Thursday, December 30, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 30, 2010

Starting this Saturday, you’ll notice a few changes on the menu at your favorite chain restaurant. A new law in Vermont requires the menu or drive-thru to show the calorie count of each item. The law doesn’t just apply to fast food, it also applies to some sit down restaurants too. The Vermont Health Department is hoping the new law will help people make healthier choices.

A member of one of the most well-known Vermont families has passed on. A family friend says Agathe von Trapp passed away at the age of 97 at a hospice in Maryland after suffering from congestive heart failure. Agathe was the oldest of 7 and part of the family which inspired the Broadway show and classic film "The Sound of Music."

Police in Burlington are on the lookout for 3 thieves who attacked the owner of a Queen City bakery. 36-year-old Paul Bonelli says he woke up on December 22 to find 3 men trying to break into his car. When he chased them Bonelli says the men attacked him. Nothing was taken from the car. All of the men are believed to be in their late teens.

A former Chittenden County state's attorney will be a special prosecutor in the investigation of Burlington Telecom. Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan has appointed Robert Simpson to the investigation into the municipally owned telecom, which is about $50-million-dollars in debt.

State game wardens say the ice is forming on lakes and ponds, with an average of 5 inches of ice around Chittenden County. In Mallets Bay, it's roughly 6 to 7 inches thick. Wardens say its building nearly ideal conditions for ice fishermen, however, the weekend calls for temperatures above 40 degrees and possibly rain.

The top emergency management official in Burlington is going to become the next director of Vermont Emergency Management. Governor-Elect Peter Shumlin announced yesterday that he will appointed Michael O'Neil to the post. O'Neil is currently chief engineer and emergency management director for the Burlington Fire Department.

The Vermont Army National Guard is planning to build a new armory off Route 100 in North Hyde Park. The new readiness center and field maintenance shop will replace the Morrisville armory and consolidate maintenance facilities in Lyndonville and St. Albans.

The next time you call the DMV in New York, you could be calling a woman’s prison. Bedford Hills' inmates will be answering calls but will not have access to customer data or DMV computers. Inmates in the program are given a book with answers to general questions, such as office hours and locations. More detailed customer calls will get transferred to civilian DMV employees.

There's apparently another lucky lottery winner who bought a ticket in Vermont. This time, the ticket was for Mega Millions, and was sold at the Hannaford supermarket in St. Albans. The ticket matched 5 of the 6 winning numbers for a $250-thousand dollar price, but the winner also bought the Megaplier, which bumped it up to a million.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 29, 2010

Starting this Saturday, it will be illegal to dispose of old computers, televisions and other electronics in Vermont's landfills. But Vermont's new electronic waste law, also sets up free collection programs for some electronics. Starting July 1, computers, monitors, printers, TVs and their accessories will be eligible for free e-cycling.

A chairlift derailment in Maine has Vermont ski areas double checking their equipment to make sure they’re safe for visitors. Yesterday morning a double-chairlift derailed at the Sugarloaf resort, causing multiple skies to fall up to 30 feet to the ground. A student from UVM was on the chairlift at the time and was forced to wait almost 2 hours before crews rescued her.

The Quechee Mobil Mart on Route 4 is closed today because of extensive fire damage. The blaze started shortly after 5 Monday morning. Investigators believe a faulty beverage cooler may have started the fire. The store's owners aren't sure if they'll be able to reopen.

According to a report from the Humane Society of the United States, our area does a pretty good job of taking care of pets and animals. The report ranks all 50 states and Washington DC based on a wide range of animal protection laws. The Humane State Rankings place Vermont and New York in a 3 way tie with DC for 7th place.

A group that supports good fishing on Lake Champlain is hailing the results of efforts to control populations of sea lamprey in the lake. A federal and state cooperative used the chemical lampricide TFM in 5 rivers feeding Lake Champlain in September in a bid to kill off lamprey, which attach themselves to fish and weaken them.

An electric space heater is believed to be the cause of a fire Monday night in Burlington. That happened at around 11 PM on Southcrest Drive. The owner, Paul Meacham Senior, called 911 and firefighters were able to get him out of the house okay. Fire crews were quickly able to extinguish the flames, but it's not known yet how extensive the damage is.

A South Burlington man is in critical condition after being hit by a car. Police say 38-year-old Jason Groleau was hit just after 6 PM Monday on Shelburne Road. Police say speed and any other outside factors have been ruled out as causes. Groleau was taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care where he is reported to be in critical condition.

Minimum-wage workers in Vermont will be making a bit more money next week. A minimum wage law passed by lawmakers in 2005 tied the wage to inflation, and this year, the wage goes up by nine cents, from $8.06 per hour to $8.15. An estimated 10-thousand Vermonters make the minimum wage.

The American Red Cross is once again asking for your help. They say donations are down and this is one of those times throughout the year when they really need the blood supply. The Red Cross says it needs all blood types, especially type “O”-Negative, which is the universal blood type.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 28, 2010

While heavy snow inundated the East Coast Sunday and yesterday, Vermont had a taste of it as well. Southern Vermont got the bulk of it, with snowfall totals ranging from a foot in Woodstock to 20 inches in Springfield and Woodford. The northern and western regions had little accumulations, but plenty of wind and drifting snow.

Teen birth rates are down in Vermont. The birth rate has been going down a bit over the past few years. In 2007 there were 495 teen births, in 2008 there were 472 and last year the number dropped to 393.

A proposed settlement calling for a major national milk processor to change its milk buying practices in the Northeast - at least temporarily - has been submitted to a federal judge in Vermont for approval. It calls for Dallas-based Dean Foods to place $30 million into a fund to settle antitrust claims brought by northeastern dairy farmers.

The union representing Essex County employees says its members earned their 4 percent raises. Essex County Board of Supervisors made another plea yesterday for union officials to voluntarily freeze salaries to lessen a tax increase next year. Next year is the third year of a 4-year labor agreement.

Fort Ticonderoga has been awarded a $15-thousand-dollar grant for an expanded interpretive program called "These Worthy Fellows are Second to None in Courage." The new program will highlight the daily lives of the soldiers garrisoned at Fort Ticonderoga. The funding will pay for staff and the purchase of interpretive clothing, weapons, accoutrement and tools.

Police are looking for a man who robbed the Rite-Aid in Enosburg yesterday morning. According to reports, the suspect was armed and approached the pharmacist demanding drugs. The suspect then fled with an undetermined amount of drugs. Anyone with information is asked to call the Franklin County Sherriff’s Office.

Firefighters from multiple departments were called to a help battle a house fire in Jericho last night. The fire was reported at about 6:30 last night on Browns Trace Road. No one is currently living at the home as the homeowners are renovated the property. Chief Randy Clarks says temporary lighting in the home may have sparked the blaze.

The state is considering changes to regulations for deer and moose hunting, and wants the public input on this. One of the changes includes a 4-day muzzleloader season around Columbus Day. The public will get a chance to voice opinions January 3rd at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton, on the 4th at the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier, and on the 5th at Johnson State College in Johnson.

Monday, December 27, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 27, 2010

A powerful storm moving up the East Coast is affecting our area as well. The heaviest is expected in central and southern Vermont, with a winter storm warning out from Addison, Washington and Caledonia counties. That will stay in effect till 4 this afternoon. 8 to as much as 14 inches of snow are possible. North-central Vermont into New York, including the Champlain Valley, is under a winter weather advisory with 3 to 7 inches of snow possible.

Police in Salisbury say a man was squatting in a home and using it as a place to traffic drugs. Police say the homeowner told them the drug dealer was from Troy, New York. Police seized more than 10-grams worth of crack cocaine and 20-bags of heroin from the home. State police urge anyone in the Salisbury area with any information to contact them.

Starting next Monday, January 3, the Charlotte/Essex Ferry Crossing will not have Dockmasters on duty. All tickets will be purchased on the boat once boarded. At this time commuter cards will not be accepted since there is no computer onboard the boat. However, Commuter Books may be purchased from the Burlington Office at any time or at the Charlotte/Essex Crossing BEFORE January 3rd.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its annual report of top polluters in New York. International Paper's Ticonderoga Mill made the list but was not the top polluter in the state, That honor goes to the Finch, Pruyn Paper Mill of Glens Falls. The EPA stresses that none of the plants on the list are doing anything illegal, they’re all operating within their permits.

Some senior citizens in Ticonderoga had quite a scare this weekend. A fire broke out at the Lord Howe Estates senior housing complex yesterday afternoon. Firefighters haven't said what started the blaze but say they were able to prevent it from spreading beyond one unit. All residents were safely evacuated and most are back in their homes this morning.

A Burlington woman is dead after police say she was hit by a repeat drunk driver. The incident happened just before 9 last night when police tried to pull over 52-year-old Timothy Dowd, of Hinesburg. Police say he took off and led them on a chase. The chase ended when Dowd ran a red light at the intersection of Saint Paul and Main Street, hitting another car broadside. The driver of the other vehicle was killed.

The makers of the controversial Log Cabin Syrup have changed the product's labeling. Lawmakers are accusing the company of deceptive practices, especially their claim of being all natural. Log Cabin has removed caramel coloring from the ingredients. And now, to comply with Vermont maple law, they created a label that reads 4-percent maple blend.

Albert Einstein's legacy will be the focus of a talk by a Middlebury College professor. Susan Watson, chair of the college's physics department, will reflect on the influence of the legendary physicist in a lecture at Norwich Congregational Church, in Norwich. The January 5th event is part of the Vermont Humanities Council's "First Wednesdays" series.

Friday, December 24, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 24, 2010

A multiple car accident shut down part of Route 7 in Charlotte near Ferry Road yesterday evening. Police say a woman from Stowe, was driving south on Route 7, when she lost control of her car in the slush. She crossed the centerline and was T-boned by an oncoming car. Both drivers and a passenger were taken to the hospital.

Starting Monday, January 3, the Charlotte/Essex Ferry Crossing will not have Dockmasters on duty. All tickets will be purchased on the boat once boarded. At this time commuter cards will not be accepted since there is no computer onboard the boat. Commuter books may be purchased from the Burlington Office at any time or at the Charlotte/Essex Crossing BEFORE January 3rd.

If you waited until the last minute to get your Christmas Tree this year you may have found it difficult to one. Most Addison County vendors reached the end of their Christmas tree supply last weekend, and by Sunday many had closed their doors for the season. Part of that rising demand is that there are fewer and fewer cut-your-own tree farms in Addison County. Overall, Christmas trees are a roughly $15 million industry at the wholesale level in Vermont.

Representatives of the six Addison Northeast Supervisory Union school boards and of the teachers met last week negotiating a contract for the current school year. By the end of the session the two sides had come to an impasse. The school boards will meet next month to decide whether to restart negotiations or impose a contract. If they opt to impose a contract the teachers will have to agree to take what the boards offer or strike.

The John Graham Shelter and the city of Vergennes received a $327,000 Community Development Block Grant that will fund more than half of a renovation project at the Monkton Road homeless shelter. It’s the first major project in its 30-year history. The organization already had a $197,000 grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Other private donations will fund the balance of a project that they hope will begin in June.

You may recall that downtown Middlebury was featured for a second or two in a pair of “30 Rock” episodes on TV. Now downtown Bristol has made its own debut on the pop culture scene. In October, the alternative rock band Guster released a music video featuring downtown Bristol as its backdrop.

The Stafford SADD Chapter recently donated a large number of items to the new Clarendon Food Shelf. Clarendon Town Health Officer, Roxanne Phelps, who is also the mother of Stafford Technical Center’s SADD Chapter President, Cierra Phelps, manages the Clarendon Food Shelf. The SADD members' food drive ended in time for the Clarendon Food Shelf to use the food as part of holiday food baskets that they were making for disadvantaged members of the Clarendon community.

The developers of a wind farm in Vermont's northeast kingdom say they've obtained $76 million in financing and are forging ahead with construction. Boston-based First Wind, which is building a 40-megawatt wind project in Sheffield, started construction on the project in September.

A veteran Vermont health care administrator will become the state's next commissioner of Mental Health. Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin announced Thursday that he would appoint Christine M. Oliver to the mental health job. Oliver is currently the deputy commissioner of the Division of Health Care Administration.

Veterans groups are now on the list of those in line for millions of dollars' worth of federal government surplus items - from computers to snowmobiles - given away every year. A bill signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday adds the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans to the list of potential recipients. The bill was co-sponsored in part by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy.

Colonel Will Roy with the Vermont National Guard is about to get a big promotion and assignment. Roy oversaw the just-completed deployment of nearly fifteen-hundred National Guard soldiers from Vermont to Afghanistan. Now, he's going to be working on mobilization and deployment-related issued from a national level. He's being promoted to brigadier general, and will become special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard in Washington.

Vermont utility regulators who last summer rejected FairPoint Communications Inc.'s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy are giving the OK to a new version. The state Public Service Board signed off on FairPoint's reorganization plan Thursday.

Satellite television provider DIRECTV will pay refunds to customers as part of a consumer fraud settlement. The Vermont Attorney General's Office has received more than 300 complaints about DIRECTV in the past three years. The AG says the company made attractive offers for service without making clear that subscribers would have to extend their contracts to get the deals.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 23, 2010

Starting Monday, January 3, the Charlotte/Essex Ferry Crossing will not have Dockmasters on duty. All tickets will be purchased on the boat once boarded. At this time commuter cards will not be accepted since there is no computer onboard the boat. Commuter books may be purchased from the Burlington Office at any time or at the Charlotte/Essex Crossing BEFORE January 3rd.

State troopers say one person died driving on the slippery roads Wednesday. 

It happened during a snow squall on route 103 in Shrewsbury. Police say 54-year-old Tina Wood of Rutland lost control of her car and collided with a vehicle coming in the other direction. She suffered fatal injuries. The driver of the other vehicle was not hurt.

Icy roads created headaches for some drivers on Interstate 89 near Williston yesterday. Vermont State Police say there were six crashes on that stretch of highway Wednesday morning. Police are urging drivers to slow down and to be on the lookout for patches of black ice.

Someone has been spying on town officials in Charlotte. Construction crews working on an energy retrofit of the Charlotte Town Hall discovered two wireless listening devices in the ceiling panels of the building. The bugs were not working when they were discovered and Shelburne Police believe they are about 10 years old. There are no suspects and police are calling it a cold case.

Central Vermont Public Service and the Vermont Department of Public Service have agreed to a rate settlement that will reduce a November rate request. CVPS had asked the Vermont Public Service Board to authorize an 8.34 percent rate increase. CV and the DPS have agreed to reduce the increase to 7.67 percent. It is expected to take effect January 1st. The agreement also amends and extends the company’s alternative regulation plan. Under the proposed base rate change, a residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours per month would experience a $5.91 increase.

Hinesburg town leaders and the owner of the Saputo Cheese factory building are searching for a new tenant that won't bring a stench to the neighborhood. More than 15 years ago, the factory produced a bad odor because of problems with the wastewater treatment. The goal is to find a balance between luring a business to town and not scaring off residents.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation has renewed its agreement with a financing company to manage the Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan, which is Vermont's official 529-college savings plan. It is offering several enhancements to benefit Vermont families. The number of investment options has expanded from three to six to provide families a wider range of choices with varying strategies and degrees of risk.

Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin has named the next Vermont Fish and Wildlife commissioner. Patrick Berry is the director of government affairs and environmental advancement at the Vermont Law School. He previously worked in communications and development for Middlebury College and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. He was also a fly-fishing guide in Montana. Shumlin is also bringing back the deputy position. Kim Royer will be the number two at the fish and wildlife department.

According to the Vermont Foodbank thousands of Vermonters will not have enough to celebrate. Because of the economic decline they've seen the need rise at food shelves and meal sites around the state by upwards of 40 percent, and it's still going up. While the rate has slowed compared to a couple years ago, the need is still rising.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and the attorneys general of 11 other states last week urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to adopt a uniform nutritional label for the front of food packages. This would ensure that consumers have access to easily understandable and fully transparent information on how healthy the products actually are.

The Tarrant Foundation has provided a grant that will match any funds donated for the music programs at Mount St. Joseph Academy and Christ the King School in Rutland before December 31st of this year, up to a total of $20,250. To date, MSJ and Christ The King have already raised or received commitments for $12,000 toward this effort. The goal is to raise the full amount by the end of the year so that the music programs will receive a cash infusion of $40,500.

A federal inspection report is faulting unsanitary practices at an artisan cheese maker who is known as a pioneer in the industry. Sally Jackson Cheese of Oroville, Washington, voluntarily recalled all of its cheese Friday after the Food and Drug Administration warned that the products could be contaminated by E. coli. Eight people in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Vermont have been sickened, 1 of whom was briefly hospitalized.

Vermont's congressional delegation says Chittenden, Franklin and Lamoille counties are eligible to receive federal disaster aid to help repair damage from a big storm earlier this month. The release of the funds was triggered by a disaster declaration signed yesterday by President Barack Obama.

A week after many Vermont school districts failed to meet a deadline for budget cutting proposals, Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin says he will not mandate the cuts to meet $23 million in savings. Shumlin said schools will get $23 million less from the state, but $19 million in federal stimulus money will be used to ensure that no school board has to make drastic cuts. The 14 supervisory unions who did meet the cuts under the Challenges for Change law will have lower property tax rates than those who did not.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon for more information about how it will fend off attacks from computer hackers. The NRC's Neil Sheehan says that in general Vermont Yankee's plan meets federal requirements. Vermont Yankee, and all other nuclear plants, must prove their computers, communications systems and networks are protected against cyber attacks.

After eight years as Vermont's governor, Republican Jim Douglas has not lost his sense of humor. He offered reporters Kool-Aid at his last press conference in Montpelier yesterday. They presented him gifts including a Wal-Mart uniform for a possible future job. Douglas says his greatest success was traveling around the state and being open to Vermonters. He is now off to teach at Middlebury College next year.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says several ponds will be off-limits to ice fishing to protect brown trout. Included on the list is North Pond in Chittenden. But Newark Pond in Newark will be open to ice fishing for the first time in decades. Officials say the yellow perch population is abundant in the Northeast Kingdom waterway.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 22, 2010

A Brandon man charged with making a single heroin sale told police he has made or aided hundreds more in recent years. Ryan F. Munnett pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court Monday to a felony charge of selling heroin. He is charged with selling 10 bags of heroin to a confidential police informant during an arranged buy at the Grand Union parking lot on January 28th.

Rutland City and the police department have agreed to a five-year contract that includes health care expense sharing. The agreement comes two weeks after the union voted down a proposed contract that had been approved by the city’s Board of Aldermen. Following the earlier draft’s defeat, Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras said the police department would see layoffs if its members didn’t start paying for more health care.

A crash on Route 7 Monday damaged a utility pole but the 22-year-old driver escaped injury. Molly Fraher of Goshen, CT was driving near Mt. View Drive when she was distracted by her dog and began veering off the road. She told police she tried to correct her course but the car left the road and struck a utility pole.

A 26-year-old Brandon woman continues to recover from serious injuries she received in an early morning crash in Rutland last week. Carie Voutour was listed in fair condition at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Monday afternoon. She was taken there soon after she collided with a parked tractor-trailer on Route 7 on Thursday.

Jim Hill has been named head football coach at Otter Valley after serving the program the last nine years as a defensive coach. He takes over for Dennis Perry who retired this fall after six seasons as the Otters’ head coach. For the past five years Hill has functioned as his defensive coordinator and virtual right-hand man.

About 27,000 of Vermont's needy are slated to receive more home heating assistance. Yesterday, the Senate cleared the way for an additional $10.8 million. Vermont faced the prospect of a 40 percent cut in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps senior citizens on fixed incomes, families with children and the disabled. So far this year, Vermont has received a total of $14.8 million for LIHEAP, compared to the $25.6 million in regular funding it received last year.

Vermont's next governor has put lawyers who deal with health care reform on notice they could be out of a job. There are nine lawyers in the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration. Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin asked for their resignations since they are not in the state employees union.

After 37 summers, the Vermont Mozart Festival is calling it quits. Executive Director Timothy Riddle says the cash-strapped organization can't recover from a deficit of more than $325,000 stemming from recession-related downturns. With its under-the-stars performances at Shelburne Farms and the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, the Mozart Festival was a beloved fixture for many Vermonters and was named - by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce - 1 of the state's Top Ten Summer Events.

The U.S. Census Bureau says New England grew more slowly than the rest of the country in the last decade, with a 4% increase in population compared to the nation's 9.7% rate. Among New England states, New Hampshire grew at the fastest rate - 6.9% and Vermont grew by 2.8%. Nearly all the region's population gain was because there were more births than deaths, rather than migration.

A group of lawmakers say the country must do a better job stopping drug smuggling along the northern border. A measure passed Tuesday calls for the Office of National Drug Control Policy to come up with a plan to blunt the movement of drugs across the U.S.-Canadian border. The Senate already passed the bill. If President Barack Obama signs it, the ONDCP will have six months to draft recommendations.

The New York State Health Commissioner announced that, as of Tuesday, businesses providing indoor tanning services are subject to new requirements intended to reduce the potential hazards of indoor tanning. The requirements are being implemented in connection with New York State Public Health Law adopted by the State Legislature. Health risks associated with tanning are well documented in scientific literature and include skin cancer, burns, injury to the skin and eyes, premature aging of the skin, and allergic reactions.

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas said that he doesn't foresee the county board freezing the contractually guaranteed pay increases for its unionized employees in the near future. But he also noted that the controversial move could be on the table in the coming months. Last week, the Sullivan County Legislature voted to freeze the pay of its union employees, even though they are under a contract that guarantees 4 percent raises.

New York State Police officials announced late last week that troopers would now be equipped with tasers. They announced on Friday that troopers would be supplied with new, less-lethal safety tools for confronting violent individuals.

Environmental officials in New York appear to be softening their stance on controversial new outdoor wood boiler regulations. The state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to set aside rules regarding existing boilers. The DEC will hold more meetings with wood boiler manufacturers, homeowners, green groups, and agricultural organizations. The meetings will focus on how to best regulate previously purchased furnaces.

The COTS homeless shelter in Burlington received a special delivery yesterday. Dee Physical Therapy sent more than 10,000 diapers to COTS. This is the fourth year in a row the employees of Dee have held a diaper drive, setting a record each year. Organizers say they get the word out by calling businesses and asking clients to donate. COTS says this one drive fulfills their diaper needs for an entire year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 21, 2010

As part of the education portion of the “e-Vermont” grant awarded to the town of Bristol earlier this year, Bristol Elementary School fifth-graders all received new Dell netbooks to use at school and at home through the end of the school year. In May, Bristol was one of 12 towns to receive a portion of a $3.8 million grant meant to boost community access to Internet resources. The grant not only provided the 40-plus netbooks it also provided training for both students and teachers by representatives of e-Vermont’s partner, Digital Wish.

A state energy official will meet with the Ferrisburgh selectboard today to explain the benefits of a program that could allow town property owners to finance energy-efficiency upgrades with long-term, town-backed loans. A representative from Vermont Energy Investment Corporation will discuss whether Ferrisburgh should become a “Property Assessed Clean Energy,” or PACE, community. It’s a model for funding energy efficiency that other Addison County towns could emulate.

Vermont Coffee Company has hired Chris Bray as its executive vice president. It’s one of four new positions recently added at the Middlebury-based firm. During his four years on the House Agriculture Committee he has frequently advocated for farming practices and food policies that are socially responsible and add value to Vermont’s food commodities.

A group of 18 Vermont inns and bed and breakfasts are offering free stays this winter to members of the Vermont National Guard, many of who are returning home from a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. The owners of the Swift House Inn are leading the effort. The first soldiers returned home before Thanksgiving, and the rest are expected home by Christmas.

The Addison Volunteer Fire Department is wrapping up a year in which community members not only gave their time and efforts in responding to emergencies, but also showed financial support to the department. The total raised from this month’s tree lighting fund-raiser is not complete but a few thousand dollars has been raised so far and a few donations are still coming in.

Vermont's governor-elect, who picked state Treasurer Jeb Spaulding to be his administration secretary, has chosen Spaulding's replacement. Spaulding's successor is 57-year-old Beth Pearce, who's now the deputy treasurer. Pearce has worked for the treasurer's office since 2003 and in financial jobs in New England cities and states for her whole career.

Vermont lawmakers could reverse a law that gave a Northeast Kingdom farmer ownership of wild deer and moose on his Irasburg property. If approved, the law would require that deer and moose trapped inside the elk hunting preserve be removed, probably by hunting. The Burlington Free Press says the proposed law would protect "Pete the Moose," a bull moose orphaned when it was young and raised in the fenced preserve.

New York Governor David Paterson was ordered to pay 62-thousand dollars for an ethics violation. The New York State Commission on Public Integrity is punishing Paterson for accepting five tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The commission rejected Paterson's claim that he always intended to pay for the tickets. An Albany prosecutor has been reviewing whether to also bring criminal charges.

The United States is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to Internet speed and Vermont is one of slowest states in the country. Those are the findings of the fourth annual Speed Matters survey which finds that the U.S. is only 25th best for average download and upload speeds. And among the states -- Vermont ranks 46th.

The next time North County Community College negotiates a labor contract Essex and Franklin counties want to have someone there.

 Both counties recently approved the college's new labor agreement which many lawmakers felt was onerous considering the current financial downturn.

 To prevent more surprises the Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair said that from now on there will be county representatives at negotiating sessions.

A Williston, Vermont woman is behind an outdoor activity encyclopedia available now on your iPhone and iPad. Clare Innes spent three months researching books, using past experiences, and asking other Vermonters about fun thing to do in the winter. The "Vermont Winter Fun" App gives Vermonters a chance to explore the Green Mountain State in new ways. If you have any activity ideas you can email Clare at

The Vermont Fire Academy in Pittsford is now home to a series of sculptures by artist Gregory Miguel Gomez as part of the Vermont Arts Council’s “Art in State Buildings” program. He created five different sculptures representing the tools used and needed by firemen to combat all types of fires. The sculptures in the Fire Academy are the 28th building commissioned by the Vermont Arts Council as part of its “Art in State Buildings” program.

Sixth grade students brought smiles to Fletcher Allen yesterday. Children from Ferrisburgh Central School sang holiday songs at the Children's Specialty Center. It was in honor of one of their classmates, Ellie Martin, who was diagnosed with Leukemia over the summer and gets treatments at the center. The students carol at nursing homes every year but this year wanted to do something in honor of Ellie.

While ski areas do what they can to keep their slopes safe for customers, the Cochran Ski Area is also looking at safety for competitive skiers. It was recently awarded five thousand dollars from the Kelly Brush foundation, which started after skier Kelly Brush was paralyzed, with the goal to make trails used for racing safer. At Cochran, the money was used for net fences along the trail, which keeps skiers from going off the trail into the trees.

Author and University of Vermont professor Frank Bryan will be among those honored when Secretary of State Deb Markowitz gives out the 2010 Democracy Awards. Bryan, Milton Town Clerk John Cushing and the Burlington Free Press are being honored with a Medallion Award, presented by the National Association of Secretaries of State to honor those involving in the promotion of elections, voter education, voter participation, civic education and service to state government.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 20, 2010

Middlebury has agreed to withdraw an order against former shop owner James Stone that he not sell a psychoactive plant that can produce hallucinatory experiences. In return, the ACLU of Vermont has agreed to drop a lawsuit against the town it filed last year on Stone’s behalf. Middlebury Select Board Chairman John Tenny said all parties are dropping their claims and the settlement agreement calls for no further claims in the dispute. 

Stone owned the Emporium Tobacco and Gift Shop in Middlebury until 2007.

The Otter Valley Union High School Board decided unanimously to reduce its budget by more than 4 percent and meet its Challenges for Change target last week. To local taxpayers, Otter Valley’s $10.2 million budget for next year will result in a one-cent jump in the tax rate if adopted by voters on Town Meeting Day.

Brandon Police have arrested a Salisbury man for the attempted robbery of the Union Street Grocery Store in August. Justin Gillett has been cited for felony counts of attempted armed robbery and attempted aggravated assault. Police have been investigating the attempted robbery since it was reported on August 22. After being cited, Gillett was released from custody. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Rutland criminal court on January 10.

Efforts to control the sea lamprey population in Lake Champlain and its tributaries are paying off with a significant drop in the number of lake trout and salmon afflicted by the parasite. Anglers reported great fishing for trout and salmon over the summer, and there were good fall salmon runs in the rivers for the first time in more than a decade.

A year-long federal pilot program allowing the heaviest of all trucks to drive on Vermont interstates expired Saturday and is forcing trucks back onto state highways where they drove before. Roland Bellavance, President of the Vermont Truck and Bus Association, says the organization is disappointed Congress didn't extend the program.

Those are several instances in which officials of the incoming Shumlin administration may find it tricky to navigate their new duties with their past affiliations. Both An environmental conservation commissioner, who recently represented environmental groups in battles against Omya Inc. and Vermont Yankee and public service commissioner whose husband works for a law firm that represents Green Mountain Power. Incoming Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears and Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller say they believe they'll be able to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.

2 of the 10 Northeast states that agreed to dedicate millions of dollars to reduce carbon emissions and promote green energy have reneged on their promise. Instead, they've diverted substantial funds to saving their budgets. New York and New Jersey over the past year have raided accounts set up under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Citing their example, New Hampshire dipped into its fund in June to help balance its budget.

A study panel's recommendation sets the stage for a debate over a major tax overhaul in Vermont. The Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission has given preliminary approval to a plan to slash income tax rates by about a third and enact the largest expansion of the state's sales tax since it was enacted 41 years ago. The panel voted 2-1 in favor of the overhaul plan.

The latest tax collection figures show the state is actually ahead of budget targets for this fiscal year. Five months into the fiscal year, the state has collected $447 million in general fund revenues. That's almost 4 percent ahead of projections. But the problem is that in real dollars, tax collections are still not where they were two years ago.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas says the state has been recognized once again as the greenest state in the nation. Douglas says a new report by the website 24/7 Wall St. considered energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies in evaluating the environmental standing of states. The report found that Vermont, among other measures, releases the fewest cancer causing toxins and has the smallest carbon footprint in the country.

Vermont's technology chief is taking a job as head of Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, which oversees the state's emergency communications system. David Tucker, commissioner of the Department of Information and Innovation, will take over as executive director of the board on Jan. 7. Vermont's 9-1-1 system covers the whole state and consists of 8 call centers.

General Dynamics' facility in Vermont has won another U.S. Army contract. The defense contractor, which is located on the IBM campus in Williston, has been awarded a $73 million contract with the U.S. Army to produce new M2 machine guns. The guns will be built in Saco, Maine, but the program will be managed at General Dynamics' Technology Center in Williston.

Gary Hodder, who has coached and run summer camp programs in Vermont for two decades, is doing his bit for humanity in the Kingdom of Cambodia. He completed his second season as Otter Valley field hockey coach by guiding the Otters to the championship game in early November. Not long after that he flew to northern Cambodia to teach soccer and run soccer leagues for children from orphanages, children centers and schools. He says he’s not trying to change the world there but just looking to give those children something positive and fun in their lives that are otherwise very challenging.

The Campus Center at Castleton State College was recently awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Certification Institute. LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification measuring environmental building sustainability from the design process through construction. The college joins a small group of LEED Gold or Platinum certified buildings in Vermont – only eleven others in the state.

A new study says wind has the potential to supply nearly a quarter of New England's power within the decade. But massive grid upgrades would be needed to handle that much more wind energy. The study by GE Energy Applications & Systems Engineering was conducted for the regional grid manager, ISO New England. It says wind could supply up to 24% of the region's total annual electricity needs by 2020.

If you want to catch the year's last astrological phenomena you’ll have to get up early tomorrow. A total lunar eclipse will bring dramatic color to the full moon, starting at about 1:30 AM tomorrow with a partial eclipse. The eclipse will bring hues of bright orange, deep red and dark brown before it finishes at about 5 AM. If you want to catch the peak of the total eclipse you should look toward the skies at about 2:40 AM. Hues of vibrant red are expected to last until about 3:30 AM.

Friday, December 17, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 17, 2010

Vermont will officially enter winter next week having received $14.4 million of the total $14.9 million in heating fuel assistance from the Federal Government for the entire season. The Addison Community Action/Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity has been helping a lot of people sign up for fuel benefits since the weather started getting cold. The organization has helped around 100 people secure fuel aid during the past two weeks.

The Better Middlebury Partnership is lobbying for the town to hire an economic development director who would work to bring new businesses and jobs to the area. The proposed $100,000 position is part of an effort to stimulate the local economy and build on the town’s recent accomplishments of completing the Cross Street Bridge and landing education company e-Corporate English. Middlebury College and the business community would help underwrite the position.

At a summit in Montpelier last week, members of the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Working Landscape Partnership laid out a plan that they hope will preserve and bolster the state’s agricultural and forestry economy. There were many people at the summit from Addison County who are interested in sustaining the area’s agricultural way of life and the culture surrounding it.

At their next meeting Vergennes aldermen will look at a proposal to create a city law that would allow Vergennes police to issue city tickets for possession of drug paraphernalia. Mayor Michael Daniels said there were enough questions from city council members that they decided to wait until Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel could attend a meeting in person to make the case for an ordinance he is proposing.

State Sen. Claire Ayer returned on Monday from a weeklong visit to Taiwan. She was co-leader of a 10-person delegation made up of legislators from four New England states: Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider is seeking to halt an investigation of the business dealings of herself and her husband by district attorney's offices in Essex and Clinton counties. According to court filings, she and her husband are seeking the suppression of a massive amount of bank records obtained during an ongoing investigation that could be used to secure a criminal indictment by a grand jury.

The Chaffee Arts Center in Rutland, will now offer open studio space to member and non-member artists. The cost is only $7 for non-members and members enter for free. Operated by the Rutland Area Art Association for nearly 50 years, the Chaffee Arts Center is one of the longest-running community arts organizations in Vermont. The open studio hours are every Thursday from 5 to 8 PM.

Middlebury's historic passenger depot on Seymour Street is getting major facelift. The renovations include work on the train station's second-floor tower room, which was long closed and off limits to tenants until now. Trackside Depot received a state historical tax credit to begin the project and also received federal taxpayer funds for improved "green" energy efficiency and new electrical wiring and heating units.

You can keep summer alive this winter. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Vermont State Parks is offering three brand new Holiday Gift Packages that give recipients something fun to open and use right away, and something really fun to look forward to this summer. Shipping is free and you can order packages online anytime at

More Vermont soldiers are back home in time for the holidays. About 300 Vermont National Guard soldiers returned to Vermont Thursday after a yearlong mission. The Guard members arrived at the Vermont Air National Guard base in two aircrafts in the third return of soldiers to Vermont this week.

This week school districts had to report to the state if they were able to cut their budgets as recommended by lawmakers and the governor as part of Challenges for Change. Sixty-two of 63 districts had their numbers in by yesterday afternoon and a preliminary count shows the plan fell far short just $4 million. Only 14 districts met their targeted cuts. Of those 14, 11 exceeded the recommended cuts.

Funding for an experimental engine has made its way back into a budget bill in the U.S. Senate. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy supports it, citing the need for competition. He also says it will help GE Aviation in Rutland because the company will make parts for the engine.

Vermont is getting high marks on its public health emergency preparedness in a new national study ranking the states. The Trust For America's Health says Vermont was 1 of 18 states to achieve 8 of 10 indicators gauging preparedness. But the state did not meet two because of a decrease in the state's public health budget and emergency staffs' inability to acknowledge that they were notified of an emergency or drill within 60 minutes.

Vermont State Police say a shoeless toddler found walking down a road has been reunited with his mother, who was asleep when he walked out by himself. Wearing socks but no shoes in snowy, 12-degree cold, the 21-month-old boy was spotted by a motorist driving to work in Whitingham on Thursday. The motorist called police, who sent an ambulance crew that found him healthy and unharmed.

New York's unemployment rate was 8.3% in November, holding almost steady compared to October and less than the 8.9% recorded a year earlier. Government was the sector that lost the most jobs over the past year: almost 40,000, including about 25,000 at the local level. The biggest gain was in educational and health services. That sector grew by almost 31,000 jobs.

Small Dog Electronics is offering a $1,000 Reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the burglaries at their Headquarters in Waitsfield and the retail location in South Burlington. If you suspect any individual or have any leads, please contact the South Burlington Police Department or Crime Stoppers.

It took nearly a year for the North County Small Business Development Center to secure a $53,000 grant. This award is one of only eleven across the country and the only one in New York. It's meant to help businesses after the area lost nearly 600 jobs when the Pfizer plants closed down.

A contractor from Williston is to stay far away from any home repair work in Vermont. Donald Bevins was found in willful contempt by the Washington Superior Court in Montpelier of court orders designed to protect the public from home improvement fraud. The same applies to his company Twin City Roofing. Failure to comply is likely to result in him going to jail, according to Attorney General William Sorrell, who has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the roofing company.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 16, 2010

A new business debuted in Vergennes, which many are calling a first. The Ferrisburgh Solar Farm held a "Sunrise on Solar" party yesterday afternoon at Vergennes Union High School. The farm has actually been in operation for two weeks, and the one-megawatt project is considered the state's largest solar field.

The Kennedy Brothers Marketplace in Vergennes has been home to the family business since the 1940s, but soon that era will come to an end. The store and the building are now up for sale. The marketplace is home to seven other stores that will remain open. But the 9 employees at Kennedy Brothers will be out of work. Storeowners say they have not yet set a closing date, but that time is quickly approaching.

The Killington Select Board will have to find savings in 2012 after agreeing to abolish a $71,000 tax agreement with Killington Resort. Since 1966, the resort has paid the town one-third percent of all gross receipts produced from ticket sales, shops and restaurants each year to ease the burden of ski resort growth and its impact on roads and the overall community infrastructure.

A charter change proposal headed for the March ballot will lengthen the time Rutland police officers and firefighters can be suspended without pay. A charter provision prevents employees from being suspended without pay for more than two weeks. The proposed change would let the police chief suspend an officer for up to six weeks and the fire chief suspend a firefighter for up to four weeks.

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont wants to cash in on tobacco sales with a proposed $1 per pack tax increase on cigarettes to help fund the ever-diminishing Tobacco Trust Fund. 

If it were to become law the tax would raise an estimated $10.2 million dollars for state coffers.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he's disappointed he failed in his one last effort to get fellow senators to agree to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Sanders' amendment failed Wednesday before the Senate passed a compromise measure including an extension of the tax cuts for all income levels and a renewal of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Governor-elect Peter Shumlin has picked the executive director of Smart Growth Vermont to be the state's commissioner of the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Affairs. Noelle Mackay was appointed yesterday; Jennifer Hollar was picked as deputy commissioner. Shumlin says the mission is to support economic development, while preserving Vermont's heritage, promoting vibrant communities, and creating affordable housing.

Vermont's largest health care provider and the hospital that serves central Vermont are hoping to join forces. The trustees of Burlington's Fletcher Allen Health Care have voted to join with the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. Central Vermont trustees approved the proposal last week. If approved by regulators, the new parent organization will be called "Fletcher Allen Partners". But facilities connected to each organization would retain their current names.

An electronics store in South Burlington can't catch a break. Police say Small Dog Electronics on Dorset Street was burglarized just after 6 AM yesterday. An unknown number of Apple iPads were stolen. This store was burglarized last week and on Monday, Small Dog's store in Waitsfield was hit too. If anyone has information, please call the South Burlington Police Department.

There's no doubt that painful pump prices are back. Gas prices in Vermont have jumped $0.46 since September. Now the average cost for a gallon of regular is $3.13, the highest price since July of 2008, when a gallon cost $4.09. Home heating oil is $0.38 more per gallon than last year and diesel fuel is up $0.18 since last month.

Officials in the town that hosts the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant are looking for a way to generate tax income if the plant closes in March 2012 as is currently scheduled. The town would like to explore the possibility of taxing the used nuclear fuel, stored in dry casks that could be on the property for up to 100 years.

The school board in Vermont's largest city has said "no" to a state suggestion that it cut its budget next year by $1.2 million. Instead of agreeing to the cut suggested by the state austerity measure known as Challenges for Change, the Burlington school board approved a proposed budget for next year that included a 2.8 percent budget increase.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says the state will receive $425,000 as part of a multistate settlement with Dannon Co. Inc. over its marketing claims about its Activia and DanActive products. Vermont joins 38 other states involved in the settlement in which Dannon will pay $21 million nationwide. The company had claimed that DanActive dairy drink helped people avoid colds or the flu and that Activia yogurt helps relieve digestive irregularity. But the Federal Trade Commission says there is not enough evidence to back those claims.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says a little-used tuition tax break that was due to expire this month has been renewed for middle class families nationwide. It will provide up to $2,500 a year in tuition relief. The measure takes $1 off a taxpayer’s federal bill for every $1 spent on college tuition. Just 43 percent of families eligible took advantage of the break last year. But families who didn't seek the break can still amend their old tax returns dating back three years to claim the credit.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce December After Business Mixer will be held the evening at the Hancock House located next to the Liberty Monument. The Hancock House is home to the Ticonderoga Historical Society. The event is from 5:30 – 7 PM. Sponsors providing door prizes will be Glens Falls National Bank and The Wagon Wheel Restaurant.

Gormly’s Christmas Trees in North Chittenden began selling Christmas trees 23 years ago. On Sunday it closed for its final season. 

Bill Gormly and his wife, Jackie, began selling Scotch pine trees in 1987 as a way to help finance tuition for their three children. The business grew from 1,000 pine trees to more than 12,000 trees. On Sunday, they closed with about 23 trees left.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 15, 2010

Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin has picked the executive director of Smart Growth Vermont to be the state's commissioner of the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Affairs. Noelle Mackay was appointed today; Jennifer Hollar was picked as deputy commissioner. Shumlin says the mission is to support economic development, while preserving Vermont's heritage, promoting vibrant communities, and creating affordable housing.

Vermont's largest health care provider and the hospital that serves central Vermont are hoping to join forces. The trustees of Burlington's Fletcher Allen Health Care voted yesterday to join with the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. Central Vermont trustees approved the proposal last week. If approved by regulators, the new parent organization will be called "Fletcher Allen Partners". But facilities connected to each organization would retain their current names.

An electronics store in South Burlington can't catch a break. Police say Small Dog Electronics on Dorset Street was burglarized just after 6 a.m. today. An unknown number of Apple iPads were stolen. This store was burglarized last week and on Monday, Small Dog's store in Waitsfield was hit too. If anyone has information, please call the South Burlington Police Department.

There's no doubt that painful pump prices are back. Gas prices in Vermont have jumped $0.46 since September. Now the average cost for a gallon of regular is $3.13, the highest price since July of 2008, when a gallon cost $4.09. Home heating oil is $0.38 more per gallon than last year and diesel fuel is up $0.18 since last month.

Officials in the town that hosts the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant are looking for a way to generate tax income if the plant closes in March 2012 as is currently scheduled. The town would like to explore the possibility of taxing the used nuclear fuel, stored in dry casks that could be on the property for up to 100 years.

The school board in Vermont's largest city has said "no" to a state suggestion that it cut its budget next year by $1.2 million. Instead of agreeing to the cut suggested by the state austerity measure known as Challenges for Change, the Burlington school board approved a proposed budget for next year that included a 2.8 percent budget increase.

The chairman of the board of directors of the Vermont Youth Orchestra said no decision has been made yet on whether to reconsider its decision to fire the orchestra's new conductor. The board met Tuesday night for more than three hours to discuss its firing of Ronald Braunstein, who was hired earlier this year to lead the orchestra.

The municipal budget Rutland voters will decide on in March got even smaller this week. It’s almost 5 percent lower than the current spending plan that voters approved last year. Most of the difference is due to cuts and savings from revamped health care plans for most city employees that are both cheaper and covered in part by contributions from employees.

A proposal going before the Rutland Board of Aldermen would reorganize the Police Commission with a majority drawn from board members. The Charter and Ordinance Committee voted unanimously yesterday to recommend a charter change for the March ballot that would require members of the Board of Aldermen be appointed to three of the commission's five seats. The ballot item would also change terms on the commission from three years to two years.

Governor-elect Peter Shumlin announced yesterday that Elizabeth Miller would take over the Department of Public Service. Also, former lawmaker Megan Smith will be commissioner of the state Department of Tourism and Marketing.

The U.S. Senate is poised to consider extending a pilot program allowing heavier trucks to keep on rolling on federal highways in Maine and Vermont. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Patrick Leahy said that they persuaded the Appropriations Committee to include a 1-year extension in the Senate spending bill.

The Tiny Tim Christmas Wish Program will get some help from area musicians. The annual Tiny Tim concert will be held Friday at 7 PM at the First United Methodist Church in Ticonderoga. The event attracts local musicians who perform to raise money for the Tiny Tim Christmas Wish Program, which has provided holiday gifts to children the past 30 years.

Snowmobilers are being asked to be extra cautious when cruising through in the Green Mountain National Forest. The forest and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers work together to maintain almost 500 miles of trails. However, snowshoers, hikers and cross-country skiers also use the trails. Snowmobiles can use the trail network December 16 - April 15.

Dozens of families got an early Christmas gift last night. Another group of troops are home from Afghanistan. The guard still expects to have everyone home before Christmas. The larger flights carrying several hundred troops are due Thursday.

Hartford Police say they have suspects in a violent home invasion that happened Monday night in White River Junction. Police say two men in ski masks entered a house on South Main Street just before midnight, beat a man inside and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash. Police say it appears the victim and the attackers knew each other and that it was an isolated incident.

A missing Vermont man has been found alive. State police began searching for Eric Peck of Bloomfield on Monday. Peck left home last Wednesday and friends and family were concerned because he suffers from mental illness. But early Tuesday morning, Peck phoned home from a hotel in Virginia. Local police checked on him and said he was fine.

Winter has returned to the Green Mountains and it's giving state road crews a workout. John Zicconi from VTrans said the state typically spends $14 million-$20 million clearing the roads each winter. He said the next big thing for Vermont is salt brine. The state has used it in Chittenden, Franklin and parts of Addison and Grand Isle counties over the last couple of years, and is expanding it into Washington County in Central Vermont.

Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin plans to tour the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant this week, and is continuing to press for plant officials to resume pumping contaminated water from around the reactor. The incoming Democratic governor will travel to Vernon on Friday to tour the facility and visit the site of a radioactive tritium leak that was first reported in January.

The deadline for schools to answer to Challenges for Change is quickly approaching. Schools districts have until today at 4:30 to tell the Education Commissioner whether they'll be able to meet the budget cuts requested by Challenges for Change, which asks $23 million in cuts from Vermont's education budget.

Vermont legislative leaders say their priorities for the next session will be your health, money and job. That session will start in three weeks. A legislative report on health care is due in January. The governor-elect wants Vermont to introduce a single payer system. Any plan could take years to launch.

A coalition of groups in central Vermont has launched a new website. The website is called “Live More, Drink Less” and it was founded by Partners for Prevention, which is a coalition of several Washington County organizations that support healthy behavior among youth. The goal of the website is to reduce binge drinking, particularly among young adults ages 21 to 25.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 14, 2010

United Way of Addison County has reached 60 percent of its $775,000 goal in its 2010-2011 fund drive pacing ahead of last year. The United Way launched its annual fund drive in September to aid the county’s many nonprofit human service agencies. Organizers set the same goal as last year. Thanks to a lot of hard work by United Way staff and volunteers, generous donors and a recovering economy, the campaign to date has yielded roughly $450,000 in contributions from approximately 1,000 sources.

According to town officials Holley Hall was in need of a little work after 125 years of active duty. The renovation project began in 2008 and was completed last month. It rehabilitated the historic building and updated the space to meet the current needs of the town.

State and local officials last week formally announced e-Corp English’s plans to grow in Middlebury and confirmed details of a state aid package that helped bring the English-language training company to town. The State of Vermont put together a successful incentive package for e-Corp English and the Addison County Economic Development Corporation, local business community and town officials also helped attract e-Corp to Middlebury. e-Corp hopes to expand the work force to more than 100 within the next three years.

Jim Douglas is seeking federal disaster assistance for the windstorm earlier this month that knocked out power to nearly 40,000 customers and caused widespread infrastructure damage. Douglas has sent a letter President Barack Obama requesting a disaster declaration for the windstorm starting on December 1 that caused nearly $2 million in damage.

Another 183 members of the Vermont National Guard are home after a tour in Afghanistan. Guard officials say the soldiers of the 86th Infantry Combat Team arrived at about 8:30 AM yesterday at the Air National Guard base in South Burlington. The soldiers have been returning home in groups. All are expected to be home by Christmas.

UVM has a new Provost. Jane Knodell is a longtime economics professor. Knodell has been serving as interim Provost since last year. She has been at the University of Vermont since 1986. Knodell also served 14 years on the Burlington City Council, two of them as Council President.

State officials are working to fix long delays for low income Vermonters trying to access help. Yesterday lawmakers heard about concerns with benefit programs. Some clients have had to wait more than 30 days for a response. To address the issue, the state hired twenty new permanent employees to work on the backlog. Wait times are now down to a few minutes.

Vermont's Senators voted against the big tax cut bill Monday, but it still passed a key test vote. The controversial deal cut between the Democratic President and Republican lawmakers has many Democrats speaking out. Senator Sanders made his arguments against the plan in a marathon daylong speech on the Senate floor Friday.

Gov. David Paterson has signed into law tougher penalties for bosses who illegally withhold workers' pay, though it won't affect them this holiday season. The new law allows a court or the Labor Department to force employers to pay back wages plus another 100 percent in damages, up from 25 percent currently. It takes effect in 120 days.

Criminal defendants in Essex County may soon have to prove they qualify for a free attorney. The Essex County Board of Supervisors is interested in devising a system to verify that defendants who say they are indigent are telling the truth.

Essex County has stacks of records to store but nowhere to put them. The County Manager has prepared a request for proposals to rent more storage space for the paper records generated by departments. The county owns the old Republic Steel office building in Mineville, which could be more utilized for records storage.

Emily Meachem is the 2010 Crown Point Junior Miss. She was selected during the community's 25th annual Junior Miss program on November 13. Meachem will represent Crown Point in Buffalo for the state program on April 2. Erin Ross won the spirit award. Chelsea Thatcher also competed in the program.

New York landowners, farmers and forestland owners have until January 14th to apply for 2011 conservation program funding. The programs falling within this deadline include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). For sign-up details or additional conservation program information contact your local USDA-NRCS office or visit

Fort Ticonderoga has been awarded a $15,000 grant by the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust of Saratoga Springs. The funds will support an expanded interpretive program that highlights the daily lives of the soldiers garrisoned at Fort Ticonderoga. As part of an institutional-wide assessment, Fort Ticonderoga has identified the need for more interpretive opportunities that engage visitors through expanded living history programs.

The Black Watch Memorial Library in Ticonderoga will offer computer training on Tuesday, December 21st. No appointment is necessary and it is free and open to the public. Microsoft Word (basics) will be offered 11AM to Noon, Microsoft Excel (basics) will be available 1:30-2:30 PM, an open period for questions will be held 2:45-3:45 PM and understanding the internet as it relates to job hunting will be held 4-6:30 PM.

A Heritage Commons employee has won a state award. Elizabeth LaPointe, a 30-year employee of Heritage Commons Residential Health Care as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), has received the 2010 Long Term Care Employee of Distinction award. This is the second time one of Heritage Commons' employees has received this award. Terry Sprague received this same award in 2008.

Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin says his living arrangements in Montpelier will be a lot like they were during his time in the Legislature - except year-round. Shumlin, whose hometown is Putney, says that's too far to travel back and forth every day. So he'll rent a house in the capital city and make the 225-mile round trip to Putney on weekends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 13, 2010

Sunday's storm delivered strong winds during the afternoon, which put residents and utility crews on alert, but didn't cause as much damage as the storm almost two weeks ago. State utility crews said there were minimal outages. At the storm's peak, Vermont Electric Co-op had about 1,200 outages, CVPS recorded about 200 and Green Mountain Power didn't have any.

Otter Valley Union High School budget talks are set for Wednesday. After years of deep cuts, OV will likely get some relief in 2012 with fewer staff reductions expected than in prior years. The Otter Valley Union High School Board will vote on its roughly $10.5 million budget at its Wednesday meeting.

U.S. Congressman Peter Welch spent his Saturday visiting a couple of community groups in Vermont. Welch started in Rutland, where he delivered fuel to a home of someone who needs help paying their fuel bill. Later that afternoon, Welch ate with people at the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes. He talked with the shelter's board members and the people who live there.

A Rutland nursing home has received statewide and national accolades for its quality of care. Mountain View Center Genesis HealthCare has been recognized as one of only 39 nursing homes in the nation to receive the silver quality award from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. The facility won in part due to the performance of its 175-member staff. Other factors, such as cleanliness and the condition of the facility were weighed as well.

Two of Vermont’s most famous businessmen were scooping ice cream in Rutland yesterday to support universal health care. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, were dishing out some of their favorite flavors at a benefit for the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign held at the Unitarian Universalist Church. The pair was the most high-profile supporters on-hand for a rally designed to inspire a grassroots push for universal health care in Vermont.

Essex County will try again for a one-quarter percent sales-tax hike. The County Attorney has prepared another Home Rule request to the State Legislature for the sales-tax increase. He said 47 counties in the state have 4 percent sales tax. The state imposes its own sales tax of 4 percent, so in most counties the tax is 8 percent.

A collection of vintage firearms that documents the history of Vermont gunmaking will go on display at Shelburne Museum next spring. The 106-gun collection, amassed by Terry Tyler, consists of firearms manufactured in the state in the 18th and 19th centuries. Museum director Stephen Jost says the collection is unique for both the quality of the guns and the era they span.

Ski Vermont is celebrating Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month with promotions all around the state in the month of January. From Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, it's "free week," with adults and children 4 or older eligible for a free beginner package that includes a lift ticket or Nordic trail pass, group lesson and rental equipment at participating resorts. For more information, go to

Culinary tourism, food safety regulations and best management practices for those who deal in farm-to-food businesses will be on the menu at a seminar next month at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock. Experts and farmers with firsthand experience in food safety issues will be among the presenters at the event, which is open to the public. It's set for 9 a.m. January 12 at the farm and museum.

Another 130 Vermont National Guard soldiers have returned from Afghanistan. The soldiers returned to Vermont on Saturday morning after a yearlong mission. They are members of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and are from armories around the state. About 200 more soldiers are expected to return today.

A national program that encourages schools to work with farms to increase the amount of local food in cafeterias is getting some financial help. Vermont officials, who have taken a leadership role in the program, say it's unclear how much funding the state will get. A bill passed by Congress last week includes $40 million for farm-to-school programs across the country.

The federal government is making available to states more than $670 million in heating aid. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the new funding brings to $2.7 billion the amount released since October under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Several of the largest recipients of Friday's funding release were New York with $69 million and Vermont $3.3 million.

A big buyer of milk will have to shell out big bucks to Northeast Dairy Farmers. Dean Foods, based in Dallas, Texas, one of the largest publicly traded dairy processing companies in the U.S., has agreed to settle an antitrust lawsuit for $30 million. Vermont dairy farmers accused Dean Foods of price fixing and conspiracy in an attempt to control the milk market here in Vermont and the New England Region.

A Canadian company made a big announcement in Plattsburgh Friday. Laurentian Aerospace officials are confident they now have the financing to build a $175 million aircraft maintenance facility at Plattsburgh International Airport. It will be the only facility of its kind in the country. The company is optimistic it will provide 900 high paying jobs by the end of 2014.

A new audit of Burlington Telecom confirms serious problems with accounting and criminal investigators are now getting involved. The state gave BT a certificate of public good in September of 2005, which included a number of conditions designed to protect customers and taxpayers. But a newly released audit shows BT violated several conditions and city taxpayers could be on the hook for the $17 million BT took from city coffers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 10, 2010

E-Corporate English, a company offering English instruction to corporate professionals throughout the world has picked Middlebury as the spot in which it will expand its operations and bring as many as 100 or more good paying jobs to the area by 2013. They provide intensive language training and coaching in-person, online and over the phone. Deborah Schwarz, who is a past attendee of the Middlebury College Language School’s summer programs, launched it in 2007.

The owners of the former Shoreham Apple Co-op have received two grants to examine and carry out food storage opportunities. The apple storage facility is looking to expand its operations for the storage and possible processing of other local produce. They hope the grant will provide additional business opportunities both for area farmers and for the storage facility itself. Currently the plan is to launch a small-scale pilot project in 2011, and to go online on a commercial scale in 2012.

Voters in the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s seven towns will be asked on Town Meeting Day to support a 2011-2012 spending plan that contains a 2.03 percent decrease in spending compared to this year. The decrease allows UD-3 to meet the state’s “Challenges for Change” directive.

A majority of Shoreham voters decided this week to not move forward on two different options for building new town offices. That decision sends the town-office-expansion issue back to the selectboard, which will spend the coming months deciding whether to come up with a less expensive version of the project.

On Monday evening the Lincoln Community School board approved a scaled-back $2 million version of a bond proposal originally rejected by the Vermont Education Commissioner in September. A public information meeting will be held on January 11. Lincoln residents’ taxes will increase for the next 20 years if the bond is approved. The bond will go to a vote on January 18.

Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras said the Police Department will see layoffs if its members don't start paying more for health care. Louras said the police union voted Monday to reject a proposed contract. 
The the contract is similar to the one Department of Public Works employees agreed to this week. The DPW contract increases the employees' contribution over three years along with changes to the deductibles.

“Roots the Restaurant” is one step closer to a liquor license. The Special Liquor Committee of the Rutland Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to recommend the full board approve the application by chef/owner Donald Billings on the condition he complete the section of the application asking about criminal conditions.

Nearly 100 more National Guard soldiers are back in Vermont. The troops spent nine months in Afghanistan. The soldiers from three states served together as part of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, led by the Vermont National Guard. In addition to the Vermont soldiers return, 136 members arrived in Maine and New Hampshire. More soldiers are expected back this weekend.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says it's regrettable that the Senate failed to muster the votes to break a Republican filibuster blocking repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says "don't ask, don't tell" is a discriminatory and counterproductive policy.

The Vermont Department of Public Service's expected release of an audit of Burlington's troubled city phone, cable TV and Internet venture has been delayed another day. DPS Commissioner David O'Brien had said his department's report would be out Thursday, but now says it will be released Friday.

Efforts to control sea lamprey in Lake Champlain are seeing results. Vermont and New York have been working to control the parasites for two decades using a variety of method. A study of the program appears to show success in reducing the lamprey population.

Police in Burlington are looking for a man who accosted two women on city streets yesterday morning. The first incident occurred at about 6:20 AM near the corner of South Prospect and Cliff Streets. The second incident was less than 20 minutes later on Shelburne Road near Home Avenue. Neither woman was hurt. The suspect is described as a white male, about 5'8"-5'10" with a slender to average build. He was wearing a jacket with a hood. The jacket was red or maroon with black spots. Anyone with information is asked to call Burlington Police.

A former Vermont teacher has asked a judge to move his trial on charges he molested some of his former students out of Lamoille County. A court hearing took place Thursday on Shaun Bryer's request. The judge has not yet issued a decision. Bryer of Morristown faces 14 counts of sexual assault and lewd behavior.

Passenger rail projects in Vermont and Maine are going to be getting another financial boost from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation is redirecting $1.2 billion in stimulus funding that had been intended for high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio. But those two states don't want to move forward with the projects. Vermont is expected to get up to $2.7 million, helping to fully fund a $52.7 million project to upgrade the rail lines from Vernon to St. Albans, the route of the Amtrak Vermont.

Calling it a waste of money, one state representative wants to decriminalize marijuana possession. Burlington Representative Jason Lorber says a new study shows Vermont spends over 700-thousand dollars going after people who are busted with less than two ounces of pot. Lorber plans to re-introduce legislation that would make possession of less than one ounce a civil violation and not a crime. His proposal would still make it illegal to sell or use marijuana.

Hoping to ensure crisis-heating funds are available to assist low-income Vermonters this winter, People’s United Bank has donated $15,000 to the CVPS Shareheat Fund. The People’s United Bank donation will go into a pool of funds that will be used to match customer donations to the heating assistance program. Customer donations, along with the matching dollars, are distributed to five community action agencies across the state to assist those in need.

Though the Bristol Christmas pageant will include the traditional setting it also takes on a rather untraditional format this year. Seventeen-year-old Thomas Ahern, who has been taking a film class at the Hannaford Career Center, volunteered to film and edit a video version of the Christmas story that will premiere at the First Baptist Church of Bristol this Sunday at 4:30 PM.

The downtown Brandon business community has been through a rough patch, but there are signs it’s getting better. Six new businesses have moved into town over the last six months, with four opening in November alone. As a testament to the hard work and creativity of Brandon residents, every one of these businesses is locally owned and operated.

Diane Saunders of Bristol and her 3-year-old Quarter Horse Dunny recently took top honors at the Champlain Dressage Schooling Series. The pair won Overall Champion in new Western Dressage tests and scored high enough to also win the Overall High Score Senior Rider Champion ribbon. Diane and Dunny train with Amy Wales of Flatlander Farm in Hinesburg. This was Dunny's first year competing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 9, 2010

The Castleton Development Review Board held a public hearing to discuss the application by Castleton State College for three new proposed facilities for the campus. The college project plans to add a new maintenance facilities area, a 170-bed residential building, and an open-air “green” pavilion. The Castleton project team addressed issues and concerns. The next public hearing is scheduled for December 21st.

Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras said the city could make progress on its ancient water lines without raising water rates and even more progress if it just raises them a little. Rutland has roughly 30 miles of water mains that date back to the 19th century. Many of those old pipes are smaller than what modern standards call for and have degraded so they are effectively smaller than when they were installed.

There has been a break in the case of a soda bombing in the Upper Valley. Lebanon, NH, police says three teens accompanied by their parents turned themselves in. On Sunday, police say the teens detonated the chemical reaction bomb inside a residential mailbox. That incident came just two days after a pair of soda bombs were detonated in Addison. It's unclear if there is any connection between the Lebanon and Addison incidents.

Rumors that supervisors were poised to remove Essex County Manager Dan Palmer from his position proved to be without substance on Tuesday, as the county board overwhelmingly backed his bi-annual reappointment. For an hour and 40 minutes, supervisors were sequestered in executive session debating Palmer's fate, as the county's top administrator.

Santa Claus is making a stop in Bristol this weekend! The jolly old elf will make a grand entrance, arriving by fire truck at Holley Hall Saturday at 8:30 AM where he will join the townspeople in a pancake breakfast. Breakfast with Santa is an annual event to benefit the Bristol Recreation Department's Scholarship Fund.

One hour a week with a caring adult friend can make a huge difference in the life of a child. Starksboro's Robinson Elementary School is helping adults and children alike realize the value of a special friendship through their one-of-a-kind mentoring program tailored for the Starksboro community. The Starksboro Mentoring Program has become a local model of successful mentoring. Currently there are 23 mentors paired with 23 children.

Vermont households who rely on food stamps will get to keep their full benefits until next April. The federal government notified the state earlier this year that it was lowering the standard deduction households can claim for fuel and utilities, meaning about 16,000 families enrolled in the 3Squares program would have their benefits reduced. It was supposed to start Oct. 1. Then it was pushed back to January. Now the feds have delayed the cuts until April.

Another group of Vermont National Guardsmen is returning from Afghanistan today. This time, the group will number about 85, as the soldiers complete their post-deployment processing in Indiana. In all, 15-hundred Vermont National Guard members deployed late last year to Afghanistan. Larger groups of several hundred troops are expected back over the next few days.

There's a lot of anticipation surrounding the release of earnings for this year by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The Securities Exchange Commission probed the Vermont coffee maker earlier this year and the company said it would be restating earnings because of accounting errors, which started in 2007. The release of the 2010 earnings is expected by experts to be positive.

Work is under way to get four railroad cars carrying propane back on the tracks after they derailed in St. Albans in northwestern Vermont. There were no injuries or leaks when the cars went off the tracks just before midnight Tuesday. Specialized equipment had to be trucked in from New York before the propane could be removed from the rail cars. The equipment arrived yesterday afternoon.

Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin is putting pressure on Vermont Yankee to continue cleanup efforts at the nuclear plant. Shumlin wants the plant to continue extracting tritium-contaminated water from its ground wells. Officials at Vermont Yankee say they are considering Shumlin's requests.

New York lawmakers hope vandals will think twice before defacing nativity scenes in the Empire State. A new law makes it a felony to deface religious displays and cemeteries, both inside and outside a place of worship. Anyone who breaks the law can now be sentenced to more than a year in prison.

A push is underway at the University of Vermont to make course evaluation results available to students. Last month the Student Government Association passed a resolution calling for those results to be made public by Dec. 1. They say students need that information to help pick what classes they'll take. School administrators refused and now some students are boycotting by not filling out the multiple-choice questionnaires at all. School officials say they're open to exploring solutions.

A Vermont school district finance committee is saying "no" to a state request that it cut its budget next year by $50,000. Instead, the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center Finance Committee in Bennington voted to recommend a fiscal year 2012 budget with a 3% increase, an increase of about $100,000.

After a poor snowmobile season last year fewer people are registering to ride Vermont's snowmobile trails. That's why more than a million dollars has been spent on improving trails to help bring people back. Vermont Association of Snow Travelers recently received more than a million dollars to update snow mobile trails with new bridges, smoother terrain, brush removed and some newly added trails.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 8, 2010

By an overwhelming vote of 110-39, the Sudbury public has voted to keep Sudbury Country School open and they are willing to pay more taxes for it. During the next five years, the total tax increase on a $200,000 home would be $660, or about $11 a month. A petition from residents was recently filed with the town to take the question of whether to close the school and tuition students to the public. The Sudbury School Board was required to act on that petition, warranting the Monday special meeting and vote.

A Pittsford man remains in critical condition after being run over Monday. Timothy Abare was lying face down on Elm Street in Pittsford early Monday morning. Police say there was evidence of alcohol, but say they don't know why Abare was unconscious. Police are waiting for results of blood tests.

The Rutland School Board has decided to make its own offer to the state. The state has recommended the board cut $607,000 from the $26 million it would normally seek in school aid. Instead, the board agreed to cut $200,000. A letter containing the news will be sent to the desk of the state Education Commissioner by December 15th as required by Challenges for Change.

The Rutland Board of Aldermen approved a new policy on health insurance buyouts. Mayor Christopher Louras presented the policy to the board, along with one on unpaid leave, for inclusion in the city's employee handbook. 

It allows nonunion employees who have other health insurance options to opt out of the city plan and get half of the employer's contribution, saving the city the other half.

Officials say four train cars carrying liquid propane have derailed in northwestern Vermont late yesterday, but the cars aren't leaking and no one has been evacuated. The St. Albans Fire Chief said that 2 of the four cars are on their sides, a third is leaning and the wheels of a fourth car are off the track.

Two Rutland residents are in jail accused of selling crack and heroin in Whitehall, N.Y. Reginald Watson of Rutland is a convicted murderer and gang leader who police say has been making regular drug sales in New York. Tara Stone also of Rutland, was arrested for allegedly selling drugs to a police informant. Watson and Stone both face serious drug charges and are being held in a New York jail for lack of bail.

For the fourth year in a row, Vermont has been named the "Healthiest State in America." Vermont ranks high in 14 of 22 public health measures relating to behaviors, community and environment, policies and clinical care. Since 1990, prevalence of smoking, and deaths from cardiovascular disease has decreased significantly.

Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin is quickly filling the top posts in his administration. On Tuesday, Shumlin announced that former lawmaker Mary Peterson will be tax commissioner; Deputy Human Resources Commissioner Kate Duffy will move up to commissioner; and Rob Ide will remain as commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Vermont Department of Children and Families is hoping to clear a backlog of people seeking assistance by hiring more staff to process applications. Outgoing DCF Commissioner Steve Dale says a new system designed to streamline the process for people applying for multiple benefit programs has not gone as smoothly as hoped.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie says a "Pure Vermont" slogan he used in his gubernatorial campaign was about the people and products that make Vermont great. The comment comes in response to controversy over the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' decision not to reappoint Curtiss Reed Jr. to chair its Vermont state advisory committee. In a newspaper column this fall, Reed criticized Dubie's slogan.

One organization is making sure children of military families have a happy holiday season. Stacks of books, teddy bears, and dolls are ready to be sent to thousands of kids throughout New England. Operation Tribute organized a gift-wrapping party at the Vermont National Guard base in Colchester yesterday. By partnering with Dunkin Donut stores, the organization plans to get gifts to more than 30,000 kids by Christmas.

Bolton Valley Resort is on the market. The ski resort's co-owners say they want to maximize Bolton's potential offerings and keep it competitive in a time when smaller ski resorts are closing due to financial issues. So they're selling the 750-acre resort for an undisclosed price or looking for partners in joint investment ventures on a number of capital improvements, including a snow tubing park.

With more than two feet of snow on the ground and more in the forecast, folks in Northern Vermont are all but guaranteed a white Christmas this year. At Jay Peak and other ski resorts they were enjoying the two feet of powder and taking reservations by the dozen.

In March, one lucky winner will win the grand prize in HGTV's Dream Home Giveaway, an amazing Vermont ski lodge in Stowe. This year's dream home is 34-hundred square feet and features a "ski-in" and "ski-out" location as well as enough space to sleep a whole ski team. The home is valued at around two million dollars and the winner will be picked at random this spring.

Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont rank among the nation's leaders in turning out Peace Corps volunteers. Officials for the worldwide service organization say Vermont ranks as the top volunteer-producing state on a per-capita basis, with 59 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving. New Hampshire ranks No. 8 nationwide with 62 volunteers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WVTK Local & State News December 7, 2010

Police are asking drivers to take it easy on the roads again today because driving could once again be tricky due to snow and ice on. Police and rescue crews, as well as tow truck drivers, were busy responding to accidents blamed on slick roads Monday. One SUV slipped off Route 7 in Ferrisburgh and got stuck on the side of the road.

A man was in critical condition after he was run over on Elm Street early yesterday morning in Pittsford. 21-Year-Old Timothy Abare was lying in the road at about 5:40 AM when Frank Malek of Florence struck him. He told police he was driving home from his job in Middlebury when he came upon Abare lying in the road about a half-mile from the residential street’s junction with Route 7. Police said no charges were filed against Malek. It’s unclear how long Abare had been lying in the road.

Police said a Rutland man was badly hurt yesterday after the truck he was in went off a snowy road. Joseph Jurgen was taken to Fletcher-Allen Health Care in Burlington after he suffered two broken legs, a broken ankle and internal injuries including a possible collapsed lung.

Police in Vermont and New Hampshire are warning about a dangerous prank. Already the crime has caused damage in at least two communities. Middlebury College chemistry professor Roger Sandwick calls homemade explosives, often known as soda bombs, danger in a bottle. Vermont State Police in New Haven and Lebanon Police do not have any suspects in the cases, but would like to hear from anyone with information.

A Brandon woman is accused of stealing from the University of Vermont. UVM Police believe Olivia Chicoine misused her university-issued credit card, racking up between 17 and 22-thousand dollars worth of merchandise over a 10-year period. She worked as a secretary and gift shop supervisor for the UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge. She pled not guilty to embezzlement in September but on Monday her lawyer updated the court, saying his client is working on making restitution.

According to data from the Northern New England Real Estate Network, a median home sale price in Addison County is $205,000. That is down only 2.4 percent from 2009 despite lingering economic woes. The town of Middlebury’s assessor and a Ferrisburgh appraiser both see relatively unchanged values for homes that sell for less than $300,000. At this time they expect the market to remain stable.

A local family has signed papers on a sale that will permanently protect 200 acres of land on their family’s Monkton farm from development. The Claflin family’s 325-acre farm is now protected by a conservation easement held by the Vermont Land Trust, which permanently protects the land from development and subdivision. It is the most recent of the six Addison County projects that the Vermont Land Trust completed in 2010.

Otter Valley Union High School’s declining student population has left the board with a much greater budgetary task than meeting state’s Challenges for Change target of cutting spending by 2 percent. The cuts may result in the termination of the School Resource Officer position currently held by Brandon Police Officer Anne Bandy, one science teacher and two English teachers. However many of the people who attended the November 17th OV School board meeting voiced their support for Brandon Police Officer Anne Bandy and the position of School Resource Officer.

Even though the project won’t be fully completed until next spring, the new Lemon Fair Bridge on Route 125 in Cornwall officially opened ahead of schedule on November 23rd. Vermont Agency of Transportation noted the project hadn’t been scheduled for completion until November 4, 2011. But contractors were able to give extra attention to the project this summer and fall as a result of the challenging economy and good weather.

The Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment decided to continue its public hearing on a possible Dollar General Store next month. The third hearing on the proposal to build the store on a 9.9-acre parcel at the junction of Route 7 and Monkton Road will take place January 6th at 7:05 PM.

Jon Kaplan of the Vermont Agency of Transportation presented to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission ways Addison County could implement European bicycle and pedestrian safety strategies into our local roadways. This includes crosswalk signals that tack on extra time when walkers need it and bike lanes with strategically painted lines and symbols.

The Rutland Board of Aldermen have decided to take a closer look at a liquor license application from a chef with drug and drunken driving convictions. None of the aldermen specifically mentioned the convictions or their cause for “concern” as the board voted to send the application to the Special Liquor Committee. Donald Billings of Brandon and Mark Logan of Rutland plan to open a restaurant called “Roots” in the Wales Street location previously occupied by Clem’s.

Former Proctor librarian James Knowlton says his questions about the library’s financial oversight cost him his job. Hired at the Proctor Free Library in August 2009, Knowlton said he had repeated disagreements with the library’s Board of Trustees over the course of the year that culminated with his firing in September. He said the trustees told him it was his request that the library audit its books that brought about his termination.

Yesterday Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin named outgoing Secretary of State Deb Markowitz as secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. He says Markowitz has the leadership, management skills and vision to make the agency more customer friendly while also maintaining our commitment to our environment. Shumlin also announced that Vermont Law School professor David Mears would become the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

As a way to save money in the cash-strapped justice system, some Vermont courtrooms are arraigning prisoners by video from the jail. A video system adopted in May by the Vermont Superior Court in Burlington is saving money and some state officials say prisoners may one day be arraigned by video in courts across the state. Critics have concerns about the quality of justice video arraignments provide.

Champlain College in Burlington opened a new center yesterday with the aim of educating Vermonters about their finances. The college says the economic recession highlighted just how little most people understand their finances. The new Center for Financial Literacy will start with three main programs. So far the center has raised 188-thousand dollars, which should fund its programming for three years.

A published report says New York Gov. David Paterson doled out $16.7 million in grants last week for a youth chess program and to promote a New Jersey-New York Super Bowl, among other things. Paterson's budget office says the money was set aside in the 2008-09 budgets and allocated for specific purposes, so it couldn't be used to avoid layoffs or anything else without action by the Legislature.