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Archive - 2008

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January 21st

Police to cite 28 in Frost home vandalism, many with MUHS ties

MIDDLEBURY POLICE OFFICER Scott Fisher, left, listens as Vermont State Police Sgt. Lee Hodsden presents the results of his investigation into the Dec. 28 vandalism at the former Robert Frost summer home in Ripton. More than two dozen youths, most with ties to Middlebury Union High School, have been cited in connection with the case.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell


January 21, 2008

By JOHN FLOWERS

RIPTON — Vermont State Police on Friday said they are citing into court 28 youths — the vast majority of them Middlebury Union High School students — in connection with an underage drinking party that caused an estimated $10,600 in damage to the former summer home of Robert Frost in Ripton.

The suspects are scheduled to be arraigned in Addison County District Court on Feb. 11 on various misdemeanor charges, including unlawful trespass; unlawful mischief; furnishing alcohol to minors; enabling the consumption of alcohol by minors; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; and underage drinking.

Police said as many as 50 people attended the party at the Homer Noble Farm on Dec. 28. Some partygoers destroyed antique tables, chairs, pictures, dishes, glasses, windows and lighting fixtures; sprayed the contents of two fire extinguishers around the first floor and vomited and urinated inside the building and on the damaged property.

Authorities, who announced the citations during a Friday morning press conference, singled out two individuals in particular: Andrew Ford, 17, of Ripton, a former seasonal kitchen staffer at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus, whom they allege planned the party, picked the site and put up money for alcohol consumed there; and Patrick Deering, 22, of Middlebury, who allegedly bought a large quantity of beer for the young partiers.

full story

Fuel dealer helps ease the pinch for needy customers

January 21, 2008

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — Fuel prices have risen precipitously in the last year and a half, pinching the budgets of many Vermonters. But a few residents of the Bristol area, if they look very carefully at their bills in the coming months, may find the math a little confusing. They might not see a record of a delivery even though they distinctly remember one in recent days, or a fuel tank might last the usual amount of time even though the bill shows it was only filled halfway.

Customers of Jackman’s Inc., though, needn’t waste too much time trying to figure it out. The Bristol fuel dealer recently began its “Share Care” program to help its customers in need get through the winter. Jackman’s Inc. is quietly paying parts of the bills of its customers who need the help the most.

“We were concerned if people could afford the fuel this year,” said Jackman’s bookkeeper Sharon Bushey.

Share Care began around the end of November when the company started a fund with $800 and solicited contributions from local individuals and businesses. Donations from individuals and businesses in the area have raised that sum to $2,120 so far, according to Bushey, most of which came during the holiday season. Jackman’s Inc., which is unrelated to Jackman Fuels, is still seeking more donations.

“We’re going to continue right through the winter,” said Peter Jackman, co-owner of Jackman’s Inc.

Fuel prices have been rising continually, and are now at $3.79 a gallon for kerosene and $3.37 a gallon for fuel oil, according to Bushey. In November of 2006 a gallon of fuel oil was going for $2.56.

full story

Carol's Hungry Mind coffee shop teeters near closing

January 21, 2008

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — John Melanson thought for sure business was on the upswing at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café on Tuesday. The staff member scheduled to work with him was out sick, and people had been streaming nonstop into the Merchants Row shop all day.

“It was so strange,” said Melanson, who owns the two-year-old coffee shop. “At the end of the day before I looked at the till, I thought, ‘Oh, here’s a great day. I don’t have labor, it’s been busy all day.’ I like to make $800 a day, but (on Tuesday) it came up to $600.”

This was bad news for Melanson, who after cutting back on staff and hours, is struggling to keep the coffee shop afloat. Unless he can find someone, or some way, to support Carol’s by the end of February, he will likely have to sell it, he said.

“Right now, I would need $70,000 more than I make per year (to keep the operation running),” he said. “That would include how much I put into it each year and a bit of a salary, and I would like that to be a little more than minimum wage.”

Over the last few months, Carol’s fans have come out of the woodwork to offer support and suggestions, but none yet have found a solution.

One woman offered Melanson a $5,000 loan, interest free, for a year. But that would only keep the coffee shop going for a month, and it would add $5,000 to his debt, Melanson said. So he declined.

Other community members have suggested operating the coffee house as a co-op, using membership fees to cover some of the costs. Melanson has even talked to the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op about becoming an annex to that operation, but the Co-op already has its hands full, he said.

full story

January 17th

Chemistry explosion

CHILDREN WATCH WITH amazement as Middlebury College students make ice cream using liquid nitrogen during the Mr. Wizard Chemistry Show in Bicentennial Hall last Friday night. The college will host an encore performance of the popular event on Feb. 29.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell


January 18, 2008

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — At Middlebury College’s Mr. Wizard Chemistry Show last Friday, the children in the room, scattered throughout the overflowing audience at first, gradually got out of their seats and drew closer to the front of the room where five chemistry majors were concocting a magical treat. Dressed in lab coats and safety goggles, the students had filled two bowls with heavy cream, sugar and chocolate sauce and were topping off the mixture with a constant stream of liquid nitrogen.

“The kids were just like molecules extracted from the audience,” noticed retired chemist and Vergennes resident Margaret Lowe, who had come to the show with her husband, Steve, also a retired chemist.

In a night of chemistry magic featuring color-changing liquids, eruptions of “elephant toothpaste” and no shortage of explosions, the liquid nitrogen ice cream was the biggest hit.

Like all of the experiments that night, the ice cream served to teach the kids about chemistry in a fun way they would remember. The college’s Mr. Wizard shows in the past have been a little wilder — with a few more unpredictable flames — but this year, chemistry professor Roger Sandwick geared the event, which was held in the college’s Bicentennial Hall, toward younger children.

“We’re pitching this at a third-grade level, so probably it will be at the appropriate level for some of the adults as well,” he said.

full story

Milk commission a mixed bag

January 17, 2008

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Milk Commission issued a report this week that may come as a mixed bag to the state’s dairy industry. The commission supported a minimum producer price on all milk sold in Vermont and a stronger safety net for dairy farmers, but it also advised the Legislature to repeal the part of a 2007 law that shifted the cost of hauling milk from farmers to purchasers.

It remains to be seen how many of the recommendations will become reality. Some of the conclusions in the commission’s report, released Tuesday, were contingent on nearby states adopting similar plans, and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, said the Senate Committee on Agriculture would not support going back on the hauling charges legislation.

“How they can claim that that is in the best interest of the dairy farmer is beyond me,” he said.

Giard is a member of that committee and was a sponsor of Act 50, one part of which required milk cooperatives, handlers and processors to assume the cost of hauling milk from the farm. Giard said that there is no good reason for farmers who are already struggling to pay the hauling charges.

“This is just one more (expense) we were pushing off the backs of the farmers,” said Giard, a retired dairy farmer.

Stop and hauling charges, which are the fees dairy farmers pay to processors for trucking milk from farm to the processing plant, decrease the amount of money that reaches the farm by an estimated 60 cents per hundredweight (cwt). Typically farmers have been paid as little as $12 cwt  or as much as $20 cwt.

 If the Senate does ignore the Milk Commission’s recommendation, the Act 50 requirement for purchasers to take on the hauling charges would take effect in January 2009, or when two other Northeast states implement similar regulations, whichever comes first.

full story

City looks to revive Vegennes Partnership

January 17, 2008

By ANDY KIRKALDY

VERGENNES — Vergennes officials and citizens are working to bring life back to the Vergennes Partnership, the public-private organization that played a key role in the downtown revitalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s and helped bring new life to the heart of the city and its riverfront.

In the past year the partnership has essentially disbanded after membership and funding declined in recent years. City Manager Renny Perry said new leadership never emerged to replace the few who were asked to carry so much of the load in the past they burned out.

“A lot of the people … are willing to be involved, but not just as actively involved,” Perry said. “We need to find a group of people who are willing to pick up the ball.”

Perry and Mayor Michael Daniels are concerned about the organization’s future because a downtown-oversight group is a condition of Vergennes’ recognition as a Vermont Designated Downtown by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Without that official designation key sources of funds for the city and its property owners could be placed off-limits. 

“It is a much-needed organization,” Daniels said. “We just need to bring it back.”

That designation allows the city to apply for grants from a pot of federal money and its downtown businesses and property owners to apply for tax credits.

Daniels and Perry said a healthy downtown reflects well on all of the city, and that the benefits have been substantial. Owners of a dozen downtown properties — including the Basin, Ryan and Stone blocks — have earned tax credits ranging from $14,500 to $60,000 for improvements or complete renovations.

full story

January 14th

College focuses on local climate action

BEN WESSEL, A Middlebury College freshman, is helping organize three days of events at the college for Focus the Nation, which is orchestrating a nationwide teach-in about climate change for high schools, colleges and other organizations.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell


January 14, 2008

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College next week will host three days of events focused on seeking solutions to the problem of climate change as part of a nationwide teach-in. “Focus the Nation,” which was developed at the college by two professors in their classes, has scheduled discussions at some 1,300 colleges, high schools and businesses. 

“In 10 years we either will have succeeded (in the fight against climate change) or we will have failed,” said Middlebury College economics professor Jon Isham, who developed Focus the Nation and sits on its board. “If we have failed it won’t matter, and if we’ve succeeded, we’ll be on our way. So you have 10 years and you can’t give up.”

It was this realization that led Isham’s friend and professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., Eban Goodstein, to hatch the idea two years ago for Focus the Nation.

“At this moment in time, we owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America,” the organization’s Web site declares.

Goodstein came to Middlebury College last year to further develop the concept in a January term class he taught with Isham, in which students began to get the word out about Focus the Nation.

full story

Gov. Douglas' goals draw mixed reviews

January 14, 2008

By JOHN FLOWERS

MONTPELIER — Addison County lawmakers on Thursday gave mixed reviews to Gov. James Douglas’s priorities for the 2008 legislative session, praising his commitment to “green” energy and new health care reforms but sharply criticizing his proposal to lease the state’s lottery.

Douglas, a Middlebury Republican, outlined his administration’s goals during his annual state-of-the-state address, a 40-minute speech that was interrupted 17 times — 16 times due to applause, and once when Statehouse staff cleared the House chambers of a handful of protesters who had unfurled anti-war banners.

The theme to the governor’s speech was a familiar one: Making the state more affordable to Vermonters who are increasingly feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices and a lack of affordable housing.

“Today, I lay out a series of proposals to achieve prosperity through affordability and to rethink, revitalize and reform the way our state approaches its most pressing challenges,” Douglas said. “By making health care, homeownership and the tax burden more affordable — and by making investments in job creation and our natural environment — our families and our state will prosper.”

Douglas called for:

• Making the state’s health care system more streamlined and inclusive. He suggested, among other things, placing a “prevention specialist” in each region of the state to work with citizens in preventing chronic diseases; and making sure every doctor in Vermont has electronic health information systems by the years 2010.

“I … request that this Legislature make affordable health care the top priority and send me a bill before town meeting,” Douglas said.

full story

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