State could end dispatch service

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copyright the Chronicle October 12, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

After a summer of discussions among emergency service providers and state officials, the Public Service Department plans to ask the Legislature to allow it to stop dispatching except for state agencies.

In an interview on October 6, State Police Captain Thomas Hango, commander of emergency communications, said the study committee is made up of police, fire, and ambulance service representatives as well as state agencies and emergency responder union delegates.

The group has been talking about possible changes to the dispatch service system, he said.

At present, Captain Hango said, some communities pay the state for dispatching services, some have their own dispatchers, and some get services from the state at no charge.

Communities in the Northeast Kingdom are among those that have received dispatching from the state without paying for them.

Many people think that’s not fair, and something needs to be done to correct the situation, he said.

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Potential Jay Peak buyer accused of fraud

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copyright the Chronicle September 21, 2016 

by Joseph Gresser

JAY PEAK — When Michael Goldberg got a letter offering to buy Jay Peak for $93-million some aspects of it set off alarms. His suspicions proved to be justified when a quick search showed that the man who made the offer has been accused of a $3-million stock swindle.

Mr. Goldberg explained his concerns about the offer from Jean Joseph of Bellwether Business Group and his follow-up correspondence in a report filed September 16 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.

Mr. Goldberg said the original offer was unusually vague, and didn’t fully specify what the purchaser wanted to get for his money. In addition, the due diligence list, setting out the kind of information about Jay Peak the potential purchaser hoped to get before finalizing the deal, included a number of items that were not applicable to a ski area.

The timeframe for completing the sale proposed by Mr. Joseph also appeared impossibly short, Mr. Goldberg said.

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Newport Mayor goes to work for Walmart

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copyright the Chronicle September 7, 2016

 by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Mayor Paul Monette has been unemployed since June, except for some part-time bookkeeping work. He was the head of information technology at Newport City Elementary School, but the school board decided to cut its budget by eliminating the position and contracting with the North Country Supervisory Union for computer services.

On Tuesday the mayor said he sent out a lot of resumés but got no responses. Then a friend suggested he apply for a job at Walmart.

Mr. Monette said he went online and filled out an application and was called for an interview the next day. He was hired on the spot to head the wireless department at the new Derby Walmart.

Wireless is what the retailer calls cell phones, the mayor explained. His job will be to sell them.

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Stenger settles, no longer works at Jay

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copyright the Chronicle September 7, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

Bill Stenger, the former president of Jay Peak Resort, is no longer a defendant in the civil lawsuit filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against him and the owner of the resort, Ariel Quiros. Mr. Stenger is also no longer employed by Jay Peak.

After several months of negotiations, Mr. Stenger reached an agreement with SEC lawyers under which he will be liable to whatever penalties U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles might impose for securities fraud. Although Mr. Stenger neither admitted nor denied the charges filed against him, he will allow himself to be treated as if he were guilty of the charges for purposes of punishment.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Stenger is permanently barred from participating in any way in selling securities connected to the EB-5 visa program or having any control over a business that does.

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Massive manhunt in Barton

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copyright the Chronicle August 31, 2016

by Joseph Gresser and Tena Starr

The man who was the cause of a heavily armed police presence in Barton Village Monday pled innocent in the Criminal Division of Superior Court in Newport Tuesday to a felony count of unlawful trespass, plus a charge of reckless endangerment and another of aggravated disorderly conduct.

Max Pickel, 30, who police say was from Orleans but is currently homeless, was held for lack of $2,500 cash bail.

About 11:30 a.m. Monday State Police received a call from the Circle K, which is bordered by Main Street and Lincoln Avenue, saying that a man was “hollering threats to kill people and shooting a gun,” says an affidavit written by State Police Trooper Debra Munson.

Police arrived in force. They included officers from the State Police, the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, and the Border Patrol. A helicopter was called in and circled above the village, focusing on the Lincoln Avenue and High Street area.

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Dairy crisis is worse than most

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copyright the Chronicle August 31, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

A pair of Orleans County farmers say conventional dairying is in a crisis that is invisible to those outside their industry.

Deborah Blay, who runs D&D Farm in Westfield with her husband, Durwood, and Peter Gebbie of Greensboro, who sold his herd late last year, both say the steep drop in milk prices that began last year has been devastating.

While prices have often fallen before, Mr. Gebbie said they usually recover much faster than they have this time around. Prices for fluid milk in the Northeast went above $27 a hundredweight in 2014, but have dropped by more than $10 since then. July’s price was $16.95.

“It’s very stressful right now, emotionally and financially,” Ms. Blay said Friday.

She said she recently looked at some of her records from 1991 and found milk check stubs showing that she was paid the same amount 25 years ago as she is receiving for milk today.

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Bill Stenger still on the payroll at Jay Peak — for now

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copyright the Chronicle August 24, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

JAY — For more than 30 years visitors to Jay Peak Resort had a hard time avoiding the ski area’s general manager, later president, Bill Stenger. They might find him parking cars, selling lift tickets, or clearing tables in one of the area’s restaurants.

One might think that would have changed since he and Jay Peak’s owner Ariel Quiros were accused of investment fraud in civil complaints filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the state’s Department of Financial Regulation (DFR).

That would be a mistake.

Mr. Stenger is as visible as ever. He’s still working for Jay Peak, albeit in a very different role, that of assisting court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg as he tries to keep Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts running while legal proceedings are underway.

He has the same office that he occupied when he was president of the resort, the same e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. He even drives the same Audi he has driven for the past six years, complete with a Jay Peak vanity plate.

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Officials offer Newport economic hope

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copyright the Chronicle August 24, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Although it’s had some reverses in the past year, Newport has friends. That message was clearly delivered Monday night when representatives from a wide variety of government agencies and nonprofits gathered for a city council meeting.

The roll of distinguished guests included Ted Brady, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program; newly appointed Secretary of Commerce and Community Development, Lucy Leriche; David Snedeker, the director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA); and Jon Freeman, president of Northern Communities Investment Corporation (NCIC).

Representatives of the Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Council for Rural Development helped round out the panel.

City Manager Laura Dolgin introduced the assembled dignitaries and suggested the city might see changes in the coming months. State judicial officials are looking over their properties around Vermont.

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Citizens hope to keep NCUHS school resource officer

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copyright the Chronicle August 24, 2016

 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — SRO stands for school resource officer, but it could have meant standing room only at Monday’s Newport City Council meeting. More than 50 people, including a large number of teachers, staff members, parents, and students from North Country Union High School showed up to express their displeasure at Newport Police Chief Seth DiSanto’s decision to pull one of his officer from permanent duty at the high school.

They were heard by Chief DiSanto and the council, but the decision remained unchanged at the end of the evening. The chief apologized for making his decision so close to the opening of school, but promised not to leave North Country in the lurch.

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Derby Select Board Committee to study law enforcement

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copyright the Chronicle August 17, 2016

 

 by Joseph Gresser

DERBY — The Derby Select Board is far from convinced that the town needs more law enforcement, but members gave former State Representative, State Police trooper, and Game Warden Bob Lewis the go ahead when he offered to head up a fact-finding committee.

The issue of how the town ought to provide police protection has been discussed over the years, but it was brought to a head by State Police Lieutenant Walter Smith, who commands the Derby barracks, and Captain Mike Henry, who heads the St. Johnsbury outpost.

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