Archive - 2008 - Page
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — It’s early February and Middlebury is blanketed by snow, but spring thaw will usher in a variety of road, water and sewer-related improvements in Addison County’s shire town.
Chief among them a major rehab of the sewer force main that runs from the Rogers Road pump station under Route 7, north to Charles Street, Water Street and then to Cross Street.
Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner explained that corrosive soils have caused several failures in the force main during the past few years. Those failures have prompted the state to order Middlebury to repair the force main by this August.
Since replacing the line would require a lot of digging — and therefore substantial disruption to traffic — town officials are hoping contractors can simply slide a cured pipe-liner inside the force main. Werner explained this “slip-line” tactic would require less excavation and fewer headaches for travelers.
Unfortunately, the two firms that have bid on the job have submitted proposals that exceed the town’s project estimate of $775,000.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen on Thursday made the first of what will be several pitches to the community for local option taxes to partially fund a new in-town bridge, and they learned that not everyone is sold on the idea.
“My concern is that once a tax like this is added, it never goes away,” said Scott Jacobs, owner of the Agway Farm & Garden Store, who said he would prefer selectmen find another funding mechanism for what he said was a worthwhile in-town bridge project.
“An extra sales tax isn’t going to bring in more business,” he added.
Thursday’s hearing drew around 30 local residents, retailers and public officials, some of whom weighed in on the notion of levying the local sales, meals, rooms and alcohol taxes by 1 percent each, to raise upwards of $725,000 annually. That money — along with a commitment of $600,000 per year from Middlebury College — would be applied to debt service on a 30-year, $16 million bond issue to fund a new in-town bridge. The bridge would link Main Street with Court Street across the Otter Creek, via Cross Street.
By MEGAN JAMES
HANCOCK — Developments have been slow coming in Hancock since Thomas Fabbioli purchased the former Vermont Plywood plant at an auction last November. Still, the new owner is working with town officials to ensure his vision — transforming the building into a marble processing plant and business cultivation center — becomes a reality.
Fabbioli, who owns Vermont Verde Quarry in Rochester, hopes to use a small portion of the 118,000-square-foot building for cutting and polishing Vermont Verde’s serpentine marble, a process that will require six to 10 employees, and rent out the rest of the plant to start-up businesses.
“This thing is very fluid right now,” Fabbioli said. “I’m trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to create something successful.”
By JOHN FLOWERS
EAST MIDDLEBURY — Serena Eddy Moulton has fond memories of frolicking with other children in the huge yard at the Middlebury Cooperative Nursery School (MCNS) off East Main Street.
She would return to the MCNS in East Middlebury a few decades later as an adult to make some new memories, tending to the yard in which she once played while watching her own children learn and recreate there.
“One of the things that I loved most is you could invest time in the school in exchange for a reduction in tuition,” said Eddy Moulton, who served a stint as “director of maintenance” at the parent-run MCNS. “It was a completely worthwhile investment.”
Parents made such investments in the MCNS for more than 75 years, making it one of the longest running cooperative nursery schools in the state.
January 31, 2008
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MIDDLEBURY — A change in a tax on Vermont hospitals included in Gov. James Douglas’ fiscal year 2009 budget proposal could result in a $550,000 hit to Porter Hospital.
As a result of the tax change in the Douglas budget released last week Vermont hospitals fear they will have to raise fees and they won’t be able to fund care for low-income Vermonters or a statewide effort to use electronic medical records more widely.
The health care provider tax is collected by the state of Vermont, which in recent years paid an equivalent amount back to hospitals in federal Medicaid money. That repayment was based the need of the community that the hospital served. But there is a limit to the Medicaid match, and in 2009 the health care provider tax would exceed that limit by $16 million.
For a number of years, the state of Vermont has set the health care provider tax rate no higher than the amount that could be paid back to hospitals in Medicaid, according to Mike Del Trecco, vice president of finances for the Vermont Association of Hospital and Health Systems (VAHHS).
“If (hospitals around the state) have $70 million in taxes, the state has always promised to pay back at least $70 million,” he said.
However, the Douglas administration’s proposed budget for the 2009 fiscal year sets the provider tax at the maximum level of 5.5 percent of total revenue, Del Trecco said, which is projected to raise $71,176,974. With the maximum allowed reimbursement of $55,176,974, that leaves hospitals left making up $16 million.
The VAHHS is requesting that the rate be reduced to 3 percent.
January 31, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MONTPELIER — State Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, on Tuesday filed legislation challenging the federal government’s ongoing authority to call up National Guard troops to serve in Iraq, while urging Gov. James Douglas to bring home Vermont Guard soldiers now serving in that part of the Middle East.
Fisher discussed his bill with the Addison Independent on Monday and reiterated his plans at a news conference in Montpelier on Tuesday. Surrounded by Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Putney, and a dozen other lawmakers, Fisher argued that the 2002 federal authorization to call up the state National Guard had expired.
He added he believes the authority granted by the Congress to use military force was based on two specific purposes: to defend the national security based on a perceived threat from Iraq; and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iraq.
Fisher argued that Iraq no longer poses a direct threat to the U.S., given the fact that Saddam Hussein is now out of the picture and a new government has been elected. He added the changed conditions in Iraq mean that enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions has now become a moot point.
“Congress gave the authority in 2002 for a specific mission in Iraq,” Fisher said. “That mission does not exist today.”
All of this means that Congress must authorize a new mission in order to legally keep National Guard troops in Iraq, or control of those Guard troops must revert back to state control, according to Fisher.
Since Fisher believes control has legally reverted back to the state, he is calling upon Douglas, in his role as chief of the Vermont National Guard, to “take all necessary steps” to bring Vermont Guard troops back from Iraq.
DAVE HEATH FLOODS the ice rink on Middlebury College’s academic quad Thursday afternoon. Heath, who has worked on the rink for 28 years, was planning to return at midnight for a final coat. The rink is used by students for skating, hockey and an annual broomball tournament.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
January 28, 2008
BY JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Starbucks will not proceed with plans for a new store off Route 7 South in Middlebury. The proposed coffee shop has apparently become a casualty of a recent shift in Starbucks’ business plan calling for development of fewer stores in the U.S. this year.
“As you are no doubt aware, the Starbucks Corporation has entered a period of reorganization in the wake of its disappointing financial performance this past year,” reads a recent letter to the Middlebury planning office from Christopher Hunt, a partner with Buffalo, N.Y.-based company Myron Hunt Inc. that was seeking to build the coffee shop on land adjacent to The Centre shopping plaza.
“Unfortunately for us, and for the town of Middlebury, as part of their process (Starbucks) has decided to halt development of many planned, yet un-built stores,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, we are hereby withdrawing our application to amend the Hannaford shopping center P.U.D. (planned unit development) to include Starbucks.”
Newly named Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said his agenda will include refocusing on the “customer experience” in current stores and new products, while slowing the pace of new U.S. store openings. Starbucks also plans to close an as-yet undetermined number of underperforming locations.
Starbucks becomes the second major retailer to pull the plug on plans for a Middlebury store during the past three months. In early December, Aldi announced it would not proceed with a plan to locate a 17,000-square-foot discount food operation in the Middlebury South Village (MSV) development off Court Street. Aldi also cancelled plans to develop stores on a handful of sites in other parts of the state.