Wells responds to Caledonian-Record suit

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Kenneth Wells, the former publisher of the Newport Daily Express, responded on December 7 to a civil lawsuit filed by the Caledonian-Record accusing him of racketeering.

On Monday Mr. Wells told the Chronicle he wrote the response himself.

“I went through nine drafts,” he said. He said he ran his reply by several lawyers of his acquaintance, but decided not to hire an attorney at this stage of the proceedings.

In his response, Mr. Wells offered a firm denial of allegations that he used the Caledonian-Record’s password to download photographs from the Associated Press (AP) and overstated his paper’s circulation figures to gain a competitive advantage over the St. Johnsbury based paper.

Mr. Wells asserted the complaint was an effort by the Caledonian-Record’s owner to destroy a smaller rival. The Caledonian-Record is a family-owned newspaper based in St. Johnsbury with two regional editions, the Orleans County Record and Littleton Record.

The Newport Daily Express is owned by Horizon Vermont, a part of Horizon Publications of Marion, Illinois. Horizon Publications owns 21 daily papers and 14 weeklies around the country, most published in small communities.

The Newport Daily and its parent company were also named in the complaint. The suit claims both participated in the racketeering enterprise by allowing Mr. Wells to misbehave.

Mr. Wells was fired as publisher of the Newport Daily in November of 2016. The newspaper offered no explanation for ending his employment.

Neither Horizon nor the Newport Daily have responded to the Caledonian-Record’s suit.

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Plan pitched to get snow machines in Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Snow machine travelers will be able ride to the East Side Restaurant and Waterfront Plaza if the city council approves the plan that Roger Gosselin, VAST’s Orleans County director, presented at Monday’s council meeting.

Newport is missing out on business from tourists who cover long distances during the winter, Mr. Gosselin said. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains a trail to Prouty Beach and an east-west route across Lake Memphremagog, but at present, riders have no way to get further into the city, he said.

He suggested the city try allowing snowmobile traffic for a year and make adjustments if and when problems arise.

Mr. Gosselin proposed a route that would direct snow machines along Broadview Avenue. That part of the plan drew strong opposition from Gillian Staniforth, a resident of the avenue who said other homeowners she has spoken to share her dislike of the plan.

While Mr. Gosselin presented numerous examples of snow machine traffic in urban areas in Quebec and Island Pond, Ms. Staniforth said Broadview Avenue, despite its name, is a narrow street closely lined with homes.

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Milk commission formulates strategy for federal farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BERLIN — The newly revived Vermont Milk Commission held its fourth meeting on Friday and considered, among other topics, ways to encourage people to consume more milk, and a possible adjustment to the way milk prices are calculated to take better account of how milk is actually used.

At its most recent session, the Legislature passed a law requiring the commission to meet by October to offer guidance to the Vermont congressional delegation as it participates in drawing up a new farm bill in 2018. Federal farm bills, which run for five years, set policy for all aspects of the nation’s agricultural economy, and the Legislature wanted to make sure Vermont’s voice is heard on issues affecting the dairy industry.

The milk commission had not met for six years before October, and the terms of all members expired during that time. Governor Phil Scott and legislative leaders appointed nine new members, and the commission set to work.

At their latest meeting, members heard from Paul Ziemnisky, senior vice-president of Global Innovation Partnerships.

Mr. Ziemnisky is a branding and marketing expert working for Dairy Management Inc., a trade association funded through the U.S. Dairy Promotion Program, which gets its money from mandated checkoff fees on dairy products and federal tax dollars.

He said he is working to increase milk consumption. Mr. Ziemnisky said overall milk use has been increasing, but less fluid milk is being consumed.

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NCSU Act 46 plan is into the home stretch

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copyright the Chronicle November 29, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The North Country Supervisory Union is headed into the home stretch in its effort to persuade the state Agency of Education to allow it to continue to operate as it has, rather than requiring it to consolidate under the terms of Act 46. North Country Superintendent John Castle appeared at a meeting of the Newport City Elementary School board Monday to explain what the supervisory union hopes to achieve.

It was one of his last steps before the four big binders containing information in support of North Country’s request for an alternative governance structure make the drive to the headquarters of the education agency in Montpelier.

The deadline for delivery of the volumes is December 22.

Mr. Castle told members of the elementary school board and the four parents who showed up for the meeting not to expect a decision on the supervisory union’s request until next November.

He gave much of the credit for gathering and collating the material to Liz Butterfield, his executive assistant.

Mr. Castle handed out copies of the report’s table of contents, explaining the materials were arranged to conform with a state regulation put forward to flesh out Act 46.

Act 46 was enacted in 2015 to deal with rising educational costs and declining school enrollments.

The law seeks to do away with town school districts and replace them with larger regional districts governed by a single board.

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Newport could support hotel, report says

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copyright the Chronicle November 22, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Newport can support a 30- to 50-bed hotel, but only during the summer months. A year-round hostelry would have to be considerably smaller.

Those were the main conclusions of a report submitted to the city by the Pinnacle Advisory Group, a company with offices in Maryland and Florida.

The study was conducted at the suggestion of David White of White and Burke, a firm hired by the city to help form redevelopment plans in the wake of the Jay Peak EB-5 debacle.

One of the ideas proposed by Mr. White was construction of a hotel on the site of the former Spates Block on Main Street, or even the conversion of the Emory Hebard State Office Building, to take advantage of its lakeside site.

Mr. White said a study was needed before any planning could continue. The Newport City Renaissance Corporation commissioned Pinnacle to conduct a study to see whether the city could support a hotel, and if so, what type of hotel could succeed in Newport.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont and Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) stepped up to pay for the study.

A link to the document appeared recently on the city’s Facebook page, but no mention appeared on the Newport City website. It has not been mentioned by the city council.

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Holocaust stories told, plans for memorial discussed

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copyright the Chronicle November 22, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

HARDWICK — Three Vermont daughters of holocaust survivors explained their plans here last week for creating a permanent traveling memorial to the victims of Nazi atrocities.

They also shared family stories and discussed plans for the memorial with a small group that met at the Jeudevine Memorial Library Tuesday evening, November 14.

Miriam Rosenbloom, a Hyde Park resident, opened the meeting and shared the credo of the group she formed with Debora Steinerman and K. Heidi Fishman.

“We believe in humankind,” she said. “We are all the same.”

Ms. Rosenbloom provided a quick overview of the events that, from 1933 to 1945, resulted in the deliberate murder of 11 million civilians. She was careful to note that, in addition to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, five million other people were caught up in the holocaust.

All, she said, were members of groups the Nazis, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, did not think deserving of life. They included people with both mental and physical disabilities, the Romani people, political opponents, gay and lesbian people, freemasons, Slavs, Poles, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Before World War II the Jewish population of Europe numbered around nine million. At its end only three million survived. Only one out of three survived, Ms. Rosenbloom noted.

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Community visit comes to Newport December 13

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copyright the Chronicle November 22, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Jenna Koloski was scurrying around Newport Tuesday taping television interviews, meeting people, handing out fliers, and putting up postera, all in hopes of gathering a large crowd for the Council on Rural Development’s first forum on Wednesday, December 13.

Ms. Koloski is community and policy manager for the council, which is conducting what it calls a community visit. That is a process intended to bring citizens of a municipality together to determine what issues most concern them and find ways to address a few of them.

So far the council has held more than 50 such meetings in towns around the state. Ms. Koloski, who has been with the council for three years, said she has spent much of that time working in Northeast Kingdom towns, including Brighton, Craftsbury, Hardwick, St. Johnsbury, and Lyndonville.

Ms. Koloski said the council goes to towns only if invited and takes no position on what is best for a community. That’s a matter for the town’s residents to determine.

The council is focused on helping to start a civil conversation and bringing people with expertise to the table to offer suggestions and aid once a community decides the direction it wishes to take.

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Veterans tell students their stories

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copyright the Chronicle November 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Newport City Elementary School fifth and sixth grades got a glimpse of life in the military when they welcomed a dozen veterans to their classrooms Thursday morning, November 9.

The men, who among them saw service from World War II through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, shared stories of their experiences just in time for Veterans Day.

Representing all branches of the military except the Navy and Coast Guard — perhaps fitting given the distance between Newport and the sea — the veterans introduced themselves with a brief sketch of their history in the service before opening the floor to questions.

The questions ranged widely from the serious to the funny.

“Were you ever wounded?” a student asked one group of veterans. Fortunately the answer was no.

The students had other questions about the more difficult aspects of life in war. What happened when someone got wounded? one asked.

Butch Provencher, a National Guardsman with a specialty as a medic, said the objective was always to get the hurt person to a base camp hospital as quickly as possible.

On a lighter note, one sixth-grader wanted to know how the food was. The seven vets who were in the classroom looked at each other and laughed before replying.

“Green eggs and ham,” one replied.

The real answer, said Richard Deuso a Vietnam veteran, is C-rations, tinned food soldiers carried with them when away from their base.

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State explains plans for Lake Memphremagog

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copyright the Chronicle November 15, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — While the federal and state governments have been making a great deal of fuss over Lake Champlain in recent years, Lake Memphremagog has received far less attention.

At a Tuesday meeting at the East Side Restaurant on the lake’s shore, Watershed Coordinator Ben Copans shared Vermont’s plans to cut the amount of phosphorus in Memphremagog.

Mr. Copans, who works for the Department of Environmental Conservation, told a group of around 40 people that the lake is suffering some of the harmful effects of excess phosphorus, including occasional algae blooms caused by more nutrients in the water.

Ideally, the lake would have no more than 14 parts per billion of phosphorus. At present it averages 17 parts per billion, Mr. Copans said.

During the 1980s the lake’s phosphorus levels soared to as many as 30 parts per billion, according to a chart Mr. Copans showed his listeners.

“Things improved after the city improved its water treatment facility,” he said.

The chart showed levels dropping to 14 parts per billion for a few years after the renovated sewage plant was put into operation, but they have risen since then to their current level.

Most of the lake is in Canada, but the vast majority of its watershed is in Vermont, Mr. Copans said. While Vermont and Canadian officials are working together to limit the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake, the northern portion of the lake is in compliance with the 14 parts per billion limit.

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Farmers see price for organic milk plunge

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copyright the Chronicle November 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

The price paid to Vermont organic milk producers dropped by $6 per hundredweight over the past year, according to a report provided to the Vermont Milk Commission by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

The Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP), the dairy cooperative that markets Organic Valley products, has told its Vermont members it will pay $28.80 per hundred pounds of milk this December. At the same time last year the price was $34.80.

According to the producers alliance, the average price paid by CROPP during 2016 was $35.68 per hundredweight. This year it is estimated the average price will fall to $30.59.

By spring the price paid farmers will drop another $2, CROPP has told its farmers.

For conventional farmers, who spend around $20 per hundred pounds to make their milk and are seeing milk prices a little over $17 a hundredweight, even the lower price might seem like a dream come true.

But the producers alliance says New England organic dairies’ break-even price is around $35 a hundredweight.

Members of the organic cooperative have quotas based on a farmer’s purchase of preferred stock in CROPP. Should a farmer produce more milk than it allows, the co-op will pay $20 less per hundredweight for the overage.

Perhaps the hardest hit farmers are those transitioning from conventional to organic production. They have been told they will not have a buyer when they produce organic milk.

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