March 2016 chronology
March means town meeting, the day on which communities make a lot of headlines. And there were more of those than usual in March of 2016.
Addison Central and Addison Northwest voters comfortably approved school governance consolidation mergers under Vermont’s Act 46. Both supervisory unions thus became consolidated school districts, each governed by a single board presiding over a single K-12 budget. Residents in the ACSU-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge agreed to create an Addison Central School District. They also elected a 13-member ACSD board. Residents in Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham endorsed a new Addison Northwest School district, and picked a 12-person board to lead it.
Addison Northwest voters also OK’d a 2016-2017 Vergennes Union High School spending plan by a fairly close 1,495 to 1,370 margin. The budget called for a 2.23-percent decrease in spending. In a separate action, Addison Northwest residents voted 1,781-1,031 to place $100,000 in a capital fund for future VUHS improvements.
Meanwhile, both the Mount Abraham Union High School and UD-3 school budget proposals for 2016-2017 passed by comfortable margins. Brandon-area voters approved their school budgets as part of the newly consolidated Otter Valley Unified Union School District.
In Town Meeting Day elections, Heather Seeley, Nick Artim and Victor Nuovo prevailed in a five-person race for three seats on the Middlebury selectboard. Incumbent Selectman Gary Baker and resident Richard Terk finished out of the running.
In Bristol, challenger Ted Lylis beat incumbent Selectman Brian Fox and resident Joshua Clark for a three-year term on the selectboard.
In Vergennes, Renny Perry, Lynn Donnelly, Mark Koenig and Matt Chabot all ran unopposed for four available seats on the city council.
Addison Selectman Peter Briggs announced in March he would seek one of the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore. Briggs, a Republican and farmer, had previously been a candidate for an Addison-3 House seat.
Longtime Addison County Economic Development Corp. Director Robin Scheu confirmed she would run for one of the two Vermont House seats representing Middlebury.
The Addison-4 House district welcomed a new candidate, as Democrat Stephen Pilcher, a Monkton selectman, threw his hat into the ring.
The Porter Medical Center nurses’ union in March circulated a letter alleging the recent spate of cuts and layoffs at the local hospital were jeopardizing patient care. “The CEO of Porter Medical Center (Lynn Boggs) has turned a less than ideal situation into a disaster,” read a flyer distributed to local residents prior to the Middlebury town meeting. Porter administrators took issue with the charges in the flyer, and reiterated their financial reasons for the recent cuts and layoffs of 17.5 positions.
Meanwhile, Porter Medical Center trustees acknowledged they had too quickly rolled out new contract terms for the organization’s 33 physicians. They vowed to “re-boot” the contract roll-out and become more “inclusive and transparent” in communicating about major changes going on within Porter. The trustees’ announcement came in the wake of the recent departure of eight Porter health care providers.
Middlebury Union Middle School Principal Patrick Reen earned the nod as new superintendent for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, replacing David Adams. The ANeSU also attracted three finalist candidates to become the next principal of Mount Abraham Union High School. They included Jessica Barewicz, Dorinne Dorfman and Chris Smith. The board ultimately picked Barewicz, formerly an assistant principal at U-32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier.
The Ferrisburgh Central School board in March named Beth Brodie as the new principal. Brodie was at the time serving as a French and Spanish teacher at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington.
Vergennes Union Elementary also picked a new top administrator: Matthew DeBlois, who had been the principal of Addison Central School.
Greg’s Meat Market failed to find a new owner during a public auction in March that drew a handful of bidders to the much beloved grocery store off Elm Street in Middlebury. But the bids were not deemed to be high enough and TD Bank consolidated its ownership of the Greg’s and adjacent Pool World properties, with an offer of $497,000. The grocery store has been vacant since May 2015, when its most recent owner, Bart Litvin, filed for bankruptcy protection.
Green Mountain Power and the town of Panton signed a memorandum of understanding governing the utility’s plan to site a 4.99-megawatt solar array in the northern part of the community. The solar farm would consist of around 21,000 solar trackers arranged in 280 rows that would cover almost 40 acres on a parcel owned by the Vorsteveld Farm, north of Panton Road.
Middlebury expressed an interest in competing against New Haven for the right to host a massive, high-voltage converter station that would facilitate the flow of renewable energy from upstate New York into the New England power grid. Developers of the so-called “Vermont Green Line” were offering a lot of incentives to potential host communities.