Chief says Newport Police Department gravely understaffed

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — At its meeting Monday, the city council heard about the difficulties officers face in the city’s understaffed police department. They also voted for November balloting on a $3-million bond for a new water tower, and re-examined downtown renewal efforts.

Newport City Police Chief Seth DiSanto presented council members with a summary of his department’s activities over the past year comparing them with the year before.

Traffic stops accounted for the highest percentage of calls, about 28 percent. But Chief DiSanto said that doesn’t reflect the amount of actual time spent on a call. Larceny calls can take days to investigate, while traffic stops are done in a matter of minutes, he said.

The chief’s main business, though, was a discussion of staffing in his department, which is presently short two officers.

Although he has two recruits undergoing training as part-time officers, the chief said they will not be able to complete training as full-time officers any sooner than June. Even then, the new officers will need at least 400 more hours of on-the-job training before they can wear the Newport badge and uniform, Chief DiSanto said.

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Broken family wants case resolved

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

When Katrina McCullough of Newport called police last December and accused her husband of bending her fingers back, she had no idea what the consequences of her actions would turn out to be.

Today she finds herself in danger of losing her house and faces severe economic challenges despite having a good job. Ryan McCullough, her husband, lives in a homeless shelter for veterans in Norwich, and the couple’s children see their father only rarely.

Because Orleans County Superior Court has a heavy backlog of cases awaiting trial, the McCulloughs will not see a resolution until January at the earliest.

Ms. McCullough says she was in the clutches of severe mental distress when she dialed the phone in December. Knowing what she does now, she strongly regrets making that call.

Mr. McCullough is facing misdemeanor and felony charges of domestic abuse and, despite filing a speedy trial motion in June, is not scheduled for trial until January.

He had been scheduled for trial in August, but the court schedule was changed and he must now wait an additional five months for resolution.

As a result, Ms. McCullough said in a recent interview, her husband is in the shelter while she and her two daughters are facing the prospect of losing the family house for lack of money to pay the mortgage. Mr. McCullough, a veteran who has struggled with PTSD, cannot stay in the shelter past January and will be homeless in winter if the situation is not resolved by then, his wife said.

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Remembering those who died at their own hand

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Matt Chaput said he doesn’t keep track of how long it’s been since his brother Shawn took his own life.

“Four or five years,” was his estimate.

His imprecision is not because he doesn’t care. His brother is never far from his thoughts, and remains close to him physically as well.

Mr. Chaput rolled up his sleeve Saturday morning and showed the startlingly life-like portrait of his brother he had tattooed onto his left forearm.

He was among the more than 200 people who walked through Newport Saturday to commemorate those who died by their own hand, and to do what they can to spare others the sorrow they feel at the loss of loved ones.

Many wore shirts showing who inspired them to participate in Newport’s sixth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Mr. Chaput and many of his friends and family members sported bright blue shirts that read “Team Shawn.” Others wore yellow T-shirts indicating they were part of Team Donnelly, and another team had orange shirts printed with a drawing of a halo and a pair of angels’ wings with the words “in loving memory of Don Cota.”

The walk is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It raises money to pay for programs intended to educate the public about the toll suicide takes on the community, and to help people experiencing dark and dangerous episodes come out alive on the other side.

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Students raise thousands for Harvey victims

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Two Irasburg sisters who made their way to Houston, Texas, to pursue teaching careers came through Hurricane Harvey with their homes intact, but they and their students will be dealing with the devastation wrought by the storm for months if not years.

Chris Eldridge-Grant and Amy Eldridge-Green, who both work for the Klein Independent School District, also inspired an effort in the North Country Supervisory Union (NCSU) schools Monday that raised at least $4,100 for those affected by flooding. According to Liz Butterfield of NCSU, which sponsored “T-shirt Tuesday” to encourage donations, that amount will rise when the money has all been counted Wednesday.

The Klein district is one of two in the Spring area of northwestern Houston. Ms. Eldridge-Grant teaches English at one of the district’s five high schools.

Spring is a diverse community, Ms. Eldridge-Green said. She teaches English as a second language as part of her duties. She said nearly 120 languages are spoken by people who live in the community.

“Natural disaster is the great equalizer,” she said.

Even the more affluent neighborhoods were hit by the storm, she said, and the flooding destroyed many, many vehicles.

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NCSU continues opposition to Act 46

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — After attending a Vermont Superintendents Association meeting on August 30, John Castle, who oversees the North Country Supervisory Union, took off for the woods. He said Monday that he wanted to take time to get away from it all. “All” definitely includes Act 46, he said.

Mr. Castle said state officials, including Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, and the heads of the House and Senate education committees took part in the Superintendents Association meeting. Representative Dave Sharpe of Bristol, who chairs the House Committee on Education, predicted a six- to ten-cent increase in the education property tax rate next year, but Mr. Castle said most of those present appeared pleased by how Act 46 has worked so far.

The law, which presses local school districts to combine into much larger ones, has been on the minds of many superintendents over the past couple of years. That pressure includes the offer of tax reductions for districts that vote early to merge.

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A plan for reviving downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The consultant hired by the city to help develop a redevelopment strategy in the wake of the collapse of Jay Peak’s Newport EB-5 efforts presented a preliminary report at the Gateway Center last week.

David White, who heads White and Burke, a company that has assisted other cities, including St. Albans, to bring their downtowns back to life, spoke along with his associate Joe Weith.

It was their second meeting with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation and a steering committee of business leaders.

Mr. White’s company was hired by the city council in March and has been working since then to gather information and develop plans.

While its recommendations are far from finalized, Mr. White said the city should work to bring a hotel to Newport, possibly by converting the Emory Hebard State Office Building.

He also suggested the creation of a tax increment finance district to help create conditions for economic development in the city.

Mr. White also encouraged the city to participate somehow in the sale of the former Spates Block in order to be sure its new owner’s plans work well with those of the city.

The Burke and White study is one of a series of investigations into how Newport can revive itself. Those include the Regional Urban Design Team (RUDAT) visits in 2009 and 2011.

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Quiros agrees to settlement

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Ariel Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak, has followed the path blazed several months ago by Bill Stenger, the resort’s former president, and agreed to a settlement on civil charges of investment fraud. Mr. Quiros promised to accept U.S. District Court Darrin Gayles’ decision on how much of the money he got from illegal actions he will return to investors and what penalties he must pay.

Mr. Quiros, in agreeing to the settlement, neither admitted nor denied guilt.

Judge Gayles accepted the settlement worked out between the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Mr. Quiros, and the case was marked closed on August 23.

A temporary injunction that forbade him to be involved with companies seeking investments through the federal EB-5 program has been made permanent. In addition, Mr. Quiros has agreed to not appeal any penalties the judge assesses or try to deduct them from his income taxes.

He will be required to pay whatever amount Judge Gayles deems appropriate with interest calculated from April 16, 2016, the day charges were unsealed. The agreement says Mr. Quiros will pay the same interest rate the Internal Revenue Service charges taxpayers who owe it money.

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Bread and Puppet to perform new opera

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

 by Joseph Gresser

 

GLOVER — Peter Gelb is the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When his company wants to put on a new production, he thumbs through a list of classic operas to find one it has not performed recently, checks the bank account to see if there are enough millions of dollars available, then puts together a team of performers, directors, scenic designers, and costumers, and over the course of months puts the show together.

Peter Schumann is the director of the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover. When Bread and Puppet wants to put on an opera he gathers a group of collaborators, and over the course of a little more than a week, devises and presents a never-before-seen opera.

Performances are scheduled for September 1 and September 3.

At the first rehearsal, Mr. Schumann and a group of performers gathered in a large building known among puppeteers as the new building, but formally called the Papier-mâché Cathedral.

A rough styled theater, it deserves the name. The walls and ceiling are adorned with a mass of papier-mâché figures packed as tightly together as the saints depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

On this day the action was centered on the small space between the seating area and the set of a show that would be performed the following evening.

Over the course of the summer Mr. Schumann and his puppeteers has created and performed ten new shows, one a week, although none of them were operas.

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Newport council excluded from redevelopment meeting

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copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — City council members were surprised, and none too happy, to learn Tuesday that the consultant they hired to guide the city’s redevelopment efforts would be meeting with a steering committee organized by the Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC) the next morning.

The council members were not invited to the meeting, which is to plan strategies for economic redevelopment in the city. In fact, they only learned about it when a reporter called to ask what they knew about it.

When asked if he knew there was to be such a meeting, City Council President John Wilson replied, “I did not know that.”

He said he was not pleased to learn he had been excluded from that information, but said only that he would deal with the matter, “in my own way.”

Council member Denis Chenette said, “I didn’t know about it until Mr. Wilson called me.”

Three council members said they plan to crash the gates at the meeting.

According to Newport Mayor Paul Monette, there was no reason the council members should have been informed. He said he was invited to be a steering committee member by NCRC.

“I attend a lot of meetings, I don’t tell the council about all of them,” Mr. Monette said Tuesday evening. “Sometimes I meet with people who want to do business in the city. I don’t tell the council because they ask me not to.”

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Border grants will help Newport rec path, local business

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copyright the Chronicle August 16, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

HARDWICK — The Northern Borders Regional Commission gave a major boost to the proposed extension of Newport’s recreation path when it awarded $425,000 to the Vermont Land Trust on August 10.

Senator Patrick Leahy and Governor Phil Scott were on hand at a ceremony at the yellow barn on Route 15 in Hardwick that once was home to the Greensboro Garage. They presented $2.2-million in border commission grants to ten Vermont projects.

They included $250,000 to the town of Hardwick to buy the yellow barn and convert it into an incubator space for new agricultural businesses; $250,00 to allow Neighborworks of Western Vermont to expand its HEAT squad program to the Northeast Kingdom; and $46,000 to help the Vermont Brewers Association create a mobile phone version of its Brewery Challenge Passport program.

The Northern Borders Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that helps economic developments in northern parts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

It was established in the federal farm bill passed in 2008 and first received money two years later. The commission helps fund Vermont projects in Orleans, Essex, Caledonia, Lamoille, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties.

The grant to the land trust will cover a bit less than half the $1-million or so it will take to extend the recreation trail about a mile, from Prouty Beach through Bluffside Farm, said Tracy Zschau, the land trust’s conservation director.

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