Trade case could lead to jobs at Columbia Forest Products

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Columbia Forest Products, along with several other manufactures of hardwood plywood, scored a preliminary victory in an international trade case that could mean as many as 70 new jobs at the company’s Newport veneer mill.

The Coalition for Fair Trade in Hardwood Plywood, which includes Columbia and five other producers, filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Department of Commerce Enforcement and Compliance arm, in November.

The group complained that Chinese manufacturers have been dumping their products in the U.S. and get unfair support from the Chinese government.

The coalition tried to get the commerce department to slap penalties on Chinese plywood in 2012. That effort ended in failure when the ITC ruled against the domestic producers.

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Facebook popup leads to scam

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — Sharon Bickford of Barton was on Facebook one evening last week when her computer screen suddenly froze. A window popped up, flashing an ominous warning — her computer was under a virus attack, and had been frozen to protect her files.

That’s the first step in a scam that’s been happening to a lot of people lately. It happened to me twice in the week before Ms. Bickford called the Chronicle with her story.

In fact, it’s happened so often lately that the State Police put out a bulletin last week warning people about tech support scams.

The popup message on Ms. Bickford’s computer told her to call a toll-free number immediately so that a technician could remove the infected files and restore her computer.

“It was completely frozen,” Ms. Bickford said. “I had to use control-alt-delete to get out of my browser. And then when I reopened the browser, it was back.”

Ms. Bickford called the number.

The man on the other end of the line said he needed remote access to her computer to fix the problem.

He told her it would cost $300 to remove the virus and install three years’ worth of anti-virus protection.

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Effort underway to bring ball fields back to fairgrounds

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Some may not remember when there were fierce competitions at the ball fields at the Orleans County Fairgrounds, or knew there were ball fields there at all. But years ago, they were busy places. In fact, according to old Orleans County Monitors, ballgames were a regular feature of the fair, as well as a lively summertime occupation between organized teams.

Now there’s an effort to revive and recondition those fields, which are more than 100 years old, adding backstops, dugouts, plus lights on one of them for night games.

Dan Perron is a fair director; he’s also vice-president of the Orleans County Cal Ripkin chapter, a man who is deeply immersed in youth baseball, as well as softball. He’s spearheading the effort to rejuvenate the fields and has helped to start a fund-raising drive to pay for upcoming improvements.

Over the next weeks, expect to see “baseball cards” in local stores. They can be bought for a dollar each, and the money will go to finishing the fields.

Mr. Perron has done considerable research on the history of the ball fields and baseball in Barton in general. Among other things, he ran across the story of Heimie Stafford of Orleans, who made it to the bigs, the majors, for a single game in October of 1916.

Mr. Perron said the goal is to raise between $20,000 and $25,000 to finish refurbishing the fields. These days, teams want a good field to play on, and they don’t want to play on just grass, he said.

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Congressman swings through Northeast Kingdom

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copyright the Chronicle April 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — U.S. Representative Peter Welch brought his spring recess tour of the state to the Northeast Kingdom on April 20 with a visit to Derby and Newport.

The state’s only Congressional member asked local leaders what they need from the federal government, but the news he offered in exchange was not particularly good.

Mr. Welch said the budget President Donald Trump proposed completely eliminates two programs that have provided a great deal of benefit to the region in past years. They are the community development block grant program and the Northern Border Regional Commission.

Both have brought millions of dollars to Vermont for infrastructure, housing, and other community projects.

Mr. Welch said both programs are especially important in rural states, noting that a number of his Republican colleagues represent such areas. The Congressman said he thinks it possible that a bipartisan coalition will keep the proposed cuts from going into effect.

He held his first meeting of the day in Derby, where officials from Derby, Newport, and Derby Center came together to tell Mr. Welch the kind of work they will need to do over the next few years to maintain basic services.

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Orleans sixth-graders learn how to make a difference

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

ORLEANS — How do ordinary people go about trying to solve big problems, like hunger, cancer and homeless cats?

That’s the question that Andrea Gratton’s mostly sixth-grade language arts students at Orleans Elementary School set out to answer each year.

The project, called “Make a Difference,” pairs each student with a nonprofit organization. Students study the nonprofits they’ve chosen, prepare a presentation, and do a project under the supervision of a mentor.

Last week, the students put the final touches on the displays they’ve created and spent the day teaching other students, teachers, and family members what they’ve learned.

Students start by choosing a nonprofit. They can pick one from Ms. Gratton’s list, or they can choose an organization they already know about.

“I ask them what’s a problem in the world that you care a lot about?” Ms. Gratton said. “It’s a very long project, so you’d better pick something you feel passionate about.”

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Local schools vandalized

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 Two area schools, Glover and Brighton, were vandalized in separate incidents on Sunday and Monday, according to reports from the State Police.

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 16, the State Police responded to reports of a burglary at Brighton Elementary School. According to a report by Trooper Calvin Burns, the building had been entered without use of force, and the offender or offenders damaged property inside the school. He did not specify what the damage was.

Evidence was found at the scene, police said. Anyone with additional information is asked to call Trooper Burns at the Derby barracks.

On Monday morning, staff at the Glover Community School reported that someone had used a handicap parking sign to break an exterior window at the school.

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Raymond James agrees to $150-million settlement

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

A year and a day after the federal and state governments filed civil charges connected with Jay Peak’s EB-5 projects, the receiver in the case announced a settlement intended to pay money owed to contractors and return the money invested in some failed enterprises.

Michael Goldberg, who was appointed to oversee businesses and other assets owned by Ariel Quiros, appeared at a press conference April 13 in Montpelier with Governor Phil Scott to announce an agreement with Raymond James & Associates, Inc., that could be worth as much as $150-million.

The same day, Raymond James posted the text of the settlement reached with Mr. Goldberg in a filing with the SEC. As a publically traded company, the financial services firm is required to disclose events, such as legal settlements, that may affect its business prospects.

Although it agreed to pay, Raymond James did not admit any wrongdoing.

According to the settlement documents, the company and the receiver have been discussing a settlement since last summer. Last June the Vermont branch of Raymond James reached a $5.95-million settlement with the state. That money will be subtracted from the $150-million the national firm is to pay out.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Mr. Goldberg said he is pleased with the settlement, but said it had taken a lot of hard work to come to terms.

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Easter fire ruins Brighton home

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copyright the Chronicle April 19, 2017

 

by Sharon (Campbell) Biron

 

Editor’s note: the following is Ms. Biron’s account of the fire that ruined their Island Pond home Sunday night. She and her husband, Mark Biron, lost everything in the fire.

Mark and I had just returned on Easter Sunday from a three-day research trip to French Azilum in Pennsylvania. We got back to the house at East Brighton Road in Island Pond at 6 p.m. on Sunday. We started a log fire in the furnace to warm the house up. An hour or so later we noticed from the garden that the chimney was alight, with sparks and fire coming out of it. We ran down to the basement to put out our furnace/log fire and used a garden hose to put out the fire on the chimney and roof. The fire was completely out, or so we thought.

At 9.30 p.m. we were in bed. I heard strange sounds on my bedroom ceiling of what sounded like the pit pat of raindrops. I walked out into the living room and looked up at the ceiling. I couldn’t see anything, but something made me reach out and open the furnace pipe closet door. When I opened it I looked up it and was shocked to see flames up in the attic. I ran in and woke Mark up, and he raced out. We used three fire extinguishers, to no avail.

We ran out and dragged garden hose into the house and sprayed it up the furnace pipe through the closet. I ran outside into the garden to see the green metal roof was on fire — eight-foot-long fire with two-foot high flames. Smoke was billowing out from under the rafters. I ran back in and told Mark to call the fire service. I told him it was no good trying to fight the blaze anymore; the whole roof was ablaze. I dragged the dogs out of the house and locked them in the car and reversed up to the sand dunes in my garden so the petrol tank would not explode in the massive heat. I ran back in to try and get Mark out; he was still trying to fight the fire. I grabbed my phone and handbag plus the urn containing my brother Paul’s ashes and ran back to the car. Within minutes fire crews arrived, and took control of situation.

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Environmental ruling boosts expansion of Coventry landfill

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

COVENTRY — The District #7 Environmental Commission issued a ruling on April 5 that could give a boost to the New England Waste System of Vermont’s effort to add 50 acres to the state’s only remaining landfill. The decision, signed by commission Chair Eugene Reid, says the property owned by New England Waste System, which includes a nearby solar array, is properly classified as an industrial park.

The decision could lower the fees the landfill’s owner must pay to mitigate the loss of primary agricultural soils from the $635,000 demanded by the state Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets to about $145,000.

New England Waste asked the district commission to weigh in on the issue before it goes further with its plans to enlarge the landfill in the direction of Northeast Kingdom International Airport.

The commission ruled the landfill is part of an industrial park, but it has not answered the second question New England Waste put to it — how many acres must the landfill pay for mitigating.

Vermont law says damage to primary agricultural soils can be mitigated through a payment to the state’s Housing and Conservation Fund. The state’s current mitigation fee is $1,325 an acre.

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Lawsuit claims EB-5 fraud started in 2008

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copyright the Chronicle April 12, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BURLINGTON — Two investors in EB-5 projects at Jay Peak Resort claim that securities fraud at the ski area started in 2008 when Ariel Quiros paid for the resort using money meant to build hotels. They also say Jay Peak’s former owner had to know what was going on.

Antony Sutton and a man referred to only as John Doe filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Vermont on April 7 and charged Saint-Sauveur Valley Resorts, Inc., the former owner, with turning a blind eye as Mr. Quiros paid with money that they told him was meant solely for improvements to the resort.

The two want Saint-Sauveur to return $21.9-million they claim it first gave to Mr. Quiros and then improperly accepted as payment when he bought the resort from the Canadian company.

Mr. Sutton invested $500,000 in Jay Peak Hotel Suites LP (Phase I), and Mr. “Doe” put the same amount into Jay Peak Hotel Suites II LP (Phase II).   Both projects raised money through the federal EB-5 visa program, which trades investments in job-creating companies for a U.S. Green Card and a path to citizenship.

The first two of what would eventually be seven such projects were started by Saint-Sauveur and taken over by Mr. Quiros when he bought Jay Peak.

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