Thursday, January 24, 2013

WVTK Local & State News January 24, 2013

The Middlebury Public Works Committee is meeting in the Town Offices this afternoon at 4. Agenda Items Include the Monroe Street Traffic Data and Road Salt Usage.  Also today 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 tomorrow 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 colder temperatures have put a severe strain on the resources of some of Addison County’s human service organizations.  HOPE is an organization that has been helping fight poverty in Addison County since 1965 and helps people obtain food, clothing, housing, heat, and medicine. They work hard to make sure Addison county families have their critical needs met.  The colder temperatures have caused more families to ask for help, and right now, HOPE has an urgent need for firewood and also donations to the food shelves.  If you can help, please contact HOPE at 803-388-3608.  You can also visit

The Westport Central School Board will hold a special budget meeting today at 5:30 PM in the library.  All board of education meetings are open to the public.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is generally getting good reviews for his 2013-14 state budget proposal however the Moriah Supervisor has concerns.  His major concerns are the 2 percent tax cap and the mandated services they’re required to provide.  He’s concerned funds designated for mandated services will be cut, which will transfer the burden of those costs to the local property tax. The budget also calls for a freeze of state aid money to municipalities outside New York City. That means towns like Moriah and counties like Essex will get no additional help to provide state-mandated services.

The North Country SPCA would like to remind you that it's not too late to take advantage of the January White Sale! Until the end of the month, you can adopt any of their many wonderful white felines, or any cats with white markings, for only $15, which is 75 percent off their regular adoption fee. If you are in need of a furry, purring lap warmer to get you through this chilly winter weather, this is a purr-fect time to adopt a cat.  Visit the SPCA’s website.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance announced that as of January 2nd, eligible low-income New Yorkers who are in danger of having their heat shut off or running out of fuel, can apply for emergency Home Energy Assistance Program benefits.  HEAP is a federally funded program to help eligible households in meeting their home energy needs. Eligible households can receive one regular HEAP benefit per season, but may also be eligible for a one-time emergency HEAP benefit if they are in danger of running out of fuel or having their heat or heat-related utility service shut off.  A complete list of where to apply locally can be found online at

CVPH Medical Center suffered $5,157,507 in operating losses in 2012, fueled by cuts in Medicare and other federal reimbursements, along with a reduction in inpatient numbers.  Hospital officials acknowledged that 2012 was a difficult year but offered hope for the future, especially with the new affiliation with Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. Medicare cuts took the largest chunk from the hospital’s budget, with $2 million lost in reimbursements.

County clerks’ offices are fielding hundreds of calls from gun owners about New York’s new firearms law and requests for pistol-permit applications.  The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act law got State Senate approval on the January 14th then a majority Assembly vote and signature by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on 15th. Essex and Clinton County officials are seeing increased interest from gun owners with the new law in place.  The Essex County Clerk’s office has had many calls and plenty of people dropping in to amend their permits and find some answers.

Despite what it says on the forms, petitions to run for local office are due in to the Rutland City Clerk's office Monday.  Paperwork distributed by City Hall gives the deadline as January 30th. Rutland City Clerk Henry Heck said this was an error attributed to the fact that petitioners have two days to withdraw their petitions and keep their names off the ballot.

The Rutland City School Board approved a budget hike of 4.7 percent.  The board on Tuesday night ratified a proposed budget of $47,277,683, which is $2,120,136 more than the current operating budget. An approved budget will add 9 cents to the tax rate, raising it from $1.40 to $1.49 for every $100 of appraised value. For a property valued at $150,000, it will add $127 a year for a household income exceeding $100,000. A household earning $50,000 would see an increase of $90 for the same property. 

The Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Southern Vermont named the Stafford Technical Center’s Construction Technology program 2012 Builder of the Year.  The program allows students to learn about energy-efficient construction and earn certifications from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the Associated General Contractors of Vermont.  Eighty-two percent of the students enrolled in Stafford’s Construction Technology program are employed three years after leaving the program. For more information, visit

The still sluggish economic recovery will mean Vermont will collect about $20 million less in revenue for three key state budget funds than earlier had been anticipated.  That was the word from consulting economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet, who met with a special state panel that reviews the state's finances twice a year.  The economists are now saying they don't expect to see robust economic growth before fiscal 2015.

Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill, backed by law enforcement, to make people immune from prosecution on drug charges when they call 911 to report a friend is overdosing and in danger of death.  Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen say their hope is not to condone drug use, but to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths, of which there were 73 in Vermont in 2012.

A report on the dangers of smart meters prepared for the Vermont Department of Public Service says the radio frequency fields associated with the devices emit only a small fraction of the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.  The report is based upon laboratory testing and field measurements of some wireless smart meters being used by Green Mountain Power and the Burlington Electric Department.  Vermont utilities are hoping smart meters can help save electricity, but some are wary of the technology.

The Vermont House has given final approval to a mid-fiscal-year budget adjustment that takes savings from Medicaid and uses the money to address other growing demands in human services.  The biggest new line item is more than $4.5 million for the ReachUp program, which helps people move from welfare to work. Others are $3.2 million for child development and about $2 million each for general assistance and mental health.  The money is coming mainly from an overestimate during last spring's budget process of how much was going to be spent on Medicaid. The changes apply to the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.  Gov. Peter Shumlin is set to deliver his budget address for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, today.

It was a special ceremony when the new attorney sworn into the state bar is given the oath by a judge who also happens to be his father.  Judge David A. Howard presides in Bennington in the Family Court Division, and swore in his son, Gregory Howard, Wednesday in the Superior Court building.  The younger Howard says he never felt pushed towards the law profession, although his father, aunt and uncle are all attorneys.  And, like his dad, he attended the Boston College Law School.

Lawmakers in Albany are discussing ways to increase New York's minimum wage at the request of Governor Cuomo.  Cuomo has proposed hiking the minimum wage from 7-25 to 8-75 an hour, though he has not tied such an increase to the rate of inflation as a previous minimum wage proposal out of the Assembly did.  It's believed by analysts that Republican leaders in the state Senate would go along with the hike if tax breaks for businesses are also included in any such legislation.

The politically charged issue of redistricting efforts is one step closer to being put to New York voters.  The state Senate has approved the second passage of a constitutional amendment that would create a new commission to oversee redistricting by 2022.  If approved by lawmakers in Albany, voters will get final approval on the plan at the ballot box in 2014. 

New York state police say a small plane is undamaged and its pilot unhurt after an emergency landing in a field south of the Catskills.  Troopers say the single-engine Piper Cherokee Warrior made the landing Monday in the Sullivan County town of Bethel after departing Rutland.  It was en route to Pottsville, PA.  Police say 22-year-old pilot Brent Kozura of Pottsville was being diverted to Sullivan County Airport because of mechanical problems but was unable to reach the airport and landed the plane in a nearby field.  The FAA is investigating.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office recovered more than $335 million last year from Medicaid fraud and abuse. The total, including $146 million from a multi-state settlement with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is the second highest annual recovery by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Rutland City Police are searching for a person or people who drove house-to-house Tuesday night and Wednesday morning shooting out people's car windows with a BB or pellet gun.  More than 60 people said their windows were shot overnight and police are still expecting more.  One of the victims is Shannon Morrill who had to improvise Wednesday morning with a cardboard cover over his back window but it was still undriveable with today's frigid conditions.  "Cost a lot of people aggravation, time and money," Morrill said.  Dorr Dr., where Morrill lives had several other people who suffered the same fate like Tom DePall.   "I went to warm her car up and looked in the rear view mirror and no window," DePall said.  Rutland City Police say the drive-by shootings started around midnight Wednesday and went on for hours  "75 plus calls for vandalism to vehicles, about a dozen damage to houses and half a dozen to businesses," Sgt James Tarbell said.  The result was thousands of dollars in damages but as of now no leads.  None of the people I talked with said they were woken up when the car drove by or woke up when their windows broke but police hope at some point someone was watching.  "We've reviewed store videos. A couple of the bigger businesses that have been vandalized or reviewing their video for us," Sgt Tarbell said.  But the damage is done for people like DePall, who will pay a $1,000 two replace to windows to two cars, and Morrill who has to pay more than a hundred.  "It's a $130 we hadn't planned on," Morrill said.  "It's very frustrating. Very frustrating."  Rutland City Police said that depending on the final count of vandalized vehicles the person or people responsible could face close to a hundred charges of unlawful mischief and a felony because of the financial damage caused.