Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 22, 2013

The Middlebury Select Board will hold a Public Hearing and Information Meeting on the Preliminary Proposed Town General Fund Budget for FY14 this evening.  This includes Capital project Funds as well.  The meeting will begin at 7:00 PM in the Town Office Conference Room. The total proposed budget is $8,943,097 with $6,366,592 to be funded by property taxes.  Your comments, suggestions and input are important and appreciated.  Copies of the proposed budget may be obtained from the Town's website at the Town Manager's office or by calling 388-8100 ext 201.  Committee and Project reports will also be part of this meeting.  Visit the Town’s Website to view the complete agenda. 

Other meeting’s in Middlebury this week include the Town Offices/Community Center Steering Committee.   They meet this morning at 10:30 at the Town Offices.  Then the Middlebury Public Works Committee is meeting in the Town Offices on Thursday afternoon at 4. Agenda Items Include the Monroe Street Traffic Data and Road Salt Usage.  Also on Thursday at 4, the Downtown Improvement District Commission meets.  They are planning a Review of the Status of Grants and Pending Projects also a Discussion of Downtown Parking.  Then on Friday at Noon the Design Advisory Committee meets at Noon at the Town Offices. Agenda Items include a Review of Middlebury College's Athletic Facility on South Main Street.  Get details on all of these meetings by visiting the Town’s Website.

Coming up this Sunday at 6 PM, Brandon Music will present a concert by celebrated local musician Caitlin Canty.  General Admission is $15 and reservations are encouraged. A pre-show dinner package is available for $30.  The Vermont native, who now resides in New York City, has folk-pop roots with a Western tone.  Call (802) 465-4071 or email info@brandon-music.net for reservations or information.

A broken water pipe has suspended zumba lessons at the Ticonderoga BestWestern Inn.  A frozen pipe in the hotel’s banquet room burst January 12th, flooding the banquet room and lobby area. The pipe has been repaired, but damaged carpet, a wall and other items are still being replaced.  Zumba and several other events scheduled for the banquet room have been canceled. The remainder of the hotel and its restaurant, The Burgoyne Grill, are unaffected by the water damage.  Officials are hopeful that Zumba can resume by mid-February. 

Crown Point Central School is a leader in meeting New York State’s new educational requirements.  That’s why the school was selected to make a presentation to state education commissioner John King Jr. during his recent tour of the North Country. Common Core Learning Standards define what students are expected to learn so that teachers and parents can better prepare them for college or the workforce. The state adopted the Common Core in 2011. As a result, public school districts are changing what they teach and how they teach to align curriculum the standards.

Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting tentatively got his department exempted from the county’s hiring freeze.  The waiver must still receive a majority vote at the County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means session January 28th and the regular meeting February 7th. Sheriff Richard Cutting told the board’s Public Safety Committee that Horace Nye Nursing Home is already exempt from the hiring freeze and that he wants his department to be, too.  With the freeze on, department heads need board approval to fill vacancies.

The post office in New Russia will remain open, but with its hours greatly reduced.  Officials explained that the U.S. Postal System has experienced a decline in revenues due to many factors, including bill-paying online, direct deposits by governments and businesses, and purchasing through online catalogs. The retail hours for New Russia will likely be 9 to 11 AM Monday through Friday and 8:30 to 11:45 AM Saturdays.

Seventy volunteers from across Vermont marked the Martin Luther King holiday by taking part in a host of different community service projects in Rutland.  Volunteers started early yesterday morning with a pancake breakfast at Grace Church and then headed to a variety of sites across the city.  A member of the national service organization AmeriCorps organized the event.  They chose Rutland partly because of the need they knew existed there, but also because they found the local nonprofits so progressive and welcoming.

The town of Killington has applied for a $175,000 grant to beautify Route 4.  The state grant would be used to develop the property formerly known as Bill’s Country Store into a visitors’ center. The proposal includes plans to manage storm water runoff, invasive plant species, move the entrance to align with Killington Road, and to build a park-and-ride lot.  In December, the town received an $80,000 grant to build the park-and-ride facility.  The town expects to receive a response to the most recent proposal by March and hopes to break ground on the project in the spring.

Snowmobilers from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont who are looking for some fresh scenery have a big opportunity coming up.  Reciprocal Snowmobile Weekend this coming Friday to Sunday allows all legally registered Maine snowmobiles to be operated in New Hampshire and Vermont without being registered in those states.  At the same time, snowmobiles legally registered in New Hampshire and Vermont can be operated in Maine without a current Maine registration. In Maine alone, snowmobilers can explore more than 13,000 miles of interconnected, groomed and marked trails.

When you're the subject of a new hit movie and it's the 150th anniversary of your most famous speech, you probably want to get spruced up a bit.  So a marble bust of Abraham Lincoln that has gazed down a main hallway of the Vermont Statehouse for a century could be getting some attention.  Civil War historian Howard Coffin says it's about time. Says Coffin of Vermont's Lincoln, "He's discolored, he's dirty and in desperate need of cleaning."  Coffin got a friendly hearing from the Senate Institutions Committee when he asked for more than $11,000 to have the work done by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center of Williamstown, MA.  The bust is the work of sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead. His widow gave it to the state in 1911.

The state of Vermont's financial picture may begin to clarify by the end of the week.  Tomorrow, the Emergency Board is to hear a report from two economists on their forecasts for how much money the state is likely to take in during the coming year.  On Thursday, Shumlin goes before lawmakers to outline his spending priorities for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  Some Shumlin spending moves already have come in for criticism, including his push to take $17 million from a program that gives big tax refunds to low-income people and use the money to increase child care subsidies.

Vermont lawmakers are going to be holding hearings on the price of gasoline in the state.  This afternoon, the House Transportation, Commerce, and Judiciary committees have scheduled a joint meeting from 2:30 to 4:30 at the Statehouse in Montpelier.  This evening, the committees will hold a public hearing on the same topic from 7 to 9 at Colchester High School.  Members of the public interested in testifying about gasoline pricing in the state may sign up 30 minutes prior to the start of the evening hearing.

New York regulators are working on a long-term plan to protect Lake George from invasive species, possibly including mandatory boat inspections.  The Lake George Park Commission had been developing plans for inspections and washing, with a $40 fee. The commission now says that plan is on hold while the Department of Environmental Conservation drafts an environmental impact statement, seeks public input, and considers alternatives.  The 32-mile-long Adirondack Lake already has some invasive species such as milfoil and Asian clams. The commission has programs to fight those species, including spreading plastic mats to smother them.  The state has agreed to provide $50,000 to expand a boat steward program, and $200,000 to fight Asian clams.  Environmentalists say mandatory boat inspection and washing is the best way to prevent spread of invasive species.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is feeling better, two days after entering the hospital for having fluid in his lungs and swollen ankles.  His spokesman George Arzt said yesterday that the fluid and swelling were down. He says Koch told him he isn't in pain but that being in the hospital is boring.  The former mayor hopes to be discharged Wednesday or Thursday, but his doctors haven't said yet when he can go home. The 88-year-old Democrat entered New York-Presbyterian / Columbia hospital Saturday night.

The U.S. Department of Education says Vermont has the highest high school graduation rate in the country. A new study finds that 91.4% of Vermont high school freshmen go on to graduate on time. Wisconsin has the second highest rate, while Nevada has the lowest rate.

Employers in Vermont are facing the prospect of paying more to do business in the Green Mountain State.  The problem is, there's a debt the state owes the federal government, and now that it's past due, the feds are hitting employers with a penalty of 21 bucks an employee.  Three years ago, when the unemployment fund ran out in Vermont, state leaders made a deal with the feds to borrow nearly 78 million and agreeing to pay that back in two years, which it failed to do.  As of now, the state has paid back 20-million, will be making another payment like that soon, and hopes to repay the final 38 million this year or next.

Snowmen are pretty common this time of year in New England.  But a 15-foot-tall snowman is not-so-common a sight.  The towering Frosty was built Sunday afternoon alongside Route 2 in Danville.  Five friends who say they were bored did the work, which took about three hours, using a tractor and round hay bales.  They say already hundreds of motorists have stopped to admire their work.

The son of Rutland County Sheriff Frank Wilk is now charged with stealing his father's gun.  Sheriff Wilk reported a burglary in his home a week ago, with the gun taken from a safe.  A State Police investigation revealed 24-year-old Jason Wilk to be the prime suspect, saying he took not only the gun but also credit cards and cash.  The younger Wilk was arrested after he reportedly confessed to stealing the gun.

A young man is now facing charges connected with a vandalism spree in Charlotte and Hinesburg.  Twenty-one-year-old Jake Clark is accused of vandalizing a lot of mailboxes along with stealing several traffic signs last week.  Police say he also used a truck to push over a parking attendant's booth in Mount Philo State Park, causing more than a thousand dollars in damage.

Education is expected to be a major topic of Governor Cuomo's budget blueprint unveiling today.  The governor is expected to expand on his recently announced proposal to expand the school day for students and implement full day pre-kindergarten across the state.  Cuomo has yet to hint about how New York might pay for such an expansion.

Governor Cuomo is expected to continue his push for a minimum wage increase in the coming weeks.  The governor is working on assembling a coalition of pro-business interests in the Empire State that can help him garner support for a minimum wage hike.  Such a coalition is expected to include numerous national retailers that employ minimum wage workers.

A new information hotline has been designed to address all question pertaining to the New York SAFE Act.  Officials announced that they would establish this number for those with concerns last week.  If you have any questions about the law you may call 1-855-LAW-GUNS.

Skiers and snowboarders were left dangling in the air after one of the chair lifts derailed at Smugglers' Notch. No one was injured, but it took about an hour to get everyone down safely.  Smuggs was packed Monday full of riders, skiers, and working chair lifts... but Sunday, it was a different story. The day started off calm, but around two, the winds were whipping.  "The wind did pick up kind of suddenly and unexpectedly," Assistant Ski Patrol Director, Eli Moore, said.  Those powerful gusts tore one of the cables off its tracks, and derailed the Madonna two chair lift.  "Nothing fell, no one came off the lift," Moore said.  But it left about 70 people hanging, between ten and 35 feet in the air. The lift shut off automatically.  "It only dropped about a couple of feet in that particular area and actually where the derail was, there was nobody on the chair at that time, which probably played a role into why it came off, because there was no weight on the chair," Moore said.  Andrezej Socha was skiing nearby the derailed lift.  "I knew some people who were on it and it sounded like it kind of would have been fun," he said.  "Some people were a little scared, but everybody did great, everybody was a super good sport about it," Moore added.  Fun for some, but I'd say most people wouldn't want to see that happen again. Smuggs does monitor the weather and shuts lifts down from time to time because of wind, but a chair lift derailing is uncommon.  "This is the first rope evac that Smugglers' has had in 20 years," Moore said.  So while it clearly doesn't happen very often, Smugglers' Notch was prepared.  Fortunately for the skiers and riders who were stuck at the top, the temperatures weren't too terrible... they were in the mid 20's.  Eventually all of the lifts were closed though yesterday, because the wind was just so intense.

Saint Michael’s college kicked off a weeklong series dedicated to honoring martin Luther King Junior.   The college held an assembly yesterday.  This year the college is holding a week long series called, "a call to conscience: martin Luther king and the ongoing struggle for civil rights.”  Several speakers will travel to the college this week to talk about civil rights.  Organizers say this day has special meaning to them.  “Personally I take pride in this every year, it means a lot to me because if it wasn't for what he's done I probably wouldn't even be born, my mother is white and my father is black Hispanic so I probably wouldn’t even be here, never mind at college so I just want to celebrate what he's done for me as well.”  Tomorrow night at seven, the series continues with "a call for action, the significance of the letter from Birmingham jail” in the McCarthy arts center.

The Gulliver's Doggie Daycare bus that caught fire on New Year's Day has officially been replaced.  Yesterday, the new bus picked up four, furry four-legged friends.  And after being inspected twice, it was re-checked in the afternoon, after the first ride, just to be on the safe side.  Gulliver's Doggie Daycare looks after about a hundred dogs every day, and on average, about ten ride the bus to and from daycare.  Gulliver's is looking at installing even more safety features.