Holiday season underway
Christmas bazaar season begins before the Thanksgiving holiday as well. In Castleton, St. John the Baptist already hosted one Nov. 19. Poultney High hosts the Lakes Region Farmers Market Christmas Fair Nov. 25-26, with 60 vendors participating. Great Christmas gift shopping, great food.
Heavier than a holdup
ORWELL—A federal grand jury has issued a four-count indictment against 26-year-old Matthew Hinton of Orwell. These new indictments for robbery under the Hobbs Act and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence are added to charges of possessing a firearm as a felon and possessing a stolen firearm.
Were he found guilty of all four, Hinton could face, theoretically, a maximum sentence of life plus 40 years for holding up the Fair Haven Maplefields store on Washington Street. Hinton had already pled not guilty to the felony possession and stolen firearm possession charges, each carrying a 10-year maximum.
Affidavits state that Hinton threatened the Maplefields clerk with a handgun, Sept. 30, 2015, before he took $80, two Marlboro Reds cartons, and the store’s portable handset phone. When he was captured later that day he had a Ruger GP100 .357 revolver, reported stolen two days before, that he claimed had been stolen by an accomplice.
His arraignment on the new charges is scheduled Nov. 21 in Burlington. Currently, he is an occupant of the Springfield prison because he lacks $50,000 bail on an unrelated burglary charge.
Woodshed fire considered suspicious
CASTLETON—Thomas and Dawn Lilly of Castleton had their woodshed damaged as well as two acres of their Route 4A property, Nov. 14. No one was home at the time, nor was there an electrical connection to the shed.
A passerby reported the fire. The first fire crew arrived between 10:30 and 11 a.m., Fire Chief Heath Goyette said. Crews from Castleton, Fair Haven, Poultney, and Hubbardton responded before the fire was out.
Most of the 10 cords of winter wood supply stored in the shed escaped incineration, but the structure itself received $10,000 in damages, officials said. Anyone who has information about the fire is asked to call the Arson Tip Line, 1-800-32-ARSON, or Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Thomas Williams. There is a reward of up to $5,000 for information that results in an arrest.
Turkeys lost to illness
ORWELL—Stonewood Farm of Orwell suffered a stunning loss this fall just in time for Thanksgiving. Fowl cholera, a fast-moving bacteria, killed the birds. Stonewood Farm owner Peter Stone theorizes that a fox may have carried the disease into one of the barns where it killed some turkeys and infected the rest. The bacteria gradually spread to other barns in spite of the extreme sanitary procedures the farm uses.
State health authorities were informed of the die-off, and testing ruled out the possibility that the disease might be avian flu. Vermont state veterinarian Kristin Haas confirmed that all tests for avian flu yielded negative results.
Turkeys that had already been processed and packaged on the farm under observation by a USDA inspector are safe to eat, Haas stated. “Furthermore, this particular infection fowl cholera is not transmissible to people,” she said.
Stone estimates the bacteria has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He anticipated selling about 17,000 Thanksgiving turkeys, but sales will be about 7,000 shy of that number.
Stonewood Farm will have to raise turkeys through the winter to restock its frozen inventory of ground turkey, turkey breast and other items. That will increase the farm’s expenses because it usually is not raising birds in winter. It will also buy more day-old birds in the spring to help make up the loss.
Haas observed this is the only fowl cholera reported in Vermont this year. The disease is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida and is one of the most common diseases of wild North American waterfowl and domestic turkeys. In the wild, the most affected birds are ducks and geese, coots, gulls, and crows.
Taconic-Green Regional School District submitted for state approval
A proposed merger that includes Mettawee Community School in West Pawlet is on its way to the state Board of Education. Given the state’s approval, the merger would go to affected voters in March.
If voters approve, the result will be the Taconic and Green Regional School District (TGRSD), to encompass Currier Memorial School in Danby, Dorset School, Flood Brook School in Londonderry, Manchester Elementary-Middle School, and Sunderland Elementary School as well as Mettawee. It would combine all the school boards except Mettawee’s.
Not all the involved towns need approve the merger; some are considered “necessary, but Act 46 allows others to rank only as “advisable.” The schools on the “necessary” list are Dorset, Manchester, Londonderry, Landgrove, Peru, and Weston. (Londonderry, Landgrove, Peru, and Weston currently comprise the Mountain Towns Regional Education District.) Any or even all the others need not approve.
Another potential crimp in the merger would be if either Danby or Mount Tabor turned down the proposal. Both must approve because they have already merged as part of Union School District 23. A community that rejects the merger in March may still participate if it approves in a second vote before July 1.
Because Currier and Sunderland teach only through the sixth-grade level while the others go to eighth, those two would have to send students to one of the other schools within TGRSD. However, the merger committee has recommended “grandfathering” current students so their education will not be disrupted.
The Act 46 merger committee approved the proposal Nov. 14; the state is scheduled to consider the proposal at its Dec. 20 meeting.
As written, the proposal closes no schools in its footprint in the first four years of the merger. The committee recommends that no school be set to close unless the 13-member board approves the proposal by 75 percent; the agreement also requires a public hearing in the affected town and the opening for a nonbinding referendum to that town’s voters.
Although the new district would form on July 1, the current school boards will continue to operate the schools and set budgets until July 1, 2018. At that time, the current school districts will cease to exist.
Each of the nine towns would have a member on the board, with the four larger communities of Manchester, Dorset, Danby, and Londonderry each having an additional board member. All voters would help select board members for the entire district, but nine members must reside in the towns they represent.
Cost savings from the merger are expected to be 8 cents reduction the first year, followed by 6, 4, and 2 cents in subsequent years if the merger is approved by July 1. The small communities of Danby, Mount Tabor, and Sunderland may continue to receive small-schools grants. The merger committee members have postulated that a single school board overseeing more school districts is a better position to spot efficiency possibilities.
Although no high schools are part of the merger, all the involved towns have school choice for grades nine through 12. Seventh- and eighth-graders must attend one of the three schools in the district that offers that curriculum.
It will be up to the new regional board to decide whether a student may choose to go to a school in the district that is not in his or her town of residence.
Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union soldiers on
Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union is taking another stab at complying with Act 46. Community forums on the subject begin at the end of this month. The first ones are Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 5:30 p.m. in West Haven Town Hall and at 7:30 in Hubbardton Town Hall. Meetings in Benson Town Hall and in Orwell Town Hall are scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8, in Fair Haven Elementary School at 6:30 p.m., followed by the final forum in this series at Castleton-Hubbardton Elementary School Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 6:30 p.m.
School choice or school designation seems to present major hurdles for people who live where topography and municipality boundaries do not coincide. Getting students to school safely in bad weather may seem as much as a consideration as does where the stream of tax dollars flows.
Towns play Act 46 musical chairs
A committee comprising Wells, Pawlet, and Rupert failed to reach agreement, with much of the dissension over the choice vs. designation issue. The committee agreed to disband.
Wells and Middletown Springs decided to consider merging as a pre-k to grade six district with school choice for grades seven through 12. Representatives from the two communities began working as a study committee with consultant Steve Sanborn, looking for agreement between the two that would keep them within the Act 46 timeline constraints, said Joan Paustian, Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union superintendent. The two must have an approved district by July 1, 2017, in order to receive tax incentives and keep both of their small-schools grants.
Their draft articles of agreement must be completed for presentation to the state Board of Education in January. On that approval, the communities will vote on the merger at their March 7 town meetings. The new district would bear the name Wells Springs Unified Union School District.
That study committee asked to also be formal members of the Rutland Central and Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union study committee, a group that includes Middletown Springs, Poultney, Proctor, Rutland Town, Wells, and West Rutland, plus Ira as an informal member.
At the same time, Poultney, Proctor, and West Rutland begin another series of community forums in December to consider formation of the pre-k to 12 Quarry Valley Unified Union School District. They will review the compiled input from the last round of forums in September, with hopes for presenting articles of agreement to the state in January and voting on the merger in March as well.
Mergers offer the possibility of more academic offerings, enrichment programs, and activities because they draw on a larger population. Sharing resources and staff theoretically results in cost savings and provides a leveling effect on the drain that may result if a single severely disabled student moves into a small district or additional students turn up all in one grade level.
Non-student arraigned for Castleton vandalism
CASTLETON—Romantic complications led to a Burlington 19-year-old vandalizing lampposts on the Castleton University campus, Ari R. Beauregard said as he pled not guilty to a single felony charge of unlawful mischief, Nov. 14. Released on provisions that he not consume alcohol and that he stay off the Castleton campus, Beauregard could face a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.
Campus security caught Beauregard attacking the posts approaching Castleton Hall, Sept. 3. He allegedly said he attacked the lampposts rather than do something worse to his girlfriend, whom he said he had caught cheating on him.
Schools catch the holiday spirit, thinking of others first
CASTLETON—The holidays are the giving season and both the university and the elementary schools are jumping into action.
Castleton U. students plan to participate in a global day of giving, Nov. 29. It’s the second year for Castleton to take part in #GivingTuesday. Last year, students raised more than $10,500. In addition to 194 monetary gifts, students collected more than 3,000 items to donate to various area charities. The Castleton Rotaract Club raised a $100 donation for the Pure Water for the World organization.
This year, Castleton U. is asking donors to give $17.87 in recognition of the year of its founding. Students and campus groups plan a variety of clothing, food and toiletry drives, making cash donations to their charitable organizations of choice, and organizing a #GivingTuesday residence hall decorating contest.
The day also is the kick-off for the Gift of Life Marathon’s annual 12 Days of Giving, using President Dave Wolk’s porch and dining room as the hub for the blood drive. Wolk has promised to personally provide free rides to anyone who needs one, available by calling 802-468-1203.
Meanwhile, Castleton Elementary and Castleton Village schools’ Community School Organization plans a holiday workshop for Dec. 12. Needed are gifts for students to choose from to honor their loved ones.
All donations need to be brought in by Dec. 7. Call Tina Robinson, 468-2140, with any questions.
Holiday season underway