Forum for Feb. 17, 2024: Newbury’s decision

Published: 02-16-2024 7:43 PM

Newbury should decide what’s best for it

The Valley News version of the letter “Newbury should welcome facility” (Forum, Jan 27) had the derogatory accusations removed, but it remained an oversimplified and pejorative lecture.

Notwithstanding that a town itself should decide what a town “ought to do,” the writer admonishes that despite years of the state’s bullying and deception, Newbury should simply accept its dishonesty has prevailed and “embrace” DCF’s proposal — one deemed legal on a tenuous interpretation of statute, but remains not practical nor appropriate at the chosen location.

What’s perplexing however, is the assertion that all concerns “should be alleviated” simply because a “reputable” private company will run the facility, citing an unnamed 2020 report as substantiation — even suggesting this fact alone precludes Woodside-like abuse. This seems at odds with available information.

In 2021 the provider publicly admitted having no experience managing a hardware secure facility with the level of adjudicated youth to be placed at Newbury; and told the DRB of plans to hire private security (with its own myriad of problems) in tacit acknowledgement of the site’s security concerns and lack of law enforcement.

Additionally, multiple states have documented issues with this provider, which was specifically named in a 2022 abuse lawsuit that asserted illegal drug use inside their facility, and explicitly names a company executive, describing their conviction for transporting drugs between two of their facilities during the workday.

Of course, troubling past details don’t always predict future problems, but none of it supports the naive advocacy of blind trust made by the writer.

As the dust settles on Newbury’s legal case, and the proposed facility “meets the parameters of a group home” — wink, wink — DCF Commissioner Winters now says “We have to reevaluate what we’re doing in Newbury;” but that he “… recognized the need to “re-engage” with the community before moving ahead.” Hopefully not just another empty DCF promise.

So, let’s wait and see what DCF proposes next, and then Newbury, and only Newbury itself, will decide what it “ought to do.”

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Tony O’Meara

Newbury, Vt.

Hartford school spending
is out of control

I hope that all Hartford taxpaying voters have been following the dismal news regarding both our proposed local school budget and the even more disturbing headlines coming out of Montpelier from our inept, spendthrifts in the Legislature.

Locally, our School Board has proposed $52.4 million in total expenditures and raising over $40 million of it in local property taxes. Each of these represent an annual increase of over 10%. But wait, the needlessly complex formula driven numbers coming from Montpelier currently suggest your school tax will be raised 20% to as much as 42% this year in Hartford due to the town’s low 66% Common Level of Appraisal, caused by our surging property values. We already have one of the highest state income tax rates in the entire country, oppressive local taxes, and if you think it is unaffordable living in our state now, just imagine the crushing school tax bill you’ll be seeing.

In your Town Report, where the School Board showed a 20-year tax budget and rate chart, you see that in 1996-97 we had a $13.3 million total school expenditure budget. We had 2,360 students enrolled at that time, yielding a per pupil cost of just under $6,000. The current proposal of $52.4 million (nearly four times higher) with approximately 1,600 students (nearly 33% lower) yielding a per pupil cost of $32,750 (five times) and which is nearly twice the cost of the annual tuition for an in-state resident at UVm. Out of control.

It is time to send a strong message to our School Board and to Montpelier that this runaway freight train needs to be derailed. Please join me in voting no on the school budget.

Kevin Raleigh


Has insurrection already won?

I’ve read oodles of op-eds on the pending U.S. Supreme Court case about whether Trump should be removed from ballots under the 14th Amendment, due to having led an insurrection in violation of his oath of office. Fewer than half focus squarely on law. The majority of purportedly objective commentators — both liberals and conservatives — start from the premise that the Court can’t take Trump off the ballot, because it would lead to national chaos, including possible violence.

I fear they may be right. But my point is, if they are, then Trump’s insurrection has already won! Even though he has no overt private militia, like Hitler did, he has intimidated enough otherwise smart people into recommending an outcome for a U.S. Supreme Court case, based not on the law, but purely upon fear of the alternative. Ever since I was in high school, I’ve thought the big mystery in world history was how the Germans could have been so gullible as to put Hitler in power. Now the answer is becoming clear.

Bernie Waugh Jr.