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AARP Vermont Announces Community Action Grant Winners in Newport

in Newport

NEWPORT — As AARP Vermont continues to support efforts to make Newport a more “age-friendly” city, they have announced the winners of their 2014 Community Action Grants. The winners are:

Fresh Start Community Farm, Jennifer Black ($2,000)
Newport Dispatch, Bryan Marovich ($2,000)
Cornucopia Program/Umbrella Inc., Lynne Rublee ($1,000)
The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Ayeshah Raftery ($1,000)

In partnering with AARP Vermont, Newport has committed to embrace the changing demographics of an aging population by focusing on safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services, and community engagement opportunities for all ages. These Community Action Grants support that direction by funding small, grassroots organizations that are working to advance the Age Friendly movement.

AARP officials conducted the selection process along with Patricia Sears of Newport City Renaissance Corp. and community leader Pam Ladds.

“This was an eye-opening experience,” said Sears. “It was encouraging to see so many good ideas out there that enrich our community in different ways. We are very grateful to have AARP as a partner — to not only fund these grants, but to work with us on ways to improve Newport for all ages.”
 
Ladds indicated how difficult it was to choose winners.

“We are fortunate to have such great energy in Newport around community development, but it made for a very difficult selection process,” said Ladds.  “I wish we could fund them all!”
 
“We are very pleased to extend support to these projects as a way to foster local community development initiatives in Newport,” said Greg Marchildon, state director at AARP Vermont.  “We received a broad range of proposals to consider this year and we hope these modest grants will inspire and support dedicated grassroots groups that have a vision for Newport and how it can be enhanced. We are committed to working with our partners and officials in Newport as they develop future plans and we expect to continue this program next year as well.”

AARP Vermont Outreach Director Kelly Stoddard Poor was also part of the selection committee.

Below is a summary of each organization:

Fresh Start Community Farm — Fresh Start Community Farm was started in 2011 with a mission to provide access to fresh food while also building a strong community. It now operates four sites and is completely volunteer based. Last year, the farm produced over 4,900 pounds of food and donated 2,100 pounds to the community. It also launched an Adopt-a-Grandparent program which pairs elderly and younger volunteers who garden together. With the AARP grant, Fresh Start will expand its programs by purchasing raised beds which will provide wheelchair access for volunteers who need it.

Newport Dispatch — This independent online news site is focused on Newport and surrounding towns featuring human interest, arts and entertainment news. Launched in October 2013, the aim is to provide an additional resource while engaging more people in community activities and issues. The AARP grant will support Newport Dispatch’s effort to provide strong citizen journalism for NEK residents and fund more advanced audio equipment.

Cornucopia Program / Umbrella Inc.
— A non-profit serving the Northeast Kingdom by providing advocacy services for women and families who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Cornucopia is an Umbrella program that helps those in unsafe living situations as they move into more secure and independent arrangements. Partnering with Vermont Works for Women, it provides meals to low-income and homebound seniors and these meal sites also serve as a place for those over 60 to access Umbrella’s domestic violence and sexual violence services. The meal sites have proven to offer great meals and a place for seniors to connect with one another and learn about vital community services. This grant will help Cornucopia to extend its job training initiatives for vulnerable female citizens.

The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI)
— Established in 1926, VABVI works to help blind and visually impaired Vermonters become independent. Operating across the state, they hold regular Peer Assisted Learning and Support (PALS) classes providing a place for participants (mostly seniors) to discuss how their impairments affect their lives and how to cope with them. The PALS group in Newport, led by Harriet Hall, helps seniors in the area on issues ranging from learning to make meals, continue socializing, coping with vision loss, assistive technology and awareness. The AARP grant will provide a resource the Newport PALS group to secure guest speakers, provide food and materials as well as to organize community awareness events.

Three St. Johnsbury Academy Sophomores Take First Place in Statewide Visual Media Competition

in Vermont

ST. JOHNSBURY — A team of three sophomores from St. Johnsbury Academy placed first in the statewide 2014 Vermont Entrepreneurship Education Visual Media Competition. This year’s theme was “Spreading the Spirit of Entrepreneurship.” The team consisted of Joseph Uyanik, Emma Foley, and Tinky Ding.

Lisa Gosselin, Vermont State Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, announced the winning team at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on February 6 in observance of National Entrepreneurship Week. The students received a cash award for their winning entry.

The winning video is a fast-paced 90-second montage of scenes featuring the shops and shop owners of downtown St. Johnsbury. Hand-lettered signs remind the viewer, “Entrepreneurs inspire a whole community,” and “Follow your dreams.”

“I am very pleased with the efforts of this team,” Sarah Emery, coach of the winning team, said. “I opened this competition to all of my first semester Sales and Marketing Classes, and these three students rose to the occasion. I am especially proud of their creativity and their initiative in speaking to and interviewing local business owners in St. Johnsbury.”

You can see the winning video below.

The video will be used to promote future Vermont Entrepreneurship Weeks, and will remain on the Vermont Entrepreneurship website for one year.

Watch “Organic Matters,” the New Film by NOFA Vermont

in Vermont

RICHMOND — The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA) announced the release of a short film, Organic Matters. The film highlights the importance of organic food and agriculture to human and environmental health.

The 9 minute film features certified organic farmers across Vermont talking about why they believe in certified organic, how it defines their approach to their land and to food production. It also points out why organic is important to the overall food movement.

Organic agriculture is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. agricultural economy and is the only gold standard of purity for the consumer who wants food grown without herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or GMOs. Yet, only about 1 percent of this nation’s cropland and 3 percent of its dairy cows are certified organic.

The film is a response to the need expressed by NOFA members for more outreach to consumers about why organic matters, what the certified label means, how farmers wrote and uphold the standards, how organic food benefits human health, and how the practice of organic farming can have far-reaching and long-term benefits.

Organic Matters intends to celebrate the practices and rewards of organic farming and to inspire the next generation of organic farmers who will be needed to secure a healthy food future.

Scenes from Penguin Plunge Newport 2014

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — “It was a lot colder getting out,” Matt Smith said. “It almost felt like your skin was freezing.

Mr. Smith was one of the brave souls who faced single digit temperatures on Sunday as they jumped into Lake Memphremagog to raise money for Special Olympics Vermont.

The Penguin Plunge is a three-part event series that reaches 1,500 brave participants across Vermont and the surrounding states. The highly anticipated fundraising event now attracts school groups, sports teams, businesses, families, and law enforcement.

“It was not as bad as I thought it would be,” Ms. Hardin, who jumped in with a team from North Country Hospital Rehab Services, said. “Our team was ready for this, and I think we’re all in for next year.”

Newport Dispatch has put together the following video from the event, as well as some photos taken by Tanya Mueller.

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Newbury Man Arrested for Cruelty to Animals, Illegal Trapping

in Vermont

NEWBURY — A Newbury man was arrested on charges of illegally setting a trap in which he captured and then shot a neighbor’s dog.

State Game Warden Mark Schichtle and State Trooper Chuck Schulze responded to a complaint on Tuesday, February 11 from Amy Emerson of Newbury. Ms. Emerson reported that her dog had gone missing and she followed the animal’s tracks to her neighbor’s property. She found the dog caught in an illegally set trap, having been shot and killed.

Following a joint investigation, Richard Martin, 45, was charged with cruelty to animals and four separate counts of illegal trapping.

Martin is scheduled to appear in Orange County Court on March 19, 2014 to answer to the charges. He has previously been cited for trapping violations.

“Vermont has strict trapping regulations on the books, and trappers are generally skilled at selecting trap sites that do not have the potential to harm pets,” said Major Dennis Reinhardt. “On the very rare occasion that a dog does get caught in a trap, the trapper is almost always able to release the animal unharmed. The shooting of this dog was very unfortunate.”

“Trapping is a highly regulated activity in Vermont,” said Reinhardt. “The trap that captured this dog was illegally set out of season.”

Changes Taking Place in Rock Island but Stanstead Will Still Have a Florist

in Feature

STANSTEAD, QC — There’s a sea change taking place in the Rock Island section of Stanstead. It started in December when Les Terrasses Dufferin opened up where La Vielle Douane used to be. And now, as Boutique Fleurs & Passion closed its doors Friday night, a slight shuffling around between a few Stanstead businesses will bring about another change.

Former owner of Boutique Fleurs & Passion, Sylvain Roy, who for over 20 years has been doing business in Stanstead, sold his licenses to sell his popular Crabtree and Evelyn products as well as the Colonial Cape Cod candles to the Familiprix pharmacy. Starting March 3 he will be working with Familiprix to help with the transition. Anyone who is still looking to get these products will find them there.

But Stanstead will still have a florist…and a place to buy candy…and a place to rent a movie…and even a place grab a scoop of ice cream. Amazingly enough, all in the same store. In the future you will even be able to get a tan there as well.

In the final stage of this shuffling around, Vidéo Frontière will be moving down the road from 694 rue Dufferin, their current location, and taking over the store where Roy’s Boutique Fleurs & Passion was located. Nick Houle, who has owned Vidéo Frontière since October 2012, will be bringing in Brian Reynolds as co-owner of the new store.

“We’re doing everything fifty-fifty,” Houle said.

They will be taking over the florist, which will be a new addition to the video store and ice cream parlor that Houle has been running. The plan is also to have a tanning bed up and running soon.

“We’re shooting to have everything moved in by the first of March, and then hopefully open the ice cream parlor on the first of April,” Houle said.

He also said that although the new store will not necessarily be bigger, it’s more open and feels like it has more space. He also likes the location better, saying it is more of a tourist area.

Sylvain Roy agrees that the store is a great spot.

“I did very well in this location,” Roy said. “This was the best location that I had over the years.”

School Bus and Dog Thief Changes Plea to Guilty

in Feature/News

NEWPORT — Adam Page, 23, of Newport, the man who on May 17, 2013, stole a school bus and then crashed and totaled it in Holland, pled guilty in Orleans Superior Court on Thursday.

He was facing multiple charges from the incident.

Vermont State Police originally became involved with the investigation of a stolen school bus from Newport. They discovered the bus totaled and abandoned on the Valley Road in Holland. Page had fled the scene after the crash.

A dog was recovered in the bus.

While investigating, the VSP learned that Page had broken into a house belonging to Heather Murphy, and had taken her chocolate lab, the same dog recovered in Holland. Page had stolen the bus and drove to Murphy’s home in Morgan.

Page then attempted to take a 2003 Toyota truck from Zach Alix from Toad Pond Rd. When he could not steal this truck he then stole a 1995 Ford truck belonging to Robert Durfey of Morgan. Durfey’s truck was located later in Derby.

Page was arrested on 3 counts of operating without owners consent, leaving the scene of an accident, driving on a criminally suspended license, and burglary for illegal entering Murphy’s house and stealing her dog.

Columbia Forest Products Employee Injured In Chipper Room

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — On Tuesday evening at around 9:30, an individual’s arm was pinched in a belt that is located inside the chipper room at the Columbia Forest Products facility in Newport.

Although initial reports of the incident reported that the individual involved in the tragic accident had his arm caught in the chipper, Glenn Foster, Columbia Forest Product’s local Plant Manager, stated that it was only the belt itself that caused the injury.

“An individual’s arm was pinched in a belt that is located inside the chipper room, although the chipper itself was not involved in the incident,” Foster said.

In a statement released by Foster, he did not play down the extent of the injury, but wanted to make it clear that the chipper was not involved.

He went on to say that an extensive investigation is taking place that will reveal the root cause of the incident.

In the meantime, Mr. Foster and his human resource team are reaching out to the individual and his family to do what they can to get him on the road to recovery.

Foster also went on to compliment Columbia employees that responded, the Newport fire department, EMT attendees and North Country Health system’s emergency response teams for doing a fantastic job providing quick medical attention.

Newport City Fire Chief James LeClair also stated that Columbia Forest Products employees did an excellent job at getting the man out of harms way.

Eli Goss Annual Ice Fishing Tournament Ready for Fourth Year

in Feature/News

MORGAN — The Fourth Annual Eli Goss Ice Fishing Tournament will take place on Lake Seymour in Morgan, February 21,22,23.

The idea for the First Eli Goss Memorial Ice Fishing Tournament came from a meeting of the NCUHS Student Forum after the sudden loss of their friend Eli in a motor vehicle accident on September 17, 2010. 

The students met in the forum to share their struggle with all the tough feelings and questions they were faced with in the aftermath of the accident that took their closest friend.  Ice fishing was a special part of their life together and the idea was born to create an ice fishing tournament in Eli’s honor and to raise money for the Scholarship Fund in his name at United Christian Academy, where Eli attended school.

Registration will be at the Public Beach Fishing Access, with a $10 donation. Cash prize will be awarded to the winner.

Eli Trophy Bomber hats will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize fish. There will also be gifts and awards for fund raising and donation. For more information call (802) 673-8931, or click here to visit the event web page.

Arrest Made in Hubbardton Double Homicide

in Feature/Vermont

HUBBARDTON — Yesterday at approximately 1:37 p.m. the Vermont State Police responded to a shooting at 578 VT Route 30 in Hubbardton. Upon arrival two male subjects were confirmed deceased outside the residence. The identities of both victims are being withheld pending positive identification.

Detectives with the Vermont State Police started an immediate investigation, while members of the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team were activated to process the scene.

The preliminary investigation led police to believe that the sole resident at 578 VT Route 30, identified as Sylvester Labartino, age 70, may have been involved in the incident. As a result officers were notified to be on the lookout for Labartino’s vehicle, a white Ford Bronco.

At approximately 2:22 p.m. the vehicle was observed by officers traveling north on VT Route 30 in the town of Castleton. Officers stopped the vehicle and identified the operator as Sylvester Labartino. Labartino was detained pending further investigation and transported to the Rutland Barracks.

Based on the information collected during the initial investigation, Sylvester Labartino was arrested in the early morning hours of January 13 on two counts of 2nd degree murder.

Vermont State Police are asking for anyone who observed a white Ford Bronco II during the afternoon of Wednesday, February 12, 2014 in the areas of Hubbardton, Castleton, or Fair Haven, to contact the state police at 802-773-9101.

Susan Dunklee of Barton Finishes as Top American in Biathlon

in Feature/News

BARTON — Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It originated as an exercise for Norwegian people, and as an alternative training for the military. It is also the only Winter Olympic sport in which the U.S. has never won a medal.

Susan Dunklee, the 27-year-old Olympic athlete from Barton, was close to making history Tuesday night at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was headed into the final shooting station of the women’s biathlon 10-kilometer pursuit in fifth place.

In an interview after the event with USA Today, Dunklee stated that when she hit the first shot, it seemed like a good sign, but she didn’t know what happened after that.

She posted the following tweet after the event on Tuesday:

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She ended up missing three of her next four targets, which forced her to ski a penalty loop of 150-meters. The penalties dropped her to 20th. She did move up to finish 18th overall, finishing highest among American athletes competing in the event.

On Sunday, Dunklee finished 14th in the 7.5-kilometer sprint (21.48.3, with one penalty) to post the top Olympic sprint finish ever by a US woman.

Rising Tide Holds Discussion at Sterling College on Resistance to the Proposed Fracked Gas Pipeline

in Upcoming Events

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — The Environmental and Social Justice Club at Sterling College is pleased to announce that it will be hosting a presentation and a discussion by Rising Tide Vermont.

Rising Tide will be hosting an evening of conversation and movement-focused dialogue on Wednesday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. in Simpson Hall Room 3 on the Sterling College campus. The discussion is part of Rising Tide Vermont’s “Climate Justice Winter Roadshow,” a series of discussions at college campuses and community centers across the state.

Rising Tide will be discussing resistance to the proposed fracked gas pipeline as well as opportunities for energy and climate justice grassroots organizing in this region.

“In the Champlain Valley, Vermont Gas is only weeks away from beginning construction on Vermont’s largest fossil fuel expansion in decades,” said faculty member Anne Morse. “This is an opportunity for people to come together and discuss grassroots opposition to this pipeline.”

The discussion is free and open to the public.

Sterling College was Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. They are a leading voice in higher education for environmental stewardship and the liberal arts. The College was among the first colleges in the United States to focus on sustainability through academic majors in Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Outdoor Education, and Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems.

Sterling College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and is one of only seven federally recognized Work Colleges in the nation.

Craigslist Response Leads to Kidnapping, Assault, and Extortion

in Feature/Vermont

BARRE — Jonathan Henry, 28, the East Montpelier man who was on the run for 2 1/2 hours last week after escaping from St. Johnsbury Correctional staff while being treated at Central Vermont Medical Center, is now facing charges in connection with the incident that led to his arrest.

He has been cited by Vermont State Police on charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, extortion, and simple assault.

On January 20, the Vermont State Police received a complaint from a 67 year old New Haven man, in which he reported that he responded to a Craigslist post and arranged to meet with Henry. Later in the week during their encounter, he was physically assaulted by Henry.

According to court records, Henry’s probation officer said the man performed oral sex on Henry. He also said that Henry then struck the man in the face with a pistol and threatened to shoot him.

According to a statement by the victim, after the attack, he was taken to the Berlin Mall, where he bought Henry a video game console for $529. The man said he and Henry then went to the bank and was told to wire $10,000 to Henry’s account. He stated that if the man refused or went to the police, Henry threatened to shoot the man’s wife.

Henry then drove the victim to his vehicle in East Montpelier.

On January 31, the Vermont State Police and the Department of Corrections Barre Probation and Parole arrested Henry at his residence for a probation violation.

On February 4, while visiting Central Vermont Hospital for a medical procedure, Henry escaped. He was taken back into custody near the River Run Manor Mobile Home Park off Route 302 in Berlin. He will appear in Washington County criminal court in Barre on Thursday.

Irasburg Man Sentenced to Serve 4 to 12 Years for Trafficking Heroin

in Feature/News

IRASBURG — A convicted heroin trafficker was sentenced to serve four to twelve years in prison at a sentencing hearing held in Vermont Superior Court in Orleans County on February 5, according to Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Richard Cote, III of Irasburg was arrested on February 20, 2013 at the culmination of an investigation by the North East Vermont Drug Task Force into heroin trafficking in the Irasburg and Newport area.

During a post-arrest interview, Cote admitted that he had regularly traveled to Keene, New Hampshire, to buy heroin to bring back to sell in Orleans County, Vermont. He further admitted that he generally brought back a “finger” of heroin each time.

A “finger” is a street term for ten grams of heroin, almost three times the threshold amount of 3.5 grams required for a heroin trafficking charge.

Cote plead guilty to: heroin trafficking; five felony sales of heroin; carrying a deadly weapon while committing a felony; felony possession of marijuana; and misdemeanor possession of narcotics.

In consideration of these guilty pleas, the State dismissed a misdemeanor child cruelty charge.

In accordance with a request by the Attorney General’s Office, the sentencing judge recommended to the Department of Corrections that Cote be enrolled in any drug treatment program for which he is determined to be eligible.

Snowmobile Crash in Jay on Sunday

in Feature/News

JAY — There was a snowmobile accident in Jay on Sunday. Alan Cyr, 45, of Bristol, Connecticut, injured his left shoulder and was taken to North Country Hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

Cyr was traveling north on VAST Trail 101 in the Town of Jay at 12:30 p.m. His snowmobile went left of center and off the trail, hitting an area near a large rock. He was wearing his helmet at the time.

The windshield of the snowmobile, a 2013 Polaris 600cc, was broken during the crash. The police report that alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but that speed was a factor.

The crash is still under investigation.

Watch “The Opiate Effect,” an Award-Winning Vermont Documentary on Heroin Free Online

in Vermont

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont announced that the award-winning documentary, “The Opiate Effect”, has been made available for viewing and free download.

This powerful film features the story of Will Gates, a University of Vermont student who tragically overdosed on heroin and the impact that experience has had on his family. It also seeks to educate young people and their parents about the dangers of opiate prescription drug and heroin use by drawing on the experiences of Will’s father, Skip Gates, and a number of heroin addicts in recovery.

The film is aimed at preventing people from getting involved with opiate drugs and is geared especially toward high school and college age students and their parents.

The film was produced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont. It was filmed and directed by Derek Hallquist of Green River Pictures and has won several awards including two Telly awards. It was nominated for a New England Emmy.

Two Morgan Men Sentenced for Deer Poaching Conviction

in Feature/News

MORGAN — Vermont Fish & Wildlife wardens followed an anonymous tip that led to the arrest and conviction of Douglas Vezina of Morgan, on two counts of taking a deer out of season and one count of hunting without a license.

Vezina was charged with shooting two juvenile bucks without a license during the November 2013 deer rifle season. A legal deer taken during the November rifle season must be a buck with two or more antler points on one side.

After entering a guilty plea in Orleans Court on February 5, Vezina was sentenced to serve 120 days in prison. He may also be ordered to pay restitution at an upcoming hearing.

Vezina was on parole at the time of the incident for several other convictions and faces an additional six to twelve months in prison for parole violations related to the investigation.

Warden Jason Dukette seized a .30-30 rifle that was involved in the crime, which may result in a charge of felon in possession of a firearm against Vezina from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Further investigation found that the rifle had previously been reported stolen.

In connection with the incident, Terrance Grondin of Morgan, was charged with assisting Vezina with the transport and processing of the deer, along with knowingly possessing deer meat taken in violation of the law. Grondin pleaded guilty in Orleans County criminal court and was fined $400.

“Most Vermont hunters pursue game lawfully and respect hunting regulations,” said Col. David LeCours, head of law enforcement for Vermont Fish & Wildlife, noting that wildlife in Vermont is held in the public trust. “Those few who choose to break the law face serious consequences.”

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Urges Public to Be “Bear” Aware This Winter

in Feature/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding Vermonters that variable winter conditions such as lack of snow and winter rain may cause black bears to abandon their dens. Prior to the recent snow storm, the department received reports of bears at bird feeders, residential areas, and wandering the backcountry.

In one incident, a black bear killed a snowshoe hare hunter’s beagle in Elmore, Vt. Department game wardens investigated and believe the bear has likely found another den site and has gone back into its winter sleep.

“It is not uncommon for bears to be out of their dens in winters like this with so little snow cover,” said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for the Fish & Wildlife Department. “Bears sleep soundly in winters when deep snow covers the entrances to their dens. But during years with little snow, bears are exposed and awaken easily.”

According to Hammond, winter rain events can make bears uncomfortable and restless, and may force many bears from their dens to seek drier accommodations.

Bears disrupted from their original den may produce makeshift nests of spruce boughs in dense evergreen thickets. Hammond recommends that hare and rabbit hunters should be aware of the potential for bears to be in these thickets and should not release dogs in areas where they see fresh bear tracks. While bears are generally docile animals they can sometimes become aggressive when they feel cornered or if a mother bear feels that her cubs are threatened.

“Hunters, hikers, skiers, and other backcountry travelers should steer clear of areas where they see bear tracks,” said Hammond. “This is a very difficult time for bears in which they are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and may be with newborn cubs.

“Last winter, a group of hikers investigated a bear den resulting in the sow abandoning her cubs, which soon died of exposure,” said Hammond.

With the passage of the Vermont Sportsman’s Act of 2013, Vermonters are now required to take nonlethal measures to protect property including livestock and pets. This may include removing attractants such as birdfeeders, garbage and pet food, or properly fencing chicken coops or bee hives.

Police Nab Suspect in Armed Robbery at Circle K in Barton

in Feature/News

BARTON — The State Police investigation of the armed robbery that took place January 23 at Circle K in Barton has identified Daniel Dunn, age 23, of Oxford, Maine as the perpetrator of the incident.

The robbery took place at Circle K gas station located at 542 Main Street in Barton. During the incident, which transpired at approximately 6:45 p.m., a lone male subject entered the establishment brandishing a knife and demanded money from the clerk. Money was turned over by the clerk to the perpetrator, who fled the store on foot.

Video surveillance from the store showed the perpetrator was dropped off at the store by a yellow vehicle.

Dunn is currently being held out of state. It is anticipated that Dunn will appear in Vermont Superior Court, Orleans Criminal Unit, on March 11 for a charge of assault and robbery.

The investigation remains active with additional action anticipated.

Sec. Chuck Ross on Farm Bill and How Vermont is Impacted

in Opinion

After a long and difficult deliberation, the Senate has passed a Farm Bill, which will arrive on the President’s desk, for his signature, at the end of the week. Although some compromises were made, overall, this is a win for agriculture both in Vermont, and on a national level.

Locally, our dairy farmers will benefit the new dairy margin protection program, which will provide a necessary safety net for the bed rock industry of Vermont agriculture.

This federally subsidized margin protection program will help dairy farmers to offset low margins caused either by low milk prices or high input costs, and prevent an erosion of equity. Our farmers will be able to insure their margins at significantly lower rates than the mega-farms in other parts of the country.

I am also pleased to see the creation of a new dairy donation program, which will redirect dairy products to food banks, when a glut of dairy hits the market. This is smart policy, and a win-win solution for all involved.

The new Farm Bill also renews the REAP Zone program, which has done much to stimulate Vermont’s economy, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.

Other key Farm Bill highlights which will benefit Vermont include:

New cost share programs for farmers seeking organic certification.

A 50% increase to Specialty Crop Block grant funding.

Re-authorization of the Food Export Program, which helps Vermont companies expand to foreign markets
Vermonters will also benefit from Farm Bill funding directed towards healthy food initiatives for schools, marketing specialty crops, and forest programs.

I would like to thank Senator Leahy and Representative Welch who, with the strong support of Senator Sanders, worked hard to move a new Farm Bill forward.

–CR

State Police Warn that Powerful Painkiller is Being Packaged as Heroin

in Feature/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont State Police issued a warning on Wednesday that fentanyl is being packaged and sold as heroin across the state.

Fentanyl is a painkiller that is used intravenously to treat pain, usually only at hospitals. It is much more powerful than morphine.

In a press release the police are saying that they are currently trying to develop information about the packaging source and distribution of the drug which is being sold as heroin.

The Vermont State Police remind Vermonters that injecting Fentanyl, or any drug not prescribed by a medical practitioner, can be lethal and will most likely lead to overdose and or death.

ABC News reports that heroin laced with the powerful painkiller is suspected in at least 50 recent fatal overdoes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Maryland.

Got Raw Milk? It’s Around But Intentionally Hard to Get

in Feature/Vermont

CRAFTSBURY — For hundreds of years raw milk has been a part of Vermont’s agricultural tradition. It’s recognized for its health, economic, and environmental benefits.

“My milk is produced for human consumption, not pasteurization,” Frank Huard, of Huard Family Farm in Craftsbury said.

The majority of milk produced in Vermont is shipped from large dairy farms to dairy co-ops and distributors for retail sale. But, there are still farmers who sell raw milk, which is unpasteurized, directly to customers.

A report from Rural Vermont which came out earlier in the week sheds new light on the raw milk debate. The report not only provides a snapshot of raw milk production and sales across the state, but it looks at what is working and what is not working with the current Raw Milk Law.

Because Vermont law doesn’t require those who sell raw milk to register with the state, it’s impossible to get an exact total of the amount produced or sold. However, the report shows that in a 12-month period, 2,000 customers bought more than 53,000 gallons of raw milk. This demonstrates that the production and sale of raw milk enables many Vermont farms to be more economically sustainable as they contribute to a growing community-based food system.

Frank Huard has been working hard to educate people as to the health benefits of raw goat milk. Frank is an expert in the field, and his farm was just awarded top quality goats’ milk at the Vermont Farm Show last Thursday. It’s the third time that they have been given the award.

Goats gathered around at the Huard Family Farm in Craftsbury.
Goats gathered around at the Huard Family Farm in Craftsbury.

Huard explained that when it comes to buying raw milk, it’s important to know the farmer. You want to be sure that you’re buying a quality product. His goats’ milk is tested twice per month at a state lab.

The current law allows him to sell his product, but only if the customer comes to his farm to purchase it, or if he delivers it himself. Farmers are kept from selling raw milk at farmers markets, which the Rural Vermont report shows is something that needs to be addressed.

“What reason do we have to limit the access people have to certain products?” Huard asked.

One of the questions Rural Vermont asked in the study was if farmers stopped selling raw milk, what was the reason? One of the most common responses was “the farm is too far off the beaten path for customers to travel.”

It seems the current law is making it difficult for consumers to have easy access to raw milk, which in turn makes it harder for the farmers to reap some of the economic benefits that are available to them in the market. The demand is there but the supply is being cut off.

Huard said he understands that producers will not be allowed to sell their products at large grocery stores anytime soon, but at the very least he feels he should be allowed into health food stores and farmers markets.

Raw goat milk is the closest milk to the milk produced by a nursing mother. Many of Huard’s customers purchase the raw milk for their babies. Because it is naturally homogenized, it doesn’t upset their stomach.

Pop Shot at Deer from Truck Hits Another Vehicle

in Vermont

MONKTON — Michael Deforge, 30, of Essex Junction was working a security detail on the Monkton-Vergennes Road in Monkton early Wednesday morning when he noticed a truck stop for a deer that was crossing the road.

The driver of the truck rolled down their window, and took an illegal shot at the deer. He missed his target, and instead the shot hit Deforge’s vehicle.

The vehicle fled the scene quickly after seeing Deforge’s truck and was last seen traveling in a north easterly direction.

Deforge was uninjured and able to provide the State Police with a description of the truck involved.

The police are searching for the vehicle, and all leads are currently being followed up on.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is encouraged to call the State Police at 802-388-4919.

Senator Sanders Statement on Farm Bill

in Opinion

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders issued the following statement yesterday after the Senate voted 68-32 to pass and send to President Barack Obama a new five-year farm bill:

“This was a difficult vote on a bill which has some positive provisions but also some very negative ones.

“This bill will bring greater stability to Vermont dairy farmers by helping them to manage risks and produce products more efficiently. It also is good news that a successful MILC program will stay in place until new insurance provisions for dairy farmers are implemented.

“The bill encourages increased access to healthy, local foods and will build on a growing movement in Vermont which has created agriculture jobs and provided local food for Vermonters. Another provision helps low-income seniors shop at farmers’ markets and roadside stands that are popular across Vermont.

“I am very disappointed that this bill makes $8.6 billion in cuts over the next decade to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. While the final bill steps back from $40 billion in food stamp cuts that House Republicans had demanded, it is both morally and economically wrong to cut assistance to families in a very difficult economy.

“I am very pleased that Governor Shumlin has assured me that he will work with the Vermont Legislature to prevent cuts in food stamps for Vermont families and seniors receiving home heating assistance.”

Man Accused of Crushing 6 Police Cruisers With a Farm Tractor Pleads Not Guilty to Violation of Conditions of Release

in Feature/News

NEWPORT — Roger Pion, 36, the Newport man accused of crushing six police cruisers with a farm tractor monster truck style, was in court on Tuesday morning to answer the charge of violation of conditions of release. He pleaded not guilty to the charge. Judge Howard VanBenthuysen released him on $5,000 bail.

The court had earlier scheduled jury selection in the trail for the several felony charges Pion is facing for this Thursday, but his attorney, Chandler Matson, requested that the date be pushed back. Pion will most likely stand trial in late March or April.

The charge of violation of conditions of release is relating to an incident on January 27, when Community Correctional Officer John Hardy dropped by at Roger Chaffee’s home in Newport City. While Hardy spoke with Chaffee, he noticed a man he said looked familiar, working on a pellet stove. When Hardy asked the man working on the stove his name, Pion identified himself.

The next day Hardy checked on Pion’s condition of release, which was to the custody of Armond or Linda Pion. Court records state that neither were at Chaffee’s home while the correctional officer was there.

Hardy contacted Senior Trooper Clark Lombardi about the possibility that Pion had violated his condition of release. Lombardi went to Pion’s home in Newport City on January 28, and took Pion to the state police barracks to process him and issue him a citation to appear in court on Tuesday.

State’s Attorney Alan Franklin requested a higher bail be set, but Pion’s attorney highlighted the fact that Pion had gone to the home to fix a pellet stove free of charge to help Chaffee out, and was there no longer than 45 minutes.

Judge Howard VanBenthuysen said that the charges against Pion are piling up, and that the bail was high enough to ensure that Roger Pion returns to court.

Three Vehicle Accident in Troy

in Feature

TROY — The State Police responded to a three vehicle accident this morning that took place at the junction of VT Rt 100 and the Loop Road in Troy. The accident took place at 8:45 a.m.

According to a press release from the State Police, Keli Johnson, 44, of Troy, failed to stop coming off of Loop Road, entering onto Rt 100 directly into oncoming traffic.

Mark Demers, 28, of Newport Center, was northbound when Johnson’s vehicle struck him. The impact sent him into the southbound lane of travel.

Demers then collided with a vehicle heading southbound driven by Tosca Smith, 47, of Montgomery.

Johnson was then backed out of the intersection into a snowbank on the Loop Road. Smith was forced off the west side of VT Rt 100 after colliding with Demers.

Demers pulled his vehicle off the road and into an adjacent driveway. Smith and Demers both had their vehicles towed from the scene for extensive damage.

Johnson was found at fault and issued a ticket for defective equipment and operating on a suspended license. There were no injuries reported and the scene was cleared after about an hour.

Pete’s Greens Buys and Conserves 245 Acres in Craftsbury

in Feature/Vermont

CRAFTSBURY — Pete Johnson, owner of Pete’s Greens, purchased 245 acres of farmland in Craftsbury and then conserved it with the Vermont Land Trust. Pete’s Greens is a four-season organic vegetable farm that has been a fixture in Craftsbury for 16 years.

Pete purchased the former Ryan Farm on Route 14 to add land to his growing business. The property had been put on the market in late 2012 following the death of co-owner Willie Ryan.

“We’re grateful to the Ryans for selling us the farm and for the Vermont Land Trust for a smooth conservation process,” said Pete Johnson. “It’s a challenge to find land for our growing farm and with the Ryan farm we’re excited to have acquired some beautiful fields adjacent to our home farm. And we’re pleased that this land will be used for agriculture for generations to come.”

The farm has 12 full-time, year-round employees and seven additional employees during the growing season. Pete’s four-season CSA delivers to more than 25 locations and has 500 members.

The farm is able to offer year-round products by having specialized storage facilities and four acres under greenhouse cover.

Before a catastrophic barn fire several years ago, Pete had been diversifying into pastured livestock. After scaling back during the recovery, Pete is now looking at opportunities for the business to grow. The new land is part tillage and part pasture; its purchase will help Pete’s Greens diversify its offerings and will create new jobs.

The sale of the conservation easement allowed Pete to purchase the land at its agricultural value. The conservation easement ensures that the land will remain affordable to future farmers as well. Funding for the conservation of the land was generously donated by the Freeman Foundation.

“The Vermont Land Trust has worked with many other farms in the area that are known for their innovative approaches to expanding the local-food market,” said Tracy Zschau of the Vermont Land Trust. “We were thrilled to have an opportunity to help Pete’s Greens expand its land base and continue our support for the growth of Vermont’s agricultural products.”

Sylvain Bergeron Pleads Not Guilty to Charges

in Feature

STANSTEAD — Sylvain Bergeron, 42, plead not guilty in court today to charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Bergeron, who had been working as a security guard at the Stanstead College since 2006, was arrested in Illinois last month after being pulled over outside of Chicago for improper lane usage, and talking on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Following the traffic stop, more then 900 grams of cocaine were found in the vehicle.

If convicted, he could face a sentence of 6-30 years in prison. He will be back in court on February 24, for a preliminary hearing.

He is currently being held at the Will County jail in Illinois.

Vermont’s Forest Economy Worth $3.4 Billion

in Feature/Vermont

MONTPELIER – According to a recent report, the total economic value of Vermont’s forest economy is pegged at over $3.4 billion dollars.

The North East State Foresters Association (NEFA) and the VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation have released a report detailing the economic importance of Vermont’s forest-based economy. The report highlights the various sectors of Vermont’s economy that depend on wood, forests, and trees.

“Forest based manufacturing and forest related recreation and tourism are significant drivers for our economy,” says Vermont State Forester Steven Sinclair.

Sinclair listed some products and services we enjoy like firewood, lumber, fine furniture, maple syrup and Christmas trees, as being chief among the products. Forests also yield “ecosystem services” such as providing clean water, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat. Vermont’s forests are the vital backdrop to recreation and tourism here.

The NEFA report shows that nearly 21,000 jobs in all sectors are directly impacted by Vermont’s forests. While manufacturing jobs in Vermont’s wood products businesses have declined over the past decade, the harvest of timber from Vermont has stayed relatively stable.

Sinclair points out that most of Vermont’s wood is coming from family forests.

“About 80 percent of Vermont’s forested lands are owned by individuals and families. So, when you buy Vermont wood, you really are buying local. The NEFA report supports the Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative to stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors.”

Video Highlights from the Fire and Ice Radar Run Snowmobile Event with Results

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no…it’s Pat Sicard’s snowmobile going 135 miles per hour down Lake Memphremagog.

The Fire and Ice Radar Run took place on Saturday behind the East Side Restaurant. The event had 57 people sign up to take a high speed run down the 600 foot track, with a 400 foot slowdown lane.

Pat Sicard was just shy of setting an all-time record for the event. Joe Churly clocked in at 125 miles per hour, the second fastest ride of the day.

Below are the race results:

700 Improved (mph)

Mark Labrie (99)
Jim Corr (97)

700 Modified

Nate Botala (99)
Stephanie Clark (97)

Stock Power Up Four Stroke

Tom Ashley (104)
Chris Fisher (96)

Open 100 Pro Stock

Joe Churly (125)
Todd Demarini (119)

Outlaw

Pat Sicard (135)

Kids

Jonathan Hunt (53)
Connor Oliver (47)

Powder Puff

Michelle Matten (74)
Karen Fontaine (72)

Vintage

Doug Matten (77)
Andrew Matten (76)

500 Stock

Dan St. Hilaire (88)
Sam Schneider (77)

600 Stock

Nick Sicard (93)
Joseph Egitto (87)

700 Stock

Dana Morse (92)
Bob Vidile (90)

800 Stock

Ben Fitzgerald (92)
Jimmy Reid (91)

800 Improved

Mark Labrie (106)
Carl Dudley (105)

Stroke 1,000 Stock

Derrick Choquette (95)
Josh Briere (93)

1,000 Stock

Jimmy Reid (98)
Dave Wulfson (95)

Dartmouth College Skier Dies During Skiing Race in Craftsbury

in Feature/Vermont

CRAFTSBURY — According to school officials, A Dartmouth College skier died on Saturday while participating in a cross country skiing race in Craftsbury.

Torin Tucker, 20, was a junior on the Dartmouth ski team. He was competing in the 25K Classic Marathon at the Craftsbury Nordic Center.

The event is one of the largest ski events in the east, with up to 1,000 total participants annually.

Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon said that Tucker collapsed during the marathon.

According to reports Tucker grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho. Attempts to resuscitate him at the scene failed. The cause of his death is still under investigation

“We have been in contact with his family and share our deepest sympathies with them at this time of heartbreaking loss,” Hanlon wrote in an email to the college community.

Counseling will be made available for students and staff at Dartmouth College.

From IROC to Sticks & Stuff: Derby Home Center Open for Business

in Feature/News

DERBY — It’s the kind of home improvement store that would have Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor letting out one of his famous grunts after walking through the doors. At 55,000 square feet, the Sticks & Stuff Derby Home Center is open for business.

With all the development going on in the Newport area, the owners of Sticks & Stuff knew that opening up a store in Derby would be a good move. They spent the past year looking at properties, but were on the fence as to whether or not they wanted to build a new store from the ground up, or to try and find a location with a building already on it.

IMG_9867

Then in March they learned that the IROC had recently been foreclosed on, so they came over and had a look. The building was ideal for the store they envisioned opening.

Sticks & Stuff opened its doors on Monday. There is 14,000 square feet of hardware retail space. Although some of the showrooms are still under construction, when complete, they will have 4,500 square feet of kitchen, bath, and flooring displays. The remaining 34,000 square feet is used to warehouse building material.

IMG_9878

Sticks & Stuff is a Vermont company with three other stores in the state. They are committed to keeping the environment healthy, running their operation on renewable biodiesel fuel, and working with partners who are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint.

They also work to keep their prices down.

“I feel we are very competitive,” Kris Bullock, one of the three owners of Sticks & Stuff, said. “We’ve partnered up with an independent company, not a cooperative like ACE or True Value. We’re very competitive, and our main concern is customer service. We want our customers to have a great experience while visiting our stores. At the end of the day that’s what seems to separate us from some of the competition.”

IMG_9874

The store is planning a grand opening in Spring. They are currently open for business, but by then the showroom will be complete, and the parking lot will be paved.

“At the grand opening which is coming up in Spring, we’re planning a cookout, and we’ll have some of our vendors set up as well,” Bullock said.

They are open Monday through Friday 7 a.m to 6 p.m. Their weekend hours are Saturday from 7 a.m to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m.

Below is a Sticks & Stuff promotional video:

Vermont Pushes for ‘Livable Wage,’ But Can Employers Survive It?

in Feature/Vermont

By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog

BURLINGTON — State lawmakers are driving a bill that would raise the hourly minimum wage in Vermont to $12.50, but Rep. John Moran says he doesn’t think that’s enough to survive.

“For me personally, I would like to reach what we call a livable wage,” Moran told Vermont Watchdog following a Statehouse news conference Tuesday in Montpelier.

The Democratic representative, who represents Windham and Bennington, said he would support raising the state’s hourly minimum wage to $15, a 71-percent increase over the current $8.73 an hour wage.

“If we raise the wages for everybody then we’re putting more money into the economy, and we’re increasing the income for those business owners who are doing this,” said Moran, who is one of six co-sponsors for the minimum-wage bill.

Another co-sponsor, Rep. Chris Pearson, a member of the Progressive Party from Burlington, pointed out, “The reality is most of the low-wage employers are retail and service sectors and so, while obviously it’s a burden on them, they’re also going to have people who have more money in their pockets.”

“So you have an immediate stimulus for people who have not had any disposable income, and that will benefit the very people it will also present a challenge to,” Pearson said.

But Claire Benedict, owner of Bear Pond Books in downtown Montpelier, said increasing the minimum wage to $12.50, much less to $15, could be “too much” all at once.

“That would be a big jump all at once. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, but I think it might be too fast, too much all at once,” Benedict said. “We might not be able to hire as many people going forward.”

Another owner, whose business is just steps from the Capitol, said while he could afford to pay his employees $12.50 per hour, a further hike to $15 could hurt his business and his customers.

“In order to pay that wage, prices here have to go up. There’s no way around it. I don’t make that much money as the owner,” said Bob Watson, owner of Capitol Grounds Coffee in downtown Montpelier.

Employees, meanwhile, are voicing different concerns over Vermont’s minimum-wage law.

Maja Freeman, who works as a clerk at Salaam Boutique in Montpelier, told Vermont Watchdog, “I could make $12.(5)0 an hour work for me, but once you take taxes out of that it turns into basically $10 an hour or less.”

When asked whether that’s an amount she could live on, Freeman said, “Definitely not in Vermont.”

“We definitely have better benefits here than most places do. Other than that rent is pretty high, you have to drive everywhere, there’s no public transportation, really, in most places so there (are) a lot of other not-so-hidden costs in terms of living in Vermont specifically,” Freeman said.

Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency for Commerce and Community Development Lucy Leriche said while it’s unknown what the magic number is in terms of a minimum wage, it’s important for Vermont to stay competitive.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Vermont’s minimum wage is the third highest in the country at $8.73, behind Washington ($9.32) and Oregon ($9.10). To that point, Leriche emphasized the importance of balancing the interests of employers with those of employees.

“We support the idea that everyone should be making a living wage, but we need to balance that with employers’ ability to pay those wages and not drive them out of business and create higher unemployment,” she said.

While acknowledging another potential challenge with regard to raising the minimum wage, the deputy secretary noted it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in Vermont’s neighboring states of New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts — even nearby Canada.

“There could be mass migration of primarily customers, (and) even businesses, migrating over the border so they can control their labor costs,” Leriche cautioned.

The Vermont Legislature, in an effort to avoid those consequences, has commissioned economist Tom Kavet to conduct an economic impact study, which Moran said he expects will be available by mid-February.

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