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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.

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.”

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
Sunglasses
Gloves
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.

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

in News

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

ORLEANS COUNTY
TOTAL CASES – 69
# PERSONS ARRESTED – 6
# CHARGES – 6

ALBANY

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

BROWNINGTON

CHARLESTON
911 Hang up – 1
Property Damage – 1

COVENTRY
Traffic Hazard – 1

CRAFTSBURY
Accident – 2
Citizen Assist – 1

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

GLOVER
Conditions of Release – 1

HOLLAND

IRASBURG
Accident – 1
Phone Problem – 1
Suspicious – 1

JAY
Burglary – 1
Theft – 1

LOWELL
Accident – 1

MORGAN
Accident – 1
Suspicious – 1

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

NEWPORT CITY
Agency Assist – 1

TROY
Accident – 1
Alcohol Offense – 1
Suspicious – 2

WESTFIELD

911 Hang up – 1
Accident – 1
Alarm – 1

WESTMORE

Accident – 1
Alarm – 1

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.

Vermont Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

in Feature/News/Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

Stanstead College Employee Charged with $1.3 Million Worth of Cocaine

in Feature/News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in News

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

ORLEANS COUNTY

TOTAL CASES – 70
# PERSONS ARRESTED – 3
# CHARGES – 3

ALBANY

911 Hang up – 2
Agency Assist – 1

BARTON/ORLEANS

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

BROWNINGTON

Alarm – 2

CHARLESTON

Accident – 1
Agency Assist – 1

COVENTRY

Accident – 1
Bad Check – 1
Suspicious – 1

CRAFTSBURY

Accident – 1
Assault – 1
Littering – 1

DERBY

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

GLOVER

Citizen Assist – 1

HOLLAND

911 Hang up – 1
Family Fight – 1

IRASBURG

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

JAY

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

LOWELL

Accident – 1
Citizen Dispute – 1

MORGAN

Directed Patrol – 1

NEWPORT CENTER

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

NEWPORT CITY

Traffic Offense -1

TROY

Accident – 1
Agency Assist – 1
Suspicious – 3

WESTFIELD

911 Hang up – 1
Directed Patrol – 1

WESTMORE

MV Complaint – 1

Derby Woman Involved in Crash on I-91 Saturday Says Road Conditions Changed Instantly

in Feature/News

IRASBURG — Yesterday at 7:30 a.m. the Vermont State Police responded to a two vehicle crash on I-91 southbound in the town of Irasburg. The crash involved a car and a tractor trailer truck.

The operator of the car was Andrea VanWoert, of Derby. She was driving a 2009 Saturn Vue. She was rear ended by a tractor trailer truck operated by Nigel-Patrick Heath, of Kilworthy, Ontario.

VanWoert was transported by Orleans Ambulance to North Country Hospital for minor injuries.

“I was going about 20 mph or less and I hit my breaks because the tractor trailer was already in the ditch ahead of me, along with 4 other large trucks that had pulled over in various spots,” VanWoert said. “No other trucks or cars went off the road as a result of the accident.”

“When my car stopped I was in the shoulder on the right side of the road, facing backwards. Mr. Heath had no control of his truck and was coming at my car head on. I made a life saving choice to hit the gas and hope my car would move on the sheer ice. Thankfully it was successful and the truck hit my rear end, rather than head on.”

“I have personally not seen the police report as I was taken to the hospital as a precaution for a head and neck injury. The state trooper did not indicate nor did I receive any charges.”

“Today was indeed a bad day to be on the roads, as the other drivers may have experienced, the conditions changed almost instantly.”

Leahy Reintroduces Personal Data Privacy and Security Act to Protect Americans In Digital Age

in News

WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) reintroduced sweeping legislation to protect Americans’ personal information and ensure their privacy. Leahy also announced the issue of data privacy would be the subject of a committee hearing early in the new Senate session.

Leahy’s bill comes just weeks after the department store chain, Target, suffered a major data security breach involving 40 million credit and debit cards used to pay for purchases at its stores during the busy holiday buying season.

Leahy first authored and sponsored the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act in 2005, and he has reintroduced the legislation in each of the last four Congresses. The bill would establish a national standard for data breach notification, and require American businesses that collect and store consumers’ sensitive personal information to safeguard that information from cyber threats.

“The recent data breach at Target involving the debit and credit card data of as many as 40 million customers during the Christmas holidays is a reminder that developing a comprehensive national strategy to protect data privacy and cybersecurity remains one of the most challenging and important issues facing our Nation,” said Leahy.

“That is why today I am introducing the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, a bill that aims to better protect Americans from the growing threats of data breaches and identity theft. This important issue will also be the focus of a hearing before the Judiciary Committee this year.”

In 2011, the Obama administration released a proposal to enhance and strengthen cybersecurity and data privacy, including a provision to establish a national standard for data breach notification that is similar to the data breach provision in the Leahy-authored Personal Data Privacy and Security Act. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Key provisions in the bill include:

Tough criminal penalties for individuals who intentionally or willfully conceal a security breach involving personal data when the breach causes economic damage to consumers.

A requirement that companies that maintain personal data establish and implement internal policies to protect data privacy and security.

An update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to make attempted computer hacking and conspiracy to commit computer hacking punishable under the same criminal penalties as the underlying offense.

Trading Post Radio Show Returns to WIKE 1490 AM

in News

NEWPORT — The WIKE Trading Post radio show is returning to local radio station WIKE 1490 AM on Sunday mornings from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. The show is for listeners who want to buy, sell, swap, or trade items on the radio airwaves.

“Years ago this was a very popular show that people would listen to, to get great bargains or to sell something they didn’t want anymore,” said station owner Bruce James. “Following many requests to bring the show back, we’ve been working to put the show back on air for about a year now.”

Hosting the show is Adam Barrup, who has been working at the radio station and its sister station Moo 92 for the past few years.

“People can call me on our WIKE studio line at 802-766-4485 and get right on the air,” Mr. Barrup said. “I’ll take note as to what the caller has to buy, sell, swap, or trade, and give each call an identifying number so listeners can call me after the show if they missed the phone number.”

The WIKE Trading Post will air every Sunday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. on AM frequency 1490.

Mr. Barrup says that in the past they have had people call in with everything from snow blowers and automobiles, to windows and doors.

The Trading Post radio show has a few rules that listeners need to follow. Each caller is allowed to list up to three items (no firearms, weapons, or pets) and the show is for individuals and families, not businesses. Businesses can get their message on air through the radio station’s advertising department.

James says the show will start at one hour and increase as necessary. “The radio station invites everyone to call in and tell others what they want to sell or buy,” he said. “This is a great community show.”

Gov. Shumlin Asks Congress to Extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

in News/Vermont

MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin called on Congress today to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which expired on Dec. 28. The Governor said about 650 Vermonters lost benefits with the program’s expiration, losing an average weekly benefit of approximately $300. Up to 2,300 Vermonters could lose assistance over the first half of 2014.

“Vermont has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, yet many Vermonters continue to look for secure work as we pull out of the worst recession in history,” Gov. Shumlin said. He thanked President Obama and Vermont’s congressional delegation for fighting for the program.

Nationally, more than 1 million jobless workers saw their benefits expire – including 20,000 recent military veterans – and another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment benefits over the first half of 2014.

Gov. Shumlin joined a handful of other Governors in writing political leaders in Congress to urge extension of the program. The Governors noted that failure to extend benefits harms not only the individuals and families who depend on the help to pay for the basics, but states’ economies that are recovering from the recession.

“Our country’s jobless population spends unemployment benefits on rent, groceries, and other key necessities for themselves and their families. Our businesses and local communities benefit from the increased spending, and in turn, the EUC program helps to increase economic activity,” Gov. Shumlin wrote.

“Thus, not only does the EUC program benefit the long-term unemployed, but it also helps to inject revenue into our local economies, which saves and creates critically needed jobs throughout our economy,” the letter continued. “For this reason, economists widely recognize that government spending on unemployment insurance benefits is one of the most effective tools for increasing economic activity in a period of persistently high unemployment.”

Gov. Shumlin also applauded the U.S. Senate for voting to begin debate on the unemployment insurance extension – a significant step forward for the legislation in that chamber.

Planning a Visit to Quebec? You May Want to Leave that Smartphone or Laptop Behind

in News

DERBY LINE — In some cases international trips are literally a walk or bike ride away for residents of Orleans County. However you get there, if you plan to leave the United States with an electronic device, a federal judge says it “would be foolish, if not irresponsible,” to have any sensitive information on it.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York upheld a policy allowing authorities along the U.S. border to seize and search laptop computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices for any reason whatsoever, without reasonable suspicion, in the name of national security.

Korman said the so-called “border exemption,” in which anyone can be searched for no reason at all along the border, continues to apply in the digital age. This Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.

Picture 8

Korman ruled:

“While it is true that laptops may make overseas work more convenient, the precautions plaintiffs may choose to take to mitigate the alleged harm associated with the remote possibility of a border search are simply among the many inconveniences associated with international travel.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, who challenged the policy nearly three years ago, argued that U.S. border officials should have reasonable suspicion before searching electronic devices because of the sensitive data they store. Such devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves, storing everything from email, instant-message chats, videos, and papers.

The case was brought on behalf of a 29 year-old Islamic studies graduate student in Canada, who, in 2010, was traveling by train into New York to visit his parents. According to the lawsuit, after showing his passport to an agent he was asked to move to the cafe car, where authorities removed his laptop from his luggage, and ordered him to enter his password.

He was questioned about pictures found on the computer displaying Hamas and Hezbollah rallies, which he had gathered for a doctoral degree on the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon. He was handcuffed and jailed for three hours while authorities continued to search through his computer. He was then released, but his computer was confiscated until his lawyer later filed a complaint to get it back.

Other plaintiffs in the suit included the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who maintain the policy exposes privileged information, and the National Press Photographers Association, who say the policy interferes with their ability to do their work.

Suspicionless electronic search rules were first announced under the Bush administration in 2008, and the Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules the following year. According to Department of Homeland Security data, between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons have had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border.

Federal Farm Services Encourage Sugar Bush Owners in Orleans County to Call to Report Damage from Ice Storm.

in Feature/News

NEWPORT – As Vermonters start to check on their sugar woods, the damage from last week’s ice storm is being revealed. The federal Farm Services (FSA) offices have started taking applications for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for maple sugar makers. Orleans County is listed as one of the areas most affected, with FSA officials encouraging sugar bush owners to call to report damage.

The ECP funds can be used to cost-share debris removal in active sugar woods. FSA is investigating whether special practice funds can be accessed to help with maple tap and tubing replacement for sugarbushes that were already prepared for this year’s tapping. ECP also can help with funds to move debris off of the tubing and open up sugaring access roads or trails.

Vermont County Foresters are also taking calls from owners of other affected woodlots. The foresters urge people to use hardhats and extreme caution when walking around or working in woodlots with ice-laden trees branches. While the ice made those branches heavier, the expected snow this week could add yet an extra layer of risk for sudden breakage.

“Imagine what it would be like to have a baseball bat land on your head from a few feet up. Well, branches are bigger and fall further,” Windsor County Forester Jon Bouton said, quoting woodsman Irwin Post.

While the need for sugarbush work is immediate, when safety conditions allow, owners of other woodlands should also assess their property to report tree damage, and make decisions on amendments to forest management plans for Use Value Appraisal (Current Use).

600 Vermonters Affected as Long-Term Jobless Benefits Expire

in Feature/News/Vermont

BURLINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Friday that Congress must restore unemployment benefits that expired today for 1.3 million Americans, including some 600 Vermonters, who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks.

Unless Congress acts, jobless benefits will lapse during the first half of 2014 for an additional 1.9 million people, including another 2,300 Vermonters.

“It is not only immoral to cut off help for workers struggling to find jobs, it is also bad economics,” Sanders said. “At a time when long-term unemployment is near a record level, cutting benefits will hurt the rest of the economy and cause even more jobs to disappear.”

Failure to extend benefits would be a $25 billion blow to the economy during the coming year and result in the loss of more than 200,000 additional jobs, according to the conservative estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also projected a 0.2 percent drop in the nation’s gross domestic product unless the benefits are extended.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.) said: “It’s regrettable that House and Senate Republicans refused to include an extension of unemployment insurance benefits in the recent budget agreement. I have been among those who pushed for this extension, and I have again joined in introducing legislation to extend these benefits. The Senate will vote on our bill as a first order of business in January.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that a measure to restore long-term jobless benefits will be the first bill that the Senate takes up when it reconvenes on Jan. 6. Sanders is one of 21 cosponsors of the bill, but only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, has signed on as a supporter.

“The critical question is how many Republicans are prepared to stand with unemployed workers,” Sanders said.

While the jobless rate has declined in recent months, it is still far worse than it was in 2008 when President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program into law. Back then the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average length of unemployment was 17.1 weeks. Today, the official unemployment rate in November was 7 percent and the average length of unemployment is more than 36 weeks.

Moreover, the official unemployment figure masks the reality that total unemployment stood last month at 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who gave up looking for jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed has been among the lingering effects of the severe recession that began in 2008. Today, there are three job applicants for every one job opening. As a result, 37 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than six months.

Because the recession has continued to hurt job prospects, Congress reauthorized the extended unemployment benefits program 11 times since the recession began in 2008.

Altogether, nearly 24 million Americans (including more than 33,000 Vermonters) have received the emergency unemployment benefits since 2008. Unemployment benefits, typically $300 a week, lifted 2.5 million Americans out of poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau.

Gov. Shumlin, Emergency Officials Ask FEMA for Public Assistance Related to Ice Storm

in News/Vermont

MONTPELIER – At the request of Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont emergency management officials today asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a damage assessment in the Champlain Valley and northern Vermont counties impacted by the on-going ice storm. The state is applying in an attempt to secure federal public assistance to help cover the cost of cleanup and recovery from the storm.

“I am requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency join State and Local teams to conduct a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment in the Counties of Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Orleans for Public Assistance,” wrote Joe Flynn, Director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to FEMA’s Acting Regional Administrator Paul F. Ford.

Flynn noted that rain, freezing rain, snow, icing conditions, and near zero temperatures have impacted Vermont since Dec. 20, creating power outages affecting 22,000 households – about 75,000 Vermonters – at its peak. In addition, Flynn said, the fluctuations in icing conditions and the repeated need to clear and remove debris caused multiple outages for some customers.

“This has been a real challenge for the utility crews because icy tree branches continue to fall and knock out power lines, making it difficult for the lines crews to keep the power on,” said Gov. Shumlin. “It has also been a struggle for many Vermonters in these hard-hit areas, particularly in Franklin County and other northern Vermont communities, who are spending this holiday week without heat and electricity, often staying with friends and family.”

The Governor said the state would continue to push until power has been restored to every customer. Although the number of outages dipped to under 500 earlier today, snowfall-laden trees knocked out power to additional households, with an estimated 1,040 homes without electricity as of late afternoon. Crews continued to work throughout the region.

Flynn asked FEMA to send personnel beginning Jan. 2 to work with state and local teams to determine damage estimates. Depending upon final costs, Vermont could be eligible for federal assistance for some municipal and cooperative utility restoration costs, local debris clearance and removal costs, and other disaster caused infrastructure damage.

Vermont Ice Storm Turns Deadly in Albany

in News

ALBANY — The ice storm over the weekend claimed the life of a man from Albany, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Vermont State Police report that at 6:21 a.m. Monday, they received a call regarding a death in Albany. The Victim has been identified as Mitchell Rowell, age 60. The Albany Fast Squad arrived and pronounced Mr. Rowell dead at approximately 7:04 a.m.

Police say Rowell was running a generator in his garage because the power was out in his home.

The Vermont State Police would like to reiterate safety messages from the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as the Vermont Department of Health, regarding carbon monoxide safety precautions.

Never run a generator indoors. Ensure any generator is outside; and far away from windows or any other area from which exhaust can vent back into a living area. Carbon monoxide can cause injury or death. The risk of CO poisoning increases when generators and heat sources, such as propane cooking stoves, are improperly used indoors.

Early symptoms of CO poisoning can be confused with flu-like symptoms, with headache, dizziness and nausea. It can also cause sleepiness, vision problems, including blurred vision, ringing in the ears, aching arms and legs, irregular breathing, fatigue and confusion. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death.

If you lose power and need a warm place to go Vermont 211 has a list of shelters that are open.

Snowmobiling is Alive and Kicking in the Northeast Kingdom

in Derby/Feature/News

DERBY — Every few years it happens that hunting season ends on Sunday, and snowmobiling season begins on Monday. With hunting season over, yesterday was the first day the trails were officially open. The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, which serves 62 miles of trail in the Derby, Holland, and Morgan area, spent opening day out on the trail with their groomer, getting ready for what should be a great season.

“We haven’t sent our groomer out on the first day of the season in a few years,” Roger Gosselin, Vice President of the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, said Monday night. “So, we’re off to a great start. The temperatures are down and the snow is here.”

Gosselin started maintaining the trail on Monday using the tracks of the groomer to pack down the snow that has accumulated. It froze overnight, and should provide a good base.

The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow on Monday in the Holland area. All photos courtesy of Roger Gosselin.
The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow on Monday in the Holland area. All photos courtesy of Roger Gosselin.

For snowmobile trails, a snow grooming machine works by pulling what is called a “drag,” behind it. However, at the start of the season, you have to make sure the conditions are right before using it.

“You usually don’t bring the drag out first because you don’t want to literally drag the snow off,” Gosselin said. “At the start of the season, what you want to do is just pack the existing snow down. Once you have a well established trail, then the drag works really well.”

The rule is that you need a four inch base of packed snow to start snowmobiling. Currently, parts of the local network at higher elevations have that already. Gosselin believes that all the early signs indicate that this year should be a good season.

“The upper elevation areas of the trails are open, but they are hard to get to,” he said. “Give us a couple of days. We’re supposed to get more snow, and that will put most areas into better shape.”

Snowmobiling in the area has recently had some bad press, being called a “dying sport,” by a local paper. For Gosselin, and many who have been involved in the sport for nearly a lifetime, statements like that are the result of not looking at the big picture.

“First of all, snowmobiling is a large part of our economy. Yes, some years are better than others, but, if you go through and look at the trends over the years, a few bad years are generally followed by great seasons.”

The groomer owned by the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club based out of Derby, out on the trail packing snow on opening day.
The groomer owned by the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club based out of Derby, out on the trail packing snow on opening day.

When it comes to the sport of snowmobiling in the area, Gosselin has paid his dues. He has been involved as a director of the Drift Dusters since 2003, having previously held the position of president for the maximum term of four years, and served as vice president off and on since.

The Drift Dusters are also one of the top clubs in the state. Started in 1970, the group usually has between 800 and 1100 members. In August they were awarded the Vermont Snowmobile Club of the Year. Previously they have won awards for best groomed, and best signed trails.

“This year it was a combination of good grooming, good signing, and a social media presence that is much more active than other groups in the state,” Gosslin said. “It was a big achievement for us.”

Gosselin also serves as the website administrator for the Drift Dusters. Their website was one of the first ever to sell trail passes through the internet. He has been working to creatively engage snowmobile enthusiasts online, as well as keep everyone informed of trail conditions through the website and social networks. Through Twitter, he even started an account for the Drift Dusters’s groomer.

Gosselin, along with Scott Jenness, who serves as president of the club, working with all the club’s directors, have made the 62 miles of track they maintain a spot that brings in riders from all over New England.

For more information about the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, visit them online. If you are on Twitter, you can follow the club at: @DriftDustersSC and at Facebook.com/driftdusters

Below is a killer promotional video that the club put out, which just goes to show that snowmobiling is not a dying sport. It is alive and well, and with the season underway, and clubs like the Drift Dusters working hard to keep the trails maintained, Newport Dispatch hopes all riders have a safe and fun winter.

Newport Moving into the Future: Two Wheels and Two Feet at a Time

in Feature/Newport/News

Photo Left to Right – Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop, Gary White, local marathon runner, and Dr. Peter Harris, shared their personal stories and expertise in order to educate and invite discussion at Saturday’s community forum “Streets, Sidewalks, and Bike Paths,” co-hosted by the he HealthWorks ONE Coalition and the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee.

NEWPORT — The HealthWorks ONE Coalition, serving Orleans and Northern Essex Counties, in collaboration with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee, asked the community where they want to go. On Saturday, a community forum was held in the Hebard State Building. Despite the below zero temperatures, a large contingent of people gathered to listen to the speakers and to share their opinions and hopes on how we can all move into the future, together.

forum_3“I’m so encouraged by the number of people who came together for the common good of our community,” Beth Barnes, Fit and Healthy Coordinator for HealthWorks ONE said. “We have the strong beginnings of a sound infrastructure that supports and encourages biking, walking and alternative modes of transport, but we can always improve.”

Dr. Peter Harris, a local athlete and champion for good health gave a compelling presentation in which he stressed the importance of healthy eating and exercise habits. His message to all is that if we take care of our bodies they will take care of us. Dr. Harris is a strong advocate for enjoying what the Newport area has to offer, especially during the winter. He reminded everyone that Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation, a local non-profit, is a great resource available to the entire community.

Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop in Derby, brought bicycles and explained ways to introduce children to the delights, as well as the importance of riding.

“We need to encourage children to ride, but it’s our responsibility as adults to teach them the right ways to do it,” Jeff said. “Safety should always be the first lesson so children grow up respecting the roads, and learn to enjoy the freedom a bike can offer.”

Mr. Manning, like most at the forum, is a strong advocate for a path that would connect Derby to Newport, bringing the two towns with a strong connection even closer.

The final speaker was Gary White, who gave a touching account of how he was encouraged to run his first marathon by local trainer, Sharon Stewart. He said that his father’s final advice was to take better care of himself. Gary took that advice to heart. He changed his life by starting a carefully planned exercise routine. He has now run countless marathons, and even has his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr. White, who spends countless hours using the local streets and paths each week, brought the forum his own reports on what he encounters, and how he thinks Newport’s streets, roads, and paths could be improved.

The goal of the forum was to give the community a platform where they could listen, learn, and share their ideas. HealthWorks ONE and the Design Committee are committed to implementing ways by which all Newport’s streets can be user friendly for everyone.

“I feel that a collaboration between interested community members, local government, non-profits, and businesses, is a way to work toward giving people more of a choice when it comes to getting where they want to go,” Ms. Barnes closed by saying. “The forum was very encouraging.”

For more information, please contact Beth at beth.barnes@neklsvt.org

All photos by Tanya Mueller.

A view from Saturday’s Santa Festival in Newport

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Santa Clause is coming to town. Saturday’s Santa Festival in Newport let everyone in town know. Festivities kicked off downtown at 11 a.m. If you were not able to make it out Saturday, here is a collection of photographs taken by Tanya Mueller that will give you a sense of just how in the spirit of the holidays the people of Newport are this year. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Newport Vermont Santa Festival

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Community Action Grant Applications Sought in Newport

in Newport/News

Deadline Approaching

NEWPORT — AARP Vermont is encouraging groups and citizens to submit applications for the 2014 Community Action Sponsorship Program — a program to provide modest grant funds and technical support to community groups or individuals. The initiative is part of the recently adopted Age Friendly Communities initiative aimed at preparing Newport for the rapidly aging demographic shift – particularly in the areas of housing, mobility and community engagement.

The Community Action Sponsorships will provide financial and other support to groups within Newport that will advocate for improvements in any of the following areas:

– Affordable housing options for older residents
– Delivery of services to help older residents age in the setting of their choice
– Public transit or alternative transportation services
– Fostering intergenerational and multi-cultural connection
– Financial security for low income older residents
– Socialization and fostering community connection for older residents
– Education and awareness about LGBTQ elders
– Community accessibility for residents with disabilities
– Implementation of Complete Streets: Pedestrian & Bike infrastructure (sidewalks, amenities for walkers and bikers, public art, safe street crossings, bike lanes, navigation, etc.)

“We are committed to supporting community efforts in Newport and encourage those interested to apply. Our selection criteria and process are flexible and we are open to a broad range of ideas,” said Kelly Stoddard Poor of AARP Vermont.

The sponsorship is open to individuals, grassroots groups and small non-profits in Newport and should represent a desire to make change through local level activism and advocacy.

The deadline for applications is December 31, 2013. Up to four groups will be selected for grants ranging from $500-$2,000. Grants will be one-time funding for a 12-month period and groups who are awarded sponsorships will receive technical assistance and training from AARP staff.

AARP is partnering with Newport City Renaissance Corp. and executive director Patricia Sears on the effort. Applications and an RFP are available from Kelly Stoddard Poor at 802-951-1313 or kstoddardpoor@aarp.org

Newport to Become an Age-Friendly Community

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — With the support of Newport Mayor Paul Monette, Newport City Council and developer Bill Stenger, Newport is poised to become Vermont’s first city to join AARP’s nationwide Network of Age Friendly Cities. As such, the city embraces the changing demographics of an aging population by focusing on safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services and community engagement opportunities for all ages.

As Newport plans for major redevelopment of its downtown and economic base, the city and its partners — including AARP Vermont and the Newport City Renaissance Corp. — are looking at ways to prepare for a rapidly aging population.

“With our aging population, especially in Vermont, we must ensure all communities are friendly to all residents from our youth to our senior citizens,” said Mayor Monette in his letter of support to AARP. With the support of a city council resolution, he pledged to establish an advisory citizens’ committee that includes the active engagement of older adults, and he committed to responding with a “concrete and robust plan of action” to address the needs of older residents.

Jay Peak CEO Bill Stenger also expressed support to have Newport considered an Age-Friendly city as part of the AARP network. “I would very much like to see Newport as a frontrunner in our state to proactively address the needs of our valuable aging population,” he wrote. “This initiative will prepare our city and community for the steadily aging population while benefiting all of our residents.”

AARP’s role in this program advances efforts to help people live easily and comfortably in their homes and communities as they age, and encourages older citizens to take active roles and have their voices heard. Focus areas include housing, transportation, caregiving, community engagement, volunteering, social inclusion and combatting isolation among elders.

A key player in leading the effort has been the Newport City Renaissance Corp. and its executive director Patricia Sears. “We are very excited about this partnership with AARP and really value its role in helping Newport realize our potential as a livable community for all ages,” she said. “With the significant investment coming to our region, our city is in a unique position to effect change in ways that will benefit residents and businesses alike.”

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization with 138,000 members in Vermont and 40 million members nationally. Through a wide array of special benefits, services, and information resources, we help our members make important choices, reach their goals and dreams, and make the most of life after 50.

This release was sent in by:

David Reville, Communications Director
AARP Vermont
802-951-1303

Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says that Vermont is leading the country in terms of Agriculture, but faces challenges from the Food Safety Modernization Act

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — Chuck Ross, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, was in Newport on Tuesday to listen to the concerns of local farmers. The meeting was the first in a series of listening sessions, the rest of which will take place over the next few months throughout the state.

The low turnout in Newport for the meeting made it more of a listening session for the audience, as Ross had plenty to say in regards to the good things that are happening with Vermont’s agriculture. He also warned of the threat that the state faces in light of the Food Safety Modernization Act draft that was recently passed by Congress.

One thing that Vermont’s agriculture has going for it, is Chuck Ross himself. The Secretary of Agriculture has been named President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Listening to him speak on Tuesday, it was clear that as a state, we have one of the most knowledgeable minds in the industry working for us.

Ross laid it out for those in attendance. As a state, we are leading the way, and we also will face severe challenges set by the Food and Drug Administration.

“When you look at the state of Vermont, and what’s happening in agriculture, it’s really exciting,” Ross said. “We are leading the country in a number of ways. We’re on the cutting edge.”

According to Ross, when you talk about agriculture in Vermont, you have to start with dairy. The dairy farms support the dairy manufacturing industry in the state. This provides many Vermonters with quality jobs.

“I can’t underscore enough the importance that dairy is to the state. A lot of the other agriculture, like cheese making and yogurt, is what I call dairy plus, because it’s supported by the dairy farms. Also, the dairy farmers over the last 70 years have held the land, kept it open, and kept it productive.”

Ross went on to say that although there has been talk about herd numbers across the state decreasing, down about 2,000 cows over the last couple of years, the herd supply is fairly stable, and the milk supply is stable.

“Our farmers are getting better and better at producing more milk per cow, every year,” he said.

Chuck Ross in NewportRoss talked about what he called the “agriculture renaissance,” happening in the state, that is bringing in a younger generation of farmers. This influx of younger farmers are proving to be successful in marketing and exporting their products all over the country, which is helping to build a new and diversified economic based agriculture. At a time when the average age of dairy farmers is in the 50’s, and the number of dairy farmers decreases, these new businesses are making a good partnership with the dairy community by putting less stress on the service industries that have been built around dairy.

Ross also pointed out that Vermont is leading the way in terms of diversification and localization of agriculture.

“Vermont is seen as one of the top three artisan cheese regions in the world,” Ross said. “Our artisan cheeses compete internationally, and do incredibly well in every competition they enter. But, you can’t do good cheese, without great milk.”

Vermont is also the number one producer of maple products in the United States. Maple production is the fastest growing and most profitable agriculture in the state. Our northern neighbors in Quebec are still by far the largest producer of maple in the world.

We are also number one when it comes to direct marketing of agriculture, with CSA programs, farmers markets, and roadside stands, driving this type of growth.

“People are copying what we’re doing in Vermont in terms of supporting and growing our local economies and communities by investing in agriculture,” Ross said.

The challenge that we face comes by way of the federal government, with the Food Safety Modernization Act. The draft is a set of regulations by the Food and Drug Administration, which was drafted in response to legislation passed by Congress to make our food system safer. According to Ross, as the draft stands today, it will seriously impact the state’s agriculture, making it much harder for farmers to do business.

“This is a huge cloud hanging over much of what we’re doing with agriculture in the state of Vermont,” Ross said. “Quite candidly, the FDA wrote a draft that is not well constructed to be useful, effective, or implementable in a way that works for agriculture in Vermont and many other states.”

Ross stated that people producing produce for direct human consumption are going to be regulated according to the Food Safety Modernization Act in ways that they have never been regulated before.

“Very significantly for the state of Vermont, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is potentially being rewritten,” Ross said. “The PMO has served us well. I’m scratching my head wondering why are they going to mess with something that has enabled us to produce the best food product for human consumption in the world, year after year.”

Ross said that many have been engaged in pressing the FDA not to take the draft set of rules, and make it a final set of rules. He said that they are requesting that a second draft be written.

While discussing what some of the new rules would be, Ross said that one says that you can not harvest a product for human consumption for nine months after you have applied manure. That would be a growing season in the state of Vermont. You would also have to wait 45 days to harvest a product that used compost as a soil amendment.

When asked if the FDA was considering a redraft of the rules as they stand, Ross said that he is optimistic.

“I’d say we’ve gone from unlikely, to possible.”

Music Series Returns to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Newport

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News

NEWPORT — After a five year hiatus, music will again fill the historic St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Second Street, Newport, with “Now Playing Newport – A Vermont Music Series.” It will be the only year-round music series in the Newport area, taking place on a monthly basis.

Jim McKimm, who for five years directed the former “Music For A Sunday Afternoon Series,” is returning to his musical roots after being a founding member of the MAC Center for the Arts, and serving as its president for five years. Mr. McKimm, who moved to Vermont in 1997, has served as Director of Music at St. Mark’s for the last twelve years, having served several churches in both New York City and New Jersey throughout his career.

Lynn Perry, member of the Newport Area Community Orchestra, and Jim McKimm, Series Director, look over the poster for the first concert in the “Now Playing Newport” music series which will begin on December 15th, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Lynn Perry, member of the Newport Area Community Orchestra, and Jim McKimm, Series Director, look over the poster for the first concert in the “Now Playing Newport” music series which will begin on December 15th, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Joining as local music partners in the series will be Dr. Sara Doncaster, the Music Department Head at Lake Region High School, and Ken Michelli, founder and director of the Newport Area Community Orchestra.

New to the program will be a series of free youth concerts, starting with the Lake Region High School Select Chorus, who will present their holiday program on Sunday, December 15, at 4 p.m., under the direction of Dr. Doncaster. Their repertoire will include sacred music of various types.

The series will be reaching out to the other schools and youth groups in the area for the 2014 season.

The series is administered separately from the church and will be administered strictly by grants, sponsors, donations, and ticket sales. Receptions will follow most programs in the church’s Parish House.

St. Mark’s, completed in 1883, has changed little since it was built. The building’s vaulted wooden ceiling makes for wonderful room acoustics. The small venue will allow for an intimate experience for both the audience, as well as the musicians.

For complete details on the series and programs, visit them at www.nowplayingnewport.com.

If you know of anyone who may be interested in taking part in the series, please contact concerts@nowplayingnewport.com.

Photos by Tanya Mueller

Community Dinners Thanksgiving Day in Derby Make it a Special Holiday for Many in the Area

in Derby/News

All photos by Tanya Mueller, unless otherwise noted.

DERBY — The Church of God and the Elks Lodge in Derby both hosted community dinners Thanksgiving Day, making it a special holiday for many in the area. Both offered turkey dinner for anyone who wished to eat with the community, and both offered take out packages as well.

Church of God Pastor Laurence Wall poses with Julie Chase following Thursday's community dinner.
Church of God Pastor Laurence Wall poses with Julie Chase following Thursday’s community dinner.

The day before Thanksgiving, The Church of God delivered 145 meals throughout the area. Hayes Ford of Newport donated the 13 turkeys which were prepared by church members. The community dinner that they hosted on Thanksgiving Day was thanks to Julie Chase, who not only had the idea for the dinner, but cooked a turkey that she raised herself. About 50 people came out Thursday for the meal.

“This is the first time that we have hosted a community meal on Thanksgiving Day,” Pastor Laurence Wall of Church of God said. “It was a good turnout, and it’s all thanks to Julie.”

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The Elks Lodge served 225 people who came out Thanksgiving Day for the community dinner. They also served 300 take out meals throughout the day. This was the eighth year that the Elks Lodge in Derby has hosted the dinner.

Frances Dewing cooked the majority of the food, and the North Country High School Culinary Arts Program donated 69 pies for dessert. The potatoes served were thanks to George Weller of Stanstead.

“George did all the potatoes,” Ms. Dewing said. “Tuesday night they had a potato peeling party at his house, where they peeled all the potatoes. They cooked them this morning, and transported them here.”

Photo courtesy of Frances Dewing.
Photo courtesy of Frances Dewing.

The event was awarded a $2,000 Beacon Grant from the Elks National Foundation which paid for most of the food. With community donations in advance, both cash and in-kind, they raised a total of $3,000 before dinner was even served Thursday.

The money raised goes to the food and fuel fund for the Northeastern Vermont Area Agency on Aging

“It will be a Thanksgiving that continues throughout the season,” Lisa Viles, the executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Area Agency on Aging, said following Thursday’s event.

Northeastern Vermont Area Agency on Aging works to assist individuals who are in crisis for food and fuel throughout the year. They take donations to support their work online at NEKseniors.Org

Frances Dewing in the kitchen at the Elks Lodge in Derby Thursday afternoon.
Frances Dewing in the kitchen at the Elks Lodge in Derby Thursday afternoon.

Detroit Man Said to be Former Member of Bloods Street Gang Pleads Not Guilty of Charges He Conspired to Sell Heroin in Orleans

in News/Orleans

ORLEANS — In U.S. District Court in Burlington on Wednesday, Tony Rudolph Williams Jr. of Detroit, pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to sell heroin from an apartment in Orleans, Vermont.

Williams, 34, was arrested on Nov. 14 in Plattsburgh, New York, while getting off of a bus. Police arrested him based on information they received from confidential informants. When searched, he was in possession of more than a half ounce of heroin, a powdery substance, and muscle relaxants. He was ordered to remain in custody after being indicted on a drug conspiracy charge by a federal grand jury last week.

According to an affidavit filed with the court by a Vermont Drug Task Force agent, Williams “admitted that he was on his way to Vermont to make money selling drugs. He admitted this was his fourth trip to Vermont. He said he had transported 2-3 grams of heroin on a prior trip and sold it in Orleans County.”

According to the affidavit, a man identified by the nickname “Shorty,” has yet to be apprehended, but is said to have periodically sold heroin and other drugs from the apartment in Orleans since June.

According to court papers, Williams is said to have told police that he was a former member of the Bloods street gang. The court fillings also state that Williams has 12 prior convictions, three of which are felonies, and that he had two warrants for his arrest in Michigan at the time he was arrested in New York.

Four Stars as QNEK Presented “A Christmas Carol Radio Play,” Sunday Afternoon in Derby Line

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby Line/News

DERBY LINE — QNEK Productions finished off their third performance of “A Christmas Carol Radio Play,” Sunday afternoon at the Parish Hall of the First Universalist Church in Derby Line. The shows, which started Friday night, were performed as a benefit for the First Universalist Church.

QNEK a Christmas Carol Radio Play

Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” has captured the imagination, as well as the spirit of Christmas since its release in 1843. The name “Scrooge,” and the exclamation, “Bah! Humbug!” have entered the English language through the story.

It is a tale of overcoming the shallowness of our greedy attitudes, with the kind, thoughtful, and generous sides of our character that make our lives, and those around us, more enjoyable. Scrooge has the opportunity to change his ways, only because he is made aware of the consequences of his actions. The Christmas season itself is supposed to be the time of year when the spirit of good, spotlights our shortcomings throughout the year. It is a classic tale, and one that has been done many different ways.

“A Christmas Carol has been arranged and produced in a few different formats, from something right off the page, to something of a more goofy spectrum,” Phil Gosselin, Associate Producing Director of QNEK said before Sunday’s show. “This production is somewhere in between, with the dialogue being Dickensian, right off the book, but done in a radio play style.”

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The QNEK cast of 18, which included sound effects and technicians, as well as the voice actors, put on a show Sunday afternoon that was much more than just a radio play. The hall was decorated with wreaths, and the tables were stocked with candy canes. As the audience arrived for the performance, members of the cast were circled around a piano singing Christmas carols. It was a perfect Christmas scene for “A Christmas Carol.”

Throughout the show, the actors used their voices to perfectly portray the action and suspense of the story. The radio play style naturally has a way to draw an audience inside the story, and the live sound effects made for an even more memorable experience. There was even a bit of comedy thrown in, thanks in part to the playfulness between the cast members themselves.

“It’s a story about rich and the poor, good and bad,” Josh Rediker, who played Bucky Maxwell, said after the show. “As a character, Scrooge changes because people gave him a chance, which warms his heart. It’s a great story for the Christmas season, and I loved working with all the people here. They’re fantastic.”

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“The performance changes all the time,” Brian McCrae, who has been with QNEK for four years, said. “Every night there is something different, and that’s what makes live theater great. You never know what’s going to happen.

Sunday afternoon, QNEK did a superb job of recreating the traditional radio play style of old. Although we have yet to have finished the Thanksgiving dinner that officially starts the holiday season, QNEK’s performance of A Christmas Carol left those who attended any of the shows over the weekend feeling that not only is Christmas just around the corner, but perhaps the days leading up to the actual holiday are more important than the day itself.

If you missed the shows in Derby Line, QNEK will present “A Christmas Carol Radio Play” on December 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the MAC Center in Newport. Visit them on the web at QNEK.com, and, for a short video of the cast warming up the audience on Sunday, visit DISPATCH TV.

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Nelson Farms – Highest Recipient of Dairy Subsidies in Orleans County

in Derby/Derby Line/News

DERBY — According to the Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database, Nelson Farms, who was recently ordered to stop polluting two local waterways, is the highest recipient of Dairy Program subsidies in Orleans County. According to the database, they have also received the third highest amount of Dairy Program subsidies in the State of Vermont.

The Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database tracks $256 billion in farm subsidies from commodity, crop insurance, and disaster programs, as well as $39 billion in conservation payments, between the years of 1995-2013.

Nelson Farms was recently taken to court by the State of Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Agency of Natural Resources for discharging waste into the Clyde River and the Crystal Brook.

Last week, the Attorney General’s office announced a win in the water quality case against Nelson Farms. A preliminary injunction order was handed down by Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen against Nelson Farms on November 6. The injunction states that farm operators are not allowed to discharge manure and other agricultural waste into the waterways.

The state alleges Nelson Farms allowed manure and other dairy operation drainage to overflow and discharge directly into the Clyde River from its farm in Derby Center, as well as directly into the Crystal Brook from its Derby Line location. According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, the Nelson’s Clyde River farm has 450 dairy cows, and 200 heifers, and the Crystal Brook location has 575 dairy cows.

Between 1995-2013, Nelson Farms received $540,986 in dairy program subsidies, the highest in Orleans County.

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The amount ranks third highest overall in the state of Vermont.

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“Vermont farmers are stewards of the land and provide many environmental and economic benefits to our state. However, it is not acceptable for farmers to allow barnyard waste to pollute our waterways,” Attorney General William Sorrell said in a press release. “Although an acre of farm land produces less phosphorus than an acre of urbanized land, excess phosphorous in our waterways from any source deprives freshwater fish and plants of essential oxygen.”

Between 1995-2013, Nelson Farms received a total of $1,213,303 in USDA subsidies.

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Willey Claims Charges of Chasing Border Patrol Agent and Waving Handgun “Totally Fabricated”

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — “This is all totally fabricated,” Jason Willey, 30, of Derby Line told Judge Howard VanBenthuysen in court on Tuesday.

Willey is accused of chasing a Border Patrol agent in a residential area, as well as displaying a handgun while speaking with a Customs officer. He claims to have no idea why he was in court, and is being held at Northern State Correctional Facility in lieu of bail, after invoking his right to take 24 hours before entering a plea.

The judge said the court would enter pro forma not guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and careless or negligent operation. Bail was set at $25,000. The judge also ordered Willey to refrain from harassing any state or federal law enforcement officers, or possessing any weapons.

The incidents took place on two separate occasions, starting on Nov. 2, when Willey is said to have spotted Customs and Border Protection Officer Stephan Isabelle off duty at the Circle K station in Derby Line. According to an affidavit filed by Sergeant Michael LaCourse, Willey was starring at Isabelle while pumping gas, and allegedly pointed his finger in the shape of a gun, and made a shooting gesture.

Isabelle followed Willey and called for back-up. Customs and Border Protection Officer Justin Speaks spotted the car parked in Willey’s driveway on Lyon Road, where Willey is said to have grabbed a handgun that was tucked in the waistband of his pants. Willey put his hands about his head for Speaks to seize the gun after Speaks drew his weapon.

The chasing incident took place Nov. 14, when Border Patrol Agent John Marquissee saw Willey drive by. Marquissee states that he noticed Willey because of the incident which took place on Nov. 2.

According to an affidavit filed by state police trooper David Upson Jr., at 11:30 p.m., Marquissee stated that Willey began following him at speeds up to 80 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone. Marquisse claims that he was being followed so closely, that he could not see Willey’s headlights, and that at one point, Willey cut his headlights completely.

Afterward, Willey sped off, and Marquisse was unable to locate Willey’s vehicle. Later, state troopers found Willey’s car parked in a lot on Route 105 in Newport Center, where Willey’s girlfriend, Pamela Binette, was in the drivers seat.

Binette is said to have confirmed the story of the chase, and that Willey told her to switch seats with him, which she did out of fear.

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