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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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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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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Officer killed in 1917 is remembered

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copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — On September 26, 1917, Newport’s first uniformed police officer, Joseph P. Manogue, was called to the Newport House to help immigration officers deal with a recalcitrant suspect.

Patrolman Manogue went to the hotel, which was on the site occupied today by People’s United Bank.

Things went badly wrong.

There was gunplay, and in its aftermath Patrolman Manogue lay dying and another officer was hit by two bullets.

Patrolman Manogue was the first and, thankfully, the only Newport officer to die in the line of duty.

Exactly 100 years later, Newport City’s present Police Chief Seth DiSanto welcomed two of Patrolman Manogue’s great-grandchildren to Newport at a ceremony that commemorated their forebear’s sacrifice.

Governor Phil Scott and representatives of the U.S. Border Patrol, Vermont State Police, and Orleans County Sheriff’s Department also paid tribute to the fallen officer.

The proceedings got off to a solemn start as the Border Patrol honor squad brought the American flag and that of their agency to the stage as a piper played “The Minstrel Boy.”

Two North Country Union High School students, Luke Treadwell and Briar LaRose, then performed an a cappella version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

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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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