Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 15, 2013

A local fire chief says five men who fell through the ice on Lake Champlain are lucky to be alive.  Addison Fire Chief Chris Mulliss says another five or 10 minutes in the water could have meant life or death for the men who fell through three-inch-thick ice at about 3 PM Sunday.  The Chief says two anglers first fell through the ice about 300 feet off the shore in West Addison, then a nearby homeowner and two other anglers fell in while trying to rescue the first two.  About 50 emergency personnel from Vermont and New York helped with the rescue.  3 of the people who fell in got out on their own while two others had to be rescued by the emergency responders.  No one was seriously hurt.

The students at Weybridge Elementary have a new tool when it comes to learning a foreign language thanks to Middlebury Interactive Languages.  Middlebury Interactive is the leading provider of virtual and in-person world language courses for students in Kindergarten through grade 12. It is a joint venture of the College and the Virginia-based K12 Incorporated, the nation's largest digital education provider. These courses were developed by Middlebury College professors based on the college's immersion language instruction method.  The company just opened a new headquarters here in Middlebury with 22 employees and they plan to hire more.  Yesterday they announced a $2.6 million initiative with Middlebury College to provide 30 Vermont schools with discounted unlimited access to Middlebury Interactive web-based language courses in Chinese, French, German, Latin and Spanish.

The Rutland City School Board will discuss the proposed budget at 6:30 this evening at the Longfellow Administration Building.  The Board is looking at a pair of proposals. The first, which cuts 11 jobs, would increase the budget 4.9 percent. The second proposal cuts an additional three jobs for an additional savings of about $175,000, increasing the budget 4.5 percent.   The first proposal cuts 11 positions ranging from para-educators, volunteer and home-school coordinators, and a nurse. The second proposal includes those cuts, plus three classroom teachers.  For more information, call 773-1900 or visit www.rutlandcitypublicschools.com.

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 www.faceoffagainstbreastcancer.org.

The Video of last weeks Embezzlement Talk is now available to view online.   If you missed last Monday’s seminar titled “Embezzlement, Business Ethics & Professional Responsibility,” MCTV has posted a video of the event on their website.  Specials thanks once again to Holden Insurance for sponsoring the event.  With tax season approaching some free help will once again be available for low and middle-income residents of Addison County.  RSVP, AARP, and United Way of Addison County sponsor the service. For more information contact RSVP at 388-7044.

Addison County Transit Resources has announced its schedule for Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day.  On Monday the 21st, all bus routes will operate on normal schedules and the ACTR office will be open.   And on Monday, February 18th all bus routes will operate on normal schedules.  The ACTR office will be open that day as well.  For more information, please call 388-1946 or go to www.actr-vt.org.

The Town of Ticonderoga has started its first test well to find a water source as part of a $13.8 million water system improvement project.  Facing a federal mandate to either cover its existing water sources or use groundwater, the town of Ticonderoga has started a comprehensive water system upgrade. Town officials hope to replace the existing water system, which draws water from Lake George and Gooseneck Pond, with groundwater drawn from a series of wells.  The first step is to find adequate groundwater for the project. The initial test well is located off Hall Road in Chilson.

A market study in Ticonderoga says the area has sufficient sales potential to support a natural-foods co-op.  Local officials say that, as a result, they’re moving ahead on the effort to create a food cooperative for the Ticonderoga area.  The recently released report by CDS Consulting was conducted in two phases.  One was a market study that yielded a sales-forecast analysis and the other an evaluation of proposed sites in the downtown. A food co-op in an area like Ticonderoga would take about 600 subscribers to support its operation.  Officials have been talking with SUNY Plattsburgh about having a class in environmental management go to Ticonderoga to do further research into the feasibility or alternatives to a co-op food store.

Dick and Leanna DeNeale have donated a conservation easement to Champlain Area Trails that conserves their 319-acre property on Route 22 between Essex and Willsboro.  The easement also provides for a hiking and skiing trail that will showcase the forest and be part of a trail that CATS envisions linking Willsboro to Essex. The property is in an area called the Essex Highlands, which is the first ridge people see when traveling to New York on the Essex ferry on Lake Champlain. For more information on the nonprofit conservation organization, call 962-2287 or visit www.champlainareatrails.com.

Gun laws in the state of New York are undergoing a change to make them tougher.  Lawmakers have passed a measure in the Senate, making New York the first state to take legislative action in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says the school shooting in Newtown helped galvanize public opinion in favor of increased gun control.  The measure now heads to the state Assembly, where Silver says he's confident it will become law.

Corporate income tax receipts kept Vermont revenues on track in December, while other taxes ranging from those on personal income to motor fuels performed short of their targets.  That's the word from Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding, who says overall general fund revenues are running nearly 2% short of their target for the first six months of the current fiscal year.  The personal income tax continued to lag in December, coming in at about $57 million, or nearly 4% less than what had been expected when state revenue targets were set in July.  But corporate income taxes came in at $22.5 million, about 73% ahead of what had been expected for the month.  Both the sales and use and rooms and meals taxes lagged their targets in December.

Several mayors in Vermont are banding together to speak out about reducing gun violence.  John Hollar of Montpelier, Chris Louras of Rutland and Miro Weinberger of Burlington are asking for more action from Washington to reduce gun violence.  The mayors are joining a bipartisan coalition of more than 800 mayors and more than a million grassroots supporters calling for background checks for all gun buyers.  The effort is called "Mayors Against Illegal Guns."  The national campaign is seeking criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private sales and sales at gun shows. They're also seeking to renew a national ban on the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and to make gun-trafficking a federal crime.

The University of Vermont is resuming classes with its new ban on the sale of bottled water on the Burlington campus.  UVM has converted campus water fountains to bottle filling stations.  UVM officials said the school is the first public university to ban the sale of bottled water while 22 private campuses have made the move.

Yesterday Rutland City officials discussed what makes a property vacant.  The discussion was part of the Charter and Ordinance Committee’s look at the proposed vacant property ordinance. The ordinance, drafted by the Rutland Redevelopment Authority’s blighted property steering committee, would require owners of vacant properties to register them with the city and pay a $500 registration fee, with a renewal required every six months.  While some Aldermen said the definition of “vacant” would need to be very clear, others expressed broader concerns.

Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration is asking for a bit more time to report on its ideas for paying for an ambitious overhaul of the state's health care system.  A law passed in 2011 set today as the day the administration was to give lawmakers answers to the often-asked question of how the Green Mountain Care single-payer health plan will be paid for.  Administration officials say they now want until January 24th, when Shumlin is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address to lawmakers, to outline the plan's possible financing.

More than 600 drivers are being notified by the state they've been written up for fake traffic tickets by a former Vermont State Police sergeant who is now going to prison.  Investigators determined that over several years, James Deeghan wrote hundreds of fraudulent traffic tickets, which were never issued, in order to make it appear he was working.  Deeghan pleaded guilty to charges related to padding his time sheets, and will serve two years after getting paid for 200-thousand dollars he didn't earn.  The state is also working to pay back roughly 80-thousand dollars to the town of Jericho as Deeghan claimed to be patrolling town streets as contracted, and never did.

It's going to be a bit loud in the skies over parts of Vermont this week and next week.  The Vermont Air National Guard and Massachusetts Air National Guard will be doing some night flying and training tonight through Thursday, and next week, Tuesday through Friday.  A Guard spokesman says all of the F-16 fighter jets will be back on the ground by 9 PM.  About a dozen cities and town, including Burlington, Bennington, Rutland and Dorset will be included in the training regions.

For the seventh time in its history, the Norwich University Regimental Band is invited to perform in a presidential inauguration.  The band will be marching January 21st in the 57th Presidential Inauguration, and the second for President Barack Obama. Each state will be represented, and out of the total of 28-hundred which applied, Norwich, was chosen to represent Vermont.  The Norwich University Regimental Band is the oldest collegiate band in the country, first founded in 1823.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he goes to "great lengths" to avoid speculation that he will run for the White House in 2016.  Cuomo tells MSNBC  "presidential speculation comes with the job in some ways, but it is not helpful, and it can be hurtful."  The governor says he believes he remains popular with both Democratic and Republican voters in New York State because they believe he is working only for them and not worried about his political future.  Cuomo says he is focused on being "the best governor I can be.”

The flu shot is in high demand. So much so, many pharmacies are out of the vaccine.  Kinney Drugs in South Burlington is one of them. They've seen a huge spike in people looking to get the shot, and have to order more every day but it takes up to two days for it to come in.  One Kinney Drugs Pharmacy went from giving ten shots a week, to 30 in one day.  Even though it's not quite as convenient as swinging by the drug store, hospitals in our area say they have plenty of the vaccine available, so you can also make an appointment with your doctor to get immunized.

The future of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, Vt. moved to a New York City courtroom.  That's where, before three members of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys representing the State of Vermont and the plant's owner Entergy faced off.  Each side had 15 minutes to present its side that could determine if a state can shut down a nuclear power plant.  Legal experts call it an unprecedented case.  "It was a great argument. You had two really excellent attorneys," says Cheryl Hanna, Vermont Law School professor.  Hanna was in court for the Vermont Yankee hearing.  She says Entergy again made a good argument that Vermont's push to close Yankee was all about safety, which is the role of the federal government.  She says the state did better this time and made a strong argument that mistakes had been made during the last trial.  "I think one if not two members of the three member bench were at least willing to be skeptical of what happened at the lower court. That doesn't mean that Entergy will lose but I think that the state did a very good of having the court take the appeal seriously," says Hanna.  Hanna says the case is now up to the three judges, two were appointed by President Barack Obama and the third by former President George W. Bush.  "I don't expect there to be a ruling anytime soon," says Hanna.  Hanna says that ruling could take a year and the losing side could appeal to the full Second Circuit Court.  And there's always the possibility of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The case traces back to 2006 when the legislature passed Act 260, which required Yankee to get the okay from lawmakers to keep operating past its scheduled shutdown.  That okay never came.  In April 2011, Entergy sued the state in federal court to keep the plant running.   In January 2012, after a trial in Brattleboro, Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled in favor of Entergy. That decision was appealed to the Second Circuit and arguments were heard Monday.  Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell was in court, though the state hired and was represented by an outside attorney.  "You can't predict with certainty what the court is going to do but we made the arguments we wanted to make and we made them in the way we wanted to make them. And we've got ground for cautious optimism but it's out of our hands now. But we've done our best and we'll wait with everyone else for the decision," says Sorrell.  Sorrell estimates that Vermont has spent about $600,000 on the case.  Entergy has spent more than four million dollars.  The loser of the case could be responsible for both sides attorney's fees.  Entergy representatives also said their attorneys did a good job.  "The arguments made by Kathleen Sullivan, who is our attorney representing Entergy in this hearing, were very effectively made. It is our belief that Judge Murtha decided correctly that Vermont had over stepped its bounds," says Jim Steets, Entergy Communications Director.  Entergy says it's committed to safely running the plant, which has about 600 workers.

Former Vermont state trooper James Deeghan walked into a Burlington courtroom nearly five months after he pleaded not guilty to padding his time sheets.  Monday he confessed to the crime.  "I put hours on my time sheet that I did not work," said Deeghan.  Enough time to rack up an extra $200,000 dollars.  A crime Deeghan says he committed because of greed.  "There was a time where I felt I was under a tremendous amount of financial pressure," said Deeghan.  Deeghan also told the judge he wanted move on with his life and asked others to forgive him.  "I want to apologize to the state police, my co-workers who I cared for very much and the state of Vermont," said Deeghan.  In addition to padding his time sheet Deeghan also admitted to two new charges.  Misdemeanors that police say come from him writing a lot of fake tickets.  "Over 900 over a 10 year period," said Vermont State Police Colonel Tom L'Esperance.  Deeghan will have to use his pension to pay back the stolen money.  And after serving more than 20 years as a trooper, Deeghan will spend two years where he helped send many others.  "It's not a good day for the state police but it's a step in the right direction, that's exactly what should have happened," said L'Esperance.  A punishment that prosecutors hope will send a message to any state employee who thinks about following in Deeghan's footsteps.      "You're going to go to jail, we're going to take your pension and your life will be ruined," said Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan.  In addition to restitution and jail time, Deeghan must complete 500 hours of community service.  Defense attorneys say the family wants to move on and that means moving out of Vermont.