Tuesday November 13, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont Public Radio's daily newsmagazine program recently expanded its service to the town and will commemorate it with a live event this week.

"Vermont Edition" is planning a live broadcast from the Brattleboro Co-Op's Wellstone Café on Thursday and host Jane Lindholm will welcome local guests to discuss the issues of Brattleboro from noon to 1 p.m. Lindholm will explore some of the challenges the town has faced over the past few years, including the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene and the Brooks House fire.

VPR Producer Ric Cengeri told the Reformer he is interested in highlighting how the town has rebounded from some tragedies.

"We're definitely going to take a look at the background of what Brattleboro has been through and how the town is dealing," he said.

The town is still recuperating from flooding caused by Irene and several of the Brooks House spaces that once held local businesses remain vacant. Cengeri said Brattleboro residents know about the events because they lived through them. People in other parts of the state, however, have only seen the effects on TV or read about in the news.

"(A lot of people) have only a vague idea of what happened. And we want to show a real picture of what exactly happened to Brattleboro," he said.

The producer said he had driven by Brattleboro on Interstate 91 and through the town countless times until he one day decided to go down Main Street.

"I had never really captured the full flavor until then," he said, comparing the town to Burlington. "It has the same vibe but is still so different. It was very refreshing."

Guests for the live broadcast are still being confirmed but Cengeri said Tapp Barnhill, executive director of academic centers at the Community College of Vermont, and Town Manager Barbara Sondag might be on the show. He said he also believes a representative from the Marlboro College Graduate Center will speak.

Discussion will also include the plan to move CCV and VTech to the Brooks House, which would bring employment and educational opportunities to downtown.

Michelle Jeffery, VPR's coordinator of marketing and communications, said "Vermont Edition" tackles both hard and soft news of Vermont and will now have a much stronger signal in Brattleboro.

"We'll now be more present that we've ever been able to be," she said.

Cengeri said incidents such as the Co-op shooting and the destruction of the Latchis Theater marquee will likely be discussed.

Richard Gagnon had worked at the Brattleboro Food Co-Op for 20 years and killed co-worker Michael Martin in 2011 at the store. News of the shooting devastated the Co-op employees and shocked the town.

"The shooting was as important as some of the other things Brattleboro has faced," Cengeri said.

A few months before the murder, the Latchis Theater marquee was nearly ripped off the front of the building when a southbound truck driver got impatient with a traffic light delay and drove onto the Main Street sidewalk to get around stopped vehicles.

The sign got rebuilt, only to be grazed by another truck on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The sign was not destroyed the second time.

VPR launched a new, full-power station for VPR News serving Brattleboro and southern Vermont at 88.9 FM. The station can be heard as far away as Bellows Falls in the north to Greenfield, Mass., in the south, Marlboro in the west to Keene, N.H., in the east.

Next week, VPR's existing translator station in Brattleboro at 94.5 FM will increase power and move to 94.3 FM, and will begin broadcasting VPR Classical throughout Brattleboro and surrounding towns, including Vernon and Guilford, for the first time.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.