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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 1118.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field::query() should be compatible with views_handler::query($group_by = false) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 1148.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images::pre_render() should be compatible with views_handler_field::pre_render($values) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/image/contrib/image_attach/image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images.inc on line 112.
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August 4th, 2008

Officials explain Vermont's sex offender registry

By LEE J. KAHRS

BRANDON –– With Vermont still reeling from the killing of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett in Randolph last month, the Brandon Police Department next Tuesday will host a community forum on sex offenders, state statute, and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) sex offender registry.

The Bennett case has sparked a statewide debate over how sex offenders are handled by the DOC, their punishment, their treatment, and most importantly, their supervision.

“The focus of this forum is to give people information on how the sex offender registry works,” Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell said. “There are things people have misconceptions about.”

The forum is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Fire Department.

Brooke Bennett disappeared in Randolph on June 25, triggering Vermont’s first Amber Alert. Exactly one week later, on July 2, Bennett’s body was discovered in a shallow grave on property owned by her uncle, Michael Jacques, a convicted sex offender and the last person to see the girl alive. He has been charged with kidnapping and other charges may be pending.

Now, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and others are calling for a “Jessica’s Law” here in Vermont meaning that convicted sex offenders would face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. The city of Barre last week passed an ordinance establishing a 1,000-foot buffer zone around local schools and playgrounds where convicted sex offenders new to the city are forbidden to live or spend time.

Brickell said a DOC official will be on hand at the Brandon forum to explain the department’s sex offender protocols, the registry and to answer questions.

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High gas prices force free bus to consider fares

Posted on August 4, 2008 |
By John Flowers



By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) board on Aug. 29 will decide whether to institute fares on some or all of its bus routes to compensate for rising fuel costs.

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July 31st

Bristol explosives expert returns from Afghanistan

By KATHRYN FLAGG

BRISTOL — During his recent six-month tour in Afghanistan, Vermont Air National Guard Technical Sergeant Steve Heffernan, 43, braved blistering heat, guerilla warfare and a bevy of improvised explosive devices.

And as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) specialist, Heffernan faced the especially perilous task of uncovering and dismantling the explosive devices littered through the countryside by the Taliban and terrorist cells.

But most harrowing of all, according to Heffernan, were the roads.

“The roads, if you could call them roads, were the worst,” he said. “The best way to describe the roads would be ‘mud season, dried up.’ That was a good road.”

For Heffernan, the long road home — which included a 30-hour trip from the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan to Baltimore — drew to a close just a week and a half ago, when the EOD team leader returned home to Bristol after six months at war.

His service in Afghanistan came after nearly 17 years in the Air National Guard.

“I’d always wanted to join the military,” Heffernan said. But after marrying his wife, Erin, when he was 21, Heffernan put his plans on the backburner.

A few years later, though, jobs dried up — and Heffernan started looking again at the military. He joined the Air National Guard, and given his blasting experience, he was a natural fit for the EOD unit. 

“I joined to serve my country, believe it or not, as corny as that can sound to some people,” Heffernan said. “I joined to serve my country because I enjoy the freedoms that we all have.”

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Coast-to-coast: Brown finds challenges, joy, reflection on his bike

By ANDY KIRKALDY

MIDDLEBURY — On July 16, like any number of summer vacationers, Swift House Inn co-owner Dan Brown and his longtime friend Jim Mower dipped their toes into the Atlantic Ocean in Hampton, N.H., not far from Mower’s home.

But Brown and Mower were not typical bathers: Getting their feet wet was the last step of a 3,173-mile, 48-day bicycle trip that began in Everett, Wash., on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

And the journey truly began 20 years ago, when the idea of a two-wheel cross-country odyssey first struck Brown, a retired U.S. Navy pilot who is now 59. 

Back then, before 13 years of innkeeping began to demand his full attention, Brown was a cycling enthusiast, and trans-continental bike races were making headlines.

“I just thought it was a great thing,” he said. “It was just something so big that when I first started talking about it, it was like talking smack, ‘OK, I’m going to do this.’ And then eventually talking smack it was like, ‘OK, you’re going to have to do this if you’re going to keep talking smack about doing this.’”

The Ithaca, N.Y., native and U.S. Naval Academy graduate kept that dream alive when he retired from the military 10 years ago. At that time he and his wife, Michele, sold their Annapolis, Md., bed and breakfast and bought a small inn in Maine, which they sold in 2004 to buy the Swift House in Middlebury.

But the moves and the rigors of the hospitality business kept postponing the trip, until finally everything lined up for this year — the Browns felt they had done enough at their Stewart Lane inn to allow him the time off.

If anything, Brown’s motivation had grown stronger in the interim.

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Middlebury man is first found guilty of junk law violation

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s junk ordinance received its first test in Addison County District Court last week, when an Addison County jury found Rogers Road resident Terry Morris guilty on two violations of the two-year-old law.

It was in May of 2006 that Middlebury selectmen approved the municipal junk ordinance, a move triggered by neighborhood complaints about Morris’s property. Morris, during the past several years, has accumulated on his lawn a large collection of items, including skis, bathtubs, toilets, wheelchairs, Jell-O molds, wooden pallets, sleds and bowling balls.

Morris has argued his possessions are not junk, but valued items he collects and enjoys. But neighbors have said Morris’s yard has become an eyesore, to the extent that it is affecting their property values. Town listers have agreed, in some cases lowering the assessments on some neighboring properties. Rogers Road residents Bernard and Ruth Stewart — who testified at the July 23 trial — saw their property valuation reduced by $15,000 as a result of the condition of Morris’s lawn.

Ruth Stewart said she was pleased with the jury’s verdict in the case.

“We’re glad that something is being done,” she said. “I hope (authorities) will follow through until there is a cleanup.”

Morris, reached on Wednesday, declined to comment pending his sentencing hearing, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 11.

Morris acted as his own attorney during the trial.

It was a trial that saw the Stewarts testify that they had erected a fence along the property line when Morris’s yard became a problem.

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July 28th

Middlebury gives conditions to Staples store developers

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Developers will be able to build a proposed Staples store in The Centre shopping plaza in Middlebury if they adhere to a series of town-mandated conditions, including that they provide access between The Centre parking lot and two adjoining properties, and finance a re-timing of traffic signals to minimize additional gridlock on Route 7.

Those were some of the conditions included in a 24-page “notice of decision” sent to developers Middlebury Associates LLC last week by the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB). It was the second such conditional decision sent to the developers, who are seeking to build a 14,737-square-foot Staples next to the Hannaford Supermarket.

The proposal has come under fire from various residents and citizens’ groups who believe Staples would hurt some smaller, locally owned stores that also sell office supplies. Opponents have also voiced concerns that Staples would add more traffic to Route 7 and to a Centre parking lot that is already dangerous to negotiate, according to some shoppers who have testified at DRB hearings.

Key elements of the DRB decision call for Middlebury Associates LLC to meet the following conditions:

• Negotiate access connections between The Centre parking lot and the adjoining Middlebury Short Stop and former bowling alley properties.

• Pay for an adjustment to The Centre/Route 7 intersection traffic signal that would lengthen the light from the current 60 seconds to an 80-second cycle.

• Complete, with input from the Middlebury Design Advisory Committee, a series of pedestrian safety, traffic circulation and aesthetic improvements to The Centre property.

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Raw milk picks up advocates

By KATHRYN FLAGG

ADDISON — Unsurprisingly, dairy farmer Mike Eastman is a big milk drinker.

“I drink three quarts, three and a half quarts a day,” he said, grinning. “I drink a lot.”

But Eastman’s smile — and that telltale milk moustache — aren’t splashed across the iconic “Got Milk?” posters made famous over the last 15 years by a national advertising campaign. Instead, he’s at the forefront of a fight closer to home.

From his Addison farm — and from his seat as co-chairman of the board of directors for Rural Vermont, a nonprofit farm advocacy group — Eastman is at work putting “raw” milk — milk that has not been pasteurized or processed to kill potential bacteria — into the hands of Vermonters.

Legislation passed last winter doubled the amount of unpasteurized milk that farmers can sell from their farms — but raw milk sales remain a contentious issue among consumers, farmers and health officials.

“I think that a lot of people really feel, including myself, that drinking fresh, raw milk is healthier,” said Eastman.

But with the Vermont Department of Health strongly warning of potential perils, consumers are left to negotiate the murky territory between the opposing camp, choosing between gallons of pasteurized milk in grocery stores and the increasingly popular farm-fresh milk peddled by farmers like Eastman.

AT THE EASTMAN FARM

Eastman’s farm is small by Addison County standards — he has 40 Holsteins under his careful watch. But his organic certification — and the unusual fact that his cows are purely grass-fed — attracts milk enthusiasts from Middlebury, Vergennes and as far away as near Burlington.

When a customer arrives at the 300-acre farm, Eastman directs them to a small, dark, cool room off the main barn. A large silver bulk tank takes up the majority of the small space.

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Hughes launches bid for Southeast Addison County House seat

By JOHN FLOWERS

LEICESTER — Leicester Republican John “Ike” Hughes believes the state Legislature has strayed off course.

That said, Hughes said he is running for the Addison-2 House seat to help bring lawmakers’ focus back home and away from issues over which Hughes believes the state has little or no control: The War in Iraq, global warming and impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“I just don’t think the state is spending proper time on state issues,” Hughes said, citing energy policy, school spending and smaller government as among priority topics.

Hughes, 63, is a retired United States Navy master chief petty officer who most recently ran his own instrumentation business. A Pittsford native who has lived in Leicester for the past 25 years, Hughes is challenging incumbent Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, in the district that includes Salisbury, Cornwall, Ripton, Leicester, Hancock and Goshen.

Hughes has been an active volunteer in statewide GOP politics since 1983. He became involved in Addison County Republican causes around 10 years ago. When the July 21 candidates’ filing deadline was fast approaching and no Republicans had declared an interest in Addison-2, Hughes stepped forward.

“I think the voters should have a choice,” Hughes said. “I think if you feel strongly about the issues, you should get out there.”

Hughes has developed strong opinions about health care, government spending and energy during a life that has included a 21-year stint in the United States Navy. He served three tours in Vietnam and visited more than 100 countries during a military career that saw him in charge of repairs to 26 nuclear submarines. That experience has given him a respect and appreciation for nuclear power at a time when the state is approaching a crossroads in determining whether to re-license Vermont Yankee.

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