Top 10 stories of 2019

WE RAN THIS front page on November 7, 2019, after both Addison and Ferrisburgh voted to reject the ANWSD's school closure proposals.

ADDISON COUNTY — A lot can happen in a year. Each January we sit down to discuss the stories we have covered over the last 52 weeks to decide which had the biggest impact on our community. Here are the 10 stories from 2019 that we felt rose to the top. Click on the headlines below to read the full stories.
1. What’s the future of small, rural schools?
In 2019 all three of Addison County’s unified school districts wrestled — or began to cast a wary eye on — the thorny issue of how to deal with their small rural schools in an era of declining enrollment and a state funding system that reimburses districts on a per-student basis…
2. People speak out to demand climate action
Climate justice activism may have reached a critical turning point in 2019. The largest climate protest in history was held in September and Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named Time magazine’s person of the year…
3. Homelessness gets even more serious
The nonprofit Charter House Coalition in 2019 made a concerted effort to help more homeless people at its warming shelter at 27 North Pleasant St., and the greater Middlebury community learned that the lack of a warm place to stay is just one of many challenges that an increasing number of people face…
4. Rail bridge project picks up speed
Construction on the $72.5 million downtown Middlebury Rail Bridges project hit a higher gear in 2019, with work aimed at preparing the site for a 10-week period during the spring/summer of 2020 when a 360-foot-long tunnel will be installed in place of the Main Street and Merchants Row spans…
5. Porter president arrives, then goes
Dr. Seleem Choudhury’s tenure as Porter Medical Center (PMC) president ended in October after only five months, following revelations he had plagiarized material for a series of weekly emails he had used to keep the health care community abreast of goings-on at Addison County’s hospital…
6. Vergennes gets new hope for bypass
For decades the question in Vergennes has been to bypass, or not to bypass. Earlier this year new hope appeared that an alternate route to take trucks out of the city’s downtown could be built in at least some residents’ lifetimes…
7. Year of possible layoffs stresses college personnel
In 2019 the county’s largest employer, Middlebury College, completed a comprehensive reevaluation of personnel and work processes, eliminating roughly 100 positions and creating annual budget savings of several million dollars — all without laying anyone off…
8. Promise of hemp not yet realized
Vermont agriculture’s new big thing — industrial hemp — suffered from some growing pains in 2019, though hope remained by year’s end that the abundantly useful plant could still make important contributions to the state’s farming economy…
9. County sees new leaders step up
In addition to the turnover at the top at Porter Medical Center (see story No. 5), a number of important county institutions saw leadership changes in 2019.
After leading the Counseling Service of Addison County for 40 years, Bob Thorn at the end of March retired as the head of the county’s largest mental health agency. He was succeeded as executive director of CSAC by Rachel Lee Cummings, a former chief operating officer at Age Well. Cummings demonstrated her entrepreneurial spirit while an undergraduate at the University of Vermont when she founded Armistead Senior Care, which provides non-medical home-based care, primarily to seniors. She later ran a business providing guardianship services, mostly to seniors…
10. Local teams take home trophies
To be clear, we at the Independent are just happy to see athletes out there running, jumping, skating, dancing, tumbling, throwing, swinging, skiing, kicking, cheering, saving, blocking, swimming, wrestling, shooting, passing and defending.
Participating is succeeding.
But there is also joy in seeing athletes’ preparation, teamwork and talent — and the plans of their coaches — all come together in those moments when they hoist trophies…

Here are the stories on our website that got the most unique pageviews in 2019.

1. Middlebury EMTs grant a dying patient his final wish


2. Bear-hunting hounds attack hikers and pup


3. Following GPS, an 18-wheeler slams into Brandon covered bridge


4. Weybridge girl struck by car, dies in hospital


5. Neshobe Golf Course faces foreclosure  


6. VSP wants to know who killed David Auclair


7. Officer Mason delivered bad news and compassion


8. South Burlington woman killed in head-on crash in Addison


9. Letter to the editor: To all the people who hate Muslims


10. The hemp harvest has begun


Here are the headlines for the 2019 Facebook posts that grabbed the most eyeballs. The No. 1 post reached more than 146,000 people, according to Facebook.
1. Runaway cows in Middlebury (12/31)
2. An enormous truck drove through — and stalled out in — downtown Vergennes (3/18)
3. Video: Loon rescue! Game warden Dale Whitlock helps a stranded loon (11/29)
4. Video: Tricia’s Book Bike (8/8)
5. Torrential rain in East Middlebury (6/20)
6. Video: Our country stores (8/2)
7. Poetry: To all the people who hate Muslims (3/28)
8. Rabid coyote shot in New Haven; second to attack this month (4/16)
9. Video: Crows flock to downtown Middlebury (2/14)
10. Snow rollers in Weybridge (1/29)


From upper left: Joel Pominville offers an apology for the ages after he accidentally spreads manure all over Quarry Road; Middlebury looks festive from a horse-drawn carriage during Very Merry Middlebury; Mad Taco opens in the renovated Stone Mill; snow rollers, a rare meteorological phenomenon, are spotted in a Weybridge field; Matt and Courtney DeBisschop buy the former Blue Spruce Motel site; the Panther field hockey team rides ACTR to Middlebury Bagel & Deli after their big NESCAC win; Pratt’s Store in Bridport celebrates 50 years; a magical, misty evening in Middlebury; folks rally on Middlebury’s Cross Street Bridge to call for President Trump’s impeachment.

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