By MIKE DONOGHUE, Islander Staff Writer
MILTON - A large flag supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election was removed from the flagpole on the causeway between Milton and South Hero on U.S. 2 on Monday afternoon.
The flag was apparently secretly attached below the United States flag overnight on the pole along the parking area, officials said. It was unknown who added it.
Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn of South Hero said complaints were received from some passing motorists. By noontime, an AOT crew arrived and began removing the flag, which had been attached by zip ties.
The blue flag with red trim had white letters “Trump 2020” and “Keep America Great”.
Flynn said the flag’s owner is welcome to claim it by contacting the AOT at the District Garage on Airport Road in Highgate.
The flagpole is a joint venture of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10854 in the Champlain Islands and the state to help remember the unprecedented attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Within 24 hours of the attack on the nation 19 years ago, a flag was mounted on a birch log stuck in the mud along the causeway between the two towns by residents of Grand Isle County. It was later moved to a plastic pole placed in the rocks along the causeway.
The VFW said State Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester were later instrumental in getting the enduring memorial and flagpole moved to higher ground in the large pull-off area. The new granite memorial was dedicated Sept. 11, 2010 and honors all Americans as a show of support for the country.
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
HIGHGATE -- A man from the state of Georgia is facing federal and state charges after he absconded at the International Border at Highgate from U.S. Customs officers and later led police on a chase to Burlington before being arrested, authorities said.
Officials said Michael Wyler, 34, of St. Mary’s, Georgia was caught when the pursuit ended in the middle of a temporary tent city of protesters in Battery Park in Burlington next to the city police station.
State police lodged Wyler at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans Town for lack of $50,000 bail for three state felony charges: attempting to elude, gross negligent operation and aggravated assault. Wyler also had a knife, but did not attempt to use it, police said.
It was unclear what federal charges Wyler would be facing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection promised a statement Saturday, but none had been forthcoming.
State Police Sgt. John Bruzzi had said troopers had to wait for federal officials to finish with Wyler on Saturday afternoon before he could be jailed.
Officials pieced together the following narrative:
Wyler had tried to enter Quebec, but was turned around by Canadian authorities Saturday morning. When Wyler got to the Highgate Port of Entry he absconded from the custody of Customs/Border Protection after being asked to undergo secondary inspection.
Bruzzi later spotted the Florida-registered silver car on U.S. 7 in St. Albans about 9:30 a.m. and attempted to pull it over, but a pursuit ensued.
The state police chase headed south along Interstate 89 with help by police from St. Albans City, Milton, Colchester, Winooski, South Burlington and Burlington, Chittenden County Sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Border Patrol.
The car got off in South Burlington and headed east on Williston Road before turning around and heading west into Burlington on Main Street, going past the University of Vermont. At the bottom of Main Street the car took a right onto Battery Street and Wyler drove into Battery Park on a sidewalk and was taken into custody initially by South Burlington Police, who turned him over to state police.
Troopers impounded Wyler’s car and later towed it to the state police barracks in Williston so a full search could be conducted by federal authorities.
Bruzzi said due to the egregious driving and repeated failure to stop during the 48-minte chase, Wyler was arrested on charges of felony attempting to elude and felony gross negligent operation.
Also, due to intentionally swerving at police cruisers and almost striking an officer trying to put spike strips on the road to try to puncture his tires, Wyler is facing a third felony charge of aggravated assault, said Bruzzi, a patrol commander.
VSP and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working together because there are both federal and state violations, Bruzzi said.
Wyler is due in Vermont Superior Court in St. Albans at 1 p.m. Monday.
50 hemp plants cut and removed during overnight hours Sunday or early Monday morning
September 9, 2020 | Montpelier, VT - Earlier this week the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) was notified of a hemp crop theft that occurred on Pony Farm Road in Moretown, Vermont. In the early morning hours of Monday September 7th, the hemp field of Fancy Plants adjacent to Austin Heights Road was accessed by unknown individuals who cut down and removed 50 hemp plants. Signage was visible at the field indicating that the crop was Hemp/CBD. The theft appears to have been premeditated and involve more than one individual, utilizing shearing tools and large vehicles to remove the 500 pounds of hemp. The 50 plants comprised the entire hemp crop of the Fancy Plants business.
The cultivation of hemp has been legal in the state of Vermont for several years. Hemp farmers have experienced theft in previous seasons at harvest time, and this year now appears to be similar. In Vermont, only registrants of the Hemp Program are legally able to possess hemp crops in registered locations or to sell hemp crops in the marketplace accompanied by appropriate documentation including test results that show compliance with the Vermont Hemp Rules.
VAAFM is recommending that hemp farmers take care to protect their crops and report thefts when they occur to the Hemp Program and to law enforcement. Some options to protect hemp crops in the field include installing appropriate fencing, motion activated lights and cameras like trail cameras, and no-trespassing signs that include a statement that the crop is industrial hemp. The sign can also include that the property is under video surveillance. It may also be useful to enlist the watchful eye of helpful neighbors. VAAFM does not generally disclose “the location of parcels where hemp will be grown, including coordinates, maps, and parcel identifiers” as that information is confidential and not subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. However, registrants whose crop land is adjacent to public rights-of-way may find it difficult to protect their crops privacy due to high public visibility, so the aforementioned protective measures are highly recommended.
The owner contacted the Vermont State Police to report the theft. If anyone witnessed anything unusual during the late evening hours of Sunday or early morning of Monday in the area of Pony Farm Road in Moretown, please contact investigators at the VSP Middlesex Barracks at 808-229-9191.
To see the Vermont State Police press release on this incident, visit: http://vtstatepolice.blogspot.com/2020/09/middlesex-barracks-theft.html
For more information about the VAAFM Hemp Program, visit: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/public-health-agricultural-resource-management-division/hemp-program
For questions regarding hemp crop concerns, please contact:
Policy and Communications Director | VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
802-622-4662 | firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions regarding the theft investigation, please contact:
Public Information Officer | Vermont State Police
Governors Of Maine, New Hampshire And Vermont Call On President Trump To Reverse U.S. Tariffs On Canadian Aluminum
New England border state governors warn of harm to American manufacturers
Montpelier, Vt. — Maine Governor Janet Mills, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Vermont Governor Phil Scott are calling on President Donald Trump to reverse the re-imposition of a 10% tariff on imports of non-alloyed unwrought aluminum from Canada, citing the negative impact on manufacturers and supply chain businesses in northern New England.
“Businesses, big and small, have built complex, integrated supply chains in aerospace, information technology, construction materials, food systems and more,” the governors said in their letter. “We strongly believe that this stance regarding Canadian aluminum will only hurt American manufacturers. It is time to look at solutions to elevate commerce on both sides of the border and not penalize key industries.”
In a letter sent to the President Tuesday, the governors highlighted the longstanding bilateral trade relationship between New England and Canada, which was strengthened by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that went into effect this summer. About half of all trade for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine companies is conducted with Canada.
The tariff will drastically raise costs and reduce competitiveness for aluminum-consuming industries in New England, disrupting manufacturing and technical production supply chains. Ultimately, artificially inflated costs will be passed on to consumers who are already struggling with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Canada and New England share more than just a border, we are allies, business partners, colleagues and family,” the governors added. “The important trade that we have shared throughout our history has formed co-dependent and mutually beneficial bonds that need to stay intact for us to all succeed in this partnership.”
MONTPELIER – Governor Phil Scott announced Tuesday that the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Montpelier, South Burlington, and Rutland will be reopening to the public by appointment only and using a new online scheduling system.
Customers can schedule appointments online beginning Thursday, August 27. The first appointment times available are Monday, August 31.
The hours of operation at all three locations for appointments will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Customers with appointments are asked to arrive 10 minutes before their appointment so DMV staff can review and verify all required paperwork prior to the appointment.
“Throughout the COVID-19 State of Emergency and temporary closure of our offices, we have been fully aware of the services that Vermonters need and we have been pursuing solutions to better serve them,” DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said.
“While DMV employees have continued to work daily covering mail, on-line, and email requests, our goal always has been to re-open as quickly as possible with health and safety protocols in place.”
Many services are available online or by mail. The DMV is urging customers to take advantage of the those options. Online services include license renewals, replacement licenses, registration renewals, replacement registrations, address changes, learner permit exams, paying reinstatement fees, and many commercial vehicle transactions. Please go to https://dmv.vermont.gov/mydmv for these and other online services, and for information about which transactions can be completed by mail.
The DMV is also working on an online solution to offer Vermonters a more efficient way to get a temporary vehicle registration and temporary plate for private sales. Details of this new online service will be announced soon.
With the new scheduling system now live, the DMV will look to expand in-person appointments at the remaining branch offices
By Sam Hilliker
SOUTH HERO - Granny’s Attic has decided to open our doors for the 2020 season on a limited basis.
The “red building” at the back of the white Attic building will now be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A facial covering mask is required per the Governor’s orders, and we request you follow the six foot physically distancing rules.
The “white building” will remain closed as there is not enough room to meet the six foot physical distancing requirements. Stop by the Red Building to see what’s new.
We have lots of new furniture including desks, tables, chairs, lamps, small tables, rugs, display cabinets and more. If you are furnishing a new apartment or house or just need some new items to brighten up your current space, stop by to see us. We also have tools, gardening supplies, some sporting goods, CDs, small radios and many other items.
In case you are a first time visitor, Granny’s Attic is located on US Route 2 in the heart of South Hero. The building has three large overhead doors and a sign “Granny’s Attic Too.” You can’t miss us!
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- Mason Maltais of North Hero has resigned as chair of both the Champlain Islands Unified Union School District and the Grand Isle Supervisory Union.
Maltais, in his 1,000-word resignation letter, said he could no longer watch efforts to micromanage the education system in the Champlain Islands and feared more teachers, principals, superintendents could be lost.
See the full letter on Page 6.
School Superintendent Michael J. Clark said the departure of Maltais is a loss and he thanked him for his many years of service to North Hero, CIUUSD and the GISU.
“Mason has been a dedicated advocate for education in the Islands and has volunteered countless hours to ensure all members of the GISU learning community are curious, creative, courageous, and capable to pursue their aspirations in a diverse and ever-changing world,” Clark told The Islander.
Clark said Tuesday he expects the North Hero Selectboard will be posting the vacancy for any resident in filling the seat.
Maltais said he believed he needed to take the severe step in an effort to obtain the best longterm outcome for schools.
“People were not listening. Drastic action can catch the attention,” he told The Islander.
Maltais said he believes he can be more vocal while being in the audience instead of restrictions placed on him sitting at a school board table.
He said he wants to ensure children in the islands have the best educational opportunities possible.
“We have a good quality administration. We need to operate it effectively,” he said.
He said since March the board meetings have seen some members dive into issues that normally are handled by principals and superintendents – not elected school boards.
School boards oversee policies, draft a budget and hire administrators to execute the budget and policy plans.
The board’s responsibility to the town and taxpayers is not to micromanage the actions of the administration and try to dictate how the school is run, but rather is to set a series of goals and allocate appropriate funds to allow the administration to achieve them,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
“If the administration is accomplishing the established goals and they have large scale reports to show that they have taken steps to help accomplish what was set forth (not reported by individual test scores or which families do/don’t have internet or even by allowing the board to see teacher reviews), then the board’s responsibility is to allow them to continue to do as they have been tasked because they are accomplishing the established goals,” he noted.
CIUUSD, which covers three towns, is left with four board members: Vice Chair Mike Inners, Nathan Robinson and Amy Thompson of Grand Isle and Chet Bromley of Isle La Motte.
The GISU also includes the other two island towns: South Hero and Alburgh.
Maltais, as board chair, is often seen as a task-master – keeping meetings on track. When Maltais has been absent, some board meetings – and discussion on some specific topics -- have been known to run long.
“Once the board ventures down the rabbit hole of getting involved in personnel issues or pushing for individual data, they are actually inhibiting the administration’s ability to do their jobs, as they now have to waste time gathering information on topics that the board really has no business being involved in in the first place,” he wrote.
“If the individual bits of data are something that you want regarding each teacher or each student, then you need to become a principal and run a school,” he told the remaining board members in his letter.
“If you take a really good look in the mirror, the fact that we have had 7 superintendents, 4 principals and countless teachers over the last handful of years makes a lot of sense because very few are willing to survive all of the hostility leveled at them,” Maltais said.
He and his wife, Desiree, lost their two sons, Theodore Maltais, 5, and Nathaniel Maltais, 1, during a fast-moving nighttime fire that destroyed their Bridge Road home last October.
Maltais told The Islander his resignation is unrelated to the loss of his sons, but the family is planning an educational program for children in the community to honor their lives.
“It made my resignation harder. I want to honor my kids. The best thing is to speak freely about these issues,” Maltais said.
Letter from Maltais to To Superintendent Clark, CIUUSD Board members and townspeople of the CIUUSD,
I am officially tendering my resignation from my elected position on the board. Effectively this is also my resignation from my posting to the GISU board. It has been an intense last few years, but these districts have come so far and done some pretty amazing things in my short time here. A new superintendent, ACT 46, GISU auditing growth and restaffing - all of this that we’ve accomplished and so much more that I won’t belabor are why it pains me to leave, especially in the middle of COVID, but it has become necessary.
CIUUSD, you have an amazing administration that is doing a phenomenal job, especially considering all of the challenges that they are faced with currently. Unfortunately, the board seems to have forgotten some of its most crucial and basic tenets. Most importantly, perhaps, “The Board doesn’t run the schools, it ensures that the schools are run well.” This must be kept in mind going forward. I will apologize for any frustration that I expressed to any of you in meetings, but know that it came from a place of caring for both the board’s legality and the quality of action that the administration was able to enact. The board’s responsibility to the town and taxpayers is not to micromanage the actions of the administration and try to dictate how the school is run, but rather is to set a series of goals and allocate appropriate funds to allow the administration to achieve them. If the administration is accomplishing the established goals and they have large scale reports to show that they have taken steps to help accomplish what was set forth (not reported by individual test scores or which families do/don’t have internet or even by allowing the board to see teacher reviews), then the board’s responsibility is to allow them to continue to do as they have been tasked because they are accomplishing the established goals.
Once the board ventures down the rabbit hole of getting involved in personnel issues or pushing for individual data, they are actually inhibiting the administration’s ability to do their jobs, as they now have to waste time gathering information on topics that the board really has no business being involved in in the first place. If the individual bits of data are something that you want regarding each teacher or each student, then you need to become a principal and run a school.
The board level of oversight specifically prohibits that information from being shared unless the board is involved as a semi-judicial body in a grievance, or if they wish to petition the Supervisory Union (GISU) to review/remove the superintendent, as the GISU oversees the Superintendent and the Superintendent oversees the Principals, who in turn oversee the teachers. I care about this district and all 3 member towns, so know that I say all of this from a place of care and love. I do not want to see the district struggle, or for any of our board or administration members to have unnecessary stress in their lives, as is the case right now. Let the Superintendent carry forward the goals; let the Principals marshall their teachers; let the teachers teach. We have an amazing team, and they all want nothing more than to do an amazing job for your young students, so stop getting in their way.
Townspeople, the administration has done an amazing job of working within the constraints of a fickle state government and the budget with which you were willing to provide them to provide a quality experience for the children and keep them safe. I understand that if we analyze minutia and assume execution is at its worst, there could be concerns. However, all in all, the plan that is put in place is there so that all of the students are kept as safe as possible and are able to be educated in the best manner that they are able to be in this insane time. Despite this, the board seems to be constantly faced with issues that approach the realm of causing the faculty and administration to work in what amounts to a hostile work environment. If you take a really good look in the mirror, the fact that we have had 7 Superintendents, 4 principals and countless teachers over the last handful of years makes a lot of sense because very few are willing to survive all of the hostility leveled at them. In the end, I understand that you want what is best for your children, but effectively the culture we create is the reason that a sustained quality education system has been such a challenge to maintain in the Islands. Rather than focusing on only the negatives of what cannot be done, help to grow the positives that can be achieved and help the schools strive for the perfection that we do not give them the money to achieve.
I am sorry for the diatribe, but these are things that needed to be said and to go on the record before I step away for a while. I will run again in the future, when perhaps the board is not in a condition that is untenable or threatening to my own sanity, but at this point it is just too much for me to process month in and month out, and the kids of the CIUUSD deserve better. I will continue to advocate for quality education in the schools, and will be pushing both those who I know in the buildings to continue to do the amazing work that they do and those parents at home to support the executors of education. I will be working with the school to provide additional educational opportunities through means not tied to the board and therefore not limited by a requirement to work with those both in the community who won’t take the time to understand what is happening and the board that won’t put personal agendas/egos aside to be assets to the schools. The schools should run well because of the support of the towns and the board, not in spite of them.
Good luck to you all, and to the children of the town: be studious, play hard and be well.
Mason Maltais, North Hero
Former CIUUSD Board Chair
Former GISU Board Chair
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
All of Vermont and eastern New York is on alert for flash flooding and high winds that could cause power outages as Tropical Storm Isaias moves north.
The strong winds at up to 50 miles per hour are expected during the night.
More than 18,000 customers were without power as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. Officials said more than 15,000 were in Windham County and more than 1,200 in Bennington County.
The heavy rains and gusty winds have been moving north from Bennington and Windham Counties throughout the afternoon.
The center of the rainstorm passed through Chittenden County with more than an inch of rain and into Grand Isle County. More rain is expected as the night goes on.
Swollen rivers and stream also are expected to push up to the top of their banks due to the heavy rain.
A flash flood watch is in effect until Wednesday morning, according to NBC5 Meteorologist Tom Messner.
Messner and staff meteorologist Tyler Jankowski were double-teaming the 90-minute newscast Tuesday evening.
“It’s coming down at a pretty good amount,” Messner said.
Jankowski said up to 3 to 4 inches of rain could hit Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Lingering showers will give way to some sun. The temperature is expected to top out at 82 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday, Messner said.
Michael Donoghue has always insisted you need a sense of humor in this world -- and today was one of those days.
Donoghue used that sense of humor when a statewide local radio station reported multiple times this morning that the longtime award-winning Vermont journalist was dead.
WDEV - AM & FM radio in Waterbury told listeners several times during its morning drive-time show that Donoghue was deceased.
WCAX-TV even called The Islander newspaper about 8 this morning to try to confirm Donoghue’s death because he’s been a part-time writer for us since his retirement from the Burlington Free Press in 2015. It was news to Publisher Tonya Poutry. She called Donoghue, but when nobody answered she began to wonder.
A call back a minute later from Donoghue stopped the doubt in her mind.
WDEV General Manager Steve Cormier called Donoghue and after assuring him he was alive, they had a few laughs.
The confusion was that it was Mike Donovan, a Vermont broadcasting legend in Central Vermont that had died.
WDEV announcer Dana Jewell did an on-air interview with Mike Donoghue shortly before 9 a.m. to re-assure Vermonters that “The Bulldog” will still be chasing news – and to offer condolences to Mike Donovan’s family.
The calls, texts and emails to Donoghue and The Islander have continued to come in throughout the day. Friends, colleagues, readers, a former Olympic skier all checking in. Even Governor Phil Scott’s Office reached out, but Mike assured them he would not let the Governor off so easy!
All kinds of things flash through your mind when you hear such a report. Obviously the well-known quote by author Mark Twain in London after his obituary was printed prematurely in the U.S.: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Mike was even sent a video of Willie Nelson singing “Still Not Dead,” a song he wrote after Nelson had been reported dead in 2015. Don’t be surprised if you hear Mike humming the tune the next time you see him.
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- The Grand Isle Supervisory Union is working on plans for students in the five island towns to return to learning in the fall – both in classrooms and remotely.
Informational meetings for parents are planned for tonight (Wednesday) and one week later, Wednesday, July 29. Both community forums start at 6 p.m. and are available through Google Meets, which allow for people to call in. Access information is available by contacting the supervisory union by phone or on its website. Emails also went to parents.
Superintendent Michael J. Clark said school officials on the planning committee have made the safety of students, faculty, staff and communities the highest priority.
Clark said he also understands the importance of family balance: parents working, students going to school and also to have child care services on other days is a major concern for families.
“As an organization, we are beginning to explore some possibilities of partnering with licensed childcare providers to provide some form of childcare in a ‘commercial’ setting,” Clark said in an email to The Islander.
The Islander has been peppered with emails and calls questioning how schools would operate safely and family life to exist.
Some parents are saying they will be struggling to try to keep both jobs so they can pay their taxes, mortgages, utilities, food and more, while also worry about increased child care expenses due to schools not being in full session. Some parents are concerned about getting locked into long-term child care contracts, only to learn the school district or state orders a change of direction.
Clark did say the supervisory union would make every effort to ensure that children within a family would go to school on the same day of the week as a way to reduce outside child coverage.
Vermont Education Secretary Dan French told The Islander on Tuesday that the state has stop short of making it a rule that siblings would go to school on the same day. He said those decisions are best left up to the local school districts as they work to re-open classroom.
Clark said students within the supervisory union would see a hybrid schedule for learning. He also said a survey of parents is currently underway.
He said the building principals have determined that not all students can return to their respective schools at the same time and meet requirements about social distancing. He said rough projected enrollments are: Alburgh 240, South Hero 135, Grand Isle 140 and North Hero 80.
The Isle La Motte School will not be used by the district this year. The Champlain Islands Unified Union School District Board voted 3-1 to shut down the school due to a limited projected enrollment – possibly 3.
“Not one school could get the 6 feet of distance,” Clark said. He said measurements were taken in various rooms, which would be limited to 4 students due to proper spacing.
He said there are 23 students projected for grades 3-4 in North Hero and 21 students in grades 5-6.
“The room is not there. It is not even close,” he told The Islander.
“We are not going to put kids, faculty and the community in jeopardy,” he said.
The supervisory district will continue to work with the state on how to deliver the best education possible, he said.
Clark said several educational models were considered and that more than 70 faculty and staff members attended a meeting to discuss the options.
He said the students in each class will be split into two groups, known as A and B. Group A will attend school on certain days, while Group B will be assigned other days to report, he said. The plan also calls for at least one day of remote learning within a 5-day period. Those will be known as C Days. The five-day rotation would look like ABCAB.
Clark said the schedule is designed to keep cross contamination to a minimum, allow for appropriate cleaning measures, provide a predictable schedule and keep the time between in-person days to a minimum. The hope is for “robust in person and remote learning and teaching,” he said.
“We know this schedule is not perfect however given the parameters we need to operate under it is the best choice,” he wrote.
The other schedules were considered but determined were less desirable for learning and health reasons, he said.
Clark told The Islander that he hopes parents will take advantage of the Community Forums to get the latest information and to ask questions. He said his office is trying to ensure that families have information they need to make decisions.
“Thank you in advance for helping to ensure all members of the GISU learning community are curious, creative, courageous, and capable of pursuing their aspirations in a diverse and ever changing world,” he wrote.