Chronology 2014: October
Drivers here, as in the rest of Vermont, had to remind themselves that on Oct. 1 a new law that banned talking on cell phones while driving went into effect.
Shoreham residents mourned the loss of their selectboard chairman, Paul Saenger, who died Oct. 5 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Saenger, 59, had been in his 10th year on the selectboard at the time of his death. Former Selectwoman Karen Shackett was appointed to serve the balance of Saenger’s one-year term, which will be up for grabs in March on Town Meeting Day.
On Oct. 10, the Public Service Board decided not to reopen the Certificate of Public Good it issued for Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, allowing construction of the pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes to continue. The state utilities regulator also detailed an increased burden of 40 percent on Vermont Gas Systems ratepayers, who will ultimately pay for the burden of the project. (This story will see new developments later in the year.)
The ruling came after the federal agency responsible for regulating interstate energy projects granted a waiver that gave New York and Vermont, the two states through which Phase II of Vermont Gas Systems’ Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project would run, authority to approve or reject the plan. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a ruling that Phase II (a pipeline extension from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, N.Y.) complies with the Natural Gas Act, which prohibits the construction of a natural gas pipeline in an area already served by natural gas.
The interior of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Middlebury was covered in drop cloths part of this fall while artisans painstakingly repainted the sanctuary and other interior walls of the 110-year-old church, as well as the Stations of the Cross.
On Oct. 13, the Independent reported a rash of fake tickets totaling $12,000 at Addison County Fair and Field Days, this past August. The tickets were discovered on the last day of the fair while Field Days directors compared the number of tickets collected with the number of bracelets distributed, which were given to fair visitors as proof of purchase. Next year, directors anticipate implementing measures to prevent tickets from being forged, such as watermarks or barcodes.
Another criminal got his just desserts. Raymond Ritchie, who pleaded guilty to a crime spree in 2012 and 2013, this month was sentenced to 13 years to life in prison. Police said the habitual offender (he had 10 felony convictions) broke into many houses in Addison County and Brandon during his spree.
In early October, Vermont Electric Co. made good on its September pledge to reimburse five towns for property tax revenue they had lost since 2009 due to a VELCO mistake on how it assessed property in those towns and in Shelburne. Three Addison county towns received a total of about $127,000, with the lion’s share going to Ferrisburgh, which got a check in the mail for $72,619.12. New Haven received $41,471.72, and Vergennes picked up $13,019.65. VELCO also sent checks to South Burlington and Charlotte to make up for what was a total misallocation over five years based on a $14.6 million incorrect valuation on property.
October also saw a number of developments related to expanding interest in solar arrays in the Champlain Valley. On Oct. 21, the New Haven selectboard voted to oppose two proposed solar projects within its borders and to participate in Public Service Board proceedings for all future applications for solar arrays. The board voted unanimously to oppose a 2.2-megawatt array on Field Days Road proposed by Green Peak Solar and a 5.5-megawatt array on Route 7 by GroSolar. On Oct. 27 in Waltham, solar company SunCommon announced a new wave of solar arrays priced to encourage wider adoption of solar power. That day it inaugurated a one-acre array on Route 7 at the top of Woodman Hill — the first built as part of a Community Solar Array program. Under the program, each array will have the capacity to generate 150 kilowatts, enough energy to power 30 homes annually.
Early in the morning on Oct. 27, Middlebury College’s Osborne House made a plodding, pre-dawn journey over Otter Creek from 77 Main St., where it was built a hundred years ago, to a new address at 6 Cross St. The college — as part of a voter-approved deal — agreed to make the 77 Main St. site available for new municipal offices. The agreement also granted the college ownership of the current municipal building and gym property at 94 Main St., a site that will be cleared and transformed into a public park. A new recreation facility will be built off Creek Road.
Addison County had four competitive races for Vermont House seats coming up in November’s General Election. Candidates in races in the Vergennes area, Bristol area, New Haven district and Middlebury debated in Vergennes. Then some of them also appeared in forums in Bristol and Middlebury. Politicians for statewide election also stopped in the county looking for votes.
Residents in the five-town Bristol area also got to sound off on a proposed $33 million proposal to upgrade Mount Abraham Union High School. That too was up for a vote Nov. 4.