hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires

September 2017   Facebook linkHill Country Observer TwitterHill Country Instagram page NEWS ARCHIVE



Town’s goal of ‘climate economy’ meets resistance

This spring, the rural town of Pownal became the first in Vermont to embark on a new planning initiative aimed at helping communities prepare for climate change and diminishing fossil-fuel supplies. Supporters say the project, which they’ve dubbed Empower Pownal, will help the town take control of its future while providing new tools for economic development. But almost from the beginning, the planning project has been dogged by opposition. Some townspeople fear the concept of a “climate economy” is just the first step toward a government land grab -- a fear the project’s supporters say has no basis in fact.

read more



A sanctuary for all seekers

Sufi retreat keeps spiritual focus in former Shaker buildings
read more



Mystery shrouds chemicals that replaced PFOA

Industry and government officials say PFOA, the toxic chemical blamed for contaminating water supplies in Hoosick Falls and several other area communities, is no longer used in U.S. manufacturing. But if PFOA has been phased out, what are industries using in its place? People like Silvia Potter would like to know the answer to that question for the two Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plans that still operate in Hoosick Falls. Remarkably, it’s not clear whether government regulators -- or even companies like Saint-Gobain -- know the exact makeup of the compounds big chemical companies have developed to replace PFOA.

read more



To age in place, it takes a village

Two separate efforts are under way in Berkshire and northern Columbia counties to establish new volunteer networks that would help elderly people continue to live independently in their homes. The local projects are part of a national effort, known as the village movement, aimed at creating support networks that combine an old-fashioned spirit of neighborliness with contemporary organizational strategies. This new generation of “villages” exists within larger geographic communities, but the villages function as nonprofit membership organizations based on volunteerism and mutual assistance.
read more


Museum pushes toward art sale as resistance grows

The Berkshire Museum’s plan to sell off 40 works of art from its collection has given rise to a local resistance group, Save the Art, that now claims more than 1,200 members.

read more










Belcher Hollow Forge, Handforged iron