As year winds down, 2013 stands out as an upbeat year
by Compiled by Mike Eldred
Dec 29, 2013 | 4146 views | 0 0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Matt Yakovleff cleared snow from a January storm off a scaffolding alongside Dot’s Restaurant in Wilmington. The building, which became symbolic of the village’s reconstruction after Tropical Storm Irene,  reopened to diners earlier this month.
Matt Yakovleff cleared snow from a January storm off a scaffolding alongside Dot’s Restaurant in Wilmington. The building, which became symbolic of the village’s reconstruction after Tropical Storm Irene, reopened to diners earlier this month.
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For the most part, 2013 was an upbeat year for the Deerfield Valley. The region continued its physical, economic, and psychological recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. During the first half of the year, Wilmington created Wilmington Works, a new nonprofit entity to administer its state-approved downtown program. Dover began working on a new park that would complement its Valley Trail. Whitingham and Halifax lost their own ambulance service, the oldest in the valley. Readsboro confronted conflicting issues of school security and public access.

January

Under pressure from residents and business owners, the Wilmington Selectboard agreed to a Town Meeting article that would put revenue from the town’s 1% local option tax into a dedicated fund. At a selectboard meeting, local business owners expressed dismay over a previous board discussion in which some members advocated putting the 1% tax revenue into the general fund, to be used to reduce the municipal tax rate. One business owner said he was embarrassed by the proposal to use the money to reduce property taxes. Most business owners and residents implored the board to use the money for economic development and special town projects. The article was passed at Town Meeting, along with another article that placed the 1% funds already collected into the account.

A state evaluation placed Whitingham Ambulance Service on a 90-day conditional license because of staffing and training issues. Facing a dwindling number of volunteers and increasing training requirements, board members met with Whitingham and Halifax officials to discuss an increase in support from the towns to fund the employment of full-time staff to supplement the volunteer force.

After three months of recovery in London and Boston hospitals, Amy Werner returned home to Dover. Although she was still facing a long and difficult recovery, Werner had already made an incredible recovery since she was struck by a car while she was walking on a London sidewalk the previous November. Werner was kept sedated after the accident due to severe head trauma; she suffered fractures to her pelvis, right leg, right arm, and face. After nearly a month, she was transferred from London to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and two months later was able to go home for the first time.

February

Former state trooper Eric Howley pleaded no contest to charges that he assaulted two men at Lake Raponda while he was on duty. According to affidavits, Howley confronted two men who had taken his canoe onto the lake without permission. Howley assaulted one of the men by slamming his face against the trunk of his cruiser, and pushed the other man’s head into a rock. Howley resigned from the State Police before charges were filed about a month later.

A psychologist testified that Howley had post-traumatic stress disorder, which had been diagnosed and treated since 2006. According to the psychologist, Howley’s PTSD was a result of events during his military service and time as a police officer, and was aggravated by the loss of his house during Tropical Storm Irene and his assignments during the storm, which included finding the body of drowning victim Ivana Taseva. Howley had not reported his PTSD to state police officials. He received a suspended sentence of six to 12 months, two years probation, and was ordered to continue treatment for his PTSD.

A Dover Police Department program to train servers and retailers of alcohol to spot fraudulent licenses and ID cards was finding success at home and across the country. The training includes samples of real IDs and samples of fakes, and shows trainees how to find flaws and discrepancies using LED lights and magnifying glasses. One local retailer said that, thanks to the training, employees were finding three to five fake IDs a day, and up to 10 per day on busy weekends. Another local business turned in its first false ID just 30 minutes after receiving the training.

For the third straight year, Twin Valley Junior Iron Chef students took Best in Show awards.

March

The valley was abuzz over a memo emailed by the Mount Snow Resort human resources department. The memo warned employees of the resort’s conflict of interest concerns regarding moonlighting at the Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain, a private resort nearby. The concerns were prompted in part by allegations that Hermitage Club staff members who were either working or volunteering at Mount Snow have been soliciting skiers at Mount Snow to head three miles down Handle Road to visit the Hermitage Club. The policy effectively barred Mount Snow employees and volunteers from working at the Hermitage, Haystack or Haystack Golf Course. Although people who were already working at both resorts were allowed to finish the season, those who continued to work at the Hermitage/Haystack after April 21 would not be “accepted back” at Mount Snow. Many local residents complained that the corporate edict would impoverish local workers who depend on part-time work at the two resorts.

In an unusual twist to Town Meeting day elections, two write-in candidates for Whitingham School Board received the same number of votes. Both Mary Lemaire and incumbent Dwight Williams (who had not filed a petition to be listed on the ballot) received 10 votes, which resulted in an unprecedented tie-breaking write-in runoff election.

Lemaire said she mounted her write-in campaign after attending a budget informational meeting where she learned that Williams wasn’t planning to run for reelection. Williams said a number of Town Meeting voters encouraged him to stay on the board. With 126 residents casting ballots in the runoff, Williams kept his seat with a 73-53 win.

April

Unable to raise funding for a full-time staff and under pressure from state regulators, Whitingham Ambulance Service Inc. began pursuing a takeover of services by Deerfield Valley Rescue. At a meeting between WASI, DVR, and the selectboards of Whitingham and Halifax, the two ambulance services agreed to hammer out a deal for the takeover. WASI’s conditional license was set to expire at the end of June.

Wilmington Village received downtown designation by the state, and Wilmington Works, a nonprofit committee, was charged with administering the program to revitalize the downtown business district. First, however, the organization had to put together a board of advisors and choose members for subcommittees in charge of design, promotion, economic restructuring, and organization. Wilmington Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk said Wilmington Works would also help coordinate efforts already underway by other groups. Although most downtown groups are funded by businesses, Wilmington Works would also receive funding from the Wilmington Fund VT and other sources, to avoid burdening businesses damaged by Irene.

Leon and Linda Corse sold a conservation easement on their land to the Vermont Land Trust. The move ensured that the 290-acre Corse farm would remain intact for generations to come. Leon Corse, the fifth generation on the farm, said the easement would allow him to hand the farm down to his children and grandchildren. The Corse farm had also recently become a certified organic milk producer, which Corse said gave him the confidence to preserve the land through the land trust deal.

The state approved the Vermont Route 100 Scenic Byway, creating the second longest official scenic route in the state. The byway includes 20 towns and 138 miles of road, running from Granville to the Massachusetts border. Local officials hoped state promotion of the scenic byway designation would boost local economic development efforts. Linda Anelli, chair of the local byway committee, said the byway was a great marketing tool for local businesses and “the best free advertising we could get.”

Dover residents got their first glimpse of what would become a public park and town common at the corner of Route 100 and Country Club Road. The plan would transform the empty lot located between Dover Forge and 7-Eleven into a public gathering spot with a playground, picnic tables, benches, and a gazebo. The park, located along the Valley Trail, would also include parking and a free Wi-Fi zone. Enthusiastic residents urged the selectboard to spare no expense in creating a first-rate park.

May

Internationally renowned chef and television personality Gordon Ramsay filmed an episode of “Hotel Hell” at the Four Seasons in Dover. The Fox Network show centers on Ramsay’s attempts to fix problems at struggling hotels, inns, and resorts. Owner Sandy MacDougall said Ramsay would help him assess problems at his inn, and set up a business plan to help him accomplish his goals. He said the inn had its share of hard times since Tropical Storm Irene. Before the storm, he said, the inn served as many as 400-600 meals over five nights. As a result of Ramsay’s advice, MacDougall changed the name of the inn to Layla’s Riverside Lodge. The episode hasn’t been aired.

Mount Snow fired Colby Dix, a local musician who criticized the resort’s moonlighting policy on a social media site, adding to controversy over a policy memo issued in March. Dix said that the policy removed a viable and consistent wage-paying employer from Mount Snow’s employees’ options, and was a “clear line in the sand.” Dix, who is also on the board of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS), said the policy was detrimental to the area’s economic development and recovery efforts, and unfair to those working at both resorts seasonally who might have trouble making ends meet without the income from a second job. Dix regularly performed at six Mount Snow venues.

The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, located on Hogback Mountain in Marlboro, added a rescued American bald eagle to their raptor sanctuary. The eagle joined the museum’s kestrels, owls, and hawks in the sanctuary. The birds, along with several other live animals, are used in the museum’s educational programs, both onsite and at schools. Marlboro Elementary School students made an initial donation toward the construction of an enclosure for the eagle. The bird came to Vermont from Wyoming, where she was found on the side of the highway vomiting and with an injured wing.

In Readsboro controversy over public access to the town library erupted after a library trustee complained that she was not allowed to enter the library because the school was using the library’s conference room. The trustee said she was not only barred from entering, but “manhandled” by school staff. The trustee was eventually given a badge to wear and told to remain in the library “until the children were gone.” Readsboro’s public library is located at the school facility, and accessible from three doors inside the building. School officials said public access to the library during school hours is a security issue.

Police charged two youths after a threatening email was sent to Deerfield Valley Elementary School. Police said the email was sent from an iPod that had been stolen from DVES. The email included demands for the return of the iPod, and a threat that a bomb would be placed in the school if the demands weren’t met. The school was evacuated and Wilmington police and state troopers searched the exterior and interior of the building with school personnel, but no suspicious items were found. Police chief Joe Szarejko said police didn’t believe the email threat was credible, but took the steps as a precaution.

June

Wilmington celebrated the completion of a footbridge over the Deerfield River at the west end of the village. The bridge was donated by Wilmington residents Marsha and Barry Reardon, and connected the Village Walk; Hoot, Toot & Whistle trail; the Valley Trail; and the site of the MOOver’s future bus facility. In honor of the donors, the spot was renamed “Reardon’s Crossing” with the installation of a bronze plaque.

Rep. John Moran, of Wardsboro, found himself in the midst of civil unrest during a trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Center of Vermont. Moran was at a dinner with colleagues in Istanbul when the meal was interrupted and guests evacuated because of the protests outside. Moran said he never felt like he was in danger, but he was close enough to smell the tear gas. The protests were triggered by a government plan to clear a public park in Istanbul to make way for the construction of a shopping mall. Moran explained that there are few trees and little public green space in the city, and government’s decision to put corporate interests above those of the people touched a nerve.

Police arrested a Londonderry man after he allegedly went on a naked drive of destruction through Wilmington and Dover. Police said the man, who at first appeared to be shirtless, refused to stop his 1995 Chevy Suburban when police attempted to pull him over. After crashing through a fence and driving over a lawn in Wilmington to avoid police, the man headed toward Dover, and eventually crashed near the intersection of Dover Hill Road and Dove Road. He fled on foot, but a nearby resident called police to report that a naked man was knocking on her door. Police soon arrived and took the nude suspect into custody.

Note: the second half of 2013 will be reviewed in next week’s edition.
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