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March 25, 2020 top stories
Cottage CEO outlines
COVID-19 prep

BRADFORD—The routine has been cancelled. Or at least postponed.
Both New Hampshire and Vermont declared states of emergency in recent days ahead of a potential viral outbreak. Most of the various restrictions imposed are intended to stem or block transmission of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.
The declarations have had wide-ranging and continously evolving impacts as businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals have responded.
In both states, the declarations prompted temporary school closures. Most area schools were in session on March 17, but were ordered to close by the following day. Public schools will be closed until at least April 6, although the timeline for reopening could be pushed back.
Despite the closures, not all school-related services were being cut off. Teachers and staff scrambled on Monday and Tuesday to put together remote learning plans, although what those plans look like will change moving forward. Food service would continue as area districts made contingency plans to utilize their bus fleets to deliver food (see related story).
The Rivendell Annual School District Meeting on March 17 was postponed with officials set to meet to identify a later date. The Haverhill Cooperative School District Annual Meeting was rescheduled from March 21 to April 18 at 3 p.m.
They were hardly the only public bodies to curtail normal business operations. Virtually every single area municipality has reduced or scaled back its normal procedures. Principally, most town offices are now closed to the public.

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Newbury, dam owner
reach tax deal

NEWBURY—The town of Newbury and Wilder Dam owner Great River Hydro have reached an accord to settle a long-bubbling tax dispute over the assessed value of company-owned flowage easements.
Both parties signed and filed the three-page settlement agreement in Orange County Superior Court on Jan. 29. The state of Vermont is listed as a signatory to the pact.
The settlement agreement effectively resolves the most recent dispute in which Great River Hydro, and the preceding dam owner TransCanada, believed the town’s assessed value on rights to flood shoreland on the Connecticut River overstated the true value of the property.
The property was assessed at $1,472,800 for the 2015 Grand List in Newbury.
Based on the industry standard of value, the company believed the value of its easements in Newbury was $997,730. This took into account periodic flooding of some 24 acres of land, and 1,642 acres located within a 100-year flood zone.
According to the settlement agreement, Great River paid tax on the assessed value and appealed the assessment to the Newbury Board of Listers and the Newbury Board of Civil Authority.
Both boards upheld the town’s value and Great River appealed in superior court.
While the 2015 appeal was pending, Great River paid all taxes due for 2016 through 2019, but simultaneously challenged each year’s assessment.
After years of costly legal wrangling, both sides eventually agreed to settle the dispute. As a result, Great River Hydro will drop its appeals of the 2015-2019 assessments and will no longer seek any refunds. Meanwhile, the town and the dam owner have agreed to an assessed tax amount at $1.5 million for 2020 through 2024, according to the agreement.

DRIVE-THRU FOOD PANTRY—Saturday, the Trinity Church of the Nazarene Food Pantry in North Haverhill ran a drive-thru for food pantry patrons. With only four volunteers on hand, the pantry setup was arranged outdoors. Approximately 20 cars moved through the drive-thru and picked up prepacked boxe4s of food.
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Sanctuary city vote
gets postponed

GROTON—Groton has postponed a special town meeting to ask its residents whether it should become a Second Amendment sanctuary.
The meeting had been scheduled for April 9 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting was warned on March 9, just a few days before the State of Emergency because of COVID-19 went into effect.
But at a selectboard meeting last week, town officials agreed to postpone the special meeting to a later as-yet unidentified date.
“Everything’s getting pushed back,” said selectboard chair Wade Johnson Sr. in a telephone interview.
Second Amendment sanctuary jurisdictions rose to prominence in Virginia late last year when scores of counties and towns approved resolutions to reaffirm their Second Amendment rights after Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said he would introduce several gun reform or gun safety laws. Advocates also hope to dissuade local law enforcement from enforcing state or federal gun laws.
In Vermont, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement is spearheaded by the advocacy group Gun Owners of Vermont, which has been critical of Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, who signed several gun control measures into law in 2018.

Area towns plan
for tree killer

FAIRLEE—For years now, scientists have been warning about an invasive bug from Asia that could wreak havoc on northern New England.
Then, in early 2018, the emerald ash borer was found for the first time in Vermont when located in a tree in Orange. In the months since, the infestation has widened.
Currently, the Agency of Natural Resources Atlas shows EAB in at least nine counties throughout the state. Several area communities have launched efforts to inventory their ash trees and develop a plan to address the invasive pest.
“Sounds like a timely topic,” wrote Peter Guest, Fairlee’s EAB response coordinator.
Some towns have assigned locals like Guest or formed committees to collect data about ash trees and to research the impacts of EAB. Although many Upper Valley area communities remain untouched by the infestation, they are nevertheless preparing for the inevitable. Efforts are underway to locate ash trees in that could impact public safety along roads and powerline rights-of-way.
To prevent the spread of EAB, land managers need to inventory and monitor ash trees, recognize the early signs, and remove infestations.
“Throughout 2019, we inventoried all ash trees along Fairlee town roads and town property,” Guest said, “About 800 [trees]. We documented 575 locations, but many of these had trees in clumps.”
Many towns appointed tree wardens like Ben Rubinfeld, the owner of Borderline Tree Works, who is conducting Bradford’s ash inventory. AJ Follensbee is also a member of the Bradford Conservation Commission and a county forester for the state.

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