Monday, February 20, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 20, 2012

At last weeks Middlebury Select Board meeting members learned that Planning for the fire facilities improvement project continues to go smoothly, both on-schedule and within budget. The Committee is working on their presentation for Town Meeting. Meanwhile Board Member Nick Artim reported on the Business Development Fund public meeting, which may be viewed on line at And Election Worker wages will increase in recognition of the increased complexity and legal requirements of the position. As additional election workers are needed for Town Meeting, interested Middlebury residents that are registered voters are encouraged to contact Town Clerk Ann Webster. For complete meeting recap just visit the Town’s Website.

A former executive with Specialty Filaments Inc. in Middlebury pleaded guilty last week to a federal charge of conspiring to commit more than $1 million worth of bank fraud. Jeff Audette, former vice president of the company that declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2007, pleaded guilty during a closed-door hearing in Burlington. Audette faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, according to a plea agreement Audette accepted.

Contractual negotiations between teachers and school officials in western Rutland County came to an end last Thursday night after school officials in the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union imposed a new one-year contract for the current school year. The schools boards for Castleton-Hubbardton, Fair Haven, Benson and Orwell held a 35-minute closed-door executive session. The boards across the district unanimously voted to implement a pay freeze for the current school year and increase teachers’ health insurance premium payments from 10 percent to 11 percent. The boards will pay 89 percent of health insurance premiums. Teachers in the district now have to weigh their options, which range from agreeing with the boards’ decision or talking to their boards to reconsider.

The towns of Proctor and Pittsford will once again be participating in the Pittsford Town Manager’s Food Drive challenge. The challenge will take place on March 5th and March 6th when residents are attending town meetings and voting. The towns have engaged in this friendly challenge for the past several years to see which town can collect the most nonperishable food items and check donations. Everything that is collected goes to the Pittsford Food Shelf, which oversees the towns of Proctor, Pittsford, Florence, and Chittenden.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce continues to grow. The chamber has announced the addition of 12 new members. New members include St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, Ticonderoga Elks Lodge #1494, Elizabeth Lee Outdoor Guide/Inside The Map, D.L. Paige Building & Excavating, Inc., Northern Lake George Rotary, Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance, Ticonderoga Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary, Mannix Marketing, Adirondack Community Action Programs, Inc., Al’s Excavating, Adirondack Tax Accounting and Probuild. The Ti chamber represents more than 170 members and 500 businesses. It has served the area 85 years.

Moriah Central School Board members and administrators will start work on a new budget next month. The district's first budget workshop, which is open to the public, is at 6PM Wednesday, March 7th, in the school library. Last year's Moriah School District budget totaled $13.85 million, with a 1.89 percent increase in the amount raised by taxes, which was $3.62 million. This year, the district will have to stay under the state's new 2 percent tax cap.

A meeting on assessment exemption will take place from 10AM to 4 PM this Saturday at the Westport Town Hall. The town assessor will be available to speak with property owners.

The state House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on a bill that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House Committee on Human Services sent the bill to the floor Friday. Carol Dembeck, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Vermont, said that 38 other states have an age limit of 16 and that adding Vermont to the list will bring in an estimated additional 1,000 pints of blood a year.

Public health officials in New York are not reporting any significant outbreaks of Norovirus infection locally but are promoting proper hygiene to reduce the potential for the highly contagious disease. Several outbreaks have been noted in Vermont recently, including at least 50 possible cases at Middlebury College involving students who received care at the college's health center, though those were not confirmed as Norovirus. Twelve cases have been confirmed in Addison, Caledonia and Franklin counties in Vermont, but health departments in New York are not reporting anything of significance.

Top student performers from around the North Country gathered in Ticonderoga for the annual All County Music Festival last Thursday. About 230 musicians from 12 schools took part in a day of rehearsals before an evening concert for the public. The event included a mixed chorus, a women’s chorus, a concert band and a jazz band. All County musicians are selected by their music teachers or have qualified through auditions for the Area All State Music Festival.

Two more Senate committees are set to take up the question of how to replace the closed Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. Meanwhile, it appears there may be a battle between the House and Senate over the size of a new facility to be built in Berlin.

Vermont's congressional delegation has introduced a bill to extend a program that provides payments to dairy farmers to help weather fluctuating milk prices. The delegation says in September, farmers could face a severe drop in support from the Milk Income Loss Contract program if no action is taken. The legislation would extend the program for one year at current levels.

The state isn't giving up in its efforts to close down its only nuclear power plant. The Attorney General's Office filed an appeal in federal court over the weekend against the last month's decision that invalidated statutes that gives the Legislature a right in the plant's future. Vermont Yankee's license is set to expire in March, and its owners sued when the state Legislature voted not to renew it. A.G. William H. Sorrell says the state is basing its appeal on strong arguments. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City will hear the case.

It's been an explosive weekend so far for ski resorts across the state, despite the late start in the season. A spokesperson for Sugarbush in Warren calls their business "explosive" so far this holiday weekend. The resort has seen more than eight feet of snow so far this season, and visits are now up. This year Sugarbush also advertised to younger skiers, using Facebook and giving discounts to beginners.

A group devoted to protecting the Connecticut River says the state shouldn't cut the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant any slack about dumping warm water into the river. The Connecticut River Watershed Council wants the plant just to use its cooling towers, which turn the water to vapor and dissipate it to the atmosphere.

Vermont's colleges and universities are seeing their fundraising figures go up or hold steady despite lingering economic worries. The Burlington Free Press reports that Middlebury College took in just under $42 million during fiscal year, the most of any school in state. The University of Vermont raised $29 million, a school record and a figure that represents four consecutive years of growth.

There are currently a number of strategies in Vermont to get more students to pursue higher education or training after high school. Officials say while the state's high school graduation rate is the second highest in the country, its rate of those who go straight on to postsecondary education is among the lowest. In 2009, a state commission recommended a push to increase the percentage of Vermonters who have a college degree from 42 to 60% by 2019. Gov. Peter Shumlin has proposed expanding a program where students can earn college credit while in high school.

The Vermont State Colleges Board has announced that Joseph Bertolino will be the 15th president of Lyndon State College. Bertolino comes to LSC after eight years at Queens College in New York, where he was vice president for enrollment management and student affairs and was primarily responsible for supervising 22 departments.

The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History is looking for donations of antiques and collectibles for its June 1st Antiques Auction. Items must be dropped off this Wednesday between 3 & 5:30PM or on Saturday from 11AM -1PM at the museum. To learn more about the museum click HERE.

The Third Grade Students in Mrs. Corrigan's classroom at Mary Hogan Elementary School have transformed their everyday classroom into a shady, temperate forest site. After spending several weeks researching the delicate environments of the Earth’s temperate forest zones, students created mock forest groves in which to display their natural science research. The students also used the forest mockups to present songs and stories about the trees and wildlife of a temperate forest. Visitors to the school viewed the graphic and media displays, which showcased the works of students. Some of the student exhibits included intricate 3D models of a variety of forest species.

Sen. Bernie Sanders enlisted the help of students from across Vermont Saturday to try to solve the nation's biggest challenges. During a roundtable discussion hosted by Vermont Public Television, essay winners from state high schools discussed possible solutions to the country's most pressing problems. Sanders submitted the students' "state of the union" essays into the Congressional Record and came to Colchester to discuss their ideas. Though the day's focus was on national issues, Sen. Sanders told students they should pay attention to what's happening in Montpelier as well, especially the on-going health care debate in Vermont and the push towards a single-payer system.

Many academic institutions have used school-run polling operations to build a national brand and now officials at Castleton State College are eying the same method to put their tiny college on the map. Richard Clark, a newly arrived associate professor of political science at the college, has launched the Castleton Polling Institute. Results from his inaugural survey are due out before Town Meeting Day. He’s been seeking Vermonters’ opinions on everything from Republican presidential candidates to the Citizens United ruling. He would like the name “Castleton” to jump-start conversations about policy and politics in Vermont and beyond.