CU president search begins
CASTLETON—As the process of choosing Castleton University president Dave Wolk’s successor begins, Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding and board of trustees members hosted a March 28 forum to get community feedback on the process. They discussed whether the search should be internal or external, and whether the candidate should have obtained the terminal degree in his or her field. They also contemplated the amount of involvement the college community should have in the decision.
Nearly all participants favored conducting a national search rather than choosing an internal candidate, one reason being to have a wider base for comparison and raising Castleton’s public profile.
Spaulding said that a search would call for a selection committee comprising faculty, staff, students, and alumni. It would make recommendations to the board of trustees. Three or four finalists would come to the campus for in-person, multi-day interviews and then the board will make the final selection.
Sociology professor Linda Olsen targeted finding a president focused on liberal arts rather than one who will run the university as a business. She noted that the school’s administration is “pretty dense.” Assistant registrar Merle Bronson brought her experience gained by serving under four Castleton presidents to say that the best candidate is “someone who can deal with all of us as a family member.”
State-shortened contract length blocked business opportunity
FAIR HAVEN—Fair Haven Generation promoter Ted Verrill is appealing the Vermont Public Service Board’s rejection of a power-purchase agreement that would have enabled the resumption of development on the former Beaver Wood Energy project. The owner of Pequot Energy in Connecticut, Verrill had been negotiating a power-purchase agreement with Vermont Electric Power Producers, Inc. (VEPP), a nonprofit organization that administers two renewable energy programs for the state.
Developing a biomass plant in Fair Haven has been under consideration since 2010, but the project stalled in 2014 when a major financing source pulled out, Verrill said. In 2015, the plant, off Route 4 near the New York state line, seemed to be viable again because the Vermont Department of Public Service had modified one of the rules governing power-purchase agreements for such projects, providing for maximum 30-year contracts. A long-life project like biomass is easier to finance over a relatively long period of time, Verrill explained.
Then the state reduced the maximum allowable length to seven years, in line with those in other New England states. Verrill argued that such a short contract term is not only uneconomical, it is also ineligible for several federal benefits.
In February, the Public Service Board refused to grandfather the Fair Haven plant, saying that other conditions of the power-purchase agreement application would not have been met. Green Mountain Power had filed a motion to have PSB dismiss Pequot’s application. GMP already has two biomass plants in its portfolio, and longer-term contracts are likely to drive up rates. “Biomass is part of our future,” but it must be cost-effective, GMP spokesperson Kristin Carlson commented.
CASTLETON—Twelve Castleton University students recently took part in the American Choral Directors Association National Conference, held in Minneapolis, Mar. 8-11. Four of them received an even greater honor, being asked to sing in the National Collegiate Unity Honor Choir, along with other students from across the country.
Four singers from each state sang in the 176-piece choir of experienced college students from 46 states, Castleton chorister Sam Rogers said. Rogers’ colleagues included Sydney Ferguson, Saige King, and Eric Korzun. They were accompanied by Music Department chair and Director of Choral Activities Sherrill Blodget and Director of Instrumental Music Glenn Giles.
Snow days make more than a parking inconvenience. The loss of class time slows course momentum and affects “the breadth that we’re supposed to handle in a short span of a semester,” said political science prof Rich Clark. Snow days leave him having to decide which information students can do without.
Death and drugs in Poultney
Wayne Oddo of Poultney pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of possession of eight firearms while an unlawful user of controlled substances on March 24. He has not been charged in the death of 26-year-old Amanda Rooker, found dead and wrapped in a tarp on his property. She was a heroin user, and there were no signs of trauma on her body.
Nor has Oddo been charged in the death of Frederick J. Weitzman, 54, of Bay Shore, N.Y., found dead on Oddo’s Morse Hollow Road property in September. A medical examiner noted “Acute Heroin Intoxication, Acute and Chronic Alcohol Use.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathanael T. Burris, argued against the release, saying that Oddo had decided not to call either law enforcement or medical personnel when Weitzman died, and that the body apparently stayed on Oddo’s kitchen floor until another person intervened, saying that it was necessary to report the death.
Oddo is being held without bail awaiting trial although Conroy said he would consider releasing Oddo given a strict plan for substance abuse and mental health evaluations.
Poultney Library completes cataloging chore
POULTNEY—Poultney Public Library Director Rebecca Cook recently announced that the library is caught up on its “massive backlog of books in need of cataloging,” some of them waiting for assignment since May 2016. Patrons will find an array of new DVDs, audio books and children’s fiction and non-fiction. More new books are on their way.
Despite public demand for movie nights, attendance has been low. The library plans four free movie nights to see if there is sufficient interest to continue the series. All are hit movies that have been recently released to DVD. The first was March 31, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” followed by “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” April 7; “A Monster Calls,” April 14; and “Sing,” April 19.
Other library events include a semi-monthly knitting and crocheting group, a toddler and pre-school level story time, game night, chess club, and a monthly book discussion.
Fair Haven losing town manager
FAIR HAVEN—Town Manager Herb Durfee has tendered his resignation, effective April 21. He is leaving to take on a similar position in a much larger community, Norwich, Vt., population 3,414 (per the 2010 U.S. Census). The Select Board is in the process of selecting an interim town manager while they decide on someone to fill the role more permanently.
Don’t poison the polinators
CASTLETON—Describing himself as a backyard hobbyist beekeeper, Castleton’s Peter Hadeka encourages property owners to be careful applying herbicides and pesticides on lawn and garden. Pest management and weed control products are harmful to pollinators, including butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, and other bees. Beware especially of killing dandelions, he cautions. Their flowers are the first real large pollen and nectar source for pollinators, especially honeybees.