Friday, February 26, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 26, 2010

As the next storm moves into our region bringing along with it high winds, snow, and rain, officials are warning everyone to expect more power outages. This comes on the heels of a storm early yesterday that knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers. In fact, as of late last night, there were still almost 6,000 customers in Southern Vermont in the dark.

There's a new effort to keep Rutland residents informed about the police department following recent problems. The Rutland Police Commission will hold two public meetings at night a month. That's in addition to morning meetings already held twice a month. The change comes after a recent pornography investigation in the city police department. The commission says it wants to restore public trust in themselves and the police department by improving communication.

The former nanny accused of inappropriately touching a 10-year-old boy in Grand Isle plead not guilty to new charges of child porn and child exploitation. The judge presiding over the trail granted the prosecutions request yesterday for 2 separate trials for 24-year-old Donald Shepherd. The first trial is scheduled to start in April.

Despite pressure from leading New York Democrats, Governor David Paterson says he won't drop his election bid amid a growing scandal involving a key aide. Paterson says he'll talk to fellow Democrats, but for now he's continuing his campaign. The governor has been urged to halt his campaign amid allegations of domestic abuse against a close aide.

Retired Plattsburgh City School teacher Raymond “Foxy” Gagnon is expected to plead guilty today to possessing child pornography on his personal computer. The 61-year-old has been facing federal charges since last June. The change-of-plea hearing is expected to happen in an Albany courtroom this morning. Sentencing will probably take place in late April.

The Vermont House has passed a bill that would make it free for people to recycle their electronic waste. If approved, the bill would set up several drop-off sites in every county where people could drop their old TV's, printers and computers for free. Supporters say the end goal is to keep as many electronics out of the landfills as possible.

Governor Jim Douglas says the debate over Vermont Yankee is far from over. Wednesday, the state Senate voted against allowing Vermont Yankee to operate past 2012. But the governor calls that vote just political theater. The House of Representatives could still write its own nuclear bill. Vermont Yankee official hopes they can convince lawmakers to change their position.

A girls basketball coach in AuSable Forks was sentenced to 6 months on probation for having sex with an underage boy. 36-year-old Joey Strong pleaded guilty to rape. Strong was arrested last year for having sex with a 16-year-old boy at a hotel and providing him with alcohol. She was a veteran coach for Holy Name School when she was arrested.

On Town Meeting Day, voters in Vermont will be asked once again to participate in the Doyle Poll. The list of questions this year includes the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee, whether to ban cell phones and texting while driving, and how do Vermonters feel about their health insurance. The list of non-binding questions is way to gauge how Vermonters feel about a number of issues.

The Vermont lighting company, Hubbardton Forge of Castleton, has laid off 13 workers as it continues to cope with the effects of the weak economy. This week's layoffs are on top of 26 layoffs last year. The company now employs 188 people. The company's president say business has yet to return to normal.

Governor Jim Douglas yesterday signed into law a new program that requires Vermont agencies to try to find ways to cut $38 million of costs from state government. The $38 million targeted in the so-called "Challenges for Change" is roughy a quarter of a Vermont's $150 million budget gap.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 25, 2010

After nearly 4 hours of debate, the state Senate voted 26 to 4 to block the extension of Vermont Yankee's operating license past 2012. Some Senators wanted to delay the vote, saying the economic impact of closing the plant needs to be reviewed further. Vermont is the only state in the country with a law giving its Legislature a say over a nuclear plant's re-licensing.

Crews are working around the clock to restore power to customers still in the dark in southern Vermont. More than 19,000 customers were without power earlier this morning, down from more than 21,000 households yesterday. The majority of the outages are in Windham, Windsor, and Rutland Counties. Vermont Emergency Management officials say today’s forecast of a mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and high winds could lead to more outages.

The Randolph man charged with kidnapping and murdering his 12-year-old niece is asking a federal judge to hold his trial in another state. Attorneys for Michael Jacques say it’s impossible for Jacques to get a fair trail in Vermont due to all the pretrial publicity. The defense has also requested that the trial be moved from federal to state court.

As the snow piles up this week, state agriculture officials are reminding farmers they need to try to get snow off of their barn roofs to try to avoid any collapses. They say many agricultural buildings aren't designed to hold a lot of snow. The warning comes especially for older roofs.

A Siena College poll released this week said 58 percent of New Yorkers would support wine sales in grocery stores. Governor David Paterson proposed the change as part of his 2010-2011 budget proposal, estimating it could bring in $250 million. Opponents said it would put many small liquor stores out of business and cost the state thousands of jobs.

A bone marrow drive was held yesterday at the University of Vermont. The bone marrow registry is running low on donors. If fact, according to the bone marrow registry 6 thousand people a day are still looking for a transplant match. The drive is a way to get people to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. About 100 people signed up yesterday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 24, 2010

The National Weather Service continues its Winter Storm Warning Through 1AM Thursday. Today Snow mixing with rain this afternoon, 4 to 6 inches possible, High around 32.

Winter weather is leaving thousands of people in the dark when they wake up Wednesday morning. Most of the outages in Vermont are in the central and southern part of the state. As of 5 am, there are just more than 5,500 reports of power outages. The hardest hit areas are Chittenden County, which is reporting 1,600 outages, and Addison County, which has 1,200 outages. In New York, several cities and towns are reporting outages as well. Those areas include:

Vermont lawmakers are scheduled to vote today on the fate of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Yesterday Vermont Yankee proposed a new power deal of $20 million in low-cost energy that Vermont could use to attract new businesses or to encourage job growth. Senate President Pro Tem, Peter Shumlin, says the deal does nothing to change the vote.

A judge says a Williston man accused of fondling a 13-year-old friend of his daughter during a sleep over is competent to stand trial. 51-year-old Robert Kolibas was also in court yesterday being arraigned on a new charge of unlawful restraint for which he plead not guilty. Kolibas is now facing four felony charges. The trial is expected to start on March 23.

The family of a Ticonderoga man run-down while jogging is hoping a $10,000 reward will bring new information leading to an arrest. Anthony Morette was out running in December when he was struck by a car and killed. Ticonderoga Town Police are still tracking leads as this case remain a top priority.

Catholics in the North Country have a new bishop. Pope Benedict has appointed Reverend Terry LaValley as bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. The 39-year-old from Mooers Forks, will succeed the Most Reverend Robert Cunningham. LaValley has been filling the bishop’s duties since last May. He said he looks forward to becoming a full-time bishop.

A Rutland County judge has ordered the arrest of a Virginia woman who has refused to return her daughter to her former civil union partner. Lisa Miller was found in contempt of court when she didn't show up for a hearing yesterday in her custody fight with Fair Haven woman Janet Jenkins. Miller has since gone missing.

Power company CVPS is seeking donations to Shareheat, the utility's emergency fuel assistance program. The utility says donations have dried up with the rough economy but matching funds are still available to help low-income Vermonters needing heating help. The program typically helps more than 1,000 families a year.

State wildlife officials are urging Vermonters to not feed deer bagged corn and grain. Biologists say the animals' digestive systems can't handle the food and say it can also cause brainworm and other afflictions. Instead, they suggest people plant apple trees for deer and other animals to feed from.

A Richford man suspected of robbing 5 banks in Franklin County plead not guilty to federal bank robbery charges. 23-year-old Chad Lussier has already pleaded not guilty to state charges for allegedly robbing the TD bank in Enosburgh late last month. Federal prosecutors have now taken over the case. Convictions in the federal system can bring longer sentences.

Local and State Police in Vermont and New York will be helping out the U.S. Border Patrol keep an eye on the U.S. / Canadian Border. The program called Operation Stone Garden uses officers from sheriffs departments and state and local police agencies, who work during their off hours and are paid overtime by the federal government, to watch the border.

The New York Senate has passed a resolution against delaying income tax refunds as a way to ease the state's financial pinch. Governor Paterson says the state may need the delays to pay its bills. The nonbinding Senate measure is meant to build support and persuade the governor.

Burlington voters are being asked to approve a $21.5 million bond for the airport this Town Meeting Day. The bond would support construction of two new parking levels on the northern end of the garage, adding 600 parking spaces. The top parking level would be covered by a roof that features solar panels to power the garage and green space for visitors to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 23, 2010

Federal regulators have confirmed that the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant had leaked radioactive tritium years before the current leak that's being investigated. An earlier leak was described in whistle blower's report to a member of the Legislative Oversight Panel last week. Now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirms that leak happened.

Labor and business groups are pushing state lawmakers to put off a vote on a license extension for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The groups are pointing to Governor Jim Douglas' call for a time-out in the debate over the plant and citing Vermont Yankee's economic impact. The vote is planned for this week.

20 people have been indicted on drug and other charges in an alleged cocaine ring that operated out of a South Burlington auto detailing shop. Federal prosecutors say Michael Olsen of Milton ran the ring, saying it typically got the drugs from dealers in California and Arizona and would then pass them along to other locations across Vermont.

A new Sienna College Polls shows Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has a huge lead over Harold Ford Jr. in a potential Democratic primary matchup. But former Republican Governor George Pataki outpolls both Gillibrand and Ford in a general election race. Pataki has not said whether or not he will run.

Officials with the Village of Essex Junction are considering a local options tax. The town of Essex tried to pass a local option tax last year and it failed. Village leaders say the money is needed to help maintain village roads and the local fire department. A public forum will be held in Essex Junction tonight to inform the public on the local option tax.

Burlington city councilors say so far it looks like lenders are not holding the city in default after Burlington Telecom failed to make a loan payment. Last week, Burlington Telecom couldn't make a $386,000 loan payment. City councilors say they're open to all options right now, including the possibility of a private partnership.

New Yorkers have more time to take advantage of the “Great Appliance Swap Out”, a state-run program that gives rebates to consumers who purchase high-efficiency appliances. The program began on February 12th and was originally scheduled to end this past Sunday. The program is being continued until all available funds are gone. For more details go to

A 246-year-old border spat in Chittenden County is close to coming to an end. Arbitrators have signed off on the deal involving the towns of Shelburne and St. George. A lawyer says St. George gets a "slight advantage" as the border is settled, but it only affects one home.

The Adirondack Northway now has cell-phone coverage from Lake George to Canada. T-Mobile yesterday completed a major network expansion across the region, bringing 29 new cell sites online.

A Vermont Senate Panel is looking at a new tax to help prop up the state’s unemployment fund. The new tax would ask the employed to pay more to help the unemployed while keeping the maximum benefit at $425 a week. The Economic Development Committee passed the legislation by a vote of 3 to2.

A bill in the Vermont Senate and Vermont House are basically looking to do the same thing … consolidate school districts across the state. To learn more about the bills, the Senate and House Education Committees will be holding a hearing the proposals tomorrow night at 5 PM at the statehouse.

Monday, February 22, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 22, 2010

A spokesman for Vermont Governor Jim Douglas says the governor is expected to defend the U.S. EPA's designation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant at a meeting of the National Governors Association. Douglas spokesman David Coriell says the governor has been a strong proponent of efforts to stem climate change.

Police say they are investigating inappropriate images on students' cell phones at a Vermont middle school. Investigators say the case began Wednesday when an official at Colchester Middle School discovered 1 of the images. WCAX-TV reports officials later found that that image and others were being distributed among multiple students.

It was a busy weekend for rescuers at the Stowe Mountain Resort. Officials said four skiers were brought down Saturday night and the second group was located at first light on Sunday. The skiers were cold but appeared to be uninjured. They all went off the trails and wound up on the other side of Mount Mansfield.

On March 3rd, voters in Moriah will be asked to almost $10 million in improvements to Moriah Central School, with no cost to local taxpayers. The new project would replace the school roof and heating boilers, renovate the school swimming pool and reconnect the facility to the power grid. A public information meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night at 7 PM in the school auditorium.

Schuyler Falls has been hit with a rash of graffiti. Police say someone has been spray painted some strange messages on signs at the Town Recreation Park. Graffiti is also sprayed on parts of the softball field, storage shed, a number of businesses, and even the playground. Anyone who might have information is asked to New York State Police.

David Paterson has launched his campaign for a full four-year term as governor. During a press conference on Sunday, he said he’s had a “difficult past few weeks,” but intends to press ahead. Paterson's announcement makes him the first Democrat in the race, but probably not the last. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is expected to challenge Paterson in a primary.

The mannequin taken from in front of the Waterfront Diving Center in Burlington has found her way home again. Pearl, as she’s known, was taken from her post outside of the Diving Center last Wednesday, a spot she had occupied for about 20 years. It was the second time Pearl has gone missing, but much like last time, she's managed to make it back again.

A prison guard is now behind bars accused of inappropriate conduct with 3 different female inmates. Police are investigating claims against 40-year-old Ed White, a corrections officer at the Northwest Correctional Center in Swanton. White is currently suspended from work and being held on $100,000 bail.

A Vermont company that makes protective masks for health care workers and emergency responders has laid off 35 employees as the spread of swine flu has declined. The masks have been made by Triosyn Corporation in Williston. The masks carry an iodine-based agent that filters the air being breathed in.

Stephen King's link to the American gothic will be the subject of a free lecture March 3 in Burlington. University of Vermont professor Tony Magistrale, who chairs the school's English department and is expert on Edgar Allen Poe, will examine King's work as it relates to Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain in a talk entitled "Why Stephen King Still Matters."

Friday, February 19, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 19, 2010

In a procedural move, the Senate Finance Committee has voted to send to the full Senate a bill that would authorize the state to grant a new license for Vermont Yankee. The full Senate is expected to vote down the bill, putting lawmakers on record as opposing the continued operation of the nuclear plant.

State regulators are looking into whether the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant had past problems with leaking radioactive tritium. Legislative consultant Arnie Gundersen says he received a tip from a plant employee about prior leaks and passed the information on to the Department of Public Service.

A nanny charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy at a state park in Vermont is facing new charges. State police say an examination of digital devices owned by 24-year-old Donald Shepherd turned up hundreds of images and dozens of videos of suspected child pornography.

State officials have unveiled a plan to replace the aging Vermont State Hospital with a new, 15-bed unit in Waterbury and regional facilities in Rutland and White River Junction. The move would create 45 new slots for mental health patient, but some lawmakers are questioning how it will be funded.

Vermont Technical College is using federal energy funding for a new biomass project that will both heat the campus and give students some hands-on experience. The project will use a wood pellet boiler, with students using the boiler to test other forms of biomass fuels.

Gun control laws in northern New England are being given low marks in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence's annual survey of state gun laws. The survey gave Maine a score of 11 out of 100 for its laws, while New Hampshire was given a 9 and Vermont was given an 8. The Brady Campaign says laws in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont allow the sale of guns without background checks, put children at risk and help feed the illegal gun market. Utah was at the bottom of the survey with a score of 0, while California was given the highest score, a 79. The Brady Campaign is a Washington-based group that advocates for stronger gun control laws.

The head of Vermont's Film Commission is fighting to spare the agency from the budget ax. Joe Bookchin says the office brings in millions in spending across the state from filmmakers, and helps promote the state.

Vermont's half-pipe heroine's Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark claimed their second Olympic medals Thursday night at the 2010 Winter Games. Teter won silver and Clark bronze in the women's snowboard half-pipe in Vancouver.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 18, 2010

Construction on the new Champlain Bridge could be delayed by a legal challenge. Work on the $75 million project is set to begin this spring, but a New York trade organization representing non-union contractors is threatening to file a lawsuit if a union-negotiated agreement is approved. The contractors say they could be forced to play by union rules on wages, benefits and safety standards. They also say it would lock them out of bidding on the project. The Federal Highway Administration is expected to either approve or reject the agreement by the end of the month. At that point, the organization will decide whether or not to file a suit and a second organization is also considering legal action.

Shortly before placing Sgt. David Schauwecker on administrative leave this month; his superiors put him in charge of an internal investigation into another officer's conduct. City attorney Andrew Costello confirmed on Wednesday that Schauwecker, who is the focus of an ongoing child pornography probe, "conducted an internal affairs investigation in 2010 involving a use of force allegation that occurred on a shift he was supervising." A brief statement from Costello didn't identify the superior who put Schauwecker in charge of the investigation.

Vermont lawmakers are expected to vote next week on whether Vermont Yankee should be relicensed, but some are questioning if the Legislature actually has the power to do that. Some experts say a vote to close the nuclear plant when its license expires in 2010 could invite a federal lawsuit.

Burlington will get more than $3 million in federal stimulus money to improve access to the city's waterfront. Senator Patrick Leahy's office says the funds will go into road, parking and pedestrian access improvements to the northern part of the city's Lake Champlain waterfront.

Flames have destroyed a home in Hardwick, killing a dog and three cats. No people were injured in the blaze that broke out early yesterday on South Main Street. The cause of the fire is under investigation but it's not considered suspicious.

A jury has acquitted the Vermont man who was accused of biting off part of a groom's eyebrow in a fight that broke out during the wedding reception. Kevin Gartland was charged with aggravated assault but claimed he acted in self-defense. The jury acquitted him after less than two hours of deliberations.

Senator Bernie Sanders says a proposed 20 percent hike in the federal budget for Veterans Affairs programs show that progress is being made for the state's veterans. Within Vermont alone, Sanders says he expects two new VA health clinics to open within the coming year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 17, 2010

Rutland City Aldermen and residents had a lot of questions for the Police Chief Tuesday night. They wanted to know about the child porn investigation centered around a city police officer. This was the Board of Aldermen's first meeting since news last week that Sergeant David Shauwecker was on leave and under investigation. The City Aldermen now plan to meet with the Police Commission to find out more about Bossi's handling of the matter. This is the third Rutland officer investigated for porn in the last six years.

Some New Yorkers could see a delay in the arrival of their state income tax refund checks if Gov. David Paterson decides it's the best way to make sure the state has enough cash. The state currently limits the amount of tax refunds it pays in the first three months of the year to $1.75 billion. Paterson is considering lowering that threshold to $1.25 billion because the state must roll $1.4 billion into next year's budget to close a current year budget gap. So far the state has paid out $293 million in 281,000 tax refunds this year. The state has until June to pay the refunds before they start accruing interest. The governor is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

State Senate leaders are pressing for a vote next week on whether to allow the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to continue operating past 2012. One official says the vote needs to happen now to allow utilities and workers to plan in case the plant is forced to shut down.

The first members of a Vermont National Guard deployment to Afghanistan have begun arriving. An advance party of about 20 soldiers arrived last week in what will eventually involve about 1,500 soldiers. A Guard spokesman says the Vermonters will be about 250 miles from the area where U.S. Marines are now carrying out a major operation against the Taliban.

Police say a driver involved in a January crash in Burlington that killed him and another driver had marijuana in his system. Police say toxicology tests also put the drug levels in Taylor McLaughlin's system high enough to typically impair a person's driving.

Vermont's three largest power utilities have struck a series of wholesale power deals as they near the end of their contracts with the Vermont Yankee plant and Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec. The deals include buying power from a wind farm in New Hampshire.

Another disappointing Olympics for Vermont's Lindsey Jacobellis. She veered off course and was disqualified in the semifinals of the snowboard cross, putting her out of medal contention. Jacobellis was hoping to redeem herself after squandering a sure victory four years ago in the Turin games.

State officials say 35,000 New Yorkers claimed $4.8 million in rebates for buying high efficiency appliances in the first five days of the "Great Appliance Swap Out." There are five days to go and $12 million left to be claimed. The program is intended to boost the economy, cut energy consumption, and take old, inefficient appliances out to be recycled. It's funded by federal stimulus money. Rebates for high-efficiency refrigerators, clothes washers, and freezers will range from $50-$105 for a single unit and up to $555 for the purchase of a three-appliance package. Consumers who recycle their old kitchen clunkers get a bigger rebate. After you buy a qualified appliance, you have to submit a rebate application either online at or by calling 1-877-697-6278.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 16, 2010

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Rutland County through 7AM Wednesday morning. Expect 2 - 4 Inches of Snow. Here in Addison County Weather Channel Meteorologist Ray Stagich says we'll see some light snow throughout the day, anywhere from a dusting to 2 Inches possible. High around 32.

Small businesses hurt by the closing of the Champlain Bridge can now get some free counseling. The demise, and demolition of the bridge, cut off the flow of traffic that many businesses depended on. The Small Business Development Center has opened an "emergency outreach office" in Port Henry, New York. Staff will provide financial advice and application assistance for various relief programs.

Rescuers have a new tool for saving people who fall thru the ice on Lake Champlain. The U.S. Coast Guard unveiled its new air boat last week. The boat can glide across frozen or broken ice getting rescuers to the scene of an emergency much more quickly. In the past, crews had to drive on land to the closest point of rescue and then risk walking on unstable ice to get to the victims.

Ski resorts in Central Vermont haven't seen as much snowfall as they did this time, last year, but vacationers didn't seem to mind. Ski Vermont says the major resorts, like Stowe, seem to be doing slightly better than last year. The association says Stowe Mountain Resort was completely booked through the weekend as well as Killington and Okemo.

A legislative panel in Montpelier is expected to take up a bill this week that would create nonprofit "compassion centers" where medical marijuana could be dispensed. Vermont legalized medical marijuana for eligible patients in 2004. Nearly 200 people are enrolled in the state's medical-marijuana registry.

Police say alcohol appears to be a factor in a crash that damaged a popular snack bar in Burlington. Two men were in a minivan that slammed into QT's early yesterday morning while the eatery was closed. WCAX-TV says the men sustained minor injuries and charges are pending.

Vermont grocers and other businesses that use bar code scanners could be looking at some new fees. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow the state to charge fees to inspect the scanners for accuracy.

Some portions of northern New England finally appear to be in for some fresh snow. Forecasters say the storm could bring 3-8 inches to parts of southern Vermont. The National Weather Service has posted a winter weather advisory through 7 tonight.

Vermont hunters will get a chance to pursue snow geese this spring as part of a federal and state effort to control the population. State officials say the special management action was taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to concerns about the rising number of snow geese across the continent and the damage they're causing to their arctic breeding habitat. Eight states including Vermont are holding a spring snow goose hunt this year. Vermont's season will take place from March 11 through April 23.

Monday, February 15, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 15, 2010

David Schauwecker is the Rutland City police officer at the center of a pornography probe that state police said Friday lacks sufficient evidence to bring charges. Schauwecker's name hasn't been formally released. But in a copy of the city police payroll report for the week ending on Feb. 6, Schauwecker, a sergeant, was the only officer who received administrative leave pay.

The Federal Highway Administration has signed off on an estimated $34 million rail project that would take Omya's marble ore-hauling trucks off Route 7 between Pittsford and Middlebury. The spur would cross under Lower Foote Street and Route 7, then cross at grade level over Halladay Road before connecting to the mainline. The project also includes a 2,050-foot trestle that would bridge over the Otter Creek and Creek Road and a 2.2 acre loading facility allowing the potential for other Middlebury-area shippers to access the main rail line. Once completed, the marble ore would be shipped south to Omya's calcium carbonate processing plant in Pittsford.

As lawmakers in Montpelier try to close a $150 million budget gap, advocates for the low-income, disabled and senior citizens in Vermont are warning against deep cuts in programs. They say the cuts could lead to higher costs in the long run by forcing residents to go on food stamps or enter nursing homes.

The city of Rutland has accepted a $3.8 million settlement with companies that designed and built a faulty roof at the city's water treatment plant. The city's treasurer says Rutland has already spent more than twice that amount on repairs in the last five years since learning the roof was in danger of collapsing.

Olympic skier Hannah Kearney should be in for quite a welcome home celebration in her home town of Norwich. On Saturday, Kearney became the first American to capture a gold medal in Vancouver. She defeated the defending champion, Canadian Jenn Heil, in the women's moguls.

Burton Snowboards is laying off 15 workers at its Burlington headquarters. Company officials said two employees also were cut from its Irvine, Calif., office. Burton said Thursday that the layoffs represent less than 2 percent of the company's work force worldwide, which totals 950. Officials said 420 employees remain in Burlington. The company added that it has reinstated salaries that were cut eight months ago and restored merit raises for employees.

A legislative committee has voted unanimously to recommend moving Vermont's state primary election from mid-September to late August. A new federal law requires that ballots be sent to deployed military and other overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. But with the September date, election officials said they wouldn't be able to certify the primary results and get the general election ballots printed and sent on time. The Burlington Free Press reports that the House Government Operations Committee voted Friday in support of changing the date, but it faces challenges when it goes to the House floor next week. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas wants the state to seek a waiver from the new federal requirements.

Friday, February 12, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 12, 2010

The lawyer for a Rutland police officer at the center of a child pornography probe is asking a judge to reconsider a decision that would make the officer's name public today. Rutland District Court Judge Thomas Zonay ruled Wednesday he would release the name — blacked out in copies of search warrant documents released on Tuesday — at 1 p.m. today. But in a motion filed Thursday afternoon, Rutland attorney Matthew Harnett asked the judge to reconsider his decision and keep the name sealed.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is promising to file a bill that would allow dairy farmers to hire foreign workers through a special visa program for seasonal laborers. Leahy says he's disappointed with new federal rules covering H-2A agricultural workers.

Entergy Corp. is facing another obstacle in its bid to sell off its nuclear power plants. New York's Public Service Commission is recommending against approval of the $3.5 billion deal, saying its against the public interest. Vermont Yankee is among the plants operated by Entergy.

Revenues coming into the state's General Fund in January were nearly 5 percent lower than a forecast by two economists in the middle of the month, adding to fears that any economic recovery will be slow and painful. The results were reported nearly a month after economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet, who consult with the administration and Legislature, respectively, said the state's economy appeared to have hit bottom, but that any recovery would be slow and painful. Administration Secretary Neale Lunderville says he is especially concerned about apparent weakness in the state's personal income tax receipts for January. Overall, general fund revenues are down nearly 7 percent from the same time last year.

The death of a 15-month-old boy in the town of Cabot has been ruled as a homicide. Ryah Douglas was found unresponsive in his crib in December and the medical examiner says he was smothered. Police say the child's mother and her boyfriend have been interviewed, but no arrests have been made.

A teacher at the Randolph Technical Career Center has pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges. Police said images on a computer flash drive led to the arrest of 58-year-old William Zucca. Police said a staff member turned the flash drive over to police after Zucca allegedly gave it to a student.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant should shut down when its license expires in 2012. Speaking on Vermont Public Radio, the Independent senator said that Vermont Yankee signed a contract with the people of Vermont for 40 years and that means it should close as scheduled in 2012. His comments come as Vermont lawmakers weigh the relicensing of the Vernon reactor and amid the discovery that the plant is leaking radioactive tritium underground. The governor and some lawmakers have criticized plant officials and plant owner, New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., for misleading state regulators about underground piping that could carry tritium. Tritium has been linked to cancer if ingested in large amounts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 11, 2010

The name of the city police officer involved in a child pornography probe will be made public Friday barring appeal.

 A day after Rutland District Court Judge Thomas Zonay redacted the name and identifying information related to the officer from documents related to the investigation, the judge said there was no legal basis to continue keeping the officer's identity from the public eye.

There's mixed results in the latest round of tritium readings from test wells at Vermont Yankee. State health officials say a well that previously had the highest readings has shown a drop in the amount of the radioactive substance, but another well is trending upward.

The radioactive leak at Vermont Yankee is grabbing the attention of neighboring states. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch wants an investigation into the leak, while Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to increase testing for radioactive leaks at Vermont Yankee and at the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Patrick's own state.

A Vermont House committee is set to take testimony on a proposal to require businesses to offer paid sick leave to their workers. The bill would allow Vermont workers to earn up to 56 paid sick days a year - that's the equivalent of 7 eight-hour days. Supporters say paid sick leave is important, because it would allow more workers to stay home when they're sick, and not spread illnesses to their co-workers. The House General Housing and Military Affairs committee is taking testimony from workers, child care providers and public health professionals on the legislation.

Ben & Jerry's will be looking for a new CEO. Walt Freese says he plans to leave the post next month after eight years at the helm. Freese says he wants to pursue other opportunities. Ben & Jerry's is known for its quirky flavors and support for social causes.

Vermont lawmakers are being urged to include a restriction on cell phone use by drivers as they address a variety of bills dealing with distracted driving. Several people told a legislative hearing that a ban on cell phone use by drivers is needed.

If you're thinking of trading in your old fridge for a new high-efficiency model, now's the time to do it. New York's "Great Appliance Swap Out" starts tomorrow. The state is putting up cash incentives to get people to buy energy efficient appliances. Officials say about 170,000 consumers will be eligible for rebates totaling $16.8 million if they purchase qualified appliances through Sunday Feb. 21. The program is funded with federal stimulus money and administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It offers rebates for high efficiency refrigerators, clothes washers, and freezers. The rebates range from $50 to $105, with higher rebates up to $555 for the purchase of a three-appliance package.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 10, 2010

The Pittsford Select Board will ask taxpayers if they want their money back at town meeting.

An accounting error caused the town to overcharge taxpayers by $353,000 last year. An item on the town meeting ballot asks voters if they want to use that money to buy down the tax rate.

Meanwhile, the Select Board has level-funded the general fund budget and the highway budget at $948,613 and $822,171 respectively. Those are identical, down to the dollar, to the amounts to be raised by taxes voted last year.

A Rutland city police officer is at the center of a child porn investigation. Child porn websites, pornographic photos and DVDs were just some of the items discovered during a search last fall at the Rutland Police Department. Investigators say they found a rack of 20 pornographic DVDs and three more DVDs containing teen porn in a Rutland city cops office when Vermont State Police searched the police department last fall. Court documents, released Tuesday, don't name the officer but they do detail a search carried out after 150 child porn images were found on the officers laptop. The officer claimed pornographic websites started popping up while he was researching hidden cameras for the department.

A New Hampshire company that makes organic pizza crusts has acquired the rights to a Vermont frozen pizza brand. Rustic Crust of Pittsfield is acquiring the rights to the American Flatbread brand. The agreement allows Rustic Crust to more than double its natural and organic pizza business in 2010-2011. Rustic Crust's bakery will expand to include a hand-built, wood-fired earthern oven similar to ones used by American Flatbread for its frozen flatbread pizzas. The agreement does not affect the Vermont-based American Flatbread restaurants.

State education chief Armando Vilaseca says Vermont needs to cut the number of school districts to help the state save money. Vilaseca is among those testifying before a House panel today on a proposal that would begin laying the groundwork for district consolidation.

Governor Jim Douglas is pushing to dump dozens of state boards and commissions, saying the move could save the state nearly $700,000. Douglas says some of the panels have been inactive for years. He's proposing abolishing 45 panels and having six others modified or consolidated.

School officials and teachers in Burlington remain far apart as they talk contract. The district is pressing teachers for a 5 percent pay cut next year and then 1.5 percent raises for the two years after that. The Burlington Free Press reports teachers are looking for raises of more than 5 percent each year of the deal.

Family and friends are calling a miracle the rapid recovery of a West Rutland high school student after he was hit by a car late in December. The Rutland Herald reports doctors had told Josh Scaralia he wouldn't be able to return to Mount St. Joseph Academy because of his brain injury but he's already gone back to school.

Five Vermont farmers are taking on new roles, helping guide the work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Vermont. The appointments to the agency's state committee were announced Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who's visiting Vermont this weekend. The committee is an advisory body that will guide the Farm Service Agency in conservation, loans, disaster relief and financial programs in Vermont.

The five, who were nominated by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, are:
John D.E. Roberts, of West Cornwall;
Amanda Ellis-Thurber, of Brattleboro;
K. Michael Howrigan, of Fairfield;
Beth Kennett, of Rochester;
Brendan Whitaker, of Brunswick have been appointed to the agency's state committee.

The Vermont House has voted to give the canteen at the Vermont State Hospital a reprieve. The cafeteria had been slated for closure under cuts called for by the state Department of Mental Health. But its supporters say it is an important part of therapy for many patients. They say it provides socialization that can help patients prepare for return to the community, and that access to it is a privilege that can be used as an incentive for good behavior. On Tuesday, the House voted 115 to 6 - against the wishes of the Appropriations Committee - to join the Senate in giving the Canteen until March 15 to come up with a plan to become revenue neutral. It cost the state about $80,000 to run it last year.

Vermont's top health official says it's reasonable to assume a radioactive substance leaking from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is reaching the Connecticut River. Officials previously have said measurable levels of tritium have not shown up in the river. But Dr. Wendy Davis, the commissioner of the Department of Health, says the volume and direction of flow of tritium-tainted groundwater makes it clear it's reaching the river. A Vermont Yankee spokesman says the plant agrees. Davis says she's in regular contact with health officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts about the situation at Vermont Yankee. Davis says she's also briefing health commissioners from around New England on the situation in weekly conference calls.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 9, 2010

Supporters of human services programs are blasting budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jim Douglas. The Legislature's budget-writing panel heard from people around the state last night, many testifying through Vermont Interactive Television. Some argued that cutting programs that help the disabled would cost the state more money in the long run.

Vermont health officials are reporting a slight drop in the latest tritium readings from a groundwater monitoring well at Vermont Yankee. It's been about a month since the leak of the radioactive material was first reported at the state's only nuclear power plant.

A 42-year-old Rutland man has pleaded guilty in the beating death of a woman whose body was found buried in the basement of her Poultney home. David Denny faces 22 years to life in prison. Police said 49-year-old Linda Wiggin - a professor at Castleton State College - was killed after an argument in November 2008.

A 62-year-old Vermont man has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison for distributing child pornography over the Internet. John Perry Ryan pleaded guilty to six counts last year in a plea deal. Prosecutors said 1 of the charges involved a photo of an adult male having sex with a toddler.

FairPoint Communications is hoping to slash its debt by nearly two-thirds as part of a restructuring plan filed in a New York court today. The plan also includes agreements with Vermont and New Hampshire officials to ensure regulators still have oversight, while a similar deal is being negotiated with Maine.

State authorities have settled a complaint with the Dollar Tree store chain. The chain will pay $100,000 in civil penalties and other costs after investigators found several pieces of jewelry contaminated with lead and cadmium$. Tree has since stopped selling metal jewelry.

Retired prison guard Anthony Pavone pleaded not guilty in a northeastern New York courtroom in the killings of his ex-girlfriend and the man she was dating. WPTZ reports Pavone has been ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. He was arrested late last week after a search that stretched into Vermont and Maine.

Today, students and teachers across the state will open their notebooks for a unique writing lesson. It is called Vermont Writes Day. The computers are open and the students are ready. As the 2nd annual Vermont Writes Day kicks off parents, students and teachers alike have just seven minutes to stop what they are doing and simply write. Geoff Gevalt is the director of the Young Writers Project. He created Vermont Writes Day to help people understand how critical it is to have good writing skills.

Monday, February 8, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 8, 2010

The Addison County Green Energy Expo will jump on the local food bandwagon this year. In addition to booths and workshops on green building, living off the grid, and alternative energy sources, organizers say they plan to fill the cafeteria of Middlebury Union High School with exhibits by local farmers and food producers. The event, sponsored by the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, the Addison County Relocalization Network and several other local organizations, takes place March 13.

The Ilsley Public Library is inviting people to talk about civil liberties over lunch. Starting Feb. 17 and running through May, the library will host discussions on the third Wednesday of the month. Each will focus on a different book, from novels to a treatise on the Bill of Rights.

Police in Burlington are asking federal authorities to help investigate whether two massage parlors where violent sexual assaults took place might be part of a network that exploits women who are in the country illegally. A Burlington man is charged with assaulting Korean women at the two parlors.

The Putney Historical Society has already raised $720,000 to rebuild the Putney General Store. The Society bought the store after it was burned in a 2008 fire. It was then destroyed by an arson last November. No arrests have been made in the arson case.

Two schools in Vermont are among the colleges and universities that produced a high number of Peace Corps volunteers last year. The University of Vermont came in 13th among medium-sized schools. Middlebury College ranked third among small schools.

Plans for downtown development in South Burlington have received a boost from the Vermont Downtown Board. The Board approved the city's application as a New Town Center, allowing the city to seek Tax Increment Financing for property being developed around Market Street.

A student leader at the University of Vermont says students can't abide more tuition and fee increases. Ash, vice president of the Student Government Association, spoke at a trustees meeting Friday. She says students understand the economic model that focused on both high tuition and high financial aid, but students are no longer willing to keep spending more to get more.

Nuclear power will be the topic of a debate at the University of Vermont. William Tucker, author of "Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution" and "End America's Energy Odyssey" will argue on Monday in favor of increased use of nuclear power. Arguing against it will be Tyson Theron Slocus, director of the group Public Citizen's energy program.

The Vermont attorney general says a Mount Tabor man has been sentenced to two years of probation and must pay $29,000 in cleanup costs for illegally burying 23 55-gallon drums of hazardous materials including waste oil on his property. David B. McLellan was sentenced on Thursday after being convicted of 3 felonies.

A plan to add more flights between New York's Plattsburgh International Airport and Boston could mean a loss of customers for Vermont's Burlington International Airport. Plattsburgh is poised to receive $2.1 million in federal subsidies to begin flying 34-passenger turboprops between Boston and Plattsburgh up to three times a day in the coming months.

Friday, February 5, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 5, 2010

A massive manhunt is over for the prime suspect in Sunday's double murder in Dannemora.  52-year-old Anthony "Tony" Pavone is now in custody.  Police noticed his truck in the parking lot of a motel in Binghamton last night.  Pavone turned himself over to police this morning at 4 AM.  Pavone is currently being transported to Plattsburgh.

Police in Vergennes are investigating a holdup at the Marble Works pharmacy. Police say a masked man entered the pharmacy yesterday morning and pointed a gun at the clerk. Investigators will not say if the thief took money or prescription drugs, but say he did take something. No customers were inside the pharmacy at the time and no one was hurt.

The Essex County Department of Health has lifted the boil-water order for Crown Point that went into effect January 31. Officials said the order is no longer necessary based on repairs made to the water main and satisfactory sample results. The order was lifted yesterday afternoon.

People on both sides of Lake Champlain impacted by the Champlain Bridge closure spoke out at a hearing in Rutland on Wednesday. The Senate Economic Development Committee took testimony from residents about the hit they took at their jobs and in their personal lives. The committee is working to craft a relief program for affected businesses. The Addison County Economic Development Corporation hopes to turn some of the potential relief money into grants and revolving loans for businesses in the area.

The state of Vermont, which last year enacted a law banning drug companies from providing free lunches to doctors, now may go a step further by requiring the companies to disclose the free drug samples they give to physicians. If the state enacts the requirement, it would be the first to do so. Attorney General William Sorrell, who recommended in a recent report that the drug companies be required to disclose what it gives to doctors and other providers, is to testify before lawmakers at a hearing Friday in the Statehouse.

Tritium levels in groundwater samples taken from a newly-dug well at Vermont's only nuclear plant are more than nine times higher than previously recorded levels. And while that's causing concern among Vermont Yankee's neighbors, plant officials say technicians appear to be getting closer to figuring out where the radioactive material is leaking from.

Vermont is 1 of 5 states without a comprehensive law against human trafficking, but a bill being considered by state senators could change that. The measure would expand existing sex offender laws to include enslaving and trafficking in adults for reasons other than sexual exploitation.

A Vermont man accused of killing his neighbor's dog has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. Police say Dennis Gonyaw went to the neighbor's home and shot the 11-month-old Siberian husky because the dog was harassing his cows.

The state attorney general has reached a settlement with two candy companies that used the name "Vermont" in products - even though the candy wasn't made in Vermont and didn't even have any ingredients from the state. Russell Stover Candies and Whitman's Candies paid $10,000 to resolve the case.

Kevin Pearce has been moved to a Denver hospital specializing in brain injuries from a hospital in Utah, where a New Year's Eve accident left the Vermont snowboarder critically injured. Pierce hit head on the halfpipe during practice. Doctors say he's able to walk and do daily activities with some help.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

WVTK Local & State News February 4, 2010

Federal regulators are reassuring Vermont's congressional delegation that the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting close scrutiny in the wake of recent tritium leaks. In a letter to lawmakers, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko says the agency will keep pressure on Entergy to pinpoint and fix the source of the leak.

Neighbors of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant are keeping open an extra wary eye these days, following the discovery of tritium in groundwater in test wells at the Vernon plant site. One local man says he'd like to see the plant shuttered, adding that with the tritium discovery, he's not swimming or fishing in the Connecticut River.

A provision in the Douglas administration's Capital Bill would fund a feasability study for merging the Shaftsbury and Rutland State Police barracks. One official tells the Benning Banner a move would take several years and would require finding a location with good radio and phone coverage.

An internal probe has been wrapped up into the death of a former Vermont Police Academy instructor, although the Rutland Herald reports it isn't known what the investigation found. A trainer at the academy, David McMullen, took his own life on academy grounds last month.

A Vermont Senate committee is considering a bill that would end Vermont's status as 1 of 5 states - and the only one in the Northeast - without a comprehensive law against human trafficking. Sex offender legislation passed last year addressed trafficking of underage people for sexual purposes. The new bill would extend to enslaving and trafficking in adults and deal with other types of labor aside from sexual exploitation. The Senate Judiciary Committee worked on making adjustments to language on Thursday to address concerns from farm groups that some of the definitions in the bill might be construed as applying to migrant farm workers. Committee members say they want to make sure the law only would apply to involuntary work situations.