BRANDON — The Segment Six project, a complete downtown overhaul from Route 7 itself to the pipes underground, is largely complete.
Bernie Carr, spokesman for the Segment Six project, said in a Friday interview that Casella Construction only has a few odds and ends to address before the work is “buttoned up” for the winter. Come spring, the more weather-dependent odds and ends will be addressed. This includes landscaping, crosswalk markings and other small projects.
Carr said the project straightened out Route 7 through town, widened the sidewalks and opened the area to make it more attractive and inviting. Right now Casella is using a central parking lot as a staging area, but once the company clears out that spot will be for municipal parking.
He said the project is estimated to cost about $28 million by the time it’s all complete. The federal government is paying for 90%, the state 15% and the town 5%. Voters approved a bond several years ago covering the town’s share of the project.
Construction began on the project in 2017. A celebration was held Nov. 9 at Town Hall, said Carr. To alleviate the significant disruptions, the construction work caused for downtown business, the Downtown Brandon Alliance, Brandon Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Brandon devised the “Brandon Buzz” promotion. Anyone who spent over $10 at a downtown participating location got a “buzz card” punched. Enough punches and they receive a gift certificate and enter into a regular $50 drawing. At the celebration last weekend, a grand prize drawing for $2,019 was won by Cruz Forrest, Carr said.
“It was an effort to keep people coming into downtown when construction was bad,” Carr said.
It’s estimated the promotion spurred about $200,000 in economic activity by encouraging people to frequent downtown shops.
Carr said the construction didn’t seem to prevent businesses from opening or making expansions. Red Clover Ale Co., Ripton Mountain Distillery and Eis Co. ice cream opened, 12 apartments were installed in the Smith Block, Blue Moon Clothing Store opened another location called Indu and folk artists Warren Kimball, Medana Gabbard and Robin Kent opened a shop together during the two-year construction period.
“I think the biggest thought people had, though we knew it was going to be a 2-year nightmare, that by the end of it the payback would be enormous,” Carr said.
Right now, folks in Brandon are planning to celebrate the 100% completion of the project at the end of May. Carr said things should be nice and green by then and all the work will be polished off. Details are still being worked out, but the occasion will feature events held all over downtown so people can see for themselves how walkable things are.
Select Board Chairman Seth Hopkins said this project had been planned since the late 1980s. It was going to begin earlier, in 2008, but got slowed down during the design phase. The construction itself, he said, was on time with no major problems.
“I think the biggest bang for the buck will be the new appearance,” he said in an interview Friday.
Hopkins said the new infrastructure, largely unseen by the public, is another boon for the town. During the construction, Casella was digging up water pipes at least 100 years old.
One thing to note, Carr said, that now stormwater runoff is separated from sewer, meaning no more overflows during heavy rain. Stormwater is now diverted into filtering areas from where it can seep into the Neshobe River.
“Everyone is going to have to do it, ours is already done,” he said.
BURLINGTON — A former Rutland County waitress, who gave birth to twin daughters almost a year ago, will avoid going to federal prison for heroin dealing because a judge believes she is well on the road to turning around her addiction.
The federal sentencing guidelines had suggested Aja Consoli, 34, formerly of Killington, receive a prison term of at least 9 years for conspiring to distribute heroin between June 2015 and October 2016.
But U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss said Friday she believed the single mom faced extenuating circumstances and that a sentence of “time served” was proper in this case.
The judge noted Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella and defense lawyer Robert Katims also supported the plan to allow Consoli to continue to care for her twin daughters born last December.
Reiss said Consoli will be heavily supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for three years and she will be required to undergo treatment as directed, including attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She said the supervision will be vigilant to ensure she stays straight.
Consoli is currently staying with her mother in Peabody, Massachusetts, Katims said.
“My life has changed significantly,” Consoli told the court. She said she has made connections at NA meetings.
“I don’t want to use again. I acknowledge everything I did. It is not a life I want to go back to,” Consoli said.
Both Katims and Perella told the court they were impressed Consoli had finally understood how to make her life right. Katims said his client was even attending the Vermont Narcotics Anonymous Convention this weekend while in Vermont.
“Her life is her children and her sobriety,” Katims said. He said she is interested in getting a career in the trades, possibly as an electrician.
Consoli was living at a residence on Roaring Brook Road in Killington when operating her drug distribution business, court records show. On Oct. 20, 2016, the Vermont Drug Task Force raided the residence after developing evidence to seek a federal search warrant.
Reiss ordered Consoli to forfeit the $10,480 in drug proceeds that was seized during the raid.
Reiss said she was initially unimpressed by Consoli and her rude behavior when she was arrested three years ago. Perella noted Consoli disrespected the court and prosecutor and was especially rude to the probation officer. Reiss said she had no trouble ordering her jailed at the time.
“You have come a long way. You went to treatment. You earned your freedom,” said Reiss, who was clearly torn by the options during the one-hour hearing.
“This is a tough case. I reluctantly give you time served,” Reiss said.
The judge admitted she was giving extra consideration because Consoli was a new mother. Reiss said there was a big difference when dealers with children continue to sell deadly drugs. She said those dealers make a choice to sell drugs knowing they are putting custody of their children in jeopardy. Consoli did not have any children when dealing.
Reiss noted that a one-year sentence would mean Consoli would lose custody of the children. Her mother, who spends summers at a lakefront property in the Northeast Kingdom, was not an option, the judge was told.
A federal grand jury indicted Consoli shortly after the arrest of two Rutland County brothers three years ago as part of an eight-month federal investigation into heroin distribution in the Rutland County region.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, along with federal authorities on Oct. 19, 2016, arrested Jeffrey P. LaRouche 41, then of Tinmouth and Mark LaRouche, 39, then of Rutland during a traffic stop on Route 4 in Killington State Police said.
Investigators seized about 80 grams of heroin when State Police pulled over Mark LaRouche’s westbound truck with his brother as a passenger, State Police Lt. Paul Favreau said.
Jeff LaRouche admitted he was a heroin user and had been selling the drug for a year, court records show. He said his brother was among the heroin addicts working for his drug business.
Perella reminded Reiss during the hearing that Jeff LaRouche had received a “time served” sentence in June after spending about 17 months in prison. Perella, in court papers last June, noted LaRouche deserved a time served sentence “by his impressive completion of the Federal Drug Court Program.” He was facing a stiff sentence as well, but turned his life around and was placed on two years of supervised release.
“He has proved that he can be a responsible, law abiding and hard-working member of the community and that a sentence of further imprisonment would be counter-productive to his recovery.”
Mark LaRouche had a minor role in the drug distribution conspiracy, court records show. Some of the heroin was laced with fentanyl, the government said.
He received a time-served sentence in March 2018 and was placed on supervised release for three years.
Consoli pleaded guilty on Sept. 10, 2018 to a charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin and was due to be sentenced Dec. 27, 2018. However with the birth of her twins, both sides agreed to delay it for 8 months. The prosecution during the summer asked for a second extension.
As the sentencing hearing ended, the prosecution dismissed a second charge for possession of heroin with intent to distribute on Oct. 20, 2016.
CLARENDON — After passing his hunter safety course in September, Mason Goad, 11, was ready for his first deer hunt at the start of the 2019 youth deer weekend.
With the help of his uncle, he shot his first buck Nov. 9. It had six antler points and weighed 130 pounds after being field dressed.
“We woke up in the morning around 4:27, I believe,” Mason said Friday. “Then we had breakfast, then we got in a car and drove down somebody’s driveway. We walked down to the hunting spot. We got in the ground blind. We were in there for a while. We didn’t hear anything, but somebody drove their car off while we were hunting. We got pretty cold so we went down to McDonald’s for food and hot cocoa, then we went to another spot.”
His uncle, Blaine Goad Jr., took him to hunt in Castleton, Mason said.
“First we went around the place and didn’t see anything. Then we went back to the car, and we went to a spot where we could wait. Then we went by a tree and used the grunt call,” he said. “It came in a few minutes later. The first time I shot at it I missed.”
The deer moved 10 yards and stopped, giving his uncle time to offer some advice on how Mason could shift his stance and shoot better. Mason said he chambered another bullet and fired a second time.
“He went another 20 or 30 yards and dropped,” said Mason.
His aunt, uncle and grandparents helped him drag the deer from the woods and take it to a nearby weigh station.
“I didn’t know what was going through my mind,” Mason said. “I was excited. I thought it was a good old deer.”
The deer carcass is still at the butcher shop, he said, and he’s having the head mounted. Mason said he has never eaten deer meat and is excited to try it.
Mason attends Christ the King School in Rutland. Only one of his classmates hunts. Mason said he plans to go hunting during the regular rifle season, which opens Saturday, but he’ll likely hunt in a different spot. Someday he wants to hunt turkey and coyotes.
His hunter safety course, he said, was challenging, but it taught him the importance of muzzle control and overall gun safety.
As for the hunting itself, Mason’s technique is simple, but effective.
“Be quiet. Really quiet,” he said. “I sort of tell myself to be quiet. I get all these itches and everything, so I guess that’s a problem. It’s hard.”
He’s developed at least one trick for shutting down sneezes.
“There’s a trick I learned — you put your fingers somewhere along your nose, and it stops a sneeze,” he said. “I tried it and it did work.”
What’s the perfect holiday gift for that special someone on your list that you don’t really care for all that much — an ex or a business rival, or that neighbor who keeps dumping trash in your yard? A5
Vermont Realtor Ken Libby receives a distinguished national award in the industry. B4
Plastic is much more than a litter problem. It exposes us to harmful chemicals and contributes to the climate crisis. C7
Rob Mermin, founder of Vermont’s Circus Smirkus, remembers his teacher and mentor in “Adventures in Mime & Space: The Legacy of Marcel Marceau” on Nov. 23 in Waterbury Center. D1