Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WVTK Local & State News December 19, 2012

The Vermont Health Department will offer free whooping cough vaccines today, in an effort to fight what they're calling an epidemic.  The number of confirmed whooping cough or pertussis cases in Vermont this year has skyrocketed to 568. That's roughly 10 times higher than last year. The vaccines will be offered at 12 clinics across the state between 10 AM and 6 PM including the Middlebury District Office at 156 South Village Green, Suite 102 and the Rutland Office on Merchants Row.  No appointment is necessary. For questions about pertussis or the clinics you can call 211 or visit the health department's website

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a meeting open to both members and the public entitled “Embezzlement, Fraud & Theft: It Can (and does) Happen Here.” The meeting will be held on Monday, January 7th, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM in the Ilsley Library Community Room in Middlebury. Holden Insurance is sponsoring the meeting.  The featured speaker is Tom Hughes, a one-time banker, accountant, business manager, and small business CFO. With multiple felony convictions for fraud and deceit, he is now a disgraced ex-accountant with a story to tell. Tom will share some of the things he’s learned. Andy Mayer, president of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, said   “We’ve recently been made aware of an embezzlement case in Addison County, so we know the problem exists—right here in our own backyard.” He goes on to say he’s sure we all think we can’t be duped and that we have all the right checks and balances in place, but hearing directly from a past embezzler might get us to re-think some of our practices.  This event is open to the public and is free of charge.  An RSVP is appreciated to Sue Hoxie ( or 388-7951 x2.

Changes proposed to a natural gas pipeline have caused concern for some in Monkton.  Vermont Gas has proposed a 42-mile project that runs through the town. It marks the beginning of the company's proposed southern expansion in Vermont and over to New York.  But residents in Monkton say the pipeline needs to be rerouted. They say the current plan is too close to homes and drinking wells. They also say it would threaten the town's plan for a salamander crossing. The town is working with the Agency of Natural Resources to find a way for the amphibians to safely cross the road.  The town is asking that the pipeline run down the utility transmission corridor owned by VELCO, like it does in some other towns.

You are invited to join the Addison County Chamber Of Commerce for the December after hours mixer which will be held at the Waybury Inn tomorrow from 5 – 7PM. Joe & Tracey always treat everyone who attends very well!  As in past years, donations will be collected for a local non-profit. This year the recipients are HOPE and Helen Porter Healthcare & Rehabilitation. Please bring two (2) food items or you can pay the usual mixer admission fee, which will be donated to Helen Porter.  For more information and to RSVP to Sue just visit the Chamber’s Website.

At the Middlebury Inn last Friday the Addison County Economic Development Corporation announced the recipients of its inaugural “Addison County Companies to Watch” awards.  The four companies to receive awards were Exclusively Vermont Wood Products, Good Point Recycling, Tata Harper Skincare, and WhistlePig Whiskey. The awards committee selected these businesses for their contribution to the county’s economic growth and for having a meaningful community impact. The Addison County Companies to Watch award plaques were designed and made by Maple Landmark Woodcraft of Middlebury and Vermont Cookie Love of North Ferrisburgh provided boxes of cookies for award recipients.

The Rutland aldermen passed each of the city’s water and sewer budgets Tuesday.  The water and sewer budgets are slated to require a 10.9 percent combined rate increase for utility users if approved despite the fact that the combined spending proposals for the city services is close to flat.  Total water expenditures come to $3,633,641 — up $675 from last year — while the sewer fund came in at $3,872,563 — an amount only $2,603 more than the current budget.

Ticonderoga High School’s Student Voice recently donated $100 to the High Peaks Hospice in response to a fundraising challenge. During November, which was National Hospice Month, The Mineville-based agency asked Essex County schools to help raise money for hospice. Six schools, including Ticonderoga, answered.  The Ti students raised the money during their annual homecoming dance. The fundraising will help fund the agency’s effort to give top quality supplies, support and services to their patients and patient families to improve quality of life. For information on hospice care, volunteering or to make a donation, visit

Unpaid boarding bills are mounting at the Essex County Fairgrounds racehorse barns.  The County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee was told Monday that two or more tenants at the county-owned horse barns in Westport have not paid their boarding bills since August 2011.  The charges for the 17 horses involved, at $50 a month, amount to about $15,000.  Officials say that all tenants have received legal notice to pay the back rent.  It’s been suggested that the county should consider the use of the racehorse barns for storage instead of boarding.

The All Hands on Deck Food Chain, a culmination of the College for Every Student/Key Club drive, collected more than 600 items for the town of Willsboro’s Food Shelf.  Cans, boxes and other containers travelled along the chain, which stretched from Willsboro Central School’s front door around the driveway to Farrell Road, then along the sidewalk, across a field and down the stairs of the Town Hall.

Vermont officials are trying to prevent any more highway fatalities this year by urging drivers to slow down, buckle up and not drive drunk or drug-impaired this holiday season. Officials say Vermont has seen a spike in fatal crashes over last year with 75 to date, compared to 51 last year. They say 33 of the 75 who died weren't properly restrained and 45 were impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Three professors at Vermont's Lyndon State College have been honored for their contributions to the education of students. Frank Green and Dorian McGowan, both retired, have earned the Professor Emeritus of Humanities status from the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees. Green taught future teachers studying for their education degrees, as well as teachers in the field. McGowan taught art and is an artist.

Vermont Senator Pat Leahy has been sworn in as president pro tem of the Senate. As the longest-serving Democrat now in the Senate, Leahy moves to third place in the line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

More than 180 school districts, including New York City's, have no teacher evaluation system in place and face the loss of millions of dollars in state aid. Governor Andrew Cuomo says that even though many of the state's more than 600 districts haven't yet complied, he won't extend the January 17th deadline to have plans in place. The state education department says 442 school districts have approved plans to evaluate teachers and principals as part of a program to improve instruction.

A non-partisan task force has found New York's state and local governments remain on an unsustainable fiscal path despite some improvements and a public perception in polls that the outlook is far brighter. The State Budget Crisis Task Force led by former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker says the issue is of "dire importance."

All three members of Vermont's Congressional delegation say it's essential that Congress explore practical and meaningful steps to help prevent another mass shooting, like the one that took place in Connecticut last week.  Congressman Peter Welch said the shootings in Newtown have had a profound impact on Congress and that the killings are "a game changer" for the issue of gun control in Washington.  Welch said the discussion should include a number of issues including a ban on semi automatic assault weapons, funding for mental health services and background checks for gun shows.

Governor Andrew Cuomo gives himself high marks in his two-year progress report.  The new report says Cuomo has balanced the state budget two years in a row and has brought long-term stability to state finances.  The governor also gives himself credit for bettering New York's education system and pushing the ultimate passage of the Marriage Equality Act.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he's excited about Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins' new leadership post.  Stewart-Cousins this week was voted Democratic Leader in the Senate by her colleagues, making her the first woman to lead a legislative conference in Albany.  Cuomo says he's known Senator Stewart-Cousins a long time and is thrilled she was chosen, calling her a "competent, able woman."

Roger Miller, a long-time member of the Vermont Environmental Board, has died at age 87.  Miller passed away on December 9th in the state of Washington where he moved after retiring from the board in 1990.  The cause of death was not released.  Miller was raised in Idaho, but moved to Vermont in 1965, living in the Burlington area and then Norwich.

Three Rutland women are bringing an idea from Westminster to the City in an attempt to create some peace amid the stress of the Season. For one night only, on Christmas Eve, Main Street Park will be lit with more than 500 luminaries. With the help of a dozen volunteers, the luminaries will be set up Christmas Eve in Main Street Park, at the corner of Route 7 and West Street from 5 PM – Midnight.

While some stores are selling more guns, one national change has decided to take some off the shelves.  Dick's Sporting Goods has pulled certain rifles from its stores, including the one in Williston.  The company released a statement Tuesday.  In it, officials say they are heartbroken over the shooting in Newtown.  Some Vermonters say they aren't sure if this will make a difference.  In the Dick's Sporting Goods store near Newtown, Connecticut they took it a step further by removing all guns from the store.

A few deep breaths and rolled up sleeves is all it took Tuesday for thousands of people to donate what many consider the best holiday gift.  "Working in the medical profession you see people get blood and you kind of want to give back and help give," said Emma Wilcox, a blood donor.  The "Gift of Life" marathon lasted eight hours and every person who showed up was well appreciated.  "The spirit of the Rutland community is so inspiring to see people coming in all day giving blood and what they are doing is helping their neighbors people they might not even know," said American Red Cross Spokeswoman, Jecoliah Ellis.     The current record is 1,968 pints of blood and people down there donating they say that giving blood is much more than breaking a record.  "It's all about the giving, the record means very little," said volunteer coordinator, Chuck Piotrowski.  Ellis agrees, "In terms of the patients and families this blood is helping, its already record breaking."  One pint of blood can save up to three lives and organizers say knowing that is what makes it all worth it.  "I mean think about that, not everyone has the opportunity to do that and the fact that this small town will do that I mean how you can you not go home happy and get a goodnights sleep knowing that you've done that."  And especially after Friday's tragic shooting in Connecticut, this blood drive is a way for people in this community to do something positive.  "Yeah you feel kind of like you want to do something and anything will help out," said Wilcox.  "All that stuff that went on down there you look at it and see something evil and you see you can do something good just come on down," said Piotrowski.  The unofficial total from Tuesday's event at the four locations was 1,951 pints. Just 17 short of the record but they will re-go through the inventory just in case.

Cyber security experts warn shoppers to be careful online because you might be a click away from a holiday nightmare.  In your cluttered inbox, could be a gift from a Grinch.  "My thing is be aware," says Duane Dunston, Champlain College cyber security instructor, Dunston says criminals think this is the perfect time of year to attack people online.    "They just don't pay attention. They're just unaware to what they're doing," says Dunston.   Dunston says the biggest problem is a bogus email that appears to be from a well-known company, maybe even one you have shopped or banked with.  "Whenever you receive an email, regardless of who it is from, if it's from your bank stating they had a problem with your transaction, call your bank or visit the website yourself. Don't click on any links you receive in email," says Dunston.  That link could mean trouble, from a virus being downloaded onto your computer to your personal information being stolen.  Dunston has simple advice if you receive an email from a company.  "Just go to site itself. Take a little extra time. It's well worth it considering what could happen to you," says Dunston.  Another concern this year is people online trying to take advantage of the Newtown tragedy.  Dunston says there have been reports already of fake charities.