Archive - Jul 2008
By VICKY SINAGRA
BY KATHRYN FLAGG
VERGENNES — That 10-month-old Haley has never had a home to call her own is a burden her mother, Crystal Kendall, carries with her everyday.
“I just hate putting her through it,” said Kendall, 27, as Haley — sleepy-eyed and happy after a long afternoon nap — squirmed in her lap. “People say that she’s too young to know where she is — but I kind of want to think she does. One minute you’re camping in a tent, the next minute you’re at somebody’s house, now she’s here.”
“Here” is the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes, where Kendall, Haley and Haley’s father, Jack Walters, 22, all temporarily live.
The family has been homeless since before Haley was born, staying in the shelter for the first time last October. They moved back in earlier this month after friends they had been staying with kicked them out of their house.
And while Kendall and Walters considered themselves lucky to find beds in the crowded shelter, it’s no substitute for a place of their own.
“This is a place to stay but nothing you could really call home,” said Kendall.
According to a report published last month by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), families like Kendall’s make up a growing portion of Vermont’s homeless population. The number of homeless families in Vermont increased by 20 percent over the last seven years, from 429 families in 2000 to 516 families in 2007.
For Vermont — which last year had the highest per capita rate of homelessness in New England — family homelessness poses unique problems for state government and for the families struggling to find housing.
The trouble, according to shelter director Elizabeth Ready, is that many Vermont families are teetering increasingly close to the edge of homelessness — and a single event can sometimes be enough to tip the scales against them.
CORNWALL — A recent college graduate from Cornwall is hoping his senior thesis serves as a learning tool for politicians to change federal immigration laws and working conditions for the state’s migrant Mexican farm workers.
Bjorn Jackson, an aspiring filmmaker who recently graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., spent seven months — spanning September 2007 through April 2008 — making his documentary, titled “Under The Cloak of Darkness: Vermont’s Migrant Mexican Farm Workers.”
By KATHRYN FLAGG
ADDISON COUNTY — Chart-topping heating oil prices have some local fuel vendors considering scrapping pre-buy plans this winter. With fuel oil prices having risen 80 percent in the past two years to near $4.50 a gallon, some say prices have got to fall.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
BRISTOL — The cement floors and creaking garage door betray the space’s original purpose — but the photographs, paintings and sculptures arranged throughout the new Gallery at 85 North Street in Bristol signal the little building’s wholehearted transition from storage space to fine art forum.
The gallery is the latest addition to Bristol’s blossoming arts scene, and the darling of artists Karla Van Vliet and Kit Donnelly. The Bristol residents celebrated the opening of the seasonal summer and fall gallery on July 4.
“We wanted to bring our philosophy into the world,” said Van Vliet.
She and Donnelly, who have been friends since meeting in an artists’ critique group several years ago, began concocting plans for the gallery while Donnelly was staying with Van Vliet at her home on Bristol’s North Street, just a quick jaunt from downtown. Both women have been artists for decades — and wanted not only to generate business, but also foster a space for artists and art lovers in town to congregate.
So the two turned their eye on the garage on Van Vliet’s property, which at the time was crowded and dim. But with artists’ eyes attuned to possibility, Van Vliet and Donnelly envisioned clean white walls and gracefully mounted fine art.
“We started dreaming about what we could do with this space,” said Donnelly.
The garage is no stranger to the business of beautiful things. Frances Jeffers, who owned the home at 85 North St. for 40 years before Van Vliet took up residency, ran a flower and vegetable business out of the garage. A Bristol fixture, she plied her customers with well-tended plants and homegrown charm.
The latest business venture, Donnelly said, is a nod to “independent, entrepreneurial women.”
By LEE J. KAHRS
BRANDON –– Robert Martin has worked at Vermont Tubbs for almost 30 years, but at the end of the day Friday he and roughly 90 of his co-workers will be out of work as the furniture manufacturing plant closes its doors.
Despite the efforts of local and state officials to keep Vermont Tubbs afloat in Brandon, the company’s new owners announced last week that the furniture manufacturing plant would be closing its doors July 18.
“We feel terrible for the employees and their families,” said Janet Mondlak, executive director of the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is a huge loss for Brandon. We feel helpless, and if there is anything we can do for any of the employees, we will.”
The plant closure comes just six weeks after the company was sold to Brownstreet Furniture, a New Hampshire-based manufacturer of high-end wood furniture. Although new owners Kyle and Adam Tager had initially said they would wait 90 days before making any decisions about the Tubbs plant, the Vermont Department of Labor was informed of the closing July 10. Calls to Tubbs and Brownstreet for comment were not returned.
BSF Transitions issued a press release late Friday saying that it faced the same economic pressures that the previous Tubbs owners faced and that those pressures drove BSF to move operations to Whitefield, N.H.
Martin, 60, works the rough mill machine at the plant. He and his wife, Patty, live in Brandon. Martin said he has seen the company change owners many times in his years at the plant, but last week’s announcement surprised him.
“I didn’t see it coming,” he said. “Everything was going good. Orders were coming in and going out. I assumed everything was fine.”
By JOHN FLOWERS
RIPTON — Ripton officials on Thursday were optimistic their community would soon see basic mail service return to their community, while around a half-dozen people have expressed interest in filling the town’s vacant postmaster position.
Ripton Town Clerk Sally Hoyler said plans call for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to provide funding to resurrect delivery and mail handling at the Ripton Country Store, where those services were offered until late last month. However, any financial transactions — like buying stamps — would still have to be handled at the East Middlebury Post Office, which has been handling all mail functions for Ripton since the USPS abruptly closed the tiny community’s post office late last month.
“I think it’s important we get service back as quickly as possible,” Hoyler said. “Getting service back soon works in our favor.”
In an interview on July 9, Hoyler said she hoped service could be restored within days.
Hoyler said plans call for Ripton’s most recent postmaster, Bonnie DeGray, to be re-installed in her position on an interim basis. Other part-timers would be trained to fill in for DeGray during hours she will be unable to cover because of other commitments, according to Hoyler, who is one of the likely fill-ins. DeGray could not be reached for comment.
This interim setup would be in place for roughly 60 days, at which time the USPS hopes to name a new postmaster, according to Hoyler.
Ripton’s post office closed after DeGray’s contract expired and the USPS could not negotiate a new pact satisfactory to both parties. For reasons the USPS has declined to explain, the postal service did not seek another new postmaster before closing the Ripton Post Office.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) next week will draft a final list of requirements the developers of a proposed Staples will have to fulfill if they hope to get the green light to build the 14,600-square-foot office supplies store in The Centre shopping plaza off Route 7 South.
Those requirements, according to DRB Chairman John Barstow, may include a “master plan” depicting The Centre and its relationship with, and impact on, neighboring properties; an agreement between the developer (Middlebury Associates, aka Myron Hunt Inc.) and adjacent property owners on links between their respective parking lots to improve traffic flow in and out of The Centre; and landscaping, traffic island and crosswalk upgrades to improve pedestrian safety in The Centre.
Members of the DRB, during a three-hour hearing on the project on Monday, also asked Chris Hunt of Middlebury Associates to request that Staples slightly alter the location of the proposed store. Instead of having it built directly next to Hannaford Supermarket, some DRB members would prefer to see the store moved slightly south within The Centre, on land that is currently used for parking. DRB officials argued the lost parking spaces could be replaced on the spot currently being eyed for the store. They also argued that modifying the design of the store and bringing it slightly forward would give The Centre buildings a horseshoe-type configuration with a courtyard-style parking area that would be more visually pleasing and potentially safer for pedestrians.
Barstow cited the Courtyard by Marriott hotel, located across the street from The Centre, as an example of a company that ultimately agreed to forego prototype franchise architecture to meet the town regulations on architectural aesthetics.
“Nothing is impossible,” he said.