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October 25th, 2007

Quick response avert fiery explosions after fuel-filled train cars derail in downtown Middlebury

FIREFIGHTERS STAND BY as an emptied tanker car is lowered back onto its wheels Wednesday at the site of Monday’s train wreck in Middlebury. The cars were all expected to be set back on the tracks and hauled away sometime Thursday.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell



October 25, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Railway officials have tentatively cited a broken section of rail line as the cause of a train accident that toppled 18 cargo cars in downtown Middlebury on Monday, sending an undetermined amount of gasoline into the Otter Creek.

Fire, police and state environmental officials, fearing an explosion or adverse health effects from breathing gasoline fumes from the spill, cordoned off most of downtown Middlebury to traffic for almost 24 hours after the 2 p.m. accident. During that time crews evaluated the site and began moving the rail car wreckage while keeping the gasoline spill to a minimum.

As of Wednesday afternoon officials said they hoped to have the line open again by late Thursday.

While the accident temporarily inconvenienced motorists and an estimated 400 to 500  residents of the Cross Street/Main Street/South Pleasant Street neighborhoods who had to be evacuated (see related story), Middlebury officials breathed a collective sigh of relief realizing that no one had been hurt and that things could have been a whole lot worse.

full story

Evacuation snarls traffic, pinches businesses

October 25, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Monday’s train accident transformed downtown Middlebury from its usual beehive of activity to an almost eerie no-man’s land.

Local police and fire officials blocked off a whopping 30 roads leading into, and out of, the core village area while investigators and clean-up crews combed through the toppled rail tankers along the Otter Creek near Merchants Row.

Motorists accustomed to traveling through Middlebury via Routes 7, 125 and 30 found themselves making detours.

Authorities established a “hot zone” near the accident site that they sought to keep free of vehicle traffic. That zone extended around the core village area and included all, or portions, of Charles Avenue, Court Square, North Street, Stewart Lane, Methodist Lane, Middle Seymour Street, Park Street, Bakery Lane, Shannon Street, Storrs Avenue, Franklin Street, Chipman Park, Water Street, South Pleasant Street, Cross Street, Duane Court, Mary Hogan Drive, Court Street, Benedict Lane, Merchants Row, Main Street and North Pleasant Street.

Police established two routes around Middlebury for passenger traffic, according to Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley. One led from Route 7 through Buttolph Acres, connecting with High Street. The other, southbound, was from Route 7 to Stewart Lane, followed by Seminary Street to Foote Street to Route 7 south of the downtown.

Vermont State Police stopped commercial traffic at the intersection of Routes 7 and 17 and routed southbound commercial traffic out to Route 22A. Northbound traffic was stopped at Route 125 in East Middlebury before it got into town and it was diverted to Route 116.

full story

College, Town Hall Theater ink $1 million deal

October 25, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College has played a strong supporting role in renovating the Town Hall Theater (THT). Now the liberal arts institution is jumping into the act in an even bigger way.

College and theater officials confirmed on Monday that they had formed a partnership that will give the institution and its student body regular use of the THT for productions, rehearsals and mentorships. The college in turn will provide the THT with $1 million over the next 20 years to give the theater a strong financial footing as it prepares for major interior renovations that should allow for an opening next summer.

“It gives the college an extra place to perform as well as a wonderful connection to downtown Middlebury,” THT Executive Director Douglas Anderson said. “We see it as a win-win situation.”

Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz agreed.

“There are a whole bunch of things we see happening that will bring the college and town arts scenes together,” Liebowitz said. “We are pleased to help make this happen.”

This is the third substantial contribution the college will have made to THT, a 124-year-old building off Merchants Row that is being renovated for use as a performing arts center. The college previously donated $125,000 in both 2001 and 2006.

Boosters have set a $5 million price tag for the project and are just $130,000 short of meeting a $500,000 anonymous challenge grant to reach the fund-raising finish line. Anderson stressed the college’s $1 million commitment should be seen as separate from the effort to match the $500,000 challenge grant.

“We are still trying to raise around $130,000,” Anderson said.

full story

October 24th

Middlebury rail line could open Thursday

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Fire Chief Richard Cole reported late Wednesday afternoon reported substantial progress in the clean up of the train derailment that shut down much of downtown Middlebury on Monday.

Vermont Railway officials on Tuesday tentatively cited a broken section of rail line as the cause of a train accident that toppled 18 cargo cars in downtown Middlebury on Monday, sending an undetermined amount of gasoline into the Otter Creek.

Fire, police and state environmental officials, fearing an explosion or adverse health effects from breathing gasoline fumes from the spill, cordoned off most of downtown Middlebury to traffic for almost 24 hours after the 2 p.m. accident. During that time crews evaluated the site and began moving the rail car wreckage while keeping the gasoline spill to a minimum.

As of Wednesday afternoon officials said they hoped to have the line open again by late Thursday.

While the accident temporarily inconvenienced motorists and an estimated 400 to 500  residents of the Cross Street/Main Street/South Pleasant Street neighborhoods who had to
be evacuated, Middlebury officials breathed a collective sigh of relief realizing that no one had been hurt and that things could have been a whole lot
worse.

full story

October 23rd

Middlebury cleans up after rail spill

By JOHN FLOWERS AND JOHN S. McCRIGHT

MIDDLEBURY — Public safety officials on Tuesday morning lifted the evacuation order for the area of downtown Middlebury that was shut down on Monday afternoon following the derailment of a train car carrying gasoline.

Four streets nearest the overturned tanker car remained closed: South Pleasant, Cross, Water and Charles streets. Middlebury Union High School and Mary Hogan Elementary School, which were closed and evacuated on Monday, were reopened Tuesday morning. The Gailer School and Mary Johnson Children’s Center, which are located on closed streets, remained closed on Tuesday.

Downtown Middlebury returned to its normal level of activity after being completely closed down on Monday.

Seventeen cars of a Vermont Railways train derailed on the tracks along the west side of the Otter Creek across the river from Mr. Ups restaurant at a little after 2 p.m. on Monday. The line of overturned cars stretched from the railroad trestle near Water Street to the point at which the tracks go under Merchants Row.

Officials said that 14 of the cars carried gasoline and the three at the north end were carrying road salt. Spillage of gasoline and salt was minimal, and a firefighters quickly extinguished a small fire.

“This could have been MUCH more catastrophic had there been explosion or major spillage,” Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said in a release Tuesday morning.

Only one rail car sustained any substantial loss of gasoline, officials said on Monday evening. Nevertheless, local firefighters and state hazardous materials teams set up booms in the Otter Creek just above the Middlebury Falls as a precaution.

full story

October 22nd

Boo!

DONALD HILL, LEFT, and Matt Clark peek out from behind one of the dozens of inflatable Halloween displays they have in the yard of their North Road home in Whiting. The brothers have spent hours and hours setting up the display, which grows bigger every year.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

full story

Velco considers North Ferrisburgh work site

October 22, 2007

By ANDY KIRKALDY

FERRISBURGH — The Vermont Electric Power Company has decided not to use a property in Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 village as staging area and storage site for more than 400 poles and other equipment for VELCO’s new transmission line from New Haven to South Burlington, VELCO spokesman Kerrick Johnson said on Friday.

Instead, VELCO has turned its attention at the last minute to a site in North Ferrisburgh that is owned by the state Department of Building and Grounds and is, at least in the long term, the planned home of a new Agency of Transportation weigh station and highway maintenance depot.

Johnson said earlier this summer AOT officials told VELCO that the agency was still considering developing that site within the next two years.

However, there may have been an internal misunderstanding in the agency. AOT director of communications John Zicconi told the Addison Independent this summer there are no immediate plans to further develop that site. Zicconi said the AOT had to devote limited funding to other needs for the foreseeable future.

“The project remains a project,” Zicconi said in July. “But there is no timetable for it at this time.”

Last week Johnson said VELCO approached the AOT again, asked more questions, and this time heard that the agency would be open to leasing the site for the two-year period VELCO said it needs the staging and storage area.

Johnson said when VELCO, Buildings and Grounds Department officials and AOT officials realized their needs were complimentary, that talks moved quickly. VELCO may start using the site, which is on the west side of Route 7 just south of Long Point Road, in a matter of days.

“If all goes well, we’re hoping to use that site by the end of next week,” Johnson said on Saturday. 

full story

New group forms to promote Middlebury arts

October 22, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Members of the local arts community are joining forces to market Middlebury as a destination for arts and entertainment.

The effort is being called “ArtsConnect,” an idea that emerged from a series of “Creative Communities Program” forums held earlier this year to find ways of stimulating Middlebury’s economy. Resident Nancy Malcolm was a lead organizer of that Creative Communities effort, and is chairwoman of the ArtsConnect committee.

“We want to promote and celebrate the Middlebury area,” Malcolm said. “The general idea is to be very inclusive.”

ArtsConnect boosters will hold their first of what are expected to be monthly gatherings on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 4:30 p.m. at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café. The meeting is expected to attract representatives from Middlebury College, the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, the Town Hall Theater, the Vermont Folklife Center, the Vermont State Craft Center at Frog Hollow, the Middlebury Business Association and area schools.

“This is a way to communicate, to get people together who speak the same language,” she said of the various players in the local arts scene.

ArtsConnect participants on Oct. 25 will begin to brainstorm ideas on how to publicize the vast menu of theater, visual arts, music and cultural events that are available in Middlebury. Malcolm plans to suggest some of the following ideas:

• Producing arts brochures that could be left in rooms at area hotels and B&Bs to inform tourists about local arts events.

• Approaching the Middlebury Business Association for help in promotions, such as displays.

• Collaborating with restaurants. Such a partnership could result in “dinner-and-a-show” relationships between theaters and eateries.

full story

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