Thursday, December 13, 2012

WVTK Local & State News December 13, 2012

After two public hearings and discussion of the Plan at numerous meetings throughout the fall, the Middlebury Select Board approved the Town Plan, with thanks and praise to the Planning Commission for its hard work, responsiveness and transparent approach. After holding a public hearing on adopting interim zoning maps to reflect the provisions of the Town Plan, the Board adopted the maps.

This week the Middlebury Select Board heard public comments on the proposed regulations which has been separated into two parts for clarity and in order to track sections and existing provisions already established in the Zoning and Subdivision Regulations.   They will consider adoption of the proposed regulations at a future meeting. Copies of the proposed regulations are available on the Town's website, at the Town Offices and at the Sarah Partridge Library in East Middlebury.

The Middlebury Select Board has accepted the recommendation of the River Task Force to award the contract for the analysis of the Middlebury River to Malone & MacBroom of Waterbury. The $34,485 project will be funded by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and includes analysis of the river through East Middlebury from the Sand Hill Bridge to the Route 7 Bridge.  The scope of work also includes the development of preliminary design options for stabilizing the Grist Mill Bridge floodwall and preparation of a final design for stabilization of the floodwall.

The focus of the Energy Committee's December 5th meeting was the Efficiency Vermont Home Energy Challenge. Towns meeting the challenge of energy efficiency improvements to 3% of residences as part of this initiative are eligible for a $10,000 grant to support energy efficiency work. The Committee discussed a budget for the initiative and fundraising to cover the expense.

This week the Middlebury Select Board reviewed a draft request for proposals for sale of the former Unitarian Universalist Church land acquired for the construction of the Cross Street Bridge and asked staff to go ahead with the advertisement of the RFP.  Meanwhile the Board reviewed a draft letter of support from the Select Board to the Public Service Board for the Vermont Gas Systems' Addison Natural Gas Project and will revise the letter based on discussions at the meeting before signing and sending the letter.

This week’s Middlebury Select Board meeting saw a discussion of the FY14 Budget. At the December 4th budget workshop, the Board received an overview of the FY14 Budget Proposal totaling $9,115,871, a $694,951 increase from the current year's budget.  At this week’s meeting the Board asked Department heads to carefully review amounts requested for all line items, particularly increases associated with new and increased spending for personnel, to reduce the proposed budget request, with a target of no more than a 5.5 increase in taxes and no reduction in service levels.  The budget continues to be refined headed into the New Year.

The second annual Middlebury Police Toy Drive is underway.   Please drop off your donated toys to the Police Station or to any Police Officer by December 23rd and Police Officers will deliver them to local children on Christmas Day. Last year, gifts were delivered to 33 children.

The Middlebury Select Board has received notice that the Vermont Agency of Transportation will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, January 9th at the Town Offices on a proposed project to remove trees in the vicinity of the airport, which VTrans has identified as obstructions to the airport's airspace. The proposed project will allow VTrans to clear, top or thin the trees as needed to maintain safe operation of the airport. Permanent easements on 18 properties adjacent to the airport will be required for the project.

The Vergennes Knights of Columbus and the Vergennes Community Action Group are sponsoring its Substance Abuse Awareness Poster Contest for children from age 8 to 14.  The goal of this educational art contest is to allow young people the opportunity to develop their own solutions to challenges they face.  Black and white or colored 11 inch by 17 inch posters will be judged for two age classes: 8-11 and 12-14. Posters and application forms need to be submitted by February 1 to the Vergennes Police Department Office. Applications and information may be picked up at Ferrisburgh Central School, Vergennes Union Elementary, Addison Elementary and the Champlain Valley Christian School.  Contact Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel, 877-1154, or Bill Scott, 881-8836, for more information.

Rutland Sen. William Carris announced yesterday that he is resigning his seat effective Monday.  The three-term Democratic senator from West Rutland said problems with his back and ankle prompted the decision.  Carris, who just won re-election to a fourth term last month, said he underwent corrective surgery this fall that he hoped would make it easier to walk.  But with less than a month before the start of the next legislative session he doesn't believe he is physically capable of doing the job. Shumlin will be called upon to appoint someone to take Carris' place following a caucus of Rutland County Democrats who will select three candidates to recommend to the governor.

Thieves recently in Rutland Town have targeted a large number of vehicles and even the municipal transfer station.  Vermont State Police and local law enforcement have issued multiple warnings in the last week about car break-ins on Town Line Road, Park Lane and Post Road Extension in Rutland Town.   Police also reported that similar break-ins were reported on Cedar Lane in Mendon.

The Moriah Central School Board will meet this evening at 6 in the High School library.  This is a change from the original date of December 18th.  Items on the agenda include personnel appointments, budget discussions and changes for 2013. The meeting is open to the public.

The Westport Central School Board will meet at 6 PM this evening in the library.  Agenda items include a discussion on the 2013-14 budget calendar, facility-use requests and any other business brought before the board.  The session is open to the public.

The Town of Westport has openings on the Town Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Youth Commission.  Anyone interested in serving on any of these boards is asked to send a letter of interest by December 31 to Town of Westport, P.O. Box 465, Westport, NY 12993.  For additional information, call 962-4419.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce “December After Business Mixer” will be held today at the Hancock House located in historic Ticonderoga next to Liberty Monument. The Ticonderoga Historical Society and Ticonderoga Arts will co- host the event at the Hancock house from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. Sponsors providing door prizes will be Rathbun Jewelers, Ticonderoga Arts and the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. The Hancock House is home to the Ticonderoga Historical Society and Ticonderoga Arts. Both organizations and door prize sponsors are members of the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.  Find out more by visiting

Schroon Lake will ring in the New Year, as the community will host a First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. The Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event.  First Night will take place at Schroon Lake Central School and in the town park.  There will be sock hop with a DJ in the school gym 6 to 8:30 PM. There will be face painting and craft stations 6 to 7:30 in school classrooms. The Adirondack Shakespeare Company will perform in the school auditorium at 6:30 and 7:30 PM. Food will also be available. Fireworks will then conclude the First Night.  Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children if purchased in advance at the chamber office on Main Street. Tickets will be $7 for adults and $4 for children at the door December 31st.

The New York State Department of Transportation has partnered with Audubon New York and its chapters to enhance American kestrel habitat and build greater awareness of these declining birds in upstate New York.  Through this program, new kestrel nest boxes have been installed across the state, and informational displays have been set up at two rest areas in the bird’s prime habitat. For more information on the Kestrel Project visit:

Peace Corps officials say Vermont is continuing with its ranking as the top state for the per capita production of Peace Corps volunteers. Only the District of Columbia has a higher ranking in the production of volunteers. The same rankings found that New Hampshire ranked fourth and Maine eighth.

A federal appeals court is going to hear oral arguments next month on the Vermont case that tests the limits of a state's authority to regulate nuclear power.  The case that will be heard by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York involves the long-running attempt by the state of Vermont to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Oral arguments will be held on January 14th in New York.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will become chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the appointment yesterday. Sanders says his first order of business will be to oppose a measure that would change the way cost of living adjustments are calculated. He says the largest cuts would affect young, permanently disabled veterans.

State transportation officials say a main route between northern New York and Vermont is open again after work was done to repair damage from a rockslide.  Officials opened Route 4 in Fort Ann yesterday. Workers removed additional rock from the slope involved in October's massive rockslide.  The cliff collapsed on October 15th, sending 2,000 tons of rocks and boulders onto 200 yards of roadway. The falling rocks narrowly missed several vehicles and nobody was hurt.  Drivers may still encounter brief, single-lane closures during daytime hours as guiderails are installed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill elevating the crime of practicing law without a license from a misdemeanor to a felony. The change takes effect next November. Assemblyman Ed Braunstein says there've been hundreds of complaints by immigrants victimized by fraudulent attorneys in recent years.

Sen. Charles Schumer warns that if Washington doesn't avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, New Yorkers could see the price of milk double and dairy farmers would suffer.  The Democrat says Congress must agree on a budget or a 1940s law will kick in on January 1st that will trigger higher costs even as famers get lower prices under the government's subsidy program.  Schumer says Congress must approve a temporary return of the Milk Income Loss program that protects more than 5,400 dairy farmers in New York State.

On Wednesday, there was a big protest against basing F-35's at the Vermont Air National Guard.  At the same time, a group of Vermonters was at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to hear the jets for themselves.  That group included Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.  Weinberger says he listened near the end of the runway to hear the difference between the F-35 and the F-16, the jet the guard currently flies.  "I think they are comparable. There will not be a dramatic difference," says Weinberger.  But some people want to hear the jet in Vermont.  The Air Force says right now the F-35's are in a testing phase and must stay close to the bases where they are stationed.  Also on Wednesday, dozens of people against the F-35 protested outside the office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy in Burlington.  Opponents hoped the senator would hear their concerns.  But a staffer told them no meeting would happen.  "This is outrageous. This is not how democracy is supposed to work," says James Marc Leas, Stop the F-35 Coalition.  The senator's office says there have been plenty of public meetings about the F-35's.  And they say the decision whether to base the jets in Burlington is up to the Department of Defense.

In Barre City, Vermont Wednesday crews patched up a gas leak at the North End Deli Mart Westco gas station. But not before a lot was lost.  "Worst case scenario we could be missing up to 3,000 gallons," station owner Dave Simendinger said.  Simendinger says a mechanical piece at a pump blew out and started the leak. Some people in Barre say they started smelling gas in their homes three weeks ago.  Freesia Roy lives close to the leak and was one of the people the Barre Fire Department warned that gas had absorbed into the soil and sewer system but not in the drinking water and storm sewer.  "I don't think it's great but as long as they fix it so Emma doesn't get harmed by it," Roy said looking down at her young daughter, who was in a stroller for a walk.  Throughout Wednesday the fire department worked to see just how far the contamination had spread. They were going man hole to man hole checking for any potentially explosive gasses that were in the sewer system.  Downtown businesses were even told they might have to evacuate the area.  "It made us a little nervous," Kendall Pepin said.  "I was on my lunch break actually going down the Barre-Montpelier road and they were checking all the sewers seeing if the leak was in there."  No explosive levels of gas were found.  Vermont Health Department expert Dr. Bill Irvin says the leak still poses a potential health threat to the Barre community.  "Gasoline does contain a number of products that are harmful if people are exposed to them for a long duration," Dr. Irwin said.  Symptoms of gas exposure could include feeling light headed, dizzy or nauseous. But Dr. Irwin hopes the small levels of gas measured won't be enough make people sick.  "With the measures that have been taken so far we determined that the concentrations are low," Dr. Irwin said.  But Simendinger did acknowledge it was a lot of gas lost. So we asked him how so much gas could be leaked without being notified earlier.  "How is there not a fail switch if 3000 gallons of fuel were potentially lost? It seems like a lot to have let go of and not known about it until today," We asked Simendinger.  "Well it happened recently. These pipes are under pressure in this case the gasoline pump is not secondary contained," Simendinger said.  "Under pressure it would appear to look like it was working fine. The pump, like I said, under pressure appeared like it worked fine.  "It was super unleaded so it was sort of intermittent. Super unleaded is not the number one product that we sell so it's more random, fewer customers than the regular.  "We do depend on our people who work in the stores to report anything that they see, smell, hear whatever from the customers and nobody had reported anything to us."  The Agency of Natural Resources and other state departments as well Barre officials will continue to investigate the gas leak.  There has yet to be an estimate on how expensive it will be to clean the leak.