Thursday, January 10, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 10, 2013

Auditions for the Middlebury Players' April production "The Three Penny Opera" will be held at two local locations.  The first one is this evening at 7 in Middlebury College Axinn Hall, Room 229 and the next audition takes place Saturday afternoon at 2 at the Middlebury Town Hall Theater.

The “Ski Bum League” ski race series at the Snow Bowl starts tomorrow. The league is a recreational series and all levels of skiers are encouraged to participate. There are 10 races scheduled on Fridays from 1:30 to 3:00 PM through March. An après ski gathering follows each race. You can form a team of at least 3 people or be placed on an existing team. Join the fun! Contact for more information.

14th Annual Face Off Against Breast Cancer Charity Hockey Tournament is coming up on January 19th & 20th Proceeds benefit the Cancer Patient Support Program's patient services and emergency fund and are earmarked for breast cancer patients.  This year's tournament brings eleven women's hockey teams from all over Vermont. In addition to hockey games; the Face Off Against Breast Cancer also includes several other associated activities on the weekend. A benefit concert with The Horse Traders will rock Two Brothers Tavern in Middlebury on the 19th from 9 PM to 1 AM. The band's cover charge and 10 percent of all sales during the event will be donated to the Face Off Against Breast Cancer.  Ongoing hospitality and refreshments will be served in the Warming Hut. Game schedules available at

The focus of Vermont wood manufacturers will be in Middlebury later this month. Members of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association will hold their annual meeting at the Middlebury Inn on Friday January 25.  The statewide meeting will kick off at 9 AM with a membership tour of Middlebury College's biomass gasification plant, which uses wood chips as fuel.  Following the tour, the annual business meeting, along with various industry presentations, will follow the inn. For more information and registration contact the VWMA office at 802-747-7900 or download registration form from the VWMA website at

Vermont State Police in New Haven are investigating the burglary of a residence located on Route 116 in Bristol.  Items taken from the residence included jewelry.  Access to the residence was gained through the back door.  Police said that the burglary occurred between 8:30 AM and 4 PM on Monday.  Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Vermont State Police at the New Haven Barracks (802-388-4919). Information can also be submitted online at or text CRIMES(274637) to keyword VTIPS.

St. Peter's Parish in Vergennes will host a winter breakfast this Sunday morning from 8 - 10. Members of the Knights of Columbus will prepare the breakfast and the menu includes eggs, hot cakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, and more. Family and friends are welcome. The cost is $8 for adults; seniors over age 60, and children ages 6-12, $6; children under 6 years are free; families with five or more eat for $27.  A 50/50 raffle and drawings for a free breakfast will be held. Bring empty bottles for the Youth Ministry bottle drive.

As the Legislature convened yesterday, the Rutland County delegation was short a member.  Gov. Peter Shumlin has yet to name someone to fill out the term of Sen. William Carris but is expected to appoint a replacement next week. Carris announced his resignation last month, citing health reasons.  The Rutland County Senate District held a caucus last week and sent three names to the governor’s office that included former Shrewsbury representative Eldred French, former House and Senate member Cheryl Hooker and one-time Senate candidate Bob Baird. Gubernatorial spokeswoman Susan Allen said Shumlin had yet to meet with the three Rutland County nominees. She also said Shumlin was waiting on a list of recommended replacements for Rep. Greg Clark who lost his life in a car accident in late November.

Rutland School Board members have reviewed the city school budget proposals that cut between 11 and 14 jobs.  Superintendent Mary Moran presented two budget-reduction scenarios this week. The first contained about $627,000 in reductions from 11 positions ranging from para-educators, volunteer and home-school coordinators, and a nurse. The second proposal includes those cuts, plus three classroom teachers.   While the cuts follow a mandate from the board following their meeting December 11th some board members expressed dissatisfaction with where the cuts were being made.

During his annual State of the State address Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed launching the Adirondack Challenge, a national whitewater rafting competition in the North Country.  It is not clear where in the North Country the Adirondack Challenge would be held. Cuomo made light of the rafting competition during his PowerPoint presentation while giving the speech. 

The second annual Schroon Lake Chili Cook Off will be held on February 23rd to benefit the community’s emergency services. The cook off will be 11:30 AM to 2 PM at the Schroon Lake Fish and Game Club. The registration fee is $20 a chili. Cooks are asked to bring at least one large crock-pot of chili.  Cooks will compete in the categories of best meaty chili and best vegetarian chili. There will also be a People’s Choice Award decided by those attending the event.  Entry information is available online at and by Email at

A major event planned for Schroon Lake this winter has been cancelled. Dog sled races scheduled for February 9th and 10th will not be held due to a lack of funding.  They are working to reschedule this event for February 2014.  The dog sled event was to feature dozens of races at the town golf course. It was to be staged by the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club, one of the oldest sled dog clubs in the country.

A Vermont man charged with driving a tractor over seven police vehicles and crushing them has been found incompetent to stand trial. Roger Pion, of Newport, had already been involuntarily committed to the custody of the state commissioner of mental health. The Caledonian-Record reports the 34-year-old Pion had faced multiple criminal counts after police say he drove his dad's tractor over six cruisers and a van at the county sheriff's department in Derby in August, causing about $300,000 in damage.

A lawyer says Vermont's Catholic Diocese of Burlington has settled 11 priest sexual abuse cases moments before a trial on one of the cases was set to get under way. Burlington lawyer Jerome O'Neill tells The Burlington Free Press the negotiations had been going on for some time and the diocese agreed yesterday to the details.

Two rifles and ammunition have been seized from vehicles at the Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg but the principal says the guns were used for hunting and he doesn't believe the students intended to harm anyone.  The school policy prohibits having firearms on school grounds.  On Wednesday, the principal sent a letter to parents to let them know that several cars in the parking lot were searched and two rifles and ammunition were seized. Principal Sean McMannon wrote that the incident was unsettling following the mass shooting at a Connecticut school but says he is pleased that people came forward with the tip and says he's confident that the school's procedures worked and there is no threat to the school community.

The Vermont National Guard says the United States Air Force has delayed the release of a final environmental impact statement on plans on where to base its next-generation fighter jet, the F-35, until the spring.  The Air Force says it needs to update the document to include 2010 census data for all six locations being considered.  The Vermont National Guard was notified on Wednesday evening. The delay will push back a decision on where the F-35s will be based.  The Air Force says it expects to start basing the F-35s at the first location in 2015.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a tighter ban on assault weapons and elimination of high-capacity ammunition clips in his annual State of the State address. Cuomo is also proposing that when a mental health professional determines a person is likely to cause serious harm to someone, the person's firearm license may be revoked and law enforcement could take the person's weapons.  He also wants to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour from the current $7.25.  Cuomo said New Yorkers at the low end of the income ladder should earn more. 

Ten years after Gov. Howard Dean left office, his gubernatorial records are being made public.  About 90 boxes will become available for public inspection today.  Dean had invoked the Archives Act to seal for 10 years records that he felt were "privileged" and "sensitive."

A former Vermont State Police sergeant accused of padding his time sheet in order to collect more overtime pay is changing his plea.  Sources are reporting James Deeghan is scheduled to withdraw his not-guilty pleas next week, but prosecutors are not talking about any potential plea bargain.  The sergeant resigned in July, pleading not guilty three days later to two felony counts.  Deeghan was paid 56-thousand dollars more than his base pay even though authorities say a trooper can earn about 30-thousand in overtime.

A federal judge is refusing to stop a state court from ruling on an issue involving the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.  The New England Coalition is seeking a court order from the Vermont Supreme Court to close the plant, stating it's operating without a valid state license.  Entergy responded by going to a federal court, hoping to block the advocates.  However, U-S District Judge Garvan Murtha refused to grant an injunction.  While Murtha ruled last year in favor of Entergy in a case challenging state laws giving the Legislature oversight of the plant, he ruled this week the New England Coalition was not part of that first case.

Governor Peter Shumlin officially starts his second term today, after being sworn in this afternoon.  The inauguration is planned for Montpelier, with Shumlin taking office along with the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General and Auditor.  Once sworn in, Shumlin will deliver his second inaugural address to lawmakers, and is expected to focus on reforms to Vermont's education system.

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants New York to enact the toughest assault weapons ban in the country.  In his State of the State address Wednesday, Cuomo called for an expansion of New York's current ban on some assault weapons, along with further restrictions on gun magazine capacity.  He wants legislative action on measures that include requiring gun permits to be periodically recertified.  Cuomo also urged better reporting of mental health records used in background checks on gun buyers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to help the women in New York State.  Cuomo has unveiled his Women's Equality Act, saying it includes guarantees of equal pay, and protections of a woman's right to choose.  In addition, the governor says components of the Act would strengthen human trafficking laws, and address sexual harassment in the workplace.

A Poultney man charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of maple sugar making equipment from producers around Rutland County appeared in Rutland criminal court this week for arraignment on six felony charges.  Bryan W. Parker pleaded innocent to six burglary charges for break-ins at sugarhouses in the Rutland area last fall.  If convicted of all six counts, Parker would face a maximum of 75 years in jail.  Vermont State Police arrested Parker last month after receiving help from local maple syrup producers who contacted a syrup-making supply store in New Hampshire where Parker allegedly brought some of the stolen items to exchange for newer parts.

People skiing out of bounds are draining Vermont State Police of their time and money. More than 40 have gotten lost so far this season. Police say every one of those search and rescues were avoidable.  I first reported on this Monday... since then, there have been even more skiers lost on Killington Mountain. We asked what changes will be made to prevent this.  "It's frustrating," Captain Robert Evans said.  Vermont State Police are fed up with people who intentionally ski out of bounds, get lost and then have to call for help to get out of the woods.  "It's just individuals making bad decisions," Captain Evans said.  Because there have been so many out of bound skiers already this season, I asked Captain Evans what actions they can take immediately. They're starting with a new code. Troopers who respond to these search and rescue missions will write that on their time sheet, so that the number of hours and your taxpayer dollars can be tracked.  "If we see a spike this year, then we need to get together with our partners and see how we can do things differently," Captain Evans said.  Because when troopers are on the mountain, they're not on the streets, which means it's going to take longer for them to respond to your call.  "That's just one less trooper that we have out on the road to respond to a burglary, complaint or an accident," the Captain said.  Almost every single out of bounds skier has been from out of state, so educating everyone on the dangers of potentially being stranded in the wilderness could be part of the future prevention plan. But police say what already exists is obvious.  "They're spending thousands of dollars on ropes and signage and those kinds of things, the problem is the people ski right by the signs, they go right underneath the ropes and they're in the back country," Captain Evans said.  Skiing out of bounds is technically illegal, but people are rarely charged because police don't want anyone to fear calling if they're in danger.  We reached out to law makers to see if the legislature plans to take up the topic this session, and find a way to be compensated financially by the lost skiers, but we did not hear back yet.

With that the 2013 Vermont legislative session kicked-off Wednesday in Montpelier and each lawmaker brought with them an idea as to what they want this year to be about.  "Progress," said State Rep. Shap Smith.  "Respect and civility," said Lt. Governor Phil Scott.  "Opportunity," said State Sen. John Campbell.  The session started with both House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate Pro-Tem John Campbell unanimously voted to their jobs.  "If so, all those in favor signify by saying, aye. Aye," said legislators.  But the building wasn't just filled with lawmakers.  From the cafeteria, to the hallway, to people crammed into rooms a lot of advocates made their way to Montpelier Wednesday too.  "I think that day 1 is phenomenal," said Donna Colletti-Lowre.  Lobbying for things like healthcare, migrant licenses and gun control.  It's something that politicians noticed.  "The first day of the session there are a lot of people here," said Smith.  "I think the reason for that is because a lot of people know how tight the dollars are going to be this year," said Campbell.  Although they were loud and showed up in large numbers, lawmakers had a message for them as they begin to tackle the new legislative cycle.  "There are limits as to what the state can do," said State Sen. Richard Sears.  "The last couple of years it would have been, yeah we know that we can deal with that because we have some one time fund that we could use. Right now we're getting to the point where there's not a lot to go, pots to try and grab from," said Campbell.  The session will run through at least the beginning of May.  Now that lawmakers are ready to go, Governor Peter Shumlin will lay out his agenda Thursday.