History students take a stand

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copyright the Chronicle March 22, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

  

NEWPORT — In 1967, authorities tried to drag Kathrine Switzer off the course in the middle of the Boston Marathon because she was a woman.

Women weren’t officially allowed to run in the event until 1972. Ms. Switzer had gotten a race number by filling out the entry form with just her initials.

Robin Nelson, an eighth-grader at Glover Community School, won a first prize in the NEK History Day fair in Newport last Thursday for her research on Ms. Switzer.

In just a few weeks, Robin and the rest of her family will be in Boston cheering her mother, Tara Nelson, across the finish line.

Of the 30,000 entries in this year’s race, about half with be women.

Ms. Switzer, who went on to win both the Boston and New York marathons after they were opened to women, took a stand for equality in her sport, Robin said.

But Robin’s choice of project highlights another trend at this year’s NEK History Day event.

Maybe it was the theme of this year’s national and local history day events — “take a stand for history.” Or maybe it was the recent election, the national political climate, and the widely publicized women’s marches around the country.

But just over a third of the projects entered in this year’s NEK History Day were about women.

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Act 46 committee struggles to define its purpose

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copyright the Chronicle March 15, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — A committee formed Monday evening to study how schools in the Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU) will comply with the state mandate to consolidate into fewer districts struggled with the seemingly simple task of defining its goals.

Members of the committee were sharply divided on whether the point is to make another try at consolidating into a single unified school district, or explore other alternatives.

And they disagreed about whether to have the process driven by input from the community, or whether to start with the state mandate and figure out how to sell it to voters.

About 20 people, some members of the Act 46 Study Committee, and some interested citizens, came to the meeting in the COFEC building in Barton.

It was the committee’s first meeting since Town Meeting Day, when study committee members from each school district opened a dialogue with the public at their respective meetings and passed out copies of an updated Act 46 survey.

At its first meeting, the study committee decided it was important to get more public input.

Although the district merger proposal was defeated last year by five of the six towns in the Orleans Central Supervisory Union, only 552 people actually went to the polls.

In many towns, the margins were narrow, Chair Amy Leroux pointed out. In Albany, the consolidation measure was only defeated by three votes.

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Medicaid could be cut by $200-million

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copyright the Chronicle March 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

MONTPELIER — Vermont is likely to see a $200-million reduction in federal Medicaid funds if Congress passes the version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) now making its way through the House of Representatives. That was the message delivered Friday by officials of the state Agency of Human Services (AHS) at a press conference here.

According to Corey Gustafson, commissioner of the Department of Health Access, the Medicaid program covers the medical costs of approximately 24 percent of Vermonters. Around 35 percent of Vermonters are covered by group policies provided by employers, and another 22 percent get their health coverage from Medicare, the program for those above 65 years of age.

Another 11 percent are covered by small group policies, military benefits, and federal employee insurance. Only about 2 percent of Vermonters lack any insurance at all, the second lowest percentage in the nation.

Vermont has the smallest percentage of uninsured children, according to AHS Secretary Al Gobeille.

The large reduction in payments is the result of an unfortunate coincidence, he said. The AHCA will cap the amount of money going to states based on the number of patients covered in 2016, a year that the number of people covered was artificially low, Mr. Gustafson said.

Mr. Gobeille said the change in the way funds are allocated to the state could require Vermont to make difficult choices in the years ahead.

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North Country wins hockey title

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copyright the Chronicle March 15, 2017

 

Congratulations to the North Country boys’ hockey team — 2017 Division II champions. The Falcons skated to a 4-3 win over a high-powered Harwood Union team on March 9 at UVM’s Gutterson Field House.

North Country opened up a 3-0 lead midway through the contest on a pair of goals by Brady Perron, and a goal and an assist by Dawson Cote. Harwood battled back to tie the game with three unanswered goals. But Mitchell Austin netted the game-winner for the Falcons with about nine minutes to play. Goaltender Dana Marsh finished with 45 saves, breaking a longstanding record for the D-II finals.

The Falcons went 14-5 during the regular season to earn the fourth seed in D-II. Marsh earned a 2-0 shutout over Milton in the opening round of the playoffs at the Jay Peak Ice Haus on March 4, with Brady Perron and Mitchell Gonyaw scoring for the Falcons.

On March 7, North Country upset top-seeded Hartford 6-3 at the Wendell A. Barwood Arena in Hartford to earn its first crack at a championship since losing to Harwood in the 2005 finals. Jordan Cote scored in the closing seconds of the second period to knot that game at two goals apiece, and Alex Giroux took over in the third with three straight goals including the eventual game winner. Tyler Smith and Brady Perron also scored in the semifinal.

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Health Department looks at root causes of addiction

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copyright the Chronicle March 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Preventing heroin addiction may be as simple, or as complicated, as paying attention to the difficulties individuals face in their early years and offering help to overcome those traumas.

That was the message offered at the latest in a series of meetings dedicated to dealing with an epidemic of opioid abuse that has become increasingly virulent in recent years. The meeting, held at North Country Career Center on March 9, was organized by Julie Raboin, a substance abuse prevention consultant with the state Department of Health.

Ms. Raboin pointed to studies that show young people use alcohol and binge drink more often in Orleans County than they do in the state as a whole. When those numbers are broken down by income, it appears that Orleans County’s higher rate of alcohol use is driven by people of lower socioeconomic status.

Young people from wealthier backgrounds have no higher rate of alcohol consumption than do others of their economic background in the state, Ms. Raboin said.

In fact, higher status youth in Orleans County use marijuana at a significantly lower rate than do their peers in the state as a whole. A much higher percentage of young people from less well-off families in Orleans County smoke pot than similarly situated youth in the rest of the state, she said.

Another survey showed that fewer than 50 percent of young people in Orleans County feel valued by the community, Ms. Raboin said.

Youth in the county are much more likely to be disconnected, that is not in school and unemployed, than in Vermont or the nation as a whole, she said.

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Marchers rally for humane immigration policy

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copyright the Chronicle March 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

DERBY LINE — A little before 1 p.m. Saturday a well bundled group of people stood in Baxter Park here, about 150 yards from the Canadian border. Some held signs saying “No Muslim Ban,” “Respect Everybody,” “We Are (Almost All) Immigrants, and “Civility Respect Kindness.”

There were no bystanders and not many passing motorists to hear the group chant “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” but one man pulled his pickup over and gleefully informed the demonstrators that Donald Trump is now President of the United States.

After a little while the group walked up the street to the First Universalist Parish of Derby Line, where they were joined by late arrivals and some less hardy souls gathering to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Between 80 and 100 folks squeezed into the church hall for a short program of speeches, songs, and performances by the Bread and Puppet Theater of Glover.

The theater’s band warmed up the crowd with a song before organizer Aimee Alexander introduced featured speaker Susan-Lynn Johns, formerly the minister of the Derby Line church, who currently is associated with a congregation in St. Johnsbury.

Ms. Johns began by reading the opening words from Charles Dicken’s novel A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” she read, comparing the times described by Dickens to the present day.

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Newport officials hear some rare good news

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copyright the Chronicle March 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Ernie Pomerleau, the president of Burlington-based Pomerleau Real Estate, hosted a press conference at the Gateway Center here on March 2 to confirm plans he has talked about since at least October. Nevertheless, city and state officials seemed happy to celebrate rare good news, including the owners of the Vista supermarket agreeing to extend their lease for another ten years and to renovate the inside of the store.

Mr. Pomerleau contributed his own glad tidings. He promised to refresh the supermarket’s exterior and to extend the city’s pedestrian path along the shore of Lake Memphremagog from Pomerleau Park to the East Side Restaurant.

Sharing the table in front of about 50 city residents, development professionals, and leaders of nonprofit institutions, were Secretary Michael Schirling of the Agency for Commerce and Community Development, state Treasurer Beth Pearce, Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Newport Mayor Paul Monette, and Paul Bruhn, director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

The star of the afternoon, though, was Mr. Pomerleau’s father, Tony, the founder of the real estate firm, and a man who, at just under 100 years old, is older than Newport, where he grew up. The city was incorporated in 1918; Mr. Pomerleau was born in 1917.

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Federal receiver fields questions in Jay

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copyright the Chronicle March 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

JAY — Residents here heard from the effective owner of Jay Peak Resort before they began their Town Meeting Tuesday morning. Michael Goldberg, the receiver appointed by U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles to oversee the businesses owned by Ariel Quiros, answered questions from voters about the ski area’s future.

The big news was that construction will soon begin on the remaining portion of what is known as the Stateside project. Mr. Quiros, who is facing civil charges of investment fraud in state and federal court, raised money from foreign investors to build a hotel, a recreation center, a medical center, and around 84 homes at the resort.

Mr. Goldberg said work will begin in the next few months on the medical and recreation centers as well as the homes. The hotel was completed and opened in 2013.

The receiver said it is important to finish all construction at the resort so as to get the best price when it goes on the market. The sale, he said, will probably take place in a year or two.

Mr. Goldberg said the area had a record winter, and has already booked 60 weddings for the coming summer.

“To book a wedding a year out, you have to have faith the place is going to be there,” Mr. Goldberg said.

A year or two more of profitable operation should make sure the resort fetches top dollar when it goes on the block, he said.

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Coventry will hire delinquent tax collector

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copyright the Chronicle March 8, 2017

 

by Randi Morse

 

COVENTRY — Arsenic-heavy water and the power of the select board — that was the main meal during Coventry’s Town Meeting on Tuesday.

Over 140 people, including those covering the proceedings from WCAX and PBS, filled the small Coventry Village gym in the town offices building likely anticipating a lot of debate due to the ongoing drama surrounding Town Clerk Cynthia Diaz. Ms. Diaz has been involved in numerous controversies in the past nine years, and recently a forensic audit was done, and it appears a substantial amount of money is missing from town coffers.

There was not, however, much debate about Ms. Diaz, likely due to the multiple informational meetings that the select board opted to have prior to Town Meeting. Even though Ms. Diaz wasn’t the main topic of conversation, there was plenty to discuss.

The first matter of business was to see if the town would give the select board the power to hire someone for the position of collector of delinquent taxes. That post has been voted on by town members and held by Ms. Diaz. Some of the concerns about her involve how delinquent taxes appear to have been handled since she has been in charge of them.

“I’ve been to most board meetings since moving here,” said Dave Barlowe. “I’ve read the reports and a lot of issues in this town are because of the improprieties, alleged, of the delinquent tax collector. It’s very important that this situation be straightened out right now, not 12 years from now. Let the board have the authority to hire someone who is highly qualified to fix this problem.”

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Susan Dunklee takes silver at biathlon world championships

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copyright the Chronicle March 1, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — When Stan Dunklee and Judi Robitaille-Dunklee of Barton went to Austria two weeks ago to watch their daughter Susan compete in the biathlon world championships, they didn’t know they’d see her make history.

But on the last day of the competition Susan Dunklee did just that, winning a silver medal and becoming the first American woman ever to stand on the podium at that level of competition in biathlon.

“Biathlon is huge in Europe,” her father said. “It’s the most watched winter sport. But it’s relatively new in the United States.”

And breaking into the winner’s circle has been hard. The 31-year-old Ms. Dunklee was the first American woman to medal at the world championships. And no American woman has yet earned an individual medal in biathlon at the Olympics.

“We try to go to this one every year,” Mr. Dunklee said of the International Biathlon Union World Championships, held this time around in Hochfilzen, Austria.   “It’s the densest cluster of events.”

The IBU World Cup, in comparison, took place over nine weekends in nine countries, starting in Sweden in November, he said.

The Dunklees also watched their daughter race in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where she placed seventh and eighth in two of the biathlon events.

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