A year of change in the Northshire

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Editor's note: There was no shortage of big stories in 2019 in the Manchester Journal coverage area. This roundup is not an exhaustive list, but a collection of some of the events that had big impacts. Here's to 2020.

Officer-involved shooting

The year started with an officer-involved shooting in Arlington when police were involved in a shootout with a man who was shot and wounded Jan. 7.

Matt Novick, 40, of 535 Red Mountain Road, was treated for multiple gunshot wounds after the incident, police say. No police officers were injured.

Novick was airlifted to Albany Medical Center following the shooting.

The events began when police were called by a relative at 3:50 a.m. who said Novick was having a mental health crisis. When police arrived about 4:40 a.m. they saw Novick standing in the doorway of his home holding what appeared to be an AK-47 style semi-automatic rifle.

About an hour later, officers spotted Novick in his driveway and a gunfight ensued.

He was eventually arraigned and charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault with a weapon.

Flooding causes damage

In January and April, area rivers flooded their banks after rains and snowmelt caused flooding throughout the Northshire causing damage to buildings, roads and property.

In January, nearly 4 inches of rain fell and heavy snowmelt sent rivers and streams overflowing their banks and caused damage throughout the area.

The Chantecleer Restaurant on Route 7A in East Dorset was flooded with 8 to 12 inches of water, according to Dorset Town Manager Rob Gaiotti.

In Manchester, an ice jam on Bourne Brook caused water to flow into a field and back across Richville Road where some houses were affected.

That same road again flooded in April when a similar event took place caused by heavy rain on top of spring runoff flooding vast areas.

And Dorset was again hit hard by the floodwater and Mad Tom Road washed out in places cutting many people off from Route 7 without taking the long way out and many driveways were washed out as well.

3 compete for board seat

Heading into Town Meeting Day, a surprise vacancy on the Manchester Select Board caused a scramble and write-in campaign to fill the seat.

Incumbent Steven Nichols decided not to run for re-election to the Manchester Select Board, surprising many who thought he would run for re-election.

The result was an open seat with no candidates on the ballot. But three community members announced their intentions to seek the seat as write-in candidates.

The seat was won by Planning Commission member Todd Nebraska, who outpolled Dick Stillson and Melissa Levis.

In Dorset, Jim Salsgiver joined the Select Board, defeating Jack Stannard in a run-off.

Pre-K roils board

At a February meeting of the Taconic & Green Regional School District board, plans to make changes to the pre-kindergarten education program was challenged. Changes to create a more equitable pre-K program across the multiple schools in the T&G district were vocally opposed and at the district school meeting in March, close to a dozen people showed up to oppose the plan. The board agreed to listen to the concerns and work to find a better plan moving forward and a month later, the board did just that, voting to spend more money to restore pre-K.

In addition, one of the vocal opponents to the changes, Manchester attorney Rachel Strecker was elected to the T&G board as a write-in candidate.

As 2019 draws to a close, pre-K is again a hot item as opposition to new changes to the way pre-K is administered at the district level is again drawing protests. Meetings have been held and is expected to be tackled in early January.

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Bonnet & Main opens

One of the most visible restaurant locations in Manchester saw its third cafe in less than a year serve coffee and food.

Bonnet & Main opened in the spring. It followed the short-lived operation of The Next Chapter cafe, which had in turn replaced the Spiral Press cafe, which closed in August of 2018 following a 15-year run.

Bonnet & Main, named for the location of the cafe, leases space from the Northshire Bookstore. It was launched by friends Fiona Morton and Suzanne Fontaine who both have backgrounds in the food-service industry.

Downtown also saw the opening of a pinball museum on Main Street, and the closure of Village Picture Shows in the Manchester shopping Center, as the property's owners cleared the way for a T.J. Maxx location.

Manchester Skatepark opens

To close out the summer, the long-awaited Manchester Skatepark was unveiled Labor Day weekend as dozens of youth and adults cut the ribbon and then dropped in on the new facility at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park.

The first phase skatepark had broken ground in June, launching the final chapter of an 18-month process that raised $250,000 in public and private funding for the facility. It replaced a long-outdated set of wooden ramps, which were cleared away for newly-relocated basketball courts.

The park opening coincided with the opening of a new skate shop, Arson, in Manchester to outfit skaters.

Depot Street tests patience

Throughout the summer in Manchester, Depot Street underwent a facelift that snarled traffic as the roadway got a complete makeover.

As the state repaved Route 11/30 through town, A streetscape project also moved forward, refurbishing sidewalks, lighting and green areas, while improving drainage, and adding crosswalks and other features.

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The road was also converted from a road that featured a turning lane to a two-lane road with short turning lanes with bike lanes.

While complaints of traffic backups and misunderstandings of the town's plans were the main topic of online message boards, the road was completed late in the summer and the complaints have disappeared.

The Depot Street work was just part of the roadwork completed this summer. Route 11/30 was also repaved from Manchester to Peru, and Route 30 was repaved from Peru to Bondville. Both projects also backed up traffic, and the Route 30 project continued into the fall, as parts of the highway got completely new pavement and guardrails.

Changes come to Dorset quarry

Richard McDonough and his wife, Kristen, who have owned and tended to the Dorset Quarry for decades, may not serve as stewards of the popular swimming hole for much longer. In October, the nonprofit Vermont River Conservancy confirmed it was "actively in conversation" with McDonough regarding a possible transfer of the quarry parcel. Conserving important swimming areas, Steven Libby, the group's director, said, is "clearly within our mission," though no formal agreement had been reached.

Meanwhile, the McDonoughs allowed Ryan Downey, a land surveyor and former town selectman, to overhaul an adjacent parking area. Downey has been "very creative" in creating a kind of "park-like setting" at the site, Richard McDonough said.

Leadership changes at police department

Manchester Police Chief Michael Hall retired July 26 after more than 36 years with the department.

Hall, 62, became chief Nov. 1, 2011, and spent his entire career with the MPD after a short stint as a constable in Sunderland.

"It's been a great ride," Hall said. "It's difficult for me because this has been my life. I've done this 24/7 for the better part of 37 years."

On July 29, Patrick Owens was sworn in as the chief of the Manchester Police Department on and formally introduced.

A graduate of Burr and Burton, Owens is a 27 year veteran of the Manchester Police Department and held every rank in the department: patrol officer, investigator, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain.

Superintendent announces retirement

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Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Jackie Wilson, who guided the BRSU through the complex Act 46 merger process, announced in June that she will retire at the end of the 2020 school year. Wilson, who spent more than two dozen years as a teacher, principal and superintendent, said she "started work scooping ice-cream as a 12-year-old on Cape Cod and haven't looked back."

In October, the BRSU board formed a screening committee and hired the Vermont School Boards Association to help it select a successor. A VSBA representative said the committee should aim to identify finalists for the position around January.

More bluegrass in the Green Mountains

The Green Mountain Bluegrass Festival returned for its second year featuring three days of nonstop, foot-stomping, dancing fun at Hunter Park at the Northshire Civic Center. The event again battled the weather, but thunderstorms had less of an impact than the had in 2018. This year, the rain could only inconvenience festival attendees. The show quickly continued and the event was again a huge success with plans for a third year of bluegrass and roots music in August of 2020.

SMS student wins title

Stratton Mountain School's Mac Forehand of Winhall won Crystal Globe as the overall slopestyle champion in the FIS Freeski World Cup in Silvaplana, Switzerland. Forehand, a junior at SMS at the time, stood atop the podium to claim the overall title. He was the first enrolled SMS student to win a World Cup championship in the school's history.

BBA athletics: football moves up, repeats

The Burr and Burton Academy football team moved up to Division I for the 2019 season and faced a question: Could the Bulldogs, who had dominated Division II, continue their success against the state's largest enrollment schools? The answer was an emphatic yes, as BBA rolled through the season with only one loss, and then defeated St. Johnsbury Academy in the state final.

In other BBA sports happenings, the boys' and girls' lacrosse teams both reached the state finals in the spring, the mountain biking team claimed its first Northern New England championship in the fall, and girls soccer player Hannah Pinkus capped a successful high school career by signing a letter of intent to play Division I women's soccer at Massachusetts.


Several deaths in 2019 were widely felt throughout the Northshire.

In January, Darryl Davis, a well-known community member known for her work with foster children, died in a two-vehicle crash in Londonderry while taking a foster child to a medical appointment.

Davis, 58, of Sunderland, crashed on Route 11 after losing control of her car and sliding into the path of a pickup on snow-covered road.

During her celebration of life at the Federated Church of East Arlington, which drew so many people the overflow crowd spilled into an adjoining hall, it was revealed that Davis had fostered 42 children over the years.

On February 23, Alex Johnson of Manchester, considered one of the best athletes in Burr and Burton history, died at the age of 58. Johnson's Bulldogs teams won four straight Vermont high school basketball championships in the 1970s.

In early November, local residents learned that former Arlington resident Hannah Keyes had been found dead in her Winooski apartment.

Her two young daughters were found in the apartment unharmed and her boyfriend, Keith Gaston, 32, could not be immediately located.

Police soon turned up local surveillance camera footage showing Gaston getting out of his car, walking to the edge of the runoff-swollen Winooski River and diving in. As of press time, his remains had yet to be found.

Keays' death was ruled a homicide, according to Dr. Elizabeth A. Bundock, deputy chief medical examiner. An autopsy showed that the cause of death was "compression of neck and chest."

Jake Burton Carpenter, the man widely credited with making snowboarding an internationally successful winter sport and helping it to spread around the globe, died in late November after a bout with cancer. He was 65.

Carpenter started Burton Snowboards in Londonderry and Manchester, employing locals to help him start what would become an international company.

Carpenter began creating his snowboard prototypes in the late 1970s and created his first board in 1979 in South Londonderry, before moving to Londonderry and then Manchester in 1981. He moved the company to Burlington in 1992.

On November 25, philanthropist Wendy Rowland of South Londonderry died at the age of 83. Rowland and her husband, the late Barry Rowland, who died in 2018, established a charitable foundation for secondary education and gave millions of dollars to Burr and Burton Academy. Their gift of $20 million will fund the construction of a new building on the BBA campus.

Henry Bronson, the well-known and widely loved chef and owner of Bistro Henry, died on November 20. Bronson's death will continue to be felt as his widow, Dina Bronson, as well as his children Talia and Louis, recently announced that the restaurant on Depot Street would close.

The Northshire lost two community leaders on December 21. On that day, former Dorset Selectboard member Jack Stannard died at home of a heart ailment, and former Manchester Planning Commission member and Rotary club president Patrick Monroe died at a hospice in Albany, N.Y.


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