Wednesday, January 2, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 2, 2013

The Middlebury Energy Committee is meeting this morning.  The main agenda item will be the Vermont Home Energy Challenge.  Next week the Middlebury Select Board will be holding their meeting on Monday instead of Tuesday.  The meeting will be conducted in the Main Conference Room of the Town Offices at 7 PM.  On Wednesday the 9th the Vermont Agency of Transportation will be holding an Open Forum and Public Hearing regarding the Middlebury State Airport Runway Reconstruction and Safety Area Improvements.  The Open Forum begins at 6 PM and provides an opportunity for interested parties to ask questions of VTrans representatives specific to their property.  The Public hearing begins at 6:30 PM so VTrans can receive comments and suggestions for changes from interested persons. Project plans are available for review in the Middlebury Town Clerk'sOffice.

Middlebury College Prof. Eric Davis will present a discussion, titled “After the Elections” on January 24th at 6:30 PM in National Bank of Middlebury’s Community Room. The event is free. Eric will provide an insightful look at the consequences of the 2012 general election.  Davis is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College and a nationally recognized expert on Vermont and national politics. He teaches courses on American politics, the presidency, Congress and elections. He has been a close observer of presidential, congressional, and Vermont elections for more than 30 years.

Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer will return to the position for the next two years.   The Board of Supervisors approved the re-appointment of Palmer on Monday just weeks after he said he was planning to resign. Daniel thanked the board after wife and clerk to the board Deb Palmer announced that the resolution had carried. She was recognized for her service to the county in a separate resolution, as she had also previously announced her retirement at the end of the year.

Randy Douglas will seek an unprecedented fourth term as the chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.  Douglas, who has served three years as the chairman said he decided to run after talking it over with his family and staff of the town of Jay. The organizational meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take place Monday morning at 10 in Elizabethtown, where nominations for chairman and vice-chairman will be sought and voted on.

The Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce “January After Business Mixer” will be held on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at Dunkin Donuts of Ticonderoga from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. Dunkin Donuts is located on Wicker Street in Ti.  Sponsors providing door prizes will be Eddie’s Restaurant, Swift Maintenance and the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Dunkin Donuts of Ticonderoga offers the freshest in coffee and baked goods daily. The staff at Dunkin Donuts invite you to stop by today and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee, relax by the fireplace, and connect to free Wi-Fi.  Although an RSVP is not required, they are appreciated and can be made by contacting the Ti Chamber Office.  Just visit for details! 

Local officials are hoping there won’t be response delays this winter when the State Department of Transportation’s Elizabethtown garage switches from its own 24-hour radio dispatch room to a regional center.  The “radio watch” was maintained for years at the DOT’s Essex County base in Elizabethtown so that personnel could quickly respond to any winter snow and ice emergency.  Now the state is switching to regional dispatch centers for DOT, and Essex County’s will be at State Police Troop G headquarters in Saratoga County.

The Ticonderoga Kiwanis are now selling tickets for their annual “Win at 55” contest. Participants are asked to guess the date and time the temperature in Ticonderoga will reach 55 degrees.  This is a major fundraiser for the club.  Tickets are $5 each.  The person coming closest to guessing the day and hour that the air temperature reaches 55 degrees after February 28th will win $500 with second and third prizes of $300 and $200, respectfully. The temperature will be measured at the weather station located at the Downing residence on The Portage in Ticonderoga and may be checked at  Proceeds from the contest will assist the Kiwanis in community projects.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Trains collected more than $1 million in Canadian currency and 400,000 pounds of food in 2012.  The train that came through Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Plattsburgh and Rouses Point drew crowds of children and adults alike to celebrate the holidays and experience the season of giving.  At each of their stops, which included more than 150 across the United States and Canada between the end of November and December 18th, Holiday Trains gathered donations of food and money to benefit community food shelves in both countries. The Holiday Train program donated $250,000 to Feeding America this season to aid those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The Rutland Town Select Board has decided not to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in town.  Following a trend set by a number of other communities in Rutland County Select Board members recently lent their perspectives to a debate taking place in towns around the state.  No specific request regarding a marijuana dispensary has been submitted or discussed with the town. Some communities, including Rutland and Fair Haven, are working toward, or have already implemented, bans on the opening of dispensaries that would legally provide marijuana to those prescribed the drug.

The Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce has 19 spaces left in its 2013 business show.  The show, sponsored by Rutland Regional Medial Center, takes place from 4 to 7:30 PM March 12th at the Holiday Inn. It will feature more than 95 area businesses exhibiting home services and products, automobiles, health care, restaurants, retailers and more.   Admission is $3 and door prizes will be drawn every half hour. Parking and shuttle services are free. The event, which is open to the public, also features food.  For additional information or an exhibitor form visit or call the Chamber at 773-2747.

Hundreds of thousands of workers will get a raise in 2013.  10 states are increasing their minimum wage.  Washington was first to adopt automatic adjustments in 1998 to compensate for inflation.  San Francisco, California has set the highest local minimum wage and will have workers paid at least $10.55 an hour in 2013.  Many states still follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25, including New York and New Hampshire.  Vermont's minimum wage is higher at $8.60, up from $8.46 an hour in 2012.  The Vermont Department of Labor says service and tipped employees will also see an increase to $4.17 per hour from $4.10.

Governor Peter Shumlin says he'll oppose any plan to increase a broad based tax during the upcoming session. But the governor is open to restructuring Vermont's income tax system to make the state more competitive with other states in the region.  Vermont is one of the few states to use a person's "taxable income" to determine their tax burden.   Most other states use what is known as "adjusted gross income." While lawmakers are ready to consider this change, it's very unlikely that they'll look at any plans to broaden the base of the state sales tax to include many services.

A Massachusetts teenager is facing charges in Vermont after allegedly crashing his minivan into a police cruiser and fleeing the scene.  Vermont State Police say 18-year-old Christopher Lundgren, of Andover, allegedly rear-ended a Castleton police cruiser that was stopped on U.S. Route 4 in Castleton at about 9:30 PM Saturday. Police say Lundgren drove off but was apprehended after crashing into a rock ledge down the road.  Police charged Lundgren with suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.  No one was injured.

There's one tax deadline that's been met, and will pay off in the long run.  The four-turbine wind project on top of Georgia Mountain went online with the power grid Monday, with electricity being sold to Burlington Electric Department.  It had a December 31st deadline to meet in order to be eligible for a 30-percent federal incentive on the 28-million dollar project.  It made it, but other payoffs are expected as well.  The Burlington Electric Department general manager says the utility has a goal of 100-percent renewable power.

Lawyers involved in the fight over the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will be busy in the coming weeks.  A federal appeals court in New York has set January 14th as the date for oral arguments in an appeal of a Vermont federal judge's order last January saying the state could not force Vermont Yankee to shut down.  Two days later, the Vermont Supreme Court will hear a claim by the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition.  That group says that by continuing to operate the plant past its initial license expiration date of this past March 21st, Entergy Corp. is violating the terms of the state permit it got when it bought Vermont Yankee in 2002.

Communities that depend on snowmobilers to keep local businesses going strong say they've seen a sudden increase in traffic, thanks to the snows of recent days. At the Lakefront Express Mart in Island Pond, owner Bob Dexter says he's hopeful about a winter of good snow, good snowmobiling and strong business.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that four million dollars for the 2012-2013 Local Government Efficiency Grant Program to help local governments find innovative ways to reduce local government costs and save taxpayer dollars. The competitive program is part of the Governor's agenda to reduce property taxes and shrink the size of government through consolidation and reorganization.

The Green Mountain Wireless Society will offer ham radio classes in Rutland starting next week.  The classes run from 6:30 to 9 PM Mondays from January 7th through March 11th in the American Red Cross Building on Strongs Avenue.  The course covers basic electronics, entry-level radio theory, operating guidelines, safety, rules and regulations and each night will include a live radio demonstration. An FCC exam for all levels will be administered on the final day.  No knowledge of Morse code is required. All ages are welcome.  For more information, call 558-0389 or visit

North Country Hospital in Newport is considered small, and averages about 220 babies a year born there.  But, at 1:59 a.m. Tuesday, a special baby was born, the first in Vermont in the New Year.  Darlene Gilchrist of Island Pond wasn't due to deliver her daughter for a few weeks, but the baby apparently had other ideas.  Mother and daughter are now doing just fine.

A van belonging to a doggy day care caught fire and exploded Tuesday afternoon in South Burlington, taking the life of one of the dogs inside.  The driver has burns to his head, back and hands as well as suffering some smoke inhalation.  Witnesses say there was some sort of explosion, and South Burlington police say it appears mechanical failure was the cause.  The van belongs to Gulliver's Doggie Daycare, and a manager there told Fox 44 and ABC 22 News the bus was up to date on inspections, and within the past few weeks had been in for routine maintenance.

Vermont's newest psychiatric facility is ready to take patients.  Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center is open and ready to receive patients as of today.  The facility represents part of the state's efforts to reorganize its mental health system following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which flooded and forced the closing of the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury.  The state also is going ahead with plans to build a 25-bed psychiatric hospital in Berlin and expand or create smaller facilities around Vermont.

A gun control package continues to be debated in Albany.  Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says any such bill will not include bullet microstamping because Senate Republicans refuse to consider it.  Any microstamping law would require shell casings to carry unique markings, which supporters say would help solve gun crimes.  The package being talked about by Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders focuses on expanding the ban on assault weapons and putting in place new registration restrictions.

Governor Cuomo spent his New Year's Day meeting members of the public.  Cuomo held the traditional receiving line at the Executive Mansion yesterday afternoon.  The governor told many folks he's getting prepared to give his annual State of the State address in the coming days.

On Tuesday, the Vermont statehouse sat covered in snow with little activity.  That will change next week when lawmakers return.  But even though no work was done there Tuesday, some new laws went into effect, including a bullying plan for each school and minimum wage workers receiving a 14-cent pay raise.  "I think that that is a good move to trying to get toward a livable wage here in Vermont," said Senate Pro-Tem John Campbell.  Campbell spoke with us by phone Tuesday.  He says the Green Mountain State doesn't have too many new laws take effect January 1st.  "Most of our laws are implemented on July 1st of every year. That is the beginning of the fiscal year for our state," said Campbell.  2012 saw lawmakers introduce "Vermont Strong" license plates.  It also made skiing and snowboarding the state's official sport.  Lawmakers also banned tanning for anyone under 18 and pushed forward on the healthcare exchange.  Items that Campbell thought made 2012 successful.  "I judge a legislative year not by the number of bills that are passed but the quality of the bills," said Campbell.  As lawmakers return Campbell says 2013 will still focus on the damage left from Tropical Storm Irene.  "We go full steam ahead with the state hospital in Berlin," said Campbell.  And other bills that will impact Vermonters when we ring in 2014.  Again the Vermont legislative session is set to begin next Tuesday.  During the session Governor Peter Shumlin wants to see lawmakers focus on migrant licenses, physician-assisted suicide, marijuana decimalization and letting childcare's unionize.

We're expecting cold temperatures this week, but emergency leaders say going on the ice could still be dangerous.  Tuesday, some people were out on Lake Champlain playing on the ice.  While parts are frozen, you can still see much of the lake.  Colchester technical rescue members say a lot isn't frozen yet because of the warm start to December.  And they say venturing onto any body of water right now isn't a smart idea.  "We haven't had a good hard freeze yet so if you're going to venture out on the ice I wouldn't go too far and if you do go out make sure you bring a life jacket or some type of device to rescue yourself with," said Colchester tech leader Michael Cannon.  As for when it might be safe, emergency leaders say the next week should help freeze things, but no matter the time of year you should always be prepared.

The start of the New Year also marks the start of new laws.  In New York, one bans the sales of electronic cigarettes to minors.  E-cigarettes are battery powered and look like cigarettes but don't contain any tobacco.  They do have nicotine however, and are often used to help people quit smoking.  You can even inhale indoors because it releases a vapor, not a smoke.  Some gas stations have already been abiding by the law.  "It does contain nicotine which is a drug, so 18 or older is just what I thought it was, so I don't think it's going to affect sales at all," Sunoco gas station teller Nicole Banker said.  Also in the New Year, New York businesses that install solar energy systems will receive tax exemptions.