Regional Briefs For Oct. 14 - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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home : news : regional February 5, 2016

Regional Briefs For Oct. 14

Barre, Vt., ice arena closed due to mold

BARRE, Vt. (AP) -- The indoor ice arena in Barre has been shut down because of mold problems and won't re-open until November.

City councilors were told this week that it will cost about $150,000 to clean up the mold and paint and seal the interior of the arena. The BOR auditorium is expected to reopen on Nov. 5.

The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus ( ) reported that tests conducted Tuesday confirmed an air quality problem that the facilities director said is linked to mold in the ceiling. The tests were requested by a labor union.

The auditorium will lose an estimated $23,000 in revenue, mostly from the Barre Youth Sports Association, while it's closed, said Facilities Director Jeff Bergeron.

The recent start of the seasonal ice-making process has led to condensation in the arena, which lacks a sufficient dehumidification system -- creating air quality problems that prompted the request for an environmental assessment.

That assessment by Crothers Environmental Group confirmed the presence of airborne mold, prompting him to stop making ice and close the BOR.

Mayor Thomas Lauzon said the work has to be done.

"There's a hazard," he said. "We're not going to expose children to it (and) we're not going to expose the general public to it. So, while this is a difficult financial decision, it is an easy decision."

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Vt. towns making plans for land bought after Irene

COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) -- A number of Vermont towns that bought properties made unusable by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene are now trying to decide what to do with that land that will be cleared of structures damaged by the 2011 storm.

So far 30 properties have been purchased by cities and towns and another 67 buyouts are in the pipeline.

Readsboro Town Administrator Mark Shea said one idea for areas along the Deerfield River where three homes were bought out include building a bench next to a display of photographs of the houses and the families who lived there as well as a plaque about the town's response.

"Let's not forget that the community stood together," he said.

The hazard mitigation program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency pays a portion of the pre-flood value of structures in areas likely to be hit again by future flooding. The structures are then torn down so they can't be damaged again.

Londonderry Resident George Mora tells Vermont Public Radio ( it may be possible to engineer the land to create a kind of catch basin for floodwaters.

"It has the potential to give anyone in town a sense of power in the face of destruction, to think that there may be something we can actually do to combat it," he said.

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Vt tourism department offers "ambassador" training

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing is seeking people interested in becoming tourism ambassadors for the state.

The department will hold a free training workshop next month in Montpelier, Rutland and Bennington. The workshops are open to employees of Vermont businesses and organizations.

The goal is to provide visitors with readily available travel information throughout the state and to provide businesses with the know-how and resources to help provide quality customer service.

Those attending the workshops will learn about tourism opportunities in the arts, history, food, agriculture, recreation and lodging.

Businesses with employees who complete the training can become a designated Ambassador Info Center promoted by the Department of Tourism and Marketing.

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Vt. Statehouse to host day-long arts summit

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Artists, educators and others will be gathering at the Vermont Statehouse for the first statewide art meeting in 15 years.

The Oct. 26 Vermont Arts Summit in Montpelier will revolve around the themes "connect, animate, lead."

Conference organizer Zon Eastes of the Vermont Arts Council says the meeting will be an opportunity for participants to meet old friends, make new acquaintances and delve into issues such as copyright basics in the digital age and the future of the arts.

The event is being organized by the Vermont Arts Council and the Office of the Creative Economy within the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

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Vt nuclear panel to discuss Vermont Yankee closure

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) -- The Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel is meeting next week to discuss topics related to the closure of Vermont's only nuclear power plant.

Plant owner Entergy Nuclear announced in August that it will shut down Vermont Yankee at the end of next year.

The panel plans to meet in Brattleboro on Wednesday night to discuss license termination issues and impacts on staff operations, emergency planning and environmental surveillance. It also plans to talk about state oversight during the decommissioning of the plant.

The public is invited to attend.

The meeting takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brattleboro Union High School.

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Currier Museum loaned van Gogh, Renoir paintings

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H., has been loaned two significant Impressionist paintings.

The paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be on display until the end of January.

The 1887 van Gogh painting features a peasant in a field near a country lane.

Though Renoir is known as a figure painter, the painting loaned to the Currier is essentially a landscape that includes two women. The painting likely was done in the summer of 1873 when Renoir went to stay with Claude Monet near Paris.

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Vermont Wal-Mart to open after 2-decade battle

ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) -- Twenty years after first getting town approval, a Wal-Mart store is finally opening in the northern Vermont town of St. Albans.

Wal-Mart first got town approval to build a store in 1993. But the project never got off the ground after the Vermont Natural Resources Council and others successfully blocked the store from opening, causing Wal-Mart to give up the fight in 1997.

When local landowners wanted to rekindle the project in 2004, Wal-Mart said go ahead -- but at their own expense.

The project again faced opposition from the Vermont Natural Resources Council, but this time the state supreme court sided with Wal-Mart.

The Burlington Free Press ( ) reports that the new 146,000-square-foot store is opening at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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Festival at Vt resort includes family Oktoberfest

WARREN, Vt. (AP) -- A two-day festival at Vermont's Sugarbush Resort drew to a close with a day of German-themed Oktoberfest festivities.

Sunday's "Family Oktoberfest" included a kid-friendly Bavarian buffet, live music from the Opa's Oompah Band, a beer garden at the Von Trapp brewery, and German games. There was also a local farmers' market.

The ski area's Community Day kicked off on Saturday with kids' adventure camps, live music, equipment displays, pumpkin carving and a barbeque of local foods.

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Vt. hospital gets OK for new maternity unit

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont state board has approved Fletcher Allen's certificate of need application for a new maternity unit.

The project is expected to cost $15.8 million. The hospital has a goal to raise $3 million to cover part of the project.

Fletcher Allen says the renovated space will provide an up-to-date new Mother-Baby Unit that conforms to health guidelines by giving mothers and families more space. The space will increase by more than 2,000 square feet and will reduce the number of double-occupancy rooms from the current unit, which is 50-70 years ago.

The new Mother-Baby Unit will have 28 patient beds in 25 rooms and three rooms for mothers who have been discharged but whose babies remain the hospital.

The Green Mountain Care Board approved the application on Friday.

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Vt. utility seeks 'daffodil volunteers'

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont electric utility is looking for volunteers to help plant nearly 10,000 daffodil bulbs so they'll bloom in the spring.

The Rutland Blooms project was started by Green Mountain Power.

GMP's Steve Costello says they'll be creating two "rivers of flowers" in Rutland -- one along Woodstock Avenue at Rutland High School, the other on West Street.

He says that in the spring the gateways to the city will provide a bright, flowering welcome.

The volunteers will be working with the Downtown Rutland Partnership, the city of Rutland, Rutland schools and other organizations.

The bulbs will produce the traditional yellow flowers with large trumpet-shaped centers.

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Vt. authorities make headway combatting heroin

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont is making headway in its battle against heroin and other illegal drugs, law enforcement officials say.

Since federal prosecutors announced six months ago that combatting heroin and other opiates would be a top priority, authorities have arrested several alleged "upper-level traffickers," said U.S. Attorney for Vermont Tristram Coffin.

The number of typically drug-related crimes such as assaults, larcenies and robberies have been dropping in 2013 after years or increasing, said Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling.

"We are making some significant progress," Schirling told the Burlington Free Press ( "We've had some significant cases not just here, but on a parallel basis in places like Rutland and St. Albans."

Just last month a Chicago man accused of being the ninth member of a drug ring that is thought to have sold large amounts of a strong form of heroin in the state was arraigned in Burlington.

Bunthan Sam is being held pending trial after pleading not guilty to drug-trafficking. Court papers accuse him of being "one of the principal out-of-state suppliers" of a strong type of heroin called "Chi-town" that has been linked to a number of overdoses in the Burlington area.

Police also arrested Edwin Biggs of Brooklyn, N.Y., and two others after finding 2,900 bags of heroin and $26,000 in cash in their hotel room in South Burlington, a police affidavit said. The three have pleaded not guilty.

"We have made progress in dismantling some of the distribution networks that have operated in this state. But there's always more work to done," Coffin said.

Drug treatment also is showing progress. Five regional substance abuse treatment centers for addicts are expected to be set up by January. One has opened at the HowardCenter in Burlington. The center evaluates clients' needs, provides methadone and buprenorphine medications and develops treatment plans. Another center is expected to open in Rutland soon this year.

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Vt landlord reaches plea deal in prostitution case

WILLISTON, Vt. (AP) -- The owner of a former massage parlor in Williston, Vt., has pleaded no contest to a charge of allowing prostitution at the business.

As part of the plea deal, 68-year-old Thomas Booska must donate $500 to a charity that fights human trafficking.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says he thinks that Booska has learned his lesson. He says "you can't turn a blind-eye when your tenants are engaged in criminal activity."

Booska's attorney says Booska has never had any problems before, he'll never have any problems again and he'll come out of this with a clean record.

He says Booska is cooperating with the federal investigation into the trafficking of women who worked at the former massage parlor.

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2 charged in NH in $75K-$100K jewelry theft

KEENE, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire man and woman are facing charges in connection with the theft of $75,000 to $100,000 of jewelry.

Police say 24-year-old Richard Fortier Jr., of Keene, is being held on $100,000 bail on five counts of receiving stolen property. Twenty-five-year-old Stephanie Vary of Webster was charged with criminal conduct and is being held on $25,000 bail.

Police say they received a report Thursday of cash and jewelry being stolen from a home in Wilmot.

During the investigation, an alert jeweler in Concord called police after he was approached by a man about buying some of the jewelry. The jeweler set up an appointment for the suspect to return the next day, at which time police arrested Fortier and Vary.

It was unclear if Fortier and Vary had attorneys.

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Mass. man dies while hiking in New Hampshire

HART'S LOCATION, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire officials say a 60-year-old man has died while hiking in the White Mountains.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says rescuers responded to a call at 11 a.m. Saturday of an unresponsive hiker about half a mile up the Ripley Falls Trail in Hart's Location.

Officials say the Massachusetts man had been hiking with family and friends at the time, and that he could not be resuscitated.

The cause of death has not been determined. The man's name has not been released pending notification of family members.

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Maine man collapses, dies on NH trail

CRAWFORD'S PURCHASE, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire officials say a 69-year-old Maine man has died after apparently suffering some sort of medical condition while hiking.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says Dr. Robert Fernandez of Kennebunkport was hiking alone on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail in Crawford's Purchase at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday when two other hikers came upon him.

Authorities say the two other hikers noticed Fernandez appeared to be tired and accompanied him down the trail, but that he suddenly collapsed about half a mile from the parking lot.

He was unable to be revived.

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NH man treated after bird hunting accident

DUMMER, N.H. (AP) -- Conservation officials say a New Hampshire man has been treated and released after being accidentally shot by his son while bird hunting.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says 55-year-old David Osgood of Berlin was hit on his right side by bird shot when his son, 24-year-old Cory Osgood of Nottingham, fired his shotgun at a woodcock. The accident took place Saturday in an apple orchard in Dummer.

Officials say the father drove himself to Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, where he was treated for seven puncture wounds and released.

Authorities say both hunters were wearing orange but couldn't see each other at the time of the shooting.

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A NH mom's plea to missing 15-year-old: Come home

NORTH CONWAY, N.H. (AP) -- The mother of a missing North Conway, N.H., girl made an emotional plea for her return Saturday, four days after the girl vanished after leaving school.

Abigail Hernandez was last seen leaving Kennett High School around 2:30 Wednesday. Police say she made it home but when her mother returned home later, the girl was gone.

"Abby," Zenya Hernandez said, her voice breaking, "I want to say please come home. We miss you so badly. We want you back with us."

Local, state and federal agents continued to search for Abigail by land, water and air. Police have meticulously combed four square miles on land, scoured parts of the Saco River and paddled over Pudding Pond. The medical examiner was called twice to the scene on Saturday but neither time was related to Abigail's disappearance: One was for a hiker who died Saturday and another was after the discovery of human bone fragments from several years ago, police said.

Zenya Hernandez asked Abigail's friends to come forward with any information that could help return her safely, including whether there were recent changes in her behavior. She was mindful of the importance of the day: Abigail's 15th birthday.

"We love you and we miss you and happy birthday, Abby," she said.

Police are asking the public to remain vigilant. They've handed out posters with photos of the missing girl and have been stopping traffic to spread the word. Billboards carry Abigail's image and the number to call to report tips: 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The FBI is involved and enlisted the help of its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, pulling in agents from as far away as Virginia to assist in the search.

Police also said they don't need volunteer searchers.

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NH's US reps sign petition to force vote

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire have signed a petition that would force a vote to end the federal government shutdown.

The two Democrats agree that it's time for a vote to reopen the government nearly two weeks into what Kuster called a damaging shutdown that is hurting Granite State families and businesses.

The discharge petition is a special congressional procedure that would allow a majority of voters to force a vote on a bill to reopen the government.

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NH holding hearing on falconry rule proposal

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire fish and game officials are proposing lowering the age for apprentice falconers.

The agency will hold a hearing on a rule to reduce the age from 16 to 14 along with proposed changes to other falconry rules on Oct. 28 in Concord.

Another proposed rule change would extend the time when birds may be taken from the wild. The current rule allows birds to be taken from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. The proposal would extend the time to Dec. 31.

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NH Endowment for Health adds new focus areas

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's largest health foundation is adding two new priorities as it looks ahead to the next five years.

The Endowment for Health plans new work in the fields of early childhood development and elder health, in addition to its existing work in children's behavioral health and health equity. The endowment is also adding an initiative aimed at "health policy capacity building" -- promoting policies that meet the needs of the state's vulnerable and underserved residents.

Sandra Pelletier, chairwoman of the endowment's board of directors, says the shift in focus is based on research showing that the state has an increasingly aging population, while at the same time the childhood poverty rate is rising.

"We also know that the state's future population growth will come primarily from low-income families. The significance of these trends has crucial implications for New Hampshire's residents and our state's economy," she said. "These trends present major challenges to be sure, but they also present significant opportunities for a healthy future."

Since 2001, the endowment has awarded more than 900 grants totaling more than $38 million to support health-related programs and projects across the state.

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Dartmouth fraternity suspended

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) -- A Dartmouth College fraternity has been suspended while it's being investigated for possible hazing discovered through purported internal emails published on a gossip website.

The school placed Beta Alpha Omega on "immediate temporary suspension" after college administrators reviewed possible fraternity emails on the website Gawker.

The college suspects the fraternity's members have participated in hazing, provided alcohol to minors and engaged in behavior that threatened physical harm, College spokesman Justin Anderson told the Valley News ( ) on Friday.

Fraternity members declined to comment on Friday.

Gawker published emails on Tuesday that were believed to have been from fraternity members.

"The first we heard of it was when we saw it on Gawker," Anderson said by email. "They're now public, and we have them and we will be looking at them as part of the investigation."

Gawker said it obtained the emails from the fraternity's message board while looking into Beta's involvement in a sexual assault.

Dartmouth's Safety and Security office is investigating a sexual assault. Officials said the suspect, who told the victim he did not attend Dartmouth, may have been at a Beta party the night of the alleged assault last weekend.

The fraternity is cooperating with the investigation, said Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne.

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NH run honors fallen Manchester police officers

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Police in New Hampshire's largest city are holding their annual Footrace for the Fallen to honor officers killed in the line of duty.

Manchester police say the 5K race will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the new Officer Michael Briggs Building -- named for the last Manchester officer killed in the line of duty.

Briggs was shot to death in 2006 while trying to arrest a man wanted in connection with a robbery spree.

The other three Manchester officers killed in the line of duty were Ralph Miller in 1976, inspector William Moher in 1921 and Sgt. Henry McAllister in 1895.

Registration for the race begins at 8 a.m. at Gill Stadium, across the street from police headquarters.

Proceeds benefit the Manchester Police Athletic League.

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NH panel finishing report on hospital tax

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A special commission charged with recommending whether New Hampshire should change how it taxes hospitals is expected to offer suggestions to lawmakers, rather than recommendations.

The commission meets Wednesday in hopes of wrapping up its report on the tax, which produces $176 million for Medicaid services and other state spending. New Hampshire applies the 5.5 percent tax to two categories: inpatient and outpatient hospital net revenues. The state also taxes two other categories -- nursing homes and intermediate care facilities -- under a different law.

The commission is reviewing more than 30 suggestions ranging from repealing the tax to taking more providers.

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2 charged in NH in $75K-$100K jewelry theft

KEENE, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire man and woman are facing charges in connection with the theft of $75,000 to $100,000 of jewelry.

Police say 24-year-old Richard Fortier Jr., of Keene, is being held on $100,000 bail on five counts of receiving stolen property. Twenty-five-year-old Stephanie Vary of Webster was charged with criminal conduct and is being held on $25,000 bail.

Police say they received a report Thursday of cash and jewelry being stolen from a home in Wilmot.

During the investigation, an alert jeweler in Concord called police after he was approached by a man about buying some of the jewelry. The jeweler set up an appointment for the suspect to return the next day, at which time police arrested Fortier and Vary.

It was unclear if Fortier and Vary had attorneys.

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Wolf-hybrids rescued from NH property

ALEXANDRIA, N.H. (AP) -- An animal welfare organization says nearly 30 wolf-hybrids have been rescued from a remote New Hampshire property.

The Upper Valley Humane Society, with support from law enforcement agencies and other animal welfare groups, found 40 wolf-hybrids -- also known as wolf-dogs -- living in 20 pens on a mountaintop property in Alexandria.

Spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte tells the Valley News ( ) that one dog was found dead and another died a few days later. Another nine were euthanized because they were too sick or aggressive, and the remaining 29 were taken in by an animal rescue center.

Turcotte says the human society responded after the landowner's lawyer, the animals' former owner and the Alexandria Police Department asked for help. She says the animals' owner had been evicted form the property.

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NH man convicted in diaper scam violates parole

HOOKSETT, N.H. (AP) -- A 25-year-old New Hampshire man convicted of faking a brain injury to get a nurse to change his adult diaper has been sent to prison for violating conditions of parole.

In a plea agreement, Eric Carrier of Hooksett pleaded guilty in May to attempted indecent exposure and lewdness for attempting to get an in-home caregiver to change his dirty diaper while pretending to have a mental disability. He was given a deferred 2- to 4-year sentence.

As part of the agreement, Carrier was ordered to stop contacting nurses.

The Portsmouth Herald ( reported that a judge this month ordered Carrier to serve his sentence after Carrier's parole officer reported that Carrier contacted caregiver agencies over the summer and drove to one in an attempt to get his diaper changed.

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