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Date

Great Wall

LOUIS BEAUCHAINE, right, and Henry Cogswell build their version of the Great Wall of China at the Starksboro Cooperative Preschool.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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Middlebury explores a single bond for new bridge

January 24, 2008

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen on Friday, Feb. 1, will finalize a Town Meeting Day warning that will have huge implications for the proposed in-town bridge project.

As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, town officials were still working with financial analysts to determine whether to ask voters to endorse the $16 million Cross Street bridge in a single vote this March, or divide it up into two or more referenda spaced over two town meetings.

The decision is likely to come down to which scenario will get the town the best interest rate on 30-year bonds it will have to float to proceed with the plan. Officials are hoping to craft a financing scheme that will depend on little or no property tax revenues. Selectmen want to pay back the principal and interest on bonds through a combination of local option taxes, federal highway funds and a promised college contribution of $600,000 annually for 30 years.

“The appealing aspect is the rather attractive interest rates which would be available to the town should we bond for the entire amount,” said Selectman Dean George, chairman of Middlebury’s bridge committee.

Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger noted officials originally estimated a 5-percent interest rate on bonding for the bridge project. Those estimates are now at around 4.2 percent, with the potential for even lower rates during some of the earlier years of the bond issue.

“The implications of the lower interest rate are pretty profound, with the potential savings over the life of the bond of $4 million to $5 million in interest,” Finger said. “It makes a big difference.”

George added that the town may be able to reinvest the bond during the early years of bond repayments and apply those proceeds toward interest payments.

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Town makes deal to buy Steele's garage for $820,000

January 24, 2008

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen on Tuesday endorsed a contract that would allow the town to buy Steele’s Service Center at 83 Main St. for $820,000, with the intent of eventually removing the business to make way for the proposed Cross Street Bridge.

The potential deal — which must be approved by Middlebury voters on Town Meeting Day — would allow Paul and Jane Steele to maintain their operation until the structure needs to be removed as part of the $16 million bridge project. The new span would link Main Street with Court Street across the Otter Creek, via Cross Street.

“It’s a tremendously important piece for us in moving ahead with the bridge project,” Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny said of the Steeles’ property.

The tentative accord with the Steeles leaves three other, less high-profile properties the town must acquire within the right-of-way of the proposed bridge. Selectmen are optimistic they will be able to strike deals with those landowners, too.

The potential sale and destruction of the service center would represent the end of a long, successful era for the Steele family. Paul Steele began working at the business in 1968, before acquiring it in 1982.

“We are pleased to have arrived at a mutually satisfactory agreement with the town,” said Jane Steele, Paul’s wife, who also works at the business.

“We will still be here during all the planning stages,” she stressed, “and we will still operate a towing service no matter where we are located.”

The couple already has the flexibility to relocate the business to the Frog Hollow area. The town several years ago granted the Steeles permission to perform auto repair services on their Mill Street property. The property comprises the garage and two homes at the base of Mill Street.

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Bristol area schools and teachers discussing new contracts

January 24, 2008

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — Negotiations over teacher contracts in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union have reached a pivotal moment. A fact-finding report released by a mediator to the parties this month and a Jan. 17 meeting led to agreement on several parts of a proposed new contract, but some major issues like salaries, health insurance and planning time remain unresolved.

The negotiating committees for the six ANeSU school boards and the teachers’ union, the Addison Northeast Education Association, plan to meet again on Feb. 7 with mediator Ira Lobel of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to continue talks.

Teachers in the ANeSU schools — Beeman Elementary School in New Haven, Bristol Elementary School, Lincoln Community School, Monkton Central School, Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro and Mount Abraham Union High School — have been working without a contract since July 2007 while the union and the school boards of the schools have tried to come to an agreement.

The mediator’s fact-finding report will not be made public until Jan. 28, according to ANeSU Superintendent Evelyn Howard.

A number of components of the contract have essentially been settled, but all agreements are tentative until a contract is finalized and signed. Casey said the school boards and the union have reached tentative agreements on the sick leave, scheduling rules for extracurricular activities, and several related issues.

Details were not available on all those agreements as the Addison Independent went to press, but Joanne Casey, head negotiator for the teachers’ union, said that most of those aspects of the contracts will probably remain the same as under the last contract.

SALARIES

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