Chronology 2014: September
As the New England summer quietly faded into fall, we reported some good business news: the resurgence of Connor Homes in Middlebury. After being hit hard by the Great Recession and forced to cut its staff of 70 in half, the manufacturing firm slowly recovered. The company now has an all-time high 72 employees and officials said in September that workers in their Route 7 South plant will have designed, built parts for and assembled 50 homes by the end of this year — that’s almost one house per week. Owners attributed the new success to diversifying the company’s offerings and keeping a close eye on the volatile home sales market.
September brought good news to residents of Bristol, who rejoiced when the new South Street bridge opened Sept. 1. State transportation officials declared the span over the New Haven River unsafe in 2010. Pedestrians still used the old bridge until 2013, when it was torn down so crews could build the new bridge. Residents who lived south and east of the bridge felt isolated from the heart of downtown, and said they were glad when the new bridge opened.
Bristol was also the scene of a large drug bust where police arrested four people and seized $4,000 in cash and thousands of bags of heroin. Police said two dealers from the New York City area enlisted the help of a Bristol couple to sell drugs in town. Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs said he believes the arrests dealt a “significant hit” to the illicit drug trade in the small town. The four suspects were arraigned Sept. 1 and as of December their cases had not yet been adjudicated.
Gunfire punctured the summer evening in Bristol Sept. 4 when a man shot himself at a Pine Street home. When police responded to the scene, state police Sgt. Michael Dion shot a New York woman after she refused to put down a handgun she held in her hand. Police later determined that Bristol resident Norman Michaud had shot himself, and identified the woman shot by police as Tina LaBoissiere. Both Michaud and LaBoissiere survived.
Bristol also hosted a short-lived controversy over the new playground on the town green. As the initial frame went up, some residents took to social media to say it was an eyesore — one even called it the ugliest thing he’d ever seen. But as the playground drew closer to completion, the complaints died down and townspeople said it looked pretty after all.
The Middlebury selectboard on Sept. 9 tapped Donna Donahue to succeed Travis Forbes, who abruptly resigned his seat in August. It was a quick change of political fortune for Donahue, who lost in the Democratic primary for the Addison-1 House seat to Amy Sheldon and Betty Nuovo. The board chose Donahue over fellow candidate Heather Seeley.
Vergennes Union High School Spanish teacher Kristine Kirkaldy was nominated for a prestigious prize open to New England educators. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s Lawrence O’Toole award is worth $100,000, and winners can spend it at their school how they choose. Anyone could vote, and residents around the county flocked to their computers to cast ballots. Eventually, a nominee from Maine pulled away for the win.
In mid-September the Vermont Electrical Power Co. agreed to pay a total of $200,000 to five Vermont towns — including Ferrisburgh, New Haven and Vergennes, after the company realized it had been shorting municipalities in tax revenues for five years. VELCO number crunchers discovered the company had been paying the correct sum in property taxes, but had overpaid Shelburne $200,000, to the loss of those other five towns.
On Sept. 16 the Mount Abraham Union High School board approved a $33 million bond proposal to renovate the school, which was built in the late 1960s. It was by far the largest bond ever proposed in the county, and would have raised taxes on a home valued at $250,000 by $344 to $398, depending on the town. Reactions to the plan were mixed at public forums — most agreed that the school is in need of repair, but many residents balked at the cost.
On Sept. 21, dozens of Addison County residents joined Ripton environmentalist Bill McKibben and 350.org, the climate action group he founded with Middlebury College students, at the People’s Climate March in Manhattan. More than 300,000 people from around the world turned up for what turned out to be the largest climate change rally in history.
The next day we reported on a campaign by former members of the 40th Army Band of the Vermont National Guard to stop military brass from decommissioning the ensemble and merging it with the New Hampshire Army Guard band. Trumpeters James Lanpher and David Ingham and trombonist Peter Young, all of whom played in the band until retiring at the mandatory age of 60, said the group is a tradition within the Vermont Guard and shouldn’t be — no pun intended — disbanded.
Middlebury’s own Danforth Pewter was the focus of a segment on the Discovery Channel’s “How It’s Made” television program. Acting on a customer’s suggestion, Danforth CEO Bram Kleppner reached out to Discovery producers, who agreed that Danforth would be good for the show. A camera crew came down from Montreal and shot a segment about how the pewterer’s iconic “Mariner” oil lamp is made. Company co-founder Fred Danforth was the “talent” of the five-minute piece, which aired Oct. 3.