FBI sends letters to Coventry taxpayers

Featured

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.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Wells responds to Caledonian-Record suit

Featured

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.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Lowell faces lawsuit over closed bridge

Featured

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.”

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Trustees ask for evidence of Greater Barton Arts claim to equipment

Featured

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.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Troopers suspended after fire

Featured

copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Two state troopers have been put on paid administrative leave pending investigation of a fire that burned a Stannard house Monday that one of them owned, State Police in St. Johnsbury said Tuesday.

Police say they are investigating the fire. Trooper Stephen McGranaghan, 38, owned the A-frame house but did not live there. In fact, the house was vacant and in very rough shape, said Greensboro Fire Chief Dave Brochu on Tuesday. It had no doors or windows.

Chief Brochu said a neighbor reported the house fire at 12:30 a.m. Monday.

“It was reported as an explosion and a ball of fire on the Stannard Mountain Road,” he said.

He said he called the Hardwick, Walden, and Woodbury fire departments because he was not sure where on the Stannard Mountain Road the fire was. Walden and Woodbury were quickly sent home because there was a brook on the property that firefighters could pump water out of.

The empty house was fully involved when firefighters arrived, State Police said.

Chief Brochu said it could be seen from quite a distance.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Plan pitched to get snow machines in Newport

Featured

copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Snow machine travelers will be able ride to the East Side Restaurant and Waterfront Plaza if the city council approves the plan that Roger Gosselin, VAST’s Orleans County director, presented at Monday’s council meeting.

Newport is missing out on business from tourists who cover long distances during the winter, Mr. Gosselin said. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains a trail to Prouty Beach and an east-west route across Lake Memphremagog, but at present, riders have no way to get further into the city, he said.

He suggested the city try allowing snowmobile traffic for a year and make adjustments if and when problems arise.

Mr. Gosselin proposed a route that would direct snow machines along Broadview Avenue. That part of the plan drew strong opposition from Gillian Staniforth, a resident of the avenue who said other homeowners she has spoken to share her dislike of the plan.

While Mr. Gosselin presented numerous examples of snow machine traffic in urban areas in Quebec and Island Pond, Ms. Staniforth said Broadview Avenue, despite its name, is a narrow street closely lined with homes.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Milk commission formulates strategy for federal farm bill

Featured

copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BERLIN — The newly revived Vermont Milk Commission held its fourth meeting on Friday and considered, among other topics, ways to encourage people to consume more milk, and a possible adjustment to the way milk prices are calculated to take better account of how milk is actually used.

At its most recent session, the Legislature passed a law requiring the commission to meet by October to offer guidance to the Vermont congressional delegation as it participates in drawing up a new farm bill in 2018. Federal farm bills, which run for five years, set policy for all aspects of the nation’s agricultural economy, and the Legislature wanted to make sure Vermont’s voice is heard on issues affecting the dairy industry.

The milk commission had not met for six years before October, and the terms of all members expired during that time. Governor Phil Scott and legislative leaders appointed nine new members, and the commission set to work.

At their latest meeting, members heard from Paul Ziemnisky, senior vice-president of Global Innovation Partnerships.

Mr. Ziemnisky is a branding and marketing expert working for Dairy Management Inc., a trade association funded through the U.S. Dairy Promotion Program, which gets its money from mandated checkoff fees on dairy products and federal tax dollars.

He said he is working to increase milk consumption. Mr. Ziemnisky said overall milk use has been increasing, but less fluid milk is being consumed.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Old Stone House welcomes a new generation

Featured

copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BROWNINGTON — Molly Veysey started her new job as director of the Old Stone House Museum on December 1. So did Finance Manager Walter Parenteau. Both are 36 years old.

Add in administrative assistant Dana Drake, also born in 1981, and three out of the five Old Stone House staff members are in their mid-30s.

That’s a change at the museum, where staff members have traditionally been older. People have worried for years about whether there would be a younger generation to take over as they retire.

It’s too early to talk about other changes, Ms. Veysey said in an interview Tuesday morning.

“We’re going to take a year learning the regular functions before we start anything major,” she said.

She’s full of praise for former director Peggy Day Gibson.

“If it weren’t for her ten years of hard work, this position wouldn’t be what it is,” Ms. Veysey said, noting the enormous progress of the past decade in acquiring buildings, keeping them up, and building the museum’s programs.

Financially, the organization seems to be in good health, she said.

She plans to continue Ms. Gibson’s forward momentum by putting her grant-writing skills to work.

One immediate project is going to be continuing Ms. Gibson’s efforts to retrofit the Grange building for handicap access.

In fact, on Tuesday morning Ms. Veysey was on her way out the door to a workshop on accessibility.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Rifle season reaps big bucks

Featured

copyright the Chronicle November 29, 2017

 

With time running out on the 2017 rifle season for deer, the harvest this year is expected to mirror last year’s results.

During the 16-day rifle season of November 2016, hunters reported 7,753 deer. Preliminary reports suggest that hunters will do as well this year.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said his department didn’t offer any projections as to the results of the rifle season this year. He said Tuesday that he expects the harvest to be in line with the number of bucks taken in 2016.

The 2017 rifle season ended Sunday, but hunters have an additional 48 hours to check in their deer at reporting stations around the state. But whatever the final harvest turns out to be, those who host the reporting stations in Orleans County believe the buck are running larger than a year ago.

At Currier’s Quality Market in Glover, the number of reported deer is down. As of Tuesday, 70 had been reported compared to 81 at this time a year ago.

But owner Jeff Currier said he has been impressed with the size of the deer that have been brought in to be weighed.

The market runs a buck pool, and the hunter leading the pool as the season comes to a close is Mick Davidson of Barton with a deer that weighed 221 pounds.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

NCSU Act 46 plan is into the home stretch

Featured

copyright the Chronicle November 29, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The North Country Supervisory Union is headed into the home stretch in its effort to persuade the state Agency of Education to allow it to continue to operate as it has, rather than requiring it to consolidate under the terms of Act 46. North Country Superintendent John Castle appeared at a meeting of the Newport City Elementary School board Monday to explain what the supervisory union hopes to achieve.

It was one of his last steps before the four big binders containing information in support of North Country’s request for an alternative governance structure make the drive to the headquarters of the education agency in Montpelier.

The deadline for delivery of the volumes is December 22.

Mr. Castle told members of the elementary school board and the four parents who showed up for the meeting not to expect a decision on the supervisory union’s request until next November.

He gave much of the credit for gathering and collating the material to Liz Butterfield, his executive assistant.

Mr. Castle handed out copies of the report’s table of contents, explaining the materials were arranged to conform with a state regulation put forward to flesh out Act 46.

Act 46 was enacted in 2015 to deal with rising educational costs and declining school enrollments.

The law seeks to do away with town school districts and replace them with larger regional districts governed by a single board.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share