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December 17th

Festival shines light on solstice

December 17, 2007


By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — Last Thursday’s performance of “Night Fires” drew an enthusiastic crowd to Holley Hall in Bristol for two hours of music, dance and evocative costumes, but it may be the beginning of the end for the annual winter solstice celebration. After 26 years of organizing the festivity, founder and director Marianne Lust plans to step down.

“I’m 60 years old, and it seems time to think about what I should do next,” said Lust, a Lincoln resident.

“Night Fires” is a mix of carnival and opera that recalls centuries of festivities around the shortest day of the year — the winter solstice, which is Dec. 22 this year — and the climb back up to light. It features songs, dances and costumes inspired by cultures around the world in a passionate performance.

Each year the production tells a different story. Previous years have focused on St. Francis of Assisi, a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz and the diaries of a young girl whose family settled in Oregon in the late 19th century, among other themes.

“It’s a really unique production,” said Solveig Overby, publicity director for the Night Fires Theater Group Ltd.

Whatever the storyline, every production shares the common theme of a journey, sometimes a struggle, from darkness into light.

“The winter solstice is about going from the darkness into the light, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Lust said. This year’s “Night Fires” is focused on the walls around the world — from Berlin to Israel to the Texas-Mexican border — that separate people from each other and from the natural world, the harm those walls do, and how to break them down.

full story

Addison wraps up multi-year zoning effort

December 17, 2007


By ANDY KIRKALDY

ADDISON — Addison’s multi-year effort to put new zoning laws into place came to an end on Nov. 27, when selectmen adopted the planning commission’s latest version of updated regulations. Planners had forwarded that version to the selectboard earlier this year.

Selectmen acted immediately after a Nov. 27 public hearing that, unlike earlier hearings on proposed zoning, was sparsely attended. In the spring of 2006 about 200 residents came to a hearing on planners’ initial proposal, and not to heap praise on it — most said proposed zoning laws were too restrictive.

After that meeting planners went back to the drawing board for about a dozen-and-a-half meetings, most of which were also attended by former Addison selectboard chairman Tim Buskey. They worked to create the laws that 30 residents at a May 2007 public hearing generally found acceptable, and that selectmen approved on Nov. 27 after a few more changes.

Current selectboard Chairman Jeff Kauffman said selectmen saw declining attendance at the public hearings as a sign that residents had accepted the new laws, which ended up not making too many dramatic changes to former regulations.

“Our thinking was the questions must have been answered, and the (new) regs are pretty similar to what we have,” Kauffman said.

Planning commission Chairwoman Sally Conway, who plans to step down from the planning board after 12 years when her term expires in March, said planners don’t believe the new laws are ideal, but a key new element will make adapting the laws to the town’s needs easier in the future.

The laws created a separate development review board (DRB) to handle all zoning applications. Planners think that move will free them to focus on the town’s future and on fine-tuning zoning if necessary.

full story

December 13th

Two horse open sleigh

STARKSBORO FARMER DAVID RUSSELL takes a group of children from Starksboro Cooperative Preschool for a horse-drawn wagon ride up into the Christmas tree stand above his Starksboro dairy farm Tuesday morning. Russell helped the children cut down a tree and deliver it back down the hill.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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UD-3 school board proposes 4.73 % spending increase

December 13, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board on Tuesday agreed to send voters a proposed 2008-2009 spending plan of $15 million and a request to spend almost $400,000 in surplus funds on security and energy efficiency upgrades to the Middlebury Union high school and middle school buildings.

The proposed budget places the district safely below the per-pupil spending penalty threshold prescribed under the state’s education funding law. Under that law, districts that spend 125 percent of the statewide average per-pupil spending level are taxed at a higher rate, with the “penalty” revenues used to help pay for education in poorer towns.

Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease said the draft budget reflects a 4.73 percent increase in overall spending compared to the current year.

District officials are still firming up numbers on how the budget will affect taxpayers in the UD-3 member communities of Middlebury, Cornwall, Weybridge, Shoreham, Ripton, Salisbury and Bridport. The UD-3 budget reflects education expenses for both MUHS and MUMS.

Sease acknowledged that the district was in large part able to keep its budget under the state’s per-pupil spending threshold because 12 teachers have voiced interest in participating in an early retirement program. This program will allow the district to either keep some of the positions unfilled or hire new teachers at a lower wage scale.

But Sease added a cautionary note about the retirements in a recent memo to UD-3 board members.

“These early retirements have not been fully processed,” Sease wrote. “If for some reason these retirements do not come to pass, then substantial reductions-in-force will need to be made to meet the budget as presented.”

full story

Future of Vergennes summer childcare program in jeopardy

December 13, 2007

By ANDY KIRKALDY

VERGENNES — A chronic funding shortfall could end a summer childcare program that has served up to 100 Vergennes-area children and their families in recent years.

Mary Johnson Childcare Center co-director Ilana Snyder said the Vergennes Summer School Age Program has been losing between $20,000 and $25,000 annually for the past three years. After seeing the latest numbers at the end of this past summer the MJCC board voted to pull the plug unless more funding could be found. 

But MJCC officials are still working on ways to pay for the program, which has operated either at Vergennes Union Elementary School or Vergennes Union High School in recent years and was based at VUHS this past summer.

No one who knows the program — which offers arts, sports, field trips, swimming, and other activities, plus lunches — wants to see it end, Snyder said: Many working-class families rely on it for childcare while schools are out of session, and it also serves many families whose tuition is subsidized by the state. 

“It would be a loss for that community,” she said. “A hundred kids with no place to go … That’s an issue. That’s a cause for concern.”

Families not helped by the state paid $125 a week last summer for the seven-week, full-day program, which has operated when schools are closed and grew out of the Roxanne Bannister Provencher summer recreation program in the 1990s.

Snyder said MJCC is pursuing additional state funding and private grants for the program, which is too expensive for tuition alone to support.

full story

Bringing in trophy bucks is a family affair

December 13, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES and ANDY KIRKALDY

LINCOLN — The Sargent family of Lincoln will have lots of venison in the freezer this winter and stories to share for years to come thanks to a fortunate combination of hunting acumen and good luck last week.

First Stanley Sargent bagged a trophy buck with one shot from his muzzleloader, then three days later his son Brett Sargent felled an even bigger buck, also with a single shot.

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” Stanley said with a wry smile in his voice when asked how he felt upon learning that his son had got the bigger buck. Then he added, “Really, I’m tickled.”

It started on Wednesday, Dec. 5. “Everybody had been up there looking for this deer,” Stanley said that afternoon, as he nudged the 160-pound animal back into the bed of his truck, blood dripping onto the snow beneath it as he closed the rear gate.

Early that morning he swapped deer stories with fellow hunters while filling up on breakfast at Kinfolk Kountry Restaurant in Bristol. He’d been in the hospital only a week before for a hernia operation, so he hadn’t been able to hunt in Vermont muzzleloader season yet.

“If I get one, someone’s going to have to help me out,” he recalled telling the folks at the restaurant.

Sargent left Kinfolk, and not half a mile up the road, he saw the deer on the edge of the woods, evidently in pursuit of a doe, he said. He pulled over, grabbed his muzzleloader, got out of his truck and shot.

“I see feet flying and horns flying everywhere,” he said. But he didn’t have any powder left. He’d put his pouch full of muzzleloader paraphernalia away earlier this fall after hunting in New York during muzzleloader season there. After his surgery, Sargent forgot to put it back in his truck.

full story

December 11th

Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Speech by Al Gore on the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
December 10, 2007
Oslo, Norway

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention - dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken - if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures - a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

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Vocal jazz

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SOPHOMORE Elizabeth Goffe belts out a tune during a showcase of student jazz performances held in the college’s Center for the Arts last Thursday evening.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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