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February 25th, 2008

BBC bureau chief talks about Iraq and American politics

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — Even in Baghdad, Adi Raval couldn’t escape talk of the U.S. democratic primary. Back in August, when the BBC Baghdad bureau chief was working in Iraq, he found himself all too often answering Iraqis’ questions about the nominees’ campaign rhetoric about pulling out the troops.

“These people watch television, they read newspapers, American blogs,” Raval said in a talk at Middlebury College on Thursday. “They’re probably, in a lot of ways, more tuned in to what’s going on with American politics than most of us are. Because in a lot of ways, the election here matters more to them than it does to ordinary Americans.”

Although he currently is a producer for the BBC at the White House, Raval has been stationed in Baghdad three times since 2004. From his post in the Green Zone, the 1998 Middlebury College graduate and San Francisco native has watched the best and the worst of America play out side by side, he told a standing-room-only audience last week.

During the spring of 2004, when he was deputy bureau chief for ABC News, Raval was one of only a handful of journalists who watched the American Coalition Provisional Authority hand back sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

“The ceremony itself was in some ways emblematic of how the major of military operations were carried out,” Raval said. “It was rushed, it wasn’t very well thought out.”

On that 120-degree day in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, the pro-council of the U.S. government at the time, stood in his L.L. Bean hiking boots and handed a legal contract to the Iraqi vice president and interim chief justice of the Iraqi High Court.

Raval clutched his satellite phone, ready to break the news to the world that Americans had returned sovereignty to the Iraqi government. 

full story

February 21st

Rain, sleet or snow: These boys bike to school

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MONKTON — Sam and Robin Kuhns’ morning routine differs from their classmates’ at Monkton Central School in one big way: over their winter clothes, the brothers put on bicycle helmets and safety vests. Nine-year-old Sam and Robin, 11, have biked three miles to school year round for about three years with their father, Buzz Kuhns.

The habit of biking to school began when Sam was in kindergarten, and Buzz suggested that they bike in one morning near the start of the school year. Sam was opposed to it at first.

“I was like, ‘Dad, are you insane?’” he said. However, Sam quickly warmed up to the idea.

Biking to school in the morning is the more practical option sometimes. The family lives on Bennett Road about three miles from Monkton Central. In good conditions, biking takes 20 minutes or less; Buzz said that their record time was 15 minutes, 25 seconds. Since the family lives near the start of the 45-minute school bus route, that’s less time than it would take to ride the bus.

While the Kuhnses say the ride itself is not very strenuous, the family’s dedication is impressive. Buzz said that they have only missed three days so far this school year.

“Sam has never ridden a bus more than twice or so (since we started biking),” Buzz said.

Falling snow has a few times prevented the Kuhns kids from biking, and they also don’t bike if the road has not been plowed, Buzz said. But low temperatures, wind and even rain have not been enough to stop them.

They need to take extra steps before getting on the bikes for school in bad weather, but frigid temperatures have not required all that much extra clothing because the exercise helps keep them warm. Buzz said they have biked on mornings as cold as 16 degrees below zero, and the only change they needed was donning ski goggles.

full story

Northwestern county towns to see level school tax rates

By ANDY KIRKALDY

VERGENNES — Residential school tax rates in two of the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns are expected to drop, according to estimates prepared by the ANwSU office, while homeowners’ rates in two other union towns are projected to rise by less than 3 cents.

Only in Addison, where unexpected costs during this school year have created a $75,000 deficit at Addison Central School, do ANwSU officials estimate the residential school tax rate will increase significantly, by about 13 cents.

Overall, ANwSU business manager Donna Corcoran said officials are happy to release the estimates, which assume residents pass all four proposed district school budgets on Town Meeting Day.

“It feels pretty good to put these out,” Corcoran said.

full story

United Way beats goal, raises $800,000

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County (UWAC) is putting the finishing touches on a 2007 fund-raising campaign that has thus far yielded an all-time record $801,350 for services to the area’s neediest citizens.

“Bob (LaFiandra) and I are very pleased,” said Ann LaFiandra, who co-chaired the 2007 fund drive with her husband.

The couple was particularly gratified by the way donors comfortably exceeded what had been a $760,000 goal. The books don’t officially close on the campaign until Feb. 29.

“We were stunned, but in a way not surprised, because this is a very caring community,” LaFiandra said. “We honestly did not have to hard-sell.”

As of Tuesday, UWAC had received 2,144 contributions ranging from payroll deductions of 50 cents to individual checks in excess of $10,000.

full story

February 18th

Winter storms taking a toll on local salt and sand budgets

By ANDY KIRKALDY

ADDISON COUNTY — While a series of winter storms has made snow days and cases of cabin fever even more common than usual in February, local road crews and highway budgets may have been the hardest hit of all.

Compounding problems for town managers, highway foremen and truck drivers has been a shortage of salt. That shortage, a problem officials said stretches across the northern United States, has meant icier roads, more trips out of town garages for workers, and more headaches for drivers and town officials alike.

Ferrisburgh road foreman John Bull said first and foremost drivers should remember circumstances have limited what highway crews can do: Speeding, tailgating and approaching intersections carelessly are even worse ideas than normal.

“The big thing we want to get out there to everybody is you just have to slow down. It’s not business as usual,” Bull said. “It’s slippery, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

full story

Proposed Middlebury bridge comes into focus

BY JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury citizens last Wednesday got a chance to see the first conceptual designs of a proposed Cross Street bridge that town officials hope will be in place before winter of 2010.

The plans were unveiled on Feb. 13 in the municipal gym during an informational meeting at which town officials vastly outnumbered citizens on a rainy, slushy evening.

Despite the dismal turnout at the meeting, selectmen are hoping residents become intimately familiar with the plans before they cast ballots on Town Meeting Day on a $16 million plan to build the bridge as a link between Main Street and Court Street over the Otter Creek via Cross Street. The project — which would include a roundabout intersection at Main and Cross streets — would receive $9 million in funding from Middlebury College. Town officials would like to bankroll the remaining $7 million in costs through local option taxes on meals, rooms, sales and alcohol sold in Middlebury.

full story

Town rejects Gailer School relocation plan

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Gailer School’s quest for a permanent home sustained another setback last week when the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) voted 4-0 against a proposal for the school to settle in the town’s industrial park.

The DRB on Feb. 11 voted against the proposal, which called for the Gailer School to relocate from the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (CVUUS) campus on Water Street, into a 6,000-square-foot office building at 88 Mainelli Road. That structure has previously housed Bread Loaf Corp., the National Bank of Middlebury and law offices, among others.

Gailer School officials realized from the outset that their proposed move would be a tough sell. Schools aren’t permitted in Middlebury’s industrial zone, even as a conditional use. And several business owners in the park had been candid about their opposition to the plan, citing the potential dangers resulting from students walking along roads heavily traveled by large trucks.

full story

February 14th

Searchers comb campus for missing college student

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.

full story

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