MONTPELIER — Appellants of a hotel and public parking garage complex in the Capital City have filed a brief with the Environmental Court, outlining their challenges to an Act 250 permit issued for the project in May.
It follows earlier appeals, also to the Environmental Court, of Development Review Board permits for the garage last December by the Friends of Montpelier, representing 13 residents. The appeals mean the proposals for an 81-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel and 348-space parking garage will have to be considered de novo (start over again), as if no permits had been issued. Although the court could consider the appeals together, the city of Montpelier, which would own and operate the garage, wants them heard separately. The appeals mean that work on the projects on 2.8 acres of land behind the Capitol Plaza Hotel off State Street will not begin this year, officials involved said.
The appeal of the Act 250 permit issued May 2 was filed by James Dumont, a Bristol-based attorney, who represents three appellants, Les Blomberg, Danial Costin and Jeffrey Parker. Only Blomberg was granted partial party status at the Act 250 hearing in January, while Costin and Parker were denied.
In a statement of questions to the court, Dumont asks whether the Act 250 District 5 Environmental Commission erred in ruling that the project application by the Capital Plaza Corporation, City of Montpelier and Mary Heney Trust was complete, “where the application lacked information that was required by statute and rule to be included in the application?”
If the application is still incomplete, the brief asks whether the district commission should dismiss the application because it hinders potential parties from showing “particularized harm.” Alternatively, the brief proposed the district commission could issue an order granting the applicants 60 days to file a complete application and then rule on whether to dismiss it.
The brief goes on to ask if Parker and Costin were wrongfully denied party status under a variety of Act 250 criteria governing various environmental aspects of the proposed project, and if Blomberg should have his partial party status increased to include other aspects of the project that concern him.
The appellants have appealed the Act 250 permit over concerns about air and water quality and the impact on water disposal, floodways and streams; erosion and the capacity of soil to hold water; traffic and congestion; aesthetics, scenic and natural beauty and historic sites; and the impact of development on public investments, such as the nearby recreation path.
Dumont could not be reached for comment.
Asked to comment on the appeal, Mayor Anne Watson said, “I’m grateful that we’re moving this process along. The city continues to believe that we took all the necessary steps in this process.
“This project was approved by the public and therefore is the will of the people,” she continued. “I’m particularly looking forward to the improved water quality, as the effluent going into the river will be improved by this project. This project also provides a route for pedestrians to access the shared use path from the Heney Lot.
“It will also accommodate many electric vehicle charging stations. I continue to be excited about the prospect of the garage and the hotel that will come with it,” Watson added.
BARRE — Randal Gebo has admitted to killing Cindy Cook in 2017.
Gebo, 62, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington County criminal court in Barre to felony counts of second-degree murder and aggravated vehicle operation without the owner’s consent. He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.
He had agreed to a sentence of 20 years to life, all suspended except for 17½ years to serve with credit for time served. Gebo will be placed on probation for 35 years after he is released. He’s been held without bail at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport since August 2017.
Gebo will be sentenced on June 26 so members of Cook’s family can give statements before the sentence is imposed.
The state amended the murder charge from first degree and dropped five misdemeanor counts of credit card fraud, per the plea agreement.
Cook’s body was found on Brook Road in Middlesex on July 12, 2017. Police said an autopsy determined her death was a homicide. Her body was found in an advanced state of decomposition, suggesting Cook, 59, had been dead several days before the body was found, police said. Her hands and feet were bound with dog leashes, police said.
According to court records, eyewitnesses reported Gebo and Cook were together in Middlesex just prior to her death. Cook was reportedly bound and choked to death.
Gebo was arrested in Illinois on state and federal warrants in July 2017. Police said he was driving Cook’s 2009 Mini Cooper at the time of his arrest and was using her money as he drove across the country.
Gebo was returned to Vermont in August 2017 and federal charges were dropped. Officials said the federal charges of transportation of a stolen vehicle and unauthorized use of a bank card were discarded so the state could move forward with its murder charge as quickly as possible.
While Gebo admitted in court Tuesday he killed Cook he said he didn’t intend to. Instead his attorney, David Sleigh, said Gebo and Cook had gotten into an argument that turned physical and Gebo choked Cook. Gebo admitted his actions caused Cook’s death.
For the animal cruelty conviction, police said Gebo had Cook’s dog Honey Bee after he killed Cook and let the dog loose. The dog was spotted in the area of Shady Rill Road in Middlesex on July 5, 2017. Police said that location is 13 miles from Cook’s home.
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said in court Tuesday the dog has never been located and is presumed dead.
NORTHFIELD — A local woman is suing the Northfield Police Department, saying she was injured during an incident in 2017, and her constitutional rights were violated.
The complaint was filed Tuesday in Washington Superior Court by Debra Kew, against the town of Northfield and two Northfield Police Department officers, Brian Hoar and Michael Gero, following an incident at her home in August 2017.
In the filing, attorneys Ronald Shems and Stephen Coteus, of Montpelier law firm Tarrant, Gillies and Richardson, allege that Kew was physically assaulted and injured during a routine welfare check on her in August 2017.
The attorneys for Kew said they did not expect the case to come before the court for about a year. Northfield Town Manager Jeff Schultz said a response on behalf of the town and the police officers would be filed with the court.
In the complaint filed with the court, the attorneys state that Kew was a veteran of the U.S. Navy dating back to 1982 when she was injured while stationed in Hawaii, resulting in her being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In 1983, she suffered “military sexual trauma” and was medically discharged from the Navy in 1984, the lawsuit stated.
In 1993, Kew was determined to be permanently disabled and currently suffers from PTSD, chronic depression, borderline personality disorder and anxiety, and needed to use a wheelchair from 2012 through autumn of 2017 because of surgery on her leg from a prior injury, the lawsuit stated.
“She is unable to interact with males except in a very brief and casual manner,” the lawsuit stated, adding that she receives treatment and counseling at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in White River Junction.
The lawsuit said that Kew is not violent but would occasionally threaten to harm herself by overdosing on her medications. As a result, the VA would ask the Northfield Police Department to check in on her, and between 2000 and 2017, officers conducted approximately 20 welfare checks on Kew.
The lawsuit stated the Northfield Police had policies that said officers would only use reasonable force to bring an incident under control. It also had a separate policy for “Persons with Disabilities” which stated that they would take extra precautions to avoid injury to someone with a disability.
There was only one incident, in 2006, when Northfield Police reported that Kew used a “sharp instrument” to cut her arm superficially in addition to taking pills that made her “lethargic and drowsy,” the lawsuit stated.
On Aug. 22, 2017, Kew left the VA Hospital in White River Junction but was upset and called the VA crisis line, saying she would not go back to the VA and that she was “sick and tired” of the VA changing her medications, the suit said. As a result, VA crisis responders were concerned Kew would take an overdose of medication and asked Northfield Police to conduct a welfare check on her.
At about 5:40 p.m. the same day, Officers Hoar and Gero responded to Kew’s home, the lawsuit stated, but Kew was asleep and did not hear them knocking at her door.
“Ms. Kew awoke to the officers kicking in her front door and her dog barking,” the lawsuit stated.
Kew emerged from her bedroom and “yelled at the officers that they had just broken her door and to get out of her home,” the lawsuit stated, adding that Kew also asked officers to close her door for privacy as several people had gathered around the door.
“Officer Hoar grabbed Ms. Kew by the wrist, twisted her arm, pushed her to the floor,” the lawsuit stated. “Officer grabbed Ms. Kew’s other arm and put his knee on her back while Ms. Kew was on the floor. Officer Hoar handcuffed her behind her back.”
“Ms. Kew was upset, startled, and scared,” the lawsuit stated, adding that she “screamed and pleaded” for the officers to release her and remove the handcuffs.
At one point, she tried to check on her dog, Sparky, which had been shut in her bedroom by trying to “scoot” across the floor toward her bedroom. “Officer Hoar responded by dragging Ms. Kew backward across the floor by her handcuffs,” the lawsuit stated.
A mental health worker was summoned and asked the officers to remove the handcuffs and the officers left, the lawsuit stated.
“The handcuffs and the officers’ actions injured Ms. Kew’s arm,” the lawsuit stated. “Officers Hoar and Gero knew their restraint of and use of force on Ms. Kew would be offensive or harmful to her. Their actions were unnecessary, unreasonable, and excessive under the circumstances.”
Kew called her son after the incident and she was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center, the lawsuit stated. The next day, her hand was swollen and she went back to the emergency room. She required surgery and was hospitalized for six days.
“Ms. Kew’s arm is permanently disfigured,” the lawsuit stated. “She does not have full use of her arm. She is unlikely to regain full use of her arm.”
As a result, her injury had affected her ability to work, the lawsuit stated.
The legal counts against the town and the officers listed in the lawsuit include: battery; assault; false imprisonment; excessive force and deprivation of liberty in violation of the fourth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and negligence.
Kew asks the court to find that the defendants violated her rights and award her damages, and award her damages for expenses, medical bills, and pain and suffering. She also seeks punitive damages and for the defendants to pay her legal costs.
EAST MONTPELIER — The board of the Washington Central Supervisory is expected to approve the hiring of an interim superintendent when it meets today, though it isn’t the one members initially anticipated.
The favored candidate for the job — Donald Van Nostrand — politely declined an offer that was extended after he and fellow finalist Debra Taylor were interviewed by the board’s executive committee last Thursday.
Heading into the holiday weekend it appeared Van Nostrand, a former superintendent who is currently serving as an interim principal at an elementary school in Burlington, was destined to replace outgoing Superintendent Bill Kimball on a temporary basis.
That changed Saturday morning when the committee’s chairman, Matthew DeGroot, sent an email to board members advising them Van Nostrand had politely declined the committee’s offer.
“He (Van Nostrand) offered kind words for the opportunity and high praise for our schools,” DeGroot wrote.
The setback appears to have been both marginal and brief.
DeGroot indicated he subsequently reached out to Taylor and the veteran superintendent of what is now the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union verbally agreed to accept the one-year assignment in Washington Central.
According to DeGroot, Taylor is prepared to start on July 15 and plans to spend several days between now and then at the supervisory union’s East Montpelier offices laying the groundwork for a “smooth transition.”
In his weekend update to board members, DeGroot reiterated an assessment contained in a post-selection email that indicated “… both candidates were very strong” and the decision was essentially a coin toss.
“The Executive Committee felt that both (finalists) were more than capable of serving in the role with excellence, and we would feel confident offering the position to either,” he wrote Saturday, adding: “Our decision was therefore a difficult one, guided more by nuance rather than lack of support for either candidate.”
Assuming the board approves the hiring today and Taylor passes compulsory background checks, officials in the five-town, six-school supervisory union that is anchored by U-32 Middle and High School will know who will oversee the looming transition to a single pre-K-12 school district.
The state-ordered merger is slated to go into effect July 1 — the day after Kimball, who spent seven years as Washington Central’s superintendent, leaves to take over as assistant superintendent in the St. Albans-based Maple Run Unified School District.
Taylor is no stranger to merger, though the consolidation that occurred during her tenure as superintendent of the since-replaced Rutland Central Supervisory Union was voluntary.
That effort saw the merger of the Rutland Central and Rutland Southwest supervisory unions into the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union. The new supervisory oversees four districts, including two — Quarry Valley and Wells Spring — that were the product of multi-district mergers, and two — Rutland Town and Ira — that retained their autonomy.
Taylor has been in Rutland since 2011 when she was hired as Rutland Central’s superintendent in 2011. She retained the title following last year’s launch of the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union.
Prior to taking the job in Rutland Central, Taylor spent three years as superintendent of the Lamoille North Supervisory Union — an administrative job that brought her her back to Vermont, and Lamoille North, in 2008.
Taylor, who got her start as a special educator in Virginia in 1978, moved to Vermont in 1980 to take a job as a consulting teacher in the Lamoille North before moving to Wisconsin in 1982. While in Wisconsin, Taylor worked for three years in the private sector and 23 years in public education as an administrator.
A 1974 graduate of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., Taylor earned her masters degree in special education from George Washington University in 1979, and her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003.
Taylor and Van Nostrand were among 12 candidates for the interim superintendent job in Washington Central.
With the help of some executive committee members, consultant Mark Andrews recommended three semi-finalists who were recently interviewed by a broad-based hiring committee last week.
That panel, which included a mix of board members, administrators, faculty, staff and one student, recommended Van Nostrand and Taylor be interviewed by the executive committee.
Both finalists visited elementary schools in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester, as well as U-32 Middle and High School last Thursday before being interviewed by the committee in executive session.
Van Nostrand emerged as the committee’s favored choice for the one-year job that had an advertised salary $135,000. However, that recommendation proved short-lived. Less than 48 hours after it was made, Van Nostrand declined the offer and Taylor had verbally accepted it.
The supervisory union board is expected to approve Taylor’s hiring when it meets at 5:30 p.m. in the U-32 cafeteria.
“Each year at this season, the lonely, faithful lilac bush blooms again and lavishes its sweetness in memory of the hands that planted it.”
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Front Porch Forum Documentary
From Canadian filmmaker Peter Strauss. “The Story of Vermont’s Quiet Digital Revolution” follows the stories of several FPF members. Q&A follows. 6:30 p.m. Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main St., Montpelier, email@example.com, 802-223-3338.