Monday, September 30, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 30, 2013

Vermont's new health exchange officially opens for business tomorrow, but Vermonters won't actually be able to buy insurance for at least another month.  October 1st is the starting day for Vermont Health Connect.  That's the state's version of an online insurance marketplace being set up under the federal Affordable Care Act.  The state is providing a call center and trained navigators to help people understand their options and there is time to make choices.  Delays with the computer system mean Vermont Health Connect will not really be connected to consumers until at least November 1st.

School officials with the four Addison Northwest Supervisory Union schools say their schools will be among the 27 Vermont elementary, middle and high schools chosen to participate in field testing the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.  The new tests are a computer-based educational testing program that will replace the state’s current NECAP tests for Math and English Language Arts in the spring of 2015.

The Vermont Transportation Board will hold six public hearings at various locations around the state for the purpose of gathering public comment about transportation-related issues that face the State of Vermont. One of the hearings will be held in Addison County in Middlebury in November.  The Transportation Board each year travels around the state to meet with Vermonters and discuss important transportation issues.  At each hearing, the Board will present background information regarding a number of topics to set the stage for discussion and comment.  The public hearing in Middlebury will be held Wednesday, November 20, at 6 p.m,. at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission Offices.

Vermont State Police are inviting any Addison County resident who has been the victim of a burglary or theft since 2010 to come to VSP’s Route 7 barracks in New Haven next Monday to view a cache of stolen property recovered from an Addison home.  The viewing hours are from 10 a.m. until noon and from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Korean War, often called “the Forgotten War” is being remembered in Rutland, thanks to a new monument unveiled over the weekend.  Korean War vets spent nearly a year getting a monument put up in Main Street Park, with a five-person committee raising 17-thousand dollars for it.  The granite monument features color pictures of an eagle and a flag, and the phrase “Freedom is not Free” which is also inscribed on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 27, 2013

Some T-D Bank customers in Vermont and New Hampshire got a shock when they found other customers’ information on the back of their statements.  T-D Bank says the national firm they use to print and mail statements accidentally included information such as routing numbers, signatures and account numbers from other customers on the back of their statements.  The bank says it happened to a limited number of customers and is not considered a security breach or fraud.  Customers affected are being offered two years’ worth of free credit monitoring, and they can also go to any branch to close their accounts if they wish.

A public meeting will be held to discuss the proposed bridge replacements along Main Street and Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury on Tuesday at 7 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association on Collins Drive.  During the meeting there will be a presentation of the Conceptual Plans to the public and the Selectboards approval of the Preferred Alternative.  The project team will be seeking input from municipal officials, regulatory/resource agencies, abutting property owners, and the public in regards to the Preferred Alternative.

Health officials in are urging parents to learn how to properly install and use car seats after a safety checkpoint found dozens out of compliance.  According to the Vermont Department of Health, two out of 83 car seats passed inspection last weekend at a checkpoint done in Rutland.  Some were improperly installed, defective, or unused.  Children should not use seat belts until they are 4 foot 9 inches tall, and state law requires that all children up to age 8 are properly restrained.

The state of New York is going to help pay the cost of running Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express to Rutland.  The Vermont Agency of Transportation says New York is going to contribute $800,000 toward the costs of operating the train that runs from New York City to Rutland thru Albany.  The change came after new rules reduced the federal contribution to short passenger lines.

The final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal to base the controversial F-35 jets at Burlington International Airport is now out in the public.  Despite the early release, the Air Force still intends to file it officially on October 4th, followed by a 30-day public comment period.  The study put out by the Air Force gives information about the impact of the newer, faster and louder jets if they were based at six different sites not under consideration.  The Vermont Air National Guard says Burlington remains the top preferred location.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), in collaboration with Vergennes Union High School’s Guidance Department, has scheduled a “Paying for College” presentation at the school next Thursday at 7 p.m., in the Library.  The session is free and open to the public.  The presentation, which normally runs about one and a half to two hours, and provides students and their parents with information on financial aid and other resources available to pay for college.  Among the topics covered are types of financial aid, ways to apply, how family contribution is calculated, how financial aid is awarded, student and parent loans, and alternative payment options.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 26, 2013

A new type of flu vaccine will keep you better protected this year.  For years, the vaccine has targeted three different flu virus.  This new vaccine protects against four.  You can still get the standard shot, in fact, most of the vaccine offered this year will be the original.  You should talk to your doctor about the best options for you and your family.

A passenger riding in a cement truck is dead after a crash in the town of Hancock.  State Police say the truck, loaded with concrete was headed down Route 125 yesterday and went out of control on a curve, overturned and went off the road, knocking down several trees.  A passenger, 45-year-old Michael Thompson of Bristol died at the scene while the driver, Jason Barton who is 35 and from Winooski, was taken to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center with serious injuries.  The highway was closed for more than seven hours during the investigation.

A 39-year-old Vermont woman has denied involvement in a mugging in Rutland.  Jennifer R. Griffin pleaded innocent to a felony charge of assault and robbery with injury in connection with the incident on the afternoon of September 11.  If convicted, she could face one to 20 years in prison.  The victim reported that a man jumped on her back, knocking her to the ground, while Griffin took her purse containing more than $100 in cash and other items.

The Vermont Education Agency said students across the state are showing progress in meeting science literacy goals, but work remains to be done.  The science tests using the New England Common Assessment Program Testing were conducted this spring on students in grades 4, 8, and 11.  The test is designed to check students’ skills and knowledge that combines factual information from biological, physical, and earth and space science with other thinking abilities.  The results found that 47 percent of Vermont fourth-graders scored as proficient or higher in science, down 6 percentage points from last year.  In Grade 8, 32 percent were proficient or higher, up 2 percentage points from 2012. In Grade 11, 31 percent were proficient or higher, down 2 percentage points.

An Addison man is now charged with stealing from 52 different people from throughout Addison County.  37-year-old Raymond Ritchie was arraigned on six new counts of burglary and possession of stolen property yesterday.  The charges were added to those already filed against him last month, including three counts of unlawful trespass and cultivation of marijuana.  Authorities say the items were stolen over the last three years.  Ritchie is being held without bail.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 24, 2013

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is granting $2 million for relocation costs for Vermont’s Department for Children and Families, which was displaced from the Waterbury State Office Complex by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.  The funding represents FEMA’s 90 percent reimbursement of a total eligible cost to the state of $2.3 million to relocate staff and provide call center facilities through completion of the rebuilding process at the Waterbury State Office Complex.

Vermont Gas Systems CEO Don Gilbert says he is confident that the state will approve the company’s 43-mile natural gas pipeline in Addison County.  Gilbert hopes to have approval for phase one of the project by the end of the year, and his team is planning to submit its application for phase two by Nov. 15.   Phase two would have a pipeline under Lake Champlain to fuel the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga.  He hopes the Public Service Board will approve a permit for that second phase in 2014.  Phase three of the company’s southern expansion is to Rutland.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, fall colors are near peak display in the higher elevations in Vermont.  Fall colors are expected to be the most vibrant during the next couple of weeks in the higher elevations.  Beginning each September, the Forest Service says they track the progress of fall color.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s owners have taken the first of two formal notification steps to let the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission know the plant is shutting down.  An Entergy Corp. executive wrote to the NRC on Monday to submit formal notification of intent to shut the Vernon reactor down in the fourth quarter of next year.  The company says it doesn’t have a specific shutdown date yet because it’s not certain when the fuel now in the reactor will be completely spent. The company says it will provide a final shutdown date later.

The body of a swimmer who disappeared in Lake Champlain Friday night has finally been recovered.  State Police divers brought up the body of 23-year-old Mason Smith late Monday afternoon after sonar found his remains 75 feet below the surface.  Friends say they were all on a boat together when the young man from Burlington jumped into Malletts Bay for a swim, and vanished.

Monday, September 23, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 23, 2013

The FAA is starting its investigation into a plane crash over the weekend in Middletown Springs.  The small, single engine plane was supposed to land at Glens Falls, but found the runway filled with hot air balloons and a car show.  The plane headed towards the Rutland airport to refuel but ended up crashing into Route 140.  The pilot, Richard Piccirilli and his passenger, David Querry, both of California, had minor injuries.

The towns of Middlebury and Weybridge are collaborating on a planning and feasibility study for sidewalk connections and pedestrian system improvements along Seymour Street and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.  The first step in the planning process is co-hosting a Local Concerns Meeting scheduled on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Middlebury Town Offices. The purpose of the meeting is to present the project goals and provide the opportunity for the public to express support or concerns.  The cost of the study is being funded through a grant from the Federal Highway Administration and supervised by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Weybridge residents will be getting together this Wednesday to decide what to do with an insurance settlement of nearly half a million dollars stemming from an embezzlement case involving former Town Clerk Karen Brisson.  Back on July 18 Brisson was sentenced to two years in jail, along with paying restitution, following her guilty plea to having embezzled funds from the town’s coffers over a period of at least six years.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture says six Rutland households have had to relocate after an exterminator used a banned pesticide to get rid of bedbugs.  The chemical, Chlorpyrifos, can cause nervous system and developmental disorders. It has been banned since 2001.  The state has identified 262 potential homes and apartments that need to be tested for the chemical, all in Rutland County. So far, 92 samples have been sent to the state’s lab.  Officials think the most serious contamination has already been found.

The battle continues over whether or not the F-35 fighter jets should be based in Burlington.  The argument returns to the Burlington City Council at a meeting in October.  Last summer councilors passed a resolution asking for more information about the planes without supporting or opposing the basing.  But now F-35 opponents have said they intend to introduce a resolution to ban the war plane from the city owned airport.  There will be a public hearing before the October 7th Burlington City Council meeting at 6 pm.  The Air Force is expected to make a decision as to where it will base the F-35's later this fall.

The United Way of Addison County is getting ready to kick off the 2013 campaign.  This year’s goal is to raise $725,000.   “Days of Caring” will take place this Thursday and Saturday.  It is an event that has thus far attracted 675 community volunteers who will perform dozens of helpful jobs for the various local nonprofit agencies that receive financial support through the UWAC.

Friday, September 20, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 20, 2013

The City of Vergennes has broken ground on the new Police Department located on north Main Street.  The construction phase of the $1.45 million project will continue into the spring.  The project was designed, and is being constructed, by Bread Loaf Corporation. 

A new invasive fly is wreaking havoc on Vermont’s raspberry crops.  The culprit is a type of Asian fruit fly that feeds on soft fruits.  Last year, farmer Bob Douglas in Shoreham wasn’t prepared for the infestation, which totaled his crop.  This year, the damage was about 80-percent of the crop.  The flies lay eggs in the fruit.  When the larva hatch, they turn the insides to mush. 

Vermont State Police are conducting another online Tweet-Along on Twitter to give the public a glimpse into what takes place during a typical shift of a state trooper.  All day today, several state troopers around the state are tweeting about their activities.  A state police spokeswoman says the agency hopes its participation positively influences the growing use and acceptance of social media by public safety agencies.

Some Vermont social activists want the Legislature to pass a law to require employers to provide paid sick time for their employees.  Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin joined dozens of activists yesterday at a Middlesex bakery that provides paid sick time to its employees and said paid sick time is good for families and businesses.  Red Hen owner Randy George said he offered sick days to his employees three years ago.  It reduced turnover and made for a healthier workforce.  It’s unclear what the prospects are for passage.  The proposal is likely to be opposed by business groups.

Gov. Peter Shumlin today announced his choice to fill a spot on the Vermont Supreme Court.  Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford will move to the high court, replacing Justice Brian Burgess who retired earlier this year.  Judge Crawford has served as a trial court judge since 2002, when he was appointed by Gov. Howard Dean.  He was previously in private practice as a partner at O'Neill Crawford & Green.

Vermont’s unemployment rate in August stayed at the 4.6 percent mark it had hit a month earlier, while the national rate dropped a 10 of a percentage point to 7.3 percent.  Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says there was an uptick in construction jobs, though that industry remains at near recessionary lows.  Transportation and utilities also showed signs of life, while there were job losses in leisure and hospitality and in manufacturing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 19, 2013

A special panel studying the health of Vermont’s lakes and shore lands is hosting a public forum in Middlebury.  The Lake Shoreland Protection Commission will hold the meeting tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.  The session is expected to include a presentation from the state Agency of Natural Resources about the current health of Vermont’s lakes and how that is affected by the way people use lands immediately surrounding them.  Vermont lawmakers have been considering new regulations governing the clearing of land and creation of impervious surfaces next to lakes.

Three Rutland County sisters are accused of hoarding cats.  Some 55 felines were rescued from deplorable conditions at their North Clarendon home after neighbors reported a possible cat hoarding situation.  Ten of the cats were in such bad health, they had to be put down immediately, and 20 cats have died since then.  Eileen, Caroline and Linda Generess were arrested on ten counts each of animal cruelty.  They are due back in court in mid-October.

The University of Vermont is the recipient of a $19.5 million, 5-year federal grant to bring science-based regulation to the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco.  UVM officials announced this morning that the school is one of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science, which are receiving a total of up to $53 million for tobacco-related research in fiscal 2013.  The money is coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.  The tobacco centers are designed to generate research to inform the regulation of tobacco products and protect public health. 

Rutland sheriff's deputies say they have caught a man accused of stealing copper in West Rutland.  Authorities say 26-year-old Greg Munukka jumped out the window of a vacant home on Smith Street in West Rutland.  Officers chased him to Marble Street near the swamp where they arrested him.  He is accused of stealing from seven different homes and doing significant damage. 

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Schumer introduced legislation to help the growing hard cider industry in Vermont and New York.   A press release says the CIDER Act (Cider Investment and Development Through Excise Tax Reduction Act) would update the federal definition of hard cider to meet current market expectations and manufacturing practices.  Under current federal law, the definition of hard cider only allows up to 7% of alcohol per volume before it is taxed at the higher rate of wine and only a certain level of carbonation before it is taxed at an even higher rate of sparkling wine.  Many producers say they rely on natural raw materials and have little ability to predict and control alcohol content or carbonation levels in their cider.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 17, 2013

Mosquito pools in Cornwall, Brandon, and Milton have tested positive this week for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).  The detection of EEE in Milton is the first ever in Chittenden County.

A driver and two of the three bicyclists his vehicle plowed into Sunday are still in the hospital.  Court papers say 54-year-old Brian Miller of Shoreham was drunk and passed out at the wheel shortly before hitting the group of bikes late Sunday morning.  Miller, whose driver’s license was suspended in 1978 pleaded not guilty via phone from his hospital bed to seven charges, and if convicted faces up to 60 years in prison.  A 15-year-old girl was seriously hurt and a man from Moretown remains in critical condition.

There’s now an agreement between Vermont Gas Systems and the state Agency of Natural Resources on minimizing the impact of a proposed pipeline.  However, environmentalists are still concerned about greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline, and protested Monday outside of a hotel in Montpelier where the Public Service Board held hearings on the project.  The new line would run 43 miles through southern Chittenden County and several Addison County towns, as well as crossing seven natural and ecologically significant areas.

Just after midnight, Vermont State Police responded to a one-vehicle collision on Townline Road in Bridport.  Statements from the operator and a passenger reported that, due to wildlife crossing the road, vehicle operator 31-year-old Robert Stoddard of Starksboro overcorrected and slid into wire guard rails.  Stoddard admitted to having consumed alcohol prior to operation and was transported to the VSP New Haven Barracks and charged with DUI 1.  No injury was reported, Stoddard was released with a citation to appear in Addison County Superior Court in October.

Vermont State College workers demand a fair contract and what they call a livable wage.  Right now there’s an impasse in contract negotiations, and college employees rallied outside the statehouse Monday.   They claim 60-percent of the college workers are either on public assistance or qualify for it, while Vermont State College officials say they will not negotiate through the media.  Mediation between the union and Chancellor’s office continues September 30th.

Despite a search by air, there’s still no sign of a missing Townshend woman.  September 6th is the last time anyone saw or heard from 59-year-old Helen Holmes.  The air search Monday was conducted by the Customs and Border Protection, but with no results.  State Police continue to investigate, and say while there’s no indication of foul play, they’re concerned for the woman’s safety since she has not reached out to any family or friends in more than ten days.

The Vermont Health CO-OP is closing.  The co-op has lost its loan from the federal government.  In a statement, CEO Christine Oliver  said the Board of Directors voted to dissolve the co-op.  This comes after Vermont's Department of Financial Regulation decided not to issue it a permit to operate.  Vermont Health CO-OP expects to close by the end of the month.

Monday, September 16, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 16, 2013

54-year-old driver accused of plowing into a group of bicyclists Sunday morning and injuring several will be in court today on charges of drunken driving.  Brian Miller of Shoreham is also charged with several other crimes and is now being held on 50-thousand dollars bail.  Martin Veit of Moretown is in critical condition after being thrown first into the windshield of Veit’s car and then into an apple tree when Miller’s car hit the group.  The bicyclists were taking part in the sixth annual Le Tour De Farms in Shoreham, a group ride promoting bicycling safety.

Price Chopper is recalling some of its half-gallon milk sold in paper cartons Monday morning. The milk has an expiration date of September 29.  Officials say there is a possible non-hazardous cleaning solution in the milk. The solution is used to clean the equipment during milk processing and is not harmful to animals or humans.  If you purchased this milk, you can bring it back to your local Price Chopper store for a full refund.

The Vermont Public Service Board has begun hearings on a plan by Vermont Gas Systems to extend natural gas service to Addison County.  The Canadian-owned company, which currently serves northwestern Vermont, hopes to extend their service to the International Paper mill as well as Addison and Rutland Counties.  Citizens' groups including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Rising Tide Vermont are protesting the project, saying the gas is produced by an environmentally destructive process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  They were planning a mock trial outside the hearing earlier today.  But supporters say natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other fossil fuels and say its low cost is a boon to economic development.

Backers of a new Vermont law setting up rules for growing hemp are coming back to the Statehouse for a celebration.  Rural Vermont is hosting a reception tomorrow, on Constitution Day, and will be flying a flag made from hemp outside the Statehouse.  Hemp is a crop that has many uses, from food to fabrics, but it contains a tiny amount of the active ingredient in marijuana and remains technically illegal under federal law.  Supporters of allowing hemp to be grown in Vermont say they hope a recent Justice Department policy announcement that the federal government won’t prosecute marijuana charges in states that have legalized the drug will also apply to hemp.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is set this week to help kick off a series of forums for small businesses to learn about the new health insurance exchange being created under the federal Affordable Care Act.  A program Wednesday from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Montpelier’s Capitol Plaza hotel and conference center will be geared to helping small businesses learn what they need to know as they prepare to shop in the Vermont Health Connect exchange for health insurance.  The exchange starts up Oct. 1 as the marketplace for individuals and businesses with up to 50 employees to shop for health insurance.  The Montpelier forum will be the first of a series held in each of Vermont’s 14 counties during the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 11, 2013

A lot of people are not happy about a proposed natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury, and had their say last night.  About 500 people, mostly against the project, showed up for a hearing in Middlebury hosted by the state’s Public Service Board.  Opponents say this curbs the state’s intent to be 90-percent renewable by 2050, despite claims by Vermont Gas this is a cleaner, renewable alternative to dirtier fuels.  The board will hear from named opponent organizations and Vermont Gas next week, with a decision expected by December.

The state of Vermont is going to use solar power to run 10 state office buildings across the state, including all seven Vermont prisons.  Gov. Peter Shumlin announced earlier today the state had signed a contract to install solar arrays for the 10 buildings, each capable of producing about 500 kilowatts of electricity.  In some cases the buildings will get all its power from the solar panels.  There is no cost to taxpayers and it will save the state $1 million.  In addition to the state’s prisons, the solar arrays will be for the Pavilion office building in Montpelier, which houses the governor’s office, and state office buildings in Brattleboro and Bennington.  Officials say installation of the panels could begin in the spring.

McGregor's Pharmacy in South Hero was burglarized early his morning.  Police say surveillance video around 2 am thie morning showed a lone white male, covered in dark clothing and a hooded sweatshirt, enter the pharmacy through the front door.  The male was able to gain entry to narcotics and made off with a large number of prescription medications.  Police are currently processing evidence and conducting interviews.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police.

Two Vermont college football players have been suspended from the team and are facing discipline after being charged in a scheme to steal merchandise from a sporting goods store in Rutland.  Vermont State Police say 19-year-old George Andrew Busharis and 21-year-old Brandon Boyle, both of Castleton, were cited on retail theft charges yesterday.  Police say Busharis was found leaving a Dick’s Sporting Goods merchandise for which he did not have a receipt.  Busharis later told investigators he and Boyle, who worked at the store, had worked together to steal merchandise from the store on several occasions.  Castleton spokesman Jeffrey Weld said the two were suspended from the football team and they would be subject to the college’s judicial process.

Vermont State Police say there’s still no sign of what happened to a woman last seen five days ago.  Helen Holmes of Townshend left a note Friday for her husband saying she’d be back, but did not return nor did she show up for an appointment on Saturday.  State police are now handling the case, and say there has not been any activity on her cellphone or credit cards.  While detectives do not suspect a crime has happened, they are concerned for her safety.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 10, 2013

The Vermont Public Service Board is set to hear from the public tonight on the proposed natural gas pipeline to serve Addison County.  The board has set a public hearing on the pipeline proposal by Vermont Gas Systems for 7 o’clock, tonight at Middlebury Union Middle School.  Supporters say it will boost western Vermont’s economy by providing low-cost energy.  Critics are planning a rally outside the school an hour before the hearing.  They say the gas is coming from wells in Alberta that use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which Vermont banned within the state’s borders in 2012.

The Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is urging people to be prepared for unexpected emergencies.  September is National Preparedness Month and Gov. Peter Shumlin has urged Vermonters to prepare themselves for potential disasters.  A proclamation signed by the governor notes that events such as Tropical Storm Irene and other destructive storms in the last two years showed the importance of preparing for any potential disaster.  Among the suggestions are that Vermonters can take a few simple steps such as preparing a kit, making a plan, and being informed can help ease the effects of a disaster.  People can also buy extra cans of food, a reliable flashlight, extra batteries, and other essentials.

Vermont State Police are investigating a grand larceny case in Ferrisburgh. Unknown individuals stole a purse containing personal property from a unlocked cabin located at Basin Harbor Club in Ferrisburgh.  The total value of the bag and contents was approximately $1,000.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Vermont State Police New Haven troopers at 802-388-4919. Information can also be submitted anonymously online at or text CRIMES (274637) to keyword VTIPS.

Police are warning people about some scam phone calls.  The caller claims he is a U.S. District Court clerk with the Warrant Division.  He says the victim needs to send him $300 in Wal-Mart Money Pak payments to deal with the debt.  Police say they spoke with the alleged caller and his story is a fake.  They remind people that police agencies will never ask for money over the phone, and if you're ever in doubt, call police.

Vermont Natural Gas says that its goal is to bring natural gas to Rutland by 2020. The company is currently in a three-phase project to bring gas from Burlington to Rutland.  The project will cost $230 million. The company says it will begin holding public meetings about the proposal in 2014.

The Chittenden County Transportation Authority and the drivers union have reached an impasse.  The union says that the problem is that drivers operate morning and evening rush hours, but are on standby the rest of the day.  They do not get paid while waiting to be called back to work.  The last contract, just two years ago, was settled hours before a planned strike.

All that rain at the beginning of summer is apparently affecting the fall pumpkin harvest.  Farmers say pumpkins took a hit early on with all the rain over three weeks stunting their growth.  The pumpkins look good, but are just smaller, with the actual number of pumpkins down just a bit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 9, 2013

U.S. Congressman Peter Welch will be holding a telephone town hall meeting this evening with Vermonters regarding the President’s plan to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  The call takes place at 7:30 p.m.  If you would like to join in, we have the telephone number to dial on our website

n      To join the call, dial (toll-free) 877-229-8493 and enter PIN code 13785.

The Middlebury selectboard tonight, will be looking at a proposed agreement with Middlebury College that would lead to the demolition of the Lazarus building at 20 Main Street and the consolidation of property off Bakery Lane that would then be marketed for an as-yet undefined economic development initiative.

The Vermont Public Service Board is set to hear from the public on a proposed natural gas pipeline to serve Addison County, and opponents want the board to hear from them loudly and clearly.  The board has set a public hearing on the pipeline proposal by Vermont Gas Systems for 7 o’clock, tomorrow night at Middlebury Union Middle School in Middlebury.  Supporters say it will boost western Vermont’s economy by providing low-cost energy.  The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and other critics are planning a rally outside the school an hour before the hearing.  They say the gas is coming from wells in Alberta that use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which Vermont banned within the state’s borders in 2012.

About 7,500 independent home care workers are going to be receiving ballots from the Vermont Labor Relations Board so they will be able to vote on whether to be represented by a union.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says the ballots are being mailed out today.  Earlier this year, the Vermont Legislature passed a law allowing home care workers to organize and negotiate a contract with the state.  The deadline for ballots to be returned is Sept. 27. Votes will be counted on Oct. 2 and 3.  AFSCME is the only union seeking to represent the workers.

The search continues for a missing Townshend woman.  Police say 59-year-old Helen Holmes of Townshend, was last seen Friday morning at her home.  Police were notified after she failed to make a scheduled appointment later that day.  Over the weekend, Police say they searched the area near her home.  Investigators are also actively looking for her vehicle.  Police say they are concerned for her safety because she has not reached out to family or friends since last week.  Holmes is believed to be driving a Red 2010 Subaru Forester -- License plate DAK 316.   Anyone having any information about her is asked to contact the Vermont State Police. 

The Boston Athletic Association says it will add 9,000 spots to next year's Boston marathon.   Registration for the 2014 race began at 10am this morning.  The coveted entries were added to accommodate the 5,000 runners who couldn't finish the race in April because of the bombings.  The group will plant yellow daffodils along the race route as a sign of rebirth.  Bombings near the finish line this past April killed 3 people and injured more than 250.

Friday, September 6, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 6, 2013

One in eight households in Vermont are food insecure, according to the U-S Department of Agriculture.  What that means, according to a U-S-D-A survey, is one out of eight Vermont families either missed meals, or could not afford nutritional ones.  The Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont says they’re trying to change that statistic, with different programs like one offering free meals at schools and daycare centers.

Castleton State College is adding a new source of power, with four new micro-wind turbines on the roof of its newest dormitory, Hott Hall.  The turbines are joining the solar panels which went up during construction of the building.  These aren’t the tall turbines with huge blades often seen on ridge lines, but much smaller ones, designed for urban and suburban areas by J-L-M Energy in California,.  These are the first micro turbines the company has put up east of Arizona, with two of the four provided at no cost so the business can see how they work in colder climates. 

The Vermont Medical Examiner released the cause of death of the UVM student found unresponsive in the pool of the Burlington Tennis Club on August 18.  They determined that 21-year-old Derek Schueler drowned from swimming while intoxicated.  Schueler's death is not suspicious and was ruled accidental.  First responders got the call around 4 a.m. after a friend found his body in the pool.

GroSolar is moving in to the historic Opera House office complex in downtown Rutland.  The move puts the solar power company under the same roof at Green Mountain Power, as it continues its plan of making Rutland the solar city.  NRG Energy and Same Sun have also set up shop in the city.  GroSolar employs 40 people across the country, and will add another five in Rutland. Company officials say that number could double in the next year.  The solar company is currently involved in three Rutland area projects, but says they are too preliminary to discuss specifics.

Vermont Lottery officials say a $1 million Powerball ticket has been sold in Lyndonville.  The ticket was sold at the Circle K convenience on Main Street.  Officials say the winning ticket matched five out of five numbers but not the Powerball number.

NASA newest robot lunar mission is set to launch from Virginia.  The launch of the first Minotaur 5 rocket carrying the LADEE spacecraft, is scheduled for tonight at 11:27 p.m.  Look to the south-southwest.  LADEE stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.  It will light up skies from the Carolinas to Maine, including Vermont.  The blast from three of the Minotaur 5's rocket stages could be visible from parts of the East Coast during the first three and a half minutes of flight.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 5, 2013

Farmers and gardeners may want to cover their crops when temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s in parts of Vermont and New York tonight.  The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for the area.  The forecast calls for temperatures in the low to mid-30s from midnight to Friday morning.  The Weather Service says the frost may damage sensitive plants and crops.

Twenty miles of train tracks between Rutland and Leicester will be upgraded, thanks to an $8.9 million grant to Vermont from the Federal Railroad Administration.  The Vermont grant is one of 52 projects in 37 states.  Vermont rail officials have worked for years to upgrade the railroad network from Bennington to Burlington to improve the connection with rail lines in New York.  They’re hoping the upgrades announced today will improve freight service in western Vermont, and improve chances that Amtrak eventually will serve the Rutland-Burlington corridor.

A Vermont firefighter has been accused of setting his own car on fire to defraud his insurance company.  Police were called to the fire on Aug. 12 on Route 7 in Brandon.  Jeremiah Shaw of Brandon told police he was driving when he noticed flames in the back of his car and pulled over. The car was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.  The 31-year-old Shaw later confessed to burning the car to get insurance money.  He’s been charged with arson, burning to defraud and insurance fraud.

Defense contractor General Dynamics has announced it is cutting its Vermont workforce by 35 employees.  Spokesman Karl Johnson says the company is consolidating two divisions in St. Petersburg, Fla.  General Dynamics’ Vermont workforce now drops to 275 with the cuts.  The jobs that were cut included engineering, administrative and program management positions.  The company’s Vermont operation is part of its combat systems division, which makes guns and ammunition for fighter aircraft, tanks and other military vehicles.

The apple picking season is kicking off, and it’s going to be a good crop for Vermont this year.  The New England Apple Association says this fall, unlike last year, the weather is working with Vermont farmers and harvests will be up throughout the region.  In Vermont, the 2013 crop is anticipated to be 35-percent above last year’s.  Over the next six to eight weeks, residents and tourists alike will be in the pick-your-own orchards, having their own apple harvests.

Here's something that may make making lunch a little easier. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' popular coffee machines will soon be making soup.  The Campbell Soup Company says it will start offering soup in K-cups that can be used in Keurig coffee makers. The K-cup will hold powdered broth that is brewed over a packet of dry pasta and vegetables. The companies are calling the soup packs a "snack."  Green Mountain Coffee Roasters CEO Brian Kelley says the product marks a first step beyond beverages for the Keurig system.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 4, 2013

Middlebury is working with state and federal representatives to identify potential funding sources to replace $1.5 million in federal taxpayer money needed to implement the tunnel option for the downtown Middlebury Bridge Replacements project.  As required by federal regulation, the town will also be warning a special Middlebury Select Board meeting, to be convened at the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association on Tuesday, October 1; then the board will formally consider the town’s selection of the tunnel option as the preferred alternative for the bridges project.

A popular Greek yogurt is being pulled from some store shelves over mold concerns.  Recently, Chobani received customer complaints about ‘swelling & bloating’ in certain cups.  The company said the cause was due to a common mold found in dairy products.  They add, the product came from its Idaho facility and represents less than 5 percent of its total product.  The company is working with retailers to remove and replace containers with the code 16-012 and expiration dates September 11 to October 7.  Chobani did not say how many of its cups or what varieties were affected.  Chobani says customers with the affected code dates should contact its customer service team at to get replacement products.

Governor Peter Shumlin got a lot of attention yesterday when he said the state should look at legalizing marijuana.  He says it’s the change in the feds deciding not to stand in the way of states like Colorado and Washington where it’s now legal.  Supporters say Shumlin’s take on legalizing pot pleases constituents who want to smoke it, and having regulation and taxation provide a possible revenue stream for Vermont.

Customers of Vermont’s lone natural gas company have some good news coming just as the heating system kicks into full gear, a rate cut.  Vermont Gas announced plans yesterday for an overall rate reduction of nearly 6 percent to take effect on November 1.  Vermont Gas says it and its customers are benefiting from price cuts offered by its suppliers.  Natural gas prices have been dropping around the country due to a boom in shale gas extraction.  The company says its Vermont prices will save customers more than 50 percent over the cost of heating oil or propane.

The start of flu season is still a month away, but pharmacies are already offering vaccines.  Rite Aid Pharmacy is taking walk-ins and appointments.  They offered the vaccine at the same time last year, but are expecting plenty of people to take advantage now.  Pharmacists say people are coming in slowly and they encourage more people to get it out of the way early.  The CDC says the flu can start picking up across the country as early as October.

Vermont schools are better prepared for emergencies this fall thanks to upgrades in their phone systems.  The state discovered earlier this year that many school's phone systems showed a central location, often miles away from the actual school.  That would make it difficult for first responders to find the source of a 911 call.  School districts across the state spent the summer making sure there's a telephone in every classroom with the physical location correctly recorded in the E-911 database.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

WVTK Local & State News September 3, 2013

The Town of Middlebury has prepared a grant application seeking to fund the creation of a Park-and-Ride facility in the Frog Hollow Parking Lot under the VTrans 2014 Municipal Park-and-Ride Grant Program.  The proposed $72,000 budget includes the installation of historic streetlight fixtures along the eastern edge of the lot, a walkway connecting the end of the sidewalk at The Storm CafĂ© to the parking lot and directional signage. Green Mountain Power has also been contacted regarding the possibility of installing a charging station for electric vehicles.  The Board voted to approve the application to seek funding for the Frog Hollow parking lot improvements and signed a letter to Vermont Local Transportation Facilities Project Supervisor Wayne Davis in support of the project.

A weapons training expert at the Moriah Shock facility in Mineville accidently shot himself in the hand earlier today.  Michael Miron was cleaning his service weapon while off duty at home when the gun discharged at about 8:50 a.m.  His injuries were not life threatening.  Ironically, Miron is a weapons training officer at Moriah Shock.

Vermont Health Connect, the health care marketplace, or exchange, being set up under the federal Affordable Care Act, has a new toll-free number where people can call to get their questions answered.  The customer support hotline is available nearly a month in advance of the startup date for enrollments in the new health insurance offerings. Vermont Health Connect will formally begin signing people up on Oct. 1 for coverage to take effect on Jan. 1.  The help line, which can be reached at 1-855-899-9600, is designed to help both individuals buying health insurance for themselves and their families, and to provide guidance to small businesses and their employees who want to sign up for employer-sponsored insurance.

Vermont schools are expanding a program that works to ensure all students have enough to eat.  A new law taking effect with the new school year ensures that students who had been eligible for reduced priced meals will now get those meals for free.  Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the launch of the program Tuesday at the Barre Town Elementary school.  The program will cost the state about $400,000 a year.  It’s anticipated about 6,000 students will take advantage of the new program.

A group is challenging a proposal by the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association to have longer two-week breaks in the school year while at the same time taking ten days away from summer vacation.  The association wants the plan called “Calendar two-point-o," saying today’s youth and educators need more flexibility in their schedules.  The group opposed, mostly parents, says it would have a negative impact on camps and summer jobs for teenagers depending on the long summer break.  The superintendents association will be having public forums for both sides to air questions and concerns.

People in Vermont now can go online to find out where ticks are being discovered across the state.  Anyone can contribute to the Tick Tracker map by going to the Vermont Health Department website,, which also has information about tick-borne diseases and how to prevent tick bites.