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Letter to the Editor

Letter: Tomasz Jankowski, President & CEO of Northeast Kingdom Human Services

in Letter to the Editor

Dear Community Members:

As we enter the uncharted domain of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) and the subsequent declaration of the state of emergency in Vermont, I want to assure all our communities that Northeast Kingdom Human Services stands prepared to serve our clients with mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability needs.

I also want to express my gratitude to over 500 NKHS employees who have been working, tirelessly, on preparing for this pandemic, over the past several weeks.

I also wish to recognize our state and community partners who are standing with us as we confront this global health threat.

The health of our consumers and employees is of the utmost importance to NKHS.

Therefore, we have taken unprecedented preventive measures and steps to minimize the risk of the COVID-19 exposure.

We have employed technology to remain connected with consumers.

We have implemented work from home options, telemedicine options, telephonic and tele-therapy options, as well as remote access to the hospital Emergency Rooms for screening and evaluation.

I am profoundly proud of the way our teams work together and continue to be available for services across the spectrum of our services.

We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time, and we want to assure our community that our crisis services continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The adversity of today shall make us stronger tomorrow.

As we enter this uncharted territory, we must, individually and collectively, exercise prudence and personal responsibility for ourselves and those around us.

“The only easy day was yesterday.” – Navy SEALS

Cordially,

Tomasz Jankowski, President & CEO
Northeast Kingdom Human Services

Environmental Concern by Peggy Stevens | East Charleston

in Letter to the Editor/Newport/News

Dear Editor,

I would like to bring to the attention of your readers a study, completed in 2017 and published last Fall by the USGS and Vermont Fish and Wildlife, that has received little if any notice.

I received a copy of the study from a Canadian friend, not through the State or local media.

I have asked local fishermen, members of the MWA, folks who I thought would be in the know and have been amazed by the lack of awareness of such an important local environmental finding.

When you open the link provided here, you may, like me, be disturbed by the photos of Brown Bullhead sampled from two sites in the south end of Lake Memphremagog between 2014-17.

30 percent of samples, a statistically very high percentage according to the researchers, have raised black cancerous lesions, not only on the skin but also in the tissues and organs of affected fish.

One can’t help wonder if there may be a connection to the recent report that tests of effluent from Newport and Montpelier Waste Water Treatment Facilities- the only two in the state that accept landfill leachate- was many times over the limit for PFAS chemicals set by the state for drinking water.

These WWTFs had the highest PFAS levels of any WWTFs in the state.

Even though Newport WWTF no longer takes leachate, thanks to the District 7 Act 250 temporary ban effective October 23, 2019, until 2024, the “forever” PFAS chemicals (and other toxins present in the millions of gallons of leachate already dumped untreated into the lake) build up and remain in the ecosystem of Memphremagog.

Representatives of the Agency of Natural Resources and Vermont Fish and Wildlife, when asked, have downplayed concerns that contaminants in the lake may be causally related to the incidence of cancerous melanomas in this fish population.

A spokesperson from DEC has said these Bullhead cancers, first identified in 2012, may be caused by a railroad petroleum spill.

Has there been further sampling of water, sediment, and the fish tissue, as recommended in the conclusion of the USGS study, to determine what the underlying cause may be?

Is analysis being done for PFAS or other leachate chemicals as well as petroleum-related chemicals?

Also, the study says sampling was done in Hospital Cove and the South Bay-what are the exact sites where sampling was done and why were they chosen?

Were there petroleum spills in both places?

And are more sites designated for future study?

Will there be sampling of other species- other bottom-feeders as well as species further up the food chain?

One last question, why were the control samples of Brown Bullheads, taken from Ticklenaked Pond in Ryegate, free of any signs of melanomas?

Doesn’t this suggest that there may be something in our lake causing the cancers in these fish?

While I welcome efforts by the legislature and the State in the last year to prioritize Clean Water and to target PFAS pollution concerns, time is of the essence in order to protect our Vermont waters from further contamination.

The best way for the Agency of Natural Resources to gain public confidence is to be fully transparent and accountable- about the original fish study, the efforts to get to the root of the problem, and the development of plans to fix whatever needs fixing.

The citizens have a right to know if their lake is safe for fish and wildlife and for humans as well.

Are the Brown Bullheads the “canaries in the coal mine”, early warning signs of danger ahead?

Or are they some fluke of nature?

I urge your readers to open the link and read the study for themselves.

Then decide if it doesn’t make good sense to permanently ban the dumping of landfill leachate into Newport’s WWTF and Lake Memphremagog.

Why in heaven’s name continue to pour toxic leachate into waters that may well already be an unhealthy environment for at least one species, hopefully not more than one.

Sincerely concerned,

Peggy Stevens
East Charleston VT

Note: We must not ignore the fact that landfill leachate, including what used to be disposed of in Newport, continues to be disposed of via Montpelier and Plattsburgh WWTFs and sent untreated into Lake Champlain by the thousands of gallons daily, millions annually. Champlain, like Memphremagog, is a drinking water source for thousands as well as an ecosystem for our fish and wildlife. An alternative to this environmentally harmful practice- employing advanced technology- though expensive, must be planned for and implemented sooner than later. We cannot afford to wait.

Amy Gillespie, candidate for Newport City Council

in Letter to the Editor/Newport

Dear community members of the Newport City area, my name is Amy Gillespie and I am running for a seat on the Newport City Council.

Today I am writing to you in hopes of planting a few seeds.

Unless you’ve been attending the City Council meetings or watching them online from NEK-TV, you might not even know of what is happening in our City.

Luckily, I am here to shine a little light on the status of our City for you all.

Our City is crumbling at the hands of most of the current elected officials, the Mayor, and the non-resident City Manager.

They seem to have forgotten that as elected/appointed officials, they are chosen to represent their constituents: hear concerns, research ideas, and find a plan that works for mostly everyone to achieve the goal/solve the problem.

However, this isn’t the case.

I see misconduct that even if publicly voiced and documented, no one is held accountable.

I see our Community members’ needs being pushed aside at the expense of private agendas.

I see intolerant behavior that undermines the work of Martin Luther King Jr, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks, instead of embracing and celebrating their achievements.

And lastly, I see our City’s Annual Report that resembles more of a bitter diary entry, than a well-versed reflection of our City’s accomplishments.

However, I believe that our City has every chance to emerge from the rubble and become a strong, flourishing, and supportive community that we all need.

I can see our Council appointing a new City Manager, someone honest, kind, AND capable.

I can see a transparent process and decisions based on integrity, instead of poor intentions.

I can see our youth having safe spaces to learn and grow, regardless of cost/status.

I can see those with mental health issues actually supported, instead of given a temporary band-aid.

I can see those with substance abuse issues embraced with hope, instead of stigmatized.

And I can see Newport being a desired destination, instead of the failed result of poor economic circumstances.

Our community’s growth has been stunted by poor planning and decision making.

With the current “leadership,” we will only keep living the same cycle of mediocrity over and over again. Until we choose to speak up and stop backing down.

First, we must shatter every preconceived threat from the City Manager- our city CAN run without her, possibly even soar at the opportunity of a fresh start- new ideas, new morals, new beginnings.

On March 3rd, we have the chance to start cultivating something special in Newport. Together.

And I would be truly honored to have your vote for City Council and look forward to working hard for a better future for us all.

And almost even more importantly, I’d love your support in convincing the Council of NOT re-appointing Laura Dolgin for City Manager.

Sincerely, Amy Gillespie

ATV Statement and Study Committee Proposal | Conrad Bellavance

in Letter to the Editor/Newport/News

This letter was submitted by the Board of Directors Newport City Downtown Development, Chair Conrad Bellavance.

The City of Newport Ordinance #120 Regulating ALL – Terrain Vehicle Use on Town Highways also known as the “ATV ordinance” was approved by the City Council on October 21, 2019, for a trial period commencing May 2020 to October 2020.

The trial period outlined in the approved motion provides a reasonable approach and a measured way to assess the benefits to our Downtown.

The NCDD Board considers this type of exploration in alignment with our efforts to build Newport’s Outdoor Recreation Economy.

ATV ridership is proven to provide substantial positive economic benefits to many communities across the country.

However, it is important for Newport to assess the experience for ourselves in our own community.

NCDD is willing and offers to set up an independent ATV Study Committee charged with developing measurable standards to assess the impact of ATVs on city streets during the trial period.

A report will be generated based on these standards, along with fact-finding and conclusions from this information.

When the committee has reached a consensus on its findings and conclusions it will develop a set of recommendations.

The Committee will present both the full study report and the recommendations to the City Council at the end of the trial period.

NCDD suggests that the ATV Study Committee be comprised of representatives from each of the following groups:

Two Newport City businesses, two resident representatives from Third Street who live on the designated ATV route, two resident representatives from Pleasant Street who live on the designated route, two members from the Recreation Committee, the Newport City Police, two members from the Borderline Ridge Riders ATV Club, and NVDA, with NCDD as facilitator.

The NCDD Board believes that a local committee comprised of people directly impacted by the ordinance is the best way to generate a credible report.

NCDD has been working for several years to build a foundation for Newport’s Outdoor Recreation Economy.

This is based on the community’s support to build on Newport’s incredible natural assets.

This theme has been stated repeatedly at every community meeting about how to develop Newport.

Although the organization has not worked directly with ATV ridership or the creation of Ordinance #120, we are pleased to see that outdoor recreation groups like snowmobilers and ATV riders are beginning to approach the City with opportunities to be part of this economic development strategy.

We are likewise pleased to see that the City leadership is open and willing to try out these opportunities on a limited basis in order to gauge the impact on the City.

As the organization that holds the Downtown Designation and represents the interests of the community in developing Newport’s future, NCDD has the capacity to facilitate and support the ATV Study Committee with the goal of generating a quality fact-based report and recommendations to the City Council at the end of the trial period in October.

Interested candidates who meet the study committee criteria, should contact NCDD Economic Development Specialist Jim Davis at 334-0599 or email him at newportdowntowndevelopment@gmail.com

Sincerely,
Conrad Bellavance

Responding to Jeff Weld Commentary | Peggy Stevens, Charleston

in Letter to the Editor/Newport

In an attempt to divert attention from the conditions that resulted in serious injury to one of the truck drivers and the spill of thousands of gallons of toxic landfill leachate, diesel fuel and other noxious fluids, Casella spokesman Jeff Weld casts blame not only on those who raised concerns about the spill, but on the truck drivers, victims who were merely following direction from their superiors.

Because there is no good defense for sending innocent truckers carrying hazardous materials out into the night in black ice conditions, Weld attacks those who raise legitimate questions and worse, he blames the victims of the accident!

While he claims misleadingly that questioners showed no concern for the accident victim or the other driver, who also lost control due to hazardous road conditions, he states, “A man nearly died at the hands of his coworker.”

Really? His coworker was a victim of unsafe conditions and circumstances as well.

How dare Weld suggest that liability rests with the second driver? It is only right to wonder why MBI or Casella would require their drivers to risk physical and emotional trauma by traveling on unsafe roads, or why they would seek to pass blame for the accident on to the truckers.

Weld charges that questions raised about why the trucks were transporting leachate at 3 A.M. in black ice conditions are “fear-based” when they are fact-based.

The cargo of the second truck included upwards of 8,000 gallons of toxic and hazardous landfill leachate, a load of diesel fuel and related fluids.

A spill of this magnitude poses real threat to the environment and its inhabitants.

The extent of the days-long cleanup effort to retrieve spilled leachate and remove tons of contaminated soil underscore the concern.

Weld also suggests that transporting leachate in the middle of the night is a best practice, designed to safeguard the public.

However, when transport trucks are on the road before road crews have managed to make roads sufficiently safe, and when the HazMat emergency response teams are not as immediately available- as they would be during regular business hours- to respond to an accident involving thousands of gallons of hazardous material, is this really “best” practice?

In fact, transport tucks such as these travel at all hours, including in the day, which lays waste, no pun intended, to Weld’s pretense about public safety. The State DEC must require landfill management regulations that would allow for the ultimate protection of the public safety and of the environment.

Wishing all the best to the accident victims and their families,

Peggy Stevens
Charleston, Vermont

Hyperbole, Fear, and Uninformed Outrage Run Amok | Jeff Weld Director of Community Engagement Casella Waste Systems

in Letter to the Editor

This letter to the editor was submitted by Jeff Weld, the Director of Community Engagement at Casella Waste Systems. Inc.

A week has passed since an early morning truck accident occurred that significantly impacted two drivers and their families.

Over the course of the week, there have been several articles, social media posts, and letters to various editors published about the accident, most of which focus mainly on the cargo of the second truck involved and the time of day they were traveling.

They are filled with speculation and fearmongering that would have once been considered beneath respectable news organizations and relegated to fringe publications and conspiracy theorists.

The tone and delivery of each missive is generally disrespectful and dismissive of the drivers and families involved, the job that they do, and the care with which they provide service to our communities.

These drivers get up well before the sun every day to provide a service that most people take for granted.

The fact that this accident is even noteworthy speaks to their driving ability and safety record, given the number of daily trips they make in all kinds of weather and road conditions.

They should be applauded for their efforts to preserve life and property in what was a tragic accident that very likely could have been much worse had it not been for their skillful actions and quick response that morning.

A man nearly died at the hands of one of his coworkers, families nearly lost husbands and fathers, and the focus is instead on the contents of the load and the time of day they work?

We should be applauding the efforts of the agencies that responded to clean up the spill and mitigate its impacts, protected the environment and other drivers, and those who responded to get the impacted drivers the immediate care they needed to limit the physical, emotional, and mental impact that an accident like this has on those involved.

Instead, the fear-based narrative of anti-landfill individuals who understand neither what it takes to provide this service, nor the risk that the men and women who work in the industry take every day to serve them, take center stage and soon that narrative becomes passed on as fact.

Every single kneejerk claim—from polluting the Black River to unpermitted operations—made by these uninformed individuals and reprinted or shared on social media by various news organizations and other parties has been publicly stated to be false by members of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and other regulatory agencies.

Those who continue to perpetuate this false narrative and do not retract or correct their original claims are at best willfully ignorant and at worst simply lying to further their anti-landfill agenda.

Not only were all operations within the operating permits, but I would also like to point out what should be common sense; that the safest time for these trucks to pass along our roadways is when other people are not.

An empty transfer truck on the road at 3 a.m. means that the driver can complete his first transfer run and be at the landfill as it opens for operations, completely eliminating the possibility that he ever interacts with most other daily commuters.

A full leachate tanker operating at the same time means that the driver can get to his destination well before the typical morning commuter even begins his or her daily routine, allowing the wastewater treatment facility to receive his load and safely incorporate it into its daily process as it begins to accept its morning inflows from the residents it serves.

The individuals who continue to barrage the public with uninformed outrage and hyperbolic fearmongering might benefit from understanding that there is a whole world of service industry employees like those who work for MBI and Casella that do their work without ever interacting with the public they serve.

Ironically, this service work usually happens while those who wish to point fingers sleep soundly under a cloak of protection provided by the very service providers that they continue to demonize and disrespect.

Letter: I’m Ben Roberts from Orleans, I’m 12-years-old and started a snow removal business

in Letter to the Editor/Orleans

My name is Ben Roberts. I am 12-years old writing from Orleans. I formed a small snow removal business in November of 2019.

I got interested in this form of work because I have helped shovel off my walkway and driveway at home for years. I’m still getting off of the ground with the business.

I have already done business for a couple of customers.

I obviously couldn’t work at a traditional job due to my age. So, I took it into my own hands, with the support of my family and friends, to begin my own small business.

I have started a website, publicized my business on Google, created an Instagram page, and created a Facebook page.

I’m in the process of designing company merchandise.

With the lack of storms this winter season, It’s been difficult to gain attention for my business. I do thank the customers that have supported me and hired me.

I strive to provide great customer service to keep customers coming back. I am highly motivated and ambitious with a strong work ethic, but competing with the several snow removal business in the Northeast Kingdom.

Ben’s Snow Removal is the title of my small business. I serve the towns of Brownington, Orleans, Coventry, Westmore, Glover, Barton, Albany, Newport, and Irasburg.

I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and I enjoy doing it solely. I provide snow removal from First Floor Porch Roofs, Walkways, Decks, Car Exteriors, and Driveways.

I also provide salting for anyone interested. I even have transportation to and from my jobs.

I do this work with reasonable pricing because I understand the challenges.

Anyone interested in my services can reach out to me at 802-624-3191. It works better after 3:00 p.m. due to school unless you leave a voicemail.

Sincerely,
Ben Roberts

Letter: Correcting Casella “Facts” about the Coventry Landfill by DUMP

in Letter to the Editor/Newport

DUMP LLC is a group of local residents who have been researching volumes of documents relating to the Coventry Landfill expansion for over a year now. We currently are appealing the permit that Casella received for this expansion. John Casella wrote a letter to all the local papers with a bunch of “facts” to support his company. Although much of what he wrote is technically correct, it is what he didn’t include in his facts that is disturbing. This letter is also fact-based to explain to readers what Casella failed to tell us.

1. He states that his company just ‘finished” the process to expand the landfill. What he didn’t tell you is that this permit is being appealed. He also didn’t tell you that they still need to acquire a Pre-discharge permit to treat the 11 million gallons of PFAS laden leachate that they collect at the bottom of this dump. It is NOT finished.

2. He praises his company for being the only solution and a necessity because the consumer uses so much. He even says that we can pretend landfills should not exist and we are just emotional. What he fails to tell you is that many other countries are moving to greener waste to energy plants that do not landfill the garbage. Landfills are old technology and not the best way to dispose of what consumers throw away.

3. Casella says that Vermonters need to do more to reduce waste by recycling and repurposing. Although we agree with that – what he doesn’t tell you is that his company is permitted to take 600,000 tons of waste per year and 30% of that comes from out of State and contains primarily asbestos, contaminated soil, construction debris, coal ash and sludge. If Vermonters reduced their waste by 50% or about 225,000 tons, Casella would simply get more of the really bad stuff listed above to fill the gap. Coventry would still get 600,000 tons a year. Just more of it would be the asbestos, contaminated soil, construction debris, coal ash and sludge from out of State. That is an even worse situation for our area. And Casella profits would increase because they charge more for out of state refuse.

4. Casella states that “landfills do not manufacture PFAS”. That is true. What he doesn’t tell you is that they do consolidate it in one area to the tune of 11 million gallons of landfill leachate which reports show contain the highest concentration of PFAS. Then they send it to Wastewater Plants throughout the state to go untreated into our rivers and lakes. And Casella states “the State of Vt has studied volumes of data to determine the safety of Wastewater Plants throughout Vermont”, Casella fails to tell you that the ANR has determined that “Wastewater treatment facilities do NOT effectively treat PFAS”. Furthermore, Mr. Casella does not tell you that the District 7 ACT 250 board ruled not to allow leachate to be treated in Newport WWTF or the Memphremagog Watershed because it has not been proven safe.

5. Casella goes on to blame our Canadian neighbors and our group DUMP LLC for being the real risk to the lake. Fact: our waters flow north. Canadians are not polluting Lake Memphremagog. That statement is absolutely ridiculous. We are the ones committed to protecting the area from not only water pollution but also polluting the air we breathe (which Casella failed to address). We have no profit to gain but we have future generations to protect. We are doing our part. We do agree with Mr. Casella that you all need to educate yourselves. Read our ACT 250 filing on our website. www.nolakedump.com It also has the documents to support our opposition.

Anyone can give you their opinion as Mr. Casella did. He is not entitled to his own facts.

Water is Life and Air is precious.

Sincerely,

DUMP LLC (Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity)
PO Box 1402 – Newport, VT 05855

Letter: The facts on the Coventry Landfill by John Casella

in Letter to the Editor/News

This letter was submitted by John W Casella, Chairman and CEO, Casella Waste Systems.

As a lifelong Vermonter I have been a staunch advocate of the environment for my entire life. Over the last 45 years I have surrounded myself with the most forward thinking, hardest working, and intellectually capable people in the waste management industry and together we have worked every day to build a world class environmental services company.

Today it is one of the largest resource management companies in the country. Our team spends their days focusing on helping our customers meet their sustainability goals through our substantial investments in recycling, organics, and environmentally sound management of municipal solid waste.

Our company just finished a six-year process to expand our landfill in Coventry, Vt. This is the only landfill in the state that meets the solid waste needs of all Vermonters. This operation is critical to the health and safety of Vermonters and without it we would be putting ourselves and our natural environment at great risk.

Americans are monumental consumers who have moved further down the path as a disposable society. As consumers we are constantly seeking new and better products, the latest and greatest gadgets, and the convenience of a modern lifestyle.

As such, companies across the country and the globe race to produce products and provide conveniences that leave us in search of answers at the end of their collective lifecycles.

We can pretend that landfills shouldn’t exist, but that’s emotion rather than clear-eyed fact. Emotions aside, the inescapable fact is that modern landfills—highly regulated, extensively engineered, relentlessly permitted—play an important role in how our society currently manages the waste it produces and are a crucial part of the infrastructure necessary to manage public and environmental health.

We may not like them—we may even loathe them—but they make modern life possible, and safe. And, they are a bridge to the future as we make greater and faster progress towards conservation, renewal, and regeneration of resources.

If you really stop and think about it, our company lives at the end of the life of products and materials. Society consumes products and then we either recycle, repurpose, or dispose of those items.

With that in mind, I would argue that Vermonters need to do more at the beginning of the product lifecycle to combat the impacts of emerging contaminants to ensure that these new products are safe for our families and the environment. That is not the case today. There is intense scrutiny and regulation at the death of products, and much less so at the birth of products.

During the latest permitting process at the Coventry landfill the process bogged down as regulators shifted from traditional environmental reviews to studying emerging contaminants, or “forever chemicals” as some like to call them, such as PFAS, which have gained national attention in recent years.

While it’s tempting—and too easy—to point the finger at landfills, the truth is that for decades many of the products and day-to-day items used in our society contain these compounds and end up in our environment through many sources.

Landfills do not manufacture PFAS compounds—it is a social and environmental challenge that has been flowing from our modern lifestyle. It is everyone’s responsibility to find ways to get PFAS out of water and other sources.

We continue to do our part—and do it well—at the end of the waste stream using advanced technologies.

The Act 250 Commission and the Agency of Natural Resources have reviewed volumes of data to determine the safety of wastewater treatment plants throughout Vermont.

One of their most interesting findings?

Wastewater treatment facilities that accept landfill leachate and those that do not, produce similar test results. In other words, whether or not a plant processes landfill leachate, they discharge PFOA and PFAS—it is that persistent of a compound.

In fact, if the members of Memphremagog Conservation Inc. (MCI), and Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity (DUMP) are serious about addressing the purity of Lake Memphremagog, they have to be willing to confront the fact that wastewater being discharged into the lake from the Canadian side has the potential to be significantly more harmful.

Canadian wastewater discharge standards for PFAS—and I use that term very loosely—are vastly less stringent than Vermont’s.

In fact, Quebec has no standards as they have failed to adopt even Canadian national wastewater discharge standards. So, sadly, our Canadian friends at MCI (and their US allies at DUMP) may be the real threat to this important body of water.

Their focus on the already stringent Vermont standards is taking time and resources away from addressing the real issues that are putting this natural resource at risk.

A determination was made by ANR that treated effluent from the Newport Wastewater Treatment Plant would have no adverse impacts to human health or to the environment.

Regardless, we will continue to work with our wastewater treatment plant partners as new treatment solutions emerge.

We urge you to do your research and understand the science before believing the scare tactics of anti-landfill groups.

Reach out to ANR and the Department of Health to get the facts about leachate and its treatment in Vermont.

If you want to change as a society, everyone needs to look in the mirror. What are we consuming? What do we throw in our garbage can each day? Have you ever cooked an egg in a Teflon Pan? Do you own a waterproof coat?

Do you have stain proof carpets? If you answered yes to these questions, you are part of the problem as all of these products used PFOA/PFAS.

I respect my fellow Vermonters who are passionate about protecting the environment. I am as well.

However, I challenge you to refocus your efforts on the true source of these emerging contaminants—the products that are coming into our state—and not on the infrastructure designed to protect us at the end of their lifecycle.

Let’s refocus our passion and resources on making sure that we have safe and environmentally sound products entering our state, and that our neighbors in Canada do their part to protect the environment.

Letter: The daily struggles of finding a reliable internet connection by Katherine Sims

in Letter to the Editor

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in a bathroom. It’s not what you’re thinking.

I hang out in the basement bathroom of a Greensboro church for the fast internet. And I’m thankful for Spark, the new co-working space close to my house, for providing the space — now used just for calls — where I know I can participate in video conferences, a big part of my job.

There’s a tech company co-founder I know who takes turns with his wife uploading data files from their home office. A local librarian pays two service providers for when one inevitably goes out. A doctor has to rent a better-connected second office for telemedicine. The internet in most of the Northeast Kingdom, and other rural parts of Vermont, simply does not support modern life.

People patch it together. But we know it’s a drag on our economy and it drives young people away. If these weren’t big enough problems, there are more on the horizon.

Soon, fast, reliable and affordable internet will be like electricity — needed for basic safety and health. My new hot water heater lets me monitor its performance and change settings over Wifi. Renewing a driver’s license is much easier online. My doctor’s office encourages making appointments and requesting refills over the Web. Eventually, this will be the only way it’s done.

All Vermonters deserve access to this essential resource. And it’s clear by now that large communications companies won’t solve this for us. There’s not enough money to be made.

The big leaps in service lately have come from communities banding together or partnering with small providers. Craftsbury, where I live, just built its own 13-mile fiber network using federal grants. The percentage of buildings in town with access to true broadband speeds went from 8 percent to almost half.

The Vermont House overwhelmingly approved a bill in March to provide more funding for community-owned and public/private broadband projects like this one. But, with adjournment looming, it appears stuck in the Senate Finance committee. I hope Senate leaders understand how important this issue is to their rural constituents.

We can’t afford to wait another year – and I’d really like to get out of the bathroom.

A version of this commentary aired on VPR on 5/2/19, Listen here.

Mayor’s Statement Regarding City of Newport Wastewater Treatment Facility, Leachate, Landfill Expansion

in Letter to the Editor/Newport

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Newport Mayor Paul Monette.

At the October 15, 2018 Newport City Council Regular Meeting, Charlie Pronto, representing D.U.M.P., and Robert Benoit, representing Memphremagog Conservation, presented their concerns that leachate may be leaking from the landfill, that the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) may not be properly equipped to treat leachate given “PFAS” concerns, and, they asked the City to formally oppose the landfill expansion.

Upon the completion of their presentation, Mr. Chenette moved that the City stop taking leachate until proven safe, and to oppose the expansion of the landfill. The vote was unanimous.

The City listened to the concerns expressed by these community members, took immediate action by suspending the acceptance of leachate to allow the council members time to research the concerns expressed about the leachate, about the WWTF, and, they wrote a letter to the Act 250 Commission opposing the landfill expansion.

The Council recognized they had yet to hear a formal presentation from the landfill and they had yet to hear from the Agency of Natural Resources, that is the regulatory authority for the landfill as well as the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. The motion was intentionally worded so that Council could take action to either deem leachate safe or unsafe.

The City of Newport held an open house at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Saturday, November 3. The purpose was to invite the public to tour the WWTF so that they could see the inner workings, and ask questions about the digestion and regulatory process.

The City then hosted a public forum on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, where the public was invited to attend a presentation by The Vt. Agency of Natural Resources as well as Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

The meeting presented an opportunity for the public to learn about the State’s regulatory authority over the landfill and the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The meeting also presented the public with an opportunity to ask Casella Land Systems’ questions.

The Agency confirmed that “DEC has determined that leachate can continue to be managed at WWTFs with no adverse impacts to human health or the environment from PFAS in the waters receiving that effluent.”

Further, the Agency confirmed that “there is no indication that the NEWSVT lined landfill is leaking,” and that “no groundwater contamination from the unlined landfill has been detected at or near the property boundary of the NEWSVT facility.”

Their findings can be found on the City’s webpage at this link: https://goo.gl/P7Cfjk

After the November 27, public forum, I continued my research separate and apart from the presentations, and I did take the time to visit the Casella landfill on the Airport Road. Other council members did the same.

At a regularly scheduled council meeting on December 17, 2018, another presentation was provided to include representatives from D.U.M.P., the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation, Solid Waste District and Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (NEWSVT).

After a lengthy and spirited discussion which included many questions from the public, Council President Denis Chenette moved that “based on the research done by and information provided to the council, I move that we resume the acceptance of leachate at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The levels of contaminants are found to be well within the federal standards, as well as the state standards which are even more restrictive.

Furthermore, I would like to see a partnering of the City of Newport and Casella Waste Management regarding the research and possible implementation of future upgrading to the City’s wastewater treatment plant with the oversight of the appropriate state department.

I would also move that the letter to the Act 250 Commission be withdrawn due to information regarding air quality and the implementation of systems currently in use and proposed at the Casella facility located in Coventry.

Seconded by Ms. Raboin. The motion passed on a 3 to 2 decision.

This decision was made after the council members deemed it was safe to treat leachate at our Waste Water Treatment Facility through conducting hours of research.

I was the tie-breaking vote because I put emotions aside and based my decision on science, research, and the evidence presented by the State of Vermont that is the regulatory authority.

At this time I want to stress to the public that our Waste Water Treatment Facility is not polluting Lake Mempremagog.

It meets or exceeds the standards set by the State of Vermont and EPA. Our city employees take pride in the operation of our facility. I can assure the public that the effluent discharged into the Clyde River, and the safety of the public and the lake is and will always be a top priority of the City.

We have always been, and are committed to being, in compliance with our permit and the state regulatory authority.

Once leachate was proven safe, the next responsibility for the Council was to look at the economics. If the city were to suspend taking leacheate, which has been proven safe and has been a normal part of operations since 2009, the sewer rents in both Newport and Derby would see a $200 increase in their annual sewer rates in order to compensate for the gap that a termination of leachate treatment would cause.

Casella Waste Systems Inc.’s current ANR permit requires them to investigate both on and off-site pre-treatment methods for leachate and PFAS. The City will also soon be required to adopt an ‘Industrial Waste Ordinance.’

The City Council believes we will have some advantages by partnering with Casella on our respective mandated upgrade costs which could eventually have a favorable impact on the utility rents.

Regarding the petitions which the city council voted not to place on the ballot for Town Meeting. The City Council respects the right for citizens to bring petitions forward.

However, based upon a review of these petitions and a validity question posed by a member of the public, I continued to do more research. I learned that the subject matter contained in the requested petitions are beyond the authority of the voters to decide at town meeting.

In other words, a vote on these articles would not be binding. The requests in the petitions are reserved to the City Council, who is charged with the supervisory authority of the City.

It is the City Council that has the authority and control over the utility systems and it is the City Council’s responsibility to determine the appropriateness of any contract.

Vermont Statutes are clear that the City Council has these inherent authorities. For these reasons, the Council is not obligated to include the requested articles in the warning, even when the requirements for presenting the petitions were satisfied.

Both the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the City Attorney advised us that since the articles are non-binding, it is better not to give a false impression to the voters.

I have been the Mayor of the City of Newport for 10 years and it is a responsibility I take very seriously. My first priority is the ethical treatment of our citizens and their concerns.

This has been an emotional matter for some of our citizens and I am proud of the way the City Council handled these concerns.

We listened, we took action, did our research and made a timely determination based on science, evidence, facts and the best interest for the City.

It may not be the decision some of our citizens had hoped for. It is, however, a decision based on a sound process and I am confident our conclusion is the best for the City of Newport. ​

I expect the people of Newport to be passionate about difficult matters. In the end, we are all Vermonters and proud of our strong community.

Questions, questions, questions about the landfill

in coventry/Letter to the Editor/Newport

After the September 10th forum in Newport with a panel presenting opinions on the expansion of the Coventry landfill, I’ve been asking myself and others a lot of questions.

As a member of DUMP, Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity, I’ve met concerned citizens working hard to investigate the issues surrounding our local landfill, unfortunately, the only landfill in Vermont.

It’s not an easy task, and I applaud the Chronicle, VT Digger, Seven Days, Newport Dispatch and other media for entering the fray.

I did not attend the recently-called meeting in Coventry, but after reading the Chronicle’s November 21st article I had more questions than answers.

According to the Coventry Selectmen and the VT Department of Environmental Conservation, there are “intense regulations” and frequent monitoring.

How frequently do the Town and State officials visit the landfill for spontaneous inspection? How intense are the regulations Vermont places on its one lined landfill since indeed waste management is “risky business,” according to the DEC Commissioner?

During the Sept. 10th forum the Solid Waste representative, Cathy Jamieson, mentioned that the facility was permitted because of the regulations that were in place, but she acknowledged that they might be less strict standards than in other states.

What are the standards in other states? How often do the wells get tested?

If the Waste Water Treatment Plants are not designed to test for PFAs, how can we be assured that leachate is clean when it goes into the lakes or rivers of Vermont?

How long does it take for contaminates to migrate? How often are the landfill liners checked for tears or slippage?

Vermont’s Universal Recycling Act was enacted in 2012 but the amount of recyclables removed from garbage has decreased our waste only slightly in the past 6 years.

What steps has the Solid Waste Department taken that have worked or haven’t made a difference? What do we really need to do in Vermont to reduce and reuse our garbage? What specific strategies has Casella implemented to become forerunners in the field of safe and environmentally friendly waste management as they claimed?

And what is the “ideal place for a landfill,” as the panel’s senior hydrologist posed?
A watershed bordering an international lake that provides drinking water to Canadian citizens?

Or a poor region where residents might benefit from the dollars that the landfill company will pay to compensate for the odors and the traffic (although all the other communities around the region and state have to deal with the huge trucks and emissions, as well)?

The squashed plans to site landfills in Burlington and Williston in recent years failed due to … what?

Were they not ideal places to site a landfill, being in populated zones where more of the garbage is generated and collected?

What long-range planning is Vermont doing to solve these problems?

Our communities, whether they are for or against the expansion of the Coventry landfill, would like specific answers to all these questions.

The public should be made aware of the test results and options and get specific, not vague, answers.

From our DUMP queries, we’ve seen that a lot of digging needs to be done into DEC, Act 250 or NEWSVT records to gain facts.

My final question is “What is the rush?”

Deliberations, answers and solutions should precede the permit expansion.

Let’s take the time to solidify Vermont’s solid waste management plan.

Respectfully,

Lindy Sargent, Barton

Congressman Peter Welch consistently stands up to China for Vermont Workers by Gary Gillespie

in Letter to the Editor

In November of 2013, Congressman Peter Welch made an impassioned plea to save Vermont jobs in front of the International Trade Commission in Washington D.C.

He did so on behalf of hundreds of Vermont loggers, truckers and wood workers at Columbia Forest Products’ hardwood veneer plant in Newport, Vermont.

In no-nonsense “Vermont” fashion, Peter educated Commissioners on the illegal tactics the Chinese government and the Chinese hardwood plywood manufacturing industry have employed to dump cheap, highly subsidized hardwood panels into the U.S. market since the early 2000’s.
 
Unfortunately, the Trade Commission did not vote in favor of the U.S. hardwood veneer and plywood industry at that time and the Chinese continued to dump highly subsidized hardwood veneered panels into the U.S.

Last November, a coalition of six U.S. plywood manufacturers, including Columbia Forest Products, refiled an Anti – Dumping, Counter Vailing duty suit against Chinese panel importers. The second time around, the commission voted in favor of U.S. manufacturers and slapped significant tariffs on the illegally traded panels from China.

Once again, Peter and his staff saddled up with U.S. manufacturers and were a strong voice in D.C. for their Vermont constituents. Politicians like to “talk the walk” regarding having the backs of U.S. workers quite liberally. Peter has “walked the talk” since 2013, standing up to China for Vermont workers and he and his staff continue to be on the lookout for other unscrupulous Chinese trade activities.
 
On behalf of Columbia Forest Products employee owners in Newport, Vermont and our many trading partners in Vermont, a heartfelt thank you to Congressman Welch for making a meaningful difference for Vermont workers.     
 
Gary Gillespie
Executive Vice President
Columbia Forest Products

Letters: Vote to re-elect Sheriff Kirk Martin | by James H. Douglas, Scott Morley, Rebecca Boulanger, Shelia Martin

in Letter to the Editor

Dear Orleans County voters,

I am pleased to support the re-election of Sheriff Kirk Martin. I was honored to appoint Sheriff Martin in 2008 to succeed Sheriff Lance Bowen and I’ve never regretted it.

Sheriff Martin has demonstrated his commitment to serving the community. He’s able to adapt to new circumstances and opportunities and he’s tackled issues that have arisen over the past 10 years.

Sheriff Martin has been a strong voice for Orleans County and is well-respected by his peers. He has the experience it takes to lead the Sheriff’s Department to realize its full potential. Based on his long and dedicated service, I hope you’ll re-elect Kirk Martin as Orleans County Sheriff.

Sincerely,
James H. Douglas
Governor 2003 – 2011

Sheriff Kirk Martin “the finest of personal qualities”

Kirk Martin has been a very successful Sheriff any way you measure it.

I’ve reviewed the other letters supporting each candidate and the advertisements.

I’ve listened to my friends, neighbors and family members express their views.

A well-written letter, an eloquent speech or a catchy ad can support different views and make independent-minded people see each side.

I’ve boiled it all down for myself. Sheriff Martin has been in office for a number of years. The Sheriff’s Department is in better shape now than when he took office.

The business of the Department is currently very successful no matter what measurements are used.

Relationships are possibly the most important part of a successful Sheriff. This is Mr. Martin’s strongest asset.

From his own staff, to local contracts, to friends, neighbors, and family. Kirk is a strong man with natural leadership and the finest of personal qualities anybody can display.

I’m voting Kirk Martin for keeping our successful Sheriff’s Department going strong into the future.

Scott Morley: Coventry, VT

Remember to Vote on November 6th for the Candidate with Integrity, Dedication and a Proven Track Record. Vote to Re-elect Kirk Martin.

Kirk has dedicated his life to public service. His service began at a young age when he joined the Orleans Emergency Service and Orleans Fire Department. He eventually became the Assistant Fire Chief and learned to handle and maintain a sustainable budget for the department with the help of other dedicated members of the department.

Kirk was always interested in law enforcement; it was his career goal in his high school yearbook.

What you don’t see is all the time he dedicates to his department, community, and family.

A call comes in at home, on a weekend, at late hours, and he always is there to help, whether it be a call to come to lead a high school winning team back into town or a call to aid a neighbor in need.

What about all the children in our neighborhood who consider our home a safe home and can come by anytime day or night to talk, ask questions and just be part of our life?

Kirk Martin has received two lifesaving awards from two different Governors for saving the lives of two community members.

These are the things that no one sees or hears about. Why? Because Kirk Martin is not a person to boast or toot his own horn. He is a private person who does what is best for our community. You ask how I know all about this? It is because I have been his wife for the past 28 years.

Yes, there are many contracts and different services the Sheriff’s Department can participate in, but they all take money and those monies would have to come from town contracts, if a town so chooses, to contract with the Sheriff’s Department. These contracts are not set in stone and get voted on yearly by the taxpayers. All these extra services have to be voted on by the taxpayers, and this, in turn, increases taxes. With our recent crisis with EMS we will have our taxes increased and Act 46 may or may not increase taxes depending on whether or not it is passed.

Please remember to vote on November 6th for Kirk Martin, the candidate with integrity, dedication and someone who is humble about his accomplishments.

Thank you,
Shelia Martin

Dear Orleans County Voters:

Among the important decisions, voters will make on November 6 is that of Orleans County Sherriff. Strangely enough, we are presented with the same choice that we had back on primary day in August.

Why? Because Jennifer-Harlow Jacobs, after losing by 393 votes (1307-914) in the Republican primary, decided to run in the general election as a Democrat, in part because she received 18 more Democrat write-in votes than Sheriff Kirk Martin (312-294).

Legal? Yes. Fair? That’s another question.

Kirk Martin has served our community all of his adult life, including twenty-three years in law enforcement at the sheriff’s department.

He was also assistant fire chief for the Orleans Fire Department and a volunteer emergency responder with the Orleans Ambulance Service for thirty years.

In 2008, Kirk was appointed Orleans County Sherriff by Governor Jim Douglas after receiving letters of recognition for bravery in saving two lives; one letter from Gov. Douglas and one from Governor Howard Dean.

During his ten years as Sheriff, Kirk has focused on providing the best possible patrol coverage for our community, being mindful of the reality of balancing town budgets, costs to the taxpayers, and providing coverage that is sustainable for the long haul.

He has modernized the fleet of patrol cars, added a K-9 unit and body cameras, and organized the move into a modern and secure building on the Derby Road.

When our two local high schools were in need, he worked to provide deputies as School Resource Officers protecting our children.
Sheriff Kirk Martin works quietly, without fanfare, to keep our community safe not just because it is his job, but because he cares about the people he serves.

He has continued “Operation Call-In”, a service in which his office checks on senior citizens living alone to make sure they are okay, and at Christmas Kirk personally delivers gifts because he worries that these seniors might be alone for the holidays. Kirk founded “Operation Santa” in which his office fundraises, purchases and delivers Christmas gifts for children in need.

And those letters of recognition that Kirk received from the governors? One was for jumping into the Barton River to save a five-year-old girl who had gone out on the ice to get her doll and was in danger of breaking through and being swept downstream.

Sheriff Kirk Martin has earned our trust and deserves our support. Vote for Kirk Martin on November 6.

Rebecca Boulanger
Irasburg

In support of State’s Attorney candidate Jennifer Barrett by Kristen Wright

in Letter to the Editor

To the citizens of Orleans County,

I am writing in support of State Attorney Candidate Jennifer Barrett.

After growing up in Orleans County, and seeing how the times have changed, the only responsible choice for our community is to vote for Jennifer Barrett.

My support of Jennifer Barrett is largely in part due to her strong beliefs surrounding major issues in our community, such as domestic violence and drugs.

Jennifer believes in holding people accountable for their actions.

During her first four years, she has truly served the public.

She has proven herself by using the Diversion Program at the highest rate in history for non-violent, first-time offenders.

She continues to fight every day for tough sentences for those selling drugs in our communities.

While the times are changing, and the increase in drug-related crimes and domestic abuse seems to be on the rise, Attorney Jennifer Barret never wavers in her beliefs and her role as a State’s Attorney.

I firmly stand by her and would recommend you do the same.

Thank you,

Kristen Wright

Smell the Roses, not the Landfill

in Letter to the Editor

Two of our most basic human rights should be clean air to breathe and untainted water to drink; both of these basic human rights are now under threat in the NEK.

If you detect the slightest hint, or an overwhelming stench coming from the Coventry landfill please report it as SOON as you smell it.

Remember, these smells can travel a long way and won’t necessarily be located directly next to the landfill.

It is imperative that everyone reports these odors so data can be collected in an effort to understand the negative impacts of having a behemoth landfill in our own backyard.

As soon as you smell anything, please contact both of these numbers, 24/7:

Coventry Landfill: 802-323-9537
Department of Environmental Conservation: 802-249-5904 and/or barb.schwendtner@vermont.gov

Would you like to learn more and join the growing ranks of NEK’ers opposing this landfill expansion and other associated issues threatening our local watershed?

If so, please join the Facebook conversation on DUMP, Don’t Undermine Memphremagog Purity and please ask others to join too.

This letter was submitted by Beth Barnes, of Newport.

Support to Re-elect Sheriff Kirk Martin by Representative Gary Viens

in Letter to the Editor

I am writing this letter to the editor in support of Sheriff Kirk Martin to be re-elected Sheriff of Orleans County.

Sheriff Martin is a lifelong member of our community.

He grew up in Brownington and attended Brownington Central School and Lake Region Union High School.

He was first appointed Sheriff in 2008 by Governor Jim Douglas, after the retirement of Sheriff Lance Bowen.

The job of Sheriff has many moving parts, they include formulating the annual operational budget, keeping in mind the wishes of the voters.

Supervising all personnel, including Deputy Sheriff’s as well as administrative staff. Attending meeting with towns to make sure the department is living up to the expectations of the towns who have contracts for services with the department.

He sets realistic goals for both the department and the voters.

An example of this is if the Sheriff’s Department was to go to a 24/7 operation, the cost for each town, excluding Derby and Newport (Derby because of the amount of service needed and Newport having its own Police Department), would be in the range of $230,000.00 per year.

This additional expense would be in addition to their current taxes, which is already out of control.

Sheriff Martin understands this fact and works to keep operational cost down to save taxpayers money.

Now let’s look at a few of Sheriff Martin’s accomplishments:

Thanks to Sheriff Martin over the last 10 years the Orleans County Sheriffs Department has seen many improvements including:

Securing funding for and moving into a new, modern and secure office on the Derby Road.

Increasing and modernizing the vehicle fleet.

Working diligently with towns to increases patrol hours.

Sheriff Martin added a K-9 program and worked for body cameras for added safety.

And let’s not forget Operation Santa!!!!

Also let us not forget, when North Country Union High School lost their School Resource Officer (SRO) Sheriff Martin worked with the school and placed a Deputy Sheriff at NCUHS.

Sheriff Martin also worked with Lake Region High School to place a Deputy at that school as well making these two schools safer for our children.

Stepping up to the plate is something Sheriff Martin does without fanfare or a need to “blow his own horn,” something very rare nowadays.

This is why I support the Re-election of Sheriff Kirk Martin!

Representative Gary Viens
Newport, Vermont

Letter: The landfill expansion decision by Pam Ladds

in Letter to the Editor

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management Division has granted approval of a proposed Coventry Landfill expansion of 51 acres. The decision was based on existing rules that are probably outdated, and certainly do not address the very real concerns of those of us who live in the area or who are impacted by the potential threats to our waters. We, who would like to learn from the tragic experiences of Bennington and their well contaminations, find this unsatisfying.

The section of the approval that addresses the questions raised by the public comments is lengthy and mind-blowing. It should be required reading for any of us in the Coventry/Newport area. Those impacted by the volume of heavy traffic should also be interested in the abdication of state involvement. The diminishing value of homes in Coventry is apparently of no concern.

Landfills are old technology, or as Chittenden Solid Waste District says “waste is a design flaw.” Not that Chittenden is a shining light as its landfill is unused and its waste shipped up to us in the NEK. I just appreciate the sentiment. Landfills are from previous centuries. This century has other options and just because we live “up here” does not mean we should accept outdated technology and attitudes. Although it has been pointed out that the new landfill liners are “new technology” they are still being deposited into an outdated system. Landfills themselves are no longer necessary or state of the art. We can learn from other states and countries.

Landfills and other potentially harmful environmental industries are usually located in poor, rural areas where residents struggle economically. Meaning the assumptions are that:

• We won’t notice.
• We are used to being abused and won’t know how to stop it happening.
• We won’t understand the possibilities of harm to us or future generations.
• We accept bribes to continue to allow this to happen. And in reality that one has been historically true. Casella pays Coventry, Newport, Montpelier, Essex Junction and others to take the leachate and host the landfill. A lot of money.

Personally, I don’t like any of those assumptions. And reject them all.

Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom are trying to reinvent themselves. If we allow ourselves to be the garbage dump for the country (we take waste from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and probably other states too) we are risking the future of that “reinvention.” If Vermont is marketing our great four-season outdoor activities and eco-tourism, our pristine lakes and waterways, then we are risking all that by allowing others to literally crap in our backyard. Not only are we are putting our immediate area at risk, we allow the highways to be damaged as gargantuan trucks blow through the small towns on their way up here. We pay for those roads, the traveling trucks do not. The landfill that collects a lot of money from those trucks does not pay for the roads, or compensate for the noise in the communities as juggernauts rattle through. Our taxes pay to support their industry. Win for them and another loss for us.

We are discouraging recycling, repurposing and reusing. We are encouraging waste, and toxic waste, by not making other communities take care of their own garbage, clean up their own wasteful habits and look at their own behaviors. So easy to put out the garbage and have it just disappear. No fuss, no mess in Burlington or Rutland, just truck it on up to the NEK. Why waste less? Toxic stuff? No problem, Coventry takes that too. Remember when Burlington got upset last year? Residents were told that they had to pay to take away tons of poison fill. Shame! Guess where that fill ended up? Yup, right here and the landfill was paid. Other cities need to be responsible for their own “stuff” — if we want our wasteful behavior to change.

We are risking poisoning ourselves, our neighbors to the north and our children and grandchildren. A cavalier “oh the new liners will last for 700 years” is no consolation, and is certainly nothing more than a wild guess. That is not the legacy we should be paying forward.

There are alternatives to landfills and Casella/NEWSVT has an opportunity here to be ahead of the curve, instead of trailing along in the rear of the rest of the world. A quick google shows several alternatives. Explore them! Research others. Why wait 20 years until the landfill overflows?

NEWSVT (aka Casella Waste) is a corporation that may be following best practices as far as they know. Or not! The Agency of Natural Resources may be functioning independently, coming to clear decisions based on current thinking. Or not! They are certainly an agency constrained by regulations and bureau-think, and with no concern for the surrounding area beyond their narrow purview. We, community residents, do not live in test-tube — a narrow frame is a disservice to us. Although we are all unable to see into the future there are enough questions for us, the residents of the NEK, to not accept this thinking and to call for a full independent investigation, and an exploration of alternatives. Our recent experience up here in the NEK showed us promises too good to be true are just that, politicians can have blinders on, and corporations can operate fraudulently. We residents told the powers-that-be that the emperors were stark naked. We were not believed and were ignored. Dollar signs rolling around in eyeballs tends to get that response. The outcome from that debacle will haunt us for many years. No more EB-5 types of “investment” that benefit only the elites and harm the rest of us. And no investment without verification, checks and balances firmly in place.

Will the landfill expansion be another, even-more permanent “hole” — do we want to risk our future in this way? Newport residents, based on experience, might have some strong feelings about this.

We need to learn from that experience. To not trust promises without substantial evidence to support them. And certainly not trust either corporations or state/local entities without massive input and exploration of the alternatives. Conflicts of interest are notorious for messing with good judgments or listening skills. We can refuse to be the garbage can of the states. And we can certainly refuse to be chickens with foxes as our overlords.

Local Newport and Coventry people need to show up at every possible meeting concerning the landfill and the potential expansion. And to not be silenced.

Letter: The Mountain By the Lake by Don Peterson

in Letter to the Editor

The only reason Vermont has a monster landfill by the lake in Coventry is because 100 years ago dumping trash into wetlands was considered a great way to manage solid wastes.

We don’t do things that way now, but due to inattention on the part of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), there are now no other alternatives to the disposal of solid waste in Vermont.

That’s hard for me to accept.

That other possible location, the former Palisades landfill in Moretown is currently abandoned. It was a slow moving train wreck that anybody who was there at the dawn of the Act 78 era could predict would end badly.

At the time, it was common knowledge in the trade that Valley Disposal was on the ropes, was desperate for money, and lacked the cash flow to properly manage the Palisades site.

The site changed management several times. The ANR threw up their hands and walked away.

So after the failure to site a landfill in Chittenden County, and the collapse of Palisades, the lined landfill in Coventry managed by the rational people at Casella looked pretty attractive.

Casella does a good job with their landfill and why shouldn’t they? As the saying goes in the trade—it’s a simple business.

They are very likely better funded than their regulators, and have deeper expertise, with the result being predictable— they’ve outmaneuvered the ANR into agreeing to a development that does not reflect any kind of responsible solution to the disposal of our solid waste.

Part of the horse trading that created this extension is related to the Quiros’ need to have a longer runway for their corporate jet.

Casella was happy to trade some much-needed runway space in exchange for landfill space. While the Conmen from Miami are gone, the landfill extension remains.

If South Bay were undeveloped now, the idea of sitting a landfill there of any size whatever would be viewed as lunacy.

I’m used to less than brilliant solutions to the problems of modern life, so lunacy is just a degree.

The town of Coventry likes the revenue, even though an unknown amount has been squandered. Wherever the money went, one town’s desire for a low tax rate wouldn’t override the quality of water of an entire basin in any other place in the state, excepting maybe Lake Carmi.

It all means that an international body of water is host to an expanding landfill mainly as a convenience to the ANR, who can’t seem to find anywhere else to dump trash.

This is more an object lesson in how not to manage a state than how to run a landfill.

So let’s drop the jargon — this is a huge beautiful lake and the ANR is approving its shores for expanded garbage disposal. They can’t come up with a better idea. I suppose we should be grateful they aren’t barging it out to the middle and sinking it there, but I’m not.

The South Bay Area is a huge wetland, and it’s amazing that while the ANR chooses to prosecute even tiny infractions of the Wetlands Act all over the state, Mount Casella-by-the-Lake abides.

For some reason, it’s ok to develop the South Bay but not ok to put a driveway through a swale in Jericho. I resent the implication—that your suburbs are more important to Vermont than our huge international lake.

I’m left feeling very sad for the Northeast Kingdom: without it, most of Vermont would be more akin to a suburb of Boston.

The NEK allows the rest of you to support the pretense that you live in a state unspoiled by development, a place clean and fresh and special.

And for some reason, that best unspoiled place, the avatar of your countless brochures and websites is where you choose to dump your trash and build your fantasist green energy skylines.

Well, for one thing, we’re too poor to object. But I for one am very disappointed in the rest of you. Find another place your garbage.

Don Peterson is a longtime resident of Lowell and says he was employed as the controller of a medium sized Vermont trash company in the 1990’s. In his submission, he said he wants to remind people that an open public awareness meeting is planned for Monday, Sept 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Gateway Center in Newport.

Letter: Submitted by Lynn Leimer and Sunny Naughton

in Letter to the Editor

Over the past two weeks, sold out audiences from the Northeast Kingdom and the Eastern Townships enjoyed performances of Little Shop of Horrors, the premier musical production by the new theatre group Borderline Players, directed by former local talent, Thomas Perry.

A convergence of sheer will to keep theatre in the Haskell after 25 years of QNEK was the inspiration by dedicated thespians spearheaded by Chris Planetta and Ross Murray.

The call to artists reinforced the formation of the new community theatre company. Fortunately, Thomas Perry relocated his family to the Kingdom and added his passion to the international dramaturg.

The success of the inaugural season is largely due to an all-volunteer cast and crew and generosity of the community. The show was enhanced by talented performances, imaginative and detailed set, live orchestra and delightful AUDREY II.

As local artsprenuers and supporters of the arts, we are excited about this new chapter in the community.

The Resident Theatre Company at the Haskell Opera House, Borderline Players, show great promise and prove the “ocean can float many ships” – there can never be enough live theatre.

For those that love the traditional summer musical, unique offerings, mysteries and drama, we can expect more from this organization in years to come that won’t disappoint. 

Looking forward to the fall production of Agatha Christie’s, THE MOUSETRAP.

See you at the theater!

Lynn Leimer
Sunny Naughton
MAC Center for the Arts
ACT 1 Directors

Letters: Vote to re-elect Sheriff Kirk Martin

in Letter to the Editor

The following letters to the editor were submitted to Newport Dispatch:

From Rick Danforth, Westfield.

I am writing this letter in support of Sheriff Kirk Martin. I have worked with Sheriff Martin for many years. He is a dedicated to making our communities a better place to live. While I was working as a Community Correctional Officer, he never hesitated to come out and assist when asked.

He didn’t send a deputy, he would do this himself.

I have the utmost respect for Sheriff Martin and I am proud to say that I will be voting for the only choice for Sheriff, and that is Sheriff Kirk Martin.

Please make sure to vote on August 14th and make the right choice, vote to re-elect Sheriff Kirk Martin.

From Carlotta Corcoran

In 2008, Kirk Martin became Sheriff of Orleans County. Since that point, the Sheriff’s Department has prospered.

Many new programs and contracts have been added. He has taken steps to make the Department what it is today.

Sheriff Martin stands behind his Deputies and their work.

I was Kirk’s Administrative Assistant until 2015 when I retired after 17 years of service to him and the Department.

Many times I have seen him patrolling the County, transporting prisoners, meeting with civic groups and nonstop working on keeping his budget in control. He is definitely a working Sheriff.

The deputies that he has hired are a fine group of people. They uphold the law in a professional and courteous way. this is due to their training and his fine leadership.

So please get out and vote on August 14th for Sheriff Kirk Martin and you will be glad you did.

Don’t forget it’s not too late to get absentee ballots.

From Thomas Cluff, Lowell, MA

I am writing this letter in support of Sheriff Kirk J. Martin. The Orleans County Sheriff’s Department has had many improvements since Kirk Martin was appointed and re-elected.

He is a great asset to the community and the Department. There are numerous benefits of re-electing Sheriff Martin.

1. He has experience;
2. He has developed many contacts over the past years;
3. He has the knowledge;
4. He has the trust of his deputies;
5. He has demonstrated his dedication to the department.

These are just a few qualities that Kirk Martin has demonstrated as the Sheriff.

Since I am only a visitor, I am unable to vote but Sheriff Martin would be my choice for the above reasons and many more. These should be your reasons why you re-elect Sheriff Kirk Martin.

Please make sure to VOTE on August 14th and make the right choice, Sheriff Martin.

From Phyllis Kennison, Brownington

I am writing this letter in support of Sheriff Kirk Martin. Sheriff Martin is a dedicated officer to his Department and community.

As I recently read a post on Facebook someone stated our current Sheriff has all the great qualities his opponent said she would like to see in a Sheriff, also the things she would like to see done, our Sheriff currently does these things.

So I agree that why fix something that isn’t broken. Please VOTE on AUGUST 14th to RE-ELECT Sheriff Kirk J. Martin.

Supporting Woody Page for VT House by Representative Gary Viens

in Letter to the Editor

I am writing this letter to the editor in support of Woody Page for Vermont House of Representatives Orleans-2, (Newport, Newport Center, Coventry, Irasburg and a portion of Troy).

Woody was born and raised in Newport, he went to school in Newport and graduated from North Country Union High School and Norwich University before joining the U.S. Air Force attaining the rank of Major before retiring.

Woody has served the people of the United States, Vermont, and Orleans County his entire adult life.

He now wants to continue this tradition by serving us in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Woody Page understands the issues we face, like, out of control spending by the Montpelier liberals as well as their out of control taxing of hard-working Vermonters.

He will also fight to curtail unreasonable regulations which holds back both the expansion of existing businesses here in Vermont, as well as stopping new businesses from relocating here.

During the last biennium, there were 53 Republicans in the Vermont House, that means when the Governor vetoes a bill such as increases taxes, he needed 51 votes to sustain his veto.

This election cycle 17 Republicans are not seeking re-election, the Governor needs at least 51 Republicans to stand strong with him if we are to see taxes stay flat or better yet, reduced.

For all of the reasons I have mentioned, that is why we need Woody Page as our next State Representative in Montpelier.

Woody will work hard every day to represent us in Montpelier, I know he will do an outstanding job for us, and that is why I am voting for Woody Page in next weeks Primary.

I hope you do too.

Representative Gary Viens
Newport, Vt.

Leigh Elliott: Lack of Media Coverage for Forced Mergers Occurring in NCSU

in Letter to the Editor

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing as a concerned citizen. I have been scouring your news and webpage for information about the proposed forced mergers of school districts due to Act 46, and I have not seen one article discussing it.

As an educator in a small school faced with this reality, I am incredibly concerned that our students will be the ones who will suffer the most. As an educator who sat in the Newark School last Wednesday to watch our school boards defend our schools against the State Board of Education, I am incredibly concerned that the majority of the population in the state does not know these meetings with the State Board of Education are happening and that communities are passionately speaking out against the proposed mergers.

Most people are unaware that mergers, forced mergers, could possibly be happening as soon as the 2019-2020 school year.

Many communities believe that since they voted against a merger, it will not happen. They are mistaken. These mergers will cause great changes to the way Vermont educates its children.

These will not be changes that save money nor increase educational outcomes.

Our school will be forced with the state’s proposal to merge our district with Brighton Elementary School. With this forced merger comes many uncertainties, including Articles of Agreement, ownership of buildings, tax rates, and even a potential of merging schools.

While many people who do not understand our small schools will not see an issue with a potential of merging schools, it would create many problems in our towns.

Many people choose to live in small towns so their students can attend a small school.

While the Secretary of Education is concerned about equity of education across our state, our children are in class sizes that you only see in private schools in Chittenden County.

The classes are small because towns are small and spread out.

In my classroom, I create a relationship with my students. I know their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and their long-term goals for their lives.

I challenge any of my former teachers to say that they have had any relationship with me after they had me in their class.

I was raised in a town in Chittenden County and had a wonderful educational experience. I do not want to discount that. If you had asked me 8 years ago about merging schools and districts in the Northeast Kingdom, I would have said that it was a great idea and that the class sizes were too small.

However, after being embedded in this community, I have a better understanding as to why this will not work for our town.

I am not alone in this. There are small communities across the state who are struggling with this mandate.

I am asking you as our trusted news source in Vermont, please make our public aware of this situation.

I am not asking you to discuss political views. I am asking you to make the public aware of the mandates across the state.

I am asking you to watch the recorded footage on RETV and see for yourself the absurdity that has been posed across the state.

There are two more scheduled Act 46 community meetings – Aug. 15 at the statehouse and Sept. 19 at the Green Mountain High School in Chester.

Looking forward to your future coverage of Act 46.

Leigh Elliott, concerned educator.

The Future of Vermont’s Farms by Kendall Lambert

in Letter to the Editor

Vermont’s farmers and agricultural producers are struggling, yet, according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont’s agricultural sector contributes nearly $281 million to Vermont’s GDP.

Why then are our farmers losing their lands and livelihoods at such an alarming rate? We cannot claim to be an agricultural state and sell images of red barns while our farmers struggle so profoundly.

There is a lot of talk about the environmental impacts of farming, especially on our waterways. I am the first to say that clean water is a necessity. Our solutions to cleaning up and improving our waters must involve our farmers. Not now, not ever, should this burden fall solely on their shoulders- this is a multi-sector problem with multi-sector solutions. But I promise to work with our farmers to balance farming interests with the environment, and step one, is to make sure that farming is an economically viable pathway for Vermont families.

Also, this past year, the Agricultural Enterprise Bill was passed which opened up ways for farmers to diversify their income. I believe this bill is a great step forward, but we must go further.

We need to reduce burdensome regulation on farmers and continue to open up direct market opportunities to make it easier for farmers to sell to consumers. Farmers also need direct financial support to implement on-farm best management practices, especially those that replace old equipment or systems with new technologies that reduce farmer’s operating costs AND assist in mitigating environmental impacts. This could be as simple as direct assistance to replace dairy fans or compressors with energy efficient technologies that will reduce monthly electric bills.

Lastly, we must invest in our UVM Extension officers, Conservation Districts, and other outreach professionals. They provide farmers with necessary direct support, advocacy, and help with implementing innovative practices, but staff is overworked and overburdened. By enhancing their capacity, the state can provide additional direct support to our farmers and continue to research and implement innovative on-farm systems.

Plain and simple, our farmers deserve better representation, and we deserve better. Vote for me, Kendall Lambert, in November, and I promise to not be beholden to any Party and to work with everyone to help our Northeast Kingdom farmers and communities.

Submitted by Kendall Lambert, Independent Candidate for House of Representatives, Orleans 2.

Kendall Lambert: Running as a Republican for Vermont House was a Mistake

in Letter to the Editor

My name is Kendall Lambert and in March, I announced that I was seeking the Republican nomination to represent the Orleans 2 district in the Vermont House of Representatives.

It was a mistake.

I originally sought the Republican nomination because I consider myself a conservative. I believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, local control and I promise to fight tooth and nail for the individual liberties and freedoms guaranteed to us in the founding documents of our country – including our right to bear arms.

But here’s the truth: I also support gay marriage, sound immigration policy with a clear pathway to citizenship, racial equality, our common environment, and our teachers, first responders, police, and military personnel. Unfortunately, this cannot be reconciled with the Republican Party as it is today and I want nothing to do with it.

While the Republicans talk out one side of their mouths about constitutional rights and equal opportunity for all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that what they mean (as their national policies and rhetoric seek to codify racism, sexism, discrimination, and inequality) is that these principals actually apply only to a few. Foolishly, I thought Vermont was removed from this fundamentally un-American discourse. Turns out I was wrong.

I was embarrassed and saddened to read that Republican representatives of Orleans County – Gary Viens of Newport, Mark Higley of Lowell, Lynn Bachelor of Derby Line, and Brian Smith of Derby – voted against a resolution that condemned the Trump administration’s policy of forcefully separating children from their parents who crossed the border seeking asylum.

The malaise of our national leadership is spreading into Vermont in a way that I cannot fathom and it’s clearly beginning to define the Orleans Republican representatives. They failed to stand up for even the most basic rights of the most vulnerable. I refuse to be associated with a party that has embraced such callous and cold hearted positions. I believe in a Vermont and Northeast Kingdom that is better than that.

But don’t get me wrong, I also don’t believe I fit with the Democratic or Progressive Party either. The fact is, the party system is broken and I will no longer play its game.

I will be running as an independent even if it may cost me the election. This is the move I need to take to be faithful to my beliefs.

To the residents of the Orleans 2 and the Northeast Kingdom – know that if I am elected, I will not be beholden to any Party but rather to the principles of dignity, prosperity, and justice for everyone. Know that I will work with willing members of any party to achieve these goals. I will be your Representative in order to serve you and to uphold the constitution.

It’s time to vote in someone better and take the lead in our state. We need real change and real representation. Together we can move past partisan politics and create the community that we all want to live in.

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