Lamoille in the News


  • Railroad workers remembered     by Andrew Martin    Dozens of descendants, family members and friends turned out Saturday for the unveiling of a plaque honoring three men killed in an accident on the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad in 1949. The accident took place on a section of the railroad near the state garage outside of Jeffersonville that is now part of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail — now open to the public.  The plaque sits just off the side of the trail at the spot where the men were killed, about two miles from Cambridge Junction.PHOTO BY ANDREW MARTINCindy Locke, executive director of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers,  speaksto the crowd gathered on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail to honor ...
    Posted May 26, 2016, 1:10 PM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Smith takes stock, runs for lt. governor     By Tommy Gardner    Despite hanging up his gavel after using it to end the most recent legislative session, House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, is running for office again this fall. The seven-term lawmaker announced Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.    Smith also sat down for an hourlong talk, looking back on nearly 14 years of policy, politics and personal stories, seven biennia of often-grueling legislation. He now wants to run for a different office, where he can have a bigger soapbox but not have to stand behind a lectern for four months out of the year.    PHOTOS BY ANDREW MARTINHouse Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, reflects on his tenure.    “You can focus ...
    Posted May 26, 2016, 12:59 PM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Senior prom, with real seniors     By Caleigh Cross    What did you wear to your senior prom? Do you remember?    Sharrie Morin does. The year was 1972, and the youthful, energetic Morin remembers wearing a long blue dress to her senior prom and dancing the night away.    “Everyone remembers what they wore to prom,” said Mary Collins, marketing director at The Manor nursing home.PHOTO BY GORDON MILLERParker Hodgdon takes Mary Morey for a spin on the dance floor at the Senior Prom held last week at The Manor in Morrisville, while Rachel and Lyle Miller, who’ve been married for 57 years, dance at right.    Friday night, The Manor’s residents got a second — or, for some, a first — chance to go to prom ...
    Posted May 19, 2016, 9:33 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • State, town working to keep reservoir     by Andrew Martin     Despite sparring between the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Morrisville Water & Light, both organizations have the same view of the Green River Reservoir state park: It needs to stay open.“That park is a gem and we want to see it continue to thrive,” said Trey Martin, deputy secretary of the state agency.     Vermont has dozens of state parks, but Green River stands out for many paddlers and campers, and state officials know that.     The sparring over the reservoir began months ago, when the state told the Morrisville utility it had to stop draining the water level during the winter. The dam at the reservoir is a hydropower station for the Morrisville utility, and the state ...
    Posted May 12, 2016, 9:56 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Trump poses dilemma for GOP State Republicans to convene May 21    By Tommy Gardner    Lamoille County Republican Party delegates will join their counterparts from all over the state next weekend and choose who gets to represent Vermont at the party’s national convention in Cleveland.Also on their minds will be who should be at the top of this fall’s election ballot for state offices.    The Vermont Republican Party convention is May 21 at the Sheraton Conference Center in South Burlington.     Between Lamoille County’s 10 towns, 43 delegates are eligible to attend.Trump at the top    At the national level, Donald Trump is getting more attention than any other Republican, as the likely GOP nominee for president. He won the Vermont primary on ...
    Posted May 12, 2016, 9:35 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Homeless count drops slightly in Lamoille By Kayla Friedrich    Every year, local volunteers tally how many people are homeless on a single night, and this year, the total has decreased.    Last year, Gov. Peter Shumlin established a commitment to end family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. Only a year later, homelessness has dropped 28 percent across the state, and 26 percent in Lamoille County, according to the annual point-in-time count taken on Jan. 26.    On that night, 1,102 Vermonters were found to be homeless; 22 were in Lamoille County and Hardwick — down from 30 in 2015.    The count of homeless persons in each district is administered by local volunteers and service agencies. Participants try to find people who are displaced, or who came ...
    Posted May 12, 2016, 9:32 AM by Staff News & Citizen
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Railroad workers remembered

posted May 26, 2016, 1:10 PM by Staff News & Citizen

    by Andrew Martin

    Dozens of descendants, family members and friends turned out Saturday for the unveiling of a plaque honoring three men killed in an accident on the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad in 1949. The accident took place on a section of the railroad near the state garage outside of Jeffersonville that is now part of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail — now open to the public.  The plaque sits just off the side of the trail at the spot where the men were killed, about two miles from Cambridge Junction.


PHOTO BY ANDREW MARTIN

Cindy Locke, executive director of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers,  speaks
to the crowd gathered on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail to honor three railroad workers 
killed in 1949.



    When the staff at the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, which manages the trail, heard about the accident they decided to erect a plaque dedicated to the three men. They began working with surviving family members to learn more about the accident. 
    The deadly crash occurred on Oct. 10, 1949 when a handcar operated by three men — 36-year old Walter Burnor of Cambridge, 50-year old Frederick Churchill of Jeffersonville, and 54-year old Nelson Henry Nolan of Jeffersonville — was struck by a diesel freight train. 
    Burnor and Churchill were killed instantly. Nolan was rushed to the hospital in Burlington but died en route. A fourth man, foreman Timothy Shangraw of Cambridge, escaped death that day. He should have been on the handcar but wasn’t at work.
    According to a news article published after the event the men were traveling north on the railroad at about 1 p.m. in the open workman’s handcar while the train was traveling south. The handcar was noisy, but the train’s diesel engine was fairly quiet, meaning the men probably wouldn’t have heard it coming. The accident also took place on a blind corner so the workers wouldn’t have seen the oncoming engine until the last second. 
    State police who investigated the crash also believed that the train, which normally carried asbestos or talc, ran on an irregular schedule. The three men were experienced workers on the railroad and were probably expecting the train at some point that day. However, police believed that the workers probably thought they could reach a point further north on the tracks where they could safely let the train pass. 
    Despite the fact that the plaque ceremony wasn’t publicized, over 30 people attended. Some family members of the men traveled from as far away as the Carolinas for the event.

Smith takes stock, runs for lt. governor

posted May 26, 2016, 12:59 PM by Staff News & Citizen

    By Tommy Gardner


    Despite hanging up his gavel after using it to end the most recent legislative session, House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, is running for office again this fall. The seven-term lawmaker announced Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
    Smith also sat down for an hourlong talk, looking back on nearly 14 years of policy, politics and personal stories, seven biennia of often-grueling legislation. He now wants to run for a different office, where he can have a bigger soapbox but not have to stand behind a lectern for four months out of the year.

    

PHOTOS BY ANDREW MARTIN

House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, reflects on his tenure.

    “You can focus on those issues in a way you can’t as speaker, because you’re not running the day-to-day operations of the House,” Smith said Tuesday over the phone. “I think it’s a job that has specific responsibilities, presiding over the Senate. But I think it’s a job where you can make it what you want.”
    Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is running for the Republican nomination for governor, leaving a hot spot on the ticket. Smith isn’t a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination; David Zuckerman, a senator and farmer from Burlington elected as both a Democrat and a Progressive, is also running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic primary ballot; so is Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington.
    Randy Brock is, so far, running unopposed in the Republican primary.
    Smith thinks being Vermont’s No. 2 executive would give him more freedom to shape and advocate for policies, and he thinks the office “can be used more aggressively” to push policy agendas. Asked if the job is a stepping-stone toward the governor’s office — he began a run for governor last year, but dropped out for family reasons — Smith demurred, saying anything is possible.
    “My view is the lieutenant governor’s office is where you can convene stakeholders and address issues that are critical to the state, like tax reform, building downtown, and issuing health care,” Smith said.

Speaking of the House
    Smith has a real sense of humor and a sometimes-fiery temper — according to Smith. 
    He likes IPAs from local breweries and walks the annual Lamoille Area Cancer Network walk barefoot. He loves his kids and he stopped running for governor when his wife got sick. He’s the man whose voice cracked audibly when he announced the roll call in 2009 that passed same-sex marriage, over a Republican governor’s veto.
    “Yeah, I think I was going through puberty at that point,” said Smith, 51.


PHOTOS BY ANDREW MARTIN

After wrapping up his tenure as speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, 
Shap Smith takes stock of where he’s been and where Vermont is going.

    Spend an hour or so talking with him and you comes away with a vibe different from the wonky, scholarly image the mostly-goateed gavel bearer of the Vermont House of Representatives has given off the past 13 years. 
    And that’s just what Smith did last week in Morrisville, a week after his last bang of his session-ending gavel: spent a hour talking about what it what it was like to grow up here, and then represent the whole state. 
    So it might be a surprise that, when asked to name a few things he’s most proud of in his 13 years in the House, Smith points to some more recent legislation, in renewable energy and in education governance. He thinks there’s something in those laws for Vermonters to live with and send reverberations through the rest of the nation.

Recent laws ‘historic’
    On renewable energy, Smith said not only is it an important thing to tackle for the whole rapidly warming globe, it’s just good business. 
    He said places like SunCommon and AllEarth Renewables are hiring exactly the kind of workers — and keeping skilled homegrown residents — Vermont needs. 
    “I think that climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, and transitioning to an energy portfolio that is less reliant on fossil fuels is critical, not only here but throughout the country,” he said. “Our progress in that area has been accelerating and I think it’s been important, since the federal government’s not doing anything, for the states to take the lead.”
    Smith also points to Act 46 as a nice swan song to exit the chamber, even if people in his own county are grumbling about it. If it’s not as groundbreaking as Act 60 was in the 1990s, it also wasn’t as divisive as that landmark bill, even in Stowe. 
    Smith and his cohorts have come up through the ranks as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make everyone armchair members of the commentariat. As much as people in opposition to Act 46 have decried it, how bad would it have been if Facebook had been around in the 1990s when Act 60 was being drafted?
    “It would have been pretty awful, frankly,” Smith said. It would have still passed, because it was court-mandated, he said. “But it would have been more difficult.”
    Smith is bullish on education, and he likes to mention how his own kids’ journey through public education — son Eli is going to be a freshman at Peoples Academy next fall, and daughter Mia is wrapping up fifth grade — helps color that view. Vermont does well by its kids, he said, but it can do better.
    “My view is that one of the most fundamental things that a government does is ensure equitable opportunities for education, for the young people of the state,” Smith said. “And having a system where peoples’ opportunities defined by which side of an invisible line they live on seems to me an anachronism that we should not tolerate.”

Early years, early splash
    When Smith was elected in 2002, Lamoille County was something of a power center in Montpelier politics. Floyd Nease, D-Johnson, was the House majority leader; Sen. Sue Bartlett, D-Hyde Park, the chairwoman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee; Sen. Richard Westman, R-Cambridge, the transportation committee chairman; Richard Marron, R-Stowe, a leading figure in the House.
    “There was a lot of power in Lamoille County. There has been for a long time,” Smith said. “In fact, when I was running for speaker, that was an issue. There was an issue about, do you want to have two people from Lamoille County in leadership positions in the House?”
    He was elected in 2002, and spent six years as a voting House member before picking up the Speaker’s gavel in 2009. He learned that session that sometimes the hardest act to follow is yourself, with these 16 words: “Please listen to the results of your vote. Those voting ‘Yes,’ 100; those voting ‘No,’ 49.”
    That was Smith on April 7, 2009, as he announced that Vermont was the fourth state to legalize gay marriage, and the first to do so without a court ordering it. And it took an override of Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto to make it happen. Only seven times in Vermont’s history had lawmakers overridden a governor’s veto. 
    Make that eight. Less than a month later, the general assembly again overrode a Douglas veto, this time to pass the state budget. The 2009 session was a heck of a way to start your tenure as leader of the House, and Smith had help from a lot of friends, veterans and the political newbies he sat with in the cafeteria at lunchtime.
    “In both those moments, sort of, my reputation was forged, and it really gave me some latitude to be flexible about the decisions I made in the future,” he said. “It was like walking on a tightrope without a net. It was terrifying, but you knew that to survive you needed to get across the wire. Just don’t look down.”

Representing whom?
    Representatives and senators are meant to listen to and vote the way their constituents want them to. As House Speaker, though, Smith hasn’t cast many votes since 2009. So who are his constituents, the people of Morristown, Elmore, Worcester and Woodbury — that awkward dual-county, can’t-get-there-from-here district carved out after the 2000 census — or a larger group of people? Lawmakers pledge an oath to serve the sate of Vermont, so how about both?
    “Your oath is to do right by the state,” Smith said. “It just so happens that this district is a good cross-section, and representative of what the state looks like.”
    He thinks Lamoille County is an even better cross-section of the state. He grew up in Morristown — he was born in Danbury, Conn., in 1965 — and spent plenty of time bopping around the area. It’s a county that has two ski resorts and two colleges. It has a couple of towns with triple-digit populations, and another with more than half of its wealthy property owners absent much the year.
    Smith is a Democrat, although he notes, “nobody in my party has really accused me of being too liberal.” But as he has gotten older, both in the General Assembly and just puttering around the state, he’s tacked further left. And he’s concerned about how the haves and have-nots are going to be able to live harmoniously together, and he sees Lamoille County as a microcosm of the whole.
    “All you have to do is drive through this county, and you realize the incredible economic disparity that’s out there. And you wonder if that is sustainable in the long run,” he said.
    Sustainable. It’s a word with which Smith peppers his sentences, whether he’s talking about renewable energy, education funding, the tax structure, or the state’s social fabric. And he looks at the differences between Morristown and Stowe and wonders whether its sustainable for either town — “They, in their own ways, drive the economy of Lamoille County,” he said — to try and forge their own paths forward without leaning on one another. 
    It wasn’t always that way growing up, when his brother went to Stowe High School with Heidi Scheuermann, now the Republican representative from Stowe. Smith’s wife, Melissa Volanksy, also went to Stowe High, and Smith spent a lot of time in the town. His dad lives there now.
    “The differences are more real than they were when I was growing up. There wasn’t quite a difference on the socioeconomic front,” he said. “I don’t think we think enough about the fact that communities need each other. And I wish we realized that a little bit more.” 


This Week's Photos

Senior prom, with real seniors

posted May 19, 2016, 9:33 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    By Caleigh Cross

    What did you wear to your senior prom? Do you remember?
    Sharrie Morin does. The year was 1972, and the youthful, energetic Morin remembers wearing a long blue dress to her senior prom and dancing the night away.
    “Everyone remembers what they wore to prom,” said Mary Collins, marketing director at The Manor nursing home.


PHOTO BY GORDON MILLER

Parker Hodgdon takes Mary Morey for a spin on the dance floor at the 
Senior Prom held last week at The Manor in Morrisville, while Rachel
 and Lyle Miller, who’ve been married for 57 years, dance at right.

    Friday night, The Manor’s residents got a second — or, for some, a first — chance to go to prom when the nursing home held its first Senior Citizen Prom.
    “Many of our folks didn’t graduate,” Life Enrichment Director Laurie Shapleigh said. “They didn’t have the opportunity to go to a prom.”
    The idea sprang from a discussion among the nursing home staff members after one saw a Facebook post about a senior citizen prom. One of the nursing assistants suggested that The Manor hold a prom, and the response was “very overwhelming,” Shapleigh said.
    “All of us on staff have been involved,” Collins said.
    Two months ago, Collins began collecting vintage prom dresses from the 1940s to the 1970s for the vintage prom fashion show that the night also featured. 
    “Some of our residents are not the most active,” Collins said. “They’re very engaged and their memories are vibrant and full. The vintage fashion show was about doing something fun without it having to be physical.”
    The prom featured a DJ, custom-made cupcakes made to look like vintage prom dresses, a fashion show with vintage dresses modeled by the nurses and teenage relatives, and chair dancing for residents who weren’t able to get up and dance.


PHOTO BY GORDON MILLER

Lyle and Rachel Miller, who’ve been married for 57 years, share 
a tender moment at The Manor’s Senior Prom.

    Morin emceed the event. She couldn’t wait.
    “Everybody needs a little fun in their lives,” Morin said. “One resident still has her wedding dress here.”
    Grandchildren, spouses and other family members dusted off their formal attire to be there too.
    “One of our ladies asked if I could get my hands on a pair of long, white gloves,” Shapleigh said. Fortunately, she was able to track down a pair. “I helped her try them on and she was so happy. She was saying, ‘They fit, they fit!’”
    Shapleigh, Collins and the rest of The Manor’s team hope to make the Senior Citizen Prom an annual fundraising event, although this year’s focus was simply on the residents’ enjoyment.
    “It brings them so much joy and laughter,” Shapleigh said. “They used to go to barn dances. They recognize the old-time songs. They’re clapping their hands and tapping their feet.”
    The Manor hired two hairdressers for the residents and the models for the fashion show. “It’s diva central in there,” Shapleigh laughed.
    This year’s prom theme was “Unforgettable,” after the 1952 song of the same name. 
    “We wanted to celebrate those eras that residents would recall,” Shapleigh said. “Nat King Cole sang that song. They would know it.”
    Morin, who has lived at The Manor for two years, said the prom is just one way the nursing home enriches the lives of those who live there.
    “The Manor is my home,” Morin said. She opened up about the car accident nine years ago that meant a nursing home was the best, safest option for her. The Manor was the second home Morin chose. 
    “I enjoy helping and being with people,” she said. 
    Morin says the community aspect of The Manor, exemplified in the prom, is what sets it apart from other nursing homes.
    “We’re a family,” Collins said. “It’s shocking sometimes. You develop relationships with people. Real connections are made here. It’s very touching.”
    “I think of you as the mayor,” Collins said, turning to Morin with a laugh.
    Collins called the prom “a great success.”

State, town working to keep reservoir

posted May 12, 2016, 9:56 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    by Andrew Martin 


    Despite sparring between the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Morrisville Water & Light, both organizations have the same view of the Green River Reservoir state park: It needs to stay open.“That park is a gem and we want to see it continue to thrive,” said Trey Martin, deputy secretary of the state agency. 
    Vermont has dozens of state parks, but Green River stands out for many paddlers and campers, and state officials know that. 
    The sparring over the reservoir began months ago, when the state told the Morrisville utility it had to stop draining the water level during the winter. The dam at the reservoir is a hydropower station for the Morrisville utility, and the state’s approach would cut the amount of electricity produced by the dam by nearly a third, about 300,000 kilowatt-hours. That’s enough to power about 30 average Vermont homes. 
    Utility officials aren’t sure it will make sense financially to keep operating the dam if they lose that much generating power. 
    They also worry the dam may not be strong enough to stand up to heavy spring runoff if the reservoir isn’t drained in the winter. 
    Given those two concerns, the utility wondered if it should simply drain the reservoir for good. 
    That possibility brought the two sides to the negotiating table. In the next few weeks, they will hold a meeting with several other interested groups, including the Department of Forest and Parks, the Friends of the Green River Reservoir and a local whitewater rafting group. 
    The meeting’s purpose is to figure out how to preserve the reservoir if Morrisville Water & Light can’t afford to maintain the dam by itself.
    The utility should have more answers on the dam’s economic future and its safety issues within the next month. It hired an engineering firm to look into the dam’s finances for the next 30 years, and the firm will also explore any safety issues. 
    “We need to look at the numbers. I’m guessing there will be more costs incurred than revenues received,” said Craig Myotte, general manager at the utility. “How do we justify operating something that is losing money?”
    “We need to get an answer as quickly as possible,” Myotte said. “We may focus on the economics now and then look at the safety issues after.”
    Myotte hopes other groups that care about the reservoir might be able to contribute some money to preserve the dam. 
    “We want to explain our position and what the financial needs are, so the other parties might be able to make some kind of contribution to allow us to keep operating in this new way,” Myotte said.
    “We are eager to sit down with Morrisville to see what can be done. We need to think outside the box,” Martin said.  
    Martin also said the state doesn’t normally help utilities operate dams. The fact that this dam comes with a state park attached does change the equation a bit, though. 
    “We care deeply about the preservation of the park,” Martin said. “If we can help in a way that fits in with our budget and how we operate the park, we would certainly like to do that.” 
    One person coming to the upcoming meeting is Christine Hallquist. She owns the sole house on the reservoir and also happens to be chief executive officer of the Vermont Electric Cooperative in Johnson. 
    Hallquist questions the safety of the agency’s decision to force Morrisville not to drain the reservoir in the winter. 
    “I’m not sure on a solution, but I understand the dilemma for Morrisville Water & Light,” Hallquist said. She added that, before Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the federal government ordered all utilities to drain reservoirs so they could better hold back flood waters. The same idea applies to what Morrisville does with Green River every winter. 
    “The limitations don’t seem to make sense. You don’t want to put communities downstream at risk,” Hallquist said. “If it’s not economically viable, why do it?”
    Myotte hopes a final decision can be reached by the end of June on what happens with the reservoir. 


This Week's Photos


WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?
 PHOTO BY KAYLA FRIEDRICH

Photo by Kayla Friedrich
These young foxes live in Waterville, in a den close to the driveway of a house. Kayla Friedrich hid behind a large rock 7 to 8 feet from the den while she took photos. She watched the fox kits for about 20 minutes. She didn’t see the mother, but she couldn’t have been far.

Trump poses dilemma for GOP

posted May 12, 2016, 9:35 AM by Staff News & Citizen

State Republicans to convene May 21

    By Tommy Gardner

    Lamoille County Republican Party delegates will join their counterparts from all over the state next weekend and choose who gets to represent Vermont at the party’s national convention in Cleveland.Also on their minds will be who should be at the top of this fall’s election ballot for state offices.
    The Vermont Republican Party convention is May 21 at the Sheraton Conference Center in South Burlington. 
    Between Lamoille County’s 10 towns, 43 delegates are eligible to attend.

Trump at the top
    At the national level, Donald Trump is getting more attention than any other Republican, as the likely GOP nominee for president. He won the Vermont primary on Super Tuesday in March.
    While not all Republicans are bullish on Trump — President Bush has no plans to endorse him, and House Speaker Paul Ryan could say only that he hopes to support the nominee, “but I’m not there yet” — the head of the Morristown Republicans is delighted.
    “I can’t even describe how happy I am. I’m elated. I’ve been for him since the very beginning,” said Emily Lapan, head of the Morristown Republican Party. “He’s a fresh face. He’s a man who ran a successful business. Look at his family, they are so devoted to him.”
    Lapan said a lot of local Republicans were pulling for Ben Carson earlier in the primary. She doesn’t know if Carson would make a good vice president; she’s looking for someone a little more “strong, but not over the top.”
    Vermont Republicans will choose 16 delegates to attend the national convention July 18-21 in Cleveland. Lapan has been to the big show once, when Mitt Romney became the party nominee in 2012. 
    Lamoille County GOP chairman Richard Bailey of Hyde Park is one of 39 Vermonters angling to represent the state in Cleveland. 
    “The presidential nominating process has fascinated me for years,” Bailey wrote in his biographical blurb on the state convention website (vtgopconvention.com). He said it could be an exciting national convention, with second and third ballots if Trump doesn’t get the 1,237 party delegates he needs to win on the first ballot.
    David Jaqua, head of the Stowe Republicans, was tempered in his opinion of the presumptive Trump-runner, saying the general election is just getting started.
    “We expect both presumptive candidates and their campaigns to evolve their messages and positions to appeal to the wider general election electorate,” Jaqua said. “We are all individually, and as a group, paying very close attention to where the candidates, including Mr. Trump, stand on the issues.”
    Lamoille County state Sen. Rich Westman, R-Cambridge, was at the national convention in 2000, the year of the infamous Bush versus Gore general election. Westman is a delegate to the state convention, and he’s comfortable enough with that. Traveling to Cleveland for a week just costs too much, and he’s heavily invested in a lot of local issues, but not much in the big leagues.
    “I doubt anyone at the presidential level has any comment on my race, and I really don’t have any comment about theirs,” he laughed. “The presidential race is way above my level of comment.”
    The presidential election may be largely about big personalities, but Jaqua prefers to concentrate on the basics when it comes to elected officials.
    “The Stowe Republican Committee supports government that is responsible, responsive and affordable,” he said. “We support personal liberty and responsibility, economic freedom and opportunity, rational regulation, safe and healthy communities, choice and competition in health care, and a well-educated citizenry.”

Vermont elections
    In Vermont, the Republican Party has new opportunities, with the governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and Senate president all leaving their offices.
    One of those is local — House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, is leaving the Legislature. Morristown Republicans would love to put one of their own in the Morristown-Elmore-Woodbury-Worcester district Smith now represents.
    Maybe two: The district’s other representative, Avram Patt, D-Worcester, is up for re-election. Lapan said the Republicans have a candidate in mind — she won’t say who — but said he’s more of an independent than a Republican who would hew closely to the statewide platform.
    “He’s independent-minded, which isn’t a bad thing. All Vermonters are independent, it seems,” she said. “We’re kind of scrambling.” 
    Pundits have suggested Smith might run for lieutenant governor, where incumbent Phil Scott is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.
    Scott has a local connection, too — he started his own boat rental and lawn mowing service on Lake Elmore when he was 18 — and he’s popular in Lamoille County. 
    Westman said this will be an exciting election year in Vermont, and he hopes fresh faces in the four top spots will bring more willingness to take on big issues, such as health care and education.
    “I hope some reinvigorated leadership might be able to take on some more fundamental things,” Westman said.

Homeless count drops slightly in Lamoille

posted May 12, 2016, 9:32 AM by Staff News & Citizen

By Kayla Friedrich

    Every year, local volunteers tally how many people are homeless on a single night, and this year, the total has decreased.
    Last year, Gov. Peter Shumlin established a commitment to end family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. Only a year later, homelessness has dropped 28 percent across the state, and 26 percent in Lamoille County, according to the annual point-in-time count taken on Jan. 26.
    On that night, 1,102 Vermonters were found to be homeless; 22 were in Lamoille County and Hardwick — down from 30 in 2015.
    The count of homeless persons in each district is administered by local volunteers and service agencies. Participants try to find people who are displaced, or who came in for shelter or other services. They scour the territory, working their way through woods and along railroad tracks where vagrants might congregate.
    Once located, if the people are willing, the volunteers survey the homeless for information on race, gender, how long they’ve been homeless, what subpopulation they belong to — military veterans, domestic violence survivors, unaccompanied youth or parenting youth — and chronic health conditions.
    Of the 22 in the county, for seven people, it was their first time being homeless; six were experiencing chronic substance abuse; three had long-term physical disabilities; six had severe and persistent mental health problems. More than half were also domestic violence survivors.
    Luckily, only two homeless people in the county remained unsheltered on the night the count was taken — at least, of the homeless people the volunteers could find.
    “The numbers were lower this year, but with the point-in-time count, you have to take into consideration the warm weather we had this past winter,” said Scott Johnson, co-chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness. “If it wasn’t below 32 degrees — unless the cold weather exception kicked in — people couldn’t ask to be put in a hotel. I’m not sure that there is a science behind this, but it could be a cause of the lower numbers of hotel stays we saw this year.”
    The number of unsheltered homeless people did not decrease this year.
    The point-in-time does not take into consideration people who are couch-surfing, homes where families double up to avoid being on the streets, or people at risk of losing their homes, though they technically fit the extended definition of homelessness. 
    People can also come in and out of homelessness at various times throughout the year, and any additions or subtractions to the number of homeless in a community throughout the year are not counted.
    “Another thing that could have contributed to the decline in homeless Vermonters this year is that a lot of new programs came online recently to help the homeless population,” said Daniel Blankenship, homeless grants administrator at the Vermont State Housing Authority. “One of the main programs was the general assistance alternative. Funds from the current hotel budget are used to fund emergency housing in communities.”
    Nearly every county in Vermont has some sort of homeless shelter, but they don’t all serve everyone. Lamoille County has the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, but it serves only victims of domestic violence. 
    “Due to the high volume of need displayed for emergency shelter and long-term housing support services for people facing multiple barriers,” Johnson said in the point-in-time report, “the Lamoille Valley Continuum of Care revitalized our active housing partnerships with diverse representation, planning meetings and initiatives. We continue to support and host the local housing solutions team, which meets weekly to triage complicated housing cases. 
    “In addition, this past year saw an effort by the Patchworks Place Committee and many dedicated individuals to develop a Morrisville shelter, to include much-needed low-barrier supports. Although this project was met with a great deal of community resistance, our efforts will resume to address homelessness with new strategies and energy over the next several months.” 
    On April 20, the governor issued a new executive order to increase access to affordable housing, calling for owners of housing who receive state funds to make at least 15 percent of their units available to homeless Vermonters. By aligning support services, rental subsidies, and state investments in affordable housing, the state and private partners hope to give vulnerable Vermonters the help they need.

Village entrances facing closure

posted May 6, 2016, 12:14 PM by Staff News & Citizen

State, town hope work won’t overlap 


    By Andrew Martin and Kayla Friedrich | News & Citizen

    You can’t get there from here. Well, you can, but you need to know your way around.
    A stranger trying to reach downtown Morrisville this summer might get a little frustrated, as two entrances to the village will be closed temporarily — and hopefully at different times.
    State work planned at the intersection of old Route 100 and the Morrisville bypass will shut down the entrance of the old state road, which leads into the heart of Morrisville, for two weeks in August or September. The bypass will remain open. 
    In addition, part of Bridge Street closest to the bypass will be closed for two months, beginning later this month, for an extensive makeover. 
    That’s two main routes to downtown that will be out of commission at some point this summer, and officials hope the closings won’t overlap. 
    “We are going to do everything we can to make sure both roads aren’t closed at the same time,” said Erin Perigo, project manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. 
    Indeed, Bridge Street is the planned detour while old Route 100 is closed.
    “We will be coordinating to make sure it all goes smoothly,” Perigo said.
    The state wants to improve safety at the intersection of the bypass and old Route 100. A traffic signal will be installed and lanes added for cars turning off the bypass. The approach of old Route 100 to the intersection will also be raised up to provide better sight lines. 
    Perigo expects early phases of construction to begin in July. 
    The work on old Route 100 should start in August or September. The road has to be reopen by the end of September, and the project area should be paved in early November. 
    “The whole project will be substantially complete by the end of the year,” she said. A few odd jobs could be finished in the spring of 2017. The project is estimated to cost $810,000. 

Perennial paving
    A few squeaky wheels that can never seem to get enough grease are the deteriorating local state highways. 
No matter how many state construction projects are taking place in Lamoille County, miles of roads need repaving.
    That doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. 
    Only one large paving project is planned for Lamoille County this season — a thin layer of new pavement along the 4.57-mile length of Route 100C from Johnson to North Hyde Park. 
    “It’s a preventive maintenance project,” said Michael Fowler, project manager for the agency of transportation. The thin layer of pavement is meant to help preserve roads still in good condition. 
    The resurfacing of Route 100C is part of a larger project that will apply the same treatment to 15 miles of Route 118 from Belvidere to Berkshire. The resurfacing of both roads should cost roughly $2.9 million. 
    The contractor for the paving job was scheduled to begin installing signs this week, and the entire project should be completed by mid-August. 
    A similar repaving process is planned on part of Route 12 in Worcester and Elmore beginning in September. 
    Scheduled for repaving next year is Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe. The work was planned for this year, but was pushed back until other local projects are finished. 
    Drivers on Route 15, which has been scheduled for repaving for years, won’t be seeing new pavement any time soon. Plans to repave the road in sections from Cambridge to Wolcott have been repeatedly pushed back since 2014. The projects are still on the state’s list, but not in the budget for the next few years. 

Bridge work 
    While paving work in Lamoille County may be scant in the next few years, plenty of bridge work is on the way.
    A bridge on Route 108/Mountain Road in Stowe should be finished this year, about 1.5 miles up from Route 100. Construction began last year and a temporary bridge carried traffic over the West Branch of the Little River all winter. The new bridge should be completed by Sept. 23.
    Three bridges will be installed next year on Route 100C in Johnson. Over six weeks next spring, two bridges over the Gihon River in East Johnson will be torn out, the road widened, and the bridges rebuilt. A third bridge will also be installed closer to North Hyde Park on Route 100C in the fall of 2017, shutting down the road for about a month. 
    However, Route 100C will be reopened temporarily so people can get to the annual Lamoille County Field Days. 
The three bridge projects will cost roughly $3.2 million. 
    Work is also planned next year on Tenney Bridge on Route 15A in Morrisville. The existing temporary bridge over the Lamoille River will be replaced, and the entire roadway will be raised and shifted slightly downstream. 
    Work to realign and level the nearby intersection of Routes 15 and 15A will also be done at the same time. 
    Early work on the 15A project could begin in 2017 but the majority of the work will take place during the two following years. 
    “It should take two full construction seasons,” said Carolyn Carlson, project manager for the agency of transportation. The state is still acquiring all the rights needed to shift the road. The project is estimated to cost $7 million.


This Week's Photos


WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
 PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

Students at Lamoille Union High School might look like they’re staring into simple cardboard boxes, but they’re actually viewing the summit of Mount Everest. Google Expeditions brought its virtual-reality tech to the school on Monday.

Morrisville utility proposes a solar farm

posted May 5, 2016, 10:28 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    By Tommy Gardner 

    Morrisville Water and Light hopes to build a solar farm on Trombley Hill, and to offer its customers ways to buy into the solar farm as they see fit.
    Last week, the utility filed a 45-day notice in advance of a petition for a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board, the state board that approves these types of projects. 
    According to the document, the project would be a 1-megawatt array, half of which would be used for group net metering.
    “We’re hoping we’ll have a way for customers to benefit from net metering but not have to pay for 100 percent of the load,” Craig Myotte, the utility’s general manager, said. 
    The site is at 255 Trombley Hill Road and would take up 7 acres of an 18-acre parcel. The project would consist of roughly 4,100 panels, coated with a non-reflective glazing, about 9 feet off the ground, all surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence. The project is proposed for the same property as an existing Water and Light electric substation, so the department won’t have to build miles of power lines from the solar farm.
    Myotte said the department will spend the next month or so working out the details before it formally submits its application to the Public Service Board, and will host some public meetings to keep ratepayers informed. The utility will also have to figure out how to pay for the thing.
    Morrisville Water and Light has 4,000 meters in parts of seven communities. 
    According to Todd Thomas, Morristown’s planner and zoning director, the town’s bylaws support solar facilities of all sizes. The bylaws do shun industrial-sized wind farms.
    Myotte said a solar farm would be a nice addition to the utility’s portfolio, 80 percent of which comes from renewable sources. Much of that comes from the utility-owned dams. Myotte said the department continues to struggle with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources over the future of the utility’s dams, so a secondary source of locally produced energy would help.
    “Solar is a nice supplement to hydropower,” he said.

Mixed feelings over Bridge Street closing

posted May 4, 2016, 8:57 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    By Andrew Martin | News & Citizen

    When the Route 100 bypass opened in the fall of 2014, state and local officials predicted it would seriously alter traffic patterns in downtown Morrisville. Drivers and businesses along the bypass and in historic downtown Morrisville are finally getting used to the new setup.  
    But that’s all about to change—again.


BRIDGEWORK IS COMING
PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

The section of Bridge Street between the intersection of Brooklyn Street and the bypass, seen in the far background, will be closed for nearly two months beginning in mid-May. The rest of the street, seen in the foreground, will remain open and through traffic will be able to continue up Brooklyn and Portland streets. 

    A portion of Bridge Street, from the bypass to the intersection with Brooklyn Street, will close starting in mid May for nearly two months for a serious makeover. Bridge Street, since the bypass opened, has become the gateway to downtown. But the road is in rough shape and needs a complete overhaul.  
    The project includes a new waterline, repaving and new sidewalks.
    “We don’t want any traffic on it after we rip up the asphalt and it’s down to dirt,” Dan Lindley, town administrator for Morristown, said. 
    Local business owners on Bridge Street have mixed feelings over the road closure and how it will impact them.  
    “I think we have to keep our eyes on the prize. We are giving up a little to get an all new gateway into our downtown,” Tim Monaghan, owner of Riverbend Market, said. 
    “It’s a minor inconvenience, but overall I think it will be a positive,” he said. “I’m just thankful a lot of money is being invested in our downtown and things are looking up.” 
    Others are just thankful that the rest of Bridge Street will remain open and through traffic up Portland and Brooklyn Streets will keep flowing. 
    “This basically just puts things back to the way they were before the bypass opened,” said Hank Glowiak, who owns Chuck’s Bikes. The last major project on Bridge Street, the replacement of the bridge over the Lamoille River several years ago, turned Bridge Street into a dead end and shut down through traffic completely. That was disastrous according to Glowiak.
    “I lost 50 percent of my business that summer,” he said. “Bridge Street won’t be a dead end with this new project, so I’m not too worried about it. People just have to go around a little further.” 
    That sense of relief over the rest of Bridge Street remaining open is echoed by business owners in other parts of Morrisville. 
    “It was really, really tough when they closed Bridge Street completely for the bridge project,” said Deb Papineau, owner of Deb’s Place on Brooklyn Street. “That was the closest I’ve ever come to not making it. I just hope they get the new project done before foliage.” 
    Not everyone on Bridge Street is so optimistic about the closure. 
    “I think we are going to be losing quite a bit of business,” said Lisa Grassette, the manager at Tomlinson’s Store. “They just put the bypass in and now they are closing it off to us.”
    “People were worried the bypass would hurt businesses, but really it’s given people an easier way to get here,” she said. “I just hope they get the project done as fast as they can. Personally I think they should do it at night.”
    No signed detour is planned while the project is underway. 
    “There’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Lindley. “All the state roads are still going to be open, and traffic should flow normally. There’s no real need for a signed detour.” 
    Initially planned to start the first week of May, the Bridge Street project has been pushed back to later in the month. Town and village highway workers will begin tearing up the street after a contractor has been selected to replace the waterline along the 400-foot section of road. 
    A contractor was being selected on Wednesday after the News & Citizen went to press. Lindley hopes to begin tearing up the road roughly two weeks ahead of the start date the contractor selects. The waterline work must start by June 1. 


This Week's Photos

Payment request denied

posted Apr 28, 2016, 8:10 AM by Staff News & Citizen

No extra checks for former superintendent


    By Andrew Martin | News & Citizen

    No work, no pay.
    That was the takeaway Monday night when the Lamoille North Supervisory Union voted not to compensate former superintendent Edith Beatty for the remainder of her contract. Instead the board will only pay her for work up until her resignation on April 10. 
    Before her resignation Beatty informed the board she expected to be compensated through the remainder of her contract, which expired on June 30. In February the board had voted not to extend Beatty’s contract, despite a subcommittee recommending they do so. 
    Beatty resigned, citing a breach of contractual obligations by the board and a hostile work environment. She claims the board breached her contract when it didn’t properly and legally notify her the contract was not being renewed. Beatty also felt certain board members had created an “untenable work environment” for herself and her staff. 
    In a March 25 letter Beatty informed the board that if she did not receive the compensation and vacation time owed to her through June 30 under her contract she would turn the matter over to her legal counsel to “seek appropriate redress and damages.”
    That threat of legal action didn’t seem to phase the board on Monday night, as they voted to adopt the recommendation of a special subcommittee to only “pay E. Beatty the $8,199.19 which will compensate her for her time and accrued vacation days up until April 10.” The motion to adopt the recommendation passed by voice vote. 
    Beatty will now be legally notified of the board’s decision. She was not available for comment at press time.

Act 46 questions abound
    The Lamoille North board’s decision regarding Beatty’s  compensation comes at a time when questions about Act 46 and the recent merger vote continue to swirl. 
    One of the most pressing questions is how the six towns of Lamoille North will be represented on different school boards. With Cambridge and Waterville saying no to a merger on April 12, supervisory union officials are now scrambling to find out how many school boards are necessary and just who will sit on those boards. 
    One question they know the answer to: how many school boards will exist if Cambridge and Waterville don’t reconsider the decision to merge? 
    “There will be four boards,” Marilyn Frederick, business manager for Lamoille North, said. If all six towns had voted yes to consolidation, then there would have only been one 18-member board for the entire district. 
    As it stands now, Cambridge and Waterville would each have their own separate elementary school boards, the new merged district of the four towns that said yes would have a board, and the Lamoille North Supervisory Union representing all six towns would continue to have a board. 
    Just who would be on those boards, specifically the merged board and Lamoille North board, is still up in the air. 
    “The merged board and Lamoille North board could be separate legal entities but have the same members,” Frederick said. 
    Much of the confusion stems from supervisory union officials receiving conflicting advice. The Agency of Education has been recommending one path forward with board membership while legal counsel has taken a different view. 
    “We’ve gotten a couple different opinions, and until we get the various agencies to agree we can’t say for sure what the makeup of the boards will be,” Frederick said. 
    “We are working on getting responses that are consistent,” Catherine Gallagher, interim superintendent, said. 
    Everyone thought the articles of agreement for the merger, which are supposed to govern a unified district, had already answered board makeup questions. How to deal with some towns saying no to the merger wasn’t part of the articles, though. 
    Everything could also change if Waterville or Cambridge hold a revote and say yes to a merger. 
    School officials know a petition for a revote is circulating in Waterville and have heard one was also taken out in Cambridge. A petition for a revote must take place within 30 days of the first vote. 
    The current Johnson school board is also waiting for definite answers before deciding how to fill one of its empty seats on the merged board. Johnson was supposed to have five seats on the unified board but only four candidates received enough votes to be elected. 
    In Belvidere, even though voters said yes to a merger, and Waterville said no, Belvidere students will continue to attend Waterville Central School for the near future. 
    Parents do have the option of petitioning the merged board to allow their students to go to a new school, according to Frederick.
    “Our articles of agreement indicate that for the first three years of a merger students will keep going to the school they go to now,” she said. 

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