Congressman swings through Northeast Kingdom

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — U.S. Representative Peter Welch brought his spring recess tour of the state to the Northeast Kingdom on April 20 with a visit to Derby and Newport.

The state’s only Congressional member asked local leaders what they need from the federal government, but the news he offered in exchange was not particularly good.

Mr. Welch said the budget President Donald Trump proposed completely eliminates two programs that have provided a great deal of benefit to the region in past years. They are the community development block grant program and the Northern Border Regional Commission.

Both have brought millions of dollars to Vermont for infrastructure, housing, and other community projects.

Mr. Welch said both programs are especially important in rural states, noting that a number of his Republican colleagues represent such areas. The Congressman said he thinks it possible that a bipartisan coalition will keep the proposed cuts from going into effect.

He held his first meeting of the day in Derby, where officials from Derby, Newport, and Derby Center came together to tell Mr. Welch the kind of work they will need to do over the next few years to maintain basic services.

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Orleans sixth-graders learn how to make a difference

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

ORLEANS — How do ordinary people go about trying to solve big problems, like hunger, cancer and homeless cats?

That’s the question that Andrea Gratton’s mostly sixth-grade language arts students at Orleans Elementary School set out to answer each year.

The project, called “Make a Difference,” pairs each student with a nonprofit organization. Students study the nonprofits they’ve chosen, prepare a presentation, and do a project under the supervision of a mentor.

Last week, the students put the final touches on the displays they’ve created and spent the day teaching other students, teachers, and family members what they’ve learned.

Students start by choosing a nonprofit. They can pick one from Ms. Gratton’s list, or they can choose an organization they already know about.

“I ask them what’s a problem in the world that you care a lot about?” Ms. Gratton said. “It’s a very long project, so you’d better pick something you feel passionate about.”

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Local schools vandalized

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 Two area schools, Glover and Brighton, were vandalized in separate incidents on Sunday and Monday, according to reports from the State Police.

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 16, the State Police responded to reports of a burglary at Brighton Elementary School. According to a report by Trooper Calvin Burns, the building had been entered without use of force, and the offender or offenders damaged property inside the school. He did not specify what the damage was.

Evidence was found at the scene, police said. Anyone with additional information is asked to call Trooper Burns at the Derby barracks.

On Monday morning, staff at the Glover Community School reported that someone had used a handicap parking sign to break an exterior window at the school.

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Raymond James agrees to $150-million settlement

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

A year and a day after the federal and state governments filed civil charges connected with Jay Peak’s EB-5 projects, the receiver in the case announced a settlement intended to pay money owed to contractors and return the money invested in some failed enterprises.

Michael Goldberg, who was appointed to oversee businesses and other assets owned by Ariel Quiros, appeared at a press conference April 13 in Montpelier with Governor Phil Scott to announce an agreement with Raymond James & Associates, Inc., that could be worth as much as $150-million.

The same day, Raymond James posted the text of the settlement reached with Mr. Goldberg in a filing with the SEC. As a publically traded company, the financial services firm is required to disclose events, such as legal settlements, that may affect its business prospects.

Although it agreed to pay, Raymond James did not admit any wrongdoing.

According to the settlement documents, the company and the receiver have been discussing a settlement since last summer. Last June the Vermont branch of Raymond James reached a $5.95-million settlement with the state. That money will be subtracted from the $150-million the national firm is to pay out.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Mr. Goldberg said he is pleased with the settlement, but said it had taken a lot of hard work to come to terms.

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Easter fire ruins Brighton home

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 

by Sharon (Campbell) Biron

 

Editor’s note: the following is Ms. Biron’s account of the fire that ruined their Island Pond home Sunday night. She and her husband, Mark Biron, lost everything in the fire.

Mark and I had just returned on Easter Sunday from a three-day research trip to French Azilum in Pennsylvania. We got back to the house at East Brighton Road in Island Pond at 6 p.m. on Sunday. We started a log fire in the furnace to warm the house up. An hour or so later we noticed from the garden that the chimney was alight, with sparks and fire coming out of it. We ran down to the basement to put out our furnace/log fire and used a garden hose to put out the fire on the chimney and roof. The fire was completely out, or so we thought.

At 9.30 p.m. we were in bed. I heard strange sounds on my bedroom ceiling of what sounded like the pit pat of raindrops. I walked out into the living room and looked up at the ceiling. I couldn’t see anything, but something made me reach out and open the furnace pipe closet door. When I opened it I looked up it and was shocked to see flames up in the attic. I ran in and woke Mark up, and he raced out. We used three fire extinguishers, to no avail.

We ran out and dragged garden hose into the house and sprayed it up the furnace pipe through the closet. I ran outside into the garden to see the green metal roof was on fire — eight-foot-long fire with two-foot high flames. Smoke was billowing out from under the rafters. I ran back in and told Mark to call the fire service. I told him it was no good trying to fight the blaze anymore; the whole roof was ablaze. I dragged the dogs out of the house and locked them in the car and reversed up to the sand dunes in my garden so the petrol tank would not explode in the massive heat. I ran back in to try and get Mark out; he was still trying to fight the fire. I grabbed my phone and handbag plus the urn containing my brother Paul’s ashes and ran back to the car. Within minutes fire crews arrived, and took control of situation.

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Environmental ruling boosts expansion of Coventry landfill

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

COVENTRY — The District #7 Environmental Commission issued a ruling on April 5 that could give a boost to the New England Waste System of Vermont’s effort to add 50 acres to the state’s only remaining landfill. The decision, signed by commission Chair Eugene Reid, says the property owned by New England Waste System, which includes a nearby solar array, is properly classified as an industrial park.

The decision could lower the fees the landfill’s owner must pay to mitigate the loss of primary agricultural soils from the $635,000 demanded by the state Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets to about $145,000.

New England Waste asked the district commission to weigh in on the issue before it goes further with its plans to enlarge the landfill in the direction of Northeast Kingdom International Airport.

The commission ruled the landfill is part of an industrial park, but it has not answered the second question New England Waste put to it — how many acres must the landfill pay for mitigating.

Vermont law says damage to primary agricultural soils can be mitigated through a payment to the state’s Housing and Conservation Fund. The state’s current mitigation fee is $1,325 an acre.

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Lawsuit claims EB-5 fraud started in 2008

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BURLINGTON — Two investors in EB-5 projects at Jay Peak Resort claim that securities fraud at the ski area started in 2008 when Ariel Quiros paid for the resort using money meant to build hotels. They also say Jay Peak’s former owner had to know what was going on.

Antony Sutton and a man referred to only as John Doe filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Vermont on April 7 and charged Saint-Sauveur Valley Resorts, Inc., the former owner, with turning a blind eye as Mr. Quiros paid with money that they told him was meant solely for improvements to the resort.

The two want Saint-Sauveur to return $21.9-million they claim it first gave to Mr. Quiros and then improperly accepted as payment when he bought the resort from the Canadian company.

Mr. Sutton invested $500,000 in Jay Peak Hotel Suites LP (Phase I), and Mr. “Doe” put the same amount into Jay Peak Hotel Suites II LP (Phase II).   Both projects raised money through the federal EB-5 visa program, which trades investments in job-creating companies for a U.S. Green Card and a path to citizenship.

The first two of what would eventually be seven such projects were started by Saint-Sauveur and taken over by Mr. Quiros when he bought Jay Peak.

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Glover voters approve bond for new garage

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

GLOVER — By a narrow margin, voters here directed the select board Tuesday to borrow up to $750,000 to pay for a new town garage. The garage will be built on the site of the recycling shed next to the present town garage on Route 16.

The tally was 73 in favor and 68 against.

Of the town’s 776 voters, 141 turned out to cast their ballots, including 25 who voted by absentee ballot ahead of time, and another 27 who voted by absentee ballot on Monday night at an informational meeting at the town hall.

About 40 people showed up for Monday night’s meeting in addition to the three selectmen and other town officials.

Passumpsic Bank has offered the town a fixed rate, 20-year loan at 3 percent interest, Selectman Jack Sumberg said.

Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars would be the most that the town would borrow. That works out to about $30 more taxes a year on a $100,000 property.

No grants are available to cover the cost of a new garage.

“If we’re going to do it, we have to pay for it,” Mr. Sumberg said.

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Poetry informed by the unique perspective of an EMT

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

Reviewed by Tena Starr

  

A Life Lived Backwards, by Mark Creaven. Paperback. 76 pages. Available on Amazon.com, $9.99.

 

Longtime West Glover resident Mark Creaven has been, among many other things, an EMT, a job that, in the opinion of this writer, requires a rare skill set.

Not everyone has what it takes to tend the sick and injured in emergency situations; not everyone is willing and able to jump out of bed at 2 a.m. to console the parents of a broken teen who has just died in a car crash, or at reassuring the lonely old woman who fears this is the night that her weary heart gives up.

No, it’s a job that not only requires medical skills, but also compassion, courage, patience, and the ability, and willingness, to engage in situations that most of us don’t even want to contemplate.

I’ve never heard of anyone who has specifically turned such situations into poetry.

However, the subtitle of this slender book is “Poems by an Emergency Medical Technician,” and its first section, called In the Field, provides a glimpse of the kinds of heart-wrenching moments an EMT, through the very nature of his work, must deal with.

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Can Newport emulate St. Albans’ renewal?

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copyright the Chronicle April 5, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

ST. ALBANS CITY — The St. Albans City Hall is an elegant structure, dating from the time it was known as the Railroad City. The high ceilings and tall wooden doors are indications of a past when citizens flaunted their community’s wealth through architecture.

Today city hall has just undergone a $2.3-million renovation and emerged as a stunning reminder of the past and a declaration of St. Albans’ present day ambitions.

City Manager Dominick Cloud has an office on the second floor looking out over Main Street. From his window he can point to a pair of the projects that are part of the city’s plan to remake itself. To the left, Mr. Cloud can point to a large Ace Hardware store.

He explained that the city bought the land where the store is, tore down a vacant building, and found a buyer, who was looking to expand an existing store.

To the left, Mr. Cloud indicated an empty lot and three vacant buildings that he hopes will soon get the same treatment.

The two examples hint at the larger strategy the city has been putting into practice over the past several years, taking calculated risks designed to expand St. Alban’s Grand List and make the downtown look sharper and more welcoming.

So far, Mr. Cloud said, St. Albans has invested $16-million and added $50-million to the Grand List.

“It’s a pretty good return,” he conceded.

St. Albans’ track record has certainly caught the eye of leaders in Newport, who hope to make use of the lessons it has learned as they look for ways to reinvigorate their city’s downtown.

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