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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Barton fair turns 150

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copyright the Chronicle August 9, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BARTON — The Orleans County Fair, which is 150 years old this year, has marked the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of summer for generations of Northeast Kingdom residents. Since 1868, the second year of the fair, people have streamed through the gates of Roaring Brook Park to show off their cattle, watch contests that pit beasts and machines against gravity, and to enjoy gravity defying rides.

From the start, the fair has been a place where serious agricultural pursuits contend for public attention with other activities that, through the years have been considered frivolous, if not downright sinful.

While the fair’s origins may seem lost in the mists of time, the connection between past and present is closer than one may imagine.

On August 31, 1867, a group of men met in Irasburg, then the shire town of Orleans County, and voted to create a society for the “improvement of agricultural productions, useful domestic manufactures, and the mechanic arts.” The Orleans County Agricultural Society moved quickly and the Irasburgh Independent Standard of October 11, 1867, offered a report on the fair, which was held several days earlier in Orleans, then known as Barton Landing.

In his account, A. A. Earle, the editor of the Standard lists the exhibitors who were rewarded with premiums. Among them was one H.C. Cleveland of Coventry, who came away with a total of $6.50 in recognition of the high quality of his Durham cows.

“That was my grandfather,” said Harvey Cleveland, himself a past president of the fair.

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Moose population drops well below target level

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copyright the Chronicle August 2, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

CRAFTSBURY — The number of moose in Vermont has dropped well below the target set by wildlife biologists, and the road to recovery is unclear. That was the grim news offered to the 50 people who showed up at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on July 27 for the most recent in a series of lectures about the northern forest.

Biologist Cedric Alexander, who leads the moose project for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, retold the recent history of the largest member of the cervid family, a group that includes deer, elk, and reindeer.

Unlike their more familiar and numerous cousins, the white tail deer, moose are creatures of the forest, Mr. Alexander said. While deer can thrive on a landscape that is as much as 50 percent open land, a moose needs trees to survive.

When European settlers arrived in Vermont they quickly cleared the state’s forests for lumber and to create fields in which to graze sheep. The moose retreated north where conditions were more to their liking.

They find their food in the woods, dining on young trees in the summer and such food as they can find in winter.

Moose are hearty eaters consuming about 3 percent of their body weight each day.

A 1,000-pound cow can consume up to 100 pounds of green food each day, about equivalent to 30 pounds of dry weight, Mr. Alexander said.

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Defendants can have long jail wait before trial

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copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — According to the U.S. and Vermont constitutions, anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a speedy trial by a jury of his or her peers. But that basic promise can’t be kept in Orleans County because of a lack of money for lawyers, judges, and other court employees, say those who know the system best.

At present, more than 40 people who have pled innocent to crimes in Orleans County Superior Court are behind bars waiting for their trial because they cannot make bail. Some have been waiting for years, and with a court that can manage only a few trials a month they may be waiting for quite a while longer.

The judge in Orleans County Superior Court, the Orleans County State’s Attorney, and the county’s public defender have different views of the situation, but all agree that the judicial system needs more resources if it hopes to break the logjam.

While a vast majority of criminal cases are settled through negotiations resulting in a plea agreement, the bail system was never intended as a means to pressure people to give up their right to a trial.

In fact, the Vermont Constitution gives a substantial amount of attention to the matter of bail. It specifically bans “excessive bail” and sets strict limits on the ability of a judge to hold a person without bail.

The two circumstances in which that is permitted are cases where the penalty is death or life imprisonment, or in acts of violence against another person. In either case, the judge has to determine that the evidence of guilt is strong.

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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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