In Coventry, annual reports off by $10-million, cash unaccounted for

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

The auditor hired to look at Coventry’s finances is recommending that the select board hire its own accountant to keep a second set of books, observe all transactions, and reconcile bank statements. He also recommends involving law enforcement and the bonding agent in the near future.

“I believe there’s money missing,” said Jeff Graham, president of the accounting firm Graham & Graham. “I don’t know how much.”

Mr. Graham is a certified public accountant (CPA). He’s also certified in financial forensics, the accounting specialty devoted to investigating fraud.

Coventry’s annual reports for the past several years may have under-represented the town’s assets by as much as $10-million, Mr. Graham told the select board at its Monday night meeting.

No cash was deposited during the two-year period covered by the current audit, he said. And cash in the vault is unaccounted for.

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Potential Jay Peak buyer accused of fraud

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016 

by Joseph Gresser

JAY PEAK — When Michael Goldberg got a letter offering to buy Jay Peak for $93-million some aspects of it set off alarms. His suspicions proved to be justified when a quick search showed that the man who made the offer has been accused of a $3-million stock swindle.

Mr. Goldberg explained his concerns about the offer from Jean Joseph of Bellwether Business Group and his follow-up correspondence in a report filed September 16 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.

Mr. Goldberg said the original offer was unusually vague, and didn’t fully specify what the purchaser wanted to get for his money. In addition, the due diligence list, setting out the kind of information about Jay Peak the potential purchaser hoped to get before finalizing the deal, included a number of items that were not applicable to a ski area.

The timeframe for completing the sale proposed by Mr. Joseph also appeared impossibly short, Mr. Goldberg said.

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Women break the glass ceiling at Community National Bank

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

When Stephen Marsh retires as chief executive officer of Community National Bank at the end of the year, the bank’s president and chief operating officer Kathryn Austin will step into his shoes.

Ms. Austin will be the first woman CEO for Community National Bank, and at that point women will hold the top three executive spots at the bank. Terrie McQuillen is a senior vice-president and chief credit officer. And Louise Bonvechio is senior vice-president and chief financial officer.

Last year, Caroline Carpenter became president and CEO of the National Bank of Middlebury, and the first woman to head a bank in Vermont.

A recent article in the online magazine American Banker says that when it comes to the top office at the top 100 banks in the country, only three are women.

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License restoration program offers a clean slate

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016

by Brad Usatch

A bill signed into law this spring is giving certain drivers with license suspensions a chance to pay off their fines at a reduced rate and reinstate their driving privileges.

Administered by the Vermont Judicial Bureau and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the driver restoration program gives people with civil license suspensions resulting from unpaid fines or traffic tickets for which judgment was issued prior to July 1, 2012, the opportunity to clear their record for $30 per ticket. The three-month window to take advantage of the program opened on September 1 and runs through November 30. Applications are available at the Newport DMV office. Applications are also available online at www.vermontjudiciary.org, and completed applications can be e-mailed to [email protected]

The relief provided is only available for civil suspensions, meaning that people whose licenses have been suspended for driving under the influence or other criminal violations are not eligible. The law does, however, provide that even those suspensions not eligible for reduced fines can take advantage of a repayment schedule capped at $30 per ticket, per month, with an overall cap of $100 per month regardless of the number of violations.

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Communities struggle to find new uses for old churches

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

One of Vermont’s iconic images is the steepled white church that’s at the center of so many villages. But with the number of people who attend services dwindling to near extinction in some cases, the remnants of those congregations are looking at what to do with their gracious old church buildings. Somehow, most of them have been maintained, if lightly used, but that’s getting harder, too.

The First Congregational Church of Westfield stopped having services maybe ten years ago when the handful of remaining churchgoers found the meager pay for a weekly pastor prohibitive. Services there were revived in May with a new pastor, John Klar of Irasburg.

And for the past two years or so Katherine Sims of Lowell and her husband, Jeff Fellinger, have hosted a summer monthly concert series at the building, where once women made enormous batches of pies and sold them as a fund-raiser for the church, where years ago people of all ages attended lively card parties in the basement. The proceeds from the concert series go towards church repairs and maintenance.

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Barton Select Board approves limited ATVs on town roads

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — The select board here unanimously voted Monday to allow members of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) group to use a two-mile stretch of Barton roads starting in the spring.

That will give the town time to adopt an ordinance to cover what select board member Jody Frey called “the procedural stuff” — speed limits and the like.

“I see it as a win-win,” select board Chair Bob Croteau said before the vote. “This is a small amount of road and a well thought out plan. I think it’s very reasonable.”

About seven members of the Borderline Ridge Riders came to the select board’s meeting in hopes of getting permission to ride on a half-mile stretch of the East Albany Road and a mile-and-a-half stretch of the Stevens Road that runs between existing trails in Albany and Glover.

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Morgan appeals PSB approval of Seymour Lake Solar project

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

MORGAN — Selectmen here are accusing the Public Service Board (PSB) of failing to give the town a fair shake in granting a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to the developer of a 500-Kilowatt solar project.

On Monday, attorney Cindy Hill, representing the town, filed a motion with the Public Service Board (PSB) requesting it reconsider its decision.

“Morgan is not a town that’s going to roll over,” said Candy Moot, a resident of Morgan and an opponent of the project. “We’re going to fight this.”

The motion contends that board Chair James Volz did not follow through on his promise to grant a technical hearing in the case.

“The town feels that due process was denied,” Ms. Moot charged.

In an e-mail to the Chronicle Monday, Ms. Moot wrote that “the PSB issued a CPG without responding to or considering the comments raising substantive issues by the Town of Morgan, the Agency of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation, Department of Public Service or Vermont Electric Co-op.”

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Trash is down, recycling is up, questions remain

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

A little over a year after Vermont’s comprehensive recycling law went into effect, opinions are mixed on how mandatory recycling is working out in the Northeast Kingdom, even among people who work most closely with trash and recycling.

According to state figures, the amount of trash that is going into the landfill is down about 5 percent this year.

Before Act 148 went into effect on July 1 last year, the amount of trash was growing by about 2 to 3 percent a year.

But Paul Tomasi, director of the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District (NEKWMD), isn’t convinced that the decline is a result of the new recycling law.

“When the economy is not so strong, people produce less trash,” he said. “I’m not clear in my mind that it has anything to do with the law. I think it’s a combination of macroeconomic conditions and Act 148.”

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Jay 14-year-old is women’s amateur national flowboarding champion

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copyright the Chronicle September 7, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

JAY — Monica Caffrey is tiny, muscular, and tanned. She’s 14 years old, and an eighth-grader at North Country Union Junior High School. And she was recently crowned the amateur women’s national flowboarding champion.

Flowboarding — also called flowriding — hasn’t been around as an organized sport much longer than Monica’s been alive.

It’s somewhere between skateboarding and surfing. The board is like a small finless surfboard. The moves are straight out of skateboarding right down to the names.

But it’s done on the water — specifically on an artificial 35-mile-an-hour vertical wave, called a sheet wave, that can curl over at the top like a breaking wave on the beach.

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Lake Region to hold evacuation drill September 9

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copyright the Chronicle September 7, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

On Friday, September 9, Lake Region Union High School will hold a mock evacuation drill. The point is to see how the school’s written plans will work out in real life.

In the middle of the morning on Friday, alarms will sound, and first responders will swarm into the school just as they would if there was a real school-wide emergency.

Police, fire departments, and rescue vehicles will rush to the campus, while students and staff are evacuated from the buildings, loaded onto buses, and driven to relocation sites in Irasburg, Orleans, and Barton.

Students will be returned to the school by bus after the drill is over.

“I just want to be sure that if family or friends drive by and see all the emergency vehicles, they know that it’s just a drill,” Principal Andre Messier said. “We could have a real panic.”

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