Chronology 2014: January
The first month of 2014 saw local selectboards and school boards fine-tune their 2014-2015 budget proposals for Town Meeting Day. In Addison, school directors in January put the finishing touches on a budget that reflected a reduction of 1.5 teaching positions. Vergennes Union High School directors were working to pare down the impact of a budget draft that, if approved, could trigger a 20-percent increase in the VUHS portion of the property tax rates of the five sending towns. Ferrisburgh Central School directors drafted a spending plan calling for an 11 percent increase.
The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board drafted a 2014-2015 budget reflecting a 2.73-percent spending increase, resulting in elimination of the vocational-technical school’s building trades program and downsizing of the school’s administration.
Stirred by a variety of local issues, many candidates for local leadership boards stepped forward to place their names on the Town Meeting Day ballot. In Middlebury, seven candidates emerged for three seats on the seven-member board. They included incumbents Dean George and Craig Bingham, along with challengers Laura Asermily, Ted Davis, John Freidin, Heather Seeley and Eric Murray.
In Vergennes, incumbent City Councilors Ziggy Comeau, Renny Perry and Lynn Donnelly learned they would be challenged by Peter Garon and former Mayor Michael Daniels.
In Bristol, Kris Perlee and Michelle Perlee announced plans to vie for a three-year term, while incumbent Sharon Compagna was the lone applicant for a two-year term. Michelle Perlee is the wife of Kris Perlee’s cousin, Chad Perlee.
In Weybridge, Abe Miller, Don Mason and Daniel James announced their interest in two selectboard posts that would be vacated by veteran incumbents Peter James and Steve Smith.
Though the November mid-term elections were still many months away, some Vermont House candidates got an early start on their campaigning in January. Republicans Fred Baser of Bristol and Valerie Mullin of Monkton confirmed they would run in the two-seat, Addison-4 district representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
Meanwhile, incumbent lawmakers in January returned to the Statehouse for the beginning of the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers listed continuing health care reform efforts, dealing with a state budget shortfall, property tax reform and helping drug addicts as among the top goals for the session.
Local dairy farmers at the beginning of the year were looking for some promising financial news from the nation’s capital. But Congressional inaction on the federal Farm Bill raised concerns about unstable milk prices.
Middlebury welcomed a new town planner, Eric Blair, in January, but lost a veteran selectman. Victor Nuovo resigned from the board, citing frustration over a conflict-of-interest complaint that some citizens had filed against him that challenged his ability to vote on matters relating to the proposed new town offices and recreation center; Nuovo is a retired Middlebury College professor and the college would fund a large part of the new buildings if voters approved them. Later on that month, Bread Loaf Corp. presented some cost comparisons indicating that erecting two new buildings would be the most cost-effective option, compared to renovating the existing structures. That was because of a Middlebury College offer to contribute $5.5 million toward the cost of new buildings in return for the current municipal building site at 94 Main St., which would be turned into a public park.
The UD-3 school board decided to piggyback its own project onto the proposed new recreation center on Creek Road. Specifically, the board proposed building an 1,800-square-foot “team rooms” addition onto the center. That addition would include changing rooms, lockers, toilets and storage space.
Meanwhile, the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union launched a search to replace retiring Superintendent Tom O’Brien.
In Vergennes, a proposal to establish a treatment center for troubled teen girls and young women at 1 Alden Place hit a major snag that placed the plan in limbo. Valley Vista had pitched the treatment center for up to 19 patients at the former Briarwood Nursing Home. But Valley Vista and the owner of 1 Alden Place got into a dispute over financial details of the proposed transaction.
The Addison Rutland Natural Gas Pipeline Project continued to make waves in January. Some Monkton property owners affected by the pipeline route appealed the Vermont Public Service Board’s decision to green-light Phase I of the project, calling for conduit to be laid from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes.
Bristol police in January made some additional arrests in the town’s ongoing fight against drug-related crime. Authorities voiced particular concern about an influx of out-of-town drug dealers.
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