In July, valley residents watched in awe as Dot’s Restaurant was lifted off its foundation, swung over the Deerfield River, and placed at the back of the diner’s parking lot. The gutted building, which was badly damaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene, was moved to allow contractors to remove the old foundation and replace it with a new and more flood-resistant poured cement foundation.
Attorneys representing John Grega dropped a bombshell in a murder case long thought settled. John Grega was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of his wife Christine Grega at a Dover condominium in 1994, but new DNA evidence cast doubt on his guilt. Although the new evidence didn’t exclude Grega, the test results indicated the presence of skin DNA from an unknown male in samples taken from his wife’s body.
Later in the year, Grega’s conviction was vacated and a new trial ordered. After 18 years in prison, Grega was released on conditions, pending his release. In accordance with his court-ordered conditions of release, Grega is currently residing at his mother’s house on Long Island.
After 230 years, the Congregational Church left Wilmington to consolidate its Deerfield Valley membership at their church in Dover. The Congregational Church building, one of Wilmington Village’s most spectacular, was turned over to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church for the sum of $1. St. Mary’s had been looking for new digs even before their old building (on East Main Street, between Greene’s Servicenter and the Mobil Short Stop) was inundated by Tropical Storm Irene. After the flood, a new building became an imperative for the Episcopal church.
Almost a year after Tropical Storm Irene, renovations on Wilmington Town Hall were completed and town officials moved back into their offices. For nearly a year, the town offices had been headquartered in the former Rite Aid space next to Shaw’s. Shaw’s had provided the space free of charge while the town struggled to get back on its feet.
The move back to the village was made with some trepidation, however, with officials acknowledging the possibility that future flooding could leave the town in even worse shape. Although selectboard members agreed that a new location would be ideal, for now the town clerk and police department on the first floor of the building are keeping a wary eye on the Deerfield River.
In a last-minute reprieve, Deerfield Valley towns learned they would be eligible for federal disaster recovery community development block grants. Under the legislation authorizing the funds, Windham had been excluded from the lion’s share of the $21.6 million in funding because the cost of storm damage from Tropical Storm Irene had been miscalculated. As soon as HUD announced the allocation of the funds, however, people in Windham County and Montpelier began to question the math. With help from Vermont’s congressional delegation, officials successfully lobbied to direct a major portion of the funding to Windham County. Several Deerfield Valley grant applications are currently in the works.
In Dover, voters elected Tom Baltrus to fill a selectboard seat vacated by Sherm Jenne.
In September, Dover Selectboard members heard a pitch from Hermitage and Haystack developer Jim Barnes for the revitalization of Mount Snow Airport. The neglected airstrip no longer serves commercial aviation, but Barnes told board members he’d like to improve and enlarge the airport to serve small jet traffic. He requested a $600,000 low-interest, five-year loan to fund a portion of the estimated $1 million project. Barnes said a jetport would support businesses in the valley and increase property values.
The airport extends into Wilmington, and Barnes also asked the Wilmington Selectboard to support his plan. He sought land from Wilmington, which owns numerous lots at the southern end of the airport, as well as a cash loan.
Local cable television viewers said goodbye to Mount Snow TV after Outside Television, owner of the local station, decided to pull the plug. Mount Snow TV had served the valley and the resort community for almost 29 years.
Supervisory union consolidation took a step forward at a huge meeting of more than 50 school board members, representing 18 towns of Windham Southwest Supervisory Union and Windham Central Supervisory Union. A majority of board members voted to explore options for “collaboration.” Their study could result in a recommendation to share resources between the two supervisory unions, or to consolidate all 18 towns into a single supervisory union. WSSU Supervisory Board Chair Seth Boyd suggested the conversation after the resignation of WSSU Superintendent Jack Rizzo. The two supervisory unions agreed to form a committee to explore the idea. In the meantime, WSSU is seeking to hire a superintendent for two years.
In October, the Wilmington Development Review Board heard several major applications, including one for a new base lodge at Haystack Ski Area, and another for construction and renovation of Deerfield Valley Elementary School.
At DVES, school board members planned to expand the school with two additions to accommodate the new consolidated Wilmington/Whitingham elementary school. After 50 years, or more, of discussions, the two towns had joined their middle and high schools together in 2004. In 2011, the towns voted to extend their agreement to include the elementary grades and, in a subsequent vote, approved a bond to renovate DVES and Whitingham Schools to serve as the elementary and middle/high school. The DVES project includes a 4,470-square-foot addition, creating six new classrooms at the west end of the school.
A second 5,210-square-foot addition to the back of the school, behind the current cafeteria and mechanical rooms, will make room for a new cafeteria and a music and art room. The project will also include the reconfiguration of the interior of the building from an “open classroom” design to a more traditional configuration with closed classrooms.
The Haystack project is part of Hermitage Club developer Jim Barnes’ plan to revitalize Haystack as a private club and ski area.
The new base lodge will be 224 feet long, 126 feet wide at its widest point, and will have about 92,000 square feet of interior space, with about 14,500 square feet of porches and patios.
The DRB also heard Wilmington artist Ann Coleman’s plan to construct a new gallery at the location of her original gallery on West Main Street. Coleman’s original building, and all of its contents, had been completely washed away by floodwaters during Tropical Storm Irene.
The Wilmington Historical Society presented newly discovered footage of the town from the 1930s, including footage taken shortly after the flood of 1938. The film, preserved in storage at a historical society in Massachusetts, hadn’t been seen in more than 70 years.
The valley rallied to help one of their own in November, after East Dover resident Amy Werner was severely injured when she was hit by a car. Werner, 23, had been walking along a sidewalk in London, England, where she was attending graduate school, when she was struck by a driver who had careened out of control. Another woman was killed in the incident.
Werner was in a medically-induced coma, suffering from severe head trauma and broken bones in her pelvis and legs. Her parents, Regina and Richard Werner, flew to London and have been at her side through her recovery.
Hundreds attended a benefit at the West Dover Inn that raised funds to help the family with costs not covered by insurance, including the cost of flying Amy back to the United States to continue her treatment.
Werner is currently recovering in Boston, improving every day with a rigorous therapy regimen.
Dover announced the purchase of a one-acre parcel on Route 100, located between Country Club Road and 7-Eleven, from local resident Eddie Barber. Town officials said there wasn’t any particular plan for the property, but that it would become public greenspace.
Also in November, the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union said goodbye to Ronda Lackey. For 13 of the 24 years she had been at the supervisory union, Lackey was the business manager. She was the “go-to” person for six schools, seven school boards, and Town Meeting voters in seven towns. Lackey had a knack for making complex financial and legal issues understandable - even for reporters.
The US Forest Service closed two areas at Haystack Mountain to snowmobiles and other motor vehicles after unauthorized trail alterations were discovered. The two areas included a snowmobile and hiking trail at the top of the mountain, which included the ridge trail, as well as an area of land below Haystack Pond, to the south of Haystack Ski Area. According to the Forest Service, there had been “significant unauthorized excavation” to portions of the existing trail, and new snowmobile trail construction on the portion of land below Haystack Pond. Some of the damage occurred on town-owned “glebe” land, leased to Haystack Ski Area owners. The trails remained open to hikers while the Forest Service conducted their investigation.
A few days later, a Windham County court issued an order halting any unpermitted work by the Hermitage Club at Haystack, and barred the club from using an unauthorized snowmobile trail that had been built on Haystack property. The trail runs through bear habitat that had been set aside as a mitigation parcel under the Hermitage Club’s Act 250 permit. The “unpermitted” work referred to earth disturbance that wasn’t covered under the club’s existing state construction permit. According to developer Jim Barnes, the order interrupted about two or three hours of work before the proper permit was issued. Also in December, local residents John Sprung and Amiee Pritcher reopened the East Dover General Store. The store had been closed until the pair purchased the building earlier in the year. Their vision includes revitalization of the entire property as a center for the village of East Dover.
The building has housed the East Dover General Store and the East Dover Post Office for more than 150 years.