March 10th, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — A shorthanded Middlebury Police Department is working overtime — and a lot of it — in its efforts to locate missing Middlebury College student Nick Garza while continuing to meet the law enforcement needs of the community.
Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said the his department will probably exceed by a substantial margin the $27,000 that had been budgeted for special investigations, including overtime, in the fiscal year ending June 30. The department had run through $15,000 of that budget through the end of January — a week before Garza, 19, disappeared from the Middlebury College campus.
Since then, several Middlebury patrolmen — along with officers from other agencies — have been putting in 16-hour days following up on the scant leads that have emerged since Garza was last seen on campus at 11:05 p.m. on Feb. 5.
Local officers worked a combined total of more than 400 hours on the case during the first week Garza was missing, according to Hanley. That number of hours has tapered off only slightly during ensuing weeks as a result of weather factors and thanks to other agencies pitching in.
Local officials pledged to keep up the search at all costs. It’s a search that at the same time is taking a toll on a weary, short-staffed Middlebury Police Department with limited resources.
“It’s going to be fairly extraordinary,” Hanley said of the looming deficit in the department’s overtime budget.
The financial impact would not have been lighter had Middlebury police been at full staff. But the 14-member force is currently light three officers, as a result of two vacancies and one officer now serving with the Vermont Air National Guard.
By JOHN S. McCRIGHT
WEYBRIDGE — The University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge last week announced it had received a $1 million gift from the Amy E. Tarrant Foundation — 10 times the amount of the next closest single gift from any individual.
“Through her incredible generosity, Amy Tarrant is helping to ensure the legacy of the UVM Morgans and the one-of-a-kind home of our state animal,” said horse farm director Stephen Davis.
The money will not be used to expand the facility, but maintain its breeding and other operations. Davis said the young stock housing area, on-farm residences and pump house all could receive some attention with the funds, but the money is really to meet the usual needs of the farm. Like many UVM departments, the Morgan Horse Farm supports itself.
“This gift will allow us a little more leeway in planning for operations … and long-term financial planning,” Davis said. “Operationally we are stand alone. Hopefully this will help us maintain the status quo.”
The $1 million will be paid out in equal installments over four years. Of the $250,000 payments, $200,000 will go into an endowment and $50,000 will be used for immediate operating expenses. Once the $800,000 endowment is fully funded the farm will be able to draw down an estimated $36,000 a year in perpetuity.
The farm budgeted $362,584 for operating expenses in 2008, according to a UVM spokesman. Most of the revenues come from a hose breeding operation, plus admissions fees for tours.
Tarrant, the former wife of businessman and 2006 U.S. Senate candidate Rich Tarrant, has a long-time interest in the Morgan Horse Farm. Davis said she remembers visiting the farm as a young child with her family.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — After more than a half-century of debate, traffic studies, engineering designs and numerous referenda, Middlebury is now firmly on the road to building a new in-town bridge.
Local voters saw to that on Tuesday as they overwhelmingly endorsed two Town Meeting Day initiatives that municipal officials believe could result in the new span being completed at Cross Street as soon as the fall of 2010.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny said of the March 4 votes. “I’m very excited about our ability to go forward.”
In a stellar turnout boosted by Tuesday’s presidential primaries, residents voted 1,535 to 673 to authorize a 30-year, $16 million bond issue to fund the project, the centerpiece of which will be a span that will link Main Street to Court Street over the Otter Creek via Cross Street.
Residents also voted 1,358 to 829 in favor of asking the Vermont Legislature to amend Middlebury’s town charter so that the community will have the opportunity, in the future, of implementing local option taxes to help cover $7 million of the project’s cost. Middlebury College has pledged to bankroll the remaining $9 million.
Tenny said the selectboard will now turn its attention to crafting a local options tax proposal he hopes can be presented to voters by late-spring, before area schools get out and before many area residents disperse for summer vacations.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — Area residents at town meetings and in Tuesday Australian balloting backed budgets for all four local union schools, the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, and every town’s elementary school except Hancock (see story).
The support for Addison County and Brandon-area schools mirrored a statewide trend. As of late Wednesday morning, officials at the Vermont Superintendents’ Association knew of only three Vermont high school plans and five elementary school budgets that had failed.
Even though all results were not in at that hour, one superintendents’ association official called that tally “a really low number of defeats.”
Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Bill Mathis said the statewide support for school spending showed that Vermont officials’ focus on more school finance reform may be misplaced.
“The governor and the legislator must live in a different state than the voters … All we’ve heard is unrelenting talk of property taxes and school costs,” Mathis said. “My feeling is the people have spoken very clearly and universally … that they support their schools.”
Mathis said he has data that shows, once prebates are factored in, that Vermonters are spending a smaller percentage of their incomes on education than they were 10 years ago. That was before the Legislature passed Act 60, Vermont’s landmark school finance reform law, and, more recently, Act 68, which updated Act 60.
He noted that many towns’ tax rates are level, or up only slightly, despite inflationary increases in school spending.
“The big message is first of all it means that Act 60 and Act 68 are working, and income sensitivity is working,” Mathis said. “For all the criticism of Act 68, obviously Act 68 is working.”
ADDISON COUNTY — With the exception of tiny Hancock, residents in towns throughout Addison County overwhelmingly supported presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Clinton to determine who will be the candidate representing the Democratic Party in its effort to recapture the White House. Meanwhile, Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed Sen. John McCain to be their party’s candidate over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Countywide (with the results of Goshen — pop. 227 — unreported), residents supported Sen. Obama, 6,454 to 3,863 or 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent, over Sen. Clinton, and supported Sen. McCain, 1,889 to 420 or 82 percent to 18 percent, over former Gov. Huckabee.
Those results mirrored the rest of Vermont, where Obama swept the state with 60 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 38 percent (John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who have pulled suspended campaigning, each got 1 percent).
On the Republican side, McCain garnered 72 percent of the vote compared to Huckabee’s 14 percent. Conservative Ron Paul captured 7 percent of the vote, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who have both pulled out of the race, received 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Of the 12,626 votes cast in the primary in Addison County, 82 percent voted in the Democratic primary.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — For its 14th annual Community Service Award, officials of Vergennes American Legion Post 14 chose a man they said has played a vital role in the rebirth of the city’s downtown — real estate appraiser Bill Benton.
Legion communications officer Henry Broughton noted that Benton served many years as the president of the Vergennes Partnership, the organization that oversaw the progress of downtown revitalization and helped obtain the grants that made many Main Street improvements possible.
Broughton said there were many strong candidates, but that Post 14’s Community Service Award committee felt strongly about Benton.
“Bill’s been the cog in the wheel that’s kept it going over the years,” he said. “That was the main thing when we sat down with a bunch of candidates and looked at them all. Bill just stood out. We thought he definitely deserved the recognition.”
Benton, a 51-year-old Vergennes native and graduate of Vergennes Union High School and the University of Vermont, joins a list of recipients that includes former city managers and mayors, key members of the city’s fire department and the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, sparkplugs in the effort to bring life back to the Vergennes Opera House, and volunteers for many good causes. (See related story.)
In an interview Benton said dozens of local residents and officials sparked the revitalization effort.
Off the top of his head he named former Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce co-presidents Liz Markowski and Patty Paul, Friends of the Vergennes Opera House head Gerianne Smart, partnership director Paul Vachon, and fellow ground-floor partnership members like Terry Weihs, Tim Cowan, Norman Leboeuf and Jeffry Glassberg.
By JOHN S. McCRIGHT
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College has long brought an infusion of art and culture to people living in Addison County, but this week the college arts community has pulled out all the stops to bring a panoply of music, dance, theater and visual arts unrivalled in recent memory.
“There probably hasn’t been as much going on since we dedicated the (Center for the Arts) 15 years ago,” said Middlebury College Director of the Arts Glenn Andres.
From Thursday through Sunday the college will host a dedication of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts and celebration of the center’s 15-year anniversary. More than 20 events are open to the public — most are free — including lectures, exhibitions, performances, films and a symposium the history of art and architecture.
The centerpiece will be the formal dedication of the Center for the Arts in honor of Mahaney on Saturday at 7 p.m. Luminaria will line the walks to the center and the building will be lit inside and out by search lights. In addition to being open to the public, the college sent out 1,700 invitations to people who have shown an interest in the arts at Middlebury.
Following the dedication at 8 p.m. the center will host three performances: the Dick Forman Jazz Group in the Concert Hall; the Middlebury College Theater Program’s cast of alumni and students in “Curtain Up” in the Seeler Studio Theatre; and Leyya Tawil and Dance Elixir contemporary dance in the Dance Theater, for which tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors. The Dance Elixir performance will be repeated at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Less than a week since the Middlebury Police Department invited the Texas search and rescue squad EquuSearch to join the ground search for missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, the effort was called off until the snow pack melts.
In the meantime, Middlebury authorities have expanded the missing person investigation, according to police Chief Tom Hanley, and an outside group is offering a reward for information leading to Garza’s discovery.
In an effort to better understand the 19-year-old’s frame of mind on Feb. 5 — the night he went missing — the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Behavioral Analysis Unit has joined the investigation. Using information Middlebury investigators gathered from people who knew Garza, the unit will build a psychological profile that could shed light on decisions the student might have made that night.
“With the FBI, we try to get inside Nicholas’ head,” Hanley said.
Behavioral analyses like this one are usually employed to locate criminals, Hanley said. When investigators understand how a criminal’s brain works, they can determine what he might have done or where he might have gone.
Hanley said the FBI showed considerable interest in the Garza case and they believe the process could shed some light on Garza’s whereabouts.
The behavioral analysis will come at no cost to the Middlebury Police Department, since the unit uses these cases to validate their data, Hanley said. But the Garza investigation is taking a toll on the department’s resources in other ways.
Currently, three Middlebury officers are working on the case, while another is on a Vermont Air Guard deployment.
“That leaves us a grand total of six officers left (to handle other matters),” Hanley said.