March 2017 Year in Review

Middlebury College was thrown into the national spotlight on March 2 when student protestors shouted down right-wing speaker Charles Murray with boos, jeers, stomps and chants, claiming that Murray was a racist who had no right to speak. Administration relocated and telecast an exchange between Murray and event moderator and political science professor Allison Stanger. Later, a group of masked protesters violently confronted Stanger and Murray as they exited the building, sending Stanger to the emergency room. Murray had been invited by a student group to speak on his 2014 book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” He has been branded a white supremacist for his 1994 bestseller, “The Bell Curve,” which argues that white men are innately more intelligent than women or people of color. The explosion added fuel to the fire in a national debate over racism, hate speech, the open exchange of ideas on college campuses and the limits of free speech.
On Town Meeting Day, Orwell voted 219-137 against joining Benson, Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton and West Haven as part of the Slate Valley Unified Union School District. This third “no” vote against a school district merger positioned the town for a potential showdown with the state. Under Vermont’s Act 46, single-school school districts have until Nov. 30, 2017, to make their proposals to the state’s Department of Education.
New Haven voters approved what is likely the first energy plan designed to win the town “substantial deference” in Public Utility Commission proceedings. The “substantial deference” category was created in a 2016 law that is intended to give towns with satisfactory plans for achieving the state’s renewable energy goals a greater say before the utility regulator in its decisions regarding renewable energy projects.
Middlebury residents gave the nod to $30,620 to reinstate its police dog program.
In Ferrisburgh, embattled town treasurer Garrit Smits lost to challenger Deb Healey. The selectboard had raised a number of questions about Smits’s actions as treasurer. Professional auditors looking at his work had found patterns of unreconciled accounts, late deposits, unrecorded balances and late fees assessed by the IRS.
Voters in the newly unified Addison Central, Addison Northwest, and Otter Valley Unified Union school districts approved their first multi-school budgets. ACSD voters said yes to approximately $37.7 million in spending; ANWSD OK’d a $21.1 million unified budget; Otter Valley approved a $19.1 million spending plan. Voters in Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro passed their last budgets as individual schools and approved a $12.3 million budget for Mount Abraham Union High School.
Former Vergennes Mayor Mike Daniels defeated incumbent Bill Benton by a slim margin. In contested selectboard races, the winners included: Tim Howlett, Bridport; Michelle Perlee, Bristol; Rick Ebel, Ferrisburgh; Taborri Bruhl, New Haven; Thomas Audet, Orwell; and Alix O’Meara, Weybridge. Running for Starksboro’s newly expanded selectboard, incumbent Peter Marsh retained his seat against challenger Dan Baker; Keegan Tierney ran unopposed for one of the two new seats; and Koran Cousino defeated Jeff Dunham to win the other.
The newly formed Renovation Committee for Bristol’s MAUHS began its work on March 22. The 17-member committee was charged with determining the needs of the close-to-50-year-old facility and with shaping a potential bond measure. In 2014, ANESU voters defeated a $32.6 million bond proposal, when the SU was under the leadership of the divisive and unpopular David Adams. Just months before the committee began its work, leaky pipes forced closure of the school’s only gym for months to the tune of close to $165,000 in emergency repairs. The annual budget just passed by ANESU voters included fully $1 million for repairs. School officials said that without a bond that amount would likely remain in the budget annually for the foreseeable future.
Nearly 2,500 attendees turned out for the 9th Annual Vermont Chili Festival on Mar. 11 in Middlebury. The Best Chili Overall prize went to The Lobby’s pork chili.
Middlebury residents got a first look at a proposed $10 million renovation to the Ilsley Public Library that would expand the building from 19,000 to 25,000 square feet; offer more and better space for children’s and youth programs; fix water infiltration, heating and ventilation problems; create more accessible, secure and welcoming entries; and improve access to technology and community work space, while keeping the library downtown and retaining all public parking behind the current structure.
Dairy farmers grew increasingly concerned as to how President Trump’s immigration policies could affect their labor force of mostly migrant foreign workers, many undocumented. Workers themselves, meanwhile, reported becoming increasingly isolated on the farm, as concerns over deportation made them less likely to venture out for health care visits or groceries. Dairy pumps an estimated $2.2 billion a year into Vermont’s economy and creates an estimated 6,000-7,000 jobs statewide. Loss of these workers, experts said, could be “devastating to our farm economy” statewide and in Addison County, which is the state’s top county for milk sales, at $132.1 million a year. It’s also the state’s top county for all agricultural sales, at $191 million a year.
Early in March, the Vermont Agency of Transportation reported that the estimated cost of replacing the rail bridges in downtown Middlebury had grown from $40 million to $52 million. Later in the month, VTrans made an Emergency Declaration that it would be installing temporary spans in downtown Middlebury, likely sometime in June.
The Bristol selectboard chose master carpenter William Gibbs’s proposal to renovate the town’s historic firehouse as a wood shop and private dwelling.
Addison County Readers celebrated its 10th year of sending free books to the county’s infants and preschoolers. The nonprofit group is the local sponsor of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which now reaches about 1,150 children — close to 70 percent of the county’s eligible population.
March closed with a sweet reminder of one of the best parts of mud season in Vermont, as county sugarmakers took part in the statewide Maple Open House Weekend, March 25 and 26.

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: