Archive - May 2008 - Page
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — For four long months, hundreds of volunteers and investigators wielding state-of-the-art equipment had combed through Middlebury in an effort to find missing Middlebury College student Nicholas Garza.
That search came to a cathartic end in the Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury on Tuesday with the chance discovery of Garza’s body by the very man who had coordinated the massive search since the college freshman disappeared on campus during the evening of Feb. 5.
“There’s no feeling of exhilaration,” said Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley, who spotted Garza’s remains submerged within a mound of floating wood and other debris that had gathered on the Marble Works side of the Otter Creek, near the base of the falls.
“There’s no celebration here. This is a tragic story with a tragic ending.”
An autopsy performed at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington on Wednesday tentatively established that the remains were Garza’s, though a final determination could not be made until a comparison of dental records was completed. Police expected that to happen late Wednesday or early Thursday.
But a wallet found within clothing on the remains yielded Garza’s ID, leaving authorities little doubt that the long search for Nick had ended with the anticipated but dreaded results.
The discovery ended a longsuffering vigil for the Garza family, including Nick’s mother, Natalie, and his younger brother, Damon, who had relocated to Middlebury from their native Albuquerque, N.M., to monitor, and participate in, the search.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — Late last week painters were coloring the walls on the lower level of the new Grange Hall that will soon serve as Ferrisburgh’s town office building and a community meeting center, while upstairs workers sanded new maple flooring in preparation for finish coating.
Their efforts were sure signs that the roughly $2.8 million project — a historically accurate replica of the 137-year-old Grange Hall that burned in 2005, plus a one-story addition — is nearing completion.
And not only that, said Ferrisburgh resident Silas Towler, who has worked with general contractor Bread Loaf Corp. on the town’s behalf during the project’s planning and construction stages, the long-awaited effort will almost certainly come in on time and on budget.
Towler said there are always things that can go wrong, even at this late date, and construction of the building’s bell tower still lagged behind other elements. But he fully expects residents to view a finished product on June 21, when an open house has been scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“I’m going to equivocate only because it ain’t over until it’s over,” Towler said.
About a month after that town-wide preview, Town Clerk Chet Hawkins and Assistant Town Clerk Pam Cousino will pack and head up the quarter-mile north along Route 7 from the existing clerk’s office — a roughly 800-square-foot former one-room schoolhouse — to their new digs, which will offer about 5,900 square feet above ground plus a 2,900-square-foot basement.
The ground-floor clerk’s office will also feature a meeting room adequate for about 50 people, as well as a much larger vault and two smaller separate offices, as well as one large work space roughly the size of the existing office building.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — For two centuries, worshippers have climbed the stone steps at the southern, main entrance of the Congregational Church of Middlebury to attend services and meetings in one of the town’s most majestic and prominent buildings.
Worshippers are still climbing those steps today, albeit more gingerly. Some tough winters of aggressive freezes and thaws have conspired to erode the stone steps and the mortar that has held them together.
As a result, church leaders have cordoned off the most damaged section of the steps as they research a temporary fix. That will buy the church enough time to plan, and raise money for, replacement of the steps to ensure safe access to future generations of parishioners.
“We’re working to see what is the most economical, temporary thing we can do,” said Ron Rucker, chairman of the church’s board of trustees.
“We need to end up with something that water is not going to go into.”
Water — and salt — have been enemies to the Congregational Church’s steps through the years. Rucker noted the current steps were probably installed during the 1880s or 1890s when the church went through an architectural “Victorianization.”
While the building has admirably weathered Vermont winters, the steps haven’t. Rucker noted the steps are fashioned from two types of stone — a sturdy “Panton stone,” and a less durable variety referred to as “pudding stone.” Church officials during the 1950s covered the steps with a thin layer of slate so that worshipers would have a smooth surface on which to walk.
Alas, years of rain, salt applications and fluctuating temperatures have permeated the slate surface and eaten away at the stone and mortar.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
STARKSBORO — A nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting Vermont-made music hopes to revitalize the site of a former creamery that was once the hub of a lot of activity in Starkboro.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Jericho Democrat Gaye Symington has a special fondness for the word “energy” when she talks about her campaign for governor these days.
The current Vermont House Speaker talks about the energy she would bring to the job as the state’s chief executive, and how energy policy is of paramount importance at a time when gasoline is hovering around $4 per gallon.
Symington enters a race that includes incumbent Gov. James Douglas, a Middlebury Republican, and Progressive Anthony Pollina of Middlesex. Now in her second term as speaker, Symington when away from the Legislature is development director for the Intervale Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs various agriculture-based ventures in Burlington.
It wasn’t until recently that she decided to forego a re-election bid for her House seat in order to make her first run for governor. She said she looks forward to the challenge.
Symington said she first considered running for governor last fall, but a busy legislative session and other responsibilities forced her to delay her decision until this spring.
“As the legislative session moved on, more and more people came up to me and said, ‘You are the person to do this; we really want you to consider doing this,’” Symington recalled. “It really wasn’t until late-March that I realized I really have to allow myself to think this through in a complete way.”
She formally announced her gubernatorial bid at the Statehouse earlier this month. Symington said she came to the realization she could bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to charting a more prosperous course for Vermont.
By MEGAN JAMES
VERGENNES — After a week visiting friends in Addison County, Pam Shelton is headed back to Botswana, where she lives six months of the year, bringing more than her own luggage. During her stay in the Vergennes area, Shelton collected 1,500 books destined for classrooms and libraries in the southern African country.
About 11 years ago when Shelton moved to Botswana, she founded an organization called The Botswana Book Project. Since then the organization has been responsible for distributing about 275,000 new or nearly new books to children and adults throughout Botswana.
The former head librarian at the Shelburne Village School, Shelton returned to Vermont last week to visit friends, but she couldn’t quite peel herself from the cause. She asked her friends Carol and Tom Spencer, at whose house in Addison she stayed, if they could donate a few books. They asked their friends if they could donate and those friends asked their friends. The results snowballed. Shelton also held an informal fund-raiser during her time at the Spencers.
“I didn’t want textbooks, I wanted the kind of books we all love — Danielle Steele, John Grisham — books kids and adults love,” she said of starting the project.
Shelton plans to return to Addison County again next year and will be looking for more books for Botswana.
The organization has also established 60 primary school libraries in the northern region of Ngamiland.
In Maun, where Shelton lives, the secondary school has tripled the size of its library since the project began to accommodate the addition of about 12,000 volumes.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents on Tuesday voted 305 to 102 in favor of implementing a 1-percent local option tax on local sales, meals, rooms, and alcohol in order to raise revenue for a new in-town bridge.
Tuesday’s vote was the final public endorsement needed by selectmen for the $16 million project, the centerpiece of which will be a new bridge that will span the Otter Creek at Cross Street.
Town officials and bridge backers were ecstatic with the results of Tuesday’s vote.
“It’s certainly a very strong show of support by Middlebury voters and a reasonable turnout for an off-time election,” said Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny. “We are grateful to Middlebury voters for their display of confidence and support here.”
Barring a reconsideration petition seeking to change Tuesday’s outcome, the local option taxes would take effect on Oct. 1 and would remain in effect for the next 30 years.
Middlebury officials are banking on the local option taxes to finance $7 million of the bridge project, with Middlebury College already having pledged to donate the remaining $9 million. The college’s donation will come in annual increments of $600,000 during the 30-year bonding period.
“We are very thankful to the college,” Tenny said. “The college made this effort possible.”
Officials are confident the local option taxes, coupled with the college donation, will be more than adequate to pay down the bridge bond.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Longtime Addison County farmer and Vergennes American Legion Post 14 member J. Francis Angier and his wife of 61 years, Madeleine, are looking forward to Monday.
All five of their sons will be at the Panton home of one of those sons, Philip Angier, along with their eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild, for a Memorial Day picnic.
Of course, Francis and Madeleine will have to leave their Williston home a little early to make that lunch date. Angier, 84, a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran who piloted a B-17 bomber for 33 missions over Europe in World War II, first has a chore to perform: He is the marshal of the Vergennes Memorial Day parade, Vermont’s largest, which will begin at 11 a.m.
Post 14 information officer Henry Broughton said the Legion’s parade committee chose Angier because of his sterling record in World War II, which included a seven-month stint in two Nazi prison camps after Angier’s B-17 was shot down; his post-war service in the Vermont Air and Army National Guards; and his dedication to aviation, a passion that led him to write a 2004 book about his experience as a B-17 pilot: “Ready or Not: Into the Wild Blue.”
Angier wasn’t sure he deserved the recognition, but said he is happy to fulfill his duty.
“It was quite an honor. I’m just a hayseed farmer, you know,” Angier said. “I think he has to choose someone, and I’m glad he chose me, or the group with him did.”
It was back on the North Street, New Haven, farm on which Angier grew up that his interest in aviation was first sparked — all it took was one look upward.
“I saw my first airplane a few days before (Charles) Lindbergh made his flight … and I was hooked,” he said.