Dismissal of murder charge sought

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copyright the Chronicle January 17, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — According to a motion filed by Jon Valsangiacomo, the lawyer representing Ryan P. Bacon, 32, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the state cannot prove his client committed second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Mr. Valsangiacomo has filed a motion in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court asking Judge Robert Bent to dismiss charges against his client.

Mr. Bacon is facing felony charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ron-Lou Schneider who was shot in Greensboro in 2015.

He was originally charged with first-degree murder by Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett, but Ms. Barrett later amended that charge down to second-degree murder and added a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Ms. Barrett said this week that she has been engrossed in preparing for another murder trial, that of Jeffrey Ray, and has not prepared an answer to Mr. Valsangiacomo’s motion.

By arguing against the state’s ability to prove the lesser of the two charges, Mr. Valsangiacomo effectively struck at the more serious. Without proving a person intended to kill, or intended to do great bodily harm, or showing a wanton disregard that a likelihood of death or great bodily injury would result from his actions, the standard for voluntary manslaughter, it is impossible to get a conviction for either charge.

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Irasburg man pleads innocent to poaching moose

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The man who game wardens say killed a cow moose, dragged it behind his truck from Westmore to Barton, and left its carcass beside the road to rot has denied the stack of charges against him.

Gerin J. Fortin, 21, of Irasburg, appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court on December 26 and pled innocent to two charges of taking game by an illegal method, that is, shooting from a vehicle; taking a big game animal by illegal means; possessing a big game animal taken by illegal means or out of season; transporting big game taken by illegal means, or out of season; and taking a moose out of season.

All the charges are misdemeanors, but if found guilty, Mr. Fortin could face a year in jail and have to pay as much as $8,000 in fines and restitution.

In his affidavit, Game Warden Thomas Scott said he got a call on September 23 telling him about a dead cow moose found off the Hollow Road in Barton. Warden Jason Dukette, who was on duty, went to Barton and found the moose.

He said the condition of the carcass and a two-foot-wide bloody drag mark showed it had been dragged to the place where it was found. Warden Dukette noticed two gunshot wounds on the moose.

The warden followed the drag marks to Town Highway 5, a Class Four road, in Westmore, where Warden Scott joined him. They continued to follow the trail, which led to a hay field. Tire marks were clearly visible on either side of the drag mark in the tall grass.

At the northern edge of the field, the wardens said they found blood, moose hair, a spent .30-06 Remington rifle casing, a tin of Wintergreen Copenhagen long cut chewing tobacco, an empty Budweiser beer can, and a foam beer koozie.

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NCUHS spending down

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — At its December 19 meeting, North Country Union High School got a first look at a budget proposal for the 2018-2019 school year.

A draft already approved by the board’s Business Operations Committee calls for spending $10.9-million, $302,320 less than the $11.2-million budget approved by voters on Town Meeting Day. The proposed budget calls for spending to drop 2.7 percent in the coming year compared to this.

North Country Career Center would see a similar decline in its budget, which would tick down from $3.185-million in the 2017-2018 school year to $3.101-million in the 2019 fiscal year. An $84,169 spending cut would represent a 2.64 percent budget reduction.

While the North Country board will vote on the career center budget it has no part in drawing up the spending plan. That task, according to state law, belongs to a regional advisory board.

Career center funding doesn’t come directly from taxpayers, so its budget doesn’t have a direct effect on tax rates.

According to North Country Supervisory Union Director of Business and Finance Glenn Hankinson, taxpayers can expect to see a rise in the statewide education rate, but not entirely because of local spending.

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Snowmobiles will be able to reach downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council found it much easier Monday to agree to a moderate increase in charges for Newport Ambulance’s services, and to pass a budget, than to decide whether to allow snowmobiles to use a residential street to reach downtown merchants. But after a couple of hours of discussion, council members heeded the urging of merchants and gave the green light to the snow travelers.

Council members seemed torn Monday between their desire to help boost business during the winter months and their sympathy for residents of Broadview Avenue who complained their peaceful lives are being sacrificed to enhance economic development.

Even Gillian Staniforth, the most outspoken of Broadview’s residents, expressed support for the idea of promoting commerce by allowing winter travelers to drive their snowmobiles downtown. Her objection, she said, was only to the route chosen by Roger Gosselin, the representative of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) who brought the idea of easing access to downtown Newport to the council early this month.

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Wells responds to Caledonian-Record suit

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Kenneth Wells, the former publisher of the Newport Daily Express, responded on December 7 to a civil lawsuit filed by the Caledonian-Record accusing him of racketeering.

On Monday Mr. Wells told the Chronicle he wrote the response himself.

“I went through nine drafts,” he said. He said he ran his reply by several lawyers of his acquaintance, but decided not to hire an attorney at this stage of the proceedings.

In his response, Mr. Wells offered a firm denial of allegations that he used the Caledonian-Record’s password to download photographs from the Associated Press (AP) and overstated his paper’s circulation figures to gain a competitive advantage over the St. Johnsbury based paper.

Mr. Wells asserted the complaint was an effort by the Caledonian-Record’s owner to destroy a smaller rival. The Caledonian-Record is a family-owned newspaper based in St. Johnsbury with two regional editions, the Orleans County Record and Littleton Record.

The Newport Daily Express is owned by Horizon Vermont, a part of Horizon Publications of Marion, Illinois. Horizon Publications owns 21 daily papers and 14 weeklies around the country, most published in small communities.

The Newport Daily and its parent company were also named in the complaint. The suit claims both participated in the racketeering enterprise by allowing Mr. Wells to misbehave.

Mr. Wells was fired as publisher of the Newport Daily in November of 2016. The newspaper offered no explanation for ending his employment.

Neither Horizon nor the Newport Daily have responded to the Caledonian-Record’s suit.

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Plan pitched to get snow machines in Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Snow machine travelers will be able ride to the East Side Restaurant and Waterfront Plaza if the city council approves the plan that Roger Gosselin, VAST’s Orleans County director, presented at Monday’s council meeting.

Newport is missing out on business from tourists who cover long distances during the winter, Mr. Gosselin said. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains a trail to Prouty Beach and an east-west route across Lake Memphremagog, but at present, riders have no way to get further into the city, he said.

He suggested the city try allowing snowmobile traffic for a year and make adjustments if and when problems arise.

Mr. Gosselin proposed a route that would direct snow machines along Broadview Avenue. That part of the plan drew strong opposition from Gillian Staniforth, a resident of the avenue who said other homeowners she has spoken to share her dislike of the plan.

While Mr. Gosselin presented numerous examples of snow machine traffic in urban areas in Quebec and Island Pond, Ms. Staniforth said Broadview Avenue, despite its name, is a narrow street closely lined with homes.

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NCSU Act 46 plan is into the home stretch

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copyright the Chronicle November 29, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The North Country Supervisory Union is headed into the home stretch in its effort to persuade the state Agency of Education to allow it to continue to operate as it has, rather than requiring it to consolidate under the terms of Act 46. North Country Superintendent John Castle appeared at a meeting of the Newport City Elementary School board Monday to explain what the supervisory union hopes to achieve.

It was one of his last steps before the four big binders containing information in support of North Country’s request for an alternative governance structure make the drive to the headquarters of the education agency in Montpelier.

The deadline for delivery of the volumes is December 22.

Mr. Castle told members of the elementary school board and the four parents who showed up for the meeting not to expect a decision on the supervisory union’s request until next November.

He gave much of the credit for gathering and collating the material to Liz Butterfield, his executive assistant.

Mr. Castle handed out copies of the report’s table of contents, explaining the materials were arranged to conform with a state regulation put forward to flesh out Act 46.

Act 46 was enacted in 2015 to deal with rising educational costs and declining school enrollments.

The law seeks to do away with town school districts and replace them with larger regional districts governed by a single board.

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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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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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