Archive - 2007
High on the plateau above the New Haven River overlooking the village of Bristol rests a fertile 11-acre hay meadow with spectacular views of Deerleap Mountain, the Bristol Cliffs, Bristol’s downtown and views west toward the Adirondacks. With a thin row of trees bordering the meadow on two sides and high mountains at its back, the site is as picturesque as it gets in Vermont — and that’s pretty special.
But the purpose of a site visit this past Monday at this scenic location, wasn’t to admire the view and imagine the good fortune that 25 or 30 families might have if a residential neighborhood were established there in the distant future, or in the similarly sized wooded section that borders the meadow on the south side. Rather, the District 9 Environmental Commission held a public site visit to give its members, Bristol residents and others an opportunity to walk the site and learn the details of a proposed gravel pit that would excavate untold hundreds of thousands of tons of gravel for the next 35 or more years.
The questions answered during the site visit were of a technical nature: if the access road goes here, how will the traffic flow; what landscaping will be done to hide the cut into the woods; what will be done to mitigate the noise, gravel dust and visual scars to the land; where will the digging begin, how will it proceed? They talked about 200-foot setbacks and test pits and the steepness of access and egress roads.
But the central question of whether a conditional use permit should be granted to allow the significant parcel to be mined as a gravel pit or left, as some argue the town’s municipal plan suggests, as a residential area for future growth was not discussed.
It is, however, the question Bristol residents should reconsider in a public process.
Today’s front-page headline is a stunner: Middlebury College pledges $9 million to help the town build the long-discussed Cross Street Bridge. As a gift to the town, it’s huge and most generous. But the bigger story is the message behind the gift — it’s a new era in town-gown relations that promises a greater degree of cooperation and interaction to the benefit of both.
And that’s terrific.
This new era is punctuated by several factors:
• The current generation of students are doers, says Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz, and the college campus may not be big enough for them throughout their four-year stint. Interaction with the town and area communities allows them to spread their wings, pursue interests off campus, provide valuable services and gain an understanding of community outside the college.
November 30, 2007
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — For more than a half-century, Middlebury’s quest for a second in-town crossing of the Otter Creek has moved slower than rush-hour traffic along the town’s Main Street.
But that figurative and literal gridlock may soon be lifted thanks to a pledge by Middlebury College to donate $9 million toward a new in-town bridge project that would link Main Street to Court Street over the Otter Creek via Cross Street.
College and municipal officials on Monday confirmed to the Addison Independent the donation pledge — made at the request of the town — which will take the form of annual payments of $600,000 over 30 years to cover the interest and principal payments on the bonds that Middlebury will float for construction of the span.
Total cost of the in-town bridge project is being placed at $16 million, with $7 million of that amount associated with related intersection upgrades, road improvements and acquisition of four properties within the project right-of-way. Selectmen will look to other funding sources — including the federal government and local taxpayers — to cover that remaining $7 million.
“What I hope is that this is a step in the evolutionary process in the relationship between the town and college, that both feel more comfortable working with each other collaboratively, to the benefit of both… ” Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz said of the financial pledge for the bridge, a structure he believes could serve not only as a vital traffic conduit, but also as a metaphor for a new era of town-gown collaborations in tackling common challenges.
NEW HAVEN FARMER Derrick Dykstra is one of many young farmers working to have their voices heard on issues that affect the future of farming. He and other farmers under age 30 spoke at a forum hosted by Rep. Peter Welch in Middlebury Tuesday morning.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
November 29, 2007
November 29, 2007
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MIDDLEBURY — Discussion of a bill before the Vermont House that would create a single-payer health insurance system to pay hospital bills for all Vermonters met with mixed reaction in Middlebury on Tuesday.
The group Vermont Health Care for All played a large role in the discussion of bill H.304, the Vermont Hospital Security Plan, which was held at Ilsley Public Library. State Rep. Topper McFaun, R-Barre, one of three co-sponsors of the bill, said that health care costs are shooting up throughout the country and Vermont has to make major changes to how it pays for its citizens’ health care.
“Something has to be done that’s more than what we’re doing,” McFaun said at the meeting, which was called to raise support for the effort. H.304 would create the Vermont Hospital Security Trust Fund, he said, that would be used to pay hospital bills for all Vermonters.
Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All, said that a major driver of the growing costs of health care is mounting administrative costs from many different health care providers dealing with many different private insurance companies and overlapping plans. This bill would greatly reduce that growth, she said.
The tidal wave of paperwork was familiar to those at Tuesday’s meeting. One woman at the forum brought a stack of dozens of bills from recent emergency surgery to the meeting. Some should have gone to her insurance company in the first place, she said; some were from the hospital itself while others were from an individual specialist, and one apparently charged different rates for the same test on different days.
“I’m spending hours and hours going through these,” she said.
Under H.304, the dozens or hundreds of billing addresses hospitals now need to track would be reduced to one: the state.
November 29, 2007
By MEGAN JAMES
HANCOCK — By the time Thomas Fabbioli arrived at the auction of the former Vermont Plywood plant in Hancock two weeks ago, the representative from the bank was packing up to leave.
None of the 40-some people present on Nov. 13 had bid on the plant. So when Fabbioli offered $120,000 at the last minute, the building and 49 acres of land around it became his.
But the equipment was sold separately and the nature of the future economic activity at the plant, which has been Hancock’s largest employer since 1925, is not clear. What is clear is that Fabbioli will not immediately employ the 35 people who lost their jobs when on Sept. 6 the Union Bank of Morrisville, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Economic Development Authority foreclosed on Vermont Plywood.
With the Route 100 plant a crucial engine of the local economy, a lot hinges on Fabbioli’s plans. At the plant’s peak in 1969, it employed 180 people, and it employed 90 as recently as 2003, when it was owned by Chesapeake Hardwoods.
Vermont Plywood bought the plant in 2004.
As the plywood industry has struggled in the last few years, many in the area have moved with their families out of town, exacerbating an already dire situation of dwindling enrollment at the Hancock Village School, which school officials say they may have to close next year, according to longtime Hancock resident and historian Tom Perera.
“The town doesn’t have anything else,” said Perera, who attended the auction. “For 82 years, this plant has been supplying work for people. All of a sudden it looked as though it would disappear.”
SOUND INVESTMENT JAZZ Ensemble, a revival of a 1930s big band at Middlebury College, runs through a rehearsal in the Center for the Arts last week. The college has a history of big bands dating back to the swing era, but Sound Investment is the first jazz band to be officially credited by the music department in many years.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
November 26, 2007
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — You can’t find a more purely American tradition than jazz music, Derek Long believes. The Middlebury College senior first fell in love with the genre in high school, playing tenor saxophone in a jazz band.
“With jazz there’s this really interesting dynamic,” he said. “On the one hand, you have to work together as a group. There’s a sense of community, of sharing a piece of art. On the other hand, there’s this opportunity for the individual to shine with the improvisation of a solo.
“That sense of standing up on your own two feet and dealing with whatever comes your way, it’s a uniquely American experience,” Long said.
But jazz has kind of fallen off the map in recent years, Long said. That’s why his band, Sound Investment Jazz Ensemble, is trying to get it off the ground again at the college.
Sound Investment will have its official public debut on Friday, Nov. 30, at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall at the Center for the Arts. The 17-piece band will present a kind of “jazz odyssey,” Long said, playing classics from Glenn Miller and Count Basie as well as more contemporary pieces,
When Long came to Middlebury in 2004, he was shocked to find there was no official jazz band sponsored by the music department; just a student-run organization known simply as Jazz Band.
November 26, 2007
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School administrators and board members are looking at a first draft of a 2008-2009 budget that could — if approved in current form by the VUHS board in January and by voters in March — boost spending by about 5 percent to $8.45 million.
Rising energy and health insurance costs are pressuring the bottom line. In 2006 the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union also signed a new contract with its teachers giving raises ranging from about 3 to 5 percent, with the higher raises going to the lower end of the salary scale.
VUHS Principal Ed Webbley said officials have little wiggle room once they factor in those items; expenses mandated by federal and state governments, such as special education; and other uncontrollable costs such as transportation, maintenance, and an almost $700,000 payment on the school’s seven-year-old expansion and renovation bond.
Unless they want to start cutting non-mandatory programs at the 650-student high and middle school like music, art, agriculture and world language, Webbley said officials have about only $100,000 to play with.
“Discretionary monies at our high school are $155 per student,” Webbley said. “We can make decisions on only such a small, small fraction of our whole budget. We can make decisions regarding field trips, books and supplies for students, and after that our discretion pretty much runs the course.”
ANwSU business manager Donna Corcoran projected an 8.5-percent increase in health insurance costs for budgeting purposes, although she said she picked that figure to be safe after being told to expect an increase closer to 7.5 percent.