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Wintry weather forces flurry of paving projects

BARRE — The forecast is far from optimal, but it’s now or never when it comes to paving portions of several city streets that have been waiting for a fresh coat of blacktop for weeks.

The asphalt plant in neighboring Berlin has already closed for the season and while trucking in hot mix from Burlington is still an option it won’t be for much longer. Even if it was, City Manager Steve Mackenzie said Monday there is only one way to describe the time frame for responsibly applying it.

“It’s beyond tight,” he said.

That might be an understatement, because while some city streets have been paved later than this in recent years, Mackenzie said the conditions were completely different.

“Winter just closed in on us sooner than usual,” he said, noting all hopes it would make a brief retreat have run out.

Daytime temperatures won’t hit 50 degrees again before it’s far too late to matter and 40 degrees isn’t in the extended forecast either.

“The reality is we’ve lost the window for ideal, or even good, paving weather,” Mackenzie said.

With portions of seven city streets still exposed, Mackenzie said the time for waiting on the weather is over.

“We’ve just got to get them paved,” he said.

Public Works Director Bill Ahearn said that’s the plan for all seven of the streets that still need attention.

According to Ahearn, the city has a little more flexibility with six of the streets because none of the sections that need paving is more than 42 feet long and 15 feet wide. Though this week’s temperatures aren’t expected to hit 40 degrees, which would be “acceptable” for applying a base coat of asphalt, Ahearn said the paving contractor can compensate for that by increasing the thickness of the base.

Using more asphalt on small sections of street is an affordable strategy, but it is one that would cost prohibitive on Park Street, which needs to be paved curb to curb from Academy Street to Eastern Avenue.

Based on an extended forecast that showed temperatures dropping and a fair amount of precipitation that could further complicate the Park Street project, the road was graded and set to be paved on Monday.

Ahearn said the finished course, which requires warmer temperatures, will be added in the spring, as will the top coat on Cottage Street, where the base coat was put down in August and the final paving was deferred until later in the season.

Initially, Park Street was supposed to be ready to pave in mid-September, but due to delays that date slid well into October and weather has been an issue ever since.

“We’ve been waiting on the weather for four-and-a-half weeks,” Ahearn said, noting waiting was no longer an option, but weather could still be a factor.

Though paving contractors were scheduled to tackle sections of Park and Patterson streets on Monday, Ahearn said an approaching storm threatened to derail plans to pave Cassie Street later in the day.

“We’ll get Cassie Street done unless the weather collapses on us,” he said.

Barring weather-related complications, Ahearn said sections of East, Smith and Beacon streets, as well as Country Way should be paved in coming days.

Ahearn said that will leave the city with several projects to complete as part of its annual paving program in the spring. Two of them will involve applying the finishing course of asphalt on Cottage and Park streets. Two others involve substantial water system repairs that were initially planned to be completed over the summer, but were deferred instead.

One of those projects is on Lower Merchant Street between Wellington and Summer streets, and the other is on Lower Camp Street between Hill and Washington streets.

The city had hoped to complete those projects this year, but the work will be added to a spring list that also included paving Lower Hall Street from Tremont to Elm streets, all of Midway Street, and a portion of Upper Camp Street between Tremont Street and the Barre Town line.


Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

All smiles

Barre residents pose for pictures with Santa following the Barre Partnership’s Downtown Barre Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting on Saturday in Vermont City Park.

Deadlines loom for pool project

BARRE — It’s way too chilly to be thinking about swimming in Barre, but some key deadlines involving a planned upgrade to the city’s soon-to-be-70-year-old swimming pool are approaching.

One of them will arrive at noon on Wednesday when qualified architectural and engineering consultants must submit proposals for redesigning and refurbishing the municipal pool that was constructed in 1949.

The pool closed in its current configuration for the last time over the summer, and while city officials are exploring whether at least part of next year’s eight-week season could be salvaged before construction begins, the project is a priority.

Funding for the design work — an estimated $80,000 — was included in a $1.15 million bond issue voters approved on the same day they separately agreed to spend up to $720,000 on improvements to the leaking concrete pool.

The project will address structural deficiencies that had long been flagged by the city’s insurer, replace infrastructure much of which is as old as the pool, and enhance the recreational facility.

Conceptual plans envisioned the creation of a sloped walk-in access that would provide very young children with a way to enjoy the pool, as well as the addition of a new splash park.

The task of turning those broad concepts into a design that will work on the city-owned pool property will fall to one of the consultants expected to respond by Wednesday’s deadline.

City Manager Steve Mackenzie said four firms were represented at a mandatory briefing on the project earlier this month and he anticipated most, if not all, would submit a proposal to design the project, develop construction documents and assist in evaluating bids submitted by contractors.

Mackenzie said he hoped to recommend a firm to the City Council at its Dec. 14 meeting even as city staff put the finishing touches on a grant application that could provide $350,000 in supplemental federal funding for the project.

The application is due on Dec. 17 and Mackenzie said he is cautiously optimistic about the city’s chances based on a site visit that was conducted as part of the pre-application process.

“The (pool) project has attributes that would make it a strong contender,” he said, referring to grant money that is available for outdoor recreation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Mackenzie said the city probably won’t learn the fate of its grant application until February or March. By then, the design process will be well underway based on a tentative time frame that contemplates the project being put out to bid on June 3.

Mackenzie said that schedule is subject to change, but reflects his best guess as to how long it should take a consultant to complete the design and prepare bid documents as part of what will be a public process.

The timing at least opens the door to the possibility the pool could open in its current configuration next summer – an option Mackenzie had all but ruled out.

Though it would require the consent of the city’s insurer and couldn’t impede with the chosen contractor’s schedule, Mackenzie said it is conceivable the pool could open for at least part of next summer.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

The next step will be to evaluate proposals from consultants with an eye toward hiring one. Initially, those proposals were due last Wednesday, but Mackenzie granted a one-week extension at the request of one of the interested firms.


Murder Case
Murder case slated for summer trial

BARRE — Randal Gebo’s murder trial is set for sometime this summer.

Gebo, 62, faces a felony first-degree murder charge and a felony count of aggravated vehicle operation without the owner’s consent, in addition to five misdemeanor counts of credit card fraud and a misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals. Gebo is being held without bail at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

A status conference was held in Washington County criminal court in Barre Monday, where Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Anderson reported she, along with Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault and Gebo’s attorney David Sleigh, are in the process of deposing witnesses in the case.

Gebo was not in attendance for the hearing. Sleigh, who appeared by phone, said depositions likely will be completed by the end of February. Sleigh said he expected the case would be ready for trial in late spring or early summer.

Anderson said the trial would take at least a week, if not longer. Sleigh agreed.

Judge Mary L. Morrissey said she will set aside two weeks for jury draw and the trial starting in mid-June. Morrissey also said she would schedule another hearing in mid-February to again check on the status of the case.

Cindy 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.


Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

Learning the ropes

Newly elected Washington-7 District representative Kari Dolan, center, listens to a presentation on committee structures along with 27 other freshmen representatives during legislative orientation day at the State House on Monday.

World Cup will return; broke last year's attendance record with 39K

KILLINGTON — After breaking last year’s attendance record, the World Cup at Killington Ski Resort will return next year, a spokeswoman for the mountain said Monday.

This was the third year Killington has been a stop on the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit. Last year, 34,000 people attended over the course of the three-day event. This year’s event drew 39,000 people, said Courtney DiFiore, communications/PR and social media manager at Killington Resort.

After a successful first year, the resort and World Cup organizers formally agreed to hold the event at the mountain twice more, with an option to return for another year. DiFiore said that will happen, but the exact date isn’t being announced just yet. Renewal decisions will take place on an annual basis, she said.

The event drew 5,500 on Friday, 18,500 on Saturday and 15,000 on Sunday, DiFiore said, adding that the resort had been hoping for an even 40,000, but is satisfied with the turnout. DiFiore said the resort will be busy in the coming days taking stock of how things went, seeking feedback from everyone involved, but so far what she’s been hearing has been positive.

A few things were done differently this year than in past years, she said. Musical acts all performed between runs, and this was the first year that a significant number of trails were open to the public during the event. Before there hadn’t been enough snow, but this year the weather was fairly accommodating to the resort’s needs, she said.

Thanksgiving weekend is fairly early in the ski season, DiFiore said. Near Christmas and the month of January are where the skis and boards really hit the powder.

Behind the scenes

Competing athletes practiced their runs on Skylark Trail while the competition runs were held on Superstar Trail. Much of the snow was laid down starting in October, according to Jeff Temple, director of mountain operations and facilities maintenance at Killington Resort.

“This time of year the temperatures available for snow production are very limited and the weather very volatile,” he said in an email. “Our very experienced snowmaking team takes advantage of every available hour in October and November leading into the snow depth determination date, about seven days prior and to race week itself.

“Once the amount of snow is approved by FIS, the race and training trail are groomed extensively with grooming tractors that distribute the snow where needed for edge to edge consistency as well as for trail features that are built into the race course to give it character,” he said.

Local reaction

Excitement and some trepidation were felt by many in the town of Killington when the first World Cup was announced, said Jeanne Karlhuber, owner of Snowed Inn, a 19-bedroom hotel located at 104 Miller Brook Road. She’s owned the inn for the past 35 years and said the World Cup event has been managed extremely well and been a boon to the area.

“We’ve seen a lot of things over the years and the event certainly brings a solid level of people around the holiday,” she said. “I think a lot of us are happy it’s here.”

She said the World Cup is something people watch all over the world, and that Killington hosting it gives the resort some global credibility.

“It puts us on the map,” she said, adding that she’s got friends and family in Austria, a country known for its skiing community, and they say good things about Killington.




von Trapp

Singer and guitarist Elizabeth von Trapp performs for the Noon Concert series with songs of the season. Bring a bag lunch and drink. Donations asked for a new stained-glass window by a local artist. 12 p.m. Christ Church Episcopal, 64 State St., Montpelier,, 223-3631.