Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 31, 2012

The organizing committee for the “Middlebury Maple Run – The Sweetest Half” is reminding you that today is the last day to register at the discounted rate of $35 for Individual Runners or $55 for a Relay Team. Individual Adult rates increase to $45 as of tomorrow. The proceeds from 2011’s Middlebury Maple Run were donated to several worthwhile charities. This year the Addison County Humane Society will be added to the list of recipients. Scheduled for Sunday, May 6th with a start time of 9AM, the Middlebury Maple Run is becoming one of New England’s “must-do” races and organizers hope to attract at least 1,000 runners for this year’s event. Get more info and register now by clicking HERE!

Health officials in Vermont say Norovirus outbreaks are popping up in the state. The Vermont Department of Health says outbreaks have been reported in Addison and Franklin counties. Hospital ERs are also seeing an increase. The Centers for Disease Control say the highly contagious virus usually includes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. It generally lasts one to two days. For more information click HERE.

A suspected landmine found inside a used car at a dealership in Pittsford turned out to be a harmless gas mask component that only happened to closely resemble an anti-personnel mine. State and local police were called to Brandon Auto South on Route 7 at about 9:45 Monday morning when an employee at the used car dealership found a green disc-shaped device covered with words printed in a foreign language under the front seat of a car that the shop's owner recently purchased at auction.

Rutland City’s monthly rate for downtown parking passes will go from $16 to $35 on March 1. Permits will not be valid in the Wales Street lot, which has been designated for downtown residents. Residential parking permits will be available for $20 a month starting March 1. New rates at the meters are also in the future as recalibration of those is expected to take place in February. Also, the fine for meter violations climbs from $6 to $15 starting Feb. 2, doubling if unpaid after 10 days and doubling again after 10 more.

Some cracks have been found in the concrete of new Lake Champlain Bridge. State officials say they are nothing to worry about. The cracks were discovered soon after its November 2011 opening during routine concrete testing. But Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Transportation Region 1, said they are not dangerous. She noted that there is superficial hairline concrete cracking, which routinely occurs on all newly poured concrete bridges. Such hairline cracks are normal and do not affect the safety or structural integrity of the bridge.

On Thursday January 19th around 4:20 in the afternoon Vermont State Police responded to the Ripton General Store for a reported burglary. Numerous items were reported stolen to include cigarettes and money. Anybody with any information is asked to contact the New Haven State Police Barracks.

Central Vermont Public Service just recently brought its tenth CVPS Cow Power project online. There currently is an energy production surplus from its award-winning farm-generation program and they are looking for new customers to take advantage of the program. CVPS is working to support four new cow power projects across the state, both inside and outside its service territory. Several existing CVPS Cow Power farms are also in the midst of expanding their generation capacity. New construction projects include: A 150-kW generator at the Maplehurst Farm in Greensboro; a 475-kW generator at the Four Hills Farm in Bristol; a 200-kW generator at the Riverview Farm in Franklin; a 300-kW generator at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. Since 2005, CVPS Cow Power farms have delivered over 47 million kilowatt-hours of locally produced renewable energy to CVPS customers.

Bristol resident Nancy Wilson will be a panelist at the Vermont Communities in a Digital Age workshop February 16th at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center. The all-day non-profit event is being organized by the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project that is working across Vermont to help communities solve local issues with 21st century tools. The workshop will highlight some of the projects taking place and bring leaders and learners together to share what they have discovered so far. As librarian at the Lawrence Memorial Library she will be on a panel that looks at the role of public libraries in the 21st Century.

Essex County New York is looking to install up to six microwave antennas on an existing tower on Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton as part of a public safety radio frequency upgrade. The upgraded system, called P25 standard, will be used by New York State Police and Essex County’s public safety agencies. They hope to begin construction and installation in early May.

The Vermont State Colleges Student Association will be holding a system wide rally on the steps of the Vermont State House February 7th at 11AM. Students from across the state will gather to speak about higher education funding, and the need for more in regards to the Vermont State Colleges. Student government presidents from Johnson State College, Lyndon State College, Castleton State College, Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont will lead hundreds of students from their respective institutions in an effort to build visibility and support for the Vermont State Colleges.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce is expanding its partnership with the North Country Small Business Development Center. Services provided by the North Country SBDC will be available at the chamber office on the second Tuesday of each month from 9AM to 3PM through an open house unless otherwise noted. The first open house will be on Tuesday, February 14th, at the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce office on Montcalm St. in downtown Ticonderoga. Learn more at www.northcountrysbdc.org.

Two school districts in Vermont and New Hampshire along the Canadian border are studying the creation of a cross-border school district in the two states that would save money and increase opportunities for students. Representatives of Vermont's Essex North Supervisory Union, based in Canaan, and New Hampshire's School Administrative Unit 7, of Colebrook, have formed a steering committee to discuss a possible merger.

Windham County's sheriff admits to frustration over the psychological conditions his deputies are seeing now that the Vermont State Hospital has been closed following Irene's flooding. Keith Clark has written to Mental Health Commissioner Patrick Flood, saying the system has become a burden on his staff and says patients aren't getting the care they deserve.

Psychiatric nurses at Fletcher Allen say they're concerned about their safety. Since Tropical Storm Irene, they've taken in a number of patients who would have traditionally gone to the state hospital in Waterbury and months after the transition, they say it's not going well. Seven landed at Fletcher Allen's Shepardson inpatient ward after the closure. Others who would have traditionally gone to Waterbury have since found spots in Fletcher Allen's 28 psych beds as well.

A new look for Church Street was unveiled in the Burlington Downtown and Waterfront Plan. Citizens got to take a look at images for the area over the next fifty years, and most liked what they saw. The plan calls for an integration between the waterfront and downtown area, as well as making it greener and environmentally friendly. Some of the plans involve a waterfront ice skating ring, a permanent farmer's market and fixing the waterfront access with stairs connecting Church Street with City Hall Park.

Vermont health officials are showing off the state's new portable pop-up hospital. Officials say the 20-bed hospital and mass care trailer is designed to respond to mass casualty and hospital and public health events and emergencies. The hospital, which has its own source of electricity, running water, heat and air conditioning, can be set up quickly in emergency situations such as the outbreak of an illness that would require more hospital beds or used for routine events like flu clinics. It's 1 of 2 so far in the state.

Business owners who want to speak out about Governor Peter Shumlin's plans for health care reform have a chance to do so this week. Two legislative committees will hold a joint hearing tomorrow night to talk about a bill under consideration to begin implementing the ambitious reform agenda.

A federal judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit filed against Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. In 2010, the SEC launched an inquiry into the Waterbury Company's accounting practices. The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System then filed suit against the Green Mountain Coffee, claiming the Company falsified statements to make it look like it was performing better than it was. U.S. District Judge William Sessions has dismissed the suit, saying the Louisiana investors didn't present any facts indicating a strong inference of fraud.

Law enforcement officials in New York are celebrating some success. Crime is on the decline. Officials say all types of crime dropped in 2011, including violent crimes. 750 homicides were committed in New York in 2011. That's the fewest number of murders reported in more than 35 years. Authorities credit several factors, including better crime analysis and an expanded DNA database for offenders.

The top Democrat in New York's Legislature is pushing legislation to boost the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and then index it annually to the inflation rate. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, joined Monday by dozens of colleagues from his Democrat-controlled chamber, says census data show nearly half of the U.S. population has fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. He says the minimum wage in New York has risen 10 cents in the last six years and increasing it is "a matter of human dignity." A spokesman says Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported previous proposals to raise the minimum and will review this one.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking public comment on its 5-year plan that would expand hunting and trapping seasons for bobcats. The agency estimates the state has about 5,000 bobcats and the population has been growing. Most bobcats live in the Adirondacks, Catskills and Taconics. They're twice the size of a domestic cat, with bushy jowls and a stub tail. The plan is on the DEC website. Comments will be taken through February 10th.

The Ticonderoga “Best Fourth in the North” committee will host its inaugural Pan Fish Tournament on Sunday, February 12th. The ice fishing tourney will be held at the Ticonderoga ferry landing on Lake Champlain from 9AM to 3PM. The entry fee is $20 a person or a family of three members. Prizes will be 40 percent of the entry fees. If 100 people register the first place prize will be $400. There will also be a $100 prize for the largest fish caught of any species. More information and entry forms can be found online at www.best4thinthenorth.com.

Monday, January 30, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 30, 2012

The Lake Champlain Bridge Community is looking forward to hosting the Grand Celebration on May 19th & 20th. The events schedule is getting firmed up and you can see a tentative outline of it on LCBC’s website. They are drawing inspiration from the 1929 opening and are hoping to create an event just as grand. Over the course of two days, the celebration will include a grand parade, fireworks, boat flotilla, Sunday morning ecumenical service, and street concert/dance. In between these marquee events, there will be family-friendly activities and performances that will only enhance the celebration. Get involved today by visiting www.champlainbridgecommunity.org.

This Thursday there will be a Public Information Meeting and Open House at Fire Station #1 on Seymour Street here in Middlebury at 7PM. In preparation for the fire facilities bond vote at Town Meeting in March, the Fire Department’s Fire Station Committee will present building designs and estimates of the cost of improvements for both fire stations. Tours of Fire Station #1 will also be offered after the informational meeting. Information on the project is also available on the Fire Department’s website, www.middleburyfiredept.org.

Also on Thursday, there will be an information meeting on the Middlebury Business Development Fund at 7PM in the Ilsley Library Public Meeting Room. In preparation for the Middlebury Business Development Fund vote at Town Meeting in March the MBDF committee will present for discussion the proposal contained in Articles 5 and 6 for Town Meeting. The draft proposed articles are: Article 5 Shall the Town establish a Middlebury Business Development Fund pursuant to the provisions of 24 VSA § 2804, said fund to be expended for economic and business development, and other related expenses, including, but not limited to, hiring a Middlebury Director of Business Development to complement existing business recruitment and growth initiatives? Article 6 Shall the Town annually add one cent on the tax rate for a period of five years for the Business Development Fund created in Article 5 above?

City leaders in Hinesburg are elated a grant from the State of Vermont Agency of Transportation will begin public bus transportation for communities along Route 116. The highway reaches from Middlebury to Burlington, with Hinesburg as the central hub for the new bus route. The Route 116 Commuter will begin service this spring. Several public comment hearings on schedule details will be held in late February and early March in South Burlington, Hinesburg, Bristol and Middlebury.

Two Mendon teenagers are facing a string of charges after police say they vandalized several school buses. 16-year-old Timothy Hughes and 16-year-old Ethan Snitker allegedly broke into a bus at Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden. Police also believe the pair broke into the school, although no damage was found.

The Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport is about to get new hazard beacons. A replacement project for the towers is scheduled to begin under the Agency of Transportation’s proposed 2012-13 budget, with $530,000 a year allotted over the next four years. Officials say while the state will save on its electric bill at the airport, the real savings will come in maintenance costs on the eight towers.

Vermont Ski Areas Association, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Maple Foundation are teaming up to promote Vermont specialty foods at resorts this winter. The Middlebury Snow Bowl will also be a participant this year. Skiers and riders will be able to samples of a variety of foods during Ski Vermont Specialty Food Days. Current dates include Middlebury College Snow Bowl and Winter Carnival, Saturday, February 25th. And Killington Mountain, Sunday, March 25th.

The Ticonderoga planning board is reviewing proposed revisions to the town’s zoning law. Officials hope to adopt the new zoning law in March. A public hearing on the proposed zoning law was held in December and the town board will continue to accept written comments until it takes action to adopt the measure. The proposed law is available at the town clerk’s office as well as online at www.townofticonderoga.org. The proposed zoning changes focus on three keys areas - commercial property, downtown and lakefront properties.

The Ripley Road bridge in Rutland is expected to see repairs next year, while the much-awaited work on the Dorr Drive bridge remains a couple of years out. Members of Rutland County’s legislative delegation have said the $3 million Ripley Road project is scheduled to go out to bid this December and begin construction in spring of 2013. The Dorr Drive Bridge has been slated for replacement since 1994. It closed for four months in 2004 and again briefly last year. A variety of issues have delayed the replacement.

Police say they caught the man who broke into a Rutland bridal shop as he was committing another burglary. Earlier this month, Trace of Lace Bridal shop was burglarized. Security cameras caught the suspect, and the storeowner released the footage in hopes of generating leads, but no one was immediately caught. Then early Friday morning, police responded to a burglary at the Italian Aid Society in Rutland. Officers arrested Brendan Fisk. Police say they also found items stolen from the bridal store at Fisk's house. So he will be charged in connection with both break-ins.

More of Forest Park is scheduled to come down this summer as the housing project slowly gives way to Hickory Street Apartments. The Rutland Housing Authority is preparing for the second phase of the project to demolish the low-income housing complex and replace it with mixed-income housing designed to look more like a traditional neighborhood.

The Westport Central School Board will hold its regular monthly meeting at 5:30PM this Thursday in the school library. The board will discuss the budget, a capital project and other business items that may come before the board. All meetings are open to the public.

Members of the North Ferrisburgh United Methodist Church traveled to Northfield to work on the Mackenzie House project. They joined up with United Methodists from other area churches for a workday. The Mackenzie House is being renovated to become a four-season base for United Methodist Volunteers in mission teams who are hoping to travel to Vermont to help residents recover from Tropical Storm Irene. Teams donate their time on demolition or rebuilding projects. The church is looking for volunteers; if you are interested in helping, call the Ferrisburgh office at 802-425-2770. United Methodist volunteers continue to work on rebuilding flood-damaged parts of Waitsfield and Moretown.

There are big changes coming this year in how Essex County is marketed to visitors. More social media and Web-based advertising and fewer ads in magazines, TV and newspapers are the focus of the county's 2012 marketing effort. According to Kimberly Rielly the director of communications for the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism that's because peoples travel plans have shifted to the electronic media. A study by Sustainable Tourism says hiking was the number one draw for the region in 2010, followed by canoeing, fishing and skiing.

Some local Boy Scouts were hard at work preparing a bird habitat in Ripton recently. Boy Scouts and leaders of Troop 539 in Vergennes helped ready habitats for ruffed grouse in the Green Mountain National Forrest – Robert Frost Wayside area. Middlebury Station Ranger Mike Burbank oversaw the Scouts project.

A group of Ticonderoga Middle School students have been hard at work fundraising. The eighth grade Living Biology class has been raising money for a pair of field trips and a school project. The first trip took students to New York City to visit the American Museum of Natural History. The next goal is a trip to the Minds On “DNA in the Courtroom” workshop in Glens Falls March 20th. That trip will cost up to $625. The class has also helped with the school nature trail project, which is located behind the Ticonderoga Elementary-Middle School.

It's on to the Vermont House for a bill passed by the Senate that allows motorists to cover their front license plates with a special plate with the words "Vermont Strong" to commemorate Tropical Storm Irene. Gov. Peter Shumlin requested the Legislature pass a provision for the plates to be sold for $25, with most of the proceeds going to Irene disaster relief. The Senate passed the measure this past week, and it's expected to move through the House in the near future. The commemorative plates are to be placed over the existing front license plate, and the legislation says the rear plate must remain clearly visible.

The Senate is expected to take up a House-passed bill designating two fish species as the state fish of Vermont. The bill would make the brook trout the state's cold-water fish and the walleye pike Vermont's warm-water fish. It won final House approval on Friday.

With tax season underway, the state of Vermont is hoping to call attention to the under-used Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is a federal credit for low-income working families and individuals. State Treasurer Beth Pearce says the credit is available to anyone who has earned income from 2011, and can be useful for families struggling to make ends meet. Pearce says close to 20 percent of eligible Vermonters don't file for the EITC, mainly because they don't know about it.

A bill heading for the governor's desk would hold municipalities harmless for revealing property tax information that the state Supreme Court now says should have been kept private. The bill says that town and city clerks were relying on advice from the Tax Department and attorney general saying the information was public.

Vermont's Department of Public Safety has announced guidelines for the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries. The 400 plus Vermont patients currently grow their own medicine or have others do it for them, but as many as four distribution centers are expected to be operational by the end of the year. The new rules will mandate background checks, significant video security and one-at-a-time appointment-only service at the dispensaries.

A national organization of recreational cavers is questioning a new estimate of the number of bats killed by a mysterious ailment. The estimate by state and federal scientists says that 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats had died across the Northeast. It was released this month. But a Vermont-based official says the estimate could lead to unnecessary restrictions on access to caves. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Service said the figure is, if anything, too low. The ailment was first spotted in New York six years ago and is spreading across the country.

According to Bishop Brandon Hicks of Ferrisburgh The Westport Branch and the Middlebury Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have merged to form the Middlebury Ward. The Westport Branch was created from the Middlebury Branch in 1983. The current LDS chapel in Westport was constructed in 1987. This will close the Westport branch. The Westport Branch has 100 members that will be affected by the merger.

The Town of Ferrisburgh is among the nine Vermont institutions, which received cultural facilities grants in a ceremony at the Vermont State House last week. The town received a grant of $5,500 to support the purchase of operable curtains, with valences, for the four large windows in the community center portion of the Ferrisburgh Town Offices and Community Center. The Vermont Cultural Facilities Grant Program funds a variety of projects that improve existing cultural facilities and expand their capacity to provide cultural activities in their communities.

Crane Mountain Valley Horse Rescue Inc. has been awarded a $4,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in recognition of its work rescuing and rehabilitating horses in need. Crane Mountain is a nonprofit horse rescue program based in Westport that is dedicated to equine rescue and rehabilitation and to restoring horsemanship, the heritage and humane treatment of the horse. Learn more at www.cmvhr.org or Facebook.

Friday, January 27, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 27, 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that Middlebury College has been selected to participate in Solar Decathlon 2013, a competition in which 20 collegiate teams from around the world design, build and operate solar-powered houses. The announcement comes on the heels of Team Middlebury’s fourth place finish in Solar Decathlon 2011 last fall. Another Vermont school, Norwich University, will also take part in the 2013 competition. More than 80 students have already pledged to join the nearly two-year effort.

Earlier this week Middlebury officials discovered approximately $1.5 million in surplus funds that will in the short-term assure no rise in the municipal tax rate. The money has sparked an interesting debate among town residents on how the financial windfall should be allocated in the long-term. Middlebury town Treasurer Jackie Sullivan and CPA Thomas Telling confirmed the $1.5 million fund balance at Tuesday evening’s select-board meeting. The surplus money has accrued from various capital improvement projects that had been completed under-budget, but had not been closed out.

Residents in the Addison Central Supervisory Union towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Shoreham, Salisbury and Weybridge will soon vote on 2012-2013 elementary school spending plans that in many cases reflect small increases in spending but decreases in education property taxes. According to interim Superintendent Gail Conley the proposed budgets show a commitment by school directors to keep expenses low.

Ferrisburgh selectmen have approved a roughly $1.619 million town budget for fiscal year 2013 and on Town Meeting Day Ferrisburgh voters will have the option of adding up to $79,000 to that figure. The select-board’s spending proposal does not include about $29,000 of charitable donations that Ferrisburgh residents typically back in March, plus two articles that would create capital funds: $30,000 for the town’s fire department and $30,000 for the public works department.

The ID-4 school board is considering a comprehensive makeover of Mary Hogan Elementary School’s recreation areas. This is an initiative boosters will likely complete in phases using grants, donations and volunteer labor. This week the principal of Middlebury-based LandWorks presented the ID-4 board with some ideas for replacing the aging but popular Kidspace apparatus while adding some new amenities and landscaping.

On Town Meeting Day Leicester voters will see a ballot with two open select-board spots. Incumbent Ron Fiske will be running to reclaim his two-year position on the select-board, but longtime board member Robert Oliver will step down once his three-year term has ended, bidding farewell to the board after 19 years. Oliver said he is retiring after more than 40 years of service to the town between the school board and select-board.

Many income surveys, which are the key to grant funding for a $13.8 million water project in Ticonderoga, still have not been returned. The confidential income surveys were sent to water customers in October. Officials had hoped to complete the survey work last fall but to date about 50 percent of the surveys have been returned. To be eligible for the grant funding, 65 percent of the surveys must be completed. That means 350 more surveys are needed. The town is now working with a Ticonderoga High School government class and students will take the surveys door-to-door and wait while they are completed. Information on the project is available on the town website at www.townofticonderoga.com.

The Essex County Ways and Means Committee passed a number of resolutions onto the full board this week. All resolutions passed by the committee will be considered by the full board under the weighted voting system at the regular February Board Meeting, scheduled for Monday, February 6th at 10AM. Among the resolutions, the committee approved a pair of increases to the cost of services provided through the Public Health Department. The board also passed a pair of resolutions concerning the potential sale of the Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown. And they passed a resolution to increase the hours of the Finance Deputy in the County Treasurers office from 35 to 40 hours per week.

Registered snowmobilers in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine can roam trails in all three states this weekend. Any snowmobile legally registered in 1 of the participating states is allowed on trails in all three from Friday through Sunday. All other host state regulations apply, including speed limits, youth laws and Vermont's mandatory liability insurance.

A man charged with second-degree murder in a drunken driving crash that killed a woman in 2010 has changed his plea and is expected to serve 10 years in prison. 53-year-old Timothy Dowd of Hinesburg allegedly slammed into a car during a police chase through Burlington on Dec. 26, 2010. The crash killed 43-year-old Kaye Borneman. The Burlington Free Press reports that Dowd changed his plea yesterday to no contest to second-degree murder and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence with death resulting.

The lack of snow could hit one of Vermont's biggest industries: maple syrup. Syrup season is typically just a month away, but Dakin Farm employees say the bare ground could make for a late season. UVM experts in the maple industry say snow provides insulation for the roots, and without it, hard frosts could make it difficult to get the sugar this spring. But maple syrup producers say there's still a lot of time for that to change. The kick-off to maple syrup season usually takes place in the beginning of March.

Vermont's top health officer is telling lawmakers not to be overly worried about a form of radiation emitted by the wireless smart meters some Vermont utilities want to install in customers' homes and businesses. Dr. Harry Chen, the state health commissioner, told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that an international health panel last year found that radio frequency radiation emitted by cell phones is a possible source of brain cancer in heavy cell phone users. Chen said smart meters emit well less than 1% of the radiation emitted by cell phones, and they're not often held right next to the head.

Two Vermont Senators want to gradually raise the legal school drop out age from 16 to 18. The bills says that in 2013, the drop out age would increase to 16 and half, then 17 in 2014, then 17 and a half in 2015, so on so forth. Senator Alice Nitka says it is not because there is a drop out problem in Vermont. In fact, the graduation rate in the Green Mountain State is one of the best in the country. She says there's high unemployment and young people are not getting jobs.

A group of Vermont senators has proposed legislation that would give sales and property transfer tax breaks to help with recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. The measure calls for a holiday from Vermont's 6% sales tax on August 28th. A weeklong sales tax holiday, from August 26th to September 1st, would apply to home weatherization items.

All eyes are now on the Vermont Public Service Board, which could make the final call on Vermont Yankee's future. Last week, a federal judge ruled that lawmakers do not have the authority to make the call. The board is now left with two options. It can decide whether to issue the plant a Certificate of Public Good to continue operation for another 20 years or wait and see if the state appeals the judge's decision. The board is made up of three members that oversee Vermont's utilities.

The Vermont Law School in South Royalton says it has exceeded expectations with its largest fundraising campaign ever and hopes to raise more. The school says the campaign that began without fanfare in 2008 has raised $15.3 million, above the goal of $15 million. It's hoped another $1 million to $2 million can be raised by June 30th when dean and President Jeff Shields retires.

A state lawmaker wants to amend the state's medical marijuana law to allow it to be used to treat people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. State Rep. Jim Masland says he introduced the bill after he was asked to do so by a number of his constituents who were using marijuana to alleviate stress symptoms caused by their military service.

Savvy students-turned-salespeople at Ferrisburgh Central School have earned the school a new array of solar panels. The school participated in a program sponsored by Green Mountain Power that challenged local schools to sell energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs within their community. The school that sold the most light bulbs per student would win a $14,500 solar installation. Ferrisburgh Central sold nearly 600 light bulbs. Their top seller was a fifth-grader who sold 118. The school principal says adding solar is just one step along the school's path of becoming carbon neutral.

A local nonprofit group advocating for local renewable energy projects hopes to motivate residents to consider constructing a small-scale community solar project in Rutland County. Representatives of Energize Vermont held an informational meeting with local residents at Poultney High School on Wednesday about the possibility of building a community solar farm in Rutland County that would be owned by and benefit local residents.

Fort Ticonderoga’s new winter series of programs will continue on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. with “The Roar of Musketry and Cracking of Rifles: An Introduction to Weapons of the 18th Century” presented by Curator of Collections Chris Fox. The cost is $10 a person and will be collected at the door. It is free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga. For information just visit www.Fort-Ticonderoga.org.

High school band and choir students from across Vermont will have the opportunity to hone their skills under the direction of two prominent conductors and composers at the second annual Castleton Honors Music Festival today. More than 225 high school musicians from 20 high schools in Vermont will participate in the daylong festival. The day will culminate with a concert at 7:30 p.m. at Castleton State College’s Casella Theater. Area schools participating include Fair Haven Union High School, Middlebury Union High School, Otter Valley Union High School, Poultney High School, Vergennes Union High School and West Rutland High School.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Utilities offer safety advice in face of possible ice event and power outages

Utilities offer safety advice in face of possible ice event and power outages:

Vermont utilities are advising customers in the eastern and central parts of Vermont of the potential for ice damage that could cause downed trees and limbs, and lead to power outages late this evening and into Friday. Customers across the state could see power outages late tonight and into Friday.

Utility forecasts include the threat of up to a half inch of ice in eastern and central Vermont, combined with sleet and snow, which could cause power outages.

Utility crews are on standby to ensure a strong response if the ice accumulations bring significant problems. Government officials are also coordinating efforts to assure the necessary resources are available.

Utilities urged customers to be sure to have flashlights, batteries, food and water available in case they lose electrical service, and suggested that friends, family and neighbors check on elderly Vermonters who may need help. Candles are not recommended as light sources during a power outage due to fire risk.

The utilities offered the following advice:

Before outages occur, be sure you have a phone that is hard-wired and does not rely on electricity.

Fill a bathtub with water before you lose service so the water can be used to flush toilets when the power is out. PREVENT UNSUPERVISED BATHROOM ACCESS TO CHILDREN.

Treat any downed line as if it is live. Report the line to your local utility and fire department, stay at least 50 feet away from the line, and keep children and pets away as well.

If using a generator, read and follow the owner’s manual before starting the generator. Never operate a generator inside any structure or near a structure. Use a transfer switch to ensure electricity is not accidentally fed onto a line where line crews must work.

Keep freezers and refrigerators closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.

If power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances except one light so you’ll know when service returns. Then, turn equipment back on slowly.

Never use grills inside for warmth, as the fumes can be poisonous.

WVTK Local & State News January 26, 2012

Some of the highlights from this week’s Middlebury Select-Board meeting include three Police Officers taking the Oath of Office. School Zone Warning Signs with 30 mph Advisory Signs will be posted on Exchange Street between the Exchange Street/US 7 intersection and the western boundary of the property owned by The Bridge School. The Town will monitor speeds in the area to determine if a lower speed limit is warranted. Meanwhile the Board approved the General Fund budget for the Warning for Town Meeting after increasing the amount included for the Parent Child Center by $3,185 and applying more of the Fund Balance to offset expenses in FY13 in order to maintain the same estimated tax rate as in the current fiscal year. The proposed budget is available on the town’s website.

Middlebury police were busy yesterday with a busy thief. Yesterday morning, police cited 20-year-old Adrian Moore for trespassing at Shaw's supermarket around 9:45. Then just after noon Moore matched the description of a thief who had just stolen a jacket from SkiHaus, but he got away. Police caught up with Moore again around 6 p.m. while using GPS to track down an iPad that had just been stolen from the Middlebury Library. He is due in court today.

The Vergennes Union High School Commodore Booster Club honored local business owner Brett Ward at a ceremony during half time of a recent Vergennes Varsity Boys basketball game. Members of the booster club presented Brett and City Limits Night Club a plaque in recognition for eleven years of support of the Vergennes Union High School boosters and athletic programs. In 2011 City Limits contributed $15,000 to the Commodore Booster Club and since 2001 it has contributed a grand total of $203,000.

Ticonderoga residents can now purchase trash disposal cards at the town transfer station on Saturdays. Station attendants will sell the punch cards as a convenience to customers. They can only be purchased by check. Cash and credit cards will not be accepted at the trash transfer station on Vineyard Road. Attendants will not handle cash. The cards are sold at the town clerk’s office during normal business hours during the week. The town clerk’s office is closed on Saturday and some town residents said that creates a hardship since they work during the week and can’t get to the clerk’s office to purchase trash cards. The cards are available for $3, $5, $10 and $20.

It will now cost you more to ride a ferry across Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain Transportation is raising its rates 30 cents for a one-way ticket and the company is eliminating round trip fares. A round-trip ticket used to be several dollars cheaper than purchasing two one-way tickets. A one-way pass for a driver and a car now costs $9.80. This is the first rate increase since 2008.

Vermont State police are investigating a chain of thefts in Poultney. Thieves hit as many as 18 unlocked cars parked near Green Mountain College at night Sunday and Tuesday. Police say thieves were not targeting any one type of car or any specific contents, but stole whatever they could find. Police remind people to keep your doors locked and to never leave valuables in plain sight.

Free income tax preparation is available to local taxpayers through the AARP Tax-Aide program. The local Tax-Aide program prepares and electronically files individual 2011 tax returns. Volunteer counselors, trained and certified by the IRS, assist low- and middle-income taxpayers. People do not have to be retired or a member of AARP for this service. All locations are by appointment only. To schedule an appointment in Port Henry, Schroon Lake or Elizabethtown call; 873-2341 or 1-800-675-2668. Contact the Hague Community Center at 543-6161 to schedule an appointment in Hague or Ticonderoga.

Numerous Vermont state lawmakers got a disturbing email early Wednesday morning that contained a death threat. The email demands $10,000 or else. It's not clear if lawmakers were intentionally targeted in the scam. The email doesn't mention anyone by name or anything political. State police assigned detectives to investigate the scam and try to track where the emails came from. They say this is not a legitimate threat. And there is no danger to lawmakers.

The Vermont Senate is expected to approve commemorative license plates that will raise money to help the state recover from Tropical Storm Irene. Most of the $25 charged for the "Vermont Strong" plates will go to the Vermont Long-Term Disaster Relief Fund for people affected by flooding from Irene. The goal of the project is to raise a million dollars.

It's getting easier to get into a Vermont shelter if you need one. The state is lowering its eligibility requirements, plus communities now have the option to open wet or dry shelters. Governor Peter Shumlin announced the changes Wednesday, saying this gives more people access. He also says the change allocates state funds to house people even if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He says one-point-five-million originally budgeted for the state hospital is being shifted over to help support the change.

Citing the recent deaths of 3 homeless Vermonters who died of exposure to the cold, Gov. Peter Shumlin is launching some new steps to reduce homelessness in the state. The governor told a news conference on Wednesday he wants to reconstitute the Vermont Council on Homelessness, an interagency group designed to improve coordination between programs. He also pointed to a new rental subsidy program started this month that is aimed at keeping low-income Vermonters from becoming homeless. And he appointed a new person to coordinate housing programs in the Agency of Human Services. Shumlin says 2 of the deaths of homeless people occurred in Burlington and one in Rutland.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is defending the actions he took two years ago as president of the Senate that led to a vote to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Shumlin told reporters on Wednesday that he was not in the Senate when the law was passed in 2006 giving the Legislature veto power over continued operations at Vermont Yankee. He says he called for the Senate vote in 2010 after being requested to by Public Service Board Chairman James Volz. Shumlin also said he would leave to Attorney General William Sorrell the decision on whether to appeal last week's federal court order blocking the state's bid to close Vermont Yankee.

A House Democrat this week will unveil legislation requiring an up-or-down vote from the Legislature before the Public Service Board can consider a proposed merger of the state’s two largest electric utilities. While the bill has a slim chance of getting to the House floor, it reflects angst among some lawmakers about the merits of the $700 million deal between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service Corp. And even as top administration officials and legislative leaders voice confidence in the regulatory process, some lawmakers say the scope of the proposal demands a more intensive review.

Consultants are looking at reusing the upper floors of the state office complex in Waterbury among a number of options for housing state workers displaced by Irene flooding. The president of Freeman French Freeman, a Burlington-based architectural firm, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the firm is on schedule to report on the costs and feasibility of 4 proposals by March 2nd.

Vermont lawmakers are considering a 3-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique for natural gas drilling, while the scientific issues are explored further. No natural gas wells currently exist in Vermont, but lawmakers have heard from state environmental officials that there's a shale formation under the Lake Champlain islands that could be a target for the practice.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch says he's sure the state Legislature will soon unveil new election district lines that further protect majority party incumbents despite pledges lawmakers made in the last campaign to draw non-partisan lines. The majorities are expected to release their proposed district lines this week. If approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the courts, the new districts would be in place for the next 10 years. In 2010, nearly every state lawmaker pledged to reform the process this year.

U.S. Forest Service employees from the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont took to the slopes of local ski areas to share a new Junior Snow Ranger Activity booklet with local elementary school children this week. The children look at personal safety, wildlife, winter ecology, snow science and recreation using the booklets. They also learn about rescue dogs and the continued importance of wildfire prevention during the winter. For students who didn’t make it to the program introduction, the books are available free at Green Mountain National Forest offices in Middlebury, Manchester, Rochester and Rutland. Once completed, children can take their books back to the office, or mail them in, and receive and card, patch, and certificate of completion.

Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry recognized the winners of Vermont’s 2011 Youth Hunting Memories Contest at the Yankee Classic Sportsman’s Show in Essex Junction last weekend. Each winner received a Beagle Outdoor Wear fanny pack, binoculars, a compass and several Fish and Wildlife Department publications, including the 2012 Calendar. Contest winners were Colby Fox of Wallingford, Jacob Crawford of Jericho and Trevor Houle of Brattleboro.

Teen theater troupe will hold it’s first public performance. The Prevention Team and Moriah Central School will present the first public performance from their teen theater performance group, On Common Ground. The group will perform “I Don’t Have a Problem,” a play about the dangers of gambling written and performed by students. The play will be performed February 2nd at 6PM in the Moriah Central School Auditorium. On Common Ground writes and performs skits about current social issues for teens to promote awareness and to engage their peers in dialogue. The event is free and open to the public.

The Peace Corps says the University of Vermont ranks fifth in the country in the number of former students who are serving as volunteers overseas. The rankings of medium sized universities released Tuesday show that 42 UVM alumni are serving overseas. The figure is up eight over last year and it moved the school from 13th to fifth. The top-producing medium sized college or university is The George Washington University. The overall top producing school is the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 25, 2012

Albany-based Independent Optical Network has imbedded a 3,500 fiber-optic line in the new Lake Champlain Bridge. Work on the project started two years ago but has hit a bit of a roadblock. Crown Point Telephone has connected to ION's fiber-optic line. But its 700 customers will have to wait until the company can upgrade its system before passing the faster speeds along to customers. Now that the fiber-optic line has made its way across the new Champlain Bridge, ION hopes to run it 45 miles north to Burlington by early next year. The company also plans to connect a fiber-optic line between Whitehall and Rutland in the near future.

Police have made a third arrest in connection with a violent home invasion in Rutland over the weekend. Police have arrested 20-year-old Shane Haven of Rutland Vermont on charges of burglary and unlawful restraint. Authorities suspect the three were looking for drugs. Shane Haven will be arraigned in Court today. He is being held at the Marble Valley Corrections for lack of $150,000 bail.

The Vermont company that runs much of the electric distribution system in the state is joining with IBM to build a fiber optic control system designed to make the system more efficient and reliable. The Vermont Electric Power Company and IBM announced yesterday an agreement to build what's called an intelligent fiber optic communications and control network across the state. The system will span more than 1,000 miles and connect transmission substations to Vermont's distribution utilities and be part of the smart grid that's being designed.

Nearly 150 people packed the Statehouse last night to offer their opinions on the future of the state's mental health system, after Tropical Storm Irene forced the closure of the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. Some favor a centralized state hospital. Others support Governor Peter Shumlin's plan to have smaller facilities in different locations.

Vermont's newest commercial wind farm is starting to pay dividends. Earlier this month the town of Sheffield received a check for $117,000 for hosting the First Wind project. The sixteen turbines started producing power in October. The project is obligated to pay $520,000 a year for the life of the project. Officials say so far the farm has generated enough energy to power about 16,500 homes daily.

The union for Burlington police officers is now officially backing the Republican candidate for mayor. The president of the Burlington Police Officers Association said the views of Kurt Wright did not seem to be vastly different from his opponents. But, it's his experience in city and state government along with his leadership style. The last time the union endorsed a Republican for mayor was the last time a G-O-P candidate was elected, in 1993.

When it comes to students doing well on national tests, Vermont students hold their own. The 17th annual Report Card on American Education released by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Vermont second in the nation when it comes to test scores. Massachusetts placed first while West Virginia was at the bottom of the list. However, as for education reform policies, such as academic standards and a state's ability to hire good teachers and fire bad ones, it was a different story. Vermont received one of the lowest grades, with a D-plus.

Many northeast residents are seeing a very rare sight in the night sky, the Northern Lights. Scientists say a big solar flare up on Sunday is just now affecting Earth. It's so big that it's actually sending enough radiation our way to disrupt satellites and radio communications. In Canada, many GPS units aren't working accurately. The solar flare up also means many people in the northeast can see the Northern Lights. The spectacular display is visible in most states that border Canada.

Vermont police are working with a state senator to create a gang task force to attack a growing illicit drug trade. The director of the Vermont State Police said low-level gang associates are turning up as dealers in every corner of the state. He says the effort is more organized than in the past. The existing drug task force focuses on mid- and upper-level dealers. A gang task force would focus its efforts on street-level activity.

Four repaving road projects for western Rutland County are on the state Agency of Transportation’s docket this year. The projects, which will involve Castleton, Fair Haven, Ira and West Rutland, are estimated to cost a combined $9.2 million. An expensive repaving project is scheduled for Route 4A and Route 30 that will include changing guardrails, maintenance of ditches, some new signage and markings. In addition to those three paving project, another project in western Rutland County is planned for Route 4 which will include resurfacing the state highway from the New York state line to the intersection with Route 7 in Rutland Town.

Essex County lawmakers now say they regret their decision to break out Medicaid mandates on county tax bills. That's because the bills that just went out show a 16.9 percent tax hike, instead of the 10.54 percent the County Board of Supervisors approved in December, prompting taxpayer alarm. The actual county tax-levy increase was 10.54 percent, but with state and Medicaid mandates figured in, it totaled 16.9 percent, and that was automatically printed on the bills.

Applications are being accepted for $30 million in grant funds for communities and businesses in New York recovering from the devastating storms Irene and Lee. Empire State Development and the Department of Environmental Conservation announced the $21 million Business Flood Recovery Grant Program and $9 million Flood Mitigation Grant Program yesterday.

The court hearing for Port Henry arson suspect Joseph P. King was canceled Monday. The preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Moriah Town Court, but court officials said it was called off after King's Counsel waived the statutory time frame for the proceeding. King's next appearance will probably be in Essex County Court, at a date yet to be set.

The state of Vermont is soliciting ideas for how to spend the $21.6 million dollar federal community-rebuilding grant announced last week as part of the Irene recovery effort. The Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development will hold a hearing February 13th in Montpelier. Jen Hollar of the department says there's already been a great deal of communication with towns and organizations about how to fill gaps after FEMA and other assistance money is spent.

The Vermont Economic Development Authority has approved $13.4 million in financing to support a group of projects around the state. The main projects include the restoration of a Hinesburg manufacturing factory to lease to several businesses; new machinery and equipment for Autumn Harp in Essex Junction, which makes personal care products; land for Washington County Mental Health Services in Barre to convert a building to a school; and insurance and line of credit for the New England Culinary Institute. Financing also has been approved for Vermont farmers through the authority's agricultural loan program; small businesses through its small business loan programs; and repairs for privately owned drinking water systems.

Williston Police Chief Roy Nelson submitted his letter of resignation Monday. He has served as Williston's chief since July 2010, but has been on leave since last summer while undergoing cancer treatment. Although Nelson's cancer is now in remission, he says he is still concerned about his health and wants to be near his family in Connecticut. Douglas Hoyt is already serving as interim chief. Williston hopes to have a new chief of police picked by June.

Vermonters can anticipate taking on more than $10 million in fees this year, as opposed to $400,000 in fees last year. The fee bill has yet to be finalized as it sits before the House Ways and Means Committee. They expect to finalize them by February. The majority of the fees will be applied to services provided by the Agency of Natural Resources and the Agency of Transportation. For example, fees could be applied to solid waste disposal or air pollution from factories. At the DMV, drivers can expect to pay more for a new license or to register their car. Fees are expected to be unusually high this year because of a lack of federal funding for certain programs and added transportation demands after Irene.

This year's Vermont Farm Show is the biggest one so far. The annual event opened Tuesday at its new location at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction. Organizers say it is the largest Farm Show in the state's history, with 266 booths, representing 168 vendors.

The Vermont Health Department says whooping cough is still on the rise in the state. Preliminary data indicates there were 91 cases of whooping cough reported in December, compared to 18 cases for all of 2010. The Burlington Free Press reports at least 17 cases have been reported this month.

Labor officials say Vermont's unemployment rate has dropped to 5.1%, the lowest statewide rate since October of 2008. The national rate is 8.5%. Department of Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan said Tuesday that Vermont appears to be making headway in its economic recovery. She says she hopes Vermont employers will continue to work with the Labor Department to recruit employees because there are many Vermonters who want to work and need a chance at a job to prove themselves.

The performance of Vermont's attorney general is coming under scrutiny after losing three cases with a national profile. Vermont lost as the office of Attorney General William Sorrell defended campaign finance and drug data mining laws before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the state couldn’t close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The data mining case is expected to cost the state more than $5 million in legal fees paid to the drug and data mining industries. Sorrell says his office also has its share of wins and has been recouping more than $40 million a year for the state treasury.

Cpl. Chuck Hall has been with the Rutland City Police Department for more than 25 years and will retire at the end of the week. His stint in law enforcement stretches over 30 years counting the time he served as a military police officer with the U.S. Air Force. Now he feels it’s time for something new. Hall has also served as second constable in Clarendon for the last 15 years.

The Lake George Land Conservancy is holding a contest to name the summit trail at its Cook Mountain Preserve in Ticonderoga. Naming rights will go to the winner of the conservancy's Name-the-Trail Drawing, which will take place March 6th. Entries are being accepted until February 25th. The conservancy is charging $50 to enter, or three chances for $100. To buy a naming ticket, contact Cornelia Wells. (644-9673, or email cwells@lglc.org)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 24, 2012

The organizing committee for the “Middlebury Maple Run – The Sweetest Half” is pleased to announce that Ingrid Punderson Jackson (IPJ) Real Estate in Middlebury has committed to become the race’s title sponsor. Scheduled for Sunday, May 6th with a start time of 9AM, the Middlebury Maple Run is becoming one of New England’s “must-do” races and organizers hope to attract at least 1,000 runners for this year’s event. Yours truly (Gale Parmelee) is already registered to run again this year. It was by far my favorite race in 2011 and I’m looking forward to this year’s event. The proceeds from 2011’s Middlebury Maple Run were donated to several worthwhile charities. In 2012 the Addison County Humane Society will be added to the list of recipients. Get more info and register now by clicking HERE.

In preparation for the fire facilities bond vote at Middlebury’s Town Meeting in March, the Fire Department's Fire Station Committee will present building designs and estimates of the cost of improvements for both fire stations. Tours of Fire Station #1 will also be offered after the informational meeting. The meeting is set for Thursday, February 2nd at 7PM at Fire Station #1 in Seymour St. Information on the project is also available on the Fire Department's website, www.middleburyfiredept.org.

Firefighters battled a tough blaze on Old Ti Road in Hubbardton on Monday morning. A long icy road made truck access difficult until sand trucks arrived and chains were put on the fire engine tires. It is the second fire this month to burn down a home in Hubbardton. A home on Delancey Road burned down January 11th.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with proposed bridgework along Route 116 in Bristol. The proposed project will replace two deficient bridges beginning this year. VTrans proposes to place fill material in the New Haven River, an unnamed tributary and adjacent wetlands relating to the two Route 116 deficient bridges. The existing pony truss of the Route 116 Bridge 8 will be replaced with a new two-span 361-foot steel girder bridge. Traffic during construction will be detoured to a temporary bridge on the downstream side of Bridge 8.

Last week the Bristol Planning Commission said that a zone prohibiting gravel extraction in and around Bristol’s downtown area would still be included in the new town plan. The perimeters of that zone and the language that accompanies it are still being worked out. After commissioners realized last year that there were discrepancies between different accepted versions of that no-extraction zone, they decided to go back to the drawing board to better define it.

In the wake of a burglary at Monkton Central School last week, school staff and students are putting the school back together and returning to a normal routine. According to Principal Susan Stewart the teachers and staff are keeping things as normal as possible. There hasn’t been any huge interruption. The investigation into the burglary continues.

After an unprecedented $141,000 plus of dorm damage in the 2010-11 academic year, Middlebury College saw a 44.5 percent decrease during the first semester of the current academic year. According to data released by Assistant Director of Custodial Services Linda Ross, there was a little over $21,600 of damage this past fall semester. Comparatively, the College suffered over $48,000 during the fall of 2010. Ross attributed the turnaround to this year’s first-year class and a “phenomenal” residential life staff.

The latest version of state’s multiyear transportation program has a lot of rail projects in it, but not the Western corridor. After repeated failed attempts at securing federal funding to extend passenger service from Rutland to Burlington, state officials said last year they were eyeing the $14 to $20 million remainder of a $26 million federal earmark retired senator James Jeffords secured for rail development in the state. Rep. Patrick Brennan said on Monday that was not looking like an option. He said the state’s commitment to the project remains strong, but that the project remains beyond Vermont’s means without federal money.

The deadline to apply for tax exemptions in Ticonderoga is approaching. Property owners have until March 1st to seek a reduction on their tax bills. If you have any questions you can call (585-5285) or stop into the Ticonderoga Community Building from 3:30 to 5PM Monday through Thursday and 8AM to 4:30PM on Friday. There are several different tax exemptions available in Ticonderoga.

Essex County is making necessary legal preparations for the possible sale of Horace Nye Nursing Home. Late last year, the county contracted with a national real-estate broker for sale or lease of the Nursing Home, which is losing millions of dollars annually. The County needs to conduct a Phase One environmental evaluation of the facility and its grounds followed by a full title search. The county seems to be leaning toward sale instead of lease of the facility and several contract restrictions will protect patients and staff at the Nursing Home.

The implications of a federal court ruling over the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will be the topic of a forum at the Vermont Law School. Faculty experts on Wednesday will discuss what's next in the ongoing legal battle. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin met with Attorney General William Sorrell on Monday to discuss whether to appeal the federal court decision. The Vermont Law School forum will be held on Wednesday at 2:30PM in Oakes Hall, room 12. It's free and open to the public.

The number of people taking off from the Burlington International Airport is down slightly from last year. The airport tracks the number of passengers boarding flights and says more than 648,000 passengers did so in 2011. That's down from about 3,000 a year earlier.

The Burlington City Council rejected a plan last night to bring a proposed tax hike before voters. The proposal by Mayor Bob Kiss would have raised about $700,000 to maintain police and fire services in the city. Councilors shot down the measure by a vote of 11 to 3.

If you're a Vermont parent with school-aged kids there could be major changes coming to what the state says you have to do to keep them healthy. Lawmakers are looking at changing the rules on who has to get immunized. Advocates for immunizing Vermont's kids say it's a matter of life and death. This morning a public hearing at the statehouse in Montpelier will raise the issue of getting in line with states like New York and New Hampshire by taking the philosophical exemption off the table for parents.

FairPoint Communications says Vermont utility regulators are making it easier for the company to be more flexible in the prices it charges its customers. The utility says the Public Service Board has approved a 4-year regulatory plan that allows FairPoint to offer competitive pricing. In the past such changes could take up to seven weeks to approve.

Governor Peter Shumlin is going to be meeting with Attorney General William Sorrell to decide whether to appeal a decision by a federal court that allows the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to continue operating. Shumlin made the comments today at an event sponsored by the Lamoille Valley Chamber of Commerce in Morrisville. Shumlin says he will have little to say about a possible appeal before Wednesday.

Critics of Vermont Yankee are not giving up their fight. A few dozen activists rallied outside the statehouse late Monday afternoon. They thanked Governor Shumlin and other lawmakers who called for Yankee to close on time. They say they're disappointed in the judge's decision last week that prevented the state from closing the plant. They called the ruling a setback but not a defeat.

Some people are concerned that cars and trucks are rusting quicker because of what the state uses to prevent icy roads. Vermont transportation crews started using brine, a pre-mix of water and salt, three-years ago. Its use is growing across the state but that has not ended concerns about what brine could do to cars and trucks. VTrans says the real corrosion culprit is salt and crews say the switch to brine means less salt used on Vermont roads. Also they say studies in other states that have used brine for a while has found no link between brine and more corrosion.

The United Way of Addison County has a very strong commitment to literacy. The nonprofit organization announced this week a three-year, $30,000 commitment to promoting reading in four county grade schools. It all begins with Salisbury Elementary.

Crown Point children will have a chance to learn about ice fishing from experts. The Vermont Sportsman Association will hold a free ice-fishing clinic for children age 15 and younger Saturday, February 11th from 10 to Noon at Monitor Bay Park. All children need to be accompanied by an adult or guardian and are advised to dress warmly and appropriately. An introduction to the equipment used, proper ice fishing techniques and ice safety will be covered. Prizes will be awarded.

The Vermont Inn, one of the area’s landmark inns is back up and running. Under new owners Jeremy and Samantha Smith, the bed and breakfast is open for business, accepting guests and serving dinner to the public. Rutland natives and 1998 graduates of Rutland High School, the Smiths purchased the 16-room bed and breakfast at auction in November. After some sprucing up they reopened the inn on December 28th. Innkeeper Tim Hammond said the menu has stayed largely the same.

Monday, January 23, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 23, 2012

The Town of Middlebury will hold its regular Select Board Meeting tomorrow at 7PM in the Town Offices Conference Room. There will be a Public Hearing on the Amendment of Ordinance for the Regulation of Speed and for the Regulation of Traffic Lights and Traffic Signs on Exchange Street. Also the Oath of Office will be administered for two new Police Officers. Members will also finalize the Town General Fund Budget for FY13 and make Board Assignments for Presentation of the Budget at Town Meeting. For more information and the complete agenda just visit the Town’s Website.

A Vergennes man may face criminal charges after crashing a car and leaving two children inside. It happened Saturday night on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh. Police say 23-year-old Korey Koch lost control of the car he was driving and rolled it. When police arrived on scene they found two young children who had been left inside the car. Koch was later found at a nearby home getting help. All three were hospitalized with minor injuries and police say criminal charges are pending in the case.

It's still too early to tell just how many people flocked to Killington Thursday through Sunday for the Dew Tour skiing and snowboarding competition. Last year's stop brought in nearly 30-thousand spectators and even more were expected this time. Killington is the only East Coast stop on the tour with the season ending in a few weeks in Snow Basin, Utah. Killington is hoping to bring the Dew Tour back again next year.

Mark your calendars because the fourth annual Middlebury Chili Festival and Contest is scheduled to for Saturday, March 10. Public tasting begins at 1:30PM and festivities last well into the evening. Last year's chili event attracted over 3,000 people to the downtown area. Town officials project that this year’s event is likely to attract a greater number of hungry locals and out-of-towners. The festivities will include live music, giveaways, and a beer tent that includes local brews and a performance by the Horse Traders at 5PM. The Better Middlebury Partnership bills the event as “family friendly”, so there will be something for everyone. For more information visit www.vermontchilifestival.com.

Hinesburg voters will decide on the town’s $2.9 million Public Safety Building Project plan bond at Town Meeting Day in March. The article facing voters will include a facility totaling 14,993 square feet in the central part of the village. Reflecting a trend in several progressive communities in Vermont in recent years, the plan proposes to expand the fire station and bring the police department under one roof. A public meeting will be held on Feb. 9th at 7PM in the Hinesburg Town Hall to explain the project.

A man from Port Henry New York has been charged with setting a string of fires in that area. More that 500- thousand dollars in damage has been done to buildings and vehicles in the northern New York Village. Last week, 43-year-old Joseph King of Port Henry was charged with arson, burglary and criminal mischief. Troopers arrested King late on January 1st after a series of fires broke out in Port Henry.

Rutland City police believe a man found dead in a warehouse on West Street on Thursday may have been died from a medical condition for which he was hospitalized recently. The man was identified Friday as 51-year-old Mark Robinson, who grew up in the city but has lived as a transient in recent years. Foul play isn’t suspected in Robinson’s death.

The Town of Benson’s school budget going up more than 7 percent because of mandatory special education costs. The school’s budget is going up 7.4 percent for next school year. The majority of that increase is due to the education of four special needs students in the district. The cost is about $38,000 per student for all the students to attend Rutland’s Vermont Achievement Center. The public votes on the Benson school budget this March at Town Meeting Day.

A state report offers a possible future for Flory's Plaza. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has released the “corrective action plan” for the much-discussed Center Rutland property. The plan, developed with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, outlines the steps necessary to get the plaza off ANR's list of contaminated properties. Matthew Becker, an environmental analyst with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, said there could be federal money available for a cleanup that follows the plan.

Ticonderoga and Crown Point school districts are seeking a grant that would recommend whether they should consolidate. The $45,000 State Local Government Efficiency Grant would fund a merger feasibility study for the two districts. Both schools face declining enrollments. Crown Point has 280 students, while Ticonderoga has 900. Ten years ago, Crown Point was at about 350 and Ticonderoga at 1,100. Ticonderoga and Crown Point school boards had to jointly approve the grant application, which is due March 31st.

Essex County's new ad hoc committee is about to get started on its goal of ensuring that county employees live in the county. County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas named eight people to the Residency Committee, which will hold its first meeting at 9AM Thursday in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown.

A regional tourism group has recognized Fort Ticonderoga and the Champlain Bridge project. The Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism awarded Fort Ticonderoga the 2011 Tourism Marketing Award. The 2011 Destination Product Award was presented to the New York State Department of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the team responsible for the new Champlain Bridge. The Tourism Marketing Award is given to a group or individual who has produced or launched an innovative tourism-marketing product or initiative.

Two committees of the Vermont Legislature will take testimony at a public hearing on the future of the state's mental health system, now that the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury is closed. Residents had to be evacuated from the Waterbury facility because of flooding during Tropical Storm Irene, and Governor Peter Shumlin says he doesn't want to reopen the antiquated hospital.

New York and Vermont have made substantial progress in complying with the national health care law, which would extend coverage to the uninsured by 2014, but New Hampshire has made no significant progress. An analysis by The Associated Press shows 13 states have adopted a plan to comply with the law. New York is among 17 states making headway. States must have their plans ready for federal approval by January 1, 2013, or risk having federal oversight of their health care.

Vermont's annual Farm Show will open at its new location at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction. Organizers say it will be the largest Farm Show in the state's history, with 266 booths, representing 168 vendors. The Farm Show this year moved from Barre to Essex Junction to accommodate the growing number of vendors and visitors. The 3-day event kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Thursday afternoon.

Maine and Vermont are moving forward with plans to comply with the national health care law, but New Hampshire has made no significant progress. States are expected to be partners with the federal government in implementing a plan to extend coverage to the uninsured by 2014. An important part of the law calls for health insurance exchanges, new one-stop supermarkets with online and landline capabilities for those who buy coverage individually.

Lake Champlain is freezing over less frequently and less extensively than it did decades ago. The Burlington Free Press says the lake froze over in just half the years in the 1980s and 2000s. In the 1990s, the lake froze completely in just three winters. From the 1820s through the 1920s, Champlain froze every year, or stayed open just once in each 10-year period. The lack of complete ice cover is raising questions about the impact on the lake.

A change in regulations has raised hopes that New England is a step closer to unlocking the power in its renewable energy resources. The federal government released an order this fall to make it easier to build electricity transmission. Every New England state has set goals to increase the amount of renewable power it uses. To date, grid managers have focused on whether transmission projects would help keep power flowing. After the new order, they must plan projects that help a state reach such goals as increasing renewable power. And they must devise a way to pay for it.

The Vermont Air National Guard will continue its night flying training in South Burlington. Pilots will be practicing night missions from Tuesday through Friday, taking off and landing in F-16s after dark. During the trainings, multiple F-16s will take off twice a night. They are all expected to land no later than midnight.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Inc. will be accepting applications from qualified new farmers to participate in its two-year support program, known as the NOFA-NY Journeyperson Program. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture support the program. The application deadline is February 8th with notification regarding the next step of the process occurring on or around Feb. 24th. Details can be found at www.nofany.org.

School officials in Burlington are considering providing portable computers or iPads to all 1,900 middle and high school students in the Burlington district. The Burlington Free Press said the proposed school budget for next year includes funding for the first year of a four-year phase-in that would make the computers available. Burlington is one of a growing number of school districts that are moving beyond shared computers in classrooms and libraries and exploring programs in which schools assign a portable computing device to each student.

Actor and activist Danny Glover will be putting on a performance at the University of Vermont. Glover along with actor and director Felix Justice will present "An Evening with Martin and Langston" tomorrow. Justice will portray Martin Luther King, Jr., in some of his most powerful speeches and Glover will read words and poetry of Langston Hughes about the African American experience. Following the performance, the audience will get to ask the actors questions. Tickets are free but limited. They have been available to UVM students and as of today will be available to the public.

Twelve teams battled for the puck in Middlebury Saturday at the 13th annual 'Face-off Against Breast Cancer’ event. The American Cancer Society estimates one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. In the first year, the tournament raised a couple thousand dollars as well as awareness and camaraderie. Now in the 13th year, organizers said they hope to raise $72,000, which would break the $60,000 mark set last year. The funds will be used to assist survivors in their on-going fight against the disease.

Friday, January 20, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 20, 2012

A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that the state's only nuclear plant can remain open beyond its originally scheduled shutdown date this year, despite efforts by state government to close the 40-year-old reactor. The ruling Thursday is a win for New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., which had argued during a 3-day trial in September that Vermont's efforts to close the Vermont Yankee plant were pre-empted by federal law. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension in March. But state law required Vermont lawmakers to support keeping the plant open as well. A bill to grant legislative approval died in the state Senate in 2010, and the House has never acted. The state is expected to appeal.

This week the Mount Abraham Union Middle and High School board approved a proposed budget that would level-fund education spending for next fiscal year. Under the proposal, overall expenses would increase 0.7 percent but education spending would remain the same as this year. Additionally the “per pupil” spending rate would increase 4.1 percent next year. As far as the property tax rate, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union officials estimate that if voters approve the spending plan on Town Meeting Day then tax rates in Bristol, Monkton and New Haven would rise, while rates should drop in Lincoln and Starksboro.

The Vergennes Union Elementary School board will put before voters on Town Meeting Day a $3.91 million budget proposal for 2012-13 that would increase current spending by $20,500, or 0.5 percent. Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials are cautiously optimistic that spending proposal, combined with the recently proposed $8.97 million Vergennes Union High School spending plan, would lead to little or no school tax hikes in the three towns served by the school.

Ripton is looking at two votes for a school plan. Ripton Elementary School directors are crafting a 2012-2013 spending plan that would require two public votes at town meeting in order to maintain current services, preserve a new after-school program and establish a Spanish language offering.

The Better Middlebury Partnership wants to hear local business owners’ views on the challenges and advantages of operating here in town, so that future changes can be made to improve local commerce. BMP is circulating its second survey of the winter, this one featuring 32 questions polling Middlebury business owners on their impressions of municipal services, help they might need to become more prosperous, and what local events seem to best stimulate customer traffic.

This week the Bristol select-board continued ironing out a proposed town spending plan for the next fiscal year, addressing budgets for the recreation department, the Lawrence Memorial Library and the town’s waste disposal programs. According to Town Administrator Bill Bryant the recreation department spending plan for next fiscal year, which has not yet been finalized, is likely to see a noticeable hike.

Vergennes aldermen adopted two articles for voter consideration on Town Meeting Day. The first one would devote $37,000 to improvements to the city’s recreation area and the second would end the practice of mailing annual reports to every Vergennes household. Aldermen also discussed adopting a conflict of interest policy, possibly at their next meeting, set for January 31st, and broadened their search for a new police station site.

The Bridport Grange and the Addison County Farm Bureau will launch the first in its annual legislative breakfast series on Monday morning, February 6th beginning at 7 in the Bridport Grange Hall. The legislative breakfast series offers Addison County residents a weekly opportunity to personally meet with their state representatives and senators on legislation being debated in Montpelier. As has been the custom, the breakfasts will rotate between various public venues throughout the county.

A person passed away in Rutland and was found early yesterday evening in a building in the abandoned Mintzer Brothers warehouse complex on West St. Police are saying the discovery is not suspicious and foul play isn’t involved. The man is approximately 50 years old.

The United Way of Rutland County announced its 2011 fundraising total yesterday and it’s a number that surpassed the campaign’s goal of $565,000. The group raised $568,640 during a four-month period that began the campaign only several days after Tropical Storm Irene hit the community. The organization, now in its 69th year of service, grants money to groups that assist area residents in everything from mental health services to low-income housing to medical services and food.

The Rutland Board of Aldermen voted unanimously yesterday to endorse the proposed merger of the state’s two largest utilities. The blessing was contingent on a number of conditions that were agreed to by Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and Green Mountain Power being included in the Public Service Board’s order approving the merger. Spokesman Steve Costello said CVPS has cooperated with the city on efforts ranging from storm restoration to economic development and hopes to maintain the same sort of relationship post-merger.

Essex County’s discount-prescription program for uninsured consumers has some independent pharmacies concerned, while others are taking advantage of it. The County Board of Supervisors contracted with ProAct last year to offer the service for county residents. Now, some independent pharmacies have complained about using ProAct because it’s owned by Kinney Drugs. But other independent drug stores are using the program.

The Vermont House has voted to advance a bill that would authorize four state agencies to make a total of 49 new hires. The budget adjustment bill, which is up for final House approval today before moving to the Senate, would have the Agency of Transportation make 21 temporary hires through the middle of 2014 to help towns rebuild from Tropical Storm Irene.

The public will get a chance to offer recommendations on how Vermont's mental health system should be structured. Vermont lawmakers are holding a public hearing next week on a draft mental health care bill. Gov. Peter Shumlin has proposed a new secure, acute-care facility in Berlin, expanded psychiatric facilities in Brattleboro and Rutland and additional community placements for those deemed eligible for them. The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday from 4:30PM to 6:30PM in room 11 of the Statehouse.

Police at the University of Vermont have released the identity of a man found dead on campus. They say he is 57-year-old Thomas Keenan of Shelburne. A preliminary investigation found the probable cause of Keenan's death was exposure to the cold. A person walking a dog found Keenan in UVM’s Centennial Woods Wednesday.

Vermont is getting a failing grade for the amount of money it spends to prevent smoking. The American Lung Association's latest report card says the state falls short in its investments in tobacco prevention and control. The association said Wednesday that this year the state cut over a million dollars from tobacco prevention and control efforts, allocating $3.4 million. Vermont also got a "D'' for helping smokers quit. But the state got an "A'' for its smoking restrictions that protect people from secondhand smoke. Only four states, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma, received all passing grades.

The administration of Governor Peter Shumlin is defending its decision to put off deciding how to pay for its planned single-payer health care system until next year. Robin Lunge, director of health care reform for the administration, says she and other officials must decide first what benefits will be included both under the health care exchange and under the Green Mountain Care system Vermont plans to set up by 2017.

The Vermont Attorney General's office says a propane company has agreed to pay $140,000 in civil penalties to the state and $100,000 to an energy assistance program in the wake of complaints by consumers about usage fees. The attorney general's office says Inergy Propane, doing business as Pyrofax Energy, assessed customers "minimum usage fees" in the fall of 2010 and delayed refunds following termination or disconnection of services.

Vermont Law School has received a $1.25 million grant for its new center on agricultural law and policy. The anonymous grant, which will be distributed over four years, will allow the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems to hire a director with national experience and to expand its agricultural law and policy curriculum and training, research and support programs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Wednesday to limit administrative costs and executive pay at state-funded service providers, many of them devoted to social services, including a $199,000 salary cap for executives. The order noted that the government funds many tax-exempt organizations and for-profits that provide critical services to New Yorkers in need, but it has an obligation to use taxpayer money effectively.

While New York devotes much of its effort and billions of dollars in tax breaks to attract global corporations, an influential bloc of state senators is targeting small business. The Independent Democratic Conference is proposing bills to help small business cut health insurance costs that can be 50 percent higher than in other states, reduce state regulatory paperwork and fees, and make more credit available for growth.

The Ticonderoga Historical Society has received some help. The group recently was awarded $1,000 from the Wal-Mart Foundation to assist in its youth education programs. Jan Trombley, manager of the Ticonderoga Wal-Mart, presented the grant to the Ticonderoga Historical Society. The society is most appreciative of this grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation and looks forward to using it to make the community and even better place to live, especially children.

Just before the second anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, three local moms have delivered more than 700 pairs of shoes collected in Addison County to needy children in the Caribbean island. Andrea Ward, Maria Graham and Kelly Hickey made the trip January 4th – 8th. Kelly created the shoe drive in October 2010. That fall she collected some 660 shoes from local drop-off sites, which were sent to Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects new and gently used shoes, redistributing them to those in need around the world. She attributed the second year increase in collections to community-wide support.

Elvis is coming to Port Henry. Drew Polsun, an Elvis Presley tribute artist, and his band The Fascinations will perform at the Port Henry Knights of Columbus Saturday, February 11th as part of a dinner-show-dance. It’s a fundraiser to support the Knights of Columbus and their charitable efforts. The dinner will be an Italian buffet served at 6PM The Elvis performance will follow. Tickets are priced at $20 a person and must be purchased by February 6th. (They are available by calling Chuck Kolodzey at 546-8290, Nappy Marcotte at 546-7501 or Tim Kolodzey at 546-7125)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WVTK Local & State News January 19, 2012

Price Chopper Supermarkets is voluntarily recalling its 16 oz packages of Coyote Joe's Shredded Taco Cheese because the packages may contain small pieces of plastic. According to a press release sent out by the chain, the cheese was at its stores between the dates of January 4 and January 17. Prices Chopper has stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. People can return the cheese for a full refund. For more information, visit www.pricechopper.com.

The Addison County Chamber Of Commerce and the Ticonderoga Chamber will be hosting Mixers this evening. The first Addison County Chamber Mixer of 2012 will be held at CafĂ© Provence in Brandon from 5-7PM. For more information just visit www.addisoncounty.com. The Ti Chamber’s “After Business Mixer” will be held at Sugar Hill Manor Bed & Breakfast in Crown Point from 5:30 to 7PM. Get more info at www.ticonderogany.com.

A convicted embezzler from Addison County is back in trouble with the law. 65-year-old Susan Emilo spent nearly three years behind bars after admitting in 2003 that she stole $730,000 dollars from her employer, Lincoln Applied Geology. The Salisbury woman is now back in court because prosecutors say she hid a big asset: A vacation house in Florida. Emilo pleaded not guilty Wednesday to new charges. Authorities say she sold the home in 2009 but tried to cover up the sale.

Another driver was killed in a crash on a Vermont highway last night. It happened at about a quarter to five on northeast road in the town of Tinmouth. State police say 46-year-old Adam Delisle drove off the road and into a tree. The Danby man died shortly after being rushed to the hospital in Rutland. Police are still investigating exactly why Delisle drove off the road.

A Vermont-based business is crediting a foreign investor visa program for helping to make sure their jobs stay put in the Green Mountain State. Country Home Products based in Vergennes says the EB-5 investor visa program has allowed it to continue to be innovative and maintain 135 jobs in a tough economy. The program is designed to solicit investments of $500,000 or more from foreign partners to preserve or create jobs in the United States. At Country Home's DR Power Equipment plant in Winooski, the program has helped support its new log splitter assembly line. Country Home is the first manufacturer to benefit from EB-5 investors.

The former treasurer of the tiny Vermont town of Ira has been sentenced to more than two years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $300,000. Sixty-year-old Donald Hewitt was sentenced to 27 months on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro. The judge has ordered that Hewitt serve three years of supervised release when he gets out of prison.

The Rutland Board of Aldermen voted against buying police cars with Zamias money, but agreed to continue discussing how to fund the purchase. Money slated for the cars was diverted to purchase a truck for the Department of Public Works during the budget process. The Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to recommend using $60,000 from the Zamias fund to pay for the cars, but the full board rejected that proposal 5-3 during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Town officials in Hinesburg are hoping to build a new fire, police and community park. Plans include a town green that could host musical performances, farmers' markets and other recreation. Voters will ultimately determine if the project will go through during a public bond vote on Town Meeting Day in March. The town estimates the project will cost around $2.9 million.

The A.E. Phelps Fire and Rescue in Crown Point held elections in December. In 2011 the Department responded to 270 calls for both fire and ambulance. It has a current membership of 45 people. The company is always looking for additional members for fire, EMS, fire police and auxiliary. To join contact any current member or come to the fire house on Main Street any Tuesday evening to get a membership application. All training will be provided when classes are available.

In coordination with Winter Fest 2012 the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce is promoting Ticonderoga area businesses that will offer at least a 10 percent discount the day of the event. The Ticonderoga Montcalm Street Partnership plans Winter Fest with support from the Ticonderoga Central School as well as area organizations and businesses. The free event will be held Saturday, February 11th from 11AM to 2PM at the Ticonderoga recreational fields, ice skating rink and surrounding areas. For more information on any of the businesses, the promotions, or Winter Fest contact the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.

University of Vermont police are investigating the death of an unidentified man found frozen and wrapped in blankets in a wooded area. The UVM Police Chief says the death does not appear to be suspicious and that the man was not a university student. The Burlington Free Press reported that the body was found about 2:30PM Wednesday in an area known as Centennial Woods, which runs from Interstate 89 in south Burlington west to the main campus.

Vermont’s congressional delegation announced that Vermont will receive nearly $8.7 million for two flood relief programs integral to helping Vermont farmers and property owners recover from Tropical Storm Irene. Vermont will receive $6.3 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and $2.3 million for the Emergency Conservation Program. Both programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Burlington police have made an arrest in a stabbing over the weekend. The incident happened near Big Daddy's Pizza on lower Church Street around 2:20AM Sunday. Detectives say the 28-year-old victim approached a patrol car for help shortly after the altercation took place. The victim suffered a stab wound. Late Tuesday night police arrested 22-year-old Glen Haskins of Hinesburg, on a charge of attempted murder. The victim is currently still in the hospital listed in serious but stable condition.

Here’s a reminder from police that with our wacky weather so far this winter, it's probably not safe to drive on the ice. Someone drove out on the frozen Waterbury Reservoir Tuesday night, and then fell through the ice. No one was hurt, but the pickup is underwater. The driver did not contact authorities until Wednesday. Vermont Fish and Wildlife tried to pull the truck out, but could not reach it. Police say that means the truck will likely be submerged until spring. Police say the truck's owner could face thousands in environmental fines for polluting the reservoir and possibly other environmental charges.

Bigger corporate income tax refunds, higher gas prices and a slow start to the winter tourism season are prompting small downgrades in state revenue projections for the rest of this fiscal year, as well as the next. Two economists who consult with Vermont told its Emergency Board yesterday that revenues for the first six months of the current fiscal year - July through December - were on target with the forecast they released in July. But economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet told state officials Wednesday they think revenues for the second half of the current fiscal year - meaning the next six months - will come in at about $1.8 million lower than had been projected last July.

AARP Vermont has launched a statewide campaign to recover $21 million owed to ratepayers of Rutland-based Central Vermont Public Service. The pro-liberal senior citizen advocacy group has formally intervened in the pending merger of Green Mountain Power and CVPS. AARP officials said they intervened in December and filed testimony with the Vermont Public Service Board. The board will consider the matter in the coming months. Officials have stressed that AARP does not oppose the merger itself, but only wants to ensure customers recover their funds from a decade ago.

Some state lawmakers and activists, including Ben & Jerry's cofounder Jerry Greenfield, have unveiled a resolution calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. That 5-4-ruling two years ago found that corporations have the same rights as individuals to make unlimited contributions to independent groups seeking to influence elections.

Vermont's lieutenant governor is sharing some good news he discovered in the ashes left from the fire that destroyed the construction business he co-owns. While cleaning up the debris at Dubois Construction in Middlesex, Phil Scott discovered a check for more than $12,000. The money was a donation from All Metals Recycling for the Vermont Community Foundation that supports Irene relief. The building and all the heavy equipment inside Scott's warehouse are gone. Scott and his employees tried to save critical files during the fire but conditions were too intense.

Beginning today through Sunday, the Dew Tour festival village opens at 9:30 a.m. at Bear Mountain in Killington. At 10:30AM today, top men compete in the free-ski super-pipe last chance qualifier and at 1:30PM, men hit the super-pipe for the snowboard last chance qualifier. On Friday at 11AM, women compete in the free-ski super-pipe semi-final and at 2PM, men compete in the snowboard super-pipe semi-final. For a complete listing of times and events, go to www.killington.com.

Ticonderoga Middle School technology students under the direction of teacher Jim Marshall have completed a community service project. Brittany Bruce and Rachel White have constructed additional equipment storage cubbies for the Ticonderoga Little League dugouts. Bruce’s father, Mike Bruce, provided the needed materials and dimensions for building the cubbies to match the existing storage currently in the dugouts.

The United Way of the Adirondack Region, Inc. will host its second annual “Dine United” event on Thursday, January 26th. The unique event invites restaurants throughout Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties to donate a percentage of one day’s gross sales to the United Way of the Adirondack Region, Inc. The event is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at participating restaurants. For a complete list of restaurants and locations visit: www.unitedwayadk.org or contact the United Way of the Adirondack Region, Inc.

Grants of up to $1,000 from the Honeybee Community Fund are available to assist small businesses, farmers, nonprofit organizations, environmental projects and the arts in Essex County. The organization now awards grants only once a year. You can request applications for the funding by emailing bzzwords@gmail.com. The deadline is April 10, with awards made in May.

Your Smart Phone may be causing you extra stress. We all know checking your smart phone is a great way to stay connected but a new study says that it also creates more stress in your life. A study published by The British Psychological Society says when you use the phone for work, the benefits of having work at your fingertips goes out the door with the pressure to stay on top of social media. The study also says if you have a smart phone, you are more likely to constantly check alerts and listen for beeps because you "just have to know" what the latest e-mail, text or status update says. According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term stress levels can put you at risk for things like heart disease, digestive problems and depression.