NCSU continues opposition to Act 46

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — After attending a Vermont Superintendents Association meeting on August 30, John Castle, who oversees the North Country Supervisory Union, took off for the woods. He said Monday that he wanted to take time to get away from it all. “All” definitely includes Act 46, he said.

Mr. Castle said state officials, including Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, and the heads of the House and Senate education committees took part in the Superintendents Association meeting. Representative Dave Sharpe of Bristol, who chairs the House Committee on Education, predicted a six- to ten-cent increase in the education property tax rate next year, but Mr. Castle said most of those present appeared pleased by how Act 46 has worked so far.

The law, which presses local school districts to combine into much larger ones, has been on the minds of many superintendents over the past couple of years. That pressure includes the offer of tax reductions for districts that vote early to merge.

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E-bikes a big draw at Craftsbury electric vehicle event

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — “It’s like the hand of God reaches down and pushes you along,” Larry Gilbert said.

Mr. Gilbert’s playful description of what it’s like to ride an electric bicycle was pretty much spot on.

In the beginning, the electric bike feels heavy and awkward. It weighs about twice as much as an ordinary bicycle, and it has big, fat, heavily ribbed tires that don’t exactly turn on a dime.

But halfway around the first turn of the pedals, the battery assist kicked in and the bike leapt forward as though pushed from behind by an unseen hand.

It was a little unnerving at first.

Mr. Gilbert, the owner of ZoomBikes in Montpelier, was offering electric bicycle rides at the Craftsbury Farmers Market on Saturday morning.

E-bikes have a battery powered assist that makes them move along with far less effort on the part of the rider than an ordinary bike.

That makes e-bikes an option for people with bad knees or other physical challenges.   And it makes them great for shopping or commuting, especially when hills are involved.

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The social side of death

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — “We’re only guaranteed two things,” Anne-Marie Keppel told the small crowd that turned out for a Death Café at the library on August 31. “The fact that we are alive right now in this instant — and that we’re going to die.”

Talking openly about death is pretty much taboo in our society. Even people who want to talk about it may likely find that friends and family don’t want to hear.

So Death Cafés were created to give people a safe place to talk about life’s greatest certainty, usually with a group of strangers.

Last week’s group ran the gamut from nine Sterling College students at the younger end, to an elderly man there with his 20-something companion and caregiver.

Some had been to other Death Cafés. Others were new to the experience.

But everyone had come to talk about death — or at least to listen to other people talking about death.

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Judge says impaired murder suspect understood rights

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — Can an inebriated murder suspect understand the rights he has given up when consenting to talk to police at the time of his arrest?

In a 12-page ruling following hearings and expert testimony, Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen has ruled he can.

The judge’s ruling derails a defense motion to suppress evidence gained when accused murderer Jeffrey Ray, 53, of Brownington waived his Miranda rights and talked to police.

Mr. Ray, who remains in custody, has pled innocent to murdering his ex-wife’s husband on May 24, 2015, in Brownington.

The judge’s ruling, which is expected to clear the way for an early trial next year, came in the face of conflicting testimony from two experts and testimony from police.

According to Judge VanBenthuysen’s “Finding of Facts,” State Police Detective Sergeant Jacob Zoen interviewed the defendant at North Country Hospital roughly an hour after the shooting.

At that initial interview, according to the court’s findings, the detective did not note “any signs or symptoms of alcohol impairment.” Mr. Ray told the detective that he understood his rights and signed the Miranda form after it had been read to him.

The interview lasted 52 minutes and, at some point, the detective did note “a slight odor of intoxicants on the defendant.”

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A plan for reviving downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The consultant hired by the city to help develop a redevelopment strategy in the wake of the collapse of Jay Peak’s Newport EB-5 efforts presented a preliminary report at the Gateway Center last week.

David White, who heads White and Burke, a company that has assisted other cities, including St. Albans, to bring their downtowns back to life, spoke along with his associate Joe Weith.

It was their second meeting with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation and a steering committee of business leaders.

Mr. White’s company was hired by the city council in March and has been working since then to gather information and develop plans.

While its recommendations are far from finalized, Mr. White said the city should work to bring a hotel to Newport, possibly by converting the Emory Hebard State Office Building.

He also suggested the creation of a tax increment finance district to help create conditions for economic development in the city.

Mr. White also encouraged the city to participate somehow in the sale of the former Spates Block in order to be sure its new owner’s plans work well with those of the city.

The Burke and White study is one of a series of investigations into how Newport can revive itself. Those include the Regional Urban Design Team (RUDAT) visits in 2009 and 2011.

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Quiros agrees to settlement

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Ariel Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak, has followed the path blazed several months ago by Bill Stenger, the resort’s former president, and agreed to a settlement on civil charges of investment fraud. Mr. Quiros promised to accept U.S. District Court Darrin Gayles’ decision on how much of the money he got from illegal actions he will return to investors and what penalties he must pay.

Mr. Quiros, in agreeing to the settlement, neither admitted nor denied guilt.

Judge Gayles accepted the settlement worked out between the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Mr. Quiros, and the case was marked closed on August 23.

A temporary injunction that forbade him to be involved with companies seeking investments through the federal EB-5 program has been made permanent. In addition, Mr. Quiros has agreed to not appeal any penalties the judge assesses or try to deduct them from his income taxes.

He will be required to pay whatever amount Judge Gayles deems appropriate with interest calculated from April 16, 2016, the day charges were unsealed. The agreement says Mr. Quiros will pay the same interest rate the Internal Revenue Service charges taxpayers who owe it money.

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Bread and Puppet to perform new opera

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

 by Joseph Gresser

 

GLOVER — Peter Gelb is the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When his company wants to put on a new production, he thumbs through a list of classic operas to find one it has not performed recently, checks the bank account to see if there are enough millions of dollars available, then puts together a team of performers, directors, scenic designers, and costumers, and over the course of months puts the show together.

Peter Schumann is the director of the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover. When Bread and Puppet wants to put on an opera he gathers a group of collaborators, and over the course of a little more than a week, devises and presents a never-before-seen opera.

Performances are scheduled for September 1 and September 3.

At the first rehearsal, Mr. Schumann and a group of performers gathered in a large building known among puppeteers as the new building, but formally called the Papier-mâché Cathedral.

A rough styled theater, it deserves the name. The walls and ceiling are adorned with a mass of papier-mâché figures packed as tightly together as the saints depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

On this day the action was centered on the small space between the seating area and the set of a show that would be performed the following evening.

Over the course of the summer Mr. Schumann and his puppeteers has created and performed ten new shows, one a week, although none of them were operas.

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Newport council excluded from redevelopment meeting

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copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — City council members were surprised, and none too happy, to learn Tuesday that the consultant they hired to guide the city’s redevelopment efforts would be meeting with a steering committee organized by the Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC) the next morning.

The council members were not invited to the meeting, which is to plan strategies for economic redevelopment in the city. In fact, they only learned about it when a reporter called to ask what they knew about it.

When asked if he knew there was to be such a meeting, City Council President John Wilson replied, “I did not know that.”

He said he was not pleased to learn he had been excluded from that information, but said only that he would deal with the matter, “in my own way.”

Council member Denis Chenette said, “I didn’t know about it until Mr. Wilson called me.”

Three council members said they plan to crash the gates at the meeting.

According to Newport Mayor Paul Monette, there was no reason the council members should have been informed. He said he was invited to be a steering committee member by NCRC.

“I attend a lot of meetings, I don’t tell the council about all of them,” Mr. Monette said Tuesday evening. “Sometimes I meet with people who want to do business in the city. I don’t tell the council because they ask me not to.”

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Lawsuit alleges voter fraud in Victory

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copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

 

 by Tena Starr

 

VICTORY — In a town the size of Victory, whose population is about the size of a big extended family, a small number of votes can make a very big difference in a local election. In fact, former Victory Town Clerk Tracey Martel claims four votes in particular, which she alleges were illegal, contributed to her defeat as town clerk and treasurer at Town Meeting in March.

She also claims that others who might have voted for her were prevented from voting. Her opponent, current and incumbent Town Clerk Carol Easter, actively kept people from voting by failing to mail absentee ballots on a timely basis and challenging some people’s residency, Ms. Martel charges.

She has sued the town, Ms. Easter, the Victory Board of Civil Authority, and a host of others — 18 people or entities in all — including Robert and Toni Flanigan and their two adult sons, who she says are residents of Connecticut, not Victory, and should not have been allowed to vote in the March Town Meeting election for local office.

The lawsuit is the latest, or near latest, in Victory where conducting town business can be so fractious that law enforcement attends select board meetings. Essex County Sheriff Trevor Colby said the town has contracted with his Sheriff’s Department to provide security at all select board meetings.

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Demo derby drivers crash for cash

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copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — “Protect your front end and a lot of luck,” said Heidi Taylor of West Glover when asked about the strategy that carried her to a third-place finish in the four-cylinder division of the Demolition Derby on Sunday night.

After finishing in the top three in the afternoon qualifying heat, Ms. Taylor and her battered Dodge Neon faced a field of 24 in the final four-cylinder feature.

Nimbly dodging a constant barrage of rear-facing attackers, the Lake Region Union High School graduate’s pink and silver helmet with its full face mask lent an air of almost zen-like calm as she methodically shifted gears and churned through the mud, seeming to weigh the prospective damage to her own car before hurtling backwards into another.

Unlike many of the flashier drivers, who inflicted as much damage on themselves as they did on others, she survived until nearly the end of each of her races.

And at the final horn, blonde hair flying, she jumped off the hood of her car and headed for the stage to claim her trophy.

For those who think of cars as mysterious and delicate things, the annual Demolition Derby is a humbling reminder that, in the right hands, a car can take an unbelievable amount of abuse and simply refuse to die.

Demolition Derby cars just keep going with radiators steaming, wheels turning at improbable angles, and trunks compacted into the space where the back seat was.

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