Lamoille in the News
by Mickey Smith
Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC), headquartered in Johnson, has been dealing with more than 36,000 outages since heavy wet snow began falling last Tuesday, December 9. As of Monday morning, December 15, less than 1,000 outages were still being reported along their lines.
The bulk of the outages were reported from Starksboro up to the Underhill/Jericho area, but about 50 homes are still without power in the Cambridge area as of Monday morning, December 15. The VEC Outage Center website reported those houses should be back on line by Monday evening.
VEC Spokesperson Amanda Zay said the heavy wet snowfall caused a lot of outages early, but now they are finding new outages as the weather warms up and the snowload falls from the sagging lines and trees. She said this can cause a “bounce back” which will also cause damage. They reported about 18,000 additional outages over the weekend from these issues.
“This storm isn't giving us any breaks,” stated VEC's CEO Dave Hallquist. “A crew restores an outage just to have another tree fall and take the line back down. We'll continue working around the clock as conditions on the ground develop.”
This storm is projecting to be the second most costly storm ever for VEC. Zay said it probably won't reach the level of last year's Christmas icestorm, but exceed the previous number two. She said they are working with the Governor's office to collect data to see if this storm would qualify for FEMA disaster relief. If the storm qualifies, VEC could get 80% of the costs paid by FEMA.
On Saturday, December 13, Hallquist and chief operating officer Jeff Wright surveyed the damage by helicopter along with Governor Peter Shumlin. The Governor told media members, after the tour, in places they were able to see seven to eight inches of snow on power lines.
In some places they have been back to the same area three times, because of this Zay said, the storm has been extremely frustrating for everyone involved. She noted they feel the frustration from their customers who get their power back only to see it go out again. She said the crews share their frustration when they have to go back and make the same repairs again. Early in the storm, when the snow was still falling, Zay said the crews couldn't see tire tracks or footprints from their earlier visits.
by Andrew Martin
The $600,000 loan taken out to fund the purchase of the Tegu Building by the Town of Morristown will be paid off sooner than originally thought, say town officials. On Monday, December 8, the Morristown Selectboard voted to go with the 20-year loan from Merchants Bank rather than the 30-year loan to finance the purchase of the building. The board had previously voted to go with the 30-year loan from Merchants Bank at a meeting in late November. However, new information brought forth by Morristown Town Clerk Mary Ann Wilson highlighted a large difference in savings that would result in choosing the 20-year loan rather than the 30-year loan.
The decision was made by the selectboard after it became clear that the town would save several hundred thousand dollars in interest paid on the loan by choosing the 20-year loan rather than the 30-year. The 20-year loan selected by the town has an interest rate of 2.6 percent, which is much lower than the 3.95 % interest rate of the 30-year loan. The total interest paid on the 20-year version of the loan will be approximately $293,000 less than the total interest that would have been paid on the 30-year loan.
While the town will be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest with the new loan selected, the semi-annual payments will go up slightly. The 20-year loan requires semi-annual payments of $19,730.40, meaning that each year of the loan a total of $39,460 will be paid by the town. This figure is slightly higher than the $35,484 that would have been paid each year if the town had decided to stick with the 30-year loan. However, even the figure of $39,460 is still substantially less than the approximately $47,000 per year that the town was paying in rent and taxes on the Tegu Building.
“Even the higher loan payments are still cheaper than what we are paying right now,” explained Morristown Town Administrator Dan Lindley, who also explained that another benefit is the fact that the loan payment is set and will not go up over the life of the loan. Rent and taxes were expected to go up continuously over the 20 or 30 year period.
“And, we will own the building at the end,” Lindley added.
In total the principal and interest paid on the loan will equate to roughly $12.90 per year in taxes on a property valued at $200,000. Over the life of the loan that would result in total property taxes amounting to approximately $258 being paid on the 20-year loan. If the 30-year loan had been chosen the total property taxes paid over the life of the loan on a $200,000 property would have been roughly $348.05.
by Andrew Martin
The Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department has expanded its traffic patrol in the three towns of Wolcott, Hyde Park, and Johnson. Efforts to add more foot patrol in Johnson Village have also been undertaken. The increases, which began just over a month ago, were implemented in part due to multiple requests by the three towns.
According to Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux, the increase has been implemented mainly using parttime officers who have been with the department before.
“We are trying to concentrate on the requests for more radar and foot patrol with parttimers,” Marcoux explained. He also added that the parttime deputies are being utilized for the work due to the fact that the fulltime deputies are often too busy with their other duties to also increase patrols.
“The job wasn’t being done to my satisfaction,” Marcoux stated, “We needed more manpower. That’s not a reflection on the other guys, we are just busy.”
Along with increasing traffic enforcement in the three towns and the expanded foot patrol in Johnson, the deputies are also attempting to check homes or businesses that are temporarily unoccupied.
Much of the increased patrol is being conducted by three of the parttime deputies. According to Marcoux all of the individuals have other jobs, so the patrolling is occurring around their other work schedules. This leads to more random patrol times, which are actually a good thing, according to Marcoux. The more random times make it harder for speeders or potential burglars to predict when they could encounter the police. In total the three deputies are out patrolling roughly 20 to 25 extra hours per week. Marcoux also explained that such an increase was considered when formulating the department’s budget.
“We are working within the budget,” he stated.
According to Marcoux the increased patrol has been well received.
“We have been receiving good feedback from the public,” he stated, “The increased patrol seems to be very popular and appreciated.”
“People appreciate us working on crime like burglaries and other traditional law enforcement issues,” he continued, “But things like people speeding by houses and other quality of life issues are important too and it means a lot to people that we are attending to that.”
The Association of General Contractors of Vermont (AGC/VT) and the Vermont Independent Electrical Contractors Association (VIECA) held its 50th Annual Meeting and Best Builder Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, December 2, at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington. Nine companies, including alternate truck route builders Winterset, were given awards for construction projects completed in the past year.
The Lyndonville-based Winterset received the Best Builders award for outstanding quality of work and effort on a highway, new construction for the Route 100 Alternate Truck Route.
Over 350 contractors, construction professionals, elected officials, and state administrators attended the prestigious event, which honors contractors and electricians for their commitment, dedication and outstanding work in a variety of categories.
“Our members are dedicated to ensuring that Vermont’s infrastructure – its commercial buildings, hospitals, highways, bridges, and roads – is of the highest quality,” said Cathy Lamberton, executive vice president of AGC/VT and VIECA. “I’m proud that we can showcase and honor these outstanding companies and their employees for the fine work and service they do to strengthen our communities every day.”
Members voluntarily submit their projects for consideration in nine categories, and the winners are chosen by an independent panel of industry professionals.
In announcing Winterset's award, it was stated the 545 foot “grasshopper”bridge over the Lamoille River is one of the longest rigid frame bridges in New England. It took 1.65 million pounds of structural steel, 15,788 bolts, 2,700 cubic yards of concrete and 300,000 pounds of reinforcing steel to build the bridge.
AGC/VT represents more than 150 active general contractors, associates and affiliate members including equipment and material suppliers, insurance companies, bonding firms, financial institutions, consultants and an additional 60 plus members from the Vermont Independent Electrical Contractors Association. The mission of AGC/VT is to serve as the advocate for the highway and building contracting community.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has announced that Lt. Jason Batchelder has been named the new director of fish and wildlife law enforcement. Batchelder will begin the role of Colonel this week, filling the position vacated by Col. David LeCours, who retired in October.
Batchelder has been with the department for 10 years, working most recently in the Morrisville area, first as a field warden and then as the lieutenant for the northeast district since 2013.
“I am pleased and excited that Lt. Batchelder will be our new head of law enforcement,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. “During his time with the department, Lt. Batchelder has developed a reputation among his co-workers and with the general public of energetically, meticulously, and fairly pursuing fish and wildlife violators.”
Porter emphasized Batchelder’s knowledge and experience in his selection for the position. “Lt. Batchelder has a deep understanding of the vital role that law enforcement plays as part of the department’s overall mission,” said Porter.
Batchelder grew up in Derby. He worked for the U.S. Coast Guard in Virginia and Alaska for four years before graduating from the University of Southern Maine in 2001 and from the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council Academy in 2005. He currently lives in Morrisville with his wife and two young children. Batchelder is an avid hunter, angler and runner.
“Lt. Batchelder’s calm, thoughtful demeanor will be an important asset to the department in this position,” said Porter.
The Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department arrested a juvenile male on December 13, 2014 for Burglary, Unlawful Mischief and Petit Larceny. A Lamoille County Sheriff’s Deputy was patrolling in the Town of Johnson and observed a suspicious male loitering in the area of the Butternut Mountain Farm store, located on Main Street in the Town of Johnson at approximately 11:13 p.m.
When speaking with the male, the deputy observed a broken window at the store.
Initially, the juvenile male denied any involvement and later admitted to the burglary. He was released to a parent and cited in to court on December 19, 2014.
Deputies have been conducting additional patrols in the area due to recent thefts, one of which involved the same store the previous week. That incident is still under investigation. The Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Morristown Police Department that also assisted with the deployment of their K9 Officer.
by Andrew Martin
Students at Hyde Park Elementary School have been successful in procuring a grant to further research they have been conducting. This fall a group of fifth grade students applied for a small grant that is offered by the Vermont Rural Partnership (VRP) that would fund an outdoor science project they will be conducting in the spring.
According to HPES enrichment teacher Erin Carr, the students designed a project that will involve an investigation of the different waterways on and near the HPES school grounds. The project will begin with an investigation into the ‘orange goop’ that students have already discovered in several streams close to the elementary school. At the end of the project the students will deliver a message to the community about how to better support a healthy water system.
The grant proposal that was submitted by the students to the VRP was titled “Following the Trail of the Orange Goop” and it was awarded full funding in mid-November. The proposal submitted by the students actually received top marks from the grant review team.
The grant funding will be used to purchase waders, game cameras, and waterproof iPad bags that will be used by the students during their investigation this coming spring. The findings of the students will be used later in the summer of 2015 by the Lamoille County Conservation District (LCCD) when that organization designs a storm water infrastructure project. Along with the LCCD the students at HPES will also be partnering with the North Branch Nature Center during their work.
The Vermont State Police responded to a report of domestic violence in Jeffersonville on Thursday, December 11, at roughly 8:39 a.m. A 911 call reporting the incident occurred at that time and led police to begin a search for the suspect, 21-year old Ryan Ovitt of Jeffersonville.
The 911 call was made by a female living in Jeffersonville who reported that her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Ovitt, had assaulted her, broken the door into her residence, and then left in his vehicle. While troopers were en route to the residence a Be On the Lookout (BOL) was issued for Ovitt to other police agencies in the area. A short time later a deputy of the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department spotted Ovitt traveling on Vermont Route 15 in Johnson and stopped him at the request of the Vermont State Police.
Ovitt was arrested and charged with Domestic Assault in the presence of a Child and Denying Access to Emergency Services. He was released and ordered to appear in Lamoille Superior Court – Criminal Division on Wednesday, December 17.
by Andrew Martin
MORRISTOWN – A petition has been started requesting that the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) change the current names of the newly opened Route 100 alternate truck route and the former Route 100, which is now known as Historic Route 100. Matt and Renee Nadeau, the owners of Rock Art Brewery, began the petition and are seeking to garner the signatures of enough Morristown residents to have the request for the renaming made an official ballot item at Town Meeting in 2015.
The official petition requests that the Morristown Selectboard add a warned article to the annual Town Meeting in order to allow the town’s residents to vote on topic. The article in question states “To keep VT Route 100 designated as it was prior to the bypass and designate that road as the alternative truck route.”
According to Matt and Renee Nadeau the main reason they are seeking to change the names of the road is due to the fact that they have already seen issues with potential customers missing downtown Morrisville and simply continuing down the bypass until they end up near the Dunkin Donuts on the opposite side of town.
“We’ve had several annual custumers already miss Rock Art and end up on the other end of town,” Renee explained, adding that the setup of the roadway and current signage leads travelers to believe they need to simply stay on the official Route 100 to reach the businesses in downtown Morrisville, just as they have always done.
“Before people always simply followed Route 100 to get here,” Renee added.
The Nadeaus actually begin the petition with a different goal in mind. Originally, Matt intended to have as many business owners as possible who are located on the former Route 100 to sign the petition. However, after meeting with Morristown town officials he decided to make the petition more official and gather support from legal registered voters in Morristown in order to place the recommendation on the ballot in March. The Nadeaus themselves are residents of Johnson, but operate their business in Morrisville.
“This started as one thing and morphed into something else,” Matt Nadeau explained.
Matt and Renee began talking with other business owners on what is now Historic Route 100 late during the week of Thanksgiving. In total they talked to 24 other business owners or their representatives who all agreed that the names of the two roads need to be changed so that the official Route 100 travels through downtown Morrisville and the Route 100 alternate truck route provides a way around the village.
A total of 170 signatures are needed on the petition in order to place it on the ballot. The Nadeaus began gathering the signatures on Monday, December 1, and as of Thursday, December 4, already had 31 signatures. They are continuing to gather signatures and have also placed copies of the petition at Deb’s Place, Agway, and are hoping to have it available at Thompson’s Sandwiches and Bakery and PowerPlay Sports as well. Matt and Renee are working to have all the necessary signatures by the end of December, which will allow them to submit the petition in time for it to be included on the Town Meeting ballot.
According to Matt and Renee, the change of a businesses’ locale or address can have a serious effect on the ability of customers to find it. They themselves moved from Johnson in 2001 and then again from Wilkins Street in Morrisville to their current locale several years ago, and they still have customers calling asking how to find them at their two former homes.
“Changing an address can affect a business for decades,” Matt explained, “In a tourist state and tourist economy we have to have people looking for us at our actual location.”
“Some people don’t realize the connection, but if their business has always been tied to Route 100 customers can miss them completely now,” he continued, adding that peoples’ reliance on the internet for information means that older addresses saying a business is located on the official Route 100 will be always be out there.
Matt also explained that he feels the renaming of the roads is actually going against part of VTrans mission, which is to help benefit the Vermont economy.
“I’m curious why they want to take a designated road that has been there for decades, take its name, put it on a new road, and give the old road a new name,” Matt added, “They aren’t promoting economic viability when they change road names.”
Along with working to gather signatures on the petition Renee and Matt have also been working to contact their local legislators. Outgoing Representative Peter Peltz has already sent a letter of support to Sue Minter at VTrans, and the Nadeaus have also been in contact with current Morristown Representative and Speaker of the House Shap Smith.
Morristown Town Administrator Dan Lindley and Planning Director Todd Thomas were scheduled to meet with VTrans officials on Friday, December 5, regarding a different matter and were planning to broach the possibility of the name change to those individuals in order to see if they were receptive to the idea at all. According to Lindley if the proposed article is included on the ballot for Town Meeting and approved, then the town will forward the proposal to VTrans later in March whether or not the officials at the December 5 meeting were receptive to the change.
This Week's Photos
by Mickey Smith
A man contracted by Fairpoint to replace striking workers was arrested in Middlebury on Monday, November 17, and charged with aggravated operation of a vehicle without owner’s consent after not returning the car of a Morristown woman whom he had befriended on the internet.
Michael KendallMorristown Police allege Michael Kendall, 43, of Evansville, IN, befriended a local woman while he was contracted to work in the area. According to court records, Kendall was allowed to use the woman's car but did not return it when she asked for it back several times. The car, which was equipped with On Star, was found in Middlebury at the home of another woman whom he had befriended.
After Kendall was taken into custody, it was learned there was an extraditable warrant from Pike County, MO, on him. He had several outstanding warrants for probation violations for crimes that included motor vehicle theft and forgery.
He is being held at the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury for lack of $25,000 bail. A fugitive hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, December 17.
Morristown Police Detective Corporal Ryan Bjerke said Kendall also used a credit card belonging to the Morristown woman running up a bill of over $9,000. Additional charges stemming from this incident are pending. Det. Cpl. Bjerke also said they would like to hear if Kendall had befriended any other woman in the area, that might have had issues with him during his stay.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Morristown Police Department at 888-4211.
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