Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 23, 2013

The Middlebury Public Works Committee is meeting in the Town Offices tomorrow 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 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.

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a meeting open to both members and the public entitled “HealthcareDecisions for Small Businesses in 2013.” The meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 6th from Noon to 1 PM in the Ilsley Library Community Room.  The featured presenters are Bram Kleppner, CEO of Danforth Pewter and Co-Chair of the Medicaid/Exchange Advisory Board and Sean Sheehan, Director of Education and Outreach for Vermont's Health Benefit Exchange at the Department of Vermont Health Access. This event is open to the public and is free of charge. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch to this noontime meeting.  An RSVP is appreciated to Sue Hoxie ( or 388-7951 x2.

The annual Vermont Farm Show returns to the Champlain Valley Expo grounds in Essex Junction next week.  The free statewide event runs Tuesday the 29th through Thursday the 31st. This is Vermont’s largest agricultural showcase and it attracts many consumers as well as agribusiness workers and experts from Addison and Rutland counties. The 2013 edition of the big show will celebrate its 81st year.  Being among one of the nation’s most venerable statewide agriculture expos, the show will make its second showing at the ChamplainValley Expo. This year, the show’s popular Consumer Night will be held Wednesday, the 30th. Food shoppers will be able to enjoy the event’s Buy Local Market with Vermont-sourced foods and products.

A discussion was held at Middlebury College about whether environmental and social concerns should influence investment policies of college and university endowments.  Last night’s event at the McCullough Student Center is planned to be the first in a series of discussions about Middlebury's endowment.  The discussion will focus on what factors the college's board of trustees should consider in determining whether to place restrictions on how Middlebury's endowment is invested, and the advantages and disadvantages of using divestment as a means of addressing climate-related concerns.  The panelists will include Middlebury officials and investment professionals.

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 for reservations or information.

The Westport Central School Board will hold a special budget meeting tomorrow at 5:30 PM in the library.  All board of education meetings are open to the public.

Snow artists are being sought in Schroon Lake.  Participants are wanted to take part in a snow sculpture contest. The contest is part of the inaugural Winter Event, a series of activities in the community running from February 15th through March 17.  The snow sculpture contest will kick off Winter Event Friday, February 15th in the town park.  The theme will be “Honoring our Children.” Up to 25 contestants will compete for almost $700 in prizes.  People can enter by contacting Joanie Cunningham at or 532-9900.

Administrative issues that were holding up the sale of Essex County’s Horace Nye Nursing Home are almost resolved.  County Attorney Daniel Manning III said he recently spoke with representatives of the Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care to negotiate the last two administrative obstacles to the $4.05 million sale. The next step is to hire a licensed surveyor to produce a land survey of the Horace Nye property behind the Essex County Government Center. He said the existing deed for the Nursing Home's 2.5 acres is not that accurate.

A new $400,000 grant program will help reclaim Adirondack waterways damaged by acid rain.  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the Adirondack Acid Rain Recovery program recently in an agreement with the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency. The newly created program will enable the use of modern science to speed the recovery of New York’s lakes, rivers and wildlife from decades of abuse from Midwest smokestacks.

The Diamond Run Mall has lost another major retailer.  American Eagle Outfitters closed its store Monday after a dozen years at the mall.  According to an American Eagle spokeswoman the mall has a low occupancy rate of 60 percent and per their current strategy plan, they seek to return great results to their shareholders and one of those ways is to re-evaluate their store footprint as they look at closing or moving stores in underperforming locations.  American Eagle operates two other stores in Vermont, one on Church Street in Burlington and one in the University Mall in South Burlington.

Dog licenses for this year are now available from the Rutland City Clerk’s office.  The deadline for registering is April 1. An up-to-date rabies certificate is required to register.  Licenses are $13 for dogs that have been spayed or neutered and $17 otherwise. Late fees are $16 for spayed or neutered dogs and $22 for others.

That mortifying Facebook photo you were tagged in last week? May not be such a deal-breaker after all.  Vermont lawmakers want to shield the social media profiles of job applicants from the prying eyes of their would-be employers.  For the second year in a row, Sen. Dick Sears is pushing a legislation that would make it illegal for employers to request from job seekers their passwords to Facebook, Twitter and other social network accounts.  Sears said he’s unaware of any instances of Vermont employers demanding access to applicants’ online profiles as a condition of employment. He said reports of the trend nationally, however, merit some proactive steps in the Green Mountains.

The state of Vermont is dissolving the state office responsible for expanding broadband computer access in the state by moving those responsibilities into the Agency of Commerce and Community Affairs.  The role of the office called Connect Vermont had been to create and expand high-speed broadband access statewide by the end of this year.  The office of Gov. Peter Shumlin says the commerce agency will continue the efforts to expand broadband services and monitor the progress while assisting service providers.  Shumlin says expanding broadband services remains 1 of his top priorities.  The changes follow the resignation of former Connect Vermont chief Karen Marshall, who left her post in state government earlier this month to become the president of the VTel Data Network.

Vermont environmental groups are urging the Legislature to keep efforts to stem climate change at the center of its agenda.  A half dozen groups sent representatives to a Statehouse news conference on Tuesday to speak on issues ranging from the need for more money to weatherize Vermonters' homes to a ban on tar sands oil running through a pipeline that crosses northeastern Vermont.  The Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Building Performance Professionals Association of Vermont were among the groups represented.

Officials at Vermont's Norwich University say they've exceeded their goal for a fundraising campaign they called "Bearing the Torch."  The 3-year campaign by the Northfield University that lasted through the end of 2012 raised about $24 million, exceeding its original goal of $20.2 million.  It was the fifth Norwich fundraising campaign in a row that exceeded its goal since 1984 when the school launched "Norwich 2000."  The campaign largely supports a scholarship endowment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing up the progressive agenda he shouted about in a rousing State of the State speech a week ago with a financial plan he presented in the measured tones of a CEO.  Cuomo included ways to use a total of $30 billion over several years in expected federal funding to restore communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy. He also plans to use some aid for upstate communities still recovering from tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011.  Cuomo avoids calling for a tax increases while increasing school aid 4.4%. He also funds ways to implement his gun control measures from a week ago.  Cuomo says he also wants to fund marketing and jobs programs aimed at economically struggling upstate communities.

The Cuomo administration has proposed suspending the driver's license of anyone who owes more than $10,000 in overdue taxes.  As part of its proposal for the fiscal year starting April 1, the administration is calling for the new program to help with collection enforcement of "past-due tax liabilities."  Those are described as "fixed and final," where the taxpayer has exhausted their rights to administrative and court review.  It would be modeled after the state program using license suspension to compel child support payments.

The Cuomo administration wants to spend almost $36 million in the coming fiscal year to implement new restrictions on guns that were passed last week.  The money would be used to add state police staff to oversee recertification of all pistol licenses every five years and register formerly legal rifles now categorized as assault weapons.  Troopers would also help improve safety at schools. The budget proposed Tuesday includes nearly $33 million in capital spending for a new statewide database with gun registrations and information like felony convictions or mental illness determinations that would disqualify someone from having a gun.

Bundle up good before heading outside today, and prepare for some of the coldest weather of the season.   A wind chill alert went into effect Tuesday night, and will continue through this evening.  It's going to be dangerously cold, with sub-zero temperatures lasting for a long while, and the wind chill values at a biting 35-degrees-below zero.  The usual precautions are to limit your time outdoors, limit the amount of exposed skin, and bring the pets inside or make sure they have a warmer space.

When it comes to political integrity, not many states make the passing grade, according to the Center for Public Integrity.  The group joined forces with Global Integrity and Public Radio International to investigate and rate each state in the country on things like transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms.  Not one state earned an "A" grade, with Vermont ranking 26th with a "D-plus" grade.  Investigators say the "small town feel" of the Green Mountain State is why it's one of the few states with no ethics agency or asset disclosures.  New Jersey was at the head of the class with a B-plus, while Georgia placed last.

Vermont State Police troopers are looking for the driver of a car, which slid into a home in Rutland Town.  The accident happened Tuesday night, when the eastbound Chevy on Cedar Avenue missed a curve, traveled more than a hundred feet across a front lawn and collided with the northwest corner of the home.  Troopers say it caused significant damage to the home's exterior as well as damage to belongings inside.  The driver ran away, according to State Police, and despite a search with a sheriff's K-9 unit still has not been found.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is laying out plans to fund the recently enacted gun control legislation.  Cuomo is proposing nearly 36-million dollars to implement New York's new SAFE Act.  Most of that amount will go to the creation of an electronic database for gun permit registrations.  Numerous Republicans in the state remain livid over the new law.

Education funding is on the increase in New York State.  Governor Cuomo's newly unveiled budget proposal includes 889-million dollars in state aid for education, an increase of four-point-four percent from the previous budget. The increase also includes a move to implement full-day pre-kindergarten across the state.

Gas prices continue to be a touchy subject matter. Tuesday night a public hearing was held in regard to prices in Vermont. The national average is $3.27 a gallon. New Yorkers are seeing 3.69, Vermonter $3.54 and Granite stators are seeing $3.40.  It's those prices that have people fuming. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called for an investigation.  While there are still a lot of unanswered questions as to why we pay more in Vermont, it is clear that representatives are asking the questions and making note of the public's frustrations.  According to AAA, the state is the 7th highest in average gas prices. Tuesday legislators met with the public to hear their opinions.  "This is mainly for us to get information from the public on their feelings," said Chair of House Transportation, Patrick Brennan.  "We know our customers, 40 years in business so as they trickled away, we knew they were gone," said Cheryl Cote, who owned a gas station in Canaan, she says the state tax hurt her business, "Since the infrastructure tax was implemented, I've lost 130 thousand gallons of gas sales."   Why is the price high? Here are just a few reasons according to distributors, "Just the price of doing business in Vermont, the rural parts of the state, the cost of transportation getting the fuel here," said Brennan.  And from retailers it's, "Credit card fees, overhead lights, electricity," said Brennan.  So when I asked what can be done about the high prices?  "I'm not sure we can do anything but just bringing this issue to light and maybe we can work hand in hand with some of the distributors and come to a common ground where we can actually reduce pricing," said Brennan.    That infrastructure tax mentioned in the story goes to repair the states roads and bridges.  For a complete list of gas prices around the state visit:

16 months after Tropical Storm Irene blasted the city, Waterbury is rebuilt. Every household in that area that asked for help got it.  "Rebuild Waterbury" actually served more than double the number of people FEMA thought they would serve.  Rena and Richard Eizor have lived in their home for 44 years, raised three kids, and at their age, were forced to remodel their home because of Tropical Storm Irene.  "You would not have believed that it would have come back together," Richard Eizor said.  But for the Eizor's, and 103 other households it did. Waterbury was rebuilt.  "We feel proud of what we've done," Theresa Wood said, of "Rebuild Waterbury."   Theresa Wood's mother also lost nearly everything in the storm, and that's why she dedicated her time to getting people back in their homes. But she didn't work alone... it took a village.  "We logged over ten thousand hours of volunteer service in the last year," Wood said.  "Rebuild Waterbury" tackled projects as big as laying new foundation and constructing new walls, and as small as trim work and flooring.  "We really appreciate everything they did for us," Rena Eizor said.  The Eizor's were displaced for three months. Water in the basement reached the ceiling and took out the whole first floor.  "We came back and found a horrible, horrible mess," Rena Eizor said.  Several families had help from FEMA, and insurance, but "Rebuild Waterbury" filled the gaps, and through mostly private donations raised close to a million dollars.   There's a closing celebration at the Crosset-Brook Middle School this Saturday from 4:30-7.  So while homes have been rebuilt, many people say Waterbury won't be whole until the state office complex is rebuilt... and so far, no work is being done there, and the legislature hasn't secured funding.