July 2016 chronology

July opened with ideal conditions for Independence Day festivals, parades and fireworks across the county.
Middlebury’s rail bridge project — which will involve replacing the Main Street and Merchants Row rail overpasses — altered its management structure in early July. State and local officials announced they would shift the liability of the project away from the town, which had been chiefly responsible for project management. While town officials expressed a desire to maintain control of planning, the new system allowed them to be less liable for potential cost overruns, property damage or remediation of possible contamination to Otter Creek.
While the rail bridge project management was under consideration, town officials recommended that a master plan be instated for Middlebury’s downtown. The Middlebury selectboard voted unanimously to support the plan, provided any new building plans would not conflict with existing projects like the mixed-use development off Bakery Lane or an Ilsley Library expansion project.
The Lake Dunmore Fern Lake Association approved an herbicide, Renovate (active ingredient triclopyr), for widespread release in both lakes in order to fight Eurasian water milfoil, an invasive species that had been choking the lake for years. After the herbicide’s application, residents began to see the species fade away to some extent.
Gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter announced a plan to expand outdoor recreational activities in the Green Mountains. She called it VT-OUTDOORS and said it would attract more visitors to the state. The plan included creating an Outdoor Recreation Director position, mapping and expanding Vermont’s trail systems and conserving six miles of the Long Trail.
Addison County residents looked south to Rutland, where some city officials hesitated to support refugee resettlement. In a letter to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Alderman Matt Bloomer, who opposed the resettlement, cited lack of information and outreach as chief concerns.
While demolishing Middlebury’s old town gym, workers discovered a time capsule from 1939 in the cornerstone of the building. At ceremony on July 26, Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay opened the capsule, which contained names of staff and faculty at Middlebury High School and a copy of the school’s paper, “Otter Tracks,” among other things. Some of those who saw the time capsule placed in the cornerstone 75 years ago also attended its reopening.
The summer took a somber turn when a 36-year-old Starksboro man, Jason Russell, drowned in Lake Champlain after trying to save his son, who was having difficulty swimming to an island nearby Button Bay State Park. Vergennes Rescue, Charlotte Rescue and the Ferrisburgh Fire Department all responded to the scene.
A University of Vermont study released in July stated that wetlands, like the Cornwall swamp and the floodplains near Salisbury flats, have saved the town of Middlebury between $126,000 and $450,000 per year by reducing flood damage over the past 80 years, and an additional $1.8 million after Tropical Strom Irene struck Vermont in 2011. Lead study author Keri Bryan Watson called damage estimates “really conservative.”
A committee of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union met to develop a blueprint in which all of the Bristol-area district’s schools merge into a single system governed by one board and financed through a global budget.
Middlebury College’s Chief Financial Officer and Manager of Operations Patrick Norton announced he would leave to accept a position at Tulane University. Norton had also served as a long-time member of the Porter Medical Center board.
New Haven resident Taborri Bruhl, an economics teacher at Rutland High School, got a call from members of Addison County Democrats, who asked him to run for the Addison-5 House seat, which represents his hometown plus Bridport and Weybridge. Bruhl assented and entered the race late. Because he missed the deadline for candidacy, his nomination was dependent on receiving at least 25 write-in endorsements. (He went on to earn 167 in the August Primary).
Salisbury’s selectboard received criticism after unanimously endorsing an ordinance that prohibits “the firing or discharge of a firearm … within a safety zone of 200 feet from any residence, building or camper in the High Density Residential/Village Center, or the Lakeshore District Areas.” Selectboard members hoped the ordinance would reduce the odds of accidental shootings, while critics worried that the measure would encroach on hunting and the right to own firearms.
Peter Galbraith, the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia in the 1990s, continued his run for the Democratic nomination for governor of Vermont with stops in Addison County as the primary election drew near.
Later in July, the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative granted the Middlebury Police Department 24 doses of Narcan, a drug used to revive a person who has stopped breathing following a drug overdose. Bill Brim, director of the TurningPoint Center, offered to provide training to the officers.
In reaction to high-profile acts of violence in other parts of the country, about 100 Addison County residents demonstrated support for Black Lives Matter in downtown Middlebury. The group called for an end to police violence against black people in what many hoped would be the start of Middlebury’s chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice — a national network that works to organize white people for racial equality.
At around the same time, Middlebury Selectwoman Susan Shashok organized a police forum during which municipal and state police agencies were invited to engage in an open discussion about the prevention of fatal shootings in Vermont. Though tensions between police and communities have climaxed elsewhere, police and organizers agreed that the event would highlight transparency here.
The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op unveiled its plan to add about 3,000 square feet onto the existing 6,000-foot structure on Washington Street, marking its third expansion since opening in the 1970s. The expansion, designed by Vermont Integrated Architecture, would increase space for parking outside and more aisles inside as well as add a restroom.
In Bristol, residents raised $122,000 during the Three Day Stampede toward the Cure for Cystic Fibrosis. This year’s proceeds added to a $2 million total that the group has raised since 1991 in what began as a family lawn sale.

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