March 6th, 2008
By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — Area residents at town meetings and in Tuesday Australian balloting backed budgets for all four local union schools, the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, and every town’s elementary school except Hancock (see story).
The support for Addison County and Brandon-area schools mirrored a statewide trend. As of late Wednesday morning, officials at the Vermont Superintendents’ Association knew of only three Vermont high school plans and five elementary school budgets that had failed.
Even though all results were not in at that hour, one superintendents’ association official called that tally “a really low number of defeats.”
Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Bill Mathis said the statewide support for school spending showed that Vermont officials’ focus on more school finance reform may be misplaced.
“The governor and the legislator must live in a different state than the voters … All we’ve heard is unrelenting talk of property taxes and school costs,” Mathis said. “My feeling is the people have spoken very clearly and universally … that they support their schools.”
Mathis said he has data that shows, once prebates are factored in, that Vermonters are spending a smaller percentage of their incomes on education than they were 10 years ago. That was before the Legislature passed Act 60, Vermont’s landmark school finance reform law, and, more recently, Act 68, which updated Act 60.
He noted that many towns’ tax rates are level, or up only slightly, despite inflationary increases in school spending.
“The big message is first of all it means that Act 60 and Act 68 are working, and income sensitivity is working,” Mathis said. “For all the criticism of Act 68, obviously Act 68 is working.”
ADDISON COUNTY — With the exception of tiny Hancock, residents in towns throughout Addison County overwhelmingly supported presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Clinton to determine who will be the candidate representing the Democratic Party in its effort to recapture the White House. Meanwhile, Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed Sen. John McCain to be their party’s candidate over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Countywide (with the results of Goshen — pop. 227 — unreported), residents supported Sen. Obama, 6,454 to 3,863 or 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent, over Sen. Clinton, and supported Sen. McCain, 1,889 to 420 or 82 percent to 18 percent, over former Gov. Huckabee.
Those results mirrored the rest of Vermont, where Obama swept the state with 60 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 38 percent (John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who have pulled suspended campaigning, each got 1 percent).
On the Republican side, McCain garnered 72 percent of the vote compared to Huckabee’s 14 percent. Conservative Ron Paul captured 7 percent of the vote, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who have both pulled out of the race, received 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Of the 12,626 votes cast in the primary in Addison County, 82 percent voted in the Democratic primary.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — For its 14th annual Community Service Award, officials of Vergennes American Legion Post 14 chose a man they said has played a vital role in the rebirth of the city’s downtown — real estate appraiser Bill Benton.
Legion communications officer Henry Broughton noted that Benton served many years as the president of the Vergennes Partnership, the organization that oversaw the progress of downtown revitalization and helped obtain the grants that made many Main Street improvements possible.
Broughton said there were many strong candidates, but that Post 14’s Community Service Award committee felt strongly about Benton.
“Bill’s been the cog in the wheel that’s kept it going over the years,” he said. “That was the main thing when we sat down with a bunch of candidates and looked at them all. Bill just stood out. We thought he definitely deserved the recognition.”
Benton, a 51-year-old Vergennes native and graduate of Vergennes Union High School and the University of Vermont, joins a list of recipients that includes former city managers and mayors, key members of the city’s fire department and the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, sparkplugs in the effort to bring life back to the Vergennes Opera House, and volunteers for many good causes. (See related story.)
In an interview Benton said dozens of local residents and officials sparked the revitalization effort.
Off the top of his head he named former Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce co-presidents Liz Markowski and Patty Paul, Friends of the Vergennes Opera House head Gerianne Smart, partnership director Paul Vachon, and fellow ground-floor partnership members like Terry Weihs, Tim Cowan, Norman Leboeuf and Jeffry Glassberg.
By JOHN S. McCRIGHT
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College has long brought an infusion of art and culture to people living in Addison County, but this week the college arts community has pulled out all the stops to bring a panoply of music, dance, theater and visual arts unrivalled in recent memory.
“There probably hasn’t been as much going on since we dedicated the (Center for the Arts) 15 years ago,” said Middlebury College Director of the Arts Glenn Andres.
From Thursday through Sunday the college will host a dedication of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts and celebration of the center’s 15-year anniversary. More than 20 events are open to the public — most are free — including lectures, exhibitions, performances, films and a symposium the history of art and architecture.
The centerpiece will be the formal dedication of the Center for the Arts in honor of Mahaney on Saturday at 7 p.m. Luminaria will line the walks to the center and the building will be lit inside and out by search lights. In addition to being open to the public, the college sent out 1,700 invitations to people who have shown an interest in the arts at Middlebury.
Following the dedication at 8 p.m. the center will host three performances: the Dick Forman Jazz Group in the Concert Hall; the Middlebury College Theater Program’s cast of alumni and students in “Curtain Up” in the Seeler Studio Theatre; and Leyya Tawil and Dance Elixir contemporary dance in the Dance Theater, for which tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors. The Dance Elixir performance will be repeated at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Less than a week since the Middlebury Police Department invited the Texas search and rescue squad EquuSearch to join the ground search for missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, the effort was called off until the snow pack melts.
In the meantime, Middlebury authorities have expanded the missing person investigation, according to police Chief Tom Hanley, and an outside group is offering a reward for information leading to Garza’s discovery.
In an effort to better understand the 19-year-old’s frame of mind on Feb. 5 — the night he went missing — the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Behavioral Analysis Unit has joined the investigation. Using information Middlebury investigators gathered from people who knew Garza, the unit will build a psychological profile that could shed light on decisions the student might have made that night.
“With the FBI, we try to get inside Nicholas’ head,” Hanley said.
Behavioral analyses like this one are usually employed to locate criminals, Hanley said. When investigators understand how a criminal’s brain works, they can determine what he might have done or where he might have gone.
Hanley said the FBI showed considerable interest in the Garza case and they believe the process could shed some light on Garza’s whereabouts.
The behavioral analysis will come at no cost to the Middlebury Police Department, since the unit uses these cases to validate their data, Hanley said. But the Garza investigation is taking a toll on the department’s resources in other ways.
Currently, three Middlebury officers are working on the case, while another is on a Vermont Air Guard deployment.
“That leaves us a grand total of six officers left (to handle other matters),” Hanley said.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — For Barbara “Bobbie” Kennedy, quilting is about making art or creating gifts for family or charity work, not about making money. The 88-year-old Bristol resident has been quilting for more than half a century, but she said she has never sold a quilt. So much time and effort have to go into making one, she says she couldn’t put a price to them.
“You take a raw material and you make something out of it,” Kennedy recently told a visitor who came to see a dozen quilts. “It’s work, but it’s also enjoyable. They kind of become a part of you.”
In addition to the price of materials, quilting costs a large amount of time. A smaller quilt only a couple feet on either side meant for a wall hanging could take a few weeks to produce, but for a full-sized bed quilt, Kennedy toils for two to three months depending on how complex a piece she has planned and how much time she can devote to it.
Every one of her quilts is different. It’s hard to say whether Kennedy has any favorite quilts, but some have turned out more memorable than others, like a red and white quilt with simple pictures of 19th-century women stitched into each square.
“I’m especially fond of this one,” she said. “I just like the little ladies. They’re so pretty.”
Quilting is only one of the octogenarian’s creative outlets. She also knits, usually spinning her own yarn.
Kennedy doesn’t know exactly how long she has been quilting, spinning wool and knitting or how many quilts she has made. “I’ve always sewed a lot,” she said. Kennedy taught home economics in Bristol, Middlebury and Jeffersonville high schools in addition to raising a family.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MIDDLEBURY — Concerned Addison County residents voiced their fears about plans for a Staples office supply store in The Centre shopping plaza at a Middlebury Design Review Board (DRB) hearing Monday evening. A few at the hearing supported it, but most feared its impact on the neighborhood and on the Middlebury area in general.
Middlebury resident Paula Israel, who runs the Main Street store Wild Mountain Thyme, argued that whatever effect a Staples store might have economically, it would hurt the local small-town atmosphere.
“We live here for a reason, and I don’t think that reason is … so that we have great shopping,” Israel said.
Others among the about 40 people who attended the hearing supported the plan.
“If we don’t address the opportunity to create sales viability in Middlebury, you lose shoppers,” said John Tenny, arguing that a Staples would help the Middlebury area. Tenny is a Middlebury selectman, but at the meeting he emphasized that he was speaking only as a private citizen and the owner of Mill Bridge Construction.
The DRB scheduled the hearing so representatives of the developers could address concerns about the plan’s impact on Court Street traffic, the economic impact, and how well the proposal conforms with Middlebury’s town plan. Other concerns were raised as well, but the DRB said they were outside the scope of the hearing and another hearing will be scheduled for a later date.
The plan for a 14,600-foot Staples store next to the Hannaford supermarket is being pitched by Buffalo, N.Y.-based Myron Hunt Inc. Hunt, an alumnus of Middlebury College, owns The Centre. Tenny has worked for Hunt as a consultant in the past, according to Middlebury town planner Fred Dunnington. There was no representative of the Staples Corp. at the meeting.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — In the three weeks since Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza disappeared, search and rescue teams have overturned each inch of the college campus, finding nothing. The Middlebury Police Department has interviewed more than 100 people, but still their timeline for the night the 19-year-old went missing, Feb. 5, ends with an unanswered phone call at 11:06 p.m.
Just this week, Middlebury police called in a Texas nonprofit search and rescue squad called Equu-search to scour the snow-covered grounds once again.
All the while, a woman named Anne Schulze has been closely following the case from her home in New Hampshire. The dearth of leads looks a lot like something she’s seen before: Her sister, Lynne, vanished from the Middlebury campus 37 years ago.
She was never found.
“Since my family and Lynne’s friends found out about Nick’s disappearance, we have been hoping and praying along with the Middlebury community and Nick’s family that he be found safe and soon,” she said in a telephone interview.
Later this week Anne Schulze plans to meet with Middlebury Police officer Vegar Boe, who is handling the disappearances of both Garza and Lynne Schulze, to discuss her sister’s still open case. She also hopes to offer her time to speak with Garza’s parents.
Boe is the sixth investigator to work on the Lynne Schulze case since she went missing on the way to a final exam in 1971. According to Schulze, Boe has shown a renewed interest in that case since Garza disappeared earlier this month.
The two cases are completely unrelated, Schulze acknowledged, but she couldn’t help but hear an echo of her sister’s disappearance when she first found out about Garza’s.