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May 2nd, 2008
MIDDLEBURY — Natalie Garza, the mother of missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, has asked participants in Green Up Day to keep their eyes peeled for clothing or items belonging to the 19-year-old as they’re combing Addison County roads for trash on Saturday, May 3.
Nicholas Garza was wearing jeans, a long-sleeved red, button-down shirt and white, size-12 tennis shoes on Feb. 5, the night he went missing. His cell phone, wallet and dorm access card have not been found.
Anyone who finds items matching this profile is asked to contact the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — More than a hundred people fanned out across an open field east of Middlebury’s Porter Hospital on Saturday, kicking through dead grass, looking for a trace of missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza.
“My son had on jeans, he had on a long-sleeved, red, button-down shirt and he has a size 12 tennis shoe on,” his mother, Natalie Garza, told the crowd of volunteer searchers packed into the bleachers at Kenyon Arena before they began the full-day search. “His cell phone, wallet, his badge to his room have not been found.”
Searchers made their way north from the hospital grounds to Mr. Up’s Restaurant — some searched the Otter Creek from kayaks — turning up nothing more than a few articles of clothing that didn’t match Garza’s profile.
Leading the search was Gary Peterson, an investigator for the Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office who consulted on the Garza case in March as part of Texas EquuSearch, a private search and rescue organization. He returned to Middlebury at the suggestion of Nan O’Brien, a Vermont medium and spiritual advisor working with the Garza family. O’Brien previously helped Peterson with a case in Iowa.
Nick Garza was last seen leaving a Middlebury College dorm on the night of Feb. 5. He has not contacted any family or friends, and it does not appear that he was unhappy in Middlebury. Local police have headed up the investigation and previous searches that have included sixteen organizations, more than 200 search personnel, two helicopters, two airplanes and 13 search dogs.
According to Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley, Saturday’s volunteer search organized by Natalie Garza, covered very little ground that hadn’t already been searched.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — The Bristol community got a chance to give an earful to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) and representatives of the Lathrop Limited Partnership about plans for a gravel pit south of downtown Bristol.
Some area residents spoke up to support Lathrop’s plans for a pit saying it would provide a needed resource — gravel — and its risks are overstated. But almost all members of the public who addressed the board feared its effects on its neighbors and the area.
“I can’t imagine how heavy industry can be allowed in an area not zoned for heavy industry,” Bristol resident Charles Manning told the board.
The plan to open the gravel pit began with an application in 2003 by the family of James Lathrop. The ZBA approved the plan in 2004, but a group calling itself Smart Growth for Bristol, founded by Bristol resident John Moyers and represented by local lawyer James Dumont, appealed that decision. After various hearings in Vermont Environmental Court, Lathrop Limited Partnership in August 2007 filed a new plan with a number of changes, including an access road via Rounds Road.
Opponents of the plan have waited awhile to weigh in on the latest proposal. Tuesday’s hearing followed two other ZBA hearings — one in November and one in March — at which there was only enough time for comments from those involved in building and operating the proposed pit. An estimated 30 to 40 Bristol residents attended Tuesday’s meeting, as well as a few from surrounding towns. About 20 people spoke at the hearing.
Manning, who has visited the Bristol area for decades and recently bought a house on Lower Notch Road, said he was dismayed when he learned about the plan and its effect on the neighborhood. He has not been alone in questioning whether the parcel was zoned for a gravel pit.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Developers of a proposed Staples store off Route 7 South will have to make their project less of a potential contributor to area traffic congestion and more in conformance with Middlebury’s town plan if it is to advance further through the community’s permitting process.
The Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) issued those and other findings on Tuesday in its preliminary review of a 14,737-square-foot Staples store that Myron Hunt Inc. wants to build next to the Hannaford Supermarket portion of The Centre shopping plaza.
“This is not a final decision,” Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington stressed of the DRB report. “It identifies things that need to happen if the project is going to proceed. It lays out the process to take the project to the next step.”
The next steps for Myron Hunt Inc., according to the DRB report, will be to:
• Submit a master plan and narrative, showing — among other things — how traffic circulating in an around the project site will not only affect The Centre shopping plaza, but adjacent properties across Route 7 and on Middle Road.
• Demonstrate how the project can conform to specific provisions of the Middlebury town plan. For example, the town plan already identifies the stretch of Court Street/Route 7 from Creek Road to Boardman Street as an “area … not appropriate for new or expanded large-scale shopping mall development, similar to the existing Hannaford Plaza to the south.”
• Adhere to an existing agreement that The Centre would work with adjoining property owners (the Dollar Market, and the Mobil station, owned by Jolley Associates) to link their respective parking lots to improve traffic flow.
By MEGAN JAMES
NEW HAVEN — As Dave Winborn prepared for his first full winter living in a tent in the New Haven woods last fall, he had no doubt his home — a Cabela’s Deluxe Alaknak II — would survive to see the spring.
“I was supremely confident that no weather, no natural things would do my tent in,” he said.
The tent collapsed in early February, while the 55-year-old emergency medical technician was working the overnight shift and 17 inches of snow was pummeling the area.
“I came home, saw that it had collapsed and early that evening I thought, ‘Camp Titanic.’ That will teach me,” he said, chuckling.
But Winborn didn’t let the collapse get him down, and unless he was on duty for Valley Rescue Squad in Hancock or New Haven First Response, he never missed a night in that tent. In fact, his camp did make it through the winter, and he plans to do it all again next year.
On a recent morning he was getting ready for spring-cleaning: taking down some branches dangling threateningly over his roof, clearing out the roots protruding from his floor and taking out the insulation he packed against the walls and covered with sheets so he wouldn’t breathe in particles of the insulation.
Winborn’s motto since moving into his tent last summer has been, “Try something. If it works, stick with it, if it doesn’t work, try something else,” he said.
He moved into the tent, which he pitched on a friend’s land, in part because he couldn’t afford an apartment, he said. But also, he did it just to see if he could.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Developers who want to install a water turbine at the Otter Creek falls in downtown Middlebury are hoping to sign up the town of Middlebury and Middlebury College as their two exclusive clients for electricity, a move they believe will make the project more financially viable and less encumbered by permitting hurdles.
Anders Holm and his family — owners of the Main Street building that borders the south side of the falls — are proposing the water turbine, which would harness electricity from the water that flows through a flume under the Holm building. The electricity would be processed in a powerhouse erected on town-owned land near the base of the footbridge that links Frog Hollow with the Marble Works complex across the Otter Creek.
The Holms have spent the past two years refining their project while seeking financing and the necessary permits. The Holms have experienced setbacks on both counts, driving up the costs and lengthening the timeline of their proposal.
They now believe that a partnership with the town and college could expedite the process. The Holms are hoping to make the two entities the only wholesale consumers of their water turbine’s power. Such an arrangement, Holm said, could instantly give the project firm standing and credibility among permitting and financing organizations.
College and town officials last week acknowledged interest in the Holm project, though they stressed the need for more study.
“We are still exploring the economic feasibility of this project, but we’re excited by the idea of developing a green energy source that would provide power to the college and town,” said Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz.
By MEGAN JAMES
LEICESTER/WHITING/SUDBURY — If voters in Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury approve, a new consolidated elementary school could be the first built in Vermont in the 21st Century.
A newly formed tri-town school committee met last Wednesday to lay the groundwork for the consolidation plans, including the construction of a new, centrally located school, tentatively called the Community School.
In all three towns enthusiasm for the project has mounted since Town Meeting Day, when Leicester expressed a renewed interest in joining a merger of Sudbury and Whiting schools proposed last year. In November Whiting voters rejected the merger, 47-26, and Sudbury approved it, 53-39.
But the proposal Leicester school board member Hannah Sessions floated before Sudbury and Whiting residents at their respective town meetings in March differs from the original plan in one striking way: The three towns would construct a brand new school building in a central location, rather than splitting grades between existing buildings.
An added bonus, Sessions stressed, is that joint schools are exempt from Vermont’s moratorium on school construction funding, so 50 percent of construction costs would be covered by the state.
The committee has yet to determine an estimated cost of building the school, but it wouldn’t be much more than other area schools are paying just for renovations and improvements, Sessions said.
At Wednesday’s meeting the 20 committee members, most of whom do not serve on a school board, discussed other benefits of consolidating schools. With more than 100 students — Leicester currently has 57, Whiting, 36, and Sudbury, 31 — the biggest perk is that the Community School would have no multi-grade classrooms.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Sometimes when Sue Schmidt and her sons are shopping for groceries, a stranger will come up to them and ask if she can touch the boys’ hair. Schmidt’s sons are both adopted — one is African American, the other biracial — and the soft dreadlocks on the younger 6-year-old attract a lot of attention.
Schmidt’s answer is always the same — no — but she tries to use the interaction as an opportunity to bring up a topic often overlooked in Vermont, where according to the 2006 U.S. census, 96.7 percent of the population is white.
“We don’t talk about race in Vermont, as white people we have the privilege to not talk about race,” she said. “My children don’t have that privilege. They will never have it.”
In her own family Schmidt, who works as Middlebury’s Agency of Human Services Field Director, seizes every opportunity to discuss the issue with her sons, whether it’s in the grocery store or on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“My youngest son, earlier this month, said, ‘What means assassination?’ So I explained it. You have to make sure he understands the world that he’s living in,” Schmidt said. “But there was also part of me that was really sad… because I don’t want him to be afraid.”
Schmidt is a panelist in an upcoming community discussion on race following a screening at Middlebury College of the Vermont film, “Living on the Fault Line: Where Race and Family Meet.”
The documentary, which explores the emotional costs of racial discrimination and white privilege as it plays out in the privacy of trans-racial Vermont families, starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, in Twilight Hall.