John Flowers

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents this fiscal year will see an 8.9-cent increase in their local property tax rate, a jump that’s almost exclusively associated with rising school costs. The Middlebury selectboard in August set a fiscal year 2021 municipal property tax rate of 80.34 cents per $100 in assessed value, which is virtually level with the 2020 municipal rate of 80.26 cents. The residential education property tax rate, predicated on K-12 spending, comes in at $1.6261 per $100 in assessed value, up 8.82 cents compared to fiscal year 2020. So the total fiscal year 2021 property tax rate...

JIM GISH, LEFT, community liaison to the downtown Middlebury rail bridges project, walks with reporter John Flowers near the opening of the massive new concrete railway tunnel under Main Street and Merchants Row. The project is in week six of a scheduled 10-week, around-the-clock work schedule. Independent photo/Alexa Lapiner
MIDDLEBURY — There was a time in my 20s when I dreamed of reporting to work in a war zone wearing a helmet and flak jacket emblazoned with the word “Press.” Life took me to a different, peaceful place — Addison County — though the flak jacket might have come in handy during some of those Vermont Gas pipeline hearings in Shoreham and Middlebury back in 2013-2014. But finally, at age 58, I was able to don a helmet for a reporting assignment. It happened on Friday, Aug. 21, and the setting was indeed a dusty, upended urban setting that had endured blasting. Downtown Middlebury. The blasting in...

RICHARD LAFONTAINE CELEBRATED his 106th birthday earlier this month. He resides at The Residence at Otter Creek in Middlebury, where he recently spoke with the Independent about a fascinating life during which he’s seen the end of two World Wars, the industrialization of America, and the moon landing, to mention a few watershed events. Independent photo/Alexa Lapiner
MIDDLEBURY — Centenarians deservedly receive a lot of fanfare. Hitting triple digits is a rare feat, and it’s rarer still when those endowed with such longevity are still vital, inquisitive and delightfully conversant. Richard LaFontaine is indeed a prime example of such a person. And heck, he left the number-100 road marker in the rearview mirror six years ago. Child’s play. The only person in these parts that can call him “Junior” is Bristol’s Bob James, who turned 109 earlier this summer. And let’s quickly dispense with the question everyone wants to ask Mr. LaFontaine, who recently sat...
MIDDLEBURY — New entertainment options for those spending a lot of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are arriving on Thursday, Aug. 27: A panoply of films — both short and feature length — will be accessible online as part of the first-ever virtual edition of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival (MNFF). Under normal circumstances, filmmakers and movie enthusiasts from throughout the world would be converging on Middlebury this week for the sixth annual MNFF, which customarily offers more than 100 film screenings at five venues in Addison County’s shire town. The festival is also...

MANY LOCAL FIRE departments cut back or eliminated training during the height of the pandemic, but they still, of course, responded to emergencies. Photo by Mark Bouvier
BRISTOL — Many area fire departments are getting back into their regular training and meeting regimens after having been temporarily sidelined by state-mandated restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. And recognizing that departments have had to curtail operations since mid-March, the Vermont Fire Academy will allow firefighters until June of 2021 to accumulate the 24 hours of annual training needed for recertification, according to New Haven Assistant Fire Chief Dean Gilmore. Firefighters are customarily required to fit that 24 hours into the calendar year. “This is mainly because at...

MONA ROGERS (LEFT) will retire this month as head of the Sarah Partridge Library, and pass the leadership baton to Laura Fetterolf. Independent photo/John Flowers
EAST MIDDLEBURY — Mona Rogers had an impressive resume to show off when she interviewed to lead the Sarah Partridge Library in East Middlebury back in 2003. Educator. Business owner. World traveler. And, back in her teen years, experience as an assistant at the library in Massapequa, N.Y., where she grew up. But she believes it was a humorous-but-frank revelation she offered during her interview with then-Ilsley Library Executive Director David Clark that clinched the East Middlebury job. “I explained very logically to Dave that my whole house was arranged by the Dewey Decimal System,” Rogers...
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury-area parents have been looking ahead to the start of school on Sept. 8 with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Returning to campus will represent a return to “normal” for many families, even if it’s only for two days each week, with the other three days involving online studies. But there’s also been some anxiety about how children will be protected from COVID-19, and what will happen if a wave of the pandemic surges through the student body. The Addison Central School District (ACSD) late last week released a document that gives parents some answers. The 66-...
MIDDLEBURY — Downsizing from seven to three elementary schools could save Addison Central School District taxpayers an estimated $3.3 million in year one, and $41.5 million over 10 years. Downsizing to four elementary schools would reduce costs by around $33 million over a decade. That’s according to ACSD administrators and a consultant that assessed the Middlebury-area’s education infrastructure. Those estimates were among several new pieces of information reviewed by the ACSD Facilities Committee as it coordinates a master plan for the district’s myriad school buildings. The ACSD includes...
RIPTON — A Ripton man is spearheading an online citizens petition aimed at convincing the Addison Central School District board to suspend its work on a facilities master plan — which will likely include recommendations on elementary school closures — until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The petition had garnered more than 559 signatures as the Independent went to press on Wednesday. “In the current situation, the education of our students necessitates all the energy and resources the district has available,” reads the petition, which is attributed to the “ACSD VT Citizen’s Alliance.” “This...

Click the PDFs at the end of the story to see Addison County's town by town voting on the governor's race, lieutenant governor's race and high bailiff's race.
ADDISON COUNTY — Addison County voters during Tuesday’s primary elections followed statewide trends in picking Democrat Dave Zuckerman and Republican Phil Scott as their nominees for governor, and Democrat Molly Gray and Republican Scott Milne as the finalists for the post of lieutenant governor. In the Democrat primary for lieutenant governor, political newcomer and assistant Vermont Attorney General Molly Gray won a surprising victory over Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe by winning over 90 percent of the state’s towns and doing well in Chittenden County, where Ashe has been a state...

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Addison County Independent