November 2016 chronology

November brought the news that opposition to VTrans’ $40 million, four-year plan to replace Middlebury’s downtown rail bridges took a new step — a request filed with VTrans by Bristol lawyer Jim Dumont on behalf of downtown property and business owners arguing that the project does not need to follow a 21-foot clearance standard over the tracks that is adding considerable time and cost to the work. Dumont argued the project had been unfairly exempted from environmental and historic preservation review and he raised the prospect of legal action.
In Bristol a delay in a smaller project caused problems at Mount Abraham Union High School. Work to repair water leaks and replace the damaged gym floor had been going on or ahead of schedule, but in early November the company doing the task announced it had to send half of its crew to handle an emergency in New Hampshire. Physical education teachers were left scrambling for alternatives, basketball coaches had to find new practice sites, and at least a couple games were moved.
Then came the election shocker. Although Addison County joined every other county in Vermont in voting overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton (11,216-5,297 here), Donald Trump garnered enough Electoral College votes to become the nation’s president-elect despite losing the popular vote by more than 2 million. Many in these parts hoped for the best, but braced for the worst.
Statewide, county voters backed winners, including Republican Gov.-Elect Phil Scott and Progressive-Democrat Lt. Gov. candidate David Zuckerman. All incumbents rolled to victory in local races, but two new faces will be going to Montpelier, Middlebury Democrat Robin Scheu and Cornwall Democrat Peter Conlon.
Another key vote was held in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, where voters in all five towns — as was required — backed a plan to operate the district’s schools under one board and one budget. The vote was at least 66 percent in favor in Bristol, Monkton and New Haven, but the measure won narrowly in Lincoln (391-357) and Starksboro (430-408), where residents still vote on school budgets from the floor of town meetings. Addison Northwest and Addison Central SUs voted to unify in March, and Rutland Northeast did so this past January.
On Nov. 12 the only area sports team to make it to a championship game this fall came up short: The third-seeded Otter Valley football squad lost to undefeated No. 1 Windsor, 42-6. The Otters failed to repeat as Division III champions despite outgaining Windsor in the contest, 366 yards to 365.
There were still great performances this fall, even without banners. The Independent named Middlebury’s Santiago Fernandez and Camden Simpson as co-boys’ soccer players of the year, Mount Abe’s Nesta McIntosh as the girls’ soccer player of the year for the second straight season, and OV’s Allison Lowell as the field hockey player of the year for the second straight time. Tiger football players Trey Kaufmann and Andrew Gleason were named First Team Division I defenders.
Two hate crimes roiled Middlebury in the election’s aftermath. Two swastikas were scrawled on the Havurah House, home of the county’s Jewish Congregation, and profane anti-Islam graffiti was written outside two Middlebury College Muslim students’ dorm room. Many in the community rallied to their support, with words of support and kindness and a march and rally on the downtown green.
Bad news struck in Orwell, where fowl cholera claimed the lives of almost half of the 32,000 turkeys being raised on Orwell turkey farmer Peter Stone’s Stonewood Farm. State officials said there was no danger to consumers, but the farm faced financial hardship just before Thanksgiving.
In Vergennes, residents and city council members brainstormed ways to make the city’s downtown safer for pedestrians and children walking to school. The council appointed a task force, discussed using the city’s Water Tower Fund to pay for crosswalk improvements, and is looking at larger long-term projects with the help of outside experts.
November finished with a bang. Lots of them, actually: Local rifle season deer hunters enjoyed their best season since 2005, when state officials imposed a ban on shooting young spikehorn bucks. In all, hunters had 573 deer weighed at one of the county’s nine wildlife stations, smashing the record of 444 set just a year ago. Included were many trophy animals, as the average weight of a buck taken during rifle season also ticked up slightly, by two pounds to 146. 

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