Monday, February 28, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 28, 2011

A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect through 1PM that includes Addison, Rutland and Essex Counties. Mixed precipitation this morning is expected to change to rain showers with pockets of sleet and freezing rain this afternoon. 2 Inches of snow is possible with a high in the 30’s.

Town meetings occur in and around Addison County today. Here in Middlebury residents will decide a contested race for the select-board; vote on a town budget requiring a modest tax increase for the first time in three years; and cast ballots on a proposed $3 million bond to clear up a backlog of road improvement projects. Middlebury town meeting will be held at 7 PM on this evening in the municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place tomorrow, also at the gym, from 7 AM to 7 PM.

The first three decisions on the Rutland city ballot tomorrow are straightforward. The mayor, city treasurer and city assessor are all running for reelection unopposed. Voters then have 10 names to choose from for six seats on the Board of Aldermen. The School Board is short a candidate, with three people running for four seats. Three budget articles are on the ballot as well that include the school budget, the city budget and an article adding $350,000 to the city budget for additional paving. Voters will also vote on a single $3.9 million bond for the expansion of Giorgetti park.

Vermont police are seeking the public's help in their investigation of a fire set in a trash container in a Middlebury College dorm. Police said the smoky fire early Saturday morning was quickly extinguished by Gifford Hall's sprinkler system. Students were in the dorm at the time, but no injuries were reported. Police said the trash container was in a third floor hall. Anyone with information is asked to contact Middlebury or state police. The Vermont Arson Tip Award program also can be contacted at 1-800-32-ARSON.

Residents of Addison County can be screened to reduce their risk of a stroke or bone fracture. A special set of screenings will be held at Victory Baptist Church in Vergennes on Wednesday. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions. Bone density screenings will also be offered for both women and men. To enroll in the special screening in Vergennes, call 1-877-237-1287. All five screenings take 60-90 minutes to complete. Screenings start at $139. You must pre-register.

Efforts to restore vitality to Ticonderoga's downtown are being stymied by a lack of parking. That's the belief of some business owners. Ticonderoga Supervisor Deb Malaney said merchants have approached her expressing concerns about parking in the Montcalm Street area. They are especially worried the former Family Dollar Store parking lot may be closed to the public.

Helen Stafford, the wife of late Vermont U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, has died. She was 93. She died while under hospice care at her home at The Gables in Rutland. Former Vermont Sen. Robert Stafford died at 93 in 2006 after a long political career that included two years as governor, 11 years in the House and 17 years in the Senate before retiring in 1989. Helen Stafford is survived by four daughters and grandchildren.

A teenager died last week following a weightlifting accident. New York Police say 19-year old Taylor McGuinness was found unconscious Tuesday while he was lifting weights alone at Achieve Fitness in Crown Point. He died the next day at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Police did not provide details about the accident but have ruled McGuinness's death an accident.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says the No Child Left Behind act is leaving too many Vermont children behind. Shumlin, attending the National Governors' Association winter meeting in Washington, is championing federal funding of early childhood education initiatives in the state. He said the No Child Left Behind law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 is under review by President Barack Obama and could be renewed.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will hold a forum on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development program can help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Today's panel discussion will be held at Rhino Foods in Burlington, a company that has expanded its operations with a loan guarantee from the program.

A former gubernatorial aide who also served as a state representative has been elected Vermont Republican Party chairwoman. The party’s state committee chose Patricia McDonald Saturday in a unanimous voice vote. She replaces Steve Larrabee, who announced last month he was stepping down.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on health care legislation proposed by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. Two legislative committees will hold a joint public hearing on Vermont Interactive Television on March 7. The hearing, set for 6 PM to 8 PM, will give people the opportunity to speak at various VIT sites including Castleton, Middlebury, Rutland and Williston.

Vermont lawmakers are considering legislation that would get rid of the 8% penalty many cities and towns charge people who pay their property taxes late. Backers of the measure say taxpayers who don't pay on time usually have either forgotten or have suffered job loss, and that's unfair in either case to charge the fee. Opponents say cities and towns need the money from the penalties as an incentive to get people to pay on time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to cap property tax growth in New York is a hot topic as mayors from across the state hold their winter legislative meeting in Albany. The conference began over the weekend with a session on Cuomo's budget proposal and property tax-cap legislation. The New York Conference of Mayors says a property tax cap without significant mandate relief is doomed to fail. Teachers unions and other school-aid advocates are lobbying hard against the cap.

Fire officials in Burlington are asking for the public's help keeping fire hydrants cleared from all the snow. Neighbors in the Queen City are being urged to "adopt" a fire hydrant by making sure it's stays visible and accessible in the case of an emergency. Fire fighters say a buried hydrant could lead to serious problems.

It's official: February 2011 is the snowiest on record in Burlington, Vermont. With an additional 1.1 inches of snow Saturday night into Sunday, the city eclipsed its previous record of 42.3 inches in 2008 to reach 42.8 inches this year.

Did one of Theodore Roosevelt’s big sticks come from Rutland? The 26th president’s famous foreign policy maxim, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, inspired a number of allies to make gifts of large wooden rods to him. The PBS show “History Detectives” came to the Rutland Historical Society on Friday in an effort to find out if one such stick was presented to Roosevelt during a 1912 campaign stop in Rutland. The crew was tight-lipped about what they had learned of Roosevelt’s big stick, not wanting to spoil the show. The episode is expected to air sometime this summer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 25, 2011

A Winter Storm Warning Is in Effect through 11PM for Addison, Rutland and Essex Counties. Snow will begin this morning and may be heavy at times today with a High in the 30’s. Addison County could see up to 8 Inches from this storm. Rutland County may see close to 12 i nches.

Middlebury College will sell the former Addison County Courthouse on Court St. to the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. The organization will use a portion of the building as a local headquarters to further its mission of helping entrepreneurs establish new high-tech businesses in the state.

The Addison Northwest Supervisory Union office estimates school tax rates in the five district towns will all drop. Decreases will range from about 1 cent in Panton to roughly 16 cents in Waltham. This assumes passage of school budgets warned for consideration at town meetings. The Vergennes Union High, Vergennes Union Elementary, Ferrisburgh Central and Addison Central school boards all proposed lower spending plans for March 1 balloting.

As of early this month Bristol Works! LLC has two more tenants lined up to take over portions of the empty Autumn Harp development. Vermont Bicycle Touring and new Internet start-up Graze will occupy both office and manufacturing space in some of the 55,000 square feet of commercial buildings.

A new 17,000-square-foot building in the Middlebury South Village development off Court Street is on track to be finished by the end of March. At that time it will be occupied by the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Addison County offices, which are currently based on Exchange St. The project is running ahead of schedule.

Tom Donahue, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president, has announced his board of directors has voted unanimously to endorse the $3.9 million bond. Donahue said he believed it was the first time the Chamber had taken a position on a city ballot item since a question on the rail yard relocation went before voters in 2005.

Dairy farmers are very optimistic, with milk prices now going up. At the 2011 Vermont Dairy Producers Conference in South Burlington yesterday, experts told farmers this year is going to be much better than the last, as prices for milk continue to climb by 20-percent when compared to this time last year. That means Vermont producers can once again begin to make a profit.

A group of Vermont lawmakers is calling for an increase in the state income tax for Vermonters with household incomes of more than $171,000. They say the state could raise $17 million by raising taxes on individuals making more than about $171,000 and couples making more than about $209,000. Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he does not support raising taxes this year.

With rising oil prices and turmoil in the Middle East, three U.S. House Democrats, including Peter Welch, are asking the president to tap emergency oil reserves to give consumers short-term relief from rising prices. They urged the president to consider using the strategic oil reserve to prevent supply disruptions and rising prices from rampant speculation in the oil markets.

The Vermont House passed a bill yesterday aimed at putting veterans back to work. As part of Governor Shumlin's jobs initiative, employers would get a $2,400 tax credit for each recent vet hired for full-time work.

The Vt. House has approved a plan to repeal the two vote requirement for school budgets. The law has been in place since 2009. It requires districts spending more than the statewide per pupil average to hold a second vote to approve the extra spending. The law was meant to contain rising school costs. But critics say it's confusing and ineffective.

The Vermont House has approved a bill to restrict the use of fertilizer on lawns. Fertilizer is believed to be one of the sources of phosphorous pollution that causes algae blooms in Lake Champlain. The bill would require residential users to get a soil test before applying fertilizer to their lawns. Violators could face $500 fines.

WVTK Local & State News February 25, 2011 (Town Meeting Preview)

Town Meeting 2011 is coming up next week and towns in and around Addison County will decide on a variety of issues:

Here in Middlebury residents will decide a contested race for the select-board; vote on a town budget requiring a modest tax increase for the first time in three years; and cast ballots on a proposed $3 million bond to clear up a backlog of road improvement projects. Middlebury town meeting will be held at 7 PM on Monday in the municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place the following day, also at the gym, from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Addison residents will decide three races for town office and weigh in on higher town spending, and vote on a reduced Addison Central School budget. Balloting will take place on Tuesday from 7 AM – 7 PM at the town clerk’s office.

Brandon will weigh in on a municipal spending plan for fiscal year 2011-12, with sizable portion to be raised by property taxes. The proposed budget represents a 5.8 percent increase over the current year’s spending plan. Brandon town meting will be held on Monday at 7 PM at the Neshobe School. Voting on budgets and to elect town officers will take place by Australian ballot at the school on Tuesday from 7 AM – 7 PM.

Bridport residents will decide contested races for the select-board, town clerk and first constable, and field a town/highway budget that proposes spending that is more than $200,000 greater than this year’s budget. Town meeting will be held at 10 AM on Tuesday in the Bridport Community Hall. Australian ballot voting will take place on the same day at the same location from 10 AM – 7 PM.

Voters at Cornwall’s town meeting will decide a hotly contested race for planning commission and determine whether to raze the former Lavalley Store building. Town meeting will be held at the Bingham Memorial School on Monday at 6:30 PM. Australian ballot voting will take place the following day from 7 AM – 7PM at the Cornwall Town Hall.
Ferrisburgh residents will decide no contested races for office, but will make significant financial decisions when they gather for town meeting at Ferrisburgh Central School at 10 AM on Tuesday.

Next Monday and Tuesday, Goshen voters will decide on a decrease in town spending for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The select-board is proposing a combined town and road spending plan, which represents a 1.26 percent decrease from last year’s budget. The town meeting and school district meeting will take place at the Goshen Town Hall at 7:30 PM on Monday. Australian ballot voting will run from 7 AM – 7 PM on Tuesday.

Residents of Granville will be asked to support a small increase in town spending and a small increase in school spending at the annual town meeting, which will convene at town hall on Tuesday at 6:30 PM.

Next Tuesday, Hancock voters will assemble to vote on proposed school and town budgets that represent savings compared with last year’s spending plans. The town and school meetings will take place on Tuesday, March 1st beginning at 10 AM at the Hancock Town Hall.

On Monday voters in Leicester at their town meeting will be asked to fill several key town offices and vote on a proposed town budget that is slightly higher than this year’s and proposed school budget that is slightly lower. Residents will gather at the Leicester Meeting House on Monday at 7 PM for the annual town meeting and school district meeting. Australian ballot voting will take place at the town clerk’s office on Tuesday from 10 AM – 7 PM.

On Monday residents in Lincoln will be discussing a mixture of routine measures, board elections, a $2 million school bond and several articles are on the agenda. Town meeting gets under way in Burnham Hall at 6 PM. Australian ballot voting takes place on Tuesday from 7AM – 7 PM.

Residents of Monkton have no contested town elections or routine articles to approve. They have a town budget that reflects inflationary spending increases only. Residents will meet at the Monkton Central School on Tuesday at 10 AM to discuss town business.

Residents in New Haven gather for their annual town meeting on Monday afternoon. But in Australian balloting the next day they’ll have several important money questions and one contested race for the town’s representative to the Mount Abraham Union High School board. They will also decide whether to adopt an updated town plan. Residents will convene at the town hall on Monday at 4 PM for town meeting and Australian ballot voting will take place on Tuesday from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Voters in the town of Orwell will be voting on a proposed increase in town spending this year, with much of the increase coming from legal fees related to town zoning. Voters will consider combined town and road spending for the upcoming fiscal year that will bean 11.3 percent increase over last year’s budget. This year, the school meeting will take place on Monday at 7 PM with the town meeting the following morning at 10 AM. Australian ballot will begin on Tuesday at 10AM and end at 7 PM.

Panton residents will meet March 1st and will fill one vacancy on the select-board and decide on a proposed town-spending plan that is $14,000 lower than a year ago.

Ripton residents will be given the choice at their town meeting of increasing the size of their select-board from the current three to five members. Town meeting will be held at 7:30 PM on Monday in the Ripton Community House. Australian ballot voting will take place the following day, from 7 AM to 7 PM at the Ripton town office.

Salisbury’s town meeting will feature a two-person race for a two-year term on the select-board. Ben Fuller and Stephen Parkes are vying for the position, being vacated by incumbent Jim Eagan. Town meeting will be held at on Monday at 7 PM at the Salisbury Community School. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day, from 8 AM to 7 PM at the town offices.

Town meeting in Shoreham will feature a four-way race for two one-year terms on the select-board. Town meeting will be held at the Shoreham Elementary auditorium on Monday at 6 PM. Australian balloting will be held the next day, from 10 AM until 7 PM, at the local firehouse.

Residents in Starksboro will gather tomorrow (Saturday February 26th) at 9 AM at the Robinson Elementary School for their annual town meeting. Featuring routine items and one contested race in the three-year term for the Mount Abraham Union High School board.

Residents of Vergennes will weigh in by Australian ballot on Tuesday on lower Vergennes Union high and elementary school spending and on the proposal to govern the four Addison Northwest Supervisory Union schools under one board. Tuesday’s balloting will run from 9 AM until 7 PM at the city fire station.

Waltham residents will look at essentially level town spending and fill three board positions when they gather for town meeting. That meeting begins on Monday at 6 PM at Waltham’s town hall. Australian balloting will take place on Tuesday from 10 AM to 7 PM, also at town hall.

Weybridge voters can expect a fairly uneventful meeting this year, with no contested elections and budget requests that are close to the levels approved last year. Town meeting will be held at Weybridge Elementary School at 7:30 PM on Monday. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day from 8 AM to 7 PM at the town clerk’s Office.

Voters in the town of Whiting will gather this Tuesday, March 1, to discuss proposed town and school budgets, and to make a number of decisions on issues that have arisen over the past year. Voters will assemble at the Whiting Town Hall at 7:15 PM on Tuesday for the school meeting, followed immediately by the town meeting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 24, 2011

A Winter Storm Warning goes into effect from The National Weather Service from 4AM to 11PM Friday that includes Addison, Rutland and Essex Counties. We could see anywhere from 6 to 10 Inches from this storm. Today is expected to start out Sunny with Snow Showers moving in by this afternoon with a High in the 30’s.

National FFA Week is currently underway. The Future Farmers of America tradition in Vermont goes back to the mid 1900s. It remains a strong force in both local agriculture and career-oriented education. FFA is in sharp focus year-round at the Hannaford Career Center here in Middlebury as it is elsewhere. Students receive training in farm management, crops and even maple sugaring is part of the academic mix. FFA Week gives members here in Addison County a chance to educate the public about agriculture.

In an attempt to improve communication, Crown Point departments are now required to give reports at each town board meeting. Bethany Kosmider would like department heads to attend the town board meetings to make their reports. That way they are available to answer questions from the community during the public comments portion of each meeting.

Yesterday Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras urged lawmakers to pursue with force the single-payer health-care proposal now under consideration in the Statehouse. At the risk of offending his former Republican colleagues and the Rutland business community at large, Louras said, he believes the states health-care system must be “blown up” and remade from scratch.

The North Ferrisburgh United Methodist church is taking 15 teens and adults on a Mission trip to continue the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi. The group will fly into New Orleans to see the damage from Hurricane Katrina that is still evident. Then the group will drive to Gulfport, Mississippi and join 15 more Vermonters for several rebuilding projects in the area.

Concerned moms came to appeal to Sen. Patrick Leahy's staff. They want the senator to vote against federal budget cuts to the Head-Start program. But if the House of Representative gets its way Head-Start will face drastic cuts. The proposed 22.4 percent cut would mean 336 Vermont kids would be dropped from the program, close to one-quarter of classrooms would close and over 120 employees would also lose their jobs statewide.’

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presented his proposed 2011-2012 Executive Budget. The Governor's proposal transforms the state budget process to conform to fiscal realities and eliminates a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing. The proposal includes items like reducing the cost of State Government to merging and consolidating State Agencies.

The former Cobbler's Bench Building in downtown Ticonderoga has been purchased by a cooperative that intends to turn the three-story behemoth into shops and offices. The Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance has just closed on the building. The group formed Wild Horses One LLC to buy the sprawling structure from Champlain National Bank.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce has welcomed Trendy Threads Consignment Boutique as one of its newest members. The Chamber will host a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, March 15, at 1 PM. Trendy Threads is located at 85 Montcalm St.

Vermonters who want to weigh in on the performance of the state's five Supreme Court justices have a chance to do so this week. The justices and 10 other lower court judges are going through the judicial retention process, in which the Legislature votes every six years on whether they should continue on the bench. Today's public hearing is set for 7 p.m. at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

A bill moving through the Vermont statehouse would provide employers with a $2,000 tax credit for hiring recent war veterans. Hundreds of Vermont National Guard soldiers returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in December, and since then, many have been unable to find work. Almost a third of them are still looking for a job.

The Burlington Fire Department says smoking materials that were improperly disposed of started a fire at a condominium building that displaced 40 people in the Vermont city. There were no injuries in the fire at the Riverwatch Condominiums, which was reported just before 5 AM Yesterday. Firefighters arrived within three minutes to find heavy fire on a third floor balcony that extended into the roof.

A Vermont company that installed 936 solar panels at its Springfield factory is going to be able to take advantage of a state tax credit after all. The budget adjustment bill signed last week by Gov. Peter Shumlin contained the credit that the IVEK Corp. had expected after it built the solar array.

An urgent plea has gone out to save federal funding for senior-volunteer programs. If the Corporation for National and Community Service is eliminated, as proposed in federal legislation, there would be no money for local programs that take elderly and disabled clients to medical appointments or deliver nutritious food to seniors and shut-ins who use the Meals on Wheels program.

New State Senator Betty Little was appointed to a newly-created team last week aimed at increasing minority and women-owned business participation in state procurement and contracting. The team was established through an executive order handed down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Little says lawmakers are currently seeing more of a focus on initiatives promoting economic development and job creation.

Fort Ticonderoga Executive Director Beth Hill believes the Fort and the community are linked; what's good for the fort is good for the town. Hill now has an even greater role in the local economy. She has been elected to the board of directors of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB, formerly known as the Essex County/Lake Placid Visitors Bureau.

A group of Ticonderoga Middle School students have spent their winter break in Hawaii as part of a College For Every Student exchange program. Rachel Bennett, Kolby Bradford, Claire Burns, Lillith Ida and Dale Quesnel made the trip along with teacher Heather York and Principal Bruce Tubbs. They are scheduled to return home February 28th.

The Essex County Agricultural Society has set the 2011 Essex County Fair dates as August 10-14. They have been busy planning the fair. The Society is also planning a benefit weekend May 13-15 for the American Cancer Society and Fair Buildings improvement. The weekend will be filled with a Music Festival, Car Show and Motor Cycle Rally.

The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce is finishing it's Fun House float for the 16th annual Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade. This year marks the Chamber's centennial, and they wanted to do something really fun for the parade that will be held March 6th. Entrance fees by those in the parade benefit the Women's Rape Crisis Center. Last year, the Mardi Gras Parade raised thirty-three thousand dollars for the center.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has recently published a book filled with letters from Vermonters about how the recession is affecting them. The Senator's office put out a request for stories and received more than 400 of them, detailing the hardships the economic crisis has brought with it. He has already shared a number of the letters with his colleagues on the Senate floor in hopes of reminding them that the effects of the recession are not over.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation has launched an investigation into Vermont Rail Systems. They maintain the tracks between Rutland and Whitehall, N.Y., which are used by Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express. Amtrak just ranked Vermont Rail Systems as the worst host railroad in the nation for Amtrak passenger service, arguing the on-time arrival of the Ethan Allen Express train is often below 30 percent because of problems with that stretch of track.

The political unrest in Libya means more pain at the pump for Vermonters. On Wednesday oil hit a price of $100 a barrel for the first time in two years. That means gas prices have been rising nearly every day. The current average for a gallon of gas here in Vermont is $3.31, 2 cents higher than the day before and 7 cents higher than the national average. It's also over 50 cents higher than this time last year.

The fun never ends for Vermont's champion grocery bagger. Krystal Smith of Burlington, whose victory in the U.S. Best Bagger Championship in Las Vegas earned her $10,000 and a spot on "The Late Show With David Letterman," is headed to the Statehouse for some kudos from Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. The 24-year-old Smith, who works at a Hannaford Supermarket, won a Vermont competition last fall at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 23, 2011

An attempted home invasion had residents in Lincoln on high alert last night. Shortly after 7:30 PM Vermont State Police received a call that a male suspect attempted to force his way inside a home on Quaker Street in Lincoln. Police say the man took the elderly homeowners, Floyd and Betty Hall by surprise. Floyd received minor injuries but did not require transport to the hospital. Police say the suspect is a white male, between 20-30 years of age, between 5'5" and 5'7", and about 200 pounds with short dark hair. He was seen fleeing the scene in an unknown vehicle. If you have any information regarding this incident you're urged to call Vermont State Police.

The Addison County Animal Hospital has again received its coveted accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association. The hospital received a comprehensive inspection from a team that visited the facility recently to inspect medical equipment and practice methods, as well as observe pet health care management means. Only 15 percent of small veterinary practices have achieved accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association.

The candidates for Brandon's one contested race on this year's town meeting ballot will hold a candidates' forum sponsored by the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce. The event will be at the Brandon Seniors Citizen Center at 7:30 PM tomorrow. Jim Leary is challenging incumbent Richard Baker for the three-year Select Board seat. For more information, call the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce.

The entire staff and student body at a Rutland high school are undergoing tuberculosis testing. One student at Mount St. Joseph Academy was diagnosed with the disease. The student is recovering at home, but as a precaution the state health department is testing all students and employees for TB. Testing is still underway but so far there are no additional cases.

The Rutland school budget will not drive up property taxes this year if approved by voters. On March 1, Rutland voters will be presented with a plan to operate the city district’s seven schools in 2012 for a drop of less than 1 percent compared to the current budget. The homestead property tax rate will remain flat, at $1.38 per $100 of property value.

Rutland business leaders asked questions yesterday and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin made promises. Shumlin said there would be no new sales taxes; he supports a plan to run a natural gas pipeline from Burlington to Florence to Bennington to make it easier for Omya Inc. and others to do business. He also wants high-speed rail through Rutland and he won’t take the latest offer from Vermont Yankee to continue supplying power to the state.

Vermont lawmakers are getting down to the nitty-gritty on a broad range of issues as the legislative session nears its midpoint. Among the topics up for discussions in legislative committees on Wednesday is a bill dealing with counseling and other consequences for kids caught with weapons on school property. That's before the House Education Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee is looking at two bills dealing with growing concern about violence in hospital emergency rooms. One would establish new penalties for assaulting a nurse. The other includes a broader range of health professionals. The Senate Government Operations Committee considers a bill that would set up new dispensaries where people with prescriptions to use medical marijuana could get it.

A Vermont Senate committee has advanced a bill aimed at making it easier to build and install some new telecommunications facilities in the state. Backers of the measure say it's needed to allow development of broadband Internet service statewide. There's been concern that if Vermont doesn't speed up the process, it could lose millions of dollars in federal grants earmarked for telecom expansion.

An engineering firm hired by Springfield-based Vermont Telephone Co. has been visiting homes and businesses in Wallingford to collect information as part of VTel’s plans to upgrade broadband services. A Minnesota firm, FEC Engineers, will be conducting initial engineering work in Wallingford and 13 other towns across southern Vermont over the next three months.

Police in Burlington arrested a man they say fired a gun on a city street during an argument yesterday afternoon. It happened outside of a home on Spring Street, when police say Antwaun Twitty was arguing with the mother of his child. The home is also across the street from H.O. Wheeler Elementary School. Police say Twitty was arrested and charged with first-degree aggravated domestic assault, reckless endangerment and possession of cocaine.

Several teacher strikes are looming in Vermont, but that is no longer the case in state's largest school district. Teachers and school officials in the Chittenden South Supervisory Union have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. The two sides had been sparring over salary; health insurance contributions and step pay increases. Terms of the deal won't be announced until it's ratified-- after teachers return from vacation next week.

A Maine heating fuel company and the United Way of Greater Portland are joining forces to help people in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont stay warm through the region's long, cold winter. The Dead River Company and the United Way have started the "Share the Warmth" plan aimed at raising fuel assistance funds. The United Way will distribute the aide to agencies that provide fuel assistance in the three states. It's estimated that one in 10 households needs heating assistance to stay warm during the winter.

Vermont lawmakers are eyeing a crackdown on drivers who put lives in danger when they try to flee from police. A bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday follows a December 26th incident in Burlington in which a driver fleeing from police crashed into another car, killing its driver. The bill would boost attempting to elude police from a misdemeanor to a felony with a possible 15-year prison penalty and $10,000 fine when someone dies or is seriously injured as a result of the driver's actions.

Some Vermont lawmakers are joining a national movement to change the way the Electoral College elects the president of the United States. The Senate voted 20-10 on yesterday to advance a bill that would have Vermont follow six other states and the District of Columbia in promising that if enough other states agree, they'll have their Electoral College members vote for the winner of the national popular vote, rather than the winner of the electors' home states.

Vermont State Police say a Sheffield man is responsible for the fire that destroyed his home and left him in critical condition. Police say 51-year-old Keith Smith was found at a neighbor's house after firefighters responded to the fire on Sunday morning. He’s now in the burn center at the Massachusetts General Hospital where he remained in critical condition on Tuesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on finalizing his version of the state budget. The governor's final spending plan is due by March 1. He is trying to eliminate the state's $10 billion deficit. Aside from cutting government operations by 10 percent, the biggest cuts will impact health care and education. Some lawmakers point out that the governor's budget address lacked specific detail and they are questioning the accuracy of some of his proposals.

More than 300 people stood shoulder to shoulder Tuesday at the Vermont Statehouse, sending out the message of solidarity to their "brothers and sisters" in Vermont. The rally was called by labor unions in the Green Mountain state. A cost-cutting plan offered in Wisconsin by Governor Scott Walker and endorsed by fellow G-O-P members in their Legislature would take away some bargaining rights of public employee unions. In Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin addressed the crowd, saying collective bargaining wasn't at risk in Vermont, as both Republicans and Democrats work with labor.

John Deere was born in Rutland on Feb. 7, 1804. Not enough people know that basic fact according to Rep. Bob Helm, a lawmaker from Fair Haven. He and more than a dozen other lawmakers hope to change that with a bill they are sponsoring that would appropriate $20,000 for a memorial to Deere that would be placed in Rutland. Deere, who left Rutland to apprentice as a blacksmith in Middlebury, later moved to Illinois.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Dunkin' Donuts are teaming up. Not to sell donuts but they are joining forces to sell K-cups. Dunkin' Donuts coffee will now be available in Green Mountain's popular single-serve K-cups. Terms of the deal were not released. Last week there was speculation that Green Mountain would be teaming up with Starbucks, but Starbucks made a deal with another single-serve maker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 22, 2011

The recent release of last fall’s NECAP test scores brought mixed news to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union. Scores showed positive results at Addison Central School along with stagnant math scores at Vergennes Union High School. Results at Vergennes Union Elementary, Ferrisburgh and Addison central schools bettered state averages, and students at those schools also showed improved math and English test scores over time. Overall, Vergennes Union High School results are comparable to state averages, while those at Addison Northwest Supervisory Union elementary schools surpass them.

On April 13th Middlebury voters will vote on a 2011-2012 Mary Hogan Elementary School spending plan, which represents a 2.22-percent increase compared to this year. It is a budget that maintains current staffing levels, does not add any new programs and recognizes an enrollment increase of 10 students for a total of 400. Local taxpayers will be pleased to learn that Middlebury’s homestead education property tax rate is projected to decrease from $1.75 per $100 in property value to $1.74.

The McKernon Group’s building at Park Village in Brandon is up for sale. The Redstone Group is listing the headquarters of longtime Brandon builder Jack McKernon’s business for the first time this week. Jan Smith, who is in charge of marketing for the company, said that the building is simply too big for the company’s needs now. They have more space than necessary for the number of employees the company currently has.

On March 1st Addison residents will have a choice between two candidates for one seat on the proposed 12-member Addison Northwest Supervisory Union board. That Unified Union board could replace the five boards that now operate the four Addison Northwest Supervisory Union schools. That will only happen though if all five supervisory towns back the one-board unification plan on Town Meeting Day.

A school bus crashed early yesterday morning into an SUV on Route 4 in Mendon. None of the 45 schoolchildren or staff on board were injured in the collision. A staff member credited the driver with everyone's safety. The unhurt students waited inside a motel until another bus arrived to transport them up to the Killington Ski Area. The Vermont State Police are still investigating the crash.

During the last week, gas prices in Vermont have jumped four cents. One reason: unrest in a region rich in oil. Libya alone produces 1.7 million barrels of crude each day, and the political unrest there caused U.S. oil prices to surge 6% Monday. Major producers such as BP are pulling out of the country, and drivers are feeling the effects. Prices are expected to rise even higher across our area as conflict continues.

Concern about violence in hospital emergency rooms has come to Vermont. The Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin has decided to limit entrances to its emergency department to enhance security. Starting on Monday, February 28th, the hallway linking the main hospital lobby with the emergency department will be closed off, requiring the public to enter the emergency department through its own entrance.

The police department at the University of Vermont is encouraging students to send them tips about crimes via text messages from their cell phones. UVM police Capt. Tim Bilodeau says texting is 1 of the most preferred communication tools in the community and the population his department serves. He says having quick information about crimes that have just occurred makes a huge difference to investigators.

A former health insurance executive turned critic will speak at the Vermont Statehouse on what he says is the potential danger the industry's practices might have on health care reform in Vermont. Wendell Potter, the former head of communications for health insurer Cigna, will speak Thursday in Montpelier, followed by an appearance in Burlington on Friday night. Potter says he plans to talk about insurance company strategies to derail or reshape health care reform.

Vermont Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the state's hiring freeze is still in effect, but some branches of state government are being given special permission to fill certain vacancies. The day Gov. Peter Shumlin took office last month he announced a hiring freeze as a way of saving $4 million to $5 million. But since then 181 people have been hired by state government. Spaulding says the freeze was always intended to be a "soft" freeze, which means hiring would be allowed, but only by permission from his office.

Flu season is about to hit its peak and despite fewer cases than last year and doctors still say you should take precautions. Even though most healthy people can beat the flu, doctors warn it can still be dangerous for folks who have compromised immune systems. They say go get your flu shot. If you do get sick, stay home, cough into your elbow, and wash your hands frequently. Some doctors predict the flu season will last until mid-April this year.

It's been about four years since any Vermont teachers hit the picket line. But this year we've come close. The Addison Northeast district narrowly averted a strike earlier this month and South Burlington teachers have a strike vote set for March 2. Under the current system school boards legally have the right to impose working conditions and teachers legally have the right to strike. But state representative Kurt Wright is appealing to state legislators saying it's time for a change. Vermont is one of only two New England states that haven't banned teacher strikes. Wright says teachers and school boards need to abandon their old ways for a method of negotiation that the state is already using.

Almost $1 million in rebates is still available for people who purchased energy-efficient appliances through New York's Great Appliance Swap Out program. Qualified are New York state residential consumers who replace old appliances with Energy Star versions to be installed at a New York state residential address, according to a press release from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

IBM's campus in Essex Junction and Williston has a new name reflecting changes in the sprawling complex. The 725-acre site is now known as the Champlain Valley Technology and Innovation Park. The campus is still dominated by IBM's microchip manufacturing operation, which employs about 5,000 people. But Big Blue is now leasing 112,000 square feet of space to General Dynamics, which recently relocated from Burlington. And ASK IntTag leases 15,000 feet, making secure identification cards.

Vermont dentists are pushing parents to get their children scheduled for dental exams long before pre-school. Bookwalter and Dr. Spin Richardson of Charlotte have spent the last year recruiting more dentists to serve children covered by Medicaid, despite the fact Medicaid reimburses providers at rates lower than other insurance plans. They've focused on underserved areas of Franklin, Rutland, Bennington and Windham counties. Now, 90 percent of Vermont's dentists accept Medicaid patients and that access is starting to show results. Dentists encourage parents to monitor sweets and snacking patterns, and consider the importance of healthy "baby teeth" to child development.

Monday, February 21, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 21, 2011

Police are investigating the theft of a floor safe from Rutland's public library that contained overdue library fines and other money. Police say library employees reported the theft Thursday morning, with somebody gaining entry through a side window sometime in the overnight hours. The floor safe was kept in the library's main office, where money and miscellaneous keys were kept for safekeeping.

Electric company officials restored power over the weekend to more than 21,000 customers after high winds damaged power lines and caused outages in central and southern Vermont including Addison & Rutland Counties. Trees and limbs brought down by the wind took down many sections of power line. Forecasters reported gusts of 71 mph on Mount Mansfield and 49 mph at the Rutland airport.

While it was a windy and cold weekend, it was also a welcomed one, as far as ski resorts were concerned. Thousands of skiers headed to the slopes for Presidents Day Weekend; with Stowe Mountain Resort saying they had at least ten thousand people on the mountain Sunday alone. Ski officials say this was the busiest weekend so far this year.

Firefighters say the pressure in fire hydrants around Crown Point is so high it can snap couplings and whip hoses. Some parts of the system, installed several years ago, may not have been put in correctly. Fire officials said hose lines can become unmanageable during a fire call. The department wants the Crown Point Supervisor and the Town Council to treat the water pressure issue as a top priority.

The Rutland Public Safety committee met last week to discuss a recent report by AARP recommending, among other things, slightly longer crossing times at certain city intersections. The committee voted to forward copies of the report to the mayor, Department of Public Works, Committee for Accessibility Improvement, Traffic Committee and Rutland Redevelopment Authority.

The Burlington police are looking for leads into a mugging that happened early Saturday morning. They say a woman was accosted at the corner of North Winooski Avenue and Grant Street at 2:30 in the morning. The suspect is another woman. They are asking anyone with information about the mugging to call the Burlington Police Department or call Champlain Valley Crimestoppers.

On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that cuts funding for federal programs by about $60 billion. One of those big cuts could come to Planned Parenthood. In fact, all funding, both direct and through Medicaid would be cut under the bill the House passed. Last year, 19,000 Vermonters used their services, mainly for things such as cancer and STD screening.

A recent report released by the New York State Education Department claims 75 percent of the school districts outside New York City have enough money to pay for historic cuts to education funding. In the North Country, however, education leaders admit cuts are necessary, but the cuts may be too deep. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to cut state aid to schools by more than 7 percent as he tries to close the state's $10 billion deficit.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is making sure North Country families know about a tax credit that could help them save on college costs. Under the program, for every $1 a middle class family spends on college tuition they get $1 off on their taxes, up to $2,500 a year. The U.S. Treasury says less than 50 percent of New York families took advantage of that on last year's taxes, leaving up to $38 million left unclaimed in the North Country. However, families that didn't use the credit can still get that refund.

As an algae invades trout streams across the U.S., Maryland is taking the lead in enforcing a ban on some footgear that the organism uses to hitchhike from stream to stream: felt-soled fishing boots. On March 21, the state Department of Natural Resources plans to begin prohibiting felt-soled wading boots. Similar bans will take effect April 1 in Vermont and next year in Alaska, though a proposal in Oregon appears to be doomed.

New Englanders like to talk sports, weather - and "wicked." The term, so affectionately used throughout the region, has become part of popular culture, whether it's shown up in L.L. Bean advertising its "Wicked Good" slippers to the "Boston Teens" sketch on "Saturday Night Live." One woman, Erin Alix-Crowdes of Rochester, NH, created "Wicked New England" last year, a T-shirt business that pays tribute to the word. Her enterprise is among the newest additions to New England businesses that have adopted "wicked," labeling everything from auto care shops to software firms.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is reminding ice fishermen that the state's restrictions on the use of baitfish are still in effect to protect the state's fish from disease. Anglers may harvest approved baitfish species, provided they are used in the same water where they were captured and may fish with live bait in connecting streams and rivers as long as they don't pass a barrier such as a dam or waterfall.

A local organization got a national boost for its efforts to make Rutland County healthier. The Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition announced last week that it had received a $64,000 grant from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. The Coalition wants to increase after-hours adult access to school gymnasiums, convince more towns to ban smoking in public parks as Rutland recently did, promote the Safe Routes to School program and strengthen school wellness policies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 18, 2011

The Route 74 Bridge that connects Shoreham and Middlebury is back open. The bridge was shutdown earlier this week after a state transportation vehicle broke through a 6-foot chunk of the bridge. Maintenance crews have patched hole in the concrete deck and the bridge is back open to traffic.

Porter Hospital’s ability to participate in Vermont’s health care reform effort could be limited by state budget proposals. Porter’s financial challenge grew even bigger last month when Gov. Peter Shumlin proposed to raise the provider tax on the state’s hospitals from the current 5.5 percent of net revenues to 6 percent as a way of helping to balance the state’s human services budget next year. The provider tax is an assessment currently charged to hospitals and home health agencies.

Rep. Greg Clark of Vergennes is recovering well from surgery just hours after suffering a heart attack at his hotel in Montpelier on Tuesday evening. 63-Year-Old Clark began experiencing some of the classic symptoms of a heart attack Tuesday evening. According to his wife his prognosis is good, and after some rest he could be back in the Statehouse by early next month.

The Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment has conditionally approved a plan for a Dollar General store at the intersection of Monkton Road and Route 7. The site is located across from the new solar farm, and across Monkton Road from Denecker Chevrolet.

A New York man was arrested in downtown Rutland yesterday after leaving the scene of a vehicle crash on South Main Street. According to police, 77 grams of crack cocaine and less than two grams of marijuana were found in his vehicle. Police identified the driver as 22 year-old Demonte Miller of Troy, NY. He’s held on $150,000 bail and is scheduled to answer to charges at criminal court in Rutland today.

Ticonderoga leaders are preparing a beta test 2012 budget that assumes the state will impose a 2-percent cap on property-tax increases. The town's new Operational Efficiency Committee is creating the tryout budget on the tax cap proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Town officials want to know how much of an impact the 2-percent limit would have on their operations. Town budgets in recent years have had property tax levy hikes well above 2 percent.

The new Crown Point Chamber of Commerce has 34 charter members. The chamber held its organizational meeting recently, electing officers, adopting bylaws and discussing the community's future. The first order of business is to shortly have a chamber web presence where current members will be show cased as well as have links for their business.

Eagle Lake residents will soon receive a survey letter, asking for their support in fighting milfoil. The letter is another step in a process that started last fall when the Eagle Lake Property Owners, Inc. approached the Ticonderoga and Crown Point town boards, asking them to become "lead agents" in the application of a herbicide in the lake.

We know second hand smoke is dangerous especially for children. But Vermont Representative Rachel Weston says not everyone gets it when it comes to smoking with kids in the car, and that needs to change. Weston is the co-sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in vehicles carrying children. The bill is still being considered by a house committee.

The state hiring freeze put in place a month ago by Governor Peter Shumlin is already over. His administration secretary, Jeb Spaulding, says the concept has evolved from how it was first proposed. He says reviewing each position was not working so blanket approvals have been given to hire key staff. House Speaker Don Turner says with the state facing a 176-million dollar shortfall, the hiring freeze needs to be reconsidered.

The union representing state workers says its members will be paying more towards their retirement. The Vermont State Employees Association says workers are now going to pay just over one percent a year more towards retirement for the next five years, as a way to help with the budget crunch, and the fact January tax revenues fell short of expectations. The increased contributions would yield about five million dollars in savings, and won approval this week from a council representing state employees throughout Vermont.

A new $250,000 federal grant is aimed at putting more locally raised food into New England's colleges, schools and hospitals. Proponents say that if New England schools bought just 5% local foods, it could boost the region's agriculture economy by $7.5 million. Vermont will use its share to provide technical assistance to farmers.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed a budget adjustment bill proposing a $6 million spending increase for the current year. The bill also includes some reductions created by changes in caseloads or other programs. Shumlin praised lawmakers for moving quickly and says his administration and the House and Senate worked hard to make sure the adjustment is affordable for taxpayers and meets the state's needs.

Vermont State Auditor Tom Salmon will not seek re-election. He's considering a run for the U.S. Senate. He made the initial announcement on Facebook. The republican says he is considering a run against incumbent Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Salmon says he informed his staff yesterday morning and will make an announcement on a possible Senate run on March 5th.

An environmental group is calling on Vermont state officials to act now on a pending Clean Water Act permit application for Vermont Yankee. The Connecticut River Watershed Council filed a petition asking that the state Agency of Natural Resources either grant or deny the application of Entergy Corp. for a renewed permit for the nuclear power plant in Vernon.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to vastly expand the government's role in early education. Sanders has introduced legislation that would provide state-funded childcare and preschool to all children starting when they are just 6 weeks old. Sanders says it's important to invest in children as early as possible to improve overall education quality and ultimately the economy.

Central Vermont Public Service Corp. has named its next president. Larry Reilly, a former executive vice president of National Grid, will take over CVPS on March 1, succeeding Bob Young. CVPS is Vermont's largest electric utility, serving 159,000 customers in central and southern Vermont. Young, who spent more than 30 years with the company, announced last year he would retire on May 3 of this year. Until then, he'll help with the transition to a new president.

Bookseller Borders filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, sunk by crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry. The 40-year-old company plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks. Neither the Plattsburgh nor Burlington locations are among those on that list. All of the stores closed will be superstores. The company also operates smaller Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores.

On March 5, nearly 30,000 people are expected at Magic Hat's annual Mardi Gras parade. Unlike its infamous New Orleans counterpart, Burlington's version strives to be family friendly. Police and Magic Hat organizers agree that the event, which benefits the Women's Rape Crisis Center, has outgrown its original Church Street location. This year they will try out a new route in hopes it will alleviate congestion and improve emergency access. So after 15 years the string of lavish floats will bypass Church Street and instead grace Main Street.

The farm advocacy group Rural Vermont is complaining about a state order that it halt workshops to teach people how to turn raw milk into butter and other dairy products. Rural Vermont Director Jared Carter says the agriculture agency is infringing on consumers' rights to do what they want with milk in their own kitchens. The Agency Dairy Section Chief says the Montpelier-based Rural Vermont is violating state law "by holding classes in which raw milk is processed and served" to people taking the class.

More Lake Champlain ice events are going by the wayside, due to warm temperatures and recent snow. The Great Ice in Grand Isle celebration has been canceled for this weekend. The Lake Champlain Pond Classic hockey tournament, also scheduled for this weekend, had to be cancelled because of an accumulation of snow that ruined the ice. And organizers also have cancelled this weekend's Frozen Chosen Regatta, trek to Knight Island and ice golf tournament.

The sister of a state worker charged with embezzling more than $490,000 from the state Department for Children and Families over five years will spend 13 months in federal prison. Deborah Tuller of Newport was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Burlington after admitting to mail fraud and filing a false tax return.

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15-13, The Bridge Flotilla, based in Crown Point, recently had their Change of Watch Ceremony at The Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls. Eugene H. Frost of Ticonderoga was sworn in as flotilla commander and Heidi Trask of Crown Point was sworn in as vice flotilla commander.

The Knights of Columbus has become a hub of activity in downtown Ticonderoga. The renovated Knights of Columbus hall on Montcalm Street has hosted several major events in the past few months with more coming. The renovated building includes a council room, office space, new rest rooms, a kitchen, a lounge and a banquet room. It is handicap accessible and has access to the recently constructed parking lot at the rear of the building. A new heating system has also been installed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 17, 2011

A foot chase in the woods lining Route 7 in Clarendon ended with Vermont State Police arresting a man in the snow behind Clarendon's Meadowcrest Drive yesterday afternoon. State and city police converged on a portion of Route 7 at about 12:30 PM after the man, who remains unidentified, drove a rental car into the median a short distance before the intersection of Route 103. The man is being held by police and charges pending include attempting to elude a police officer, possession of marijuana and careless and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

A record five candidates are vying for two open seats on the Port Henry Village Board of Trustees. That's in sharp contrast to recent village elections, when nominees ran unopposed for the position. There will be a public candidates forum at 7 PM Monday, February 28, at the Port Henry firehouse, sponsored by the community group called pH7. The election is from Noon to 9 PM Tuesday, March 15, at the village firehouse.

The Crown Point Town Council heard from experts on what it can do to fix its broken water system. About 40 people came to the Crown Point firehouse recently to listen to a briefing from consultants and engineers on what's wrong with the system and what could be done to mend it. The town's public-water system is full of leaks, has low pressure, and many water meters are missing or broken.

Residents of Westport have met the anonymous potential buyer of the Treadwell estate, which has been on the market for just over a year. David Mann, a former marketing executive from Westchester County, introduced himself to the community and presented his plans for the estate. He described the proposed project as a private club centered on a full-scale working farm. It’s would be a retreat where members could leave behind their cell phones and laptops and immerse themselves in the simplicity of an earlier era.

Supporters of legislation allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives plan to gather at the Vermont Statehouse to unveil legislation that would make Vermont the third state to allow the practice. Its fate in the Legislature is less than clear, however. Opponents, including religious groups and advocates for the disabled, are also well organized and have been running television commercials against allowing what they call assisted suicide.

Just one week after the introduction of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s health-care bill, some of the state’s largest employers are signaling their opposition to any reforms that would require companies to participate financially in a single-payer system. Representatives of companies including IBM, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and others have warned against efforts to force self-insured companies into a publicly financed health-care system.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is back from his trip to Canada and says he's hoping to see high-speed passenger rail linking New York and Montreal through Vermont and a pipeline bringing natural gas form Canada as far south as Rutland in the coming years. Shumlin said that he wants to expand the existing Vermont Gas system, which now serves northwestern Vermont, south into Addison and Rutland counties. He says the high-speed rail route would include a spur from Springfield, MA to Boston.

Another school district is one step closer to a possible teachers' strike. After 12 months of negotiations the South Burlington school board says it has reached a stalemate with its teachers' union and will exercise its legal right to impose a contract for the remaining four months of this school year. It wants to focus on negotiating a contract for next year. Once the school board imposes working conditions, the teachers have the legal right to strike. The teachers' union will hold that vote on March 2.

New York State Police are warning you of a phone scam. The callers have been indicating that they are from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations or the Cyber Crime Unit of the New York State Police and requesting money for a bad debt or an unpaid loan. If you have been a victim or recipient of this scam, call your local police station or e-mail the New York State Police Tip Line.

Vermont tax collections fell slightly below target last month, but the state's overall revenue picture is improving. General fund taxes for the first seven months of the fiscal year total $687 million. That's 9 percent ahead of the $628 million that had been collected by this same time last year.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is challenging the Obama administration over proposed changes in Social Security. The president's debt commission recommended fixing Social Security by increasing the retirement age and reducing future increases in benefits. Sanders is fighting those changes and has formed a small Senate caucus to help him.

Sen. Patrick Leahy is going after polluters. He has reintroduced legislation that would increase penalties for environmental crimes. Along with stiffer fines and criminal sentences, Leahy wants polluters to pay mandatory compensation to victims of the environmental degradation. The Judiciary Committee approved the legislation last year, but it was not acted on by the full Senate.

A radioactive steam leak forced Entergy Nuclear to evacuate its reactor building at Vermont Yankee yesterday morning. The workers were evacuated in order to minimize exposure to radioactivity. The leak was in the high-pressure coolant injection system and did not force the shutdown of Vermont Yankee.

North Country Congressman Bill Owens announced last week a new section of his website dedicated to promoting free tax filing services for upstate New Yorkers. AARP offers free services, run by certified tax preparers, for low-to-moderate income taxpayers of all ages every year. Upstate New Yorkers can find the nearest tax aide site by visiting Owens' website.

Burlington and University of Vermont Police are telling women to me mindful of their surroundings, after at least nine reports since December of someone groping women then running away. The most recent attack was Sunday night. The man is said to be in his 20's with short, brown hair, wearing either a maroon or white coat, with a hood, and standing from five-foot-seven to six feet tall.

Vermont lawmakers are mulling whether to ask for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to clarify that corporations aren't people. The issue stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that said that when it comes to campaign contributions, corporations enjoy the same First Amendment free speech rights that people do.

Vermont's Roman Catholic Diocese, which agreed last year to pay $17.6 million to settle more than two dozen priest sex abuse suits, is now facing five new ones. 4 of the suits involve claims against now-defrocked priest Edward Paquette and one names former Rev. Alfred Willis. They were filed last year but not posted on the public docket of Chittenden Superior Court until Monday, after inquiries by the Burlington Free Press. The church's lawyer, Thomas McCormick, declined comment on the suits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the number of farms in New York declined by 300 last year, bringing the total from 36,600 farms in 2009 to 36,300 in 2010. The number of large farms decreased, while smaller farms increased. The USDA says it's the first time in four years that the number of farms in New York decreased.

Put down the cell phone and drive. That's the message from town leaders in Rockingham who have adopted a policy banning town employees from using cell phones while driving in town-owned vehicles, under threat of dismissal. Selectboard members passed the measure unanimously Tuesday. They say drivers who talk on cell phones while they're behind the wheel are dangerous.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week a new state law that allows for the one-time transfer of lifetime hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses under certain circumstances. Under the new law, lifetime sporting licenses may be transferred to a qualifying relative if the lifetime license holder passes away within one year of purchase of the license or if the license holder passes away while in active United States military duty during a time of war.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WVTK Local & State News February 16, 2011

The Vermont Agency of Transportation says the Route 74 Bridge between Shoreham and Cornwall that was closed due to safety concerns is expected to reopen next week. It was closed Monday after a hole was found in the bridge deck. The Transportation Agency said Tuesday that repairs to the bridge would be completed this week. The bridge is expected to reopen on Monday. Until then, Vermont Route 74 will be closed from the intersection of Quiet Valley Road in Shoreham to North and South Bingham Street in Cornwall.

The Addison Central Supervisory Union will form a study committee to consider the question: Is it in the best interests of the students and citizens of our community to reorganize local school districts as a Regional Educational District? In the coming months community members will be invited to share concerns and visions for the future of education, including a discussion of possible frameworks for governance that could provide the best path forward. Complete details on the formation and function of the committee can be found online, CLICK HERE.

Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott has already rolled up his sleeves and made Vermont jobs, business and public participation in state policymaking his top priority. Scott started his Vermont Everyday Jobs initiative two weeks ago. Last week, as part of that initiative, he spent the morning hours and lunchtime at Porter Hospital and the neighboring Helen Porter Health and Rehabilitation Center. He worked alongside a doctor on-duty who was providing patient care in the emergency department and then moved on to serve lunch to residents at the Porter rehab center's 's memory loss unit.

An alleged sex offender was back in court yesterday on charges he forced a 15-year-old girl to engage in inappropriate behavior with him. The girl was found at 21-year-old Phillip Martin's apartment early Tuesday morning, a place police say they have responded to many times for reports of juveniles as young as 13 inside. If convicted the charges could keep him in jail for over 20 years.

Police in St. Albans are looking for the two men they say tried to kidnap a teenage girl off the street. The incident happened Tuesday afternoon, when one man tried to pull the 15-year-old girl into a pickup truck through the window, but she managed to get away. The truck is described as being white and mid-sized, while the two men in it were said to be in their thirties. The man grabbing the girl was said to have dark hair, a mustache and an orange winter jacket with a hood. Police say the girl was not hurt.

Police in Chester are looking for a man wanted on multiple counts of aggravated domestic assault. Investigators say 24 year-old Evan Cox does not have a car, so he rents them or gets rides from friends. He's described as an African-American man, about 6'2" and 200 pounds. He has a tattoo on the left side of his neck. Police say Cox should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information on Cox is asked to call Chester Police.

The Castleton Select Board unanimously voted to assist the Lake Bomoseen Association in applying for an aquatic nuisance control grant providing it comes at no cost to the town. The Department of Environmental Conservation requires the municipality where a lake is located to apply for them. The grant will help the Lake Bomoseen Association hire up to four people to help monitor boats going in and out of the lake during the summer months.

Vermont State Police say 1 of their troopers has been charged with domestic violence. Thirty-1-year-old Timothy Newton, of Sandgate, was arrested Monday over a Feb. 6 incident that occurred when he was off-duty. Newton, a 7-year veteran of the force who's assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks, was arrested without incident at his Sandgate home and cited for domestic assault. He was released on conditions, pending an appearance today in Windham Superior Court criminal division. He's on leave with pay now.

The head of the Vermont National Guard says someone is using his name and photographs of him as part of Facebook and Skype frauds, and one woman says she lost more than $3,000 to the scam. The guard says at least three people in Canada, Taiwan and Germany have responded to pleas from someone they believed to be Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy tells New York lawmakers that even the best public schools have waste and inefficiencies to cut before they resort to laying off teachers. Duffy made the charge at a hearing Tuesday morning while defending Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 7.8 percent cut in school aid. Duffy also says schools should freeze wages for a year, just as Cuomo has proposed for state workers.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's popularity has reached an all-time high. Seventy-seven percent of New Yorkers are giving Cuomo a thumbs up after just over a month in office. A new Siena Research Institute poll also shows 72 percent of voters support the Democrat's budget, which includes deep cuts to education and health care programs.

With all the extreme weather we've been having this winter, our roads are suffering more than usual. Potholes are popping up all over the state and car repair shops are extra busy trying to keep up. The Vermont Agency of Transportation said several snowstorms are behind the increase in potholes. The storms have been so close together and that means the potholes don’t have much time to dry out. They hope the warm up at the end of the week will give them plenty of time to get some of them filled.

Registration is under way for a career-planning workshop at Castleton State College. Vermont Student Assistance Corporation has announced that the 10th annual College Pathways program will be held at Castleton on April 2, It’s a free day of college planning workshops for high school sophomores and juniors and their parents. College Pathways will also be held at St. Michael’s College in Colchester on March 19 and Lyndon State College in Lyndonville on April 9. For more information CLICK HERE.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is launching a national search for a new deer project leader. The position is responsible for leading the department's efforts to manage the state's deer population and to maximize hunting opportunities. The former deer project leader, wildlife biologist Shawn Haskell, recently stepped down after three years.

Shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters plummeted yesterday after a deal with coffee giant Starbucks fell through. Starbucks instead announced partnership with Green Mountain's rival, Courtesy Products coffee systems. Starbucks wants to become a big player in the fast-growing single-serve coffee segment, and there had been market speculation that the company had been negotiating a deal with GMCR.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Route 74 Bridge Update

The Agency of Transportation announced today that repairs to Bridge #2 on Vermont Route 74 over the Lemon Fair River will be completed this week, and the bridge is expected to be open to through traffic by Monday, February 21st (President’s Day). The Agency of Transportation had closed the 182-foot-long bridge on Valentine’s Day after district maintenance forces discovered a hole in the bridge deck early that morning. Until the repairs are complete, Vermont Route 74 will continue to be closed to through traffic from its intersection with Quiet Valley Road in Shoreham to its intersection with North and South Bingham Street in Cornwall. Local traffic only will be permitted. Traffic headed North on Vermont Route 22A and Vermont Route 30 will be directed to use Vermont Route 125. Traffic headed South on Vermont Route 22A and Vermont Route 30 will be directed to use Vermont Route 73.

WVTK Local & State News February 15, 2011

The Agency of Transportation has announced the temporary closure of the Bridge on Vermont Route 74 over the Lemon Fair River between Shoreham and Cornwall. A hole in the bridge deck was discovered by district maintenance early Monday morning, at which time the bridge was closed to one lane for the safety reasons. Subsequent inspections revealed additional concerns with the concrete decks, and all traffic across the bridge was detoured as of 5 PM yesterday. The bridge will remain closed for further inspection and analysis. During this time, Vermont Route 74 will be closed to through traffic from its intersection with Quiet Valley Road in Shoreham to its intersection with North and South Bingham Street in Cornwall. Local traffic only will be permitted.

The Addison Central Supervisory Union will soon be looking for a new superintendent. The board voted against renewing or extending the contract of current Superintendent Lee Sease. That will end his employment with the district on June 30. The vote by the Supervisory Union Directors was made after a lengthy closed-door meeting. The board could not discuss details of what led to the vote because it was a personnel matter.

Town officials and the Holm family are once again exploring a small-scale hydroelectric operation at the Otter Creek Falls in downtown Middlebury. They have been seeking to install a water turbine that would generate electricity from the creek under a building that borders the south side of the Otter Creek Falls. The original proposal would have produced around 1 megawatt of electricity per year for sale to area homes, businesses and the town of Middlebury. They sidelined the project for various reasons in 2009. Now, Holm and the Middlebury select-board Chairman confirmed last week that the two sides have re-entered discussions about the hydro project.

Officials in Monkton are once again addressing the issue of a lack of space in the town offices while also making more room for the town library after a bond was defeated last year. They will discuss their plans and seek feedback at a meeting this Thursday evening. The Municipal Building Committee is now studying the idea of picking up the town hall and moving the whole thing to the town owned land on Monkton Ridge and setting it on a new foundation.

Vergennes aldermen have unanimously adopted a city ordinance that allows Vergennes police to write civil tickets for the possession of drug paraphernalia. Unless a petitioned, it will take effect 60 days from February 8th. Vergennes police will be able to issue a $100 ticket to anyone found in possession of equipment used to inhale, ingest, produce or cultivate illegal drugs.

Drivers in New York who are caught talking on a cell phone will now face points on their driving records. The NY Department of Motor Vehicles says the new rules will go into effect starting this Wednesday. Previously, two points were assigned for texting while driving but now two points will also be assigned to talking and driving.

North Country schools are dealing with the largest reduction in state aid in New York history. For local districts that means more bad news. Peru Central School Superintendent Paul Scott says this is the hardest budget he's worked on in the more than 30 years at the school. That's because his school faces losing $2.5 million in state aid. Peru already cut $1.7 million from its budget last year and reduced employment by nearly 20%.

According to Rutland Police Chief Anthony Bossi expensive future upgrades to the police and fire departments’ dispatch systems could be harder to obtain than they have been in the past. Funding cuts being considered now in Washington could require towns and cities like Rutland to come up with a percentage of the overall cost of technological upgrades to qualify for future federal grants. Based on the cost of the upgrades in the past the city would need as much as $400,000 total for the police and fire departments.

The Burlington City Council voted last night to restructure Burlington Telecom. Councilors said it would make the company more efficient, but would require the city to layoff six workers. The plan will save $400,000 a year, and would cut jobs in customer service, installation and marketing.

Officials say a pickup truck ran a stop sign and hit a school bus transporting about 30 students in Barre. Superintendent John Bacon says two students from the Barre Town Middle and Elementary School suffered bumps to the head when the truck collided with the side of the bus. The crash happened yesterday at about 8:15 AM.Gov.

Peter Shumlin's appointment of a lawyer to chair the Vermont Natural Resources Board is under fire. Ronald Shems, a former assistant attorney general who specializes in environmental and energy law, represented First Wind, the Boston Company now building a wind project in Sheffield. Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, says Shems argued against water quality protections in his capacity as First Wind's lawyer and that it's inappropriate that he'll now chair the Natural Resources Board.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch says he's pleased with the inclusion in President Obama's proposed budget of 2 items relating to energy efficiency in buildings. The budget proposal includes $1.8 billion for the Home Star program, which Welch says will create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and save homeowners who get help investing in efficiency measures money they're now spending on energy. The president's budget also includes $2 billion for the Better Buildings program, which will promote energy efficiency in office, commercial and industrial buildings.

After several attempts, a scaled-down bond passed through the Essex County Board of Supervisors in earlier this month. The board passed a resolution to bond for $656,000 to purchase equipment and supplies, including two new loaders and a truck for the department of public works.

Vermont Yankee officials said they’d begin testing two of five pipes that could be the sources of tritium found in monitoring wells. In a weekly update to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plant representatives said the pipes have been identified as potential sources.

Poor ice conditions on Lake Champlain are threatening what is supposed to be the first annual Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic in the Vermont town of Colchester. More than 70 teams are schedule to take to the ice next weekend. Organizers say the heavy snow this winter is making it a challenge to skate on lakes.

The new owners of the Cortina Inn in Mendon are preparing for Thursday night's grand opening. The inn has been taking guests for a few weeks, but the Cortina Restaurant officially opens Thursday night. They also plan to open a tavern once they are granted a liquor license. The Vermont Health Department shut down the Cortina in June of 2008 after Legionnaires' disease causing bacteria was discovered in water supply. Right now the resort employs about 15 people but the owners hope to hire more employees as they expand.

Monday, February 14, 2011

URGENT! Route 74 Bridge Temporarily Closing

The Agency of Transportation has announced the temporary closure of the Bridge on Vermont Route 74 over the Lemon Fair River between Shoreham and Cornwall. A hole in the bridge deck was discovered by district maintenance early Monday morning, at which time the bridge was closed to one lane for the safety reasons. Subsequent inspections revealed additional concerns with the concrete decks, and all traffic across the bridge was detoured as of 5 PM TODAY (Monday 2/14/11). The bridge will remain closed for further inspection and analysis. During this time, Vermont Route 74 will be closed to through traffic from its intersection with Quiet Valley Road in Shoreham to its intersection with North and South Bingham Street in Cornwall. Local traffic only will be permitted.

WVTK Local & State News February 14, 2011

Police say Robert Trepanier of West Rutland was arrested following an incident early yesterday in which a home was broken into. Police say that the three men living in the house were awakened around 4 AM and a struggle broke out between them and the intruder. 1 of the residents was able to subdue Trepanier until police arrived. He was charged with burglary, simple assault and unlawful trespass. Police say he was "substantially intoxicated" at the time of the break-in.

A group of local entrepreneurs is turning the former Autumn Harp company complex in Bristol into a mixed-use development with a focus on health and wellness, value-added food products, educational services, light manufacturing and housing. Led by Autumn Harp founder Kevin Harper, the group formed “Bristol Works!” and purchased the six-acre property in December for $1 million. The complex includes several buildings and they envision a three-phase development of the property. The Addison County Regional Development Corp. is lending its assistance to “Bristol Works!” as needed.

Researchers will focus their attention this summer on the impact fishing tournaments and toxins are having on fish populations in Lake Champlain. The Lake Champlain Basin Program has awarded two grants totaling nearly $130,000 for a pair of research projects targeting the lake's sports fishery. Both studies will get under way this summer, with results from at least one project expected in early 2012.

Discount supermarket chain Aldi has plans to open its second Vermont store at the site of what is now Smith Buick GMC on South Main Street in Rutland. Aldi representatives met recently with city and Rutland Town officials to brief them on the company’s plans to build a store where the Smith Buick GMC dealership is located. The franchise was recently sold to Phil Alderman, who plans to relocate the dealership to his Chevrolet store on Route 7.

Vermont's congressional delegation plans to gather today in Burlington to protest an expected White House proposal to cut federal heating assistance for low-income households in half. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch say they've worked in recent years to double funding under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The cut is expected to be announced when the president releases his budget today.

Governor Peter Shumlin kicks off his first official out-of-state trip this week. The Governor will head north of the border to Canada to talk energy and other issues. Today Shumlin will travel to Montreal for meetings with officials at Hydro-Quebec and Gaz Metro. On Tuesday Shumlin is expected to meet in Quebec City to talk trade and other initiatives.

Vermont lawmakers are holding a statewide public hearing - via Vermont Interactive Television - to give people the chance to express their opinions about a health care bill being proposed by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The hearing, set to run from 6 PM to 8 PM on March 7, will give people the opportunity to speak at various VIT sites including Middlebury, Rutland and Williston. Driving directions, addresses and telephone numbers for the sites are available at

Vermont lawmakers are considering a $0.10 tax on each disposable bag consumers take from grocery and other stores, or banning some of them outright. A House committee on Friday took testimony on bills that would impose the tax on either plastic or paper bags. It wouldn't apply to bags a customer uses to carry items like fruits or vegetables to the cash register. Backers say Vermont's cash-strapped government could raise about $9 million a year in new revenue. A second bill would ban plastic grocery bags.

The Hannaford supermarket chain is in the planning stages to build a store in Hinesburg. The plan still needs to be approved, but there is already backlash from some residents in town. Yesterday, more than a dozen protesters went to the proposed site and held a rally against the grocery store. Some in town are also worried about the effect on local businesses, saying that a big, corporate grocery store could wipe out smaller, local shops in town. However there is local support for the plan was well.

A Vermont Transportation Board member says the town of Killington should get its scenic byway plan approved in the next two weeks. The Vermont Scenery Preservation Council unanimously asked the board to establish U.S. Route 4 from West Rutland through Hartford a scenic byway. It’s a designation that would allow nine towns, including Killington, to apply for federal transportation grants and other perks.

Many Vermonters hope to transform local food from a luxury to something everybody can get a bite of. There are some big challenges but supporter’s say the benefits are worth it. That was the point of a workshop at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont's winter conference on Saturday. It brought together farmers, distributors and big food buyers including the Burlington public schools, which provides 5,500 meals a day.

Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it a crime for convicted sex offenders to use fake names on social networking sites like Facebook. The bill came before the state Senate's Judiciary Committee on Friday after a teacher who formerly worked with sex offenders said he saw a Facebook profile page containing a picture of a sex offender he had worked with who was using an assumed name and had become Facebook friends with several 14- and 15-year-old girls.

Bus drivers and maintenance workers with the Chittenden County Transportation Authority held a rally yesterday inside Burlington City Hall to gain support for difficult contract negotiations. Other labor unions, as well as UVM students, came out to support the group, which is hoping to negotiate better schedules for workers, a cap on the number of part time workers, and what they call more reasonable routes.

A shuttered Williamstown dry-cleaning plant that was at the center of 1 of Vermont's first large-scale experiences with polluted groundwater almost 30 years ago is going to be torn down. It's unclear when demolition will begin on the now-vacant building owned by the UniFirst Corp. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation says efforts to clean groundwater around the plant will continue whether the building is there or not.

A Vermont brewery is giving new meaning to the idea of green beer. Magic Hat Brewing Co., of South Burlington, is the first site to use a device that turns spent grain from the brewing process into natural gas that is then used to fuel brewing operations. A methane digester, installed last summer, extracts energy from the spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process. It also processes the plant's wastewater, saving the brewer two ways: waste disposal and natural gas purchasing.

A Vermont snow-sculpting contest that had to be cancelled for lack of snow last year won't have the problem this year. The Snow Sculpture Competition, which is being held Feb. 19-20 in Barre, will consist of 20 structures built from 6-foot cubes of snow at downtown parks by 18 teams of people. The event, sponsored by Studio Place Arts, of Barre, will have two demonstration sculptures: A replica of Vermont's statehouse and another display dubbed "Vermont Snows."

On Saturday morning students from across Clinton and Essex counties participated in the annual MathCounts challenge, where teams compete for a place in the state competition next month. After grueling rounds of individual and group exams, teams from Saranac Lake Central School, Stafford Middle School and Chazy Central Rural School took home the top three prizes, respectively.

Pico Mountain played host to the 4th annual United States Association of Blind Athletes annual Winter Festival Saturday. The event draws athletes from as far away as Miami and Wisconsin along with local talent as well. A group of fifteen athletes from across the country came to take advantage of all this snow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nan O'Brien Event POSTPONED February 11, 2011

Tonight's Nan O'Brien Live Event, part of the SUNrise Listener Appreciation Tour, that was scheduled for the Town Hall Theater here in Middlebury has been postponed and will be rescheduled. Keep listening and follow us on Facebook or our Website for updated information in the coming days! WVTK and Nan apologize for the short notice.

WVTK Local & State News February 11, 2011

Central Vermont Public Service is asking customers to help keep meter readers safe, and clear a path to electric meters. CV says if a meter reader is unable to get to a meter due to safety hazards or inaccessibility, the meter cannot be read and usage will be estimated. Also, quick access to the meter may be critical in an emergency, such as a fire.” CVPS asks that customers maintain a clear pathway to electric meters, but never use a sharp tool, such as a shovel, near the actual meter.

State Sen. Claire Ayer filed legislation this week that lays the groundwork for a single-payer health system for Vermont. The Weybridge Democrat, who is chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, filed bill S.57, which proposes that the state create a “single-payer and unified health system.” She said much of the new health-care bill is based on a Harvard University economist’s recent study of Vermont’s health-care system and recommendations on how to improve it.

Leaders of e-Corporate English announced plans to hire an initial batch of more than a dozen workers. They are getting set to start moving into the company’s new headquarters off Exchange Street here in Middlebury after March 1. For more information you can visit

Coming up on February 21st the Addison Planning Commission will review changes allegedly made to town zoning laws last summer by Addison’s interim zoning administrator. Some Addison residents believe Jeff Kauffman overstepped the bounds of his authority and made major changes to the zoning law. These alterations were not approved by planners at their August 16, 2010, meeting.

Rutland City has started an amnesty program for people with outstanding tickets from 2005 to 2008. Through April 30, people with tickets from that era can pay them off for 50 cents on the dollar, getting themselves off the city’s boot list. There are roughly $140,000 in outstanding tickets during that time frame, meaning the city could get about $70,000 if everyone takes advantage of the amnesty.

Fair Haven hired a new town manager on Wednesday. Peter Hathaway of Pawlet was hired by the town’s Select Board and is set to begin work on March 7. Hathaway was unanimously chosen as the strongest candidate for the position by the Select Board after being one of the five candidates recommended by a community search committee.

The trial of a Middlebury man in connection with the August 19, 2009, armed robbery of a Hancock convenience store ended in a hung jury in Addison County District Court last week. Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster said he is weighing options on what to do next with the case involving Adam Racine who had been charged in connection with the robbery of JD’s Quick Stop Convenience Store on Route 100.

Vermont’s population is shifting according to 2010 census figures released yesterday. The state’s southernmost counties of Bennington, Rutland, Windham and Windsor all recorded stagnant demographics or slight losses in the past decade, while their northern counterparts of Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Franklin, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans and Washington reported growth since the last official count in 2000. Burlington remains Vermont’s largest city up 6.5 percent from 10 years ago. Rutland City drops from third to fifth. Chittenden remains the largest County in Vermont followed by Rutland. Addison County is number 8 with a population of 36,821, up 2.4 percent.

Vermont State Police say a tour bus accident on Interstate 91 that injured 17 people was likely caused by the driver's medical condition. In an investigative report, police say 49-year-old Andrew Castillo, of Pennsylvania, suffered a cardiac emergency on December 3, 2010, while driving a group of Massachusetts college students to a ski resort in Quebec. Police say a wire between a pacemaker in his chest and his heart was found to be broken after the crash.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is touting a state program that encourages unemployed and underemployed Vermonters to develop job skills and helps to match them with employers. Shumlin said the Governor's Career Readiness Certificate program has helped to place about 600 Vermonters in jobs with Cabot, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and other companies in the last year and a half. The program is aimed at helping place returning veterans and people emerging from Vermont's Corrections system as well as unemployed young people into entry-level jobs.

School officials in the Vermont town of Hartford say they have uncovered a $554,000 budget deficit caused by accounting errors that go back three years. District Business Manager George Cormier says the problems were a result of a flawed accounting system within the district and a lack of oversight by the former financial officer, who is now working in California.

Vermont State Police say speed is believed to have played a role in a head-on collision on U.S. Route 302 in the town of Orange. Police say Sandra Sicely died at the scene of the collision that occurred at about 6 PM Wednesday after her vehicle crossed the centerline. The investigation is continuing.

The Vermont Public Service Board is demanding regular reports about ongoing tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee. The board has ordered Entergy Nuclear to submit its first report by Friday and says it will expect reports every other Friday until the source of the radioactive contamination is found. The board also wants the information submitted in sworn affidavits.

The chancellors of New York's public universities are pushing legislators hard for regular, moderate tuition increases and the authority to enter lucrative partnerships with the private sector as they face another round of deep budget cuts. Cuomo's budget would cut state support by 10 percent. It would also end the state's subsidy for teaching hospitals in Syracuse, New York City and on Long island.

A handwritten letter announcing the victory at Fort Ticonderoga that went missing from the Massachusetts state archives six decades ago has been recovered after being spotted as part of a planned auction of Revolutionary War manuscripts. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said the 1775 letter from Joseph Warren was discovered in a Sotheby's catalog. The state was able to negotiate the letter's return.

The Lake Steward Program that watches for aquatic invasive species in Lake George isn't gone after all. The Lake George Association just got a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to continue the effort this summer. The lake custodians are stationed at public boat launches, looking for aquatic invasive species of plants and marine life clinging to hulls of boats.

Now that the Essex County Fish Hatchery finally has permission to sell surplus fish, it's facing water-supply issues and charges of unfair competition. The Franklin County Farm Bureau has come out against the sale of fish by the county because it might compete with a commercial fish farm in Chateauguay. And the water lines at the county hatchery are so antiquated they need an upgrade before any surplus fish can be produced.

Vermont is proud of its cheese-making, but right now there are a lot of cheese makers in the state upset the federal government may take away a key ingredient from them: raw milk. The F-D-A is considering banning it, but artisan cheese makers say raw milk adds a special flavor to their creations, and consider it safe. The F-D-A used to think 60 days was long enough aging to kill any bacteria. However, researchers at the University of Vermont's Institute for Artisan Cheese have now proved that theory wrong after finding out some cheeses still had bacteria after a year.

"Pete the Moose must live." That's the official word from Pete the Governor. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says a bill passed last year giving hunt park operator Doug Nelson permission to keep a moose known as Pete on his preserve was a mistake. Shumlin says he wants to see that legislation reversed, but he does not agree with what some have suggested: allowing the celebrity moose to be the target of a controlled hunt. Shumlin told reporters yesterday that Pete the governor hasn't issued any pardons yet, but that he will - for Pete the Moose.

It's been plenty cold enough to freeze over lakes and ponds for ice fishing in our region, but officials say all the recent snow may have created some dangerous conditions on the ice. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says the problem is the weight of the snow, which can cause ice to sink slightly, forcing water from below onto the surface. Then the snow acts as an insulator preventing the water from refreezing completely. The end result is weak ice that may not support vehicles or even people on foot.