February 28th, 2008
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.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
ADDISON COUNTY — The Vermont Senate is considering a bill to legalize industrial hemp for growth and sale in Vermont. Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, one of bill H.267’s sponsors in the Vermont House of Representatives, said that hemp could make a new, very versatile crop for Vermont’s agricultural industry.
“I’ve been hearing for a long time that this was an important crop for Vermont farmers to grow,” Fisher said.
Hemp can be used for a wide variety of products, including textiles, biodegradable plastics, biofuels and even food. However, it is closely related to cannabis sativa, better known as marijuana. “Law enforcement has said for a long time that they don’t want us to grow hemp because it looks like marijuana,” Fisher said.
Industrial hemp produces far too little of the chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to be usable as a drug. Fisher explained that his hemp bill, H.267, includes a number of requirements to ensure that hemp farmers are not growing plants high in THC. A farmer applying for a permit would have to go through a background check, get fingerprinted, report the exact area and location where hemp would be grown, keep production and sales records for at least three years, and more.
The bill overwhelmingly passed the Vermont House, 126-9, on Feb. 7. All area House members voted in favor of the bill. It is now in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison County and Brandon, was optimistic about the bill passing the Senate as well, though no date for a vote on it has been set.
Gov. Douglas could not be reached for comment, but his spokesman, Jason Gibbs, said that Douglas did not think the issue was very important.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — As the effort to build a duplicate Grange Hall on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh nears the half-way mark, the project is on schedule, on budget, and at the point where its interior — which when finished will hold town offices and meeting spaces for town boards and hearings, the community and Grange members — is taking shape.
Project manager Paul Wyncoop of Bread Loaf Corp., the Middlebury construction firm that is the general contractor for the $2.8 million project, said even winter weather has not caused any delays.
“It’s going well. Things are pretty much progressing on schedule,” Wyncoop said late last week. “It’s pretty much water-tight and weather-tight.”
Scott Dearborn, Bread Loaf’s onsite project superintendent, sounded even more optimistic about a project that began in early October, is now in the sheetrock phase and has a June occupancy date — although construction-veteran realism also cropped up in his assessment.
“The overall schedule that Paul did, we’re a couple weeks ahead,” Dearborn said. “But we’ll lose that somewhere. It just happens.”
Town Clerk Chet Hawkins, a regular visitor to the site, said he has been pleased with the quality of the work, as have others who have inspected the effort to build a historically accurate reproduction of the structure that burned in February 2005.
“The first thing that everybody who’s come in to tour the building has said is that the workmanship is first-rate,” Hawkins said during a stop at the site on Thursday.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Even in Baghdad, Adi Raval couldn’t escape talk of the U.S. democratic primary. Back in August, when the BBC Baghdad bureau chief was working in Iraq, he found himself all too often answering Iraqis’ questions about the nominees’ campaign rhetoric about pulling out the troops.
“These people watch television, they read newspapers, American blogs,” Raval said in a talk at Middlebury College on Thursday. “They’re probably, in a lot of ways, more tuned in to what’s going on with American politics than most of us are. Because in a lot of ways, the election here matters more to them than it does to ordinary Americans.”
Although he currently is a producer for the BBC at the White House, Raval has been stationed in Baghdad three times since 2004. From his post in the Green Zone, the 1998 Middlebury College graduate and San Francisco native has watched the best and the worst of America play out side by side, he told a standing-room-only audience last week.
During the spring of 2004, when he was deputy bureau chief for ABC News, Raval was one of only a handful of journalists who watched the American Coalition Provisional Authority hand back sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
“The ceremony itself was in some ways emblematic of how the major of military operations were carried out,” Raval said. “It was rushed, it wasn’t very well thought out.”
On that 120-degree day in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, the pro-council of the U.S. government at the time, stood in his L.L. Bean hiking boots and handed a legal contract to the Iraqi vice president and interim chief justice of the Iraqi High Court.
Raval clutched his satellite phone, ready to break the news to the world that Americans had returned sovereignty to the Iraqi government.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MONKTON — Sam and Robin Kuhns’ morning routine differs from their classmates’ at Monkton Central School in one big way: over their winter clothes, the brothers put on bicycle helmets and safety vests. Nine-year-old Sam and Robin, 11, have biked three miles to school year round for about three years with their father, Buzz Kuhns.
The habit of biking to school began when Sam was in kindergarten, and Buzz suggested that they bike in one morning near the start of the school year. Sam was opposed to it at first.
“I was like, ‘Dad, are you insane?’” he said. However, Sam quickly warmed up to the idea.
Biking to school in the morning is the more practical option sometimes. The family lives on Bennett Road about three miles from Monkton Central. In good conditions, biking takes 20 minutes or less; Buzz said that their record time was 15 minutes, 25 seconds. Since the family lives near the start of the 45-minute school bus route, that’s less time than it would take to ride the bus.
While the Kuhnses say the ride itself is not very strenuous, the family’s dedication is impressive. Buzz said that they have only missed three days so far this school year.
“Sam has never ridden a bus more than twice or so (since we started biking),” Buzz said.
Falling snow has a few times prevented the Kuhns kids from biking, and they also don’t bike if the road has not been plowed, Buzz said. But low temperatures, wind and even rain have not been enough to stop them.
They need to take extra steps before getting on the bikes for school in bad weather, but frigid temperatures have not required all that much extra clothing because the exercise helps keep them warm. Buzz said they have biked on mornings as cold as 16 degrees below zero, and the only change they needed was donning ski goggles.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Residential school tax rates in two of the five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns are expected to drop, according to estimates prepared by the ANwSU office, while homeowners’ rates in two other union towns are projected to rise by less than 3 cents.
Only in Addison, where unexpected costs during this school year have created a $75,000 deficit at Addison Central School, do ANwSU officials estimate the residential school tax rate will increase significantly, by about 13 cents.
Overall, ANwSU business manager Donna Corcoran said officials are happy to release the estimates, which assume residents pass all four proposed district school budgets on Town Meeting Day.
“It feels pretty good to put these out,” Corcoran said.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The United Way of Addison County (UWAC) is putting the finishing touches on a 2007 fund-raising campaign that has thus far yielded an all-time record $801,350 for services to the area’s neediest citizens.
“Bob (LaFiandra) and I are very pleased,” said Ann LaFiandra, who co-chaired the 2007 fund drive with her husband.
The couple was particularly gratified by the way donors comfortably exceeded what had been a $760,000 goal. The books don’t officially close on the campaign until Feb. 29.
“We were stunned, but in a way not surprised, because this is a very caring community,” LaFiandra said. “We honestly did not have to hard-sell.”
As of Tuesday, UWAC had received 2,144 contributions ranging from payroll deductions of 50 cents to individual checks in excess of $10,000.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — While a series of winter storms has made snow days and cases of cabin fever even more common than usual in February, local road crews and highway budgets may have been the hardest hit of all.
Compounding problems for town managers, highway foremen and truck drivers has been a shortage of salt. That shortage, a problem officials said stretches across the northern United States, has meant icier roads, more trips out of town garages for workers, and more headaches for drivers and town officials alike.
Ferrisburgh road foreman John Bull said first and foremost drivers should remember circumstances have limited what highway crews can do: Speeding, tailgating and approaching intersections carelessly are even worse ideas than normal.
“The big thing we want to get out there to everybody is you just have to slow down. It’s not business as usual,” Bull said. “It’s slippery, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”