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Helicopter Shuttle to Jay Peak and Full U.S. Port of Entry Planned at Newport State Airport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — As plans continue to move forward with the expansion project at the Newport State Airport, Jay Peak Resort is planning to operate a helicopter shuttle from the airport to the resort. It is also expected that the airport will eventually become a full Port of Entry into the U.S.

The helicopter shuttle service will serve customers who travel to Jay Peak via Newport State Airport. This service would eventually be extended to Q Burke Mountain when development is completed over the next several years.

According to a report that came out in February, the current airport terminal building is small, outdated, and inadequate to accommodate current aviation demand and any future growth.

There are also no customs services offered at the existing airport terminal. To support the demand for customs service from Canada and other foreign countries, the report goes on to state that the Vermont Department of Transportation has been pursuing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to service Newport State Airport.

It’s anticipated that the Customs service will start out as a fee-for-service operation and become a full Port of Entry, with full-time staff stationed at the Airport in several years as use increases.

Adding customs service to Newport State Airport is expected to increase use of the airport by aircraft from Canada and will provide utility to AnC-BIO and other local businesses involved in foreign trade. An increase in jet usage at Newport State Airport due to U.S. Customs availability is also expected.

Brian Smith Elected: Municipal Budget Approved Despite Increase

in Feature

DERBY — Selectman Brian Smith was elected back into office on Tuesday. Smith, the board chairman, defeated challenger Robert Ovitt. The total vote was 570 to 167.

Ovitt had expected to challenge Selectmen Steve Gendreau, making the race a bit of a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, Ovitt stated that he would run again in the future.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved the updated town plan that will pave the way for Walmart developer Jeff Davis to file for local permits for the store, which will be located on Route 5 in Derby. The total vote for the updated town plan was 595 voters in favor, 129 opposed.

The municipal budget was approved for $2.5 million. This was an increase from last year, where the budget was approved for $2.29 million. Selectmen have stated that there will be no increase in the municipal tax rate.

Maryann Tetreault received 520 votes to be elected delinquent tax collector, winning out over Ann M. Jones, who received 233 votes.

Thomas Roberts was elected lister, receiving 512 votes on Tuesday. Diana Mengel, who challenged Roberts for the spot, came way with 186 votes.

Wilson and Morrissette Elected – Newport Police Chief Gets Two Officer 24 Hour Patrols

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Out of 3,280 registered voters, only 495 came out to vote on Tuesday, approving the city municipal budget of $3 million. Included in the budget is the hiring of another police officer, which will allow the city to have two active patrols on duty 24 hours a day.

Richard Wells, who works part of the year at North Country Union High School, will still work as the school resource officer, with the school board paying his salary and benefits.

The city council race was close, with John Wilson and Neil Morrissette being elected. In a vote of 369 for Wilson, and 286 for Morrissette.

Corey Therrien, who was running for city council, lost by only 61 votes. Therrien was elected to represent Newport on the NCUHS board, receiving 338 votes.

A budget of $5.29 million was approved for the Newport City Elementary school.

There will be a technology fund set up at the request of the school board, which passed by a vote of 328 to 170. In total $24,565 will go to this fund.

All other appropriations were approved.

Lowell Voters Oppose Anti-Wind Resolution

in Feature/Vermont

LOWELL — Town Meeting Day voters in Lowell voted against an article opposing Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind project.

The anti-wind resolution was passed over in 2012, and was brought back this year after resident Ed Wesolow took the issue to the Vermont Supreme Court.

In a vote of 110 to 27, voters showed their support of the 21 turbines of the Kingdom Community Wind project that are producing electricity. The taxes paid by Green Mountain Power are supplementing the town budget.

Before being built in 2010, 75 percent of residents at Town Meeting Day voted in favor of the project.

The Lowell wind project generated opposition from opponents who felt it would take away from the beauty of the ridgeline. They also felt that it did not provide any real environmental benefit.

In 2010, Wesolow and others petitioned to place an anti-wind article on the Town Meeting Day agenda. The proposed article accused the wind project of violating private property rights, destroying stream headwaters and depressing real estate values.

Removal of Trees in Coventry by State Highway Department Angers Some Residents

in Feature/News

COVENTRY — A number of Coventry property owners along Route 5 have voiced their concern over the removal of trees that were damaged during the ice storm in December by state highway workers. Some residents are claiming that they were robbed of firewood that they feel was rightfully theirs.

After the ice storm the state highway department was working to clean up storm damaged trees, broken limbs, branches and brush from damaged vegetation, as well as eliminate all overhead hazards due to broken limbs and branches. A large section of Route 5 needed to be cleared. During the cleanup, some wood was removed without notifying the property owners because it was an emergency project. Now, a few of those property owners are upset that they were not offered some of the burnable timber.

“We like to be good neighbors,” Scott Rogers, Director of the Vermont Agency of Transportation Operations Division, said. “The way we like to do things is to work with the property owners that are adjacent to the right-of-way, and it gets a little confusing in terms of the legality because some of the rights-of-way we own, and some we have a highway easement that controls the property. Typically, what we do is talk with the property owners in advance and offer to work with them. A lot of times that includes providing them some of the wood if it’s burnable, but in a lot of cases it’s not.”

Rogers stated sometimes property owners do retain certain residual rights, but the state can remove certain materials such as timber from the right-of-way for highway use.

“We can’t sell the wood to third parties, and we can’t take it for personal use,” Rogers said. “Along those lines it’s legitimate for us to use the timber to heat the state highway garage. But, we couldn’t use it to heat the local school for example.”

The Route 5 stretch in Coventry was especially tricky to make safe after the storm. Rogers explained that the situation needed to be addressed quickly, which resulted in the lack of notification to property owners.

“We were concerned with the potential for additional timber to fall given that we were expecting more storms. The district wanted to get it cleared out quickly. Even after we got the wood that was across the road cleared, there were still areas with some steep banks with trees above that could come down.”

On Wednesday at the Coventry Community Center there will be a meeting at 6 p.m. with Dale Perron, the manager of the Agency of Transportation District 9, and Coventry residents, to discuss the issue. For now, Perron says that if land owners want the wood back, they will work with them to resolve the issue.

Rogers expressed his commitment to working with Coventry landowners to resolve the issue also.

“We understand that people are struggling with the cold winter, and any type of heating assistance is an understandable request, so we are sympathetic to anyone who would have liked to use the material for firewood,” he said.

Vermonters Paying the Price for Propane Shortage Caused by Midwestern Farming Practices

in Feature/News

NEWPORT – If you are heating your home with propane, you already know it’s costing you more than usual this winter. What you might not know is that you’re paying the price for a propane shortage that has nothing to do with cold temperatures in the Northeast. The problem lies in the Midwest, and the way that farmers dry their corn crops.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of residential propane in Vermont during the month of February was $4.36 per gallon. That’s an increase of $1.15 per gallon since October.

This increase is a result of a propane shortage which started in the fall of 2013, when farmers in the Midwest used around 300 million gallons of propane to dry their corn crops. This was much more than usual. How much more? About 235 million gallons more.

The reason for such a dramatic spike in propane use is blamed on wetter-than-normal corn from the 2013 harvest. Part of the reason that the corn did not dry in the field was that it was planted late.

When corn does not dry in the field, grain elevator operators use propane-fueled heaters to get it to a lower moisture level so it can be safely stored.

According to the National Propane Gas Association, more than 660,000 farmers use propane for irrigation pumps, grain dryers, standby generators and other farm equipment. Besides crop drying, propane is used by farmers for fruit ripening, water heating, and food refrigeration.

The other major factor causing an increase in propane prices is the export market. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, by January 2013 U.S exports of propane were at 168,000 barrels per day. By October, exports had jumped to 408,000 barrels per day.

Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, and Congressman Peter Welch asked U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in February to use emergency powers to temporarily restrict exports of propane.

They pointed out that prices for the fuel have risen over 30 percent in just three months.

Bill Passes to Ban Smoking in a Car with Children

in Feature/Vermont

MONTPELIER — On Friday the Vermont House passed a bill that would ban smoking in partially enclosed locations, including smoking tobacco in a car where a minor is present.

According to a press release, smoking would be banned inside locations at schools, workplaces, hotels, and places of public access.  

“This public health measure continues to protect Vermonters from the impacts of tobacco,” Speaker of the House Shap Smith said in a statement. “In particular, I am pleased that we are putting in place safeguards to protect our young Vermonters from the impacts of second hand smoke on their long-term health and wellbeing.” 

An amendment to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in Vermont from 18 to 21 was withdrawn after some heated discussion. The House Democratic leadership promised that it would be taken up separately later in the year.

Currently there are two bills that increase the age for purchasing tobacco in the House Human Services Committee. One raises the age to 21, while the other does the same with an exception for members of the armed forces. They would still be able to purchase tobacco at 18.

The bill will now head to the Vermont Senate. 

Cows Killed During Barn Fire in Morrisville on Friday

in Feature/News

MORRISVILLE — About six cows were killed on Friday as a fire ripped through a barn owned by Dwayne Lamphear of L&L Farms in Morrisville.

The fire was reported by a passerby who saw smoke coming from the 340 foot cattle barn located on the property. The Morrisville Fire Departments responded to the scene at 742 Fitzgerald Road. Upon arrival, the front portion of the barn was fully in flames. High winds made it difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze, which quickly grew, pushing through the barn.

Mr. Lamphear arrived and was able to get most of the cattle out of the barn before the entire roof structure collapsed, however, some of the cows could not be saved. The structure was a total loss, with damages estimated to be in excess of $800,000.00. No one was at the barn at the time of the fire so there were no injuries.

The Morrisville Fire Department contacted the Vermont State Police and requested a fire investigation be conducted. Detectives from the State Police Fire Investigation Unit and an investigator with the Division of Fire Safety began the investigation.

After conducting a partial scene investigation, as most of the building had completely collapsed, the fire cause is deemed to be undetermined at this time and not suspicious. However, investigators believe that the fire was most likely related an electrical issue.

In His Own Words: Corey Therrien for Newport City Council

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Corey Therrien, who is running for Newport City Council, sat down for an interview with Newport Dispatch last night at Montgomery Cafe, to talk about why he decided to run, and what makes him the best choice for the job.

Newport Dispatch has put together some of the conversation to introduce Mr. Therrien to Newport voters as they head into Town Meeting Day on Tuesday, March 4. Please listen to the interview below:

Newport Area Community Orchestra Adds 9 New Members

in Arts and Entertainment/Feature

NEWPORT — The Newport Area Community Orchestra is growing. Just this year, they have added nine new members to the orchestra.

The newest members of the orchestra are (left to right in photo) Momoko Takaoka, Bob Chen, Akimasa Takeda, Pengyi Huang, Morgan Ireland, Paul Teng, (not pictured) Sue Ireland, Judy Hurd, and Laura Barr.

The group is continuing to work toward two spring concerts to be held on May 3, at the Goodrich Memorial Library, and on May 11, at the Haskell Opera House. The program for the concerts include:

Spring Concert at the Goodrich Memorial Library – May 3, 2014

Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Binge (2nd Movement – Peter Storrings, Soloist)
Colorscape for Orchestra, Op. 3 by Ken Michelli (Julia Whitney, Solo, Howie Arzt, Solo)
Waltz No. 2 from Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovich
Rhapsody in Blue for Orchestra arranged by Bob Cerulli (Paul Gavin, Solo)
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 by Carl Maria Von Weber (Howie Arzt, Soloist)

Quintessential Classical’s Concert at the Haskell Opera House – May 11, 2014

Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Binge (2nd Movement – Peter Storrings, Soloist)
Colorscape for Orchestra, Op. 3 by Ken Michelli (Julia Whitney, Solo, Howie Arzt, Solo)
Waltz No. 2 from Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovich
Rhapsody in Blue for Orchestra arranged by Bob Cerulli (Paul Gavin, Solo)
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 by Carl Maria Von Weber (Howie Arzt, Soloist)

Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming performances.

Weather-Related Accident in Irasburg on Wednesday

in Feature/News

IRASBURG — The strong winds and blowing snow yesterday afternoon led to an accident in Irasburg. At around 2:20 p.m. the Vermont State Police responded to a single car crash on Vermont Route 58, near Houston Heights.

Lawrence Monfette, 52, of Newport, was driving a 2004 Jeep Liberty when he lost control of his vehicle in a patch of snow that had blown across the road.

Monfette tried to gain control by steering toward the right, causing his vehicle to face east in the westbound travel lane. The vehicle then slid off the north side of the roadway where it flipped onto its driver’s side.

Monfette did not suffer any injuries. The Jeep had damage to both front quarter panels, the front lower
bumper area, and the driver’s side door.

Ray’s Auto towed the vehicle from the scene of the accident.

Vermont Businesses Call for Passage of GMO Labeling Legislation

in Feature/Vermont

MONTPELIER — Today, business leaders representing a broad cross section of Vermont’s food industry, including suppliers, manufactures, and retailers, gathered at the Statehouse in Montpelier to urge lawmakers to pass mandatory GMO labeling legislation, H.112.

Representatives from Ben & Jerry’s, Two Guys in Vermont, New Chapter, Black River Produce, Healthy Living, Liz Lovely, and VBSR, all called on the legislature to make Vermont a leader in food freedom and transparency.

The group noted that Vermonters have a reputation for taking food seriously. They identify with food, and are passionate about knowing where it comes from, and what’s in it.

“Food companies should be proud to tell consumers what’s in the products they are selling,” Chris Miller, Activism Manager at Ben & Jerry’s said. “And if they don’t want to share that information, then people should really wonder why?”

Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of labeling all of their products, which will be complete by mid-2014.

“We’ll label all of our products without effecting the price fans pay for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s,” Miller added.

Opponents of GMO labeling have suggested that H.112 would increase the cost of food for consumers.

“Food companies make changes to labels all the time without raising prices,” Jeff Weinstein, Founder of Vermont specialty food company Two Guys in Vermont said. “New ingredients or recipes changes, marketing and branding changes, as well as an ever-changing regulatory landscape are just a few reasons we might make a change to our label. It’s not a big deal to label GMO’s. Minor label changes are just a cost of doing business”.

Non-GMO labeled food is one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry, and retailers nationally and in Vermont have been advocates on behalf of their shoppers for transparency in the food system. The national grocery chain Whole Foods Market announced that it will require labeling of all items sold in their stores by 2018.

Here in Vermont, many food retailers are supporting the call for GMO labeling.

“What brought us around on the issue was one simple sentence, that people deserve to know what’s in their food,” Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, of Healthy Living Market said. “We have agreed with that since the day we started Healthy Living Market almost 30 years ago, and today we still believe in that”.

Fire Destroys Home in Greensboro on Sunday

in Feature/Vermont

GREENSBORO — On Sunday morning the Greensboro Fire Department responded to 800 Eligo Lake Road for a reported structure fire. First responding fire personnel reported that there was heavy smoke within the residence upon their arrival and the home quickly engulfed in flames when forced entry was made through the front door.

Mutual Aid was requested and the fire was quickly suppressed. However, the structure is considered a total loss with an estimated value of $200,000 dollars.

The homeowners were not home at the time of the incident and nobody was injured.

A request was made to the Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit for an origin and cause investigation. An investigator with the Division of Fire Safety concluded today that the fire was not suspicious in nature and is being classified as accidental.

QNEK Productions Ready for 21st Season

in Arts and Entertainment/Feature

DERBY LINE — Casting is complete for the 21st season at QNEK Productions. This year QNEK, the international theatre company in residence at the Haskell Opera House, will stage four shows, starting May 2 with the production of Boeing, Boeing. The season will conclude October 18 with Wait Until Dark, directed by Susan-Lynn Johns.

QNEK hosted their first ever Meet and Greet the Press Reception on Saturday evening at the United Universalist Church Hall in Derby Line. The event offered those in attendance the chance to meet the cast and crew who will be working to make the 2014 season its best yet.

This season will see some new faces, as well as some returning to the stage after taking a break for a few years. Kim Prangley, who will play Judith in Boeing, Boeing, is returning after a ten year hiatus. Ross Murray will be seen in his first acting role in 25 years, when he plays Roat, in Wait Until Dark.

The season will also consist of Oliver, starting July 25, and Suds, starting September 12.

QNEK Productions treated everyone on Saturday to a musical medley from Suds, the rocking 60’s musical soap opera. To hear the performance from Saturday, press play in the audio player below.

“The whole cast is awesome, and we’re really excited to have Kim Prangley back this year,” Jenny Dunne, director of Boeing, Boeing, said. “Boeing, Boeing, is a really funny and a really physical comedy, so it’s going to be great working with everyone.”

“The play is a farce, so there’s a lot of general mayhem, which is a role I’ve performed many times with QNEK as well as others,” Kim Prangley said. “It’s a very popular form of theatre.”

Prangley auditioned for the role over SKYPE while she was traveling in Vancouver.

Making his acting debut in May playing Robert in Boeing, Boeing, is Chris Planetta, a teacher at the Stanstead College.

“I’m a little nervous, but I keep telling myself, I’m not an idiot,” Planetta said. “I’m a fan of theatre, and I’ve gone to everything QNEK has put on for the last twelve years, so I’m excited.”

For a full 2014 show synopsis and character breakdown, click here.

Photos by Tanya Mueller

Cast of
Cast of Boeing, Boeing which starts May 2, 2014
Cast of "Oliver," starting July 25, 2014.
Cast of “Oliver,” starting July 25, 2014.
Cast of "Suds," starting September 12, 2014.
Cast of “Suds,” starting September 12, 2014.
Cast of "Wait Until Dark," starting October 10, 2014.
Cast of “Wait Until Dark,” starting October 10, 2014.

Coventry Woman Arrested for Suspicion of DUI After Rollover Crash in Westmore

in Feature/News

WESTMORE — On Saturday at around 6:30 p.m. State Police responded to a motor vehicle rollover crash on Vermont Route 5A in Westmore.

Michaela Palmer, 23, of Coventry, identified herself as the operator of the vehicle.

Palmer told police that she hit a patch of ice just before the crash. She stated that the car rolled over while she was driving through a sharp curve in the road.

Trooper Debra Munson of the Vermont State Police spoke with Palmer during an investigation at the scene of the accident, and determined that intoxication may have been to blame for the crash. She had Palmer perform a field sobriety test.

Palmer was subsequently transported to the Derby Barracks where she was processed for suspicion of DUI, and refusal to take a chemical intoxication test.

Vermont, like all other states, abides by Implied Consent Laws, which means that anyone who chooses to operate a vehicle is automatically subject to state chemical testing for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Because a breath test is the only chemical intoxication test that can be administered on the roadside, it is the most commonly used, and therefore, the most commonly refused test.

Despite the Implied Consent Law, drivers still have to agree to testing before a breath test can be conducted. So technically, a driver can refuse testing, but the consequences for doing so are harsh and sometimes far outweigh a DUI conviction in and of itself.

Addressing Homelessness and Housing Issues in Newport

in Feature/Newport

NEWPORT — Wednesday night at the monthly Community Commons meeting at the Gateway Center in Newport, the topic was housing. The meeting was a way to bring together the facts, to identify the need, and to come together to try and come up with a solution.

When it comes to addressing the issue of homelessness in the Northeast Kingdom, one of the problems is that it tends to be invisible. However, the numbers are shocking.

On Tuesday, Community Health Integration in St. Johnsbury saw 24 people who needed shelter for the night. In Newport, Home Team, a group of residents trying to help by offering overnight kits for those in need, have issued 20 kits so far. The kits include such basic necessities as a hat, gloves, and space blanket. It is also estimated that at least 20 veterans are homeless in the Northeast Kingdom.

The current state of affordable subsidized housing tells another story. There are 420 people in the area currently on a waiting list to have access to such facilities. The waiting list at Newport Senior Housing is 30 people.

And then there is the issue of housing affordability. If you spend less than 1/3 of your income on housing related expenses, it is considered affordable. However, in Orleans county, we pay more than 50 percent of our income for housing, a number which demonstrates that people do not make enough money in the area to afford to live in the housing that is available.

photoParticipants on Wednesday night, assembled in a circle, sat for over 2 hours to address these housing issues.

“Today we’re identifying a need,” Patricia Sears, moderator of the Community Commons gathering said. “If we work together, we can find a solution.”

In order to find the solution, it was important for the group to identify not only the need, but some of the obstacles that get in the way of making the positive changes that the group would like to see happen.

Here again, the facts are shocking. It appears one of the biggest issues to opening a homeless shelter in the area is insurance. For a local church to offer an overnight facility, they would need to buy an additional liability insurance that most could not afford.

Much of the meeting Wednesday night focused on this need for a local warming shelter, and served as the starting point for this newly formed coalition.

When members of the Newport City Council were asked by a group of local church leaders as to some of the other hoops besides insurance that would need to be jumped through in setting up a shelter, they were told that there are also zoning issues, state safety issues, as well as building codes.

Merton Bangemann-Johnson of Rural Edge, the Northeast Kingdom’s affordable housing non-profit, said that it is cheaper to build a shelter from scratch, than it is to retrofit an existing building.

After some heated discussion, there was some consensus that unfortunately it does comes down to economics, and that those issues need to be addressed early on in the planning of how the group will move forward to address the issue.

“We don’t have the funds,” Newport Mayor Paul Monette said. “We can maybe work with you, but we’re trying to keep our tax rate down and promote development. We also don’t have the land in Newport, which is another issue.”

“It’s easy to throw stones, but the real problem is that we’re poor,” City Manager John Ward said. “People come here to live, and they don’t have jobs, and we can’t afford to maintain them.”

The meeting concluded by focusing on the importance of staying connected, and networking with people interested in helping work toward tackling some of the issues which were brought up. The Community Commons meetings are designed to facilitate such connections.

“The numbers we went over tonight really tell a story,” Scott Libby, pastor of the Grace Brethren Church, said after the meeting. “I’m also really interested as to what the liability insurance would cost at our church to set up a shelter, because I just don’t know.”

One local church leader who did not want his name mentioned in this article stated that he felt the need to organize an effort to open a homeless shelter was clear, and that he and his colleagues would look into the issue, but, he felt that City Council members who attended the meeting did not seem to offer any hope toward it becoming a reality.

“It’s one thing for us to try to come up with a location, and to organize the effort, but tonight the City Council members didn’t have one positive thing to say as far as making it seem even remotely possible,” the church leader said. “You need some reassurance when you start a project like this, and you saw tonight that we didn’t really get any.”

The Community Commons gatherings are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month. There is an optional pot luck dinner, and all are welcome.

Vermonters Urged to Check Snow Loads on Roofs

in Feature/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Department of Public Safety, and Department of Health are urging farm and home owners to diligently monitor their roofs and clear off snow if necessary and if it can be done so safely.

Rain and mixed precipitation forecast for parts of Vermont on Thursday night and Friday are expected to add weight to snow pack. That extra weight could add extra pressure to house and barn roofs, and in some cases cause a roof collapse.

If there is a concern for personal safety while clearing a roof, a professional contractor should be called in to inspect the roof, or to clear the roof of snow.

Guidance for what constitutes a safe load of snow on your roof is based on a number of factors and is not the same for every dwelling or structure. It depends on the age of the roof, the amount of snow on the roof, and the weight of that snow.

Strange noises, cracking, or visible movement of rafters should be signs that your roof is headed for a collapse. However, those signs won’t necessarily present themselves before a collapse.

The following steps are provided by Vermont Fire Safety and the Agency of Agriculture when dealing with roofs.

All of the mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults, as the snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

Try to plan an escape route before you begin and keep safety the first priority.

If roof snow can be removed with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so. Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line. Also be careful not to let large amounts of snow fall on you.

Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up. Snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.

On Barns:

When clearing snow from a roof, work to ensure an even unloading from both sides at a time. Always work in pairs and use a safety line when clearing steep pitched roofs.

The center of the rafters and the center of the building are the weak points. It is advised to keep some 4×4 or 6×6 poles on hand to place under every fourth rafter, or along the center of the roof line. This will provide additional strength to the roof.

Not Your Neighborhood Police Vehicle: VSP Acquire Military Surplus

in Feature/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont State Police is one of over 160 law enforcement agencies across the nation that recently acquired an armored tactical vehicle through the Defense Department’s national military surplus program.

With the ending of the Iraq War, and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has 11,000 heavily armored vehicles that it has no use for, and one of them just came to Vermont.

The vehicle is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. They are designed to protect against AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs. According to a statement released by the VSP, it “can provide lifesaving support to local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the state during armed confrontations or other critical incidents.”

“It’s a platform that will help troopers get close to and help defuse a dangerous situation without exposing them to life-threatening danger,” said Colonel Tom L’Esperance. “It’s a great piece of equipment, however we hope we never need it.”

Colonel L’Esperance submitted the request for the MRAP and received the vehicle in mid-December.

On learning about the new tactical vehicle Representative Donna Sweaney said, “It is imperative that Vermont is prepared for every type of crisis and we look forward to housing it at Windsor Armory. Having a tactical vehicle in the southern part of Vermont will help ensure a rapid response to critical incidents.”

But not everyone fully supports the idea of military surplus ending up in the hands of local law enforcement. In New Hampshire, State Representative J.R. Hoell, a libertarian Republican who represents Dunbarton, NH, recently introduced a bill called the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, in the state legislature.

The bill would bar state and municipal agencies in New Hampshire from buying or even accepting free offers of “military style equipment,” including MRAP’s, for police use, except with the approval of the assembled citizenry at a public town meeting.

Hoell says that we’re seeing an over militarization of the police force, and that it doesn’t lead to a better relationship between citizens and the police.

In Concord, New Hampshire, 1500 residents last fall signed a petition opposing their town’s use of a $258,000 federal Homeland Security grant to purchase a vehicle similar to the MRAP recently acquired by the VSP.

Mayor Monette Working to Have Newport City Council Meetings Streamed Live Online

in Feature/News

NEWPORT — If you’ve been meaning to attend a Newport city council meeting but just can’t spare the time to get out to one, there’s some news you’ll be happy to hear. Mayor Paul Monette is working to have them streamed live online.

“The idea of streaming our meetings live on the web was my idea to allow people, who are not able to attend, to view them live via the Internet,” Monette said.

The platform Monette has chosen to use is Livestream. Livestream, formerly known as Mogulus, is a live streaming video platform that allows users to view and broadcast video content using a camera and a computer through the internet. The company offers a free ad-supported service and multi-tiered premium services.

In the future, anyone with an Internet connection can watch the meetings live on a computer or mobile device. Users will also be able to access archived meeting videos as well.

Since the project is just getting going, there are still a few bugs to work out.

“The first time I did a test was actually via my cell phone which I had setup as a hotspot,” Monette said. “This worked okay, but I need to get a better connection in the council room.”

Monette says that he still plans on taping them for rebroadcast on NEK-TV.

Vermont Electric Cooperative Sounds Alert On Scam

in Feature/News

JOHNSON — Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) is warning consumers about a telephone scam that preys on utility customers. Like other cooperatives across the country, VEC has received reports from customers who are being contacted by scammers asking for credit card information.

The scam involves a phone call to a consumer by a perpetrator posing as a VEC employee seeking immediate payment for service. Consumers are threatened with having service disconnected within 30 minutes unless they make a credit card payment by phone.

VEC does not make calls to customers seeking personal data like credit card account numbers, and is reminding customers to be suspicious of calls asking for any type of payment information. If a suspicious call is received, customers should hang up and contact their local law enforcement agency.

“If you have any doubts, we ask that you call VEC directly to verify if the call is legitimate,” said CEO Dave Hallquist.

The number is 1-800-832-2667.

“We’ve received reports of criminals taking advantage of utility customers in other states. Unfortunately, we’re learning that Vermont is being targeted, as well.”

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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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.

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.

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.

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