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Unopposed dominates WCSU races

EAST MONTPELIER — There will be a contested race for one of the 10 seats on a new school board that will be collectively elected by voters in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester next month.

Though the new board will be elected in a new way on May 21, the at-large voting system should only come into play when there are multiple candidates vying for the same seat.

A number of candidates took out nominating petitions but didn’t return them by Monday’s 5 p.m. filing deadline, making Calais the only community with a race that will be decided by all of the voters in the five-town, six-school Washington Central Unified Union School District.

The race in Calais pits two sitting members of the board now responsible for overseeing the operation of the town’s pre-K-6 school against each other. Town Clerk Judy Fitch Robert said Dorothy Naylor and Christopher Cadorette are both running for the same one-year seat on a board that would govern the new pre-K-12 district.

Scott Thompson, who represents Calais on the board responsible for overseeing U-32 Middle and High School, is running unopposed for a three-year seat on the new board.

Though Calais is one of the smaller communities in what is currently the Washington Central Supervisory Union it will have two members on the new board – just like its more populous partners Berlin and East Montpelier.

The trade-off — one some voters in Berlin tried unsuccessfully to change at last week’s organizational meeting of the merged district — is that voters in all five towns have a say in who represents their neighbors on the school board.

It isn’t a factor if you have a slate of candidates that is running unopposed. That is the case in Berlin, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester when it comes to the May 21 election.

Possible races in both East Montpelier and Middlesex never materialized as Monday’s deadline came and went with some nominating petitions not being returned.

It is unclear whether the tight time frame had anything to do with that. Prospective candidates had less than a week to collect signatures needed to run for school board seats in the wake of the organizational meeting at which voters scheduled the election last Monday.

Most of those running — including all three of the candidates from Calais — currently serve on one of Washington Central’s six school boards. Of the 11 announced candidates, nine serve on one of the existing school boards. Seven of those nine, like Naylor and Cadorette, serve on local elementary school boards, while two are members of the U-32 board.

Berlin will be represented by one of each. School Director Vera Frazier and George Gross, who represents Berlin on the U-32 board are running for the town’s two seats.

Frazier, who is now the ranking member of an elementary school board that that has been idle since it lost its quorum on Town Meeting Day, is running for a one-year seat on the merged board. Gross is the only candidate for Berlin’s two-year seat on the merged board that is scheduled to replace the other six on July 1.

Both candidates in East Montpelier serve on the local elementary school board. That includes Chairwoman Flor Diaz Smith, who is running unopposed for a three-year seat and School Director Lindy Johnson who is running for a two-year seat. A possible challenge to Johnson fizzled when Ellen Knoedler didn’t return her nominating petition.

A similar scenario played out in Middlesex, where Town Clerk Sarah Merriman said two petitions were not returned, leaving two members of the local school board running unopposed. Chairman Chris McVeigh is running for a two-year seat, and Marylynne Strachan, who was elected to the Middlesex board last month, will be running for a one-year seat on the merged board next month.

Though most of the new board’s members will have school board experience, the two-member delegation from Worcester won’t.

All five members of the Worcester School Board and its representative to the U-32 board opted not to run for the new board, according to Town Clerk Katie Winklejohn.

Winklejohn said Worcester’s two seats will be filled by a pair of “very involved parents.” Jaiel Pulsmak is running unopposed for the one-year board seat and Jonas Eno-VanFleet is the only candidates for a three-year seat.


Heavy rains cause isolated flooding

BARRE — Heavy rains and melting snowpack overnight caused isolated flooding around central Vermont.

While some streets and roadways were affected, no serious damage or injuries were reported in the region.

To the south, however, more serious damage was reported in several communities, including Chelsea, Randolph, Royalton, Rochester, Stockbridge, Killington, Mendon, Rutland Town, Clarendon, Londonderry and Weston.

Statewide several main roads were closed until flood waters had abated, according to state officials. In addition the storm knocked out power to about 650 Vermonters, according to Green Mountain Power. No other utilities reported storm-related outages.

Rescuers from Killington and Rutland City helped a man escape a parking lot Monday morning after flood waters came up around his vehicle overnight while he slept.

Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery said the male was parked in one of the lots for the Killington Skyeship Base Lodge, a gondola attached to Killington Ski Resort off Route 4. Montgomery said the male spent Sunday night asleep in his vehicle, and while he heard the rain, he didn’t realize the water was rising.

Killington Fire and Rescue responded after people on Route 4 noticed the male was stranded. Montgomery said the water was about 4 feet high. The water rescue team for the city of Rutland was summoned. They got the man out without incident.

Closer to home, the usual low spots that usually see flooding saw some standing water, including the aptly named Water Street in Northfield. There, traffic was being diverted. No property damage was reported in the small neighborhood. Town officials were also reporting washouts on Turkey Hill.

While rivers were swelling still Monday, no flooding was reported in Williamstown, Berlin or Barre City.

Barre Town officials reported Old Route 302 was closed for flooding. And Route 2 in East Montpelier and farther out in Marshfield reported some roadside flooding. In Plainfield, Road Commissioner Bram Towbin reported no serious flooding from the rain and melting snowpack. By midday the areas along Route 2 were passable.

Montpelier came close to a scare on Monday morning.

Fire Chief Bob Gowans said flood-watch officials were on alert after river gauges reached action level at 11 feet. Flood level is at 15 feet, Gowans said.

“But they’ve actually started to recede a little bit,” Gowans said mid-morning. “The main rain has gone by and it’s starting to cool down a little bit. … There’s usually about a six-hour lag from runoff but we’re not expecting any flooding at this point.”

Showers were in the forecast through Monday and overnight into Tuesday.

Gowans said both the Winooski and North Branch rivers reached the action-level stage, but there had only been a few reports of basement flooding in the city.

“We do have a little bit of basement flooding at the Onion River Sports store (on Langdon Street) and at Positive Pie (on State Street) but the pumps are able to keep up with it,” Gowans said. “But we’re not expecting anything beyond that.”

At Onion River Sports, a spigot on the outside of the building was draining water out onto the sidewalk and store owner Kip Roberts confirmed there were a few inches of water in the basement, but the pumps were handling it.

“I was woken up by some of the alerts on my phone and I got down here a little before 7 a.m. and there was water in our boiler room but the pumps appear to be working,” Roberts said.

The basement at the sports store extends the whole length of the building on Langdon Street and under ROAM, the outdoor apparel store.

Owner Bobbie Roehm said she didn’t store any merchandise in the basement and the pumps operated by the sports store were handling seepage from the North Branch.

However, Roehm noted that she saw several people’s backyards along Elm Street in the meadow neighborhood of the city were definitely under water.

Also in Montpelier, there were several combined sewer overflows in rivers reported but Public Works Director Tom McArdle said he was waiting for a report on the discharges.

In Waterbury, Fire Chief Gary Dillon said he had not received any reports of flooding in the town, despite concerns of flooding after Tropical Storm Irene devastated the state capital complex and downtown areas in 2011.

“People are more hyper-sensitive since Irene, and it’s certainly understandable. Prior to Irene, we used to have weather like this and we might have some low-level flooding. We’ve certainly already had it in the (Hope Davey Memorial Field) ball field in Waterbury which floods a couple of times a year, but it’s very low to the river,” he added.

The time for concern is still on.

With central Vermont schools on vacation this week, parents are urged to keep youngsters away from rushing streams right now, and to report problem spots to town officials.

The Vermont Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury is activated to assist municipalities in flood response. Representatives from Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont Fire Safety, Vermont Search and Rescue, Agency of Transportation, Vermont State Police, National Guard, Agency of Human Services, and the Red Cross are working with towns.

“The health and safety of Vermonters is our number one priority today,” Gov. Phil Scott said early Monday morning. “State personnel and our partners are working with local responders to that end, and the public can take simple steps to keep themselves safe – we are encouraging everyone to use caution and common sense around floodwaters.”

The following safety messages were released by Vermont Emergency Management:

— Never drive or walk over a flooded road – unseen washouts or currents can sweep you and your car away. Turn around, don’t drown.

— Be mindful of river levels – if water approaches your location, evacuate over high ground.

— Monitor media and social media.

For updates on road closures, follow the Vermont Agency of Transportation on Twitter at @AOTVermont and Facebook at

The Rutland Herald contributed to this report.

Sanders releases 10 years of long-awaited tax returns

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday released 10 years of his long-anticipated tax returns as he campaigns for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The returns provide a more detailed look at Sanders’ finances than when he ran for president in 2016. The release also confirms that Sanders’ income crossed the $1 million threshold in 2016 and 2017, though he reported less earnings in his most recent return.

His 2018 return reveals that he and his wife, Jane, earned more than $550,000, including $133,000 in income from his Senate salary and $391,000 in sales of his book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.” Sanders’ campaign said in a news release that he paid 26% effective tax rate in 2018.

During his first presidential bid, Sanders released just one year of his tax returns despite primary rival Hillary Clinton pushing him to follow her lead and release multiple years of tax information. He declined to do so, disclosing only his tax return for 2014. Tax transparency has been in the spotlight as Donald Trump bucks decades of presidential tradition by declining to show voters his tax filings and House Democrats seek to force him to turn them over.

During a Fox News Channel town hall on Monday, Sanders said that he’d increased his income by publishing a book — he’s written two with campaign themes — and that he wouldn’t apologize for that. He also challenged Trump to release his tax returns.

“I guess the president watches your network a little bit, right?” Sanders said to the moderators. “Hey, President Trump. My wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same.”

The filings show that Sanders, who throughout his career has called for an economy and government that works for everyone and not just the 1 percent, is among the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. According to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Families in the U.S. earning $421,926 or more a year are part of this group.

In a statement accompanying the release, Sanders said that the returns show that his family has been “fortunate,” something he is grateful for after growing up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck.

“I consider paying more in taxes as my income rose to be both an obligation and an investment in our country. I will continue to fight to make our tax system more progressive so that our country has the resources to guarantee the American Dream to all people,” Sanders added.

Sanders, 77, has also listed Social Security payments for each year of the decade of tax returns he made available Monday. By 2018, his wife, 69, was also taking Social Security, providing the couple with nearly $52,000 for the year.

Sanders’ status as a millionaire, which he acknowledged last week, was cemented in his 2017 statement. That year, Sanders disclosed $1.31 million income, combined from his Senate salary and $961,000 in book royalties and sales. His higher income in two of the three most recent years could potentially prompt questions from voters about his frequent criticisms of the influence that millionaires and billionaires have over the political process.

Sanders and his wife disclosed $36,300 in charitable contributions in 2017, but their return does not detail each individual contribution. That same year, the couple announced publicly that they had donated $25,000 as a grant to launch the Sanders Institute, a nonprofit educational organization aligned with the senator’s political and ideological interests.

Jane Sanders was a co-founder of the nonprofit, along with her son, David Driscoll, who became the institute’s executive director. Sanders and his wife put the institute on hiatus last month amid criticism that the nonprofit blurred lines between family, fundraising and campaigning. Jane Sanders said the nonprofit would cease operations beginning in May “so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety.”

A number of Sanders’ rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — have released tax records to varying degrees. Gillibrand was the first candidate to release her 2018 tax returns, and her campaign released a video in which she called on other candidates to join her.

Warren, who has also already released her 2018 tax returns, made public 10 years of tax information last year. Harris released 15 years of tax returns over the weekend. Klobuchar released her 2018 tax return on Monday and said in a campaign video that she hoped Trump, who spent the day campaigning in Minnesota, would release his own taxes on his trip to the state. (He didn’t.)

Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

Fishing for praise

Mike Messier, of Berlin, right, helps Shawn Mable, of Northfield, left, measure Mable’s catch on opening day of trout season in Waterbury’s Little River State Park on Saturday.

Massive fire engulfs beloved Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

PARIS — A massive fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.

The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers, but Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the church’s structure had been saved after firefighters managed to stop the fire spreading to the northern belfry. The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

The exact cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. The Paris prosecutors’ office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating it as an accident.

As the spire fell, the sky lit up orange and flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up on bridges around the island that houses the church, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes. Speaking alongside junior Interior minister Laurent Nunez late Monday, Gallet noted that “two thirds of the roofing has been ravaged.” He said firefighters would keep working overnight to cool down the building.

Late Monday, signs pointed to the fire nearing an end as lights could be seen through the windows moving around the front of the cathedral, apparently investigators inspecting the scene. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said the significant collection of art work and holy objects inside the church had been recovered. Remarkably, only one of the about 400 firefighters who battled the blaze was injured, officials said.

The fire came less than a week before Easter amid Holy Week commemorations. As the cathedral burned, Parisians gathered to pray and sing hymns outside the church of Saint Julien Les Pauvres across the river from Notre Dame while the flames lit the sky behind them. Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit invited priests across France to ring church bells in a call for prayers.

French President Emmanuel Macron was treating the fire as a national emergency, rushing to the scene and straight into meetings at the Paris police headquarters nearby. He pledged to rebuild the church and said he would seek international help to do so.

“The worse has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won,” the president said, adding that he would launch a national funding campaign on Tuesday and call on the world’s “greatest talents” to help rebuild the monument.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, its architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.

Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.

French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the blaze marked “the destruction of invaluable heritage.”

“It’s been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris,” Pascal said. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”

He added: “We can be only horrified by what we see.”

Reactions from around the world came swiftly including from the Vatican, which released a statement expressing shock and sadness for the “terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

In Washington, Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris” and suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to put it out.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”


Nine coastal states have joined environmental groups in a legal challenge to the plan, based in part on their concern for their fishing industries. For this administration, apparently, oil trumps fisheries.

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Planting History: Abenaki Planting School

A two-hour workshop on Historic Abenaki crops and planting techniques with tips on choosing ancient regional crop varieties, as well as designing indigenous-style gardens and fields. 1:30 p.m. Vermont History Museum, 109 State Street, Montpelier,