Friday, August 30, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 30, 2013

The Vermont Health Department announced today that Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been detected in more mosquitoes from the swampy areas of Whiting, nearby Leicester, and Brandon.  The Health Department Laboratory just confirmed EEE in five mosquito batches collected by the Agency of Agriculture this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  EEE was also recently detected in mosquitoes in Sudbury, from the opposite side of the swamp from where the Brandon mosquitoes were collected.  To date this year, one person and one horse in Lamoille County have been confirmed to have West Nile virus. There have been no reports of human or animal cases of EEE this year.

Vermont State Police have arrested three people in connection with an armed robbery at a pharmacy in Cambridge.  Police say a man and two women entered Kinney Drugs yesterday afternoon.  The man pulled out a handgun and demanded opiates and stimulant drugs from the pharmacist.  The pharmacist handed over some drugs, and the three left.  No one was hurt.  The three were tracked down by police about an hour later.  Police said 38-year-old Russell John Thaxton of Starksboro was arrested on assault and robbery charges.  They said 31-year-old Amanda Tetrault of Eden and 30-year-old Jennifer Stancliff of Morrisville were charged with accessory aiding in the commission of a felony.

Demolition began on the State Office Complex in Waterbury.  As you might remember, it was heavily damaged by flood waters during Tropical Storm Irene 2 years ago.  Work was delayed as the state and federal government hashed out how the project would be paid for.  Yesterday, it was announced the feds will cover $53-million of the $125-million reconstruction cost.  The plan calls for demolishing 19 buildings, fixing 13, and building a new one.  The new complex should be open in about two years.

A former Rutland police officer will not face criminal charges for his use of workers’ compensation benefits.  Ten months after Joseph “Michael” Warfle was placed on administrative leave and nine months after Vermont State Police began an investigation into unspecified issues related to his receipt of benefits.  Officials say prosecutors decided they didn’t have enough evidence to bring a criminal charge. 

A Vermont state senator plans to propose pay-it-forward college when the Legislature reconvenes in January.  The proposal is based off a pilot program in Oregon.  Sen. Anthony Pollina says he wants Vermont students to be able to attend state colleges and pay only room and board while there. Following graduation, students would then pay a small percentage of their yearly income back to the state for at least a decade.  Pollina says the model can combat skyrocketing tuition costs and the state's shrinking contribution to state colleges.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 29, 2013

Vermont has its first confirmed case this year of a person with West Nile virus.  The state Department of Health issued a statement Wednesday that a Lamoille County resident became ill with it but has since recovered.  A horse in Lamoille County also contracted West Nile, and had to be euthanized.  The illness is spread through infected mosquitoes, and the peak of activity is in late August and early September.

A Vermont caseworker has been charged with a sex crime involving a child after doing a follow-up visit with her in Maine.  Police in Bangor, Maine, say 26-year-old Jeffrey Parfitt of Middlebury is accused of doing an unnecessary and inappropriate exam on the girl after asking her father to leave.  He’s been indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of unlawful sexual contact.  The Vermont Department of Child and Families has placed Parfitt on administrative leave.

Vermont is joining six other states in considering a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.  The issue is wood heaters, which the state attorney general says the EPA has not kept up with as far as performance standards are concerned.  The seven states are claiming the EPA’s 25-year-old standards are outdated and do not cover outdoor wood boilers, said to be major air polluters.  The states are giving the federal agency 60 days to reply before the suit is filed.

Williston police are urging residents to lock their doors and windows after two recent daytime burglaries in the Vermont community.  Police say the burglaries occurred Aug. 21 and 23.  Some of the items stolen included cash, jewelry and electronics.  The stolen jewelry included two Norwich University class ring.  In addition to locking doors and windows, police are urging residents to report any suspicious vehicles or people.  Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to call the Williston police or crime stoppers.

A rather unique veterans memorial is now being built in South Burlington.  Groundbreaking ceremonies yesterday in Dorset Park culminated the three-year effort to find sponsors and privately raise the 170-thousand dollars needed for the project.  When finished, it will feature three commemorative structures, one of granite, one of stainless steel and the other of stone, each connected by a pathway.  The project is anticipated to be finished in about a month, with Veterans Day ceremonies already planned.

Port Henry will be celebrating its 123rd Labor Day weekend Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 with numerous games and activities for children and adults.  The festivities open Saturday evening with bluegrass music at the Port Henry beach at 6:30 p.m.  A fireworks show will follow from the pier at 8:30 p.m.  On Sunday, numerous activities kick-off at the beach at 9 a.m.  The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will be offering instructional rides for children on wooden row boats.  There will also be “old time” games for children from 9 a.m. until noon, with prizes throughout the morning.  There will also be craft vendors and the annual chicken barbecue at the beach.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 28, 2013

Now that Entergy has announced it's closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, how will this all come about?  While Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules say decommissioning could take up to 60 years, Governor Peter Shumlin says he’s talking with Entergy about a quicker process.  Entergy says it will use the Saf-Stor method of decommissioning and will allow the plant to remain intact after closing, removing radioactive materials later.

After years of lobbying the state, Essex County finally has a sales tax increase.  Members of the county Board of Supervisors voted 17-0 during a special meeting Monday to increase their share of the sales tax from 3.75 percent to 4.00 percent.  The increase brings the total sales tax figure to 8.0 percent with state and county combined.  The change will go into effect December 1.

Two years after floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene inundated the Vermont state office complex in Waterbury, workers are preparing to demolish some of the buildings.  On Tuesday, crews removed asbestos debris from one of the buildings that is expected to be demolished.  A state official says 13 of the oldest series of connected buildings will be preserved and 11 will be ‘‘deconstructed.’’  Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to announce federal funding for the $124 million plan for the complex tomorrow. 

Vermont Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont are planning to announce the details of a settlement with the state Adult Protective Services Division.  The groups filed the lawsuit last December, saying Adult Protective Services routinely violates the law that requires it to begin investigating reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults within 48 hours of receiving them.  The state had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

A major fundraiser for Special Olympics is going to continue as usual next winter.  The Penguin Plunge will jump off, or jump in, off of Burlington’s waterfront as usual.  Some neighbors say they don’t like all the commotion and filed a complaint, saying the Act 250 permit for Waterfront Park only allows for events during the summer months.  After working closely with the District Environmental Commission, Special Olympics officials announced Tuesday they now have a permit for the 2014 plunge into the chilly waters of Lake Champlain.

An East Montpelier homeowner is shaken up but not hurt after a man with a gun broke into his home and robbed him.  Police say at 10 p.m. a man forced his way into a home on County Road in East Montpelier and demanded cash.  He then took off running.  If you have any information, you're asked to contact state police.

If you trust the forecast in the Farmers' Almanac then you might want to stock up on some long johns.  The report out of Maine that's been published since 1818 hit newsstands on Monday.  It's calling for a cold winter and heavy snowfall in the midwest, the great lakes and right here in Up-State New York and New England.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 27, 2013

Another aerial bombardment of pesticides is planned for tonight (Tuesday night) in Whiting.  The problem is mosquitoes, some of which may be infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.  Both have been detected in Whiting, and a two-mile square section of Whiting was sprayed last Thursday.  The same area will be sprayed again this evening (Tuesday evening) at dusk, weather permitting, with people being told to stay inside and close their windows.

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant will be shut down and decommissioned by the end of next year.  New Orleans-based Entergy announced today that they plan to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and shutdown in the fourth quarter of next.  The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:  an increasing natural gas market, and the high cost of repairs at the Vernon facility.  Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. 

A Vermont man pleaded guilty today to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing his 12-year-old niece in an elaborate ruse involving a fake pool party and phony evidence to manipulate authorities into thinking she was killed by someone she met online.  After today’s plea, 47-year-old Michael Jacques of Randolph avoids a federal death penalty trial for the 2008 slaying of Brooke Bennett.  When the judge asked him if all of the allegations were true, Jacques replied saying, ‘‘I'm afraid it is, sir.’’  It could take several months before Jacques is sentenced as a judge still needs to approve the plea agreement.

A house fire in Brandon left six people homeless today.  Crews arrived on the scene to find fire coming from the living room area of the building with flames coming out the adjacent windows.  No one was injured in the blaze.  Investigators say a lamp, which was knocked over by their cat, caught the couch on fire which spread to the rest of the house.  Officials say the building is a complete loss.  The American Red Cross is helping the family displaced by the fire with food, clothes and replacements for other items lost in the fire.  The family will stay with relatives tonight.

Vermont Health Connect has launched its “Small Business Estimator” tool to help small businesses answer important questions about offering health coverage in 2014. The tool, available at, is an important resource for Vermont small businesses to determine if they are eligible to use the health insurance marketplace and to compare the cost of providing health insurance with not providing coverage.  If a small employer decides to offer health insurance through Vermont Health Connect, they can choose through the menu of plans that will be available to their employees and the amount that they will contribute.

Monday, August 26, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 26, 2013

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus has been detected for the first time this season in mosquitoes in Sudbury.  The mosquitoes were collected by the Agency of Agriculture last week, and confirmed by the Health Department Laboratory on Friday.  This year, West Nile virus has been detected in Leicester, Whiting, Pittsford, Brandon, Shoreham and Fairfax.  Both EEE and West Nile virus are spread to people and some animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.  The Health Department continues to urge everyone to take actions to avoid mosquito bites, no matter where you live.

Contracts will be signed on Wednesday for a construction firm in Colchester to build a new police headquarters for the Hinesburg Police Department.  Town official selected Millbrook to build a 3,500-square-foot police department building in town on Friday.  A total of three bids were submitted.  The two other bids outpaced Millbrook's by about $1 million.  The winning bid was just under $900,000.  The new police station is slated to be built next to the existing fire station, but not connected to it. 

Folks in Central Vermont and parts of the Adirondacks got an unexpected wake-up call Sunday morning when the ground rattled and shook.  A small earthquake rocked the region at about 9:30, measuring two-point-seven magnitude.  The region is known to have several fault lines, but no damage was reported from this latest quake.

Vermont is marking the second anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene this week.  Wednesday marks two years since the storm dropped up to 11 inches of rain on parts of the state, killing six people, damaging or destroying 500 miles of roads and 200 bridges and displacing thousands.  Gov. Peter Shumlin says the anniversary is going to be an opportunity to recognize the state’s recovery and to remember those who have not yet recovered.  On Wednesday, he’s going to be in Wilmington to celebrate the community’s recovery by eating chili at Dot's, the iconic restaurant heavily damaged by the storm that is once again in business.  On Thursday, Shumlin is going to be in Waterbury, where he will announce federal funding for repairs to the Waterbury state office complex.

Vermont’s Head Start programs will serve fewer needy children this year following the mandatory federal budget cuts known as sequestration.  Vermont’s seven Head Start programs will be getting $800,000 less this year.  That means the program has had to cut 15 teaching and seven home visit positions and will serve 199 fewer needy children and their families with services such as health and dental care referrals.  The state had 1,572 spaces for children and pregnant women in their programs in September 2012. That number will drop to 1,373 next month.

So how fast could you run to the top of Mount Mansfield?  The annual Race to the Top is up that mountain’s famous toll road and covers four-point-three miles.  Top athletes can make in in a little over a half hour, but for many the steep run takes them well over an hour.  Sunday, the winner was Olympic skier Liz Stephen of East Montpelier.  The annual race is a fundraiser to help the Catamount Trail Association maintain 300 miles of back country ski trails.

Friday, August 16, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 16, 2013

A Vermont man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Court documents say Rutland police were called to an apartment for a domestic disturbance in March 2012.  They found a loaded .22-caliber pistol in the apartment and later arrested 32-year-old Steven McAuley.  He was charged in state court with assault and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault.  McAuley was indicted on the gun charge in September.

Moriah’s newest water district may pay dividends for the entire community.  The town has closed the books on the Forge Hollow-Elk Inn Road-Stone Street water project with $120,000 left over from a federal grant obtained to pay for the project.  Normally, leftover federal funds are returned to the federal government. Moriah officials, though, are asking to keep the money and use it in support of the new water district and the rest of the town water system.  Moriah’s argument is that a new backhoe, purchased with the leftover money, will be used to support the new water district, although it could also be used in the rest of the community.

The body of a Burlington man is pulled out of Lake Champlain.  The body of 39-year-old Gregory Peruzzi of Burlington was found yesterday morning on Burlington Bay by someone in the Harborwatch Condominiums.  Early reports show Peruzzi drowned, possibly as recent as Wednesday night.  While foul play is not suspected, police will continue to investigate.

Authorities say it was a member of the Albany Volunteer Fire Department who intentionally set the blaze which destroyed most of their firefighting equipment.  On Thursday, James Joerg was arrested on a charge of first-degree arson, and denied the accusation in court.  However, police say when Joerg was confronted with video catching Joerg in the act he confessed, saying he has a problem with fire and often thinks about setting them. 

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has approved the migratory bird hunting season which gets underway shortly.  A statewide open hunting season for Canada geese runs from September 3rd through the 25th, with a second season involving resident and migrant birds October 10th through November 28th.  Duck season begins in October, but the hunting dates vary from zone to zone.  You can check the Fish and Wildlife’s website for more details on the hunting season.

You have until August 21st to submit your bid for one of five moose hunting permits which will be auctioned off.  The minimum bid is 15-hundred dollars, with the proceeds helping to fund the state’s Fish and Wildlife educational programs.  Sealed bids must be returned by 4:30 p-m next Wednesday.  Winning permits do not include the cost of a hunting license or moose hunting fee.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 15, 2013

Health officials are reminding parents the first day of school is rapidly approaching, and so is the time to have those childhood vaccinations done.  More than 87-percent of Vermont school children get vaccinated every year, although there are a few exemptions to the requirements, including philosophical, religious and medical reasons.  Vermont has the second-highest rate of philosophical exemptions in the country.

The Lake Champlain Bridge will be down to one lane starting Monday.  The lane reduction will be in place on weekdays from about 7 am to 5 pm until approximately September 24th.  Crews will be adjusting the bearings underneath the bridge as part of the process to close out the contract to construct the bridge.  Don’t forget, fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone.  It is imperative that motorists remember to drive carefully through this construction zone, for their own safety and the safety of the workers.

Vermont State Police say a Middlebury man was injured Tuesday night in a rollover crash on Route 30.  Investigators say 19-year-old Michael Morse was driving north at about 9 pm when he swerved to avoid an animal and lost control.  The car went off the road and rolled over once.  Morse, who was wearing his seat belt, was taken by ambulance to Porter Hospital in Middlebury.  A nurse at the hospital said yesterday that Morse was no longer at the facility.

A Ripton man was arrested after Brandon Police said they found cocaine and prescription pills not prescribed to him.  40-year-old Eric K. Manning was arrested in the Hannaford supermarket parking lot in Brandon after police said they found 6 grams of cocaine and a bottle of prescription pills in his car.  Manning was cited on a felony charge of cocaine possession and a misdemeanor offense of possessing regulated drugs.  He is scheduled to appear in Rutland criminal court next month.

Burlington police are investigating the discovery of a body in Lake Champlain.  Police were called to the Harborwatch condominiums on the Burlington Bay around 9:45 this morning after a passerby reported a male body floating in the water close to shore.  The medical examiner was at the scene earlier today and is working to identify the man.  Police Chief Mike Schirling says there are no known missing people in Burlington.

A consumer advocacy group says Vermonters are strongly in favor of labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms.  The Vermont Public Interest Research Group launched a statewide petition drive this summer, and the group says it received unprecedented support for labeling legislation.  GMO foods are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insects and herbicides.  Most of the country's corn and soy crops come from GMO seeds.  GMO opponents say there has not been enough research to be sure the foods are safe and that consumers should have the right to know what's in their food.  Opponents of the move say the labels would wrongly imply the foods are unsafe.  A labeling bill passed the Vermont House last spring and will be up for debate in the Senate next session.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 14, 2013

Despite a recent arrest, Vermont State Police are trying to find out who is responsible for all the break-ins being reported in Addison County.  More than a hundred homes have been burglarized this year.  A key arrest was made August 1st when authorities recovered a lot of stolen goods in the Addison home of 37-year-old Raymond Ritchie, with belongings returned to 23 of the more than 100 victims.

A federal appeals court has agreed with the U.S. District Court of Vermont that state laws geared toward closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant are pre-empted by federal law.  The appeals court agreed that the state had tried to close Vermont Yankee out of concerns over the radiological safety of the nuclear plant.  Those safety issues are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The appeals court, however, did say Vermont was within its rights in trying to tie a new state permit for the plant on favorable prices for buying power from Vermont Yankee.

Vermont is cracking down on people who steal precious metals.  Thieves have been stealing jewelry made of gold, silver, copper and other metals at alarming rates.  Under a new law, second-hand jewelry stores and pawn shops must document any sales over 25 hundred dollars and hold those items for 10 days.  A state trooper who fought for the law says drug addicts have chosen metal theft and sales as a favorite way to get cash.  Before the new law, these items could be melted right away and become nearly impossible to trace.

Funding has been awarded to Rutland to identify more effective ways of dealing with domestic violence.  Rutland is one of 12 cities selected by the U-S Justice Department for the funding, and will receive 200-thousand dollars.  Rutland City Police Chief James Baker will help lead the study over the next year, looking at the steps from arrest to prosecution to corrections to see what works and how to identify the degree of ongoing danger for a victim.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says a bat researcher skilled at caving helped rescue an injured man from a cave in Weybridge last week.  The department says Joel Flewelling was among the first rescuers to reach the man, who had fallen and broken his ankle on Aug. 6.  Flewelling is a volunteer for Vermont Cave Rescue Network, a group of cavers who are experienced at safely navigating the state’s caves.  The man was pulled to safety after spending 14 hours in the cave, which is believed to be the largest in Vermont.  The department says Flewelling frequently goes into Vermont caves in winter to survey hibernating bats and had just finished a course on cave rescue several weeks ago.

State revenues were about on target for the first month of the new fiscal year.  Vermont's general fund was just short of the target of $103.5 million.  That's about $11 million more than July 2012.  Income tax didn't hit its goal either, but transportation fund revenues were up by about 15 percent thanks to gas tax hikes enacted in May.  Officials say it's too early to make any predictions about the state's financial health.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 13, 2013

Vermont State Police are investigating a possible murder-suicide in Fairlee.  When crews arrived to 14 Sunrise Drive, troopers found a 43-year-old woman and 45-year-old man dead inside the home.  Troopers have not released any other information at this time.  An investigation is ongoing.  A cause of death has not been determined.  The bodies will be taken to the Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy.  The names of the man and woman are being withheld until family is notified.  Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Vermont State Police.

New York State Police are stepping up enforcement as part of a statewide initiative to crack down on speeders.  Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the week long campaign, called “Speed Week” will target speeders and aggressive drivers.  Police say speeding is the number one cause of death on New York roadways each year.

Vermont's rabies bait drop is starting next week to prevent the spread of the disease among wildlife.  An aerial bait drop will take place from planes starting next Monday.  The baits will be dropped into carefully plotted corridors of remote lowland areas and valleys along the Vermont border and northern Chittenden County.  They also will be placed by hand in urban areas.  The baits are described as a dark green, sweet-smelling, vanilla-coated blister pack.  Officials say the baits are not harmful to children or pets if touched or eaten, but say the pellets should not be handled or disturbed.  Vermonters are asked to avoid any animal that shows strange behavior. Do not try to trap or capture the animal, but instead call the state's Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437 (1-800-4-RABIES).

Those opposed to basing the newer F-35 military jets at the Air National Guard base in South Burlington are appealing to the Burlington City Council to join them.  Dozens of opponents spoke out and waved signs during the public comment period Monday night at the council meeting.  The panel has not yet taken a formal position on the issue, although Mayor Miro Weinberger does support bringing the noisier and faster jets to the base.  The final decision on basing the jets there is up to the Air Force, and that ruling is expected this fall.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is heading off on vacation.  Shumlin says he’s heading to the home he owns in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  His schedule indicates he'll be gone two weeks.  Shumlin has owned the home in Cape Breton since before becoming governor.  He says he'll begin the trip when he gets there by celebrating his daughter Olivia’s birthday with her.  Her birthday was yesterday.

Average gasoline prices in Vermont fell 2.7 cents a gallon in the last week, averaging $3.72 a gallon on Sunday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 626 gas outlets in Vermont.  The price compares with a national average that fell 5 cents a gallon to $3.58 a gallon.  The average price in Vermont was 3.1 cents a gallon higher than the same day a year ago and 8.7 cents a gallon higher than a month ago.  The national average fell 1.2 cents a gallon during the last month and is 9.1 cents a gallon lower than a year ago.

Monday, August 12, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 12, 2013

The potentially deadly mosquito virus Triple-E has been detected in Vermont for the first time this year.  West Nile Virus has been detected as well.  Experts say there are several common sense ways you can protect yourself from mosquitoes. One way is wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants.  Also, wearing a bug spray that contains DEET can help.  The EEE infected mosquito was detected in a pool of water in Whiting.  West Nile has been detected in Addison, Rutland, and Franklin Counties.

A Middlebury church is teaming up with local police on a rather unusual cause this month.  The Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society is offering an incentive to people to get rid of unwanted or unused guns.  Everyone who turns in a gun to the Middlebury Police Department gets a voucher for 50 dollars.  The church usually takes in up to two-thousand dollars each month in collections, designating half of the money to its cause-of-the-month, with this month’s focus being the gun program.

Vermont State Police in conjunction with local and county law enforcement will be conducting increased patrols as well as Sobriety & Safety checkpoints during the Labor Day 2013 Mobilization & CARE Weekend, which runs from this Friday thru September 2nd.  Last year there were a total of seventy-seven (77) fatal crashes in Vermont.  In over 30% of those crashes the driver and or passenger were not buckled up.  As of today, there have been 38 fatalities on our roadways in Vermont.  The scheduled increased patrols and checkpoints are an opportunity to use high visibility enforcement to turn the tide in the number of traffic fatalities.

The death penalty is now off the table for Michael Jacques of East Randolph, the man accused of killing his 12-year-old niece Brooke Bennett five years ago.  The U-S Attorney’s Office announced Friday Jacques will instead plead guilty, and will be sentenced to life without parole.  Jacques, who is currently in federal custody in an out-of-state prison, will soon appear in court to plead guilty and be sentenced.

State officials in Vermont are taking a closer look at employees’ travel budgets.  The Shumlin administration last week sent state agency and department heads notice that travel budgets are being cut by $170,000 overall for the year.  Legislators this year also inserted wording in the 2014 budget bill requiring any employee driving more than 11,400 miles a year to use a state-owned or leased car, unless granted an exemption by a department head. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said he hopes state agencies will make better use of technology instead of having employees traveling to attend meetings.

Officials with the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union are looking for a new principal at Beeman Elementary School.  The former principal, Steve Flint, resigned last month to take a job in Middlebury at Mary Hogan Elementary School.  So far 17 applications have been received, and an interview committee was formed.  The district hopes to invite candidates for interviews this week and hire within two weeks.

Friday, August 9, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 9, 2013

A teenager was hurt last night after she was hit by a car while crossing a street in Rutland.  Police there say the girl and two others were walking across North Main Street shortly before 10 p.m.  Officers say the pedestrians had all been drinking, and the driver stopped and waited for police after the accident.  The victim, whose name has not been released, had non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital.

Vermont state officials say they are continuing to investigate the possible misuse of a pesticide in the Rutland area by a pest control company.  The Agency of Agriculture has suspended the license of AAA Accredited Pest Control company last month.  The company is suspected of using a chemical to treat bugs that has been prohibited for indoor use since 2001.  The state has sent letters to 150 residences that were sprayed with various pesticides seeking to collect samples for testing. That’s in addition to the 61 homes already tested.  The Health Department says symptoms of exposure to the chemical include runny nose, tearing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term symptoms can include memory or sleep problems.

Colchester police are looking for a missing woman.  They say 43-year-old Rachel Johnson was last seen leaving her house at about 10:30 last night after threatening to hurt herself.  She left her cellphone and wallet behind.  Multiple departments are now searching for Johnson because they believe she needs urgent medical attention.  Police hope someone has seen her car.  She's driving a silver 2012 Nissan Altima with Vermont license plate FLM 558.  If you have seen her or her car, please call Colchester police

A Second Amendment rally is being held Plattsburgh, N.Y. Friday night.  This is in the wake of New York recently passing the Safe Act.  Citizens for the Constitution are hosting this Second Amendment rally.  They say they'll focus on what this law means for residents of New York and for those against the new law, they'll be talking about what can be done to protect second amendment rights.  The rally is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m at the U.S. Oval.

Preliminary ticket totals are trickling in a little more than a month after marijuana decriminalization took effect.  Possession of up to 1 ounce of pot is now punishable by a civil penalty similar to a speeding ticket. The law took effect July 1, and the Vermont Judicial Bureau reports they've received paperwork for 29 citations thus far.  Officers have a month after issuing the ticket to file, so the true figure is likely higher.  Data for tickets issued to individuals under 21 are not available, as those cases are sent directly to diversion programs.

Fletcher Allen Health Care has been given permission by Vermont health care regulators to spend $3.7 million to begin planning a new inpatient bed facility that would replace some hospital rooms that are 70 years old.  If constructed, the new building with up to 128 beds would take the hospital's oldest patient rooms out of use for acute patient care.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 8, 2013

More mosquitoes in Addison County have tested positive for West Nile virus.  The Vermont Health Department says two more pools of mosquitoes had the virus, bringing the total number of pools that have tested positive up to three.  The department says those pools were in Leicester and Whiting.  Last year, three people got sick from West Nile virus, but there have been no reports of people getting sick this year.

So what are the standards to earn the “made in Vermont” label?  It’s actually not spelled out, and business owners want to see that happen.  The Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says they’re building the community base agriculture needed to create quality products to compete in the global market.  Chuck Ross says  they’re close to achieving that, and are trying to make a system where it’s clear that products made in Vermont can be sold and recognized as such.  

Vermont's largest electric utility is helping three nonprofit groups in the Rutland area go solar.  The three organizations will receive $20,000 matching grants to help build solar projects that are part of a broader effort by Green Mountain Power to make Rutland the solar capital of New EnglandGMP says the grant winners are the Vermont Farmer's Food Center on West Street, Rutland Regional Community Television on Scale Avenue in Howe Center, and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Hillside Road.  A fourth grant is available but has not yet been given out.

Police say a Burlington man is accused of vandalizing scores of vehicles, including a police cruiser and vehicles owned by car dealership in the Vermont city.  Authorities say they discovered tire and/or window damage to about 32 vehicles early this morning.  The vehicles were at the Burlington Public Works Department and in a parking lot nearby on Lakeside Ave.  Police say many of them are owned by Heritage Automotive Group and some were city vehicles.  Police have arrested 26-year-old Kyle R. Pecor.  He’s facing numerous counts of unlawful mischief and is being held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.  It’s unclear if he’s being represented by a lawyer.

A pretrial hearing has been scheduled this month in Vermont federal court in the death penalty case of Michael Jacques, who's charged with kidnapping and killing his 12-year-old niece Brook Bennett five years ago.  The Aug. 15 hearing in Burlington is 19 days before jury selection is planned to start.  The hearing is expected to be about how to select an unbiased jury.  Judge William K. Sessions III has said that as many as 5,000 Vermonters could be questioned before a jury is selected.  The process is expected to take a month and the trial is estimated to take two months or longer.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 7, 2013

The results are in and Vermont needs to hit the books.  Vermont's Agency of Education has released the 2013 school accountability numbers. It's for the New England Common Assessment Program, also known as NECAP.  81 Vermont schools met adequate yearly progress, 214 schools need improvement, and 21 did not meet the requirements.  However, some officials believe this style of testing could use help.  Vermont is switching over to the smarter balance assessment system in 2015 to replace NECAP.

A man was pulled to safety after spending 14 hours stuck in a cave in Weybridge.  First responders were called to the scene off Cave Road around 7 o’clock last night. Rescuers say the man broke his ankle and suffered other injures.  He was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.  Weybridge Fire, Middlebury Technical Rescue, New Haven Technical Rescue and the Vermont Cave Rescue Team were all called in to assist.  That cave is believed to be the largest in Vermont and the second-largest in New England and officials say it should only be attempted by experts.

Vermont is getting another three-point-two million dollars to repair the roads damaged and washed out by severe rainstorms this past spring and summer.  The state already is getting one million dollars through an emergency federal grant. Governor Peter Shumlin says the additional money from the Federal Highway Administration is critical for covering the repair costs of the roads.

You can bet the Vermont National Guard will be glad to see next Monday roll around.  August 12th marks the last furlough day for 500 people working in the Guard.  The furloughs are all tied to the sequester and cuts the Department of Defense had to make.  On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he’s reducing the number of furloughed days from eleven to six, and August 12th marks the 6th day in Vermont.  The fiscal year ends September 30th.

Half a million gallons of untreated sewage was dumped over a 13 hour period into the Winooski River.  It happened at the Essex Junction wastewater treatment facility after a worker accidentally bumped into a switch, according to the plant manager.  State officials say since January, sewage has flowed in Vermont waters at least 30 times, a number the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources calls unusually high.

Vermont state officials are seeking feedback from the public on how to implement new recycling mandates.  A draft report released by the state Department of Environmental Conservation outlines four different scenarios for implementing the phased-in mandate.  The report says the most expensive option would cost households an extra $4 a month.  Vermont residents will no longer be able to throw recyclables into the trash by 2015, yard waste by 2017 and compostable organic material by 2020.  The report asks for public comments through the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 6, 2013

Middlebury College has suspended its study abroad program in Alexandria, Egypt, for the fall semester.  Officials say the well-being and security of our students is our top priority and we will not send students to Egypt while the situation there remains unstable and unsafe.  The college notified students today that the program, where 25 students were enrolled for the fall, has been suspended and offered them the opportunity to attend the Middlebury School Abroad in Jordan instead.

There are more cutbacks at IBM in Essex Junction.  Less than two months after 419 employees lost their jobs, more workers are losing some of their pay.  IBM says it is furloughing all employees across the country who work in the Systems and Technology Group.  That includes the chip plant in Vermont.  Employees will be required to take one week off at one-third pay.  Managers will get no pay.

State Treasurer Beth Pearce today announced that the Vermont State Teachers’ Retirement System Board of Trustees has approved a recommendation to implement an Employer Group Waiver Plan for retirees on Medicare.  The move is expected to save the state up to $2.3 million annually in Medicare retiree prescription drug costs.  The plan will provide prescription drug benefits to Medicare-eligible retirees that match the current plan, but at a lower cost to the state.  The cost savings come from leveraging pharmaceutical discounts and government subsidies.

Two weeks after residents approved a new fire station, town officials have taken the first steps towards construction.  In a short special meeting last night, the Castleton Select Board authorized the town manager and the town's attorney to begin deed work for the purchase and to present the project plans to the Development Review Board for the subdivision permits on the property.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department wants your input about dealing with the state's deer population.  A two year review is now underway including online surveys and working groups to get public opinion.  Wildlife officials will continue to hold public hearings through next year before any recommendations about hunting and regulations are sent to the Governor.  Four more public hearings will be held before the end of 2014.

In a rare off-session meeting of a full standing committee, the House Health Care Committee will convene this week in Winooski for an update on a host of high-level reforms being instituted by the Shumlin administration this summer and fall.  Wednesday’s meeting is purely informational; no votes are scheduled, and committee members say the panel won’t seek to influence the administration’s execution of plans approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

For the fourth consecutive year, Ticonderoga Federal Credit Union (TFCU) will host its Back to School Supply Drive for area students.  Now through Sept. 3, the credit union will collect school supply donations at each of the Credit Union’s three branches and two ATM locations.  Collected supplies will be given to ten area schools to distribute to students as they see fit.  Suggested items include: No. 2 pencils, crayons, spiral notebooks, pocket folders, pens, washable glue sticks, boxes of tissue, anti-bacterial wipes or hand-sanitizer.  For a complete list and for more details on the program, just visit their website at or contact any branch.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 5, 2013

Governor Cuomo announced a new initiative today that would suspend driver licenses of tax delinquents who owe more than $10,000 in back taxes.  A press release says the Tax Department is sending the first round of 16,000 suspension notices to delinquent taxpayers, who then have 60 days from the mailing date to arrange payment with the Department. Failure to do so, the Department of Motor Vehicles will send a second letter providing an additional 15 days to respond. After that, the person's driver's license will be suspended until the debt is paid or a payment plan is established.

The Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team unveiled its solar home Saturday.  The house was designed and built by the student lead team.  The Solar Decathlon competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and takes place every other year.  This team from Middlebury College is one of 20 teams from around the world who will showcase a completely solar powered home in California later this year.  More than 100 Middlebury College students, from 25 different majors teamed up to build the 954 square foot home.

Unless some regional power line projects are either scaled back or canceled customers are going to face higher and higher transmission costs.  That’s the warning from the operator of the state’s electric grid, the Vermont Electric Power Company.  VELCO says as the growth of distributed, solar energy systems eases the strain on the grid, so some of those expensive projects could be avoided altogether.  VELCO predicts more increases like the one Green Mountain Power recently requested are coming, and the region needs to take a hard look at just what projects are truly needed.

Vermont’s largest hospital is seeking approval to increase its budget by nearly 5 percent.  Fletcher Allen Health Care wants to raise an additional $44 million next year to cover operating expenses and new health reform initiatives, add 282 full-time positions and begin planning for a new building.  The proposals have been submitted to the Green Mountain Care Board, which has set a 3 percent cap on the budget growth it allows for hospitals.  Hearings are set for the end of the month. 

The Vermont Health Department is getting a $10 million grant to help combat substance abuse among young people.  The 5-year federal grant will be used to help identify, reduce and prevent alcohol and illicit drug dependence and abuse through early screening and intervention.  The project is focused on people between 18 and 25, who have lower incomes, less formal education, who are less likely to access behavioral health services, and have a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse.

The Crane Mountain Valley Horse Rescue in Westport has just celebrated a major milestone, 10 years of working with animals.  During their first 10 years, they have helped hundreds of horses find new homes.  CMVHR is a not for profit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of horses in need, and to offering community education and outreach programs to teach kindness, respect, and responsibility to help prevent neglect and abuse.  For more information on the work they do, visit their Facebook page or website at

Friday, August 2, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 2, 2013

Vermont State Police are looking to return stolen items to the public. This after a couple was arrested and accused of committing more than 100 burglaries!  37-year-old Raymond Ritchie and 29-year-old Nicole Burgos are facing multiple charges.  They were arrested for break-ins around Addison County.  Police say thousand of items consisted of jewelry, silver, and sports memorabilia.  Ritchie is accused of unlawful trespass and possessing stolen property.  He's being held for lack of bail. Burgos was cited and released. She's due in court at the end of the month.  Police say there could be more charges and will work to get everything back to its proper owner.

A new drug on the streets in Rutland has caused 6 overdoses in 12 hours.  Investigators say the street name of the drug is Molly.  Detective Sergeant James Tarbell says, “"We knew about Mollies, we just didn't know about this version of Mollies."  These Mollies are packed with heroin, cocaine, meth and ecstasy, which is a potentially deadly combination.  Officials say on average there is one overdose a week in Rutland and six overdoses in 12 hours got the attention of everyone.  The drug first surfaced during a Rutland traffic stop; now police are working to stop the problem before it spreads any further.  

The Vermont Department of Mental Health has a new deputy commissioner.  Officials announced Thursday that Frank Reed has been appointed deputy commissioner.  Reed has worked for the department since 1999, serving most recently as interim deputy and commissioner.  Reed is a licensed clinical social worker. He has served as president of the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and as a behavioral health surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Authorities say a fire that destroyed an apartment building in Winooski was started accidentally by a cigarette.  No one was injured in the fire yesterday afternoon, but one man who was sleeping in an apartment was rescued by neighbors who kicked in the door.  Fire crews from several departments were called out.  BY last night, the building had partially collapsed.

A Barre man who worked as an Orange County Sheriff's deputy and part-time police officer in Northfield was killed in a late night crash in Waterbury.  Police say 22-year-old Michael Zemanek was driving south on Interstate 89 just before midnight Wednesday, when for some unknown reason he crossed all the lanes and median a couple of times bouncing off the guardrails on both sides of the interstate.  Zemanek was pronounced dead at the hospital.  Police are investigating, but say speed does not appear to be a factor.  Zemanek was an Orange County Sheriff's deputy and part-time Northfield Police Department officer.  He was off-duty at the time of the crash.

A national grant could help answer important questions about water quality in Vermont and beyond.  The University of Vermont will receive $2 million from the National Science Foundation to gather high-frequency water quality and quantity data.  The NSF grant will fund the deployment of advanced optical sensors to gather data underwater, transmit the information remotely and provide a moment-to-moment portrait of what is happening across various bodies of water.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

WVTK Local & State News August 1, 2013

Vermont’s largest electric utility wants to increase its rates by 2.46 percent on Oct. 1 and as much as 2.5 percent on Oct. 1 of 2014.  Green Mountain Power today asked the Public Service Board to approve a two-year rate increase package that utility officials say will stabilize costs.  The extra money is needed to offset $24 million in increased electric transmission costs.  This is the first rate increase sought by GMP since the utility merged with the former Central Vermont Public Service Corp.  While GMP is seeking a 2.46 percent rate increase to take effect in October, the size of the 2014 increase would not be decided until after the Public Service Board studies the utility’s operations.  It would be capped at no more than 2.5 percent.

One of two unions battling to represent seven-thousand home care workers in Vermont is pulling back.  Service Employees International Union is stepping back in order to avoid a bitter dispute with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  An organizer with S-E-I-U says the rivalry between the two unions over who would represent the thousands of workers threatened to get too divisive, and was not in the best interest of the labor movement in Vermont.  The legislature passed a bill in the last session designating home care providers as state workers for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Two people from Addison have been arrested and charged with burglary.  Yesterday, Vermont State Police executed a search warrant at the residence of 37-year-old Raymond Ritchie and recovered a number of items believed to have been stolen.  Police obtained a second search warrant and continued to recover more stolen good this morning.  A large amount of the property included jewelry, silver and sports memorabilia.  Raymond Ritchie and, his girlfriend, 29-year-old Nicole Burgos were arrested.  The investigation still continues into the 103 reports of burglary in Addison County and more arrests and charges are still pending.

Police in Winooski say they have caught the man who stole $25,000 worth of iPads from a school.  22-year-old Charles Ring of Winooski was arrested today.  Police say during Ring's arrest, they recovered six iPads stolen from JFK Elementary School.  The suspect was caught on surveillance cameras in the school taking the iPads Tuesday.  Fifty iPads were stolen from the school in two separate thefts.  Police would like to hear from anyone with information on where to find the remaining stolen iPads.

The 20th annual Three Day Stampede, a community event headed up by the Bedard family to collect money for cystic fibrosis research, raised $120,000 this past weekend in and around the Bristol Recreation Park.  Organizers say they blew last year’s number out of the water.  Last year they raised $110,000.