Coventry Select Board will hire accountant

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copyright the Chronicle September 28, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

COVENTRY — The Coventry Select Board voted Monday to hire an accountant to oversee the books being kept by Town Clerk and Treasurer Cynthia Diaz.

Although the accounting firm Graham & Graham hasn’t finished its audit of the town’s finances, a September 19 summary of the findings to date included: no cash deposits for over two years, checks held for as long as five months before deposit, and property tax bills stamped “paid” that can’t be tied to check numbers or deposit slips.

Graham & Graham President Jeff Graham recommended that the Coventry Select Board hire an accountant to keep a second set of town financial records.

The accountant is likely to be someone working for an established firm who can be contracted for the next six to 12 months to come in a day or so a week and check up on deposits and transactions.

“I don’t see it as a decision we want to make for the next 20 years,” selectman Scott Morley said. “I do see it as a necessity for right now.”

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Tony Pomerleau pledges up to $120,000 to St. Paul’s School

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copyright the Chronicle September 28, 2016

by Tena Starr

BARTON — Chittenden County developer Tony Pomerleau has given St. Paul’s School here a very big birthday gift.

He will match every dollar the school raises up to $120,000.

This year the school turns 120. The class that started school this fall is the one hundred-twentieth entering the parish school; the one that will graduate in the spring will be the one hundred twentieth to graduate.

Mr. Pomerleau heard about the anniversary and wanted to do something special because he has connections to both Barton and Catholic schools, said St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin. She said that Mr. Pomerleau is a regular donor to the school, but she certainly never expected a gift of this magnitude.

“He challenged us with such a generous match,” she said on Tuesday. “We did not expect that at all.”

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NEK End Addiction holds forum at Lake Region

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copyright the Chronicle September 28, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

When Melissa Zebrowski’s brother and Jeannette Birch’s son died of drug overdoses in December and March, the two women’s reactions were to channel their grief into fighting the local heroin epidemic.

“We just felt a need to do something,” Ms. Birch said.

The two teamed up and told their family stories to Lake Region Union High School students in the spring.

They plan to continue their work in classrooms at Lake Region — and possibly at other high schools in the area — this fall.

One of the goals is to end the shame and silence surrounding addiction, they say.

Another is to get accurate information out to high school students — both information about the dangers of drugs, and resources for getting help in a crisis.

“I don’t want just to tell our story,” Ms. Zebrowski said. “We need to be telling a lot of stories.”

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Foresters talk stewardship at Craftsbury Outdoor Center

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copyright the Chronicle September 28, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre.

CRAFTSBURY — To see the forest and not the trees could have dire consequences for the landowner who wants to be a good steward of the land and pass the fruits of his or her labor onto future generations.

That was one of the take-aways from a conversation among foresters, landowners and citizens here last week at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

The discussion was the latest in a Summer Forestry Series focusing on land that constitutes the watershed of the Black River. As one of the organizers of the series, Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery said in an interview this week that the series has explored bedrock, soil types, and what he called the nuts and bolts of the watershed’s ecological system. Tuesday’s talk added human beings to the mix.

Henry Cold, a landowner, warned his listeners that while society has passed laws to protect land uses, it still lacks a land ethic. He said that landowners’ privileges have not been matched with landowners’ obligations when it comes to recognizing the forest as a community in which human beings are only members.

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In Coventry, annual reports off by $10-million, cash unaccounted for

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

The auditor hired to look at Coventry’s finances is recommending that the select board hire its own accountant to keep a second set of books, observe all transactions, and reconcile bank statements. He also recommends involving law enforcement and the bonding agent in the near future.

“I believe there’s money missing,” said Jeff Graham, president of the accounting firm Graham & Graham. “I don’t know how much.”

Mr. Graham is a certified public accountant (CPA). He’s also certified in financial forensics, the accounting specialty devoted to investigating fraud.

Coventry’s annual reports for the past several years may have under-represented the town’s assets by as much as $10-million, Mr. Graham told the select board at its Monday night meeting.

No cash was deposited during the two-year period covered by the current audit, he said. And cash in the vault is unaccounted for.

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Potential Jay Peak buyer accused of fraud

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016 

by Joseph Gresser

JAY PEAK — When Michael Goldberg got a letter offering to buy Jay Peak for $93-million some aspects of it set off alarms. His suspicions proved to be justified when a quick search showed that the man who made the offer has been accused of a $3-million stock swindle.

Mr. Goldberg explained his concerns about the offer from Jean Joseph of Bellwether Business Group and his follow-up correspondence in a report filed September 16 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.

Mr. Goldberg said the original offer was unusually vague, and didn’t fully specify what the purchaser wanted to get for his money. In addition, the due diligence list, setting out the kind of information about Jay Peak the potential purchaser hoped to get before finalizing the deal, included a number of items that were not applicable to a ski area.

The timeframe for completing the sale proposed by Mr. Joseph also appeared impossibly short, Mr. Goldberg said.

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Women break the glass ceiling at Community National Bank

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

When Stephen Marsh retires as chief executive officer of Community National Bank at the end of the year, the bank’s president and chief operating officer Kathryn Austin will step into his shoes.

Ms. Austin will be the first woman CEO for Community National Bank, and at that point women will hold the top three executive spots at the bank. Terrie McQuillen is a senior vice-president and chief credit officer. And Louise Bonvechio is senior vice-president and chief financial officer.

Last year, Caroline Carpenter became president and CEO of the National Bank of Middlebury, and the first woman to head a bank in Vermont.

A recent article in the online magazine American Banker says that when it comes to the top office at the top 100 banks in the country, only three are women.

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License restoration program offers a clean slate

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Brad Usatch

A bill signed into law this spring is giving certain drivers with license suspensions a chance to pay off their fines at a reduced rate and reinstate their driving privileges.

Administered by the Vermont Judicial Bureau and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the driver restoration program gives people with civil license suspensions resulting from unpaid fines or traffic tickets for which judgment was issued prior to July 1, 2012, the opportunity to clear their record for $30 per ticket. The three-month window to take advantage of the program opened on September 1 and runs through November 30. Applications are available at the Newport DMV office. Applications are also available online at www.vermontjudiciary.org, and completed applications can be e-mailed to [email protected]

The relief provided is only available for civil suspensions, meaning that people whose licenses have been suspended for driving under the influence or other criminal violations are not eligible. The law does, however, provide that even those suspensions not eligible for reduced fines can take advantage of a repayment schedule capped at $30 per ticket, per month, with an overall cap of $100 per month regardless of the number of violations.

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Communities struggle to find new uses for old churches

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

One of Vermont’s iconic images is the steepled white church that’s at the center of so many villages. But with the number of people who attend services dwindling to near extinction in some cases, the remnants of those congregations are looking at what to do with their gracious old church buildings. Somehow, most of them have been maintained, if lightly used, but that’s getting harder, too.

The First Congregational Church of Westfield stopped having services maybe ten years ago when the handful of remaining churchgoers found the meager pay for a weekly pastor prohibitive. Services there were revived in May with a new pastor, John Klar of Irasburg.

And for the past two years or so Katherine Sims of Lowell and her husband, Jeff Fellinger, have hosted a summer monthly concert series at the building, where once women made enormous batches of pies and sold them as a fund-raiser for the church, where years ago people of all ages attended lively card parties in the basement. The proceeds from the concert series go towards church repairs and maintenance.

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Barton Select Board approves limited ATVs on town roads

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — The select board here unanimously voted Monday to allow members of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) group to use a two-mile stretch of Barton roads starting in the spring.

That will give the town time to adopt an ordinance to cover what select board member Jody Frey called “the procedural stuff” — speed limits and the like.

“I see it as a win-win,” select board Chair Bob Croteau said before the vote. “This is a small amount of road and a well thought out plan. I think it’s very reasonable.”

About seven members of the Borderline Ridge Riders came to the select board’s meeting in hopes of getting permission to ride on a half-mile stretch of the East Albany Road and a mile-and-a-half stretch of the Stevens Road that runs between existing trails in Albany and Glover.

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