Study may ‘go down in flames,’ says state rep
by Lauren Harkawik
Jan 23, 2018 | 342 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Laura Sibilia
Laura Sibilia
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DOVER - At the Dover School Board’s meeting on Monday night, board vice chair and state representative Laura Sibilia said she isn’t sure what will come of a yet-to-commence, legally mandated education financing weighting study. “I think it’s going to go down in flames,” said Sibilia. The weighting study was mandated through Act 49, which was signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott on May 23, 2017. Per the law, the study was to be completed by December 15, 2017. It was meant to analyze the factors used in determining the number of equalized pupils and average daily membership at a school. Through the weighting system, several criteria affect equalized per-pupil funding. Sibilia has been pushing for a rural weight to be included in those factors. In November, it was reported in Seven Days that secretary of education Rebecca Holcombe said she did not expect to initiate or complete the mandated study until the agency of education had “the capacity to do so” and that the study would not unfold in the designated timeline. Subsequently, Sibilia, along with Rep. John Gannon and Rep. Ben Jickling, sent a letter to Holcombe in which they threatened legal action if the study was not completed. The Dover School Board sent a letter urging the study’s completion as well. On Monday, Sibilia said the administration requested $300,000 to complete the study. “Appropriations asked the education committee if that was their highest priority,” said Sibilia. “I was in the committee when (chair of the House Education Committee Rep.) Dave Sharpe was testifying, and he said ‘It was when we came out last year,’ but he’d have to check with the committee to see if it’s still their highest priority. Apparently, it’s not.” In a memorandum dated January 11 from Sharpe to Rep. Catherine Toll, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, Sharpe wrote, “While we believe that this study is important and would help us assess the effectiveness and fairness of our equalized pupil weighting system, it is not our top priority.” Sharpe went on to say that the committee requests approval of the $300,000 to the Agency of Education to “facilitate the addition of two staff positions.” “We believe that the Agency is and has been understaffed for years,” wrote Sharpe, “and faces particular staffing challenges this year in the areas of pre-kindergarten education, special education, and Act 46 implementation.” “I think they’re getting nothing,” said Sibilia at Monday’s meeting. “It’s going over to the Senate, and it’s my understanding that the appropriations committee in the Senate is not feeling friendly about it. (The study) still has to be done. I’m not sure what Plan B is yet.” “It has to be done by December (2017),” said board member Kerry McDonald-Cady. “That’s what the law was,” said chair Rich Werner. “There is usually flex,” said Sibilia. “There is normal back and forth negotiation. So I expect that that is what will be happening here. But I’m not sure what the end result will be.”
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This Week in History
Jan 22, 2018 | 356 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
10 years ago: A group of Wilmington residents and business owners were circulating a petition calling for a vote on a 1% local option tax. The tax was also proposed several years earlier but failed at Town Meeting when critics complained that there wasn’t a plan for using the money. The second try would also fail, but four years later, after Tropical Storm Irene, the tax passed. A three-town education funding committee considered a study that would predict what education in Vermont would look like if it were under the full control of the state. According to the discussion at the meeting, the state was currently trying to make a hybrid system work, one that was partially state controlled and funded, and partially locally controlled and funded.

15 years ago: Whitingham joined Wilmington in the prospect of a first-ever combined tax rate exceeding $3 per $100 of appraised property value. Whitingham’s school budget was almost $3.2 million, and a loss of revenue was pushing the town’s rate up by as much as 27 cents, to $3.11. Whitingham and Wilmington school board members working on a proposed joint school district announced they planned to bring the plan to the voters in both towns as soon as spring 2004. Wilmington was losing three police officers to the state police. Some officers cited a morale problem after a group of voters offered a motion to cut the department’s funding at the previous town meeting. And informal local discussions suggested a move was afoot to cut the department by half at the upcoming March 2003 Town Meeting.

20 years ago: Wardsboro residents were upset when a young bull moose that had been wandering around the village for months, was shot by the department of fish and wildlife. The moose had no fear of people, and some residents left food out for him, and others even interacted with him – one resident even got close enough to kiss the animal on the snout. The moose was shot after it wandered into traffic and couldn’t be scared off by state or town highway department personnel. The moose wandered through the halted traffic, even stopping to poke his head in a car window. After it was shot, department of fish and game officials said the moose showed obvious signs of brain roundworm disease, a fatal parasite that leads to disorientation, paralysis, and death.

25 years ago: Wardsboro Town Clerk Jacquie Bedard and her sister, Stratton Town Clerk Terri Garland, were granted a permit to open a restaurant in the Cobb House. In his speech before the Legislature’s opening session, Gov. Howard Dean said the state can no longer depend solely on local property taxes as a way to fund education. A Wardsboro man was fined $200 as the result of an incident in which he was alleged to have slapped the town’s road foreman at a site review of road construction on Route 100.

35 years ago: The Deerfield Valley got its first snowstorm of the season, dumping almost 28 inches of snow on southern Vermont. Vermont Advocates for Public Health was working to raise the drinking age in Vermont from 18 to 21, and to lower the legal blood alcohol level from .10 to .08. The District Environmental Commission ruled an application submitted by a local developer to build 48 two-bedroom units adjacent to Dover Green invalid. According to the commission, the owner of the property never signed the application.

40 years ago: Police Sgt. Dave Donley was calling it quits. Donley had been with the Wilmington Police Department since its inception in 1969. When he started at the department nine years earlier, there were only two state police troopers serving the area, Donley noted, but there were now three state troopers, four full-time Wilmington police officers, and three full-time police officers in Dover. Donley was leaving to accept a position in the security department at a hotel in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

45 years ago: The Deerfield Valley News explored Linc Haynes’ new, state-of-the-art sawmill and manufacturing facility on Mill Street in Wilmington. Haynes’ company, Vermont Barnboard, produced simulated barnboard from new white pine, spruce, and hemlock boards through a “secret” aging process. The plant began manufacturing earlier in the month. Famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich, billed as “The World’s Greatest Drummer,” appeared at Fat City in Wilmington.

50 years ago: Neil Priessman opened Neil’s Restaurant in the old creamery building on Route 100 in Wilmington. Priessman redecorated the interior of the building with an early American atmosphere, using two of the old counters from Parmelee & Howe. Priessman served two or three entrees nightly, using recipes he collected during his travels through Europe and Great Britain. Temperatures at the summit of Mount Snow dipped to -35 degrees and the lowest temperature recorded at the base was -22 degrees, as a record-breaking cold spell hit the Northeast. The cold temperatures were accompanied by a stiff wind, driving skiers into the base lodge where they sought refuge in front of the fireplaces. Swiss officials were considering new ski laws based on traffic laws. If enacted, ski police could pull skiers to the side of the trail for speeding, reckless skiing, or skiing while intoxicated. The penalties assessed would be the same as the similar traffic offenses. Some Swiss ski resorts already had police officers patrolling the slopes, according to the report.
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Driving rhythms and sweet harmonies
Jan 22, 2018 | 96 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bard Owl will perform at the Four Columns on Wednesday from 6 to 9 pm.
Bard Owl will perform at the Four Columns on Wednesday from 6 to 9 pm.
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NEWFANE- Bard Owl will be featured at ​the ​Four Columns Inn on Wednesday, ​January 24, from 6 to 9 pm. An acoustic duo with T. Breeze Verdant and Annie​ ​Landenberger, Bard Owl delivers driving rhythms and sweet harmonies in an eclectic ​and growing ​range of old tunes and new. Verdant plays guitar, works the stompbox drum, and sings. ​As a child he started ​crooning Little Richard and Elvis, ​alternating ​with military ​classics while lying in bed at night. ​ Landenberger has been singing in all genres since ​age 6, when she ​delivered ​her parents’ dinner guests a litany of Mitch Miller favorites. ​​Together for a year, they’ve been honing a sound ​that has been enjoyed in various venues regionally and beyond. Special guest on ​​​January 24 will be Dan Dewalt, well-known for his wide range of music on ​piano, ​trombone, and accordion. Four Columns Inn is on the Common off Route 30. There’s no cover. The Four Columns offers a $5 rotating draft to enjoy with the live music every Wednesday. For more information contact Landenberger at verbatimvt@gmail.com or (802) 348-7156.​ For more information on Four Columns visit fourcolumnsvt.com. For information on Bard Owl visit www.facebook.com/TheBardOwls.
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Board told not to pursue pre-pre-K
Jan 22, 2018 | 633 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Lauren Harkawik DOVER - Dialogue about changes to the Dover School’s pre-K program continued at Monday evening’s Dover School Board meeting. In a report submitted in writing to the board, principal Matt Martyn said he does not recommend instituting pre-K instruction for children under the age of 3. A pre-K bus, which started running as a pilot program this year, will continue to run for the remainder of the school year, and Martyn said he will have more information about the structure and costs of a proposed full-day pre-K program at the board’s next meeting. At its December 18 meeting, the board asked Martyn to research a “pre-pre-K” program for children younger than 3. The directive came after a discussion about pre-K cutoff dates and the merits of early education for students. In his report, Martyn said that based on his research, programming for children under 3 is considered day care. Martyn said day care facilities are governed by a different set of standards than schools are, may require smaller fixtures such as sinks and toilets, and require a lower teacher-to-child ratio. Additionally, as the state does not provide any tuition reimbursement for child care, there would not be a possibility for tuition revenue for the school. “Based on this preliminary analysis, at this time, I cannot recommend that we consider expanding the pre-K by adding day care services for children under 3 years old,” wrote Martyn. Martyn noted that to his knowledge, the Dover School is the only public-school-based pre-K program that offers programming to 3-year-olds. In other pre-K news, Martyn recommended that the board continue to run a pre-K bus for its 3- and 4-year-olds, noting that ridership has been between three and 11 students per day. The board agreed. Martyn said that for the board’s next meeting, he expects to have more specific information about the structure and cost of a proposed switch to full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds. The matter will be on the school’s Town Meeting agenda as its own article. The Dover School Board next meets Monday, February 5 at 5:30 pm at Wardsboro Elementary.
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Solar project approval questioned
by Lauren Harkawik
Jan 21, 2018 | 857 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER - At its meeting on Tuesday night, the Dover Selectboard tabled lease negotiations with Green Lantern Solar, pending further research and the town’s attorney’s review of a letter submitted to the board by zoning administrator Wayne Estey, who expressed concerns “regarding the selectboard’s unprecedented rush to approve this agreement.” Green Lantern initially approached the board in August about allowing the group to do a feasibility study on the town’s landfill to see if it was suitable for a solar array. The board agreed to the study in October. In December, Ralph Meima, director of project development for Green Lantern, said the study deemed the site suitable for a 150 kW array with an approximate one-acre footprint. He asked that the town enter lease negotiations with Green Lantern, which the board agreed to do. If the solar array were built, the town would act as a landlord with Green Lantern as a tenant. In addition, there would be a community buy-in period when residents of the town could purchase panels on the array. When Meima initially presented to the board at its August 1 meeting, he said he would expect that panels would be sold for $3.85 per watt, which he said was an overall approximate $1,000 cost per panel. At the time, Meima said 15-16 panels per household is a typical buy-in for a single family home. At the board’s December 18 meeting, Meima said the community buy-in had been less abundant than expected in a similar project in Guilford. At the time, Meima said, “There was less of a response than we expected. I don’t want to raise expectations too high. Six months ago I was a lot more optimistic about (community buy-in in) Guilford than I am now.” In Estey’s letter, he expressed concern about the potential for scant community participation. “My understanding is that Green Lantern’s experience with similar agreements demonstrated that public subscription offers have been unsuccessful and Green Lantern does not expect them to be successful in this instance either,” wrote Estey. “The reason the public subscriptions have been and will be unsuccessful here is that the financial benefits of this agreement accrue to the parties other than Dover’s citizens. This Green Lantern admission confirms that other townspeople have not gotten a deal worth signing on to.” Meima said he wasn’t “sure what information” Estey was referencing to make that statement, but said the Guilford project had about 10 households buy in, comprising approximately one-tenth of the overall available panels, and the project “fell short” of what Green Lantern had hoped for. Meima noted that in a new project in Newfane, a project he said was similar to the proposed Dover project, the marketing period for community buy-in had not yet happened. In his letter, Estey urged the board to consider getting other bids before signing with Green Lantern. “The town’s landfill and the sun that shines on it are the property rights of Dover’s citizens,” wrote Estey. “The selectboard’s consideration of an agreement to sell these property rights without seeking competitive bids is poor public policy at best, inconsistent with past processes when selling or disposing of public property, and possibly contrary to the selectboard’s legal authority and duty.” Meima said that his experience was that the lease for a 150 kW array with a one-acre footprint similar to Dover’s is typically between $3,800 and $4,000. Vice chair Vicki Capitani asked what other towns’ leases were, and Meima, noting that other towns’ agreements would be public information, looked up Newfane’s, which was $5,000. Capitani said she would like to research what other towns’ leases were as well. Resident and business owner Adam Levine questioned the benefit to the residents of the town if there isn’t a lot of community buy-in and the lease brings in $4,000 or $5,000 per year. “We only need to raise $4,000 less a year (to have the same savings),” said Levine. “So every building will save a dollar. One dollar. That’s going to be the benefit to somebody who doesn’t buy in.” “It also pays taxes,” said Meima. “So, two dollars,” said Levine. Meima said every town has different priorities, and Green Lantern can adjust its approach to the project overall to fit. “If it is your priority to make this available first as a community array that is the approach we’ll take,” said Meima. He offered to host a public meeting in the town to engage the community in the matter. Capitani said she was “not quite there yet, personally,” and other board members agreed. The matter was tabled pending attorney review of Estey’s letter and further research by the board.
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