Lost hunter tells his story

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copyright the Chronicle November 23, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

 

HOLLAND — A seasoned Brattleboro deer hunter who kept thinking positive survived four nights in the big woods here that extend across the border.

John Chapman, 72, was found early Sunday afternoon in Norton after an extensive search that began when he failed Wednesday to return to a friend’s camp on Holland Pond.

When U.S. Border Patrol Agent Matt Bovay located the missing hunter — in what a State Police press release characterized as “a very remote area of Norton” — Mr. Chapman said he was surprised to learn that he was the subject of an intensive search, involving rescue dogs, wilderness response teams, game wardens, the State Police Search and Rescue unit, and Border Patrol agents.

“I didn’t know I had created such a commotion,” he said, speaking in an interview Tuesday as he praised everyone who participated in the search. “I owe a great debt of gratitude.”

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Montreal man starts hemp farm in Holland

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copyright the Chronicle October 5, 2016

by Paul Lefebvre

HOLLAND — A former construction worker from Montreal with dual American-Canadian citizenship is hardly the kind of farmer one would expect to find here cultivating a crop still deemed to be illegal by the federal government, in a field only a little more than a stone’s throw away from the border.

But Morgan Laurent is among a handful of farmers in Vermont who want to break new ground with the plant they are growing and turn industrial hemp into a legitimate crop.

Standing among row after row of bushy green plants that smell like, and dangerously resemble, the illicit weed marijuana, Mr. Laurent is growing industrial hemp in the spirit of a visionary. Rather than grow a crop used to make rope or paper, he is growing a plant that produces medicinal oils and are used to make people feel better, without getting them high.

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” he says, after pointing out one of his premier specimens with buds thick and sticky enough to earn the moniker “Juicy fruit.”

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Holland citizens continue to oppose Dairy Air Wind

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copyright the Chronicle July 27, 2016

 

by Elizabeth Trail

At the Holland Select Board meeting on July 18, a recently formed group called Citizens for Responsible Energy in Holland (CREH) presented a petition signed by 52 citizens, asking the select board to do everything possible to oppose the proposed Dairy Air Wind project, and big wind turbines in general, in Holland.

The president of CREH, John Wagner, also gave the select board a letter that laid out the group’s position in more detail.

CREH is adding its voice to a lively debate that has been ongoing in Holland since May, when farmers Kim and Brian Champney announced that they are looking into putting up a 2.2-megawatt wind turbine on their farm. …To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Woman gets jail for starving goats

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copyright the Chronicle June 29, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — The Holland woman whose barn was filled with starving and dead goats admitted guilt Tuesday and will spend 15 days of an 18-to-36-month sentence in jail.

Stacey Lynn Lopes, 42, now of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, pled guilty to three charges of cruelty to animals by depriving them of food and water, and a felony charge of cruelty to animals by causing them undue pain.

In the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen ordered Ms. Lopes to serve the jail portion of her otherwise suspended sentence in three-day chunks on consecutive weekends.

Under the terms of a plea agreement worked out with the Orleans County State’s Attorney, Ms. Lopes is no longer allowed to own or care for animals. She will remain on probation for three years.

Dr. Kristin Haas, veterinarian with the state Agency of Agriculture, told police on May 8, 2015, she found several malnourished and dead goats at a farm in Holland…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Dairy Air plans single turbine wind project

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copyright the Chronicle June 1, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

HOLLAND — The Public Service Board awarded Dairy Air Wind, LLC, in Holland a long-term contract on May 27 to sell about 6,000,000 kilowatt hours of power a year to Vermont utilities.

That puts dairy farmer Brian Champney a step closer to his longstanding hope of producing wind power on a hayfield on his 600-acre farm north of the school and town clerk’s office here.

That’s enough to power 2,000 to 2,500 homes, Mr. Champney said.

The power will be produced by a single 2.2-megawatt wind turbine in the center of the Champney family farm.

Mr. Champney’s house is about 2,000 to 2,500 feet from where the turbine will stand, he said. It’s right in the center of the family farm, on land belonging to his mother, Linda Champney.

“I’m going to be the closest one,” he said Tuesday…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Holland school: Board hopes budget will pass on second attempt

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copyright the Chronicle March 16, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

HOLLAND – The members of the Holland School Board hope that voters armed with a better understanding of the budget they rejected on Town Meeting Day will reconsider their decision.

The school board voted Monday night to ask townspeople to go to the polls on Thursday, April 7, to reconsider spending $963,000 for the town’s elementary school.

Balloting will be preceded by a hearing on the budget scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5.

Conversation between board members and the seven members of the public who attended Monday’s meeting suggested that misconceptions about how the state calculates tax rates, might have…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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In Holland: Meeting set to discuss failed school budget

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copyright the Chronicle March 9, 2016

by Tena Starr

HOLLAND – The school board here plans to hold a public meeting on Monday, March 14, at 6 p.m.  Board members hope that Holland’s voters will tell them how to move forward in the wake of last week’s budget defeat, or at least why they voted the way they did.

The budget, which is voted on by Australian ballot, was rejected 94-79 despite the fact that it had been cut by about $80,000 from the previous year.

At the same time, Holland voters approved their share of the North Country Union High School and junior high school budgets.

The town school budget was down for the second year in a row, but because of…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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In Holland: School budget is down, tax rate is up

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copyright the Chronicle February 24, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

HOLLAND — The Holland School Board has crafted a budget for the town’s elementary school that reduces spending by nearly $80,000 compared to last year. Working with a very sharp pencil, they reduced the elementary school’s budget from the $1.02-million voters approved last year to about $963,000.

As a result, the portion of the town’s education rate assigned to the elementary school will be down by a smidgen more than one cent per hundred dollars of assessed value.

Overall, though, Holland’s education tax rate is likely to rise by 17 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. The steep increase is due to a couple of factors… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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How to bring Town Meeting back to life

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WEB town meeting bookcopyright the Chronicle March 11, 2015

All Those In Favor, Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community, by Susan Clark and Frank Bryan. Paperback. 87 pages. Published by Ravenmark, Montpelier, Vermont.

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Frank Bryan is likely Vermont’s staunchest champion of Town Meeting. He studied it for 30 years, and in this book, a tenth-anniversary update of the 2005 original, he and co-author Susan Clark add analysis of another 12 years.

Their research indicates that Town Meeting is in some trouble — no surprise — but they’re by no means announcing its demise. Instead, they suggest a number of ways to shoot a bit of adrenalin into Vermont’s system of direct democracy.

Primarily, they are opposed to moving toward Australian ballot, which they argue, is, indeed, a death sentence for Town Meetings. And they provide evidence that fiddling with the time, or the day, does not necessarily increase attendance. In many cases, moving from a Tuesday daytime meeting to a weekend or evening meeting has decreased participation because, as the authors point out, while many people don’t want to lose a workday to attend Town Meeting, even more don’t want to give up leisure time.

The primary reasons for decreased attendance are the size of a town and the issues on the Warning, the authors say. The bigger a town gets, the smaller the percentage of attendance. And if a Town Meeting Warning has little of consequence on it — few issues that affect or captivate voters — they’re more likely to stay away.

“While it is doubtful that there was ever a golden era of Town Meeting when nearly everyone turned out every year, attendance was much higher in the early days than today,” the book says. “Even well into the twentieth century it was much higher than it is now. Given the difficulties of life (from hugely longer workdays and work weeks, to much poorer transportation systems, to remarkably greater potential for sickness and poor health generally) one is struck by how complete Town Meeting democracy was in the past.

“Those who believe that people are much busier today than they were in the past (and that includes most commentators on modern life) have an incomplete understanding of history. What we really mean when we say we are busier today is that we have different priorities.

“Consider the little town of Craftsbury in the Northeast Kingdom as it was in 1840. So difficult was transportation over and through its rocky hillsides, it took 12 separate school districts to educate the children. The majority of the people farmed. They kept 333 horses, 1,718 cattle, 3,166 sheep, and 658 swine. They produced 47,906 pounds of potatoes and 14,398 bushels of oats along with 5,705 bushels of other crops, 3,171 tons of hay and 35,412 pounds of sugar. Meanwhile, they ran two gristmills, a hulling mill, two carding machine operations, ten sawmills, two fulling mills, three carriage makers, and one oil mill.

“Fewer than 1,200 women, men, and children accomplished all this. If you’ve ever worked on a small farm, or in the woods, you know that these people not only worked hard, they worked smart. Their lives were fully as complex and demanding, perhaps even more complex and demanding as ours today.

“If they can do it, we can do it, too.”

The Northeast Kingdom isn’t much plagued by the biggest hindrance to Town Meeting attendance — population. Only Newport and St. Johnsbury are big enough to reach the tipping point where attendance, or lack of, can be attributed to size, according to the authors’ formula.

But Town Meeting is affected everywhere by loss of local control. Issues, and whether voters have control over them or not, are at the heart of attendance in small towns, the authors assert. And Vermonters have had increasingly little say in much of what matters to them most.

For instance, under the current school funding system, cutting a local school budget does not necessarily translate into a tax decrease.

“The most reliable predictor of Town Meeting attendance, besides population size, is what’s on the Warning,” the book says. “Examples abound, but let’s visit one meeting in the Northeast Kingdom town of Holland after a particularly bad winter had deteriorated the town’s roads. Imagine this meeting’s discussion about whether to switch from an appointed road commissioner to an elected one. Combine this discussion with the fact that a challenger was running against a key select board member on this issue. The result: The attendance normally predicted for a town this size was exceeded by 100 percent.”

This book goes so far as to say that an item should be included on the Warning each year specifically to grab people’s attention. It suggests something like an item saying alcohol be banned within town limits. While that’s a bit of a stretch, the point is made.

Town Meetings are important not just because they give people a chance to practice hands-on governance, but also because of the community they provide, the authors say. And in neither case does moving toward Australian ballot help, they argue.

“In a well intentioned effort to include more people in decision making, an increasing number of Vermont towns are destroying their town meetings in the process.

“The Australian ballot is quick, easy, private, unaccountable, and most important, simple. It is also deadly.

“In a way, the Australian ballot is worse than deadly because it doesn’t kill Town Meeting quickly. And the execution is dishonest. We are told it will save Town Meeting, while the reality is that it poisons it and lets it die slowly….

“It leaves a town with neither a legislature nor a Town Meeting. In doing so it compromises the actions of the select board or school board, which must anticipate how the community will react to an issue and then submit this best guess to a winner-take-all decision.”

Also, the authors say, flexibility is forfeited because the ability to make amendments is lost. School boards may watch an entire budget go down because a compromise on one issue isn’t possible. Projects that could have been saved with a bit of tinkering are rejected because tinkering wasn’t an option.

“Using the Australian ballot instead of a Town Meeting is like creating an ice sculpture by taking one great swing at a block of ice with a sledgehammer instead of carefully applying a chisel with care over time,” the book says.

And informational meetings don’t fill the void because Vermonters don’t just want to talk about things, they want to do something about them, the authors say.

“The golden key to participation is to give citizens real power and real decisions to make,” the book says.

“Unlike the polling booth, Town Meetings can be exciting, interesting, and fun. They bring politics to life. Here laughter is often heard. Here we meet neighbors we haven’t seen for ages. Here we learn that Bill Stone over on the North Road is having trouble in mud season, too. Here we discover that the town library is offering a new program for our kids. Here, most of all, we get to see ourselves in the full light of real democracy.”

To improve Town Meeting, the authors suggest the following:

Highlight the issues. Select boards should creatively publicize certain items so people are aware of what’s happening. Develop a relationship with the local newspaper editor, they say, and ask for help getting the word out about major issues.

Arrange for childcare. “Happily one of the most important methods proven to increase Town Meeting attendance is also relatively simple: provide childcare during the meeting. Statistics show that this can improve attendance measurably, especially among women.” Generally, a local organization such as the Girl Scouts or the parent teacher association provides the childcare and benefits from any donations parents might like to offer.

If possible, skip microphones since they increase people’s anxiety about speaking in public.

Eat. The best-attended Town Meetings include food.

Build the agenda carefully. If a meeting drags on, people will leave, particularly after a meal, so if the most important items are voted on at the end of the meeting, fewer people will vote.

Include elements of celebration.

Susan Clark is a community facilitator and Frank Bryan is a University of Vermont political science professor emeritus.

The book is available at local bookstores or from www.vtinstituteforgovt.org for $9.95 plus $2.50 for shipping. To inquire about municipal or nonprofit pricing, or bulk orders, contact the Vermont Institute for Government at (802) 223-5824, or [email protected].

contact Tena Starr at [email protected]

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Safe Haven — a home for unwanted horses

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WEB Safe havencopyright the Chronicle October 22, 2014

by Tena Starr

HOLLAND — Tara Girard has taken in 17 horses this year, all of them horses that someone else didn’t want anymore, or at least couldn’t afford. Of the ten harbored by Safe Haven Farm right now, she said that she only bought one, and he was a hard luck case, too.

The little Morgan had a concussion and a dislocated tail. She calls him “a bought rescue.”

She’s had a few of those.

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