Upper Valley Contingent Travels to D.C. March to Make Their Voices Heard

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. — After Ruth Heindel and Carissa Aoki had listened to speakers at the Women’s March on Washington for four hours outside the Air and Space Museum on Saturday, the Dartmouth College graduate and post-doctoral ecology students became ecstatic when they learned that organizers were changing the route.

It wasn’t the last-minute change they celebrated, but the reason: The event had drawn so many marchers that they were already filling up the route. They would have to add some new twists and turns to give marchers room to walk.

“This felt like a really big deal,” Heindel, 28, said at the march’s conclusion. “To feel like I was one of the people in one of those enormous historical photos … and that it was made up of all these individuals.”  Continue reading “Upper Valley Contingent Travels to D.C. March to Make Their Voices Heard”


Advocates, Listeners, Friends: ‘Recovery Coach’ Program Aims to Help Those Helping Addicts

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Lebanon — In a brightly lit conference room last week, more than 20 people — most from the Upper Valley — slowly and silently walked past a long line of large pieces of paper taped on the wall, reading dozens of slurs scrawled in magic marker that are used to stigmatize people with addiction, alcoholism, mental illness and those trying to get sober.

The group, participants in a weeklong course that would teach them how to coach people in addiction recovery, had brainstormed and written the words themselves, in an exercise designed to address stigma.

Many wrote from experience: As members of each of those groups, they were familiar with the labels that stuck to them as individuals, sometimes for decades.


Town drunk.


Hopeless.  Continue reading “Advocates, Listeners, Friends: ‘Recovery Coach’ Program Aims to Help Those Helping Addicts”

Gay Marriage Coast to Coast: In Upper Valley, Many Celebrate

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — As Vermont Law School professor Jackie Gardina absorbed the news Friday morning that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of national marriage equality, she received a text from her wife, Lauren Bassing, who is traveling cross-country.

“She said when I went to bed in Ohio last night, I wasn’t married to you,” Gardina said. “When I woke up today, we were.”  Continue reading “Gay Marriage Coast to Coast: In Upper Valley, Many Celebrate”

Victim’s Friends Say Domestic Violence All Too Common

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Windsor — A group of coworkers gathered at the Windsor Diner Wednesday night grabbed a quick bite to eat before a sobering task: Creating dozens of purple ribbons, the color of domestic violence awareness, to honor their friend and colleague, Molly Helland.

The tragic news this week that Helland, 23, was gunned down by her estranged boyfriend has struck the women deeply — and they said the specter of domestic violence is all too familiar. Out of four women who talked to a reporter, two said they were survivors of domestic abuse, and another woman, Patti Hutchins, said Helland was the second friend she had lost to such violence.

“I never dreamed there’d be one,” Hutchins said.  Continue reading “Victim’s Friends Say Domestic Violence All Too Common”

Fish and Game Club’s Shooting Facility Raises Noise Complaints

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Thetford — A lot has changed since 1995, when the town renewed a 20-year lease with the nonprofit Upper Valley Fish & Game Club for 176 forested acres near Thetford Center.

The club had a small shooting range on the town-owned parcel, used mainly to sight-in hunting rifles, and the lease was $1.

Since then, Thetford’s town coffers have tightened. Taxes have risen. The guns used at the range have evolved, firing faster and louder, all to the chagrin of many nearby residents and businesses. People are more aware of environmental issues, such as the potential toxicity of lead bullets left in the soil. And new neighbors have moved in.

Now, all those factors are coming into play as the club seeks to renew its lease with the town.

“We’re under a microscopic eye, from one degree to another,” club secretary Rhett Scruggs said recently, standing under the shelter at the 200-yard range with club president and fellow Thetford resident Al Stone.  Continue reading “Fish and Game Club’s Shooting Facility Raises Noise Complaints”

Norwich Home Solar Panel Heats Up Green Energy Conundrum

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Norwich — Some see beauty: a sleek symbol of technological advancement and green living; an understated investment in a cleaner, sustainable future.

Others see an eyesore: an obtrusive metal structure marring the historic landscape; a piece of machinery overshadowing the past.

A new suspension tracker solar panel that rotates in a circle 20 feet in diameter to follow the sun, installed last month on private property along Union Village Road in Norwich, has ignited a debate about the appropriate placement of renewable energy sources.

“Frankly for me, I can’t look and see a solar installation without feeling very happy and pleased to see it there, like, ‘Oh yes, there’s another one,’ ” Norwich Energy Committee member Linda Gray said earlier this week. “We need them, it’s really important. … I look at it and see the broader meaning.”

But Libby Robbie, one of several residents who has posted concerns about the solar panel’s placement on the town’s email listserv, didn’t share Gray’s enthusiasm.  Continue reading “Norwich Home Solar Panel Heats Up Green Energy Conundrum”

Contentious in Cornish: Outraged Residents Bombard School Board

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Cornish — Pandemonium erupted when the School Board chairman announced that he would not allow public comment at the board’s meeting Tuesday night, even as the audience of nearly 100 demanded the chance to speak on the controversy surrounding a board member’s social media post. Continue reading “Contentious in Cornish: Outraged Residents Bombard School Board”

Bolstered Rail Service Could Be Around Bend

Listen to Maggie discuss this story with Vermont Public Radio’s Mitch Wertlieb on the Jan. 24 broadcast of Morning Edition.

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — Rail enthusiasts and regional planners turned out to a hearing Wednesday night to advocate for more frequent stops along two passenger rail routes to connect Boston with Montreal and southern Connecticut, while several attendees with Claremont ties urged for that city to be included in the loop. Continue reading “Bolstered Rail Service Could Be Around Bend”

Series: Rest Area Construction Plagued by Problems

Work Not Finished at Hartford Rest Area (Aug. 2, 2012)

Hartford — The public debut of the rebuilt Interstate 91 southbound rest area has been pushed back — again — into September, state officials said this week, as a new subcontractor began the process of replacing bathroom tiles that the state had deemed inadequate.

Project Manager Joe Aja, with the Department of Buildings and General Services, said yesterday that Anthony Mion & Son, Inc. of Schenectady, N.Y. had begun the retiling process earlier this week.

Bob Rea, director of the regional district that includes White River Junction for the Department Building and General Services, told the Valley News in June that there were “aesthetic” issues surrounding the original tiling of the facility’s three bathrooms. Continue reading “Series: Rest Area Construction Plagued by Problems”

In Hartford, Minutes Can Take Hours: Selectboard Debate Takes Time From Major Issues

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Hartford — Toward the end of the Selectboard’s last meeting, on May 15, board newcomer F.X. Flinn made a motion asking members to replace the approved April 3 and April 17 minutes with a version that he had edited.

Some of the changes were correcting typos — inserting missing spaces between words, for example, or adding the period after a board member’s middle initial. Others were more involved, such as rewriting sentences in a way that, Flinn would later argue, made them more accurate and provided better context for the reader.

As Flinn began speaking, though, he was interrupted by Selectman Alex DeFelice.

“I’d like to make one statement and then I hope that the board would just vote, instead of discussing it for 45 minutes, if that’s appropriate,” DeFelice said, announcing his opinion that “any Selectboard member should not try to rewrite the minutes, and I will vote against it just in principle.”

Selectboard members didn’t discuss the motion for three-quarters of an hour, as DeFelice had worried, but they came close, clocking in at 34 minutes before Flinn’s motion failed. (Later in the meeting, Flinn’s minor changes to the May 1 meeting minutes were approved.) And that was on top of the half-hour board members spent discussing meeting minutes during their previous gathering on May 1.

If how the meeting minutes are generated seems like a small issue, that’s because it is, board members acknowledge. But it points to a big problem affecting the board since elections in March: The focus on minutiae, caused by a lack of cohesion among board members, stymies efforts to address town business. Continue reading “In Hartford, Minutes Can Take Hours: Selectboard Debate Takes Time From Major Issues”