Chronology: August 2014
In early August, Vermont Hard Cider, which produces the popular Woodchuck brand of the apple-based libation, opened its big new plant in the Middlebury industrial park. The 100,000-square-foot Exchange Street facility has 23 cider tanks and can produce 600 bottles of cider per minute. After it nearly went bankrupt in 2003, the company capitalized on the growing popularity of cider in the U.S. and now employs 167 and sells more than $100 million of cider each year. It was bought by an Irish company last year. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and other dignitaries came to the formal ribbon-cutting early in the month; then more than 7,500 cider lovers turned out for Vermont Hard Cider’s “Ciderbration” event to commemorate the opening of its new plant. That party featured live music on a huge stage behind the plant and lots of flowing cider.
Bristol’s downtown got a little sprucing up, thanks to a $300,000 construction project to replace utility poles, lampposts and sidewalks, as well as add screening for Dumpsters along Prince Lane. The project was funded entirely though federal and private grants, and thus did not cost taxpayers a dime.
Aug. 3 was a sad day for Middlebury College after the campus community learned that John Illig, the women’s squash head coach, had died after a fall at his Lincoln home. During his seven years as coach, Illig compiled a 210-121 record.
The Addison County Fair and Field Days was blessed with five days of beautiful summer weather. Lucien Paquette, who founded Field Days in 1946 and turned the ripe age of 98 in August, again competed in the hand mowing contest, his favorite. Moose Porter won the perennially popular demolition derby when his 2003 Chevy Cavalier outlasted all challengers.
Vermonter Adam Barup won four different categories of the arm wrestling competition at Field Days, while New Yorker Jessalyn Carosella swept the women’s 143-pounds-and-under events. Cathy Merrill won in the women’s 144-pounds-plus categories.
The fair’s quintessential tractor-pulling event ended on a somber note when an elderly man was crushed by a runaway tractor wheel during the tractor pull event. Fair organizers said that, while performing a pull, a 6-foot-wide, 500-pound wheel snapped off its axle and careened toward the crowd. After it hit a protective barrier, it jumped high into the air before falling on the seated man. Fortunately, he escaped with only a broken leg in what Sheriff Don Keeler called a “freak accident.”
Vermont Gas on Aug. 12 offered to pay for independent mediators to help landowners along the Phase I pipeline route come to terms with the company. Some residents balked at the offer and said they don’t trust Vermont Gas, while others said they’d give it a try. Legislators, including Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, said the offer doesn’t address a key imbalance — that Vermont Gas’ legal expenses are billed back to the project, while landowners must dig into their own pockets.
August saw a changing of the guard at Middlebury’s popular Noonie Deli. New owners Lauren Barland and Jay Lafountain said they plan to complement the eatery’s rich history rather than overhaul the joint.
In Middlebury, officials debated building a skate park on Mary Hogan Drive, on a 100-by-50-foot plot next to the basketball and tennis courts. In Vergennes, city officials discussed a park that would serve a different population — toddlers. The tiny playground would be built on East Street, near the elementary school and city pool. The project — which continued to be the topic of discussion into December — turned out to be controversial. At the first public forum on the topic Aug. 25, three dozen residents weighed in. Some neighbors are concerned about noise and traffic in the area, while others said toddlers would love the park.
Middlebury College built a living roof on top of its new squash center as part of the institution’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. College officials said the plants on the roof reduce rainwater runoff, a major source of water pollution, as well as keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer, reducing heating and cooling costs.
The longtime chairman of the UD-3 school board resigned Aug. 20 to take a job in the Addison Central Supervisory Union athletic department. Leonard Barrett of Bridport served on the board for 11 years, including five as chairman.
Michael Lenox in August debuted as the new principal of Shoreham Elementary School. Before coming to Shoreham, Lenox, 37, worked for six years as a music teacher in Rutland schools, and also taught music for four years at Fair Haven Union High School.
Aug. 26 was Primary Day in Vermont, and Addison County saw only one contested race. In the Addison-1 legislative House district, incumbent Betty Nuovo and newcomer Amy Sheldon bested Donna Donahue for the Democratic nominations in the two-seat district. In heavily Democratic Middlebury, the duo in the November General Election would square off against Republican and independent challengers.
The Vermont Lake Monsters looked to their own backyard to fill an open roster spot when they “drafted” Bristol resident Ethan Fritz. Fritz, an 11-year-old second baseman for the Bristol Eagles, was awarded a one-day ceremonial contract with the minor league ballclub as part of a promotion sponsored by Northwestern Urgent Care. Fritz said he was honored for the call-up, and along with the other boys selected donated his $50 salary to charity.
Porter Medical Center in August announced its projected 2015 fiscal year budget. It totals $74.3 million in spending, and is up 3 percent from last year.
In Whiting Aug. 22 officials from the Department of Health determined that mosquitoes in the area carried Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a virus that usually targets horses but can also be fatal to humans. It was reason for alarm — the extremely rare virus killed two local men in 2012. Fortunately, state officials said no humans contracted the disease in 2014.
Gov. Peter Shumlin on Aug. 25 had some harsh words for Vermont Gas, even though he supports its pipeline project. Shumlin said he was “extremely disappointed” the company failed to anticipate the 40 percent cost increase of its Phase I project, and didn’t keep the state regulators updated as cost projections ballooned. He ordered the company to provide quarterly budget updates and also said the state will pay for independent appraisers to value property along the pipeline route, to ensure landowners are not cheated in easement deals.