Thursday, March 31, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 31, 2011

Weather forecasters say a springtime snowstorm is likely to dump as much as a foot of wet, heavy snow and rain in parts of the Northeast. The National Weather Service says the storm is expected to hit Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine from late tonight through Friday evening. Eastern New York is expected to get 6 to 10 inches of snow. Much of northern New Jersey could see snow on the ground Friday morning as well. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning from Midnight Tonight through Midnight Friday Night. The Champlain Valley is expected to see anywhere from 4- 8 Inches of Snow. Rutland County could see 10 – 14 Inches.

Construction of a new bridge connecting Crown Point and Addison is on-track for completion in October despite an unusually harsh winter. That's according to Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who co-chairs the bridge project's Public Advisory Committee. She says construction of the new bridge has faced a variety of challenges, including one of the wildest winters in years. She also notes that the state Department of Transportation has been good when it comes to keeping Flatiron Construction on schedule.

New York's Legislature has passed a historically difficult budget on time amid the heckling of protesters. Early today, the Assembly passed its final budget bills in the $132.5 billion budget that cuts spending 2%. The Republican-led Senate had completed it bills before midnight. The statewide cut in school aid remains historic at $697 million. The budget contains no tax increases or significant borrowing.

The Giorgetti Arena bond appears to be headed back to the polls. A group of Rutland residents turned in a petition at the City Clerk's office early yesterday afternoon they said has about 750 signatures calling for a second vote on the $3.9 million bond. City Clerk Henry Heck said it would be a couple days before his office would be able to verify the signatures. If the total number of legitimate signatures reaches one-fifth of the number of registered voters in the city a special election will be scheduled for 60 days from today.

Ticonderoga's proposed "nuisance" property law will have to wait at least another month. The proposed legislation wasn't ready for a scheduled public hearing in March. Town board members then discussed holding a hearing prior to their April 14 meeting, but that won't happen either. The Town Clerk said the proposed law still isn't complete. Even if the measure is completed before the next town board meeting, state law requires that the public have 10 days to review the document before a hearing.

Killington Ski Resort will keep part of the Snowshed Lodge closed to check out the damage done by a fire yesterday afternoon. Killington says the lodge was already closed for the day and all employees safely evacuated. They say it appears the electrical fire caused minor damage.

Potholes are plaguing drivers and causing problems for Vermont's budget. According to the Vermont Agency of Transportation, State crews have used nearly a thousand tons more patch on potholes than last year. Also, they have already spent close to the yearly average for patching with weeks of pothole troubles to come. The problem is patch is a temporary fix. The only permanent solution is paving the roads.

Unemployment for Vermont veterans returning from Afghanistan is about 30 percent according to the Vermont National Guard. Many of those soldiers hope a college education will help them land jobs. CCV is working to assist these students in school and off campus in their post-war lives. Currently CCV has 270 students receiving military benefits across their 12 campuses in the state. Most are in Winooski, with the second highest number in Montpelier, then Rutland and Saint Albans.

All five Vermont Supreme Court justices and nine trial judges have won new 6-year terms on the bench as a result of the Legislature's judicial retention process. The House and Senate met in a joint session on yesterday and voted to retain the 14. The only judge who was generating controversy, Mark Keller, withdrew his name from consideration for another term on the bench.

Officials with the Agency of Natural Resources visited Green Mountain College yesterday to test its biomass plant. This is the final test the state will administer to determine whether the plant can work properly. So far, it hasn't passed. The plant opened on Earth Day last year. It was supposed to make Green Mountain the first carbon-neutral college in the country. Instead, it's been fuming unfiltered air into the environment which is against the state permit. Officials have extended the test period until Friday.

The owner of the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear plant can't find a buyer for it. Entergy Corp. said Wednesday there were interested parties but the plant's uncertain prospects for a new license from Vermont officials prevented a sale. Spokesman Larry Smith blames political uncertainty in Vermont. He says the plant's strong operating performance was attractive to buyers.

Vermont lawmakers are considering changes to regulations governing the sale of propane in the wake of complaints by consumers about usage fees. Among the proposals: allowing consumers to buy tanks, banning minimum usage fees for undelivered propane and eliminating termination fees on customers who've had a tank installed for a year or more.

Vermont health officials say air samples taken in Windham County and Burlington reveal trace amounts of radioactive iodine stemming from Japan's damaged nuclear plant. The state health commissioner says samples taken in Vernon, Brattleboro, Dummerston and Burlington found "minuscule" amounts of the radioisotope Iodine-131, but not enough to constitute a public health risk or to cause a need for precautions. More samples from testing at six other sites in Vermont are awaiting analysis. Meanwhile, New York officials say traces of radioactive iodine have been found at monitoring stations in the state. The state health department says they don't pose a threat to the public safety there either.

Essex County is going to try again to get an extra one-quarter percent in sales-tax revenue. The County Board of Supervisors has asked the State Legislature for permission twice before, but bills to add the one-quarter percent haven't made it through. The board voted this week to try again, with a final vote on the request Monday.

A new study says Vermont’s most populous county, Chittenden, is the healthiest county in the state while the least-populous, Essex County, is the least healthy. After Chittenden, the next four healthiest counties are Grand Isle, Addison, Lamoille and Washington. The least healthy counties are Windsor, Orleans, Franklin, Rutland and then Essex.

Manufacturers are making subtle changes to packages of items you buy at the grocery store, which means you are really paying more for less. While this is happening all over the grocery store here’s an example: Tropicana says last winter's freeze in Florida is to blame for their orange juice package shrinking. The old carton was 64 ounces. The new one is 59. This is almost an 8 percent decrease in size. Consumers may think this shrinking contest is just a sneaky way to increase profits, but experts say it might be necessary for you to keep buying their goods. But consumers should know that not all manufacturers downsize. Ben and Jerry's still packs its ice cream in pints and Minute Maid still sells its orange juice in half gallons.

Vermont will not be getting ultra high-speed broadband from Google. Kansas City will instead. Nearly 1,100 communities lobbied for the Google Community Fiber project. Yesterday, the winner was announced. Google will install Internet access in Kansas City that's more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today.

Doctors say they are gearing up for a bad allergy season. Weather conditions in our region have been prime for pollen and mold. Doctors say while they haven't seen any patients with allergy symptoms yet they expect in a few weeks the number of people coming in with symptoms will quickly increase. Doctors say cold weather plenty of snow and rain make for the perfect allergy season. Moisture gets into your home causing mold, which results in turn can actually cause a mold allergies and don't be surprised if people who usually don't suffer from allergies feel the effects this year from the large amounts of pollen and mold.

Central Vermont Public Service Corp. will mark 30 years of public trading by signaling the close of business at the New York Stock Exchange. Joined by a number of employees, CVPS Chairman Robert Young will ring the closing bell at 4PM Monday.

Vermont's community action agencies are offering free tax help to Vermont households earning less than $49,000 a year. Basic tax preparation services from trained volunteers can help people take advantage of tax credits geared to people with low and moderate incomes. Those wanting to take advantage of the free service can call 2-1-1 and ask for their local tax site.

Vermont schools are getting their report cards. The state Department of Education says it will release yearly progress reports for the state's public schools today. The Federal No Child Left Behind Act requires the grades.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 30, 2011

There has been a major recall from Price Chopper. The supermarket chain is warning people about possible listeria contamination in its 'Regular Home-style Potato Salad.' The product in question was sold by the pound in the store's deli. One case of contaminated salad was found in New York, but Price Chopper says no illnesses have been reported. The recalled potato salad was sold between March 19 and March 28. If you bought it, return it to any Price Chopper for a full refund. Customers with questions can call 1-800-666-7667 ext. 3 between 8:30AM and 5:00PM Monday through Friday.

It may be officially Spring but the National Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch from late Thursday Night through Late Friday that includes Addison, Rutland and Essex County, NY. Rain is expected to mix with snow on Friday with some light accumulation possible. We’ll keep you informed with updates from the Weather Channel.

Most Vermonters are ready for it to warm up, including maple syrup producers, who agree there is still plenty of time for a strong season after cooler-than-average temperatures have given the season a slow start. Cooler temperatures are delaying the sugaring season. For maple trees to produce sap, temperatures need to rise at least into the mid-30s during the day and fall to below freezing overnight. Producers in the southern areas of the state have had a stronger start to the season than some in central Vermont.

Out-of-work New Yorkers will get to keep unemployment benefits through the end of 2011. New York participates in a two-year federally funded unemployment insurance program that started in 2009. In December, Congress extended the program for another year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now signed legislation that amends state law and allows New York to qualify for the third year of the program.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corp. is cutting about 15 percent of its work force because of changes in the way federal student loans are managed. Officials at the Winooski-based VSAC say 52 full-time and six part-time workers have agreed to take a buyout. After the staff reduction, VSAC will have 255 employees, down from almost 400 three years ago.

The Recreation Committee in Rutland decided this week that the aldermen should take the most hands-on approach they can to building Giorgetti Arena. The committee met to discuss potential construction models as the city prepares to send the project’s engineering out to bid.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is pushing a $500 state incentive for people who want to switch their heating systems from oil to wood pellets. Shumlin says he wants the electricity conservation program Efficiency Vermont to be able to use some of its funds to provide the incentives. The Governor says pellets have several advantages over oil. He says they're currently about half the price of oil, they provide jobs for Vermont foresters, pellet mill workers and equipment manufacturers, and they're less damaging to the environment than oil.

Vermont lawmakers want your input on the state's energy plan. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing tonight. It's from 6-8:30 PM in room 11 at the Statehouse in Montpelier. The state will use the input as it updates its 20-year energy plan. The law requires the state to work toward increasing renewable energy generation and decreasing reliance on fossil fuels.

All five Vermont Supreme Court justices and nine trial judges face votes by a joint assembly of the Vermont Legislature to see whether they'll keep their jobs for another six years. All 14 jurists are expected to be retained in Wednesday's voting. The only judge who was generating controversy, Mark Keller, withdrew his name from consideration for another term on the bench.

Remarks by a Castleton State College freshman during a presentation on peace activism prompted an investigation by Secret Service agents last month. According to dean of academics Joe Mark, Freshman James Cote who served as a sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Infantry, spoke out during an event featuring peace activist Colman McCarthy on Feb. 10th. Secret Service agents interviewed Cote and concluded he was not making a threat.

The United States is looking to build 13 new nuclear power plants across the country. Some town leaders in Massena, NY, are hoping their town will be the sight for one of them. They say the town has everything needed to build a nuclear power plant. Supporters of the idea say such a plant would supply clean, cheap energy, and help attract development to a part of the state that's struggling. Other people say they have reservations about nuclear energy in their own backyard.

New York has joined a federal program that helps people safely dispose of old appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency's Responsible Appliance Disposal Program looks to protect the ozone layer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Currently West Virginia is the only other state participating in the voluntary program. Retail and wholesale companies can now recover hazardous chemicals from old refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

The state of Vermont is now using the threat of jail time to get deadbeat parents to pay up. The office of child support recently took advantage of a new law to prosecute a man who owed $24,000 to his ex-wife and kids. Some 30 percent of noncustodial parents fail to meet their child support obligations. There is a total of about $100 million currently owed to children.

Iraq's ambassador to the United States is saying thank you for America's role in bringing democracy to his country. In a speech to Vermont lawmakers yesterday he talked about the price of war and also met a woman who'd paid it with the 2005 loss of her son in fighting there.

The future of Crown Point's Monitor Bay campground is in question. The town has been notified by the state Department of Health that it will not be granted a 2011 campground permit until electrical safety and potable water issues are resolved. Local officials will meet with engineers to determine exactly what needs to be done to meet state regulations and how much the work will cost.

The Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Southern Vermont will hold its 14th annual Home and Recreation Show this weekend. The show will be held from 9AM to 3PM Saturday at Spartan Arena. Admission is free. Door prizes will be given away throughout the day. The first 50 children will get a wooden birdhouse kit thanks to LaValley Building Supply. There will also be free children’s activities provided by the Boys & Girls Club of Rutland County and the Mentor Connector, as well as performances by local children’s entertainer Linda MacFarlane.

Curves of Middlebury will participate in the 13th Annual Curves Food Drive, April 4-17, to collect non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit the local food bank. From April 4-17, Curves will waive the membership fee for new members who donate a bag of non-perishable food or make a minimum donation of $30.

Mount Abraham Union High School's Prom Night is Saturday, May 14th and the school's PTO is helping to make it easy to shop for those special dresses and tuxes by sponsoring the Mt. Abe Prom Dress and Tuxedo Sale. The sale will be held in the school's cafeteria April 8th and 9th. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the school's PTO enrichment programs and organizers say they are hoping to make it an annual event.

The lower part of Church Street in Burlington is brimming with construction, which officials said will make the area look just as good as the rest of downtown. Until the beginning of June, workers will be on the street widening sidewalks, installing new streetlights and planting trees. This is the second expansion of the marketplace within the past seven years. It's being paid for with federal money.

A first grade classroom at JFK Elementary School in Winooski is doing what it can to help one of their own. The students in Nancy Johnson's class a fellow classmate moved back to Japan with his family recently. They now know he survived the devastating earthquake and tsunami, but the kids still want to help. The kids have started a fundraiser called a coin drop, in which other classes are asked to donate change. They raised just over four hundred dollars in a week, and donated it promptly to the American Red Cross for relief efforts.

New York Teachers, public employees, renters, health care advocates and college students are packing sleeping bags and toothbrushes in preparation for a massive protest of state budget cuts at the Capitol. The demonstrators from various groups across the state plan an overnight camp-in starting Wednesday afternoon to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to close a $10 billion budget gap with cuts in education and health care spending and state worker layoffs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 29, 2011

Middlebury Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo will be stepping down this week to take the job of town administrator of Hinesburg. He has served as Middlebury’s assistant manager for the past three and a half years, focusing on budget matters and human resources.

Vermont State Police say DNA tests of blood left at the scene of Bristol burglary helped lead them to a suspect. Police say 39-year-old Andrew Carter of Bristol was charged on Sunday after DNA tests linked him to an April 2009 burglary on the Lower Notch Road in Bristol. Carter is due in court next month to answer the burglary charge.

The city of Vergennes will change how it sends out sewer bills. Homeowners will receive their sewer bills quarterly along with their tax bills in the upcoming fiscal year. A change in when bills are sent will be more efficient and save the city money in the long run. The city also said that for most homeowners it would be easier to make quarterly payments rather than two semi-annual payments.

Police say a man reportedly pumped gas into his car and drove off without paying at multiple Rutland area gas stations Sunday evening. Justin Mclaren reportedly stole $36 of gas from the Stewart's in West Rutland. Police did not say how much gas he stole from another Stewart's in Rutland City. They said that he was previously arrested for the same offense.

The military will buy an additional $9.8 million in jet engine components from the Rutland GE plant over the next two years. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced the deal yesterday, saying it was part of a total of $246 million in components ordered from several GE plants. Leahy is a senior member of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The New York Citizens Advisory Committee to the Lake Champlain Basin Program is hosting a Watershed Stewardship Summit today. The summit will present the successes and challenges in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Lake Champlain basin and Adirondacks. The event, which is open to the public, will be held from 1 to 3:30 PM at the Nature Conservancy office on Route 73 in Keene Valley.

Health officials say tests have detected low-levels of radioactivity from a stricken Japanese nuclear plant in snow samples in New Hampshire and air samples in Maine. Health officials say the levels do not pose a threat to public health. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services says the amount of radiation detected in snow in Concord is at least 25 times below the level of concern, even for infants and pregnant women. Vermont's expected to have test results sometime today.

Addison County’s House delegation voted along party lines last week on the groundbreaking health care reform legislation. The Vermont House voted 92-49 in favor of H.202, which is the legislation that establishes a road map for a single-payer health care system for the state.

The Middlebury College administration has announced that it will launch two new schools in the Middle East in the coming years. This brings the total number of schools in the region to three. Middlebury launched a program in Alexandria, Egypt in 2007. Students in that program were evacuated in late January in the face of growing unrest in the country. The two new programs are in Israel and Jordan.

Middlebury officials have reported continuing progress in talks aimed at advancing a small-scale hydroelectric project at the Otter Creek Falls. The Holm family has been seeking to install a water turbine that would harness electricity from the Otter Creek Falls. It is a project that could generate more than 1 megawatt of electricity, which is enough to power the downtown area.

Vergennes aldermen have acknowledged the city could not keep up with this winter’s near-record snowfall. However they defended the efforts of the city’s public works department. Mayor Michael Daniels said that he was particularly upset about abuse public works employees had received from some residents despite what he called the employees’ tireless efforts.

After nine days of missile strikes and bombings, the president told the public that the American military would no longer be in charge in Libya. Critics of military intervention include Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who worries it could lead to another prolonged conflict and another battlefront for American forces to fight in the Arab world. The president did not to use the word "war" in his speech, but he said that military action was necessary to stop a massacre similar to Bosnia and Rwanda.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says that if some states want to turn down federal money for high-speed rail, Vermont and other northeastern states will be happy to take it. Shumlin made the remark yesterday before meeting with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and other leaders in Rutland to talk about expanding passenger rail service in Vermont and New England. He says he'd like to bring passenger rail to the western side of the state and upgrade the existing Amtrak Vermonter route.

Numbers from the U.S. Census show in 2009, Vermont was around 96 percent white, meaning 4 or 5 percent non-white. But Vermont's corrections department says last June more than 10 percent of people behind bars were minorities. And now the state is asking why. Members of the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are concerned about a trend in the state's criminal justice system. In a mostly white state corrections department figures show 10-15 percent of prisoners are non-white.

Eight fifth and sixth graders at Middlebury’s Aurora School have developed two water-recycling schemes that NASA will be reviewing as part of a national scholastic competition. They were picked as one of 20 finalists from throughout the country in NASA’s “Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Design Challenge.” It’s a challenge from NASA designed to maximize use of every precious drop of water that astronauts find or take with them into space. It currently costs $20,000 to take a one-liter bottle of water from Earth to the International Space Station. The challenge was open to kids in grades 5 through 8. Their task was to design a water recycling system for the unique environment of the moon. Winners will be announced on May 2nd will win an expense-paid trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A group of 17 Japanese students and six administrators stayed with the families of 15 Vermont students and several teachers from Mount Abraham and Harwood union high schools last week. The students explored a wide range of environmental issues together by visiting such places as the University of Vermont, Middlebury College, the Statehouse and Mount Abe.

Vergennes City resident Catherine Brooks, who is the cultural heritage tourism coordinator for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, has told the City Council about an opportunity for Vergennes to link up with Plattsburgh to celebrate the upcoming 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. A pivotal event in that war is known as the Battle of Plattsburgh or the Battle of Valcour Island. The ships that fought in the winning U.S. side were built in Vergennes.

Vermont lawmakers might take some guidance on critical issues from the annual Doyle Poll. Results from about 15,000 questionnaires handed out on Town Meeting Day were released Monday. One surprising find was that 45 percent of respondents favor renewing Vermont Yankee's license, 41 percent are opposed and 14 percent are not sure. That's a big turnaround from last year when just 31 percent supported Yankee. Regarding health care reform only 31 percent think Vermonters should be required to buy health insurance, 50 percent are against and 19 percent aren't sure. One of the strongest results in the survey was for mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drunk drivers, 79 percent favor that.

Burlington is getting some new stores on the Church Street Marketplace. Now that Old Navy has moved to Williston, Panera bread will lease part of the 25,000 square foot space. It was confirmed yesterday that there is discussion with the Outdoor Gear Exchange to take over the remainder of the Old Navy space.

If you're hoping to win a moose hunting permit this year, now is your chance to apply. The state fish and wildlife department is now accepting moose hunting applications for the two lotteries planned, but you have to apply by early June. One lottery is for the regular hunting season, October 15th through the 20th, while the other is for the new archery season, October 1st through the 7th. The fish and wildlife department has proposed a total of 455 permits this year, but that still needs to be finalized.

Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy is recommending Sean Cota of Bellows Falls to President Barack Obama for appointment to a federal agency that could have a role in cleaning up the nation's financial markets. Leahy has recommended him to a seat on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Cota runs Cota & Cota, a longtime family-owned heating oil dealer.

Vermont Law School will host a community forum to discuss how proposals in the Vermont Legislature will affect Vermonters' access to affordable health care. Saturday's event, which is free and open to the public, will be from 9:30 AM to 3 PM at the South Royalton School. Breakfast and lunch will be served. The event is sponsored by the law school's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Monday, March 28, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 28, 2011

The father of a Middlebury College student who was missing in Syria says his son has been found and is safe and well. 21 year-old Tik Root had been missing in Syria since March 18th. His father, Tom Root of Ripton, said Saturday he got "great news" from the Syrian Embassy, Sen. Patrick Leahy and others that his son has been found and is all right. Tom Root says his son remains in the hands of the Syrian authorities, who are currently responsible for him. Tik Root, a U.S. citizen, had been studying Arabic in Damascus. His father said he had been detained at a demonstration by Syrian security forces.

It's on to the Vermont Senate for an ambitious health care reform bill that would put Vermont on the path toward a single-payer health care system. The bill first would have the state come into compliance with last year's federal health reform law by creating a health insurance marketplace, called an exchange, that would let people more easily comparison shop for health insurance. The exchange would later be converted to the new Green Mountain Care system. The Senate is expected to pass the bill, but with some changes possible.

The Vermont chapter of the National Education Association says it is behind universal healthcare coverage for all Vermonters. The Vermont NEA says it is working with the Shumlin administration to fine tune the single payer healthcare reform bill. NEA officials say when it comes to healthcare; the union has done more to control cost than many other entities in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sealing a deal with the Legislature on a tentative $132.5 billion state budget that would be historic for its spending cuts as well as its timeliness. Cuomo says the budget will set New York on a new course after decades of overspending and overtaxing that have driven residents out of state for better opportunities. It would reduce spending overall by more than 2 percent.

Fourteen of 28 Rutland County towns will celebrate their 250th birthday this year and a grass-roots group is trying to gather interest among their community members. A state representative from Mount Holly, is asking all residents from Castleton, Brandon, Clarendon, Danby, Killington, Mount Tabor, Pawlet, Pittsford, Poultney, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth, Wallingford and Wells to get their representatives to write a resolution for adoption by the entirety of the Vermont Legislature.

The Rutland Redevelopment Authority plans to study the city’s housing needs. The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last to support the organization’s application for a $10,000 municipal planning grant from the state to fund the study. Mayor Christopher Louras said the recent census data showing Rutland’s population falling for a second census period in a row pointed out the need for such a study.

A downtown Rutland landmark is scheduled for a facelift. The Downtown Rutland Partnership announced its annual micro-grant awards this week. Among them was a painting project at Pip’s Barbershop that includes touching up the owl pictured on the side of the building. The organization awarded six grants. Executive Director Michael Coppinger said they received 16 applications, which were reviewed by a committee that did not see the names of the applicants.

Everyone knows that speeding is against the law. But one Rutland County legislator believes that some towns in Vermont have more than just traffic safety in mind while issuing speeding tickets and he says he’s got the numbers to prove it. Rep. Bob Helm, of Castleton, has introduced a bill that would cap the amount of revenue towns could receive annually from issuing speeding tickets.

A gut-wrenching scene found in one North Country home. 22 cats were taken from a mobile home in Bombay, New York Friday. Animal activists rescued the animals that were severely neglected. They were living in feces and with all kinds of medical problems from dehydration to feline leukemia. Several of the cats were euthanized and the remaining animals are being treated in four different shelters in Vermont and New York. Once the cats recover the shelters will try to find them homes.

Ice Cream Maker Ben & Jerry’s needs 25 Waterbury employees to volunteer to take a job in St. Albans. The factory in Waterbury is a popular spot for tourists but Ben & Jerry's Sean Greenwood says when it comes to making ice cream the factory in St. Albans does a better job. That means cutting 25 jobs in Waterbury. But to avoid layoffs the company is hoping enough people volunteer to switch to the St. Albans factory. St. Albans will handle the bulk of the ice cream making while Waterbury will focus on specialty flavors.

Essex County's visiting nurses may soon be issued tablet computers to replace their pens and note pads. County Public Health Director Karen Levison has preliminary approval to buy 15 of the units for $20,000. The nurses with the county's Home Care Agency would carry the tablets to use for electronic medical documentation. The county would contract with remote data-collection provider Sansio to provide software for mobile medical documentation.

FairPoint Communications says it will settle $7 million in service quality penalties imposed by the state by expanding broadband Internet access to areas of Vermont currently without it. Under an agreement with the Department of Public Service announced Friday, the expansion will enable the company to pay penalties it owed for service quality problems that began when it took over the former Verizon landline network serving northern New England.

Vermont State Police are investigating a weekend fire that killed a person in the town of West Pawlett. The fire was early Saturday morning in Dutchie's General Store on Railroad Avenue. State Police say while the fire remains under investigation, at this time it does not appear to be suspicious.

A Vermont police chief says a number of young people in Lyndonville are identifying themselves as members of a gang and threatening others with knives. Police Chief Jack Harris says officers have gathered evidence about the gang activity, which includes on-line threats and racist material.

A Vermont college professor will give a presentation about Ireland's economic crisis in an appearance in Burlington. Anthony O'Halloran, visiting professor at Champlain College, will speak about the long-term consequences of the nation's high unemployment, falling real estate prices and pessimistic mood in the speech, set for 7 PM Thursday at the college's Alumni Auditorium. The speech is free and open to the public.

Fashion both old and new will be on display at the Shelburne Museum this summer. The exhibit will include works from early Parisian designers, current fashion icons, as well as upcoming designers. Eight fashion students from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York will create garments for the show. The exhibit "In Fashion: High Style 1690-2011" opens June 18th and runs through October 30th.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' filibuster on corporate greed, a hit on YouTube, is now a book. The eight-hour speech on the U.S. Senate floor, which saw Sanders railing about tax breaks for the rich, Wall Street greed and what he called the nation's war on working families, has been turned into "The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of the Middle Class," published by Nation Books.

The second of two scenic byway plans for the region is nearing approval. It’s a move designed to attract more tourists to a driving route spanning from Andover to Pittsfield. Earlier this month, a 50-mile stretch of Route 4 from West Rutland to Hartford received final approval as the “Crossroads of Vermont” scenic byway. The next step is final approval of the “Scenic Route 100 Byway” by the Vermont Transportation Board and a decision is expected in the next few weeks.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says it wants to make it easier for boaters and anglers to find places to launch their boats or fish from shore. To do that, the department is asking owners or managers of boating and fishing facilities to fill out an online questionnaire so the state can get the information to the public.

Vermont lawmakers this week take up a transportation-funding package that includes resurfacing a rough stretch of Vermont Route 108 between Cambridge and Bakersfield and buying a train station in White River Junction. The chairman of the Transportation Committee says the panel came up with an overall spending plan of $553.7 million with about $267 million of it coming from the federal government. That overall target matches the request made in January by the Shumlin administration.

Champlain College is holding its big job fair on today. About 100 employers, including the Vermont National Guard, are expected to attend. There are also a series of seminars on topics from starting your own business to social media. The event takes place from 1:30 to 5:30 PM. The job fair is free and open to the public. You can find more information click HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 25, 2011

A Middlebury College student is missing in Syria. 21-year-old Tik Root of Ripton hasn't been seen or heard from since March 16th. Root is a junior studying Arabic and was recently involved in anti-government protests in Egypt. He then decided to continue his studies in Damascus. Family members say the U.S. State Department is investigating and has learned from the Syrian Government that Syrian authorities are “almost certainly” holding Tik.

The Vermont House of Representatives has given final passage to a bill that would set the state on a path toward a single-payer health care system. Thursday's 92-49 vote wrapped up two days of debate that saw supporters say the measure was needed to cover Vermont's uninsured and control costs by reducing administrative overhead. The measure puts off for two years a decision on how the new system would be paid for. Opponents said that leaves too much uncertainty and will hurt economic growth in the state.

Vergennes and possibly Addison residents will be going to the polls for a sixth time to decide on the proposed one-board governance for the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union. If the Unified Union proposal survives either one or two re-votes, it would be the first significant consolidation move in Vermont. Residents in all five Addison Northwest Supervisory towns must back any unification for it to take effect. If any town reverses the outcome from its Town Meeting Day unification support, the plan would be defeated.

The Counseling Service of Addison County has instituted a hiring freeze and could resort to layoffs depending on the severity of mental health program cuts lawmakers are considering for the fiscal year 2012 state budget. Executive Director Robert Thorn has said a 5-percent cut, coupled with inflation, would translate into a roughly $893,000 hit for the agency next year. The Counseling Service employs approximately 300 people and has an annual budget of around $16 million.

Local Sugarmakers are saying this winter’s massive snowfall is good for this year’s sugar season. The snow not only brings water to the tree, it also insulates it against the cold. Sugarmakers prefer a consistent cold-warm cycle. The packed snow keeps the roots in a slower warm up cycle, which preserves the quality of the sap.

The retired Bennington police chief is going to become the next executive director of the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. Richard Gauthier retired from the Bennington police in September after more than 30 years, including 12 years as chief. Since he retired, Gauthier has been working for the Bennington County sheriff and state's attorney.

Although the Legislature is primarily working on the state budget and health care bills, several lawmakers joined farmers and other community members to discuss agriculture issues that affect the county. The discussions took place at the annual Ag legislative luncheon at the Bridport Community Hall this week.

Local officials here would like to mark the 100th birthday of the Middlebury municipal office building by replacing it with a more up-to-date facility. Back in November of 2002 residents voted against a $6 million plan for a new two-story municipal office/police building that would have been attached to a renovated municipal gym at the intersection of College and South Main streets.

Elementary School directors in Bridport and Ripton are looking for new principals to fill upcoming leadership vacancies. The Bridport Central Principal as well as the leader of Ripton Elementary School recently confirmed they would be stepping down at the end of this academic year.

The Neshobe Family Practice medical building had to shut down last week after a sewer problem followed by a water problem. Brandon Town Manager Keith Arlund said that a lateral sewer line to the building adjacent to the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union offices was compromised after a clean-out box came apart. When public works crews were working to fix the sewer line, they discovered a leaking water main.

Debate has begun on a Vermont state budget for fiscal 2012 that closes what had been a projected deficit of more than $175 million and leaves some human services advocates happier than they were earlier. The House took up the budget late yesterday afternoon and prepared to work into the night. Appropriations Committee members were taking turns briefing fellow lawmakers on various sections of the massive document. Gov. Peter Shumlin had proposed cuts that left some human services advocates protesting loudly.

Legislative leaders say a rare on-time New York state budget is just days away and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says it will restore some school aid. Silver wouldn't say how much of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed cut to school funding would be restored in the budget. He would only say "some." Cuomo has proposed a 7.3 percent cut in money for public schools.

The Vermont attorney general wants to evaluate a proposed settlement between some northeast dairy farmers and a major national milk producer. Dallas-based Dean Foods has agreed to pay $30 million to dairy farmers and change its milk buying practices for 30 months to settle a class-action antitrust lawsuit.

Vermont’s congressional delegation applauded the federal government for expanding a program that provides fruits and vegetables to the state’s students with a boost of more than $1.7 million. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Bernard Sanders along with Rep. Peter Welch thanked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the expansion of the Vermont Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The money will provide free fresh fruits and vegetables to children throughout the school day at no cost to schools.

A bond rating service says it has downgraded the rating for $37 million in outstanding revenue bonds for Burlington International Airport. Fitch Ratings assigned a BBB rating to the bonds, with a negative outlook, citing the airport's over reliance on passenger facility charges and parking revenue, competition from other airports and heavy reliance on Canadian travelers. The rating is still investment grade. City of Burlington officials say it marks an improvement from the airport bonds' last rating, by Moody's Investors Service last October.

Ticonderoga High School Principal Michael Graney is one of two finalists in the search for a new superintendent at the Schroon Lake Central School. Board of Education President John Armstrong said that board members chose Graney and Oswego Middle School Principal Bonnie Finnerty to head into round three of the interviewing process. They interviewed four candidates earlier in the week.

The 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum has spent much of the last decade in Afghanistan. More than five hundred soldiers and reservists from the North Country are currently serving in that country. But New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the time has come for President Barack Obama to set a clear timetable for bringing the troops home. She says New Yorkers, the American public, and the American taxpayers have grown weary of the war in Afghanistan.

The extension of the LaChute River Walk Trail is expected to be complete this summer. The Ticonderoga town board awarded the contract for the $230,000 project to Cleveland Brothers Landscaping during its March meeting. The contract must now be approved by the state Department of Transportation, although local officials believe that process is a mere formality.

Ticonderoga has applied for an Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Planning Grant in hopes of getting its 18th Century sawmill project off the ground. The town is seeking $40,000 for planning and engineering for the project. The proposed replica sawmill would be a centerpiece of the Ticonderoga Quality Destination Plan.

Supporters of a plan to have the state of Vermont establish a single-payer health care system are headed to Montpelier for a rally. Medical school students, nurses and other health professionals from New England and beyond plan to press their cause in the Statehouse rally, set for 1 PM Saturday. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who have been vocal advocates of single-payer, will be among the speakers.

Police are concerned about smartphone apps that could help drunk drivers and other people get away with crimes while behind the wheel. Members of Congress including New York U.S Senator Chuck Schumer are demanding smartphone companies ban apps that help drivers avoid DUI checkpoints and alert them to police. Already Blackberry's maker says it will pull the apps but others including Apple and Android have yet to respond.

Lake George is destined to get a little perkier in several weeks as the local high school's most famous alumnus, now an internationally renowned television celebrity and featured daily segment on WVTK’s The Wake Up Crew, is returning to conduct a benefit show at the high school, and tickets will go on sale this weekend. Celebrity chef, author and talk show host Rachael Ray is presenting her ninth annual local benefit show Friday, April 15 at the Lake George High School, and tickets will go on sale in the high school lobby from 9 AM – 1PM tomorrow. Proceeds from the show and book sales benefit the Lake George Alumni scholarships and purchase of school equipment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 24, 2011

Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro and Bristol Elementary school officials are trying to explain to young children about what happened to popular music teacher Will Parini. He was suspended from the schools following allegations he viewed indecent material on his personal computer. The Vermont Principals Association is responsible for educating districts on how to prepare and react to situations like this one. Now the schools and parents are faced with a difficult lesson for the young children, how to explain why Mr. Parini is no longer their music teacher.

The Fair Haven Police Department is starting a prescription drug disposal program. Residents can drop off their outdated and unused pharmaceuticals, including pet medications, for proper disposal. The aim is to keep the drugs out of the sewer and solid waste streams, and also to reduce home break-ins by thieves looking for drugs. The drugs can be dropped off at the Fair Haven Police Department Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 2 PM. Police ask that people deliver the items in their original packaging if possible.

The Vermont House has passed a bill raising taxes on health services and cigarettes by $24 million. Final House action Wednesday came a day after lawmakers rejected proposed increases in income taxes on higher-income earners. It also imposes higher taxes on hospitals and nursing homes, and a new tax on claims processed by health insurance companies. Now it moves to the Senate.

Vermont lawmakers are debating legislation that would move the state toward Gov. Peter Shumlin's goal of a single-payer health care system. The House took up the issue Wednesday afternoon. The measure is expected to pass easily in a House in which Shumlin's fellow Democrats hold a strong majority.

Vermont dairy farmers have not had a lot to cheer about in recent years while milk prices have struggled. Now Green Mountain dairy farmers are getting help from yogurt, or rather a new yogurt company that is preparing to start production in Brattleboro. It's called Commonwealth Dairy and it's not only creating jobs, it's also relying on milk from struggling Vermont dairy farms.

The Vermont National Guard says employers will get a chance to recruit highly qualified candidates at two job fairs for military veterans. The events will be held in Burlington and St. Albans next week.
Employers who wish to register should contact the Vermont Department of Labor's division of veterans' services.

Students from Lyndon State College and other Vermont State Colleges have taken their message to the Statehouse calling for more funding for the five-college system. About 50 students, mostly from Lyndon State, met with members of the Senate and House education committees on Wednesday afternoon. The move comes after some students at Lyndon State held a sit-in last week about possible faculty cuts at that institution.

University of Vermont President Dan Fogel says he'll step down after 10 years in the job because he thinks it's time. The 63-year-old Fogel, who's widely credited with boosting the University's standing during his tenure, announced Wednesday that he plans to resign the job effective July 1, 2012. He says he'll take a year off then assume a full-time faculty appointment as professor of English.

Approximately 80 parishioners from Catholic churches in the Essex Deanery gathered in Port Henry on March 20 to learn more about the Diocesan planning due to the pending shortage of priests. An overview was presented to bring parish members up to date on the current direction of the committee and to obtain input from those in attendance.

The Proctor Select Board accepted the resignation of member William Dritschilo on Monday and the remaining board members said they would appoint a new member at their meeting next week. He resigned his three-year position in a letter that stated he was “no longer able to maintain the type of civility that the townspeople required.”

Police say 28-year-old Michael Crandell from Lexington, Kentucky was the driver who led them on a high-speed chase Tuesday that started in Mooers, New York. Crandell committed suicide. His girlfriend 22-year-old, Erica Felix, is held at the Clinton County Jail and charged with possession of marijuana and hindering prosecution.

Nine members of the Westport Speech and Debate team will be heading to Long Island in a couple of weeks for the state public speaking tournament. The team will be holding a pair of events to help raise funds for the upcoming trip. On Friday, April 1, the members of the team will be sharing their works with the members of the community at a performance and dessert sale night at the school, starting at 6:30 PM. General admission for the show is $3. On April 2, the students will be hosting a car wash and bake sale at the Westport Volunteer Fire Company from 9 AM – 1 PM. The cost for a car wash is $5.

New York Senate Republicans are proposing a new prison-closing plan they say would better protect upstate communities from job losses. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says the plan will include closing beds or a minimum-security facility in New York City. The state's biggest maximum and minimum-security prisons are upstate in Republican districts.

State Police are investigating a break-in at Peru Central School. Superintendent of Schools A. Paul Scott reported that Buildings and Grounds staff and school administrators called police before the start of classes Wednesday after discovering evidence of burglary and vandalism.

WVTK Local & State News March 23, 2011

Vergennes Mayor Michael Daniels will join Gov. Peter Shumlin, and mayors from Burlington, Winooski, and St. Albans to deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors as part of the annual March for Meals Campaign to end senior hunger. Daniels, Shumlin and the group will deliver hot, nutritious meals to seniors who can no longer safely prepare their own food. The governor plans to celebrate his 55th birthday on March 24 by giving back to seniors in need.

Middlebury College has four students currently studying at its school in Japan, located at partner university ICU in Tokyo. All of the students are safe and accounted for. Some of the students are still in Japan and others have left the country. As a precautionary measure, Middlebury has made the decision to bring those students who are still in Japan back to the United States, at least temporarily, until more is known about radiation exposure and risks in Japan.

Four youth teams, two from Vergennes Union Middle and High Schools, one from Mount Abraham Union Middle and High School and one from Burlington High School traveled to Boston harbor last weekend as part of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's Champlain Longboats program to participate in the Snow Row. The Vergennes team placed first in the youth pro six-oared division and were the fourth boat over the finish line. Vergennes second crew finished 3rd in the youth amateur six-oared division. Mt. Abraham Union School finished fourth in the youth amateur four-oared division.

Folks digging into their family background will want to visit the Ilsley Public Library. The library just unveiled a new database called the Ancestry Library Edition. The new library tool is free to residents of Addison County and there is no other well-organized database like it in the area. The resource is especially good for beginners just starting out in family tree research. Ilsley staff members will offer two free workshops on the genealogical databases: Friday, April 8th, at 3 PM and Saturday, April 9th, at 10:30 AM. No registration is required.

The Vermont House has voted to advance a bill raising about $24 million in new taxes, mainly on health care services and cigarettes. Increases include a boost in the state tax on net patient revenues for hospitals from 5.5 to 6%. That raises more than $$7 million, but hospitals will get some of that money back in increased reimbursements under the state's Medicaid program. The cigarette tax would go up 27 cents, to $2.51 a pack.

The Vermont House has passed a bill making wildlife a public trust in the state after assurances from the Shumlin administration that a famous captive moose will be spared. The bill calls for killing wild animals on an Irasburg game preserve within five years, but a moose known as Pete is expected to be spared.

Calling bottled water a waste of taxpayer dollars, Vermont officials say they're signing on to a program aimed at reducing the purchase and use of it in favor of tap water. State Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin has committed to phasing out bottled water in state buildings. The state spends more than $200,000 a year on bottled water, though Markowitz concedes that it won't be eliminated entirely.

Following the nuclear crisis in Japan some Vermont lawmakers want federal regulators to review Vermont Yankee's safety again. They want the NRC to suspend the license extension until regulators take another look at safety at the Vernon plant. They also want as much radioactive material as possible removed from the water in the spent fuel pool and instead put into dry cask storage.

Essex County lawmakers gave preliminary OK to its first blue-ribbon ethics panel Monday. The County Board of Ethics will consist of five regular members and an alternate who will hear complaints submitted under the county's new ethics law. County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas said 27 applications were submitted for the panel, and a selection subcommittee held interviews and recommended the six names. Ethics members appointed included Phyllis Klein of Willsboro, Alexander Shmulsky of Ticonderoga and Putnam and the alternate is James Herrmann of Westport.

Castleton State College has named a new dean of administration for the college. Scott Dikeman, director of the Spartan Arena, will replace Bill Allen, who left the post after 11 years with the college. The 47-year-old Rutland native graduated with a degree in business administration from Saint Michael's College in Colchester in 1985 and began a successful 25-year career in banking.

A former administrative assistant at Proctor High School is poised to plead guilty to federal charges of embezzling $106,000 and tax fraud. Deborah Clough, who worked at the school for three years, is charged with stealing the money over the course of several years. She said she took money from the student activity fund to fuel a compulsion to buy things. She is facing up to 13 years in jail on two charges, but the terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors calls for a lesser penalty.

What began as a police standoff yesterday morning ended with a suicide. Police say Robert Berard broke the conditions of his latest release from prison, and were looking for him. His sister called to say her 29-year-old brother was alone in his ex-girlfriend's home, threatening to take his own life. That touched off the standoff, with tactical teams, officers and police dogs swarming the trailer park. It lasted for seven hours, and when they finally went in, officers found Berard had taken his own life.

A police chase in Northern New York ended in an apparent suicide. Police would not say why or where the man was wanted. State troopers, sheriff's deputies and border patrol agents with the aid of a helicopter, chased the vehicle for 25 miles, including on the Adirondack Northway. Police say at some points the chase reached high rates of speed. They say the pursuit ended on Route 3 in Plattsburgh when the driver allegedly tried to make a u-turn and was boxed in by a Clinton County Sheriff's Deputy. More details are expected today.

Vermont contractors were hit hard when the economy took a nosedive, but now things are turning around in part because of energy efficiency projects. Money savings and government tax incentives are luring people to the idea of small scale solar and wind projects in their own back yard. Experts say this technology, and other energy efficiency work is leading to new jobs for Vermont contractors.

The Rutland Board of Aldermen unanimously re-elected Alderman David Allaire as the board’s president Monday. Allaire was the only candidate. Alderwoman Sharon Davis nominated him and then promptly made a motion to close nominations. He has held the position since 2006, when he took over from Davis.

Despite a protest from Killington Resort, the town board did away with an advisory commission to the municipal Economic Development and Tourism Department by a 2-1 vote. Voters will have the final say on the commission May 9th, which is the tentative date for Killington’s second town meeting of the year.

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link celebrated its sixth annual Farmers’ Gathering and Resource Fair yesterday, with workshops on food safety, hiring farm employees and expanding markets. The event consisted of workshops to provide local farmers an opportunity to talk about agricultural issues. A community celebration dinner closed the afternoon with a meal prepared from local foods.

Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch are in Haiti checking in on the relief effort following last year's earthquake. It's part of a delegation of U.S. politicians who are being shown around by actor Sean Penn. The Hollywood star is active in the relief efforts in Haiti. Both Welch and Leahy will also travel to the Dominican Republic to meet with Peace Corps groups working within that country. Leahy and Welch return to the United States today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 22, 2011

After a $241,000 deficit emerged in the Mount Abraham Union High School books at the close of the 2010 fiscal year administrators are taking steps to ensure that such a large deficit doesn’t occur again. Addison Northeast Supervisory Union administrators hope to reduce future deficits by redistributing responsibilities, replacing personnel and bringing in outside consultants.

Middlebury College faculty member Kateri Carmola of Salisbury has been charged with one count of felony embezzlement for allegedly taking $4,500 from the Salisbury Historical Society over a three-month period last year. She is due in Addison County District Court on April 4th for a status conference on her case.

The Pittsford Select Board has voted to seek a planning loan from the Agency of Natural Resources for an engineering study to determine the options for approximately 70 customers who will no longer be provided water by the town of Proctor. Those customers receive water through a mainline attached to the Proctor water supply that comes from a surface water facility in a lake in Chittenden. The town’s water facility did not meet the state’s requirements because of disinfection byproducts in the water. The study will help determine what the options are for everyone affected, including drilling personal wells. The estimated cost for the study is about $22,000.

Poultney and West Rutland are two of five towns to get wireless Internet for their town center and downtown as part of the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project. Ludlow, Bristol and Newport will also get the services. These five towns are part of the first 12 towns chosen to participate in the two-year pilot project run by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Other towns across Vermont who have taken the initiative to establish wireless access include Middlebury and Manchester.

A Sudbury woman charged with ramming her boyfriend with a van answered to a charge of aggravated domestic assault with a weapon last Thursday. Cassandra Keyes pleaded innocent on Friday in Rutland criminal court to the felony assault charge as well as a misdemeanor offense of leaving the scene of a crash. The judge set bail at $5,000 for Keyes, who posted the amount and was released.

An Addison County man has been cited into court stemming from a fatal car crash involving a school bus. Sixty-six year-old John Billard is expected to be charged with drunk driving with death resulting. Police say he was driving on a snowy Route 7 in Ferrisburgh in January when he collided with a bus carrying the MMU boy's hockey team.

The Vermont Attorney General's office says a state police trooper was justified when he shot and killed a man who had pulled a handgun while the trooper tried to arrest him following a traffic stop in Rutland. An investigation found that Trooper Christopher Lora's decision to use deadly force was reasonable and justified when he shot and killed James Lamont on Oct. 28, 2010.

Maple is a 32-million dollar industry in Vermont. It's the state's signature product. The success of the industry is helped by the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center. But that research is about to take a financial hit. Senator Patrick Leahy secured several years of funding for Proctor, but a new 165-thousand dollar earmark he wrote has been derailed in Congress, which means no Proctor funding for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Gas prices keep going up. A new survey shows the average price of gasoline has soared 7 cents in the past two weeks. California has some of the highest prices in the nation. The average price of a gallon of regular gas now stands at $3.53 a gallon. In Vermont, the prices are even higher with an average prices of $3.59 a gallon.

A trio of burglars wearing dark face masks smashed through the front door of the Small Dog Electronics retailer in Waitsfield Sunday night, stealing at least two garbage bags full of Apple iPads, iPods, and iPhones. This is the fourth break-in at Small Dog shops in Waitsfield and South Burlington in the last five months and none of the previous burglaries have resulted in arrests. Small Dog is offering a reward for information leading police to the arrest and prosecution of the three men involved.

Bruegger's Enterprises, a Burlington, Vt.-based bagel store chain, has been purchased by Le Duff America. The terms of the sale were not released. Bruegger's started in Burlington in 1983. It now has bagel stores in 26 states, the District of Columbia and several Canadian provinces.

The on-again, off-again idea of allowing all-terrain vehicles on Vermont state land is off again. As expected, Vermont's environmental agency has begun the process to repeal a 15-month-old rule allowing ATVs on state land. The Agency of Natural Resources on Monday issued the proposed repeal of the rule, which was put in place by the Douglas administration in 2009 over the objections of lawmakers and environmentalists, but to cheers from ATV users.

Federal regulators have given the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant a 20-year license renewal, despite calls for reconsideration following the nuclear disaster in Japan. Vermont Yankee also needs a state permit to continue operating after March of 2012. The state Senate and Gov. Peter Shumlin are opposed to the continued operation of the plant.

About 50 people from Essex County gathered to learn about employment opportunities that will result from the Laurentian Aerospace Corporation project. The workforce is expected to be about 200 people when the facility is completed, and grow to 900 within two years. The facility will make the latest in technology available to employees, such as iPads for every worker. The session was organized by the Essex County Industrial Development Agency.

Anyone who'd like a free lever-type voting machine can probably have one soon in Essex County. The County Board of Elections had used the old machines for the last few years to run elections in every town. But the general election last year was the first to go exclusively with new electronic voting machines. Now, some polling places where the old machines have been stored are calling about removing them. Schools and villages can use lever machines until the end of 2012. The machines could also be used for exhibits or sold for scrap.

A plan to build a $1.9 billion underground direct-current electricity transmission system in Lake Champlain and the Hudson River has received approval for the project's system reliability interconnection study. That application is one of the first steps the company took toward approval of the 350-mile transmission line that will serve the New York City market.

While Vermont is in the process of shutting down its only nuclear power plant, there is talk of building one in northern New York. Officials in Massena say it would provide hundreds of jobs and cheap, clean power but some residents are not so sure. Massena has taken a big hit in recent years. Manufacturers like General Motors have either closed or downsized, leaving hundreds without jobs. Now community leaders are looking to re-energize the economy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 21, 2011

Officials at Middlebury College say the men's and women's swim teams were suspended after several hazing incidents this winter. A Middlebury spokesperson says the college decided that a police investigation wasn't needed. The College's policy says the decision to report hazing is based on whether the incident presents a risk of serious harm to students or other people or involves a serious violation of the law. Both teams were banned from participating at the Middlebury Invitational Meet on February 5th. And only freshmen on the women's team were permitted to compete for the rest of the season.

Vermont State Police in New Haven are asking anyone with information regarding a recent burglary to please step forward. A home on North Street was broken into on Friday March 11 between 8 AM and 3:28 PM. Police report that cash was the only thing taken from the residence. Anyone with possible information about the incident is asked to call the New Haven State Police Barracks at (802) 388-4919.

An elementary school music teacher in Vermont is facing child pornography charges. According to a federal affidavit, Will Parini is alleged to have had images on his computer involving underage children. He has been suspended from his teaching job at Starksboro and Bristol elementary schools. A letter from the principal sent home to parents said there was no evidence that any local children were involved.

The town of Pittsford will be conducting a dog census during the upcoming week. Denise Mahoney will call all Pittsford residents asking for information on any dogs in town. The census will include name, age, breed and rabies vaccination for all dogs at each residence. Annual dog registration is due to the Pittsford Town Clerk by April 1.

Vermont State Police in the Rutland barracks announced they will be conducting drunken driving checkpoints through Rutland County from March 25-27.

An education conference being planned at Vermont Technical College in Randolph will focus on the value of collaboration among parents, teachers and principals. The Vermont Family Network is sponsoring the March 30 event, along with the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., the Vermont Principals Association and the Vermont National Education Association. The fee for the daylong event is $50 per person.

More than 600 people in Vermont showed their support for people in Japan with a vigil outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, the Safe and Green Campaign, and the Citizens Awareness Network organized Sunday afternoon’s event in Vernon. The peaceful vigil was a showing of support for people endangered by the potential dangers of radiation in Japan where a nuclear plant was damaged by last week's earthquake and tsunami.

Military writers will discuss the country's involvement in Afghanistan at a writers' symposium held by Norwich University. The 16th annual Colby Military Writers' Symposium will take place March 30-April 1 in Northfield. The event will feature presentations by five authors and a panel discussion entitled, "An uncertain future in Afghanistan: Assessing the conflict ten years on." A schedule, author biographies and more information can be found on the Norwich University website.

Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott travels to Washington this coming week for a meeting of his peers that's expected to focus on promoting investments within their states and on relations with Canada. Scott will be at a meeting Wednesday through Friday of the National Association of Lieutenant Governors at which cuts in federal aid to the states also is expected to be a hot topic.

A Vermont Marine killed in Afghanistan is being remembered for his humor, athletic skills and generosity. More than 400 people, including Gov. Peter Shumlin, turned out Saturday to say farewell to Cpl. Ian Muller, who was killed March 11.

A state audit follow-up says Moriah Central School District didn't always issue requests for proposals for professional services it needed. Also, the district sometimes did not have written agreements with those who provide the professional services. Moriah Superintendent William Larrow said the district has already tightened its internal controls over professional services and claims auditing.

The Pfizer facility in Chazy is not slated for demolition anytime soon. Clinton County Legislator Harry McManus asked the question at the most recent meeting of the Pfizer Transition Coordinating Council, saying rumors were circulating that Pfizer officials were about to decide whether to tear down the plant. According to North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, that wasn’t the case. Pfizer's plans for the foreseeable future remain focused on marketing the facility.

State police say a motorist going over one hundred miles an hour caused a three car crash on Interstate 89 Saturday afternoon. Police say 27-year-old Brian Phelps, Randolph, admitted to them he was going 120 miles an hour when he collided with two other vehicles on the highway in Randolph. Phelps is charged with negligent operation.

Church Street's biggest box store got a new home Saturday. Old Navy relocated from Burlington, to Williston, next to Dick's Sporting Goods. The clothing retailer said the store on Church Street was just too big. Its space on the Marketplace will be filled by two businesses, Panera Bread and an expanding local business that has not been revealed yet.

After nine hours' debate over two days last week, the Vermont House has passed a bill requiring employers to give workers 30 minutes of breaks during each six-hour work period. If the Senate agrees and Gov. Peter Shumlin signs the bill, it would be a change from current law, which says only that employers must give reasonable breaks to workers.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch is asking seven supermarket chains to shelve real Vermont maple syrup apart from a brand that's not the real thing. Welch said that Log Cabin syrup is still packed in brown plastic jugs nearly identical to jugs used by Vermont maple syrup producers, despite repeated correspondence between the company, his office and state officials. He says real Vermont maple syrup is a product of dedicated farmers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 18, 2011

Vermont State Police say a 22-year-old Sudbury woman is facing charges she hit her boyfriend with a car after a fight and then drove off. Police say Cassandra Keyes had been arguing with her boyfriend on Sunday when he got out of her car and started walking along Stevens Road in Pittsford. Another driver witnessed the incident. The victim suffered a cut on his head and a possible injury to his ankle. She is currently being held at the Marble Valley Correctional Center.

Two motorists hurt in a two-car crash at the Essex-Warren county line yesterday morning were listed in serious but stable conditions later in the day. Jennifer Mattison of Ticonderoga and Todd Porter of Hague were trapped in their vehicles and were extracted by Ticonderoga Fire Department personnel, with assistance from Hague Fire Department rescuers. The crash occurred just before 9 a.m. on Route 9N, near New Hague Road, at the Ticonderoga-Hague town line. Route 9N was closed for two hours while Ticonderoga Police investigated.

An icon in the world of organic foods, Gary Hirshberg shed light on food and agriculture issues that hit close to home for Addison County residents in two appearances at Middlebury College this week. The president of organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm gave a positive forecast for the future of organically certified milk and also offered his take on how genetically engineered crops fit into the food landscape. His milk comes from the Organic Valley dairy cooperative, which buys from a number of Addison County dairy farmers.

Plans for the repair of two key bridges in Bristol are coming together. However residents should be aware that the projects will take some time to complete. A highway official has explained the state’s multi-year plans for repairing the one-lane bridge on Route 116 that crosses the New Haven River in the southern part of town. Town officials have also signed an agreement that will lead to repair of the closed bridge at the base of South Street just below the village.

It's the second busiest airport in the state, but is it big enough to stay in business? Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport is funded by a government subsidy called Essential Air Services. As Congress looks to balance its budget, funding for EAS is targeted for cuts and possibly elimination. The House plans to phase out EAS in the next three years. There is no word on when the House will make this decision. Rutland business leaders have already contacted rep. Peter Welch to help keep the airport's subsidy.

Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed former Rutland Northeast Superintendent Bill Mathis last week to complete four years of a six-year position on the Vermont State Board of Education, vacated by John Hall. The Goshen resident retired from his post as superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union in June 2009 after 27 years on the job. He is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center, based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

An idea that started as a blog post by two students may become the newest field of study at Middlebury College. Amanda Warren and Ben Blackshear currently head up the Middlebury College Organic Garden. Last summer they sat down to develop an unofficial program in Food and Agriculture Studies using courses already offered at the college. You can check at the plan in their blog at

The Vermont Supreme Court is taking its show on the road. In what has become an annual ritual, the high court justices will visit Vermont Law School in South Royalton next week, hearing oral arguments on seven cases that are currently pending. Among them: A case about whether documents related to a child pornography investigation at the Rutland Police Department are subject to the state's Public Records Act.

Route 4 from Rutland to Hartford is now officially a Vermont scenic byway. Nine municipalities got together to form a 50-mile stretch along Route 4. Its name is the Crossroad of Vermont Byway. It's the seventh scenic byway in the state and it received no opposition. The Economic Development and Tourism Commission in Killington led the project.

The future of the Essex County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program is in doubt. The Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes federal funding for RSVP, will be eliminated if proposed legislation is approved. During the 2009-10 RSVP fiscal year, 371 volunteers worked at 83 stations, logging more than 55,500 hours in Essex County. RSVP is especially important in Essex County, which is the state's second-largest county and one of its least populated.

Corporal Ian Muller is back here in his home state. Six Marines escorted his casket back to Danville. The 22-year-old Marine died last week in Afghanistan during a combat mission. As it passed through Montpelier, lawmakers lined up in front of the Statehouse, while hundreds of citizens lined the streets in other towns before finally reaching Danville. The funeral is set for Saturday.

Vermont lawmakers advanced a jobs bill yesterday with enhanced incentives for businesses that create new jobs, a new statewide internship program, grants for fruit and vegetable farmers trying to upgrade their operations and a host of other provisions. Some of the sections of the bill are aimed at making it easier for businesses to get state job development help when they're located in parts of Vermont with unemployment higher than the statewide average.

The Vermont House has given preliminary approval to toughening penalties for repeat drunken drivers, and creating a new crime of letting someone use a car when the person granting permission knows the driver will be impaired. The House gave preliminary approval yesterday to the bill, which would increase the penalty for a third drunken driving offense from one year in jail to five years in prison, if the drunken driver caused death or serious bodily injury.

A legislative committee has recommended that a Vermont judge be fired for his demeanor on the bench that is inappropriate and that he can come off as insulting. In a 6-2 vote, the panel said Superior Court Judge Mark Keller should be removed from the bench. Keller is now assigned to the court in Franklin County. The recommendation is not binding. The full House and Senate vote on Keller's fate March 30th.

The federal government says the price of some veggies has jumped almost 50% from a year ago, some dairy items cost 20% more, and beef is 10% more expensive than last March. Rising fuel prices are making it more expensive to transport food to the stores and experts say extreme weather in other countries is also to blame, damaging crops intended for export. Food prices are expected to continue to rise.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce will host a Business seminar series. The complimentary seminars will be provided by the North Country Small Business Development Center. Refreshments will be provided and sponsored by Stewarts Shops of Ticonderoga. All three Business seminars will be held at the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce office on Montcalm St. at 8AM. Financial Finesse will be presented Wednesday, April 6th, increasing Your Bottom Line Wednesday, April 10th and Shout It Out Marketing will be presented Wednesday, May 4th. For more information contact the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Vermont Drama Festival takes place over the next two weekends. Otter Valley Union High School will host a regional one-act festival this Saturday from 1 to 8 PM along with participating schools Green Mountain Union High School, West Rutland School, Fair Haven Union High School and Mount Abraham. Mill River Union High School will do the same March 26th, hosting Rutland’s Mount St. Joseph Academy, Rutland High School, Stowe High School, BFA St. Albans and Twin Valley High School. The regional festival winners will converge at the state festival, hosted by Springfield High School on April 8th and 9th.

A Middlebury 11-year-old who clinched the Vermont Individual Spelling Bee title Wednesday said the key to her success lay between the pages of a book. Meigan Clark, a sixth-grader at Mary Hogan School, studied words off the state’s study list for months, three times over. Then, to her surprise, she started seeing nearly all the terms in Harry Potter books she was reading and on a television show she was watching. She said the key to her win was repetition, studying the often-obscure words over and over again and staying calm during competition.

Moriah Central School will be a bit crazier than usual Saturday, March 26. That's when the school Parent-Teacher Organization will host its annual Moriah Madness from 11AM – 2PM. For more than a decade, Moriah Madness has featured games and prizes, Penelope the Clown, face painting, arts and crafts, a book fair, a basket raffle, bake sale, and concession. It's a popular event, attracting hundreds of people. Admission is $3 a child, grade 6 and younger, with a $10 cap for a family of four or more children. Adults are admitted free and all children must be accompanied by an adult.

The North American Snowsports Journalists Association honored Rutland’s Peggy Shinn this month as one of the country’s best feature ski writers. She won one of the Hirsch awards for feature writing in Vermont Life, Stratton Times and other publications. She received a trophy and a pair of Salomon skis. Hannah Kearney of Norwich won the Paul Robbins Outstanding Competitor Award.

The Burlington-metro area was ranked among the happiest cities in the country by a recent Gallup poll. The survey considered the health, lifestyle choices and optimism of residents. Huntington, WV. was ranked the saddest place to live, while Boulder, CO. ranked as the happiest large city in the nation. Burlington topped the charts among cities with less than 300,000 people. Burlington ranked high in exercise and healthy eating, while having a very low number of people with diabetes and obesity.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 17, 2011

As temperatures rise into the 40s and 50s this week, Vermont officials are reminding anglers to remove ice fishing shanties from the ice by March 27 or possibly sooner. Vermont law requires that shanties be removed before the ice becomes unsafe, loses its ability to support the shanty or before the last Sunday in March. Owners also face fines of up to $1,000 if structures aren’t removed in time.

The earth moved a little in Quebec yesterday, was barely felt in Vermont and New York, and wasn't even a blip when compared to the massive nine-point-o earthquake in Japan last week. This mini-quake of sorts registered four-point-three on the Richter scale and no damage was reported.

It’s a bad year for potholes in Rutland. According to the Department of Public Works Superintendent it’s tremendously worse than it has been in many, many years. He is hearing more complaints about higher-traffic areas like Woodstock Avenue, but is also getting some reports from side streets. He also said it’s not just potholes either, the frost heaving this year is much worse. The city budget has a line item for fixing potholes.

By a mere seven paper ballots, voters in the Village of Port Henry reelected Mayor Ernest Guerin Tuesday. Guerin defeated challenger Frank Slycord, 138 to 131, to win a second term. He said he’d keep the village of 1,200 residents on the same track he steered it on two years ago when he was first elected.

One woman is in jail, while the other is in the hospital, after a stabbing early yesterday morning in South Burlington. Police say 34-year-old Tina Cyr now faces charges of attempted murder. She is now being held without bail. As for the victim, Tiffany Johnson, her condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care is now listed as "good."

Vermont lawmakers may ask the Shumlin administration to produce recommendations for reforming the medical malpractice system in the state with an eye to lowering health care costs. In debates over health care reform both at the state and federal level, the issue of medical malpractice claims often gets raised, with a particular focus on the defensive medicine doctors are said to perform to prevent potential lawsuits.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been appointed chairman of a Senate subcommittee dealing with health and aging issues. The panel Sanders will chair deals as well with several issues that have been priorities for the first-term senator, including community health centers, home heating assistance, seniors programs, pensions and dental care.

Teachers in South Burlington finally have a new contract. The South Burlington School Board voted unanimously yesterday to ratify the three-year deal. The district's 250 teachers will get pay raises of at least 2.5 percent each of the next three years but will contribute more for health insurance. Teachers ratified the deal last week.

A new question is cropping up as the debate over health reform in Vermont unfolds against the backdrop of moves in other states to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. If Vermont adopts single payer, health care system, will that reduce the ability of unionized public-sector workers to negotiate over health benefits as part of collective bargaining? Current Vermont law says health coverage is a subject of collective bargaining.

Proposed cuts in the federal budget could have a big impact on a Vermont Foodbank program. A group of volunteers this week packed meals for the Community Supplemental Food Program. The canned goods and other staples are distributed around the state. The food goes to seniors and new mothers, about 3,600 people in all. Food bank officials say proposed cuts moving through Congress would eliminate about half the money for the program.

Facing opposition from local school boards, Vermont's education commissioner is halting his push to get small supervisory unions to hire interim superintendents. He told the state Board of Education on Tuesday that the issue of interims has become divisive and is distracting from the larger goal of examining the efficiencies of consolidation.

The last of the Vermont Air National Guard members deployed to Korea have returned home to Vermont. The 30 Air Guard members arrived in South Burlington on yesterday morning. Their trip home was delayed by the tsunami. They are the last to return of the 160 Air Guard members that served in Korea to maintain peace and stability in the region. The rest returned about a month ago.

The careers of three Vermont judges are hanging in the balance as lawmakers consider whether to grant them new 6-year terms on the bench. Judge Mark Keller is facing the greatest scrutiny. Lawmakers on the judicial retention committee say they heard disturbing complaints about Keller's manner on the bench. The committee did approve eight other judges, including all five Supreme Court justices.

Things were looking up for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant last week, when the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted to give it a 20-year license extension. Only hours later, the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered a still-unfolding crisis at four reactors of the same design and vintage as Vermont Yankee. That has left state lawmakers - who have been opposed to the plant's continued operation after its current license expires next year - more determined than ever.

The Vermont Health Department is pitching a new service for pregnant women and new mothers. It's called text4baby, a mobile messaging service featuring free tips and information about pregnancy and parenthood. The text messages are available at no charge to cell phone subscribers. The health department calls the service an excellent use of social media to help women care for their health and give their babies the best possible start in life. To sign up, text the word BABY to 511411. To sign up for text4baby in Spanish, text BEBE to 511411. For more information, click HERE.

A bill in New York would require schools to form committees that would keep students from returning to play for at least 24 hours after concussions, even if the athlete has approval from a physician. Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon says yesterday the law would also apply to all students, not just athletes, whether they suffered concussions in physical education classes or just "horsing around." New York's measure would also require a 24-hour waiting period and review by a school committee even with a physician's approval.

A renegade gray squirrel is stalking a Southern Vermont neighborhood. A number of people on Bennington's East Street say a squirrel has attacked them over the last few weeks. Kevin McDonald tells the Bennington Banner he was shoveling when the squirrel jumped onto him. He says he threw the animal off, but it twice jumped back onto him. A game warden says there have been similar reports from the area. One woman is being treated for exposure to rabies.

The sweetest weekend in Vermont is on tap with the 10th Annual Maple Open House Weekend. More than 100 maple producers from across the state are opening their sugarhouses to visitors for the “harvesting” of Vermont’s first crop on Saturday and Sunday. There are approximately 2,000 maple syrup producers in Vermont, making it the largest state of maple producing in the United States. For a complete and up-to-date list of sugarhouses open this weekend, click HERE. A Ski-and-Maple map has also been printed and can be found at any Vermont Welcome Center.

Today is, of course, St. Patrick's Day and there is some musical entertainment on tap to celebrate! Here in Middlebury, Minor Tribal Scuffles will be putting on what they are billing as their “Green Dreads and Ham” St. Patty's Day show at 8 PM at 51 Main. The Celtic duo Trinity will begin their three-night run at McGrath's Irish Pub at Long Trail in Killington today with a holiday marathon show starting at 2 PM You can catch them again on Friday and Saturday starting at 8 PM. And downtown Rutland has plenty of options as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WVTK Local & State News March 16, 2011

Police are investigating an early-morning stabbing in South Burlington. It happened around 2:00AM at a home on Ethan Allen Drive. Police say several people were attending a party at the residence when two of them got into a fight. A woman then allegedly stabbed a man with a knife multiple times. Police have not released the names of the suspect or the victim but do say the suspect admitted to the stabbing.

The McKernon Group was named first place in the categories of Energy Efficiency and Single Family Home over 3,000 Square Feet at the annual Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Southern Vermont Awards Banquet held in Rutland last month. The home, sited at the foot of Mount Ascutney, was designed and constructed by the McKernon Group. Jack McKernon and Kevin Birchmore commented that these awards are significant for the firm because of the company's commitment to passive and active methods of design and construction.

Residents from the town of Hubbardton voted this week on an article that would allow the Select Board to lease a 2012 14-yard dump truck for seven years. The article was passed by a 42-to-40 vote through paper ballot. The new truck, that will include a plow, wing and sander, will replace a 1999 International dump truck. Once the lease is complete, the town will then own the truck.

Jason Gibbs has been named director of marketing for Ski Vermont, the Vermont Ski Areas Association. Gibbs has a background in brand management and strategic communications, formerly serving as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and as communications director for Gov. Jim Douglas.

In the wake of the disasters in Japan, there are many of us who want to help out by making donations. But how do you know your money is actually going to help? There are people running scams right now that claim to be helping those in Japan but instead are taking your money. The best way to protect yourself is give only to established charities you know of such as the Red Cross. The most secure way to give money is with a good, old-fashioned check. Cash can be misused and credit card numbers can be stolen.

The return of Vermont National Guard members that was delayed by the tsunami is now back on. A military transport plane is due to arrive in Burlington this morning, bringing home the last group of Vermont Air Guard members who were deployed for a peacekeeping mission in South Korea. Most of the unit came home a month ago.

Former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas returned to the Statehouse yesterday. About two months after leaving office, Douglas was before the House Committee on Education to talk about how to choose the person who oversees education in the state. The former governor says he is in favor of a governor directly picking an education commissioner instead of the State Education Board. Douglas says this is not about politics controlling education but about accountability.

While lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere look to curb collective bargaining rights of employees, Vermont is considering expanding them - to childcare providers. More than 100 providers turned out yesterday at the Statehouse to lobby for a bill before the Legislature that would treat them as state employees for collective bargaining purposes. Gov. Peter Shumlin said he supports their cause.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials say Vermont Yankee's license renewal is still coming, but will be delayed because agency workers are busy with events in Japan. The paperwork was expected to be in the Vermont Yankee's hands this week. But with the NRC deploying staff members to help with the nuclear emergency in Japan, the NRC now is going to take a bit more time to finish the paperwork.

Vermont's state auditor says he has a plan to prevent embezzlements. Auditor Tom Salmon told lawmakers yesterday a key to stopping them is letting people who have access to public cash know that they're being watched. He wants towns, agencies and non-profits to be required to complete a checklist of internal cash controls and certify it.

The Willsboro Central School District and the Willsboro Teachers Association have agreed to a contract extension for the 2011-12 school year. The extension is a direct rollover contract without any additional raises and includes freezes in all stipends, including coaching and extracurricular positions.

Yesterday, the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led Assembly were proposing and passing their own versions of a New York state budget. Each chamber would restore some school aid cut in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal. The Assembly also wants a true 'millionaire's tax.' Each chamber will pass its version this week. Next come conference committees of senior members negotiating different areas of the budget to hit spending targets. The budget is due April 1.

You can't miss Orwell's First Congregational Church. It's a classic Vermont church that's visible to all in the heart of Orwell village. Distinguished by its imposing architecture, the church, built in 1843, is now graced by placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to the effort of church and other community members, the structure is now being recognized as a national treasure.

Girl Scouts from across Vermont join sister Girl Scouts nationwide in celebrating the 99th birthday of the founding of Girl Scouting in the United States this month. For nearly a century, the Girl Scouts has stayed true to founder Juliette Gordon Low's vision of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

You knew it had to happen sometime: a movie about Vermont's Captain Richard Phillips of Underhill. He was captain of a cargo ship off the coast of Africa nearly two years ago, which was attacked by Somali pirates, and he was held hostage for several days before his eventual rescue by Navy SEALs. Deadline-dot-com is reporting Tom Hanks will play Phillips in a movie being produced by Sony Pictures, and based on the book written by the Vermont resident.

Walking into one fifth-grade classroom in Westport, people immediately notice that something is different. The students have no chairs. Instead, the students sit on WittFitt stability balls. The balls are part of a pilot program that the class is participating in. The program replaces their chairs with an inflatable ball that looks like the ones used for exercise. The stability balls have no backing, requiring the children to keep proper posture throughout the day.