BARRE — No lights, no camera, no actions.
That was the story at City Hall on Tuesday night when, moments after Mayor Lucas Herring called the City Council’s weekly meeting to order, the lights, the video camera and everything else that required electricity went out.
Councilors had plenty of company, because nearly half of Barre and a good portion of Barre Town lost power at the same time.
Police Chief Tim Bombardier, who was in council chambers at the time, initially attributed the outage to a mistaken report that a vehicle swerved off Hill Street and into a power pole. In fact, a tree limb took out a high-tension wire on Hill Street, tripping a circuit and causing problems at the Green Mountain Power substation on Granite Street.
Though repairs to the substation continued on Wednesday, power to nearly 2,500 Barre customers — including City Hall — an more than 1,000 customers in neighboring Barre Town, was restored shortly after 9 p.m.
When the power went out two hours earlier, so did most of the council’s agenda. Though the emergency generator at City Hall kicked on, the lights in Council Chambers didn’t. Bombardier and Fire Chief Doug Brent were both on hand, but it was Councilor John LePage who fished out the flashlight that shed just enough light for the council to hear from one visitor and discuss one agenda item.
Neither required immediate action during an hour-long session that saw City Manager Steve Mackenzie train LePage’s flashlight on those who were speaking, while the glow from several cell phones and a laptop computer were the only other sources of light.
It was just enough for the council to hear from a resident who urged them to consider the impacts of a residential development proposed in Barre Town and to discuss Wednesday night’s joint meeting with the Montpelier City Council and the board of the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority.
Pleasant Street resident Edward Stanak spoke first and while he stressed he isn’t “necessarily opposed” to a 90-unit housing development Fecteau Residential Inc. has proposed on Beckley Hill, he does have some concerns.
Stanak said he has reviewed the traffic study prepared for the project and isn’t convinced it won’t exacerbate a congestion problem on a stretch of North Main Street that is frequently used by emergency vehicles traveling to and from the city’s public safety building.
Stanak said city staff should review the study and consider attending the District 5 Environmental Commission’s first hearing on the project on Nov. 29 hearing.
Councilors agreed the issue warranted more discussion and some shared Stanak’s concern that traffic generated by the project could create issues at two North Main intersections – one at Beckley Street and the other at nearby Berlin Street. Stanak noted the latter intersection was not considered in the traffic study, but would likely be impacted by an increase in traffic projected at the nearby Beckley Street intersection.
Citing existing problems – particularly at high-traffic times – Councilors Michael Boutin, Rich Morey and Brandon Batham all agreed city staff should review the traffic study with the city’s interests in mind, report their findings to the council and plan to attend the hearing later this month.
“I don’t think anybody is saying ‘stop the development,’ but certainly put the brakes on so we can figure out how this might impact people who live in that part of town,” Batham said.
The ensuing discussion didn’t bode well for the public safety authority’s proposal to create a consolidated emergency communications center serving Barre, Montpelier and the central Vermont agencies that contract with them for dispatching.
Batham and Councilor Sue Higby said they both had major unanswered questions heading into Wednesday night’s joint meeting in Montpelier, and nothing they heard from Bombardier or Mackenzie changed that on Tuesday night.
“I’m walking in ... a very big skeptic,” Batham conceded. “I don’t see how this is a good deal for Barre.”
Boutin, who supports the authority’s proposal, was frustrated by the reaction and openly wondered whether Wednesday’s meeting was a waste of everyone’s time.
“If there’s no desire to move forward with this why are we going?” he asked.
EAST MONTPELIER — They need a home.
The Central Vermont Humane Society reports that its shelter is full of animals waiting to find good homes and is seeking donations to meet its year-end fundraising goal.
“We’re the local animal shelter in the community and we need the community to step up because we’ve not had that many adopters come in,” said shelter Executive Director Lauria Garrison. “It’s the season of good will, and as a community organization we need our community to support us.”
“This is also our holiday fun drive, which is the largest fundraising push during the season of giving, and we definitely need people to donate to the shelter so that our senior animals can find their next home,” Anderson added.
November also is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, with a number of older dogs looking good homes.
Up for adoption right now are three senior dogs that shelter officials hope will appeal to animal lovers, Garrison said.
“Harley came to the shelter with two other small dogs when their owner passed away,” Garrison said. “Her son couldn’t take care of these three dogs, so he called us.”
Harley’s former owner rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and would carry Harley in a pouch and they would wear matching outfits, including leather jackets, hence his name, Garrison said.
Harley is diabetic and needs insulin shots twice a day.
“This makes him a tough adoption,” Garrison said. “We know that special person is out there to adopt this special boy; we just have to find that person.”
Two other senior dogs looking for homes are Chakra, an 11-year-old, and a St. Bernard named Ally, aged 9, which Garrison noted was old for the breed.
“These senior pets break my heart because they should not be spending their precious remaining days here at the shelter,” Garrison said. “They need a loving family and a soft couch to call their own.”
“The shelter has 16 kennels and 19 dogs so we’re clearly over capacity,” Garrison continued. “Sometimes we need to make a little extra push because winter is coming. We’re hoping that people will say, ‘I want a dog,’ not be put off by the snow, and be a true Vermonter and go outside and hike with your dog.”
“There’s all kinds of studies that show having a pet, whether a cat or a dog, improves your overall health. These animals need a home, so c’mon!” Garrison added.
Garrison said the shelter had been doing better at finding homes for cats. As a rescue partner with an animal shelter in Maryland which was crowded, the local shelter accepted a delivery of out-of-state animals and will stage a kitten adoption drive with 15 to 20 kittens at 802 Toyota in Berlin on Nov. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The shelter’s holiday appeal of $90,000 is the third major fund drive of the year which began last week and will extend through the end of January.
“Last year, we did very well with individual contributions, so this is a very important time of year for us, and a kind of make-or-break time for us,” Garrison said.
Garrison noted last year’s strong fund drive may have been driven by charitable donations ahead of changes to the tax code that make it harder to deduct donations in future.
“So, we’re a little nervous that we’re not going to make our goal,” Garrison said. “We have to make our goal to do what we do.”
The annual Walk for Animals in June exceeded the budget target of $63,000 by raising $80,000 this year.
Similarly, Fur Fest, a cocktail reception with silent and live auctions at the Vermont Granite Museum in Barre last month, exceeded its budget target of $30,000, raising $38,000.
The shelter raises other funds from adoption fees of shelter animals.
The shelter’s budget this year is $803,000 to care for more than 1,000 animals a year.
For more information about the shelter, call 476-3811, ext. 110 or visit www.centralvermonthumane.org.
PLAINFIELD — Goddard College cut the ribbon on its new woodchip heating plant Wednesday and an advocacy group released a report looking at increasing the state’s wood heating by 2030.
The $2.5 million plant provides heat and hot water for seven buildings on the main campus, 12 buildings in the Village of Learning, and the college library. The project was funded by a $2.1 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development which will be repaid over 40 years.
The plant replaces 23 oil-burning heaters.
Andrew Perchlik, director of the Clean Energy Development Fund, said his organization got involved years ago and helped to fund a feasibility study looking at building the plant at Goddard. Perchlik said the organization was looking for projects to invest in for the local wood-heating industry.
“We’re psyched about this project. We think it’s going to be a great project for other colleges in the state and any other campus-style collection of buildings. … We’re hoping that this is going to be the first of many plants in the state,” he said.
A news release for the ribbon cutting said the plant “represents a significant milestone in the college’s plans to reduce energy use and carbon pollution with a goal to become carbon neutral in fuels burned on campus and electricity usage by 2020.”
Bernard Bull, Goddard’s president, said one of the core convictions for the school when it was founded in the 1930s was that life and learning are not separate. Bull said education should be a blending of the interest of the learner and the realities of the world.
“When those realities fall short, we’re called to co-create a better, more hopeful, more humane and more sustainable world. And this is one solid, real-world example of Goddard living out that mission,” he said.
Adam Sherman, senior consultant with the Biomass Energy Resource Center, announced the roadmap dealing with increasing wood heating in Vermont. The report was produced by BCRC and Renewable Energy Vermont. It was funded by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Fund.
Sherman said the state is an international leader when it comes to advanced wood heating on campuses and homes.
“But there’s an opportunity to go a lot further and meet our renewable energy, economic development and working landscape objectives here in Vermont. In Vermont, we consume about 100 million gallons of heating oil annually to heat our buildings and homes. That dependency on fossil fuels creates high greenhouse gas emissions and hamstrings our local economy,” he said.
The report set a goal of reaching 35 percent of the state’s thermal energy coming from wood heating by 2030. It picked 35 percent because that’s the level advocates believe can be sustained by the state’s forests.
According to the report, to reach this goal the state needs to install pellet stoves in about 30 percent of all single-family homes, bulk pellet fueled boilers in about 16 percent of all single-family homes with centralized hydronic heat-distribution networks, pellet boilers in 6 percent of small commercial buildings and woodchip boilers in 6 percent of larger commercial/institutional buildings.
If the state meets this goal, according to the report, it would reduce the state’s consumption of heating oil and propane by 60 percent, replace or add another 900,000 green tons of annual local market demand for low-grade wood in Vermont, avoid $112 million in annual energy expenditures exported from the Vermont economy and avoid 350,000 tons of net greenhouse gas emissions annually.
BARRE — The case against convicted kidnapper and domestic abuser Harley Breer Jr. on his latest charges is essentially on hold until Breer can find an attorney to represent him.
Breer, 49, pleaded not guilty in September to felony charges of kidnapping, first-degree aggravated domestic assault and second-degree unlawful restraint. If convicted, Breer faces a sentence of life in prison because the state is seeking habitual offender status due to Breer having three or more prior felony convictions. He is being held without bail at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury.
According to court records, in September Breer grabbed a woman he had been seeing by the back of the head and slammed her head into the center console of his truck about three times in Marshfield. She told police she and Breer had been driving around looking for bears and talking when Breer got angry with her. She told Breer she wanted to get out of the vehicle, but he told her he didn’t want “any third parties involved” and he also didn’t want her walking.
Breer had initially been represented by attorney Maggie Vincent as a public defender, but Vincent withdrew from the case saying Breer “is not willing to work within counsel’s schedule.” Attorney William Cobb entered his appearance into the case on Nov. 2, but filed his own motion to withdraw on Nov. 7. Cobb said in his motion he has been elected a probate judge in Caledonia County and “does not believe he has the time needed to continue with defendant’s case.” He also cited a conflict in the case that would keep him from representing Breer, though he has not specified what that conflict is.
In a hearing in Washington County criminal court in Barre Wednesday, Judge Michael S. Kupersmith said he would hold onto Cobb’s motion and keep Cobb on as the attorney of record for the case until Breer can find a new attorney. Kupersmith said he wouldn’t take any action in the case until Breer has a new attorney. A status conference has been set for Nov. 29.
Cobb suggested he could withdraw and another public defender could be appointed until Breer finds a lawyer. Kupersmith rejected that idea.
“I don’t want to start playing musical lawyers here,” he said.
There had been some discussion about Breer representing himself like he had in his previous case or until a replacement attorney can be found, but Breer shot that down. He said he can’t get mail out of the prison effectively so he can’t represent himself correctly.
Breer said he’s been in touch with attorney Dan Sedon’s office and expects to meet with him some time this week. If Sedon took the case, it would be the second high-profile case he’d be working on in Washington County.
In October Sedon entered his appearance in the Jayveon Caballero murder case. Caballero has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Markus Austin in Montpelier in January 2017. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in August, and is being held without bail at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Kupersmith also addressed a motion Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault had filed asking for Breer’s conditions of release to be changed. Thibault said in his motion he wanted Steve Duke, Brittney Duke, Roy Scott and Lori Southworth-Scott added to Breer’s list of people he cannot have contact with. Breer is already not allowed to contact the victim.
Thibault said those four appear to have contacted the victim, conducted surveillance on the victim and made statements to the state at Breer’s direction. Cobb said he and Thibault had come to an agreement where Breer, at least temporarily, will not be allowed to contact Brittney Duke, Roy Scott and Lori Southworth-Scott. Breer is allowed to contact Steve Duke, but only by phone or through the mail. Cobb said Breer needed to be able to contact Steve Duke because he was helping Breer get a new lawyer.
In May 2017 Breer entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to 20 to 45 years to serve, all suspended with credit for time served, and placed on probation for 45 years on a felony count of second-degree aggravated domestic assault and two misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace by phone.
According to court records, Breer beat a woman with whom he lived in November 2011 and left threatening voice messages on her phone. He was also accused of stealing her car and going on the run before being captured in New Hampshire.
Breer is facing a probation violation for the criminal conduct alleged in September. He has denied the violation.
“Conspiracies are an easy way for simple minds to make their way in a complicated world.”
Journalist Mark Potok, who grew up in Plainfield, speaking about news, fake news and democracy Nov. 7 at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier. — A2
U-32’s Logan Wedge is named the Times Argus Football Player of Year. B1
A U.S. panel says the purchase of internet-linked devices from China poses a security risk. A5
Not Quite Dead
Live music, 9:30 p.m. Charlie O’s World Famous, 70 Main St., Montpelier, 223-6820.