Archive - Jan 4, 2010
For better or for worse there won’t be another year like 2009.
In Addison County, we sometimes found ourselves buffeted by forces from outside the region while other times we were caught up in situations of our own making. Sometimes the results put circumstances in our favor, and at others we simply seemed to be at the mercy of the fates. All in all it made for a lively news year.
Here are our top 10 stories for 2009.
For 80 years, the Champlain Bridge had weathered many a storm — along with supporting around 3,400 vehicles per day — as a key transportation link between Vermont and New York.
But the bridge’s history came to a very abrupt end in late December, when it was demolished to make way for a new span that is tentatively scheduled to be completed during the summer of 2011.
Seems like almost everyone was tightening their belts in 2009 as Vermont felt the impact of the national economic slide that many began calling the “Great Recession.”
As 2009 dawned, state lawmakers were scrambling to pare back the current year’s state budget by $47 million to make up for projected shortfalls in tax revenues. This was in addition to the $20 millions already cut from the 2008-2009 spending plan.
Addison County dairy farmers in 2009 weathered the worst milk prices in 30 years. For months on end dairy farmers lost money on every gallon of milk they produced.
These low prices — sinking at times to less than half the cost of production per hundredweight (cwt) of milk — drove 11 Addison County dairy farms out of business in the first 11 months of 2009. Statewide, the number of dairy farms fell from 1,078 to 1,026.
Middlebury’s much-discussed $16 million Cross Street Bridge project moved from the drawing board to actual construction in 2009. With bond approval and financing through Middlebury College and a series of local option taxes, initial work in April keyed on the two massive concrete piers that would support the 240-foot long span across the Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury.
2009 marked the end of an era in Vergennes — the Ralph Jackman era.
Jackman, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II who passed away two days into 2010 at the age of 85, stepped down as chief of the Vergennes Volunteer Fire Department on Nov. 1 after serving in that capacity for a remarkable 55 years. City officials believe he was the longest-serving fire chief in the United States.
Jackman, who had cited health concerns for his decision, was widely credited by city and state officials for helping make the Vergennes department one of the most highly regarded in Vermont.
Less than one year ago, the phrase “swine flu” was used only in connection with a scare back in the ’70s, or not at all by those too young to remember it. But in April, the H1N1 strain of the contagious disease also known as swine flu landed front and center in the international media when the World Health Organization warned of a possible pandemic. In June the pandemic was officially declared. And though cases of the illness were slow to reach Vermont, the state Department of Health recommended precautionary measures to inhibit the spread of the contagious disease.
The story of Vergennes Police Chief Mike Lowe’s legal problems first broke in early June. When off-duty, he drove a police cruiser into a parked car in a low-speed accident. The Vergennes patrolman on the scene called in Vermont State Police, who processed Lowe for driving under the influence — as it turned out the charge was for under the influence of prescription drugs, not alcohol.