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August 11th, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
RIPTON — Gov. James Douglas and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials are confident that widespread flood damage caused by the Aug. 6 rainstorms will qualify for a major infusion of federal aid.
Douglas and FEMA Regional Administrator Art Cleaves came to that conclusion on Thursday while surveying some of the infrastructure in several Addison County towns, including roads and bridges, that had been devastated by floodwaters.
As the Addison Independent went to press, officials were still tallying up damage in the hard-hit communities of East Middlebury, Ripton, Hancock, Goshen, Granville, Salisbury, Leicester, Bridport and Forest Dale. Authorities said they expected the damage to easily eclipse the $1 million needed to trigger a federal emergency declaration from the White House, thereby paving the way for up to 75 percent reimbursement for flood-related repairs.
“We’ve been to Ripton, East Middlebury and Salisbury and the damage is quite extensive,” Douglas said during an interview Thursday afternoon at Middlebury State Airport, where he quickly boarded one in a convoy of four Vermont Army National Guard helicopters that flew over the destruction.
“I think this is the most significant (natural disaster) in my tenure,” he added.
Road crews have been working overtime to restore access to roads and bridges heavily damaged when the Middlebury River and a collection of other brooks and streams jumped their banks, sending water cascading across already-saturated ground.
Workers on Thursday had restored emergency access to Route 125 between East Middlebury and Hancock, though it may be many more days before regular, two-way traffic resumes on the busy road.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
Editor’s note: The 60th edition of the Addison County Fair and Field Days last week offered, as ever, a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells and sensations. With so many events, demonstrations, fried treats and heated competitions to take in, we picked just a few favorites for our readers to savor. Here’s a sampling of what we saw.
The ribbon above April’s stall proudly declares this four-month-old Jersey calf a “novice champion.” She and her handler, Ethan Sausville, 8, of Addison, snagged top honors at the Thursday morning 4-H competition in handling and showmanship. But for the youngest of the Weybridge Willing Workers (WWW), the real marvels in the 4-H Dairy Barn are not the ribbons, but the cows themselves.
Sausville, Matthew Ouellette and Addy Parsons of Weybridge, all 8, crowd around a few of the calves the club is showing this year at the fair. Two little Jerseys, April and Lila, are munching away happily on their grain, perfectly content to let their handlers stroke their backs and necks.
The calves seem pretty happy to be shown, the kids explained — though “sometimes April gets spooked,” Sausville says. She straightens up once her show halter is on, Parsons chimes in.
It’s not easy, they explain — though the calves are sweet-tempered, they can be stubborn.
“You’ve got to really work with them,” Sausville says.
And occasionally, accidents can happen.
“Last year, when I was a PeeWee, I got kicked in the stomach by a really big cow,” Ouellette confides, not without a note of pride. The children confer on the size of the “really big cow” before ultimately deciding she was somewhere along the lines of Cinnamon’s height, gesturing to a massive Jersey lolling in the sawdust a few stalls down from the calves.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
NEW HAVEN — From the get-go, the Addison County Fair and Field Days has drawn crowds, said Lucien Paquette, the 92-year-old Middlebury resident who started Field Days in 1948. In the early days, families piled into their cars, traveled to whichever local farm was hosting the fair that year and congregated to learn about the latest revolutions in agricultural technology.
This was after the Second World War, Paquette recalled, when change was happening at an extraordinary pace. The latest advancements — ranging from artificial insemination for cattle to dynamite blasting in ponds — fascinated fair-goers.
“Many of these things were novel,” Paquette said. For the first time since the war, he said, new technologies were becoming rapidly available to consumers — and in Addison County, the Field Days celebration was exactly the place to learn about these advancements.
That tradition of demonstrations and agricultural education — so fundamental in the fair’s earliest years — continues today. But while the fair — which opened its 60th incarnation on Tuesday and will continue in high gear through the fireworks on Saturday evening — certainly includes its fair share of novelties, one of the largest and most popular exhibits today looks not to the future, but rather at the past.
The case in point is an old barn tucked away in one corner of the New Haven fairgrounds, where Field Days moved in 1968. The barn, originally built around 1825, was moved to the fairgrounds in 1993 and lovingly reconstructed. It now is the hub of the sprawling antique equipment demonstration, featuring an expansive collection of old farm and household items dating back as far as the early 1800s.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — A citizens’ committee is seeking around $260,000 in grant money to introduce new walkways and a terraced viewing area to provide better access to, and enjoyment of, the Otter Creek Falls in downtown Middlebury.
The Middlebury selectboard and the committee will present the plan at a public meeting set for 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12, in the town offices on South Main Street. It’s a plan assembled by an ad hoc “Riverfront Committee” that has spent recent months discussing ways Middlebury could more effectively use the Otter Creek Falls as a calling card to draw more visitors and commerce to the downtown.
“It would be so good for Middlebury to make that area accessible,” Riverfront Committee member Nancy Malcolm said in referring to the Otter Creek Falls. “It’s really a jewel.”
A jewel that has been likened to a “diamond in the rough” by many town officials. Many a visitor has “oohed” at the sight of the Otter Creek cascading beneath the Roman arch Battell Bridge on Main Street. Trouble is, one of the only unencumbered vantage points from which to view the falls is the footbridge that links the Marble Works to Frog Hollow. Business leaders, environmental groups and selectmen have promoted a cleanup of the debris that collects at the base of the falls, so that the area can be landscaped and made more inviting. Selectmen several years ago commissioned a study that included a suggestion to beautify and develop the rear facades of Main Street businesses that border the falls area.
By JOHN FLOWERS, KATHRYN FLAGG and LEE KAHRS
ADDISON COUNTY — The streams and rivers in Addison County are normally postcard-perfect images of tranquility this time of the year. But this summer’s unrelenting rain transformed many local waterways into proverbial freight trains on Wednesday, sending water careening into roads, bridges and backyards in a swath from Leicester and Brandon north and east to Granville and Hancock.
Emergency crews responded in at least eight area towns. Flooding compromised at least two bridges — one on Route 53 just south of Lake Dunmore and the other on Lower Plains Road in East Middlebury — prompting their closure. Numerous roads in southern Addison County and in the White River Valley were closed because of flooding.
As the Addison Independent went to press, authorities had closed 18 roads and streets due to floodwaters. They included:
• Route 53 along Lake Dunmore in Salisbury and Leicester.
• Olde Town Road in Ripton.
• Fernville Road, the Leicester-Whiting Road, Fern Lake Road and Shaddock Road in Leicester.
• Silver Lake Road, Dutton Brook Road, Flora White Road, and Carlisle Hill Road in Goshen.
• Three Mile Bridge Road in Middlebury and portions of Lower Plains Road (which was evacuated) in East Middlebury.
• Route 125 between Route 116 and Route 100 in East Middlebury, Ripton and Hancock.
• Newton Thompson Road, Wheeler Road, Union Street, Barlow Avenue, and Forest Dale Road in Brandon.
Authorities were still assessing flood damage Wednesday afternoon, when the floodwaters appeared to have crested and even receded in some areas. But officials cautioned that conditions could quickly worsen in the event of new rainfall. Showers were forecast through this Saturday.
By JOHN FLOWERS
RIPTON — Like most artists, Jean Cherouny has a routine she follows before putting paint to canvas. She goes downstairs to her makeshift studio, clears her mind of stress and gets out her supplies.
But that’s where most similarities end.
While many artists at this point would be taking a brush in hand, Cherouny purposefully snaps on her rollerblades, gently dips them into a glistening pool of paint or ink, and proceeds to glide, hop, and amble across her canvas.
It’s an unusual technique to some art purists, but there’s no denying that Cherouny’s work is getting noticed. Representatives of the South End Arts and Business Association Art Hop in Burlington have asked her to “perform” in skates and exhibit some of her paintings this year. She will, later this month, hold a demonstration at the gazebo on the Middlebury village green.
As an abstract expressionist, the Ripton artist knows her technique will draw some gasps and skepticism. But she doesn’t mind at all.
“In the art world, you have to be careful, because there is an immediate judgment — a 10-second reflection — and they either like what you’ve done or they don’t like it,” Cherouny, 41, said on Thursday. “But it doesn’t matter, as long as I like it.”
It actually seems quite natural that Cherouny would combine arts and athletics in her painting.
She developed a keen interest the visual arts when she was 8 years old.
“It was my mom who saw that in me,” Cherouny recalled.
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.