Home Heard on the Street HEARD ON THE STREET: 9.20.18



Morse Farm Ski Touring Center Closing Shocks Skiers

Local cross-country skiers and snowshoers were saddened to learn this week that the Morse Farm Ski Touring Center in East Montpelier will not reopen this winter, after 17 years of operation. A statement emailed to customers by the five partners of the ski operation, and also posted on the center’s Facebook page, said the decision was reached “after exploring countless options and avenues, after much soul searching and deep deliberation.”

The statement—signed by Nat Winthrop, Chip Stone, Bill Kaplan, Burr Morse, and Tom Morse—said that poor snow conditions in recent years were driving the decision. “For the project to work we needed bad weather years to be the exception,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, now the good years are the exception. To reliably deliver the minimum level of skiing, staff, equipment and maintenance the ski area requires is simply more than the climate is now offering in snow.”

Burr Morse, 70, told the Times Argus that the age of the partners was also a factor. “It reached a point where we were just feeling like there was too much to do to keep it going in view of our ages,” he said. Morse Farm plans to “pull in our horns” and focus on the farm’s core maple sugaring business, he said.

Former Montpelier High School cross-country ski coach Greg Gerdel, who was part-time operations manager at the ski center last winter, told the Times Argus that the closing “will be a blow to some people, I’m sure.”


Montpelier Readers Devour Trump Books

A flurry of new releases chronicling turmoil in the Donald Trump White House are proving to be a boon for booksellers. The latest expose, Fear: Trump in the White House, by veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, was flying off the shelves at Bear Pond Books. Owner Claire Benedict said the store sold 45 copies on the first day of its release, and the book continues to be in high demand. “It’s definitely sold more, the most of any of the recent political books,” she said. Other hot Trump-related books include Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, and A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by former FBI Director James Comey, have also spiced up summer sales.


BTV to Orlando Route Revived

Non-stop airline service from Burlington to Orlando, Florida, will return just in time for spring break. Frontier Airlines will offer two flights a week to the land of Mickey Mouse, beginning February 9. The Wednesday and Sunday flights will mark the first non-stop service from Burlington to Orlando since Allegiant Airlines pulled out two years ago. Introductory fares will start at $59 each way.



Charter Change to Allow Plastic Bag Ban Approved by Montpelier City Council

The City Council has approved the concept of proposing a city charter change to voters that would allow the council to ban plastic bags from being provided to customers by Montpelier retailers. The City Council set a priority in its 2018 Strategic Plan to ban plastic bags. If the charter change is accomplished, the city will still need to take additional steps to put a ban in place.

The exact language of the “sustainability” charter change has not been settled on, but will be by the time of an October 3 meeting to warn the ballot for the November 6 election. Some councilors said at the Council’s September 12 meeting that while they supported the charter change, the proposed language was too broad.

Any change to Montpelier’s charter must be approved by several players: the City Council, city voters, the state legislature, and finally the governor, according to City Clerk John Odom. If passed by voters November 6, the next step will be for any charter changes to be introduced in the House and Senate Government Operations committees, he said.


Petition-Driven Charter Change Allowing Non-Citizens to Vote Will Be on Montpelier Ballot

The “sustainability” charter change will not be the only one on the November 6 ballot in Montpelier. City Clerk John Odom has determined that sufficient voter signatures were obtained on a petition to place another charter change on the ballot, to allow non-citizens who are legally here, such as with a green card or legal visa, to vote in municipal elections.

The charter amendment would allow voting on municipal issues by anyone who is a non-citizen but a legal resident of the United States on a permanent or indefinite basis, 18 years of age or older, in compliance with federal immigration laws, a resident of Montpelier, and has taken the voter’s oath,

According to Odum, if the charter change is adopted the city will need to keep a separate voter registry for non-citizens, who will only be allowed to vote on city matters and not on school issues or in state or federal elections.