Archive - Nov 20, 2008
GLORIA KAMENCIK AND Nathan L’Heureux take a twirl on stage during a rehearsal Tuesday night of Mount Abraham Union High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” The show will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. For more photos from the show, see the print edition of the Independent.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
By JOHN FLOWERS
BRISTOL — Middlebury selectmen will spend the next five weeks trying to put together a fiscal year 2009-2010 municipal budget that features no local tax increase.
Selectmen are seeking to maintain the current municipal rate of 80.6 cents per $100 in property value in deference to Middlebury residents who are struggling through a tough economy. Several local businesses have laid off workers during the past year. Meanwhile, economists on Tuesday predicted a $30 million decline in general fund revenues for the current fiscal year and a state unemployment rate that could soon reach 7 percent.
“We come at this budget in a little bit of a different way, intentionally,” Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny said. “I think it’s a good change in the process for what is clearly going to be a difficult year, if not two or three years. Because of the difficult financial situation, this leads us toward a budget presentation and preparation unlike previous years … where we’ve set the baseline as ‘maintaining the level of service.’ This is looking at holding the line financially, and a more arbitrary financial limit because of the economic stress that is perceived in the community.”
Middlebury Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo on Tuesday spelled out the impact a level municipal tax rate would have on next year’s budget.
First, he noted a projected 1.5-percent increase in Middlebury’s grand list would give the town roughly $6,760,000 in revenues, a sum that would fall approximately $259,496 short of the $7,020,147 needed to maintain the same services that local residents are currently receiving.
The lion’s share of the gap — almost $165,000 — is associated with increases in wages and benefit premiums for municipal employees, hikes that are guaranteed through negotiated contracts.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
ADDISON COUNTY — By the time fuel oil hit the record high price of $147 per barrel this summer, telephones were ringing off their hooks at local fuel vendors’ offices. Customers were clamoring for “pre-buy” contracts, looking for a way to lock into a price of $4 per gallon of heating fuel or more and pay for a winter’s worth of oil up front.
Now, though, fuel oil prices have dropped to under $60 per barrel this week and prices for heating fuel have fallen by 30 percent or more. With the price for No. 2 fuel oil at some local companies coming in this month at around $2.80 per gallon, those same customers are likely wishing they’d left their phones on the hooks.
But customers, it turns out, aren’t the only ones who locked in at high prices this year — their vendors did, too.
“We were kind of forced into it by the customers,” admitted Mike Bordeleau, the owner of Bridport-based Mike’s Fuels. In July, Bordeleau was on the fence about offering pre-buy contracts — reluctant, he said, to have his own customers lock into prices that were $1.50 or $2 per gallon higher than last year.
Skyrocketing prices, though, made some customers anxious to buy early in case prices climbed even higher over the course of the winter. What’s more, speculators on Wall Street — Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association (VFDA) named Goldman Sachs as an example — were calling for oil prices to hit $200 a barrel, which could result in heating oil priced at $6 or $7 per gallon.
“There was a panic across the Northeast,” Cota said.
So, when Bordeleau was able to offer a pre-buy contract at $3.99 a gallon, almost 20 percent of his customers — around 500 out of approximately 2,700 households — jumped at the offer.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — They came from all walks of life and from all corners of the county on this clear May day, to strike up a singular voice of compassion for a woman who was drawing her last breaths during the annual season of renewal.
They respectfully gathered around Cynthia Hodgson’s bed, gazed upon her lovingly, and eased into a rendition of the spiritual, “There’s A Light.”
Mrs. Hodgson couldn’t acknowledge those serenading her, and she didn’t have to. As the group watched and sang, her breathing slowed, then stopped completely.
“She just eased on,” said her son, Will Porter, who was among the family members present at her bedside. “It was almost like she relaxed right away.”
Family members are convinced Mrs. Hodgson’s final moments on Earth were made more peaceful by Wellspring, a group of Hospice Volunteer Services singers who offer to serenade those nearing the end of their lives.
For almost four years now, the group has been sharing song as a source of comfort for hospice patients struggling with the pain, fear and anxiety that can come with a terminal illness or advanced age.
Priscilla Baker is Wellspring’s coordinator. She was with the group when it began rehearsing in 2004 and gave its first “patient sing” in 2005.
She noted how Wellspring has grown from a rather casual collection of seven or eight people to an association of almost 30 avid singers devoted to the cause. Practices, conducted the first and third Tuesday of each month, draw upwards of 16 singers.
Since she serves as program director for Volunteer Hospice Services, Baker is able to offer Wellspring’s services to clients who might feel soothed by music.