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

in Feature/Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Feature/News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Vehicle Accident in Troy

in Feature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete’s Greens Buys and Conserves 245 Acres in Craftsbury

in Feature/Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvain Bergeron Pleads Not Guilty to Charges

in Feature

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

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

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

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

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

Vermont’s Forest Economy Worth $3.4 Billion

in Feature/Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Feature/Newport

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

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

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

Below are the race results:

700 Improved (mph)

Mark Labrie (99)
Jim Corr (97)

700 Modified

Nate Botala (99)
Stephanie Clark (97)

Stock Power Up Four Stroke

Tom Ashley (104)
Chris Fisher (96)

Open 100 Pro Stock

Joe Churly (125)
Todd Demarini (119)


Pat Sicard (135)


Jonathan Hunt (53)
Connor Oliver (47)

Powder Puff

Michelle Matten (74)
Karen Fontaine (72)


Doug Matten (77)
Andrew Matten (76)

500 Stock

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

600 Stock

Nick Sicard (93)
Joseph Egitto (87)

700 Stock

Dana Morse (92)
Bob Vidile (90)

800 Stock

Ben Fitzgerald (92)
Jimmy Reid (91)

800 Improved

Mark Labrie (106)
Carl Dudley (105)

Stroke 1,000 Stock

Derrick Choquette (95)
Josh Briere (93)

1,000 Stock

Jimmy Reid (98)
Dave Wulfson (95)

Dartmouth College Skier Dies During Skiing Race in Craftsbury

in Feature/Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Feature/News

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

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


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

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


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

They also work to keep their prices down.

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


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

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

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

Below is a Sticks & Stuff promotional video:

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

in Feature/Vermont

By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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