Revision awarded multi-million dollar helmet contract

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Some of Vermont’s top political leaders joined Revision Military’s employees July 6 to celebrate a contract that could be worth as much as $98-million to the company. Revision CEO Jonathan Blanshay said the federal contract, under which his company will supply new, lighter helmets to the military, is the most important in Revision’s history.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Representative Peter Welch, and Governor Phil Scott joined the company’s 150 Newport employees to mark the achievement and to see how the new protective gear is made.

The contract, which Senator Leahy announced in March, calls for Revision to supply as many as 293,870 to the military over the next five years. All of Revision’s helmets are made in Newport.

Eric Hounchell, Revision’s vice-president for armor and global operations, said the company has invested around $3-million in new equipment needed to manufacture the helmets. He predicted Revision would invest more in the plant and hire more workers as orders come in.

Mr. Hounchell said the major selling point for the helmet was that it weighs in at almost a quarter less than the company’s previous model. Reducing the weight of equipment soldiers must carry extends their range and effectiveness, Mr. Hounchell said.

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Welch talks health care at North Country Hospital

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — U.S. Representative Peter Welch sandwiched a visit to congratulate Revision Military for winning a $98-million contract between meetings with Orleans County organizations, including North Country Hospital, here on July 6.

Representative Welch also looked in at the Lunchbox at Gardner Park. The food truck is a project of Green Mountain Farm-to-School and serves free lunches to children around the county.

Mr. Welch filled a few orders, but spent much of his time talking with Farm-to-School’s recently appointed executive director, James Hafferman, and with Superintendent John Castle of the North Country Supervisory Union, who serves on the Farm-to-School board of directors.

Both men shared concerns about proposed cuts to the federal budget they said could seriously hurt their organizations. Over plates of salad they discussed the potential for harm they think might come from actions being contemplated in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Castle worried that the North Country Supervisory Union could lose $500,000 in Medicaid funds it uses to support a variety of programs in schools around the area, including drug and alcohol counseling.

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Boathouse feud continues

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copyright the Chronicle July 12, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Police say Herman J. Leblanc, 80, of Newport Center tore down a considerable chunk of a boathouse that has been the center of a nearly ten-year-old legal tangle involving his family and the next-door neighbor.

Mr. Leblanc pled innocent to a felony charge of unlawful mischief on June 19, and was ordered held on $75,000 bail by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen.

Judge VanBenthuysen released Mr. Leblanc after he posted bail and his son David Leblanc, agreed to take custody of his father. Herman Leblanc is no longer allowed to live in his Newport Center home on the shore of Lake Memphremagog. Instead, he’s at a rental property owned by his family, where he must stay unless accompanied by his son.

On Monday the Leblancs were back in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court where attorney Kyle Hatt sought to persuade the judge that requiring a person to be released to the custody of a responsible adult is more appropriate for cases where there is a threat to a person rather than to property.

Judge VanBenthuysen said he would consider the argument, but wanted to wait until Mr. Leblanc completes the competency examination he had already ordered.

State Police Sergeant Andrew Jensen filed an affidavit concerning the most recent charge. Robert Snelgrove, Mr. Leblanc’s neighbor, called police on June 16 and said his boathouse had been damaged.

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Judge approves $150-million settlement

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copyright the Chronicle July 5, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles cleared the way for contractors, merchants, and some EB-5 investors to recover money Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resorts owes them.

On Friday he gave final approval to a $150-million settlement reached between Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver, and Raymond James & Associates, a financial services company accused of enabling Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros’ alleged fraud.

Judge Gayles tersely described the EB-5 program as one “through which an investor who invested $500,000 in a project that created ten or more jobs per investor would be eligible to apply for unconditional, permanent residency in the United States on an expedited basis.”

While Mr. Quiros owned Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resorts, his companies ran eight such EB-5 projects. Six of them were completed or will soon be completed so their investors will qualify for permanent residency in the U.S.

The Burke Mountain Hotel opened for business last fall, but some planned amenities were never built, so not enough jobs were created to make all its investors eligible for green cards.

AnC Bio, the biomedical facility that was to be built in Newport, barely got off the ground, so none of its investors will qualify for U.S. residency.

According to civil fraud charges filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Quiros misappropriated about $220-million of the $350-million investors put into his projects. He was also accused by the commission of taking more than $50-million for his own use.

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Overdose awareness walk is a step toward sober living space

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copyright the Chronicle June 28, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Tara Patten called Charles Buckland Jr. “my best friend” as she talked about his overdose death. She was speaking to a crowd of around 80 people gathered around the gazebo in Gardner Park here Saturday.

In front of the stage, a cluster of 104 small purple flags indicated how many people died last year from overdoses.

Mr. Buckland died from a fentanyl overdose in December 2014. Ms. Patten said he was a loving, caring, and funny man, who had a problem that took his life.

The crowd gathered to hear her speak was there because of a result of a pledge Ms. Patten made after Mr. Buckland’s death. She pledged to do something for those struggling with opiates in the Northeast Kingdom, specifically to create a sober living center in the area, complete with the services someone in recovery might need.

Ms. Patten’s first step was organizing NEK Stand Strong. The nonprofit is just getting its legs under it and waiting to get tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

Saturday’s Overdose Awareness and Memorial Walk was the first step in achieving her organization’s main aim, Ms. Patten said.

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Wandering elk are safely back home

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copyright the Chronicle June 28, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

DERBY — The elk are back home, said Richard Nelson Tuesday evening.

The 16 elk that wandered off from the Nelson’s property in Derby last week finally wandered back, he said.

A gate was left open in their pen, Mr. Nelson said. Neither Mr. Nelson, his father, Doug Nelson, nor any of the farm hands had left it open, he added, but was unwilling to say more.

Mr. Nelson said he and his father were concerned about their herd, but not very worried.

The elk, which are one of the showpieces of Doug Nelson’s restaurant, the Derby Cow Palace, have gotten out before, when a fallen tree knocked a fence over, for instance.

Because they are herd animals the elk don’t like to be apart from their fellows. They also know where their food comes from, Mr. Nelson said.

This time was a bit different than other escapes. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife was involved and was concerned about the possibility that the animals might have, and spread, chronic wasting disease, a condition affecting members of the deer family. It resembles mad cow disease.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said Monday there is no reason to think that any of Mr. Nelson’s herd is affected with the condition, which is not believed to affect humans.

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Newport reappraisal could lead to drop in tax rate

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copyright the Chronicle June 21, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The preliminary results of the citywide reappraisal are in and, while some property owners are unhappy with the jump in their assessment, Newport’s government is breathing a sigh of relief.

At present, the total value of the proposed Grand List stands at around $399-million, according to Newport City Manager Laura Dolgin. That is well above the $315-million valuation that was predicted last January.

That figure is far from the final word. Taxpayers have the right to grieve their assessment, and it will take a couple of months to resolve most challenges.

But if the result is close to the early figures, it could mean a substantial drop in the municipal tax rate.

The Grand List figure used for budgeting in 2015 and 2016 was $258-million. When members of the city council began work on the current budget, they believed the Grand List would rise to $330-million.

During their deliberations City Assessor Stewart Potter told the council that the actual figure would be closer to $315-million.

Newport’s budget was already expected to rise about $360,000 from the 2016 level of $4.81-million to $5.18-million.

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EB-5 investor sues state

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copyright the Chronicle June 21, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

An investor in the first of Jay Peak’s EB-5 projects is suing the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Department of Financial Regulation, the Vermont Regional Center (VRC), and a number of those agencies’ employees.

The lawsuit, filed in the Civil Division of Lamoille County Superior Court, claims the two branches of state government and the named individuals effectively acted as Ariel Quiros’ and Bill Stenger’s partners, helping them to perpetrate fraud.

Mr. Quiros is the subject of a civil suit filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that charges he mishandled around $200-million of the approximately $350-million he raised to pay for hotels and other facilities at Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resorts, as well as a biomedical facility in Newport.

The suit claims that Mr. Quiros also took about $50-million of the investors’ money for his own use.

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Governor Scott visits Albany

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copyright the Chronicle June 14, 201

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

ALBANY — Governor Phil Scott breezed into Albany Monday to sign a pair of bills that he said will help revitalize aspects of the state’s rural economy. One, a bill to increase the number of chickens a farmer may raise, kill, and sell from 1,000 birds to 5,000, was proposed and seen through to passage by South Albany’s own Billy Pearce.

The other, which aids forestry workers in a number of ways, was welcomed by Colleen Goodridge, who hosted the signing ceremony. Ms. Goodridge, the matriarch of Goodridge Lumber, a family business that specializes in white cedar, is also vice-president of the Vermont Forest Products Association.

Governor Scott was welcomed by a crowd of around 70 people that included legislators from around the Northeast Kingdom and state officials, including Secretary Julie Moore of the Agency of Natural Resources.

H.495, the new forestry law, includes a provision exempting logging equipment and the fuel used to run it from state sales taxes. The state will also loan or help loggers purchase pre-made skidder bridges to help them meet clean water requirements.

Governor Scott said the state hopes to have 25 of the bridges available for loan or lease this summer.

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Newport hopes to improve its image

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copyright the Chronicle June 7, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — In a marathon meeting Monday night, the city council considered ways of improving Newport’s image, the future of its downtown program, a new music series on the waterfront, and a possible extension of the city’s recreation path to the Canadian border.

Newport has been looking for a new web master in the months since Mayor Paul Monette told the council that he will no longer be the volunteer custodian of the site. City Manager Laura Dolgin suggested making up for his loss by hiring a firm that will do public relations for Newport in addition to managing its web presence.

Ms. Dolgin argued for hiring John Gilfoil Public Relations, a Massachusetts company. City officials have been fielding an increasing number of complaints from city residents, and it would be a good idea to have someone putting out positive stories about Newport, she said.

Mr. Gilfoil, a former Boston Globe reporter who served as deputy press secretary for former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, spoke to the council by speaker phone. He said his company would build a new website for Newport and train employees to post information to it for $10,000 if the city also hires the firm at a cost of just under $1,000 a month to handle the city’s press relations.

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