Lamoille in the News
By Stanley Blow III
The three Democratic candidates for governor tackled all the major issues at a debate Monday night, except one big one — guns.
When Matt Dunne, Peter Galbraith and Sue Minter took the stage at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Jon Ciappa of Waterbury Center hoped they would touch on the hot-button issue of gun control, but they didn’t.
The question wasn’t in the cards — the index cards on which audience members wrote their questions for the candidates.
PHOTO BY GORDON MILLER
Waiting for the call to start Monday’s debate at Crossett Brook Middle School are the three
Democratic candidates for governor: Peter Galbraith, at left, Sue Minter and Matt Dunne.
Ciappa and Brenda Henderson, a voter from Warren, were disappointed.
Gun control jumped to the forefront of public debate on June 12, when Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and wounding 53.
Minter did say she favors stricter, “common sense” gun laws, such as universal background checks for gun owners, but the discussion went no deeper than that.
Ciappa said he was glad the candidates spoke about health care and education, which are high priorities for him.
For Henderson, taxes, health and the economy topped her list.
On economy and taxes, the candidates were asked how they would solve the state government’s perennial budget gap with finite money and facing significant challenges.
Galbraith responded with a question — why would anybody want to do business in Vermont? The short answer: Because it’s a great place to live. It’s not because of low taxes — New Hampshire has that edge — and it’s not because of high wages.
Vermont has a high quality of life and cares about natural beauty and the environment, as well as public services, Galbraith said.
“These things cost money,” he said. “We cannot have a discussion about maintaining quality of life in Vermont and then ignore the question of how we raise the money to do it.”
Galbraith then hinted at a plan he unveiled the next day: He wants to eliminate more than $45 million in tax breaks that benefit the wealthy and use that money to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and offer free tuition to Vermont’s state colleges for in-state students.
Minter focused on her work developing Invest Vermont and Innovate Vermont. InvestVT focuses on roads, bridges and other infrastructure that need fixing throughout the state, and recognizing that government projects can help stimulate the private economy.
InnovateVT is about stimulating Vermont’s 21st-century economy through technology and green businesses, helping to breathe new life into the state’s economy.
As for the budget, Minter said that, while she was the state transportation secretary, she dealt with $600 million worth of questions every year.
“I’ve made many, many difficult decisions every year about what we do and how we prioritize,” she said. “It is about prioritization, and it’s about how we support our workforce.”
Minter said the Agency of Transportation actually saved money by hiring more state employees.
“We’ve proven that by looking at the cost of hiring contractors versus employees,” she said.
Minter also said VTrans became more efficient under her watch, with a sharp reduction in how long it takes to build or repair bridges, for instance.
Dunne poked fun at Galbraith’s ideas: “Peter has done incredible work on behalf of the state as part of his campaign by going through the work that he’s done. He would make an excellent in-house auditor for the next governor.”
Dunne said the state has been struggling year in and out to balance its budget.
“We’ve raised taxes; we’ve cut programs for the most vulnerable and cut frontline workers, and yet next year come back to the same thing,” Dunne said. “It’s simply not sustainable.”
Rethinking the tax code would help, he said, but health-care costs are “eating us alive.”
Every day, the cost of health care climbs about $60,000, Dunne said. Reducing those increases will take some trust, and “part of that is going to be fixing the damn website,” he said, referring to the chronically troubled Vermont Health Connect portal to the state’s health insurance exchange. “We have already spent over $200 million on a failed website.”
Dunne, a former Google executive, said his background in information technology would help fix that.
Minter, Galbraith and Dunne are competing for the Democratic Party nomination in the primary election Aug. 9. The winner will face off against one of the Republican candidates, Phil Scott or Bruce Lisman, in the general election Nov. 8
By Tommy Gardner
At a largely tension-free annual meeting last week, the Lamoille County Planning Commission quickly moved through its business before honoring community members both living and dearly-departed.
With tensions between Morristown and the regional planning body still simmering — town officials think the commission is interfering in town business — an otherwise rote election removed the town’s water and light department manager from the LCPC board, and sent town officials to their social media pages.
It appears a week later, however, that both sides are going to try and find some middle ground.
“Frankly, I’ve had it with copies of tweets and emails. It’s a bunch of hurt feelings,” selectman Eric Dodge said this week.
Craig Myotte, previously one of the at-large county directors, didn’t make the cut this time, as eight people vied for five open seats. Two other county directors from Morristown decided against running again.
“The Lamoille County Regional Planning Commission Board just voted the general manager of our regional utility (MW&L) off the board #VT,” Todd Thomas, Morristown’s zoning director, Tweeted right after the meeting.
Tricia Follert later took to Twitter, too, calling the outcome a “huge mistake.”
New county directors
Lamoille County Planning Commission has 18 members assigned by its member towns, with larger towns getting more members.
It also has five at-large county directors, and eight people came to last Tuesday’s annual meeting hoping to get one of them.
Hyde Park resident Caleb Magoon, the current vice chairman of the board, was re-elected as a county director, as was fellow Hyde Parker Valerie Valcour. Newly elected directors are Ralph Monticello of Eden, Howard Romero of Johnson and Linda Martin of Wolcott.
Joining Myotte as also-rans were Roy Marble of Morristown and Brian Albarelli of Cambridge; both have previously been board members.
Martin, the Wolcott town clerk and a longtime member of the Vermont House, spoke ahead of the vote of the importance of regional planning. It’s so important to Wolcott that she sponsored a bill that gives more power to regional commissions to help smaller towns.
“Our small towns are important to the region, too,” Martin said.
Romero, a freelance industrial designer and photographer, is a past Jim Marvin Award winner (see related story) for designing the Springer Miller building in Stowe. Romero said he likes how Lamoille County Planning Commission gets done, as opposed to some select boards that “sit on issues” for years.
“I don’t put up with obstructionists very well,” he said.
Monday at the Morristown Select Board meeting, both sides vowed to put aside “hurt feelings” for the greater good of the county.
Chairman Bob Beeman proposed hiring a mediator to help communication between the commission staff and the town officials.
But Dodge said that would be a waste of money.
“I think we have adults that work here for the town, and LCPC has a fine staff,” he said. “We are all professionals, and I think we need to come together at a meeting and begin to move forward through this.”
The board ultimately assigned town administrator Dan Lindley to meet one-on-one with Tasha Wallis, executive director of the planning commission, hoping they can figure out some middle ground.
“There’s a role for the town and a role for us. Maybe we need to review that and establish what those are for each body and individual,” Wallis said.
Lindley agreed, saying, “We all have our roles, and everyone understanding what those are and what the boundaries are would be a tremendous help to everybody involved.”
By Kayla Friedrich
Just one day after a $9.8 million school project was approved by five votes, a petition for a new vote began circulating through Hyde Park.
The Hyde Park Elementary School project was approved 261-256 on June 7.
Opponents of the project were not happy about the voter turnout, and resident Michael Ryan started a petition to have a new vote.
Petitioners have exactly one month from last week’s vote to collect the 203 signatures needed to call townspeople back to the polls.
Although the vote was very close, Town Clerk Kim Moulton said nobody had asked for a recount as of press time, and recounts aren’t conducted unless there is a formal request.
“I am requesting a revote, not a recount,” Ryan said. “I feel like I’m the one who has to come out and request everything, and if someone wants the ballots recounted, they can request that themselves.”
Ryan wanted a revote because he doesn’t think the school board gave voters all facts about the project.
Less than the original
The $9.8 million project was developed after voters soundly rejected an $18.3 million proposal nearly two years ago.
A subcommittee offered five other options — all less costly than $9.8 million — to the school board, but board members thought they wouldn’t accomplish what the community needs. Each of the five options included $730,580 to update the sprinkler, elevator and fire alarm systems at the aging elementary school.
The variables involved new construction, renovations and site work, bringing the totals to between $3.4 million and $4.9 million.
A year ago, the school board thought about asking voters to approve one of those $3 million-to-$4 million plans, just to make the building safe.
However, then-school superintendent Edith Beatty said the board would “get one shot at a bond, and would not want to go back to the public in five or 10 years with another bond vote while taxpayers were still paying.”
Beatty suggested proposing all of the renovations at once, not just the repairs needed to bring the building into compliance with safety codes.
Cost estimates crept up near $10 million with the addition of things like roof and window repairs.
The final plan that went to voters included those repairs, plus space concerns — most of which involved widening hallways to Americans with Disabilities Act standards — and the cost of demolishing a wing built in 1951 and building a new three-story wing in its place.
In the end, additional classroom space will amount to one room.
Ryan said he’s toured the building and he doesn’t think it needs as much work as school officials propose. He also doesn’t think the 1951 wing should be demolished, and the school should simply be renovated for a lower price.
“I agree in making the building safe and educating our kids,” Ryan said. “But I don’t think they need to put as much into the building as they say.”
Lawyer raised questions about whether housing laws were followed correctly
By Kayla Friedrich
After a review, town officials say Morristown did nothing wrong in denying the Patchworks Place committee’s proposal for a homeless shelter.
On April 22, Morristown received a warning from Vermont Legal Aid — in considering a homeless shelter, keep in mind the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act.
Under the law, there are certain things the town cannot legally deny, regardless of citizens’ not-in-my-backyard opinions.
However, “I don’t think we have, or would ever have, intentionally discriminated against anyone,” said Dan Lindley, town administrator. “The shelter couldn’t be sited in an industrial zone without changing our bylaws — current town zoning doesn’t allow any residential property in this zone — and the other potential location was withdrawn.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability.
The act does not pre-empt local zoning laws, but does ban local governments from making zoning or land use decisions that exclude or discriminate against protected persons, including people with disabilities.
The Patchworks Place committee proposed a 12-bed homeless shelter last October on the Community College of Vermont campus at 197 Harrel St., in the same building as Lamoille Community Food Share.
The property, owned by Sonny Demars, is in an industrial zone. After combing through the restrictions in that zone, the Morristown Development Review Board decided the shelter would not fit within the rules.
There are residential properties within that zone, but only because they were built before the area was rezoned industrial, and were therefore grandfathered.
“To the extent that Morrisville and Morristown permit similar uses — such as hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, residential care homes, group homes, campgrounds, boarding or lodging, etc. — in any present zone, they must allow transitional residences/shelters and temporary overnight shelters,” said the letter from Legal Aid.
In an interview with the News & Citizen, the attorney who sent the letter to Morristown — Marilyn Mahusky, who works with claims made to the Housing Discrimination Law Project — said that if nothing listed in the letter is allowed in the industrial zone, “denying the shelter may have been permissible. However, it still concerns me that some community members are opposed to a shelter based on who could be using it.”
During a public forum March 1, some residents made assumptions that people who are homeless or housed in shelters have issues with mental health or substance abuse, and so should not be welcomed in Morrisville.
However, people with those issues are protected under the housing law’s definition of people with disabilities, and cannot be denied from living in Morristown, whether there is a shelter or not.
In mid-November, the Patchworks Place steering committee looked at the possibility of renting the parsonage of Puffer United Methodist Church, but pulled its application before it ever reached the Development Review Board, based on pushback from the community.
Concerned residents of Morrisville thought the location might be too close to a day care center, based on the people likely to use it.
“It sounded like the committee may have been pressured by the landlord to look for a different site, and that concerns me too,” Mahusky said.
Morristown zoning director Todd Thomas — who has been fighting with the state to gain control over dilapidated buildings — suggested that Mahusky was pressured by the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development to send the letter.
Mahusky denied that, saying the homeless shelter issues were brought to her attention by multiple people at the state community level who were concerned after reading things in the news and in public documents about the homeless shelter.
“No single person brought this issue to my attention,” she said. “And I basically sent the letter just to make sure that the town knows about its obligations to follow the fair housing act’s rules in siting the shelter. We were not pressured by the state, and I stand by my letter. I also forwarded my letter to some of the concerned departments.”
By just five votes, Hyde Park voters approved a $9.8 million overhaul of the town’s elementary school.
Tuesday’s vote was 261-256 and a recount request is all but certain.
The $9.8 million total is significantly less than an $18.3 million proposal voters rejected nearly two years ago, 1,037-211.
The plan involves major renovations to parts of the school and construction of an addition to replace a wing that dates to 1951, and is slated to be torn down.
Patti Hayford, a school board member, opposed the school project in 2014, but voted for it on Tuesday.
The architects have “done exactly what the board has asked them to do,” Hayford said. “There are no frills, no lace, no extras. Most of the cost is in bringing the building up to state-mandated codes. It’s not like we are making large, extravagant classrooms.”
Because Hyde Park has voted with Belvidere, Eden and Johnson to merge into a new, single school district, the other communities will help pay for the project. That influenced how some people voted.
“When I borrow money, I plan on paying for it by myself, and not putting the burden on my neighbors,” said Carroll Peters. “Although, if it was just Hyde Park taxpayers, I probably would have voted ‘no’ as well. It’s just too much money.”
“I voted ‘yes,’ but with a lot of reluctance,” said Nate Hayden. “They are dumping a lot of money into an old building, when I think that it can be relocated somewhere else, and rebuilt for less. I could see a new school on Centerville Road or somewhere more accessible.”
Maggie Stewart, a former preschool teacher at the school, also voted yes, although she realizes that, by doing so, she’s raising her own taxes.
“The school needs big improvements,” she said. “The parking lot is very dangerous, and I worry about it, as I have grandkids in that school. The school board has also worked very hard to bring down the cost to taxpayers, though I’m still hoping for some state funding.”
Carol Young said she has definitely heard both sides of the argument, but in the end she thought that it was important to do what’s best for the kids, and voted for it.
Voters have the right to request a recount, and have 30 days to petition for a revote.
Without a revote, construction should begin in June 2017 and the renovated school ought to be completed by February 2018.
The plan is to build a new three-story wing — in place of the current 1951 wing — that will house 12 classrooms, replacing the eight that will be lost in the demolition, along with three slated to become bathrooms in the 1800s wing.
With the addition, the architects added 9,458 square feet — 75 percent of which is required to meet state and federal standards for hallways, stairwells and an elevator.
The gym will get a new roof and windows, and the stage will be removed to make room for a new kitchen.
Lastly, the 1800s wing will be modernized, and the entire school will receive a new sprinkler system, fire alarms, roof, and heating and ventilation systems.
During construction, students will have to attend classes elsewhere; the school board is considering several options and will pick one at a later date.
Public systems tested; private wells aren’t
By Caleigh Cross
In this corner, ladies and gentlemen, is the public water system. It pipes water into homes and businesses in Stowe, Waterbury and Morristown, water that’s tested regularly for purity.And in this corner, ladies and gentlemen, is private well water. About half the homes in Stowe, Waterbury and Morristown depend on private wells, which can go untested for years and years.
The vulnerability of local well water popped to the fore this spring, as a chemical pollutant called PFOA was found in many private wells in North Bennington and Pownal. The results made a lot of people wonder how safe their own well water is.
You won’t know unless the water is tested, says the Vermont Department of Health, and if it’s been a year since you tested your well water for E. coli — most strains of the germ are harmless, but some can cause major problems — it’s time to check it again.
If it’s been five years since you tested for inorganic compounds such as arsenic and in-ground radiation, it’s time to do those tests again.
It’s easy for private well owners to forget to test their water — after all, the majority of wells provide clean, healthy water. However, health experts say, many compounds that occur naturally in the earth’s crust can, over the course of a lifetime, get into water and have an impact on health.
That’s not the case with the PFOA in southwestern Vermont; that was industrial pollution, and it will cost millions of dollars to clean it up. One likely cleanup method: Hook more homes to public water supplies, which are tested regularly according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Half public, half well
According to town officials, 2,162 parcels of residential land in Stowe are equipped for water; 1,100 are billed for town water, which means 1,062 depend on private wells.
Morristown has 2,400 residential units; about 910 get their water from Morrisville Water and Light, the town utility. That leaves about 1,490 private well owners.
Waterbury has 1,946 properties equipped for water use; about 1,000 are billed by the village water department, leaving 946 with private wells.
Stowe tests their water in keeping with practices laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Dick Grogan of Stowe’s Public Works department.
“We test for various things at various times,” Grogan said. “Some are weekly, some are monthly.”
The most recent test, conducted monthly, was for coliform bacteria, including E. coli.
“It’s from a specific sampling plan,” Grogan said. “It’s based on EPA guidelines.”
Morrisville Water and Light follows the same guidelines.
“We are required to do three coliform tests per month,” said John Tilton, the utility’s water foreman. “Each quarter, we have other things we test for,” such as inorganic compounds. “Every quarter is different for what we’re testing for. We just finished the lead and copper cycle, which is a three-year cycle.”
Waterbury tests for coliform bacteria a whopping seven times a month, said Bill Woodruff, the public works director. He says the frequency of town tests for bacteria depends on the population being served. Waterbury has a high percentage of households on public water, so it makes sense that it runs the most tests.
Waterbury tests for volatile organic compounds and nitrates once a year.
Private wells should be tested for coliform bacteria once a year, says Sarah Vose, a toxicologist at the state Department of Health. Private wells should be tested every five years for inorganic compounds, such as arsenic, lead and copper, as well as naturally-occurring in-ground radiation.
It’s important to keep testing, Vose says, because over a lifetime, exposure to radiation and compounds such arsenic can increase the risk of health effects. Arsenic, she says, is a carcinogen, so keeping your exposure low is essential.
How we stack up
Vose says nitrate levels in Stowe, Waterbury and Morristown are not elevated. However, Stowe and Waterbury have consistently shown arsenic levels that are 2 percent above the recommended maximum, and Morristown’s arsenic levels are 11 percent above the recommended maximum.
That can occur naturally, Vose says, since “arsenic is naturally occurring in the earth’s crust.” In-ground radiation is similarly natural, produced by elements already in the ground before the well was placed there.
According to Vose, it’s fairly simple to treat well water that shows contaminants. Water softeners and reverse osmosis procedures can be effective.
The difficulty is getting people to test their water in the first place, said Rich Baker, Stowe health officer.
"A lot of people don’t test their water,” Baker said. If he asks people if they’ve tested their water, they tend to blow it off. “They say, ‘It’s good water,’” Baker said.
by Andrew Martin | News & Citizen
It should be an interesting and busy campaign season around Lamoille County.
The top of the ticket is busy with the presidential race, five candidates for governor, and a Republican challenger, Scott Milne, to longtime U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.
In addition, there are local races in almost every district across the county. Primary elections are Aug. 9 and the general election is Nov. 8.
There’s competition this year for Lamoille County’s lone seat in the Vermont Senate, as two Democrats are competing to challenge incumbent Rich Westman, R-Cambridge. Westman was unopposed in 2014.
This year, Gerard Colby of Cambridge, who has run for the seat before, will face off against George Gay of Stowe for the Democratic nomination for the Senate.
With House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, running for lieutenant governor, seven candidates have filed for the two House seats in his district, which covers Morristown, Elmore, Worcester and Woodbury.
Six of the seven are Democrats: incumbent Avram Patt of Worcester, plus Judy Bickford of Morristown, Cheri Goldstein of Worcester, Aimee Towne of Morristown, David Yacovone of Morristown and Marci Young of Morristown. Gary Nolan, R-Morristown, is the lone Republican to declare his candidacy.
Four candidates have filed for the two seats in the district covering Belvidere, Hyde Park, Johnson and Wolcott. One incumbent, Linda Martin, D-Wolcott, isn’t seeking re-election, though the other incumbent, Mark Woodward, D-Johnson, is running for another two-year term. Also in the race are two Republicans — Riki French of Hyde Park and veteran candidate Lucien Gravel of Wolcott — and two Democrats who live in Wolcott, Matthew Hill and Daniel Noyes.
Republican Mark Higley of Lowell is running for re-election in the district covering Eden, Jay, Lowell, Troy and Westfield. He faces competition from Democrat Katherine Sims of Lowell, who ran against Higley in 2012 as a Progressive. Sims lost a tight race that year.
Rep. Bernie Juskiewicz, R-Cambridge, is unopposed for re-election in the district covering Cambridge and Waterville.
by Andrew Martin
Another one of Lamoille County’s senior legislators is getting done. Representative Linda Martin, D-Wolcott, will not seek reelection this fall after 12 years serving in the Vermont House.
Martin is the second local lawmaker to step down after the last legislative session. Fellow Democrat and House Speaker Shap Smith of Morristown recently announced he is running for lieutenant governor.
At this point, Martin said she has no plans to seek any other state office.
“There were a lot of little reasons behind the decision,” Mar-tin said.
One of the most compelling? A desire to see and spend more time with her nine grandchildren. She said during the session she must put her family on the back burner as she spends nearly all her time in Montpelier.
“It’s such a huge commitment. You have to give up so much time with your family and friends,” she said.
Martin is also Wolcott’s town clerk, a position she has held since 1986. Trying to be both a legislator and town employee has become increasingly more difficult as the responsibilities of her day job have grown.
Martin was first elected to the House in 2004. She represented Wolcott and Hyde Park for six years until redistricting in 2010 added Johnson and Belvidere to her district. She and Mark Woodward, D-Johnson, have represented the Lamoille-2 district together since then.
“It’s been quite a learning experience,” Martin said. The ability to compromise and work with people who have different beliefs is one of the most important things she has learned.
“Just learning how to compromise and finding something that works for both sides is really important. It doesn’t always happen, but it feels really good when it does,” she said.
While the session does take her away from her actual family, her time as a legislator has also created a whole new family for Martin.
“I’ve really gotten to think of my constituents as another family. I hear their stories and share their memories,” she said.
Martin may not be running again this year, but she isn’t ruling out a return to Montpelier down the road.
“I could go back at some point, but right now it feels like I need to be here and be part of this community,” she said.
Highlights of a career
Martin has seen dozens of key pieces of legislation come before the legislature over the last decade, but passing the Marriage Equality Act in 2009 is the one that stands out the most.
“I had goose bumps that day,” Martin said. “I really felt passing it was the right thing to do. You don’t always feel that way about some legislation, but I never wavered on that one.”
Martin is also proud of a pair of voter registration acts that were passed during her time in the Legislature. In 2015 the same-day voter registration bill that Martin helped shepherd through was signed into law — it will take effect in 2017. The law allows a person to vote the same day they register; now you have to register at least a week in advance to vote in Vermont elections.
“I’m close to that subject as a town clerk,” Martin said. “I see how confused people can be on the topics of when, where and how to vote.”
Martin is also pleased that a second law allowing Vermonters to register to vote when they renew their drivers license, the “motor voter” bill, was also signed into law this year and will make it even easier for Vermonters to do their civic duty.
Martin also felt some other decisions by the Legislature this year are important. Those include an increase in the funding for Vermont’s mental health organizations, parent centers, and ambulance squads. She’s also proud of the bill she helped sponsor allowing small Vermont towns to get more help from regional planning commissions.
“Small towns like Wolcott, ones that don’t have town administrators or managers, need help from the regional planning commissions with a lot of things, like grant writing and record keeping,” she said.
One piece of legislation Martin still isn’t happy with is Act 46, the law that encourages school districts to merge into larger entities with at least 900 students.
Wolcott still offers school choice, but as part of an Act 46 merger districts are supposed to give up choice. Despite work by Martin, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and others, no changes to how Act 46 addresses school choice have been made yet.
Martin is unsure who will be running for her seat now that she has stepped down. She believes there is a Democrat in Wolcott who will be running, but that individual was not available at press time to confirm.
Woodward still has not confirmed his own plans to run again.
Frederika “Riki” French of Hyde Park has already declared as a Republican candidate for the two-member district.
All major-party candidates must turn in petitions by Thursday, May 26 in order to be placed on the August primary ballot.
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.
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