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June 5th, 2008

Town Hall Theater plans July opening; teens prepare time capsule


MIDDLEBURY — Gailer School students on Monday officially made plans to take in a show at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater (THT) during the spring of 2058.

The students don’t even know what will be playing 50 years from now at the newly resurrected venue at 68 South Pleasant St. But they are certain that the performance will be preceded by a special attraction — the opening of a time capsule containing local images, memorabilia and other keepsakes they assembled this week.

“When they open (the time capsule) up, I’m not sure this will even work,” Gailer School student Tina Friml said of the iPod she deposited into a milk crate containing all the time capsule items.

“At least they’ll see what (an iPod) looked like and how ‘huge’ it was,” she said, speculating that technological advances may ultimately dwarf the wafer-thin portable media player.

It was Douglas Anderson, THT executive director, who last fall approached Erik Remsen — teacher of the Gailer School’s Davinci 8 Humanities class — to see if he and his students would be interested in compiling artifacts for a time capsule that will be settled into a nook of the theater building on July 26. That nook will be secured as part of extensive interior renovations to the THT, work that is expected to be completed within five weeks and in time for a full week of grand opening events slated for July 20-30.

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Tigers' Print backers urge MUHS school board to oppose censorship


MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board will consider a policy governing free speech for the Middlebury Union High School newspaper, while administrators will determine whether the paper — known as the Tigers’ Print — can be maintained as an English Department offering rather than being absorbed by the business department.

School leaders made those decisions on Tuesday evening after listening to around two hours of impassioned comments from students, parents and teachers who have had a hand in producing the Tigers’ Print. The student newspaper’s survival and level of autonomy have been in doubt since it published an article earlier this year on the subject of drugs in school. That article quoted a student, by name, who admitted showing up for classes under the influence of drugs.

Tigers’ Print writers and advisors said they believe publishing the student’s name lent more credence to the story on drug abuse. But some school administrators, including MUHS Principal Bill Lawson, said they believe the newspaper violated the student’s right to privacy by printing his name. Although he had read the material in the newspaper before publication, including the drug story, Lawson had kept a hands off policy.

The principal subsequently decided that the Tigers’ Print be pre-screened by the administration, for content and grammar, before being published.

The pre-screening mandate drew sharp criticism from student writers and their advisor, Tim O’Leary, an English Department faculty member who told UD-3 board members on Tuesday that morale at Tigers’ Print has plummeted with the loss of autonomy.

full story

Local incumbent lawmakers to run for re-election


ADDISON COUNTY — With around six weeks left for candidates to jump into district and countywide races this fall, a survey of incumbent Addison County House and Senate members reveals that all plan to run for re-election in November.

Candidates have until Monday, July 21, to file nomination papers for elected office with their respective district town clerks (House hopefuls) or the Addison County Courthouse (Senate hopefuls).

As the Addison Independent went to press, the county’s two incumbent senators and nine House representatives had confirmed they will run for re-election. Only two challengers have thus far surfaced to take on incumbents, both in the Addison-3 House district. Democrats Diane Lanpher of Vergennes and Jean Richardson of Ferrisburgh will take on incumbent Reps. Greg Clark and Kitty Oxholm, both Vergennes Republicans (see story in May 29 edition of the Independent.

Democrats currently control both of the county’s Senate seats (Claire Ayer and Harold Giard) and six of the nine available House seats. Republicans control both Addison-3 House seats, while Rep. Will Stevens, a Shoreham independent, is rounding out his first term in Addison-Rutland 1.

State Senate

Ayer, a Weybridge Democrat, will be seeking her fourth consecutive two-year term representing Addison County and Brandon. Giard, a Bridport Democrat and former farmer, is eyeing a third straight two-year term.

Both incumbents ran unopposed in 2006, the first time in recent memory that the two highly coveted seats went uncontested.

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June 2nd

Rutland-area drug sweep nets locals


BRANDON — A major sweep in Rutland County last week of more than three dozen people accused of drug-related crimes netted 10 Brandon residents and a handful of individuals from Addison County.

Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell, whose department was one of 10 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved in the three-month-long effort dubbed “Operation Marble Valley 2008,” said on Thursday that he hopes the arrests will scare other drug dealers, preventing them from setting up shop in Brandon.

“We’re not foolish,” he said. “We know this isn’t the end, but we’re hoping yesterday was step one.”

Nine Brandon residents were arrested Wednesday and one on Thursday. Authorities also arrested or put out warrants for four Addison County residents in connection with the operation.

In addition to Brandon police, Operation Marble Valley included Vermont State Police, the Vermont Drug Task Force (VTDTF), Rutland police, the Rutland County Sheriff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Vermont Attorney General, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The effort displayed the regional approach that Brickell was hoping for when authorities began clamping down on Rutland-area drug activity in February. He said he had been worried that focusing solely on Rutland would flush criminals out into surrounding towns.

While the Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office was not directly involved with the operation, they will be monitoring the court’s disposition of the cases. Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Christopher Perkett said he does not anticipate this latest crackdown on drug activity in Rutland County will prompt a spike in such activity in other locations, like Addison County.

full story

Route 7 paving in Ferrisburgh, New Haven to last through summer


FERRISBURGH — The off-and-on delays experienced by Route 7 drivers in Ferrisburgh and northern New Haven will last right through the summer and into late September, according to a Vermont Agency of Transportation spokesman.

AOT communications director John Zicconi said it simply takes time to prepare for and complete a 10.5-mile, $3.8 million paving project.

“It’s not a small project,” Zicconi said. “This is something that takes a while.”

When completed, Route 7 will be resurfaced between the Charlotte town line and the intersection of the state highway with Lime Kiln Road, just north of New Haven Junction.

In the meantime, local drivers, commuters and day-trippers to Burlington can expect less than smooth sailing along Route 7, especially during rush hour. Zicconi said about 8,300 cars a day cruise on the southern end of the road to be repaired, and about 13,200 along the northern stretch.

“You would naturally conclude the delays will be longer in the northern end of the project,” he said. “People should expect the longer delays in the peak driving hours.”

Other than rush hours, delays will be unpredictable. There may even be times project contractor F.W. Whitcomb pulls workers and equipment to meet deadlines on other jobs, Zicconi said. 

“They’re doing different things at different times,” he said, both on the job and at other sites.

Those familiar with other north-south roads might find the going easier there at times, but Zicconi said the AOT would not be setting up detours “through anybody’s neighborhood.”

full story

Edson is picked to lead Middlebury ambulance corps


MIDDLEBURY — It’s been an eventful few years for Middlebury’s Bill Edson, to say the least.

During the spring of 2006, Edson was a U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class, who, as a part of Task Force Saber, was treating injured soldiers in and around the war-torn city of Ramadi, Iraq.

He returned as a decorated veteran and — after a brief stint at Fletcher Allen Health Care — transitioned into a less intense vocation of selling medical supplies.

But Edson last month returned to the front lines of health care, this time as supervisor of operations for the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association (MVAA).

“It was really appealing to find a position I was suited for right here at home,” Edson said during an interview last week.

He replaces Scott Supernaw, who recently left to become top administrator for the Brandon Area Rescue Squad.

In the MVAA, Edson takes over a nonprofit organization based off Elm Street that counts around 60 staff and volunteers and a fleet of four ambulances, a heavy rescue truck and a mass casualty trailer. The 30-year-old organization responds to approximately 1,800 service calls per year in Middlebury, East Middlebury, Bridport, Shoreham, Orwell, Ripton, Salisbury, Cornwall, Weybridge, Whiting and New Haven.

While Edson’s main duties involve coordinating MVAA activities and tending to administrative chores, he also plans to become involved in ambulance runs. He is seeking recertification for emergency responder qualifications needed to respond to calls.

Like most people affiliated with the MVAA, he knows he will not be working a regular 9-to-5 job. Calls can come in at any time of the day or night for a service that must be provided 24/7.

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May 29th

Body of missing student found in Otter Creek


MIDDLEBURY — For four long months, hundreds of volunteers and investigators wielding state-of-the-art equipment had combed through Middlebury in an effort to find missing Middlebury College student Nicholas Garza.

That search came to a cathartic end in the Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury on Tuesday with the chance discovery of Garza’s body by the very man who had coordinated the massive search since the college freshman disappeared on campus during the evening of Feb. 5.

“There’s no feeling of exhilaration,” said Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley, who spotted Garza’s remains submerged within a mound of floating wood and other debris that had gathered on the Marble Works side of the Otter Creek, near the base of the falls.

“There’s no celebration here. This is a tragic story with a tragic ending.”

An autopsy performed at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington on Wednesday tentatively established that the remains were Garza’s, though a final determination could not be made until a comparison of dental records was completed. Police expected that to happen late Wednesday or early Thursday.

But a wallet found within clothing on the remains yielded Garza’s ID, leaving authorities little doubt that the long search for Nick had ended with the anticipated but dreaded results.

The discovery ended a longsuffering vigil for the Garza family, including Nick’s mother, Natalie, and his younger brother, Damon, who had relocated to Middlebury from their native Albuquerque, N.M., to monitor, and participate in, the search.

full story

Ferrisburgh grange nears completion


FERRISBURGH — Late last week painters were coloring the walls on the lower level of the new Grange Hall that will soon serve as Ferrisburgh’s town office building and a community meeting center, while upstairs workers sanded new maple flooring in preparation for finish coating.

Their efforts were sure signs that the roughly $2.8 million project — a historically accurate replica of the 137-year-old Grange Hall that burned in 2005, plus a one-story addition — is nearing completion.

And not only that, said Ferrisburgh resident Silas Towler, who has worked with general contractor Bread Loaf Corp. on the town’s behalf during the project’s planning and construction stages, the long-awaited effort will almost certainly come in on time and on budget.

Towler said there are always things that can go wrong, even at this late date, and construction of the building’s bell tower still lagged behind other elements. But he fully expects residents to view a finished product on June 21, when an open house has been scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“I’m going to equivocate only because it ain’t over until it’s over,” Towler said.

About a month after that town-wide preview, Town Clerk Chet Hawkins and Assistant Town Clerk Pam Cousino will pack and head up the quarter-mile north along Route 7 from the existing clerk’s office — a roughly 800-square-foot former one-room schoolhouse — to their new digs, which will offer about 5,900 square feet above ground plus a 2,900-square-foot basement. 

The ground-floor clerk’s office will also feature a meeting room adequate for about 50 people, as well as a much larger vault and two smaller separate offices, as well as one large work space roughly the size of the existing office building.

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