May 2017 Year in Review

Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater drew a full house on May 11 for a real-life drama — discussion of the potential economic and environmental impacts of the impending $52 million replacement of downtown Middlebury’s Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges. The Vermont Agency of Transportation sponsored the public hearing, at which numerous downtown property owners, merchants and residents voiced concern about how the projected three years of construction might affect commerce, tourism, quality of life, nearby historic structures and the adjacent Otter Creek.
In Bristol, an Eagle Scout’s proposed community service project drew both praise and criticism. The Scout — Victor Hinojosa — sought permission to build an information kiosk in front of Holley Hall in the center of Bristol. The design of the wooden display garnered great reviews, but was also panned for its message display: A 5-foot-6-inch-by-2-foot-7-inch Daktronics electronic message center. Some saw the modern message display as being out of character with its historic surroundings.
Proprietors of a fine art gallery in Rochester this month opened a satellite operation on Main Street in Vergennes. Anni Mackay brought her connections to the New York art world and her experience selling high-end art to BigTown Gallery Vergennes, which is located next to Vergennes Laundry.
The Turning Point Center of Addison County in May filed plans with the Middlebury Development Review Board to transform the Greystone Motel at 1395 Route 7 South into a recovery center for men struggling with drug addiction. The eight-room center was to provide stays of up to six months, and a variety of support services, for people trying to rebuild their lives as they recover from addiction. Turning Point’s application faced a major hurdle, however, as social service facilities are not allowed in the town’s protected highway district.
Richard Rawson, a Whiting native who left the area nearly five decades ago to pursue a successful career in psychology and addiction treatment, returned to Vermont for retirement. But he was pulled back into his old career and this month continued work educating locals about opiate addiction and treatment.
A newly resurrected Connor Homes reopened its doors in a portion of the Good Point Recycling building in Middlebury’s industrial park. It was around four months earlier that Connor Homes had laid off its entire workforce of 63, citing financial reasons. An investment group led by local businessman Sam Pryor assumed ownership of the company’s assets, including its former 116,000-square-foot headquarters at 1741 Route 7 South. Company founder Mike Connor made a deal with Good Point CEO Robin Ingenthron to occupy around one-third of Good Point’s facility at 227 Pond Lane.
Planning continued on a major project aimed at protecting East Middlebury residents from future flooding of the Middlebury River. The “East Middlebury Flood Resiliency Project” involves study of a 1.7-mile segment of the river stretching from the Sand Hill Bridge to Route 7 Bridge. A task force leading the study is advancing several remedies, including armoring 1,400 feet of the protective berm off Ossie Road, repairing the existing floodwall downstream of the Grist Mill Bridge and restoring roughly 5 acres of floodplain between Lower Plans Road and Grist Mill Road. Officials said local residents will likely face a bond vote next year to help finance the project.
Leaders of several Addison County fire departments in May began discussing ways to deal with declining membership on their respective forces. The growing time commitment and extensive training requirements have been thinning the volunteer ranks on local fire departments. Local officials were exploring a new certification process that could allow firefighters to cut their mandatory training hours from the current 200, to around 80.
May also saw workers put the finishing touches on a two-story, 8,000-square-foot addition to the historic Congregational Church of Middlebury at the intersection of North Pleasant and Main streets. The project was designed to provide much-needed program space for the church’s growing membership, its youth education classes and its humanitarian outreach efforts.
Ferrisburgh residents on May 11 voted 61-59 in favor of a town charter change that would allow the local selectboard to appoint future town clerks and treasurers. Town clerks and treasurers have historically been elected in Ferrisburgh and most other Vermont communities. The Ferrisburgh charter change still has to be approved by the Legislature.
Two longtime Middlebury farms received conservation offers in May. The Vermont Land Trust sought a combined total of $814,000 to permanently protect the 148 acres of the Butler Farm off Munger Street and 210 acres of the Pominville Farm off Quarry Road. The Middlebury selectboard agreed to give $55,000 from the municipal conservation fund to help finance the deal.
Fourteen-year-old Ferrisburgh resident Kobe Kessler and his mom, Denise, and a Barre veterinarian announced plans to make a 4,200-mile bike ride across the United States to raise money for Christian Veterinary Missions.
Middlebury College and Middlebury police announced in May that none of the demonstrators at protest of controversial speaker Charles Murray would face criminal charges in connection with the March 2 event, which had turned rowdy.
Friends of Vergennes Union High School alum Dustin Dattilio were blown away by the realism in his nature drawings, so the Castleton State College grad started really applying himself to the craft. The 24-year-old Bridport native in May found out that the National Wild Turkey Federation had chosen one of his paintings as its 2018 Stamp Print of the Year, which means it will receive national distribution and bring Dattilio not just recognition, but a little money.
Late in the month very high winds and thunderstorms struck the northern half of the county. In the lakeside neighborhood of Potash Bay in Addison winds lifted a pickup truck over a barn, ripped roofing and siding off an estimated 10 homes, and blew a home off its foundation causing it to crash down around its 75-year-old resident, who was trapped under her ceiling but was rescued and recuperated.
During their Memorial Day activities, Orwell residents unveiled a new memorial in the town park. The granite monument — which stands about 4 feet tall by 30 inches wide — pays tribute to Orwell’s 40 Vietnam-era veterans, as well as a combined total of around 60 local soldiers who served in World War II and Korea. The tribute supplemented a monument in the park that pays homage to Orwell’s World War I veterans.

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