Supporters rally around fired librarian

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copyright the Chronicle January 17, 2018

 

by Tena Starr

 

ORLEANS — Parents and others who frequent the Jones Memorial Library here are asking that longtime librarian Joanne Pariseau be reinstated. Ms. Pariseau was fired in late December, after 19 years at the library.

The decision apparently came at the hands of the library’s board of trustees, which created some initial confusion.

The library doesn’t actually have a board of trustees, Orleans Village Administrator John Morley said by phone last week. Informed that the library’s website listed three trustees, he said he was unaware the trio referred to themselves as trustees. He said the three people are actually a committee the village trustees appointed to help with management of the library. The village owns the Jones Memorial.

“The actual trustees, in my opinion, for the library would be the village trustees,” Mr. Morley said.

The following day the website was changed to say committee rather than trustees. Deb Smith, a member of that committee, has been appointed interim librarian.

Erica Butterfield, president of Friends of the Jones Memorial Library until about a week ago, said Monday that Ms. Pariseau’s termination took her very much by surprise.

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Bad tenants leave landlords in the lurch

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copyright the Chronicle January 17, 2018

 

by Tena Starr

 

LOWELL — About 19 years ago Joe St. Onge started building his own little faux town. It was quite a vision.

He cut the wood off his land on the Pope Road in Lowell, got a portable sawmill to come in and saw the lumber, then he hired a local carpenter to put up the buildings.

Outside, the little “town” appears to have a general store, schoolhouse, church, fire and police station, a sweet shop, and more.

And there’s Hidden Country Restaurant, the only one of the structures that is what it purports to be. That log building was already there when Mr. St. Onge moved to Lowell 28 years ago, though it was originally a house.

He said in a recent interview that he’d had a diner in Massachusetts. Then he worked at Harvard and Northeastern University, and at a hospital in food service. And then a friend told him he had a restaurant for sale in Vermont.

“So I bought it. I came up here with my sons and wife,” Mr. St. Onge said. “Everybody thought I was crazy to open a restaurant in the middle of the woods.”

Aside from the restaurant, which is closed now, all those pretty little buildings are deceptive. On the inside, they’re homes of varying size and character. There’s also three trout ponds on the property, a miniature covered bridge, a blinking railroad sign, as well as a set of miniature houses set up just for decoration on the land.

The idea, Mr. St. Onge said while touring the property with a reporter, was that he’d rent out the houses, and the income would support him in his “autumn years.”

It hasn’t turned out that way.

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Fire destroys Barton restaurant

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copyright the Chronicle January 10, 2018

 

by Tena Starr and Joseph Gresser

 

BARTON — Fire destroyed Ming’s House, the Chinese restaurant here, on Friday. The tricky fire started at around 2 p.m. Barton Fire Chief Kevin Tartaglio, who arrived on the scene just minutes after the department was toned out, said he didn’t get back to the station until around 11:30 or midnight.

About 30 firefighters from Barton, Orleans, Glover, and Irasburg helped battle what could hardly be called a blaze.

Instead, Barton was filled with brown smoke so thick that sometimes it was impossible to even see the restaurant.

Chief Tartaglio said state fire investigators came up on Monday and will issue a report sometime this week. He added that it was an accidental fire.

A neighboring business owner said the owner of Ming’s told him it started as a grease fire.

Chief Tartaglio said it was a “major fire because of the weather,” which was frigid that day.

He said that when he arrived the interior was engulfed in flames, and the whole building was filled with smoke.

“I put a firefighter on one side to protect Rock Insurance and another one on the other to protect the house,” the chief said. “We ran water until we could attempt the interior.”

He said that, as soon as he realized what was going on, he called in mutual aid.

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Fires in Albany, Holland

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

The county has seen two bad fires in the past few days.

In Holland on Friday, about 40 milk cows died in a barn fire at the farm owned by Scott and Melanie Gilles, Derby Line Fire Chief Craig Ellam said.

On Monday evening, fire destroyed a landmark home in Albany Village. No one was home at the time, and the fire was hard fought, but it’s a grim Christmas gift for Michael and Cheryl Grondin, and Mr. Grondin’s preschool-aged grandson.

Chief Ellam said firefighters were toned out to the Holland fire about 3:30 p.m. Friday for a barn fire with animals still inside.

“When we arrived the building was fully involved,” he said.

They called in tankers from West Charleston and Stanstead, Quebec, to help. Firefighters were hampered by a dry hydrant that failed, “so we had to regroup and get another water source,” Chief Ellam said.

He said passersby were able to get some heifers out of the back part of the barn. Firemen got five cows out of the barn, but “they had to be put down later; they weren’t going to make it,” Chief Ellam said. “It’s been a long while since we’ve had to deal with that kind of a mess.”

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Trustees ask for evidence of Greater Barton Arts claim to equipment

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — The defunct Barton Senior Center has given its equipment to Greater Barton Arts (GBA), a nonprofit headed by Ed and Adrien Helm that aims to promote the arts in the Barton area.

However, following an executive session at their meeting Monday, the Barton Village Trustees composed a letter to Ms. Helm saying additional action is necessary regarding Greater Barton Arts’ claim to “items which may or may not be present in the Barton Village Memorial Building.”

The trustees asked that evidence be provided that “(a) the former Barton Senior Center, Inc., held title to the items listed in the attachment to your letter, and (b) the Barton Senior Center, Inc. Board of Directors thereafter conveyed its title of these items to the Greater Barton Arts, Inc.”

The trustees’ letter goes on to say that the Barton Senior Center Board dissolved the organization in September.

“Please provide evidence that the Senior Center, prior to dissolution, transferred the list of assets to the Greater Barton Arts organization,” the trustees’ letter says.

Brenda Lowther, director of the senior center, also gave Greater Barton Arts $20,000 of the nonprofit’s money. That money is now in an escrow account and will be used for programs for seniors, Mr. and Ms. Helm said last month.

The Barton Senior Center abruptly closed in September. Much of the food was given to the senior meal center in West Burke.

Equipment remains in the basement of the Memorial Building where the old senior meals program was, and where a new and unrelated one is now functioning with a new director and a new board.

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Troopers suspended after fire

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

Two state troopers have been put on paid administrative leave pending investigation of a fire that burned a Stannard house Monday that one of them owned, State Police in St. Johnsbury said Tuesday.

Police say they are investigating the fire. Trooper Stephen McGranaghan, 38, owned the A-frame house but did not live there. In fact, the house was vacant and in very rough shape, said Greensboro Fire Chief Dave Brochu on Tuesday. It had no doors or windows.

Chief Brochu said a neighbor reported the house fire at 12:30 a.m. Monday.

“It was reported as an explosion and a ball of fire on the Stannard Mountain Road,” he said.

He said he called the Hardwick, Walden, and Woodbury fire departments because he was not sure where on the Stannard Mountain Road the fire was. Walden and Woodbury were quickly sent home because there was a brook on the property that firefighters could pump water out of.

The empty house was fully involved when firefighters arrived, State Police said.

Chief Brochu said it could be seen from quite a distance.

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Barton Senior Center gave Barton Arts $20,000

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copyright the Chronicle November 29, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

The defunct Barton Senior Center has given Great Barton Arts $20,000.

The money is in an escrow account and will be used for programs for seniors, said Ed and Adrien Helm, Greater Barton Arts board members.

The senior center abruptly closed at the end of September. At the time it had assets of about $25,000. Some of its equipment is still on the first floor of the Barton Memorial Building. Much of the food was given to the senior meal center in West Burke.

Initially, Barton Senior Center Director Brenda Lowther had a bank check for $20,000 written to a state agency called Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living. That organization gave the senior center a $25,000 startup grant about 12 years ago.

Paperwork for the grant has long since been closed out, and there was no mechanism for accepting the money. Ms. Lowther said at the time that she viewed the check as repayment for the original grant.

IRS rules say that when a nonprofit is dissolved, its assets must go to another nonprofit that serves a similar purpose or “according to its charter.” The Barton Senior Center’s charter said that its assets were to be transferred to a similar 501(c)3.

A bank check in the amount of $20,000 dated October 26 was paid to the order of Greater Barton Arts/Senior Arts Escrow.

Ms. Helm said by phone Tuesday that Greater Barton Arts is also a 501(c)3 “and some of our programs already involve seniors.” Those programs will be expanded, she said.

She said the Greater Barton Arts Board voted to put the money in an escrow account.

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IRS scammer makes a bad call

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copyright the Chronicle November 8, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A scammer pretending to be from the IRS recently made a remarkably bad call. She dialed the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and, unbeknownst to her, ended up talking to Chief Deputy Phil Brooks, who she threatened with arrest if he didn’t immediately pay what she claimed he owed the federal government.

The Sheriff’s Department has several lines and received four phone calls from scammers that day, all of them recorded messages with a call back number, Chief Deputy Brooks said by phone last week.

So he called back.

The IRS scam is a particularly vicious one because the callers are sophisticated and can be very threatening. They typically say that a person owes a significant amount of money in back taxes, and a sheriff will arrest them soon if they don’t pay up. Like, right now.

“The ‘agent’ utilizes fear and intimidation tactics to get the victim to forward money discretely and privately, and even tells them that a warrant will be issued by the Sheriff and the person will be arrested if they don’t comply,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote in a press release about the incident.

Chief Deputy Brooks dragged the call out for 15 minutes or so and pretty much let the scam run its course.

In this case, the scammer, who called herself IRS agent Christina Fernandez, said he owed $7,986 to the IRS. He said that when he informed Ms. Fernandez that he didn’t have that amount of money, the sum drifted downward to $2,795.

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Thousands remain without power

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copyright the Chronicle November 1, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

High winds roared through Vermont early Monday morning, felling trees, branches, and power lines, and plunging tens of thousands of homes into darkness.

At the height of the outage early Monday morning, about 40 percent of the Vermont Electric Cooperative’s 38,000 members were without power, the utility reported. Halfway through Tuesday, VEC crews had restored power to about 4,600 members with about 9,000 more to go.

It could be a few days yet before electricity is restored to all homes, VEC warned.

One of the problems is the extent of the storm. As of Tuesday morning, 880,000 people throughout New England were without power, VEC said in a press release.

“The extent and complexity of the damage caused by yesterday’s wind storm across VEC’s rural territory, coupled with the high demand for mutual aid crews throughout New England, means it’s taking longer than usual for restoration in many cases,” VEC explained.

A message at the Johnson-based cooperative on Monday listed all the towns in its service area that were experiencing outages, and it appeared the list included nearly every one of them.

The message also urged people to call 211 if they needed help with shelter and to keep checking the VEC website for updates on when service was likely to be restored.

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Arrest made in moose poaching case

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copyright the Chronicle November 1, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A 20-year-old Irasburg man has been arrested in connection with a moose poaching case in Westmore in late September.

Gerin Fortin was arrested on Sunday and charged with six counts of big game violations, including taking game by illegal means and in closed season, and two counts of shooting from a motor vehicle, Colonel Jason Batchelder at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said on Tuesday.

Colonel Batchelder said that Mr. Fortin allegedly shot a cow moose from his pickup truck on Saturday, September 23, in Westmore. He said that, according to a witness, Mr. Fortin then struck the moose with his truck and shot it again in the head.

Mr. Fortin allegedly chained the moose to his truck and dragged it more than 11 miles to Orleans where it was left to rot by the side of the road. The moose was lactating, indicating that she likely had a calf with her, game wardens said.

Mr. Fortin’s Ford F150 pickup has been seized as evidence, along with his rifle, ammunition, and truck chains, says a press release from Fish and Wildlife. “These items stand to be forfeited upon conviction.”

The suspect is scheduled to appear in Orleans County Superior Court on December 26. He faces fines and restitution of up to $8,000 and up to one year in jail.

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