Chronology 2014: February

Counseling Service of Addison County and Porter Medical Center in February entered into discussions with state health officials about creating a new clinic to prescribe suboxone to a growing number of opiate addicts in the region. Suboxone is a drug that helps wean patients off of opiate-based painkillers like Oxycontin. Only one physician, at Bristol Internal Medicine, was providing the service in Addison County. But the maximum 25 patient slots at that physicians’ practice was meeting only a fraction of the need, forcing many addicts to seek help in Rutland or Burlington — if they could get transportation.
February also saw renewed controversy and conversation surrounding a plan to build new Middlebury town offices at 77 Main St. and a new recreation facility on land off Creek Road owned by the UD-3 school district. UD-3 residents in late February voted 306-118 — following a lengthy, emotionally charged debate — to allow the UD-3 board to negotiate a lease on which the proposed 11,500-square-foot recreation facility would be built. At the same time, Bread Load Corp. architects sought to clarify what it would cost to instead renovate the current municipal gym.
Local seniors also weighed in on the selection of the Creek Road site for the proposed new recreation facility. The current municipal building includes a senior center that would have to be relocated to the new recreation facility. Some seniors said they wouldn’t mind the new spot, while others said they’d prefer to have the center remain in the downtown, where they could run errands at local stores at the same time.
Vermont dairy farmers got some good news with confirmation that the U.S. House had passed a new, five-year farm bill that included provisions to protect farmers’ profit margins for milk. The measure passed by a 251-166 vote in the House, with excellent prospects for passage in the U.S. Senate.
While health care reform and budget issues were grabbing most of the Statehouse headlines, the so-called “Shorelands Protection Bill” was making waves in Addison County. The new law, among other things, called for shorelands property owners to maintain a buffer strip of vegetation within 75 feet of lakes, and for new structures to be built at least 75 feet from bodies of water. Public meetings on the new law drew dozens of property owners on Lake Champlain who were concerned about potential impacts on their property rights.
Continuing a trend of early candidate announcements, Middlebury Democrat Donna Donahue in February confirmed her candidacy for one of the town’s two seats in the Vermont House. Donahue’s bid would face a test in the August primary elections.
In school news, Mount Abraham Union High School directors and parents put out the call for people to round out a committee that would help recruit and interview candidates for the principal’s job at the Bristol school. Principal Andy Kepes had announced that he would be leaving the job that June.
Over in Vergennes, the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union board narrowed its superintendent search to two finalists: Orleans Southwest Superintendent JoAn Canning and Vermont School Boards Association Director Winton Goodrich. The board initiated the search when incumbent Superintendent Tom O’Brien announced his retirement, set for the end of the school year. Canning received the nod for the job.
Meanwhile, an Addison Central Supervisory Union committee in Middlebury released a report with the recommendation that the ASCU not go through the process of consolidating its schools or governance structure — at least for now. The committee came to that conclusion after a series of meetings spanning more than a year with locals in the seven ACSU-member towns.
Some Monkton residents in February voiced outrage upon receiving letters from Vermont Gas informing them that eminent domain proceedings would be initiated against them if they could not negotiate property easements for the natural gas pipeline extending from Colchester to Middlebury. Some landowners said they considered the letter tantamount to an intimidation tactic.
A New Jersey company filed an application with the Vermont Public Service Board to build a 9,000-panel, 2.2-megawatt solar farm on 13.5 acres of land off Route 7 South near Middle Road in Middlebury. It was the latest in a flurry of solar farm proposals in various Addison County towns as developers sought to take advantage of the state’s economic incentives for renewable energy projects.
In Panton, residents learned that they would be asked on Town Meeting Day whether to continue to elect their town clerk, treasurer and delinquent tax collector, or allow the selectboard to hire those officials.
While many ambulance organizations were considering trimming services in light of diminishing Medicaid reimbursement and other financial challenges, Middlebury Regional EMS announced in February it had expanded its business plan. Then-Director Bill Edson said the non-profit organization would offer a variety of new billing, paging and education services aimed at increasing Middlebury Regional’s revenue stream.
Middlebury College sophomore student Erika Sloan got some national face time, appearing on “Jeopardy! College Championship,” a version of the popular TV game show hosted by Alex Trebek.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of the developers of a proposed convenience store and fast-food restaurant off Route 7 in Ferrisburgh. A group of residents had opposed the proposed spot for a Jiffy Mart and restaurant (probably a McDonald’s).
The Vermont Agency of Transportation designated the former Vergennes Rail Station at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A as the future stop for Amtrak commuter rail service.

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