Thursday, December 31, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 31, 2009

A public meeting to present six designs for the new Lake Champlain Bridge and to receive public comment will be held Monday in Vergennes. Feedback on designs will be invited at the meeting and will be accepted until Jan. 11. An announcement on the final design is expected in mid-January. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Addison County Eagle building, 67 New Haven Road in Vergennes.

The Ticonderoga Ferry will remain open for at least a few more days. The ferry's contract with the state expires today, but the ferry will stay open through Sunday. The ferry's owner is checking on insurance and other paperwork to determine whether he can keep running longer than that.

The governors of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including Vermont and New York, have signed an agreement to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels. The goal is to lower the carbon content of fuels used by vehicles, which represent about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

The union representing most Vermont state workers says its members have ratified a new 2-year labor contract that calls for temporary, 3 percent pay cuts. Vermont State Employees Association Director Jes Kraus says the contract temporarily cuts wages by 3 percent and leaves them frozen until 2012, then restores the 3 percent cuts.

Water service has been restored in downtown Montpelier and is expected back elsewhere in the city shortly. State offices were closed and first-shift workers sent home yesterday morning after two water main breaks in the city shut down water service to much of the nation's smallest state capital, which has about 8,000 residents.

A civic action group says it has gathered enough signatures to challenge the instant-runoff voting system used in mayoral elections in Burlington. The group called "One Person, One Vote," wants to place the issue before city voters. Last March, Mayor Bob Kiss was elected in three rounds using the instant runoff system.

State police say a 20-year-old woman is in custody in the hold-up of Lyndonville's Passumpsic Savings Bank yesterday. Paige Ely was arrested at a local inn after police used a dog and surveillance video to track her from the bank to the hotel.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 30, 2009

The winter weather made for some dangerous road conditions yesterday. Heavy snowfall and quickly dropping temperatures meant ice was frozen to many road surfaces. Cars spun out or went off the roads in some places. It was too cold for rock salt to even melt ice. Crews say normal salt works best when temperatures are in the 20s. Vermont transportation officials are putting additives into a liquid brine hoping the experiment works better than salt to melt ice in the bitter cold. The transportation agency says hills on Route 7 were some of the most difficult roads to manage.

Crews started pulling chunks of the Champlain Bridge out of Lake Champlain Yesterday. It's a process that is expected to take at least 4 months. Six barges, 45 people, and about 30 pieces of machinery will be used to complete the work. Most all of the pieces will have to be cut up before they're removed, including the debris underwater. The biggest challenge will be removing parts of the bridge from the middle of the channel where the water is about 45 feet deep.

Vermont's major teachers' union is trying to get out in front of a report to be issued soon on public retirement systems, saying it fears it might propose changes that would harm pensions for teachers, state and municipal workers. The National Education Association's Vermont chapter launched its own report Tuesday ahead of next week's start to the Legislative session, saying it wants to help provide solutions to the state's short-term budget crisis without destroying a teacher pension system in place for six decades. NEA officials say they fear the special commission's report will call on teachers and other public employees to work longer, pay more into the system and receive less in pensions.

Amtrak will stop in Castleton, Vt., for the first time in more than 50 years starting this weekend. The Ethan Allen Express will make two stops a day at the recently renovated station starting Saturday. The Agency of Transportation decided to switch the train's daily stop between Rutland and Albany from Fair Haven to Castleton to meet growing and anticipated demand to Castleton State College and Lake Bomoseen areas.

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Lyndon man in the stabbing death of his estranged wife. State police say Anna Berwick had recently gotten a restraining order against Benjamin Berwick after the couple separated. She was found dead yesterday. He is hospitalized with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A Virginia woman may have disappeared with a 7-year-old girl at the heart of a custody dispute involving a former lesbian couple. A Vermont judge has ordered the youngster to be turned over to Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven Friday, but the judge says Jenkins' former partner, Lisa Miller, has "disappeared."

While the U.S. Senate's version of health care reform didn't include a so-called public option, state lawmaker Paul Poirier would like to see it happen in Vermont. Poirier tells The Times Argus he plans to introduce a bill creating a public health insurance option for low-income residents.

The state plans to go to anglers next month, hoping to find out more about their fishing habits and opinions on how Vermont manages its fisheries. Surveys will be mailed to both in and out-of-state anglers.

A 77-year-old man has died in a car accident in Bloomfield.Police say Robert Postier was traveling on Route 102 on Tuesday when his Jeep Liberty went off the road, struck a sign post and ignited. Authorities say a passing motorist pulled Postier from the burning vehicle but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 29, 2009

Controlled explosions brought down the Lake Champlain Bridge between New York and Vermont. The 2,184-foot-long span between Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison, Vt., was closed Oct. 16 when engineers deemed it wasn't safe because of severe erosion. There was a sharp concussion followed by billowing smoke as steel and concrete fell.

Now that the Champlain Bridge has been demolished, the massive cleanup effort will begin. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all the debris be cleared from the navigational channel by April 15, but New York Department of Transportation officials expect to have that done well before the deadline. A company called Sessler Wrecking out of Waterloo, N.Y., will be pulling the pieces out of Lake Champlain and putting them on barges. State officials say much of the material will be salvaged or recycled. Some community members have asked for pieces of the old bridge as souvenirs. Whether that's a possibility is still under consideration.

The Brandon Medical Center plans to get much bigger in 2010. The clinic got the go-ahead last week from the District 1 Environmental Commission to expand its Grove Street facility, enlarging the waiting area and adding four new exam rooms and a pharmacy.

Vermont State Police say a woman has been killed in St. Johnsbury and her estranged husband is a suspect in her death. Police say Anna Berwick of St. Johnsbury was killed in the parking lot of the Green Mountain Mall. After that, police say Ben Berwick of Lyndon emerged from woods with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He is listed in stable condition at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Agriculture help lines and farmer support groups say they have seen a big increase in requests for help this year. The calls are from dairy farmers who are struggling because they haven't been able sell their milk for what it costs to produce. NY FarmNet in Ithaca has taken about 6,000 requests for help this year.

Vermont transportation officials should learn within the next few months whether they will receive a $73 million federal grant that could help expand passenger rail service from Rutland to Burlington.The state of Vermont has applied for the federal stimulus funding to upgrade the railroad tracks along the western side of the state.

Monday, December 28, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 28, 2009

The demolition of the Lake Champlain Bridge is on schedule for Monday, according to John Zicconi, spokesman at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The local landmark connecting Crown Point and Addison, Vt., is scheduled to be blown-up at 10 a.m. Construction on a new bridge is scheduled to start this spring, with an opening date expected in the summer of 2011.

Good news for commuters between Vermont and New York … starting today, ferry service between Charlotte and Essex will run 24 hours a day. The new winter schedule has the ferry departing every 30 minutes from Vermont and New York to make it easier for commuters that used to travel over the Crown Point Bridge.

A Pew Research Center survey finds northern New Englanders are among the least religious people in the country. The survey ranked states based on what percentage of the population said religion was very important in their lives. New Hampshire and Vermont, which were lumped together for the survey, were at the bottom of the list.

Vermont is opening a firewood lottery on Jan. 4. Registration for the 200 "cut-your-own" lots across the state ends Jan. 15. Each lot costs $30 and yields about three cords of wood. People interested in the lottery can register online or call the state Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation.

Swine flu concerns have been a boon to one Vermont business. Triosyn Corp. recently started around-the-clock production of anti-microbial respirators, which can help health care workers and emergency responders who come in contact with the virus. The Williston-based company says it has hired 80 people since July, boosting total employment to 90.

A 36-year-old Readsboro man jailed on a first-degree aggravated domestic assault charge after Vermont State Police say he threw a person out of a moving vehicle during a fight. Troopers say Michael Chase's driver's license also was suspended in Vermont and had been suspended 43 previous times.

Police say a Good Samaritan who stopped at what he thought was a car accident ended up getting stabbed in the hand by a man who had just rammed into his wife's car. Twenty-2-year-old Alexey Mameav of Quechee was charged with drunken driving, domestic assault and five other charges after the incident late Wednesday night.

Vermont is on track to finish 2009 with the lowest number of homicides in 45 years. The Burlington Free Press reports there were four cases police classified as murder: three stabbings and one fatal beating.

In the town of Dorset, they're facing a pleasant dilemma - how to spend a $252,000 surplus discovered by the town's auditor. Town Manager Rob Gaiotti says the decision should be left to the Select Board, but believes putting the money into a reserve found - to be used over the next three years - makes sense.

Vermont State Police are investigating a robbery in which a man entered a pharmacy in Cambridge and demanded the narcotic oxycodone. Police say the man entered the store, demanded the drug from staff there and fled in an unknown direction. Oxycodone has been a favorite target in pharmacy holdups around the country.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 24, 2009

The state attorney general's office is warning Vermont consumers to beware of a telephone scheme they're calling the "grandparent" scam. In the scam, someone using an untraceable cell phone calls an elderly person and poses as their grandson, claiming to be in trouble and in need of money in Canada.

A Plattsburgh man who gave drugs to a teenager, who then overdosed last year, has been sentenced to 7 years in prison. 31-year-old Scott Miller pleaded guilty to drug charges in connection with the death of 17-year-old Julia Delsignore. but took off to Canada before he could be sentenced. This week, he returned to Clinton County Court, where he was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 3 years of post-release supervision.

Vermont State Police investigators say they've given up - for now - a search for the remains of a Westford grandmother believed buried in woods behind the elementary school. Authorities say they will resume the search for the remains of Mary Wilcox in the spring. Her daughter has been arrested in the 2006 death.

All Post Offices are open today, but many will shorten retail lobby hours. Regular mail delivery for today will be unaffected by the change. Post Offices will be closed tomorrow. Express Mail will be delivered tomorrow and regular mail delivery will resume on Saturday. Most locations across Vermont will be closing at noon except for the larger city branches.

A farm worker from Mexico is dead after what police say appears to have been an accident on a Fairfield farm late Tuesday. State police say the worker, who was under 21, got caught in a piece of equipment. Police say all indications are the death was an accident. Federal safety officials are investigating.

More than 300 Vermont National Guard Solders, who have been training in Indiana for an upcoming deployment, are back in Vermont to spend the Holiday with their loved ones. Their transportation was paid for by donations raised during Operation Holiday Homecoming. The solders will be here till New Years Day when they return to Indiana for more training.

None of the tickets sold for the Powerball game last night matched all six numbers drawn. The jackpot was estimated at $110-Million. Players matching all five numbers and the Powerball would have won or shared the $55.1 million jackpot. The prize goes to an estimated $122-Million for Saturday.

A Vermont woman whose wheelchair was stolen from her daughter's car at a Massachusetts mall is appealing to common decency during the holiday season for the thief to return her lifeline. Lucille Riccio of Wilmington says the $1,000 chair is the only way she can leave her home. Police have no suspects.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 23, 2009

Officials say demolition of the closed Lake Champlain Bridge between New York and Vermont has been delayed until Monday because ice and severe cold have slowed preparations for the explosions. Two public viewing areas will be available on the New York shore in Port Henry and another will be set up on the Vermont shore on Route 125.

Some Vermont National Guard members are returning home today to spend Christmas with their loved ones. About 700 soldiers are training in Indiana right now. They've been gone for about two weeks. About half of the soldiers are taking advantage of free bus rides home, and will be arriving back in Vermont this morning.

A new report says the condition of Vermont's housing stock is hurting low-income people in more ways than one. The 2010 Vermont Housing Needs Assessment, which was released yesterday, says low-income households are being forcing to pay a higher percentage of their income in rent than other groups.

Vermont health officials are urging college students returning home for the holidays to get swine flu shots while they're home. The state Department of Health says H1N1 flu illnesses have dropped in recent weeks, but that cases are still being confirmed.

Democratic state lawmaker Ira Trombley has passed away. He was 57 years old and a fellow lawmaker says he had recently suffered from a foot infection. A state party leader tells The Burlington Free Press Trombley was a passionate public servant.

Ground beef from a farm in Shelburne is being recalled because of possible E. coli contamination. State health officials say most of the affected meat from Harrington and Sons Packing has already been retrieved. There have been no reports so far of any illnesses.

Gardener's Supply has been sold to its employees. Founder Will Raap will continue as chairman of the Burlington-based garden products retailer, but he will also work on other nonprofit and for-profit initiatives.

The state of Vermont wants to crack down on unlicensed salvage yards, and it's looking for your help. Only about 75 salvage yards have state licenses, but the state Agency of Natural Resources says up to 300 may actually exist around the state. State officials say they want to bring the yards' owners into compliance with state and local laws.

Vermont State Police say a 911 call from a passenger in a car traveling the wrong way on Interstate 91 led to a drunken driving charge against the operator. Bradford L. Sargent, of Brattleboro, was charged after 911 dispatchers fielded calls from people who had seen his car traveling north in the southbound lanes near Brattleboro.

Some indigenous Vermont turtles are getting a cozy home for the winter, thanks to ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington. For a fourth year, the aquarium on Lake Champlain is hosting a group of spiny soft-shell, northern map and painted turtles. The spiny soft-shell turtles, whose loss of habitat has made them a high priority for conservationists, are among the hatchlings who will also be used for weekend stewardship and awareness demonstrations at ECHO. They'll be released back into the wild next spring.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 22, 2009

CROWN POINT, N.Y. (AP) - Public viewing areas will be set up in New York and Vermont for the demolition Wednesday of the Lake Champlain Bridge. In New York, two viewing areas will be available along the shore in Port Henry, about 2 miles west of the 80-year-old bridge. On the Vermont side, Route 125 in Addison, Vt., is the designated viewing area. A 1,000-foot buffer zone will bar the public from the area immediately surrounding the bridge, and the Federal Aviation Association has established a 2,000-foot no-fly zone around it. The span, on the lake's narrow southern end, was closed Oct. 16 when engineers deemed it wasn't safe because of severe erosion to its concrete piers. The demolition will be broadcast live on the Internet:

With the Champlain Bridge about to come down, its replacement is taking theoretical shape. The public advisory committee voted unanimously last week to recommend a design resembling the existing bridge. That designed has also been favored heavily in an online poll. Vermont Agency of Transportation spokesman John Zicconi said the design is not the final choice, as New York and Vermont will take public comments until Jan. 11 and make their decision soon after.

University of Vermont officials say the school is getting a $5 million donation to help take a middle school technology program statewide. The goal is to have the program, providing schools with training and equipment, in place at ever middle school in Vermont within the next 10 years.

The Vermont Health Department says it has enough swine flu vaccine for anyone over aged 6 months who would like to be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu. Health Commissioner Dr. Wendy Davis says the focus continues to be on vaccinating high-risk populations, but other people can be vaccinated as well.

FairPoint Communications has named a former Vermont legislator and secretary of administration Michael Smith, to be the company's new Vermont state president. FairPoint bought Verizon Communications' landline and Internet operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It's had lots of technology problems and filed for bankruptcy.

The deadline for bids to acquire 79 supermarkets in the Northeast operated by the bankrupt Penn Traffic Co. has been extended for six more weeks. After getting a request for extra time from Sen. Charles Schumer, the supermarket chain's largest lender, GE Capital, agreed to extend yesterday's deadline for potential buyout offers.

A Republican familiar with the plan says Rudy Giuliani is expected to endorse Republican Rick Lazio for New York governor. The decision is confirmed by a Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official isn't authorized to speak about the endorsement. The endorsement by Giuliani, known as America's mayor for his leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks, is scheduled for Tuesday. Lazio is a former congressman from Long Island and announced his candidacy months ago. He's been campaigning since. Giuliani spokeswoman Maria Comella didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Democratic Gov. David Paterson is seeking a full term in 2010 and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is expected to be weighing what would be his second run at the job.

Two teenagers will be in a Burlington Courtroom today answering to the charges of mugging a woman on lower College Street yesterday afternoon. Police say 17-year-old Robert Bigelow and a 15 year old attacked the woman and stole her purse. Police will not say whether they believe this is connected to the mugging last week near the Macy's parking garage.

Police are seeking the public's help in identifying a suspect who they say attempted to rob Small Dog Electronics in South Burlington early yesterday morning. Investigators say nothing was taken from the business. Anyone with any information about this crime is asked to call the South Burlington Police Department.

If you’re going to explore the Adirondacks, the Department of Conservation reminds you that winter time can be a dangerous time for being in the wilderness. Officials say you should dress in layers, with hats, gloves, boots and wind/rain-resistant outerwear. Day packs should include an ice axe, food, water, clothing, maps, compass, first-aid kit and blankets.

Construction starts today on the docks for the new ferry that will cross Lake Champlain near the Crown Point Bridge. The 140-ton steel framework for the dock will go up on the south side of the bridge. The first load of steal is being delivered today. Officials hope to have the steal work done by early January so the entire dock can be completed by the end of January.

Vermont State Police arrested a man they say is responsible for at least 17 burglaries of camps in the Fairfield Pond area. 23-year-old Joseph Shepard of St. Albans Town was arrested in connection with the cases. Police say Shepard stole copper plumbing and other items from the camps in the first half of December.

Monday, December 21, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 21, 2009

The Ticonderoga Ferry plans to return to its regular schedule today. It operated on an abbreviated schedule Sunday after being closed Friday and Saturday due to ice forming on Lake Champlain, The ferry, which connects Shoreham to Ticonderoga, N.Y., will operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is free. The ferry's season was extended due to the closing of the Lake Champlain Bridge between Crown Point, N.Y., and West Addison. The bridge, which was closed in October because of problems in the span's piers, is scheduled to be demolished Wednesday. The ferry schedule is dependent on weather conditions, said John Zicconi, director of planning, outreach and community affairs for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. For the latest information, travelers can go to the ferry company's Web site at

The Crown Point Bridge is schedule to be demolished on Wednesday and officials are expecting crowd. State officials are making it clear that this is a construction site and safety will come first. No one will be allowed within a thousand feet of the bridge. They say, “We’re not throwing a party here.” There will be no facilities and parking will be scarce.

The latest unemployment report includes some good news about Vermont's economy. Vermont's unemployment rate dropped in November for the third month in a row. It fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.4 percent. However, state labor officials remain wary of the numbers because other economic indicators suggest the Vermont job market is not yet in full recovery.

A panel formed to examine the viability and financial structure of Burlington Telecom will hold its first meeting today. The seven-member Blue Ribbon Committee on Burlington Telecom, is tasked with assessing the city-owned telecommunications company's debt load and whether it needs more financing to operate.

It's been a decade since the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in a groundbreaking case that led to the state's civil unions law. The court ruled in a case deciding whether gay and lesbian couples were entitled to the same legal rights and protections as married male and female couples. Now, Vermont and a handful of other states have laws recognizing gay marriage.

Police are investigating a train-car crash that killed an elderly couple in Randolph, Vt., but they say crossing lights and bells were working at the time of the collision. Randolph Patrolman Tom Simpson say that the engineer on the Amtrak passenger train told him the train was traveling within its speed limit when it struck the car.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials say ice fishing season is just around the corner, if nature cooperates. Fish and Wildlife officials recommend at least 6 inches of solid ice for safe fishing. Vermont's ice fishing season for trout, salmon and bass starts Jan. 16.

About 447,000 Dorel baby car seat carriers are being recalled after dozens of reports of the child restraint handle coming loose. There have been at least three injuries to babies, including bumps, bruises and a head injury. Dorel Juvenile Group Inc., of Columbus, Ind., has received 77 reports of the child restraint handle fully or partially coming off the product. The recall involves Safety 1st, Cosco, Eddie Bauer and Disney branded infant car seat carriers with certain model numbers. They were sold at department and juvenile product stores nationwide from January 2008 through this month. The recall was announced on Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Dorel Juvenile Group.

The health care overhaul taking shape in Congress includes a provision pushed by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy to increase the state's Medicaid payments by $250 million over six years. The provision, also supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders, is included in an amendment of negotiated provisions offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday.

A 19-year-old Green Mountain College student is suing the school over a lack of single-sex bathrooms in the her coed residence hall. Jennifer Weiler filed a civil complaint last week against the Department of Public Safety, which enforces building and plumbing codes she claims were violated. According to the lawsuit, Weiler and others are uncomfortable with the flimsy curtains on the shower doors and men using the toilets without closing the door. A college spokesman declined to comment.

An alert driver may have saved the life of a Vermont man whose car flipped over into an icy brook. Authorities say Randy Leavitt was driving home Thursday night and noticed tire marks cutting through a snow bank in South Royalton. He found a car overturned in Broad Brook and the driver trapped with only his head above water. Leavitt pulled David Martineau of East Barnstead part way out of the window and ran to a nearby home to call for help. Temperatures reached minus 4 degrees that night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 18, 2009

Transportation officials have set a tentative date for the demolition of the Champlain Bridge for next Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. Some permits and preparations still need to be finalized. The demolition crew will detonate the bridge in short segments, and then spend the winter picking up the pieces that fall into the lake. Though not encouraged, it is a public roadway and there will be viewing sites along Route 125. Both Routes 125 and 117 will be limited to one-way traffic on the day of the demolition.

The daughter of an elderly Westford woman will stay jailed without bail in her 2006 killing. State police say Jeanne Sevigny killed Mary Wilcox, burned Wilcox's body and then had the victim's grandson get rid of the remains. Sevigny's lawyer claims the shooting death was an accident.

Parts of northern New England are among the places to go for people with their hearts set on a white Christmas. federal climate researchers say New Hampshire's Pinkham Notch has a 95 percent change of show for December 25th - while St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and Caribou, Maine, also are at the top of the list.

The state's highest court is hearing a dispute over the 2003 shooting of a dog. The Supreme Court is considering whether Denis and Sarah Scheele (SHEE'-lee) of Maryland can collect damages after Northfield man Lewis Dustin shot the animal after it wandered onto his property.

A Vermont man has been ordered held on $100,000 bail after a traffic stop on Interstate 91 that turned into a drug bust. State police say they found three kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment of Essex Junction man Scott White's car in the Tuesday stop.

Police in St. Johnsbury are investigating a bank robbery. Authorities say a man demanded money from a clerk at the Community National Bank yesterday and then ran away. Officials have surveillance images of the suspect who drove off in a dark colored Saturn station wagon and discarded his clothing on a street.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says the United States Department of Agriculture has started to process emergency payments to dairy farmers who have struggled with low milk prices. The Vermont independent sponsored an amendment that added the funds to the agriculture appropriations. Eligible farmers should soon receive the funding.

Vermont State Police say a 78-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease who was reported missing in 2006 was killed by her daughter, who then burned her body and had the victim's grandson dispose of it. Jeanne Sevigny of Westford was held without bail yesterday in the death of Mary Wilcox, who had been living with her daughter.

The first stretch of frigid weather is filling Central Vermont's only homeless shelter to capacity. The 20-bed Good Samaritan Haven in Barre is housing its overflow at the Hedding United Methodist Church. Hedding Pastor, the Rev. Ralph Howe, says the shelter and the church are in dire need of volunteers to oversee the homeless clientele.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 17, 2009

An advisory panel in New York has recommended a last-minute design to replace the closed Crown Point Bridge over Lake Champlain. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports the design looks similar to the current span, which was closed in October after being deemed unsafe by engineers.

Renovation work has been wrapped up on a Windsor apartment building that in its earlier life once housed 10 percent of the town's population. The Rutland Herald reports the number of apartments has been reduced to 58 in the structure, which before the renovation was considered a magnet for crime.

State officials have backtracked on their effort to have a kidnapper about to be freed from prison register as a sex offender. Harley Breer wasn't convicted of a sex crime in a 1999 incident but a state probation officer had pushed to make him register. That officer has since retired.

A new survey of caves in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York shows bat populations have taken a huge hit in caves struck by deadly white-nose syndrome. The survey showed an average population drop of 91 percent. The disease has been a problem across much of New England and the mid-Atlantic.

The Vermont Supreme Court is getting set to hear a case over whether the owners of a dog that was fatally shot should be able to collect damages for loss of companionship and emotional distress. Denis and Sarah Scheele, sued Lewis Dustin of Northfield after their dog wandered onto Dustin's property and Dustin shot it.

Vermont State Police say a woman and her daughter have been charged with dealing heroin and cocaine after being caught with big quantities of both during a traffic stop in Brattleboro. Melissa Davis and Haley Colburn, both of Royalton, were the focus of a two-month investigation before being arrested this week on Interstate 91.

Price Chopper, a Schenectady-based company with 119 stores in six Northeastern states, says it is negotiating to buy 19 P&C stores in four states including Vermont. Price Chopper already offered $12.3 million for four P&C stores in northern New York. Those stores are among the 22 stores in its latest bid.

A temporary bridge has opened to truck traffic over the Connecticut River between Lebanon and Hartford, Vt., until a new bridge is built. The Route 4 bridge, which is a key route for trucks serving area businesses, opened yesterday. Heavy trucks have been banned from the original bridge since 2008 because of extensive bridge corrosion.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 16, 2009

A legislative panel has formally opposed a Douglas administration proposal to allow some ATV use on state lands. Even with today's vote by lawmakers, the state Agency of Natural Resources is expected to put the proposed rule into effect anyway.

Gov. Jim Douglas has announced some changes in his top staff, as a key aide prepares to leave. Secretary of Civil and Military Heidi Tringe moves over to become deputy chief of staff, 1 of the two hats worn by the departing Dennise Casey. Casey also had headed up communications for Douglas. That job's being taken by a special assistant to the governor, David Coriell, who also takes the position Tringe is vacating as secretary of civil and military affairs. Meanwhile, former Natural Resources Secretary Elizabeth "Wibs" McLain returns to the administration as special assistant to the governor to work with lawmakers and state agencies. Casey's taking a new job with the Republican Governors Association.

Police in Burlington are warning shoppers to park in well lit areas and not to carry too many packages after a reported mugging outside a downtown department store. Police say four men assaulted and robbed another man near the Macy's parking garage on Cherry Street shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday. WCAX-TV is reporting that the victim suffered facial injuries in the attack and was treated at the hospital. Police would not say if the victim knew his alleged attackers.

As dairy farmers sue milk producers over dairy industry monopoly claims, state Attorney General William Sorrell says he wants to hear from farmers on the allegations. Sorrell plans to submit any information he gets to federal authorities, who are already monitoring the industry.

Colchester school officials are considering cutting some teachers' jobs. Superintendent Larry Waters tells The Burlington Free Press the district's enrollment is shrinking as well, so a cut would not significantly affect the district's student-teacher ratio.

State education officials have voted not to regroup Essex schools into the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union. The Burlington Free Press reports the consolidation issue had come up after Essex superintendent Jim Fitzpatrick announced last month he'd step down at the end of the school year.

Vermont's snowmobile season is open but the first rides could be short. Some of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers trails opened Wednesday, weather permitting. The conditions are listed on the VAST web site at In many areas, snowmobilers are warned about early season conditions, hazards and water in some spots. The Green Mountain National Forest also planned to open its snowmobile trails, which are maintained by VAST, starting Wednesday, depending on the conditions.

An economics newsletter reports that Vermont's median household income rose to a record high last year. The Vermont Economy Newsletter says its analysis of just-released data from the state Tax Department shows Vermont's median household income in 2008 was $68,555, up $300 from the previous year. The median is the level at which half of all families earn less and half earn more. Art Woolf, editor of the Vermont Economy Newsletter, calls the 0.4 percent increase in Vermonters' median income small but says it's surprising the figure was a positive one given the recession. Woolf says he expects median household income to decline in Vermont for 2009.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 15, 2009

University of Vermont researchers are getting more than $20 million of federal stimulus funding for some 54 research projects. The Burlington Free Press reports UVM's College of Medicine along has received more than $12 million for 38 different projects, with more funding also considered likely.

Vermont's attorney general is seeking information from dairy farmers about allegations of antitrust activity by dairy processors.The move comes after a group of dairy farmers sued Dairy Farmers of America and Dean Foods Co. in October, claiming they monopolized the market into which farmers sell milk and fixed prices.

State Rep. Peg Flory is moving to the state Senate. Gov. Jim Douglas yesterday appointed the Pittsford lawmaker to succeed state Sen. Hull Maynard, who retired last month.Flory, a lawyer, served on the House Judiciary Committee in Montpelier for two years. She will assume Maynard's seat when the Legislature convenes in 2010.

Officials with a Rutland county school district, the Rutland South Supervisory Union, say they don't know the origin of a forgotten bank account they were reminded of recently. The bank account started in the early 1980s held $15,000. At a meeting last month the district board voted to close the account and put the money into an active account.

Seven firms are competing to appraise the value of 8 hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers in Vermont and New Hampshire. The Vermont Legislature appropriated $200,000 to appraise the dams owned by TransCanada Hydro Northeast to help small cash-strapped towns determine the dams' value for tax purposes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 14, 2009

The following recall has been announced in states including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont: Simple Foods Inc., of Tonawanda, N.Y., is recalling prepackaged varieties of Carob Cups, Carob Squares and Carob Rice Cakes because they may contain undeclared traces of milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. The products are Carob Peanut Butter, Almond Butter and Mint Creme Cups; Carob Brown Rice Crunch; Carob Peanut Butter Squares; Crispy Carob Peanut Butter Squares; Carob Coated Rice Cakes, Mint Coated Rice Cakes and Almond Butter Coated Rice Cakes. They were distributed to local retail health food stores and food co-ops. Those with questions may contact Simple Foods at 716-743-8850.

A report says Vermont has risen to third in the nation for participation in school breakfast programs. The Food and Research Action Center says nearly 15,000 low-income Vermont children ate breakfast daily at school during the 2008-2009 school years. That's up 15 percent from the previous year.

A Vermont nonprofit group is already delivering new children's books around Vermont. But the Children's Literacy Foundation doesn't dole out free books only during the holiday season. Instead, it offers the books across Vermont and New Hampshire all year long.

Green Mountain National Forest will open its snowmobile trails starting Wednesday, weather permitting. Forest Supervisor Jer Marr says the trails will be open through April 15, as long as conditions allow.
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is pushing for congressional approval of a bill that would boost federal support for unemployment insurance. The Vermont Democrat says the bill would provide full federal support for the state program.

Police say a 22-year-old Vermont man faces charges for allegedly assaulting a police officer who was escorting him to an ambulance after the man fell and hurt his head. Montpelier police say Melchizedek Levi was intoxicated.

Greyhound racing has been a form of entertainment in Massachusetts for 75 years, but not for much longer. The last card at Raynham Park is expected to be Dec. 26, and the Wonderland track has already stopped racing. Vermont and Maine have also outlawed racing.

A father and son have been charged with poaching two deer in New York state and then carrying them into Vermont. Acting on an anonymous tip, game wardens went to a Bennington home and found two partially butchered deer in the basement. They arrested 41-year-old Nicholas Baker, Sr. of Petersburg, N.Y., and 22-year-old Nicholas Baker, Jr. of Bennington.

Prospects look good for the start of Vermont's snowmobile season. Heavy, wet snow that fell on Wednesday, combined with snowmachine trails in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont means some paths will be active before Christmas, earlier than usual in some areas.

A 23-year-old Vermont man has been arrested in connection with over $21,000 worth of damage done to cars at five South Burlington businesses. Police say an employee of 1 of the dealerships drove around neighboring communities and found a pickup truck that looked like one caught on surveillance video. Police later arrested Jay Stewart Jr., who is due in court on Feb. 10.

Hannah Kearney of Norwich won the freestyle World Cup race in Finland, ahead of Kristi Richards of Canada. She finished with 25.68 points. Olympic champion Jennifer Heil of Canada was third.

Friday, December 11, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 11, 2009

Vermont electric utilities are estimating that about 1,500 customers are still without power following the first major winter storm of the season. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. said by 5 p.m. yesterday most of the outages were in Addison, Bennington and Rutland counties.

The New York Department of Transportation is going to show people 5 possible designs for a new bridge across Lake Champlain that will link Crown Point and Addison. The designs will be displayed tomorrow at a series of meetings in Ticonderoga at LaChute Hall. The meetings will be at 9:30, 12:30 and 3:30.

The lay-offs have started at Pfizer in Rouses Point. Officials say a total of 200 pink slips are being handed out now. The employees are being given 90 days before being put out of work and the layoff includes all managers. Workers at Rouses Point can re-apply for jobs at other Pfizer plants.

FairPoint is blocking calls from people using the long distance phone provider Global Naps. FairPoint officials say they have not received any payments from the Massachusetts company for the use of its lines in months. Industry officials suspect thousands of calls from Global Nap customers to FairPoint customers are being blocked.

Governor Jim Douglas says Vermonters should get ready for more cutbacks in state services. The state is facing a $150 million deficit next year. Douglas is working on a state budget to present to lawmakers next month. He says state government needs to be more efficient but cuts to programs will also be part of his plan.

The pedestrian ferry between Basin Harbor and Westport is now closed. According to the New York Department of Transportation, the service ended on Tuesday because of the rising water level of the lake. Officials say the docks flooded "to a point that safe operations for passengers and crew" could not be assured.

The federal government is lifting weight limits for trucks on Vermont's interstate highways as part of a pilot program. The goal of the one-year program is to solve a problem that sends heavy trucks through Vermont cities and villages instead of using interstate highways. Legislation containing the change was included in the federal transportation bill that is being considered by Congress.

The 340 members of the Vermont National Guard’s 172nd Cavalry squadron leaving today for combat training in Indiana have a new name for their upcoming mission in Afghanistan: Task Force Morgan. Today’s farewell ceremony, like the one Sunday for 298 members will be held at the University of Vermont tennis complex.

Some residents of Rutland aren't happy about changes to the snowplow routes. This is the first winter season in 40 years that plowing contractors Don and John Quirk have had their routes changed. Town Clerk Marie Hyjek says she received 15 complaint calls during Wednesday's storm.

A group of Vermont Yankee opponents who want the state to block its re-licensing are planning a novel approach - walking 122 miles from Brattleboro to Montpelier to buttonhole legislators at the Statehouse. The march, by members of the Safe and Green citizens group who live in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns begins Jan. 2.

Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas is surprised he was sent home by coach Bill Belichick for being late to a team meeting. Thomas was 1 of 4 players who were sent home for tardiness on Wednesday. Thomas also said he almost got into a car accident as he drove to Gillette Stadium during a snowfall that tied up traffic.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 10, 2009

Transportation officials say they will likely be blowing up the Champlain Bridge very soon. The plan is to bring the 80-year old bridge down in a controlled explosion. Officials are about to select a contractor for the work but they still need permits. The bridge contains potential environmental hazards like lead, which will end up in the Lake. VTRANS hopes to be able to get the bridge down before the Lake freezes over.

The storm that blasted New England knocked out power to at least 14,000 customers in Vermont. By late yesterday, about 10,000 customers were still without electricity. Central Vermont Public Service says Bennington, Rutland and Addison counties were hardest hit, with high winds knocking down trees and power lines. Winds measured almost 44 mph at the Middlebury Airport and had downed so many trees and branches that emergency personnel closed portions of Painter and Cobble Roads, Foote and Munger Streets and even part of Route 116 late in the afternoon.

Governor David Paterson says New York has run out of cash and he's directing budget officials to reduce aid payments to schools, local governments and non-profit service providers until things improve. The state faces a negative general fund balance of more than $1 billion at the end of December, which would be a first for New York.

A warning for people who take certain Alka-Seltzer products … there's a voluntary recall on some packages of Alka-Seltzer plus day and night cold liquid gels. The problem, the packaging does not properly display information about drowsiness. The lot number is 296939-L. Consumers who purchased the product should contact Bayer for a replacement or refund.

FairPoint Communications says it's going to take more time to file its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The troubled telecommunications company says it will file the plan by January 15th. The company says it is pushing back the deadline to finalize settlements with lenders, unions and other parties.

The state of Vermont spent nearly $206,000 on bottled water for the Statehouse and other state offices last year, and now a consumer group is urging officials in Vermont and three other states to think outside the bottle. Corporate Accountability International says groundwater is being privatized by bottlers and that the bottles are big parts of waste streams.

A Burlington Clinic that provides services to more than 12,000 low income residents received a 10.9-Million-Dollar grant from the federal government. The one-time gift will allow The Community Health Center of Burlington to more than double in size from 15,000 square feet to almost 32,000 square feet. Construction is expected to start this spring.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen have welcomed a baby boy. Brady announced the birth yesterday. He says the baby was born Tuesday and that he and Bundchen had not chosen a name. He called it "a wonderful experience in my life."

Manchester Police Chief Manfred Wessner is retiring next July after 37 years as chief. Wessner was 26 when his predecessor -- Dana Thompson -- was murdered during a 1972 pharmacy robbery.

The driver of a UPS truck that was hit by a train is in critical condition at a Burlington hospital. State police say 28-year-old driver Joshua Newton slid on a snowy road into the path of the northbound freight train in Roxbury yesterday. Police say he was not speeding.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 9, 2009

As of 5AM: The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Addison, Rutland and Essex County, NY through 10PM. A High Wind Warning also in effect for Rutland County through 7PM. Weather Channel Meteorologist Ray Stagich says to expect Snow, heavy at times mixing with Sleet and Rain later, 3-6 inches possible with a High around 35.

A Rutland woman has died in a car crash in Ferrisburgh. Police say 61-year-old Joan L. Wing was killed when she lost control of her car on a slush-covered Route 7 yesterday and hit an oncoming vehicle. The other driver was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources says it cost up to $800 million dollars and 15 years to clean up Lake Champlain. A draft of a revised report, released Monday, recommends that more experts be hired to help farmers reduce pollution, require more stormwater control by property owners and change the way town roads are designed to keep pollutants from waterways. The concern is phosphorous that reaches the lake and drives summer algae blooms and weed growth. Plan author Julie Moore tells the Burlington Free Press the cost could range between $500 million and $800 million in addition to the money already being spent. Moore says the agency won't ask the Legislature for more money. The hope would be to get federal money.

A state program that taps one of Vermont's most abundant natural resources to help low-income families will keep the home fires burning for about 500 households this winter, state officials said Tuesday. Wood Warms, a partnership between the state government and nine community organizations, provided more than 1,400 cords of wood -- or about $350,000 worth -- since last fall through cut-it-yourself lots on state land and by delivering wood to nonprofits to be split into logs and delivered to people in need. Applications are still being taken for wood for this winter.

Vermont State Hospital attorney Kristin Chandler says the hospital is sorry that no one notified a judge or prosecutors about the 1-day release of an elderly man accused of firing a barrage of rifle shots at his neighbor. Lawyers say the Thanksgiving Day release was designed to lift the man's spirits.

The governor's top spokeswoman is leaving for a new job with the Republican Governors Association in Washington. Twenty-8-year-old Dennise Casey began working for Governor Jim Douglas when she was a senior at the University of Vermont. She managed his re-election campaigns in 2006 and 2008.

Amtrak had record-breaking ridership on Thanksgiving week, including some New England routes. The Vermonter run between Washington and northern Vermont had an 11 percent increase in passengers over last year. But the Ethan Allen route between New York City and Rutland saw a 7.2 percent decline.

The Peace Corps says Vermont is the nation's top volunteer-producing state. Vermont has 60 active volunteers in the Peace Corps. On a per-capita basis, that's the best showing in the country. Since 1961, Vermont has turned out 1,380 Peace Corps volunteers.

Vermont State Police are investigating a crash in Roxbury between a freight train and a United Parcel Service truck that resulted in the truck driver being airlifted to a Burlington hospital. Police haven't released identities of those involved and offer few details in the crash at the Oxbow Road crossing south of Roxbury village.

The federal government says it distributed nearly $80 million in disaster relief funds to four New England states following a devastating ice storm a year ago. The storm of Dec. 11-12, 2008, knocked out power to an estimated 1.4 million electric customers in the region. Some were without power for almost two weeks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 8, 2009

**Winter Weather Advisories and Watches have been posted for tomorrow that includes a portion of our listening area. For the latest update please visit the National Weather Service at:

More than two-thirds of the money raised from Vermonters by paid charitable fundraisers went to the fundraising companies, with just a third going to the charities. That's the upshot of a report from Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell on work by companies that are hired by charities to raise money.

It's the season of giving, but police want to make sure you're not giving away your valuables to criminals. Police say car break-ins are more prevalent during this time of the year, in fact, Burlington Police have investigates more than 80 break-ins since November 1. Police warn that criminals hit day and night, with car doors locked or unlocked.

Goodwill Industries of Northern New England will hold a grand opening of its new South Burlington store and donation center Friday. The store is located at 1080 Shelburne Road at the site of the former Tuscan Kitchen and Perry's Fish House. The new store is Goodwill's second location in Vermont, joining a Williston location.

In Plattsburgh, the Salvation Army is not doing so good this holiday season. The Red Kettle Campaign is the largest of the group's fundraisers and so far the annual drive is down $10,000. Officials say that's a critical shortfall that could impact services. The organization has issued an urgent plea for help.

Burlington's City Council was presented with two Burlington Telecom resolutions by Mayor Bob Kiss last night, and as the council moved into a two-hour executive session on BT before the regular meeting, councilors learned that a taxpayer lawsuit on BT has been filed. The council will take up the Kiss resolutions next Monday.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on a revised plan to clean up Lake Champlain. The agency has scheduled three public hearings in the next two weeks on a draft released yesterday to reduce phosphorus runoff in the lake. The plan is available on the agency's Web site.

Someone has been spreading a nasty rumor that both The Salvation Army and the Hilltop Light Ministries shut down Christmas assistance programs. Both organizations said the rumor is false and that they are accepting people who need help. They say if you hear an organization is stopping services, call and check for yourself before assuming it's true.

It's another sign of the toll that the recession is taking on jobs and the economy. Enrollment in the federal food stamp program in Vermont swelled by 40 percent in the 12 month period ending in August.

The Internet has made it possible for an out-of-state family to complete the adoption of a Vermont foster child without traveling to the state. The legal proceedings today are being conducted with a Web cam. The family and the child are taking part from home while a judge presides in St. Albans.

There's a lot of sweet talk about regulations, tools of the trade and flavor at a maple syrup school in Maine. At the International Maple Grading School, syrup buyers, producers and inspectors from the Northeast learn about all things syrup such as government rules and equipment that measures syrup's color, clarity and density.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given preliminary approval to expand the runway at the Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport in North Clarendon. The plan calls for extending the runway an extra 1,000 feet. The Rutland Herald says many in the business community feel extending the runway is critical to the airport's future.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still around. This year's New England Patriots, though, bear little resemblance to those that won three Super Bowl titles this decade. The Patriots' lead in the AFC East dropped to one game Sunday with a 22-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins. They've lost 3 of 4 games for the first time since 2002.

Monday, December 7, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 7, 2009

Firefighters responded to a call early this morning at CVU High School. Officials say there was a small fire in the dust collection system in the wood shop. Four departments helped keep the damage to a minimum. Officials say the cause does not appear suspicious but they can't say exactly what sparked it. CVU is closed today.

Some parts of northern New England got a half-foot or more of snow in this weekend's pre-winter storm. And more may be in store for later in the week. While Saturday's snowfall won't set any records, it left New Hampshire covered with a blanket of white. Madison got 7 inches, Dover got 5, Concord 4 inches and Gorham only an inch.

Professional firefighters of Vermont are chipping in to help Vermont National Guard members and their families as soldiers deploy to Afghanistan. The group is hosting a chili supper on Friday in South Burlington to benefit the Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation. Sen. Patrick Leahy is expected to attend. The supper will be held at the South Burlington High School from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont. Details are on the group's Web site at

The Vermont State Police have 10 new troopers. The 10 graduated Friday from the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford, and will go on to complete a four-week training period before joining field stations as members of the State Police. Col. Thomas L'Esperance, the director of the Vermont State Police, says the new troopers will make for a greater presence around the state.

Rutland's secret Santa has struck again, for the third year in a row. An anonymous letter dropped off at the Rutland Herald on Thursday told the newspaper that 15 of 30 cards containing cash have been handed out to unsuspecting holiday shoppers so far this season. The anonymous donor is expected to give out 15 more, with each containing either a $20 or $50 bill.

A Vermont church that's down to its last $8,000 is selling a valuable stained-glass window to boost finances and keep open a homeless shelter it runs. The multicolored image of St. John the Divine is a Tiffany original that has been in the First Baptist Church in Brattleboro for almost 100 years. Church leaders say they already have bids in the $70,000 range.

Investigators will be in Putney on Sunday evening in hopes of getting new leads in last month's fire at the Putney General Store. Police say they want to interview drivers who routinely pass through town around the hours the fire started.

The new Canadian ambassador to the U.S. was in Vermont last week as part of his strategy to spend less time in Washington and more time in states building support for trade policies. At a press conference , Gary Doer called trade an ongoing opportunity and ongoing challenge and said he disagrees with a provision of the U.S. stimulus package requiring funds be spent only on American-made products.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation extending federal benefits to volunteer paramedics and EMTs who are killed or injured in the line of duty. The bill is named for Dale Long, who died in June in an ambulance crash in Bennington.

Praise is paying off in the form of better student behavior at a Vermont school. Teachers and administrators at the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School in Burlington have heaped at least 12,000 compliments so far this year on students who follow the rules. The approach to discipline, known as positive behavioral support, is being tried in 54 Vermont schools.

A group devoted to protecting the Connecticut River and its tributaries is looking for volunteers to help watch over the streams. A training session is being offered this Thursday at Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt., for people who want to join the effort. Those interested can call Deen at 802-869-2792. Again that number is 802-869-2792.

Friday, December 4, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 4, 2009

Federal highway officials could OK demolition of the closed Crown Point Bridge over Lake Champlain early next week. A New York official says the decision could come Monday with a contractor chosen to carry it out possibly on Wednesday.

State transportation agencies in New York and Vermont are looking for public comments on options for a new bridge over Lake Champlain. The existing bridge linking Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison, Vt., has been closed since Oct. 16 when it was found to be in unsafe, deteriorated condition. Transportation officials plan to demolish it and build a new one. The states will hold three meetings to present plans and options to the public on Saturday, Dec. 12, at LaChute Hall, 132 Montcalm Street, Ticonderoga. The identical meetings, at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 and 3:30, will include a formal presentation followed by a question & answer session. Attendees will be asked for opinions on design and features for the new bridge. Comments also may be e-mailed to R01

State DMV officials say drivers can now get enhanced driver’s licenses, which can be used for land travel to Canada, out of the agency's Rutland office. Until now, the licenses have only been available out of the DMV's central office in Montpelier.

FairPoint Communications has filed a court motion asking that it not be forced to give Maine customers rebates because of its poor service as the company works its way through bankruptcy. A hearing on the motion is set for Dec. 9. FairPoint bought Verizon's landline and Internet operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in 2008.

Vermont state employees will see a 3 percent pay reduction and no automatic step increases for the next three years, under a contract agreement with the Douglas administration. Gov. Jim Douglas is hailing the agreement, saying it shows state workers are willing to tighten their belts in the face of the current economic downturn.

Police in Burlington say a woman is being held for a mental health evaluation after she allegedly assaulted two staff members at a school. Police Chief Michael Schirling says Halima Deng, a former parent of a Lawrence Barnes School student, entered the school prompting officials to lock it down. She's charged with simple assault.

Vermont state Auditor Tom Salmon says he wants to move forward after pleading guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. During a court appearance yesterday in Barre, Salmon entered the plea and agreed to pay a fine of $500 and $376 in court costs. His license also has been suspended.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

WVTK Local & State News December 3, 2009

A Ticonderoga man was killed in a hit and run accident. Tony Morette was reportedly jogging near the intersection of Route 22 and Shore Airport Road early yesterday morning, when police believe he was struck by a tractor-trailer that took off. Police say Morette was able to provide a description of the truck prior to his death. Police are still looking for the truck.

A Pownal woman who lost her unborn twins in a car crash last summer says a proposal to boost penalties for crimes harming pregnant women doesn't go far enough. State Senator Richard Sears says the bill is limited so that it avoids the debate over abortion rights.

Lauded as a hero after he was taken captive by Somali pirates last April, some of Richard Phillips' former crewmembers now say he ignored repeated warnings to keep the Maersk Alabama at least 600 miles off of Africa. Phillips has declined comment on the allegations.

Regulators have reached a tentative deal with Central Vermont Public Service settling a complaint over the utility's staffing levels. Under the arrangement, which must get Public Service Board approval, the company would be able to eliminate 17 jobs within five years.

Take those resort snowfall totals with a grain of salt. Two Dartmouth College professors compared resorts' snowfall figures with nearby government monitors and found the resort figures exaggerated. Vermont Public Radio reports the largest discrepancies also typically happened on weekends.

The Vermont Health commissioner says the swine flu outbreak appears to be waning in the state. But Dr. Wendy Davis says the incidence of H1N1 swine flu is still widespread and there are still many people at high risk of complications who have not been vaccinated. Davis said that between Sept. 1 and Nov. 28, 130 people were hospitalized in Vermont with swine flu.

New York lawmakers have rejected a bill to legalize gay marriage. The Senate decision yesterday comes after months of delays and arm twisting of lawmakers sympathetic to the bill but representing conservative districts. It follows a referendum in Maine earlier this month that struck down a gay marriage law before it took effect.

Vermont artists are getting creative to help the hungry. The Vermont Arts Council has organized another online art auction to raise money for the Vermont Foodbank. Officials say last year's auction raised $10,254 and provided 27,000 meals for hungry Vermonters. Officials say the foodbank's need is just as great or even greater this year. So the arts community is rallying again, by contributing more than 100 pieces of original art, crafts, jewelry, event tickets, private concerts and more. Bidding starts at $100 on all items, which can be viewed at The auction called "doing our pART" ends Friday at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WVTK Local News December 2, 2009

A legislative panel has put off a decision on whether to formally object to a proposal for limited ATV use on state-owned lands. Public comments on the plan have run solidly against it but backers of the move say it would contribute to Vermont's economy.

Diamond Pet Foods has recalled some bags of its Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat and Premium Edge Hairball cats foods in Vermont and other states. The recall comes because the bags may not include enough thiamine and follow reports of health problems in cats in New York and Pennsylvania. For a full refund, consumers can return the recalled food to the place where it was purchased. For more information call: 1-800-977-8797 or

For the first time since Vermont adopted a statewide property tax for schools in 1997, the tax rates are expected to increase compared with current levels. For many Vermonters, that will mean out-of-pocket property taxes will increase too. The expected increase in both residential and commercial vacation properties would be about 2 percent.

An unexpected drop in Medicare funding could force major cuts for mental health services in Vermont next year. The Rutland Herald reports nearly $20 million in cuts were outlined for lawmakers last week, including an end to state funding for adult outpatient care.

Craft beer producer Long Trail Brewing is close to buying Middlebury brewer Otter Creek. The Burlington Free Press reports a deal could close soon. Officials say no staff reductions at either operation are planned.

A car crash in Newport has claimed the lives of a Troy man and a young child. State police say Brian Woodard was killed yesterday when the car he drove crossed the center line on Route 100 and crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. A young child riding in his car died. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

State Sen. Phil Scott is running for lieutenant governor. The five-term Republican from Washington County says he has a lot to offer voters, thanks to his experience as a business owner and lawmaker. If elected, he says he would focus on helping Vermont regain its independence by producing more of its own food and energy.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is ordering FairPoint Communications to give customers rebates because of its poor service. The commission ordered FairPoint to send its Maine customers rebates of $1.72 per line each month through Dec. 1 of next year. FairPoint's operations in New England have been beset with lots of problems.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WVTK Local News December 1, 2009

A former Vermont National Guard soldier charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend in Winooski two years ago has agreed to spend at least 20 years in prison. A plea deal was reached yesterday in the case of Stephen Marsh, who was arraigned last week for second degree murder. Laura Jean Cousens was shot in the head in 2008.

A Vermont think thank advocating free markets and limited government says Vermont can cut education costs by offering public school choice, charter schools, virtual learning and other cost saving measures. The Ethan Allen Institute's report says Vermont is spending $250 million to $300 million more than it should on education.

Vermont's longtime U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy faces challengers from both the left and right.Dr. Daniel Freilich, a physician and naval officer based in Wilmington, is challenging Leahy for the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, Woodstock area businessman Len Britton has announced he's seeking the Republican nomination.

The U.S. Border Patrol says an agent apprehended a Colorado man wanted on sexual assault charges after he had crossed into Vermont from Canada. The Border Patrol says Glen L. Vigil was spotted in Derby Line, Vermont after an agent saw fresh tracks coming from Quebec. The agent followed the tracks and found Vigil in the woods.

As a Vermont ski industry official puts it, it comes down to snow. Ski operators across the region say how much Mother Nature drops on northern New England will drive the coming ski season. Officials are viewing the season with some optimism, hoping to draw skiers from the Northeast who in better times would have flown to more distant resorts.