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Archive - 2007

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November 15th

Middlebury mulls idle-free policy

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen later this month will consider a new “idle-free” policy calling upon motorists to switch off their vehicle engines when they are not traveling.

The new policy is being pitched by the Middlebury Area Global Warming Action Coalition (MAGWAC), an ad hoc citizens group that is working on ways to reduce the community’s carbon footprint. The group reasoned the town could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions — as well as look after the collective health of its citizens — by adopting an idle-free policy.

full story

Citizens and government clash in Goshen

November 15, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

GOSHEN — The tension was palpable at the Goshen selectboard meeting Monday night. With a new chairman, Bruce Webster, at the helm, some two dozen residents clashed over the town government’s spending policies. 

The tiny mountain town in the past few months has seen the resignation of several key town officials — including the departure of Town Clerk Erica Sabatini, announced Monday — and is struggling with paying for services with a small tax base.

At the center of the discussion was road foreman Jim Hayes, who at the end of October purchased a $3,000 sander to replace the town’s older, malfunctioning one. According to Hayes, Selectmen David McKinnon and David Gale authorized this purchase at a board meeting in August.

McKinnon and Gale confirmed this, but Webster, who was not on the board at the time — he was appointed to replace Thomasina Magoon when she resigned at the end of September — said he could not find a record of the authorization in the minutes. Sabatini was absent from that meeting and so there were no minutes.

When Webster consulted the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, they told him the sander should not have been purchased without written authorization.

“They said, first of all, if it wasn’t in the minutes, it’s not verifiable, it didn’t happen,” Webster said.

McKinnon and Gale maintained they had advised Hayes to use his discretion, to buy the sander if he deemed it necessary. After all, he has been taking care of the Goshen roads for 11 years, and he has always been frugal, they said.

“We’ve done this three or four sanders before this one,” Gale said. “It’s the way we’ve always done business.”

But Webster said he wants to change the way Goshen does business.

full story

Quidditch anyone?

November 15, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — “Brooms down. Eyes closed. And the snitch is loose,” boomed Xander Manshel, commissioner emeritus of the Middlebury College Muggle Quidditch League. The crowd cheered as a gold-clad player dashed away and two teams of undergraduates wearing capes and holding broomsticks between their legs took the field.

As the players scurried around Middlebury College’s Battell Beach on Sunday afternoon the first intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup Fall Festival was under way.

The tournament included more than a dozen teams playing the magical sport portrayed in J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter novels. Unlike in the books, where wizards and witches fly through the air on souped up broomsticks, the Middlebury quidditch players remained strictly earthbound. The competition was no less keen, despite the lack of magic.

“It’s a full-contact sport,” said Middlebury sophomore James Schonzeit, as players from another team tackled each other on the field to wild applause. “A violent ballet, of sorts.”

A dozen home teams competed for a final game vs. visiting Vassar College, in an afternoon that featured 12 games, a half-time show and five or six musical and juggling performances. Middlebury, represented by team Molly Wobbles, took the victory as the sun set on the five-hour-long tournament.

The referee, junior Victor Larsen, explained the game using a plethora of Rowling jargon to a hapless reporter lost in the crowd of Harry Potter buffs.

“Only the seekers can touch the quaffle, only the beaters can touch the bludgers,” he said, never peeling his eyes from the action on the field.

What?

“Keepers’ job is to keep, the chasers score, the seekers seek,” he said.

full story

November 12th

Toy recalls abroad spike local business

SARAH ROSCOE WORKS on wooden airplane toys at Maple Landmark in Middlebury last Thursday morning. The local toy company has been the unexpected beneficiary of a surge in business as consumers respond to recent recalls of toys manufactured in China.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell



November 12, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — A recent spate of toy recalls has turned many consumers away from major manufacturers and foreign markets and prompted them to seek out smaller, more environmentally friendly companies — like Middlebury-based Maple Landmark Woodcraft.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in the demand,” said Michael Rainville, founder and president of Maple Landmark. “We are the beneficiaries of the problem that has been going on. And there are not too many U.S. manufacturers (of wooden toys).”

Rainville said that incoming orders in early October were about 70 percent ahead of where they were at the same time last year. Shipments last month were up 37 percent.

“Almost all of this change we’re seeing is related to people being afraid of what they’re buying,” Rainville said. “There is a segment of people that is not willing to trust anything that says ‘Made in China’ on the back right now. So they are coming to us.”

That sentiment has come through loud and clear through client input Maple Landmark has received through its Web site.

“They’ll write all sorts of things in the comment box, like ‘We threw out all our toys and we’re starting over,’” Rainville said. “Some dealers are realizing they have too many ‘Made in China’ toys on their shelves and are looking for a better balance.”

They are looking to Maple Landmark to help achieve that balance, and orders for the company’s more than 1,000 different products have been flying in.

full story

ACCAG gears up for the holiday season

November 12, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County Community Action Group (ACCAG) officials are concerned there may be fewer holiday gifts for area needy children this year because eligible families are not getting enough information about a key program that offers free presents.

At issue is ACCAG’s “Giving Tree Program,” through which income-eligible families can fill out wish-list applications for children under 18 years old. The application is then condensed into an tree-shaped tag that is forwarded to participating businesses. Customers and employees of those businesses can pick up one of the tags and buy a present, which is then picked up by ACCAG and given to the family. The recipients’ names are kept confidential.

Last year ACCAG received 760 Giving Tree applications and has previously taken in more than 900 in one year. But ACCAG Executive Director Jeanne Montross on Thursday noted that she had received only 300 applications thus far, a very low number compared to previous years.

Montross theorized a big reason for the drop has been because some Addison County schools have now declined to send Giving Tree Program application forms home with students. In the past, all students had been given the forms and eligible families would then return them to ACCAG. But Montross said some schools don’t want to run the risk of having students bringing confidential family information at school.

“It’s been significant,” Montross said of the impact on the schools’ decision on the Giving Tree program. She said Middlebury schools have continued to send the forms home with kids, but Vergennes and Bristol-area schools have not participated this year.

full story

Five years smoke free

November 12, 2007

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

ADDISON COUNTY — Kathy Ciociola of Vergennes had tried to stop smoking more than once, but never managed to stay away completely until she found out about the “Ready, Set… Stop!” program of the Addison County Tobacco Control Roundtable. Ciociola found the atmosphere of that program more helpful than trying to quit on her own, and she has now been smoke-free since June 15, 2002.

To Ciociola, the difference was the program’s message. “It’s not one of those ‘smoking is bad’ things. It’s more of a positive, ‘How can we help you’ thing,” Ciociola said. “Smokers know it’s bad for them … (Quitting) doesn’t have to be that bad.”

Those looking for a reason to stop smoking could look for help this Thursday, when the Addison County Tobacco Control Roundtable will join with the rest of the nation in recognizing the Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers take a day away from their cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

Ciociola, 52, decided to quit when she began thinking about her son starting a family of his own.

“I didn’t want to be a smoking grandmother,” she said. When she Melanie Clark, program coordinator of the Addison County Tobacco Control Roundtable (and now Ciociola’s daughter-in-law) asked her for advice about the program, she decided to sign up.

She said the program was successful for her partly because it had an intentionally positive message rather than focusing on the many problems caused by smoking. The health effects of smoking are well documented and the messages right on cigarette packages warn that “smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy.

 “Smokers know it’s bad for them,” Ciociola said. “Quitting doesn’t have to be that bad.”

full story

November 8th

The Sound of Music

THE CLASSIC RODGERS and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music,” which originally opened on Broadway in 1959, comes to Vergennes Union High School this week with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. The show features Katie Jordan as Maria.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

full story

Whiting rejects school merger plan

November 8, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

WHITING/SUDBURY — The proposal to form a joint school district between Whiting and Sudbury was defeated on Tuesday when the two towns split the decision: Sudbury voters approved the plan, 53-39, and Whiting said no, 47-26.

In order to pass the measure, both towns had to agree.

Bill Mathis, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, attended a portion of both town meetings Tuesday night where school board members discussed the merger with residents before the floor vote.

In Whiting, he suspected one reason voters rejected the joint school district was that they wanted to retain a sense of ownership over their village school.

“People have a tremendous amount of pride in their local community,” he said. “It’s something that’s precious to them. And even though their school would remain open, it strikes at some core values.”

According to Whiting Town Clerk Grace Simonds, Whiting voters were also wary of the costs involved in merging the schools, despite calculations distributed by both school boards showing a $134,000 decrease in the annual spending plan — each school would only need four teachers, rather than six, because class sizes would be larger — were the schools to merge.

In Sudbury, cutting costs was a key issue, but one that led the voters to draw the opposite conclusion. The school’s student body is declining — it serves 31 students this year — and taxpayers face a potential penalty from the state if the trend continues into next year. This is a typical problem for schools with small populations because at a certain point a school’s infrastructure costs remain fairly consistent even when the number of students falls.

full story

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