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Archive - Jan 17, 2008

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Date

Chemistry explosion

CHILDREN WATCH WITH amazement as Middlebury College students make ice cream using liquid nitrogen during the Mr. Wizard Chemistry Show in Bicentennial Hall last Friday night. The college will host an encore performance of the popular event on Feb. 29.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell


January 18, 2008

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — At Middlebury College’s Mr. Wizard Chemistry Show last Friday, the children in the room, scattered throughout the overflowing audience at first, gradually got out of their seats and drew closer to the front of the room where five chemistry majors were concocting a magical treat. Dressed in lab coats and safety goggles, the students had filled two bowls with heavy cream, sugar and chocolate sauce and were topping off the mixture with a constant stream of liquid nitrogen.

“The kids were just like molecules extracted from the audience,” noticed retired chemist and Vergennes resident Margaret Lowe, who had come to the show with her husband, Steve, also a retired chemist.

In a night of chemistry magic featuring color-changing liquids, eruptions of “elephant toothpaste” and no shortage of explosions, the liquid nitrogen ice cream was the biggest hit.

Like all of the experiments that night, the ice cream served to teach the kids about chemistry in a fun way they would remember. The college’s Mr. Wizard shows in the past have been a little wilder — with a few more unpredictable flames — but this year, chemistry professor Roger Sandwick geared the event, which was held in the college’s Bicentennial Hall, toward younger children.

“We’re pitching this at a third-grade level, so probably it will be at the appropriate level for some of the adults as well,” he said.

full story

Milk commission a mixed bag

January 17, 2008

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Milk Commission issued a report this week that may come as a mixed bag to the state’s dairy industry. The commission supported a minimum producer price on all milk sold in Vermont and a stronger safety net for dairy farmers, but it also advised the Legislature to repeal the part of a 2007 law that shifted the cost of hauling milk from farmers to purchasers.

It remains to be seen how many of the recommendations will become reality. Some of the conclusions in the commission’s report, released Tuesday, were contingent on nearby states adopting similar plans, and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, said the Senate Committee on Agriculture would not support going back on the hauling charges legislation.

“How they can claim that that is in the best interest of the dairy farmer is beyond me,” he said.

Giard is a member of that committee and was a sponsor of Act 50, one part of which required milk cooperatives, handlers and processors to assume the cost of hauling milk from the farm. Giard said that there is no good reason for farmers who are already struggling to pay the hauling charges.

“This is just one more (expense) we were pushing off the backs of the farmers,” said Giard, a retired dairy farmer.

Stop and hauling charges, which are the fees dairy farmers pay to processors for trucking milk from farm to the processing plant, decrease the amount of money that reaches the farm by an estimated 60 cents per hundredweight (cwt). Typically farmers have been paid as little as $12 cwt  or as much as $20 cwt.

 If the Senate does ignore the Milk Commission’s recommendation, the Act 50 requirement for purchasers to take on the hauling charges would take effect in January 2009, or when two other Northeast states implement similar regulations, whichever comes first.

full story

City looks to revive Vegennes Partnership

January 17, 2008

By ANDY KIRKALDY

VERGENNES — Vergennes officials and citizens are working to bring life back to the Vergennes Partnership, the public-private organization that played a key role in the downtown revitalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s and helped bring new life to the heart of the city and its riverfront.

In the past year the partnership has essentially disbanded after membership and funding declined in recent years. City Manager Renny Perry said new leadership never emerged to replace the few who were asked to carry so much of the load in the past they burned out.

“A lot of the people … are willing to be involved, but not just as actively involved,” Perry said. “We need to find a group of people who are willing to pick up the ball.”

Perry and Mayor Michael Daniels are concerned about the organization’s future because a downtown-oversight group is a condition of Vergennes’ recognition as a Vermont Designated Downtown by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Without that official designation key sources of funds for the city and its property owners could be placed off-limits. 

“It is a much-needed organization,” Daniels said. “We just need to bring it back.”

That designation allows the city to apply for grants from a pot of federal money and its downtown businesses and property owners to apply for tax credits.

Daniels and Perry said a healthy downtown reflects well on all of the city, and that the benefits have been substantial. Owners of a dozen downtown properties — including the Basin, Ryan and Stone blocks — have earned tax credits ranging from $14,500 to $60,000 for improvements or complete renovations.

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