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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LCAR approves wind noise rule

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copyright the Chronicle November 1, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

MONTPELIER — A regulation that sets limits on how much noise a wind turbine can produce was approved by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules on Thursday, October 26, by a 5-2 vote.

The committee room in the State House wasn’t as packed as it was for earlier meetings about the rule, but about 20 people dressed in hazard vests indicating their opposition to industrial wind development on ridgelines, attended.

Committee members heard only from witnesses representing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which until recently was called the Public Service Board.

The Legislature passed Act 174 in 2016. The law told the PUC to set sound standards for wind turbines.

The rule the PUC wrote in response to the legislative mandate sets a noise limit of 42 decibels during the day and 39 decibels at night.

Representatives from the PUC explained the standard was based on a World Health Organization finding that more people’s sleep and health is disturbed by noises louder than 30 decibels.

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Caledonian accuses former Newport Daily publisher of racketeering

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copyright the Chronicle October 25, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

The Caledonian-Record has gone to federal court to accuse the former publisher of the Newport Daily Express and the company that owns the newspaper of racketeering.

In a suit filed on October 20 in U.S. District Court in Burlington, the Caledonian-Record says it was damaged when Ken Wells lied about his newspaper’s circulation to advertisers and downloaded nearly 700 photographs from Associated Press (AP) using the St. Johnsbury-based paper’s password and account without its knowledge or permission. Most or all of the photos were published in the Daily Express, the suit claims.

Although the Express had an AP account, it did not have a subscription for photographs, the suit alleges.

Mr. Wells served as publisher of the Daily Express from 2006 until November 2016. Between 1987 and 2002 he worked as the paper’s sales manager.

He was dismissed as publisher in early November of 2016. No one from the paper has ever explained the reasons for his departure.

Tuesday evening, Mr. Wells, who is vacationing on the West Coast, said the lawsuit came as a total surprise. “I didn’t see that coming,” he said.

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North Country Hospital mandates flu vaccines for employees

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copyright the Chronicle October 18, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Many people think influenza is just an unpleasant fact of life, but according to Dr. Maria Fatigati it kills around 30,000 Americans each year. That, she said Monday, is around the same number of people who die annually from breast cancer and in traffic accidents.

Unlike breast cancer and accidents, there is a way to halve one’s chances of getting the flu, Dr. Fatigati said. That’s by getting vaccinated.

North Country Hospital is responsible for people who are already weakened by illness, so it has decided to protect its patients by making sure all employees at the hospital have been immunized against the disease.

In a recent interview, hospital CEO Claudio Fort said he made the decision to make inoculation against flu a condition of employment at North Country after seeing the experience of other hospitals that have taken the step and consulting with his medical staff.

Mr. Fort said Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and Northeastern Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury have both successfully implemented the plan.

“People don’t like to be mandated to do something,” Mr. Fort admitted. He said the hospital allows exceptions for those with deeply held spiritual or religious beliefs and for workers who are severely allergic to components in the vaccine or have other medical reasons to avoid the inoculation.

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Vermont fights for a voice in the farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Federal farm legislation is due to be passed next year, and Vermont wants to have its voice heard in the writing of a bill that could mean life or death for the state’s dairy industry.

The Vermont Milk Commission has been revived after six years of inaction to give voice to the state’s farmers and processors. The nine-member group met in Montpelier on September 26 to collect information in order to make recommendations to the state’s congressional delegation for items that should be included in the 2018 farm bill.

According to Secretary Anson Tebbetts of the state Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, the commission, was raised from the dead for that purpose.

“Vermont needs to have a strong voice,” Mr. Tebbetts said about the meeting. He said the plan is to gather as much input from the state’s farmers as possible in order to offer the best advice to federal legislators.

The Chronicle was not present at the meeting, but spoke with Secretary Tebbetts and reviewed a tape of the gathering and draft minutes.

Members of the state’s agricultural community are especially concerned about the dairy provisions of the bill, in view of the unusually long stretch of low milk prices.

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