Lamoille in the News
by Andrew Martin
The decision to amend the Morristown Town Plan, thereby allowing for the rezoning of the parcel where the Green Mountain Arena (GMA) is located from Rural/Residential to Commercial, is now the Morristown Selectboard and Morrisville Village Board of Trustees’ decision to make. The process of amending the Town Plan was begun when a petition to do so was submitted by the Thomas Hirchak Company, which owns the GMA lot and is hoping to move its business there. Morristown Planning Director Todd Thomas submitted the proposed alterations to the two legislative bodies last week.
According to Thomas, the proposed changes to the Town Plan he has submitted to the selectboard and trustees are rather simple. The first, which is the change requested by the petition, requests that a sentence be added to the Land Use Chapter of the plan directing a zoning change for the GMA parcel from Rural/Residential to Commercial. The second alteration is the addition of a Flood Resiliency Chapter to the plan. Thomas explained that state statute now requires that if a town makes any alterations to its town plan such a chapter be added. When Morrisville officials last updated the town plan this requirement was not in place.
Thomas submitted the two proposed alterations to the town plan following a meeting of the Morristown Planning Commission on Tuesday, April 7. The planning commission serves as an advisory board to the selectboard and trustees during this amendment process, and during their meeting on April 7 chair Paul Griswold polled the other six members of the commission seeking their input on the proposed changes. Griswold then broke a three to three tie by voting against the proposed changes himself. However, the four to three majority against recommending the changes does not mean that the selectboard and board of trustees will not now vote on the changes.
“The planning commission is simply an advisory board in this process,” Thomas explained, “The final decision to approve or deny the proposed changes lies with the selectboard and trustees, who will now consider them.”
“The selectboard and trustees are the ones that will officially vote on the changes,” he added, “The rubber meets the road this May, June, and July.”
“We are disappointed that the majority of the commission didn’t support our proposal,” stated Attorney John Hollar, who serves as legal council for the Thomas Hirchak Company recently.
“Frankly I’m not sure why there isn’t more support,” he added, “It has been made clear that the building is not going to revert back to a skating arena… this is the most logical use and is an economic opportunity for the community.”
Both boards must separately approve the changes due to the fact that the town plan affects both the village and town.
Now that the proposed changes to the town plan have been presented to both legislative boards a total of three joint public hearings considering the changes will be held before a final vote of each board occurs. According to Morristown Town Administrator Dan Lindley, the dates that the hearings are scheduled for are May 18, June 8, and June 22.
“Three hearings for such changes are required by state statute based on the size of Morrisville’s population,” Planning Director Thomas explained.
While the three public hearings for the amendments will be held jointly between the two boards the final vote on the amendments will occur separately at each boards’ next regularly scheduled meeting. The Morristown Selectboard’s next meeting after the June 22 date is scheduled for July 6. The next scheduled meeting for the Village of Morrisville Board of Trustees after the June 22 hearing would also be July 6.
“We will participate in the hearings that the scheduled moving forward and continue to follow through with the process,” Attorney Hollar stated regarding how his clients plan going forward.
The Morristown Planning Commission meeting, held on April 7, saw a number of individuals turn out in support of keeping the GMA parcel zoned Rural/Residential, thereby leaving open the possibility of continued recreational use for the land. A small number present were more in favor of allowing the Hirchaks to operate their business on the site.
One concern raised by those present was the fact that if the parcel is rezoned Commercial what could happen to the lot in the future if the Hirchaks decide to sell? A portion of the lot is conserved as part of a conservation easement, but the remaining 14-15 acres would be open to further development in that case.
by Mickey Smith
The Lamoille County Court House will be using the former Plaza Hotel at the location at Northgate Plaza in Morristown as a temporary home, as renovations are made to the Hyde Park facility.
Over the weekend of May 2 and 3, the items needed to operate the court, including: files, desks, security equipment etc. will be moved over to the Plaza Hotel.
County Clerk Anne Conway said the County office will be open on Monday, May 4. Court Operations Manager Linda LaClair said the court system would be open to the public beginning Wednesday, May 6. She said they will need the extra two days to get things unpacked and set up, but plan to be open in time for arraignments on Wednesday.
LaClair said once they get up and running, they will stick to the same schedule as they have been using in recent years. She said phone numbers and addresses will remain the same so they can minimize any disruptions to service. The conference room in the center of the hotel has been divided into two courtrooms. The various departments and offices will be in the hotel rooms surrounding the conference room.
People needing to use the Court House will enter through the front entrance to the Plaza Hotel. She said they will have signage in place directing people where to go. Court security and the metal detector will be in the downstairs hall just before people enter the stairs or elevator.
In Hyde Park, a new building will be added to the rear of the Court House and there will be modifications made to the rest of the building. The changes will improve security, alleviate over crowding in the building and help create a separated area for the jurors.
by Andrew Martin
More work will soon be taking place to local portions of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT). The majority of the work to the section of the trail running from Cambridge Junction to Tenney Bridge in Morrisville was completed last year but small sections, mainly bridges, still require attention. The exact start date for the work to resume has not officially been decided.
“The official date has not yet been set as we are waiting for the trail to dry out before we start,” explained VAST Trails Manager Shane Prisby, who is now serving as the LVRT Project Manager. Prisby added that he expects work to likely pick back up sometime in late April or early May.
Much of the remaining work required in Lamoille County to complete the trails will be bridge work.
“The majority of the bridge work to be done this season is re-decking and putting up new railings,” Prisby explained, adding that the bridges scheduled to receive that treatment this construction season are the old railroad bridge in downtown Morrisville, the Needles Eye Road bridge in Morrisville, the bridge over Waterman’s Brook in Johnson, and the bridge over Smith Brook in Johnson.
One bridge that is not scheduled to be worked on is the large bridge in Cambridge Junction. According to Prisby no work will be done to that bridge this season. However, the trail will be opened there when other construction and work in the area is complete. A former bridge along the rail trail that will be replaced is the snowmobile bridge located near Willow Crossing in Johnson. According to Prisby that structure will be completely rebuilt as a culvert with new concrete abutments, stringers, decking, and rails.
The section of trail between Cambridge Junction and Tenney Bridge in Morrisville that is nearly complete is part of Phase I of the construction plan for the LVRT. Phase I has been broken down into three parts: I-A is the section from Danville to St. Johnsbury, I-B is the section from Cambridge Junction to Tenney Bridge, and I-C is the section from Highgate/Swanton to Sheldon Junction. The work to the bridge in Cambridge will likely take place next year, when work to Phase I-C is also underway.
The rest of the trail that lies in Lamoille County is part of Phase II of the LVRT project and includes work to sections from Sheldon Junction to Cambridge Junction and Tenney Bridge to Greensboro Bend. No dates have currently been set by VAST as to when work on Phase II or Phase III, which is the final leg of the trail from Greensboro Bend to Danville, will be done.
Along with the scheduled bridge work there are still a few sections of trail in Lamoille County that need to be surfaced and a few culverts to replace.
Once all of this work has been completed the Phase I-B section of the LVRT will be open to the public. Prisby explained that once all other aspects of trail work (excluding the one bridge not scheduled for work this year) are completed then the trail will be open to the public. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held when the trail officially opens. VAST is anticipating that the trail will be open by late this summer or early fall.
One of the main reasons why construction of Phase II and III of the LVRT have not been officially scheduled is the fact that VAST is nearing the end of the federal funding earmarked for the LVRT project.
“We anticipate that we will be able to complete all of Phase I with this money and generous contributions from supporters of the trail,” Prisby explained, “We are in the midst of beginning a capital campaign to help raise the remainder of the funds necessary to complete Phases II and III.”
Prisby concluded his remarks by emphasizing that until construction work is complete on Phase I-B that section of the LVRT is not officially open to pedestrians.
“We want to let everyone know that the trail will be closed for mud season and summer construction. Please stay off the trail until we announce it opening later in the year,” he stated. He also added that there are currently openings on the LVRT Committee and that VAST is looking for individuals who are interested in the trail to fill those positions. The committee normally meets on the third Wednesday of every month. While the meetings are normally held in the Tegu Building in Morrisville the April meeting will be held at the Northeastern Medical Center in St. Johnsbury.
By Andrew Martin
Local motorists concerned with the condition of the state highways in Lamoille County may have to wait a bit longer to see major improvements to those roads. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) currently has no major paving projects planned for Lamoille County for 2015. While there are some smaller projects planned for the area the first major paving project is scheduled for 2016, with several more further down the road.
One project that could possibly be happening this year is resurfacing work on Route 12 in Worcester and Elmore. According to VTrans’ Mike Fowler the work, which would begin 3.946 miles north of the Worcester/Middlesex town line and extend north 7.427 miles, would be preventative work meant to help prolong the life of that road. A few different treatments would be used to help ensure that the section of road, which was completely rebuilt and repaved in 2010, would not fall into disrepair.
While Fowler explained that the work to Route 12 could occur this year the schedule for the work has not yet been developed. If the work is not scheduled soon, it is more likely that those preventative measures would be implemented further in the future.
Another project that deals with preventative maintenance on a state highway could be occurring on Route 100C from Johnson to Hyde Park next year. That project is being developed for 2016 and aims to help preserve the road, which received more comprehensive treatment in 2008.
“They are low cost treatments that aim to keep the road in good shape,” Fowler explained regarding the planned work.
Preventative work to Route 118 in Belvidere, Montgomery, Enosburg, and Berkshire is also scheduled to occur in 2016 as part of a joint project with the Route 100C work. That work will begin roughly .56 miles north of the Eden and Belvidere town line and will also seek to help maintain the life of the road.
One project that locals were expecting to have already begun is the resurfacing of Route 15. It was originally thought that the section of Route 15 from Cambridge to Johnson would be resurfaced before 2015. However, according to Fowler that project is currently budgeted for 2017.
“It definitely won’t be this year,” Fowler stated, “It is under development.”
Fowler added that the term ‘under development’ in the new reorganized VTrans means that the project should be taking place within the next year or two. He also explained that some maintenance work has been done to the road, which will hopefully buy a bit more time for the surface.
“It’s a rather large project as currently planned,” Fowler added. The repaving of another section of Route 15, from Johnson to the Wolcott town line, is still showing up as budgeted for 2017, but will likely not be occurring the same year as the Cambridge to Johnson section. For that reason Fowler believed that the Johnson to Wolcott section could occur the following year in 2018 at the earliest.
“The Cambridge to Johnson section of Route 15 is the most likely to happen,” Fowler stated, “It is under contract for the engineering work.”
One project that was a candidate for maintenance and some preventative measures this year, but is no longer scheduled to receive that work is Route 100 in Eden and Lowell. That maintenance work did not survive the last round of budget cuts, meaning that any preventative work will occur in 2016 or beyond. The entire road beginning at the Route 118 intersection in Eden and extending 8.281 miles north is tentatively scheduled to be repaved beginning in 2017. However, according to Fowler, no development on the project has started, meaning that the 2017 timeline could be early for the repaving to occur.
Another section of Route 100 will likely be resurfaced before the Eden project occurs. That section runs from the new roundabout in Waterbury to the fire station in Stowe. According to Fowler that project is scheduled to being in 2016, although it may be split up into two sections and not be completed until 2017. He explained that the other work occurring in Waterbury means that half of the road in that area will likely not be resurfaced until 2017, while the Stowe half of the road should be resurfaced next year.
Route 15A will also be resurfaced at some point in the next few years. However VTrans has a major project planned for Tenney Bridge on 15A and the resurfacing of the road will not occur until after that project is done. That bridge project on Route 15A is tentatively scheduled to take place in 2017 and 2018.
by Andrew Martin
The topic of school choice in Elmore has been much discussed lately as the town considers a merged school district with Morristown. On Tuesday, April 7, the idea of statewide school choice was discussed as Rob Roper, President of the Ethan Allen Institute, gave his presentation ‘Education Reform: School Choice in VT. The Solution Right Under Our Nose.” Roper’s presentation occurred at the Elmore Town Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the event was attended by roughly 30 individuals.
Rob Roper gave his presentation on how to better education and lower education spending in Vermont to a group of roughly 30 individuals in Elmore on Tuesday, April 7 in the Elmore Town Hall. During his presentation Roper spoke on how statewide school choice combined with more independent, private, and charter schools would combine to lower the cost of educating Vermont’s youths while also producing a more quality education. - Martin photo
Roper was welcomed by Elmore citizen Ben Olsen before beginning his presentation. He explained that student enrollment in Vermont has decreased drastically since the late 1990s and that how education is paid for in Vermont has to change. The state faces a number of challenges, including rising costs and property taxes, the decreasing student population, a failure to bridge the gap in the education received by the rich versus the poor, and the rising cost of special education.
Since the implementation of Act 60 in 1997 Roper explained that education costs have nearly doubled while the student population in the state has dropped from roughly 106,000 to approximately 80,000.
“That’s twice as much money to educate roughly 20 percent less kids,” he stated, adding that staffing levels since 1997 have also increased a great deal while there has been no significant increase in testing scores on the SATs or proficiency tests.
Roper explained that one way to help lower costs in Vermont while continuing to improve education is to offer statewide school choice. Vermont has a long history of publically funded school choice, and at this time 93 towns in the state offer school choice to some degree. As an example of what benefits statewide school choice could offer Roper used the example of the Northeast Kingdom in the area of St. Johnsbury. In that area, which is one of the most rural and poorest in the state, the majority of the towns have school choice and students have the opportunity to attend a variety of quality schools, including St. Johnsbury Academy, Lyndon Institute, Burke Mountain Academy, East Burke School, the Cornerstone School, Concord High School, and two schools in New Hampshire.
“This is so valuable to the families in the area, who often have kids in different schools,” Roper explained. He went on to add that despite that area of the state being one of the most rural and poorest in Vermont the families and schools in the district appear to have figured out the transportation issue, which is often one of the arguments used against widespread school choice.
Roper also stated that many states across the country are adopting statewide school choice systems as a way to help lower education costs. He also explained that by offering students school choice children from lower income families have the option to attend better schools. Normally if a family does not like the school in their hometown only those that can afford to pay for their child’s education at a different school can afford to make that change. School choice offers all students that prerogative.
“It is a way to remove the glass walls created by the public school systems,” Roper stated, “Right now the only way through those walls is money.”
In addition to the movement towards statewide school choice, Roper also explained that the creation of more charter, independent, and private schools would aid in lowering education costs. He pointed to several public schools in Vermont that have become privatized and saved a great deal of money on spending per pupil by doing so while actually improving the education received by their students. These schools also excel at bridging the gap between the education received by lower income students versus students from higher income families.
“The schools empower those kids the most,” Roper stated. He added that these independent and private schools are able to better the education received by their students by ensuring they have a quality staff and removing teachers that are roadblocks to student progress. Transforming the school’s principals from operations managers to instructional leaders and visionaries is also a helpful step, as is analyzing weekly data and feeding it back to teachers to ensure they understand what techniques are working and which aren’t.
Roper further explained that implementing school choice at a statewide level while also encouraging an increase in charter and independent schools would make for a healthy educational environment in which those new schools would be competing with public schools for students.
Following his presentation Roper opened up the meeting to questions from the audience and one of the first questions asked was what is really necessary to open an independent or charter school in a certain area. He explained that the first step in doing so is ensuring that a suitable customer base is available and that there would be enough students willing to attend the school.
During the question session, Elmore School Board member Stuart Weppler raised the fact that while statewide school choice could be a good idea – Elmore faces tax rates and school costs that could be skyrocketing in the near future. The town needs to do something to remedy this now, which is why the merger with Morristown is being studied. Roper agreed that statewide school choice is a more long term solution and that changes in Montpelier need to occur. Other individuals present voiced the fact that they had moved to Elmore in order to have the school choice option. The point was also raised that the state government seems to be against the creation of independent or charter schools. Individuals pointed to recent failed legislation that sought to prohibit a town from closing its public school and opening and operating a private school in the same building as proof of this. While that legislation was not passed, it did have support in the Legislature.
by Andrew Martin
A pair of state bridge projects are kicking off in Lamoille County this spring. Work to both the bridge over the Little River on Route 108 in Stowe Village and the bridge over Smith Brook on Route 15 in Johnson will likely be commencing over the next month.
Work to the bridge over Little River in Stowe is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 6 and will continue throughout the summer. The bridge will be closed to both foot traffic and motor vehicles beginning on April 6 and ending on May 29. Work will continue to the bridge after May 29 but the structure should be open to two lanes of traffic by then.
According to Vermont Agency of Transportation Project Manager Carolyn Carlson the work to replace the two-span structure with a single-span bridge is an accelerated bridge project. The project is also rather complex due in part to the fact that the covered foot bridge over the sidewalk on the larger bridge will also be rebuilt. There are also certain restrictions on when work to the bridge can take place. Work cannot take place to the bridge on Saturdays, on Fridays after 5 p.m., and no work will take place during Memorial Day weekend.
Carlson did add that work to the foot bridge does not have to take place until both motor vehicle lanes are open to traffic.
“There will be a lot of work to do after May 29,” Carlson stated, adding that the entire project is scheduled to be completed by August 26. During the period when the bridge is open to automobiles and work to the pedestrian portion is underway foot traffic will be transferred to the other side of the structure. There will also be time periods when automobile traffic on the bridge is reduced to one lane.
“People need to understand that there will be delays to the traveling public,” Carlson added, “We will do the best we can.”
During the time period when the bridge is actually closed to all traffic detours will direct traffic traveling towards Stowe Village on Route 100 from both Morrisville and Waterbury onto alternate routes that access the Mountain Road.
Work to the bridge in Johnson may begin a bit later than the project in Stowe. According to Carlson the plan is for worked from St. Onge to return to the site of the bridge and begin doing preparatory work for the project within the next few weeks.
“There is some work to do still in order to be ready for the main portion of the project,” Carlson explained.
Unlike the Stowe project a temporary bridge has already been installed at the Johnson site and traffic will be rerouted onto that structure while work to the new permanent bridge takes place throughout the course of the summer. The temporary bridge is already on site and as soon as it is completely ready traffic will begin using that structure, allowing workers from St. Onge to begin tearing out the old bridge.
According to Carlson the Johnson project is scheduled to be completed this fall. Along with the new bridge on the site other improvements to the area will include new sections of guard rail. Workers from St. Onge also spent quite a bit of time on site during the fall of 2014 improving the site distance for vehicles turning off the nearby town highway, Sweetser Road, by removing a portion of the steep bank that had previously created poor site lines.
The project in Johnson also can’t get into full swing until later this spring due to the fact that construction workers are not allowed to work in the water on site until after June 1 per the requirements of the stream alteration permit issued for the project.
“We want to get the temporary bridge open though as soon as the frost is out of the ground,” Carlson explained.
Two other smaller projects will also likely be starting in Lamoille County this year. One of those projects involves work to the truck apron at the center of the roundabout in Hyde Park at the intersection of Routes 15 and 100. According to VTrans’ Patricia Coburn the work at the roundabout will consist of the truck apron being raised and a mountable curb being installed.
“The purpose of the truck apron is to allow the rear wheels on large trucks to track over the apron as those vehicles require a larger turning radius,” Coburn explained, “The raised truck apron will make it more clear to motorists that they should travel through the roundabout on the paved circulatory roadway.”
The raising of the truck apron and installation of the mountable curbing will also have the goal of slowing traffic in the roundabout. The roundabout in Hyde Park was the first built in Lamoille County and an error during construction kept the truck apron from being as high as it needed to be, thereby allowing regular cars and truck to cut across it when they should not be. The roundabouts completed later in Cambridge and Morrisville have much higher truck aprons. According to Coburn the work to the roundabout in Hyde Park will begin sometime late this summer.
The second project that will likely be starting this year will be signage improvements along Route 108. As part of that work roughly 800 signs will be replaced along the road beginning in Stowe and extending all the way to Berkshire.
“Signs are replaced to maintain sign retro reflectivity and to update signs to current standards,” Coburn added.
VTrans is anticipating beginning the signage project late in 2015 with much of the work likely extending into 2016.
This Week's Photos
Johnson honored people with over 20 years service to the community last Thursday, April 2. Secretary of State Jim Condos was on hand to present the awards for over 700 years of total service. - Photo courtesy of Eric Osgood
by Andrew Martin
Two recognizable landmarks in Jeffersonville could look very different within the next few years. The Cambridge Arts Council (CAC) is in the process of potentially painting the two village-owned concrete silos located on the former Bell-Gates property at the edge of Jeffersonville Village near Route 15. The CAC has received a grant from the Vermont Arts Council that will help fund the painting of the two silos. As part of the project the CAC will be seeking community input on possible murals for the project at an open community forum on Saturday, April 18 at the Varnum Memorial Library beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The project planned by the CAC will involve the creation of two 360 degree murals, one on each silo. The goal is to have each mural reflect the unique landscape and beauty of the Cambridge community while also incorporating art-related ideas from the community.
The Vermont Arts Council has awarded a $15,000 grant to the project which will be used to help compensate the artist chosen to paint the murals as well as covering any other associated costs. The grant program, which is titled “Animating Infrastructure”, awards funding to projects in which public art is integrated into existing or proposed infrastructure improvement projects.
“I think this is a valuable project for our community,” CAC member Justin Marsh stated, “The grant is funded by private donations so it's quite literally a zero commitment from taxpayers. The fact that we were one of 34 projects chosen to receive the grant is something the community should be proud of.”
According to Marsh a Request for Artists’ Proposals for the murals will be open beginning during the week of April 6. The request will remain open through the end of May before a CAC subcommittee will review all the artists and narrow the choices down to three artists by the middle of June. The community input gathered up until then will be presented to those three finalists, who will be asked to draw up sketches of their plans for the murals. Once those plans are received by the CAC a large focus group consisting of local public officials, business owners, art enthusiasts, residents of Jeffersonville and neighbors of the former Bell-Gates property will come together to weigh in on the choices and choose a winner to paint the murals.
Marsh explained that planning and some initial work could begin in the early fall of this year depending on the weather and artist’s pace. However much of the work is likely to occur during 2016.
“They (the murals) will need to be completed by the end of the summer of 2016 but could be done sooner depending on variables,” Marsh stated.
The idea of painting the silos originated when Marsh and CAC President Carol Plante visited a grant seminar for the VAC grant in Burlington last fall. The pair left the seminar with a number of ideas for murals in the Cambridge area.
“…we left with several ideas for what we could submit for an art-related municipal infrastructure project but none of them were as perfect for our community as the silo project,” Marsh explained.
The CAC subcommittee has already gathered quite a bit of community input that will influence the final design of the murals. Input was gathered via Front Porch Forum, the CAC’s own website, and at Town Meeting Day. The open forum that will be held on April 18 will seek to complete this work to gather community input.
“As a village that is a Designated Downtown with recent improvements like public wifi and the Community Visit Program from the Vermont Council on Rural Development - plus current or future projects like the Community Center and sidewalk/walkability improvements, this is an exciting time to be involved in this community,” Marsh concluded, “Public art is all about place making and improving moral and cultural vivacity.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the project or who wishes to submit ideas for the murals can do so by visiting www.cambridgeartsvt.org or by calling Carol at 1-802-644-1960.
“The forum on April 18 is for community residents to submit art-related ideas for the silos,” Marsh added, “Concerns or support for the actual painting of the silos should be addressed at the Village of Jeffersonville annual meeting on May 18 at 7 p.m. at Cambridge Elementary School.”
by Andrew Martin
JOHNSON – A business in Johnson is in the process of expanding. Johnson’s Sterling Market will soon be adding a liquor store by expanding into the adjacent space that formerly housed the Sudsy’s Wash ‘N Dry laundromat. Work to renovate the space began in early March and the new liquor outlet should be opening sometime in the early summer.
Johnson’s Sterling Market will soon be expanding. Construction and renovations of the former Sudsy’s, located next to the grocery store, is continuing. The space will soon be home to a liquor store that will be an extension of the grocery store. Store owner Mike Comeau is hoping to have the liquor outlet up and running by June 1. - Martin photo
“We are thinking we will be open by June 1 at the latest but are pushing for sooner,” Sterling Market owner Mike Comeau explained in a meeting with the News & Citizen.
According to Comeau in addition to liquor the new store will also offer mixers and some soda. The wine selection that is currently housed in the main portion of Sterling Market will also be moved to the new liquor store.
The new space is just less than 3,000 square feet, and renovations are continuing at this point. The two stores will be connected by a door near the main entrance to the grocery store. When he opened Sterling Market in 2013 Mike explained that he was aware of the possibility that an expansion into the Sudsy’s space could arise. He took that possibility into account when designing Sterling Market, planning for an access point like the new door.
A great deal of work has already been completed to the former laundromat, and more is planned. The entire storefront was redone and new windows have been installed. Along with the removal of the laundromat equipment the existing plumbing and electrical systems were also removed. The floors were redone, and new HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems were installed. Comeau also explained that there were also a few unplanned projects that had to be completed. During construction it was discovered that the floor of the former Sudsy’s and the current floor of Sterling Market do not line up. The floor of the laundromat is much higher, a fact that necessitated the creation of a ramp leading from the grocery store to the liquor store.
“We were a bit surprised that the floors were not level,” Comeau laughed, “We had to create the ramp to allow access from one store to the other.”
In addition to the new ramp a fire door had to be installed between the two sections of the building. A new bathroom and lockable storage space were also added to the back of the store. According to Comeau all of the work being done to the former Sudsy’s and the fact that a liquor store is coming to Johnson would not be possible without the help of his landlords at Pomerleau Real Estate, who own the building.
“The Pomerleaus are taking care of the majority of the work that is being done,” Comeau explained, “I’m mostly just in charge of the finish work like painting.”
“Without the Pomerleaus this project would not have happened,” he continued, “This has been a big expense…the fire door and ramp have been a lot of extra work.”
Before any of the renovation work could take place to the former Sudsy’s Comeau and his landlords the Pomerleaus had to go through the process of applying to the state for a liquor store in Johnson. After writing a letter to the Vermont Liquor Board both parties went before the board to present the case for a liquor store in Johnson. After the board agreed that Johnson was a suitable location the process was opened up and any interested parties were able to submit their own applications to operate the liquor store in the town. Comeau believes that he is the only applicant who submitted a bid proposal to run the store. Once his application was selected state officials had to come and approve the site where the store will be located.
“It was a several month process,” Mike explained, “The Pomerleaus helped a great deal and attended all the meetings with me…they were instrumental in getting the store and I don’t think it would have happened without them.”
While approximately two-thirds of the new renovated space will be devoted to the liquor store Comeau also has other plans for the rear portion of the store. Mike had originally hoped to have a pharmacy in that portion of the building but at this point he has been unable to find anyone willing to operate a pharmacy in Johnson. When he approached the larger chain pharmacy stores they did not seem interested in setting up shop in the town either.
“The back of the store will remain empty for now while we continue to explore our options,” Comeau added, “We would still like it to be a pharmacy, but that may not happen.”
The movement of the wine section at Sterling Market into the liquor outlet will also free up space inside the main grocery store. Current plans call for a slight expansion of the beer section in the grocery store as a result Comeau explained, with more microbrews available. The former wine section will also be the location of special bulk deals that will be offered by Sterling Market when possible. Pallets of bulk items on sale will be placed in that location for customers.
Comeau also emphasized that while the liquor store will have its own entrance in addition to the entrance in Sterling Market the new store will still be an extension of Sterling Market.
“They are not going to be separate businesses,” he explained, adding that customers will even have the option of paying for items from the grocery store in the liquor store thanks to registers and a computer system that will be synced up. Management personnel at the grocery store will help to oversee the liquor store as well, although Mike expects to hire two or three new employees to staff the new business. Comeau did also add that some form of the state mandated “Vermont State Liquor Outlet” sign will be placed above the outside entrance to the liquor store.
by Mickey Smith
Morristown's Lost Nation Brewery was recognized as one of the top 21 breweries in New England by Boston Magazine.
Lost Nation came in at number 19, trailing two other local breweries, The Alchemist, of Waterbury, was rated number 10 and Hill Farmstead, of Greensboro, topped the list.
Lost Nation was described as “sessionable,” ie low in alcohol and their taproom was described as “a must-hit” on any Vermont beer trek.
Their Gose is called the beer they are known for, but they call Lost Nation's Vermont pilsner the beer people shouldn't miss.
The entire list can be found at http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/article/2015/03/24/top-breweries-new-england-list/.
by Andrew Martin
JOHNSON – Work to refurbish and renovate the Butternut Mountain Farm Store on Main Street is moving along quickly. One half of the building has now been completed and work to finish the other section of the building is underway and should be complete later this construction season. Despite the ongoing work, which began last fall, one section of the store has remained open during the entire construction process.
The decision to renovate the Butternut Mountain Farm Store was made in part after several mechanical failures occurred in various parts of both buildings. When it became necessary to remedy those situations the Marvins decided to completely renovate the two structures.
“It made sense to redo it all,” Butternut Mountain Farm’s Emma Marvin explained. The renovations also have the goal of making the buildings more accessible, energy efficient and appealing to customers.
Work to renovate the building that was formerly the firehouse began in the fall. Included in that work was the movement of the building closer to the other section of the store, the construction of a foundation under the firehouse building, and the raising of that building to the level of the other section, which was formerly a blacksmith shop. The interior of the building was also completely renovated.
During the work to the firehouse section the Butternut store remained open in the section of the building that was formerly the blacksmith shop. Once work to the firehouse building was completed the store was moved over to that section.
“We remained open even while moving,” Emma Marvin stated, adding that the move occurred roughly three weeks ago.
Work to renovate the other section of the store is in full swing. The new concrete floor has been poured and moving forward Freelance Construction of Morrisville, the company that has been doing the work to the buildings, will be laying new flooring, insulating the building, and finishing the interior. Once completed that section will house many of the sugaring products offered by the store while the former firehouse section will continue to house not only the maple products offered at the store but also other Vermont products and specialty foods. According to Emma Marvin the hope is that the work will be completely finished by the end of May.
“It’s such a change from what the stores were,” store manager Kyley Hill stated, “It’s gone from a very old building to a much more modern take.”
“We are excited to continue to be a part of downtown Johnson,” Marvin added.
“We are hoping to make a more comfortable working environment for our employees while also trying to be good stewards of the building and make them last another 100 years,” Butternut Mountain Farm’s David Marvin added, “They will also be much more energy efficient, and we are hoping that all those factors will combine to help increase customer traffic as well.”
The work to completely renovate the Butternut Mountain Farm Store received a boost last year when the project received $50,000 in tax incentives from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development.
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