Environmental ruling boosts expansion of Coventry landfill

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

COVENTRY — The District #7 Environmental Commission issued a ruling on April 5 that could give a boost to the New England Waste System of Vermont’s effort to add 50 acres to the state’s only remaining landfill. The decision, signed by commission Chair Eugene Reid, says the property owned by New England Waste System, which includes a nearby solar array, is properly classified as an industrial park.

The decision could lower the fees the landfill’s owner must pay to mitigate the loss of primary agricultural soils from the $635,000 demanded by the state Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets to about $145,000.

New England Waste asked the district commission to weigh in on the issue before it goes further with its plans to enlarge the landfill in the direction of Northeast Kingdom International Airport.

The commission ruled the landfill is part of an industrial park, but it has not answered the second question New England Waste put to it — how many acres must the landfill pay for mitigating.

Vermont law says damage to primary agricultural soils can be mitigated through a payment to the state’s Housing and Conservation Fund. The state’s current mitigation fee is $1,325 an acre.

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Lawsuit claims EB-5 fraud started in 2008

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BURLINGTON — Two investors in EB-5 projects at Jay Peak Resort claim that securities fraud at the ski area started in 2008 when Ariel Quiros paid for the resort using money meant to build hotels. They also say Jay Peak’s former owner had to know what was going on.

Antony Sutton and a man referred to only as John Doe filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Vermont on April 7 and charged Saint-Sauveur Valley Resorts, Inc., the former owner, with turning a blind eye as Mr. Quiros paid with money that they told him was meant solely for improvements to the resort.

The two want Saint-Sauveur to return $21.9-million they claim it first gave to Mr. Quiros and then improperly accepted as payment when he bought the resort from the Canadian company.

Mr. Sutton invested $500,000 in Jay Peak Hotel Suites LP (Phase I), and Mr. “Doe” put the same amount into Jay Peak Hotel Suites II LP (Phase II).   Both projects raised money through the federal EB-5 visa program, which trades investments in job-creating companies for a U.S. Green Card and a path to citizenship.

The first two of what would eventually be seven such projects were started by Saint-Sauveur and taken over by Mr. Quiros when he bought Jay Peak.

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Glover voters approve bond for new garage

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

GLOVER — By a narrow margin, voters here directed the select board Tuesday to borrow up to $750,000 to pay for a new town garage. The garage will be built on the site of the recycling shed next to the present town garage on Route 16.

The tally was 73 in favor and 68 against.

Of the town’s 776 voters, 141 turned out to cast their ballots, including 25 who voted by absentee ballot ahead of time, and another 27 who voted by absentee ballot on Monday night at an informational meeting at the town hall.

About 40 people showed up for Monday night’s meeting in addition to the three selectmen and other town officials.

Passumpsic Bank has offered the town a fixed rate, 20-year loan at 3 percent interest, Selectman Jack Sumberg said.

Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars would be the most that the town would borrow. That works out to about $30 more taxes a year on a $100,000 property.

No grants are available to cover the cost of a new garage.

“If we’re going to do it, we have to pay for it,” Mr. Sumberg said.

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Poetry informed by the unique perspective of an EMT

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

Reviewed by Tena Starr

  

A Life Lived Backwards, by Mark Creaven. Paperback. 76 pages. Available on Amazon.com, $9.99.

 

Longtime West Glover resident Mark Creaven has been, among many other things, an EMT, a job that, in the opinion of this writer, requires a rare skill set.

Not everyone has what it takes to tend the sick and injured in emergency situations; not everyone is willing and able to jump out of bed at 2 a.m. to console the parents of a broken teen who has just died in a car crash, or at reassuring the lonely old woman who fears this is the night that her weary heart gives up.

No, it’s a job that not only requires medical skills, but also compassion, courage, patience, and the ability, and willingness, to engage in situations that most of us don’t even want to contemplate.

I’ve never heard of anyone who has specifically turned such situations into poetry.

However, the subtitle of this slender book is “Poems by an Emergency Medical Technician,” and its first section, called In the Field, provides a glimpse of the kinds of heart-wrenching moments an EMT, through the very nature of his work, must deal with.

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Can Newport emulate St. Albans’ renewal?

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copyright the Chronicle April 5, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

ST. ALBANS CITY — The St. Albans City Hall is an elegant structure, dating from the time it was known as the Railroad City. The high ceilings and tall wooden doors are indications of a past when citizens flaunted their community’s wealth through architecture.

Today city hall has just undergone a $2.3-million renovation and emerged as a stunning reminder of the past and a declaration of St. Albans’ present day ambitions.

City Manager Dominick Cloud has an office on the second floor looking out over Main Street. From his window he can point to a pair of the projects that are part of the city’s plan to remake itself. To the left, Mr. Cloud can point to a large Ace Hardware store.

He explained that the city bought the land where the store is, tore down a vacant building, and found a buyer, who was looking to expand an existing store.

To the left, Mr. Cloud indicated an empty lot and three vacant buildings that he hopes will soon get the same treatment.

The two examples hint at the larger strategy the city has been putting into practice over the past several years, taking calculated risks designed to expand St. Alban’s Grand List and make the downtown look sharper and more welcoming.

So far, Mr. Cloud said, St. Albans has invested $16-million and added $50-million to the Grand List.

“It’s a pretty good return,” he conceded.

St. Albans’ track record has certainly caught the eye of leaders in Newport, who hope to make use of the lessons it has learned as they look for ways to reinvigorate their city’s downtown.

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Newport Center approves water bond

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copyright the Chronicle April 5, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT CENTER — Voters here gave the nod to a plan to provide an ample supply of safe drinking water to residents of the village of Newport Center. In balloting Tuesday, town residents approved a $745,000 bond by a vote of 95 to 13. One hundred nine out of 1,316 people on the checklist voted.

The money will pay for two new wells, a treatment facility to remove arsenic and manganese from water, and the electrical and plumbing connections needed to keep the new wells flowing.

At an informational meeting held at the town offices March 30, Steve Barrup, who chairs the select board, said the village water board has applied for grants from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program to help pay the cost of the system.

Because Newport Center is part of the Rural Economic Area Partnership Program (REAP) zone, comprised of Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia counties, it’s eligible for grants that could cover up to 75 percent of the project’s cost. The hitch, Mr. Barrup said, is the USDA will not consider a request unless a municipality has authorized a bond for the project.

With the positive vote, the town can wait to see what size grant it gets before deciding whether to go forward with the project, Mr. Barrup said.

The entire town must vote for the bond because it will continue to exist even if all the water department’s customers leave the area, he said.

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Fish and Wildlife proposes cutting moose permits in half

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copyright the Chronicle April 5, 2017

 

by Brad Usatch

 

A steep decline in the moose population, both statewide and in the Northeast Kingdom, has led the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to recommend substantial cuts in the number of hunting permits offered this year.

The Fish and Wildlife Board (FWB) will vote Wednesday on a proposal to authorize a total of 80 permits, including 17 archery season permits, down over 51 percent from 165 permits authorized for the 2016 seasons. Also for the first time, the plan would mandate that only bull moose be hunted in all wildlife management units (WMUs).

Locally, the plan calls for nine regular season permits, and one archery season permit each, for both the D1 and D2 WMUs. WMUs do not align with town or county boundaries, but D1 covers most of Orleans County, south to Hyde Park and Hardwick. D2 overlies the northern two-thirds of Caledonia County, as well as almost all of Westmore, and smaller portions of Barton and other Orleans County towns.

The recommendation also authorizes a total of ten permits each (seven regular season and three archery season) for the E1 and E2 WMUs covering almost all of Essex County.

As recently as 2009, over 1,200 permits were offered on a yearly basis. But that was at a time when Fish and Wildlife was actively trying to bring down a moose population that moose biologist Cedric Alexander said was at an all-time high, perhaps dating back to the last ice age.

Mr. Alexander said the winter tick is the main culprit in the population plunge that took the statewide moose herd from a historic high estimated at close to 5,000 moose in 2005, to a November 2016 estimate of 1,750. Heavy tick infestations affect herd size in two ways, Mr. Alexander explained.

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Dairy farmers and new farmers face a divide

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copyright the Chronicle April 5, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

 NEWPORT — When Dave Simonds and Sarah Gardner slept at a “farm stay” bed and breakfast not too long ago, their host apologized for the dairy farm down the road.

“We’re trying to clean it up,” she assured them. Her special angst was reserved for the silage pit, which was covered in plastic weighted down with tires.

“Horrible,” she said. “I call them dirty farms.”

What the bed and breakfast owner meant was that the farm down the road was a real working farm, not a glorified petting zoo like the carefully choreographed farm stay she was offering to tourists from the city.

What she didn’t know was that her guests were the director and producer of a film called Forgotten Farms, a documentary on how traditional dairy farms and dairy farmers are being left behind in the popular embrace of local food movements.

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Raboin, Merriam named to Newport council

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copyright the Chronicle March 29, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council is again up to full strength. After a special meeting Monday night to select two new members, the council is no longer the all-male bastion it has been since the death of Karin Zisselsberger ten years ago.

With the choice of Julie Raboin and James Merriam, the council has also given itself a more youthful appearance.

Ms. Raboin, a substance abuse prevention consultant with the state Department of Health, and Mr. Merriam, who is lead pastor at the United Church of Newport, were chosen from a field of four.   That field also included Woodman Page, who returned to Newport after a career in the Air Force and the Department of Defense, and Ira Morgan Jr., former owner of Hellbilly Hideaway in Derby, and a driving force behind the creation of Newport’s first skate park.

At its meeting on March 13 council members asked interested parties to submit applications for the seats left vacant by the surprise, and as yet unexplained, resignations of Steven Vincent and Neil Morrissette on Town Meeting Day.

Applicants were given until March 22 to volunteer for the post. The council decided to hold the interviews for candidates in open session, but to deliberate on their choice behind closed doors.

Mayor Paul Monette also invited community members to submit suggestions for questions to be asked of the candidates at the open forum.

 

 

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Celebrating Vermont’s natural delicacy

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copyright the Chronicle March 29, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

After weeks of cold, even Saturday’s gray skies and spitting snowflakes didn’t stop people from turning out for the annual Vermont Maple Sugarmaker’s Association annual Maple Open House Weekend.

Chilly overnight temperatures meant that the Fortins at Covered Bridge Maple Sugaring in Barton couldn’t start boiling until noon, even with sap saved in the tank, but by 1 o’clock, the sweet-scented steam was rolling through their sugarhouse.

It was the family’s first open house, and they had gone all out for their guests. There were crockpots of chili, chowder, beans, and maple meatballs; trays of maple cookies and whoopee pies; and of course tastes of freshly made syrup.

About five years ago, Chris and Gerald Fortin bought the sugarhouse that used to belong to the Auger family on Route 16. The place came with a 100-acre sugarbush. They lease another 250 acres from a neighbor. The operation is certified organic.

The Fortins grew up sugaring in their respective families. After their marriage, they made syrup for years on their place in Newport Center, adding a few more taps and a bit more equipment every year.

They finally decided they were ready to move on to a bigger sugaring operation, Ms. Fortin said.

As luck would have it, they heard by word of mouth that Jeannette Auger wanted to sell. They bought the property before it was even listed on the market.

“We’d looked at other places, but this was the right one,” Ms. Fortin said.

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