Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 30, 2013

Gasoline prices will go up in Vermont starting tomorrow, thanks to a new tax signed this week by the governor.  Right now, there's a fixed state tax of 27 cents per gallon.  Under the new law that takes effect tomorrow, a 2 percent charge will be added to the total cost of the purchase. Currently, that works out to about a 6-cent increase per gallon, but that would fluctuate with the rise and fall of gas prices.  Lawmakers are making the switch because Vermonters have been using less gas, meaning less revenue collected for road and bridge repairs.  Governor Peter Shumlin has stated repeatedly that he opposes any broad-based tax increases.  But he supports the new gas tax, saying the additional transportation revenue is needed to leverage millions in federal matching funds.

Fair Haven police say a liquor store clerk was apparently helping herself to the till.  45-year-old Denise Ballard is pleading not guilty to embezzlement charges, after authorities say she stole more than 151-thousand dollars from the store.  Ballard worked at Liberty Street Discount Beverage for more than 9 years, and investigators say for an 18th month time frame she voided sales and withdrew the cash from the register.  Officers say she told them she was having financial problems and a gambling addiction.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife are advising motorists to be alert to avoid moose on the highway.  A press release says moose are more likely to be crossing roadways at this time of year, especially after dark or early in the morning.  If you see a moose ahead, slow down or stop.  Trying to speed past them "before they can move" can be a serious mistake.  Eighteen people have died in motor vehicle collisions with moose on Vermont highways since 1985.

Governor Shumlin is calling the new 31-million dollar laboratory for the Health Department and University of Vermont a jobs creator.  Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Monday in Colchester.  The new lab, which has been in the planning stages for about 10 years, will be finished in about 18 months.  It will take the place of the old building near Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

The Vermont House will be debating end-of-life choice legislation that would potentially allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it.  The measure has been the subject of two public hearings this year.  A stripped-down version of the bill already passed the Senate.  If it gains House approval, it would be up for final action tomorrow and then sent to a joint conference committee.

A case of infant salmonella in Vermont is now being investigated after the baby came in contact with baby chicks.  The state health department says the infant had the same strain of salmonella discovered in the chicks which had recently been sold at a local feed store.  Dozens of people in several other states have been infected with the same strain, according to health officials.  One suggestion now being made is to stop children younger than five from handling young poultry.

Friday, April 26, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 26, 2013

The Ticonderoga Central School District is facing budget issues.  The district is trying to close a $600,000 budget gap.  The superintendent says he wants to limit the number of layoffs, but worst-case scenario 15 staff members could be cut.  Some members of the community have expressed concern over cuts to the athletic programs but officials say they will not be cut.  Instead, the district may have to cut some lower-level programs.  The cuts would begin next year.

AARP Vermont and the Vermont Attorney General's office is holding fraud prevention forums in South Burlington and Rutland on April 29 and 30.  People over the age of 50 are especially vulnerable and account for more than half of all victims.  The South Burlington Forum is being held on Monday from 10 AM to 11:30 at the DoubleTree Conference Center on Williston Road.  The Rutland Forum will be held on Tuesday from 10 AM to 11:30 at the Holiday Inn on Route 7.  Both events are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Now that petitioners have triggered a re-vote on the Brandon town budget after it passed on Town Meeting Day by eight votes, the stage is set for voters to ask their long-awaited questions.  An informational meeting about the budget will be held at the Neshobe School Monday night at 7 o’clock.  The Brandon selectboard will take budget questions from voters.  Residents will then re-vote on Tuesday.

New York has released a new notification system allowing thousands of cell phone users to receive free and automatic AMBER Alert notifications.  A press release says members of the public can subscribe to receive these alert text messages by going to the NY Alert website.  Once on the website, the public then can create an account and select where they want to receive the alert by text messages, fax and/or email.  An AMBER Alert is sent out when police believe a child under the age of 18 has been abducted and is in imminent danger of death or serious harm.

Firefighters say a cement truck ruptured a Vermont natural gas line in Hinesburg last night.  Vermont Gas says the truck hit a valve.  They say the damaged valve didn't pose a serious risk, but crews closed down Shelburne Falls Road to O'Neil Road until Vermont Gas could turn off the flow of gas.  Jiffy Mart, across the street from the construction zone, was evacuated as a precaution.  No one was hurt.

The Charlotte Central School Board has been busy this week preparing to present a revised budget to residents at a public hearing on Monday Night.  Since Town Meeting Day, the CCS School Board has held two meetings to discuss weather to live without some funding or present the same budget again to voters.  Residents on Tuesday will be weighting in on the second portion of the overall budget proposal known as Part B because it required a second vote due to a legislative technicality.  The CCS School Board’s public hearing on the matter will be Monday Night at 6:30 in the school’s multi-purpose Room.  Voting will take place on Tuesday in the same place from 7 AM to 7 PM.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 25, 2013

For those taking the Lake Champlain Ferry, there is a change coming soon for your commuter cards. Starting May 1st, there will be a minimum $200 purchase for new cards and for recharges. Lake Champlain Transportation Company says the costs to manage them were more than expected. A 20 ride commuter book is still available and the discount stays the same.

A Castleton man and an alleged drug runner from Brooklyn, NY were arrested yesterday on drug and conspiracy charges. The arrests occurred after Vermont State Police found 12-hundred bags of heroin in a taxi carrying one of the suspects in Rutland County. Kenneth Trapp, age 31 of Castleton, was in the cab when it was stopped in Fair Haven. His alleged accomplice is Danielle Goding of Brooklyn, and she was arrested in a limousine headed back to New York. In addition to the drugs, police seized over 13-thousand dollars.

In a blast from the past, a farm in Vermont is planning to take a flat bottomed sailing barge to New York City to sell Vermont produce. Erik Andrus of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, and four volunteers, are building a 39-foot canal barge. The vessel will ferry up to 12 tons of nonperishable produce, such as maple syrup, rice, and beans, down the Hudson River to New York, where they will sell food directly to consumers. Andrus says that because the boat is powered by wind, it is more sustainable and efficient. The barge's maiden voyage will take place in July.

New York State police say they're looking for the public's help in finding two people who walked out of the Wal-Mart store in Plattsburgh with thousands of dollars in electronic merchandise. Troopers say a man and a woman entered the Wal-Mart Supercenter early last Saturday morning and stole about $8,000 in electronic goods from the store, including laptop computers, camcorders and digital cameras.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on this morning advanced a bill that would require police to get a search warrant before reading someone's email. Senator Patrick Leahy authored the bill to extend privacy rights to online content. Under current law, investigators only need to obtain a subpoena to look at email. This bill would require police to prove to a judge they have probable cause to access the material.

Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow brewers to ship their beer directly to consumers to expand their markets and reach their niche customers nationwide. The state already allows wineries to ship wine directly to consumers after changing the law, but beer shipments are illegal. That means beer aficionados who want to sample some of Vermont’s artisan craft beers either have to come to the state to buy it or purchase it online illegally.

Friday, April 19, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 19, 2013

Natura is expanding their voluntary recall for a second time.  This time, they are including all treats, dry cat food and dry dog food from the Innova, California Natural, Evo and Healthwise product lines that have an EXPIRATION DATE ON OR BEFORE 3/24/14.  Do not worry about the lot code, as all lots are now being recalled.  The will honor returns or exchanges on any product purchased from their stores.  Please note, Mother Nature treats and canned foods from all lines ARE NOT included in the recall.  For more information, you can visit their website at www.naturapet.com

According to the Vermont Attorney General's office, the Middlebury Police was justified in the use of deadly force back in October 2012.  A press release says both Sgt. Jason Covey and Patrolman Kevin Emilio were justified in believing that they were in imminent danger or serious bodily injury when George Demarais shot at them.  Police say Demarais called 911 and stated that he wanted to commit suicide by cop.  When two of the officers asked him to show his hands he fired at them.  Both officers returned fire and Demarais was fatally wounded.
The Air Force says it's delaying its decision on where to base controversial F-35 fighter jets, now making the announcement this fall instead of this summer.  The Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington is one of the sites under consideration, but the Pentagon says they looked at census date from 2000 when looking at potential sites.  The populations of Winooski and South Burlington have increased by more than ten-percent since then.   The final Environmental Impact Statement laying out where the planes could be based will come out in May or June.

The first arrest has been made under the newly added New York Safe Act.  William Green was arrested, just south of Glens Falls, N.Y. after police say an undercover officer purchased an assault weapon that Green was trying to sell on Facebook.  Officers say the gun is considered an assault weapon under the new law because it has a pistol grip.  Green faces two misdemeanor counts and could get up to a year in prison if convicted.

Addison County Criminal Court Judge Helen Toor on Monday handed out a 4-to-10-year prison sentence to one of the two men involved in a July 4, 2012, armed robbery at a Bristol nursing home.  As part of a plea deal first agreed upon in February, 42-year-old Timothy Boardman of Monkton will get credit for time already served.  Boardman must also pay $141 of court costs.

New York's Public Service Commission has approved a plan to build an electricity transmission line from Canada to New York City.  The 330-mile power line from Quebec to Queens would run mostly under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.  It still needs federal approvals.  The $2 billion Champlain-Hudson Power Express has been two years in the making.  The aim is to ease bottlenecks and lower the cost of electricity into power-thirsty New York City.

It's been a very sweet season for maple producers across Vermont.  Some say they've made more syrup than ever before.  The Vermont Maple Association leaders say 2012 was such a bad season that made the production of 2013 even better.  Once again, it was the weather conditions, but this time in the sugar makers' favor, with nice cold, right on the edge of freezing and yet with the sap able to run.  While some are still producing syrup in the Northeast Kingdom, for most in the state, the season has ended.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 18, 2013

The trial date is now in place for a young man accused of killing a 78-year-old woman nearly three years ago.  Jury selection begins June 17th in the case of 22-year-old Michael Norrie.  Police say he's confessed to killing Pat O'Hagan of Sheffield in September, 2010.  A prison psychologist says Norrie is competent to stand trial, despite being diagnosed with mild mental retardation, post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems.

As jittery as New Englanders are, a few days after the Boston Marathon bomb blasts, imagine the nerves rattled Wednesday by the sight of the Vermont State Police Bomb Squad in full gear at a gravel pit in Hinesburg.  It turned out to all be training, with the bomb squad and tactical meeting at the gravel pit off of Route 116 for a training exercise planned well before the blasts ever happened.  The units train separately each month, but twice a year they get together to practice joint responses, like this one.

There's broad support for a new hike in Vermont tobacco taxes, according to a new poll taken earlier this morning.  The Mellman Group surveyed 500 Vermont voters picked at random, and 75-percent are in favor of a buck-25 increase in state cigarette taxes.  That support is there so long as the money raised is used for anti-smoking programs and to help Vermonters pay for health coverage.  The poll was commissioned by a coalition of health groups, a separate group called the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont.  The Senate Finance Committee will vote on a tax bill next week, and Governor Shumlin has already voiced opposition to any tobacco tax hike this year.

The New York/Vermont 5K Champlain Bridge Run was supposed to be a one-time affair last year to celebrate the opening of the new span between the two states.  But the race was such a hit that it will be returning this year.  The second annual The New York/Vermont 5K Champlain Bridge Run will take place on Saturday, May 18, at 10 AM.  For more information you can go online at www.lachute.us.  The 3.1-mile race is being sponsored by the Crown Point Chamber of Commerce and the Ticonderoga-based LaChute Road Runners Club.

A public hearing is being held at the Vermont State House to discuss the Earned Paid Sick Days Bill.  According the bill, anyone working in the state of Vermont would be eligible for paid leave. Employees would earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to seven sick days per year.  The bill also allows an employee to take care of a sick loved one and obtain diagnostic, routine, preventative or therapeutic health care.  The hearing is scheduled to run from 6 to 8 this evening in Room 11 at the state house.

The Vermont Department of Health has created a new public information campaign on child immunization called It's Okay to Ask.  A press release says the campaign, which is focused on the web, will provide resources for parents to make informed decisions about immunization.  The Health Department says the website offers research-based medical information, video discussions and an interactive timeline tracing the history of vaccines back to the 1700s.

Friday, April 12, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 12, 2013

An armed robbery at the Smart Shop in Wallingford last month was staged by the store manager and her boyfriend to cover up an embezzlement of funds.  It was initially reported that the robber forced the pregnant store manager at knife point into the bathroom and then stole an undisclosed amount of money.  Investigators say the surveillance video showed a different storey.  Store Manager 32-year-old Kelly English had been embezzling from store deposits.  Police say English and her boyfriend 30-year-old William Shaw, planned the robbery to cover the missing money.  About $10,000 had been stolen.  English said she took the money to support a prescription drug addiction.

Charges against a former Rutland City attorney are pending, as a deadly hit-and-run case remains under investigation.  The case against Christopher Sullivan is being reviewed by both the Rutland County state's attorney's office and the Vermont attorney general's office.  Mary Jane Outslay died Wednesday night when she was struck as she was crossing a street in Rutland.  Sullivan has turned in the car he was driving that night to police, and more information about the case is expected to be released soon.

Shaw told police they used the money to support a prescription drug addiction. A woman has been charged in a fatal accident that happened in Bristol last November.  Police say 19-year-old Ashley Ann Nancollas of Bristol has been charged with gross negligent operation with death resulting.  Nancollas was driving on North Street in Bristol near the intersection of Park Place when she struck a pedestrian, 86-year-old Anne Roscoe, who was crossing the street.  Roscoe died as a result of her injuries.  Nancollas is due in court at the end of the month.

The Senate Finance Committee is not at all happy with the tax package they've been handed by the House.  Yesterday, they heard from a coalition of groups who are unhappy about the idea of removing the current sales tax exemption on vitamins and dietary supplements.  Although removing the exemption would raise about three-million dollars for the state, the Finance Committee agreed with the groups it would discourage the use of healthy food supplements and medicine.  House provisions extending sales taxes to bottled water, soda and candy are still under review.

The school budget passed Wednesday Night at the Mary Hogan Elementary School.  A group of around 20 Middlebury residents voted unanimously for the spending plan of over $6.4-million for next school year.  The meeting lasted about an hour. 

The Leicester School Budget passed on it’s second time around.  On Tuesday, voters in Leicester voted 68 to 61 in favor of the $1.1-million spending plan.  The new spending plan for the elementary school reflects just under $10,000 in cuts from the budget proposed on Town Meeting Day. 

On May 14, resident in Vergennes will go to the polls to vote for or against a $1.45-million bond for a new police station.  The new proposal is $400,000 less than the proposal that was shot-down on Town Meeting Day.  The project cost is now roughly $1.55 million.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 10, 2013

If you were delayed in traffic this morning on Route 7 then you were stuck behind a fleet of truck from J.P. Carrara & Sons of Middlebury.  They were hauling several giant concrete beams this morning.  The large beams will be used in a bridge project in Londonderry, New Hampshire.  The fleet of trucks was traveling to South Burlington for easier access to Interstate 89.  The beams they were hauling were similar to the ones used in the construction of Middlebury’s new Cross Street Bridge spanning the Otter Creek. 

Grants are available to help improve public access to non-profit or municipal shooting ranges across New York.  A press release says it's an effort to help support recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women across the state and to promote safe and responsible use of firearms.  Depending on available funds and number of applications received, projects will be selected annually through a competitive grant process, with allocations ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.  To learn more about the goals and eligible projects within the program and to obtain the Program Guidelines and Application Packet, visit the Shooting Range Small Grants Program page on the DEC website.

Vermont is preparing for a destructive beetle recently found in New Hampshire.  A press release says officials have confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer (EAB) in an ash tree near I-93 in Concord. Vermont officials do not know if the beetle has arrived yet in Vermont.  Vermonters can help slow the spread of EAB to Vermont by burning only local firewood.  Officials say, most new EAB infestations are introduced via untreated firewood.

When an 8th grade Middlebury Union student competes in the National Spelling Bee, it'll take more than just good spelling to win.  Last month that Ronan Howlett won the state spelling bee.  For the first time in 86 years, a vocabulary test is being added to the competition.  Spellers will take computer-based vocab tests in the beginning rounds.  Those scores will determine the semifinalists and finalists.  The on-stage spelling rounds will still look the same.  Howlett heads to Washington, D.C. in late May.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says a South Burlington electrical contractor is a good example of how the state is working to ensure businesses have enough qualified workers.  Omega Electrical has been working with the state to sponsor employees who get trained while working full time.  Shumlin said this morning that such programs are one reason Vermont unemployment rate is tied for the third lowest in the country.

Adirondack Health may close Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid, including the Emergency Department.  Instead, an urgent-care clinic and physical-therapy facilities would be established at the Uihlein Living Center, about a quarter of a mile away.  The idea isn’t to remove emergency-care access from Lake Placid but to replace it with walk-in urgent care.  Emergency ambulance calls would be routed to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for critical-care medical services.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 9, 2013

The Vermont Senate has passed legislation that would allow farmworkers in the country illegally to become drivers.  The vote in the Senate this morning was nearly unanimous on the bill that would create driver privilege cards for people not eligible to get an enhanced driver’s license under the federal REAL ID law.  The bill now goes to the Vermont House for final approval.

Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce announced a new tool to assist Vermonters in finding lost life insurance benefits today.  A press release says the department improved web page search tools, consumer tips and information to assist consumers in claiming their money.  The Treasurer's office has received more than $2.2 million in unclaimed property.  In addition to insurance proceeds, the state receives other unclaimed financial property that includes cash, checks, security deposits, refunds, stocks, bonds, bank accounts and estates. 

The Vermont Health Department is conducting a EEE research study.  The department is looking for volunteers to participate in a research study that will test blood samples from residents living in Brandon, Sudbury, and Whiting for antibodies to Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.  The first of three clinics will be held on April 23, from 10 AM to 7 PM at the Brandon Senior Center (1591 Forest Dale Road).  The other two clinics will be held from noon to 7 PM at the Sudbury Town Hall on May 14 and Whiting Town Hall on May 29.  Eligible participants will be asked to complete a brief survey and give a small blood sample.  A nurse will collect the blood, which will only be tested for antibodies to EEE.

The Middlebury Selectboard meets tonight at 7 o’clock in the main conference room of the town offices.  Agenda items include nominations for annual appointments to Boards & Commissions; reports from the Energy Committee, Business Development Advisory Board and the Parks & Recreation Committee; and a bi-weekly report on the Main Street & Merchants Row Railroad Overpass Bridge Replacement Projects.

Expect Rutland to eventually be a beautiful place, with millions of flowers being planted around the city.  It's all part of the project called Rutland Blooms, with local government, businesses and citizens partnering to get seeds and bulbs planted.  The mayor says neighborhoods are dealing with a number of issues such as crime and drugs, and Rutland Blooms is a visible effort to get residents to think about their city a little differently, and to improve the quality of life.

A man was arrested last night in Starksboro for excessive speed.  Police say 21-year-old Frank Liberty was traveling at 93 MPH in a posted 50 MPH Zone on Vermont Route 116.  Liberty is scheduled to appear in court in June.

Vermont-made products aren't doing as well this year as they were last year with international trade.  The state board which looks at those numbers says the Northeast is suffering, with a numbers so far this year down by about five percent.  In Vermont, especially, there are more than 30-thousand jobs relying on foreign exporting, as well as money for tax revenue.  Industries such as sport equipment and paper are doing poorly, while instrumentation and machinery are doing well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 8, 2013

Green Mountain Power is moving ahead with plans to build the energy center in Rutland.  The company has issued a request for bids on construction of a 18.3-kilowatt solar generation array to be built atop the company’s planned Energy Innovation Center.  Bids are due on April 30 and GMP plans to announce the winning bidder May 10.  GMP plans to open the center to the public in October. 

Voter in Middlebury will go meet at Mary Hogan Elementary School to decide a proposed spending plan of $6.4-million for next year, representing an over 4.4-percent increase.  Officials say the budget reflects, a growing commitment to science, technology, engineering and math programs.

A man was stopped at Plattsburgh International Airport Saturday when a TSA officer spotted a gun in the passenger's carry-on bag.  A press release says the gun was a realistic replica handgun and was actually a lighter.  There was no impact to airport operations and the man, ticketed to fly to Fort Lauderdale, was permitted to catch his flight without the gun/lighter.  The TSA is reminding travelers they can be fined up to $11,000 if they are caught with prohibited items at the airport.

Governor Peter Shumlin was in Rutland on Saturday to talk about how cuts in the federal budget will affect school budgets around the state.  Shumlin talked about spending more money on secondary education to encourage low-income students to continue their educations. He also warned that some Vermont students in need of the highest level of care would soon begin feeling the effects from the federal sequester cuts.  Some areas that Shumlin said the state needs to improve on is the rate of low income students who graduate and pursue a college education.

Champlain College President David F. Finney announced this morning that he plans to retire next year.  Finney has served as president for 8 years and will retire on June 30, next year.  The college is now searching for a new president.

Essex County is asking the state for a casino.  The County Board of Supervisors wrote to Governor Andrew Cuomo expressing their desire to get Essex County on the list if the legislature decides to legalize non-Indian gambling casinos.  The Governor has proposed allowing three new casinos in upstate New York, which would require changing the states constitution by public referendum.

Another raccoon tests positive for rabies in St. Albans.  Police say the raccoon was captured Friday in the area of Federal Street.  St. Albans Police responded to two separate complaints on March 30 and 31st of possible rabid raccoons.  Both those animals, found on New Street and High Street, tested positive for rabies.  Police say exposure to rabies can occur when saliva from an infected animal gets into a fresh, open scratch or on to a mucous membrane, such as the mouth eyes or if a person is scratched by the animal.   Even raccoons that appear to be healthy could be a source of exposure to rabies. 

Tomorrow night at Mount Abe in Bristol, there will be a charity basketball game between the Harlem Superstars and the Mount Abe All Stars.  The Harlem Superstars are a talented group of basketball players, whose main mission is to entertain kids and their families through the game of exciting “Show Time” Basketball.  Our very own Bruce Zeman will lead the Mount Abe All Stars against the Superstars in a game to benefit the Mount Abe Parent Teacher Organization.  The game tomorrow night will start at 6:30 at Mount Abe.  Ticket are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.  For more information, call 802-453-2333.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 5, 2013

The Vermont Senate has advanced legislation aimed at allowing workers on Vermont farms to become legal drivers despite the fact that they may be in the country illegally.  The 27-2 vote giving the measure preliminary approval came after there was broad agreement that the workers - an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 mostly from Mexico and Guatemala - have been advocating for the right to drive for a number of years.  They say they are isolated on Vermont's farms and that the ability to drive will help them get access to basic services.  The bill is expected to be up for final Senate action on Tuesday and then go to the House.

It was a very happy ending to a scary search for a missing 7-year-old girl.  She was last seen on her bike at around 7 o’clock last night when she vanished.  Rutland police, fire and area sheriff departments were involved in the search, along with Vermont State Police and a New York state police helicopter.  Finally, police going door-to-door found her asleep in a house on Pine Street in Rutland at around 1 AM.  The little girl is now back home, and the people living where she was found are being questioned.

A ban on the wild boar is moving forward in Montpelier.  Vermont House lawmakers have approved a ban on wild boar.  State Fish and Wildlife officials say they are concerned the boar could escape from captive hunting facilities and attack other animals.  The wild hogs are an invasive species, reproduce rapidly and are known to cause significant damage.  The bill, which was approved yesterday, targets all varieties of wild boar and their genetic cousins.  The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is asking the Legislature to make it illegal to own or import these animals in Vermont.

Voters in Leicester will go to the polls next Tuesday to vote on a revised school budget for next year.  The school board is proposing a revised budget of just over $1.1-million.  That represents a spending increase of almost $57,000 or 5.4 percent from this year.  The board’s first offering was rejected by voters on Town Meeting Day by eight votes, 73-65.  An informational meeting will be held Monday Night at 7 o’clock in the Leicester Meeting House. Residents will vote on Tuesday from 10 AM to 7 PM at the town offices.

There has been a changing of the guard with the Brandon Republican Town Committee.  Committee Chairman Del Cook stepped down after seven years.  On Tuesday, Seth Hopkins, a Brandon business owner who ran for a House seat last year, was elected to the position.  Cindy Bell was elected secretary while Vice-Chairman Bob Dean, Treasurer Kevin Blier, and Assistant Treasurer Marge Munger will continue to hold their posts.  For more information about the committee, you can visit their new website BrandonGOP.org.

A new psychiatric wing at Rutland Regional Medical Center will begin housing patients who in the past would have been treated at the Vermont State Hospital.  The new addition, dubbed the “South Wing,” will operate in a renovated space on the fourth floor next to, but separate from, the hospital’s existing 16-bed psychiatric unit.  Unlike the existing facility, the South Wing will be a closed unit with twice the number of staff to care for only six patients.  The new facility is one of several opening this year and next year to replace the 54 beds lost at the state hospital.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 2, 2013

The Vermont Senate tomorrow is expected to take up a bill that would allow immigrant farm workers to get driver's licenses in Vermont.  The bill was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.  Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farmworkers, many of whom are in this country illegally. The bill would allow them to get driver's licenses provided that they have the proper documentation and then take the tests to get a permit, and then a license.

The U.S. Senate is preparing to discuss the farm bill once again.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) says she has a plan to strengthen the state's dairy farms.  She says her plan will provide more accurate and competitive pricing for farmers.  The Farm Bill that passed the Senate last fall included many programs to help New York farmers, but that bill failed in the U.S. House of Representatives and none of the new programs became law.

The principal of Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg is the finalist in the search for a new superintendent of schools in Winooski.  Sean McMannon will meet with teachers, parents, students and the Winooski School Board on Thursday.  Another finalist was picked and scheduled to meet the school community but dropped out of the running last week.  The Winooski School Board is expected to decide on Thursday night whether to hire McMannon or to renew the search.

Vermonters looking for health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act can now look at rates to make choices about the coverage they want.  Yesterday, the state posted proposed rates for the various plans offered by Blue Cross-Blue Shield and M-V-P.  Companies with fewer than 50 workers and anyone else who doesn't get health insurance through work will have to buy a policy through a marketplace called Vermont Health Connect.  Enrollment starts in October, with coverage beginning next January.

The Housing Assistance Program of Essex County announced the results of new research on the effectiveness of NeighborWorks pre-purchase housing counseling and education.  The report shows that homebuyers who received such advice were one-third less likely to fall behind on their mortgages compared to homebuyers who didn’t receive similar counseling and education.  Repeat homebuyers who received the services were also are about one-third less likely to fall 90 days or more behind in their mortgages.

Plans to open an opiate treatment center in Rutland are moving forward again.  Last fall, the city and state were close to a deal to open a clinic in a building at the Howe Center but the plans fell threw.  Now, it appears the plan is back on track.  Officials at Rutland Regional Medical Center say the clinic would be a partnership between the hospital and the state.  They hope to be able to open their doors to the public by October.

The Westport Health Center is slated for a major addition that will provide more exam rooms, a lab area, procedure room and other space.  Ground breaking on the new addition will take place in the next couple weeks.  Officials say there will be no disruption to patient care while the construction is taking place.

Monday, April 1, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 1, 2013

Vermont health officials are looking for volunteers for a study of Eastern equine encephalitis.  The Vermont Department of Health says officials hope to learn more about how prevalent the mosquito-transmitted virus is in Vermont.  Last year, two men, one from Brandon and the other from Sudbury, died in Vermont's first human cases of EEE.  The plan is to draw blood from 150 to 200 volunteers at clinics in Brandon, Whiting and Sudbury.  The first clinic is April 23 in Brandon, with the Sudbury and Whiting clinics set for May 14.  Blood specimens will be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control for testing, with the results coming back to Vermont for analysis.

The State of Vermont released the rates for the federally-mandated Health Benefits Exchange, Vermont Health Connect, today.  A press release says the plans were structured by levels set by the federal health care law which includes platinum, gold, silver and catastrophic plans.  All health plans offered through Vermont Health Connect will cover visits to the doctor and emergency room, prescriptions, maternity care, and preventive care like cancer screenings and immunizations.

Two regular monthly surveys by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continue to send mixed signals about Vermont’s employment picture. The survey of employers shows a slow but steady rise in the number of non-farm payroll jobs over the last 12 months. But in the monthly survey of households, fewer Vermonters say they are employed; working either for themselves or someone else.  In February, employers added 1,300 jobs, but 1,000 fewer people said they were working.

The new state budget provides a substantial increase in money allocated for repairing deteriorating local roads and bridges in the Empire State.  Statewide, funding for the state’s 2013-14 CHIPS program is set to increase $75 million to a total of about $438 million.  Funding increases include over $723,000 more or about 24 percent additional for Essex County.  The average statewide increase is 20.7 percent.  The state Senate approved the transportation bill earlier today.

Congressman Peter Welch has announced legislation that he says will make it easier to pay for renewable energy projects in Vermont and around the country.  He says the proposal would expand a financing tool used by the energy sector called master limited partnerships to renewable energy projects.  Currently, those projects are not eligible for that business structure, which is taxed as a partnership but is traded like a corporate stock.

Fletcher Allen Health Care is looking to expand.  The hospital is looking to replace aging buildings on its campus with a new in-patient facility with private rooms.  The plan also calls for a new maternity ward and a research center.  Hospital officials say the plan is in the earliest stages, but initial estimates put the price tag at about $120 million.  The last major expansion at Fletcher Allen was the addition of an ambulatory care center and a parking garage that opened in 2005.