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Monday, August 9, 2021

Winooski Cleaner Charged With Scamming COVID-19 Business Relief Program

Posted By on Mon, Aug 9, 2021 at 6:09 PM

FILE: THOMAS JAMES
  • File: Thomas James
The owner of a Winooski cleaning business  faces fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly forging documents last year to obtain a larger pandemic relief loan.

Dennis Duffy II, 38, pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday following an indictment that accuses him of grossly misrepresenting  his business, Night Owl Cleaning, in an application for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Duffy then used the $416,093 proceeds last summer to purchase a home in Milton, according to the indictment.

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Friday, August 6, 2021

Ben Bergstein Charged With Sexual Assault Following February Incident

Posted By on Fri, Aug 6, 2021 at 5:38 PM

Ben Bergstein - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Ben Bergstein
Ben Bergstein, the disgraced founder of North End Studios, has been charged with sexually assaulting a much younger woman earlier this year.

The alleged assault took place February 27 at Bergstein's Burlington home —a few weeks after the City of Winooski had already threatened to evict Bergstein's nonprofit from city property over similar allegations.

The woman came forward to Burlington police in April, shortly after VTDigger.org published an investigation detailing numerous other women's accounts of predatory behavior by Bergstein.

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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Three Prison Staffers Test Positive for COVID-19

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2021 at 5:52 PM

Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility - FILE: LUKE AWTRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Luke Awtry ©️ Seven Days
  • Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
Three prison staffers tested positive for COVID-19 this week, the Vermont Department of Corrections said Thursday.

Two of the infected employees work at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, and the other works at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury, according to the state.

Only one of the South Burlington staffers was said to have worked on a prison unit near incarcerated people.

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Biden Names VT Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson to U.S. Court of Appeals

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2021 at 11:38 AM

Beth Robinson - FILE PHOTO: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File Photo: Jeb Wallace-brodeur ©️ Seven Days
  • Beth Robinson
President Joe Biden on Thursday nominated Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Robinson, who led the marriage equality movement in Vermont, could become the first openly LGBTQ woman to hold a judgeship on any federal appeals court, the White House said. Her appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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Monday, August 2, 2021

Staff Shortage Forces Camp Hochelaga to Cancel Day Camp Program

Posted By on Mon, Aug 2, 2021 at 4:28 PM

FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
On Friday, staffers from Camp Hochelaga in South Hero called 58 families whose children were signed up for its day camp with bad news. The program, which was slated to run weekdays until August 13, would be canceled for the rest of the summer, starting on Monday.

In a message posted on its Facebook page, the camp blamed staffing shortages for the decision to cancel. Many staff members had told the camp before the season started that they would have to leave their positions early for college. The camp believed it would be able to "backfill" those positions before staffers departed, but hiring proved too difficult.

"This decision was not taken lightly as we know how much our families rely upon us for childcare during the summer months," the announcement read. "We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused for you and your camper. All families that are affected by this decision will be fully refunded their tuition."

Cutting camp short "was not a decision we really wanted to make," said Patty Houston, board president of the nonprofit YWCA Vermont, which runs the camp.

Founded in 1919, Camp Hochelaga is for girls and nonbinary youth and is intended to be a safe and happy environment where campers can learn and experience the outdoors, Houston said. The sleepover — or residential — camp will run the next two weeks as planned, Houston said.

A series of staffing issues affected the day camp, according to YWCA executive director Deb Jorschick. The day camp director developed an illness — unrelated to COVID-19 — and was given doctor's orders to sit out the last two weeks of camp, she said. Of the remaining five day camp staffers, some had told the camp ahead of time that they needed to leave the program early and some made last-minute decisions to leave, according to Jorschick.

"As a collective group, they had to go," she said. "We just had no alternative" but to end the day camp.

Houston said that it was difficult to break the news to campers' families. "We had some families who were really understanding and some who were frustrated and angry," she said. "I know they were not easy conversations for any of us."

This isn't the first hurdle Camp Hochelaga has faced this summer. In early July, the camp announced that residential camp director Alana Matteson was leaving; she was replaced by assistant camp director Shannon Pritzkau on an interim basis. Jorschick declined to comment further about Matteson's departure, citing personnel issues, but said that Pritzkau has done a great job in the director role.

Houston and Jorschick both said that this season has brought unique challenges, on top of the labor shortage.

While "all in all, the kids are happy," Jorschick said, she's also seen an uptick in behavioral issues and sleep disruptions this summer, which she attributed to the pandemic.

"What's become apparent to us is, there's a lot of kids that have been traumatized over this past year," Houston said.

Camp leadership will take lessons learned form this summer and use them "to make sure camp is able to evolve and grow," she added.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Pilot Survives Helicopter Crash on Colchester Causeway

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2021 at 7:26 PM

The downed helicopter - COURTESY OF COLCHESTER POLICE
  • Courtesy of Colchester Police
  • The downed helicopter
Updated on August 2, 2021.

A pilot from electric aviation startup Beta Technologies crashed a helicopter on the Colchester Causeway on Friday afternoon, shutting down the popular recreational path as emergency crews responded to the fiery scene.

The pilot, later identified as 31-year-old Nathaniel Fortin, escaped with minor injuries and was taken to the hospital, the company said in a statement. No one else was hurt.

The helicopter was gas-powered and not one of Beta's experimental electric aircraft, a spokesperson said. An investigation into the cause of the crash is under way.

"The pilot, a certified flight instructor and sole occupant of the aircraft, executed emergency procedures and successfully and safely landed the aircraft," the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Photos of the crash posted on social media showed flames erupting from the crumpled helicopter. Police said the two-passenger aircraft "was a total loss."
Nic Longo, acting director of the Burlington International Airport, said it was not immediately clear when the aircraft took off. He said information about the aircraft's flight path will "eventually come from the pilot."

Colchester police said the crash had closed the causeway "until further notice." The popular path was reopened on Saturday.

Beta, the subject of a Seven Days cover story in May, is headquartered in a hangar near BTV's main terminal. The company is in the midst of a meteoric rise in the world of aviation and has tripled in size over the last year. It recently announced plans to build a massive new assembly facility for its electric aircraft.

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Vermont Gun Importer Sued After Its Rifle Was Used in Mass Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2021 at 2:34 PM

A Century International Arms booth at a National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis - AP PHOTO / JEREMY HOGAN
  • AP Photo / Jeremy Hogan
  • A Century International Arms booth at a National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis
Victims of a 2019 mass shooting are suing the Vermont arms dealer that made the rifle a gunman used to murder attendees of a California garlic festival.

A dozen survivors last week added Century International Arms as a defendant in their pending civil lawsuit against the nonprofit that ran the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, the City of Gilroy, Calif., and a private security contractor.

They say the gunmaker's business practices have funneled “uniquely lethal” semiautomatic rifles to criminals and “helped cause the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival” that left three people dead and 17 wounded.

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Essex Police Change Course After Charging Black Man Involved in Fight

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2021 at 10:52 PM

ALAIN LACROIX | DREAMSTIME
  • Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime
Following public scrutiny, the Essex Police Department on Thursday apologized to a Black man and withdrew a felony assault citation it had issued him for his role in a brawl last week.

In a lengthy written statement Thursday, released an hour after activists were scheduled to protest outside the police station, Chief Ron Hoague said his officers were too quick to cite Brandon Williams.

The department "has been working with community members this past year in an effort to better serve everyone in our community, especially those most impacted by racism and inequity," Hoague wrote. "We have engaged our public in conversation and efforts like never before and we realize that incidents such as this indicate we have more work to do."

Williams was the only one charged of at least four people involved in the July 13 fight, which police said took place at the home of a man who Williams had hired to repair a motorcycle. Police had previously said their investigation was not over and that additional charges could follow.

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Music Festival to Buy Marlboro College, Ending Ownership Dispute

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2021 at 5:31 PM

CALEBJC / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Calebjc / Wikimedia Commons
Marlboro Music will buy the former Marlboro College campus from Democracy Builders, the higher ed nonprofit whose former leader was arrested earlier this year.

The deal puts the scenic hillside campus, known as Potash Hill, under the control of its longtime summer tenant, which hosts the annual Marlboro Music Festival there. It also resolves a legal dispute between Democracy Builders and a mysterious cryptocurrency entrepreneur who had laid his own claim to the property.

“We are delighted to announce this historic agreement enabling us to protect Potash Hill and our use of the campus,” Christopher Serkin, Marlboro Music’s president, said in a press release.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Brian Boland, Renowned Hot Air Balloonist, Dies at 72

Posted By on Fri, Jul 16, 2021 at 7:21 PM

Brian Boland - COURTESY OF JIM BLOCK
  • Courtesy of Jim Block
  • Brian Boland
Brian Boland, a hot air balloon pilot with an international reputation for do-it-yourself balloon building, died on Thursday after falling from his balloon near the Connecticut River in Bradford. He was 72.

Boland and four passengers took off  on Thursday evening from Post Mills Airport in Thetford, where Boland lived with his partner, Tina Foster. Some time later, the balloon touched down in a field. The basket tipped over, causing one of Boland’s passengers to fall out. As the balloon rose again, Boland became entangled in the gears below the basket, fell to the ground and was killed, according to Vermont State Police.

The balloon drifted across the Connecticut River, landing in a copse of trees, where the remaining three passengers climbed out unharmed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Boland had been building and flying his homemade aircraft for more than five decades. In 1971, he constructed his first hot air balloon for his master’s thesis at the Pratt Institute in New York City. After graduating from Pratt, Boland became an art teacher at Farmington High School in Connecticut, where Paul Stumpf, a balloon mechanic and builder who now lives in Andover, was one of his students. Under Boland’s tutelage, Stumpf found his own passion for ballooning.

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