Smear Job on Sorrell
[Fair Game: "Bye-Bye Billy," September 30] is a fine example of yellow journalism. "It's clear nobody knows what the law is," Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan confirmed. The only people who appear to disagree are Brady Toensing, the Vermont Republican Party vice chair, and Seven Days political columnist Paul Heintz.
Heintz contends that Attorney General Bill Sorrell's reelection committee "improperly reimbursed the candidate for expenses 16 times." But a review of campaign-finance reports, filed by candidates for statewide office over the past several years, show that Sorrell's disclosures were squarely within the norm. Not counting the expense disclosures made by Sorrell, there were at least 117 instances when a candidate took a reimbursement without specifically identifying what the candidate had spent money on.
Also, it makes excellent sense for Sorrell's office to have hired the Baron & Budd law firm to press claims against oil companies and refiners for pollution of groundwater in Vermont. Having represented 150 municipalities in 17 states, the first law firm in the country to press such claims has recovered more than $400 million for its clients. The polluters know this, which increases the likelihood of a just and adequate recovery. Moreover, hiring the law firm on a contingency-fee basis is very common and means that the litigation will not cost the people of Vermont anything.
Bill Sorrell has been a great attorney general, and I am saddened by the news that he will be leaving office. But he'll be nearly 70 years old by then, and, after nearly 30 years of public service, he is justly entitled to a retirement.
Hey, what happened to News Quirks? Please bring it back. Pretty please?
Editor's note: Sadly, longtime author Roland Sweet died in August. His nationally syndicated News Quirks column had appeared in every issue of Seven Days since it started 20 years ago. He will be greatly missed.
I was surprised to read Molly Walsh's characterization of her visit to Green Mountain Compost last week ["Big Stink: New Law Leads to Huge Composting Challenges," October 7]. Throughout the year we give tours to hundreds of students, regulators, business folk and reporters, and we often hear how surprisingly pleasant they find the atmosphere here.
It's true that, from time to time, the composting process produces short-term spikes in odor — a natural occurrence when billions of microbes are actively breaking down community food scraps and yard trimmings. Short-term issues in the process are inevitable; my job is making sure that minor issues don't impact our final product or our neighbors.
And I'm proud to say that right now we're producing some of the best finished compost we've made in the last 20 years. Over this season we've received amazing feedback from our customers — everyone from local gardeners to the region's biggest landscapers — who trust that our nutrient-rich compost, raised-bed mix and other products will give them the results they're looking for, every single time.
We have worked diligently to cultivate and maintain good relationships with our neighbors, including the one individual who alerted us to the recent odor issue. With her help, we were able to identify what caused the issue, and we are resolving it.
As the biggest food-scrap composter in the state of Vermont, we recognize that there will be more challenges with Act 148 and that it will take a community effort to meet its goals. We look forward to working with everyone to meet the challenges.
Goossen is the general manager of Green Mountain Compost.
The headline for this story is alarmist and misleading ["Big Stink: New Law Leads to Huge Composting Challenges," October 7]. I have been on the Green Mountain Compost site three times in the last month, and it does not "stink." One of those times was with three state officials and the newest class of Vermont-certified compost site operators.
The article raises some good points about expanding composting but misses some distinctions about anaerobic digestion and those sites that use either or both practices to process manure, food scraps and other residuals. Dan Goossen and his staff are working to address the earlier odors and are doing a good job, in my opinion.
Jerose is cofounder and president of Agrilab Technologies.
Dome, Sweet Dome
I am thrilled to hear that Bob Chappelle continues to bless this planet with his brilliance [Nest: "Out of the Box," September 16]. I first met Bob back in the mid-1980s, when my eye spied his magical domicile through the flickering sunlight in the trees. I stopped in to introduce myself and to marvel. It was the first of many visits — experiences that served to reinvigorate my mind and spirit.
Invariably I would find Bob, then in his early sixties, clinging to the domes, executing small repairs, guiding massive granite blocks for his new shower or carving blue foam into what was to be the form for his new entryway. Bob is a proponent of letting the space "talk" to him, despite his professional connections as an ex-MIT architect. From his unique sensibilities for the natural environment come magical, inventive design, exquisite skill, a multitude of crafts and structural comprehension, all woven into a tapestry of human history's experience with living space.
I took a couple of tours of Bob's home, which is all made with his own hands. Some people, only familiar with today's rectangular structures (which Bob absolutely rejects and abhors) were unable to sidestep that prejudice and visibly balked with discomfort. Here Bob would exhibit his only failing: trying to convince them of the lack of imagination in modern house architecture. Chappelle's house is a world-heritage-level work of art. It requires no caption.