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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Reward offered for information on poached moose

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copyright the Chronicle October 25, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A Craftsbury Common woman rapidly raised more $2,500 through GoFundMe in order put up a reward she hopes will lead to the conviction of whoever illegally shot a cow moose in Westmore last month.

Efforts to reach Cindi Bollettieri, who launched the campaign and put up $1,000 herself, were unsuccessful, but she posted the following on the gofundme page: “Vermont state game wardens are seeking tips to help solve a case of a moose that was poached in Westmore. A reward is available to anyone with information leading to an arrest by calling Operation Game Thief at 1-800-75 ALERT.

The cow moose was shot from the road out of season and at night on Saturday, September 23. After poachers shot the moose, they dragged the animal on the road behind their truck over 11 miles to the town of Orleans. The animal was left to rot in the 80-degree heat by the side of Hollow Road off Route 58 in Orleans. The cow moose was lactating, indicating she likely had a calf with her.

100% of funds raised will go directly to: 
Operation Game Thief — Orleans Moose 
in care of Vermont Fish & Wildlife, 
1 National Life Drive,
Montpelier, Vermont 05602”

Donations ranged from $5 to Ms. Bollettieri’s own $1,000.

“Oh, my God, this makes my heart hurt,” one post says. “Please find whoever did this.”

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Some skeptical of Conte expansion

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copyright the Chronicle October 18, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A federal plan to expand the Sylvio O. Conte, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge that includes thousands of acres in northeastern Vermont, has met with skepticism in some circles. One of the more influential of those skeptics is Governor Phil Scott.

The Conte, as it’s often called, was established in 1997 to conserve native plant, fish and wildlife species, as well as ecosystems, throughout the Connecticut River watershed. Currently, it includes a little over 36,000 acres within parts of the four watershed states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. About 25,000 of the Conte’s acres are in Vermont, primarily in Essex County.

The federal government wants to add about 60,000 Vermont acres to the refuge — not through eminent domain, but by buying the land from property owners, or by acquiring conservation easements.

Nonetheless, it has generated concern about how municipalities and the forestry industry will be affected. While no one wants to say they oppose conservation in theory, in practice it can have unintended consequences.

Last month, Governor Scott wrote Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing concern about the proposed expansion.

“Unlike many western states, where large percentages of land are owned or controlled by the federal government, our land use history and heritage centers on private ownership,” the Governor wrote. “These lands provide our citizens with recreational opportunities, an exceptional quality of life, and jobs.”

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Fire destroys landmark barn in Barton

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — State Police are looking for information about the Monday afternoon fire that burned the landmark barn known as The Pines to the ground. Firefighters poured a steady stream of water on the farmhouse, which suffered only minor damage, but the barn burned in a hurry.

In a press release issued shortly before midnight on Monday, Detective Sergeant Michael LaCourse said the cause of the fire is undetermined, but remains under investigation.

“Investigators are aware that numerous people took photographs of the fire in its incipient stage and would like to speak with anyone that may have witnessed the fire,” the release says.

A young woman at the neighbor’s house called in the fire after noticing flames shooting out the upper story where hay was stored.

Michael and Kim Riendeau of Brownington own the Kinsey Road property. They said there were no animals in the barn at the time; they were still out to pasture because of the good weather.

The Riendeaus have owned the place for about a year and a half. Before that, Jim Young and Raymond Leblanc owned it, and it was frequently used for livestock and equipment auctions under the name of Northeast Kingdom Sales.

Mr. Riendeau said on Tuesday that he was on his way home from Poulin Grain in Newport Monday afternoon when he ran into his son John in Orleans, who stopped him and told him the barn was on fire.

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Where have all the colors gone?

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

State officials and others are still hoping for good fall foliage color, but at the moment Vermont’s famous fall color isn’t too colorful. In many places, it’s still largely green, and some trees have simply dropped their leaves after they turned crispy brown.

We’re not just talking about pretty scenery here. According to Phil Tortura, communications director for the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing, upwards of 3 million people show up in Vermont in the fall, presumably to look at the leaves. That’s a real boost to the economy, as well as the state’s tax base.

“Peak foliage season often has some of the busiest, if not the busiest, tourism weeks of the year,” Mr. Tortura said.

Early October of 2015, the last year for which there is data, was, in fact, the busiest tourist time of that year, he said.

“If we define fall as September, October and November, Vermont had approximately 3.2 million out-of-state visitors in 2015,” he said.

Those visitors spent $600-million in food, lodging, travel, and other retail sales and second home expenses, Mr. Tortura said. They spent $109-million on overnight accommodations alone.

And the state received more than $37-million in meals and other tax money from activities in those three months, he said.

October 10-12 was the busiest tourist three days of the entire year in 2015, Mr. Tortura said.

So, foliage is clearly a big part of Vermont’s tourism economy, but visitors this year might end up being disappointed. Or not coming at all.

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