Post-holiday case bounce expected

MONTPELIER—Vermont officials said in a Dec. 28 press conference that the state expects an increase in COVID-19 cases due to holiday gatherings and the omicron variant.
The omicron variant, a relatively new mutation of the coronavirus, was first identified in South Africa in November, and is more contagious than previous variants. It has already been detected in Vermont.

Orford mulls land for sand, more

ORFORD—At the Orford Selectboard meeting on Dec. 22, a proposal to purchase property was an item being considered as a warrant article for the March 2022 town meeting agenda.
Looking ahead to Orford’s future growth, the selectboard is putting forth a plan to purchase a property rich with sand to meet the town’s current and future needs and, at some point, after the sand has been exhausted, provide space upon which to build a municipal complex to house town offices.

Solstice fire burns cocoa plant

NEWBURY—An overnight fire destroyed the Sillycow Farms building in the Newbury Industrial Park.
“We’re in crisis mode right now,” said Sillycow Farms CEO Keith Lemnios on Tuesday afternoon.
There were no injuries. Nobody was working inside the building at the time of the fire, but Lemnios said the fire came at the worst time of year for the hot chocolate company.

Board balks at mask mandate

FAIRLEE—The Fairlee Selectboard opted against a mask mandate after discussion on Monday night. Instead, town officials said they will recommend that businesses ask patrons and employees to wear a mask in public indoor settings.
After a special legislative session in November, Gov. Phil Scott signed a law permitting municipalities to require face coverings and masks in public indoor settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mandate remains in effect for 45 days unless the selectboard or city council renews the measure for 30-day increments.

Topsham farmer follows dream, even to Florida

EAST TOPSHAM—Abby Driscoll, daughter of Steve and Deb Smith, grew up around cows and spent hours in the barn alongside her father.
As she grew, so did her herd of 20 cows that she would one day relocate from Vermont to Florida.
It all began a little over 20 years ago when, at milking time, Steve placed the infant Abby in a swing so she could watch the milking process.

Federal money lined up for mine cleanup

VERSHIRE—After decades of study and funding uncertainty, the long-awaited cleanup of the Ely Mine appears to be closer .
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that $1 billion in funding from the first distribution of the infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November will be used to clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites across the country, including the former copper mine in Vershire. The other Superfund site in Vermont is in Williston.

Masking now optional at Haverhill schools

WOODSVILLE—Haverhill Cooperative School Board members repealed its targeted masking policy on Monday night, opting instead to recommend that students wear masks on the three district campuses.
Board members voted 3-2 after wrestling with the wording on several motions. The new policy went into immediate effect on Dec. 14.

Newbury eyed for wood pellet plant

NEWBURY—An Upper Valley company wants to turn the former Newman Lumber Mill in the Newbury Industrial Park into a wood pellet plant.
The Newbury Development Review Board will hold a public hearing later this month on the proposal by PK Wood Pellet.

Survey finds schools’ strengths, weaknesses

BRADFORD—A survey conducted earlier this year found that Bradford and Newbury residents like the small class sizes and dedicated teachers in its public schools while lamenting their high cost and lack of communication.
The survey results were shared on Dec. 8 in a Zoom presentation by the Oxbow Unified Union School District’s strategic planning committee.

Paws up on dog park

BRADFORD—It is a long way off and nothing is set in stone, but the Bradford Selectboard signed off on a plan to develop a public dog park on Memorial Field last week.
The board approved a preliminary proposal to develop a dog park on an unused northeast section of Memorial Field near Bugbee Landing. The vacant parcel is located in the floodplain near the Waits River.