report to the Legislature on coyote hunting by early next year.

The report would cover what’s known about the coyote population in Vermont, how other states deal with coyote hunting, and whether the Legislature should step in and regulate coyote hunting.

One of the questions the board is being asked to weigh in on is whether coyotes should be hunted year-round.

That’s a subject that’s been coming up a lot lately, said Chris Bernier, the fur-bearing animal specialist at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Now he’s hearing questions about having a regulated hunting season rather than allowing anyone to hunt coyotes by any method 365 days a year.

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State spells out plan for use of Great Hosmer

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copyright the Chronicle January 25, 2017

 

 by Joseph Gresser

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — At a community meeting here Saturday, the state proposed a framework for deciding what kinds of activities will be allowed on Great Hosmer Pond. More than 110 people gathered in the Craftsbury Academy gym to hear the idea put forward by a study committee, but it was unclear how many were optimistic about the outline.

For some time there has been friction between people who want to enjoy water skiing or other activities involving speedy power boats and those who like kayaking, canoeing, or sculling. Many of the scullers are connected with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, which runs a sculling program that uses the pond for its classroom and practice area.

According to Rebecca Ellis, senior counsel for government affairs for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a six-member task force met three times and came up with what was called a straw proposal.  It provides a framework for changes to state regulations governing the pond, Ms. Ellis said.

The two parts of the proposal said:

  1. Racing shells and rowing sculls are allowed at all times except not between… and ….
  2. Waterskiing and any towing of persons by a motorized vessel is allowed between… and …, or when other boats are not on the water.

The blanks will be filled in with set times and a new regulation put in place by late summer, according to Ms. Ellis.

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Current Use penalty too high, Starr says

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

A recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court could cost the new owners of the former Champion lands in Essex County a million dollars in lost property tax relief.

State Senator Bobby Starr of North Troy thinks he has a better way to approach such situations, but said he needs to wait until the courts are finished with the matter.

The question involves 56,000 Northeast Kingdom acres that were once owned by Champion International Corporation, but sold to the Essex Timber Company in 1998. Essex Timber enrolled the property in the state’s Use Value Appraisal program, more commonly known as the Current Use program.

Under that program, a landowner is taxed for a forested or agricultural property at its “current use” value, rather than at its fair market value.

One of the conditions of the tax relief program is that a landowner must submit a forest management plan to the state. That plan must conform to state standards and be approved by the state Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), which must periodically inspect each property to make sure the owner abides by the management plan.

If Forests and Parks finds that a landowner has failed to comply with its forest management plan, the director of the state Division of Property Valuation and Review (PVR) must remove the parcel in question from Current Use for five years.

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Amount budgeted for policing in Derby nearly doubled

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

 

 by Joseph Gresser

 

DERBY — The Derby Select Board voted at its meeting Monday night for a municipal budget that would nearly double the amount set aside for policing — from $47,000 to $90,000. However, select board members said they would prefer not to have to spend the full amount. Their discussion came after former state Representative Bob Lewis presented a report on how the new Walmart might affect the town’s law enforcement needs.

Mr. Lewis, who served both as a State Police trooper and game warden before his retirement, said he spoke with the security manager at Walmart, Newport City Police Chief Seth DiSanto, and Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin in preparing his presentation.

He pointedly omitted Lieutenant Walt Smith, the commander of the Derby State Police barracks, from his conversations with law enforcement, saying that the lieutenant made his attitude about responding to the town’s needs clear in statements to the select board last March.

“I think it’s just political,” Mr. Lewis said of Lieutenant Smith’s refusal to commit to responding to low level crime at the new big box store. He suggested that Tom Anderson, the newly appointed Commissioner of Public Safety, might reverse that policy if pressed by local representatives.

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Derby Pond Animal Hospital has new owner

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

DERBY — When it snowed recently, Dr. Kim O’Connor, the new owner of Derby Pond Animal Hospital, ran to the window in her office in excitement.

“Oh look, it’s snowing!” she exclaimed, watching the flakes come down.

“And the staff just looked at me,” she said in an interview on Monday. “They must have thought I was crazy.”

Dr. O’Connor was born and raised in Georgia. She moved to Vermont in June to take over the business founded and owned until recently by Dr. Steve Sanford.

She’s already bought ultrasound equipment for the practice.

“People were having to drive a long way to get that service,” she said.

And soon she hopes to have 24-hour emergency service and a large animal vet, both services that are in short supply in the Northeast Kingdom.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “I’ve never owned a business before, so I’m taking it one step at a time. Baby steps.”

The veterinary practice where she worked in Savannah was big, with lots of people bringing pets for one-time emergency visits and few repeat customers.

In the smaller, more laid back Derby Pond practice, she’s enjoying the chance to form bonds with pets and their owners.

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In the land of cigars and rum, Part III

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

 

By Paul Lefebvre

 

The thought of making a will occurred to me soon after I booked a flight to Havana. Actually, the thought had been trailing me around for the last few years, but I had done nothing about it. Maybe, I told myself, a four- to five-hour flight to an island off the Florida coast ruled by aging revolutionaries who had recently lost their leader will stir you into action.

True to form, I did nothing until the hour was too late. So as I stood with Calamity at the boarding gate and looked through one of the banks of windows that line the Trudeau Airport at Montreal and watched an airplane belonging to Sun Wing — a Canadian airline and tourist company I had never heard of — roll into loading position, I could feel the fear building deep in the well of my stomach.

Thoughts of what would become to my house and hunting camp were rumbling through my head as we taxied down the runway. I waited until the plane’s landing wheels receded before turning away.

“You never should have reserved a window seat,” I thought, as we became airborne and a stewardess began to demonstrate how to put on the life vest stuck away under every passenger seat, in the event we crashed into the ocean. I was among those who clapped when the airplane landed in Cuba.

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