Some refugees leaving through Derby Line

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copyright the Chronicle February 22, 2017

 

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

DERBY LINE — In the past few months an increasing number of foreigners have been crossing the U.S. border and seeking refuge in Canada. Canadian authorities say the trend is greatest in Quebec, but they are unwilling to talk about where individuals and families are entering the province.

Some, at least, are walking over the line in Derby Line and Beebe, according to Stephen Henesy, who was recently named Patrol Agent in Charge of the Border Patrol Station in Newport.

Agent Henesy said those crossing are not people who are in the U.S. illegally, but have entered the country on tourist and other visas. Once here, some have made their way north to seek “what Canada has to offer,” he said.

Many of the people he has seen at the border come from South America and Africa, Agent Henesy said Tuesday. At least one came from Eritrea, a multi-ethnic country in the Horn of Africa, he said.

Border Patrol Agents can stop someone heading for the border, he said, but only long enough to make sure the person is not in the U.S. illegally or wanted for criminal activity. If they find no problem, the person is free to go on his way, even if that means crossing into Canada.

The illegality only begins once the person goes over the border and is under Canadian jurisdiction, he explained.

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Most defendants jailed in heroin sweep

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copyright the Chronicle February 22, 2017

 

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The 16 people who appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court on February 14 won’t remember it as their best Valentine’s Day. They were brought to court to face drug-related charges, most having to do with the sale of heroin to police informants.

Their alleged offenses took place between October 2015 and this February, and ranged from driving the car from which a dealer did business, to selling significant quantities of the drug.

Many were not able to meet the bail set by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen and were sent to Northern State Correctional Facility or other state lock-ups.

The burden of prosecuting the cases was distributed between Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett and Assistant Attorney General Paul Barkus.

Mr. Barkus drew the case of Dana Nadeau, 30, of Morgan who pled innocent to a felony charge of selling more than 200 milligrams of heroin. He was sent to Northern State for lack of $10,000 bail.

According to the affidavit of State Police Detective Cassandra Herbes, the drug task force enlisted the help of an informant referred to as Orange to buy heroin from Mr. Nadeau.

Orange was paid to assist police, but the money did not depend on arresting a particular person, the affidavit says.

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Coventry voters grill selectmen

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copyright the Chronicle February 22, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — Early on a Saturday morning seems like an unlikely time to draw a crowd for an informational meeting with the select board.

But close to 30 people showed up at the community center here on February 18 for a public question and answer session about the recent audit and the town’s missing funds.

“I know there have been a lot of questions,” selectman Scott Morley said in his brief opening remarks, as early-rising residents sipped coffee or nibbled on doughnuts and muffins provided by the board.

Asking those questions now will prevent chaos at Town Meeting, he said.

For close to an hour and a half, the crowd peppered Mr. Morley and fellow selectman Brad Maxwell with questions and comments. Chairman Mike Marcotte wasn’t able to get to Saturday’s meeting but plans to be at the next two sessions.

The questions generally fell into three groups: the cost of the audit, why the problem had gone on for so many years, and what can be done about it.

Mr. Morley said he was uncomfortable with the word “embezzlement” that a number of people at the meeting used to describe the missing money.

“That hasn’t been proven,” he said several times. “We aren’t using those words.”

But after the meeting he acknowledged to people who asked that the State Police and the FBI are actively investigating the case.

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Bill McKibben speaks at Sterling College

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copyright the Chronicle February 22, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — “We all want the places we live in to remain unchanged,” writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben told a crowd of about 200 people at a Sterling College open house on Saturday. “But all over the world now, there are people paying enormous prices for our energy use.”

Mr. McKibben was answering a question about large-scale wind development. Behind him through the picture windows at the back of Simpson Hall, his audience could see the college’s new array of solar panels that were being dedicated that day.

Up to 100 million people are expected to die by 2030 as a result of climate change, Mr. McKibben said.

And he said that most of them are poor people in developing countries — people who have done nothing to contribute to the problem.

“Vermonters have a debt to the world, and we should be willing to make sacrifices,” he said.

But Vermont itself is not going to be unscathed by climate change.  Mr. McKibben said that computer models project cross-country skiing and snowmobiling becoming extinct in Vermont by the mid to latter part of this century due to lack of snow. And the forests that are the glory of the state will be sadly changed.

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Task force nabs 26 in heroin sweep

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copyright the Chronicle February 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The Emerson courthouse was hopping Tuesday afternoon as teams of State Police Troopers, Orleans County Sheriff’s Deputies, Newport City Police Patrolmen, and Border Patrol Agents brought in a steady parade of suspects in what officials called the largest heroin bust in Orleans County’s history.

At a press conference held at the State Police barracks in Derby, state, federal, and local officials talked about the sweep which took 26 people into custody. According to State Police Major Glenn Hall, the head of that agency’s criminal division, four people were arrested earlier and eight more remain at large.

Almost all face charges related to the sale of heroin.

At the press conference, Acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia Cowles said police seized a “substantial amount” of heroin as well as a number of firearms in the sweep, which officers called Operation Border Line. Ms. Cowles was unable to provide an estimate of the weight or value of the contraband, but said she believed more than a thousand bags of heroin were taken.

Ms. Cowles said all levels of law enforcement recognize that heroin is a substantial problem in the Newport area and in Vermont as a whole.

Major Hall praised the joint investigation in which the Vermont Drug Task Force, elements of the federal Department of Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Agency worked together with officials representing the U.S. Attorney for Vermont, the state Attorney General, and Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett.

The arrests, he said, were the culmination of a seven-month investigation.

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Lake House forced to defend itself

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copyright the Chronicle February 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

MONTPELIER — The state Liquor Control Board (LCB) heard complaints about Barton’s only bar, the Lake House Saloon, at an enforcement hearing on Wednesday, February 8. Anne Marie MacEachern, owner of the establishment, defended herself against five charges each of serving intoxicated customers and allowing them to stay in the bar, one charge of having a bar brawl and not calling for police assistance, and one charge of not complying with break-open ticket regulations.

Three of the five board members were present for the two-hour session. They heard witnesses, but adjourned without reaching a decision.

The charges were precipitated by an incident at which local DJ Donald Sackett said brawlers knocked over and damaged some of his equipment. Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Jacob Humbert, Mr. Sackett said he was performing at the Lake House around 1:30 a.m. on August 6 when a disturbance that started outside the bar moved inside.

Mr. Sackett said 75 to 100 people were in the Lake House at the time and estimated that between 15 and 20 were involved in the brawl.

“It happened quickly on the dance floor. They moved toward me and I got overrun like a rock concert,” Mr. Sackett said.

He said a stand that held the controls for the lights, his computers, and other sensitive equipment was knocked over and its contents were “slammed on the hardwood floor.”

Mr. Sackett said he grabbed a computer and retreated into a corner and watched as people “tromped on my equipment.”

He said he saw Clayton Butler, who works security at the Lake House, in the middle of the fray.

“He couldn’t contain it. He did his best,” Mr. Sackett said. “There were not enough people to control it.”

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Coventry Selectmen will air town’s problems

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copyright the Chronicle February 15, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — The selectmen here are planning a series of public meetings over the next three weeks to talk with town voters about their problems with Town Clerk and Treasurer Cynthia Diaz, and their concern about missing town funds.

The idea is to let people ask questions and talk to the select board informally before the March 7 Town Meeting. The first meeting is planned for Saturday at 8 a.m.

An audit by Graham and Graham is the most recent in a series over the past 12 years that have identified missing money in Coventry. It’s the first to demonstrate that a significant number of cash tax payments were collected but never deposited.

The amount so far comes to about $64,000 over the two years covered by the audit. Previous auditors also believed that there were significant amounts of money missing.

“People have questions,” Selectman Scott Morley said at Monday night’s meeting. “And they want more of an open dialogue, more back and forth than they can have in a select board meeting. I think that’s legitimate.”

The Coventry voters in the back of the room on Monday night seemed to support the idea.

“What with fake news and all that, we don’t know what to believe,” said town resident Martha Sylvester.

Ms. Sylvester wasn’t the only one to urge the select board to go ahead with the public meetings.

“I think it’s going to put the board in better standing at the Town Meeting,” Skip Gosselin said.

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“Mesh” may provide low-cost Internet connection

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copyright the Chronicle February 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Diane Peel said she has met many parents whose children are expected to do their homework online, but who can’t afford to pay for an Internet connection. For these and those in similar circumstances she and a group of collaborators are starting a low-cost alternative to Comcast and FairPoint they are calling Newport Wireless Mesh.

The group started to test the idea around two years ago after a member came back from a trip to Washington, D.C., and told friends about a project put together by the Open Technology Institute.

That organization set up the Commotion Project to write programs that allowed computer routers to communicate with each other and not just with an Internet provider.

The Commotion Project equipment allowed the creation of a network, or a mesh, through which users can get access to the Internet by connecting to fellow members of the network.

For Ms. Peel and fellow members of NEK 99%, a group of activists who collaborate on projects, including the 99 Gallery on School Street, the technology offered a chance to build a communications system and a stronger community.

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State’s Attorney to launch drug diversion program

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copyright the Chronicle February 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett says her office is ready to start a new diversion type program for people with substance abuse problems who have committed minor offenses.

The only thing keeping it from getting off the ground is the lack of the right case, Ms. Barrett said in an interview Monday. She said she needs to find someone who has been charged with a misdemeanor case and is willing to admit to having a substance abuse problem.

When such a case comes across her desk, Ms. Barrett said, she will offer the defendant a chance to expunge the charge through a process that she hopes will lead him or her to combat the addiction.

Her office, like those of other state’s attorneys around Vermont, has received money for efforts to deal with problems connected to the state’s opioid epidemic. Ms. Barrett said state’s attorneys have been given wide latitude to design programs that will respond to the needs of their counties.

She said she designed her program based on a model established by state Attorney General T.J. Donovan when he was Chittenden County State’s Attorney.

To help her in the effort, she has hired Robert Booth to supervise program participants and help guide them toward recovery.

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Newark woman camped out at Standing Rock

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copyright the Chronicle February 8, 2017

 

 

by Tena Starr

 

The commercial wind projects on the Northeast Kingdom’s ridgelines provided the inspiration for 19-year-old Sophia Burnham’s long stint with the pipeline protestors near Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

Ms. Burnham and her sister Hannah, who are both from Newark, joined the Standing Rock protestors over Thanksgiving break last year.

The Sioux and others are opposed to construction of the controversial 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. The young women initially went on a 350.org Vermont bus trip, planning to stay for about a week. 350.org is an environmental group concerned about climate change and the use of fossil fuels.

At the end of that trip, Hannah went back to college, but Sophia did some serious packing and returned to North Dakota after a few days. She’s pretty much been there ever since.

She said, by cell phone on Sunday, that President Donald Trump’s order to expedite construction of the pipeline has emboldened local police and private security. Numerous people have since been arrested, she said.

The protests, near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, have gone on for months, with thousands of protestors, including a big contingent of military veterans, arguing that the last section of pipeline should not be built at the proposed site for safety reasons.

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