Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 31, 2011

Vergennes honored veterans in a big way yesterday as thousands showed up for the state's biggest Memorial Day parade. People of all ages lined the streets, proudly waving American flags. Martin Casey has been helping put on the parade since 1946 and he says it's a bittersweet reminder of his past and an acknowledgment of present sacrifices made by our service men and women.

Tax rates in some Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns likely will increase in the coming year by a penny more than they otherwise would have. School directors are currently working to get operating deficits under control in all six district schools. Two recommendations have been made to begin reducing these deficits that include using Federal money from the Education Jobs Fund for each school and increasing tax rates, except for Bristol Elementary. Although voter’s approved school budgets on Town Meeting Day the boards still have room to make changes.

Last week Vergennes aldermen got their first look at a draft 2011-2012 budget that City Manager Mel Hawley said should mean no increase in the municipal portion of the city tax rate if they adopt it as proposed in the weeks to come. And Vergennes homeowners might be looking at a lower tax rate overall. The current municipal tax rate rounds to 60.3 cents. The 2012 school tax rates have not been finalized yet, but according to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union estimates the city’s school rate could drop by 6 cents.

Emergency response officials from throughout the region turned out in full uniform last Thursday to celebrate the life of Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association founding member George “Wedge” Murdoch, who passed away on May 22 after a long illness. His colleagues recalled him as a dedicated and caring man with a wry sense of humor.

The town of Bridport will be throwing itself a big birthday party in June, and you are invited. Bridport is one of 10 Addison County communities that will be marking the 250th anniversary of their town charters this year. Many towns will mark the occasion with special ceremonies, potluck dinners and displays of old photos and other historical memorabilia.

Addison Northeast Supervisory Union recently hired school finance veteran Edward Gomeau to take over as its business manager. In July, He will take over an operation that has been plagued with deficits over the past two years. He is currently in his fourth year as director of finance and operations for New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut.

The Rutland Area Prevention Coalition is reviving a debate in Castleton over open container laws. The organization has posted an online survey asking town residents and visitors for their views on the issue. The survey is linked to on the coalition’s website.

The town board has adopted Ticonderoga’s “nuisance” property law. The "nuisance" property law, which has been in the works for several months, is an attempt by the Ti town board to spruce up dilapidated buildings, clean up garbage, eliminate junk and make the community more attractive. The town board hopes residents will voluntarily clean up properties, but are preparing to deal with "nuisance" properties through law enforcement.

Crown Point has new picnic tables thanks to its latest Eagle Scout. Duke Mildon, who received Boy Scouts' highest award recently, built 10 tables for town parks. The tables are his community service project, which is required of all Eagle Scouts. He is a member of Troop 70 in Crown Point and has also been selected as a People to People Ambassador to Australia.

Vermont's largest electric utility is being sold to a Canadian company. The Central Vermont Public Service Corp. announced Monday it had reached an agreement to be acquired by Fortis, Inc., which serves customers across Canada. Fortis is going to pay about $700 million to acquire CVPS, including the assumption of $230 million in debt. Fortis President Stan Marshall says CVPS is a well-run utility whose operations and operating philosophy are similar to those of the company's Canadian utilities. CVPS President Larry Reilly says the Vermont utility will remain headquartered in Rutland and no job losses are anticipated. CVPS shareholders and state and federal regulators must still approve the deal.

Congressman Peter Welch spent a good portion of his schedule Monday touring Barre City and Central Vermont. He says because of all the natural disasters around the country, Congress may need a special appropriation to cover all the losses. Rep. Welch says there is likely help for towns, cities and public infrastructure that was damaged in the floods, and there may also be low interest loans available for private businesses that were impacted by the flood. Governor Shumlin has already asked the President for federal help. That application is pending.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is coming under fire from environmentalists for vetoing a bill that would have required new tests for arsenic and other toxic substances in private water wells. Shumlin vetoed the bill this past week, saying he did not want to impose new costs on Vermonters - especially those living in rural areas where private wells are the main source of drinking water.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is introducing a bill that would stop car rental agencies from renting automobiles that are under recall for problems that aren't yet fixed. Schumer says the federal law is needed because of serious crashes in recent years involving rental cars under recalls. Schumer states that car rental agencies must be held to the same standard as automobile dealerships that don't lease cars for longer terms until a problem identified in a recall is fixed.

The Memorial Day weekend is the official start of the hiking season in Vermont. The Green Mountain Club says its staff and volunteers have been preparing trails and shelters for the summer season. Trails are in generally good condition despite this spring's rain and melting snow. But the club warns early-season hikers to stay off trails that are too muddy to walk through and be careful on snow and ice at higher elevations. The club says hiking is a big tourism draw for the state. The Long Trail attracts 200,000 people each year.

While Lake Champlain's high water continues to make life difficult for those living near the lake, anglers are finding almost ideal fishing conditions. The high, cold and muddy water had delayed feeding activity. A biologist says anglers targeting crappie, bass, and northern pike are finding good success. Conditions are also improving for salmon and bass. Not all of the state's fishing accesses are open just yet because of the flooding.

Artifacts from a B-17 Bomber that crashed in Randolph back in the 1940's are now with the Vermont Historical Society. The items, including a bracelet from one of the pilots, were handed over yesterday afternoon in a Memorial Day service near the crash site off Fish Hill Road. The bomber went down in June of 1943. Three of the aviators died and seven were able to parachute to safety. The collection will move to a permanent home at the Randolph Historical Society. The display will open to the public on Father's Day.

Green Mountain College has received a 100-thousand dollar grant to help students study the art of flash freezing. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture provided a trailer that allows Green Mountain College to flash freeze produce right from the farm. The college is currently using the unit as an educational tool, but local farmers are also encouraged to use the technology. The College hopes to eventually get these flash frozen products to local institutions in the charitable food system.

Friday, May 27, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 27, 2011

A line of severe storms moved through Vermont last night. The wind gusts, some reaching up to 70 miles per hour, led to thousands of power outages. As of 10:30 PM, Vermont has roughly 8,800 outages statewide. At the height of the storm, there were more than 9,500 outages reported.

Thursday’s storms caused significant damage across central Vermont, flooding Barre and Montpelier, compromising roads and buildings and causing widespread outages. Shortly before 11 PM, Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon declared a state of emergency. While no reports of tornadoes were officially made, intense downpours, hail and high winds hammered central Vermont throughout the afternoon and evening.

Gov. Peter Shumlin's signing of a bill moving Vermont toward single-payer, universal health care is drawing a range of reactions. Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Vermont Workers Center and other liberal groups are hailing the legislation, saying the state can set an example for the country in providing health care to all of its citizens. Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, a group that sprung up this year to oppose the bill, says Thursday's signing should be a wakeup call for Vermonters. That group maintains the bill gives too much power to its new Green Mountain Care Board, to set up the new system.

The discovery of environmental contamination at the Connor Homes building on Route 7 South in Middlebury has halted the planned sale of the manufacturing plant to hard cider maker Green Mountain Beverage. It also put on hold Connor Homes’ plans to lease the former Tubbs furniture plant in the Brandon Industrial Park. Mike Connor has confirmed that environmental testing had uncovered contamination under the company’s current location, the former Standard Register building. Middlebury select-board Chairman John Tenny pledged the town’s help in hopefully finding a local solution for the two companies.

The 2010-2011 fiscal year Bristol Police spending plan was passed this week. The just-adopted police budget marks a 7 percent decrease in spending from what was budgeted for this year, and it requires 3.3 percent less from taxpayers in the coming year. The primary causes of this decrease were attributed to a reduction in spending on full-time labor and the omission of grants from the budget. The budget takes effect on July 1st.

The Middlebury Volunteer Fire Department is proposing a $5.2 million renovation of the Seymour Street and East Middlebury stations. The plan could go to the voters as soon as next March. Members of the Middlebury Fire Station Committee outlined their preliminary plans to the town select-board, calling for the replacement of the East Middlebury station with a slightly smaller, more energy efficient structure along with an expansion-renovation of the Seymour Street facility.

A group of residents and Ferrisburgh Central School officials are working to create both a year-round town recreation center on school property and a bicycle and pedestrian path that could link neighborhoods to the school. One of the Ferrisburgh Central School board members has helped lead an effort that has included three meetings to discuss design and funding ideas.

The Monitor Bay Town Campground in Crown Point won't open for Memorial Day weekend this year. The town-owned facility, which includes a campground, park and public boat launch site on Lake Champlain, has 39 campsites, most of which were rented to seasonal campers. Flooding has also closed the Port Henry Village Campground on Lake Champlain and its opening date was postponed from late April to June 17. Moriah's Bulwagga Bay Town Campground is open, but about a dozen waterfront sites are closed due to flooding. The Moriah Town Beach, located at the campground, is also closed until further notice.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cutting funding for the Lake Champlain Basin Program by 25 percent, to $3 million. But that's good news because officials had feared the EPA would cut their funding by more than half. Basin Program Manager Bill Howland said the allocation will allow the group to plug some of the holes in lake programs created by budget cuts at other federal agencies.

Three Rutland County residents were among those arrested in a federal drug sweep that netted 35 suspects in New York and Vermont yesterday. Federal agents conducted a series of raids, including one on Lincoln Avenue in Rutland, where alleged members and operatives of a Schenectady gang known as the “Four Block Gang” were arrested. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York charged the gang’s members with a number of offenses ranging from racketeering to drug trafficking.

This Memorial Day Weekend you’ll have plenty of chances to remember the sacrifices of the women and men who died in service to our country and to feel the first thrills of summer in parades around the county. Look for parades in Orwell, Middlebury, Vergennes, Hancock and Bristol this weekend as well as Brandon. In New York you’ll find events all weekend in Hague, Crown Point and in Ticonderoga. Visit the Area Calendar page to find out what’s happening in your town this weekend!

This year’s marshal for the Memorial Day parade in Vergennes will be longtime resident and World War II veteran Richard Poquette. Like many of his generation, he answered the call and served his country in some of the biggest battles in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II.

Three more names were added to the Vermont Fallen Heroes Memorial during a ceremony at Camp Johnson Thursday. Last year, 1,500 members of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were called to duty in Afghanistan. It was the largest deployment ever of the Vermont National Guard. Most returned home to their families. But three Green Mountain Boys made the ultimate sacrifice and did not return to the Green Mountains. The names of 14 guardsmen are now on the Vermont Fallen Heroes Memorial at Camp Johnson.

Over Memorial Day weekend the Vermont State Police will be increasing enforcement efforts to promote safe, responsible driving in support of Operation C.A.R.E. and All American Buckle Up Week. Troopers will also focus on specific areas in which unbelted occupants were injured or killed in 2010. High visibility enforcement is an essential component in reducing traffic crashes. In 2010, Vermont experienced no fatalities over the Memorial Day weekend on highways that were patrolled by VSP. Troopers will also be working with other local and county law enforcement agencies during this time to support the national Click It or Ticket mobilization through June 5th.

Rep. Peter Welch says he's encouraged that more members of the U.S. House appear to be coming around to his view that it's time to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. The Vermont Democrat was on the losing side in votes on two amendments on Thursday that would have curtailed the war effort. The amendments failed by narrower margins than similar measures in the past.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is criticizing federal regulators for what he's calling inaction in the face of mounting evidence that speculation is driving up the price of oil and gasoline. He joined Senate colleagues in grilling the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission over the commission's slowness to impose limits on oil price speculation on Wall Street. Sanders says the supply of crude oil is higher than it was two years ago, when the national average price for gasoline at the pump was $2.30 per gallon.

Three organizations hope that better information will lead to better results when it comes to a vote on a new home. The town of Westport, Westport Volunteer Fire Department and Westport Central School District will again submit a proposal for a new municipal center to the voters on Tuesday, July 19th.

The new executive director of the Moosalamoo Association, Jenny Nixon Carter is quickly taking the association to new heights and coordinating this summers activities. That includes building and rebuilding parts of the trail system, developing environmental educational programs and providing a wilderness experience for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. For more information on Moosalamoo just click HERE.

New York is hoping a new online guide will lure vacationers to the Empire State. The effort, called "smiles per gallon," paints New York as an affordable place for Canadians and people from neighboring states to visit. The online guide provides links to affordable restaurants, lodging and summer events that are all within the range of a single tank of gas. The effort is part of the state's I Love New York tourism campaign. The online guide can be found HERE.

The new Town of Crown Point website will be up and running soon. Crown Point businesses are invited to have their information listed on the website; they can have up to 10 lines of information on the site. Businesses may add a link to their own website if they have one. The service is free and town officials say this is in not competition with the local Chamber of Commerce. Contact information for getting your business listed: mbessler@cptelco.net.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 26, 2011

The Lake Champlain ferry between Charlotte and Essex will reopen today despite the lake flooding. Officials say 50 truckloads of gravel were used to elevate the Essex ferry dock to keep vehicles and passengers out of the water. Other ferry service between Grand Isle and Plattsburg and the temporary one at Crown Point have not been interrupted. Get the latest information on all LCT Ferries HERE.

Today at 2:30 PM a memorial service will be held at St. Stephens church on Main Street for Wedge Murdoch who passed away Sunday. Wedge was a founding member of the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association and an iconic figure in all of Addison County and Vermont EMS service. The memorial service is expected to draw a large crowd. Middlebury Police will be shutting down traffic along the route for about 15 minutes to allow the procession to move. The following intersections will be closed for the duration: Main Street at Seymour Street; Main Street at Merchants Row; the roundabout at cross Street; Main Street at South Street; and South Street at Porterfield Road.

The town of Bristol is headed to court over a proposed gravel pit near its downtown. At issue is whether the town should permit a project that supporters say could bring much-needed revenue and industry. However, critics argue the gravel pit would only bring noise and decrease land value. This week, the Environmental Court scheduled the Bristol gravel pit case to be heard this fall.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking President Obama to declare a federal disaster for the state and the more than two-dozen counties that were impacted by flooding. The governor requested that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture issue a natural disaster designation to 26 counties, including Clinton, Essex, and Franklin. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that more than $38 million will be needed for infrastructure repair and debris removal.

Free after-hours parking will come to an end at the downtown Rutland parking deck and the state will resume locking it at night. The deck will be locked from 11 PM to 6 AM. The changes, announced this week by the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services, take effect June 6th. The announcement comes as Mayor Christopher Louras prepares a proposal to the Board of Aldermen for the city to take over operation of the deck.

The Rutland aldermen and city Police Commission are preparing to meet next week to talk about drugs and ways to work together. The illegal drug trade in Rutland is a timely topic in the light of three sizable drug busts carried out in Rutland in recent weeks by city police and members of the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force.

Police coverage would increase in Clarendon if municipal officials pursue a law enforcement agency proposal. The Clarendon Select Board expressed some interest in a Rutland County Sheriff’s Department plan to seek a $121,000 federal grant that would partially fund a full-time deputy in town over a four-year period.

Congressman Peter Welch wants U.S. troops in Afghanistan to come home. Last night, the democrat said the war there is a waste of money because it's not the best way to beat terrorism. Welch says to fight terrorism we need to launch more special ops missions like the one that found and killed Osama bin Laden. He introduced a measure that would end the war, require U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan and only allow soldiers to stay if they are directly involved in counter-terrorism. The measure failed on a voice vote but a final vote is not scheduled until today.

Governor Peter Shumlin will sign the new health care bill into law this morning. The legislation creates a new five-person board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in the state. The bill also delegates a lot authority to the Governor's office to develop key policies. The Board is expected to be in place by the end of the summer and its initial responsibility is to find ways to reduce health care costs.

Supporters of renewable energy are celebrating a new law designed to stimulate solar panel development and create jobs. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the Vermont Energy Act into law yesterday. The legislation expands the solar customer incentive to all Vermont utilities by providing homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and municipalities with a rate break if they develop their own net-metered projects. Supporters say this commitment from lawmakers is a sign that Vermont will lead the nation in renewable energy progress.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is again going after cable giant Comcast. Sanders wants the Federal Communications Commission to let Vermont regulate basic cable television rates. Cable is not a regulated utility because the FCC says satellite services provide competitive market for consumers to choose from. But Sanders says that competition has not kept cable rates from steadily rising.

Vermont's Attorney General won't take action on campaign finance complaints against the state's Republican and Democratic parties. In April, Republicans complained two fundraising emails from Gov. Peter Shumlin were illegally sent to lobbyists during the legislative session. Shortly thereafter the Democratic Party filed a complaint saying the Douglas for Governor campaign also violated the lobbying law in March of 2009.

The University of Vermont have confirmed they're investigating whether a relationship between the wife of President Daniel Fogel and a vice president of development and alumni affairs violated any university rules, A court transcript and emails made public by UVM in response to a public-records request indicate Rachel Kahn-Fogel sent steamy messages to UVM Vice President Michael Schultz. UVM officials say they want to make sure no campus rules were broken, and that no money was improperly spent.

The first woman to serve on the Vermont Supreme Court has announced she will retire at the end of August after 20 years on the bench. Justice Denise Johnson said that it's time to explore new opportunities. Gov. Madeleine Kunin appointed Johnson to the five-member panel in 1990. The court says she is well known for her commitment to access to justice, leading efforts to ensure fair treatment in the court room for women, minorities, non-English speaking litigants and those representing themselves due to poverty.

The union that represents 7,000 Vermont state employees has agreed to a voluntary furlough program that will let some workers take at least 40 hours of unpaid time off a year as a way for the state to save money. The union began discussions about the idea with the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin shortly after Shumlin took office in January.

Vermont will soon have a special motorcycle license plate to honor Vermont's veteran and active duty members of the military. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law on Tuesday. It takes affect on July 1. The new law also allows members of the military to get veteran license plates before they retire. The governor's office says in the past military personnel who have made a career of their service would have had to retire to receive the plate.

A woman who was caught driving drunk with her kids in the car is going to prison. Nancy Contois of South Burlington left the courtroom Wednesday to begin serving her sentence of one to five years in prison. The judge told her because it was her fourth D-U-I and the fact children were in the car with her warranted jail time.

Brisk sales of Apple computers and smartphones helped make Small Dog Electronics Vermont's outstanding business of the year. The Waitsfield-based company received the Deane Davis Award Wednesday morning at the Vermont Business Expo. It's handed out by the Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Business Magazine to recognize companies that perform well while demonstrating Vermont values. Small Dog has sold enough iMacs, iPads, iPhones and iPods to have 24 percent growth over the last five years. And the award presenters say the company has stuck to its core mission of sustainability and responsibility.

Memorial Day weekend is approaching and due to the recent flooding in Vermont, some Burlington parks along Lake Champlain will not be open. North Beach will not be open this weekend except for the campground. The beach and picnic area will be closed due to high water and debris washing on shore. Oakledge Park will be open, but Blanchard Beach will be closed to swimmers. Leddy Park has limited operating hours from 10 to 6. The Parks and Recreation Department says this is the worst damage the beaches have seen in many years.

For the first time in 26-years, the Rotary Club of Plattsburgh has canceled its annual fishing tournament because of the flooding of Lake Champlain. The Rotary Fishing Classic was supposed to take place June 3rd to 5th and usually brings hundreds of fisherman to the region. But Rotary members say the lake is too high and there is too much debris in the water. Anyone who has already paid will receive a refund.

Vermont has the second oldest population in the nation. That's according to new data being released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010, the median age of all Vermonters was 41.5 years old. That's well above the national median age of 37. Six other states also report median ages in the 40s, including Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Maine is the oldest state in the country. Researchers attribute Vermont's aging demographics to the first wave of baby boomers turning 65 as well as a lack of population diversity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 25, 2011

Tomorrow at 2:30 PM a memorial service will be held at St. Stephens church on Main Street for Wedge Murdoch who passed away Sunday. Wedge was a founding member of the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association and an iconic figure in all of Addison County and Vermont EMS service. The memorial service is expected to draw a large crowd. Middlebury Police will be shutting down traffic along the route for about 15 minutes to allow the procession to move. The following intersections will be closed for the duration: Main Street at Seymour Street; Main Street at Merchants Row; the roundabout at cross Street; Main Street at South Street; and South Street at Porterfield Road.

A gas leak in Essex Tuesday evening prompted an emergency response. More than 15 businesses were shut down in the Pearl Street area. Essex and Essex Junction rescue were on scene, along with the state HAZMAT team. The gas appeared to be coming from a storm drain. A local gas station owner told HAZMAT crews his business got a fuel delivery earlier in the day. The Assistant Fire Chief says the rainy weather played a part pushing the fuel down into the storm drain. State crews are expected to be on scene today to pin point the source, and evaluate the total damages.

The Vergennes American Legion Post 14 will sponsor two Vergennes Union High School delegates to the Green Mountain Boys' State citizenship event held June 19-24 at Lyndon State College. Colin Babcock and Ben Parsons were nominated by faculty and staff based on leadership, character and honesty, cooperativeness, community participation and service and scholarship.

An 18-year-old Moriah man was charged Sunday with rape. State Police arrested Jorge L. Martinez around 12:05 PM. The exact age and sex of the victim were unclear, but police records indicate the victim is younger than 13. Martinez was arraigned in Moriah Town Court and sent to Essex County Jail on $25,000 bail or $50,000 secured bond. He is scheduled to reappear in court on Thursday.

The Rutland School Board voted to put the Watkins Avenue building on the market for 90 days. The board had previously discussed demolishing the vacant former school building, most recently used as a maintenance facility, but concern from the public caused them to reconsider that stance. While the board was willing to see if anyone else wanted to take on salvaging the building, none of the members who spoke at the meeting expressed any interest in keeping it in the school district.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has not yet decided whether he will declare Clinton County a disaster area. The declaration would make the county eligible for federal relief to clean up from the flooding this spring. More than 500 buildings along Lake Champlain have been damaged by the high water. The full extent of the damage won't be known until the water recedes. Essex County has been declared a federal disaster area after flash flooding last month caused more than $17 million in damage.

Commander Eugene H. Frost of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15-13 of Crown Point says the beginning of the season is an excellent opportunity for people to focus on safe boating. Flotillas spend much of their time educating the public through their boating safety courses and vessel exams. Flotilla 15-13 has a boating-safety class scheduled for July 9th in Ticonderoga, at a time and place to be announced.

Department of Education estimates predict a $2.3 million drop in funds for one federal program. During the department’s annual meeting in Killington, educators across the state received their first glimpse of anticipated funding for federal title programs that support teacher training and schools with high numbers of children living in poverty. While the estimates for Title I funding were up and down depending on location, every school district in the state saw a drop in its Title IIA funds.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed two bills into law to help military members on Tuesday. One gives a tax credit to employers who hire veterans. It also gives up to $2000 in tax credits to recently deployed vets for the expenses of starting up a business. The other law helps military kids transfer between schools more easily and graduate on time.

Officials from Green Mountain Power announced the utility has reached a tentative deal to buy power from the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire for 23 years. The fixed-price contract that, if approved by the Public Service Board, would begin in 2015, initially it would be for 60 megawatts of power, decreasing to 40 megawatts. The commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service said it looked like a good deal for the state's electric customers.

University of Vermont officials say they've removed the wife of President Daniel Fogel from her volunteer job at the college amid a probe into her pursuit of a personal relationship with a university administrator. The Burlington Free Press reports that the school's Board of Trustees is probing any impact on operations as a result of Rachel Kahn-Fogel's association with Michael Schultz, UVM's associate vice president for development and alumni relations.

A plan to move violent offenders into a Vermont work camp has won an OK from St. Johnsbury leaders. Selectmen voted Monday to give tentative approval to the state Department of Corrections' plan to boost the number of inmates at the Caledonia Community Work Camp from 100 to 112 and drop a ban on violent offenders serving there. The state wants to move the inmates to avoid having to house them out of state, which is more expensive.

Vermont agriculture officials are warning growers and gardeners that late blight could threaten certain crops with all the rain and cool temperature. The plant disease spreads quickly in wet, cool weather, causing tomato and potato plants to wilt and die. The state saw the devastation the disease can do to a tomato crop in 2009, and has already received reports of early late blight detection in neighboring states. Growers are reminded to look for irregular, bruised or `water-soaked' appearing lesions on leaves; white fuzzy or moldy growth around the lesions; and rapid browning and dieback of the affected plants.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is disputing the state's claim that it needs to renew a water quality permit in order to keep operating past next March, when its initial 40-year license expires. The state went to federal court last week to complain that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the plant a 20-year license extension improperly, because the plant hadn't updated its state permit governing runoff and impacts on wetlands around the Vernon reactor.

The New York Democrat-led Assembly released its proposal to cap the growth of local property taxes at 2 percent a year, but with exceptions and only for a limited number of years. The Republican-led Senate, which already passed its version of a 2 percent cap, called it a "positive development." Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the cap, will now try to negotiate a bill with legislative leaders that could pass into law.

The New York Association for Pupil Transportation is calling for state action on proposed laws to increase penalties for passing stopped school buses. The organization found in a study that drivers illegally pass a stopped school bus more than 50,000 times a day. A bill has been proposed authorizing the placement of video cameras on school buses to record motorist violations, with images to be used as evidence in prosecution of offenders. The bill also makes it a felony of criminally negligent homicide when a driver passing a stopped school bus kills a child.

A national bicycling organization says Maine is the second most bike-friendly state in the country. Washington was the No. 1 state, while New Hampshire and Vermont ranked 14th and 15th. The ratings are based on a 95-question survey across six categories that include legislation, infrastructure and enforcement.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 24, 2011

Addison Central Supervisory Union teachers have agreed to a four-year contract. It provides for some modest pay increases and slightly elevates their health care premium payments. Details of the new pact were made public last week following ratification by the Weybridge and Cornwall school boards. For the first time ever all of the Addison Central Supervisory Union teachers are under a single contract. Teachers continue to be responsible for 10 percent of their health insurance premium payments during the first two years of the contract. Teachers also received step increases as dictated by the salary scale.

One of Middlebury’s most active volunteers for child and teen causes is taking on a leadership position within the legal community. Local attorney Emily Joselson is stepping down from the boards of both the Addison County Parent-Child Center and Addison Central Teens. She is scaling back on her local volunteer duties in order to take on the presidency of the Vermont Association for Justice. The Burlington-based organization helps protect Vermonters’ civil rights and their access to justice.

The UD-3 school board is looking into installing a turf field at Middlebury Union High School. Last week school board members were told that a turf field at the high school would provide a more stable, weather-friendly surface for multiple MUHS sports teams. The board also agreed to open the boys’ and girls’ ice hockey programs to a limited number of players from other schools.

The Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment will rule on another Champlain Oil Co. application for a Route 7 gas station, convenience store and fast-food restaurant. Both town and company officials expect that decision simply to set up a return to state Environmental Court. On May 4th the zoning board held a brief hearing on a revised site plan from Champlain Oil.

Longtime Rutland prosecutor Peter Neary died Sunday at his home in Fair Haven. The 61-year-old deputy state’s attorney served 25 years in the Rutland prosecutor’s office. During those years he was co-counsel in some of the biggest murder trials in the city. He was also the primary prosecutor in Rutland’s drug court where he worked with people with drug and alcohol addictions who were trying to rebuild their lives.

Gasoline prices are continuing to go down in Vermont. The website Vermontgasprices.com says that in the last week gas prices have fallen 6.9 cents a gallon, to a statewide average of $3.88. The national average of $3.83 per gallon is down 8.8 cents per gallon in the last week. Gas prices in Vermont are still $1.01 per gallon higher than the same day a year ago and penny per gallon higher than a month ago.

A volunteer group's Vermont chapter is pitching in to help people affected by Lake Champlain flooding. A Vermont Emergency Management spokesman says an organization known as “Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster” will spread out to help people with flood recovery. The group already has information submitted by people who called 2-1-1 to report damage.

The South Burlington School Board has filed a complaint against the head of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association. Joel Cook allegedly threatened the chair of the South Burlington School Board during ongoing teacher contract negotiations in February. A deal was eventually reached. Now the board is asking the Vermont Labor Relations Board to stop the union from following through on the threats in an email.

Flooded-out residents can't seem to catch a break. Strong winds gusting a steady 20 to 30 miles an hour all day long yesterday kicked up waves on Lake Champlain and put neighborhoods along the lake in danger. One area with major problems is Colchester point, which has been dealing with flooding these past few weeks.

Demolition began at Castleton State College yesterday morning to make way for “Project 2012,” a $13 million undertaking that includes the construction of a new facilities barn, a 162-bed residence hall and a green pavilion area with space for up to 3,000 people. It is one of the largest construction projects in southern Vermont this year. The project is the last part of Castleton’s 10-year master plan, which totals $68 million in campus-related investments.

The Town of Ticonderoga is spending almost $18,000 to keep a 24-hour watch on the downtown and Bicentennial Park. Two remote-control, closed-circuit television cameras will be mounted atop the Heritage Museum and a Montcalm Street building to give Ticonderoga Town Police a panoramic view of activity in the business district and park. There's been so much vandalism in Bicentennial Park that action had to be taken to stop it.

A dozen Vermont agricultural projects have won support through a federal entrepreneurship program. Senator Patrick Leahy announced the funding yesterday, including funding for an organic grain company in Charlotte. Sen. Leahy also announced the creation of a new loan fund that will help provide financing to companies developing innovative agricultural products and green economy businesses. The new risk capital will be administered through the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. Leahy says the program is a win for the investors, the farmers and the state, because it strengthens Vermont's agricultural base.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch plans his boldest effort yet to end the war Afghanistan this week, declaring the current military strategy isn't working, and is too expensive to continue. He will offer five amendments on the House floor as Congress begins debate on the Defense Authorization bill. He said he would try to force the Pentagon to devise a new plan that brings America's roughly 100,000 troops home from Afghanistan and refocuses resources on targeted counter-terrorism.

New York's Senate is examining the system used to discipline teachers. Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan held the Albany hearing yesterday morning. The system has long been criticized as too expensive and for taking months to complete. The hearing will be available on the Internet at the Senate website.

Former Gov. David Paterson will not face perjury charges on allegations that he lied about taking free Yankees tickets for the 2009 World Series, a decision that effectively puts an end to the most serious legal problem stemming from his tumultuous administration. Paterson is now a guest on New York City sports radio shows, a medium with which he said he's felt most comfortable since he became legally blind as a child. He also teaches at New York University.

Photographs, documents, brochures, toll tickets and signs are some of the items a New York State agency charged with commemorating the 1929 Champlain Bridge is interested in seeing. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is appealing to the public to share information about the historic bridge that may be used to develop interpretive signs, displays and a resource guide. With the owners' permission, Historic Preservation will scan these images for use in the exhibit and provide credit lines acknowledging private collectors.

Eleven days after Vermont state officials asked the public to go online and report places without access to broadband internet, the website for doing that has been getting lots of traffic. Karen Marshall, director of the state's ConnectVT program to get high-speed Internet to more people, says hits to her program's site jumped from about 50 per day to about 1,500 per day immediately after the May 12 announcement.

The state of Vermont is joining with dozens of other states in an agreement that calls on a convenience store chain to take steps to reduce the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors. Attorney General William Sorrell says Vermont, 40 states and the District of Columbia are parties to the agreement with Circle K Stores Inc. and Mac's Convenience Stores LLC. It covers about 4,000 stores operating as Circle K, Dairymart and On The Run, including 12 in Vermont. Under it, Circle K will pay $225,000 for consumer education initiatives and will adopt procedures to cut sales to minors in its 3,000 corporate-owned stores and 1,000 other franchise locations.

Two bills to help Vermont veterans will be getting Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signature this afternoon at 2. One establishes a Veterans Job Tax Credit, providing qualified employers with a tax credit for each veteran hired to a full-time position. The other deals with children in military families, requiring swift transfer of school records, timely placement of those changing schools and additional excused absences to spend time with deploying or recently deployed parents.

The Vermont Electric Cooperative says it will vote in July on a transmission line upgrade needed for the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell, even though the project doesn't have its final state approval yet. Green Mountain Power Co. and Vermont Electric Co-Op are awaiting state Public Service Board approval for the $150 million project, which would erect 20 or 21 400-foot-tall towers along 3.2 miles of ridgeline.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 23, 2011

The Class of 2011 was told Middlebury College would follow them wherever they went. The 593 graduates heard from class speaker Donovan Dickson about the bond they had formed and from guest speaker Chris Waddell about how that bond would extend to other Middlebury alumni. Waddell, a Paralympic skier and graduate of Middlebury's Class of 1991, accepted an honorary degree before offering his thoughts. He closed by telling the graduates that as some of the country's best and brightest, it was their duty to build a better community, and that the effort to do so would bring them success and happiness.

Troopers with Vermont State Police in New Haven are investigating the report of a burglary involving a family camper at Kampersville in the Town of Salisbury. Unknown individuals forced entry through the front door of the Salem camper, ransacked it, and slept inside it. The camper sustained approximately $1,000 in damages. The investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Haven Barracks. (1-802-388-4919)

Chittenden County job seekers can meet up with local employers today. The Vermont Department of Labor is holding a job fair at its Middlebury location at 1590 Route 7 South. Six different employers will be on hand including the U.S. Army and the Vermont Air National Guard. Career counseling will also be available. The job fair runs from 10 AM to 2 PM. For more information, call the Burlington Career Resource Center at 863-7676 or the Middlebury office at 388-3921.

The Supreme Court found for Rutland in a dispute between the city and the Vermont Swim Association. The decision issued Friday said the VSA was liable for injuries a girl suffered during a 2005 swim meet at the White’s pool playground despite the accident not being directly a part of the competition, upholding a lower court decision awarding the city $700,000.

Essex County continues its search for a new health director. Karen Levison left at the end of April to become the new Saratoga County commissioner of public health. Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas said they haven't named anyone to serve as acting director of the County Public Health Department at present but are once again conducting interviews for the director's position. County Manager Daniel Palmer said there's a shortage of qualified health directors.

The public hearing on a proposed 99-unit development in Westport will be held this week. The public hearing for the Rolling Hills Farms development proposal will take place at the Westport town offices on Wednesday at 7 PM. The plan calls for 37 new buildings, which together would contain 99 living units. In addition, a centrally located educational center would offer members instruction in maple sugaring and baking as well as a supply depot where members could pick up farm products.

With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, law enforcement agencies around the state are teaming up for a safety campaign they hope will click with the public. Starting today and running through June 5, local, state and county police will be checking to ensure that Vermonters are wearing their seat belts as part of a nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign funded through a federal grant. The seat belt inspections, conducted at checkpoints on the highways and byways of every Vermont County will be conducted day and night to get the message out that wearing a seat belt is a round-the-clock necessity.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will discuss efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and new strategies for fighting terrorism. Welch will hold a press conference today at the Burlington International Airport as he returns to Vermont from Washington. He’ll announce amendments he plans to offer to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to reach the floor next week.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is slated to sign into law a bill to give a boost to homemade electricity and put new restrictions on the charges people can be hit with by their propane providers. Shumlin is set Wednesday to sign an energy bill into law that also contains provisions helping people finance renewable energy and efficiency efforts in their homes.

A push is underway to get more young Vermonters on the voter rolls. It's High School Voter Registration Week. The effort, established by the secretary of state's office, is an effort to encourage the state's high schools to register all 18-year-old students to vote before they leave school. Throughout the week some schools will be holding voter registration events. Others will schedule registration drives at high-attendance events like graduation.

New college graduates interested in a career as a veterinarian can take advantage of some cash for the schooling. Vets are in short supply in several rural areas around the state. Individuals who commit to working for three years in those under served areas can qualify for up to 25-thousand dollars in federal loan forgiveness for each year they attend school for up to three years. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is eligible for vets who will work in Orleans, Caledonia, eastern Lamoille, northern Washington, Windham, Windsor, eastern Bennington and eastern Rutland counties.

Hundreds of Vermonters walked together over the weekend to raise awareness and money to help put an end to diabetes. About 700 people came out to the 4th annual "Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure diabetes in Hinesburg. The event targets juvenile, or type 1 diabetes, which affects children and young adults. Organizers say they raised nearly $70,000 dollars and couldn't have been happier with this years' turnout.

What started out as a basement business has propelled one Vermonter into the national spotlight by being named small businessperson of the year. Rick Cochran started his mobile healthcare business 16 years ago in the basement of his Walden home. Now his company employs 55 people and creates products used in the U.S. and overseas by the militaries, hospitals and at homes as well. Cochran received the award from the U.S. Small Business Association in Washington DC.

The post office in Chittenden will offer a special postmark to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of a local fishing derby. The Teenies Handicapped and Seniors Fishing Derby will be held at Teenie's Tiny Poultry Farm on June 5th. From 11 AM to 2 PM, the postmaster and his staff will stamp letters and postcards with a pictorial postmark documenting the event.

Families will take over a Lake Groton campground for a weekend workshop next month in Vermont geared toward those new to camping or spending time outdoors. The Becoming an Outdoor Family Weekend will be held from June 3-5 at Stillwater State Park in northern Vermont. The program includes more than 50 different classes, ranging from kayaking, outdoor cooking and fishing to mountain biking, hiking and birding. The cost per families of up to eight is $165 for the classes, campsite and most equipment. Participants must provide their own camping gear and food.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has entered the world of social media and now wants to make its Facebook page more vibrant. The department is asking the public to contribute photographs taken this month while turkey hunting, fishing or observing wildlife. The department says it's using its Facebook page more and more to provide timely news and information.

Volunteers helped clean up Burlington's waterfront Saturday. Nearly eighty people worked to collect trash and driftwood that has washed ashore after weeks of flooding. The city asked for help to get the waterfront looking better in time for this weekend's marathon, and accessible to recreational users since the summer travel season begins Memorial Day Weekend.

Propane companies operating in Vermont soon will face new restrictions barring them from charging customers for propane they haven't used. Also under a wide-ranging energy bill passed this year, customers who stay with a propane dealer for a year or more can't be charged for removal of a tank from their property when they decide to switch. Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the bill in the near future.

Vermont's unemployment rate dropped again last month. The jobless rate for April was 5.3 percent. That's down 1.2 percentage points from a year ago. By comparison, the national unemployment rate climbed two-tenths of a point in April to 9 percent. Though Vermont's jobless rate is down, there are actually fewer people with jobs. The end of the winter tourism season means many seasonal jobs come to an end. And the state says seasonally adjusted data for April shows a decrease of 2,200 jobs.

Tennis great Billie Jean King told University of Vermont graduates that relationships are everything because "you never know when you're going to touch another person's life or how they will touch yours." King recounted to the 3,097 graduates on Sunday how she reluctantly went to a party attended by Elton John and they ended up becoming friends. He wrote "Philadelphia Freedom" in her honor. The song played over the loudspeakers when King concluded her address by hitting more than a dozen tennis balls into the crowd. The 67-year-old Hall of Famer was honored for her efforts to bring gender equality to sports.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce May "After Business Mixer" will be held this Thursday at Eddie's Restaurant from 5:30 to 7 PM. Sponsors providing door prizes will be Achieve Fitness, North Country Home Services and The Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Eddie's Restaurant is located is on Route 9N in Ticonderoga.

Friday, May 20, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 20, 2011

Vermont State Police in New Haven are currently investigating an online e-mail scam complaint. The scam consists of citizens receiving an e-mail job offer to work as a customer service representative. After being hired by the company via e-mail, the citizen goes through a series of steps that in the end leaves them with a negative checking account balance. Vermont State Police are warning the community to be cognizant of this and other common e-mail and/or Internet scams involving individuals requesting that citizens’ deposit counterfeit checks into their personal checking accounts.

Nationally recognized Paralympic skier and social activist Chris Waddell will deliver the 2011 Middlebury College commencement address on Sunday, May 22. He’s a member of the Middlebury Class of 1991. Waddell is also the founder of the nonprofit organization One Revolution, whose mission is to educate people worldwide about the range of human capability. He was a promising young skier at Middlebury in 1988 when a skiing accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. A year later, he was back on the slopes, and two years later was a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team.

A Brandon man answered to a charge yesterday of threatening the life of a police officer called to assist him earlier this week. Jeffrey Newton pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court to a misdemeanor charge of leaving a phone message that threatened the life of Brandon Police Lt. Rodney Pulsifer. The officer and Newton came into contact Tuesday night when police were called to a home on Spellman Way in Brandon where Newton was found intoxicated on the front lawn.

The Better Middlebury Partnership is preparing to introduce the first-ever Midd Summer Festival. The Midd Summer Festival is a celebration of local beer, wine and cheese. The festival committee is seeking participation from all Vermont breweries, vineyards and cheese makers to provide the festival attendee with a true showcase of the great products produced in this state. The 2011 Midd Summer Festival will be held on August 6th from 3 to 7 PM on the Marble Works lawn.

The industrial park in Bristol has been freshly renovated, renamed Bristol Works and is set for its first tenants. The bicycle vacation company VBT was the building’s first tenant, moving its sales team into an office space in March. The Vermont value-added food delivery service Graze was up and operating in a manufacturing space last month. You can learn more by checking out their new website, www.bristolworks.org.

Vergennes Union High School has won a $137,700 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to further the school’s effort to require students to demonstrate proficiency in self-designed portfolios before graduation. According to its grant application to the foundation the school hopes to switch to “Performance-Based Graduation Requirements” by 2016.

In its continuing effort to update the town plan, the Bristol Planning Commission worked on the “Resource Extraction” section of the plan this week. The plan has been a focus of attention as townspeople have debated the merits of a particular gravel pit proposal and sand and gravel extraction in general over the past several years. An application for gravel extraction by the Lathrop family has been the subject of litigation.

The proposed Bristol Police District budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year represents a 10.5 percent cut in spending and would require 6.5 percent less funding from taxpayers. Residents of the district will vote on the proposal this coming Monday in a 7 PM meeting at Holley Hall.

West Rutland hopes to receive town highway emergency funds from the state Agency of Transportation to cover repairs of an extensive mudslide on along a section of Dewey Avenue. The project is estimated to cost about $250,000, which is five times more than allocated in the emergency funds of West Rutland’s highway budget. Dewey Avenue is closed to one lane of traffic.

Vermont's record-breaking wet spring has left farmers in the lurch, delaying the planting of vegetables and feed crops for cows, making an already short season even shorter. After a rainy April and May following a near-record snowfall, farm fields across the state are too soft and wet to cultivate. The wetness also could spell problems for certain crops. Typically dairy farms would be planting corn right now but the fields are too soft for the machinery. A growing concern is that corn planting might now coincide with the first cut of hay.

Vermont public safety organizations are due to receive more than $8.5 million in a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says more than $5.1 million of the money will go to Vermont law enforcement agencies to be used in their efforts to prevent and respond to terrorism and other disasters. More than $556,000 will go to enhancing the security of drivers' licenses issued by the state. More than $2.8 million will go to governments to help with emergency preparedness geared to disasters and hazards.

Travelers in the Richmond area may face delays in the coming days due to blasting on a state construction project. State officials say the first rounds of blasting are scheduled for today at 11 AM and 3 PM and will continue at the same times on Monday and Tuesday. Motorists on Interstate 89 between exit 11 in Richmond and exit 12 in Williston should expect delays of up to 10 minutes.

A Vermont farm advocacy group is celebrating a new Vermont law that allows it to resume offering raw milk workshops. Rural Vermont had taught people how to turn raw milk into butter, yogurt and cheeses until it received an order to stop or face possible legal action from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture on Feb. 10th. The bill, which Gov. Peter Shumlin signed on Thursday, changes a 2008 law from allowing the sale of raw milk for drinking to allowing consumers to turn raw milk into other products.

The Vermont state treasurer's office has received more than $9 million in new unclaimed property so far this fiscal year. It's issuing a reminder that anyone who wants to see if they have unclaimed money in the state's care should click HERE and can search by last name or town.

A team of Monkton Central School First and Second Graders is out to set a new world record. They want to break the Guinness World Record for team finger knitting, currently held by a group of Austrian Fourth Graders at 3.85 miles. According to an unofficial measurement they have a little over four miles as of this week. On June 8 at 9 AM in Monkton’s Morse Park, the measurement will be finalized. Finger knitting is great for improving children’s fine motor skills and is done without the use of any tools.

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce will host its 17th Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament. The event takes place on Friday, June 24th, at Basin Harbor Club in Ferrisburgh. Participants will enjoy 18 holes of golf and an awards reception during which the 2011 scholarship recipient will be recognized. For more information on sponsoring or participating in the tournament, call Andy Mayer at 802-388-7951 or e-mail andy@addisoncounty.com.

Crown Point will host its 143rd annual Memorial Day observance May 29th and 30th. The theme for the two-day event is "Remember When”. Activities are scheduled to get under way that Sunday at 11 AM with an ecumenical church service at the bandstand in Veterans Park. At noon the park will open for a day of rides, games and vendors. Fireworks will conclude the day at dusk at the Crown Point State Historic Site. On Monday, Memorial Day will begin with the traditional Solemn Tour of Crown Point cemeteries and historic sites. Crown Point's annual Memorial Day parade will begin at 2 PM at Ferry Road.

Proctor's historic Wilson Castle will reopen to the public on Friday May 27th. The reopening marks the return of public tours at the state's only official castle. To kick off the castle's new tourist season, a special open house will be held May 27, 5-7 PM and include free admission. For more information on this and other events visit www.wilsoncastle.com.

American Forests will plant 13,618 trees throughout northern California's redwood country as a result of Woodchuck Hard Cider's Facebook Global ReLeaf campaign. Woodchuck Cider committed to planting two trees for every Facebook fan gained during Earth Week 2011. Woodchuck Cider's eco-friendly Facebook and Twitter fan bases embraced the tree planting efforts and Earth Week saw 6,809 new Woodchuck Cider Facebook fans.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 19, 2011

Lake Champlain floodwaters are rising again after days of rain poured runoff into the already swollen body of water between Vermont and New York. Since on-again, off-again rains began Saturday the lake has risen seven inches, to 102.6 feet above sea level. That's well short of the all-time record of 103.2 feet set May 6, but still about 2-feet above flood stage. Hundreds of homes and low-lying areas in Vermont and New York remain flooded. Officials say it could be weeks before the lake level is back to normal.

Two ferry routes that cross Lake Champlain are still closed due to flooding. Lake Champlain Transportation said it is not sure when they will re-open. The Charlotte, Essex ferry and the Burlington, Port Kent Ferry are out of commission. Employees said the Essex, New York dock is covered in nearly 18 inches of water. That route will be closed until further notice. The Burlington ferry does not open until June 16. But, transportation leaders are keeping a close eye on the water level by the dock. The Grand Isle and Crown Pointe ferries continue to run on schedule.

With voters in Vergennes rejecting a planned school board merger on Tuesday, the Vermont Education Commissioner worries this will have a negative effect on other districts considering mergers. He believes that it would have been better for all of the students in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union district now and in the future. Act 153, which was approved by the Legislature last year, requires all Supervisory Unions to consider district consolidation. Opponents of district consolidation worry that it will eventually lead to school closures and reduce local control. The towns of Bolton, Huntington, Jericho, Richmond and Underhill will vote on a unification plan for their Chittenden East Supervisory Union on June 7th.

Vermont State Police are currently investigating the report of a stolen 6 wheel ATV. On Monday a Green 1997 6 Wheel Argo belonging to LMS Construction was stolen from a residence on Sunset lake Road in Orwell. LMS has been doing work for the Shoreham Telephone Company in the Orwell area. LMS Construction is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest concerning the stolen ATV. Anyone with information is being asked to contact the Vermont State Police in New Haven. (Trooper Leise at 802-388-4919)

Rutland City Police say they made a major drug bust. It happened Tuesday night at the Highlander Motel on North Main St. Police say they found nearly six ounces of crack and 250 bags of heroin. The estimated street value is $22,000. 25-year-old Eugene White of Brooklyn, NY is in jail on drug trafficking charges. He is being held on $500,000 bail.

With the slam of an auctioneer’s gavel, something about the Vermont dairy industry underwent a dramatic change yesterday. When the Morrison family in Leicester put their cows up for auction, the number of dairy farms in Vermont slipped to under a thousand. That's the first time on record. In the 1950's, the number of dairy farms in Vermont was more than eleven thousand. However, since that time, while the actual number of farms has dropped, production has climbed by more than half a billion pounds. Many of the cows sold yesterday are going to neighboring farms, with the equipment being auctioned off on tomorrow.

A Rhode Island man is behind bars in connection with a string of Chittenden County burglaries and police say he may have hit other homes around the state. Around noon on Tuesday Hinesburg Police responded to a burglary at a home on Pond Road. They located the suspect, Durand Perry, at a nearby residence where he reportedly confessed to that burglary. A short time later another home burglary, this time on Texas Hill Road, was called in. Perry reportedly confessed to taking a TV in that case as well as a third burglary. He faces numerous felony charges and is being held for lack of bail.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed a bill calling on manufacturers of light bulbs containing mercury to set up and pay for a recycling program for the bulbs. Vermont becomes the third state in the country, behind Maine and Washington, to pass what's called a producer responsibility law for mercury-containing products. The law calls for producers to provide for the collection and recycling of the bulbs and other products containing mercury, including some thermostats and auto switches.

Vermont will soon require private health insurers to cover the services of midwives and home births, joining a handful of other states. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill saying access to midwifery care and home birth should not be limited only to those who can afford those services out of pocket. He and others say the change will hold down health care expenses. But the Vermont Medical Society and some insurance companies say the change actually could lead to higher costs if a mother must be transferred from home to a hospital because of problems during birth.

A labor union is complaining that large wind-power projects in northern Vermont and New Hampshire are bypassing local ironworkers and bringing in out-of-state crews, undermining the projects' hoped-for benefits to the areas' hard-pressed economies. Officials with Ironworkers Local 7 say union members are being bypassed on the job in Sheffield and Coos County, NH, in favor of crews being brought in from Utah by RMT, the general contractor on the two projects.

The state is trying to block the arrival of a bug that destroys ash trees. The Vermont Agriculture Agency is hanging purple traps in campgrounds and along roads to check for the emerald ash borer. The purple color attracts the bug. The emerald ash borer has not been found in Vermont, but has killed forests in other states. The traps will be used as surveillance to determine whether the bugs are present and they will be monitored throughout the summer. Officials say the traps pose no risk to humans or animals, but they are very sticky. If you see one lying on the ground you're asked to call the USDA's toll-free number. (1-866-322-4512)

There's a new push to connect Vermont and Montreal with Amtrak service. The route from Montreal through Vermont was halted in 1994 because of low ridership. It was restarted a year later, but only going as far north as St. Albans. Now Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy are leading the effort to restore the route across the border. State and provincial officials are scheduled to meet next week in Burlington to discuss the return of Amtrak service between Vermont and Montreal.

The New York State Comptroller is proposing a law that would use computer databases to crack down on abusers of public pensions. He wants the legal power to use tax records to compare to pension records that would show when a pensioner is collecting full-time pay while he or she is collecting full-time pension benefits. The measure introduced to the Legislature would allow the state to find so-called double dippers and save money for state and local governments and school districts.

New York officials said 367 court employees statewide would be laid off as of June 1. The workers were notified Wednesday morning. The state's judicial branch is dealing with a $170 million cut in the state budget passed March 31. Judges have already been ordered to close court by 4:30 PM every day to reduce overtime pay, a move that could extend trials by days. Courts are also calling fewer jurors to duty, but officials said 95 percent of the $2.7 billion budget is for personnel.

A Vermont environmental group is urging that wind power development be stopped in the state to help save bats. The state is drafting new rules for the protection of bats in light of the epidemic that's been decimating bat populations in Vermont and elsewhere in the eastern and southern United States. Vermonters for a Clean Environment is responding to that request for comment by raising another problem that it says is plaguing bats -- bats getting into fatal collisions with wind turbine blades.

The Rutland hospital will play host to a meeting on the state’s emerging energy needs. The Vermont Department of Public Service is seeking public input from the meetings, on strategies the state can use to address energy issues and opportunities associated with how the state develops and uses the land, how people move, how the state uses and conserves energy and generates new supplies of that energy. The meeting will be held in the Leahy Education Center at the Rutland Regional Medical Center from 6 to 9 PM on June 16.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 18, 2011

Voters in the city of Vergennes overturned a Town Meeting Day decision to form a unified union school district. The five towns of the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union have tried three times to form a unified union. The measure passed by a two-thirds majority on Town Meeting Day, but petitions forced re-votes in Addison and Vergennes. Yesterday, voters in Addison upheld the town meeting day vote, but Vergennes reversed course, so the unified union will not go forward.

Yesterday saw various NY School budget votes. In Crown Point the $6.08 Million budget passed. In Moriah the $13.85 Million budget and a proposition to but three new school busses for $307,000 passed. In Ticonderoga the $19.08 Million budget failed. Westport voters approved their budget. Schroon Lake’s budget of $7.35 Million failed however voters there passed a proposition to lease a school bus for $18,000.

In a response to a wave of rising crime locally, the Town of New Haven will host a Crime Watch Informational Meeting tonight at 7 at the New Haven Town Hall cafeteria. Residents are invited to voice their concerns about rising crime in the community. The meeting will also provide tips to better protect property and local neighborhoods. For more information, call the New Haven Town Office at 453-3516.

Special teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in Vermont to assess damage from recent flooding, and Gov. Peter Shumlin is urging people to call 211 to let the teams know where the worst-hit areas are. Shumlin says homeowners with property damage should report it to help the state qualify for federal assistance for homeowners. Separate teams looking at public infrastructure damage already have determined that several counties are eligible for a federal disaster declaration. They include Addison, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orleans, and Washington. The Small Business Administration will also be in the field today. The SBA could offer low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and businesses damaged by the flooding.

The American Red Cross in Vermont has maxed out its budget with the flooding damage in Vermont. The Red Cross says it hasn't seen a disaster like this in five years. The organization has been helping communities all across northern Vermont, aiding families with shelter, food and clothing. The Red Cross also says a number of fires this winter added to its financial woes. If you want to help, you can donate to the American Red Cross.

Former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas has a new gig. He has been elected to the Board of Directors of National Life. He'll get paid $50,000 a year. Douglas served eight years as governor. He is also on the board for Union Mutual Insurance Company and NBT bank. And he teaches part time at Middlebury College and is working on a book about his almost four-decade career in politics.

A Rutland city official joins several legislators to discuss the state’s new health care law today. Sens. Kevin Mullin, Margaret Flory along with Rep. Cynthia Browning of Arlington and city Treasurer Wendy Wilton will discuss the legislation’s expected impact. The discussion takes place at 6:30 PM at the Godnick Center. Reps. Peter Fagan of Rutland and Jim Eckhardt of Chittenden will host the discussion.

General Electric's GE Aviation plant near Rutland will be hosting businesses from around Vermont with the aim of sharing some of its innovations in energy efficiency. Also on hand this afternoon at the plant in North Clarendon will be officials from Efficiency Vermont - the statewide energy-saving program. They'll be talking about changes GE made that are saving it more than $1 million a year in power costs.

Safety behind the wheel is the focus of a Vermont Agency of Transportation event in Montpelier. The event, at the National Life campus, will include a golf cart texting course to discourage texting while driving, a vehicle rollover crash display and a driving simulator. Gov. Peter Shumlin plans to take part in the event this afternoon.

The state of Vermont will continue to auction off its surplus vehicles and equipment each year in Berlin. The state had considered eliminating the auction, which is typically held each spring, and replacing it with an online format. But Gov. Peter Shumlin said that the event would continue.

Supporters of legislation that would allow Vermont childcare workers to unionize say they'll continue pushing for it when lawmakers return in January. The bill easily won House passage just before lawmakers went home for the year on May 6, but it failed to see Senate action. That means it will still be pending when lawmakers return.

Peter Shumlin has announced the appointment of a special "climate cabinet" responsible for developing strategies to reduce Vermont's greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Shumlin said that he believes the heavy snow storms and flooding of recent years are tied to climate disruption, and that the state needs to manage the threats and impacts. Deb Markowitz who is secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources will chair the Climate Cabinet.

Vermont's congressional delegation says a new Department of Labor grant will help young Vermonters earn their high school degrees and develop valuable skills. The grant of slightly more than $1 million under the federal YouthBuild program will go to ReSOURCE, a training program that will enroll 64 students in Burlington and Barre.

According to state and federal officials “Smart-grid” technology has a vital role to play as Vermont and the nation move toward a greater reliance on renewable energy and away from foreign oil and electricity derived from coal. The smart-grid technology would allow Vermonters to closely monitor their home energy use, curtailing consumption when there’s high demand, so utilities don’t have to purchase as much power from coal-burning plants out of state. Vermont’s utilities have begun the effort to deploy smart grid technology and are expected to gain greater momentum this summer and fall.

New York's Senate wants everyone convicted of boating while intoxicated to earn a safety certificate before they could operate a boat again. The bill approved Monday by the Senate would require completion of a safe-boating class to secure the certificate. State law already requires that step for boaters 21 years and older. The new bill would require the same of those under 21 years old. The bill has been sent to the Assembly for its consideration.

An aerospace company with plans to bring nearly 1,000 jobs to the Plattsburgh, NY airport says it will still happen. It will just be delayed. Laurentian Aerospace says there are some money problems. After years of trying to land an investor, the company in March said they had basically found the money. Laurentian needs $175 million to open the Plattsburgh facility to repair planes. But the company says construction has been stopped after running into problems finalizing the money for the project.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s “Fanfare” Brass Trio will present three performances on May 27th at three Addison County schools. The day has been made possible with support from Neat Repeats Resale Shop of Middlebury and by the Turrell Fund. These performances are part of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s statewide SymphonyKids education program. Performances take place at Monkton Central School at 8:45 AM, Ferrisburgh Central School 10:30 AM and Addison Central School at 1:30 PM.

It's that time of year when biologists say drivers need to be extra-cautious about driving, particularly at night and early morning, because of moose. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says the big animals are more likely to be crossing highways as they move from winter to spring habitats. Drivers are warned to slow down when they see moose crossing signs. If you see a moose ahead, don't try to speed past it before it moves onto the highway, but slow down or stop instead.

The “Patriot Flag,” a 55-foot U.S. flag touring the country to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and honor those presently serving in public safety roles, will hang outside City Hall in Rutland on June 28. Merchants Row will be closed off at the end of the block as the flag hangs from 3 to 6 PM. The traveling exhibit is run by the nonprofit organization World Memorial.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 17, 2011

The National Weather Service continues its Flood Watch for Addison & Essex Counties through this afternoon. The Weather Channel Says: More Showers Today – High Around 60.

Various area school votes are taking place today:

The two-town revote on Addison Northwest Supervisory Union: Polls are open in Vergennes from 9AM – 7PM at the City’s Green Street Fire Station. In Addison you can cast your ballot from 7AM – 7PM at the Town Clerk’s Office.

The Moriah Central School budget vote takes place from 1 to 8 PM in the school's main lobby.

Crown Point Central School’s budget vote take place Noon to 1:30 PM in the school foyer and 1:30-8 PM in the school cafeteria.
And the Ticonderoga Central School District budget vote takes place from Noon to 8 PM at the Ticonderoga High School lobby and the Hague Community Center.

Essex County wants people to report flood damage right away so it can be assessed. Anyone in Essex County with personal or business flood damage must get the assessment forms from town and village offices and have them filled out and returned by Wednesday morning so an assessment team can look at their damage.

FEMA is trying to figure out how much all of the flooding will cost the State of Vermont. Its preliminary estimate on how much damage the flooding will cost in Vermont is at more than $4 million. That is only for public property, roads, and bridges. The cost estimate is important because that is the number Governor Peter Shumlin will use to ask the Federal Government for money. FEMA will also evaluate damage to private property in Vermont.

It may come as no surprise but The National Weather Service says this spring has been the wettest spring on record in Burlington. As of 4:30 yesterday afternoon, 15.49 inches of rain had fallen in Burlington, which is considered to run from March 1 through May 31. That's slightly above the previous record of 15.46 inches that fell in 1983. Meanwhile, Lake Champlain has receded about a foot from its record high, but it still remains more than two feet above flood stage, meaning low-lying homes and camps areas around the lake are still flooded.

There is some good news on the flooding front. The state transportation agency says it has completed most of its efforts to repair flood-damaged roads. Highway crews worked for 18-straight days at over a dozen sites along Lake Champlain. More than 125 state employees were involved, along with 60 private contractors. They installed 375 jersey barriers and used 50-thousand cubic yards of riprap to shore-up roads. They also responded to 14 landslides along rivers and streams.

Help for businesses and non-profit organizations impacted by the closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge are still available. The Lake Champlain Bridge Recovery Community Revolving Loan Program is being administered by the Essex County Industrial Development Agency. Applications and program guidelines can be found on the Essex County IDA website: www.essexcountyida.com.

The Middlebury Fire Department responded to the Bio-Mass building at Middlebury College yesterday morning in response to a fire at one end of the plant. The fire was contained to one portion of the building and did not spread. After a scene examination and interviews this fire has been found to be attributed to accidental causes within the exhaust and filtration system of the wood fired boiler system. There were no injuries as a result of this fire.

The Hannaford Supermarket chain announced it is buying Lantman's in Hinesburg. Hannaford first approached Lantman’s back in November when they submitted plans for a 36-thousand square foot store off Commerce Street. The store's owner says he agreed to sell his business to the regional grocer, but not the building. Hannaford officials hope the new Commerce Street site will allow them to attract business from surrounding communities like Monkton, Starksboro and Huntington.

The Vermont Principals’ Association has announced that Vergennes Union High School Co-Principal Ed Webbley has been chosen as the organization’s Robert F. Pierce Vermont Secondary Principal of the Year. He becomes the second VUHS principal in the past decade to earn that honor. Peter Coffey received the same award in 2002.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation has decided to completely replace the Sand Hill Bridge on Route 125 in East Middlebury. VTrans will not pursue a temporary span to allow through-traffic during construction, which slated for 2014 at the earliest.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture is estimating a three-week delay in planting for some producers due to the recent wet weather. Many of the large-scale grain and corn farmers in Addison County hope to begin spreading manure on their fields on April 1st each year before crops are planted. If the fields don’t continue to dry up, farmers will likely have to concentrate on corn or hay fields as they exist, and push the new alfalfa plantings off to late summer. For smaller vegetable operations the prognosis is not as bad. Judy Stevens of Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham estimated that her crops were running only about a week behind, especially since many of the plants were started in the greenhouse.

The Dorr Drive Bridge in Rutland is open again. City officials closed the bridge Friday pending a state inspection. The inspector approved the reopening of the bridge and said the city should enforce the three-ton weight limit on the bridge. The bridge has been slated for replacement by the state since 1994, but permitting issues have led to a variety of delays.

A woman charged with defrauding the developmentally disabled people she worked with in Rutland is expected to plead guilty to federal charges against her later this month. Donah Smith pleaded innocent in March to two federal charges of fraud. But the former caseworker for ARC Rutland is scheduled to change her plea to guilty during a hearing on May 25th at U.S. District Court in Rutland.

Burlington Police have received reports of three assault and robberies in just seven days, all taking place just one block from Church Street in the Old North End. While police continue to investigate whether or not they are connected Burlington residents question their safety. Police say in order to prevent these incidents to never walk alone, and to tell people when they should expect you so if you are late they know something may be wrong, and if something does happen to report it immediately.

May marks the start of the farmers' market season in Vermont. Many markets opened the first week of May with others opening throughout the month, offering seedlings for gardens, greens, preserved foods, and last winter's winter storage crops. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont says gross sales from Vermont's farmers' markets in 2010 totaled nearly $8 million, up from $7 million in 2009. And more markets are able to accept food stamps as 37 will accept 3 SquaresVT/SNAP benefits this season. Vermont has the highest number of farmers' markets per capita in the country with more than 85 markets.

Vermonters are getting a different perspective on the 2011 legislative session. House Republicans stepped forward in response to comments made by the Senate President and House Speaker. Minority Leader Don Turner says democrats controlled what was introduced and, ultimately, passed. He says many issues fell through the cracks that should have been at the top of the priority list like the cost of living and jobs. Others believe the biggest failure was the $24 Million in new taxes and there or concerns over healthcare reform. The only subject both parties seem to agree on is that any tax increase in 2012 should be a last resort.

Two officials briefed on the plan say New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon announce his proposal for a new, less generous pension system for future state, local and school employees. They say Cuomo's plan would save taxpayers $93 billion over 30 years.

Otter Valley Union High School’s Night of Excellence will be held at 7PM on May 24th in the school’s auditorium. The ceremony recognizes student achievements in academics and in the community as volunteers. Juniors who have earned prestigious scholarships and book awards to colleges as well as 9th to 12th grade students who have made improvements and or excelled in their academics are acknowledged.

Just in time for the spring, the King's Garden on the grounds of Fort Ticonderoga will hold its annual pre-season plant sale this Saturday from 10AM – 2PM. You will enjoy the first blooms of the season while browsing the many unique perennials available within the garden walls. Staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions and dig your selections.

Monday, May 16, 2011

WVTK Local & State News May 16, 2011

A Flood Watch Is In Effect Through This Evening For Addison & Essex Counties. The Weather Channel Says: Showers Today – High In The 50’s.

Various area school votes will take place tomorrow including a two-town revote on Addison Northwest Supervisory Union unification. Polls will be open for Vergennes residents from 9 AM to 7 PM at the city’s Green Street fire station, and balloting in Addison will run from 7 AM to 7 PM at the town clerk’s office off Route 17. A vote against unification in either town will defeat the initiative despite the solid margins it earned on Town Meeting Day. There are no re-votes in the other Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns of Waltham, Panton and Ferrisburgh.

Residents will decide the fate of the proposed Moriah Central School budget tomorrow from 1 to 8 PM in the school's main lobby.

Voters will decide on the proposed Crown Point Central School budget from Noon to 1:30 PM tomorrow in the school foyer and 1:30-8 PM in the school cafeteria.

And the Ticonderoga Central School District budget vote takes place as well tomorrow. Ti voters can cast ballots from Noon to 8 PM at the Ticonderoga High School lobby and the Hague Community Center.

A farm worker in Leicester escaped injury Friday after rolling his tractor. Police say Jonathan Chamberlin was driving on Fern Lake Road when he overturned the tractor in a ditch while trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Chamberlin received only minor injuries. The tractor was carrying approximately 900 gallons of an herbicide and a small amount of that spilled during the accident. However, officials from the Department of Agriculture determined there was no environmental risk.

A high-speed chase through Burlington Saturday night ended with a crash and an arrest. Police say James Ganger stole a car from in front of the China Express restaurant on North Street, and then after a wild chase through downtown, crashed into a tree on Riverside Avenue. Ganger is now facing several charges including driving under the influence, plus he had at least two warrants out for his arrest in Rutland. He's due in court later this morning.

Vermont health officials say flooding throughout our region is likely contaminating some well water. They say private well owners in northern Vermont and other areas of the state impacted by the flooding should use caution. They recommend boiling water or using another source for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice, and preparing food. The Health Department says well water should be tested before using. Testing kits are available at your district office or through your town health officer. Wells containing bacteria should be disinfected with chlorine bleach before water is consumed.

Rutland City officials closed the Dorr Drive Bridge on Friday, pending a state inspection. The Department of Public Works conducts its own inspections each year, and the city engineer said that one of the panels on the bridge deck has steel that is broken on the bottom and there was some visible distress on the surface of the deck. A state bridge inspector is scheduled to look at the bridge today. In the meantime, traffic will be detoured onto West Street. West Street traffic is being detoured onto State Street because of work at the rail crossing.

Officials in Vermont say dozens of drunken-driving convictions may be jeopardized by a series of problems in processing breath samples, including a mistake in the software for a machine and complaints about unethical lab work. At issue are breath tests performed by a DataMaster DMT machine that wasn't set up properly at a Vermont State Police barracks. Not only are convictions at risk but also a handful of driver's license suspensions are being overturned.

Vermont officials say state parks along Lake Champlain will remain closed for the Memorial Day holiday because of flooding. The State Parks Director said that the water level on Lake Champlain is dropping a few inches every day, but it remains at record high levels. And that means several Vermont State Parks along the lake will remain closed for the upcoming holiday.

Vermont's roadside rest areas, which provide information and tourism destinations, are the target of budget cuts as the state faces a shortfall of about $176 million. The 15 state-run rest areas left operate on a budget of $3.7 million, down from $4.8 million two years ago. Now state officials are thinking outside-the-box to keep them running. One possible answer is having private businesses pick up costs of running rest areas and visitors' centers. That would require a change in the federal law for areas along the interstate highways, but political pressure to do that is building.

The Vermont Air National Guard is conducting night flying training exercises in South Burlington for the next three weeks. The F-16s will leave from Burlington International Airport Tuesday through Friday of this week, as well as May 24 through May 27 and May 31 through June 3. The Guard says the planes will take off in two shifts after 9:30 PM and land no later than midnight.

A new report shows women now make up 27% of all state and federal judges, up slightly from last year. The report by the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy says last year 26% of judges were women. Vermont has the most at almost 40%, unchanged from a year earlier. Idaho stays in last place at 11.3% and New York ranks 12th with almost 31% women judges.

The director of the Vermont State Hospital is resigning. Terry Rowe announced last week that she will leave her post to accept another position in state government. Rowe spent seven years as director. She tells the Burlington Free Press that she told co-workers the Shumlin administration's new vision for mental health services played a major role in her decision to step down. Her departure comes amid ongoing concerns about federal recertification and staff morale at the hospital.

Two more groups have filed court papers in hopes of intervening on the state of Vermont's behalf in a civil suit brought by the owners of Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Entergy filed suit last month, saying Vermont doesn't have the authority to shut down the plant in March 2012. On Friday, the Conservation Law Foundation and Vermont Public Interest Research Group jointly filed a motion in U.S. District Court to intervene as defendants in the suit. The New England Coalition filed a similar petition last month.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin applauded Green Mountain College’s class of 2011 for tapping the trees as opposed to just looking at them. He said the 186 graduates are a crucial part of reversing the effects of climate change; noting how they grew their own produce, made honey, sustained an off-the-grid greenhouse and worked toward a zero carbon footprint from the college.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed tougher criteria to evaluate teachers as a tool that could be used to weed out bad teachers and save young, promising teachers from layoffs that are now based on seniority. Cuomo wants more extensive use of student performance on standardized tests and more rigorous classroom observation of teachers.

Two families have a new place to call home in Charlotte. Both families say owning their own home wouldn't be possible without Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity and some 800 volunteers. Habitat's Executive Director David Mullin says the families spent hundreds of hours building their homes. He says they will save big because of the homes' national award-winning energy efficient design. The Town of Charlotte donated the land for the homes.

Nearly 100 vendors came out to celebrate spring at Rutland's outdoor farmer's market Saturday. The market is the only year-round weekly farmer's market in the state. But Saturday was all about going big. The outdoor market almost quadruples in size compared to the winter one. And it's open every Saturday from now until October.

Improvements at Lefferts Pond next to Chittenden Reservoir are complete. A reconstructed dam and a cascading water feature are the latest additions to the fishing and canoeing spot. Hikers and bikers approaching the long way will pass over four new bridges built by the Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forest recreation department in coordination with the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers. The combined project, paid for with more than $1 million in federal stimulus funds from 2009, began in March 2010, and the additions are ready for use this season. The project was completed in November.

Dartmouth College will be presenting an honorary degree to the 41st President of the United States during its graduation in June. George Herbert Walker Bush will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Ivy League College. The former President is among nine people who will receive honorary degrees at the commencement. About 1,600 undergraduates and masters degrees will also be presented during the June 12th ceremony.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Message From VEM Regarding Flooding


WATERBURY – With Lake Champlain receding, a number of homeowners will likely be returning to their homes after the flooding of recent weeks. When returning to homes it is important to ensure conditions are safe now and over time.

Before returning to your home, have your electrical and heating systems inspected by a qualified professional.
If you sustained serious damage have the structure inspected by a contractor.

Watch out for fraud. Fraudulent contractors sometimes exploit a disaster. If you suspect fraud contact or visit the Vermont Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Office web site, click HERE.

It is very important to remove mold. Furniture, carpets, and drywall that have been exposed to water for as little as 24 to 48 hours can contain mold.

Open up the house, and if the weather permits, open all the doors and windows to exchange the moist indoor air for drier outdoor air.

Remove all wet furniture, contents and carpets or rugs. If you decide to keep them, they must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Most household cleaners will be good enough to cleanse walls and wood furniture. An alternative is a mixture of ¼ cup of liquid chlorine bleach for every gallon of water. For more info click HERE.

When pumping out your basement do not remove all of the water at once. This may cause serious structural damage to the house. Draining the water too fast could cause the collapse of the cellar walls, floors, and foundation. The water must be drained slowly to equalize pressure on both sides of the wall.

Never go into a flooded basement unless you KNOW the electricity is off.

It is better to wait until water is no longer covering the ground around your home before pumping water from your basement.
Be careful of slips and falls.

If you have a private well, assume the water is unsafe to drink. Have your water tested as soon as possible.

For more helpful tips on returning to the home, visit the Vermont Department of Health web - click HERE.

Homeowners may qualify for grants or low-interest loans to pay for damages and recovery. It is important to keep thorough records and include photos of the damage. Homeowners should call 2-1-1 to report damage to their home.