Newport City Council urges deep budget cuts

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copyright the Chronicle December 21, 2016

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — For years the Newport City Council has set budgets that cut city spending to the bone. Based on the discussion at Monday’s meeting, the 2017-2018 budget may cut even deeper.

By the end of the meeting, Mayor Paul Monette was suggesting the council might have to consider eliminating personnel and services.

He said it might be necessary to close down the Department of Parks and Recreation and zero out the entire capital budget for the year in order to get budget numbers to the level aldermen hoped to hit.

No action was taken on either suggestion, and it was unclear whether the mayor was advocating for the changes or pointing out the consequences of cutting the budget too deeply.

Mr. Monette drew the line on proposed cuts to the road repaving budget, arguing that strategy was tried in the past. Its result, he said, was the need to float a million dollar bond to get city streets back into shape.

The aldermen overruled the mayor’s objections.

Over the past several years, council members have gone to great lengths to keep municipal taxes from rising. Last year the city’s tax rate even saw a small decrease.

Their decisions were made with the implicit understanding that development projects promoted by Jay Peak would provide eventual relief by adding to the city’s tax base.

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Irasburg loses another selectman

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copyright the Chronicle December 21, 2016

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

IRASBURG — This town was already down one selectman after Brian Sanville resigned a few weeks ago.

So it was not good news when Chair Dave Warner handed in his own letter of resignation at the December 12 select board meeting.

Mr. Warner, whose letter cites the workload and possible conflicts of interest with his job at TD Bank as his reasons for stepping down, said that he’ll stay on until an election can be held to fill the two vacancies.

That will probably require a special Town Meeting, like the one held last summer, when the town elected Peter Faust to the board to replace Brian Fecher, who was moving.

Mr. Faust has since resigned for health reasons, and was replaced by Mark Colette, who also ran in the special election.

Mr. Sanville quit because he’s having shoulder surgery that will take about ten weeks to recover from.

In his letter of resignation, he said that it wasn’t fair to leave the select board shorthanded in the final weeks leading up to Town Meeting. Although he originally offered to stay on until a replacement can be found, that wasn’t really possible with surgery already scheduled.

This will make five board seats and three chairs that the town has had to replace in the past year. Mr. Sanville was the last select board member to have been in office a year ago.

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Coventry audit report will go to law enforcement

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copyright the Chronicle December 14, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — Copies of Graham & Graham’s long-awaited forensic report were handed around the room at Monday night’s select board meeting here.

The report covered not only the town money that’s believed to be missing, but also detailed 14 months of efforts by Town Clerk, Treasurer, and Delinquent Tax Collector Cynthia Diaz to keep the auditors from getting the documents they needed to do their jobs.

Because of those efforts to thwart the auditor, Ms. Diaz is ineligible to run for town office again, the report says.

This week, copies of the report will be forwarded to law enforcement and to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which insures Coventry against financial loss.

“We have personally witnessed, and discussed with others who witnessed at various times, the removal of town documents, records, files, computer thumb drives, vendor invoices, etc. by Cynthia Diaz,” the report says. “Upon discussion with Ms. Diaz, we believe she removed these items to one of the following locations: her residence, her residence/rental house, storage, lawyer’s office, and other unspecified locations.”

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Sweenys buy C&C Market

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copyright the Chronicle December 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Ray and Jessica Sweeney of Glover became the new owners of the C&C Market here on Tuesday.

A few hours after the closing, they were already, and enthusiastically, at work.

In an interview before the sale, Mr. Sweeney said he was excited about the purchase and has lots of ideas about how to give the store a fresh look.

“My wife and I are ready to do something different,” he said.

Mr. Sweeney has been head of the C&C’s meat department for 18 years. Before that, he worked at Currier’s Quality Market in Glover. Altogether, he’s had 25 years experience in retail, which he said he loves. The family also has a private butchering business and makes and sells granola, businesses they plan to keep. Ms. Sweeney is Glover’s assistant town clerk, a job she plans to keep at least for now.

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Cost and shortage of childcare hinder employment

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copyright the Chronicle December 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

 

For as long as memory serves, the lack of jobs in the Northeast Kingdom, generally touted as the most economically depressed area of the state, has been considered the big hindrance to prosperity.

But by most measures, the Northeast Kingdom currently has more jobs than workers willing, or able, to fill them. Unemployment in the Derby labor market area for October was at 3.7 percent, which is generally considered full employment. In this sparsely populated labor market, that means only about 500 people are considered to be unemployed.

Nonetheless, few question the fact that people who could work, and would work, are hindered by what state officials and others consider barriers to unemployment.

“I believe people want to work,” said Neil Morrissette at Creative Work Solutions. “It’s those barriers.”

And childcare is a big one, he said.

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Downtown business is slow this season

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copyright the Chronicle December 14, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Retailers are always anxious as the Christmas season, which can be make or break for a business, approaches. This year Newport’s merchants have had the arrival of Walmart in the area added to their normal concerns.

For some, business is somewhat slower, others say they are seeing a more drastic affect. No one is saying business is booming.

One business that appeared to be directly in Walmart’s crosshairs is the Vista Supermarket at Waterfront Plaza. The store’s landlord, Ernie Pomerleau, was in town in October working on plans to allow the supermarket to stay in town.

Tim Merrill, the general manager of markets owned by Associated Grocers of New England, a category that includes Vista, said Mr. Pomerleau’s ideas are important to the future of the store. But, he said his company is “pleasantly surprised” at how well Vista has done in the face of competition from the retail giant’s food department.

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Albany concert expected to draw thousands

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copyright the Chronicle December 7, 2016

by Tena Starr

Two Irasburg Masons are hoping that up to 100,000 people will come to Albany next fall for a daylong concert they’re planning to raise money for the Mt. Sinai #3 Shriners, based in Montpelier. The concert lineup mainly features 1980s rock bands, but there will be 11 acts in all with country music, as well as a trio of local acts, thrown in.

Adam Johnson and Marcos Clay are working together on the concert, called Shrinedom 2017, which will be held on the grounds of the Creek Hill Barn on the Creek Road in East Albany. A hundred thousand tickets are being advertised for sale, ranging in price from $100 for general admission to $300 for a stage front ticket and a chance to win an autographed guitar. Also, the Shrinedom website lists a category to make a donation, which doesn’t include a ticket.

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Irasburg fire leaves six without a home

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copyright the Chronicle December 7, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre and Tena Starr

IRASBURG — A fire late Sunday afternoon destroyed a camp off the Gage Road here and left two adults and four children homeless.

“They lost everything,” said Robin Beaton, chief of the Irasburg Volunteer Fire Department, speaking Tuesday in an interview.

The two adults, Michael Josey and Kate Shatney, and the children are presently living with James Bromley of Irasburg. The children range in age from seven to 14.

Ms. Shatney said Tuesday that the family lost pretty much everything, but she put a positive spin on the situation. “We didn’t lose anyone.”

The children took it hard to begin with, but the six of them are staying with family, which the kids are enjoying, she said.

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Women queue up for business info

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copyright the Chronicle December 7, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

NEWPORT — When Tara Lynn Scheidet of Sutton lost her job in 2005, she started her own business making custom natural fiber clothing, particularly wedding apparel.

Since then, Ms. Scheidet has won all sorts of grants and awards to help her move ahead with Tara Lynn Bridals.

She even won the Lowell Barn Pitch this year, but lost out in the state competition in Burlington because her business is too small — nowhere near the $300,000 annual income that investors want to see planned before they put their money down.

So when she heard about a new program called ASPIRE!, which helps Northeast Kingdom women start and grow businesses, Ms. Scheidet was one of the first to sign up.

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New energy siting rules tough on small towns

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copyright the Chronicle December 7, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

IRASBURG — When the state Legislature passed a new energy siting bill last May, it was supposedly intended to give towns more voice in siting big energy projects.

But members of the Irasburg Planning Commission were disappointed when they read the standards that the town plan they’re working on will have to meet under the new law, now known as Act 174 and dubbed the Energy Development Improvement Act.

The bill had promised towns “substantial deference” before the Public Service Board (PSB) in energy siting proceedings, as long as their written town plans meet state guidelines.

Exactly what the new guidelines would be was left to the Department of Public Service (DPS) to work out over the summer.

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