February 14th, 2008
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — With heavy snow expected later this week, the search team that since Monday has been prodding the snow-covered Middlebury College campus for signs of a missing first-year student has postponed its search until skies clear up this weekend.
But the investigation into the whereabouts of Nicholas Garza, a 19-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., who disappeared more than a week ago, will continue unabated, according to Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley.
“The physical search is just a recovery operation, in the event that something befell the student,” Hanley said. “The other piece is the missing person investigation. We’re going to be interviewing a ton of people, primarily students and people who knew him over the next few days.”
The physical search has turned up nothing since it began, and if there are any clues out there, the snow, more than a foot of which has fallen since the morning after Garza went missing, continues to cover them up.
Garza was last seen at a social gathering in Stewart Hall, a first-year dormitory on the Middlebury College campus, around 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, according to the Middlebury police. The campus was relatively empty that night since most students, including Garza’s roommate and many of his friends, were gone for February break, the week between J-term and the start of the spring semester.
Garza left the party alone, presumably to return to his dorm room in Allen Hall, about a third of a mile across campus, according to reports authorities got from students who attended the gathering. But a friend grew suspicious the next day when he could not reach Garza. He alerted his Commons Residential Advisor (CRA), who then reported the matter to the college’s department of public safety.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Local voters here on April 9 will be asked to approve a 2008-2009 Mary Hogan Elementary School budget of $5,624,785 that reflects a 2.59-percent increase in spending and restoration of an education technology position that had been cut a few years ago. If approved, the spending plan would result in an 8.4 percent property tax increase for Middlebury homeowners.
“We are excited about being able to bring this position back,” Mary Hogan Elementary Principal Bonnie Bourne said of the education technologist, a person she said will work with teachers to help students access information through computers and other equipment. The person will also advise school officials on computer infrastructure and Internet access.
Bourne explained the position was squeezed out of the budget in recent years as the school board looked for ways to cut expenses in the face of declining enrollment. The school currently serves 385 students. It was only eight years ago that 540 students attended the Mary Hogan school.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Sixteen of the more than two dozen suspects implicated in a Dec. 28, 2007, underage drinking party that caused an estimated $10,600 in damage to the former summer home of Robert Frost in Ripton have agreed to go through a court diversion program rather than have their cases adjudicated in Addison County District Court.
Those suspects — most of them teens, many of them Middlebury Union High School students — were among two dozen people that were arraigned in Addison County District Court on Monday. Seven youths pleaded innocent to charges.
The 16 who were offered, and accepted, diversion were primarily first-time offenders cited for criminal counts of unlawful trespassing at the Homer Noble Farm in Ripton.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School board of directors has signed off on a spending plan totaling $12,919,874 for the 2008-2009 school year.
The plan represents a proposed increase in spending of 6.37 percent over the current year’s budget, but officials attributed almost half of that increase to the fact that in past years busing costs appeared in elementary school budgets but this year they appear in the high school budgets.
According to Mount Abe school board Chairman Lanny Smith, the effective proposed increase in spending is about 3.2 percent.
Residents of Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns — Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro — will vote on the proposed Mount Abe spending plan, approved at the board’s Jan. 22 meeting, on Town Meeting Day. Supervisory union business manager Greg Burdick said that education tax rates had not been set by the state legislature as the Addison Independent went to press, so the exact impact of the budget on area towns cannot yet be determined.
By JOHN FLOWERS
BRIDPORT — Bridport voters on Town Meeting Day will be asked to approve a 20-year, $1.25 million bond issue to finance some major repairs to their elementary school, including installation of a new roof.
The repair plan is not only dependant on a “yes” vote from the public on March 4, but also action by the Legislature this session.
The legislative action is needed because as the state’s education funding laws are written, any time a town exceeds the statewide average for per-pupil spending by a specific percentage then the education tax rate on the town’s property is increased by a factor of two as a penalty. Since the state isn’t providing any aid for school building projects, the entire $1.25 million cost of the Bridport project would be counted in the per-pupil spending of the town, pushing it over the statewide average and resulting in the penalty being assessed in the town’s education property tax.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — The first time Laura Thomas performed in a New York City club, only two people showed up to hear her play. One of them was a friend of hers.
“It was humiliating in a way, but strengthening in a way,” the singer-songwriter and guitarist said.
Seven years and plenty of grunt work later, the Middlebury College graduate is making a name for herself, and her five-member band, in the Big Apple and beyond.
On Friday, Feb. 29, the Laura Thomas Band will return to the hometown of their alma mater of three of its members — Thomas graduated from Middlebury College in 1996, lead guitarist Chris Farrell graduated in ’98 and violinist Ben Lively graduated in ’99 — to perform at Middlebury’s Two Brothers Tavern.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — A Shoreham teen has agreed to withdraw her lawsuit against UD-3 in wake of a pending settlement with the school district that will give her on-campus “Youth Alive” religious club essentially the same recognition and benefits enjoyed by other co-curricular student organizations.
The settlement, nearly finalized, would avert a potentially long and expensive legal proceeding that the plaintiff and her legal backers had vowed to take all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as a test of the federal doctrines relating to the separation of church and state.
“We have concluded that the Youth Alive organization should be afforded more access than what we are providing,” Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease said on Monday.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — Voters in Bristol will have to choose between two candidates for an open seat on the Mount Abraham Union High School board on March 4. Bristol residents Gary Farnsworth and R.E. “Dick” Merrill are both running for the three-year seat now held by Wendy Puls, who has said she will not be running again.
Dick Merrill is a familiar face to the current school board; he said he has attended meetings regularly for three years. “I think if I do get elected, I can hit the ground running,” Merrill said.
Merrill, 69, has lived in Bristol for the past 11 years, after more than three decades in Connecticut, where he worked for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, manufacturing jet engines. He had a management position for several years there, so he has supervisory experience, he pointed out.