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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Troopers suspended after fire

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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.

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Plan pitched to get snow machines in Newport

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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.

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Milk commission formulates strategy for federal farm bill

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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.

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Old Stone House welcomes a new generation

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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.

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