By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen last week got their first glimpse of a proposed 2007-2008 capital improvement budget of $781,000, which was approximately $9,000 less than what voters approved for the current fiscal year.
The budget reflects, among other things, $250,000 for “special road projects” that may include repairs to Quarry and/or Shard Villa roads; $120,000 in paving work for Forest Ridge, North Branch Road and Seymour Street Extension; $80,000 to improve gravel roads throughout town; $50,000 in improvements to Schoolhouse Hill Road; $50,000 in sidewalk repairs; $6,000 to resurface the municipal tennis courts; $15,000 for computer-related upgrades for the police department; and $24,000 to bring more energy efficient lighting to the municipal building.
In the big scheme of things, Vermont Electric Power Companyâ€™s project to string up a new set of 345Kv transmission lines through Addison County could have been delayed another year or two without (in all likelihood) depriving consumers of an adequate supply of power. It certainly seems reasonable, therefore, to ask VELCO to work around a Middlebury Christmas tree farm during the farmâ€™s peak season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To proceed with the erection of gigantic poles within the next two or three weeks, when it means that the poles would be placed right in the midst of the Werner tree farm (see story Page 1), seems like a slap in the face to a fellow Vermont business. Itâ€™s almost an affront that VELCO wouldnâ€™t have foreseen the dilemma earlier and made the overture to avoid work there for this one five-week period.
When a single person is able to use the Act 250 process to delay a project for up to two years for reasons that have been dismissed by all others, the state needs to amend the law.
The instance at hand is with the proposed Eastview housing project â€” a 101-unit retirement community to be built on 30 acres south of Porter Medical Center campus off South Street in Middlebury. Opposed is South Street Extension resident Miriam Roemischer. She has been the proverbial thorn-in-the-side of those who have pushed the project forward. Thatâ€™s a shame.
While other community members, including many along South Street, raised initial concerns about the project â€” including the fact that traffic would increase and they wanted to be sure traffic-calming measures were in place â€” their concerns apparently have been satisfied and the public good of the project (not to mention the appropriate zoning) has outweighed their own personal preferences for a quieter street.
As Gov. James Douglas addresses the task of replacing Secretary of Agriculture Steve Kerr the future of farmers throughout the state may hang in the balance. Itâ€™s not that one person will make or break the farm community, but that the direction state policy proceeds during the next few years could either set the path for new growth on Vermont farms or continue the rapid demise of dairy farms Vermont has seen for the past 50 years.
The demise, as most everyone knows, has cut the number of farms in the state by a third in the past decade â€” from 2,265 in 1993 to 1,459 in 2003. Itâ€™s not a new trend. The number of dairy farms in Vermont in 1983 was 3,216; in 1973 it was 3,852; in 1963, there were 7,127, and in 1953, there were 10,637. On average about 8 percent to 10 percent of our dairy farms have been going out of business each year.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MONTPELIER — Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, will be wielding greater influence in the Vermont Legislature when the new term opens in January. Ayer, who this month won a third term in the upper house of the Legislature, was unanimously elected majority whip of the state Senate during a Democratic caucus in Montpelier on Monday.
“I see this as a lot more work, but also a great learning experience,” said Ayer, who along with Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, ran unopposed for re-election on Nov. 7.
“I expect to be involved in lots of different kinds of legislation,” she added.
As majority whip — also referred to as “assistant majority leader” — Ayer’s responsibilities will include:
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Maxamed Ibrahim has two families on two continents — one in Somalia, where he lost his mother, father and three sisters to famine and civil war 11 years ago, and another in Hinesburg, where he moved at the age of seven with his adopted mother, Dorothy Delaney. The humanitarian aid worker had found Ibrahim wrapped in an old blanket in the corner of a feeding center in Africa, unresponsive and ill with tuberculosis.
Now a senior at the Gailer School, 18-year-old Ibrahim will speak at the Middlebury school’s open house on Thursday, Dec. 7, about his journey back to Africa last summer, where he met his only surviving natural relative, his uncle. It became clear after this meeting that he belonged to two cultures and two homes.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — School directors and educators in the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s (ACSU) six rural schools have ratified a new, four-year contract that will maintain current health insurance benefits and ultimately raise teachers’ base salaries to be on par with their colleagues at Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School.
The new pact comes after more than a year of negotiations between ACSU school directors and negotiators representing the teachers union, called the Addison Central Elementary Association. The contract will apply to the approximately 60 teachers who work at the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Weybridge, Ripton, Salisbury and Shoreham.
The teachers’ previous contract had expired in June of 2005. They spent the past school year (2005-2006) working under the terms of that expired pact.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — David and Cheryl Werner last week looked nervously upon the Vermont Electric Power Co. (VELCO) equipment that has mobilized off Painter Road, right across from their Middlebury tree farm.
They know it’s only a matter of time before that equipment springs into action, erecting a new set of transmission lines in the VELCO right-of-way that runs through their 10.4-acre property.
The Werners are desperately hoping the VELCO equipment fires up later, rather than sooner. That’s because major construction on the Werner property within the next five weeks could dramatically take the wind out of the couple’s Christmas tree sales.
“We just opened today, and we’ve already had three customers leave, because they couldn’t tag a tree,” David Werner said on Friday morning. “We can’t let them tag trees that could get run over.”