Chronology 2014: November
The election was the big story in November.
In the race for governor, incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin scored a narrow overall victory over Republican challenger Scott Milne in statewide voting. When the votes were counted in Addison County on Nov. 4, though, a majority of the electorate in 14 of the county’s 23 communities declared a preference for Milne. Shumlin, the two-term incumbent, received a combined 6,020 votes in Addison County in the General Election, compared to 5,761 for Milne. Libertarian Dan Feliciano garnered 583 tallies. Despite outspending Milne 4-1, Shumlin edged a narrow victory over Milne by just 2,434 votes statewide and since neither won a clear majority, the decision goes to the state Legislature in January.
In Middlebury, Democratic newcomer Amy Sheldon and long-time incumbent Betty Nuovo held off a challenge from Middlebury College student Calvin McEathron in winning Middlebury’s two seats in the Vermont House. (Independent Tom Hughes said he had changed his mind and supported McEathron, but Hughes’ name was still on the ballot.)
Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, won another two years representing Addison-5 over Democratic challenger Susan Smiley, also of New Haven.
Incumbents Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, prevailed in a competitive four-way race to win the Addison-3 district’s two seats and will represent Ferrisburgh, Vergennes, Addison, Panton and Waltham in the Vermont House of Representatives for the next two years. They defeated two Addison newcomers: Peter Briggs and John Spencer.
Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, confirmed he would not seek re-election as House majority leader. The six-term lawmaker won an uncontested race in the Addison-2 district, claiming 900 out of 911 votes cast.
Bristol Republican Fred Baser won in his second election attempt for one of Addison-4’s two seats. Rep Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, finished second. Seven-term incumbent and House Health Care Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, finished out of the running in third. Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin was fourth.
Voters in Bristol soundly defeated a $33 million bond to finance an ambitious renovation project at Mount Abraham Union High School by a margin of more than 2 to 1. The plan sparked a high turnout for a mid-term election: while less than 1,800 residents voted on Mount Abe’s budget last Town Meeting Day, more than 4,500 went to the polls on Election Day.
Orwell Independent Alyson Eastman won an uncontested race for the Orwell/Shoreham/Whiting/Benson seat in the House; she’ll replace incumbent Will Stevens of Shoreham, who chose not to run again.
Meanwhile, there was news outside the election. Bristol officials voted to close their landfill at the end of 2016. The Agency of Natural Resources cited the town in August for, among other things, failing to save enough money to close the landfill, one of two active unlined landfills in the state. To date, the town has saved $576,000 while an assessment by the Waterbury firm L.E. Environmental estimated the cost of closing the landfill at $1.5 million, leaving the town more than $900,000 away from that goal. The Department of Environmental Conservation, a branch of ANR, said Bristol should be saving about $61,000 each year for the landfill closure fund. Landfill profits last year were just $16,000. The town hopes to lower the $1.5 million cost by closing the dump in 2016 rather than 2019 and by finding a covering material that is cheaper than clay, which is typically used. There is no guarantee that the state will pull through with funding to help bridge the gap, especially as Gov. Peter Shumlin asked state agencies to cut spending by 4 percent in the face of falling state revenues.
Also in Bristol, the fire department brought some bad news to the selectboard. The septic system at the North Street firehouse had failed, which intensified the need for a new firehouse.
The Congregational Church of Middlebury prepared for the next two phases in a four-part series of repairs and expansions to its worship hall, totaling $2.5 million. After completing renovations to the kitchen and repairing and rerouting its Charter House sewerage system, the church — the iconic white edifice at the top of Main Street — will replace the aging granite steps, an estimated $190,000 project that will begin in 2015. Construction of a new, 6,300-square-foot addition onto the building is being considered for 2016.
An impartial federal mediator will help Porter Medical Center and the new nurses’ union to negotiate a first-ever contract. Since negotiations started in February, the union and Porter have had 21 bargaining sessions. The union has presented a final set of more than 80 proposals that will be considered during upcoming negotiations. Look for more news on this front as the year closes.
On the bank of Otter Creek near downtown Middlebury, family and friends dedicated a memorial to celebrated international journalist Matt Power. Power, who grew up in Cornwall and attended Middlebury College, has family here. He died on March 10 while on assignment for Men’s Journal covering a story along the banks of the Nile River in Uganda. He was 39.
On Nov. 18, the Middlebury College Board of Trustees chose Laurie L. Patton, a dean at Duke University, to succeed current President Ronald D. Liebowitz on July 1, 2015. She will be the 17th president of the college, which was founded in 1800 and the first woman to hold the post.
An early snow delivered a white Thanksgiving to Addison County’s 23 towns on the busiest travel day of the year. Forecasters from the National Weather Service office in South Burlington said Addison County got more snow than any other county, ranging from 8 inches in Vergennes to 16.5 inches in Orwell.
Pointing to the cost of and uncertain result for his ongoing Act 250 application, Denecker Chevrolet owner Tom Denecker told the town of Ferrisburgh he was giving up on his $350,000 purchase of town-owned land at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A. He was particularly upset that the new 9L criterion of Act 250, which is supposed to combat sprawl, was being cited as a reason to disallow him from building near the park-and-ride lot at the Route 22A/Route 7 intersection just north of the Vergennes city limits.