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.