Northeast Kingdom

Charlotte Albright / VPR

After two years without safe drinking water, the Caledonia County town of Sutton has finally decided to filter and treat water from its contaminated well. The unacceptable levels of nitrates in the water can be highly dangerous to young children.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

Two of St. Johnsbury’s most striking landmarks are getting glamorous make-overs. Both are legacies from the Fairbanks family, whose scale company brought prosperity to this Northeast Kingdom town at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

A group of young girls in a Northeast Kingdom school are making a lot of joyful noise this season. They belong to a chorus started two decades ago by a woman who brought the tradition of Balkan music to the tiny, remote town of Newark. She died in 2005, but the choir has been revived in her honor by two women who sang for her as little girls.

This month, the new Newark Balkan Chorus is hard at work getting ready for their winter concert.

Herb Swanson /

This week, as shopping carts overflow with tasty, sometimes expensive food, it’s easy to forget that the first Thanksgiving was not about bounty. It was about scarcity and sharing, as natives and settlers helped each other through a tough time.

In Hardwick, the spirit of giving smells a lot like warm pumpkin pie.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

A doctor whose cancer clinic was closed by Newport’s North Country Hospital three years ago has set up a private practice that is rapidly expanding.

In fact, Leslie Lockridge’s clinic is not treating only oncology patients. He’s adding other services that have been dropped by the hospital, and there are plans for further expansion in the future.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

A family of seven living in a small trailer in Coventry is going to get a brand new house, thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

In the Northeast Kingdom, Habitat is looking for mobile homes in disrepair, and replacing them with small, energy-efficient bungalows. Daniel and Elisabeth Prue, of Coventry, will be the first clients to benefit from this new approach to affordable housing.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

The state of Vermont is equipping 12 public buildings, including prisons, with solar energy systems. Thursday Governor Shumlin and the leaders of several businesses held a news conference at the first solar array under construction, for the Northeast Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury.

The complex of low buildings surrounded by barbed wired fencing perches on a scenic knoll on Route 5 just south of town.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

There’s a new meat processing plant in St. Johnsbury, and that’s making it easier for livestock farmers in the Northeast Kingdom to get their goods to market. Northeast Kingdom Processing is owned by a beef rancher from Derby, and managed by an experienced meat cutter named Edmund Lessard.

Michel Gagnon / Flickr

A keystone in the redevelopment plan for the city of Newport has toppled. Jay Peak Resort owner Bill Stenger was counting on buying a shopping center from real estate developer Tony Pomerleau, and converting it into a convention center and marina.

But after some starts and stops, the deal has finally fallen through.

Bill Stenger and Tony Pomerleau have had an on-again, off-again agreement to transfer ownership of this waterfront plaza. Strategically located on a causeway overlooking  Lake Memphremagog, Stenger says it would make a great convention center and marina.

Charlotte Albright / vpr

Once upon a time, on a tree-lined ridge overlooking Lyndonville, a bunch of kids gathered in a red barn. They moved some hay bales around, scared away some angry starlings, and sang and danced their way into the hearts of the Northeast Kingdom.

Over 20 years later, and with a lot of help from volunteers and benefactors, the curtain is still going up on the Vermont Children’s Theater.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

On Monday, the public got a chance to weigh in on a plan to build a four-story glass and metal tower in Newport that would house bio-medical research and development.

The developers, Bill Stenger and his business partner Ariel Quiros, say the project will create as many as 500 jobs and will not harm the environment. But some Newport residents have some concerns about its impact on public health.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Memphremagog Watershed Association is hosting a panel discussion Tuesday night about what it calls a "tar sands threat to Lake Memphremagog." The discussion has been organized jointly by the Memphremagog Watershed Association and National Wildlife Federation.

"Community members are invited to attend a discussion about an emerging threat to rivers, lakes, and streams in the Northeast Kingdom, including Lake Memphremagog," an event announcement states.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

This summer, several local communities are answering Gov. Peter Shumlin’s call of alarm about the growing opioid epidemic. About a dozen regional committees are now meeting throughout Vermont to craft specific action plans.

In the Northeast Kingdom, a group of concerned citizens call themselves “The Drug Abuse Resistance Team,” or DART 2.0. They meet once a month in a St. Johnsbury church basement. Members include social service providers, recovering addicts, drug and alcohol abuse counselors, a restorative justice director, even a hospital president.

Charlotte Albright

St. Johnsbury is one of 35 towns that saw its school budget voted down by voters on Town Meeting Day. But unlike many towns, it’s seeing its class sizes increase, and that’s adding costs. After the vote, the School Board held a public meeting where residents got to sound off about how to create a budget they will support.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

The city of Newport is poised for major economic development. But a lingering social problem seems to have gotten worse this winter. Community activists say they are seeing a rise in homelessness in a city with no emergency shelter.

On Newport’s Main Street, Brenda’s Restaurant is an early morning oasis for people who may have spent a bitterly cold night outdoors. 

Chatting with her friend Neil Morrissette, owner Brenda LePage says she’s happy to feed them for free.

Herb Swanson /

When the temperature plummets and snow piles up, many mountain bikes used to get stored for the season. But these days, more and more winter riders are navigating packed snow on big tires with deep treads.  So-called fat bikes are showing up all over the place, including Vermont’s longest network of single-track routes, Kingdom Trails, in East Burke.

Don Whipple Studios

The Derby sports complex Indoor Recreation of Orleans County, known as IROC, shut its doors last spring. The complex went into foreclosure, and many locals were hoping it would reopen under new ownership, with a manageable debt load. But that didn't happen. Soon, the building will reopen as a Sticks & Stuff home and building supply store.

Phil White was executive director of the nonprofit IROC facility. In his last post on the IROC website, White pledged to keep some of the activities run through IROC going:

Photo by Herb Swanson

The Northeast Kingdom town of Newport has jumped on the localvore bandwagon with a downtown tasting center where you can sample and buy artisan cheeses, wines, and meats.

There’s also a bar and restaurant and space for seasonal vendors to come in from the cold.

Herb Swanson

On September 21, Governor Peter Shumlin and other state officials will accompany the owner of Jay Peak on a nine-day Asian trade mission in hopes of secure money for a series of projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

The effort is centered on the federal EB-5 program, which offers Green Card status to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in approved projects.

NEK Apparel Manfacturer Expands

Jul 8, 2013

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says the expansion of a bicycle apparel company in Derby shows how the state is adding jobs in the Northeast Kingdom, traditionally the state's most economically challenged region.

Shumlin made the comments Monday at the groundbreaking in Derby for an $8 million expansion by the company Louis Garneau.

Currently the company employs about 90 people in Newport.

Once the expansion is complete in 2014 the company is expected to add another 10 employees to start and at least 10 more in the future.