Non-stop rain taking its toll on farmers

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

Farmers, who have been accused of complaining about the weather even more than most Vermonters, have good reason this year.

It’s rained, and it’s rained some more, making it nearly impossible to get in dry hay. Plus it’s often been on the chilly side. And in few places did corn reach the hoped for knee high by the Fourth of July stage.

It’s no one’s imagination that it’s been raining a lot, but since that rain has frequently come in the form of showers rather than a uniform, steady rainfall, some places have fared a little better than others.

At the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, it rained 18 out of 31 days in May; 18 out of 30 days in June; and half of the first 16 days in July.

At meteorologist Steve Maleski’s weather station in Sutton, measurable rain was recorded 21 out of 31 days in May, including nine out of the first ten days; 20 out of 30 days in June, including six consecutive days to start the month, and 11 out of 12 days between June 19 and June 30. It rained nine out of the first 16 days of July.

The Chronicle’s recent weather records, which are from Brownington, say that between June 13 and July 17 it rained 23 out of 35 days.

Gary Lyman of West Glover said this is his forty-third year farming, and he’s “never been through anything like this year. It’s wicked tough.”

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Justice Deptartment asked to look at legality of Act 46

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Two former school board members from Franklin County have asked the federal Department of Justice to investigate the legality of Act 46, the Vermont law that requires school districts to consolidate.

Jay Denault and James Jewitt have filed a complaint saying it’s their belief that Act 46 violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as two other sections of federal law that prohibit intimidation, threatening, or coercion of voters.

Essentially, they assert, the law contains what amounts to both bribes and threats aimed at pushing people toward voting how the state wants them to vote.

“…said legislation contains descriptions of coercion and multiple, significant financial rewards, being provided in exchange for an affirmative vote by the electorate to implement the requirements of Act 46,” the complaint says. “Further, this legislation contains specific language which details threats and intimidation of the electorate for failing to comply with the requirements of Act 46. Such threats include, but are not limited to, the authority provided by Act 46 to the Vermont State Department of Education to force compliance with the requirement of Act 46 against the will of the people.”

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Weyerhaeuser settles Current Use issue for $375,000

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

The Weyerhaeuser corporation has agreed to pay the state of Vermont $375,000 to settle a longstanding argument over whether the company should lose tax breaks on 56,000 acres in the Northeast Kingdom because of a forest management violation seven years ago.

In 2010, the company that then owned the land, Plum Creek Maine Timberlands, allegedly violated its forest management plan when a contract logger cut too many trees on a 140-acre stand in Lemington.

The land is part of the former Champion lands in Essex County.

State and county foresters said they also found other environmental violations on the site, such as failure to install silt dams to prevent runoff into a stream.

Plum Creek immediately halted cutting on the stand and fixed the environmental problems.

But in 2011, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation recommended that Plum Creek lose its right to pay taxes at the Current Use rate — not just for the 140-acre parcel, or even for the 9,000 acres the company owned in Lemington, but for all of the 56,000 contiguous acres that Plum Creek owned in the Kingdom.

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Sicard to replace Greenwood on Barton Select Board

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copyright the Chronicle July 19, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — Jim Greenwood just may have the dubious distinction of being the most often appointed official in town history, at least according to Barton Select Board Chair Bob Croteau.

But his long history of service to the town — both elected and appointed — is coming to an end. On Monday night, the select board accepted what Mr. Greenwood expects to be his final letter of resignation.

Paul Sicard was appointed to serve until Town Meeting in his place.

This week, Mr. Greenwood hopes to finalize the sale of the Orleans Village Store, a building that he said he bought about 40 years ago. The sale is set to close on Wednesday, Mr. Greenwood said.

The buyer is Josh Olney, the golf pro at the Orleans Country Club.

After the sale, the Greenwoods will move to Newport Center, which disqualifies Mr. Greenwood from sitting on the Barton board.

And they have bought a place in Florida, so he doesn’t expect to be living year-round in Vermont starting this winter.

“But, as you know, a closing isn’t done until you have the check in your hands,” he said. “And I don’t have the check yet.”

Mr. Greenwood and his wife ran the Orleans Village Store for about 20 years.

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Revision awarded multi-million dollar helmet contract

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Some of Vermont’s top political leaders joined Revision Military’s employees July 6 to celebrate a contract that could be worth as much as $98-million to the company. Revision CEO Jonathan Blanshay said the federal contract, under which his company will supply new, lighter helmets to the military, is the most important in Revision’s history.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Representative Peter Welch, and Governor Phil Scott joined the company’s 150 Newport employees to mark the achievement and to see how the new protective gear is made.

The contract, which Senator Leahy announced in March, calls for Revision to supply as many as 293,870 to the military over the next five years. All of Revision’s helmets are made in Newport.

Eric Hounchell, Revision’s vice-president for armor and global operations, said the company has invested around $3-million in new equipment needed to manufacture the helmets. He predicted Revision would invest more in the plant and hire more workers as orders come in.

Mr. Hounchell said the major selling point for the helmet was that it weighs in at almost a quarter less than the company’s previous model. Reducing the weight of equipment soldiers must carry extends their range and effectiveness, Mr. Hounchell said.

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Welch talks health care at North Country Hospital

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — U.S. Representative Peter Welch sandwiched a visit to congratulate Revision Military for winning a $98-million contract between meetings with Orleans County organizations, including North Country Hospital, here on July 6.

Representative Welch also looked in at the Lunchbox at Gardner Park. The food truck is a project of Green Mountain Farm-to-School and serves free lunches to children around the county.

Mr. Welch filled a few orders, but spent much of his time talking with Farm-to-School’s recently appointed executive director, James Hafferman, and with Superintendent John Castle of the North Country Supervisory Union, who serves on the Farm-to-School board of directors.

Both men shared concerns about proposed cuts to the federal budget they said could seriously hurt their organizations. Over plates of salad they discussed the potential for harm they think might come from actions being contemplated in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Castle worried that the North Country Supervisory Union could lose $500,000 in Medicaid funds it uses to support a variety of programs in schools around the area, including drug and alcohol counseling.

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Peggy Day Gibson steps aside at the Old Stone House Museum

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

BROWNINGTON — For the past ten years or so Peggy Day Gibson has turned her capable and enthusiastic hand to transforming the picturesque Brownington neighborhood that’s home to the Old Stone Museum into vibrant history, as well as a destination.

She leaves the job of museum director in October and hopes her replacement has the vision to follow the museum’s recent trajectory. Brownington’s historic district is a remarkable place, she said, a repository of a region’s history and stories with old buildings as well as vast collections that chronicle a time, a place, a way of doing things, and the lives of people who knew how to do those things.

Ms. Gibson hopes that whoever follows her will see that the historic district is a place so special that it’s poised to earn its own income through bus tours, events, and facility rentals. It has all the potential to become a destination spot, she said.

Under Ms. Gibson’s tenure, the property, owned by the Orleans County Historical Society, has expanded. It includes seven historic buildings; some new buildings, meant to replicate some old ones; as well as additions. The neighborhood, Ms. Gibson said in an interview last week, is currently pretty much what it was in the 1830s when Alexander Twilight was principal of the Orleans County Grammar School, which returned to its original location, hauled there by 23 teams of oxen, last summer.

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Boathouse feud continues

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Police say Herman J. Leblanc, 80, of Newport Center tore down a considerable chunk of a boathouse that has been the center of a nearly ten-year-old legal tangle involving his family and the next-door neighbor.

Mr. Leblanc pled innocent to a felony charge of unlawful mischief on June 19, and was ordered held on $75,000 bail by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen.

Judge VanBenthuysen released Mr. Leblanc after he posted bail and his son David Leblanc, agreed to take custody of his father. Herman Leblanc is no longer allowed to live in his Newport Center home on the shore of Lake Memphremagog. Instead, he’s at a rental property owned by his family, where he must stay unless accompanied by his son.

On Monday the Leblancs were back in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court where attorney Kyle Hatt sought to persuade the judge that requiring a person to be released to the custody of a responsible adult is more appropriate for cases where there is a threat to a person rather than to property.

Judge VanBenthuysen said he would consider the argument, but wanted to wait until Mr. Leblanc completes the competency examination he had already ordered.

State Police Sergeant Andrew Jensen filed an affidavit concerning the most recent charge. Robert Snelgrove, Mr. Leblanc’s neighbor, called police on June 16 and said his boathouse had been damaged.

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South end of Willoughby becomes a state park

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copyright the Chronicle July 5, 201

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

WESTMORE — In a surprise move, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) announced on Saturday that it’s turning management of the beach area at the south end of Lake Willoughby over to the state parks system.

The decision was made about a month ago by Forests, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder, said Susan Bulmer, the regional manager of the state park system.

“You’re the first to know,” she told the 80 or so people who nearly filled Westmore’s Fellowship Hall on the evening of July 1.

The crowd had come to see the formal presentation of the department’s revised plans for parking, bathrooms, and runoff management at the south end of the lake.

Many had participated in a months-long letter writing campaign organized by a group called Protect Willoughby. Its goal has been to get the department to downsize or abandon its plans.

Originally FPR called for parking for up to 90 cars, a 17-foot wide bathroom building, handicap accessible trails, and an observation deck.

And despite the fears of Protect Willoughby’s organizers that the holiday weekend was a bad time to schedule a public meeting, about 50 people had sloshed through a downpour earlier in the afternoon for guided walks around the East Cove and West Cove beach areas.

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Lake Region continues to beat the odds

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copyright the Chronicle July 5, 201

 

by Brad Usatch

 

When U.S. News and World Report issued its 2017 rankings of Vermont public high schools, no one should have been surprised to see Lake Region Union High School near the top of the list. For five of the past six years, Lake Region has earned a silver medal in the annual review. This year it was rated eighth best in the state and in the top 10 percent nationally.

The rankings, according to the U.S. News and World Report website, are determined through a four-part test. Step one compares how students perform on standardized tests in math and English language skills compared to other students in the state. Step two measures the success of economically disadvantaged students against what would be statistically expected in the state. Step three factors in graduation rates. Step four uses advanced placement (AP) test performance to determine college readiness.

The class of 2017 was particularly impressive, according to Principal Andre Messier, who said the bar keeps getting raised by each successive senior class that comes through. While the class boasted a 91 percent graduation rate, with 35 percent of seniors taking at least one AP course, Mr. Messier said what marks this group as exceptional is their courage to leave Vermont and expand their range of experiences. A number of the students are heading off to highly competitive college programs, including Harvard University, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Middlebury College, Ohio State University, and McGill University in Montreal.

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