MOST OF COUNTY’S REPRESENTATIVES OPPOSE NEW GUN REGULATION BILL

Legislators and visitors arrive on the opening day of the Legislature at the State House in Montpelier in January.

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

A bill that was initially proposed by Senator Dick Sears to expand Vermont’s jurisdiction over regulated drugs and the ability to sell seized firearms was hijacked and turned into a gun control bill last month is now set to pass, if at least a dozen lawmakers don’t change their minds since Friday.

The House of Representatives approved the bill in an 85-59 rollcall vote, mostly along party lines.

The Senate added a provision to the bill to increase the background checks for almost all gun purchases as well as banning high capacity magazines and bump stocks.

The penalty of transferring a firearm to another person without completing a background check would be prison up to one year and a fine of up to $500.

As defined in the legislation, a high capacity magazine would include anything which would hold greater than ten rounds.

Bump stocks became more widely known after a mass shooting in Las Vagas left 58 people dead. The shooter took advantage of bump stocks on his firearms to increase the effective firing rate.

A Democrat from South Burlington, Martin LaLonde proposed banning assault weapons and adding a ten-day waiting period, but later withdrew that proposal.

If passed, and signed into law, the bill would require all firearm transfers to go through the Federal background check system unless it is for military members or law enforcement, if acting in an official capacity, or transfers among immediate family members.

Eileen “Lynn” Dickinson-R of St. Albans speaks with fellow lawmakers Brian Savage of Swanton, and Don Turner in this County Courier file photo.    Gregory J. Lamoureux, photo

In addition, the bill increases the minimum age of all gun purchases to 21 and bans all magazines with a capacity greater than ten rounds.

The penalty for transferring a firearm to anyone under the age of 21 would be up to one year in prison and a fine up to $1,000.

The ban on high capacity magazines does not affect those owned before the ban goes into effect. There is also an amendment that went into effect that would allow those under 21 to purchase firearms under certain conditions.

The House debated the legislation for about nine and a half hours on Friday before ultimately passing it.

The Franklin County Representatives who voted for the bill are Dan Connor of Fairfield, Kathleen Keenan of St. Albans City, and Cindy Weed of Enosburgh.

Speaker of the House Mitzi (D) from South Hero was ridiculed by some for not scheduling a public comment session on the proposed bill.

At one point, a Representative’s remarks drew great applause from gun-rights supporters, Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-Grand Isle, was quick to respond, “The House will come to order.”

Voting in opposition of the bill were Franklin County Reps. Brian Savage of Swanton, Carl Rosenquist of Georgia, Albert “Chuck” Pearce of Richford, Corey Parent of St. Albans Town, Barbara Murphy of Fairfax, Eileen “Lynn” Dickenson of St. Albans City, Mariana Gamache of Swanton, and Steve Beyor of Highgate.

During discussion of the bill, St. Albans Representative Corey Parent told the body that he expected to introduce an amendment which would help to protect jobs at Century Arms, a firearms manufacturer located in Georgia, Vermont.

Despite the majority of public attendees dressed in bright Orange to show their opposition to the bill, Friday evening’s vote advanced the landmark legislation to its final vote on Tuesday.

The bill is expected to be voted on again Tuesday. If it passes, which it is expected to, the Senate would have to sign off on any changes the House made before being advanced to the Governor’s desk.

In addition to the control of the public’s access to firearms, the bill mandates that any firearms seized by the State of Vermont be transferred to a Federally licensed firearms dealer after 18 months of being unclaimed. The sales of those firearms would be split, two-thirds going to the police agency that seized the firearm, and one third to the State of Vermont.

You can contact your legislator using the contact information here:
• Steve Beyor, (Highgate, Franklin, Berkshire, Richford) 868-3456
• Dan Connor, (Fletcher, Fairfield, Bakersfield) 827-4436
• Eileen “Lynn” Dickinson, (St. Albans Town)524-3404
• Marianna Gamache, (Swanton, Sheldon) 393-1169
• Kathleen Keenan, (St. Albans City) 524-5013
• Barbara Murphy, (Fairfax) 849-6545
• Corey Parent, (St. Albans Town) 370-0494
• Albert “Chuck” Pearce, (Highgate, Franklin, Berkshire, Richford) 848-7813
• Carl Rosenquist, (Georgia) 527-7332
• Brian Savage, (Swanton, Sheldon) 868-3566, 782-9314
• Cynthia Weed, (Enosburgh, Montgomery) 933-2545

TOWN MEETING: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

What’s going to be decided this year at Town Meeting? Here’s a quick rundown of your Town Meeting and what to expect.

Bakersfield Town

You’ll have to elect a handful of Town Officers, including the Moderator, three Selectboard members, a Town Clerk, a Treasurer, a lister, an Auditor, three planning commissioners, a constable, animal control officer, collector of delinquent taxes, grand juror, town agent, cemetery commissioner, two Library trustees, a Trustee of public funds, a hospital committee member, and a committee person for the Brigham Academy committee.

Proposed this year for winter road maintenance is $137,000, and summer maintenance is $120,000. That is the same as last year, which also remained the same from the previous year.

The Town is asking for taxpayers to foot the bill for $203,053 in the general fund, that’s an increase of $19.41% over last year’s general fund tax support, but that is likely due to the addition of Enosburg Ambulance Service contract being added to the Town’s General Fund instead of being a separate line item.

The Library is requesting $33,681, which is a level fund from last year.

Click here for the Bakersfield Town and School Report.

Bakersfield School District

The voters will elect a moderator, two school directors, and the budget by Australian Ballot on Town Meeting day, but the night before, on Monday, voters will take on the subject of transferring $50,000 of unreserved balance from the 2016-17 fiscal year into the Capital Project Fund.

Voters will also be asked to consider selling the former Common School property to the Town of Bakersfield for one dollar.

The proposed School’s Budget comes in at $3,207,519. That’s $13,549 per equalized pupil and an increase of 5.54%. That figure is often times downplayed because it can change drastically in small schools when just a few students move into or out of the town.

If you consider last year’s school budget versus this year’s proposed budget, the actual, overall change in spending is a decrease of 1.63%.

Click here for the Bakersfield Town and School Report.

Berkshire Town & School

The substantial voting this year takes place via Australian Ballot, both for the School and the Town. On Monday, voters will be given a chance to discuss the items that will be voted on by Australian Ballot but will not be able to make motions to change anything on the Australian Ballot.

Voters will also be given a chance to bring up any other non-binding business.

On Tuesday, voters will decide on the following officers: Moderator (Loren Doe is on the ballot), Selectperson for 3 years (Vincent Hickey is on the ballot), Selectperson for 2 years (Anthony Lussier is on the ballot), Lister (Nobody is on the ballot), Auditor (Sheila Trudeau is on the ballot), Delinquent Tax Collector (Virginia Messier is on the ballot), Grand Juror (Troy Masse is on the ballot), Town Agent (Doug Weld is on the ballot).

Voters will also be able to vote on the Town’s Budget of $945,034.81 (of which $632,644.10 is to be raised by taxes). That budget is relatively level funded, down about $1,800 from the previous year.

For the School District, an article will cover the school budget of $4,323,211.00.

The following officers are up for election: Moderator (Loren Doe is on the ballot), School Director for three years (Lisa Hango is on the ballot), School Director for two years (Lianne Trombley is on the ballot).

Click here for the Berkshire Town and School Report.

Enosburgh Town

Via Australian Ballot, voters will elect officers to the following seats: Moderator (Pat Hayes is on the ballot), Town Clerk for three years (Billie Jo Draper is on the ballot), Treasurer for three years (Billie Jo Draper is on the ballot), Selectperson for two years (Dean Wright is on the ballot), Selectperson for three years (Larry Gervais is on the ballot), Three members of the Town Forest Committee, each one year terms (Sarah Downes, Ben Madox, Dennis Williams are all on the ballot), Collector of Delinquent Taxes for a term of one year (Frances Jackson is on the ballot), Town Agent, two Grand Jurors, two Listers (nobody is listed on the ballot).

Voters will be given a chance to vote on $24,798 to be split among 20 community organizations in Enosburgh and around the county.

Possibly the biggest issue on the agenda this year, a measure that would give the Selectboard the authority to enter into contracts with taxpayers from commercial and industrial properties, to negotiate and stabilize their taxes.

Voters will be asked to vote on the purchase of a new ambulance, at a rate of $142,734.00, to be financed for up to seven years. That vote will occur by Australian ballot.

Click here for the Enosburgh Town and School Report

Enosburgh Road District

After the General Fund meeting, voters of the Road District (any Enosburgh resident who is not also a resident of the Village of Enosburg Falls), will decide on a budget for the Enosburgh Road District. According to the annual Town Report, the road district budget comes in at $1,004,500.00. That’s an increase of 11.9% over last year’s budget, though the actual expenses for last year came in at $1,044,128, which is about $40,000 more than this year’s budget.

Much of the increase in spending comes from a $175,000 paving grant that was not included in last year’s budget, giving the Road District a windfall to do more work.

Considering the added revenue, the Road District carried over about $112,741 into the 2018 budget. That reduces the tax burden for the road district taxpayers from $619,793 to $588,158, a decrease of about 5.1%.

Click here for the Enosburgh Town and School Report.

Fairfax Town & School District

The voters of Fairfax will be able to discuss items being voted on during Australian Ballot, which includes the Town Budget of $2,878,293.

Voters will also be given a chance to discuss allocating $10,000 for the sidewalk improvement fund; $84,134 for ambulance coverage from Fairfax Rescue;  $25,477 to 20 area organizations.

On the School District side of the ballot, a budget of $12,282,123 is being proposed, with an additional article asking voters to support $300,000 for renovations at the school.

Up for election are the following offices: Town Moderator for one year (Roberta Rodimer is on the ballot), Selectperson for three years (Sheri Rainville is on the ballot), Selectperson for two years (Duane Leach is on the ballot), Town Agent for one year (Steve Cormier is on the ballot), Town Grand Juror (Steve Cormier is on the ballot), two Library Trustees (Patricia Gallant and Ellen F. Holmes-Henry are on the ballot), First Constable (nobody is listed on the ballot), Cemetery Commissioner (Dale Bellows is on the ballot), Delinquent Tax Collector (Johanna R. Blake is on the ballot), School Moderator (Roberta Rodimer is on the ballot), School Director for three years (Scott Mitchell is on the ballot), School Director for two years (Sandra-Lee Alexander and Dean Decker are on the ballot).

Click here for the Fairfax Town and School Report. 

Fairfield Town

Voters will be asked to elect the following officers: Selectperson for three years, Selectperson for two years, Auditor for three years, Lister for three years, Library Trustee for three years, Library Trustee for two years, Constable for one year, Grand Juror for one year, and Town Agent for one year.

Voters will also get a chance to weigh in on the Town’s $1,499,342 budget, which is an increase of more than 12% over the actual budget spent by the town last year. The amount that is proposed to be raised by taxes is an increase of 14.75% to $1,020,019.

Residents will also be asked to appropriate $92,225 for the Fairfield Fire Department, $15,000 for the Fairfield Community Center, $3,971 for Franklin County Home Health, $2,500 for the Outdoor Classroom program, $1,000 for Franklin County Animal Rescue. All of those organizations are seeking a flat funding allocation from the town.

Voters will also be asked to support a resolution that would be forwarded to the State Agency of Transportation to repave and rebuild Route 36 in Fairfield.

In addition to town business, residents will be asked to vote on business for the Maple Run Unified School District, which also includes St. Albans Town and St. Albans City.

The following positions will be up for election: Clerk for one year (Amanda Forbes is on the ballot), District Treasurer (Amanda Forbes is on the ballot), District Director for Fairfield (Bennette Dawson and Susan Casavant Magnan are both on the ballot), District Director for St. Albans Town (Steven Larosa is on the ballot), District Director for St. Albans City (Nilda Gonnella-French and Jeff Morrill are both on the ballot).

Voters will also be asked if they will approve the budget of $54,529,488 to fund the school district from July of 2018 through June of 2019. That budget represents and increases of $3.16% per equalized pupil over last year’s budget.

Click here for the Fairfax Town and School Report. 

Fletcher Town

Do you know where there is “an extraordinarily good deal” on a grader? If so, Article 6 may be of interest to you. Voters will be asked to approve spending up to $150,000 on a used grader, but only if the Town can find an “extraordinary deal” on one.

In addition to voting a general fund budget, which is done on the floor, voters will also be asked to support two resolutions asking for the repaving of Route 36 and the Fletcher/Fairfax road.

The Fairfax/Fletcher Road is in the Town of Fairfax, and the resolution asks for the Town of Fairfax to do the paving project, whereas the Route 36 project asks the State of Vermont to repave and rebuild that road.

You’ll be asked to elect two select board members, a Moderator, a Lister, an Auditor, and a Town Agent.

Click here for the Fletcher Town and School Report

Fletcher School District

School voters will be asked to elect a Moderator, Clerk, and two School Directors. In addition, a budget of $3,277,229 is being asked for in order to fund the school system for another year. That breaks down to $15,571.91 per equalized pupil, which is an increase of 12.34%. That figure is often times downplayed because it can change drastically in small schools when just a few students move into or out of the town.

The overall budget for the school is an increase of 8.4%.

This increase is in lieu of decreasing teachers by one.

 Much of the increase can be associated to an increase in spending for special education at the Supervisory Union level, an increase of 52.24%, according to the Annual Report published by the school, that money is an unfunded state mandate.

Click here for the Fletcher Town and School Report

Franklin Town and School

Voters will be asked to elect a Moderator for one year and a School Director for three years.

In addition, a budget of $1,787,790 is being proposed. That is an increase of 3.87% per equalized pupil over last year’s budget.

New this year, the voters will be asked if they want to vote on the supervisory union budget separately from the remaining school budget. The drive for this is a rising supervisory union budget, and an inability for voters to directly influence it. If voters approve that, the non-binding measure would not necessarily change anything, but instead would guide the board in future decisions.

As for Town business, voters will elect a Selectboard member for three years, a Selectboard member for two years, a Lister, and Auditor, a Trustee of public money, a Trustee of the Haston Library Fund, three Haston Library Trustees, a Collector of Delinquent Taxes, a Constable, a Town Agent, a grand juror, one representative to the Franklin Homestead Inc. Board of Directors, and a Cemetery Commissioner.

In addition, residents will be asked to approve a budget, expected to be $862,293, which is an increase over last year’s budget of 7.35%.

Also up for discussion at town meeting is $16,000 for the recreation department, $40,700 as a grant match for the replacement of a culvert on the Hannah Road, $10,000 for water quality management on Lake Carmi, and $80,000 over a five year period for the purchase of a loader.

Click here for the Franklin Town and School Report

Georgia Town & School

You’ll be electing a moderator, four out of five Selectboard members, two Constables, two Auditors, four Library Trustees, a Grand Juror, a Town Agent, and two Planning Commissioners.

In addition, you will be asked to fund your local government for 2018, at a proposed cost of 1,687,593. That’s an increase of 1.16% over last year’s approved budget. The overall money being proposed in this year’s budget is an increase of 11.72%, though much of that is anticipated to be offset by revenue.

For the School Meeting, voters will be electing three School Directors and a Moderator. They will also be voting on a $12,317,033 budget, that breaks down to $14,037 per equalized pupil. That is an increase of 2.08%, but that figure is often downplayed due to its ability to change quickly based on students moving in and out of the district.

The overall difference in the school budget being proposed is actually a 1.96% decrease from the preceding year’s budget.

Click here for the Georgia Town and School Report

Highgate Town & School

You’ be electing a Moderator, Town Agent, two Selectboard members, a Lister, two Trustees of Funds, two Library Trustees, and a Cemetery Commissioner.

In addition to electing town officers, you’ll be asked to have all questions in future meetings be voted on entirely by Australian ballot.

Voters will be asked to set aside $50,000 for future use for the Highgate Library and Community Center building fund.

An article asking for $278,500 is also planned to fund a Capital Improvement Plan, all of that money would come from taxpayers.

The Highway fund comes in at $764,716 this year. That’s an increase of just over 6% from last year’s budget.

The General Fund is proposed at $1,022,590, with $467,050 coming from taxpayers.

Likely to be the most controversial topic for Town Meeting this year in Highgate is a measure that asks voters which ambulance service they would like to contract with.

The actual article asks voters if they would like to contract with Missisquoi Valley Rescue beginning on July 19th, 2019.

The article was part of a legal settlement between the Town of Highgate and Missisquoi Valley Rescue.

If approved, the Town would have to contract with Missisquoi Valley Rescue.

If voted down, the Town selectboard would then be able to contract with any agency they choose, including Missisquoi Valley Rescue.

For the School portion of the meeting, voters will elect three School Directors and a Moderator as well as vote on the $5,125,240 budget for the School. That budget comes in at $13,757 per equalized pupil, which is 0.37% higher than last year.

The equalized pupil cost is often argued to be an inadequate way of representing the change in the budget. Overall the budget increases by $142,600, or about 2.86% increase from last year’s overall budget.

Click here for the Highgate Town and School Report

Maple Run Unified School District
(Fairfield, St. Albans Town,
St. Albans City)

Voters will be decided by Australian ballot to elect a Clerk, Treasurer, and three School Directors, one from each town.

The budget for the district is proposed at $54,529,488. That’s $15,481, representing an increase of 3.16%. The equalized pupil is often times dismissed as a bad way of looking at the change in the cost of education, but if you consider the overall change in the budget, spending is proposed to have an increase of 1.21%.

Click here for the Maple Run School District Report

Missisquoi Valley Union School District

Voters will be asked to elect a moderator (Timothy Magnant is on the ballot), a clerk (Erica Benoit is on the ballot), a Treasurer (Robin Blouin is on the ballot), a School Director for Franklin (Vickie Gratton is on the ballot), a school director for Highgate (Marc Bessette is on the ballot), a School Director from Swanton (Gregg Gervais is on the ballot).

In addition to officers, you’ll be asked to cast your support for a $14,685,738 budget. That is a decrease of 0.07% per equalized pupil.

Not lumped into the general fund, the voters for Missisquoi Valley Union School District are being asked to weigh in on supporting the Football Program, at a cost of $10,000, that’s 0.068% of the school’s budget.

Click here for the Missisquoi Valley Union High School Report

Montgomery Town

With all Montgomery Town Meetings, everything is voted on by the floor.

You’ll start by electing several town officers, here’s a list of what offices are being elected:

A selectperson for a term of two years. The Selectboard appointed Leanne Barnard to fill the remainder of Colin Sorenson’s term but will need the populous to extend that appointment beyond town meeting day.

A selectperson for a three-year term. This position is currently being held by Mark Brouillette.

The Town Clerk and Treasurer positions are also expiring and will need to be refilled, both positions are currently being held by Deanna-Dee Robitaille, and both positions are three-year terms.

A handful of smaller positions are also in need of filling, they are Lister, First Constable, Town Agent, Grand Juror, Cemetery Commissioner, three Library Trustees, Fire Commissioner, and two Planning Commissioners.

The voters will also be asked to disband their law enforcement,  Rescue Department, and Hectorville bridge funds and turn the money over into the general fund where it would be paid out in the future.

Click here for the Montgomery Town and School Report

Richford Town

Expect a fairly quiet town meeting in Richford this year, with most of the items being voted on by Australian ballot, it will likely be little more than an informational meeting on Monday evening.

By Australian ballot, you’ll be electing a moderator, town clerk, town treasurer, two selectpersons, an auditor, a lister, a town grand juror, a town agent, a constable, and three planning commission members.

You’ll also be asked to support a budget of $2,349,201. That’s a 3.95% increase in spending over last year’s budget.

As for the school district, you’ll be electing a moderator and two school directors.

You’ll also be asked to transfer $100,000 of unspent money from last year to the capital reserve fund.

The proposed budget ticks in at $5,978,592. That represents a cost per equalized pupil of $12,147, an increase of 5.34%. Many critiques the equalized pupil cost as a poor way to assess school funding costs. If you look at the overall spending, the budget is looking at a 1.49% decrease.

Click here for the Richford Town and School Report

Sheldon Town & School

Sheldon Town will need to elect a Moderator, Selectboard member, Auditor, Lister, Tax Collector, Town Agent and Grand Juror.

In addition to the town officers, Sheldon will be voting on a budget, currently proposed at $972,046.

Likely to be the most discussed and awaited article, voters will get a chance to weigh in on the purchase of a new fire engine, at a price of $367,527. The fire department plans to use the fire truck as their new front line engine, and use their next most modern fire engine to use a as water supply truck.

That will essentially phase out the department’s fire engine that was custom built for the Town in 1989.

As for the school district, the town will decide on a $5,752,513 budget, which tallies up to a $13,702 per pupil in spending, or 4.3%.

The price per pupil is often considered a poor way to evaluate school spending, so if you want to consider the overall budget difference from year to year, this year’s budget comes in at 2% increase in spending.

Click here for the Sheldon Town and School Report

St. Albans Town

You will be voting everything by Australian ballot, including the election of officers for two Selectperson positions, a Town Clerk, Town Treasurer, Delinquent Tax Collector, Lister, First Constable, Grand Juror, Town Agent, and Library Trustee.

You’ll also be asked to fund a $3,832,617 General Fund Budget.

Up for decision is the replacement of a town dump truck, with a cost of up to $191,000 with funds that were already collected, and replenish the fund with $19,000 per year for ten years.

Click here for the St. Albans Town Report

St. Albans City

In addition to electing a city counselor for Wards three and four, and two trustees for the library, voters will need to decide on a city budget of $8,124,275. That’s an increase of 2.74%. According to city records, that should provide a tax rate of about $0.8775.

Click here for the St. Albans City Report

Swanton Town 

Voters will be electing town officers in the following positions: two Selectboard members, a Lister, an Auditor, two School Directors, a Trustee of public money, two Cemetery Commissioners, a Town Grand Juror, a Town Agent, and a Collector of Delinquent Taxes.

A proposed budget of $849,040.60 is up for a vote, as is a $212,625 for fire coverage from Swanton Village.

$110,086 is being budgeted for police coverage.

As for the School District, voters will have a chance to weigh in on $8,397,480 budget. That breaks down to $13,266 per equalized pupil, or a decrease of 7.25%.

Many people look at the per pupil as a poor way to evaluate school spending, so if you look at the overall budget, school spending is actually decreasing 0.07%.

Click here for the Swanton Town and School Report

Swanton Village

Voters will be voting to elect four officers: President for one year term, Trustee for a three-year term, Clerk for a one year term, and a collector of delinquent taxes for a one year term.

The General Fund in Swanton Village comes in at $125,735, that is a very slight increase over last year’s budget.

Voters will also be asked to support $515,358 for the Highway Department, a decrease from last year.

Voters will also be asked to fork over up to $435,000, to rebuild the waterline that feeds Missisquoi Valley Union High School. The bond would not exceed that price but could be less if grants and school funds were able to be used to offset some of the prices.

Possibly, most notably, the Village Fire Department is asking for $1,442,500, to be financed for up to 15 years, to purchase a pair of fire trucks, one fire engine, and one ladder truck. The proposal also includes utilizing $76,650 from the capital reserve fund.

Click here for the Swanton Village Report

TOWN MEETING: WHERE AND WHEN

For some, finding your town meeting location can be half the battle. We’re here to help. We’ve compiled a straightforward list of meetings so you know where to go, and when, so you can do your civic duty- vote.

Pick up a copy of this week’s County Courier for a breakdown of the hottest topics in each town.

Bakersfield Town 

Voting will happen at the Bakersfield Town Hall, with the meeting starting at 10 am. Australian ballot voting for Town Officers will be taking place all day until the polls close at 7 pm.

Click here for the Bakersfield Town and School Report.

Bakersfield School

The Bakersfield School Meeting, held at the Bakersfield Elementary School Gymnasium, will take place on Monday, March 5th beginning at 7 pm. The Australian ballot voting for School Directors and the school budget will take place on Tuesday from 10 am to 7 pm at the Bakersfield Town Hall.

Click here for the Bakersfield Town and School Report.

Berkshire Town & School

Click here for the Berkshire Town and School Report.

Discussion and voting on non-monetary and election articles will occur on Monday, March 5th at 7 pm at the Berkshire Elementary School. Australian ballot voting for the election of officers and the budget will occur on Tuesday, March 6th beginning at 10 am and closing at 7 pm.

Enosburgh Town

Voting takes place at the Enosburg High School Auditorium on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 10 am. Australian ballot voting will begin at 10 am and close at 7 pm.

Click here for the Enosburgh Town and School Report.

Enosburgh Road District

Voting takes place at the Enosburg High School Auditorium on Tuesday, March 6th, following the conclusion of the General Fund meeting.

Click here for the Enosburgh Town and School Report.

Enosburg Falls Village

Voting will take place at the Enosburg High School Auditorium on Tuesday, March 13th beginning at 6:30 pm.

Click here for the Enosburg Village Report.

Enosburg School District

Voting will take place on Tuesday, March 20th at the Enosburg High School Auditorium beginning at 7 pm.

Click here for the Enosburgh Town and School Report.

Fairfax Town

Voting will take place at the Fairfax Elementary School Auditorium on Saturday, March 3rd, beginning at 10 am. Australian ballot voting will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, from 7 am to 7 pm at the Fairfax Missle School Gymnasium.

Click here for the Fairfax Town and School Report. 

Fairfax School District

Voting for the School District will take place on Saturday, March 3rd at the Fairfax Town Meeting, beginning at 10 am. Australian ballot items will be open for voting on Tuesday, March 6th from 7 am to 7 pm at the Fairfax Middle School Gymnasium.

Click here for the Fairfax Town and School Report. 

Fairfield Town

Voting will take place at the Fairfield Elementary School on Tuesday, March 6th beginning at 10 am.

Click here for the Fairfield Town Report

Fletcher Town & School

The Town and School meeting is slated to begin at 9:30 am on Tuesday, March 6th, at the Fletcher Elementary School.

Click here for the Fletcher Town and School Report

Franklin Town and School

Voting will take place at the Franklin Elementary School on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 9 am.

Click here for the Franklin Town and School Report

Georgia Town & School

Voting will take place at the Georgia Elementary School on Tuesday, March 5th. Australian ballot voting will begin at 7 am and end at 7 pm. The Town and School meeting will begin at 10 am.

Click here for the Georgia Town and School Report

Highgate Town & School

Voting will take place at the Highgate Elementary School on Tuesday, March 6th beginning at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.

The regular floor meeting will begin at 10 am.

Click here for the Highgate Town and School Report

Maple Run Unified School District
(Fairfield, St. Albans Town, St. Albans City)

Australian ballot voting will take place at your regular voting locations for each town.

Click here for the Maple Run School District Report

Missisquoi Valley Union School District

Voting will take place at the following locations: Swanton Municipal Complex, Highgate Elementary School, Franklin Elementary School on Tuesday, March 6th. All votes are by Australian ballot, with polls opening at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.

Click here for the Missisquoi Valley Union High School Report

Montgomery Town

Voting will take place at the Town Hall on Tuesday, March 6th beginning at 9 am. All items are considered on the floor, and there are no Australian ballots.

Click here for the Montgomery Town and School Report

Montgomery School District

Voting will take place at the Montgomery Elementary School on Monday, March 12th beginning at 7:30 pm.

Click here for the Montgomery Town and School Report

Richford Town

Floor voting will take place at the Richford Town Hall on Monday, March 5th, beginning at 7 pm. All articles about the election of officers and monetary issues will be voted on by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6th beginning at 10 am and closing at 7 pm.

Click here for the Richford Town and School Report

Richford School District

Voting by Australian ballot will take place on Tuesday, March 6th at the Richford Town Hall beginning at 10 am and ending at 7 pm. Discussion and nonbinding business are scheduled for Monday, March 5th beginning at 7 pm.

Click here for the Richford Town and School Report

Sheldon Town

Voting will take place Tuesday, March 6th, at the Sheldon Elementary School beginning at 10 am. Australian ballot voting for Article 9, the purchase of a new fire truck will begin at 7 am and close at 7 pm.

Click here for the Sheldon Town and School Report

Sheldon School

Voting for the Sheldon School district will take place during the Town Meeting, which begins at 10 am on Tuesday, March 6th at the Sheldon Elementary School.

Click here for the Sheldon Town and School Report

St. Albans Town

All voting will take place via Australian ballot at Collins-Perley Sports Complex on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.

Click here for the St. Albans Town Report

St. Albans City

Voting will take place at the St. Albans City Hall on Tuesday, March 6th. All items are voted via Australian ballot, with polls opening at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.

Click here for the St. Albans City Report

Swanton Town & School

Voting will take place at the Swanton Municipal Complex with all items being decided via Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6th. Polls open at 7 am and close at 7 pm.

Click here for the Swanton Town and School Report

Swanton Village

Voting will take place via Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 7 am and closing at 7 pm.

Click here for the Swanton Village Report

HIGHGATE POLICE CHASE ENDS IN STANDOFF

Editor’s Note: This article was updated Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 11:50 am. 

EAST HIGHGATE: Law enforcement officers from the Vermont State Police, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Swanton Police and Border Patrol descended on a building in East Highgate after a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy chased a man to the building on Monday evening.

According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, a Deputy was conducting routine patrols in Highgate on Monday evening when he noticed a silver minivan. In the next few minutes, the minivan accelerated to a high rate of speed, passing another vehicle in a dangerous manner.

The pursuit began just after 6:30 pm, the according to the Sheriff’s Department.

A pursuit began, leading police through Highgate Village at approximately 85 miles per hour, which is a 35 mile per hour zone, according to Deputy Miles.

The man stopped his vehicle on Route 78 near Hannah Road, and began to flee the scene on foot, the officer said in a news release.

State Police, began assisting the Sheriff’s Deputy in locating the driver. After following the footprints in the snow left by the suspect, they finally flushed the man out to Route 78, where he was ordered to stop.

The man fled into a vacant apartment building, leading police to take up a defensive position around the vacant building the man was hiding in, which is located at the intersection of Route 78 and Machia Road, until more backup could arrive.

The almost dozen officers surrounded the building located at 6756 Route 78, which used to house several families in apartments, but was unoccupied at the time of the incident.

An hour and a half after the incident began, police entered the building to search for the suspect, later identified as Matthew Greenan, 34, of Enosburg.

Three loud bangs could be heard as police used a battering ram to enter the building, moments later voices of police officers could be heard yelling at the subject as they took him into custody.

Officers on scene did not initially disclose the identity of the suspect but did eventually lead him to a waiting cruiser with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Officers on scene also declined to comment on why they attempted to pull him over in the first place but did say that the man was not armed when he was taken into custody, and there was no harm to the public.

Grenon was charged with Grossly Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Driving with a Criminally Suspended License, Excessive Speed, and Attempting to Elude. He was transported to Northwest Correctional Center on $10,000 bail until his arraignment on Tuesday afternoon.

According to public records, Greenan is on probation for Assault and Robbery, counterfeiting and a felony charge of Possession of Marijuana.

The burglary charge stems from an incident where Greenan entered the Post Office in Swanton, demanding cash from the employees. He did not get any but fled on a bicycle instead. That was in 2014.

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LOCAL WOMEN WANTED IN CONNECTION WITH VIRGINIA BANK ROBBERIES

Amber Fusco, 29 in an August 2017 mug shot provided by the South Burlington Police department after police discovered Fusco slumped over the steering wheel of her vehicle in the Hannaford’s parking lot. She allegedly had her infant child in the vehicle with her at the time.

Federal Agents say, Amber Fusco, 29, of Richford and Jennifer Bessette, 33, are wanted in connection with a pair of bank robberies in Virginia.

According to court records, Bessette and Fusco met a Virginian, Andrew Welton in Burlington and cooked up a scheme to travel to the Commonwealth to rob banks.

The first bank robbed was BB&T bank in Henrico, Va, according to court records. That is where agents say Fusco entered the bank with a note, scrawled “I need $10,000 No Dye Packs Make It Fast No Alarms or Else.”

The clerk that Fesco allegedly gave the note to, told Fusco that she did not have that much cash.

According to police, that is when Fusco removed a silver revolver from her right front pocket and told the clerk to “hurry up.”

The clerk handed over more than $1,000 in cash and fled on foot.

That robbery occurred on December 20th. Three days later, Fusco is accused of entering a Wells Fargo Bank in Richmond, VA, where she handed the teller a note that read “I need all large bills, I have a gun and will use it. You have 30 seconds.”

That teller allegedly handed over more than $4,400 in currency, which included a GPS tracker.

As police responded to the scene, they received information on the whereabouts of the GPS transmitter and noted that it was traveling away from the bank.

Police shut down a toll plaza and began making contact with each driver.

One of the vehicles that police stopped, was a silver Ford Fusion, driven by Andrew Welton, according to police. Inside the vehicle was a man, woman, and infant.

Because police did not believe that a family would be involved in the bank heist, the vehicle was waived through the checkpoint.

Soon afterward police received word that the GPS tracker was on the move again, and had been allowed to travel through the roadblock.

A short time later, police were able to stop the vehicle, but by that time the woman and infant had fled to an unknown location, according to records.

Police searched the vehicle and found $4,000, the GPS tracker, two pieces of jewelry with their price tags still on them, and a ski mask, and a cell phone.

According to Welton, he met Bassette and Fusco in Burlington, Vermont where the two women brainstormed the idea of bank robberies in Virginia.

Last week, Fusco was interviewed by law enforcement officers, where she admitted to being a part of the bank robberies, according to court records.

“Fusco identified herself in the surveillance photo as the subject of the BB&T bank robbery,” Robert Sayegh, Special Agent for the FBI wrote in a description of the admission obtained by the County Courier.

According to that admission, Bessette was the getaway driver for Fusco, initially, at least until they could get to Welton who was parked a few blocks away.

The two women are being charged with two counts of bank robbery, aiding and abetting a bank robbery, and one count of brandishing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Fusco has a previous criminal history in Vermont and is currently on probation for cruelty to children, assault on a police officer, and simple assault, according to public records.

Bessette was arrested and is currently being held at Chittenden County Correctional Center in South Burlington, according to public records. Fusco has yet to be located.

Welton is currently being held at the Richmond (VA) county jail.

LAKE CARMI STARS IN WATER QUALITY LEGISLATION

NEW REPORT RECOMMENDS REMEDIES

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

MONTPELIER: David Deen, a Democrat from Westminster and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife has submitted a bill into the House that could drastically improve the water quality in Lake Carmi.

The bill, which was introduced at the end of last month would shift all the responsibilities for water quality to the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), but only if ANR designates the lake in question ‘in crisis.’

The bill, as introduced, would also let ANR establish an emergency order to cease, in the watershed of the lake, all agricultural practices that contribute phosphorus to the lake.

Although the funding sources have yet to be ironed out, the legislation would require the State of Vermont to compensate farmers for any losses that are directly contributable to an emergency order.

Locals from the area traveled to Montpelier on Thursday to testify on the bill, including the Vice President of the Lake Carmi Campers Association, Rob Evans.

“While blue-green algae is not a new phenomenon at Lake Carmi, this summer was the worst we had ever seen,” Evans testified, “Many articles have been written, public hearings were held, network news stations filmed from our shores and property owners, town residents and all those who visit and recreate at Lake Carmi were left wondering what does the future hold for our lake.”

Evans told the committee that he has owned a camp on Lake Carmi for a dozen years, but that may not continue if something isn’t done.

“Much like the conversations that Governor Scott has been having about keeping our youth and seniors in the state, many of us who have looked forward to retiring on the lake are having second thoughts and are wondering if Lake Carmi is a safe place to bring our future grandchildren.” Evans testified.

Evans pushed much of the blame onto the agricultural community that sits within the watershed of the lake.

“While we recognize that lakeshores need to be improved, roads surrounding the lake need to be enhanced, continual improvements on camp septic systems need to be completed and creative land management practices need to be explored that slow down and filter out the phosphorous coming into our lake… the problem and the solution– always comes back to agriculture,” said Evans.

The effect of land value and taxes may impact the remainder of the Town. Information that was submitted to the Legislative Committee on Thursday by Peter Magnant indicates that about 23% of the Town’s $2.8 million in total tax revenue comes from lakeside properties. Of those, about 80% paid their most recent taxes in protest to the condition of the lake.

Andrea Engelhardt and Diane Larose, two local camp owners presented the committee with photos of the lake late in 2017, including photos showing fish die-offs, muscle die-offs and areas of water completely blanketed with algae.

Perry Thomas, a representative of the State’s Watershed Management Division of the Department of Environmental Conservation, also testified to the bill’s impact, this time a detrimental impact, according to Thomas.

“While the Agency appreciates the attention brought to Lake Carmi’s water quality needs by H.730, we are concerned that some of the bill’s language would affect our ability to accelerate work toward meeting phosphorus reduction goals, by undermining working relationships among partner(s).” Thomas wrote.

According to Thomas, 2017 was the “perfect storm” for algae blooms in the lake, “unusually high levels of rainfall in late spring 2017 caused erosion of phosphorus-laden sediments that triggered early summer algae blooms. Typical stratification during early summer led to a lack of mixing in the lowest layer and depletion of oxygen by biological activity there. Under these conditions, phosphorus was released from the sediment and builds up in the lowest layer. Cool temperatures for a short period in August caused mixing of the lake column, and the phosphorus in the lowest layer mixed up through the water column. This extra injection of phosphorus caused the intense algae blooms we witnessed in late August and early September. An extended period of unusually warm weather from late September through November caused extension of the cyanobacteria bloom.”

Thomas indicated the hundreds of acres that the State is working with farmers on in order to reduce the impact of agriculture on the lake. A graph provided by Thomas showed a 35 fold increase of the number of acres that was being utilized for best practice from 2009 to 2016.

The lake’s watershed covers 7,710 acres, mostly used for agriculture, according to a newly released report on the lake, authored by an environmental management consulting agency based in Tennessee.

In the short term, it was recommended that the state could install devices to artificially circulate the water up or down in the lake, aerate the lake, or use a process known as alum treatments, which binds the phosphorous to aluminum.

According to the report, mixing the water by circulating it up or downward in the lake would limit the amount of light to which algae could access.

The mixing would also subject the algae to turbulent water, which reduces its growth potential.

The longest term option may come from the alum treatments, according to the report. The average application of alum to a waterbody lasted for about 21 years, and there are no ongoing management or operating expenses attributed to the alum treatment, but the initial expense is expected to be about $660,000 for a full dose on the lake.

There is also an option for a partial dose of alum in the lake with costs starting at about $150,000.

It is estimated that the lake would need 83 tons of aluminum to fully treat the lake.

Steve Beyor who represents Franklin and is the ranking member on the committee receiving testimony over this bill was not available for comment as of press time.

Whatever the decision by the legislature, it’s clearly a bad time, to say the least, for farmers to see higher expenses through greater regulation. Milk prices are still about $2 below the cost of production, per hundredweight, and have been for well over three years. January’s milk check was recently delivered to farmers, with a stark message inside- the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

THE ABBEY & MVU TEAM UP TO EAT LOCALLY

By Ruthie Laroche
For the County Courier

The Abbey Group and the MVU Animal Science Department have joined forces to bring locally raised, farm-fresh beef to the MVU student body.

“The Abbey Group has purchased fifty pounds of local beef from the Animal Science Department at MVU. We are pleased to be part of their program, and we are very excited to offer local beef to the MVU students,” said Tina Bushey, Foodservice Director for The Abbey.

Students from MVU made colorful signs that were placed around the school to let students know about the local beef.

“The students are very big on local here at MVU. The kids take pride in being able to have local products served to them at lunchtime,” said Bushey.

The Abbey Group hopes to continue to buy beef from the Animal Science Department on a monthly basis, purchasing fifty pounds a month and featuring the beef in different recipes each month.

“I would love to do a burger day with a homemade, fresh patty,” said Bushey.

Last week students at MVU had ‘Taco Tuesday,’ and the beef in the tacos was sourced directly from MVU’s campus.

Animal Science teacher Jim Messier and his students put a lot of time and effort into raising their beautiful, healthy steers each year.

“The students are a part of the process from start to finish,” Bushey said, “Mr. Messier has set it up so that his students not only raise the beef, but they will also interact with The Abbey doing the invoicing for the product they sell. This is what he is teaching them, and it’s great. It’s real-life experience.”

Bushey and The Abbey Group also hope to use eggs raised by the Animal Science Department in the future.

“Anything we can do to support our local farms and the school, we are very excited to do,” said Bushey.

The students in the Animal Science Program raise the animals themselves, taking part in every aspect of their care. Special attention is given to ensure that the animals are not only well fed but that they are also friendly with people.

“We’ve cared for these animals, and we know what they’ve eaten and how they’ve been treated. They are really loved while they are here,” said Luten.

Pick up a copy of this week’s County Courier for the remainder of this article.

FAIRFAX CRASH LEAVES ONE IN CRITICAL CONDITION

FAIRFAX: Vermont State Police say that an afternoon crash left a St. Albans man in critical, life-threatening condition Thursday.

According to Trooper Nathan Quealy of the Vermont State Police, Michael Farrington, a 65-year-old St. Albans man was driving his 2008 Toyota Carolla north on Route 104 in Fairfax Thursday afternoon, around 4:42, when he crossed over the center line and collided head-on with a Ford F-250 driven by Leon Kinsley, 68, of Jeffersonville. Continue reading “FAIRFAX CRASH LEAVES ONE IN CRITICAL CONDITION”