2009 Year in Review (part 1)


BRATTLEBORO -- It was a year that began with local high school musicians marching down Pennsylvania Avenue playing music for a new president.

It was a year that ended with the destruction of a beloved landmark in Putney and unanswered questions about the future of Vermont Yankee.

In between was a shocking downtown stabbing, a historic Little League season, struggles for local farmers and the return of the Harris Hill ski jump.

Here's a look back at some what happened in 2009.


-- The Brattleboro Union High School marching band had its moment of glory as it represented Vermont in President Obama's inauguration parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. It took weeks of practicing, and fundraising, to enable the band to get to Washington.

Viewing parties for the inaugural were set up around the county. The band was saluted with a parade in their honor up Main Street on Jan. 24 upon their return.

-- Kurt Daims, the man who sought to impeach, indict and arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney as war criminals, tried unsuccessfully to place an article on the Brattleboro town meeting warrant to pardon Bush and establish a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate crimes committed by his administration. The Selectboard voted on Jan. 27 not to include Daims' article on the warrant.

-- Twenty people were left homeless after an early morning fire gutted the Lawrence Block off South Main Street in Brattleboro on Jan. 11.

-- A proposal by the Windham Solid Waste Management District to impose a surcharge on trash haulers met with stiff opposition. The collapse of the market for recyclables left WSWMD with a $600,000 budget deficit at the start of the year, but the district managed to close the budget gap by the end of the year and eventually shelved the surcharge plan.

-- The Brattleboro Selectboard voted to adopt a pay-as-you-throw trash system over the objections of many local residents. The board said it would trim $300,000 from the town budget. Town Meeting representatives voted the proposal down in March, but the board again revived the idea by year's end.

-- Green Mountain Power flipped the switch on a 300-panel solar array at its new Westminister service center. The panels are expected to produce 80 percent of the building's electricity.

-- The village of Bellows Falls apologized and paid a cash settlement to Wayne Ryan, owner of Nick's, to settle a civil suit filed after Ryan was arrested in June 2006 for refusing to allow police to enter his bar as part of an investigation into underaged drinking.

-- A new leak was found at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon on Jan. 8, a day after a reactor water clean up valve gasket failed.

-- U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha of Brattleboro announced his retirement from the federal bench. Appointed in 1995, he served for 14 years in Vermont. He said he would continue to serve as a part-time judge.

-- Former Putney resident Melissa Leo received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her role in "Frozen River."

-- Gail Cooper, a longtime educator and social worker, died on Jan. 31 at the age of 66 after a year-long battle with cancer. She was active in the Vermont Progressive Party and the League of Women Voters.


-- Feb. 1 marked the official switchover of phone and Internet service from Verizon to FairPoint Communications. The transition was anything but smooth as thousands of customers lost e-mail service for weeks.

-- Cold weather brought the return of two of Windham County's premier winter events -- the 25th Harriman Reservoir Ice Fishing Derby and the Harris Hill Ski Jump.

Spencer Knickerbocker of Brattleboro had the honor of being the first jumper off the newly-refurbished Harris Hill. More than 8,000 people attended the two days of competition, which was won by Christian Reiter of Austria with a jump of 331.65 feet. Willy Graves of Putney was the top local jumper with a ninth place finish.

-- After months of debate, the Vermont Public Service Board on Feb. 11 gave its approval to the Southern Loop project, which included a new 340-kilovolt transmission line between Vernon and Cavendish. Construction began in the spring.

-- A Feb. 18 deadline for a legislative vote on relicensing Vermont Yankee came and went. Lawmakers cited the lack of a power purchase agreement as the main reason for not holding the vote.

-- The estate of Marisa and Felix Lederer, both longtime faculty members at The Putney School, left a nearly $1 million bequest to the school to start a scholarship fund.

-- The 2,000 volume personal library of famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife, Catherine Atwood Galbraith, was donated to Marlboro College.

-- Cameron King, a skydiver participating in a Brattleboro Winter Carnival event on Feb. 26, was blown off course and found his parachute entangled in a 7,200 volt power line. King somehow escaped injury.

-- Frank Vara of Dummerston, a longtime educator and school administrator in Windham County, died at age 73 on Feb. 17.


-- Town Meeting Day saw more than 35 towns around the state approving a non-binding measure calling for the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

In Westminster, voters approved a merger with the village of North Westminster and rejected a pay-as-you-throw trash plan.

Vernon voted to keep funding its town newspaper.

For the second straight year, Rockingham rejected using an Australian ballot to decide municipal budgets. Voters also rejected a required second vote on its school budget.

And John Allen, Jesse Corum and Dick DeGray were all re-elected to the Brattleboro Selectboard. Corum would take over as chairman.

Brattleboro Town Meeting representatives approved a $230,000 for a replacement for the Creamery Bridge and rejected a 1 percent local option sales tax.

-- Paul Millman of Westminister, president of Chroma Technologies in Rockingham, launched an unsuccessful bid to be the chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party.

-- Longtime Public Defender Paul Berch retired after nearly 35 years with the Windham County Public Defender's Office.

-- Triple T Trucking of Brattleboro eyed a site in Winchester, N.H., for an industrial composting facility, but Town Meeting voters there rejected a zoning change that would have allowed it.

-- Mort's Roadhouse, a Putney Road fixture for more than 35 years, closed for the last time on March 14.

-- The Vilas Bridge between Bellows Falls and North Walpole, N.H., was closed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation on March 19. The concrete bridge, built in 1930, had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer safe.

-- The body of Annie DeMille of Brattleboro, who had been missing since Feb. 25, was discovered near Stickney Brook in Dummerston on March 20. State police said she died of natural causes, but friends of DeMille decried the lack of action by police in pursuing her whereabouts.

-- Saying his voice was no longer being heard on the Brattleboro Selectboard, Rich Garant resigned on March 23. Former Selectboard member Dora Bouboulis was appointed to fill out the remainder of his term.

-- On March 25, Townshend resident Peter Galbraith was appointed as deputy United Nations envoy to Afghanistan. He was later fired in October after he accused U.N. officials of not doing enough to prevent voting fraud in the Aug. 20 Afghan presidential election.

At year's end, Galbraith was battling accusations that he unduly profited from an oil contract in Kurdistan and that he tried to get Afghan president Hamid Karzai removed from office.

-- The Vermont Housing Finance Agency took control of the Canal House, a 41-unit low -- and moderate-income senior complex in Bellows Falls, after the former owner, the Rockingham Development Corp., defaulted on the building's mortgage.

-- Hundreds of buisinesspeople jammed the Latchis Theatre on March 31 for a special hearing on the federal economic stimulus package, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. It was one of only two hearings of its kind in the state.

-- World Learning president and CEO Carol Belamy announced that she would step down from her post, effective in 2010.


-- Sally Swift of Brattleboro, an internationally known equestrian trainer and creator of the "centered riding" technique, died on April 2 at age 95.

-- Clayton "Bud" Kathan ended a 60-year career in law enforcement with his retirement from the Windham County Sheriff's Department on April 7.

-- The Sheriff's Department headquarters in Newfane began a massive renovation project to bring the nearly 200-year-old building up to modern standards.

-- Windham Art Gallery in Brattleboro closed its doors after nearly 20 years on Main Street. The sluggish economy prompted the decision to disband the nonprofit, cooperative gallery.

-- Carolyn Heydinger of Vernon finished second in the 72nd American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis. Heydinger, the Vermont representative, had the best-ever showing of any Brattleboro Union High School student in the national contest.

-- William J. "Bill" Corbeil died of cancer on April 21 at the age of 40. The Brattleboro native had a lifelong passion for radio, which culminated in the purchase of WTSA in 2007. His wife Kelli eventually took over as the radio station's general manager.


-- A black bear was shot by a state trooper on May 3 at the KOA campground in East Dummerston after numerous reports that the bear was roaming around in backyards. It was one of a spate of black bear sightings around the county, and prompted a greater awareness of how to keep bears from becoming nuisances in populated areas.

-- A man impersonating a U.S. Marshall stole money from two Chesterfield, N.H., businesses on May 11. John Baldasaro, 45, of Somerville, Mass., was captured three days later in New York City and was eventually sentenced to prison.

-- On the second try, Rockingham voters on May 11 approved a $367,342 supplemental school budget that they rejected in March. Rockingham was one of 12 towns in the state that had to hold two separate votes on its school budget under a new state law.

-- Frank Dearborn, the longtime director of the Brattleboro Parks & Recreation Department, died on May 17 at age 81.

Dearborn was a driving force behind turning Living Memorial Park into one of the premier town recreation facilities in New England. He also led the effort to turn the former National Guard armory on Main Street into the Gibson-Aiken Center in the 1970s.

-- At the annual Bellows Falls village meeting, voters on May 18 voted 95-49 to maintain a full-time fire department. They also installed a new slate on the board of trustees as Roger Riccio, Les White and Lance Allen were all elected.

-- On May 27, voters in Whitingham decided by a 300-110 margin not to dissolve the Twin Valley School District.

-- The Winston Prouty Center for Child Development in Brattleboro celebrated its 40th anniversary.


-- The Rockingham Selectboard and the Bellows Falls trustees formed a joint committee on June 2 to explore the possibility of an administrative merger of the town and village. By year's end, it was decided to present the proposal at the 2010 Town Meeting.

-- The Brattleboro Development Review Board on June 8 rejected a plan for the town's West River Park on Route 30. The main objection was a proposed skateboard park at the site, which would have been located in the river's shoreline buffer zone. Later in the year, after the skatepark was removed from the park's site plan, the DRB approved it.

-- The United Church of Putney voted to disband after 237 years and held its final service on May 14. The church building was eventually turned over to the Putney Historical Society.

-- On June 15, Andrew E. Sheets, 41, of Brattleboro, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the Elliot Street stabbing of David T. Snow, 28, of Brattleboro. Sheets pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The stabbing put new focus on safety downtown, and prompted a police crackdown on loitering and skateboarding on Main Street, the Transportation Center and the Harmony Lot.

-- Voters in Newfane and Brookline voted on June 22 to approve the merger of the town's school boards. By year's end, the talk turned to a possible merger of the town's elementary schools.

-- June 2009 was one of the soggiest Junes on record, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy rains were blamed for encouraging the spread of fungus and blight that damaged area tomato and potato crops.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions