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LINCOLN RESIDENT MARY Simons recently led a group of journalism students on a nationwide tour of tiny home villages, a source of affordable housing that they hope Addison County communities will embrace. Here is one of four tiny house models that have been placed in downtown Middlebury businesses as part of a scavenger hunt aimed at getting people to a Jan. 29 screening of videos from the students’ tiny homes tour. Photo courtesy of Mary Simons
MIDDLEBURY — Mary Simons is a journalism educator, but she wants her young charges to do more than simply write a narrative. She wants them to become players in bringing their stories to a good conclusion. And this year, that happy ending would lead to more affordable housing in Addison County. Simons, a Lincoln resident, runs a journalism program called “Conversations from the Open Road” aimed at Vermont high school and college students. Participants seize onto an issue and then travel to a part of the country that is enacting what Simons described as “inspiring solutions” to that conundrum...

MT. ABE GRADUATES Lane Fisher, left, Cora Funke and Martha Bruhl shared their experiences with travel and community support at a talk hosted by the One World Library Project at Lawrence Memorial Library on Thursday. Independent photo/Emma Pope McCright
BRISTOL — Although they’ve taken different paths since high school, three recent graduates of Mount Abraham Union High School agree that the place where they all got their start has profoundly affected their lives. “The community in Bristol and Addison County and Vermont has really shaped how I am today,” 2018 grad Martha Bruhl said during a talk at Lawrence Memorial Library this past Thursday evening. “Vermont has really changed who I am.” The New Haven native joined fellow Mt. Abe grads Cora Funke (class of 2019) and Lane Fisher (class of 2016) to discuss their journeys since leaving...
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s summer Festival on-the-Green celebrates its 42nd anniversary season during the week of July 12 through 18, 2020. With construction underway in the downtown area, the festival will be off the Green at the Middlebury Recreation Park this year. Planned and hosted entirely by volunteers, is one of the premier summer arts events in Addison County. Organizers need volunteers to help make this year’s Festival a great success and invite anyone interested to join them for the Festival on-the-Green annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Vermont Community...

THIS WAS OUR front page on November 7, 2019.
ADDISON COUNTY — In 2019 all three of Addison County’s unified school districts wrestled — or began to cast a wary eye on — the thorny issue of how to deal with their small rural schools in an era of declining enrollment and a state funding system that reimburses districts on a per-student basis. While district boards were looking at controlling costs and tax bills by possibly closing smaller schools, they also were envisioning offering more programs to more students at larger schools. Many residents of those rural towns were not happy with foreseeing the loss of community hubs and what many...

THIS WAS OUR front page on September 26, 2019.
Climate justice activism may have reached a critical turning point in 2019. The largest climate protest in history was held in September and Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named Time magazine’s person of the year. In Vermont, climate activists raised their voices again and again in 2019, from the first day of the legislative session to the last public policy forum convened by the Vermont Climate Solutions Caucus. In between, the protests grew louder, became more frequent and attracted larger crowds, inspired in large part by...

THIS WAS OUR front page on May 30, 2019.
The nonprofit Charter House Coalition in 2019 made a concerted effort to help more homeless people at its warming shelter at 27 North Pleasant St., and the greater Middlebury community learned that the lack of a warm place to stay is just one of many challenges that an increasing number of people face. The warming shelter — historically open only during the colder months — in 2019 began providing year-round service to homeless individuals in order to accommodate surging demand. The Charter House Coalition continued to invest more of its limited funds into improving the shelter and hiring more...

THIS WAS OUR front page on August 1, 2019.
Construction on the $72.5 million downtown Middlebury Rail Bridges project hit a higher gear in 2019, with work aimed at preparing the site for a 10-week period during the spring/summer of 2020 when a 360-foot-long tunnel will be installed in place of the Main Street and Merchants Row spans. The heaviest construction in 2019 took place below street level, within the rail corridor. Those living, working and shopping in the downtown heard periodic blasting within the rail bed, which was done in order to remove ledge. Work along the rail line involved driving 333 mini piles — long metal pipes —...

THIS WAS OUR front page on May 16, 2019.
Dr. Seleem Choudhury’s tenure as Porter Medical Center (PMC) president ended in October after only five months, following revelations he had plagiarized material for a series of weekly emails he had used to keep the health care community abreast of goings-on at Addison County’s hospital. Choudhury in May had succeeded Dr. Fred Kniffin as PMC’s top administrative officer. Porter Medical Center includes the hospital, Helen Porter Rehab & Nursing, and around a dozen affiliated health care provider practices. Choudhury acclimated himself to the president’s role by pitching in at various jobs...

ON APRIL 4, 2019, we wrote about the possibility that a bypass could be built within city limits.
For decades the question in Vergennes has been to bypass, or not to bypass. Earlier this year new hope appeared that an alternate route to take trucks out of the city’s downtown could be built in at least some residents’ lifetimes. In April came word that a preliminary study conducted by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and a traffic-consulting firm concluded that a 32-foot-wide road could be built within city limits, largely through its less populated northern areas. The price tag: around $39 million. The road would open up those areas in the northern reaches of the city, much of which...

WE WROTE ABOUT the "Workforce Planning" process at Middlebury College in our May 23, 2019, issue.
In 2019 the county’s largest employer, Middlebury College, completed a comprehensive reevaluation of personnel and work processes, eliminating roughly 100 positions and creating annual budget savings of several million dollars — all without laying anyone off. But it was, and in some ways continues to be, a rough adjustment for faculty, staff and administration. The process, called “Workforce Planning,” had required each department at the college to submit two plans to the administration: one that cut staff costs by 10% and one that cut costs by 15%. Many employees found the process stressful...

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Addison County Independent