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Kenyon: From Nonsense To Sense 

A look at how three people who have appeared in this space in recent months are faring in the new year.

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Thanks to some Valley News readers, Carissa Dowd may soon be out from under a monthly $250 back-rent payment.

Two anonymous donors, working through their lawyers, have offered to help Dowd, a single mother who took on a second job to repay a large debt that stemmed from a dispute with her former landlords.

In 2009, Dowd rented a two-bedroom apartment in Enfield from Deborah and Jon Meyer. When the lease expired in June 2010, the Meyers asked her to renew for another year at $775 a month.

According to court documents, Dowd believed she had a “verbal agreement” with the Meyers that allowed her out of the new lease if she needed to move out of town to be closer to her two daughters’ schools. (The Meyers told the court that they “never had such an agreement.”)

After Dowd moved out in October 2010, the Meyers filed a lawsuit against her. (Dowd and the Meyers both represented themselves.) Last June, Lebanon Circuit Judge Albert Cirone Jr. ordered Dowd to pay $6,800 in back rent, plus late and cleaning fees. In addition to paying $150 a month, Dowd was made to borrow $1,000 from her employer to give the Meyers.

Dowd recognizes now that she was emotionally unprepared to make her case to the judge. Stepping into the courtroom caused Dowd to relive the sentencing hearing 10 years ago of the man who, wielding a tire iron, forced her into his car and sexually assaulted her while her two young daughters cowered in the back seat.

Although Cirone ruled in their favor, the Meyers apparently weren’t satisfied with the arrangement. At a Dec. 18 court hearing, they requested that Dowd start paying $300 a month until the debt was paid off. The judge would only go to $250 a month.

Dowd still owes the Meyers nearly $5,300 (on a $7,100 bill), and won’t finish paying off the debt until the fall of 2014.

After writing about Dowd’s plight last month, I heard from Hanover lawyer Mark Melendy. A client had dropped off a check for $5,000, with instructions that the money be used to help Dowd out of her predicament. Melendy has also been in touch with Woodstock lawyer Tom Hayes, who has a client interested in erasing Dowd’s debt as well.

“It’s still kind of percolating,” Melendy told me. He said they are waiting to hear back from the Meyers, who didn’t return my call yesterday.

Meanwhile, Dowd has received $250 in checks from other readers that she plans to put toward future payments to the Meyers, if needed. “I wasn’t looking for help,” she said, “but it’s certainly a nice surprise.”

After 17 years as a Norwich town employee, Judy Trussell finally has health insurance. For the time being, any way.

Trussell, a single mother with a 6-year-old son, worked three part-time jobs for the town. Between her work in the Town Clerk’s Office, at the town’s transfer station and as a school crossing guard, Trussell sometimes put in more than 50 hours a week.

But in Norwich, that wasn’t good enough. Only year-round, full-time employees are eligible for the town’s medical and dental plans.

So Trussell, 41, and her son went without.

Until Town Clerk Bonnie Munday went to bat for her recently. Munday prodded the Selectboard to give her a full-time assistant town clerk. Starting this month, Trussell became Munday’s full-time, $16-an-hour assistant clerk, which makes her and her son eligible for insurance benefits.

“It’s a relief,” Trussell told me. “It gives me some peace of mind knowing that if something happens, we’re covered.”

There’s only one catch. After agreeing to the deal last month, the Selectboard is waffling. The board now says it wants voters at Town Meeting in March to decide whether to make the move to a full-time assistant town clerk (at a salary of $27,600 a year) a permanent one.

Unless the board changes its mind (again), Trussell won’t know for sure until Town Meeting if she and her son have health insurance beyond the end of the fiscal year in June.

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Last January, a minor skirmish broke out in a Hartford Middle School hallway between a few boys during lunch period. No injuries that required medical attention were reported.

But that didn’t stop Hartford police from getting involved. Criminal charges were brought against two eighth-graders. In exchange for admitting guilt, one of the boys was allowed to enter Windsor County’s restorative justice program.

The father of the other boy refused to allow police to fingerprint his 14-year-old son and vowed to fight the disorderly conduct charge in juvenile court. The dad, a delivery truck driver, sold Christmas trees to help pay for a lawyer.

I’d say it was money well spent. Windsor County prosecutors have dropped the case, the boy’s father told me recently. State’s Attorney Robert Sand wouldn’t tell me why, stating that he’s not “permitted to discuss confidential family court matters.”

The boy’s dad said he hopes the case will make police and school officials rethink their approach. “When I was growing up, principals and teachers handled the discipline in schools,” he said. “I don’t know why they need to call in police for small stuff like this.”

That makes sense. As much as a town providing health insurance for its workers and strangers wanting to help a single mom suddenly burdened by a mountain of debt.