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Archive - Oct 29, 2007 - Page

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Date

Freight back on track in Middlebury but safety questions asked

FRED BARNES, A resident of Middlebury’s Woodbridge Condominiums off Seymour Street Extension, stands on the railroad tracks that run near his home. Barnes is concerned about the potential for future freight train accidents and is circulating a petition asking state and local officials to demand upgrades to the line.
Independent photo/John McCright



10/29/07

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Life returned to normal in downtown Middlebury on Thursday evening as road blocks were lifted and train service resumed following the Oct. 22 derailment of gasoline-laden freight cars near the Merchants Row overpass.

The derailment of 18 rail cars, tentatively blamed on broken track, resulted in the leaking of gasoline from seven tank cars. Emergency personnel closed 30 roads within a half mile of the accident and evacuated businesses and 400-500 residents.

The return to normalcy left some Middlebury officials and residents a little uneasy, wondering if the newly repaired rail line would indeed hold firm for the multi-ton tankers that once again rumbled through the downtown on their run from Albany, N.Y., to Burlington.

“I don’t sleep now,” said Fred Barnes, a resident of the Woodbridge Condominiums complex off Seymour Street Extension, which neighbors the Vermont Railway line on the north end of Middlebury Village. “When I go to bed and I hear a train — and I’ve seen the trains increase their speed on these horrible tracks — it really bothers me. I’m really thinking of the worst.”

Barnes on Wednesday drafted a non-binding petition asking that local and state officials demand the repair/replacement of railroad tracks in Middlebury, and that an “independent auditor/assessor be engaged by the town of Middlebury to assess the quality of any such repairs or replacement of tracks.”

full story

County real estate weathering storm

10/29/07

By ANDY KIRKALDY

ADDISON COUNTY — Local real estate professionals channeled Mark Twain when asked about Addison County’s real estate market: All said rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.

Available numbers for the most part backed them, although the figures also uncovered a few soft spots. And the experts acknowledged some uncertainty going forward given the steady drumbeat of bad national news.

Waltham real estate appraiser Bill Benton, also Middlebury’s town assessor, summed things up.

“The national news is doom and gloom, but Addison County and Vermont were spared the worst part of it,” Benton said. “I wouldn’t be too concerned about doom and gloom right here.”

Tom Walsh, owner of Coldwell Banker Bill Beck Real Estate, which has offices in Middlebury and Vergennes, pointed to 2007 Addison Country Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics. He said they have tracked below 2006, but not far below.

For example, he said, the median sales price of a home sold through the county MLS so far this year (half the homes sold are for more than the median price, and half are sold for less) is roughly $220,000, while in 2006 the median sales price stood at about $226,000.

That drop of 2.6 percent can be explained by the softness in the county’s high-end market, Walsh said. As of mid-October, nine MLS homes had sold in Addison County this year for more than $500,000. In the same time span in 2006, 17 homes had sold for more than $500,000.

“That certainly knocks the heck out of your average numbers,” Walsh said.

full story

Bristol group plans eco-cemetery

10/29/07

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — For some, concern for the environment is a lifelong passion. But the end of life doesn’t have to be the end of one’s commitment to a healthy ecosystem.

A local group is trying to start an eco-cemetery, where the interred are buried in biodegradable caskets without being embalmed, as an alternative to conventional burial methods.

“It’s kind of an ecological alternative to being cremated or having their remains interred in a formal cemetery,” said David Brynn of Bristol. Brynn is chairman of the board of the Watershed Center, which owns the Waterworks Property on Plank Road in Bristol, the possible site of an eco-cemetery. On Sunday, the Watershed Center hosted a public presentation on eco-cemeteries and the feasibility of one in Bristol.

The idea began with a class project by University of Vermont graduate Meghan Bannan, a resident of Essex Junction. “It is a good way to stay environmental when you die,” she said of eco-cemeteries.

About 15 people attended Sunday’s presentation and were interested in starting an eco-cemetery, Bannan said. “The people who were there were definitely open to the idea,” she said.

When Bannan learned about eco-cemeteries during a research project last year, she became interested in starting one in the area. She discussed it with Brynn, director of Vermont Family Forests and a forester for UVM. They decided that the former site of the Vergennes waterworks, now owned by the Watershed Center’s board of directors, might be a good spot.

full story

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