NCUHS spending down

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — At its December 19 meeting, North Country Union High School got a first look at a budget proposal for the 2018-2019 school year.

A draft already approved by the board’s Business Operations Committee calls for spending $10.9-million, $302,320 less than the $11.2-million budget approved by voters on Town Meeting Day. The proposed budget calls for spending to drop 2.7 percent in the coming year compared to this.

North Country Career Center would see a similar decline in its budget, which would tick down from $3.185-million in the 2017-2018 school year to $3.101-million in the 2019 fiscal year. An $84,169 spending cut would represent a 2.64 percent budget reduction.

While the North Country board will vote on the career center budget it has no part in drawing up the spending plan. That task, according to state law, belongs to a regional advisory board.

Career center funding doesn’t come directly from taxpayers, so its budget doesn’t have a direct effect on tax rates.

According to North Country Supervisory Union Director of Business and Finance Glenn Hankinson, taxpayers can expect to see a rise in the statewide education rate, but not entirely because of local spending.

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Coventry Select Board considers replacing listers with professional assessor

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — The select board here is considering asking Town Meeting voters to replace the listers, who are currently elected, with a professional assessor, at least for a year or so.

Because of the condition of the listers’ records, Ed Clodfelter of the New England Municipal Resource Center (NEMRC) is recommending a townwide reappraisal, Selectman Scott Morley told the board at its December 26 meeting. He passed around a copy of Mr. Clodfelter’s letter to the board.

The re-appraisal would cost about $100,000.

Mr. Clodfelter’s letter also says that the listers’ records are in such bad shape that it will take at least a year to get ready for an appraiser to come in.

There are missing records, questionable or outdated assessments, and a lot of math errors, Mr. Morley said.

“I wonder whether, with all we’ve learned, it might be better to get rid of elected listers, at least for a short period of time, and hire a skilled professional assessor to straighten out the Grand List,” he said.

“We need to fix and correct the deficiencies that all of the professionals we’ve brought in have noted.”

Mr. Morley said he thinks a new townwide appraisal would allow the listers to start over fresh with an accurate Grand List.

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Snowmobiles will be able to reach downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council found it much easier Monday to agree to a moderate increase in charges for Newport Ambulance’s services, and to pass a budget, than to decide whether to allow snowmobiles to use a residential street to reach downtown merchants. But after a couple of hours of discussion, council members heeded the urging of merchants and gave the green light to the snow travelers.

Council members seemed torn Monday between their desire to help boost business during the winter months and their sympathy for residents of Broadview Avenue who complained their peaceful lives are being sacrificed to enhance economic development.

Even Gillian Staniforth, the most outspoken of Broadview’s residents, expressed support for the idea of promoting commerce by allowing winter travelers to drive their snowmobiles downtown. Her objection, she said, was only to the route chosen by Roger Gosselin, the representative of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) who brought the idea of easing access to downtown Newport to the council early this month.

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Mosher leaves a masterpiece

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

Points North, short stories by Howard Frank Mosher. Published by St. Martin’s Press; 202 pages in paperback.

Reviewed by Chris Braithwaite

 

“Points North,” the 12-page story that opens Howard Mosher’s latest — and last — book is a small masterpiece.

It is a story about Freeman and W, about an old black man and his mixed-race grandson, the product of Freeman’s “ex-daughter” and a father described as “trash from the no-count Lord Hollow branch of the Kinneson family.”

They met when W was six, sitting on Freeman’s New Canaan doorstep with a note pinned to his overalls: “Over to u.”

To tell the story would be a disservice to the author and his readers. It is enough, perhaps, to say it is at times very funny, at other times quite sad, and at its conclusion triumphant — in an understated, Howard Mosher sort of way.

The dialogue is all that well-written dialogue should be. The briefest exchange gives the reader a glimpse of years of the sort of accommodation people are forced to make to each other, if they are to survive their proximity.

Here’s how the relationship begins:

 

After surveying the foundling silently for a few moments, Freeman said, “Do you like to fish?”

“I don’t mind,” the boy said.

“Get in the boat,” Freeman said.

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Fires in Albany, Holland

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

The county has seen two bad fires in the past few days.

In Holland on Friday, about 40 milk cows died in a barn fire at the farm owned by Scott and Melanie Gilles, Derby Line Fire Chief Craig Ellam said.

On Monday evening, fire destroyed a landmark home in Albany Village. No one was home at the time, and the fire was hard fought, but it’s a grim Christmas gift for Michael and Cheryl Grondin, and Mr. Grondin’s preschool-aged grandson.

Chief Ellam said firefighters were toned out to the Holland fire about 3:30 p.m. Friday for a barn fire with animals still inside.

“When we arrived the building was fully involved,” he said.

They called in tankers from West Charleston and Stanstead, Quebec, to help. Firefighters were hampered by a dry hydrant that failed, “so we had to regroup and get another water source,” Chief Ellam said.

He said passersby were able to get some heifers out of the back part of the barn. Firemen got five cows out of the barn, but “they had to be put down later; they weren’t going to make it,” Chief Ellam said. “It’s been a long while since we’ve had to deal with that kind of a mess.”

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Driver okay after run-in with train

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — Pete Cocoros can’t remember exactly what happened Monday afternoon when his car was hit by a train at the crossing in front of the E.M. Brown and Son hardware store here.

“It was a nightmare,” he said over the phone Tuesday. “I don’t want to think about it.”

But he said he must have been too close to the tracks.

An eyewitness agrees. Ann Young was heading out of town and was stopped facing the 88-year-old Mr. Cocoros across the tracks.

“I saw the other car with its front end right at the tracks just as the train was coming,” she said. “I couldn’t tell if the wheels were on the tracks, or just the front end of the car. The road was very slippery with slush, and I thought that maybe the driver was trying to back up but couldn’t.”

There are flashing lights but no gate at the Eastern Avenue railroad crossing.

Ms. Young said the train was braking and sounding its horn continuously but was unable to avoid hitting the front end of the car.

Mr. Cocoros said he isn’t sure whether he knew ahead of time that his car was in danger.

“The train hit the car, then stopped,” Ms. Young said. “I could see under the train that the driver got out of the car, but I was on the wrong side of the train to do anything.”

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FBI sends letters to Coventry taxpayers

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — Property owners who didn’t answer letters from forensic accountant Jeff Graham asking for information about their tax payments will be getting another letter in the mail.

This time the letters are being mailed out on FBI letterhead.

“Jeff’s working for the FBI now,” Coventry Select Board Chair Mike Marcotte said last week. “Maybe this time he’ll get more answers.”

The letters ask property owners to supply details about when and how they paid their property taxes over several recent years.

In the first round of responses, it turned out that a lot of people paid in cash. Those payments were considered to be missing because former Town Clerk, Treasurer and Delinquent Tax Collector Cynthia Diaz didn’t deposit any cash during the years under review, Mr. Graham said at the time.

But about half of the homeowners who got letters from Mr. Graham in 2016 when he was working for the select board never replied.

Mr. Marcotte said a lot of people have called to ask about him about the new round of letters.

“I tell them it’s a good idea to respond,” he said. “If you don’t have receipts, tell them that.”

Mr. Graham, who is certified in forensic accounting, spent more than two years auditing Coventry’s finances.

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Wells responds to Caledonian-Record suit

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Kenneth Wells, the former publisher of the Newport Daily Express, responded on December 7 to a civil lawsuit filed by the Caledonian-Record accusing him of racketeering.

On Monday Mr. Wells told the Chronicle he wrote the response himself.

“I went through nine drafts,” he said. He said he ran his reply by several lawyers of his acquaintance, but decided not to hire an attorney at this stage of the proceedings.

In his response, Mr. Wells offered a firm denial of allegations that he used the Caledonian-Record’s password to download photographs from the Associated Press (AP) and overstated his paper’s circulation figures to gain a competitive advantage over the St. Johnsbury based paper.

Mr. Wells asserted the complaint was an effort by the Caledonian-Record’s owner to destroy a smaller rival. The Caledonian-Record is a family-owned newspaper based in St. Johnsbury with two regional editions, the Orleans County Record and Littleton Record.

The Newport Daily Express is owned by Horizon Vermont, a part of Horizon Publications of Marion, Illinois. Horizon Publications owns 21 daily papers and 14 weeklies around the country, most published in small communities.

The Newport Daily and its parent company were also named in the complaint. The suit claims both participated in the racketeering enterprise by allowing Mr. Wells to misbehave.

Mr. Wells was fired as publisher of the Newport Daily in November of 2016. The newspaper offered no explanation for ending his employment.

Neither Horizon nor the Newport Daily have responded to the Caledonian-Record’s suit.

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Lowell faces lawsuit over closed bridge

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

LOWELL — Arlon Warner and Scott Tallman are suing the town of Lowell over closing the Kempton Hill bridge.

The Orleans County Sheriff served a summons at the town offices on November 27. The town has until December 17 to respond.

According to the complaint, which was forwarded to the Chronicle by Mr. Warner’s attorney, Mr. Warner and Mr. Tallman live on the Kempton Hill Road, which connects the Mines Road and the Valley Road.

The bridge was closed on September 8 after a state inspection in August found it to be beyond repair and in need of replacement.

Other people who live on that road can drive out the other end. But Mr. Warner and Mr. Tallman live between the closed bridge and the hill.

That left the two men worried about winter access to their house, which now can be reached only by driving up and down an extremely steep slope — almost 17 degrees — that’s icy during the winter months.

East Engineering of Hinesburg estimated the cost of a new bridge at $474,000.

On October 17, saying that he “wasn’t comfortable spending that kind of money,” Lowell Select Board Chair Richard Pion suggested that townspeople be asked to vote on two articles — first, whether they wanted to spend money on a bridge, and second whether they wanted to see the road discontinued.

The complaint asks the town to fix the bridge “as it is unequivocally required to do by statute.”

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Trustees ask for evidence of Greater Barton Arts claim to equipment

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — The defunct Barton Senior Center has given its equipment to Greater Barton Arts (GBA), a nonprofit headed by Ed and Adrien Helm that aims to promote the arts in the Barton area.

However, following an executive session at their meeting Monday, the Barton Village Trustees composed a letter to Ms. Helm saying additional action is necessary regarding Greater Barton Arts’ claim to “items which may or may not be present in the Barton Village Memorial Building.”

The trustees asked that evidence be provided that “(a) the former Barton Senior Center, Inc., held title to the items listed in the attachment to your letter, and (b) the Barton Senior Center, Inc. Board of Directors thereafter conveyed its title of these items to the Greater Barton Arts, Inc.”

The trustees’ letter goes on to say that the Barton Senior Center Board dissolved the organization in September.

“Please provide evidence that the Senior Center, prior to dissolution, transferred the list of assets to the Greater Barton Arts organization,” the trustees’ letter says.

Brenda Lowther, director of the senior center, also gave Greater Barton Arts $20,000 of the nonprofit’s money. That money is now in an escrow account and will be used for programs for seniors, Mr. and Ms. Helm said last month.

The Barton Senior Center abruptly closed in September. Much of the food was given to the senior meal center in West Burke.

Equipment remains in the basement of the Memorial Building where the old senior meals program was, and where a new and unrelated one is now functioning with a new director and a new board.

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