Issue 2 April 2011
Flashing lights up ahead? Move over. Page 2
ns r u t e sr
Street t o p e D
GAS PRICES SKYROCKET PAGE 4
Watch out for Fred. It’s the Law.
You’re approaching an accident scene. You come upon a snow plow or a disabled car being loaded up and removed from the highway. In each of those cases you must move over and give the vehicles and workers as much room as possible. It’s the law! Take Fred Allard, one of several tow truck drivers for Fred’s Towing. He has had to remove many cars from busy roadways and has experienced first hand that many people do not move over. “You’re on the interstate loading a car and you watch a car coming at you,” says Allard. “You got all your lights on and you’re standing there with your reflecting jacket on, and you’re watching this car come at you -- never moving -- and you jump between the bed and the tires and it just misses you. It’s very, very dan-
gerous out there.” One time he wasn’t as lucky. Allard’s head was pinned under a car and the last thing he remembers is hearing the helicopter in the distance coming for him. When he woke up he was at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury, recovering from a massive brain bruise, an injury that not many can say they survived. “It wasn’t my time to go,” he says. That’s why, in August 2010, tow truck drivers were added to the list of roadside workers protected by a law enacted in 2002. Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris likes the idea of adding tow trucks to the law. “Tow truck drivers are even more at risk than we are,” says Harris. “I think it was a good thing that they were added.”
Signs reminding drivers of the law went up this summer, but the dangers still exist. Jay Wood, director of CALEX Ambulance Services, says ambulance workers are very exposed at accident scenes. “Our doors are open. We are actually caring for someone who might be on the roadway, which is a very common occurence. Even if someone is not on the roadway and is off to the side, we still have to move that person. Almost everyone can recall a near miss.” Chief Harris says that drivers are naturally distracted by emergency vehicle lights and that by the time they realize they are approaching an active accident scene, they are already on top of the workers. “At 50, 60, 70, miles per hour a vehicle is a very dangerous instrument,”
NewsINK is a publication of the Vermont Center for Community Journalism at Lyndon State College. Find us online at Issuu.com (search for “NewsINK”). Address queries to: NewsINK, Deptartment of Electronic Journalism Arts, Lyndon State College, P.O. Box 919, Lyndonville, Vt. 05851
says Harris. St. Johnsbury Fire Chief Troy Ruggles says too many drivers don’t move over. “They are taking away the lifesaving service, no matter what discipline is responding. I think it’s a problem.” But the law is hard to enforce. Responders on scene are focused on the incident rather than ticketing drivers who don’t move over. Chief Harris says his squad has never ticketed anyone for it. While the law protects emergency responders, it does not apply to road maintenance crews. Those teams are given indirect protection by heavy speeding fines in work zones.
Story and photos by Nadine Grimley
Clockwise from left: Fred Allard of Fred’s Towing standing in front of one of his tow trucks; Lyndonville police officer Ralph Aussiker stands in front of his patrol vehicle; Aussiker approaches a pickup truck he pulled over for an expired inspection sticker.
NEK drivers not pumped about rising gasoline prices Phil Alexander NewsINK
Photo by Phil Alexander
An expensive routine: Lawrence Olio fills up at the Cumberland Farms in Lyndonville.
Lawrence Olio, a student at Lyndon State College, is used to reaching for a gas pump. On the weekends, he drives from Lyndonville to work in his hometown of Bradford. Olio also drives to Burlington to train for mixed martial arts. “I drive about four hours, which is a lot of driving in one weekend, and that costs me a lot of gas money,” Olio says. In fact, Olio has figured out that he pays about $40 dollars roundtrip. Add that to what he pays for college, and Olio shells out quite a sum. “It costs so much money to go anywhere, especially if we (college students) have stuff to do,” Olio says. According to AAA Fuel Gage Reports, the per-gallon national average stood at $3.61 per gallon for regular, $3.74 for medium grade, $3.87 for premium, and $3.96 for diesel as of the end of March. If prices keep climbing, the Northeast Kingdom could see $4 gas. Olio likens the NEK’s struggle with gas prices to the financial problems of the state of Vermont. “Vermont is always one of the last states to improve,” Olio says. “Jobs in Vermont aren’t the best-paying either, so we get hit with a double-whammy with low-paying jobs and prices going up. We have to cut back in order to just pay for gas.”
Olio is majoring in finance and accounting. After he gets his degree, he plans to get a job at a local business. He would also like to continue training in MMA to see if he is good enough to make the professional circuit. Arne Aho, a customer at Fordham’s Mobil in Lyndonville, recently paid $3.59 per gallon for regular. Prices like that make daily life hard for him. “I’m retired and living on a fixed income, and I hate to see prices going the way they are,” Aho says. The rise of prices can be attributed to increases in the price of oil. One barrel of oil now costs more than $100. The market for oil is starting to become tighter as demand increases. Aho feels that there is more oil available, however. “The price of gas and oil right now is basically due to speculative markets rather than the reality of how much is available and how much is not,” Aho says. Aho is also frustrated over the lack of involvement by the federal government. “It doesn’t seem like any of these increases are hurting their (the gas companies’) profit margins,” Aho says. In addition, Aho would like to see the federal government conduct hearings to determine why companies like Exxon Mobil are making large profits while gas prices continue to increase. In the third quarter of 2010, Exxon Mobil reported a profit of $9.25 billion. That was the largest since the third quarter of 2008, when the company made a $14.83 billion profit.
Photos by Caleb Du
The armory in St. Johnsbury is now used for storage. The former recreation center is not heated, and has a leaky roof and broken windows.
rec center moved
Madi Cox NewsINK
After nearly 95 years of watching over St. Johnsbury, the town armory is now a sad, lonely buidling. It sits idly on Main Street with several windows broken, the only signs of life being two flags blowing in the wind near the front steps. Built in 1916, the armory more recently served as the town community center. It currently houses equipment from the fire department as well as off-season sports equipment and supplies. The building has a lot of problems, including no heat, inadequate insulation, and a leaky roof, according to Joe Fox, who wears two hats as St. Johnsbury recreation director and manager of the field house at the St. Johnsbury Academy. The old armory also fails to meet the guidelines of the Americans With Disabilities Act and stopped being used for recreation around August 2007. Fox said after conducting an en-
gineering study on the building to see where changes could be made, it was estimated that the cost of renovation would be $1.3 million. “Right now, it’s basically being used as cold storage,” Fox said. Because the townspeople of St. Johnsbury were not in favor of paying for so many renovations, the recreation center had to seek other accommodations. Fortunately, the St. Johnsbury Academy stepped in and offered the use of its facilities -- and hired Fox. Since the move to the St. Johnsbury Academy in November 2010, Fox has focused on keeping the programs offered by the recreation department active. “We hit the ground running, and we’ve been rocking and rolling ever since,” Fox said. “We still had a mission of keeping people active and healthy in the community,” he said of the move, adding that the Academy made a big difference. Fox’s major concern was being
able to run the usual programs the recreation center had previously offered at the new location. These include aerobics, lacrosse, soccer, and other sports that are open to the public. “We tried to keep as much continuity in the programs as possible,” he said. “This is a new relationship with the Academy. Right now things are going well. We’re able to work with a really creative student body.” The deal with the St. Johnsbury Academy is a three-year contract. Fox said he hopes to eventually find the recreation center its own place of operation. “I for one think it would be great to have a stand-alone recreation facility in the community in the future,” he said, “but that’s not free.” The future of the old recreation center is unclear. The selectboard will need to decide whether the building is worth renovating, but has no plans in the immediate future.
The gymnasium at the St. Johnsbury Academy where many recreation events are now held after the armory was abandoned.
Lyndon State athletics give local Sam Monroe NewsInk
Patrick Hilton grew up smothered in Lyndon State sports. Now it only seems natural that the sophomore is a two-sport athlete and captain at the college. Hilton isn’t alone in this. This spring 60 students will don the Lyndon logo as a member of sports teams, and 14 of them hail from communities surrounding LSC. The LSC baseball team features 26 Max Ercole players; nine of them are local to the Northeast Kingdom or its fringe. The softball team will have two local players. And the lacrosse team will have
seven local athletes. Hilton plays both soccer and baseball for the Hornets. “I grew up around LSC,” he says. “I was on campus and at athletic games for my entire childhood.” Hilton’s father, Mark, has worked at LSC Patrick’s entire life, and has served as an assistant baseball coach for much of it. “I was the bat-boy growing up for their teams,” he says. “I went to Florida and on bus trips with the team and loved every minute of it. For soccer I was the ball-boy running the sidelines when I was a child and watching the ‘big kids’ play.” He admits one of the reasons he chose Lyndon was because of the price.
Cody Gage Brandon Lloyd
Michael Cartularo Photos courtesy of the LSC Athletic Department
Photo by Sam Monroe Patrick Hilton takes a free kick in the NAC Championship game, last fall.
players place to play and study
Since his father works at LSC, he receives free tuition. But athletics helped persuade him. While he could have also gone to UVM for nothing, he chose Lyndon because he could play sports there. “I absolutely love playing for my hometown college,” says Hilton. “It is a major sense of pride for me. Nothing makes me prouder than when I get announced for soccer. “My mom can come to every game, all my aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends from LI, older teachers, mentors, everyone can come see my games,” he says, adding that playing sports at LSC has helped him stay in touch with his high school coaches. Hilton is a starting defender on the men’s soccer team and splits time between the pitcher’s mound and the infield during the baseball season. He admits his high school career was never star-studded, but was fun. His soccer team struggled, not winning a game until his sophomore year. He was on an LI baseball team that went 18-0 before losing in the state final. Growing up around LSC may contribute to Hilton’s dislike of Castleton State College. He says his proudest college moment was beating the rival school last fall in the North Atlantic Conference soccer semi-final, on Castleton’s turf. Ryan Brown is a junior defender on the LSC lacrosse team and some teammates refer to him as one of the best on the team. It seems as though Brown is attracted to programs that are just starting out. Brown originally started playing lacrosse during his freshman year at the St. Johnsbury Academy for a team that was developing a new program. He says most of the team was comprised of hockey players who used their equipment from the ice to protect them on e the field.
Lacrosse didn’t become a varsity sport at Lyndon until 2008, at which point Brown was at Limestone College in South Carolina. He had also played in 2006 at Norwich University. Norwich is a Division III program, like Lyndon, while Limestone hosts a DII lacrosse program. Brown’s major lost its accreditation at Limestone, so he transferred once again. Robert Trucott “I decided to transfer to save my ac- Patrick Hilton ademic career,” he says. “I grew up in St. Johnsbury and knew a lot of people in the area including family and friends.” Plus LSC offered physical education. “I also had been talking to Tim Tierny, who had been my high school coach for two years and had now moved on to the collegiate level, about possibly playing at Lyndon,” says Brown. Brown fell in love with lacrosse the Katelyn Willey Meghan Gadapee second he purchased his first stick with money he had reLSCʼs local athletes ceived from eighth Baseball Men’s Soccer grade graduation. Skyler Bourque: Littleton Richard Hackett: Lake Region Originally a soccer Michael Cartularo: Lyndon InsiPatrick Hilton: Lyndon Institute and hockey player, tute Emmitt Simpson: Lake Region he started to devote Cody Gage: North Country Women’s Soccer more and more of Patrick Hilton: Lyndon Institute Abby Fadden: Woodsville Shane O’Donnell-Leach: Blue Michelle Kittredge: Danville his energy to this Mountain Samantha Smith: Woodsville new game. Robert Trucott: Lyndon Institute Lindsey Warner: North Country “I would say that Softball Naomi White: Danville lacrosse has always Meghan Gadapee: Littleton Women’s Tennis been a reason for Katelyn Willey: White Mountian Margaret George: Lake Region my further education Volleyball Lacrosse and if Lyndon did not Chritine Bailey: Lyndon InstiTeddy Beniot: Lake Region High tute have a lacrosse Ryan Brown: St. Johnsbury Women’s Cross Country team, I would not Academy Tiara Martin: St. Johnsbury have applied,” says Max Ercole: St. Johnsbury AcadAcademy Brown. emy Gabrielle Mathewson: Lyndon This winter five Christian Henault: St. JohnsInstitute student athletes call bury Academy Men’s Basketball the Northeast KingBrandon Lloyd: Woodsville Logan Calkins: Danville Tyler Tinker: Lake Region Ben Sackett: Lyndon Institute dom and its surMatt Zita: St. Johnsbury AcadWomen’s Basketball rounds home, and emy Shauna Buck: North Country 13 former high Men’s Tennis Danielle LaFont: Lake Region school stars from the Donald Jenness: North Country Donna Lawson: Lake Region area played for LSC Naomi White: Danville High in the fall. School
Business beginning to brew Optimism on Lyndonville’s Depot Street
Jeff Rusack NewINK
A surge in business on Depot Street in Lyndonville may be a sign the harsh grip of the recession is waning. In recent months more businesses have moved into the downtown area. "Maybe we're seeing real positive signs in the economy," says Steve Nichols, the president of the Lyndonville Chamber of Commerce. "We would like people to know that we are open for business," says Lyndon Town Manager Dan Hill, after the repeal of the business personal property tax. At Town Meeting the town voted to repeal the tax, looking to keep businesses and attract new ones. However, the tax incentive was too little, too late, for a pair of businesses that are no longer in the downtown area. In December the Lyndonville Pharmacy went out of business after failing to compete with Kinney Drugs and Rite Aid. More recently, the Patty Cakes and Candy bakery moved to the Green Mountain Mall in St. Johnsbury in search of
more customers. "This kind of candy store needs a lot of walk-in traffic," says store owner Cindy Poginy. The lack of walking traffic on Depot Street is a known problem for new businesses. Depot Street's newest business is the Grindstone Café. Entrepreneur Nathaniel Wright feels he won't have the same problems as Patty Cakes Bakery. "This place seems to be the most convenient place. But up that way (towards Patty Cakes) you have to cross traffic so you have to understand business might be slowed down a little bit." The Grindstone Café isn't the only business opening in downtown. Lucky's Mattress has expanded from its Littleton, N.H., location to where Patty Cakes used to sell candy. The bedding store recently made some local hires. Ben's Boot Camp has facilities in St. Johnsbury and Derby and recently added a third location in Lyndonville. The gym opened in early February, and owner Ben Warstler says he is excited about more businesses coming into the area. "I think this is a place where a lot of people can prosper. It's a place a lot of busi-
Above: Nathaniel Wright brews coffee at his new business, Grindstone Cafe. Below: Lucky Mattress and Bedding has moved into the space formerly occupied by Patty Cakes & Candy.
Photos by Jeff Rusack
nesses are looking at more closely and I think it can grow." Steve Nichols of the Chamber of Commerce doesn't think that tax incentives are the only way to fill empty storefronts. "We're talking to people in the town and the village and trying to find ways that we can do a facade makeover without spending a lot of money," Nichols says. Ideas include a new coat of paint and a change in signage. Some "For Rent" signs are still present, but the goal of the Chamber of Commerce is simple: Fill every storefront.
For St. J, going downhill is an improvement
Progress in St. Johnsbury often creates controversy. The plan to move the municipal offices down the hill to the Welcome Center was no exception. Voters approved it on Town Meeting Day -- by a narrow margin. The crowded town offices share a red brick building with the police and fire departments on Main Street. To visit the town clerk, you navigate a narrow hallway. Just down Eastern Avenue is the Welcome Center in the old railroad station. “I think it’s a great move business-wise,” said Ralph Nelson, St. Johnsbury’s town manager. “The building here (on Main Street) is inadequate and non-efficient. We have a building down there at the Welcome Center that is only being used about a third of its capability and this is a great opportunity to solve a lot of problems.” Nelson has been pitching this idea since he came to Vermont in August. “The location of the Welcome Center is excellent. It’s in the center of town. It’s equidistant from all the different districts. It’s a perfect headquarters location. We would increase traffic at the Welcome Center because so many people came to the Town Hall. I just think it’s a win-win.” The three-story railroad station was built in 1883. As rail traffic waned, the building fell into disuse. A developer, Anthony Pomerleau, bought it in the 1970s, and he is credited with saving it from the wrecking ball. Pomerleau donated the building to the town in 2003.
Story and Photos by Lindsey Profenno
Renovating the building to house the town offices will not be cheap. The vote on Town Meeting Day authorized St. Johnsbury to borrow $1.4 million to make improvements. It passed 891-851. Nelson said some money should be available through federal, state, and private grants. Right after the vote passed, Nelson met with a construction company
and started planning out the windows, the roof, and the heating system. Nelson also talked to the construction company about costs, and predicted the price will come in under the $1.4 million mark. Nelson also said he wants public input because the project is financed with taxpayer money.
Clockwise from left: The narrow hallway leading to the St. Johnsbury town clerkâ€™s office; the municipal offices share space with the fire department and the police department on Main Street; in an old photo that hangs in the Welcome Center, a train steams past the railroad station; the station now houses St. Jâ€™s Welcome Center and ultimately will be home to the town offices.
Feel lucky? Story by Jared Richardson
Thousands of Vermonters buy lottery tickets every day, but does it really benefit the state? Mark Johnson says “yes” for two reasons. As the owner of the Bliss Village Store in Bradford, he sells quite a few tickets.
“The lottery is enjoyed by many of our customers,” Johnson says. “They play on a regular basis, and the benefits to them are the fun of the game.” He is also a former school principal and school board member, and lottery profits since 1998 have funded education in the state. “I think the education fund is a very good spot to send the money,” he says. Vermont Lottery sold its first ticket in 1978. It generated about $97 million in revenue in fiscal year 2010, and $21.6 million went to education, according to Alan Yandow, executive director of the Vermont Lottery. “If we had not done that, they would have had to fill that hole in some other way, either raising property taxes or some other revenue source to replace that,” Yandow says. “The mission is to provide the maximum amount of revenue, consistent with the dignity of the state and the welfare of its people, and for us that means provide as much money as we can to the education fund, but do it in a responsible way.” Some Vermonters question whether the lottery is a tax on the poor. Yandow says there is a wide spectrum of players in Vermont. “The average player is mid 40’s, family income of around $50,000, plays maybe five times a week. It’s not the low-income player.”
He says demographics don’t affect lottery sales. “Sales aren’t based off demographics. The low-income players don’t represent the sales for the lottery. Actually, our top agent is in Manchester, which has a high family income average. We also have another top agent in Swanton, so it doesn’t really matter.” Yandow says Caledonia County has a lot of larger lottery winners, but it’s not due to the demographics of the county. “Numbers don’t matter. No one has a better chance than another person. It’s all random.” Every Vermont Lottery ticket, sign or advertisement carries the words “Please Play Responsibly.” The lottery provides the lion’s share of funding for the Vermont Council on Problem Gambling. Yandow sits on the council. “We had one of the earliest responsible gaming programs in the lottery business in the U.S.,” he says. “We take it very seriously. We deal with around a few dozen cases each month.” The council maintains a 24-hour hotline (1-800-522-4700) for people seeking help with a gamgling problem. The phones are answered during the daytime and redirected at night to the National Council on Problem Gambling. “We have councilors on hand,
pamphlets, and other materials to provide for people who think they have a gambling problem or addiction,” Yandow says. In addition, Gamblers Anonymous meetings take place weekly at several places across the state. “We have them in Burlington, Barre, Bennington, and Rutland. We tried to have centralized locations for each area of the state,” Yandow says. Lottery sales have been generally down in the past five years, mostly due to the economy, but in 2010, the lottery made around $1 million more in revenue than in 2009. Yandow attributes that to adding more electronic games, including the game Mega Millions, to the increase sales. “We’re looking at additional games. Last year we changed the Megabucks game to Megabucks Plus. We brought in Hot Lotto, which was a new game then, and then in
January we brought in Mega Million, which is a large jackpot game, so that’s been helpful.” The Vermont Lottery has several plans in the future to keep sales up, including new instant ticket vending machines. “We are going to put them in supermarkets, convenient stores, rest areas, and other public areas,” Yandow says. “We think we can raise more money by selling more tickets with these machines. Customers will be able to purchase instant and electronic tickets and they can check their tickets to see if they’re winners.” The new instant ticket vending machines will officially be in stores during the spring. The lottery hopes to break $100 million in revenue this year, Yandow says. “I think we’ll be able to accomplish a lot this year.”