Preview tonight features a reduced ticket price. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Lost Nation Theater Montpelier City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main Street, Montpelier, email@example.com, 802-229-0492.
“Unsurprisingly, groups committed to the environment were aptly unimpressed with Trump’s speech designed to make him look like an environmental champion. No one is drinking that particular water, especially here in Vermont.”
In the news
Police logs from Montpelier, Barre Town and Barre City. A2
Lots to talk about in Talk of the Town this week. A3
A local man is sentenced for firing a gun outside a Waitsfield bar. A3
BARRE — Officials say detectable amounts of drugs like fentanyl are now commonly being found in other drugs like crack cocaine and vice versa.
Judge Mary L. Morrissey was presiding over a hearing earlier this week in Washington County criminal court involving someone in drug treatment court. The defendant had recently tested positive for fentanyl, an incredibly strong opiate, though he told the court he was primarily a crack cocaine user. Morrissey noted others in treatment court had also been testing positive for fentanyl despite not being known opiate users, or reported they hadn’t used an opiate and instead had used another drug.
Trisha Conti is the director of the Vermont Forensic Laboratory, where law enforcement sends suspected drugs to be tested. Conti said over the last year her lab has seen more cases where drugs that are tested aren’t coming back as straight cocaine or straight heroin. She said 10 to 15 years ago that wasn’t the case because suspected drugs tested then came back as only containing one drug. Now she said a drug can come back with seven or eight different compounds in it.
“There seems to be quite a bit of crossover,” she said.
Conti said she didn’t know if drugs were being added to other drugs intentionally or if it was a byproduct of sloppy handling and packaging. Law enforcement has said in the past drug dealers these days try to be “one-stop shops” where people can buy cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drugs.
“It’s not like this is a production laboratory that has cleaning practices, it’s somebody’s kitchen table that they’re working on,” Conti said.
She said when a suspected drug comes to her lab it is analyzed to see all of the compounds it is composed of. Conti said because of time and workload constraints her lab doesn’t test to see how much of a certain compound is in a suspected drug so she couldn’t talk about percentages of fentanyl in suspected crack cocaine. Because of this, she said the lab can’t definitively say a drug was laced with another drug because they don’t know how much it contains. All the lab can report is how much the suspected drug weighs, what it is predominantly made up of and what was detected in it.
Cpt. Kevin Lane, of the Vermont State Police, is the commander of the Special Investigations Unit, which includes the Narcotics Investigation Unit. Lane said this mixing of drugs has become the norm rather than the exception and it isn’t isolated to Vermont. He said it’s something the whole East Coast is dealing with.
Lane said while there may be some accidental co-mixing with drugs, he believes because there is so much mixing, a good amount of it is being done intentionally. He said while a drug user may want to only buy crack cocaine, for example, the dealer may include a little bit of an opiate as a way of getting the user hooked on that drug as well. He said drugs like fentanyl can be cheaper than cocaine so drug dealers may be adding it in to maximize profits.
“That’s part of the danger of using these illegal drugs,” he said.
As for marijuana, Conti said her lab has been keeping an eye on any drugs being added to it because there have been reports of people saying their weed was laced with something like fentanyl. But she said the lab has not confirmed any cases of marijuana being mixed with opiates or any other illicit drugs.
BARRE — City councilors have narrowly endorsed an application for federal funds that, if awarded, would finance the analysis of re-establishing passenger rail service between Barre and Montpelier.
“All aboard” it wasn’t Tuesday night — Mayor Lucas Herring had to cast the decisive fourth vote.
Herring told councilors the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission is poised to apply for a BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of Barre and Montpelier. The council’s support, he said, would strengthen that application.
Councilor John Steinman questioned the wisdom investing any money in “ancient technology” to serve two communities that are separated by 7 miles and already have public transportation provided by Green Mountain Transit.
Steinman argued buses trump trains — especially the self-propelled ones he believes will likely be used if passenger rail service between Barre and Montpelier is restored after being explored at the behest of the Legislature.
Lawmakers have given the state Agency of Transportation until December to deliver a written report estimating the cost of upgrading the state-owned rail line that runs between Barre and Montpelier to meet commuter rail standards, as well as a construction timeline. While the recently passed legislation specifically states that report should be “neutral” regarding the type of passenger rail car, Steinman said the likeliest option would by the bi-directional, self-contained Budd Co. cars AllEarth Rail LLC has been pushing for more than two years.
Steinman described the 94-seat Budd cars as “antiques” and argued they have a much larger carbon footprint than GMT’s 18-seat buses that rarely run at capacity.
“We’re going to use taxpayer dollars to run a 50-year-old train between Barre and Montpelier that will be carrying less than 18 people?” he asked. “We’re going to support that? For what purpose?”
Steinman said re-establishing passenger rail in central Vermont would be “… redundant, unnecessary … and not nimble enough for the 21st century.” It also, he said, could create a parking problem in downtown Barre where those who wanted to travel by train would have limited places to board, as opposed to what councilors were told will be a soon-to-be-expanded number of GMT bus stops.
Herring said Steinman was getting ahead of the study, which would be far more comprehensive than the report the AOT has been asked to prepare by Dec. 1.
“For me it’s really just looking at different options,” he said. “It’s a study to see what could (be). If we don’t look into it, we’ll never know.”
Councilor John LePage agreed.
“All this is is an application for a grant to obtain some knowledge,” he said. “It’s not like we’re committing to do something … It’s a no-brainer.”
Not according to Councilor Michael Boutin, who said he couldn’t bring himself to support spending tax dollars — even federal tax dollars — on an idea he doesn’t believe makes sense.
“I don’t see a future (in it),” he said.
With Steinman and Boutin both opposed and Councilor Jeffrey Tuper-Giles absent, Herring had to cast the decisive vote, joining LePage and Councilors Rich Morey and Teddy Waszazak in the requisite four-vote majority.
During a discussion that saw LePage and Steinman call each other out for interrupting, councilors never discussed the amount of the grant application or what it would actually pay for.
Dan Currier, manager of the regional planning commission’s transportation program, said Wednesday both are still moving targets.
Days before Monday’s application deadline, Currier said he expects the commission will apply for at least $400,000 and perhaps as much as $1 million to finance an analysis that will be far more thorough than the report AOT must prepare by Dec. 1.
Assuming the planning grant is awarded — and that is a big “if,” according to Currier — the AOT report would be finished months before the start of a consultant-led study. That feasibility study, he said, could take 18 month to two years to complete, would involve a cost-benefit analysis, significant community outreach and a deeper dive into improvements — both required and desired — to accommodate passenger rail.
“The planning study that we are proposing would go quite a bit further than what [AOT] will do,” he said. “It’s a significant project.”