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Dispatch Media has 2278 articles published.

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.

Snowmobiling Weekend Starts Today

in Newport

NEWPORT — Starting today and running through Sunday, snowmobilers from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are taking part in a three-day weekend when riders who are registered in any one of these states can ride the trails of the other two states for free.

The states have agreed to allow trail access without having to pay another state for the opportunity to ride there. Officials say that it is good for the economy of all three states.

All other host state regulations apply, including speed limits, youth laws and Vermont’s mandatory liability insurance law.

This reciprocity weekend has been going since 2010, with Maine joining the weekend festivities in 2011.

So if you have a snowmobile legally registered in any of the participating states, starting today you are allowed on trails in all three states.

Have fun, and be safe.

For more information on snowmobiling in the area, visit the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, and the North Country Mountaineers Club.

Police Seize 270 Grams of Marijuana in Stanstead, Quebec

in Feature/News/Stanstead

STANSTEAD, QC — On January 25, officers were patrolling downtown Stanstead when they noticed two individuals walking down the road. According to the police report, one of the individuals threw a bag he was carrying. The officers stated that they witnessed the suspect ditch the bag.

“The police picked up the bag and found that there was marijuana inside,” said Sergeant Melanie Dumaresq.

In total, police seized about 270 grams of marijuana mainly packaged to be sold.

Kyle Norris, 29, will have to answer to the charges in court. Norris is charged with possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking and breach of condition of his probation.

The second individual was arrested for possession of narcotics.

Two Men Arrested for Burglary Spree Across Vermont

in Feature/Vermont

WILLISTON — Since December 2013, there were multiple burglaries in Chittenden, Franklin, and Lamoille counties, including the towns of Westford, Underhilll, Jericho, Milton, Fletcher, and East Fairfield. The items stolen and method of burglary revealed a pattern of crime.

Through the course of the investigation, law enforcement officials learned that Kyle Tetreault, age 23 of Ferrisburgh, and Scott Taylor, age 20 of Milton, were responsible for the two month long burglary spree crossing three counties of Vermont.

Taylor and Tetreault were taken into custody and lodged at the Chittenden County Correctional Facility. Taylor was arrested for nine counts of burglary and held for a lack of $100,000 bail.

Tetreault was arrested for four outstanding Vermont warrants for sexual assault, petty larceny, unlawful trespass, careless and negligent driving, and a work crew violation. Tetreault is also being held on a Failure to Appear warrant out of New Hampshire for felony possession of heroin. He is being held without bail. Burglary charges for Tetreault are pending.

The Vermont State Police, in cooperation with several other local agencies, have recovered many of the items stolen during the burglaries, including flat screen televisions, computers, tools, and jewelry. They are working to return property to the victims.

It is still an active and ongoing investigation.

December Winter Storms Declared Disaster For Vermont By President

in Feature/News

NEWPORT — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Vermont to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms during the period of December 20-26, 2013.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by severe winter storms in Orleans county.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

James N. Russo has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Russo said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Statement on State of the Union

in Opinion

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement yesterday after President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress:

“I welcome President Obama’s focus on reducing inequality and helping working families in America. The American economy is not sustainable when so few have so much and so many have so little. It’s a moral issue and it’s an economic issue.

“The American people, no matter what part of the country they are from or what political party they support, want us to put millions of people back to work. They want to deal with income and wealth inequality. They want us to raise the minimum wage.

“I applaud the president’s decision to issue an executive order which will raise wages for hundreds of thousands of workers, an issue that I and other senators have been working on for months. The president has made it clear that employees working for government contractors should not be paid starvation wages. This executive order also gives us momentum for raising the minimum wage for every worker in this country to at least $10.10 an hour.”

The 10 State Jobs You Didn’t Know Your Vermont Taxes Covered

in Feature/Vermont

By Yaël Ossowski | Vermont Watchdog

In keeping with Vermont Watchdog‘s mission of keeping state government accountable, a quick peek at the state payroll is always important.

The state of Vermont has 7,805 public employees, according to the Department of Human Resources, a number that has stayed relatively stable for a decade.

The average state employee in Vermont is 47 years old, gets paid $52,686 and has worked for the government for 12 years. There’s an 86 percent chance they’re in some kind of union.

Loaded with these facts, it’s time to unveil the 10 oddest state jobs in Vermont you didn’t know your taxes paid for.

Picture 3

Chief performance officer

This high-profile position is held by Susan Zeller in the Department of Agency Administration.

Military storekeeper

The military storekeeper works in the Department of Military and has an annual salary of $38,480.

Taxpayer advocate

The state’s Taxpayer Advocate, Gloria Hobson, works in the Department of Taxes for an annual salary of $77,376.

State economist

Vermont pays its state economist $69,992.

Director Captive Insurance

The director works in the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities for $108,243 annually.

Dairy products specialist

This lactose-heavy job pockets $61,277 a year.

Director of the commission on women

This executive position pays $76,586 a year to “help women achieve legal, economic, social, and political equality,” according to its website.

Education consultant

This high-profile job is one of the top positions in the Vermont Department of Education

Sex offender supervisor

Housed in the Department of Corrections, this job offers $62,650 a year.

Fish culture specialist

Vermont has at least 15 fish culture specialists, each earning up to $75,000 a year.

Lyndon State College Hosts Chinese Journalism Students

in Feature/Vermont

LYNDON — Lyndon State College is playing host to five students from Beijing Foreign Studies University. The students, chosen by the university on the basis of interest and English ability, are all majoring in journalism. The three graduate students and two sophomores are attending classes at Lyndon’s award-winning Electronic Journalism Arts (EJA) program to observe how a college in America teaches journalism. The greatest value of the program lies in the students’ opportunity to experience the hands-on daily production of News7 and NewsLINC. Student produced newscasts are rare in Chinese academia.

They arrived on the Lyndon campus on Janaury 20 and are slated to leave February 9. This is the first visit to the United States for all of the students.

The idea for the program was hatched when LSC Journalism Professor Dan Williams gave a guest lecture last year at Beijing Foreign Studies University as part of his Fulbright Scholar stint in China. Williams remained in touch with a professor at the University and sent him a description of LSC’s program last fall. EJA Professor Meaghan Meachem developed the three-week program when she visited Shanghai International Studies University in spring 2013.

The plan came together faster than expected according to Williams.

“We were actually surprised when we heard they were sending some students for spring semester,” Williams said. “We anticipated schools wouldn’t be able to coordinate everything that quickly.”

He hopes to expand the program as well.

“We’ve made the program available to two other universities: Xi’an International Studies University, and Shanghai International Studies University.”

The students spent their first weekend sightseeing in New York City. A trip to Burlington, snowboarding lessons, and a Chinese New Year celebration are also planned. The students are staying with host families and each of them has a student mentor from the EJA program.

Visiting student Shang Yiran notes that Lyndon’s “professors are so humorous and interesting. Everybody is friendly and sweet.”

Wang Siqi finds that “campus life is so different from that in China, where classes are more restrictive and structured.”

The program is a good fit for these five students according to Williams.

“All of them want to go into journalism after graduation.”

Dangerous Road Conditions Cause Two Accidents Yesterday

in Uncategorized

NEWPORT — Strong winds and blowing snow yesterday created dangerous road conditions in the area. Two accidents were reported.

Yesterday at around 1 p.m. a Vermont Agency of Transportation highway maintenance truck was involved in a two vehicle crash on Vermont Route 105 in Newport.

Jason Kerr, 38, of Newport, was traveling east at about 7-8 mph, and William Atherton, 20, of Eden Mills, was traveling west at approximately 10 mph in a plow truck.

The wind was whipping the snow around causing “white outs” in the area. During one of these white outs, Kerr’s vehicle traveled into the westbound travel lane and ended up striking the plow truck, head on. Atherton observed the headlights on Kerr’s vehicle and attempted to avoid the crash by pulling as far to the right of his lane as possible. There were guardrails on both sides of the roadway at the scene of the crash.

Kerr’s vehicle sustained major front end damage, totaling the vehicle. The plow truck was driven from the scene. Kerr’s vehicle was towed by Ray’s Auto. There were no reported injuries. Newport Town Fire Department was contacted to check on the fluids that had leaked from Kerr’s vehicle.

In a second crash that took place in Irasburg, Philip Pare of Burlington was operating a 2003 Subaru Forester east on Vermont Route 58. Pare lost control of his vehicle on the snow and ice covered roadway. The car slid off the south side of the roadway striking a telephone pole before over turning onto its passenger side.

Pare was wearing his seatbelt and sustained minor injuries. Pare’s lone passenger was seated in a child safety restraint and was not injured.

Orleans ambulance responded to the scene. Orleans County Sheriff’s Department also assisted at the scene with traffic control. The vehicle sustained moderate damage and was towed by Croteau’s Auto.

North Troy Man Arrested After Crashing Car into the Dollar General

in Feature/News

NORTH TROY — On Saturday at around 8 p.m. Vermont State Police responded to a report of a vehicle crashing into the side of the Dollar General located at 83 Main St. in North Troy. There was damage to the Dollar General and minor damage to the vehicle.

While responding State Police were advised that the operator had fled the scene. During the investigation it was determined that Jeffrey Driver, 32, of North Troy was the operator. Driver was later arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident

Tha manager of the Dollar General stated that Mr. Driver hit the front of the building while a few customers were leaving. One of the customers witnessed the incident.

“He jumped the curb and smashed into the building,” the manager of the Dollar General said. “My employees tried to have him say, but he took off. The police went to his house and arrested him.”

The manager also said she was not exactly sure how much it is going to cost to fix the damage done to the building, but that they will be in touch with the Dollar General Employment Response Center (ERC) today. The ERC will send someone out to help them get the damage fixed. She estimated it may be anywhere between 5-10 thousand dollars.

“He was coming in to park and was going too fast, then he slammed right in,” the manager went on to say.”

I Heart Newport Collects Clothing for Lyndon State College Graduates

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — For young people trying to enter the workforce without a job, it can sometimes be difficult to afford the clothes you need to “dress for success.”

Lyndon State College has the answer. A “Dress for Success” clothing drive. The goal is to provide a free business-ready outfit for each junior or senior who could use the help. The clothes provide a starting point for the students’ professional wardrobe.

On Friday night, I Heart Newport, a local Facebook group with over 200 members, held a clothing exchange of their own. They decided it would be a great opportunity to help LSC out. What would have normally been a free-for-all clothing exchange, turned into a great way to collect clothing for the LSC Dress for Success drive.

Before the ladies in attendance Friday night were allowed to start swapping clothes, they pulled out a couple of outfits that would be suitable for the graduating LSC students to wear during interviews.

“Tonight was another great example of local people sharing love and support to their community-at-large,” said Beth Barnes, founder of I Heart Newport. “I’d like to wish all graduating seniors happy job hunting and good luck.”

Some of Friday night’s attendees included Diana Poulin of Muddy Waters Pottery, Lori Gilbar Christopher, who works for Vermont Family Network, Wendy Franklin, Director of Community Outreach North Country Hospital, Jess Philippe, Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, and Ruth Sproull, owner of Little Gnesta Bed and Breakfast.

Below are some scenes from the night.

Beth Barnes presenting Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, with one of her contributions to the Dressed For Success drive.
Beth Barnes presenting Christina Contoir, Assistant Director, Ctr. for Rural Entrepreneurship at Lyndon State College, with one of her contributions to the Dressed For Success drive.
Lisa Daigle-Farney, Director of Community Education & Outreach at Northeast Kingdom Learning Services, proves that hats never go out of style.
Lisa Daigle-Farney, Director of Community Education & Outreach at Northeast Kingdom Learning Services, proves that hats never go out of style.
Beth Barnes won the prize for bravery  by agreeing to be photographed in this rather creative outfit proving that  flamingos and plaids do not equal a fashion statement.
Beth Barnes won the prize for bravery
by agreeing to be photographed in this rather creative outfit proving that
flamingos and plaids do not equal a fashion statement.

St. Johnsbury Academy Announces Dual-Enrollment Agreement with CCV

in Vermont

St. Johnsbury — St. Johnsbury Academy announced a dual-enrollment agreement with the Community College of Vermont (CCV). The deal is a step toward helping students prepare for higher education while gaining college credit in high school.

“We are excited to add another partner in CCV to our dual-enrollment program, after finalizing the program this year with Southern New Hampshire University, and already offering two dual-enrollment courses this spring semester,” said Jeffrey Burroughs, assistant headmaster for Academics at the Academy.

Four of the Academy’s Fine and Performing Arts faculty members have been approved as part-time faculty with CCV and the Academy will offer dual-enrollment Fine Arts courses on its campus this spring. Students in Photography II, Clay II, Anatomy and Figure Drawing II, and Acting II will have the opportunity to receive college credit through the dual-enrollment agreement with CCV.

“We are pleased that CCV has worked to provide a distinct option for dual enrollment with us here at the Academy,” Burroughs said. “CCV has long been a leader in dual-enrollment courses in Career and Technical Education as well as in general education credits, and this initiative to recognize outstanding instruction in the fine-and-performing arts provides a wonderful opportunity for high-school artists to gain exposure and college credit, helping them to build a more complete and professional portfolio.”

According to Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett, dual-enrollment programs give students access to college courses and allow them to engage in an authentic college experience for real college credit, while still in high school. It not only greatly reduces the cost of post-secondary education, but also might inspire more students to pursue post-secondary degrees, he said.

Armed Robbery at Circle K Gas Station in Barton

in Feature/News

BARTON — Last night at 6:44 p.m. a lone male came into the Circle K gas station in Barton, demanding money from the clerk on duty. The perpetrator was waving a knife around, and wore a mask over his face.

He was wearing:

A dark colored hooded sweatshirt
A Green baseball cap
Gray sweatpants
Work boots

He fled the scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of money.

He is described as being average height with a slender build. The incident was caught by surveillance cameras, which clearly show an insignia depicted on the back of the sweatshirt that could help to identify him.

Circle K management stated that they are not allowed to disclose any information regarding the incident.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Vermont State Police, Derby Barracks at 802-334-8881, or call Northeast Kingdom Crimestoppers at 802-748-2222.

Picture 2

Major Arrests Made: Two Fugitives Caught in Barton and Greensboro

in Feature/News

BARTON — Yesterday, at 9:30 p.m. the Vermont State Police learned that two fugitives from the state of Connecticut, were eluding law enforcement with family members in Vermont.

Jaheem Synpe, 19, of New Britain, CT was wanted for assault, criminal attempt to commit murder, assault on a police officer, and larceny in the second degree.

Frankie Gonzalez, 23, of New Britain, CT, was wanted for hindering prosecution in the first degree, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

The warrants stem from an incident on January 19, when New Britain Officer Brett Morgan attempted to stop a stolen motor vehicle being operated by Snype. Officer Morgan was dragged by the vehicle and sustained serious bodily injury.

Yesterday, the Vermont State Police were able to obtain several search warrants in an attempt to locate Snype and Gonzalez. Members from the Vermont State Police (VSP), VSP Tactical Support Unit, US Marshals Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Border Patrol, New Britian (CT) Police Department, and the Vermont National Guard, coordinated their search efforts.

Law enforcement authorities located Frankie Gonzalez at a family member’s home in Greensboro, VT. As the investigation continued authorities were also able to locate Snype at a friend’s home in Barton.

Both suspects were taken into custody without incident and no one was injured during the course of the incident.

Both Snype and Gonzalez were transported to the St. Johnsbury Barracks and processed. Snype was held without bail, lodged at the Northeast Correctional Facility, and will be arraigned at Orleans Criminal Court.

Gonzalez was held for a lack of $250,000 bail, lodged at the Northeast Correctional Facility, and will be arraigned at Orleans Criminal Court today.

Extradition of both suspects back to Connecticut will be coordinated by the Orleans County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Grammy Nominated Teacher from Vermont Gets National Attention for Children’s Charity

in Vermont

WESTMINSTER — Kurn Hattin Homes for Children, a charitable Vermont residential school for disadvantaged children, gained national media attention recently after its Music Director, Lisa Bianconi, was named a top-ten finalist for the inaugural Grammy Music Educator award.

Picture 7Bianconi was featured on Monday night’s CBS Evening News. After viewing her story on WCAX in Burlington, CBS News producer Alex Romano contacted Hattin earlier this month and requested a visit to the school and an interview with Bianconi. CBS correspondent Michelle Miller made the trip from New York to Hattin’s campus in Westminster last week and sat down with Bianconi and several of her students to find out what makes her so special.

“When I first came here, I had an attitude,” 12-year-old Ethiopian orphan Emebet Stott told Miller during the interview. “Ms. Bianconi talked to me. She felt like the mother I never had.”

Bianconi, a 30 year employee of Kurn Hattin Homes, says she is grateful for the attention her story has brought to the school, a non-profit which relies on private philanthropic donations to support its operations. Last year, the school launched an official campaign to raise public awareness and understanding of Kurn Hattin and its mission.

“Kurn Hattin has been here for 120 years,” said Bianconi. “There’s a surprising number of people who either don’t know about us or have the wrong idea about what we do.”

Immediately following the CBS airing, Kurn Hattin’s website saw a marked increase in traffic, including a number of online donations.

Representatives from the Grammy Foundation will visit Kurn Hattin’s campus April 24 to present Bianconi with the $1,000 honorarium she won for making it to the final round. Kurn Hattin Homes will also receive a matching $1,000 honorarium.

Although another educator, Kent Knappenberger of Westfield, NY, was ultimately named the Grammy recipient, Bianconi has said she already feels like a winner. In a recent interview on New England Cable News, she said, “If I can make even one child’s life better through the work that I do, that’s as good as a Grammy.”

Bianconi’s students can certainly vouch for that. As Emebet Stott told CBS, “There will never be something big enough for what she does, even a Grammy. She’s bigger than that.”

Established in 1894, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, Vermont is a charitable, year-round home and school for boys and girls, ages 6-15, who are affected by tragedy and social or economic hardship. Kurn Hattin Homes transforms the lives of children and their families forever. You can visit them online at www.kurnhattin.org

Local Photographer Makes Albany Fire Department Calendar

in Uncategorized

All photos by Jane Peters

ALBANY — Jane Peters, a local photographer and freelance writer, has a strong connection with the Albany Fire Department. Donald Peters, Jane’s brother, is the fire chief. She also has a niece and a nephew on the department. As a photographer she has been documenting the department for years.

On August 11, 2013, the Albany Fire Department suffered a total loss. The fire station was engulfed in flames, leaving one fire engine completely destroyed. Elmer James Joerg, a volunteer member of the department, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson.


A lot was lost that day. Some things could be replaced, but others could not. A few years back, Jane made the department a photo album as a gift, but unfortunately it was one of the items lost in the fire.

So Jane had another idea to use her photography as a way to help the department out. She decided to make a calender as a way to show that they would bounce back.

“The calendar is a fundraiser for the department, but to me it’s more than that,” Jane said. “It is a way to keep their faces out there, and to show everyone that these are the faces of the first responders. It is a brotherhood. Also, it is a way to say thank you to those who have chipped in and helped replace the equipment that was lost.”


Fire department calendars, like the one put out by the New York Fire Department, are usually a bit risqué. Jane’s calender has taken the opposite approach. Her work focuses on the faces of the first responders, as well as documenting some of the destruction that the fire caused to the station.

The pictures used for the calendar were taken mostly within the past year related to the fire. Ms. Peters has worked to place them in or around the months that they were taken.

Albany fire department vermont

If you would like to support the Albany Fire Department by purchasing one of the calendars, they are available for $15.00. You can contact Jane Peters by email at: mountain@pshift.com

You can also contact the Albany Fire Department at 802-755-6748

Stanstead College Clears Up Local Rumors Following the Arrest of Sylvain Bergeron

in Feature/News

STANSTEAD, QC — According to a spokesman for the Stanstead College, Sylvain Bergeron was on vacation when he was arrested, and, he was not traveling in a school vehicle.

Bergeron, a security guard at the school, is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He was arrested by Illinois State Police following a routine stop for improper traffic lane usage, and use of an electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle.

Ross Murray, the spokesman for the Stanstead College, confirmed that the last day Bergeron had worked at the school was Tuesday, Jan. 7. He was scheduled to be back at work on Sunday, Jan. 12, to start his regular night shift.

The area outside of Chicago where Bergeron was arrested is approximately 952 miles from Stanstead, which is roughly a 15 hour drive.

At some point after work on Tuesday, Bergeron traveled west, most likely traveling through Canada and entering the United States in Michigan, where he was arrested on Interstate 355 in Homer Glenn, Ill. Friday, Jan. 10.

Picture 2

Murray, addressing another rumor that has been circulating in town following Bergeron’s arrest, stated that when Bergeron was arrested, he was not driving a student home. He also said that Bergeron was not away on any other school business.

“I can confirm that he was on vacation,” Murray said. “He was not driving a school vehicle at the time, nor was he transporting a student.”

Bergeron appeared in bond court via video on Jan. 13, where he told the judge that he was unable to afford an attorney. He was appointed a public defender. The judge assigned a court date of Feb 3 for his arraignment, when he will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

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

Free Ice Fishing Day on Saturday, Jan. 25

in Feature/Uncategorized

NEWPORT — Always wanted to go ice fishing but couldn’t find a good excuse to get away? The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has found that excuse for you: a “free ice fishing day” on the fourth Saturday in January.

Saturday, January 25, is Vermont’s new free ice fishing day. This will be a day when anyone, resident or nonresident, may go fishing without a fishing license.

The department worked with the Legislature to create a free ice fishing day to encourage individuals, friends and families to get out and try one of the most popular fishing methods enjoyed in Vermont.

The Newport area has plenty of good ice fishing lakes and ponds to choose from, offering fisherman the opportunity to grab some northern pike, trout, salmon, walleye, and panfish.

If you have never been ice fishing, Saturday is a good chance to give it a try. Click here for a beginners guide to ice fishing that is sure to get you ready to head out on Saturday.

Vermont State Police Derby Weekly Recap for 1/13/14 – 1/20/14

in News

In an effort to keep the citizens of Orleans County informed, the Vermont State Police, Derby Barracks, reports the following activity for the week of 01/13/14 – 01/20/14.



911 Hang up – 1
Accident – 4
Alarm – 1
Citizen Assist – 2
MV Complaint – 1
Suspicious – 1
Theft – 2


911 Hang up – 1
Property Damage – 1

Traffic Hazard – 1

Accident – 2
Citizen Assist – 1

Accident – 2
Agency Assist – 4
Alarm – 2
Alcohol Offense – 3
Citizen Assist – 1
Family Fight – 1
Found Property – 2
MV Complaint – 2
Phone Problem – 1
Suspicious – 2
Traffic Offense – 1
Vandalism – 1
VIN – 2
Welfare Check – 2

Conditions of Release – 1


Accident – 1
Phone Problem – 1
Suspicious – 1

Burglary – 1
Theft – 1

Accident – 1

Accident – 1
Suspicious – 1

Accident – 2
MV Complaint – 1
Suspicious – 1
Theft – 1
Welfare Check – 1

Agency Assist – 1

Accident – 1
Alcohol Offense – 1
Suspicious – 2


911 Hang up – 1
Accident – 1
Alarm – 1


Accident – 1
Alarm – 1

New Hampshire Marijuana Vote Pushes Vermont to New England ‘Domino Effect’

in Feature/Vermont

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

The dominoes are falling all across New England.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives made history last week when it became the first state Legislature to vote in favor of a bill to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana.

“Polls show 60 percent of voters in the state support (the bill), and we won’t rest until that includes a majority of their state legislators,” Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Matt Simon said in a statement last week.

If the bill survives committee and a final vote is signed off by the governor, New Hampshire would join the pot-friendly New England town of Portland, Maine, which voted to legalize it on Election Day 2013 in a special referendum, and a host of other states and municipalities looking to ax the prohibition on cannabis.

“The legalization of marijuana is moving fast in parts of the United States, and it looks as though the domino effect could quickly move to other states such as Vermont,” said former Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, chairman of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group “dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy.”

If the former congressman, now an infamous pot crusader on the national stage, is correct, then the New England pot domino theory likely points to Vermont as the next state to abandon prohibition in the 21st century and embrace a radically different approach to drug use and abuse.

The state already passed a law effectively decriminalizing marijuana in July 2013, and, in the pattern of states such as Colorado and Washington, a bill to completely legalize the sale and possession of cannabis will be on this session’s agenda in Montpelier.

Senate Bill 306, the marijuana legalization bill introduced by Progressive Party state Sen. David Zuckerman, of Hinesburg, in the first week of 2014, awaits examination in committee.

According to a 2012 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Vermont ranks highest in the nation for use of illicit drugs, along with several other New England states.

In that spirit, Gov. Peter Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address earlier this month to the “rising tide of drug addiction and drug-related crime,” and he’s made it a central part of his second term in office. For that, he’ll receive significant support from the federal government.

In 2012, Vermont received more than $58 million in federal grants to “reduce drug use and its harmful consequences,” according to the White House. Considering the situation as Shumlin describes, that figure could climb higher in the next round of budget negotiations.

Advocates of reforming drug laws, meanwhile, see the Green Mountain State as a potential exemplar in the war against drug addiction, which could offer across-the-board decriminalization of all drugs in order to address abuse through health-based programs instead of prison time.

“Vermont may be the best state to lead the nation in adopting a Portugal-style approach to fighting drug abuse,” writes Sam Tracy, chairman of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a drug reform nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. “Treating drug abusers as patients rather than criminals, like we already do for alcohol and tobacco addicts, avoids these issues, and is much more effective at reducing abuse.”

Possible Stolen Vehicle at Price Chopper in Derby

in Feature/News

DERBY — The Vermont State Police were notified today of a possible stolen vehicle at the Price Chopper parking lot in Derby.

Felicia Garfield, 22, of Island Pond, called to advise that she had her 1993 Ford Escort stolen from the Price Chopper in Derby.

Garfield had left the vehicle abandoned in the parking lot approximately 1 week ago. When she returned today, the car was no longer there.

The vehicle is red, and there were no plates on it when it was taken.

The case is under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to call Vermont State Police Derby at 802-334-8881.

North Country Union High School to Present Falcapalooza Friday Night

in Uncategorized

NEWPORT — Move over Lollapalooza, this Friday night North Country Union High School is proud to present Falcapalooza.

On January 28, starting at 6 p.m. inside the auditorium, seven local student bands will take the stage. One of the bands to perform will consist of North Country Union High School teachers.

There is a $5 cover charge, with the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Tickets will be available at the door.

Picture 2

For more information, visit the event page on Facebook by clicking here.

January’s Third Thursday Open Mic in Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — The word is out. Newport has an open mic, and there is no shortage of talent in the area.

It was the first Third Thursday Open Mic of 2014 at Montgomery Cafe, and the monthly event continues to draw a crowd.

“I marvel at the talent that such a small area produces,” Beth Barnes, who started the event, said. “Everyone is so unique, everyone so worthy, and everyone so appreciated by the audience that comes out and supports them.”

Melissa Vanderwerf captured the scenes from the night which are displayed below.

“I would like to thank Melissa especially for the beautiful and expressive photos she captured,” Ms. Barnes said.

Newport Dispatch did an audio story on last month’s Third Thursday Open Mic. To listen CLICK HERE.

All photos by Melissa Vanderwerf.









Shumlin’s Spending Proposal Outpaces Vermont’s Economic Growth Rate

in Feature/Vermont

By Jon Street | Watchdog.org

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin wants a 5-percent hike in the upcoming budget while Vermont’s economy is growing at just 1.2 percent annually.

The governor’s proposal for fiscal year 2014-15 came Wednesday during a joint-session of the Vermont Legislature, during which he delivered his annual budget address.

Shumlin said his budget proposal not only closes the state’s $70 million budget gap but “invests in areas critical to our most vulnerable and to our future job growth, while rejecting broad-based tax increases on hard working Vermonters.”

But his proposal has left some inside and outside the Statehouse scratching their heads.

Tom Pelham, who served in three governor-appointed positions under three administrations, including as commissioner of finance and management under former Gov. Howard Dean, said Shumlin’s proposed spending levels are “more of the same” because the spending levels are not proportional to the rate at which the state’s economy is actually growing.

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported the rate of increase in Vermont’s Gross Domestic Product from 2011-2012 was 1.2 percent, making it one of 20 states and the District of Columbia with GDP growth rates at or below 1.5 percent in 2012. That’s well below the national average growth rate of 2.2 percent the same year.

Nonetheless, Shumlin’s proposal includes the 5-percent spending increase without any cuts or tax hikes. Compare that with the much lower rate at which the economy is actually growing, and Pelham says the budget gap just gets “wider and wider.”

“I think Gov. Shumlin’s budget is substantially out of sync with what’s going on with the overall economy,” Pelham told Vermont Watchdog.

Even one member of the Shumlin’s own party, Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Chittenden, stopped short of embracing the plan.

Responding to whether he thinks the economic growth rate in Vermont is equal to the 5-percent increase in proposed spending, Mazza said, “Financial forecasters look ahead. You hope they come within it. But again, it could be over. It could be under. That’s the game you play and the chance you take. There’s nobody who can really tell you what’s going to happen.”

Mazza questioned whether Shumlin may have been “too generous” by proposing a 5-percent increase while seeming hesitant to believe 11,000 jobs have been added since the economic recovery began in 2009.

“(Shumlin) said there (are) 11,000 new jobs. I don’t know where they got that figure but we’re assuming there are 11,000 new jobs, which would be great. But we’re still looking at how he came up with that figure,” Mazza said.

Jack Hoffmann, an analyst for the Vermont-based nonprofit Public Assets Institute, said “Understanding the details about exactly where the governor plans to make investments and where the money will come from will require deeper analysis.”

At the same time, the Public Assets Institute suggested Shumlin deserves credit for wanting to make the kinds of investments that have been shown to provide good returns — infrastructure, education, health care and early childhood development.

Indeed, Shumlin proposed considerable increases to each of these areas and several others.

Among the highlights of Shumlin’s sought-after funding increases are $33 million for transportation and infrastructure, $4.3 million in new initiatives to fight poverty, $9.8 million for a 2-percent increase to Medicaid reimbursement, $19.3 million to implement more community-based mental health programs, $6.8 million for teachers’ pensions, $2.5 million for retired teachers’ health insurance, $840,000 for a 2-percent increase in funding for higher education, and $500,000 for downtown tax credits.

That amounts to $77,040,000 in total new spending, about $7 million more than the state’s budget deficit.

Vermont Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

in Feature/News/Vermont

MONTPELIER – On Friday Gov. Peter Shumlin made a formal request for a federal disaster declaration for Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Orleans counties for public infrastructure damage suffered in December’s ice storm.

The Public Assistance disaster declaration, if granted, would allow communities and public utilities in those counties to receive at least 75% reimbursement for debris removal and repairs to the power grid, public roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that was damaged during the storm.

The request was sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for review. FEMA will then send a recommendation to President Barack Obama, who will have ultimate authority to approve or reject the request.

A Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) started on Jan. 2 identified more than $3 million in damages in Vermont during the ice storm. The state must only show $1 million in damages to qualify for a declaration. The seven counties also showed more than the minimum of $3.50 per capita in damage costs required to be included in a declaration. The damages identified in the PDA are only a partial accounting of the total suffered in the ice storm. The final tally will likely be higher.

If the disaster declaration is granted, communities and public utilities will be reimbursed for 75% of the cost of eligible work. Eligible expenses include equipment rentals (and fuel for that equipment), the cost of contractor assistance, employee overtime tied directly to storm response and restoration, and other expenses.

Stanstead College Employee Charged with $1.3 Million Worth of Cocaine

in Feature/News

STANSTEAD, QC — Sylvain Bergeron, the director of security at Stanstead College, just across the border from Derby Line, was arrested last Friday on charges connected to cocaine possession.

Illinois state police stopped Bergeron, 42, for a traffic violation on Interstate 355, outside Chicago.

Picture 3The Herald News, based in Joliet, IL, reported that when troopers stopped Bergeron, they found about $1.3 million worth of cocaine in his vehicle. He was stopped for improper lane usage, and talking on his cell phone while driving.

A spokesman for the state attorney’s office confirmed that Bergeron was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The state attorney’s office also told the CBC that more than 900 grams of cocaine were found in the vehicle.

Bergeron, who is being held in the Will County jail in Joliet, Ill., was in court Monday. He will go before a judge on Feb. 3 for a preliminary hearing or arraignment.

His bond was set at $2 million and he would have to post 10 per cent of that amount ($200,000) to secure release while awaiting trial.

The Will County Sheriff’s Office website lists Bergeron at 6-2 and 315 lbs.

Bergeron could face anywhere from six to 30 years in prison with no probation.

Car Overturns on VT Route 105 in Newport Center Thursday

in Uncategorized

NEWPORT — At 7:40 a.m. Joseph Tito of Lancaster, NH was operating a 2007 Subaru Outback west on VT Route 105 in Newport Center. Tito lost control of his vehicle on the snow covered roadway when attempting to negotiate a curve.

The Subaru traveled off the south side of the highway where it overturned. Tito and his passenger were not wearing their seat belts and sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Tito and his passenger were transported by Newport Ambulance to the North Country Hospital in Newport to be treated.

The Subaru, which sustained extensive damage, was towed from the scene by Rays Auto out of Newport.

Dave Keller Blues Band to Play Benefit Concert for Head Start at Jay Peak

in Uncategorized

JAY — Soul and blues singer and guitarist Dave Keller will be performing a one night only benefit concert for Head Start. The show will take place Saturday, January 18 at 8 p.m. at the Foeger Ballroom at Jay Peak.

Keller, based out of Montpelier, is considered one of the finest soul and blues men of his generation. His last CD, “Where I’m Coming From,” won Best Self-Produced CD of the Year at The International Blues Challenge, and reached #2 on B.B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius/XM Radio.

He has recorded and co-written with Ronnie Earl, toured with Mississippi blues master Johnny Rawls, and is a protégé of deep soul singer Mighty Sam McClain. Drawing comparisons with Curtis Mayfield, Boz Scaggs, and James Hunter, Keller has built a loyal fan base, playing the largest blues festivals from Boston to San Francisco.

Below is a video of the band playing in White River Junction.

There will be a cash bar and a mega raffle at the show. Tickets are $10.00 each and are available at The Wood Knot Bookshop, the NEKCA offices, online at Catamountarts.org, or at the door. The purchase of a ticket is a donation to Head Start.

For more information visit www.nekcavt.org

Despite Expert Claims, Shumlin Denies Spike in Health Coverage Premiums

in Vermont

By Jon Street | Watchdog.org

BURLINGTON — Leading experts say health care costs in the Green Mountain State are climbing to new heights, but Gov. Peter Shumlin denies it.

“If it were true, we wouldn’t be doing it,” he told Vermont Watchdog at an annual legislative breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel Conference Center in South Burlington Monday morning.

That was Shumlin’s response to a report published by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based free market think tank, suggesting some Vermont residents could see up to a 157 percent spike in their monthly premiums thanks to Vermont Health Connect, the state’s health insurance exchange under Obamacare.

The study says young adults are likely to see the sharpest increase. Before reforms took effect Jan. 1, the average monthly premium for adults up to age 27 was $148 per month. The average premium for a person of the same age under Obamacare? They’ll now pay up to $380 per month.

Young adults aren’t the only ones expected to see a dramatic upswing in monthly costs.

Under Vermont Health Connect, residents who fall within the 28-40 age range will pay up to 125 percent more in premiums. Those in the age bracket of 41-64 should expect to pay up to 71 percent more for health coverage.

The pre-Obamacare rates were calculated based on the five least expensive plans by monthly premium in the most populous zip code in each county of Vermont. The rates were then adjusted to account for those who have been denied coverage previously as well as for those who receive a monthly premium surcharge. The institute then determined the weighted average of monthly premiums for 27-year-old males and females, 40-year-old males and females and 64-year-old males and females, all of whom the experts assumed to be nonsmokers.

New rates under Obamacare were calculated based on the same method as the pre-Obamacare rates. Experts at the Manhattan Institute used a website called ValuePenguin, which gathers its data from reports, databases, congressional bills and regulatory filings. Since health insurance providers are now banned from denying anyone coverage based on a pre-existing condition, the institute noted there was no need to determine weighted averages for these new rates.

Stanford University medical expert Jay Bhattacharya said government subsidized health care plans for low income citizens is one of the major factors contributing to higher health costs under Obamacare.

“Taxpayers will for sure be paying more, because those subsidies have to be paid for,” Bhattacharya told Vermont Watchdog.

Mike Noble, a spokesman for Fletcher Allen, one of Vermont’s largest health care providers, pointed out, “We’re not talking about lowering [health care] costs. We’re talking about lowering the rate of increase [in health care costs].”

Noble added that by “bending the cost curve,” health care reform will simply lower the rate of cost growth. Reform will not, Noble said, decrease health care costs.

“By introducing health care reform both at the state and federal level it is hoped that we’ll be spending less than [the current rate of growth], more [money] than we’re spending now, but less than that original projection,” Noble said.

Vermont Watchdog reached out to Shumlin’s office for additional comment, but calls and emails were not returned by the time of this article’s publication. Jeffrey Ross, director of data management and analysis for the Department of Health Access, said he had “no comment” regarding the report.

When pressed on whether insurance premiums are, indeed, climbing, Ross simply responded, “I don’t know” and referred the call to someone within the governor’s office.

NSA Director Does Not Rule Out Collecting Intelligence on Members of Congress

in News

WASHINGTON — Responding to an inquiry by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, The National Security Agency director did not rule out collecting intelligence on members of Congress.

“In recent months, the American people have learned that a record of virtually every telephone call made in the United States is placed in an NSA database, that as many as 35 foreign leaders – including some of our strongest allies – have had their cell phones monitored, and that the NSA has intercepted Americans’ emails and monitored their Internet traffic,” Sanders said.

The senator called the NSA surveillance program “a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches” and said “strong new limits are needed to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, he noted, recently called the NSA program “almost Orwellian” and probably unconstitutional.

Sanders welcomed broad assurances by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, that the agency has not specifically targeted members of Congress or other elected officials in gathering records on millions of Americans.

“Nothing NSA does can fairly be characterized as ‘spying on members of Congress or other American elected officials,’” Alexander asserted in a letter to Sanders.

But the director’s letter and a separate statement that the NSA issued to reporters did not rule out that records swept up by the NSA may include data on elected officials.

“The NSA is collecting enormous amounts of information,” Sanders said. “They know about the phone calls made by every person in this country, where they’re calling, who they’re calling and how long they’re on the phone. Let us not forget that a mere 40 years ago we had a president of the United States who completely disregarded the law in an effort to destroy his political opponents. In my view, the information collected by the NSA has the potential to give an unscrupulous administration enormous power over elected officials.”

Sanders has introduced legislation that would bar the wholesale collection of phone records without a warrant.

The NSA or FBI would have to convince a judge that there was a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing in order to justify each specific search for records.

Flavored Mints Claiming to be a “Vermont” Product Actually Made in Canada Will Pay the State $30,000 Fine

in Feature/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has settled a lawsuit alleging that VerMints, Inc., violated the law by labeling its flavored mints as “Vermont” products when in fact they were made in Canada, from out-of-state ingredients. The settlement requires VerMints and its President, Gary Rinkus of Braintree, Massachusetts, to donate $35,000 to the Vermont Foodbank, pay the State of Vermont $30,000, and add corrective labeling to its products for 18 months.

“Use of the term ‘Vermont’ has great economic value, and many businesses go to the expense of sourcing their ingredients and processing within the state in order to market their products as Vermont products,” said Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell. “We need to maintain a level playing field when it comes to claims of geographic origin, and to ensure that consumers who care about where their food comes from get accurate information in the marketplace,” he added.

VerMints’ products come in metal tins, and from 2006 to 2011, they were prominently labeled as “Vermont’s All-Natural Mints.”

Because they were manufactured in Canada from mostly non-Vermont ingredients, the labeling violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and Consumer Protection Rule 120, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The corrective advertising provision of the settlement requires VerMints to add the words “Produced in Canada” to the front of tins sold to states in the northeast United States, to counter the impression that the products come from Vermont.

$21 Million Military Contract to Bring 43 Jobs to Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — In October, Revision Military laid off 35 its 57 workers in Newport when it didn’t get the government contract that company official had counted on. On Monday, the company announced that they had won a new contract worth $21 million, that will bring 43 jobs back to Newport. The contract is to supply the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) – Troop Support,  with 90,000 Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH).

“Revision is proud to answer the U.S. Military’s call for an additional 90,000 ACH helmets,” Jonathan Blanshay, CEO of Revision, said in a statement Monday. “We’re a proven and dependable supplier having delivered over a million helmets from the Newport manufacturing facility. In addition to leveraging existing manufacturing technologies to deliver head protective solutions for today, like the ACH, we’re also shaping the future of soldier protection with innovative composite materials, new manufacturing processes and integrated designs.”

In addition to this contract, Revision was recently selected as a development partner for the U.S. Army’s Integrated Head Protection System, which is being built up to become the Army’s next widely-fielded head protection system.

Revision employs 200 people worldwide, including 125 in Essex Junction. Employees in Essex were unaffected by October’s job losses.

Vermont State Police Derby Weekly Recap for 01/06/14 – 01/13/14.

in News

In an effort to keep the citizens of Orleans County informed, the Vermont State Police, Derby Barracks, reports the following activity for the week of 01/06/14 – 01/13/14.




911 Hang up – 2
Agency Assist – 1


Alarm – 2
Citizen Assist – 1
Family Fight – 1
MV Complaint – 1
Theft – 1
Vandalism – 1


Alarm – 2


Accident – 1
Agency Assist – 1


Accident – 1
Bad Check – 1
Suspicious – 1


Accident – 1
Assault – 1
Littering – 1


911 Hang up – 1
Accident – 1
Alarm – 2
Citizen Assist – 3
Drugs – 1
Family Fight – 1
Fraud – 1
Littering – 1
MV Complaint – 1
Suspicious – 1
Sex Offender Reg. – 1
Theft – 1
Traffic Offense – 2
Welfare Check – 2


Citizen Assist – 1


911 Hang up – 1
Family Fight – 1


911 Hang up – 1
Accident – 2
MV Complaint – 1


911 Hang up – 1
Accident -1
Citizen Assist – 1


Accident – 1
Citizen Dispute – 1


Directed Patrol – 1


Accident – 3
Agency Assist – 1
Directed Patrol – 1
MV Complaint – 1


Traffic Offense -1


Accident – 1
Agency Assist – 1
Suspicious – 3


911 Hang up – 1
Directed Patrol – 1


MV Complaint – 1

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