August 2016 chronology
The $40 million rail bridge project to replace two of Middlebury’s downtown rail bridges was delayed in early August. Though the project was supposed to begin this fall, Vermont Agency of Transportation officials in early August confirmed the delay and said they planned to release an updated timetable in September. Later in August, VTrans officials apologized and vowed to win trust back after selectboard members blasted them for the delay.
After complaints that Hinesburg selectboard members had negotiated an agreement about a 41-mile natural gas pipeline with Vermont Gas outside of public meetings, a judge opened an Aug. 4 hearing to the public. The hearing, which had been ordered closed to the public because of concerns that protests would cause disruptions, was about whether Vermont Gas could claim eminent domain over Geprags Park in Hinesburg. This was the last segment needed to complete the pipeline.
A report released by a committee looking at school governance unification showed that such a unification in Addison Northeast could save taxpayers close to $2.5 million over five years. Three Act 46 Study Committee members — Nancy Cornell, Herb Olson and Mike Fisher — authored a Minority Report dissenting unification within the official plan that was sent to the Agency of Education for review. The report named a flawed committee process and desired to keep local control as their main reasons for disapproval.
Meanwhile, the board overseeing the recently unified Addison Northwest School District held its first official meeting at Vergennes Union High School. During the four-hour training session, new board members discussed roles, responsibilities and their shared vision for the district.
In early August, Otter Creek Brewery unveiled the 8,000-square-foot expansion to its brewery. With the 120-barrel capacity, the Middlebury brewery officially became the largest beer maker in Vermont.
During the Aug. 9 primary, Middlebury voters selected Democrats Amy Sheldon and Robin Scheu for two Vermont House seats. While no Republicans ran, the third Democratic candidate, Jill Charbonneau, who finished 51 votes behind Scheu, declared that she would run as a Progressive candidate in November. In the Bristol area, Democratic voters chose Rep. Dave Sharpe of Bristol and Mari Cordes of Lincoln as the party’s nominees for the two Addison-4 House seats. They went on to face Republican nominees Fred Baser of Bristol and Valerie Mullin of Monkton in November.
Addison County voted similarly to statewide trends regarding gubernatorial candidates, endorsing Sue Minter (D) and Phil Scott (R) as Vermont’s nominees. Democratic voters cast 2,828 ballots for Minter, 1,570 for Matt Dunne, and 436 for Peter Galbraith. In the Republican race, Phil Scott took the win over Bruce Lisman 1,756 to 1,148.
Supporters of a new business park in Bristol presented a prototype to the selectboard in early August. The presentation moved the project, to be located on a Stoney Hill parcel behind the new fire station, from a concept to a concrete plan — after the meeting had adjourned, planners began to look for businesses who wanted to establish themselves in Bristol.
Middlebury College officials solidified a plan for a new triangular public park at 94 Main St., the former site of the Middlebury municipal building. Construction was expected to begin in late summer. It included play facilities, trees, walkways, benches and green space.
Addison County Fair and Field Days helped its founder, Lucien Paquette, celebrate his 100th birthday with cake and singing. Despite his age — or maybe because of his experience — Paquette took second place for his age group (80 years and older) in the hand-mowing competition, his favorite Field Days activity.
In Field Days’ ever-popular Demolition Derby, Justin Bolster walked away with the grand prize, even after earning four penalties for making illegal contact with other vehicles. Over the noise of the crowd, monitors could not hear announcer Steve Bucknam calling to disqualify Bolster, which he later said he did 10 times. Bolster was awarded first prize, followed by Brian Blake and Chris Murray.
Rainy weather caused attendance at this year’s Field Days to take a dip. About 27,000 people turned up for this year’s festivities — approximately 10,000 fewer than in 2015 — a record year for attendance. Field Days board member Ken Button attributed the drop-off to poor weather.
In mid-August, the Porter Medical Center Board began a discussion about an affiliation with the University of Vermont Health Network. Though three other entities had been identified as potential partners — Tennessee-based Quorum Health, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Rutland Regional Medical Center — Interim President and CEO Fred Kniffin said UVMHN was the “clear choice” among the four. Though most people within the Porter community approved of the partnership, some worried that an affiliation would end 91 years of independence.
In a summer that saw well below-average rainfall, farmers considered investing in irrigation systems for dairy pastures — a relatively novel idea. While most farmers sometimes water crops, they rely on rain to water grazing pastures. Dairy farmers who did not have irrigation systems may have been hurting more than most agricultural producers this summer.
The second annual Middlebury New Filmmaker’s Festival celebrated larger crowds, standing-room-only events and seven sell-out films this August. During its four-day run, the festival filled a total of 2,860 seats; 77 films were shown at the Town Hall Theater, Marquis Theater and Middlebury College’s Dana Auditorium. Producer Lloyd Komesar and Artistic Director Jay Craven said the program was stronger this year, with a better variety of activities. Craven walked away with feelings of “great satisfaction, exhilaration, anticipation and real excitement for what is working as a partnership of community and culture.”
Middlebury’s selectboard agreed unanimously to form a subcommittee to streamline processes for the Middlebury Business Development Fund, which was authorized in the 2012 town meeting. The fund has an annual budget of $200,000, which goes toward supporting economic development efforts in the community.
A groundbreaking partnership was established between Middlebury College and Porter Medical Center, making it easier for sexual assault victims to find immediate care from medical professionals. Starting in August, the college and hospital began sharing certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, known as SANEs.
Vermont State Police welcomed a new commander to the New Haven barracks — Lt. Chuck Cacciatore. Cacciatore, 48, served as a sergeant in Addison County from 2004 until 2007.