August 6th, 2008
Addison County Independent: Breaking News
By JOHN FLOWERS, KATHRYN FLAGG and LEE KAHRS
ADDISON COUNTY — The streams and rivers in Addison County are normally postcard-perfect images of tranquility this time of the year. But this summer’s unrelenting rain transformed many local waterways into proverbial freight trains on Wednesday, sending water careening into roads, bridges and backyards in a swath from Leicester and Brandon north and east to Granville and Hancock.
Emergency crews responded in at least eight area towns. Flooding compromised at least two bridges — one on Route 53 just south of Lake Dunmore and the other on Lower Plains Road in East Middlebury — prompting their closure. Numerous roads in southern Addison County and in the White River Valley were closed because of flooding.
As the Addison Independent went to press, authorities had closed 18 roads and streets due to floodwaters. They included:
• Route 53 along Lake Dunmore in Salisbury and Leicester.
• Olde Town Road in Ripton.
• Fernville Road, the Leicester-Whiting Road, Fern Lake Road and Shaddock Road in Leicester.
• Silver Lake Road, Dutton Brook Road, Flora White Road, and Carlisle Hill Road in Goshen.
• Three Mile Bridge Road in Middlebury and portions of Lower Plains Road (which was evacuated) in East Middlebury.
• Route 125 between Route 116 and Route 100 in East Middlebury, Ripton and Hancock.
• Newton Thompson Road, Wheeler Road, Union Street, Barlow Avenue, and Forest Dale Road in Brandon.
Authorities were still assessing flood damage Wednesday afternoon, when the floodwaters appeared to have crested and even receded in some areas. But officials cautioned that conditions could quickly worsen in the event of new rainfall. Showers were forecast through this Saturday.
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By JOHN FLOWERS
RIPTON — Like most artists, Jean Cherouny has a routine she follows before putting paint to canvas. She goes downstairs to her makeshift studio, clears her mind of stress and gets out her supplies.
But that’s where most similarities end.
While many artists at this point would be taking a brush in hand, Cherouny purposefully snaps on her rollerblades, gently dips them into a glistening pool of paint or ink, and proceeds to glide, hop, and amble across her canvas.
It’s an unusual technique to some art purists, but there’s no denying that Cherouny’s work is getting noticed. Representatives of the South End Arts and Business Association Art Hop in Burlington have asked her to “perform” in skates and exhibit some of her paintings this year. She will, later this month, hold a demonstration at the gazebo on the Middlebury village green.
As an abstract expressionist, the Ripton artist knows her technique will draw some gasps and skepticism. But she doesn’t mind at all.
“In the art world, you have to be careful, because there is an immediate judgment — a 10-second reflection — and they either like what you’ve done or they don’t like it,” Cherouny, 41, said on Thursday. “But it doesn’t matter, as long as I like it.”
It actually seems quite natural that Cherouny would combine arts and athletics in her painting.
She developed a keen interest the visual arts when she was 8 years old.
“It was my mom who saw that in me,” Cherouny recalled.
By LEE J. KAHRS
BRANDON –– With Vermont still reeling from the killing of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett in Randolph last month, the Brandon Police Department next Tuesday will host a community forum on sex offenders, state statute, and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) sex offender registry.
The Bennett case has sparked a statewide debate over how sex offenders are handled by the DOC, their punishment, their treatment, and most importantly, their supervision.
“The focus of this forum is to give people information on how the sex offender registry works,” Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell said. “There are things people have misconceptions about.”
The forum is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Fire Department.
Brooke Bennett disappeared in Randolph on June 25, triggering Vermont’s first Amber Alert. Exactly one week later, on July 2, Bennett’s body was discovered in a shallow grave on property owned by her uncle, Michael Jacques, a convicted sex offender and the last person to see the girl alive. He has been charged with kidnapping and other charges may be pending.
Now, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and others are calling for a “Jessica’s Law” here in Vermont meaning that convicted sex offenders would face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. The city of Barre last week passed an ordinance establishing a 1,000-foot buffer zone around local schools and playgrounds where convicted sex offenders new to the city are forbidden to live or spend time.
Brickell said a DOC official will be on hand at the Brandon forum to explain the department’s sex offender protocols, the registry and to answer questions.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) board on Aug. 29 will decide whether to institute fares on some or all of its bus routes to compensate for rising fuel costs.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
BRISTOL — During his recent six-month tour in Afghanistan, Vermont Air National Guard Technical Sergeant Steve Heffernan, 43, braved blistering heat, guerilla warfare and a bevy of improvised explosive devices.
And as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) specialist, Heffernan faced the especially perilous task of uncovering and dismantling the explosive devices littered through the countryside by the Taliban and terrorist cells.
But most harrowing of all, according to Heffernan, were the roads.
“The roads, if you could call them roads, were the worst,” he said. “The best way to describe the roads would be ‘mud season, dried up.’ That was a good road.”
For Heffernan, the long road home — which included a 30-hour trip from the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan to Baltimore — drew to a close just a week and a half ago, when the EOD team leader returned home to Bristol after six months at war.
His service in Afghanistan came after nearly 17 years in the Air National Guard.
“I’d always wanted to join the military,” Heffernan said. But after marrying his wife, Erin, when he was 21, Heffernan put his plans on the backburner.
A few years later, though, jobs dried up — and Heffernan started looking again at the military. He joined the Air National Guard, and given his blasting experience, he was a natural fit for the EOD unit.
“I joined to serve my country, believe it or not, as corny as that can sound to some people,” Heffernan said. “I joined to serve my country because I enjoy the freedoms that we all have.”
By ANDY KIRKALDY
MIDDLEBURY — On July 16, like any number of summer vacationers, Swift House Inn co-owner Dan Brown and his longtime friend Jim Mower dipped their toes into the Atlantic Ocean in Hampton, N.H., not far from Mower’s home.
But Brown and Mower were not typical bathers: Getting their feet wet was the last step of a 3,173-mile, 48-day bicycle trip that began in Everett, Wash., on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
And the journey truly began 20 years ago, when the idea of a two-wheel cross-country odyssey first struck Brown, a retired U.S. Navy pilot who is now 59.
Back then, before 13 years of innkeeping began to demand his full attention, Brown was a cycling enthusiast, and trans-continental bike races were making headlines.
“I just thought it was a great thing,” he said. “It was just something so big that when I first started talking about it, it was like talking smack, ‘OK, I’m going to do this.’ And then eventually talking smack it was like, ‘OK, you’re going to have to do this if you’re going to keep talking smack about doing this.’”
The Ithaca, N.Y., native and U.S. Naval Academy graduate kept that dream alive when he retired from the military 10 years ago. At that time he and his wife, Michele, sold their Annapolis, Md., bed and breakfast and bought a small inn in Maine, which they sold in 2004 to buy the Swift House in Middlebury.
But the moves and the rigors of the hospitality business kept postponing the trip, until finally everything lined up for this year — the Browns felt they had done enough at their Stewart Lane inn to allow him the time off.
If anything, Brown’s motivation had grown stronger in the interim.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s junk ordinance received its first test in Addison County District Court last week, when an Addison County jury found Rogers Road resident Terry Morris guilty on two violations of the two-year-old law.
It was in May of 2006 that Middlebury selectmen approved the municipal junk ordinance, a move triggered by neighborhood complaints about Morris’s property. Morris, during the past several years, has accumulated on his lawn a large collection of items, including skis, bathtubs, toilets, wheelchairs, Jell-O molds, wooden pallets, sleds and bowling balls.
Morris has argued his possessions are not junk, but valued items he collects and enjoys. But neighbors have said Morris’s yard has become an eyesore, to the extent that it is affecting their property values. Town listers have agreed, in some cases lowering the assessments on some neighboring properties. Rogers Road residents Bernard and Ruth Stewart — who testified at the July 23 trial — saw their property valuation reduced by $15,000 as a result of the condition of Morris’s lawn.
Ruth Stewart said she was pleased with the jury’s verdict in the case.
“We’re glad that something is being done,” she said. “I hope (authorities) will follow through until there is a cleanup.”
Morris, reached on Wednesday, declined to comment pending his sentencing hearing, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 11.
Morris acted as his own attorney during the trial.
It was a trial that saw the Stewarts testify that they had erected a fence along the property line when Morris’s yard became a problem.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Developers will be able to build a proposed Staples store in The Centre shopping plaza in Middlebury if they adhere to a series of town-mandated conditions, including that they provide access between The Centre parking lot and two adjoining properties, and finance a re-timing of traffic signals to minimize additional gridlock on Route 7.
Those were some of the conditions included in a 24-page “notice of decision” sent to developers Middlebury Associates LLC last week by the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB). It was the second such conditional decision sent to the developers, who are seeking to build a 14,737-square-foot Staples next to the Hannaford Supermarket.
The proposal has come under fire from various residents and citizens’ groups who believe Staples would hurt some smaller, locally owned stores that also sell office supplies. Opponents have also voiced concerns that Staples would add more traffic to Route 7 and to a Centre parking lot that is already dangerous to negotiate, according to some shoppers who have testified at DRB hearings.
Key elements of the DRB decision call for Middlebury Associates LLC to meet the following conditions:
• Negotiate access connections between The Centre parking lot and the adjoining Middlebury Short Stop and former bowling alley properties.
• Pay for an adjustment to The Centre/Route 7 intersection traffic signal that would lengthen the light from the current 60 seconds to an 80-second cycle.
• Complete, with input from the Middlebury Design Advisory Committee, a series of pedestrian safety, traffic circulation and aesthetic improvements to The Centre property.