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Top Ten 2009: Bridges, economy, dairy, Douglas highlight year

For better or for worse there won’t be another year like 2009.
In Addison County, we sometimes found ourselves buffeted by forces from outside the region while other times we were caught up in situations of our own making. Sometimes the results put circumstances in our favor, and at others we simply seemed to be at the mercy of the fates. All in all it made for a lively news year.
Here are our top 10 stories for 2009.
Champlain Bridge closes
Our choice for the top news story of the year was the closing of the Champlain Bridge and the resulting chaos that ensued. Folks in this part of Vermont, and directly across Lake Champlain in New York, found out just how much they depended upon the bridge once it was closed. The extraordinary effort made to move people across the lake once the bridge was closed illustrates how many lives it touched on a daily basis.
Sour economy takes its toll
We chose the 2008 top story as No. 2 in 2009 — the slumping economy. With many big employers paring back on their workforces — Middlebury College said it was trimming 100 jobs in 2009 and Monahan Filaments completely shut down its Middlebury plant — and the state cutting back on services, plus many smaller cutbacks within the local job front, what has been called The Great Recession is clearly one of the biggest stories of the year.
Low milk prices hurt farmers
Another economic story that has huge local implications is the dairy crisis, which we ranked No. 3 this year. It was bad enough that a wet summer curtailed haying for many, but dairy farmers for much of the year lost money on every gallon of milk they produced. How long can that go on? Dairymen at 11 local farms that got out of the business in 2009 supplied part of that answer.
Cross St. Bridge takes shape
At No. 4 is a story more than five decades in the making: Construction finally began on the Cross Street Bridge in Middlebury. The drama of seeing those 108-foot-long, 180,000 pound concrete girders swing through downtown on their way to the bridge site was breathtaking.
Jackman twins bid farewell
2009 marked the end of an era for county firefighters. The beginning of the year saw firefighters mourning the death of Fred Jackman, a 50-year veteran and one-time chief of the Bristol fired department. Closer to the end of the year, Fred’s twin brother, Ralph Jackman, retired after an incredible 55 years as the Vergennes Volunteer Fire Chief.
County copes with swine flu
From a very local story, to one with international roots — No. 6 is the outbreak of H1N1, more commonly known as swine flu. Around 500 people showed up in Middlebury for the first vaccination clinic in the state, showing how seriously most Vermonters took the news.But did the scare live up to the hype? It’s debatable.
City police chief under fire
The deeds of another Vergennes chief accounted for No. 7 in our top 10 news stories. That chief was Police Chief Mike Lowe, who was initially cited for driving while intoxicated by prescription drugs, and eventually was implicated in related illegal dealings. Following several charges filed against him, he resigned.
County becomes ‘greener’
Some good news at No. 8. Green energy gained a greater foothold in the county in 2009 as Middlebury College’s biomass power plant went online, the Addison County Relocalization Network signed a deal to broadly distribute wood pellet fuel here, and other efforts were made to produce more heat and light from renewable sources.

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