Sunday, January 30, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 31, 2011

Over the holidays, the Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team received an anonymous donation of $150,000, putting the group one step closer to reaching its $500,000 fundraising goal. Middlebury College’s President said the donor considered the gift an opportunity to recognize the power of liberal arts education in projects such as this one. The college’s Solar Decathlon team is the only group from a liberal arts college chosen to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011.

Vermont's U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders returns to Washington D.C. today after making some big news last week. Sanders received attention after convening the first meeting of a new senate group whose aim is to protect Social Security from critics. Sanders says he wants to defend Social Security from critics who want to cut benefits, raise the retirement age or privatize the program. New York Senator Chuck Schumer is also part of the group.

More people than ever may be eligible for what's called the earned income tax credit. To qualify, you must work and meet certain income levels. With that credit, some Vermont families are automatically eligible for food benefits through 3SquaresVT. But you must file a tax return, even if you don't have a filing requirement.

Rutland County is slated for a million dollars’ worth of new places to walk or bicycle. The Vermont Agency of Transportation announced $2.9 million in transportation enhancement grants Friday, of which just more than $1 million is earmarked for projects in Rutland County. Rutland and Castleton got $300,000 each, while Killington got two grants totaling $285,120 and Pittsford pulled in $140,369. The grants are federal money disbursed by the state and require a 20 percent local match.

Facing difficult budget choices, the Ticonderoga Central School board of education is asking for help. The board is forming a budget advisory committee that will include representatives of stakeholder groups. The Ti budget advisory committee is expected to meet once a month or more, if needed, until the budget vote May 17th. The Ti district, like many others, has made cuts to staff and programs the past several years, leaving little wiggle room in the budget process.

The Ticonderoga, New York Police Department wants to keep a better eye on the town. This Spring, the town plans to install a number of cameras in strategic places downtown and near the town's park. It's an effort to cut down on crime and prevent loitering. The police department will monitor the video regularly. The system is expected to cost $6,000.

WinterFest in Ticonderoga is growing. The second annual day of outdoor activities will be held this Saturday from 11 AM to 2 PM in Ticonderoga's Bicentennial Park. The day of outdoor activities will be sponsored by a host of community organizations. WinterFest will feature snowshoeing, sledding, ice-skating, snowman building, snow sculpting, broomball, snowmobiling and other activities. There will also be refreshments, door prizes and a raffle of two Gore Mountain lift passes. People are encouraged to bring their own equipment, although some equipment will be available for use.

The city of Burlington and unionized police officers have reached a tentative agreement on a new, four-year contract. Newly recruited officers will be subject to more restrictive pension eligibility requirements than current officers are. The contract includes pay raises of 1.75 percent in its first year, 2 percent in the second, and 2 to 4 percent in the last two years.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who has embarked on an "everyday jobs" initiative, will work with Green Mountain Power Corp. crews today, helping with underground cables and a transformer at The Lodge at Shelburne Bay. He plans to work in different jobs a few times each month to find out how state government can better help businesses.

Bolstered by billions in federal stimulus money, an effort is under way around the country to expand broadband Internet access to rural areas. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $7.2 billion for expansion of broadband access, believing it will spur economic growth, boost educational opportunities and create jobs.

A Vermont college student is going to do an internship this spring at the White House. Brian Morrice, of Granville, Ohio, a student at Bennington College, will take part in the program, which is designed to make the White House accessible to future leaders from around the country and prepare them for public service and leadership positions.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department officials are encouraging shooting range operators to apply for grants to improve their facilities. Developed last year to enhance safety, the Shooting Range Improvement Grant Program will make $75,000 available this year. Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry says the program encourages hunters to be better shots, and safer when shooting. The deadline for applications is April 1.

Vermont lawmakers will consider bills to bolster, but also repeal, Vermont's pioneering bottle law during the new legislative session. Two bills were introduced to expand the law. If passed, they would require the bottle law to also include wine and all carbonated and noncarbonated drink containers, and to force beverage companies to use the money from unclaimed deposits to support environmental programs. Another bill would enact a solid waste program under which producers would have to set up and pay for a program to collect, recycle and dispose of certain types of packaging. The bill would also repeal the beverage container redemption system.

With so much success on the books over the first three years of operation, Clinton County leaders are looking to undertake a major expansion of Plattsburgh International Airport. If all goes well, the expansion could begin sometime in 2012 and be completed in 2013. The project would include doubling the terminal size.

The depressed state of the economy means more people than ever are getting help from local food banks. The Ticonderoga-Putnam Food Pantry Coordinator said they served 3,000 people in 1,100 families last year. The Employees Mutual Association Club of Ticonderoga is stepping up to help. The group will be hosting a public benefit concert at 7 PM Friday, February 11th. People attending must bring a donation of canned or dry goods, cereals, jams, canned juice, paper products, soaps, detergents or shampoos for the Ticonderoga and Hague food shelves.

Many Vermont military families who had Saturday off spent a little time relaxing on a snowmobile. Hundreds of people turned out in Waitsfield for the 3rd annual Military Appreciation Event. It's put on by the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers or VAST. There were activities for everyone including snowmobile rides for kids.

Friday, January 28, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 28, 2011

Teachers in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union could leave the classroom. Teachers say they are prepared to strike February 9th if they can't reach a deal. Teachers are currently working without a contract. The board voted to stop talks and impose working conditions earlier this month. The board increased health insurance premiums by 50% and eliminated raises for some.

There will be a three-way race for two select-board spots on the ballot in Middlebury March 1st. Eric Murray of East Middlebury will oppose incumbent Selectmen Dean George and Craig Bingham in the race for two three-year terms on the board. Murray is the owner of East Middlebury-based EJM Enterprises. He decided this was a good year to make his second bid for a seat on the board. Murray ran for a spot about 12 years ago and narrowly lost to former Selectman Max Eaton.

The Middlebury select-board has OK’d a Town Meeting Day warning that includes a request for a 20-year, $3 million bond issue to take care 17 different road improvement projects. Officials stressed they would not seek to repay the bond issue through a property tax increase. They are proposing to pay down the bond debt with funds Middlebury already budgets annually for capital improvements.

Middlebury continues to maintain a rather long list of other capital improvement projects that local officials believe need attention in the very near future. The Middlebury Town Manager gave the select-board what he said was an incomplete list of almost 30 potential projects. These projects include items ranging from the fairly basic and inexpensive like the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the town charter to the complex and costly new town offices.

The students of Middlebury College’s month-long J-Term are heading up the college’s Solar Decathlon team. Just last week, several students made the trip down to Orlando, Florida for a Solar Decathlon conference and to attend the International Builders’ Show. The team gathered to host a fund-raising event at 51 Main here in Middlebury earlier this week.

Last Friday some kindergarten students from St. Mary’s School were at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. It was part of the college’s MiddArts program. The St. Mary’s students visit was a carefully planned exercise in Visual Thinking Strategies which is a curriculum for teaching art to primary and secondary school students.

School directors in Middlebury have decided to delay the introduction of Spanish language teaching at Mary Hogan Elementary School for at least a year. The decision came in the wake of concerns voiced by some teachers about how the program would be implemented and whether those resources would be best spent on other needs.

The Bridport Grange has confirmed the 2011 legislative breakfast series that will debut on Monday, February 7th. On March 7th there will be a session with the state’s new governor, Peter Shumlin. The Monday morning legislative breakfasts are organized with the support of the Middlebury Chamber of Commerce and Addison County Regional Planning Commission. The breakfasts will begin at 7 AM with the political program beginning at 7:30 and ending promptly at 8:45.

A Rutland man has been charged of burglarizing a half-dozen homes during the past month in Vergennes. Nicholas C. Moretti, 36, was issued a citation recently to appear in Middlebury criminal court next month on six felony counts of burglary. Moretti may remain behind bars until his arraignment date after a judge in Addison County ordered him jailed earlier this week on a charge of violating his probation in another case.

Crown Point's lone grocery store is closing. Crown Point Discount Grocery has been a community fixture for eight years and will close February 1st at least for now. The owners hope to reopen in the future. They blamed the store closing on the poor national economy and the closure of the Champlain Bridge that eliminated most of his Vermont customers.

The current water rates in the village of Port Henry do not cover the operating costs of the water department. A special committee has concluded that a rate increase is necessary. Any proposed future rate increases will be for water only and will not impact the sewer portion of bills. Once the review process is complete, the village board and water committee will hold a special meeting to inform the public of any and all proposed water rate increases and changes, as well as the projected impacts on consumers.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce needs help. The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce is looking for chamber and community members who would like to donate their time and talent to serve on chamber event committees. Volunteers are needed to plan the chamber's annual dinner and auction along with other events coming up this year. Interested people should contact Matt Courtright at the chamber. (585-6619 or at chamberinfo@Ticonderogany.com)

Voters have made it clear they do not want a department of public works in Ticonderoga, but the town board is still taking steps to consolidate operations and save money. The Ti town board voted to merge the water and sewer departments at its January meeting. The town board had hoped to merge the highway, water and sewer departments into a single department of public works with an appointed director. That plan failed when voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to eliminate the elected highway superintendent's position.

Crown Point is forming a chamber of commerce. An organizational meeting will be held next Tuesday, February 1st, at 6 PM at Frenchman's Restaurant. The meeting will include the election officers and adoption of by-laws. The chamber's goals will be shared and all are welcome to bring their input and ideas.

Governor Peter Shumlin yesterday announced his new Chief of Connect VT. Karen Marshall, who served as COO for SecurShred will be responsible for bringing broadband and mobile phone service to Vermonters. She lives in Williston and will join the Agency of Administration.

After the federal government backed off plans to expand a tiny U.S.-Canadian border station by seizing a Vermont dairy farmer's land, legislators are now urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to keep the crossing open. A Senate resolution calls for the Morses Line port of entry to stay open because communities and businesses in Vermont and Quebec rely on it.

Vermont doctors were taking to the halls of the Statehouse to lend their backing to Gov. Peter Shumlin's push for a single-payer health care system. More than two-dozen doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners were in a committee room Thursday, taking turns explaining why they feel a universal health care system would better serve patients than the existing system.

The Connecticut and Massachusetts congressional delegations are promoting high-speed rail in the Northeast to the new Republican congressman whose subcommittee oversees rail matters. The agenda includes presentations from Connecticut’s Governor, Amtrak, and state transportation officials from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Strong milk prices projected for this year will help farmers recover from the crash of 2009 that put more than 100 Vermont dairy farms out of business. But farmers from around the state say they hope the rising milk prices don’t “take the wind out of the sails” of an effort to eliminate volatility in the milk market. At the Vermont Farm Show in Barre, dairy economist Bob Wellington said demand from overseas, due in part to severe weather problems in Australia, will sustain milk prices in 2011. John Roberts, a dairy farmer from Cornwall, said it will be important to sustain momentum behind the supply management system that gained support among many farmers during the most recent price downturn.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 27, 2011

One of Vermont's most notorious sex offenders has been released from prison. Mark Hulett got out just after 10AM Wednesday. He served 5 years for repeatedly raping a little girl in Williston. Hulett is now living in Waltham here in Addison County. The Corrections Department will monitor him with a GPS-tracking bracelet until June of 2012 and will track his computer activity to make sure he's not communicating with his victim or other children.

A nursing home in Rutland that started out catering to Civil War widows will close in March. The president of the Sunset Home Board of Directors recently confirmed the North Main Street home’s impending closure. She said it was for financial reasons. The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living’s Division of Licensing and Protection said the home was not in any trouble with the agency. They plan to cease operations March 31.

Town of Ira residents voted to change the structure of their upcoming town meeting. Residents voted to divide the town meeting activities into two days. The new format will have voting on all budgets and articles on the Monday before the first Tuesday in March, and voting for town officers by Australian ballot on that Tuesday.

In a 2-1 vote, Killington Select Board members approved a budget strictly supported by local option taxes that was about $62,000 higher than a draft budget for special town events presented to the board January 4. Residents were divided at a meeting Monday night on the EDT budget. Some supported the resort community’s initiative to develop a four-season economy while others questioned expenditures that weren’t approved by all members of the Select Board.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce will host an open house with Adirondack Employment Opportunities this evening at 5:30. The open house will be held at the Chamber office on Montcalm St. in downtown Ticonderoga. Complimentary snacks and refreshments will be served. Adirondack Employment Opportunities provides skilled, no cost job placement and retentions services to businesses and other organizations.

The Vermont National Guard is sending 16 members of a team trained to respond to attacks with weapons of mass destruction to help provide security at the Super Bowl in Texas. Members of the 15th Civil Support Team will be 1 of several such teams at the Super Bowl that have been trained to respond to incidents involving radiation, biological agents and chemicals. They can also help respond to natural disasters. Most of the Vermont Guard team will be leaving today. Others will be leaving over the weekend.

Police in Westport say a local man was arrested after several of his cows were found dead and 50 others severely malnourished. State Police were called to Joshua Warren's leased farm on Napper Road in mid January after an animal-control officer allegedly discovered neglect. Authorities have charged Warren with three counts of failure to provide proper animal sustenance. Police said area farmers have pulled together to aid the animals and have volunteered to help care for the surviving cows.

Authorities in Burlington have arrested two men wanted in an armed bank robbery in the Vermont town of Georgia. Burlington Police and U.S. Marshals arrested 30-year-old Michael Haines of St. Albans and 37-year-old Timothy Bentley of Swanton yesterday morning after a short chase. Vermont State Police say tips from the public helped lead to their arrests.

Senators from the economic development committee met with officials at IBM in Essex Junction Wednesday, to discuss what to do about rising energy costs in the state for its largest employer if Vermont Yankee shuts down. IBM pays about $35 million a year to power its Vermont facility. And the company estimates those costs will go up by 25 percent if Vermont Yankee goes off line. Legislators want to look into sources of power to keep IBM in the state of Vermont.

Vermont's three major maple industry associations may soon merge into one group. The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association, the Vermont Maple Federation and the Vermont Maple Industry Council represent more than 2,000 producers in the state. Officials from the three associations say they've been discussing a potential merger for the past ten months and have formed a committee to draft a proposal. That official proposal is expected in May.

The VT Agency of Transportation spelled out a plan to the House transportation committee yesterday about the experimental use of salt brine on Vermont roadways. Balancing cost, safety and environmental issues is what the agency said has to happen in order for the salt and water mixture to work for Vermont. They told the committee that currently the amount of salt and sand Vermont uses to clear roadways is not only polluting but also very harmful for Lake Champlain.

A bill, introduced to the House Committee of Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources in Montpelier yesterday, will set strict limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen going into Vermont soil. The bill called H.26 targets non-agricultural areas. It bans the use of fertilizer with phosphorus in it, and limits amounts on fertilizer with nitrogen in it.

A study aimed at finding out whether police in 1 of America's whitest states engage in racial profiling says data from four Vermont police departments shows no clear pattern of it, but that it may be happening. The "Analysis of Traffic Stop Practices in Four Vermont Jurisdictions” that included Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and at the University of Vermont was conducted by Northeastern University's Institute on Race and Justice.

Two years after it was converted to a women-only prison, Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans could be returning to its former status. Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to move the women now being held there to the Chittenden Regional Correctional Center, in South Burlington, and move men back in. He says that will help maximize bed space and allow the state to return some inmates being held in out-of-state prisons and lease the rest to the federal government. Shumlin says the reforms will save the state $2 million.

Burlington is giving landlords a chance to come clean if they are breaking city rules. Owners of rental properties have two-months of amnesty to register their property if it's not already. Landlords face big fines if they don't.

A New York Post article published this week says Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget will feature substantial cuts to school and municipal aid. The article also predicts prison closures across the state and layoffs within the state Department of Correctional Services. Cuomo's much-anticipated executive budget is due February 1.

Officials with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week a new regulation prohibiting the intentional or unintentional feeding of black bears. The regulation comes after an increase in the number of conflicts between bears and people statewide. Environmental experts note that the population of black bears in New York has been on the rise in recent years.

The Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Project is ready to make another round of grants. Applications from non-profit organizations in the towns for projects from large to small are due by January 31. They have used the profits from selling used clothing and home goods turning them into grants totaling more than $240,000 to provide funds for everything from food shelves and football uniforms to a shower for an elderly person. For more information click HERE.

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce has announced the opening of Middlebury's newest retailer, Middlebury Floral & Gifts. Owned by Carolee Ploof, the store is located on Route 7 South, which is the widely recognized Little Red Schoolhouse, just south of town. Middlebury Floral & Gifts will offer fresh flowers, floral arrangements and live plants which are all available for delivery within Addison County and beyond.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 26, 2011

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says that despite a deficit now pegged at $176 million, he won't raise taxes. In his first budget proposal as governor, Shumlin is recommending a $1.2 billion spending plan that boosts state assessments on hospitals and insurance companies and earmarks $13 million for broadband and cell service expansion. The budget proposal, for the 2012 fiscal year starting July 1, reduces general funding by about $25 million and includes no tax hike proposals.

Route 7 in Pittsford was closed yesterday morning as firemen and ambulance attendants transported at least two motorists to the hospital with injuries at an accident on Route 7 and Sangamon Hill Road. Numerous accidents were reported in Rutland and Addison County and as roads remained slick due to a light snowfall and cold temperatures.

When fire alarms went off in the Charlotte Central School yesterday morning as water started flowing from a broken pipe, hundreds of pre-K through eighth-grade students were evacuated. The protocol was followed with the kids going out to the athletic field where snow was about a foot deep. Most of the students weren't prepared to stand outside for a long time, and 25 students were checked out for exposure. None needed any medical treatment. School administrators say they're going to go over the policy to see how it can be changed for winter weather evacuations.

During the peak of summer you can find blue-green algae coating the shores of some bays and inlets of Lake Champlain. Vermont has been working under an approved federal plan for nearly nine years to improve the pollution problem. But the Environmental Protection Agency now says the plan is inadequate. The Conservation Law Foundation sued the EPA, saying the state's pollution estimates didn't include a large enough safety margin and didn't take into account potential runoff caused by climate change.

Seniors at Rutland High School’s civics and economics class had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy during an online chat yesterday. The class spoke with Leahy via Skype from his Washington, D.C. office, asking him questions about a variety of topics, including education, Vermont Yankee and renewable energy. Using the online chat program Skype, the students and senator engaged in a free-flowing discussion focusing on what the students found important, mixing local news and national issues.

A Vermont man charged with second degree murder in a drunken driving crash that killed a woman in Burlington will remain behind bars. Lawyers for 52-year-old Timothy Dowd of Hinesburg had asked that Dowd be allowed to live at home in Hinesburg under electronic monitoring. But prosecutors say a judge ruled Tuesday that Dowd will remain in jail without bail.

Jose Pazos, the man charged with killing Burlington social worker Kathleen Smith was back in court yesterday with an unusual request for a judge. His lawyers wanted access to the Vermont Forensic Lab to make sure DNA tests are being done properly. DNA evidence has been both the undoing of defendants and their saving grace when it clears them.

More home heating assistance is headed to our region. Late last year the U.S. Senate cleared the way for $200 million in extra emergency funds. Vermont will receive nearly $11 million in additional emergency funds by the end of the month, which will help about 27,000 families. The additional money will bring Vermont's total to $25.6 million, the same as last year. New York will get another $26 million, bringing the state's total to nearly $500 million.

Vermont State Police have identified the suspect in an armed bank robbery in Georgia but say they are still searching for him. Police say 30-year-old Michael Haines of St. Albans is wanted for holding up the People's Trust Bank on Monday afternoon and making off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The Vermont Department of Labor says the only time the state's unemployment rate rose in 2010 was in December. The December rate was 5.8%, up a tenth of a percentage point from November. Before December, the state's jobless rate was either unchanged or had declined.

Essex County New York lawmakers want to know if they can do without a department head for County Real Property Tax Services. County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas is pushing for consolidation of departments to save costs. He said that instead of looking for a replacement for Bernard Roy, who retired, there might be other options.

The state of New York has made $250 million in funding available for renewable-energy projects. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Public Service Commission announced the funding. Supported by the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the funds are to be awarded competitively. Funding awards are expected to be announced in April.

If all goes according to plan, there could be three million passengers a year flying out of Burlington International Airport by 2030. That would mean a lot of changes, such as direct access from Interstate 89, more parking and terminal expansion. The vision of the airport over the next 20 years was revealed by administrators yesterday, which included probably adding a third floor to the terminal. The overall cost would be 257-million dollars, with nearly half of it picked up by the FAA.

Severe winter weather in the Northeast has cut into the region's blood supply. The American Red Cross says the repeated snowstorms have caused 14,000 people to cancel blood and platelet donations on the East Coast. That includes 600 donors in Northern New England. The Red Cross is urging eligible donors to make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as travel is safe. Blood drives are planned around New England in the coming days.

Ski for Heat 2011 will be held this Sunday, January 30, at Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in Peru. Participants from Addison, Rutland and Windsor counties will join other Vermonters and New Hampshire residents for the annual fundraising effort that benefits Vermont's Shareheat fund. Unlike a more formal fundraiser, Ski for Heat 2011 is laid back with no registration fee.

Airport officials say a US Airways flight from Philadelphia landed safely despite problems with its wing flaps. Rob Peterson of Burlington International Airport's operations, says the Vermont-bound plane's warning light showed flap problems just before the landing Tuesday night. Chittenden County emergency responders met the plane when it landed without injuries to its 82 passengers and crewmembers. It was the second emergency landing in two days, after a United Express pilot reported steering problems Monday.

Vermont's congressional delegation has introduced legislation that it says will let Vermont and other states provide better health care cheaper starting in 2014. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch have pledged to help the state get the federal waivers needed to devise its own health care reform three years sooner than permitted under new federal health care law.

Vermont's Department of Taxes isn't just taking your return, it's also taking your application. With the start of tax season comes some temporary jobs at Vermont's Department of Taxes. The Deputy Tax Commissioner says there are about twenty positions still open, none of which require previous tax experience.

Burlington Police say there has been a sharp rise in what they're calling 'grabbing' incidents. Police say in the last two months, there have been several instances of a man inappropriately grabbing women on morning walks. The most recent instance happened yesterday morning along Pearl Street near Colchester Avenue, but others have been reported throughout the city. Police say they seem to be related, with a young, thin, white male around 5'10" being reported when a description is available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 25, 2011

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is presenting his proposal for a state budget. The state faces a $150 million shortfall for the year starting July 1, and Shumlin has pledged to expand broadband and cell service, among other things. But his budget is likely to propose some spending levels that don't please everyone. He will deliver his budget address to a joint assembly of the Legislature in Montpelier at 2 PM today.

The group representing teachers in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union want the school board to go back to the bargaining table. More than a hundred teachers stood in downtown Bristol yesterday afternoon, holding signs protesting imposed working conditions. That went into place seven months ago, which teachers are unhappy about. In fact, the teachers say right now the contract itself isn't as important as re-starting the negotiations. Another informational picket is planned for today.

As work continues on the new Champlain Bridge, there is work underway behind the scenes to plan a party to honor it. Last night the Lake Champlain Bridge Community began planning a two-day celebration. It's set to mimic the event in 1929, when the original bridge across the lake opened. More than 40,000 people attended that event. Some of the ideas so far are fireworks and an antique boat parade. The goal is to complete the bridge by October 2011.

Two Addison County lawmakers who will play prominent roles in the state’s health care reform debate are pleased with the study advocating for a single-payer insurance system for Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin last week urged lawmakers to use the report as the foundation for major health care reform. Sen. Claire Ayer and Rep. Mike Fisher said they were impressed with the thoroughness of the report and will spend the coming days along with their colleagues, deciding which elements of that report will be reviewed by Senate Health Care and which will be fielded by the House panel.

Habitat for Humanity of Addison County is proposing to build what would be Cornwall’s first-ever affordable housing subdivision on 13-acres of land off DeLong Road. The Cornwall Planning Commission conducted its first review of Habitat’s plan last week. If all goes according to schedule, Habitat and its volunteers would build the four homes over the next three years. As is Habitat’s policy, the qualifying homeowners would put at least 200 hours of sweat equity into the building of their homes.

With the Addison Central School board’s adoption of a $1.71 million budget for voter approval in March, it became official that 2011-2012 spending at all four Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Schools will drop. The ACS spending plan calls for a 5.07 percent decrease. Superintendent Tom O’Brien said he was surprised to report Addison Northwest Supervisory Union did in fact achieve the spending reduction target called for in last winter’s “Challenges for Change” legislation.

With the defeat of the Lincoln Community School’s $2 million bond proposal the Lincoln school board had some decisions to make. At a special meeting on Thursday, members decided to put the same bond proposal up for a second vote on March 1, following the Feb. 28 town meeting day.

Casella Waste Systems announced yesterday that it is selling recycling assets located outside of its core market area to Pegasus Capital Advisors LLC and Intersection LLC for $130.4 million. Casella also announced that it has begun a cash tender offer for its 9.75 percent senior subordinated notes due 2013.

Gov. Peter Shumlin pledged his support to the western Vermont rail corridor yesterday. Addressing a packed room at the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast the day before his budget address, Shumlin said he wanted to focus on the ways infrastructure improvements could help bring jobs to the area, calling Rutland “transportation challenged.”

Five Vermont Air guard members will deploy to Afghanistan today. They will be gone for six months. This is the latest in a series of small deployments. The guard is regrouping after about 15-hundred soldiers returned home from the war zone.

FairPoint Communications has emerged from bankruptcy reorganization nearly 15 months after filing for Chapter 11 with a crushing debt load and a battered financial sheet. FairPoint said its reorganization plan became effective Monday, 11 days after being approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the southern district of New York. As a result of the restructuring, FairPoint said it has reduced its debt from $2.8 billion to about $1 billion, allowing it to focus more attention on customers, vendors and employees.

Senator Patrick Leahy was in South Burlington Monday to announce he will introduce a bill this week that would permanently allow heavy trucks back on Vermont's interstates. They haven't been allowed since December when a one-year pilot program ended. Leahy says a previous bill that would have extended the program, was blocked by republicans.

A United Express plane made an emergency landing at Burlington International Airport shortly after taking off for Washington, D.C. The plane carrying 43 people landed at about 6:45 a.m. yesterday. According to the Airport Operations Office, a light on board showed a passenger door was open and a pilot reported steering problems. The airport says the airline is investigating the emergency.

Vermont State Police are searching for the suspect in a bank heist in Georgia. Police say a man told a teller that he had a gun and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash from the People's Trust Bank on Monday afternoon. The suspect fled in a four-door green vehicle, driven by an unknown driver. Police say the bank robber is described as having dark hair, and a goatee and being between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing approximately 180 pounds. Police say he was last seen wearing a black hat and black jacket.

Local 4-Her's will have the chance to learn about food preservation, canning, horticulture, gardening, pinwheels and presenting in public at the second annual 4-H Extravaganza Day coming up on January 29. The Extravaganza Day will be held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in Westport from 9 AM to 4 PM. The fee for the entire day of workshops is $5 per person or $10 per family. For more information on the 4-H Extravaganza Day contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension. (962-4810)

Maxten Smith started with school early. Not only is his mother a teacher, but Maxten was born in a classroom at Whiting Grade School. Little Max came into the world on top of a pile of pillows in the school’s second-grade classroom Friday morning after his mother, Corey Smith, realized she wasn’t going to make it to Porter Hospital in Middlebury before he arrived. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 2 1/2 ounces. Driving from their home in Castleton the Smith’s never intended to stop in Whiting. But about 20 minutes away from the hospital she knew time had run out. They’ve sent a picture of young Max to the school and they say when the weather warms up they want to bring their son in for show and tell.

As the deep freeze that gripped our region over the weekend continued, Saranac Lake, New York became the official epicenter. Temperatures there reached a bone numbing 36 below -- the coldest spot in the nation. But in the village, they like to refer to it as the "coolest" spot in the nation. Many locals say they are used to the cold temperatures by now. They weren't afraid to run a few errands, or even bring the family out to play on Lake Flower.

Farmers from around Vermont will be making their annual pilgrimage to Barre this week for the 77th Vermont Farm Show. The Barre Auditorium will be packed with over 200 exhibits of the latest farm machinery and know how. The Farm Show is free and open to the public. It runs today through Thursday at the Barre Auditorium.

Monday, January 24, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 24, 2011

Power has been restored to roughly 2,385 households in Addison County who were without power on this freezing morning. Nearly all the outages were Central Vermont Public Service customers in the Leicester area. CVPS officials say there was a line break outside the Leicester substation at around 4:30 this morning. The cause hasn't been determined but officials speculate the weather may have played a role.

There will be a Lake Champlain Bridge opening-ceremony planning meeting in Crown Point, NY this evening at 6PM at the Crown Point Historic Site Museum. The LCB Community will hold a public meeting to encourage area residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to become involved in the celebration planning by serving on a committee, volunteering time or offering ideas for the organization of a two day event celebrating the opening of the new bridge. The tentative opening target date is October 8th.

Students at Middlebury College will soon be choosing where they want to live on campus next year and who they want to room with. Unlike years before, the college is now offering all-gender housing for all upperclassmen. Last year, the college's Community Council unanimously approved a proposal allowing all students the opportunity to live in a two-person room with a person of the opposite sex. The college’s Student Government Association also unanimously supported the proposal, titled the Rooming Choice Act, last spring.

Police seized 186 marijuana plants and more than a pound of processed marijuana at a home off Hunt Road in New Haven Saturday. Sate police along with officers from departments in Vergennes and Bristol, and Vermont Fish and Wildlife wardens surrounded the house during the execution of a search warrant. The owners of the home were arrested and cited to appear in court in March on a felony charge of cultivation of marijuana as well as other charges.

Rutland Police ordered residents out of two homes on North Main Street after suspected explosives were found Friday night inside a home on North Main St. When police arrived they heard what they believe was a gunshot from inside the home. They found the home’s owner Carl Haas, Jr. dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police also found four hand grenades, which were later found to contain no explosives.

Kelly Clark made sure at least one Vermonter took top honors at the extreme skiing and snowboard competitions at Killington resort this weekend. The 27-year-old snowboarder from West Dover finished an impressive two days of competition with a final run that set a record for the Winter Dew Tour, which brought more than 100 of the best snowboarders and skiers in the world to Vermont for the four-day competitions.

The Vermont Health Department says the flu is on the rise this winter and it describes its presence across the state as widespread. The Health Department said the three strains of the flu that have been detected across the country this season have been found in Vermont. Officials are urging all Vermonters 6 months of age and older to be vaccinated. There is plenty of vaccine available and a single dose of vaccine will protect against the three forms of the flu.

Just as Republicans in Washington are trying to repeal a federal step toward universal health care, Vermont appears headed in the opposite direction. The Vermont Employers Health Alliance, which represents Vermont businesses in health care debates, says the state would need 14 federal waivers to move toward a single, government-backed insurer providing coverage to every resident.

There's another water well at Vermont Yankee testing positive for radioactive tritium. Plant officials are examining several drain lines trying to track down the source of the leak. Health officials say the level of tritium in the water isn't posing any danger, but they are watching it because it apparently has been going up since December. Vermont Yankee will continue testing the well on a daily basis, and the state health department will also independently monitor the levels.

Vermont's largest municipal electric utility is installing LED streetlights in a residential area for the first time, and saving 74% of the energy used by traditional streetlights. The Burlington Electric Department already had been using LED streetlights in downtown commercial areas, but now will do so on Shore Road along Lake Champlain and neighboring streets.

Up to 40 Vermont gardens will be able to use $1,000 mini-grants this spring to expand school community gardens in the state. The deadline for applying for the grants is March 15. The awards will be made by April 12. The goal of the program is to establish a statewide, school-based gardening initiative that teaches Vermont children and youths how to grow fresh produce. Groups applying for the grants must be affiliated with a public school or public-private academy, and be located on land owned by a town, city, school district, or tax exempt organization.

The state Treasurer’s Office is again co-sponsoring the annual statewide financial literacy poster contest for youth. The theme for the 2011 Be Money Wise Financial Literacy Poster Competition is “Be a Superhero! Save Money!” The contest features three grade categories. Each category winner receives a $100 U.S. savings bond and their school receives a $100 cash award in recognition of their support of financial literacy. The deadline for submissions to the Treasurer’s Office is February 14. Winners will be recognized at a State House ceremony on April 14.

The Shumlin administration is expected to rescind a proposal to allow all terrain vehicles limited access to state-owned land. The proposal from former Governor Jim Douglas to give ATVs more leeway ran into heated opposition from environmentalists. But a group of ATV owners is still pressing its case.

The Champlain Valley Fair may be more than eight months away, but it has already released its concert schedule. Lady Antebellum tickets are for sale. The country group has been named the CMA vocal group of the year. Thousands of tickets have already been sold. The concert is scheduled for September 3, 2011 at the grandstand.

Burton Snowboards has opened its new research and development facility, named after the late snowboard icon Craig Kelly. The 10,000-square-foot facility, known as Craig’s, is equipped with high-end, custom-built machinery. It is dedicated to R&D and will only build a handful of experimental snowboards a day. At Craig’s, Burton engineers can experiment with new ideas and feedback from pro riders, engineers, dealers and customers.

A committee of the Vermont Legislature is experimenting with tablet computers that could be the first step toward a paperless Statehouse. The 11-members of the House Government Operations Committee have been given Apple iPads, which allows them to download information, access the Internet and take notes. In the place of a white board on the wall of the committee room is a flat video screen.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont says it's expecting more than 1,500 organic farmers, gardeners and consumers at its winter conference. The group's annual winter gathering takes place Feb. 12-14 at the University of Vermont in Burlington. The conference features more than 70 workshops on a variety of topics, two keynote speakers, an intensive workshop for commercial growers, an exhibitors fair, a Saturday night social and networking opportunities.

A southern Vermont police department is warning people about an online vacation rental scam. Police in Wilmington say they are investigating four or five cases in which people arrived in town expecting to spend time at a vacation home they rented on Craigslist only to find the house they thought they were renting didn't exist. Wilmington is near the Mount Snow ski area. A detective is working on the cases, but suspects in such cases are rarely caught. State officials say online renters should consult the local town clerk to see if rental property exists.

New York is considering what could be the first ban in the nation on electronic cigarettes. The plastic devices called "e-cigarettes" carry no warning labels and are heavily advertised on the Internet. Manufacturers say the devices are safe and emit only vapor. They say the products can help people quit smoking. Public health organizations say e-cigarettes should be regulated like nicotine gum or patches and warn they contain dangerous chemicals.

Casella Waste Systems announced today that it is selling recycling assets located outside of its core market area to Pegasus Capita Advisors LLC and Intersection LLC for $130.4 million. Casella also announced that it has begun a cash tender offer for its 9.75 percent senior subordinated notes due 2013.

Vermont Law School has chosen Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of the radio and TV program Democracy Now!, to be the commencement speaker at its 36th graduation ceremony on May 21. Goodman is the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, which the law school says is known as the "alternative Nobel Prize."

Generous federal tax benefits and high prices for breeding stock have helped boost the alpaca industry in the United States. Breeders now hope to build up the herd and quality of fiber enough to support commercial mills in this country. A 2010 extension of the law lets ranchers write off the entire cost of buying their breeding alpacas in the same year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 21, 2011

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory that is in effect for Addison & Rutland County Through 4PM Today. We’re expecting anywhere from 3 – 6 Inches of snow with a High in the Low 20’s.

Bristol village may soon have some new business. Kevin Harper rolled out the plan this week for Bristol Works! LLC. It’s a project slated to redevelop the former Autumn Harp plant on Pine Street and turn it into mixed-use property that ultimately will include a health clinic, school district offices, light manufacturing and housing units. They hope to begin renovations later this winter, and start moving tenants into spaces as soon as the spaces are ready.

On January 27th you will be able to get a glimpse of some building options for one of the largest developable spaces remaining in downtown Middlebury. The 1.5 acres of land behind Ilsley Library consists of two side-by-side lots, one owned by Middlebury College and one by the town of Middlebury. Officials say the goal is to enhance the economic vitality of downtown Middlebury, boost the town’s grand list and attract more shoppers and businesses to the community. The presentation is at 7 PM next Thursday in the Ilsley Library conference room.

Lincoln voters have narrowly defeated a proposed $2 million bond to fund repairs and upgrades at Lincoln Community School. Residents came out in large numbers during Tuesday’s storm to cast ballots. The final tally was 222 votes in favor of the bond, and 237 votes against.

County schools are re-evaluating their approaches to student use of cell phones. Schools appear to be coming up with some very different policies. For example while administrators at Vergennes Union High School have temporarily instituted new, stricter cell phone rules, Middlebury Union High School is getting ready to loosen its rules at the end of a lengthy evaluation process.

Vergennes Union High School board members have adopted a 2011-2012 budget for Town Meeting Day approval that would drop spending from the current level by almost $94,000. Their $8.8 million proposal is the second in two years that would drop spending. The current year’s spending plan is about $8.9 million and that came in almost $11,000 lower than the previous year’s.

An ad hoc committee is putting together plans for a major makeover of Middlebury’s fire stations. Local fire officials are scheduled to give an update on those plans at town meeting in March. A bond vote could follow later this year. Their hope is to have something to the voters by this summer or fall.

Some Addison County dairy farmers may receive some money out of a court settlement. The Dean Foods Company and representative dairy farmers are waiting for court approval on a $30 million settlement that the two parties signed last month, which would conclude one part of a months-long class-action suit that accused three companies of price-fixing and illegal monopolizing of the Northeast dairy market.

The Vermont attorney general has decided not to criminally charge a former Rutland police officer that used a pepperball launcher against a bound and incarcerated man last year. For the past nine months, the Attorney General’s office has been reviewing an incident that took place January 1, 2010, inside the Rutland Police Department that involved then 24-year-old Jamek Hart.

Members of the Vermont Farm Bureau met last week in Montpelier to outline their five legislative priorities for the 2011 sessions. They said they are looking to a new governor and a refreshed legislature to address the most pressing agricultural issues in the state.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking a careful look at the State University of New York system as he prepares his first executive budget. Early reports indicate that Cuomo may propose a tuition increase for the state's public universities as he looks to address a budget deficit now projected at close to $11 billion.

Faced with rising costs and decreasing volunteers, the Crown Point Memorial Day committee decided to scale back the observance in 2010. Last year was Crown Point's 142nd annual Memorial Day observance. The weekend-long carnival was dropped. The traditional parade, fireworks and cemetery tour remained. The Memorial Day committee will start making plans this month for 2011. Much of the planning will be based on financial concerns. Officials are hoping Crown Point residents may have ideas and hopes residents will volunteer to serve on the Memorial Day committee.

Fort Ticonderoga will host the first of its "Materials Matter: It's in the Details Winter Weekend Workshops" tomorrow. The workshop, focusing on the French & Indian War era, takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga 10AM to 3PM. Pre-registration is required. The workshop is part of a new lecture series, which examines the material culture of the 18th century as it relates to Fort Ticonderoga's role in the 18th-century contests for North America. For more information just visit Fort Ticonderoga dot org.

A plan to renovate the old Moses-Ludington Hospital in Ticonderoga into senior citizen apartments is still in the works. Liberty Affordable Housing failed to secure the expected grant funding last summer. But the project is still alive according to the regional property manager for the firm. The Ticonderoga Supervisor said a new funding application has been submitted, well in advance of the February 9th deadline.

Ticonderoga officials and business leaders hope January 31st will officially mark a downtown renaissance. That's the date Two Brothers Meat Market formally opens its new location in the former Arthur Drugs building on Montcalm Street. The Two Brothers move and renovation is the first project of the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance that was created last year to help Ticonderoga's business district prosper. The building had been vacant a decade.

The effort to bring a joint services municipal center to the town of Westport is still on the table and may come to a second vote by this summer. The plan is the construction of a center, which would house the Westport town offices, Westport Department of Public Works, the bus maintenance and fueling facility for use by all municipalities, including Westport Central School, and the Westport Volunteer Fire Department. The project was defeated in a close vote on June 15th last year.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he is pleased with the unanimous vote of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board against opening a new muzzle loading deer hunting season in October. Shumlin commented about Wednesday night's vote saying that to allow hunting deer with firearms in October would be "an extraordinarily bad idea."

Vermont - the country's largest maple producer - has announced a settlement with McDonald's over complaints that the restaurant chain was improperly labeling a new product as maple flavored in the state. McDonald's has agreed starting February 1st to give customers in its Vermont stores pure maple syrup or sugar to add to the fruit and maple product if they request it. This will not apply outside of Vermont. A McDonald's spokeswoman says the company is pleased with the settlement and is happy to continue offering the oatmeal product in Vermont.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to solicit bids from companies to have a diver explore a sunken tugboat in Lake Champlain that could contain thousands of gallons of fuel oil. The EPA is hoping a diver can descend 160-feet to the tug William McAllister in late May and go into the engine room and check the tanks for fuel. The fear is the tanks could leak. The McAllister sunk five miles south of Port Kent, NY, in November 1963 after it hit a reef. Over the years there have been reports of an oil sheen above the wreck.

State regulators have approved a $112.7 million rate hike for National Grid, structured so consumers won't see an increase in their monthly bills. The utility had requested a $390 million rate increase for 2011, but the Public Service Commission approved a 1-year rate plan with less than a third of the requested increase. To shield customers from increased bills, the PSC said it would structure the rate plan by forcing National Grid to defer certain charges it collects from customers such as storm restoration costs.

With a lot of community support, Pete's Greens in Craftsbury is planning to rebuild. The farm is one of the state's largest vegetable producers, and the fire last week caused more than half a million dollars in damage. As of yesterday, City Market Co-Op, which is a major customer of Pete’s Greens, will donate one percent of the store's proceeds until Sunday to the Craftsbury operation. An online auction will also be held over the weekend called "Bid for the Barn" organized by the Mad River Valley Localvore Project.

Green Mountain College in Poultney and the New Hampshire-based Hubbard Brook Research Foundation announced this week they are collaborating in a yearlong project to fuel the College’s new biomass facility from local sources of sustainably harvested woodchips. GMC and Hubbard Brook will be working to secure woodchips harvested from privately owned lands and loggers located within about a 15-mile radius of Poultney.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 20, 2011

An international health care consultant says Vermont could provide every resident with health insurance, upgrade outdated hospitals and still save money if would just adopt a single-payer health care system. A Harvard health care economist was hired by the state Legislature to come up with three designs for a new health care system. He says getting one entity - either a government agency or a private company hired by government - to process claims would save $2.1 billion in health spending by 2025. He's calling for reform of the medical malpractice system, a payroll tax to finance the system and other streamlining of the health care system.

A Brandon man charged with a beating in Leicester was ordered jailed without bail Monday. Brayton Gillett pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court to a felony charge of aggravated assault for allegedly beating Nathan Dearing of Whiting who was brought to Porter Hospital in Middlebury Friday afternoon. Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster asked that Gillett be held without bail because of the violent nature of the alleged crime and Gillett’s history of contempt of court charges for failures to attend court hearings.

The Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford is getting some new tools. Sen. Bernie Sanders presented the academy with a $200,000 grant for technology improvements on campus. Right now, the academy does not have wireless Internet and is only able to offer laptops to officers after graduation. These funds will provide every officer in training with a computer and update their Internet infrastructure for everyone on site.

Expanding Giorgetti Park’s facilities is once again on the city ballot. The Rutland Board of Aldermen voted this week to send a bond to the voters for building an addition to the recreation center. The motion included a provision using $400,000 from the Giorgetti trust fund to reduce the project cost from $4.3 million. The expanded facility would replace the outdated Dana Center.

Vermont's U.S. Coast Guard station in Burlington has a new tool for ice rescues on Lake Champlain. Last year Vermont's U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy helped the station secure a $260,000 ice rescue boat that can cross easily from ice to water and back again. Coast Guard officials say the airboat will extend for the first time the station's winter reach to the entire lake.

Vermont state Auditor tom Salmon says he might challenge U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders next year. Salmon is a Republican who switched to the GOP in 2009 from the Democratic Party. Salmon says he will announce his decision on whether to challenge Sanders by March 5.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she plans to introduce federal legislation to permanently move trucks between 80,000 and 100,000 pounds off Maine and Vermont's secondary roads and onto federal interstate highways. Collins says she and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont will introduce the bill next week.

Republican senators in Albany are rolling out a series of new bills. The majority party is proposing a tax credit for employers who hire New Yorkers with extra incentives for hiring unemployed workers. A second bill would cap state spending growth at 2 percent a year. A third bill would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, instead of a simple majority, on any bill that would raise taxes.

A new political group aims to make an impact here in the North Country. They'll start by holding a coordinated protest of last year's Supreme Court decision regarding Citizens United and the Federal Election Commission. The Progressive Coalition of Northern New York formed following a January 7th meeting in Beekmantown, during which citizens from Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties gathered to establish an organization promoting political reform in the North Country and beyond. Demonstrations are planned in Saranac Lake, Malone, and Plattsburgh starting at 4 PM Friday.

Time Warner Cable has repaired a problem with its digital-phone service that affected customers statewide in New York. Time Warner said yesterday that the problem was resolved late Tuesday night. According to the Essex County 911 Coordinator, part of the problem may have been with the new Time Warner 911 database.

Franklin County is being urged to pursue a 3-to-4-percent occupancy tax on guest accommodations and earmark the funds to promote tourism. The Franklin County Chamber Alliance says Franklin County is one of only a handful of New York counties that do not charge hotel and motel guests a small fee for each night they stay. Essex County and Clinton County each charge a 3-percent occupancy tax.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is celebrating a major milestone. The group exceeded the $3.5 million fundraising goal it set for its 75th anniversary. The money will create an endowment that the VSO says will ensure a strong future. Musicians stage hundreds of events a year, including statewide tours and educational programs for Vermont kids.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ infamous December filibuster against the tax cut deal made between Washington officials will hit bookstores mid-February. An e-book edition will be available starting January 28. On December 10, Sanders delivered an eight and half hour speech on the Senate floor railing against the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans.

It's a big day for Boston Red Sox fans. The Red Sox World Series trophies from their 2004 and 2007 wins will be at the University Mall in South Burlington from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. today. On top of that, people can try out to sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park. The two winners of the "Sing Your Way to Fenway" contest will qualify to compete for the special gig.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 19, 2011

A warm winter storm dumped up to 8 inches of snow in some parts of southern Vermont and closed 73 schools across the state yesterday. According to one meteorologist, Springfield and parts of Bennington and Windham counties reported between 6 and 8 inches of snow throughout the morning. Throughout central Vermont, towns reported an accumulation up to 4 inches of snow. Police responded to a fatal motor vehicle accident on Route 7 in South Wallingford.

A Florence woman hurt her back and shoulder in a crash off Whipple Hollow Road in West Rutland yesterday morning. State police said Nicole Fischer lost control of her car while navigating a curve on a downhill part of the road just before 7 AM. Her car went off the road and into a swampy area where it struck some small trees.

State engineers and private contractors are seeking to assemble the arches for the new Crown Point Bridge in downtown Moriah. A variance request to allow the arch assembly at Velez Marina is expected to be up for agency approval in February. DOT reports the bridge construction is on schedule and on budget. It's expected to open to traffic next October.

Talks between the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union school boards and the teachers union have stalled, and there are no positive signs that either side will soon return to the negotiating table. The impasse is the result of an intense contract negotiating process that left both sides dissatisfied with the outcome. The school boards represent five town elementary schools and Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School. Officials are hopeful that the teachers will accept the imposed contract and move forward with the next round of negotiations targeting June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Vermont State Police say a 15-year-old Mount Mansfield Union High School student is dead after apparently shooting himself at the school. Police say the initial investigation indicates that Connor Menning of Huntington died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound but they are still investigating. No one else was involved. Grief counselors were immediately called in to speak with students, teachers and staff.

As the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches, Vermont women's rights supporters say there is still a lot of work to do. A group of legislators and representatives from Planned Parenthood and the Vermont Commission on Women say women's rights and health is still threatened. They point to the effort to repeal the health care law which they say helps women.

Falling property values have lessened the gap between the state’s grand lists and market prices for homes. The state’s common level of appraisal has gone up to 94 percent this tax year, that’s an increase of 4 percent compared to last year. Market values in Vermont have dropped about 1.5 percent this tax year. Town leaders are optimistic their CLA will be more in line next year, as property is beginning to be bought for nearly the same amount it is listed by the town.

Vermont's leading anti-hunger advocacy organization, the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, launched its new name recently as Hunger Free Vermont. Since 1993 the organization's outreach and advocacy have significantly enhanced Vermont's nutrition safety net and broadened access to healthy food for Vermont's children and families.

Vermont State Police are looking for the driver of a red pickup truck who was seen near a suspicious fire that destroyed a house in Sharon. State police say they believe Friday's fire was arson. The Sharon Fire Department noted some graffiti and other "suspicious activity" in the area of the fire at 63 Farm Field Lane. The house was a total loss.

The three members of the Vermont congressional delegation say they're going to try to clear the way to let the state implement a single-payer health care system. U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch met at the Statehouse in Montpelier yesterday with Gov. Peter Shumlin to announce their plans. The three say they will introduce legislation in Congress to move up to 2014 the date when states may propose pilot health care programs as part of the nation's new health care law.

Five New England residents and five national health care advocacy groups are suing the federal government, saying Medicare benefits are being cut improperly after their conditions are determined to be chronic. A suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Burlington on behalf of people from Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut targets what it calls an unofficial condition of eligibility.

Property owners and developers in Vermont and New Hampshire say they're disappointed that a plan for a $32 million development on the Connecticut River in White River Junction has fallen through. The Prospect Place plan would have overhauled an industrial park near the U.S. Route 4 Bridge between Vermont and Lebanon, NH, for a mix of retail, office space and housing.

Prayers before meetings are not going away any time soon for the Essex County Board of Supervisors. Although the practice was recently criticized, county leaders said this week that they have no plans to stop the prayers. The County Clerk delivers a short prayer before monthly Board of Supervisors sessions.

A big announcement is expected this morning from Governor Peter Shumlin and officials from both USA Hockey and the University of Vermont. The event will be the World Women's Ice Hockey Championships. That runs from April 6th through the 12th, on the UVM Campus.

The trustees of Rutland Free Library invite the public to join in tonight as they begin to draft a new strategic plan. The trustees meet at 5:15 PM in the library’s Fox Room and the meeting will open with a public presentation by consultant Bill Wilson on current trends in public libraries around the country.

Changes are coming to the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington. Old Navy is moving to Taft Corners in Williston while two new tenants are coming to downtown. One is Panera Bread and the other is yet to be determined or announced. Old Navy will make the move in March. The marketplace says 5,000 square feet will be Panera Bread and the other 20,000 square feet will be the other business. All that is known is that it is a local business and after the move the business will have doubled in size.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 18, 2011

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY through 7AM Wednesday for Addison County & Eastern Essex County, NY. A WINTER STORM WARNING is in effect through 7AM Wednesday for Rutland County.
The Weather Channel Says: Snow Today – Mixed with Sleet Later On - High In The 20’s

At the last City Council meeting in Vergennes, the City and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes discussed the city-owned property on the east side of New Haven Road. The Vergennes ID School District deeded that land to the city last year when that board dissolved. The youth club board remains interested in some of the land, which is near city schools and recreation facilities, as a potential site for a permanent headquarters and clubhouse.

16 Middlebury College students are participating in the MiddCORE course. It includes studying neuroscience, selling books, learning to haggle, doing market research for a local dairy farm and meeting an ex-CIA spy. Their MiddCORE course spends at least eight hours each weekday learning about business and entrepreneurship with guest speakers and competitive challenges. The goal of MiddCORE is to take students out of their comfort zone and to force them to take risks they may not otherwise take.

Twelve Vermont youths, including some from Addison County, with difficult pasts recently got a unique opportunity to transform heightened moments from their own lives into works of art. The HighLow Project is an exhibit of pairs of photographs accompanied by audio narrations that re-enact “high” and “low” points in the lives of young adults who have received services from the Vermont Coalition of Runaway & Homeless Youth Programs. The project will be on display at the Folklife Center and in the Merchants Row storefront through February 28. An opening reception will be held this Thursday, from 5 to 7 PM in the storefront space next to Carol’s Hungry Mind CafĂ©. A few sample images with narration can be found at highlowproject.org.

Monkton writer Eugenie Doyle released her most recent children’s novel, “According to Kit,” in 2009. More than a year later, recognition for the book is still coming in. When the Society of School Librarians announced its annual book awards in late 2010, “According to Kit” was among nine novels for grades 7-12 given an “honored book” designation.

According to the Vermont Ski Areas Association Vermont’s ski areas reported a successful Martin Luther King holiday, the second of three major holidays during the season, with skier visits running well ahead last year’s numbers. Despite the good numbers to date, it’s too early to predict whether Vermont will surpass last year’s 4 million skier visits.

Currently two bridges cross Lake Champlain connecting Vermont and New York -- one at the northern tip and another at the southern tip. Now a New York lawmaker thinks both states need to start exploring the idea of building a third bridge to serve the Plattsburgh and Burlington area. The idea was raised after hearing from dozens about the unreliability of the ferry at certain times of the year. However money is tight with New York facing a ten billion dollar budget deficit and that Vermont lawmakers show no interest in exploring the idea.

After 45 years of issuing loans to Vermont college students, the future does not look bright for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. VSAC issued a report to the legislature outlining the impact of legislation last year that ended the primary federal loan program that VSAC depended on. Students now get their loans directly from the government. The company has already reduced its budget by 18-percent in the last three years and cut 84 jobs. VSAC expects another ten percent cut this year.

School breakfasts are up in Vermont 

Vermont schools continue to see record participation in the school breakfast program,
compared to other states, according to the Food Research and Action Center’s School Breakfast Scorecard for 2009-10. 

More than 15,000 low-income children eat a free school breakfast on an average school day across the state according to the annual report.

A woman charged with felony drug charges for growing marijuana for her sick son won't go to trial. Prosecutors have agreed to refer Sue Thayer, of East Wallingford, to court diversion. If she completes it, the charges against her will be dismissed.

A nonprofit that keeps tabs on pollution is releasing a town-by-town list of Vermont's toxic threats, saying it wants people to be more aware of pollution - and government to be more responsive addressing it. The Toxics Action Center says the list was developed using government data in hopes of making people more knowledgeable about the environmental threats around them.

Vermont State Police say a house fire has killed an elderly Shaftsbury couple. Battling bitter cold, Shaftsbury Fire Department firefighters who responded about 4 AM yesterday found the house fully engulfed in flames and requested assistance from the Arlington Fire Department. The cause is still under investigation but that the fire appears accidental.

Barre city councilors are dropping a plan to regulate where sex offenders can live. If the council had approved the proposed charter change then the issue would have gone before voters in March. In 2009 a judge ruled Barre did not have the authority to restrict where sex offenders can live, saying the city first needed to pass a charter change giving it that power. That charter change would have also needed legislative approval.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 17, 2011

Middlebury police are asking the community to help solve two break-ins that happened on the same street just a few days apart. The most recent was a robbery on Seminary St. Friday. Police say after 1 PM, three masked men broke into a woman's apartment and stole her medicine box, which had methadone. The major concern is this happened about a block away from a home burglary earlier last week. If you have any information, please call Crimestoppers or Middlebury Police.

Mark Hulett will soon be released. The convicted child rapist has completed his sentence and found state-approved housing in the Addison County town of Waltham. But under a quirk in his sentence, he had to jump through one final hoop, asking the court to okay his release. Lawyers remarked the move is highly unusual. Since Hulett finished his sentence, and has housing in Waltham far away from kids, he's cleared for release.

Police said they are looking for whoever stole the license plates off a car parked at the Price Chopper in West Rutland. The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department said someone took both license plates off the Subaru Outback of someone working at Price Chopper. It happened between 7 AM and 10:30 AM Saturday. The license plate number is EXS 358.

While Diamond Run Mall is finally paying its water bill, it still isn’t paying its impact fees to the city. Treasurer Wendy Wilton said last week the mall had failed to pay its $100,000 in impact fees, due December 31, for the second year in a row. However, she did say she got the first $20,000 payment on the mall’s delinquent water bill last week. City Attorney Andrew Costello said he had put the issue on the Board of Alderman’s agenda for this week and civil litigation will be discussed in executive session.

Sixty-four towns across Vermont will celebrate their 250th birthday this year. All the towns in the East are the oldest in the nation, but still relatively new compared to the towns in Massachusetts. In 1749, Benning Wentworth, the first royal governor of New Hampshire, issued a charter that established the town of Bennington. Over the next 14 years, Wentworth issued 128 more town charters covering 3 million acres, or half of present-day Vermont. Nearby towns celebrating the 250 anniversary of their charter are Addison, Brandon, Bridport, Castleton, Cornwall, Killington, Leicester, Middlebury, New Haven, Panton, Pittsford, Poultney, Rutland, Salisbury, Sherburne, Shoreham, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth, Wallingford and Weybridge.

The latest way to read a book has reached Vermont libraries, which recently began offering e-books that can be borrowed for use on an electronic reading device. The Green Mountain Library Consortium has purchased the rights to about 500 electronic books so far. Readers can borrow them through the Listen Up! Vermont website to read on an electronic reader, computer or smart phone. Some libraries have even purchased e-readers to lend out so their patrons can experience e-reading.

The state’s ski areas are reveling in last week’s storm that brought more than two feet of snow in many parts of Vermont. And while that’s always welcome news for the state’s downhill ski areas, it’s absolutely essential for Vermont’s 30 cross-country areas that are almost entirely dependent on natural snow. Of the 30 Nordic ski areas in Vermont, 20 are standalone ski touring centers while the remaining 10 are part of downhill ski areas.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has saved an entire program for the F-35 fighter that will benefit the General Electric plant in Rutland. The Pentagon wanted to kill funding for an alternate engine being designed for the next generation fighter jet. But Leahy got the funding restored in a budget bill passed last month and the Pentagon has reinitiated the program.

Ask Vermont lawmakers what they want to accomplish this year and they'll give you a list: Reduce energy consumption in state buildings by 20%. Put Vermont on a path to universal health care. Pass a law allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives. Streamline the state's tax code and make it fairer. It's a big and difficult agenda, and Gov. Peter Shumlin says he wants to accomplish it without raising any of the state's broad-based taxes.

Vermont State Police say a man faces drunk driving and other charges after his car crashed into a bus carrying a high school hockey team. Police say a Jeep Cherokee driven by 66-year-old John Billard of Vergennes crashed into a bus carrying 16 members of the Mount Mansfield Union High School boy's hockey team Saturday night on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh. Billard and a female passenger were rescued from the Jeep and hospitalized. Two students on the bus were treated at the scene.

About 30 people attended Rep. Peter Welch's Congress in Your Community event Saturday at Mac's Market in Essex Jct. Some constituents stopped to listen and others arrived with specific questions and suggestions. Welch began by paying tribute to Arizona Rep. Garbrielle Giffords. Welch explained that he and Giffords were part of the same Congressional class in 2006 and learned the ropes together.

The Green Mountain National Forest is seeking public input as part of its deliberations to decide whether to approve plans for a mountaintop wind energy project in the southern Vermont towns of Readsboro and Searsburg. The Forest Service has scheduled two public meetings to gather comments. They are scheduled for Thursday at the Howe Center in Rutland and Tuesday at Readsboro Central School. Both meetings will be held at 6 PM.

Vermont's North Country Hospital in Newport now has a certified cardiac rehabilitation program. The hospital says the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation recognized it with the certification. The program was recognized for its commitment to improving the quality of life of patients by improving standards of care for people suffering from cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and those who have undergone coronary artery bypass procedures.

The American Red Cross says it's seeking blood donors after a blizzard along the eastern seaboard caused a shortfall of more than 8,000 donations. Officials say the northeast region alone lost more than 2,200 blood donations. Red Cross official’s say they're seeking to reschedule hundreds of blood drives canceled by the storm, and they're asking eligible donors to make an appointment to donate blood.

It looks like it's going to be health care week around the Vermont Statehouse. On Tuesday, Vermont's two U.S. senators and congressman will make a rare, if not unprecedented joint appearance with Gov. Peter Shumlin to talk about Shumlin's push for a single-payer health care system for Vermont. On Wednesday, a consultant hired by the Legislature to craft three different health care plans for the state releases his report to lawmakers.

Vermont U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and the regional commander of the U.S. Coast Guard are going to tell the public about safety on the ice. Leahy and Rear Adm. Daniel Neptun will also witness an ice rescue demonstration Tuesday outside the Coast Guard headquarters on the Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington.

While today is the federal holiday, many celebrated the birth of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Junior on Sunday in church. Reverend Al Sharpton was in Burlington Sunday, and gave a sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church, talking about the legacy of the slain civil rights leader. He said Doctor King's fight was still ongoing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 14, 2011

The Middlebury select-board is standing behind the concept of providing $25,000 in town money to pay a portion of the cost of a new local events marketing coordinator. This person would draw out-of-towners to spend money downtown and in other local businesses that serve visitors. The goal of coordinator would be to produce more in town revenue through increased rooms and meals tax collections than the cost of the position.

The Town Hall Theater in Middlebury and 12 other organizations received just over $169,000 in Cultural Facilities Grants from the Vermont Arts Council on Thursday. The theater received $2,875 to help install snow guards on the slate roof of their building. Other recipients this year include the Vermont Children’s Theater in East Burke, the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, the Cutler Memorial Library in Plainfield and the Weston Community Association in Weston.

The Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment closed its public hearing on a proposed Route 7 Dollar General store on January 6th. The board has 45-days to make a decision on the planned 10,000-square-foot-store.

Green Mountain Beverage CEO Bret Williams confirmed that the hard cider company plans later this year to move from Pond Lane into the Connor Homes building on Route 7 in Middlebury. Connor Homes will move into the Vermont Tubbs complex in Brandon within the next several weeks. The sale of the Connor Homes building to Green Mountain Beverage is expected be completed by late February. The transition of both companies into their new headquarters will follow in the next few weeks and months.

Vermont State Police hope to crack down on the thefts of copper and catalytic converters by enforcing laws on salvage yards that buy them. The converters are mainly stainless steel, but contain small amounts of platinum, a precious metal. State law requires scrap metal processors to verify the identity of a seller as well as the seller's license plate and a description of the items sold. If a seller is unable prove that he or she owns the property, the business must submit a report to local police the same day.

The Finance Committee in Rutland City has proposed meeting people with outstanding parking tickets halfway. The committee voted unanimously yesterday to recommend the Board of Aldermen offer an amnesty period during which people with unpaid parking tickets from 2005 to 2008 can pay off their fines for 50 cents on the dollar.

Expanding Giorgetti Park could be headed to voters again. The Recreation Committee voted unanimously this week to recommend the Board of Alderman place up to a $4.3 million bond on the March ballot. Several Aldermen said a reduced city budget and a level school budget eased their reservations about sending forward a proposal similar to the one voter’s rejected last year.

Back in 2004 Shawn Byrne of West Rutland applied for a vanity plate with a biblical reference. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles denied the request citing a state law forbidding religious references on vanity plates. Byrne sued, losing in federal court in 2007, but winning an appeal last year. The state has now agreed to forego further appeal and settled, saying it would issue Byrne the plate upon receipt of a new application, stop enforcement of the religious restriction and pay Byrne $150,000 in attorney’s fees.

Developers of two proposed biomass and pellet plants in Fair Haven and Pownal said a three-year EPA deferral of greenhouse gas permit requirements does not affect them at all. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to defer greenhouse gas permitting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from biomass and other biogenic sources for three years starting in July.

Castleton State College will offer students emergency identification bracelets through a partnership with XtremeSportsID starting January 25th. 

The XtremeSportsID bracelet is lightweight, durable and made of the same silicon material as Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets. Castleton State is the first college in the nation to partner with XtremeSportsID.

Port Henry will hold village elections Tuesday, March 15. Offices on the ballot will be mayor and two trustee positions. These are elected offices with a two-year term serving on the village of Port Henry board of trustees. An independent nominating petition is required and can be obtained by contacting the village clerk. The deadline to submit petitions is Feb. 8.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce "After Business Mixer" will be held on Thursday, January 20th, at the Best Western Ticonderoga Inn and Suites from 5:30-7 PM. Sponsors providing door prizes will be the Best Western, Sugar & Spice Country Shoppe and the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce serves Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Hague, Moriah, Putnam and surrounding areas.

A new housing facility to support seniors who are interested in both independent and assisted living may come to Westport by the end of 2012. Adirondack Grand, a project started in 2009 would be built on the Westport Industrial Park. It’s still in the development stages and the developers have been working with the Westport town board on the project because the complex would require the extension of the current town sewer system, which may be able to be funded through grants.

A special panel looking at Vermont's tax structure is recommending lowering Vermont's income tax rates but it would eliminate most standard and itemized deductions. The Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission also is recommending lowering Vermont’s sales tax rate - currently 6% - but apply it more broadly, including to clothes and services.

Telecommunications company FairPoint Communications Inc. has gotten a federal bankruptcy court judge to agree with its reorganization plan three weeks after getting the OK from regulators in the last holdout state, Vermont. The company's Vermont president, Mike Smith, said the decision is giving them the green light to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the month.

New York education officials are raising the bar for students. The state Board of Regents has approved new standards in the state's public schools. Starting next fall kindergartners and first grade students will be expected to have more math skills and students in most all grades will also need to do a better job of interpreting literature from a wide variety of genres and cultures.

There is a lot more attention on keeping lawmakers safe after the shooting in Tucson. In fact, New Hampshire legislators can now carry guns in their statehouse after a ban was lifted last week. In Vermont’ Capitol however no one is allowed in the building with a gun including legislators. Police officers are the only ones allowed to carry a gun

If some New York lawmakers have their way leaving snow on your car could cost you. A lawmaker from Suffolk County New York wants to make flying ice and snow illegal on Long Island and then hopefully other lawmakers across New York State will follow. That means you'd have to brush off your car or pay up. New York State police say it's a good idea.

Vermont's two largest electric utilities say they're going to buy power from Hydro-Quebec at prices below those in the existing contract. The Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and Green Mountain Power negotiated the contract with Hydro-Quebec, but all Vermont utilities are getting some power from Hydro-Quebec. The Vermont Public Service Board is reviewing the plan for Vermont utilities to purchase up to 225 megawatts of energy, mostly hydroelectricity, from Hydro-Quebec's U.S. subsidiary, between 2012 and 2038.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

WVTK Local & State News January 13, 2011

There is a lot of cleaning up going on around southern Vermont after this snowstorm spent the whole day dumping up to 30 inches in some areas. Virtually every area of the state got snow. Chris Bouchard, a meteorologist at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, said the southern counties of Vermont received the heaviest blanket of snow. With the Martin Luther King holiday this weekend, the midweek storm is more welcome news for the state’s ski areas. Police dispatchers around were reporting cars stuck along roadways yesterday afternoon but no serious injuries were reported.

A special commission that has been studying Vermont's tax system for nearly two years is about to recommend some changes. The Vermont Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission is expected to issue a report at the Statehouse on Thursday. One idea the panel has considered is to lower Vermont's sales tax - currently set at 6% - and to apply it to services, rather than just goods.

A Hinesburg man has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge stemming from a collision in downtown Burlington while he was fleeing police. Fifty-2-year-old Timothy Dowd of Hinesburg entered the plea yesterday. He was also charged with driving under the influence with death resulting and aggravated operation without the owner's consent. Dowd is being held without bail.

A Hinesburg police officer charged with assaulting his girlfriend has resigned from the force. Robert Barrows was arrested Monday night and charged with domestic assault. The department immediately placed Barrows on paid leave. However, the police chief for Hinesburg says Barrows later resigned from the local department.

On January 18, Lincoln residents will be asked to vote on a $2 million, 20-year bond to pay for improvements to the Lincoln Community School building. The final plan is limited to repairs and upgrades necessary to ensure the safety, structural integrity and cost-effective maintenance of the building. The Education Commissioner has approved the revised plan in its entirety.

The barn of 1 of Vermont's largest providers of vegetables has burned down. The fire at Pete's Greens in Craftsbury was discovered just after 4 a.m. yesterday. The farm's main barn was destroyed, including all of their storage crops and their vegetable washing and processing equipment. State police say there were no injuries. The cause of the fire is undetermined, but it is not considered suspicious. Pete's Greens is a year-round operation that supplies organic vegetables to Vermonters.

A crash on Business Route 4 yesterday morning damaged two vehicles but didn’t injure either driver. Police said 88-year-old Cecelia Capen of Proctor didn’t see a vehicle driven by Margaret Blanchard of Pittsford when she pulled onto Route 4 from West Proctor Road. Both vehicles were damaged but the drivers, who police said were both wearing seatbelts, were able to drive them away.

A new report says 1,500 jobs could be created in Vermont over the next decade if Vermonters double their consumption of locally produced food. The 10-year Farm to Plate plan released Wednesday outlines 60 strategies for boosting the state's food and farm economy and improving access to healthy local food. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund says the strategies could increase total economic output by at least $135 million per year. Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders say they will work to put in place the plan's recommendations to boost agriculture and jobs in Vermont.

Vermont continues to see modest increases in tax revenues, which is a hopeful sign for the administration of new governor Peter Shumlin. So far, tax collections for the current fiscal year are 3.76 percent above target and 7.25 percent ahead of where they were last year.

Vermont is better off than most of the country when it comes to jobs. Most recent data puts Vermont's unemployment rate at 5.7 percent-- lower than the national average of nearly 10-percent. But the state wants to lower the number of jobless Vermonters even more.

Vermont lawmakers want to get big rigs out of downtowns and back on the interstate. The heavy trucks were allowed on the interstate for just one year as part of a pilot program passed by Sen. Patrick Leahy. But the program expired last month. Truckers say that takes longer and uses more gas. Residents worry about increased noise and safety. Lawmakers also want big rigs on the interstate and they hope to pressure Congress to act.

The head of the Vermont National Guard says 30% of the state's soldiers who just returned from Afghanistan don't have a job. Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie made the comments Tuesday during his annual report to the Legislature. Dubie says the reasons the veterans are jobless are varied. He says some people gave up their jobs before they were sent overseas or their pre-deployment employer went out of business.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he was "shocked" to learn 28 top officers in the state police got raises of more than $20,000 last month as some 900 state workers were facing layoffs. The new governor says he'll review the increases, which were requested by the police agency after a union agreement bumped some majors to $170,756 salaries, topping executive staff pay.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has put its stamp of approval on a proposal that would allow Essex County to sell surplus fish from its fish hatchery. While hashing out the 2011 county budget late last year, county officials openly discussed closing the facility, which annually costs $280,000 to operate and is in need of another $100,000 in renovations. The DEC has approved the change, provided that the bulk of county fish continue to go to publicly accessible waters.

The Pfizer manufacturing facility in Rouses Point appears poised to hold steady for the near future. However the company's Plattsburgh and Chazy facilities are now closed. There are 369 people working at the Rouses Point plant and the lease has been extended to the end of 2011. Pfizer would need to decide by July if it will extend its lease into 2012.

Keeping New York's state parks open last year despite massive money issues is a move that paid off. Officials say 57 million people visited the parks in 2010, a million more than 2009. For a while it looked like the parks wouldn't be open. After outcry, $11 million was restored to keep all parks open. However the state parks budget has been slashed by $35 million and officials say this has left parks understaffed and in need of repair.

The Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association has announced its 2011 Vermont Fine Furniture and Wood Products Design Competition. The competition is open to woodworkers with all different skill levels in Vermont and is divided into three sections. The competition will be held at the Union Arena in Rutland, in conjunction with the 8th Annual Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival on September 24 and 25. For more information and to enter download the entry form available at Vermontwooddesigns.org.

Leaders of cultural groups in New York, Vermont and Quebec are joining forces to commemorate the upcoming 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and its impact on the Lake Champlain region. Dozens of people from the two states and the Canadian province gathered earlier this week at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh to kick off formal planning for next year's bicentennial celebration.

It was in the early 1940's when the classic song "Moonlight in Vermont" first became a big hit. That was recorded by a young Hollywood singer named Margaret Whiting, who brought images of a rustic Vermont to young GI's around the world when Armed Forces Radio played the song. Margaret Whiting died Tuesday at the Lillian Booth Actors' home in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 86. She had a long career in films and records, including a duet "Baby It's Cold Outside" with the song's writer, Johnny Mercer, who also was her godfather.