Tuesday, December 31, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 31, 2013

Governor Peter Shumlin has a plan to help Vermonters move out of poverty.  He unveiled the project yesterday with five initiatives designed to help those who are homeless or at risk of losing their own homes.  One includes more money for shelters, child care, substance abuse and mental health treatment.  Another includes doubling the amount of money for the Vermont Rental Subsidy program.  Shumlin says it’s all part of his balanced budget which he plans to present to lawmakers sometime in January.

Not as many Vermonters have signed up for new health insurance plans as hoped.  That number, as of December 23rd, was at 52-thousand, about 13-thousand fewer than the state’s goal.  About 29-thousand 200 Vermonters are now insured through their employers on plans offered on the exchange, but with their employers enrolling directly through the carrier.  Many Vermonters who did not sign up in November will see their current plan extended into March 2014.

New York launched the "I [Snowmobile] NY" campaign to promote snowmobiling and other winter sports yesterday.  A press release says the $4.5 million winter tourism campaign will start running print and digital ads on January 1.  There are 10,300 miles of snowmobile trails throughout New York.  Since 2011, the state spent more than $11 million for trail maintenance and development and helped generate $868 million in revenue.

The Rutland Board of Alderman finalized the city budget for next year during a six-hour meeting last night.  Aldermen made a number of cuts trimming the final number down to $19,551,253.  Some of the cuts included planned vehicle purchases, hiring and recruitment bonuses in the police department and a new position in the Department of Public Works.  City officials said the budget would mean a combined water and sewer rate of $8.67, and an increase of over 3-percent to a "typical" water bill.

Maple syrup producers across the area worry that last week’s ice storm damaged trees and tubing and could hurt next year’s yield.  The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association says that growers near the Canadian border were hit hardest by the storm that dropped up to half an inch of ice in some places.  Branches snapped and the tubing that carries the maple sap to the sugarhouse for boiling was damaged in many places.  Syrup is serious business in Vermont, the nation’s number one producer. In 2013, Vermont producers put more than 1.3 million gallons on the table.  The good news is the timing of the storm. Hitting in December gives producers time to make repairs and let damaged trees heal before the sap starts running in the spring.

Monday, December 30, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 30, 2013

Green Mountain Power will be adding a storm surcharge to your bill starting next month.  Officials say the storm surcharge of $1.53 is being added to your bill to help offset the cost of four major storms in 2013.  They add that GMP does budget for a certain number of storms but a major event is not included in their budget.  They deal with major events separately so that customers are only paying for a major storm if it occurs.  

Fire destroyed a Bristol home Sunday afternoon, but the two dogs inside managed to survive.  Bristol firefighters say when they arrived at the scene on Lower Notch Road about two-thirds of the home was engulfed in flames.  When the fire was finally put out, the two dogs, covered with soot, crawled out from under a deck.  One was taken to the Williston Animal Hospital by a firefighter and the homeowners, who arrived when it was all over, got the other dog.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles is going to be issuing a new kind of driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.  Starting January 2nd, Vermonters will be able to obtain Real ID compliant identification in person at all motor vehicles offices.  To get a Real ID, you will need an original or certified copy of their birth certificate or other proof of identity, and proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the United States.  People will also need proof of their Social Security numbers.

Vermont’s lowest paid workers are going to be getting a 13 cents per hour raise.  On January 1st, the state’s minimum wage is going to increase to $8.73 per hour.  The minimum wage for workers who are tipped will increase by 6 cents to $4.23 an hour.  Vermont is one of 13 states increasing the minimum wage on the first of the year.  The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Vermont police have issued a citation to a man they say was transporting $44,000 worth of liquor he'd bought in New Hampshire to New York.  Police say a Vermont state trooper stopped 34-year-old Andy Chan of Flushing, N.Y. on Interstate 91 in Putney Saturday night for a traffic violation.  During the stop, the trooper discovered numerous cases of liquor in Chan's van.  Police say Chan bought more than $44,000 worth of liquor in New Hampshire and was driving it to New York.  He was charged with violating state liquor transportation laws and ordered to appear in court in February.

Friday, December 27, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 27, 2013

Once again, the number of power outages is dropping in Vermont.  The weekend ice storm initially knocked out electricity to more than 70-thousand customers, and by Christmas night the number had dramatically gone down.  Then with the fresh snow yesterday, it wasn’t long before the outages were more than 12-hundred.  As of this morning, it’s just under 400, with restoration of most expected by the end of the day.

Starting next Wednesday, undocumented workers can apply for something called a “driver’s privilege” card in Vermont.  The new law which begins January 1st outlines how undocumented immigrants get the card by showing proof of address, a birth certificate and passing a driver’s test.  It’s estimated about three-thousand people in the state will benefit from the new law which lawmakers passed earlier this year.  Vermont joins five other states in the country with similar laws, and is the first in New England.

New Yorkers are being reminded that the deadline to apply for a property tax break is approaching. The state tax department says homeowners need to register for Basic STAR by December 31.  The department says the average homeowner saves $700 each year from this exemption.  But, they need to register with them—one time only—to continue receiving this break in 2014 and beyond.  Homeowners are entitled to the exemption if their family income is under $500,000.  To register online, click here or call 518-457-2036.

The price of a stamp is about to go up.  A panel that oversees the Postal Service has approved a three-cent hike to 49 cents, from the current price of 46 cents.  The hike includes a one-cent increase to keep pace with inflation.  The additional two cents are intended to be temporary, and recoup the losses the postal service suffered during the recession.  The stamp price change will take effect on January 26.

Some laid-off IBM employees may be able to get federal re-employment benefits.  After more than 400 people lost their jobs at Big Blue last summer, Vermont labor officials sought assistance under the Federal Trade Act, which assists workers who lose jobs due to foreign competition.  Federal officials this week granted the state's petition, meaning some unemployed workers can get retraining and other help in finding new jobs.  Right now the decision only includes people who worked at IBM's facilities in Williston.  The state is reapplying to get coverage for those laid off from the Essex Junction site.

The U.S. Forest Service is encouraging safe snowmobiling this winter in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.  Weather permitting, snowmobiles are allowed on 470-miles of designated trails within the forest from December 16 through April 15.  Besides urging caution on snowmobile trails, the Forest Service is warning of the dangers associated with riding, hiking and skiing on frozen bodies of water.  The snowmobile season opened a little over a week ago, but the rains and ice storm of this past weekend led to the closure of many trails across the state. Snowmobilers should check trail conditions before heading out.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 26, 2013

The Public Service Board has given the green light to Vermont Gas’s Plan to expand natural gas service into Addison County.  Vermont Gas still needs a few permits before construction starts in 2014. Since the permits aren't in hand yet, an exact start date isn't yet known.  Steve Wark of Vermont Gas said, "Our goal is in 2014 to be able to service Cabot, and Middlebury College, and Porter Hospital, also we would really like to help the schools in Vergennes."  Most homeowners hoping to save with natural gas will likely have to wait until 2015 or 2016 to be hooked up.  Plans for phase two, which would expand the pipeline to Ticonderoga, have been submitted to the PSB. Phase three would extend the pipeline to Rutland.

Work crews made progress on Christmas Day, restoring outages from the weekend ice storm.  By Wednesday night, the numbers were down to about 800 still in the dark, about half the numbers of those without power the day before.  All shelters have now closed, but remain on standby due to the intense cold.

A new grading system for maple syrup goes into effect next Wednesday.  Terms like Fancy and Grade B are gradually going away, and according to supporters of the news system it will make buying the right syrup easier for the consumer.  It will be talking about not only the color, but also the taste, such as golden color/delicate taste, and amber color/rich taste.  Not all producers will be adopting the new grading system, however, and can use the old one until January first of 2015.

Monday was the deadline for Vermonters to sign up for health care through Vermont Health Connect.  But, if you didn’t sign up, you still have more time.  Mark Larson, commissioner of Vermont Health Access, said that isn’t a hard deadline.  Larson said that although the deadline wasn’t ‘officially’ extended, the state will try to accommodate those who sign up and pay their first premium by the end of the year.  If you don’t sign up before the end of the year, you can still do it in 2014. The deadline will be the 15th of every month to have your coverage by the first of the next month.

One of Vermont's smallest K-12 schools is trying to transform itself to attract more students as townspeople prepare to discuss its future.  Residents will discuss the Rochester School on January 13 and then vote the next day on a non-binding referendum on whether to continue to operate a high school or cut back to grades K-8.  The school currently has 147 students, with only 55 in high school. 

Vermont State Police are still reminding drivers to clear the rest of the ice from the top of your vehicles.  Police say there have been several incidents of ice chunks flying off of cars on the interstate and highways.  In one case, a flying chunk of ice smashed through the windshield of another car.  Luckily nobody was hurt.  Police say there is a fine if ice flies off your car and hits another car or person.  They compare it to an unsecured heavy load falling off your car while you’re driving.

Friday, December 20, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 20, 2013

A lot of preparation is underway for a potentially icy storm this weekend.  The problems could include not only slippery roads but downed trees and power lines.  State Police are warning people to have emergency items like flashlights, batteries and water on hand.  Green Mountain Power is preparing as well and has already had plenty of meetings with staff and other Vermont utilities.  G-M-P already has 400 additional workers in New England on standby.

It’s one of Vermont’s fastest growing tech companies, and now it’s getting a new owner.  Dealer-dot-com was sold Thursday to Dealer-track Technologies, a publicly-traded New York company.  Privately-held Dealer-dot-com was sold for 620 million dollars and 8.7 million shares of Dealer-track stock.  The sale will close next year, with the five founders of the Vermont company continuing with Dealer-track, and no immediate impact on the Burlington office and its staff.

Toys "R" Us is back open today for holiday shopping after a scare yesterday morning.  High levels of carbon monoxide caused the evacuation of the building for about two hours.  It re-opened around 12:30 p.m.  The Williston Fire Chief says a machine used to clean the floors is likely to blame.  Two store employees were sent to the hospital for evaluation.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and education officials announced 5 colleges will offer programs to high school students in 2014.  A press release says students who participate in these early college programs will attend college during their senior year of high school on a full-time basis.  Vermont Technical College is already offering programs for high school students.  Burlington College, Castleton State College, Community College of Vermont, Johnson State College and Lyndon State College will now offer programs.  

The Vermont Foodbank says it has a $1 million budget gap to fill before the end of the year.  During the months of October, November and December the food bank raises more than two-thirds of its annual operating budget.  But despite the usual generosity of Vermonters and local companies, the food bank says it is still $1 million short of meeting its goal.  This year, the food bank has provided more than 6.8 million meals to food shelves and meal programs.  The goal is to increase to 7.1 million next year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 19, 2013

When there’s a house fire, the American Red Cross is there to help victims find shelter and get back on their feet, but now it’s the Vermont chapter which needs the help.  Over the past few weeks, 14 fires in Vermont have displaced about 60 people, and the non-profit is being hit not just financially but also by volunteers.  The Red Cross has a couple of hundred volunteers around the state but usually only about a third of them are able to respond to fires at any given time.  During this busy season, donations of time are just about as valuable to the Red Cross as dollar donations.

Police are investigating a murder-suicide involving a father and his teenage son.  Investigators say 49 year-old Ludwig Schumacher killed his son, 14 year-old Gunnar Schumacher before taking his own life at an apartment on Carmichael Street in Essex.  While emergency crews responded to the scene around 2 o’clock yesterday, police say the apparent homicide-suicide happened "some time ago."  Officials at Essex High School say students can access counselors at any time today and tomorrow.  They will have information for teachers, staff, and students today at school. 

Rutland smashed the US blood-donation record.  Rutland’s 11th annual Gift of Life Marathon on Tuesday collected 2,337 pints of blood.  The Rutland drive broke the previous one-day U.S. record of 1,968 pints set by Manchester, N.H. back in 2011.  The online Guinness World Records says the one-day world-wide record of 43,732 pints was set in India in 2010.  A few years ago, some people had to wait six hours before giving blood. But this year, due to all the volunteers that helped out, people were in and out in an hour and a half or less.

The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife Department is holding a free ice fishing day on January 25.  A press release says Vermont's new free ice fishing day is a day where anyone, resident or non-resident, can go fishing without a fishing license.  Vermont’s ice fishing season for trout, salmon and bass starts January 18 and continues through March 15 on 40 large Vermont lakes. The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife says anyone who is interested in learning more about ice fishing can attend an ice fishing festival on January 25 at the Larrabee Point Fishing Access Area in Shoreham.  Instructors will be there from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Port Henry has established a Parking Ban.  Officials say parking on any of the streets within the village of Port Henry is prohibited between midnight and 6 a.m. through April 1 to allow village streets to be cleared of snow in the event of a storm. Any vehicle in violation of this law will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 17, 2013

With the temperatures as cold as they are … officials are warning you to be on the lookout for frostbite.  Emergency Room Doctors say this most recent storm brought in a number of people with injuries from shoveling and falling on ice.  The best advice against frostbite is to just stay out of the cold but if you do need to go, make sure you are bundled up.  For serious cases of frostbite, when it's painful or blisters, you should go to see a doctor immediately.

The first of six Castleton State College athletes charged in a string of thefts at Dick’s Sporting Goods was in court last week to answer to charges.  Former Quarterback George Busharis is being charged with four misdemeanor counts of retail theft.  The state has referred the case to the Diversion program.  The Diversion Program is voluntary, but participants who complete the program avoid a permanent criminal court record.

The Burlington police officer who shot and killed a man armed with a shovel is not going to be charged.  The attorney general and Chittenden County state’s attorney says the officer believed he was in danger of being killed or badly hurt when 49-year-old Wayne Brunette came at him with a large shovel.  Investigators ruled the officer’s use of deadly force was justified, adding there’s no guarantee pepper spray or a Taser would have changed the final outcome.  The family says Brunette had a history of mental illness, and wants to see more collaboration between mental health officials and the police in the future.

The Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets is reminding Vermonters that the winter manure spreading ban is in effect as of December 15.  A press release says the during the ban, farmers must either have a storage structure that is capable of holding all manure produced from December 15 to April 1 or be able to stack all manure produced in a way that will not lead to water quality impacts.  Any questions about the manure spreading ban, filing an exemption, or if you would like assistance in the selection of appropriate manure stacking sites, should call the Agency at (802)-828-3475.

The Burlington Town Center now has a new owner.  The Devonwood Investment group out of New York City has purchased the mall.  Officials with Devonwood have said they would like to add a new anchor store to the property like L.L. Bean or Target.  The company says it is also considering a new hotel for the downtown location.

Port Henry will be getting a face lift next year.  The village has received a $131,000 grant for the rehabilitation of six buildings along Main Street.  The grant money will be distributed to six property owners in the downtown business district for repairs and improvements to buildings.  Each property owner must match the grant money.  The grant will also allow for the purchase of two period lighting fixtures for the Main Street Park.

Monday, December 16, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 16, 2013

This latest storm brought plenty of white powder to the ski slopes, just what the resorts were hoping for.  Bolton Valley opened for the season on Friday, and skiers could not be happier.  Sunday was their Santa Ski Day, with anyone dressing as Santa getting a free lift ticket and about sixty Santas taking advantage of the offer.  Burke Mountain Resort and Pico Mountain also officially opened for the season this weekend.

It may be winter, but the Vermont National Guard is already thinking of summer, and a deployment coming up in June.  About 19-hundred Vermonters will be heading south to Louisiana to take part in a three-week massive multi-state training operation.  They’ll join soldiers from four other states at the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk with some of the training including a full-scale simulated battle.  The exercises, which focus on the guard’s combat abilities are expected to cost about 40-million dollars.

The freezing temperatures mean ice fishing season has come early.  Normally the season doesn’t start until late December or mid-January.  But people are already out on the lake.  The owner of Martin's General Store says the ice on Lake Champlain is 6 or 7 inches thick.  But people still need to be careful about where they go on the lake.  

The fresh coating of snow is a big boost for snowmobilers.  VAST, The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, is set to open its network of trails today.  The non-profit group maintains more than 5,000 miles of trails around the state through a network of 130 clubs.  The organization is asking riders to stay off the trails until grooming equipment has passed through.

Firefighters in Burlington are remembering a colleague who passed away unexpectedly on Friday.  The body of David Gale was found on Law Island in Colchester.  He was there hunting and died of an apparent heart attack.  Gale had been a firefighter in Burlington since 1988 and had reached the rank of Captain.  Those who knew him say his dedication to public service will live on forever.  Funeral services for Gale will be held this Wednesday.  The Burlington Fire Department Captain was 49.

Colchester Police say a man robbed the Champlain Farms on Roosevelt Highway armed with a baseball bat. Police were called to the store shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. Police say the clerk reported a man had a baseball bat and demanded money. The clerk complied and the man took off in the director of Juniors Pizza. Police say the clerk described the man as a white male, wearing a dark jacked, a green hooded sweatshirt, dark- colored pants, and a black face mask.

State officials are recommending steps to improve mobile home parks and protect them from future floods.  The recommendations are included in a report that details many of the difficulties faced by mobile home park residents in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Park residents comprise one-third of mobile home occupants in Vermont.  Among the two dozen recommendations are some that are low cost and relatively easy to implement. For example, the study finds that few towns have provisions for mobile homes in their emergency plans.

Friday, December 13, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 13, 2013

If you need to sign up for health insurance through Vermont Health Connect, you have just ten days left to do it.  December 23rd is the deadline for those wanting the insurance in effect as of January 1st.  While sign-ups will be accepted after the 23rd, those applicants will not be eligible for any of the federal subsidies picking up some of the cost.  45,000 Vermonters have already signed up, now that the state website is finally working smoothly after a rocky start.  Vermont comes in second behind Massachusetts as states having the highest number of people who already have health insurance.

Investigators are trying to learn more about the death of a young skier found on Killington Mountain.  21 year-old Jennifer Strohl of Pennsylvania was reported missing yesterday afternoon, and her body was found a short time later just off of the Great Northern Trail.  Authorities say her death at this time does not appear suspicious, adding she was not wearing a helmet and had head injuries after an apparent collision.

Vermont Air National Guard F-16 fighter planes are going to be flying night training missions.  The guard said the night flights will take place last night and tonight of this week and Dec. 17 through Dec. 19.  During these training periods, there will be scheduled multi-aircraft takeoffs from the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington after dark.  All aircraft are expected to be on the ground and operations completed during normal operating hours of the Burlington International Airport.

Police in Rutland are looking for a man who stole money from the cash register at the Quality Inn and Suites.  According to investigators, the unidentified male entered the hotel on South Main Street around 2:30 Wednesday Afternoon and asked to fill out a job application.  The clerk gave the man an application and then left the room.  While the front desk was unattended, police say the man reached over the counter and took $300 from the cash drawer.  Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call the Rutland City Police Department at 773-1816.

A carbon monoxide scare this morning in Rutland has firefighters reminding you to check your CO Detectors.  At about 6:30 this morning, firefighters were called to a residence on North Main Street after a carbon monoxide alarm went off.  Fire officials say they did find unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in the home and determined it was due to a faulty furnace.  Everyone in the home got out when the alarm sounded and no one was injured.  State law requires that all buildings where people sleep in Vermont be equipped with CO detectors.

Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is the second largest ever.  If you match all the numbers, you could win an estimated $400 million.  The jackpot trails only a $656 million jackpot won in March 2012.  The current jackpot has rolled over 20 times without a winner.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 12, 2013

The President of Middlebury College will be stepping down at the end of the next academic year.  Ronald D. Liebowitz announced earlier today that he will step down June 30, 2015.  Liebowitz, Middlebury’s 16th president since the founding of the College in 1800, has served in the office since 2004.  Board Chair Marna Whittington said that the Board of Trustees will provide information about a presidential search following the February board meeting.

The FEMA Office in Williston will be closing at the end of next week.  According to officials, a small group of workers will remain in Vermont after December 20th but command, support, and administrative functions will be coordinated with the region 1 office in Boston.  At the peak of FEMA's operations in Vermont during Irene, there were about 600 employees and contractors working throughout the state.  Currently there are 27 employees and contractors.

Rutland City’s website is back online but with a slightly new address.  The new address is RutlandCity.org.  Until last week, it was RutlandCity.com.  On Friday, the city’s claim to the .com expired and a person or organization from Panama quickly bought the domain.  All the information is the same, it’s just now at RutlandCity.org.  And all the e-mail addresses that used to be at RutlandCity.com are now at RutlandCity.org.  Rutland City has claim to the new domain for the next 10 years.

Vermont State Police are investigating the theft of 50 gallons of Diesel Fuel from a farm in Shoreham.  Police were called the farm on Shoreham Depot Road yesterday morning just after 10 o’clock when they discovered that someone had pried open a box at the farm and stole the fuel from the tank inside.  Anyone with information about the theft is urged to call the state police at 388-4919.

Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury now has Vermont’s largest school solar array.  Gov. Peter Shumlin and others threw the switch on the system today, inaugurating the 157-kilowatt solar array, the largest such system at a school in the state.  Shumlin was joined by state and local officials and representatives of the solar power company the installed the array, SunCommon, and Green Mountain Power.  The 480-panel array can produce enough electricity for about 30 homes and it’s expected to save the school thousands of dollars in electricity costs.

Vermont’s attorney general is suing Bank of America for alleged violations of Vermont’s foreclosure mediation and consumer protection laws.  The lawsuit says the bank billed homeowners in foreclosure for more money than their mediation settlements provided.  And it says Bank of America sent mailings to homeowners containing misrepresentations, including misrepresentations about the amount of money due the bank and the status of the foreclosure action.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 11, 2013

Gov. Peter Shumlin is continuing to say he didn’t know the extent of problems with the Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange website until after Labor Day.  That’s despite numerous warnings beginning in the spring from a company brought in to review development of the project about problems with the website, and its urgings that the highest levels of state government be notified.  Shumlin told a news conference earlier today he’s tried to be transparent about problems with Vermont Health Connect.

Voters in Vergennes said “Yes” to both a proposed natural gas pipeline and a bond for improvements and repairs at Vergennes Union High School.  Vermont Gas says the first phase of the pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury will extend availability of natural gas to 98-percent of homes and businesses in Vergennes.  The final vote margin in Vergennes was more than two to one in favor of the pipeline.  As for the bond, people in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union voted for the $2.8 million dollar bond.  The funding will go towards constructing a new kitchen, work to the cafeteria and the auditorium.

A woman attached by a bobcat last week in Putnam is recovering.  According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the bobcat attacked the woman after she went to bring in her dogs after noticing the animal near her home.  The woman was able to get away from the bobcat and call family members for help.  A press release says an Emergency Conservation Officer took the bobcat from the person who killed it.  The bobcat tested positive for rabies.  State environmental conservation officials say bobcat attacks on humans are extremely rare.

Vermont has dropped to the second healthiest state in the country, after Hawaii, in a national ranking.  America’s Health Ranking 2013 was released today.  The Health Department says Vermont, long ranked as the healthiest state, had the highest rate of high school graduation and the second lowest rates of violent crime, premature death and the percentage of people who lack health insurance.  Vermont also ranked high for its rate of obesity at 23.7 percent and diabetes at 7.3 percent.  But the state ranked low in its childhood immunization rates, a statewide outbreak of whooping cough and a greater prevalence of high-risk or binge drinking.

Vermont has reclaimed its title as the top state in the country for the production of Peace Corps volunteers.  In rankings released today by the Peace Corps, Vermont reclaimed the top spot in the country that last year was held by the District of Columbia with Vermont second.  The same rankings found New Hampshire was third.  The top Peace Corps volunteer producing metropolitan area of the country is Ithaca, N.Y., followed by Burlington.  There are currently 49 Vermonters serving as Peace Corps volunteers across the world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 10, 2013

The Vermont Health Department says no cases of influenza have been reported in the state this season, but the flu is on its way.  Officials are urging everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated, this week is National Influenza Vaccination Week.  Cases of the flu have been reported in surrounding states and in the province of Quebec.  Those most at risk for serious illness, hospitalization, and death from the flu are pregnant women, children too young to be vaccinated, people age 65 and older, and people with chronic conditions.

A vote in Vergennes today could decide if the Addison county pipeline expansion project gets the town's support.  The city council already supports it, but some people say there wasn't enough public input.  Also on the ballot, a $2.9 million bond for Vergennes Union High School.  If you want to voice your opinion on either issue head to the polls today.  You can vote until 7 o’clock tonight at the Green Street Fire Station.

Firefighters in Middlebury were busy yesterday battling an equipment fire.  About 30 firefighters responded to a blaze at the Champlain Valley Equipment facility on Exchange Street.  The Middlebury fire chief says there's smoke damage to the back shop, but they are open for business today.  Officials don’t think the fire is suspicious.

Police dogs throughout the state are getting protective gear, thanks to a program called Vested Interest in K-9’s Incorporated.  22 in all, with a dozen being state police dogs and the others from municipal departments now have the vests protecting them from being shot or stabbed.  Each vest costs nearly a thousand dollars and has a five-year warranty.  Vested Interest in K-9’s is a non-profit based in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Vermont's cut-your-own firewood lottery is back and registration for the program is now open.  Under the program residents are allowed to harvest wood from designated lots in state forests.  The trees are marked for cutting near forest roads.  Each lot costs $30 and yields about three cords of wood. This year the lots will be open for two weeks in January in Duxbury, Orange, Johnson, Groton, Westmore and Sutton.  The cutting rights will be awarded by lottery.

School Board Members in the UD-3 will be meeting next Wednesday, December 18th, to finalize a budget for the 2014-2015 school year at Middlebury Union middle and high schools.  The currently proposed version has a 2.8-percent spending increase as well as 3.2 fewer educator positions at MUMS.  Current projections call for MUMS enrollment to fluctuate from the current 298 students to 256 in 2014-15, then bump up to 273 in 2015-16 before leveling off in the 250-range for the following 3 or 4 years.  They hope to have the budget finalized at next Wednesday’s Meeting and ready to present to the voters on Town Meeting Day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 9, 2013

According to a national report, Vermont ranks 11th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and helping smokers quit.  A press release says Vermont spends $3.9 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.  Due to a looming cut, advocates want state legislators to act to prevent harm to the state’s tobacco control program.  Since 1999, Vermont has reduced the state’s high school smoking rate by 58 percent (from 33.4% to 13.3% who smoke).

A man from Killington is in court this afternoon answering to charges of a deadly case of hit-and-run.  27-year-old Michael DeBellis is accused of hitting a man walking on Killington Road.  The body of 26-year-old Kyle Wilson of Enfield, New Hampshire was found on the side of the road early yesterday morning by friends after he’d called earlier to say he was walking to their home and never arrived.  DeBellis was arrested last night after the investigation by State Police and the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s office led them to him.

Governor Peter Shumlin is joining three other northeastern governors today for an announcement taking on air pollution from other states.  Shumlin is in Washington D-C today along with governors from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Delaware, talking about their joint effort to fight air pollution from the Midwest and South which ends up in the Northeast.  The governors maintain the air pollution is affecting millions in the northeast, and want to see requirements and regulations on businesses and utilities in those nine specific states.

Tomorrow, voters in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union will decide on the fate of a $2.88 million bond request for work at Vergennes Union High School.  Most of the money will be used to funk a new kitchen and cafeteria and upgrades to the school auditorium that would return it to full use.

Vermont lawmakers have drafted a bill to make it easier to catch jewelry thieves.  Legislation was finalized Friday and it will be voted on next month.  The legislation will require all jewelers, including cash for gold shops to be certified.  They would be required to take pictures of anyone selling jewels and holding that item for 10 days.  Police would create a database of all stolen goods.  Officials offer this tip, take pictures of your stuff.  If it's ever stolen, you'll have a better chance of getting it back.

People who live near six Vermont lakes are banding together to try to focus more resources on lake protection efforts.  Organizers think it will be easier for the state to work with one larger organization.  The group says the state's smaller lakes: Lake St. Catherine, Lake Bomoseen, Lake Dunmore/Fern Lake, Lake Hortonia, and Sunrise Lake, face serious challenges from pollution, invasive species and stress from development.  The Coalition of Vermont Lakes says it will seek to improve conditions through research, education and community involvement.

Friday, December 6, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 6, 2013

Governor Peter Shumlin has ordered that flags at Vermont facilities be flown at half-staff to honor the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela.  Shumlin issued the order today following a Presidential Proclamation.  All U.S., state of Vermont, POW and other flags at state public buildings and grounds will remain at half-staff through sunset on Monday.

Vermont State Police are investigating the theft of approximately 12 Christmas trees from Green Haven Nursery in New Haven.  They were stolen overnight sometime between Wednesday and Thursday.  Police say the value of each tree is worth approximately $40.  The nursery recently had about 500 Christmas trees delivered.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Vermont State Police at (802) 388-4919.

A new website tracks Vermont's drinking water quality.  A press release says the website displays data that tracks the presence of 10 contaminants such as arsenic, nitrate, uranium, and the pesticide atrazine.  The website is supplied by 100 community water systems and serves 400,000 residents.  The Health Department says, “We wanted to provide a site for people to learn more about water quality and health issues in the towns where they live.”

The Middlebury Selectboard will meet next Tuesday, before their regularly scheduled meeting to review the town's proposed fiscal year 2015 General Fund Budget.  That meeting will take place from 4:30 to 6:15 in the Large Conference Room at the Town Offices.  Then at 7 o’clock, they will have their regular meeting.

New labels are on the way next year for Maple Syrup.  Beginning next year, the rules will change for the way Maple Syrup is graded.  Instead of the Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, Grade B, and Grade C System.  The new descriptions will be Golden Color/Delicate Taste, Amber Color/Rich Taste, Dark Color/Robust Taste, Very Dark Color/Strong Taste And Processing Grade.  Other maple syrup producers throughout the U.S. and Canada currently use a similar system to describe their syrup by color and taste.  Producers here in Vermont will have until January of 2015 to fully implement the new grading rules.

Hundreds of Vermonters could lose unemployment benefits early if Congress doesn't act.  Unemployment assistance varies across the United States, but millions will see theirs cut short December 28 if current law isn't changed.  In Vermont, 6,300 receive an unemployment benefit check. But the deadline only applies to emergency benefits, a 14-week extension to the state's regular 26-week limit.

On Tuesday, voters in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union will decide on the fate of a $2.88 million bond request for work at Vergennes Union High School.  Most of the money will be used to funk a new kitchen and cafeteria and upgrades to the school auditorium that would return it to full use.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 5, 2013

Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed Vermont’s new five-year emergency plan, molded by the state’s experiences in responding to and recovering from 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene.  Speaking today at the headquarters of Vermont Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Shumlin said Irene taught that government needs to work together.  He says the new plan meets the needs of Vermonters before, during and after a catastrophic event.

An internal memo of the Vermont State Police seems to suggest that they are supposed to meet quotas when it comes to issuing tickets.  The memo surfaced during the investigation into Deputy Andi Higbee’s DUI charge.  In it, officers on a special detail called "Sober Summer" was instructed to stop two cars per hour.  Vermont gets three-million dollars for programs like "Sober Summer" or "Click It or Ticket."

The fight over a methadone clinic in South Burlington is heating up again. Wednesday night the school board voted to approve an appeal to the zoning board to keep the clinic from the town’s schools.  The Howard Center opened on Dorset to meet the needs of the many addicts who live in the district.  However, the school district says that the clinic is too close to the schools.

Vermont biologists will be testing more than 700 blood samples taken from deer and moose across the state this fall as part of an effort to track the virus that causes Eastern Equine Encephalitis.  Biologists say that mapping where the virus is found will help broaden the state’s understanding of the spread of the virus — which killed two people in Vermont in 2012 and two horses this year.  EEE antibodies detected in deer and moose have been found in every Vermont country.

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign is down in Vermont so far this year.  A press release says with fewer days to collect from its street corners and shopping mall locations, Salvation Army leaders are hoping for a surge in public response to reach the Red Kettle Campaign goal.  They say they are about $25,000 behind compared to last year’s income at this time.  This year's goal in Vermont is to raise $245,700.

Vermont state employees will see 2.5 percent pay increases in each of the next two Julys, as well as improved dental coverage under terms of a tentative contract deal.  Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding and Vermont State Employees' Association President Shelley Martin announced the agreements with three VSEA bargaining units this afternoon.  Those units cover corrections, supervisory and non-management workers throughout state government.  The agreement must still be ratified by the union rank and file.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 4, 2013

Vermont State Police say they found the body of a missing Ripton man.  54-year-old James Daignault was last seen on November 23rd or 24th.  He had met friends to go to a local food shelf and never returned home.  Around 9:30 p.m. Monday, police found his body and his car.  The car had gone over the embankment and was in the river at the intersection of Route 125 and Steam Mill Road.  Police are now investigating the crash.

A Vermont caregiver was convicted yesterday for falsely obtaining money from the Vermont Medicaid program.  A press release says Candice Swan plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of false pretenses yesterday.  According to court documents, Swan falsified time sheets to get payment for services that were not provided under the Vermont Medicaid program.  Swan was sentenced to 2 and a half to 6 years, all suspended, and placed on probation.  Swan can not work as a care provider or serve as an employer-of-record under ay Medicaid waiver program for 5 years.  Swan was also ordered to pay $6,206 in restitution to Vermont Medicaid.

Opponents of a plan to bring the F-35 fighter jets to the Burlington International Airport say they’re undeterred by the Air Force’s decision to base 18 of the planes with the Vermont Air National Guard.  South Burlington lawyer James Marc Leas says they’re planning to use a combination of continued public pressure and legal actions to keep the planes from being based in Vermont, scheduled for 2020.  The Air Force announced yesterday that the Air Guard station at the South Burlington airport would be the first Air National Guard unit to get the planes.  Opponents worry about increased noise from the planes and the danger of a crash posed by the new airplanes.  The guard says they can fly the planes to minimize noise and the planes are safe.

We're just a few weeks away from an important deadline.  Come January 1, Congress will need to pass a new farm bill otherwise we would revert back to a 63-year-old dairy policy.  Senator Patrick Leahy stopped by the St. Albans Co-op Creamery yesterday to talk about how negotiations are going.  He said, this not only affect Vermont farms, but also the entire nation.  No member of Congress goes hungry by choice, but millions of Americans don't have that choice."  An example of just how this could affect your wallets, milk prices could double!

Vermont liquor investigators say a 28-year-old Burlington woman is facing charges she illegally sold five cases of a popular, hard-to-get beer online.  Investigators from the Vermont Department of Liquor Control say they spotted an online ad for Heady Topper.  Undercover investigators subsequently met with Stephanie Hoffman who provided 120, 16-ounce cans of the alcoholic beverage for $825.  Hoffman now faces a charge of selling an alcoholic beverage without authorization.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 3, 2013

The U.S. Air Force has selected Burlington, Vermont to base the new F-35 fighter jets.  The announcement came during a press conference at Camp Johnson earlier today.  The Burlington Air Guard Station was selected because it presents the best mix of infrastructure, airspace and overall cost to the Air Force.  The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive in 2020.  The Air Force says the F-35As will replace the F-16 Fighting Falcons currently assigned to Burlington.  The Vermont Air National Guard base will be the first to host F-35A Lightning II jets.

A fire this morning in Moriah Center has claimed a life.  The blaze at a house on Dugway Road is being investigated by New York State Police as a possible arson, but police have not yet released any details.  The fire was reported at about 5 a.m. this morning.  Police this afternoon say the victim has tentatively been identified as 22-year-old Sierra Daha of Moriah Center.  Officials say the cause of death has not been determined.  Troopers say two other people inside the home made it out safely.

Vermont is bracing for a food stamp fine from the federal government, due to an error in how food stamp amounts were calculated.  Vermont has an 8.5% error rate, when a 5% rate is permitted.  Some households received nearly a thousand dollars for which they were ineligible.  The state expects to be fined, but hopes the federal government will allow them to use the whole fine to pay to solve the issue.

A former Vermont fire captain has been sentenced to 13 months in jail after he was convicted of conspiring to set more than 20 fires on public land in 2008.  U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss said the crimes committed by 30-year-old George Allen were ‘‘truly outrageous.’’ Another former firefighter was given a one-to-two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to fourth-degree arson; another paid a $2,000 fine.

Vermont State police are looking for a driver who took off on foot after crashing a car which then caught fire.  Police say they responded to Hinesburg Road in Charlotte, where fire crews were putting out the flames on a Chevy Malibu.  Witnesses said they saw a man running away from that crash.  A K-9 unit was not able to find the driver.  Police say it appears the person driving lost control and smashed into a tree.  No one else was in the car.

Vermont Health Connect Navigators are in Addison County hosting events to educate Vermonters about new health coverage options.  On Thursday they will be at the Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes and at the Porter Medical Center Computer Lab in Middlebury from 1:30 to 5 p.m.  The Navigators will also be able to answer any of your questions on health coverage options.  Also, on Saturday, December 7, Vermont Health Connect is hosting enrollment assistance events at 10 computer labs across the state.  The closest one will be at Champlain Valley Union High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The event focus on Vermonters who are purchasing health insurance plans on their own, as opposed to getting coverage through an employer.

Monday, December 2, 2013

WVTK Local & State News December 2, 2013

Vermont Health Connect will off-line tonight while officials are processing updates to the health insurance website.  It’s expected the upgrade will take until late tomorrow morning.  Premium processing for small business customers is still being tested.  Later this week after the upgrade is complete, bills will be mailed to individual and families who have selected plans through the website. The bills must be paid by check or money order by January 7.  Credit card payments will not be accepted until security testing of the payment function has been completed.

Vermont State Police troopers from the New Haven office are warning chain saw owners to lock up their saws after a spike of chain saw thefts.  The most recent theft was reported today after a Poulin Pro chain saw was stolen from a shed in Lincoln.  The saw has a 16-inch bar on it and an estimated value of $175.  Troopers say they have seen a recent spike in chain saw thefts. 

A powerball ticket worth $40,000 was sold in Colchester last week.  Vermont lottery officials say the winning ticket, which was sold at Kevin’s Kwik Stop, matched four out of the five numbers, plus the powerball.  By adding the $1 powerball option, the winner quadrupled their prize amount of $10,000 to $40,000.  The winning numbers were 05-26-44-45-57 and the Powerball was 29.  The jackpot for the drawing was $70,000,000.  Wednesday’s jackpot is estimated at $81 million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Vermont will be holding public meetings as part of an effort to seek public input on a recently released draft proposal to clean up Lake Champlain.  They first meetings are being held today in St. Albans and Swanton.  Meetings in our area are scheduled for December 10th in Middlebury and Burlington, and December 11th in Rutland

Flu season is approaching its peak months and still a lot of people have not been inoculated. Health experts say, don't delay, get vaccinated.  Authorities have noticed a slight uptick in the number of cases, most of which have been diagnosed in the southern part of the country.  Although there's no sign of a major outbreak at this time, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get vaccinated.  This year, the CDC is recommending that anyone six months and older get inoculated.  Study after study has shown the best way to fight the flu is to get the shot.

A second round of high-level talks is uderway today for Governor Peter Shumlin, the owners of Vermont Yankee and other officials.  The talks deal with the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant, which its owners, Entergy, plan on shutting down for economic reasons.  While the state and Entergy have been at odds for years, state officials say they hope to get an agreement with the company on the terms of decommissioning.  The talks are covering a lot of issues such as dismantling the plant and removing radioactive components.

A pair of bells from the old Mineville and Moriah schools will have a new home, at Moriah Central School thanks to a local Girl Scout.  12-year-old Brooke Mildon, a Cadette Girl Scout led the project to retrieve the old school bells from storage and place them near the entrance of the current school in Port Henry.  A dedication ceremony for the bells will be held this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the school.  Refreshments will follow in the school cafeteria.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 21, 2013

The biggest challenge for Vermont lawmakers in 2014 is shaping up to be the budget.  The Administration Secretary told members of the Legislature Wednesday they’ve got some major challenges ahead, and that includes a projected budget gap of 70-million dollars.  House Speaker Shap Smith, who organized the briefing Wednesday says money will dominate the session, from property taxes to pension shortfalls to costs for health care.  A clearer financial picture is expected in January.

Efforts to bring back passenger rail service to western Vermont are a big step closer to reality. Earlier today, a special legislative committee authorized the Agency of Transportation to spend federal grant money to upgrade the rails from Rutland 20 miles north to Leicester.  Once the project is complete, all but 12 of the 75-mile stretch between Burlington and Rutland will have been upgraded.  State officials could apply as soon as January for grants to upgrade the final 12 miles.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and other top state officials are in talks with the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant's owners about how to dismantle the site and handle spent fuel after the plant closes late next year.  Governor Shumlin, Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia and others met with high-ranking Entergy Corp. officials yesterday and plan to meet again December 2. It's the first time state leaders have met with the company to discuss decommissioning since the closing was announced in August.

Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources is offering some guidance on the implementation of the state's new recycling law.  The law, passed last year, requires statewide recycling by July 2015 and diverting food scraps from landfills by July 2020.  The agency presented a report to the Legislature today in which it recommends requiring all municipalities to join a solid waste management district; leveling the playing field for all commercial haulers collecting municipal solid waste; establishing a grants/loans program to support private/public sector capital investments; and implementing a "pay-as-you-throw" system.

Senator Patrick Leahy voted in favor of making a change in the U.S. Senate filibuster rules.  A press release says these changes will ensure the Senate's ability to confirm qualified nominees to judicial and executive posts.  Officials say federal vacancies have hovered around 90.  Leahy, the President Pro Tempore and the Senate's longest serving member, presided over the series of procedural votes.

AAA says 43.4 million Americans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. That's down slightly from last year.  AAA says majority of travelers will be traveling by automobile. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest single day of travel with 37% of travelers departing for trips November 27.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 20, 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders wants to see the federal minimum wage go up.  It’s currently 7.25 an hour, and he’s co-sponsoring a bill to raise that to $10.10.  He says the legislation will give a much-needed raise to 30 million Americans, adding it’s something which has to be done.  The U-S Senate is expected to take up the bill soon.

It could any day now for the Public Service Board to give its blessing to Vermont Gas Systems for the first phase of a major natural gas pipeline extension project.  Vermont Gas is so confident, in fact, that its lawyers filed a massive application with the PSB for Phase Two.  That segment would cover a 25-mile expansion from Middlebury south and west through Cornwall and Shoreham and under Lake Champlain to a New York paper mill.  Phase One extends the pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury.

Public safety and school officials from around Vermont are gathering in South Burlington to discuss strategies for keeping Vermont’s educational facilities safe.  Nearly 300 members of local school crisis teams, as well as administrators and first responders, are at today’s daylong Statewide School Safety Conference at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center.  The event is to provide an overview of school safety issues and crisis response by experts in the field.  Workshops will be held on school safety by members of the Vermont School Crisis Planning Team, and the Montpelier School District crisis team will present a simulated crisis exercise.

Green Mountain Power (GMP) opened its new Energy Innovation Center in Rutland today.  Green Mountain Power says the Innovation Center will help them consolidate their real estate footprint to save millions of dollars for customers.  The facility will house workers from the company and workers from Efficiency Vermont and Neighborworks of Western Vermont, a partnership believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

Vermont Tech successfully launched a satellite into space last night.  A press release says the CubeSat satellite, Vermont Tech's Lunar Lander satellite, was built and programmed at the college.  The satellite will remain in space for 3 to 5 years to test the navigation components.  The info they will gather will be used to potentially send a satellite to the moon.  Vermont Tech is the first college in New England to launch a cube satellite into space.

Burlington officials say a long-planned highway project that would make it easier to get into and out of Vermont's largest city is a big step closer to moving forward.  The city settled an appeal with a landowner this week, and that removes the final obstacle to the proposed traffic route from the end of Interstate 189 on Shelburne Road to Burlington’s South End.  This latest settlement comes less than two months after the city settled another appeal with Vermont Railway. Both appeals involve environmental permits, and while more appeals remain the one settled this week was the last one which could have stopped the project.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 19, 2013

Attorney General William Sorrell announced earlier today that his Office, along with the attorneys general of 36 states and the District of Columbia, entered into a $17 million settlement with Google for bypassing security settings on Apple’s Safari web browser back in 2011 and 2012.  Vermont’s share is $467,000.  The attorney general says Google altered settings on users' web browsers so that they could get around privacy settings.  Those actions violated state consumer protection and computer privacy laws.

An elderly woman from Benson is safe and sound after spending the night in the woods.  State police say 78-year-old Francheska Chalizze was last seen at her home at about 11:30 yesterday morning and was reported missing at about 11:30 last night.  State Police searchers along with members of the Benson Fire Department, New England K9 Search and Rescue and others searched for Chalizze throughout the night.  At about 7:30 this morning, Chalizze was located by the crew in a Department of Homeland Security helicopter, just a few miles south of her residence, in the Cold Spring area of West Haven.

Four Vermont schools will be participating in a program designed to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math.  The Vermont Education Agency is providing $2,000 grants for schools in Barre, Essex, Middlebury and Newport to help develop programs that would be shared with other schools.  Educators will receive professional development, technical assistance, and access to ideas from a national network through The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity.

The Burlington City Council passed some new gun regulations last night.  The council passed two resolutions banning guns from buildings with liquor licenses and requiring safe storage for seized weapons.  However, the council delayed a vote on a resolution that would allow police to take guns from people suspected of domestic abuse.  Public hearings on the other two resolutions will begin in January.  All of these resolutions still need legislative approval.

Police in Burlington are looking for three suspects wanted in a home invasion Monday night.  Investigators say the three men went into the home on Summit Street near Champlain College, showed a gun and made off with property.  No one was hurt, and police are not saying exactly what was stolen.  Investigators also say there’s no reason to think this crime was random.

The Winooksi Police Department is seeking the location of a larceny suspect.  Police say 26-year-old Amber Richer stole about 40 packs of cigarettes while the clerk was distracted at Chuck's Mobile last night.  Richer was captured on surveillance video.  Richer is currently a transient.  Anyone with information on her location is asked to contact the Winooski Police Department.

Monday, November 18, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 18, 2013

A recent report by Avalere Health, commissioned by Vermont Partners for Health Care Reform says the state of Vermont will need roughly $2 billion in new taxes to support a single-payer health-care program.  The new report echoes the same projection prepared by Ethan Allen Institute of Vermont board member Wendy Wilton.  Both Avalere and Wilton conclude that the Shumlin administration’s estimate of $1.6 billion is too low. 

Police are looking for a man who robbed a convenience store at knifepoint in Rutland.  Police say the man, wearing a bandanna and sunglasses, demanded money from the clerk after entering Mac’s Market on Route 4 at about 9:50 last night.  No one was hurt.  Anyone with information on the robbery is encouraged to contact state police.

The Vermont State Police Rutland Barracks, along with local and county law enforcement officials will be conducting sobriety and safety checkpoints during the Thanksgiving holiday.  This will take place from November 27 through December 1.  A press release says in addition to checkpoints, troopers will be aggressively patrolling and enforcing motor vehicle laws. This includes aggressive driving, speeding, and seatbelt usage.  Police are hoping that the checkpoints reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities.

Vermont State Police say a motorist has suffered cuts and bruises after she lost control of her car while going around a sharp curve in Cornwall.  22-year-old Molly Kalter of Groton, Mass., told authorities she was driving on Route 30 around 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon when her car began sliding while going around a curve.  She lost control and the car rolled over twice before landing upright.  She had no passengers.  Kalter was treated at a local hospital for her injuries.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch was not among the 39 Democrats who voted Friday for a Republican-sponsored health care bill.  President Barack Obama proposed allowing state insurance commissioners the authority to extend current insurance policies for at least a year even if the policies are not in compliance with the Affordable Health Care Act.  The Republican plan allows people to keep that policy as long as they want, and for other consumers to sign up for it if they want it.  Welch called it a bad idea explicitly intended to unravel the Affordable Health Care Act.

The Vermont Health Department is launching a program to distribute an antidote for opium-based drug overdoses directly to addicts.  Within the next few weeks, the drug Narcan will arrive at the Good Neighbor Health Clinic in White River Junction and at the Howard Center in Burlington.  The drug will be distributed directly to addicts, their friends and family.  The project is aimed at curbing drug abuse and enhancing treatment resources.

Friday, November 15, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 15, 2013

A Rutland man has pleaded guilty to setting fires on Green Mountain National Forest land.  Jack Dickson pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to three misdemeanor charges of setting a fire on national land without authority, leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it and damaging government property.  Dickson was fined $500 for each offense as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.  However, the fines will be suspended on the condition that Dickson isn’t charged again with a federal, state or local crime during a two-year probationary period.  U.S. Forest Service agents and state police arrested Dickson after an investigation into a 6-acre wildfire that burned a section of land in Mount Holly in March 2012.

Its business as usual at Winooski schools today after the superintendent said a call about a shooter in the building was ‘‘a panicked response’’ to a home invasion.  Police received a 911 call yesterday about a home invasion nearby.  Then another 911 call came in from someone who reported seeing ‘‘the shooter’’ from the home invasion inside the school.  More than 75 law enforcement officers went to the scene.  About two dozen students were in the building at the time the school went into lockdown.  No one was hurt.  No arrests have been made. 

The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation is warning Vermonters to be aware of potential scams regarding Vermont Health Connect.  The department says they received reports of fraudulent phone calls made to Vermonters by people pretending to sell health insurance in order to obtain personal information.  The scams are efforts to trick consumers into revealing Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information under the guise of enrolling them in a health insurance plan on Vermont Health Connect.  The state says the federal government and other states have alerted consumers to watch out for people impersonating people helping consumers obtain health insurance policies.  The helpers, called navigators, are state-approved personnel who have been trained to guide people through the enrollment process.

Hubbardton Forge in Castleton has a new owner.  Bunker Hill Capital, a Boston-based investor announced yesterday it’s purchased the well-known Vermont lighting company.  Hubbardton Forge has been in operation for 40 years, creating hand-forged lighting products for homes and businesses.  Bunker Hill is not saying how much it paid for the Vermont business, but says this became a great opportunity to partner with a U-S manufacturer offering unique products.

The Woodstock victory in the Division III Vermont football state championship will stand.  That’s the ruling of the Vermont Principal’s Association on the appeal made by the other team, Mill River.  It all came over a botched call on the third down in overtime in the game Saturday in Rutland.  If the call had been made correctly, it would have been a turnover resulting in Mill River winning, but instead Woodstock scored on the next play and won.  While the committee hearing the appeal voted unanimously to deny it, members agreed to remain open to looking at whether technology like instant replay can be used appropriately in some capacity.

Vermont’s rifle deer hunting season gets underway this weekend.  Because Thanksgiving is late this year, the firearms’ seasons are later than most years.  The rifle season starts Saturday, one weekend later than normal.  Muzzleloader season begins Dec. 7.  The late bear hunting season also starts Saturday and runs through Nov. 24.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 14, 2013

The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation is warning Vermonters to be aware of potential scams regarding Vermont Health Connect.  The department says they received reports of fraudulent phone calls made to Vermonters by people pretending to sell health insurance in order to obtain personal information.  The scams are efforts to trick consumers into revealing Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information under the guise of enrolling them in a health insurance plan on Vermont Health Connect.  The state says the federal government and other states have alerted consumers to watch out for people impersonating people helping consumers obtain health insurance policies.  The helpers, called navigators, are state-approved personnel who have been trained to guide people through the enrollment process.

The Gold Star Feed and Grain mill in Brandon has closed, but its feed will be manufactured by another supplier.  The mill closed last week and had six employees.  Andrew Dugan, Gold Star general manager, said several factors went into the decision to close, but declined to offer specifics. 

Vermont should have 99-percent broadband Internet coverage by the end of the year.  Governor Peter Shumlin had hoped everyone in the state would have access to broadband by then, but it won’t quite make it.  He says they’ve found solutions for all the addresses in the state, except for three, which he says is pretty extraordinary.  The governor maintains Vermont is going to be the most connected rural state in the country when they get done.

New recycling symbols debuted in Montpelier this week, showing recycling, food scraps, and just plain trash.  Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz says half of what we’re throwing out today can be recycled or composted, and Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law addresses that.  By July of 2015, recyclables are banned from landfills and so are food scraps by 2020.  The new logos will help educate the public on the new program, while companies start working on how they’ll actually be collecting the extra product.

Vermont’s Attorney General wants to see menthol cigarettes banned.  The Food and Drug Administration has already banned all flavored cigarettes, but A-G Bill Sorrell is joining 25 other attorneys general to add menthol to the group.  He sees it as a way of cutting down on younger smokers.  Sorrell expects the FDA to make a decision on the demand within six months.

A South Burlington methadone clinic can stay right where it is, according to a court ruling Wednesday.  The state environmental court ruled the HowardCenter clinic off of Dorset Street can remain open, saying it complies with community zoning rules.  The South Burlington School District had appealed for the clinic’s shutdown because it’s about 500 feet away from the city’s middle and high schools.  The lawyer for the district says the school board could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 13, 2013

A missing teen from Ferrisburgh has been found safe and sound in Burlington.  17-year-old Hailey Rheaume-Fox was at first considered a runaway who had remained in contact with her mother through text messages.  But police became concerned for her safety last week when they received information that someone else had Hailey's phone and was sending those messages.  Yesterday afternoon, police say Hailey called her mother and told her she was in Burlington.  Police took Hailey into custody and turned her over to state social workers.

Police are investigating an armed robbery that took place this morning at the Days Inn located on Shelburne Road.   Police say a woman entered the Days Inn around 5:30, approached the desk, and removed an disclosed amount of cash from the register.  The woman was wearing a half-style ski mask and was armed with a clever shaped knife. The suspect told the clerk she also had a firearm in her pocket.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Shelburne Police Department (802)-985-8051.

More Vermont state employees are under investigation for timecard fraud.  Attorneys for the state's Human Resources Department say they've identified 21 potential cases of padding time cards. Four have been sent to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigation.  Earlier this year, former State Trooper Jim Deeghan admitted stealing more than $200,000 from taxpayers over six years by logging fake hours and tickets.

The latest numbers from the state show 3,138 people have signed up for insurance through Vermont Health Connect.  The state-run health insurance group says more than 13,000 people have created accounts on the website, and 130,000 people have viewed it.  The website has had glitches since its October launch. This caused Governor Peter Shumlin to push back the insurance deadline from January to March.

A man accused of trying to kidnap a 14-month-old baby in Burlington says he didn’t do it.  Andrew Barrows was in court yesterday and pleaded not guilty, but a judge still ordered him held without bail because he has a pending sexual assault charge from earlier this year.  Guilty verdicts in either case could earn Barrows, who is 24, a life sentence.  Police say they believe Barrow was drunk when he tried to snatch a stroller with the baby in it away from the child’s parents at the corner of North and North Prospect Streets.

A young man is pleading not guilty to driving drunk and causing the death of his friend.  Police say 21-year-old Justin Pierce was drunk and speeding when he lost control of his car which crashed in Woodstock.  22-year-old John Ferrero was a passenger in the car and died.  Pierce appeared in court yesterday to enter his not guilty plea, and is now free on conditions but due back in court next month.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WVTK Local & State News November 12, 2013

Vermont State Police are asking for your help in finding a missing elderly man.  88-year-old Robert Shaw was last seen yesterday at his home in Whiting.  Investigators say Shaw is currently on medication for dementia and a heart condition, plus he has mobility issues and is unsteady on his feet.  He’s believed to be driving a silver 2008 Lexus with a partial Maryland registration, and anyone seeing Shaw is asked to call State Police.

Some Middlebury College students are holding a vigil this Thursday for typhoon victims.  Middlebury College says the vigil will take place in front of Mead Chapel at 5 p.m.  The Philippines Red Cross reports at least 1,200 dead and more than 618,00 people are displaced from their homes and communities.

Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Systems and other hospitals announced a partnership to promote and expand participation in Vermont Health Connect today.  A press release says 18 hospitals have agreed to participate.  Shumlin said. “This is a first step toward controlling increases in health care costs, and ensuring everyone had access to quality, affordable coverage.”  

The Vermont Air National Guard has some night flying training operations on tap for this month, with the first one being tonight.  Two multi-aircraft takeoffs after dark are scheduled, with all F-16’s on the ground and all operations completed during normal operating hours of the Burlington International Airport.  Training will run from tonight through Friday night, November 15th, and next Tuesday the 19th through Friday, November 22nd.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will again visit the area, this time bringing holiday cheer on a holiday.  Decorated in holiday lights and carrying a live musical show, the train is scheduled to pass through the North Country on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28.  The train will arrive in Ticonderoga at 3:15 p.m. and stop in Port Henry at 5 p.m. Times are approximate.  This will be the eighth year the train will stop in Ticonderoga. It has stopped in Port Henry the past seven years.

A report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says Vermont has dropped two spots and now ranks seventh in the country on energy efficiency.  Vermont gets high marks for electricity and natural gas efficiency programs.  But because Vermont's rural nature makes mass transit relatively difficult, it loses points for transportation.  Vermont also lags behind national leader Massachusetts on developing combined heat and power projects.