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June 9th

Middlebury farm eyed for conservation


MIDDLEBURY —State and local nonprofit groups are working on a deal to buy the development rights to the 99-acre Bingham Farm off Creek Road, property that would fortify a large block of land that has already been conserved at Middlebury’s southern gateway.

“The boys have enjoyed growing up here and I didn’t want to see it developed,” said Marilyn Bingham, whose family has owned the farm since 1959. “I enjoy living here. I like the view, and the quiet.”

While nursing has been her main occupation, Bingham raised five sons on the farm and the oldest, Alpine, lives on the farm and runs a small, diversified vegetable business. Alpine Bingham had previously managed several farm businesses on the spread, including a milking herd of 50-55 Holsteins. He sold the cows several years ago, and has focused on growing vegetables on around three acres while renting the balance of the cropland to a nearby dairy farmer.

The Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT) and Vermont Land Trust (VLT) are now working on a conservation deal with the Binghams that would allow the family to invest in their farm while keeping it open, in agricultural production and available for possible inclusion in a larger “Trail Around Middlebury.”

Officials at MALT and the VLT are now working to raise around $200,000 for the Bingham Farm deal. Middlebury selectmen have agreed to tap the town’s conservation fund for $10,000 to go toward the transaction. That $10,000, according to VLT Champlain Valley Co-Director Alan Karnatz, will be used to leverage approximately $190,000 in grant money through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB). Karnatz said he is very optimistic the VHCB will approve the grant this month.

full story

Brandon furniture maker at a crossroads after it is sold


BRANDON –– The Vermont Tubbs furniture company here has been sold after an unsuccessful five-year bid by the previous owners to turn a profit. But the town of Brandon and the state of Vermont are committed to keeping the company here and retaining the 90 jobs at stake.

“We’re willing to work with whichever owner wants to work with us,” said Brandon Town Manager Keith Arlund. “The town stands ready to assist in the transition in any way possible.”

A June 4 press release that was vague on details said that BSF Transition LLC, an affiliate of Brownstreet Furniture of Whitefield, N.H., had bought “certain assets” of Brandon-based Vermont Tubbs.

The 168-year-old Vermont Tubbs specializes in handcrafted, hardwood beds and other bedroom furniture, as well as custom-built office furniture. Brownstreet Furniture manufactures high-quality, solid wood cherry, pine, maple, and ash furniture. Tubbs officials stated that they will continue to manufacture in the existing facility on Arnold District Road while Brownstreet assesses future production plans.

“The entrance of Brownstreet couldn’t come at a more opportune time,” said Tubbs partner Jon McNeill in the release. “My partners and I will continue to be involved to provide assistance for a successful sale.”

Calls for further comment from Tubbs officials were not returned by the Friday afternoon deadline for this edition of the Independent.

The move comes after months of wrangling to secure $580,000 in state and local economic development grants intended to preserve the 90 jobs at Tubbs by providing needed operating capital. The Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) award was announced April 15.

full story

For city kids, Vermont visits offer a breath of 'fresh air'


ADDISON — Jeff and Julia Gosliga are expecting not one but two children this summer — the first, their fourth child, due in just two and a half weeks, and the second, a seven-year-old resident of the Bronx, N.Y., returning for her second summer vacation on Gosliga Farm in Addison.

Despite the busy summer ahead, the Gosligas are welcoming their out-of-state visitor with open arms. When she arrives in August, Naomi, who spent two weeks with the family last year, will join 50 other children visiting Addison County this summer through the New York City-based Fresh Air Fund. The Fund, an independent nonprofit organization designed to create opportunities for children living in disadvantaged communities to enjoy free summer vacations, has served more than 1.7 million children from low-income households since its inception in 1877.

For Naomi, the Gosligas’ farm — home to not only the Gosliga clan but also the 450 cows they milk daily — could not be more different than the hustle and bustle of her home in the city. The open spaces — and yes, fresh air — are a welcome change of pace for many of the children the organization serves.

“If you think about where these kids come from, you say, ‘Man, these kids deserve a break to just be kids and have fun,’” Jeff Gosliga said.

A trip to the farm, he continued, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of these children.

“They love it,” he said. “They have so much fun.”

full story

June 5th

Town Hall Theater plans July opening; teens prepare time capsule


MIDDLEBURY — Gailer School students on Monday officially made plans to take in a show at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater (THT) during the spring of 2058.

The students don’t even know what will be playing 50 years from now at the newly resurrected venue at 68 South Pleasant St. But they are certain that the performance will be preceded by a special attraction — the opening of a time capsule containing local images, memorabilia and other keepsakes they assembled this week.

“When they open (the time capsule) up, I’m not sure this will even work,” Gailer School student Tina Friml said of the iPod she deposited into a milk crate containing all the time capsule items.

“At least they’ll see what (an iPod) looked like and how ‘huge’ it was,” she said, speculating that technological advances may ultimately dwarf the wafer-thin portable media player.

It was Douglas Anderson, THT executive director, who last fall approached Erik Remsen — teacher of the Gailer School’s Davinci 8 Humanities class — to see if he and his students would be interested in compiling artifacts for a time capsule that will be settled into a nook of the theater building on July 26. That nook will be secured as part of extensive interior renovations to the THT, work that is expected to be completed within five weeks and in time for a full week of grand opening events slated for July 20-30.

full story

Tigers' Print backers urge MUHS school board to oppose censorship


MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board will consider a policy governing free speech for the Middlebury Union High School newspaper, while administrators will determine whether the paper — known as the Tigers’ Print — can be maintained as an English Department offering rather than being absorbed by the business department.

School leaders made those decisions on Tuesday evening after listening to around two hours of impassioned comments from students, parents and teachers who have had a hand in producing the Tigers’ Print. The student newspaper’s survival and level of autonomy have been in doubt since it published an article earlier this year on the subject of drugs in school. That article quoted a student, by name, who admitted showing up for classes under the influence of drugs.

Tigers’ Print writers and advisors said they believe publishing the student’s name lent more credence to the story on drug abuse. But some school administrators, including MUHS Principal Bill Lawson, said they believe the newspaper violated the student’s right to privacy by printing his name. Although he had read the material in the newspaper before publication, including the drug story, Lawson had kept a hands off policy.

The principal subsequently decided that the Tigers’ Print be pre-screened by the administration, for content and grammar, before being published.

The pre-screening mandate drew sharp criticism from student writers and their advisor, Tim O’Leary, an English Department faculty member who told UD-3 board members on Tuesday that morale at Tigers’ Print has plummeted with the loss of autonomy.

full story

Local incumbent lawmakers to run for re-election


ADDISON COUNTY — With around six weeks left for candidates to jump into district and countywide races this fall, a survey of incumbent Addison County House and Senate members reveals that all plan to run for re-election in November.

Candidates have until Monday, July 21, to file nomination papers for elected office with their respective district town clerks (House hopefuls) or the Addison County Courthouse (Senate hopefuls).

As the Addison Independent went to press, the county’s two incumbent senators and nine House representatives had confirmed they will run for re-election. Only two challengers have thus far surfaced to take on incumbents, both in the Addison-3 House district. Democrats Diane Lanpher of Vergennes and Jean Richardson of Ferrisburgh will take on incumbent Reps. Greg Clark and Kitty Oxholm, both Vergennes Republicans (see story in May 29 edition of the Independent.

Democrats currently control both of the county’s Senate seats (Claire Ayer and Harold Giard) and six of the nine available House seats. Republicans control both Addison-3 House seats, while Rep. Will Stevens, a Shoreham independent, is rounding out his first term in Addison-Rutland 1.

State Senate

Ayer, a Weybridge Democrat, will be seeking her fourth consecutive two-year term representing Addison County and Brandon. Giard, a Bridport Democrat and former farmer, is eyeing a third straight two-year term.

Both incumbents ran unopposed in 2006, the first time in recent memory that the two highly coveted seats went uncontested.

full story

June 2nd

Rutland-area drug sweep nets locals


BRANDON — A major sweep in Rutland County last week of more than three dozen people accused of drug-related crimes netted 10 Brandon residents and a handful of individuals from Addison County.

Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell, whose department was one of 10 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved in the three-month-long effort dubbed “Operation Marble Valley 2008,” said on Thursday that he hopes the arrests will scare other drug dealers, preventing them from setting up shop in Brandon.

“We’re not foolish,” he said. “We know this isn’t the end, but we’re hoping yesterday was step one.”

Nine Brandon residents were arrested Wednesday and one on Thursday. Authorities also arrested or put out warrants for four Addison County residents in connection with the operation.

In addition to Brandon police, Operation Marble Valley included Vermont State Police, the Vermont Drug Task Force (VTDTF), Rutland police, the Rutland County Sheriff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Vermont Attorney General, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The effort displayed the regional approach that Brickell was hoping for when authorities began clamping down on Rutland-area drug activity in February. He said he had been worried that focusing solely on Rutland would flush criminals out into surrounding towns.

While the Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office was not directly involved with the operation, they will be monitoring the court’s disposition of the cases. Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Christopher Perkett said he does not anticipate this latest crackdown on drug activity in Rutland County will prompt a spike in such activity in other locations, like Addison County.

full story

Route 7 paving in Ferrisburgh, New Haven to last through summer


FERRISBURGH — The off-and-on delays experienced by Route 7 drivers in Ferrisburgh and northern New Haven will last right through the summer and into late September, according to a Vermont Agency of Transportation spokesman.

AOT communications director John Zicconi said it simply takes time to prepare for and complete a 10.5-mile, $3.8 million paving project.

“It’s not a small project,” Zicconi said. “This is something that takes a while.”

When completed, Route 7 will be resurfaced between the Charlotte town line and the intersection of the state highway with Lime Kiln Road, just north of New Haven Junction.

In the meantime, local drivers, commuters and day-trippers to Burlington can expect less than smooth sailing along Route 7, especially during rush hour. Zicconi said about 8,300 cars a day cruise on the southern end of the road to be repaired, and about 13,200 along the northern stretch.

“You would naturally conclude the delays will be longer in the northern end of the project,” he said. “People should expect the longer delays in the peak driving hours.”

Other than rush hours, delays will be unpredictable. There may even be times project contractor F.W. Whitcomb pulls workers and equipment to meet deadlines on other jobs, Zicconi said. 

“They’re doing different things at different times,” he said, both on the job and at other sites.

Those familiar with other north-south roads might find the going easier there at times, but Zicconi said the AOT would not be setting up detours “through anybody’s neighborhood.”

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