Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 29, 2012

Vermonters hoping to vote next week must register by today. Town meeting day is Tuesday. Several presidential candidates will appear on this year's ballot. Those seeking the Republican nomination include Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. President Obama is running unopposed on the Democratic side. Voters have until 5PM tonight to register.

Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel has announced a follow-up meeting on what folks can do to combat drugs and drug use in our communities and everyone is invited to attend! The next Vergennes Community Action Group meeting will be held at VUHS next Wednesday, the 7th of March at 7:00PM in the VUHS auditorium.

For many Towns in Vermont, Town Meeting Day is more than just an annual gathering to discuss and vote on local issues it’s also a day many gather to enjoy home made meals, baked goods and other culinary delights! The Town of New Haven, along with the New Haven Cub and Boy Scouts, will hold a special Town Meeting Dinner on Monday, March 5th from 6 – 7PM in the New Haven Town Hall. Admission is $8 per adult for this “a la carte” dinner.

Almost a year after historic Spring flooding, Vermont lawmakers are talking about making it illegal to drive on flooded highways. Rescue crews say it happens every spring. Pittsford Fire Chief Thomas Hooker told Vermont lawmakers Tuesday that his team saves up to three drivers each year at about $1,500 a rescue. That is why he agrees with a bill in the Vermont House that would make it illegal to drive on highways with four or more inches of water. And, it would make drivers pay for the cost of the rescue if they did. But, the Operations Director for Vermont's Department of Transportation, Scott Rogers, says this bill is not easily enforceable. Rogers says the existing statute, which fines drivers who go on closed roads, already prevents them from going on flooded highways.

The regular Westport Town Council meeting that was scheduled for yesterday has been changed to 7PM this Thursday. The council meets at the Town Hall. All meetings are open to the public.

A Ticonderoga church will give away free food. The Ticonderoga Assembly of God Church will distribute free groceries from 6 to 8:30PM on Monday, March 12th at Mountain Time Auctions on Broad St. in Port Henry. The church has 4,000 pounds of food to give away — all of it absolutely free. The Ticonderoga Assembly of God Church held a similar free food distribution a year ago. Organizers know there is a great need in the area and they feel strongly that they must help people when they can and this is a chance to do just that. There are no geographic boundaries. The only reason the food distribution will be in Port Henry is because of the availability of the Mountain Time facility.

As part of their college preparation class, Westport Central School seniors educated themselves about prospective dream colleges. The required research included deciding on a major, drawing a map of the campus, researching the requisite classes coupled with the pertinent professors, computing college costs and discovering available grants and loans. Then the class put on a College Fair for younger students. The students said they found the effort beneficial.

The Rutland Town School Board unanimously promoted its assistant principal, Aaron Boynton, to lead the school for the next two years after the sudden resignation of Principal Patricia Beaumont. Beaumont announced her resignation February 13th and at Monday night's meeting, Boynton was hired. There was no external search for a new principal. Boynton replaced Lawrence Sims as assistant principal at the school in June of last year. He was formerly the principal of Middletown Springs Elementary.

Plans for a Killington ski village took a major step forward yesterday when SP Land Co. filed its long-awaited Act 250 permit application for the first phase of its development at the base of the ski area. The $133.4 million Phase 1 development includes 193 condominiums, nine single-family lots and 23 duplex lots, 31,000-square feet of retail space and a 77,000-square-foot base lodge.

Fire destroyed a home in Charlotte yesterday. Firefighters from four departments battled the blaze at the home on Guinea Road. Fire crews from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Ferrisburgh were on the scene shortly after noon Tuesday. No injuries were reported and there's no word yet on the cause of the fire.

One of the most controversial bills of the 2012 session will soon be on the Senate floor for a vote. The legislation would make it more difficult for parents to have their children exempted from the state's mandatory immunization law. For the past few weeks, members of the Senate Health and Welfare committee have received thousands of emails and phone calls on both sides of this bill. By a vote of 3 to 1, the Senate Health and Welfare committee is backing a bill to eliminate this exemption. Rutland senator Kevin Mullin is the lead sponsor of the legislation. It now appears likely that the legislation will be on the Senate floor by the end of the week, and if it passes, it will then be considered in the House.

Issues facing Vermont voters on Town Meeting Day this year range from getting an abandoned asbestos mine in Lowell and Eden declared a Superfund toxic waste site to routine town budgets. Some voters will be asked to weigh in on a proposed constitutional amendment ensuring that corporations aren't treated the same way as living people.

The separation of church and state is about to take center stage in the small town of Franklin, Vermont. "Town Meeting Day" is slated for March, but the meeting's opening prayer has some folks up in arms. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Marilyn Hackett in a St. Albans courtroom Tuesday, saying prayer violates Vermont's constitution by compelling voters to attend a religious worship. Town lawyers disagree, saying Hackett isn't forced to participate, and saying a prayer during a government event isn't anything new.

Two environmental groups are supporting an amended proposal to run a 330-mile power line from Quebec to Connecticut and New York City. Officials with Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper announced this week their joint support for the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project first proposed by Transmission Developers Inc. in 2010. The groups opposed the company's original plan but are backing the amended version after concluding that its adverse impacts to the environment are expected to be negligible. The company wants to run 5-inch-diameter high-voltage current cables under Lake Champlain, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. Portions of the power line would be buried along highway and railroad rights of way in the Hudson Valley.

The first New England-wide lottery game will hold its initial drawing next month. The top prizewinners in the "Lucky for Life" game will receive $1,000 a day for the rest of their lives. The $2 tickets will be sold at lottery outlets in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Drawings will be held on Mondays and Thursdays, with the first drawing scheduled for March 15th.

Governor Peter Shumlin is expressing impatience with lawmakers for not sending him legislation to revamp the state's mental health system fast enough. And Shumlin is insisting that lawmakers limit the size of a new psychiatric hospital to be built in Berlin to 16 beds, saying if the state builds a larger one, it will lose nearly $10 million a year in federal funding.

The future operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant beyond its original March 21st shutdown date might not be as clear as it appeared a month ago. The Public Service Board says there are some unresolved issues, especially connected with the plant's hope to store additional high-level radioactive waste on its site in Vernon.

Voters in dozens of Vermont communities are going to weigh in next week on whether the United States should pass a constitutional amendment to ensure that corporations are not treated the same way as living people. The so-called "corporate personhood" amendment being pushed by Senator Bernie Sanders is 1 of the social issues that will be considered by some towns across Vermont on Town Meeting Day.

Police say someone called in a threat Tuesday afternoon. The caller said three people with guns were headed to Bellows Falls Union High School. Numerous police agencies responded. Investigators determined it was a hoax. School let out at its normal time. But all afterschool activities were canceled as a precaution.

The country's first ski resort opened near Woodstock in 1934. But it wasn't until today that the Legislature recognized skiing and snowboarding as Vermont's official state sports. The bill passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday morning. It's the brainchild of sixth-graders from Swanton Middle School who realized Vermont didn't have an official state sport. It took four years for the bill to pass the Legislature. The bill includes cross-country skiing as a part of the official state sport.

Scientists and engineers were busy along the shores of Lake Champlain yesterday afternoon. They gathered outside the ECHO Center in Burlington to test out a new GPS system designed to explore what goes on below the water's surface. While similar tracking devices have been used before, they've often failed to pinpoint something beyond a 10- to 12-meter estimate. This technology, created in Vermont, shortens that distance to about half a meter. Practical applications for the technology could include helping to track shipwrecks and lost cargo, as well as military ammunition. The system's creators say the technology could cost as much as a new car.

Within a month, Rutland will be able to welcome back Clem’s as a favorite downtown breakfast establishment and coffee shop. Don Fleck closed the deal yesterday to reopen the former Clem & Co. and Clem’s Café. Fleck was the winning bidder on the restaurant equipment that was auctioned to pay off creditors of the restaurant and coffee shop that closed late last year. Fleck said he hopes to open the restaurant and adjacent coffee shop by St. Patrick’s Day. He’ll shorten the restaurant’s name to Clem’s and hopes to bring the coffee shop’s old name, The Coffee Exchange. He plans to keep it pretty much like it is but include some menu upgrades.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 28, 2012

The Middlebury Select-Board will hold its regular meeting this evening at 7 in the Town Offices Conference Room. Items on the agenda include an overview of Plans for Expansion and re-development of property at 1 Mill Street, the former Frog Hollow Gallery and Craft Center. A Report on the Public Works Committee Meeting that was held February 24th that includes the Town Road & Bridge Standards and Sewer System Evaluation Study. And an update will be presented on the Flood Hazard Mitigation planning. Complete details can be found on the Town’s Website.

57-year-old Edwin Webbley was in a Middlebury courtroom Monday. The Vergennes Union High School co-principal pleaded not guilty to drinking and driving. His attorney told the courtroom the educator is on medical leave. While he is awaiting trial the judge told him he is not allowed to drink. Webbley is due back in court in April.

The Fourth Annual Vermont Chili Festival in downtown Middlebury is set to take place Saturday, March 10th, starting at 1:30PM. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has named the event one of the Top 10 Winter Events for the past three years. It includes street jugglers, face painting, entertainment for kids, live music, a beverage tent, and award-winning chili, all located on the streets of historic Middlebury. Over 3,000 people attended last year’s festivities with even more expected to turn out this year for the headlining event: a chili contest, taking place on Main Street. Get the scoop now at

Addison County farmers are preparing for a busy spring planting season. Jim Bushey of Bourdeau Brothers in Middlebury held a multi-day event especially for customers. The big event included seminars, meetings, local foods, and hands-on demonstrations of everything ranging from motorized field equipment to farm and personal insurance. It was the company’s 30th annual customer event that attracts farmers from as far away as Maine.

Charles MacCormack, a 1963 graduate of Middlebury College and longtime president and chief executive officer of the international humanitarian organization Save the Children, will be an executive in residence at Middlebury for the next year. MacCormack received an honorary doctorate from the college in 1982. He expects to spend about two weeks of every month in Middlebury where he looks forward to working with interested students, faculty and staff at an academic institution that has long been at the forefront of research and teaching in languages and international studies. He will be reaching out to faculty and staff to see how he might be able to add value to their courses and programs.

Police searching for the driver involved in a fatal hit and run crash with a pedestrian in Rutland last week said that they are analyzing evidence that indicates the vehicle involved had a black rubber or plastic bumper. Police said last week they were looking for a white sport utility vehicle that was seen speeding away from the scene of a collision that killed 57-year-old Deborah Campbell the night of February 21. Anyone with any information about the crash is asked to call city police at 773-1816.

The Vermont State Police say they are changing their search & rescue policy following the death of a 19-year-old hiker in Ripton. Nineteen-year-old Levis Duclos of New Haven had gone hiking with his dog on January 9th when he did not return home that evening his family called 911. Vermont lawmakers have been working on legislation that would clarify search & rescue policies for emergency responders. State police said yesterday that they are modifying their policy to include notifying a trained local firefighters and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department as well as a creating a unified command for search and rescues.

The Champlain Water District is pumping out 20 million gallons a day to rate payers across Vermont, now it's asking those customers on Town Meeting Day, to pick up the tab for a multi-million dollar pipeline aimed at boosting reliability. While the pipes aren't presenting major problems now, some sections are 40-years-old and need to be replaced. The district is proposing a new, two-mile pipe that would link the two existing lines together. It would run from Airport Parkway to River Cove Road in Williston and would allow some flexibility for when repairs are made.

Rutland Town School Principal Patricia Beaumont has resigned. Beaumont confirmed her resignation yesterday morning after she was asked to confirm or deny the rumored resignation of her assistant principal Aaron Boynton. She said, in fact, she was the one who was leaving but did not provide a timeline. Beaumont said she was leaving for personal and professional reasons.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven has been awarded a grant for capital improvements and facility upgrades worth $10,000 from NASCAR. The prize was awarded last week during a conference at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach. Under its new ownership for 2012, the asphalt half-mile Devil’s Bowl track will see installation of a new concrete retaining wall and paving of the pit garage area access roads. The NASCAR funds are part of a total $100,000 grant divided among ten weekly local speedways. Devil’s Bowl Speedway opens its 46th season of stock car racing on Sunday May 6th.

The looming potential sale of Horace Nye Nursing Home to a private owner upset some Essex County lawmakers yesterday. Some employees of the county-owned facility are also agitated, and they held a demonstration in front of the County Government Complex on Monday afternoon to protest the threatened sale. Bids on the facility are due by March 7, with a $4 million minimum price set by the County Board of Supervisors.

A proposed management plan for an Adirondack wilderness area in southern Essex County includes a segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a planned trail from North Dakota to Lake Champlain. The Adirondack Park Agency in Ray Brook is taking public comment on the proposed plan for the Hoffman Notch Wilderness through March 7. The 38,500-acre tract is in the towns of North Hudson, Minerva, and Schroon Lake. The plan includes a 12.5-mile segment of the National Scenic Trail. The Adirondack portion of the national hiking trail would stretch 140 miles from Forestport to Crown Point, including some existing trails. The national trail follows the Finger Lakes Trail across western and central New York. Visit the Adirondack Park Agency HERE.

Gasoline prices in Vermont are continuing to go up. The website says the price of gasoline went up 6.8 cents in the last week to a statewide average of $3.76. That price is up almost 23 cents over the last month and 35 cents over a year ago. Analysts say the price spike is caused by instability in the Middle East, which is driving speculation.

iPad computer tablets have begun popping up on lawmakers' desks in the ornate, 19th-century Vermont House chamber, as have new questions about whether it's OK to use them to get answers to questions during debate. The issue flared up last week as the House debated a complicated bill designed to set up a new health insurance marketplace, or "exchange." Critics of the legislation were asking pointed questions of House Health Care Committee Chairman Mike Fisher. As he answered them, Fisher glanced frequently at the iPad on his desk. Later he said he was getting some help with answers from Robin Lunge, Gov. Peter Shumlin's director of health care reform. Republicans have complained about that, and House Speaker Shap Smith says he'll ask the Rules Committee to review the matter.

Vermont holds its presidential primary next week, 1 of 7 states across the country that will be voting on Super Tuesday. Vermont will send 17 delegates to the Republican convention. The state has not attracted visits from any of the major party candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

Entergy Corp. filed notice with the U.S. District Court in Brattleboro Monday evening saying it would ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a decision from a federal district court that was widely perceived as being strongly in the company's favor. The company says the court didn't address the possibility that state regulators could close Vermont Yankee by denying it permission to store high-level radioactive waste on its property in Vernon past its originally scheduled March 21 shutdown date. At the same time it files the appeal, it's asking the district court to keep the plant open.

A new Castleton Poll indicates that Mitt Romney is holding a lead over Rick Santorum in the state Republican primary race. The poll shows Romney with support from 34-percent of registered Vermont Republicans, with Santorum at 27-percent, followed by Ron Paul at 14-percent and Newt Gingrich at ten-percent. Overall, Vermont voters greatly favor President Obama for reelection against any of the Republicans. In head to head matchups with Obama, the closest GOP challenger is Mitt Romney, who trails the president by 26 points.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is among a bipartisan group of governors who are calling on Congress to extend renewable energy tax credits. Shumlin says the governors have reached an agreement on the wording of a letter to Congress on the issue. They are calling for a four year extension of the credits, not a one year extension that has been discussed. Shumlin says manufacturers cannot grow without predictability, and that President Obama agrees with that assessment.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell has reiterated that he is running for reelection this fall. Sorrell announced last fall that he planned to seek reelection, but since then the state lost the Vermont Yankee case and discussion has begun about a possible challenger and a Democratic primary. Sorrell has won six straight elections and has been attorney general since 1997, and says he is proud of his record.

The Vermont primary is a week away, and some 17-year-olds are preparing to cast a vote for the first time. Vermont has changed the state constitution to allow teens who will be 18 by election day in November to vote in primary elections. Residents have until the close of business tomorrow to register to vote if they want to vote in the primary election. A recent Castleton Poll shows that Mitt Romney is leading Rick Santorum by seven points among registered Republicans.

It may be one of the ultimate academic challenges. Put students who have never worked on an engine, in charge of a project to convert a tractor engine to run on a green fuel. A group of Middlebury College physics students are working on a 1948 Ford tractor. They spent their January term carrying on the work of predecessors in 2008. The goal back then was to convert the tractor engine to run on hydrogen. They eventually got the engine to sputter, but that was it. This year's goal is to optimize it to run on propane, methane and hydrogen and really get it actually running as opposed to just turning over on hydrogen.

Whether you are Irish or not you will have two opportunities to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year in Ti. The Ticonderoga Knights of Columbus will host its annual Irishman of the Year celebration Saturday, March 10th. Council 333 will honor a local resident at the hall on Montcalm Street. A Knights of Columbus committee selects the Irishman of the Year. A corned beef dinner will be served at 5 PM and the Irishman of the Year will be honored at 7PM. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door. The event is open to the public.

A little more than a year ago, Vermont filmmakers completed a short documentary on Lake Champlain's battle against growing blooms of blue-green algae caused by increased levels of phosphorus entering the lake. "Bloom, The Plight of Lake Champlain," which won an Emmy, aired on public-television stations in New York and Vermont and fostered discussion focusing on what options were available to offset the growing problem. Those same filmmakers have recently completed a series of follow-up episodes that look at the major contributors to increased phosphorus levels. The series airs on Mountain Lake Television, Channel 57 tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 27, 2012

Last Thursday evening around 10 Vermont State Police were called to a residence on Quaker Village Road in New Haven to investigate a suspicious incident. According to homeowner Cindy Kayhart, a large vehicle struck and damaged a concrete retaining wall, several fence posts, and a metal gate causing her cows to roam away the premises. She told the troopers that she was alerted to her cows being loose by a passer by and upon checking her animals she discovered the damage. An exterior mirror, possibly from a large Ford truck, was found at the scene. There are no suspects at this time; the vehicle and its operator have not been identified. Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Vermont State Police New Haven Barracks. (802-388-4919)

A chairlift at Pico Mountain ski area derailed Saturday afternoon causing a hurried evacuation. The Summit Express Quad stopped moving at about noon due to a derailment near the load terminal. Chris Danforth, Killington’s marketing manager, said 120 to 130 were stuck on the lift, as eight crews of about 30 rescuers started a chairlift evacuation, with trapped guests lowered from the chairs with ropes and harnesses to the ground. No one was injured during this incident.

Miss Vermont 2011, Katie Levassuer, will meet teens at the Bristol Hub tomorrow afternoon from 3-4. The 20-year-old will talk about her Miss Vermont platform, which stresses community involvement, political involvement, and civic leadership. All local teens are invited to attend the event. Katie is a senior at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont where she majors in Political Science and minors in both Economics and Business Administration. Miss Vermont grew up in Lyndonville and Waterford and is a graduate of St Johnsbury Academy.

Vermont State Police meet with fire officials yesterday to discuss proposed changes to search and rescue missions. Republican State Senator Vince Illuzzi recently proposed a bill that would relieve police of primary responsibility for backcountry rescue operations. The early January death of a lost hiker from New Haven prompted the measure. The Green Mountain State is one of only five nationwide that requires state officers to find and rescue lost outdoors men and women. A legislative committee will consider a range of alternatives including the use of firefighters, game wardens and volunteers.

The March meeting of the Ferrisburgh Historical Society will feature guest speaker Maj. Randall Gates. Gates served two tours of duty in Afghanistan working for the U.S. Army as an activated Vermont National Guardsman. Gates’ tours of duty were in 2003 and 2004. His presentation will present you with a familiarization of Afghanistan and he will answer your questions. The meeting will be held at the Ferrisburgh Town Hall and Community Center on Wednesday March 14th at 7PM.

A draft letter from Rutland Treasurer Wendy Wilton calls on the city to step up its contributions to the pension fund. The draft states that the board will not agree to any new contract that does not cover the pension’s costs while drawing down its liabilities. The board is scheduled to consider the draft during a meeting tonight.

Rutland Town budgets are up this year from last, with increases all around, including general, highway, fire, recreation and school spending. On the municipal side, voters will be asked to approve $1,021,313 for the general fund, an increase of 1.48 percent. Revenue from the local option tax will cover the full amount of the general fund; therefore, no money will need to be raised by taxes. Overall, general fund increases are due to 2.5 percent salary increases for all town employees, two extra elections this year, a new compactor for the transfer station, new computers in town hall and increased building maintenance for town offices.

Several Essex County bridges destroyed by flooding last year are finally closer to being replaced. The County Department of Public Works Superintendent said the Titus Road Bridge reconstruction has started in the Moriah Center hamlet. Construction has also begun on the washed-out Mason Road Bridge in Lewis. In Crown Point, the Amy Hill Road Bridge has been removed, and the new design is under historic review. And design plans are near completion on the washed-out Lacy Road Bridge in Keene and the Hulbert Road Bridge in Lewis. Replacement bridges are costing $300,000 to $500,000, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state are picking up most of the tab.

Most of the almost $1 million cost of rebuilding the ruined Port Henry Village Campground and Beach Park will be paid by the federal government. The Port Henry Village Board has accepted a low bid of $777,000. The total project cost is estimated at $950,000. The campground will open normally before Memorial Day weekend in May.

Refinancing could give Essex County a windfall on some of its bonds. Essex County Treasurer Michael Diskin had an idea recently that could save the county $1.4 million over 14 years. He said there is "the possibility of refinancing two bonds that we have out there. One is a 2004 bond, and one is a 2005 bond." The 2004 bond totaled $8 million for roadwork, and the 2005 one was $35 million for the new County Jail and Public Safety Building in Lewis. The Board of Supervisors Finance Committee approved Diskin's request, and it gets a preliminary vote today at the Ways and Means Committee session, with a final vote at the board's regular March session.

The Lake George Association has released findings from the 2011 lake steward program. It is available for download from the LGA website: Since 2006, lake stewards have inspected boats at high traffic launches around the Lake and have educated boaters about invasive species spread prevention. The data gathered helps define how invasive species are spread, and the pathways that exist between other regional waterways and Lake George.

The deadline to register to vote in Vermont's presidential primary is fast approaching. Vermonters have until 5PM on Wednesday to sign up. The primary takes place on Town Meeting Day on March 6th. Secretary of State Jim Condos says this is exciting time in Vermont's voting history now that voters approved allowing young adults who will turn 18 by the November general election to vote in both statewide and presidential primaries. Anyone with questions about registering is asked to contact the secretary of state's office (828-2148) or the League of Women Voters (229-4737) or to check out their websites.

The Vermont Senate is set this week for a final vote on a sweeping overhaul of the state's mental health system, in the wake of the closing of the Vermont State Hospital due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. The Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a plan to replace the 54-bed hospital with smaller facilities around the state, including a new, 16-bed hospital in Berlin. It was expected to win final passage on Friday, but was put off after the Shumlin administration announced the impending layoffs of 80 state employees who had worked at the hospital.

A possible new tax for soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks could be underway. This all stemming from a coalition of Vermont health care and consumer groups following a new study linking sugar consumption to health problems. The tax increase would bring in about 27 million dollars a year. This money would go towards lowering the cost of fruits and vegetables for low-income residents and certain health care programs. The Vermont Grocers Association Executive Director says a new tax won't discourage soda consumption.

An environmental group is appealing the Forest Service's approval for a wind farm in Searsburg and Readsboro. The Bennington Banner reports the appeal claims the project would harm the Green Mountain wilderness and claims there was a conflict of interest involving the experts who prepared the Forest Service analysis.

The four remaining GOP presidential candidates seem to have no interest in appearing in Vermont in the run up to the state's March 6th primary. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have yet to make a campaign stop in the state during their campaigns and seem unlikely to do so before the primary. The state will award 17 delegates to the Republican National Convention on Super Tuesday, when nine other states will hold election primaries.

President Obama's March appearance in Burlington is so popular, it's been moved to a bigger venue. Obama campaign officials announced Friday that the March 30th stop has been moved from the Sheraton to the athletic complex at the University of Vermont. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will also perform at the campaign event, which does have a charge for admission.

The head of the Vermont Lottery Commission is stepping down after nearly 14 years as executive director. Alan Yandow said Friday that he would not seek another appointment to the position. Gov. Peter Shumlin thanked Yandow for his service saying that all profits from the state's lottery go to the Education Fund, so an efficient and effective state lottery provides crucial resources for educating Vermont's students. The Vermont Lottery says Yandow served as spokesman for the "Good. Clean. Fun" campaign that started in 1999.

Middlebury College has a complete arts program offering for the month of March. All events are open to the public and many are either free or have a small admission price. For complete details on all upcoming March events click HERE.

Middlebury’s Woodchuck Hard Cider has expanded its cider line to include Belgian White, the firm’s latest hard cider. Woodchuck officials have announced the introduction of its limited run hard cider, the newest in a line of ciders that were first introduced two decades ago with Woodchuck Amber. The company describes the new cider as “cloudy, with a rich, golden hue reminiscent of wheat beer.

Never one to steer clear of controversy, Ben and Jerry's newest flavor for its icy desserts is dropping one particular ingredient. Pro-basketball phenom Jeremy Lin is the inspiration behind the new "Taste the Lin-Sanity" flavor. The first plans called for frozen vanilla yogurt, honey swirls, and bits of fortune cookies, which some called "racist" as Lin is Asian-American. Ben and Jerry's is dropping the fortune cookie bits, officially reasoning the cookie bits would become too soggy.

A more than 20-pound catfish caught by a Rutland man with a minnow was the highlight of the Fair Haven Rotary Club’s 40th annual Great Benson Fishing Derby. David Bartlett, Sr. caught the massive fish on Lake Champlain 50 minutes before the contest ended. He pulled it up at 2:10PM and made a quick trip to Crystal Beach on Lake Bomoseen to claim his $300 prize for the biggest “other” fish. Prizes were awarded to the top three heaviest fish in six categories. Fish could have been caught over two days, Saturday and Sunday, anywhere in the state.

Teams on cross country skis and snowshoes will race in Vermont to raise money for cancer research. The annual Relay for Life NordicStyle, an overnight event, takes place March 10th & 11th at Trapp Family Lodge Stowe. Patrick Spain, a wildlife biologist, explorer and host of the National Geographic Channel's "Beast Hunter," will be the guest speaker. He is also a cancer survivor. Organizers of the event say he credits his survival to research funded by the American Cancer Society.

Friday, February 24, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 24, 2012

Vermont State Police are currently investigating the theft of approximately $950 of scrap copper from a work site at the Lincoln Elementary School. The school has been undergoing a renovation project and that scrap copper was being stored unsecured on the school property. The copper was stolen on Saturday Morning February 18th but was not reported to authorities until yesterday. The school was going to use the proceeds from the scrap copper from renovations being done to fund new computer chairs for the computer lab or other needed school items for the school children. Anyone with information is asked to contact VSP New Haven. (802-388-4919)

Here’s yet another indicator that the ice is not safe: A family of eight had to be rescued from Lake Champlain yesterday. Authorities say five adults and three children had been ice fishing 700 feet offshore near Crown Point for most of the day. When the family was set to leave they noticed a 15-foot channel of water separated the ice. They called for help with a cellphone. Emergency crews spent the next hour bringing the family to safety using a ladder to make a bridge over the water. Authorities warn people to stay off the ice.

The next opportunity for you to meet with your Addison County legislators takes place on Monday at the Firehouse in Orwell with a Legislative Breakfast. The Breakfast is at 7AM and the program begins at 7:30. Purchase of breakfast is not required to attend but helps the hosts to defray the cost of opening their facility. Get more information right now at Addison County Dot Com.

The Rutland man whose wheelchair was severely damaged during a hit-and-run accident got a new wheelchair yesterday. Robert Campbell was injured in the crash Tuesday and his wife, Deborah, was fatally injured. Yankee Medical sold Robert Campbell his first wheelchair when his cerebral palsy left him unable to walk two years ago. Thursday, the company donated a brand new one to him. It's the same make and model as his old one. Campbell's family members said they would not have been able to afford the $1,100 price tag. Meanwhile Police say they're following up on several leads but have still not identified the car or the driver involved in the deadly crash.

Candidates for the two contested races on the town of Brandon’s ballot this year will participate in a candidates forum starting at 7:30PM on March 1st at the Brandon Senior Citizens Center. The candidates include Select Board incumbent Kellie Martin who is being challenged by David Atherton for a three-year seat, while Maria Ammatuna is challenging Lou Faivre for a Listers seat. The candidates will have an opportunity to introduce themselves and answer questions from the public. The candidates’ forum is sponsored by the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce and will be moderated by Charlie Jakiela. For more information, contact the chamber. (247-6401)

Pittsford residents hooked up to the soon-to-be-abandoned Proctor water system were presented yesterday with a group rate option for new wells. Residents were informed they were going to be disconnected from Proctor’s 150-year-old water system in July 2010. The cut-off deadline is December 1st. Currently, there is a court litigation between Proctor and the Pittsford residents in which Proctor has agreed to pay $250,000 that will be divided among the residents in an answer to court documents.

Mike Christian, owner of Village Sugarworks in Orwell has recently demonstrated his unique culinary talents while appearing as a guest in Vermont Public Television’s studio kitchen. Christian appears with host Sean Buchanan and other Vermont syrup makers. The show, “VPT Cooks: Maple Madness”, featuring Mike will be broadcast Saturday, March 3rd, from 2 to 4 p.m. The program will also be webcast on Buchanan and his guests demonstrate favorite recipes featuring Vermont’s signature flavor. Christian prepared his special Vermont maple ground beef stew recipe.

The chief financial officer and senior vice president at Central Vermont Public Service Corp. will be leaving the company to take another industry job. Pamela Keefe will leave CVPS on March 30th to become CFO of the Electric Power Research Institute. Keefe said she began exploring potential opportunities to remain with the company once the merger of CVPS and Green Mountain Power Corp. is completed but the EPRI position was too good to pass up. She joined CVPS as CFO in June 2006.

The Lake George Land Conservancy is offering the first of what will be annual scholarship awards totaling $1,000 given to high school seniors and the winning student’s school science program. Eligibility is restricted to high school seniors, including home-school students, whose school district lies mostly within the Lake George watershed, which includes Bolton, Lake George and Ticonderoga central school districts. One $500 first-place and one $250 second-place prize will be awarded and an additional $250 will be awarded to the first-place student’s school science program. For more information just visit

Fort Ticonderoga has unveiled a new program specifically designed for visiting Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups during the 2012 season. “Planting the Tree of Liberty: the Beginnings of the Continental Army at Fort Ticonderoga,” will allow scouts to participate in a program based on the daily routine of soldiers at the fort in the weeks following its capture from the British by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in the spring and early summer of 1775. This program is available by advance reservation most days during the 2012 season, which runs from May 18th – October 18th, and by special arrangement other times of the year. For more information visit

Authorities are not yet saying just what was in a letter triggering an evacuation of Senator Patrick Leahy's office in Burlington. Hazmat crews and the bomb squad were called to the downtown office after the letter containing some sort of substance was found. The Hazmat chief eventually declared it was benign, but the FBI is now involved as well. A handful of other state offices of U.S. senators around the country received similar letters this week.

Yesterday Vermont lawmakers debated Governor Peter Shumlin's health care exchange proposal. The proposal would require the employees of all small businesses in Vermont to get health insurance through a pool of insurers created by the State called a health care exchange. Vermont House Representatives talked about whether small businesses should have the choice of whether to join the exchange or stay with outside insurers. Opinions were split. The debate will continue today when the House will vote on whether or not to send the exchange bill to the Senate.

Vermont apparently has more of something than other states: veterans with jobs. The national average of veterans who are jobless is around 12-percent, but in Vermont, that number is down to nine-percent. A job fair exclusively for vets like the one held Thursday in Essex Junction is one of the reasons why. Organizers say it's a combination of Vermont employers wanting to do the right thing, and service members re-evaluating their job prospects while serving.

A Vermont group working to create jobs is getting a big boost thanks to $35 million in federal tax credits. The credits for the group Vermont Rural Ventures were announced Thursday by the three members of Vermont's congressional delegation. Vermont Rural Ventures is a subsidiary of the Burlington-based nonprofit group Housing Vermont. President Nancy Owens says the program has meant jobs for Vermonters and opportunities for people in low-income communities. The money will support community development, manufacturing, and farm and forest businesses.

Workers at Vermont's largest postal sorting center have learned that the plant is definitely closing. A regional manager for the U.S. Postal Service read a statement and played a video address from Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe to workers at the White River Junction plant on Wednesday. It's part of a national plan to close processing plants affecting more than 100,000 jobs. The Postal Service has been struggling to survive as use of its services declines. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said senators are working a plan to stabilize the Postal Service without making cuts.

Mail currently processed in Plattsburgh will be processed in Albany. This will affect first-class mail. It currently takes one day for mail to get from one address to another within the region. Postal officials said that would change to two days. The Postal Service said closing Plattsburgh's mail processing facility, which is staffed by about 60 people, will save an estimated $3 million per year.

Canada's consul general to New England says his home country will continue extracting oil from tar sands in Alberta, and that it is beginning to do so in a more environmentally friendly way. Patrick Binns told Vermont lawmakers yesterday that the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide resulting from tar sands oil extraction had declined by 29% in recent years. Binns stopped in Montpelier for a general talk to House and Senate members about what he called strong cooperation between Canada and the United States on trade, security, environmental protection and other issues.

Some major changes are coming to Vermont's largest newspaper. The Burlington Free Press says it will begin charging a subscription for both its print edition and its online site. And the Free Press says it will stop printing its large edition, known as a broadsheet, and go, instead to a smaller tabloid size. The Free Press currently allows free access to all of its stories, photos and other features online. But it says it will require a subscription when it moves to the new size of the printed newspaper, which is expected in June. The newspaper also says it will concentrate breaking news on its Web site and will use the print edition for in-depth, narrative reporting.

The Chittenden County Transportation Authority has hired a new General Manager. Bill Watterson will be joining CCTA on March 5th. Watterson comes to Vermont from Virginia, where he is currently the Transit Manager for Charlottesville Area Transit. Watterson says his to-do list includes finding a suitable location for a bus station in downtown Burlington and deal with affordability issues in the face of rising gas prices.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 23, 2012

This year's annual meeting of Porter Medical Center will be held on Thursday, March 22nd at 7PM at the Kirk Alumni Center on the campus of Middlebury College. The keynote speaker will be Anya Rader Wallack who is the Chairwoman of the new Green Mountain Health Board. The meeting is free and open to the public. She has worked in health care policy and reform for the past two decades. In January 2011, she joined Gov. Peter Shumlin as Special Assistant for Health Reform and was the chief architect of Act 48, the governor’s health reform plan.

The Champlain Bridge opening celebration is on schedule to take place May 19th and 20th. The event will include an “Old Time Hometown Grand Parade” set to begin in Chimney Point and travel across the new bridge to the Crown Point Historic Site, as well as many other events and attractions throughout the celebration. The two-day celebration will include events held on both the New York and Vermont side of the bridge to encourage people to visit the historical sites and events both sides have to offer visitors. For a full list of events or to sign up to rent a booth at the opening day celebration go to the

A former executive with Specialty Filaments Inc. in Middlebury is facing federal charges for allegedly conspiring to commit more than $1 million in fraud. Federal prosecutors in Vermont filed an indictment yesterday against Donald Marler III, the former president of the company that declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2007. According to court records he faces a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and a charge of bank fraud. Marler is the third former employee of Specialty Filaments to be charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, but is the first charged with alleged bank fraud.

Starting your own business can be challenging. The Vermont Small Business Development Center is offering a three-hour workshop on how to start your own business and write a business plan. The seminar is designed for individuals who are thinking about going into business but need assistance with the procedures involved and government regulations regarding starting up a business in Vermont. The seminar takes place at the National Bank Of Middlebury branch in Vergennes next Wednesday the 29th from 9:30M – 12:30PM. Admission is only $40. For more information just visit Addison County Dot Com.

The Vermont House has given its strong approval to legislation that supporters’ hope will increase the blood supply in the state. The bill makes it easier for young people to donate blood by dropping the age of consent from 17 to 16. West Rutland Representative Tom Burditt says 38 other states have a consent age of 16 and he says those states have discovered that young people are often very enthusiastic donors. The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Rutland police are now looking for both a red car and a mid-sized white SUV as they continue to investigate a fatal accident involving two pedestrians on Lincoln Avenue. Witnesses Tuesday night said they saw a white SUV fleeing the area after the crash. Police stopped one, but later determined it was the wrong SUV. Now they are asking the driver of the white SUV who left the crash scene to come forward, hoping the driver may have seen something. Deborah J Campbell died Tuesday night after an unknown vehicle on Lincoln Avenue struck her and her wheelchair-bound husband.

While police look for the driver involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, a family mourns the loss of Deborah Campbell of Rutland. She's described as a loving, caring woman who was pushing her husband in his wheelchair Wednesday after picking up prescriptions at a local pharmacy. While walking with traffic on Lincoln Avenue they were struck from behind, with Campbell dying later from head trauma. Police in Rutland say they're looking for both a red car and a mid-sized white SUV.

The Rutland police department has agreed to pay a New York man $30,000 to settle a racial discrimination complaint. Mark Allen of Brooklyn says he was subjected to questioning and a strip search after arriving in Rutland by train last March. The officer was reportedly looking for drugs, but found none. Allen says he believes he was targeted because of his race. In a settlement before the state Human Rights Commission, the city has also agreed to adopt a bias-free policing policy and to improve training of officers.

On Town Meeting Day the voters of Rutland Town will be asked if they will approve the expenditure of up to $130,000 in a 15-year bond to install a 60-kilowatt solar panel array upon the school roof. If approved, the system will offset 20 percent of the school’s $50,000 annual electric costs. Every kilowatt-hour produced will produce an approximately 6 cent credit on the school’s electric bill, in addition to the kilowatt-hour offset by the solar generation that will no longer be billed by CVPS.

A man accused of burglarizing the Essex County Government Center is now in the County Jail. 28-year-old Logan Stephenson of Farmington, West VA, was charged over the weekend with entering the county complex and taking food from various offices. Essex County Sheriff's Department Maj. David Reynolds said deputies took Stephenson into custody after he had fled the building. He was picked up in Lake Placid. He was charged with felony third-degree burglary and misdemeanor petit larceny. He was arraigned in Moriah Town Court and sent to the County Jail when he couldn't pay $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond. Stephenson is due in Elizabethtown Town Court today.

A warning is out for you to be wary of door-to-door meat trucks. There have been reports of vendors showing up unannounced and selling questionable meat to homes in Vermont. They are called meat truck scams and although the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets doesn't list specific cases to inform you of they do say everyone needs to be on the lookout. To report a suspicious meat truck contact your local police department and consumers with doubts on the safety of meat they've purchased are encouraged to avoid the risk and throw it out.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to guarantee a $930,000 loan to a Vermont cheese producer. The state's congressional delegation says the loan guarantee for Jasper Hill Farms in Greensboro will support 20 existing jobs and create 14 new ones. The money will be used to finalize construction of 2 areas where cheese is aged, space known as cheese cave vaults. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said Wednesday that the Greensboro project represents the bright future of Vermont's dairy industry.

The House is debating a bill today that would set up a new health insurance exchange or state marketplace for insurance coverage - in compliance with the federal health reform law passed two years ago. Shumlin and his fellow Democrats are hoping to use the exchange for bringing most Vermonters within a single-payer health insurance system by 2017. Republicans are expected to offer amendments to make participation in the health exchange voluntary, rather than mandatory, and to move up the date when the administration outlines a financing plan for its long-term health reform plan.

Vermont is getting more help to recover from Tropical Storm Irene. The state will receive a $2.4 million grant from FEMA to use on recovery services for survivors of the August storm. That money will go toward unmet needs, including housing, social services, and more. Eleven case managers will be hired through August 2013 to work with clients and identify what kind of assistance they need and what they have already received.

Incoming University of Vermont President E. Thomas Sullivan says his top priority will be to ensure a college education remains affordable for students. Sullivan made the comments yesterday after he was introduced as UVM's 26th president. He is set to receive $447,000 in pay and deferred compensation during his first three years leading the university in Burlington.

A Vermont senate committee is trying to resurrect legislation passed last year but vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin that would require testing of private wells when they are drilled or when a home is sold. In committee testimony yesterday before the Senate Education Committee, Health Commissioner Harry Chen took tough questioning over a change in position on the mandate since last year. Chen told lawmakers last year that testing should be required. Now he favors disclosure to homebuyers and people having wells drilled that testing is a good idea. Shumlin vetoed mandatory testing last year, saying he did not want to impose new costs on Vermonters.

Governor Peter Shumlin is defending his administration's push to set up a new health insurance marketplace or exchange. Shumlin says the aim is to comply with the federal health reform law passed two years ago and lay the groundwork for the single-payer health care system he wants to set up by late in this decade.

A group of Mexican farm workers and several dairy farmers have testified in support of a guest worker program for the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 immigrants who work on Vermont's dairy farms. The bill before the Senate Agriculture Committee would create state IDs for the workers making them eligible for state services.

The city council in Burlington is trying to get through an ordinance geared towards unlawful trespassing at the Church Street Marketplace. The council's Public Safety Committee gave its approval on a proposed unlawful-trespassing ordinance, but put on hold a proposal to cut back the aggressive panhandling which happens, deciding to review it next month. Behavior of people with mental health issues, drunk, or begging for money has long been a problem there, despite the fact four full-time social workers are assigned to the area, with a fifth one being added.

The Ticonderoga Alumni Association will hold a “Strikes for Students” Bowling Tournament March 10th & 11th at the Adirondack Lanes. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go into the scholarship fund and 50 percent of the funds will go to pay for prizes and the use of the lanes. The tournament will be held in two segments and will begin at noon and 3PM on both Saturday and Sunday. There will be 2 divisions, one for bowlers with established handicaps and one for everyone else. The cost to participate will be $16 for adults and $12 for kids, the fee includes three games and shoe rental.

Ben and Jerry's officially released its new flavors of the year yesterday afternoon. One is an ice cream, "Chocolate Nougat Crunch." It has chocolate-covered wafer cookies swirled into it. The other flavors are made with Greek yogurt that include "Blueberry Vanilla Graham," "Banana Peanut Butter" and "Vanilla” and "Raspberry Fudge Chip.” The company has started to phase out its frozen yogurts, in favor of Greek yogurt. The new flavors have been selling well at the Burlington Scoop Shop and getting a positive response from both customers and Ben and Jerry's employees.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 22, 2012

The town of Middlebury will soon offer free wireless Internet. Money in the town budget along with funding from the Vermont Council on Rural Development has allowed the Ilsley Library to expand its coverage to the downtown. Though a provider hasn't been chosen yet, the library director hopes the signal will reach most of Main Street, the town green, as well as Merchant's Row, meaning people can browse the web for free almost anywhere downtown. They hope to have free town Wi-Fi up and running this summer. Similar programs are also in the works in Poultney, Bristol and Vergennes.

Monkton residents will be voting at Town Meeting March 6th to select a town flag. The project was launched in December. Residents had until February 1st to submit their entries and applications. Thirty-four entries were received including fourteen from Monkton Central School sixth grade students and from a workshop with the Monkton Boy Scouts. The five final designs will be digitized and exhibited on Town Meeting Day for voting. Residents will vote for their top three choices. The winning flag will be unveiled on June 24th. The Monkton Flag Project was funded by a community grant from Neat Repeats in Middlebury. The Monkton Community Coffeehouse organized the project. Voting takes place at the Monkton Central School gym on the 6th from 10AM - 1PM and 4PM – 7PM.

Rutland Police are investigating a deadly hit and run crash. This happened just before six Tuesday night, on Lincoln Avenue, near the intersection of Williams and Grant streets. Police say a Rutland woman was pushing her husband who is in a wheelchair. That's when a vehicle hit her from behind. Police say 57-year old Deborah Jean Campbell suffered catastrophic injuries. She later died at the hospital. Her husband's injuries do not appear to be life threatening. Police have very few details on the vehicle that hit the couple and took off. If you know anything call Rutland police at 802-773-1816.

Residents in Castleton will decide whether to build a new municipal building on Town Meeting Day. Town offices were moved to modular units this summer when the current building became uninhabitable due to mold and structural issues. Now, town officials want to build a new $2 million facility that would house town offices, police, fire, and emergency responders. But many in the town would rather renovate the existing historic building.

Hubbardton firefighters responded to a destructive fire at a home located on Old Ti Road during the morning hours Monday. Smoke from the house fire was visible to Hubbardton and Castleton residents living several miles from the site. Because of the shaded location of the home, overnight icing on the upslope driveway approach to the residence presented a challenge to firefighters as they had to quickly attach tire chains to the engines to get to the residence.

Rutland City Police said somebody removed a safe and some merchandise out of Aubuchon Hardware in the early morning hours Monday. Police said phone lines were also cut on the outside of the building and were waiting to receive footage from in-store surveillance equipment. Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call Rutland City Police at 773-1816.

The Port Henry Village Board won't get started on its new budget until next month. The first public budget workshop will take place at 7PM Monday, March 19th at the Village Hall on Main Street. The Village Treasurer said the Village Campground restoration project now under way would affect the new budget. The Port Henry Village Campground on Lake Champlain was heavily damaged during Tropical Storm Irene last year and had to close early.

A presentation on "SmartPower" will be offered in Proctor at 6:30PM on March 7th. Central Vermont Public Service will present its "smart grid," the company's effort to modernize and automate the electric grid. Smart grid technology is part of a nationwide initiative that is taking advantage of federal funding to bring our current electric grid up to date with today's smarter, more reliable technologies. Over the next two years, about 80 percent of Vermont’s households will have smart meters installed.

Two key lawmakers say Vermont won't meet its goal of getting 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2017. And the chairman and vice chairwoman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee say they're scaling back a goal of 30% renewable by 2025 that had been outlined in legislation pending before the panel.

A report by the Vermont state auditor's office has found that about $415,000 has been reported missing from 16 supervisory units or school districts since 2000. State Auditor Tom Salmon says for a small state, the frequency of incidents involving fraud, embezzlement or theft in Vermont schools is alarming.

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would commission a study to determine if racial and ethnic minorities are treated differently by the state's criminal justice system. The bill being considered by the House Judiciary Committee would also require all of the state's law enforcement agencies to adopt "bias-free policing" policies to ensure minorities are treated fairly.

Residents and business owners in Waterbury are renewing their call to bring back to town the state workers displaced by Tropical Storm Irene. The Vermont House and Senate Institutions committees took nearly two hours of testimony yesterday afternoon about how the loss of roughly 1,500 state workers has harmed the local economy in the north-central Vermont town. The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin has proposed bringing some, but not all of the workers back to Waterbury. Business owners say they need to get the situation resolved soon. Lawmakers promised to keep the concerns in mind.

The University of Vermont is making plans to introduce its next president. An official announcement of who has been chosen as the university's next president is expected this morning. However according to WCAX-TV as of last night The University of Vermont has picked E. Thomas Sullivan to be the new leader at the university. He will be introduced to the campus community at an event at the Davis Center in Burlington.

The Pentagon is preparing for massive budget cuts that could ripple through the Vermont National Guard. But the Vermont Air Guard hopes their efforts to secure the next generation fighter jets will help them stave off the cuts. Vermont is still in the running to receive F-35 fighter jets to replace their F-16s, and Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie hopes that gains from that program would compensate for any potential job losses coming down the line in this round of cuts.

A mild winter across the Northeast is injecting extra uncertainty into maple syrup season, but many producers say they'll just go with the flow, whenever it starts. Temperatures have been up and snowfall totals have been down, raising concerns about the maple syrup crop. But producers say the weather during the six-week season when sap flows matters more than the weather leading up to it. Last year, U.S. maple production, led by Vermont, hit an all-time high of 2.79 million gallons.

Thirty college students from the Boston area are facing charges after they tried to enter the United States from Canada at the Derby Line border crossing with alcohol and drugs in their bags. On Monday, the Vermont State Police issued 26 citations for minors in possession of alcohol, charged three people with marijuana possession and charged one Boston University student with possessing a single tablet of ecstasy. Trooper Andrew Jensen says the students were traveling back to Boston on eight tour buses after a weekend outing in Quebec.

South Burlington's newest burger restaurant has been burglarized. According to the Burlington Free Press, two men broke into the Five Guys restaurant along Shelburne Road sometime early Monday. Surveillance tape shows the pair making off with a safe holding about $2,000. South Burlington police say they've seen a spike in burglaries over the last two months.

The South Burlington city council passed a controversial development ban. Those who have already received permits for their projects will be allowed to continue. But some seeking approval for expansion or new development will need to make their case in front of the city council. The goal of the ban is to slow growth in the city until new planning and zoning policies can be considered. Councilors who voted against the measure called it overly broad and expensive.

Registration is now open for Fort Ticonderoga’s 17th annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 18-20. The annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website at

Lent, the forty-day liturgical season that precedes Easter in the Christian calendar begins today. The beginning of lent is marked by Ash Wednesday for Western Christian churches. Roman Catholic along with some other churches hold special services, which see worshippers marked on the forehead with ashes as a symbol of death, and repentance. The observation of the forty days of Lent is a representation of Jesus Christ’s withdrawal into the desert for forty days and is marked by fasting from both food and festivities.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 21, 2012

Vermont State Police are investigating a burglary from the Norris Berry Farm on Davis Road in Monkton. Norma Norris came back from vacation to find that her home had been burglarized and several items taken from the residence. Also approximately 200 gallons of diesel fuel was stolen from an outside tank and several tractors were siphoned dry. These incidents occurred sometime in the last 2 weeks. A suspicious black Chevrolet Lumina was seen in the area Friday afternoon. Anyone with information should contact the State Police Barracks in New Haven.

Planning for the Middlebury fire facilities improvement project continues to go smoothly, both on-schedule and within budget. Voting will take place on Tuesday, March 6th in the gym from 7AM to 7PM. Absentee ballots are also available from the Town Clerk's Office. To give you another opportunity to visit Middlebury Fire Station 2 on Kings Row in East Middlebury, the Fire Department is hosting the Police Department's bike sale at Station 2 on the Feb. 25th from 9 to 3PM.

The Design - Build Approach to Riverfront Work in the Marble Works Area was discussed last week at the Select Board meeting. As proposed, the project would coordinate with existing terrain, create attractive and functional seating and events areas, provide low-cost pathways for pedestrian and maintenance access, and stabilize banks and slopes with plantings. The anticipated budget for the project is $70,000: $50,000 for construction work, $10,000 for design work; $5,000 for construction oversight; $4,000 for contingency; and $1,000 for reimbursable expenses.

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports will host its annual Ski Challenge fundraising event on Saturday, March 10th at Pico Mountain. This year’s theme is a retro '80s. You do not have to participate in the race to attend the family-friendly gala after the day's event at the Killington Grand Hotel. Gala-only tickets are available. In addition, Killington Resort and Pico Mountain are providing lift ticket and season pass fundraising incentives in order for the non-profit to reach its event goal of raising $100,000. Learn more right now at

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber Of Commerce will be holding its February After Business Mixer tomorrow. Join in on the fun, door prizes and great networking opportunities from 5:30PM – 7:00PM at the Denton Publications – Times Of Ti office. Get more information right now at

Essex County lawmakers are looking for ways to help Elizabethtown with a sewer system that could cost $9.5 million. The town has a public water system installed two years ago but no sewers. Town officials have been seeking grants and no or low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, State Department of Environmental Conservation and State Environmental Facilities Corp. The estimated annual user cost of $362 for a single-family home is based on obtaining a no-interest loan from Environmental Facilities and a low-interest note from USDA.

Back in November members of the Rutland community and VT health officials came together to discuss options for a possible opiate treatment center. At that meeting, the plan was to create a model treatment facility with the potential to help over 400 clients. But now Dan Quinn, CEO of Rutland Mental Health, says funding issues make that goal unattainable. Right now, the budget that includes about $500,000 coming from the State health department could staff about six people and treat up to 75 clients. This is a much smaller version of the center dreamed up in November. A rented space from Rutland Plywood on Park Street is Quinn's choice for the treatment facility. But Mayor Christopher Louras says he'd rather see the facility put on Allen Street near Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Three more sections of downtown Rutland sidewalks are targeted for replacement. The Downtown Rutland Partnership and Rutland Redevelopment Authority are applying for a $50,000 grant from the state’s downtown transportation fund for new sidewalks in three sections of downtown along with historic-style lighting in two of those sections. The first section the grant would address is Madison Street from Strongs Avenue to Prospect Street.

Two young men are okay, but their jeep is pretty waterlogged. They had it out on the ice Saturday evening on Lake Champlain when it fell through. The U.S. Coast Guard says Jesse Demar of Colchester and a friend were in it, and made it to shore on their own. Demar had a minor injury. It took work crews a lot of hours to pull it out, and by the time they could get it to move only the roof was barely visible.

The new chair of the Vermont Republican State Committee is warning against what he says is the reckless agenda of Governor Peter Shumlin. Jack Lindley was unanimously elected party chair over the weekend during a meeting in Montpelier. Lindley says it could be a great year for Vermont Republicans, but it will take a lot of hard work.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to buy 110 acres of Lake Champlain marshland in Colchester. The marshland is home to a variety of rare species of fish and plants. The area just south of Chimney Corners along Route 7 is known as either Munson Flats Wetlands or the Mallets Creek.

Vermont's first Baptist College is set to open its doors a year ahead of a schedule. Classes at Northeastern Baptist College will begin in late August. The private four-year school in Bennington will offer bachelor degree programs in biblical studies, music, and education. The school will share a building and grounds with Grace Christian School. The college hopes to launch with 100 students.

This year experts say we're less likely to see Lake Champlain flood and cause significant damage. That's because snow totals are far behind average compared to last year. When the snow melts this spring, there could be good news for people who live and work near Lake Champlain. Eric Evenson is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and says we probably won't see the extremes we saw last year. That's when Lake Champlain rose to record levels and damaged homes, businesses and almost everything in its way.

According to a study from the Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment, utilities and policymakers around the country could learn a valuable lesson from the approach Central Vermont Public Service Corp. is taking to implement deployment of its $63 million smart grid project. CVPS, Green Mountain Power Corp., and the state’s other electric utilities are implementing smart grid programs that they say will allow consumers to monitor in real-time their energy consumption with the potential to save on their electric bills. It will also allow utilities to more effectively manage their peak loads and better respond to power outages, more precisely pinpointing the location. The report is part of a broader study begun last year by the Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment.

Stowe Mountain Resort will be offing two free days of skiing and riding for all active, full-time, National Guard and Army Reserve Vermont military personnel and their families. The first one is this Sunday the 26th and the next one will take place on March 25th. For more information just visit the resorts website -

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 that in September, farmers could face a severe drop in support from the Milk Income Loss Contract program if no action is taken.

Something new is on the menu for students. The Vermont State College system is changing food providers. For the past two decades Aramark has been contracted with the state college system. But next Fall Sodexo will take over. The deal will save the VSC system about 250-thousand dollars each year and officials expect the food to be better. More then 6-thousand students use the on campus dining halls.

Gas prices are now the highest they have ever been this time of year. As of yesterday, the average price of a gallon of gas in Vermont was $3.69. That is even higher than the national average of $3.53. If you thought that was bad, experts say national gas prices could reach $4.25 a gallon by late April. They say it is a combination of tension in Iran and more demand for gasoline from developing nations. Some experts predict it could cost the national economy $35 billion if gas prices stay at least 25 cents higher than usual for a full year.

Senator Patrick Leahy will travel to Cuba and two other countries later this week. Senator Leahy's spokesperson says the Senator will be traveling with a delegation of lawmakers beginning on Wednesday. Cuba will be one stop in the weeklong trip. The other two countries are Haiti and Columbia. Leahy visited Haiti last year after an earthquake devastated that country. The Senator will be releasing a more detailed itinerary later this week.

Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers say a series of flood control projects built decades ago helped save Vermont from tens of millions of dollars in damage during flooding from Tropical Storm Irene last summer. The town of Springfield didn't suffer any significant damage during Irene thanks to the North Springfield Dam, which held back the floodwaters that damaged communities upstream such as Cavendish and Ludlow.

The Vermont outpost of a multinational company that makes medical products is considering an expansion of its St. Albans facility, which could add 150 jobs to the local economy. The St. Albans Messenger says the Vermont Economic Progress Council has given preliminary approval to $4.2 million in cash incentives to Mylan Technologies, should the company expand in St. Albans.

Vermont State Police and environmental officials are going to work to remove a truck that went through the ice on Lake Willoughby in the town of Westmore. Police say that early Sunday morning a truck driven by 36-year-old Douglas Mott of Newport went through the ice. Mott was later charged with driving under the influence.

New York College students and young professionals are being encouraged to apply for two new programs aimed at nurturing the next generation of New York leaders and policy makers. The "New New York Leaders Initiative" includes a program called the Empire State Fellows and another called the Student Intern Program. Candidates may receive more information and apply online.

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.

Friday, February 17, 2012

WVTK Local & State News February 17, 2012

The Town of Hinesburg is moving ahead with its proposed public safety building complex in the center of the village. Town officials will include an article to be voted on Town Meeting Day to fund a public safety facility and community park. The $2.9 million bond will be voted on by Australian ballot. The project proposes to expand the fire station, include the police station in the same building, add a community room, plus include work on a community park. The site would also accommodate a bus stop for the new Route 116 CCTA/ACTR commuter as well as a park and ride area. A public meeting is scheduled for February 27th at the Hinesburg Town Hall at 7:15PM. Town officials will also host an open house on Saturday, March 3rd from 10AM to 2PM.

Is your Birthday coming up on February 29th? David Clarke, the director of the Ilsley Public Library has invited everyone born on the 29th to the Library from 2-4PM. You can celebrate with cake while sharing YOUR stories of the good and bad of being born on this fleeting calendar day! Children are invited to mark this year’s bonus day by writing a letter-to-the-future after school from 3:30 – 5PM. For more information, contact Ilsley Public Library or visit them online at

The next phase in the more than decade-long restoration of Brandon Town Hall is set to begin in the next several weeks with the installation of several bathrooms, a handicap accessible door, a green room and a staircase from backstage to the bathrooms. The green room will be for theatrical productions or for meetings and events, while the staircase will provide actors access to the bathrooms. The McKernon Group was hired to complete the project estimated to cost $175,000 and will need to be completed by May 1st, when the building is opened for the season’s events.

A proposal before Rutland City would convert the West Street Armory into a print shop. Daniel Keith of Keith’s II Sports in Pittsford has placed the winning bid on the building. The purchase of the building is conditional on him getting a zoning variance, which is under consideration by Rutland’s Development Review Board. The state put the building on the market after the National Guard moved to the new reserve facility off Post Road.

A former top state environmental official has joined the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance. Elizabeth (Betsy) Lowe has been hired as the group’s director of strategic partnerships and fundraising. Lowe worked for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for nearly 25 years, most recently as Region 5 director. At the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance Lowe is charged developing and sustaining partnerships, coordinating arts and economic development initiatives, assisting with public relations and working with the CEO and board of directors on the development and implementation of a fundraising plan.

One incumbent trustee and one former trustee are running for two open seats on the Port Henry Village Board. Ruth McDonough and John “Jack” Sheldon filed petitions for two-year terms by the Tuesday deadline. McDonough was first elected a village trustee in 2008, after serving as mayor since 2003. She is a retired Essex County personnel officer. Sheldon served one full term on the board but was defeated in the 2011 village election. He is a general contractor. The office of mayor is not up for election until 2013. The election will take place from Noon to 9PM Tuesday, March 20th, at the Port Henry firehouse.

On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Education Department, and the State's largest teacher's union finally compromised on how to evaluate teachers. Governor Cuomo says the evaluation system will hold, "teachers accountable for student achievement." The system is based on a 100-point scale. 60 points are for teacher performance. That will be measured by administrators and trained evaluators watching teachers in the classroom. It will also be based on student and parent feedback. The other 40 points evaluate teachers based on student achievement. That is measured by how well students do on State and local tests. Cuomo is giving schools Statewide a year to adopt the evaluation system.

Vermont small businesses that want to keep offering employee health insurance would have to do it through a state system beginning in 2014, under a bill approved by a House committee. The House Human Services Committee voted yesterday to support a bill that also would require individual health insurance subscribers to get their insurance through a state system called a health care exchange. The requirement involving employers affects only those with 50 or fewer workers. Some business groups had opposed making the exchange mandatory, but they got a win on another part of the bill. That allows employers to continue offering lower-cost high-deductible insurance to their workers. The bill must still clear another committee, the full House and the Senate.

The state of Vermont is cracking down on motorists who illegally park in spaces reserved for the handicapped. Rutland police want the public to know that the owners of vehicles parked in spaces reserved for the handicapped can now be fined up to $271 if the driver isn't handicapped.

The discovery of a human skull in Danby has police re-examining two missing persons cases in particular. While awaiting DNA analysis that could identify the victim, detectives are checking missing persons cases. Two that appear to fit the criteria are Brianna Maitland who disappeared from Montgomery in 2004, and Heide Wilbur who went missing from Middletown Springs in 1991. Police caution that those are only two possibilities and that the victim could be another missing person, someone who was never reported missing or someone from out of state.

Employees at the Mad River Glen Ski Area are upset over the discovery of a body stuck in a window. State police say a man apparently tried to move from the ski patrol office into the ski repair shop by climbing through a small window, and became stuck. And, that's where he died. Police say while the death is unusual, it does not appear to be suspicious or criminal. No word yet as to the identity of the man.

A bill that would require child vaccinations is getting a lot of attention and debate. Vermont is currently one of 20 states allowing parents to opt out of having their kids vaccinated on philosophical grounds. However, a bill now working through the Legislature would change that, as supporters say with the rate of unvaccinated kids growing, so is public health concern. Opponents say parents and not the state should make the decision. A new compromise would allow parents to still opt out, but be required to hear from a doctor as to the risks and benefits of vaccines.

A Manchester, New Hampshire man is facing federal charges of setting fire to a shelter on Vermont's Long Trail. Federal prosecutors say Justin Caissie started the fire that destroyed the Tucker Johnson Trail Shelter in Mendon last march and then lied about it to a U.S. Forest Service special agent. Caissie has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Burlington's police chief was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, testifying about the benefits of bulletproof vests. Chief Mike Schirling visited Washington at the invitation of Sen. Patrick Leahy. Leahy helped pass legislation 15 years ago to establish a grant program to pay for bulletproof vests for police officers. Prior to that, officers had to purchase the vests themselves. The program expires this year and Leahy is hoping to extend it.

A study by Dartmouth College found unsafe levels of arsenic in food, including infant formulas. The Dartmouth team tested formulas, cereal bars and energy shots that were purchased in the Hanover, NH area. They found products that contain the sweetener organic brown rice syrup had arsenic levels exceeding the federal limit of 10 parts per billion. Two of the infant formulas were above the limit, 22 of the cereal bars and all three of the energy shots were in excess and some at 10 times the federal limit. Researchers say arsenic is in soils from pesticides and then gets into rice. Consumer Reports is calling for new federal regulations to limit arsenic levels in food.

Vermonters living in some of the most rural locations may soon have access to broadband Internet service from FairPoint Communications. Rather than pay fines to the state for past service problems, FairPoint will invest $7 million to connect so-called last-mile residents. Those are homes on the fringes of communities, long considered too spread out to be worth connecting. It's unclear how many more customers will get broadband service from this investment. Since taking over for Verizon in 2008, FairPoint has invested almost $80 million and added 1,100 miles of new fiber in Vermont. The company says nearly 90 percent of its customers now have high-speed access.

School administrators in the Bennington area want the state labor relations board to reverse an order. Teachers walked off the job last fall and recently filed a complaint saying despite their new contract the district still owes them back pay. The Labor Relations Board agreed. But now the district says the order to pay up should be overturned because teachers were paid for days they did not work because of Tropical Storm Irene.

L.C. Jazz will be performing at The Vergennes Opera House on Saturday starting at 8:00PM. Vergennes’ own community jazz ensemble brings their classic Big Band sound to the stage once again for another toe-tapping, dance-inducing performance. A fun evening for all ages! Admission is only $8. Tickets available at: or at Classic Stitching.

Brandon’s Art in the Snow Wine and Arts Festival will take place this weekend! The festival will play host to open art studios, workshops, cooking classes and a wine tasting trail. Hosted by the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce and the Brandon Artists’ Guild, the two-day event is slated to kick off at 11 AM. Saturday with more than 20 local artists and craft makers opening their studio spaces, while five local wineries host a wine trail. In addition, Brandon Music is pleased to welcome Rutland area vocalist, Olivia Gawet, in the first of a series of benefit concerts to raise money for the new Compass Music and Arts Center. The concert takes place on Sunday at 2 PM in the Music Café at Brandon Music. Get more information at!

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber Of Commerce will be holding its February After Business Mixer next Wednesday the 22nd. Join in on the fun, door prizes and great networking opportunities from 5:30PM – 7:00PM at the Denton Publications – Times Of Ti office. Get more information right now at

Stars attending the Oscars later this month will learn a little bit about a Vermont product. A promotional card about Birdsbesafe cat collars will be inside the swag bags celebrities get just for attending the event. Birdsbesafe is a brightly colored cat collar. Birds notice the color on the cat and then know to fly away. Nancy Brennan of Duxbury founded the company a few years ago -- and sales continue to grow. She hopes this Hollywood exposure will lead to more cats wearing her collars allowing more songbirds to survive.