January 2016 chronology
ADDISON COUNTY — Local lawmakers joined their colleagues in Montpelier in early January for the launch of the 2016 legislative session. Addison County’s House and Senate delegates offered a long list of tough issues to tackle, including the ongoing cleanup of Lake Champlain, a projected $58 million revenue shortfall in the fiscal year 2017 state budget, declining Medicaid reimbursement rates for state-run health care programs, and a bill to address concerns about the siting of solar arrays in communities.
One of those local lawmakers announced that this would be her last legislative session. Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, confirmed to the Independent that she would not seek re-election to the post she had held for around three decades. Nuovo, known for her staunch support for woman’s rights and for her being a mentor to many new legislators, received many fond farewells as her career drew to a close.
Voters in eight Brandon-area towns in January voted overwhelmingly to merge their six school districts into two, under Vermont’s Act 46 education governance consolidation law. It was only the second such merger at the time in the entire state. The new Otter Valley Unified Union School District was created to consolidate the Brandon, Goshen, Leicester, Whiting, Salisbury and Pittsford school districts.
The Middlebury selectboard early this year continued to lobby the Vermont Agency of Transportation for some concessions in the planning of a $40 million proposal to replace the town’s two downtown railroad bridges. Town officials specifically asked VTrans to shorten the anticipated four-year construction timeframe, shorten the proposed 20-hour workweeks, and come with financial assistance for affected merchants.
State Transportation Secretary Chris Cole asked the Vermont Rail Council to weigh in on the notion of lowering the minimum vertical clearance for the new bridges to 19 feet, instead of the 21 feet minimum that was reflected in the project. Advocates for lowering the clearance threshold to 19 feet argued that such a concession would reduce the project duration and price tag. State and federal officials said the 21 feet standard was necessary to accommodate future, larger rail cars along the state’s western rail corridor.
Meanwhile, boosters of Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library reiterated the need to renovate and expand the 92-year-old Main Street building to better accommodate youth programs, additional books, and more “silent study” space for children and adults. The building also needs some updated restrooms, along with updates to its plumbing and ventilation systems, among other things.
Lincoln author Chris Bohjalian officially released his 17th novel, “The Guest Room,” which took on the devastating impacts of sex trafficking.
It was the end of an era in Granville, which lost its local post office in January. The United States Postal Service had long rented a room in a Route 100 property in town owned by Alice and William Parrish. But the Parrishes announced they were no longer able to maintain the room and the approximately 50 mailboxes it contained for various Granville residents. The USPS confirmed that the affected Granville residents would now have to pick up their mail at the Hancock Post Office. Elimination of the local Post Office meant one less spot for local residents to congregate.
Vermont Community Foundation Director Stuart Comstock-Gay confirmed that he was leaving to take a similar position at the helm of a similar organization in Delaware. Comstock-Gay significantly increased the VCF’s assets and programming during his seven years leading the Middlebury nonprofit.