Archive - Jan 2008
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.
BEN WESSEL, A Middlebury College freshman, is helping organize three days of events at the college for Focus the Nation, which is orchestrating a nationwide teach-in about climate change for high schools, colleges and other organizations.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
January 14, 2008
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College next week will host three days of events focused on seeking solutions to the problem of climate change as part of a nationwide teach-in. “Focus the Nation,” which was developed at the college by two professors in their classes, has scheduled discussions at some 1,300 colleges, high schools and businesses.
“In 10 years we either will have succeeded (in the fight against climate change) or we will have failed,” said Middlebury College economics professor Jon Isham, who developed Focus the Nation and sits on its board. “If we have failed it won’t matter, and if we’ve succeeded, we’ll be on our way. So you have 10 years and you can’t give up.”
It was this realization that led Isham’s friend and professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., Eban Goodstein, to hatch the idea two years ago for Focus the Nation.
“At this moment in time, we owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America,” the organization’s Web site declares.
Goodstein came to Middlebury College last year to further develop the concept in a January term class he taught with Isham, in which students began to get the word out about Focus the Nation.
January 14, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MONTPELIER — Addison County lawmakers on Thursday gave mixed reviews to Gov. James Douglas’s priorities for the 2008 legislative session, praising his commitment to “green” energy and new health care reforms but sharply criticizing his proposal to lease the state’s lottery.
Douglas, a Middlebury Republican, outlined his administration’s goals during his annual state-of-the-state address, a 40-minute speech that was interrupted 17 times — 16 times due to applause, and once when Statehouse staff cleared the House chambers of a handful of protesters who had unfurled anti-war banners.
The theme to the governor’s speech was a familiar one: Making the state more affordable to Vermonters who are increasingly feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices and a lack of affordable housing.
“Today, I lay out a series of proposals to achieve prosperity through affordability and to rethink, revitalize and reform the way our state approaches its most pressing challenges,” Douglas said. “By making health care, homeownership and the tax burden more affordable — and by making investments in job creation and our natural environment — our families and our state will prosper.”
Douglas called for:
• Making the state’s health care system more streamlined and inclusive. He suggested, among other things, placing a “prevention specialist” in each region of the state to work with citizens in preventing chronic diseases; and making sure every doctor in Vermont has electronic health information systems by the years 2010.
“I … request that this Legislature make affordable health care the top priority and send me a bill before town meeting,” Douglas said.
January 14, 2008
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — A series of fixed and rising expenses that Ferrisburgh selectmen say are out of their control are pushing the board’s spending proposal for the 2008-2009 fiscal year up by almost 13 percent.
Selectmen on Wednesday looked at a final draft budget of roughly $1.47 million that would call for a 12.8 percent spending hike. Unsurprisingly, the largest single spending driver is fuel to keep town trucks running and buildings warm.
Board chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said selectmen would almost certainly adopt that spending proposal at their Jan. 22 meeting. Residents will have the final say by Australian ballot on March 4.
“I don’t see that we can change it … barring any unforeseen circumstances between now and the 22nd,” Lawrence said, while acknowledging the figures are “going to be a shocker for people.”
Lawrence said town office employees estimated that if approved the budget would add about 4 cents to the town’s tax rate, or $40 a year per $100,000 of assessed value.
But, she said, the board has little choice to raise spending from the 2007-2008 level of about $1.3 million. (The face value of the budget was actually about $1.38 million, but that included $78,000 for a land purchase that residents eventually voted against, and the apples-to-apples comparison is based on $1.303 million and $1.47 million.)
“There are some uncontrollable costs,” Lawrence said.
• An increase of almost $21,000 in liability insurance, due in part to an increase in rates and in part to the larger town offices being built.
• An increase of about $14,000 in the town’s Addison County tax bill, which goes to pay for the county court system.
Please see the Monday, January 14, 2008's edition of the Addison Independent for local legislator’s reaction to the speech.
What is it in Middlebury’s water that makes town and school officials react like Nazis to the community’s youth and their related activities?
OK. That’s a loaded and unfair question, but let me explain: The latest incident happened this past week when a parent of a high school basketball player was booted out of the game at half time because he was leading other students and adults in cheering for the Tigers. The alleged violation was orchestrating a waving of the fans’ collective hands and arms (foot-stomping is no longer allowed) in support of their team. The parent who took the lead was later escorted out of the bleachers by a local policeman to talk to Middlebury Union High School Principal Bill Lawson, and then told not to return to his seat. The police log listed the incident as dealing with a fan who was annoying other fans around him and the opposing team. No joke.
The response from those most closely involved — other parents and fans in the auditorium — was outrage at a school policy that is overzealous and, worse, that is zapping the spirit out of MUHS athletics. About 30 athletes and sports boosters (parents) appealed to the MUHS school board on Tuesday to ease up on policies that one parent said is “driving students away” from the games and is now causing “loyal fans to rebel.” (See story Page 1A.)
“When there are less than two dozen students who show up for a big game and the visiting team has a larger cheering section than the home team, something is clearly amiss,” said area resident Linda Pitkin, who co-authored a letter to the school board urging members to review school policy.
Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits a dollar (stomp, stomp, stomp), all for Linda and team, stand up and holler! (Oh, sorry, that’s not allowed.)
WEYBRIDGE AND NEW Haven town officials, state officials, restoration crews and guests cut the ribbon to officially reopen the Rattlin’ Bridge Monday morning. The 100-year-old bridge, which spans Otter Creek between Weybridge and New Haven, was removed last summer for restoration work.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
January 10, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — More than 30 Middlebury Union High School athletes and sports boosters on Tuesday urged UD-3 administrators and board members to ease up on what they say are strict restrictions on cheering that they say are numbing school spirit and thinning the crowds at home games.
Tuesday’s grievances, aired at the outset of the UD-3 board’s regularly scheduled meeting, came in the wake of an incident during the Jan. 3 MUHS home basketball game against Mount Abraham Union High School, during which a parent was asked by school authorities to leave for “poor sportsmanship” and “annoying other fans.”
The “poor sportsmanship,” according to many of those at Tuesday’s meeting, included encouraging other fans to stomp their feet and standing and waving their hands — fan activities they said are commonly seen during varsity games in other high school gyms throughout the county.
Boosters told UD-3 officials that the Jan. 3 incident merely epitomized what they said has been a steady clamping down on fans’ abilities to cheer at home games, a trend one community member said has turned the MUHS gym into a virtual “morgue” when it comes to team spirit and spectator attendance.
“We understand that not everyone at a game wants to be sitting in a noisy section of the stands, but this tends to sort itself out by where people sit,” resident Linda Pitkin told the board, quoting from a letter she helped author on behalf of the group. “We also realize that there are legitimate concerns about crowd control at any sporting event and do not wish to limit the administration’s ability to deal with these concerns. And we certainly do not want the players, coaches, or officials to be taunted or disrespected.