OCSU RIFs reflect uncertainty about Washington

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copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

The Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU) is not renewing contracts for about 20 teachers and support staff for the 2017-2018 school year.

The higher than usual number of reduction in force (RIF) notices that went out in April is in large part due to the uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C., OCSU Superintendent Donald Van Nostrand said.

Some of the cuts are at the supervisory union level, and some are within individual school districts.

And not all of the RIFs can be blamed on the feds.

“Some reductions are occurring due to budgetary considerations for next year,” Mr. Van Nostrand said.

There are also some schools that are reducing the hours for certain programs.

Glover Community School, for example, will have an art teacher one day a week next year instead of a day and a half.

Those cuts count as RIFs but weren’t included in Mr. Van Nostrand’s figure of 20 people who aren’t getting contracts to sign this spring.

A few others were told they were going to be part of the reduction in force, he said, and then got the happy news that their jobs were safe after all, when other teachers or support staff in their districts announced retirements or other plans for leaving.

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The Luring haunts the Northeast Kingdom

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copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2017

 

by Brad Usatch

 

LOWELL — Evil cast its shadow over Missisquoi Lanes on Saturday as The Luring, a horror film being shot in the Northeast Kingdom, borrowed the location for what is said to be a revealing scene in the movie.

The Luring is written and directed by Christopher Wells, a Long Island native with strong local ties. His father, Roderick Wells, is a well known landscape painter who still lives in the St. Johnsbury area.

Christopher’s 2016 release about his father’s work, Roderick Wells: The Art of Romantic Realism, took home best documentary prizes at both the New York Short Film and Screenplay competition and the New York Film and TV Festival.

Some of his father’s work is also being used in The Luring.

Taken straight from the film’s website (www.theluring.com) The Luring tells the story of a man who returns to the vacation home where a murder took place on his tenth birthday, hoping to resolve a memory gap that has been plaguing him for years. It is a feature length horror film, but Mr. Wells said not to expect a lot of blood and gore. Instead, he said, he aims to produce a psychological thriller with fully developed characters, intelligent dialogue, and subtle foreshadowing.

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VEC holds annual meeting

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copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

JAY — The word on a lot of peoples’ lips at Saturday’s Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) annual meeting was “curtailment.” That means cutting back on renewable energy production when local transmission lines and substations reach their limits.

In Lowell these days, the turbines are off more than they’re on, at least according to one VEC member who spoke from the floor during the question and answer period at the end of the meeting.

“Vermont is full of renewables but we only have four substations,” said electric cooperative CEO Christine Hallquist.   Transmission lines also need to be upgraded so they can carry more power.

The transmission problem was fixed in 2013 with major upgrades to increase the capacity of Vermont’s electrical system, she said, but as the amount of in-state power generation has increased, the area is finding itself up against the limits again.

“And we could have to fix it again in another four years,” she said.

In the meantime there are physical limitations to how much electricity can be moved around the state and out into the wider New England grid.

“Any new generation cannibalizes other generation,” Ms. Hallquist said.

She was explaining some of the stumbling blocks built into Vermont’s ambitious renewable energy program to a group of about 200 people — 120 members and 85 guests — who came to the co-op’s annual meeting at the Jay Peak Hotel and Conference Center.

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Community weighs in on Trump presidency

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copyright the Chronicle May 3, 2017

 

Editor’s note: Our staff interviewed people throughout Orleans County over the past week about their views on President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

For the most part, Republicans, while not always unconditional in their support, give the new President the benefit of the doubt. Not surprisingly, Democrats are less generous. We heard some unexpected, and unexpectedly thoughtful, views on the new President’s early days in office.  

 

John Wilson, president of the Newport City Council: “He’s doing pretty well considering that half the country doesn’t support him. This country is so polarized.”

Charlotte Bernarde, Newport: “If I talk about him, I end up mad. Or depressed. Luckily, he isn’t really getting all that much done. He mostly just talks about what he’s going to do. Or rather, Tweets.

“I mean really, what do people who voted for him think? He wants to take away health care that we finally got. And his tax reform is cutting the corporate tax rate? Sorry, but people got conned by a con artist. And we all have to live with it.

“I guess what I focus on is that people are fighting back. I think it’s going to make us stronger in the end.

“I’m taking bets on him resigning before the end of his term because, first, he really didn’t want to be president and didn’t get how hard it was going to be, and two, the heat will get too hot for him on taxes and Russia as long as pressure stays on. Or he’ll get impeached.

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Albany Neighbors opposed to gravel pit

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copyright the Chronicle May 3, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

ALBANY — Father and son Christian and Clark Katzenbach are hoping to earn a living from a vein of gravel on their 203-acre property on Grigg Road. Christian Katzenbach has spent most of his life as a logger, and it’s time for a change, he said. And 18-year-old Clark just bought a truck and is keen to go into business with his dad.

That puts them at odds with their neighbors, some who fear for their own livelihoods, and others who worry about living near a gravel pit — about the noise, the traffic, the dust, or just the look of the thing.

Albany has no zoning, Selectman Chris Jacobs said at an Act 250 hearing held at the Albany Community School in April to consider the Katzenbachs’ application for a permit to open a three-acre gravel pit on the land that Christian Katzenbach has owned since 1994.

Rebecca Beidler and Jeffrey Ellis’ organic vegetable farm lies right along the edge of what’s now a dead-end dirt road.

Chris Katzenbach’s plan is to reopen a long-unused segment of the road, and he’s agreed to build and maintain it. It’s the most efficient way to get gravel trucks down to Route 14, he says.

Ms. Beidler and Mr. Ellis aren’t happy about having heavy gravel trucks rumbling past their fields many times a day, kicking up dust and spreading diesel fumes.

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Dave’s Rubbish is back in Barton

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copyright the Chronicle May 3, 2017

 

 by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — Dave’s Rubbish is back on track to pick up trash in the town of Barton.

Over the past two weeks, owner Dave Giroux has turned in all of the paperwork the select board had been asking for since last fall.

The board voted to revoke his right to pick up trash in the Barton Solid Waste Management District at a hearing on April 3.

Mr. Giroux appealed the decision on April 17, the day the ban was to take effect. On Monday night, he and his wife, Marcie, came to the select board meeting to hear the decision.

“You guys got the numbers to us,” Chair Bob Croteau said. “You guys did good. You seem to have done everything we asked.”

Selectman Jim Greenwood attended the meeting by speakerphone.

“I talked to the SWIP administrator and they’ve done everything they were supposed to,” he said.

SWIP is the solid waste implementation plan.

The select board revoked Mr. Giroux’ right to operate after finding that he had failed to comply with town rules about required recordkeeping for trash services.

The decision was to take effect in two weeks to give Barton residents time to make new arrangements to get their trash picked up.

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If you can see grass, tick season is here

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copyright the Chronicle May 3, 2017

 

by Brad Usatch

 

This week’s weather notwithstanding, summer is on its way, and with it, another year of tick vigilance for people and their pets.

Lyme disease, the most prevalent pathogen spread by ticks, used to be a fringe issue for a handful of unlucky souls in southern New England and maybe southern Vermont counties. But in the past ten or so years, ticks have spread north, and biologists and doctors warn that no place in Vermont is safe from the parasites and the host of diseases they are able to transmit.

Based on information on the Department of Health website, up until about the year 2000, Vermont averaged roughly ten to 20 confirmed cases of Lyme disease per year. That number grew steadily to reach 50 by 2004, 105 by 2008, and 330 by 2010. In 2013, the state recorded 675 cases of Lyme disease, or better than one infection for every 1,000 people.

That same 2015 data ranked Vermont as the state with the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country. That year, the Center for Disease Control reported that 78.4 out of every 100,000 Vermonters was infected at some point. That number was well above most other states, including Connecticut, which reported an infection rate of 52.2 per 100,000.

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Trade case could lead to jobs at Columbia Forest Products

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Columbia Forest Products, along with several other manufactures of hardwood plywood, scored a preliminary victory in an international trade case that could mean as many as 70 new jobs at the company’s Newport veneer mill.

The Coalition for Fair Trade in Hardwood Plywood, which includes Columbia and five other producers, filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Department of Commerce Enforcement and Compliance arm, in November.

The group complained that Chinese manufacturers have been dumping their products in the U.S. and get unfair support from the Chinese government.

The coalition tried to get the commerce department to slap penalties on Chinese plywood in 2012. That effort ended in failure when the ITC ruled against the domestic producers.

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Facebook popup leads to scam

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — Sharon Bickford of Barton was on Facebook one evening last week when her computer screen suddenly froze. A window popped up, flashing an ominous warning — her computer was under a virus attack, and had been frozen to protect her files.

That’s the first step in a scam that’s been happening to a lot of people lately. It happened to me twice in the week before Ms. Bickford called the Chronicle with her story.

In fact, it’s happened so often lately that the State Police put out a bulletin last week warning people about tech support scams.

The popup message on Ms. Bickford’s computer told her to call a toll-free number immediately so that a technician could remove the infected files and restore her computer.

“It was completely frozen,” Ms. Bickford said. “I had to use control-alt-delete to get out of my browser. And then when I reopened the browser, it was back.”

Ms. Bickford called the number.

The man on the other end of the line said he needed remote access to her computer to fix the problem.

He told her it would cost $300 to remove the virus and install three years’ worth of anti-virus protection.

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Effort underway to bring ball fields back to fairgrounds

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Some may not remember when there were fierce competitions at the ball fields at the Orleans County Fairgrounds, or knew there were ball fields there at all. But years ago, they were busy places. In fact, according to old Orleans County Monitors, ballgames were a regular feature of the fair, as well as a lively summertime occupation between organized teams.

Now there’s an effort to revive and recondition those fields, which are more than 100 years old, adding backstops, dugouts, plus lights on one of them for night games.

Dan Perron is a fair director; he’s also vice-president of the Orleans County Cal Ripkin chapter, a man who is deeply immersed in youth baseball, as well as softball. He’s spearheading the effort to rejuvenate the fields and has helped to start a fund-raising drive to pay for upcoming improvements.

Over the next weeks, expect to see “baseball cards” in local stores. They can be bought for a dollar each, and the money will go to finishing the fields.

Mr. Perron has done considerable research on the history of the ball fields and baseball in Barton in general. Among other things, he ran across the story of Heimie Stafford of Orleans, who made it to the bigs, the majors, for a single game in October of 1916.

Mr. Perron said the goal is to raise between $20,000 and $25,000 to finish refurbishing the fields. These days, teams want a good field to play on, and they don’t want to play on just grass, he said.

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