Highland Lodge has new owner

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copyright the Chronicle January 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

GREENSBORO — The Highland Lodge here has a new owner — Heidi Lauren Duke, an opera director from New York with close ties to Vermont, particularly to Glover where her partner, Sam Young, lives.

Ms. Duke closed on the historic inn on December 19 and was busy Monday with some of the renovations she’s planning for the place, which was in the Smith family for generations. It’s a lovely old inn on Caspian Lake with a network of cross-country ski trails. The small front office is papered in old-fashioned pale blue wallpaper, and a big sideboard exhibits photographs of the inn that go back to 1909.

The Highland Lodge has gone through several incarnations; now it’s about to go through another.

By Martin Luther King Day, at the latest, it will have a full-service bar that will offer drinks and appetizer type food. Its winter cabins are open again this year. And Ms. Duke plans to offer entertainment in the form of live music and art exhibits to start with.

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In the land of cigars and rum

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copyright the Chronicle January 4, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

It had been hot all week in Havana. It was the kind of heat that gets inside your head so you feel hot even when you’re lying in your room with the air conditioner running on high. Ever since arriving in Havana five days earlier, with a stopover at a small airport in the province of Holguin — where they make cheap cigars that are sold at storefronts in the city — the temperature had been running right around 90 degrees.

As in Vermont, winter in Cuba starts in December, only no one here complains about the weather. I try to take it in stride by telling myself this is the tropics; it’s strange, unfamiliar, and far beyond what I imagined.

Upon reaching our hotel, the Hotel Colina, next to the University of Havana, I packed my winter coat and gumrubber shoes deep down in the duffle bag, and shed my socks and my suspenders, which had got me in trouble earlier, going through customs at the Montreal airport. Immediately after the alarm went off, an officer took me aside and had me stand with my arms outstretched while he checked me out with a metal detector.

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Plans for Spates Block hole developing

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copyright the Chronicle December 21, 2016

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — If a joint effort between Newport, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA), and Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) is successful, city residents may see progress toward rebuilding Main Street in the New Year.

According to NVDA Executive Director David Snedeker, the court-appointed receiver who controls property belonging to Ariel Quiros hopes to offer the site of the former Spates Block for sale early in 2017.

If a deal can be struck, Mr. Snedeker said, the property might be held by a nonprofit corporation already created by NCIC until it can be developed.

Newport City Manager Laura Dolgin said Friday that she is seeking more grant funding to hire a real estate consultant to advise on the best use for the downtown site.

According to the city’s form-based zoning code, whatever is built on the block between Center Street and Second Street must have off street parking, retail space on the ground floor, office or commercial space on the second, and housing on the higher floors.

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Town of Coventry files civil complaint against Diaz

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copyright the Chronicle December 21, 2016

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

COVENTRY — Attorney Paul Gillies has filed a civil complaint on the town’s behalf against Town Clerk, Treasurer and Delinquent Tax Collector Cynthia Diaz, based on the forensic audit report released by auditor Jeff Graham last week.

“And we expect to hear from the State Police and State’s Attorney very soon,” Mr. Graham said.

The board hopes to have information it can share with the public at its next meeting on the State Police investigation, Selectman Scott Morley said.

The civil complaint was filed in the Civil Division of Orleans County Superior Court, Mr. Gillies told the board at Monday night’s meeting.

Ms. Diaz should be served the papers by the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department within the next few days, he said — if she hasn’t been already.

The complaint alleges withholding documents from an audit and failure to comply with the laws that govern keeping public records.

It asks the court to require Ms. Diaz to hand over the records and documents that the select board and Mr. Graham have been requesting for over a year.

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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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