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Date
Type

March 24th

Bridport Grange nets $15,000 grant to repair historic landmark.

By JOHN FLOWERS

BRIDPORT — The Bridport Grange Hall will receive a $15,680 cut of $196,000 in federal money recently secured by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., for senior centers in four counties.

Bridport Grange Hall became eligible for the money as host of the Bridport Seniors Group. The hall also serves as a distribution point for the local Meals on Wheels program (see related story this page).

The Champlain Valley Agency on Aging will receive the grant money. Leaders of the Bridport Grange and Bridport Seniors Group will together discuss how the money will be spent on improvements to the building.

Jim Morse, an officer with the Bridport Grange, said the building could use work on its dining room floor and its parking amenities. Visitors currently must park alongside the road or off-site.

“It sounds really good,” Morse said of the grant award.

Debbie Plouffe, another officer of the Grange, said the organization has been able to make other important repairs to the building thanks to special fund-raising events and fees garnered by the facility. Those repairs have included new windows, a new furnace, painting and insulation for the walls.

Seniors use the Grange Hall at least twice a week, primarily for meals and socializing, Plouffe said.

When announcing the grant last week, Sanders said the importance of senior centers, like Bridport’s, should not be underestimated.

“Senior centers in Vermont play a great role in making sure that older Vermonters receive the nutrition, socialization and health care they need,” said Sanders. “Unfortunately, many of these senior centers are located in older buildings that need infrastructure improvements.”

full story

March 20th

Local couple attracts more than 40 feline friends

By JOHN FLOWERS

NEW HAVEN — Almost three years ago Jeffrey New sustained a back injury that put him on long-term disability. Faced with the prospect of long, lonely days at home, he thought he’d get a cat to keep him company.

Let’s just say he now has more feline friendship than he and his wife, Alice, can handle.

The one animal has mushroomed into a veritable cat commune of 43 felines of various ages and sizes, all ensconced in the News’ home, ironically located on Dog Team Road.

“We haven’t had the heart to get rid of them,” Jeffrey New said on Monday as the cats played, lazed, sunned and perched themselves on any surface they could find in the couple’s home. “But we’re at a point now where we have to let some of them go.”

It all started off with one solitary cat, named Maggie, who they adopted from an acquaintance. The home’s pet population doubled a short time later, however, when the News agreed to look after Maggie’s sister, Misty. But Misty’s stay would become permanent.

“We talked (Misty’s owner) into letting us adopt her, too,” New recalled.

Little did they know, those original two were just a kitty starter kit.

News of the News’ love for cats spread throughout the area, to the point they would become a repository for unwanted and stray felines. People would drop off pregnant cats — kittens and adults — some with disabilities.

They just couldn’t say “no.”

And they have taken in the cats at great personal expense.

New estimates the couple spends upwards of $300 monthly for food, vet bills and kitty litter to regularly replenish the seven boxes maintained in the home.

full story

Lawmakers, governor battle over budget

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Local lawmakers on Monday served notice that they continue to try and reconcile their own fiscal year 2009 spending priorities with those prescribed by Gov. James Douglas.

Douglas in January unveiled his proposed fiscal year 2009 budget calling for spending and raising $4.3 billion in state and federal funds. Lawmakers, during a legislative breakfast at the Bristol American Legion Hall, voiced concerns that the governor’s budget includes some significant financial shortfalls in some areas.

“I think we know the budget we received is sort of a ‘credit card budget,’” Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, said of the Douglas’s spending plan. “It shorts (state employee) retirement funds by $8 million; it shorts the hospitals by $8 million; it shorts the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board fund by $5 million.”

Sharpe, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said his panel has been struggling to find ways to shore up the programs he said have been shorted.

“How much of that can we restore? I don’t know. But our committee has been asked to come up with $5 million, and even coming up with that is going to be extraordinarily difficult,” Sharpe said.

It will be difficult because lawmakers concede they aren’t keen on raising taxes. Coincidentally, Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, made a “no-new-taxes” pledge on Tuesday.

Lawmakers have, however, supported some proposed fee increases. Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison County and Brandon, said he and other lawmakers endorsed a measure to increase revenues for the state’s court system.

full story

Sugaring season starts well: cold temps but the taps are flowing

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

ADDISON COUNTY — Sugaring season has begun, and while it’s never easy to predict how the season will go, some Addison County sugarmakers say they expect a good season.

“We’re off to a good start,” said Maurice Rheaume of his own sugarmaking operation. “Most everybody’s pretty optimistic.”

The Middlebury resident is president of the Addison County Sugarmakers Association. He said that he began boiling sap on March 8, five days earlier than last year. Temperatures this spring have been relatively cold, which Rheaume said is ideal for sugaring.

“Cold is always better than warm. The weather is favorable,” he said. On Tuesday, Rheaume was looking forward to the ice and freezing rain forecasted for that night, and he probably wasn’t disappointed.

Don Dolliver of Starksboro agreed. “I think it’s a favorable sign that we keep getting these storms,” he said. He first boiled sap on March 8, but declined to predict how long the season would last. “It takes a few 70-degree days in a row, and that’s it.”

Modern sugarmaking operations usually use pipes running from tree to tree to collect sap. That’s easier than the traditional method of hanging buckets on each tree in some ways, but it requires maintenance when a pipe gets weighted down by ice or pulled down under a fallen branch or tree.

But according to Bill Scott of Vergennes, the former forestry teacher at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center and a sugarmaker himself, that hasn’t been much of a problem, despite the frequent icy weather this year.

full story

March 17th

Weybridge moderator retires his gavel after 33 years

By JOHN FLOWERS

WEYBRIDGE — For more than a half-century, a man with the last name “James” has held the gavel at Weybridge town meetings.

That long run has now come to an end, as Stanley “Kelly” James Jr. presided over his last town meeting on March 3. James had been Weybridge town moderator since 1975, after taking over for his dad, who had run the annual meeting for the previous 26 years.

“I’m not getting any younger,” James, a very youthful looking 79, said with a smile last Wednesday while he took a break from splitting wood.

“I guess it’s time to let some newer blood in.”

Kelly James was the new blood 33 years ago when he took up his post in front of Weybridge town meetings. His dad, Stanley James Sr., was ready to step down, and Kelly decided to give it a shot.

“I guess it was bred into me to be active in town,” he said. “My dad was doing a good job (as moderator), but it was getting harder and harder for him, and I just fell into it.”

Indeed, Kelly James has been a devoted public servant to Weybridge over the years. He has served on the local planning commission, zoning board, UD-3 school board and on committees to build the Weybridge and Cornwall schools. He continues to serve on the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board.

“I guess the only thing I haven’t been is a selectman,” James said with a chuckle.

Used to be that town moderators in Vermont were quite often the communities’ legislators in Montpelier. When James Sr. became moderator each Vermont community had its own representative at the Statehouse. Kelly James said the legislator-moderator link made sense in most towns because lawmakers were well schooled in parliamentary procedures.

full story

Eyewitnesses to history talk about Hiroshima from both sides

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MIDDLEBURY — The end of World War II was a relief for both Kazue Edamatsu Campbell and David Winer but they saw the event from opposite sides. In the summer of 1945, Campbell was a Japanese schoolgirl living about 25 miles from the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Winer was a radar engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in the Pacific theater and preparing for an invasion of the Japanese homeland.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and three days later dropped another on Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 people and prompting Japan to surrender on Aug. 15.

Campbell, now 75, and Winer, 82, last Thursday spoke with more than 50 Middlebury Union High School students about the war and the years leading up to it, providing a view of history they don’t normally get.

As a teen living in Japan during the war, Campbell said that grossly distorted images of Americans were all the Japanese saw. She read at that time, for instance, that President Roosevelt kept the skulls of Japanese soldiers on his desk.

“We got brainwashed,” she said. “There was tremendous (propaganda) going on.”

On the American side, in addition to racist propaganda, soldiers and the public believed Japan was so militaristic that civilians, even women and children, would fiercely resist any ground invasion, perhaps resorting to spears or improvised weapons. The truth was simpler.

“As a little girl, I didn’t want war to happen,” Campbell said.

She had an aunt who had emigrated to Oregon before the war. As wartime rationing began and it became impossible to get many foods in Japan, her aunt sent Campbell’s family a large bag of sugar, just before she was taken to an internment camp like more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent. Campbell’s family made the sugar last through the war.

full story

MUHS junior slams the competition in poetry contest

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — When Caleb Smith-Hastings performed his final poem — “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” by Wilfred Owen — at the National Endowment for the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud Competition in Montpelier last week, he made a last minute staging decision: At a particularly dramatic moment in the poem he turned to the judges, who were lined up to his side, and yelled the words directly at them.

They all jumped in their seats.

With that performance the Middlebury Union High School junior earned the title of Vermont State Champion.

At the end of April, Smith-Hastings will head to Washington, D.C., to vie for the national Poetry Out Loud title and a portion of the $50,000 in scholarships and school prizes. For his win in Montpelier, Smith-Hastings received a $200 prize and a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books for MUHS.

This was Smith-Hastings’ second time performing in the Poetry Out Loud competition; last year, he took second place. The program has been expanding in Vermont recently and this year contestants from 20 Vermont high schools participated. Smith-Hastings also noted there were more male participants this year.

“Last year there were two, this year there were three,” he said.

Last week’s competition, which was held at the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier, unfolded in three rounds. For each of those rounds Smith-Hastings performed a different poem.

Right away he decided to make the Owen poem his finale. A graphic and angry piece written during the First World War, “Dulce Et Decorum Est” was a little too unsettling to work as a good opener.

“I didn’t want to kill the audience and then have to bring them back to life,” he said.

full story

March 13th

Portraits cast light on newest Vermonters

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — When Ned Castle met Jean Luc and David Dushime at his father’s company picnic in Burlington last summer, the young ethnographer could only speculate about the distance the two young Rwandans had covered to arrive in Vermont. 

The Dushime brothers worked for Castle’s father at Rhino Foods, the company that makes the cookie dough, among other goodies, for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Jean Luc Dushime attended Champlain College during his time off.

Castle had recently moved back to his hometown of Charlotte after dropping out of a graduate program in photography — he doesn’t actually consider himself a photographer, just “an interested person with a tape recorder and a camera.”

So he set out to document their stories.

What Castle found after sitting down with the Dushimes was a window into the community of refugees living in Vermont. Over the next eight months, through connections he made while volunteering for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, Castle interviewed and photographed 13 other refugees from around the world.

His finished work, a collection of portraits and stories called “In Their Own Words, Stories from Refugees Settled in Vermont Communities,” is on display at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury through June 14.

At a gallery talk on Tuesday evening, Castle explained his motivation for the project. 

“It’s not that I want people drop everything and start volunteering at the local refugee organization, which would be great,” he said. “But it’s a willingness to be open to the (idea) … that the places we’ve come from and the experiences we’ve had are incredibly important to the people that we are.”

full story

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