Thursday, October 31, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 31, 2013

An electric transmission company wants to build a 150-mile power line from the Canadian border to the southern Vermont town of Ludlow, much of which would be buried beneath the bottom of Lake Champlain.  The New England Clean Power Link project was announced today by the company TDI New England.  The company hopes to complete the project by 2019.  The company has not yet applied for the permits that would be needed to begin construction.  The proposal would run two, six-inch cables down Lake Champlain and east to Ludlow.  A similar project has been proposed that would run under Lake Champlain then to New York City.

The Vermont Department of Corrections is doing a sweep today to check in on high risk offenders.  There are about 500 on parole in Vermont.  Officials from the Vermont Department of Corrections, say they are instructing them not to have their lights on and not to answer the door and hand out candy.  Offenders who don't follow the rules can face punishment including returning to jail.

On November 1, 3SquaresVT will see a reduction in monthly food benefits based on household size. The reduction is due to the expiration of the Recovery Act (ARRA) which began in 2009 to stimulate the economy.  A press release says a single person will see a reduction of $11 and $36 for a family of 4.  3SquaresVT, formerly food stamps known as SNAP, helps more than 100,000 Vermonters put food on the table, decreasing food insecurity and lifting families out of poverty across the state.

Officials at UVM say Associate Director of Residential Life Kathleen Cook died in a fire at her University-owned residence on the Redstone Campus last night.  She was a staff member at the University for the past 16 years.  A press release says state and local fire investigators have determined no foul play or accidental causes are involved.  School officials say there is no ongoing threat to the UVM or Burlington community.  Arrangements in memory of Kathleen Cook will be announced at a later time.

The Obamacare website isn’t the only health insurance exchange site having technical issues.  In Vermont, the biggest glitch will not allow Vermonters to pay for their insurance coverage online, and there are apparently contingency plans if the Health Connect system isn’t ready to go by January 1st.  Governor Peter Shumlin’s administration has set tomorrow as its own deadline for having website problems worked out.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 30, 2013

Green Mountain Power is warning customers about a phone scam.  There have been several reports this week of callers claiming to be representing GMP and demanding credit card or money card information from customers to pay their account balance or face disconnection.  GMP says it follows state rules when working with customers on past due bills and would not demand credit card information or other payment mechanisms.  Anyone receiving such a call, should not give out personal information, including account or credit card numbers, and should contact police.

A new report out show that if Crown Point and Ticonderoga school districts merged, taxpayers would save money and students would have more opportunities.  The report was created by a Syracuse Firm and was funded by the New York State Department of State.  The final report will be presented Tuesday, November 12, at 7 p.m. at a meeting of both school boards at Crown Point Central School.  Once they receive the final report each school board will decide whether to pursue a merger.  If they agree to a merger, the issue then goes to voters in each district as a straw vote.  If voters OK the merger plan it goes to the state education department, where the commissioner of education will ask for a second vote of both districts.  A single no vote at any point kills a possible merger.

State Police say Vermonters have gotten rid of more than 3,000 pounds of unwanted prescription medications during Drug Take Back Day.  Law enforcement agencies hosted 57 drug collection sites around the state on Saturday.  A total of 3,429 pounds of pills were collected.  That beats April when a total of 2,393 pills were dropped off.  Some agencies have year-round disposal options.  For a list of them call 211 or visit the state police website at http://vsp.vermont.gov/drugdiversion.

The Vermont State Colleges have ordered the food service provider Sodexo not to change how its employees receive benefits.  Sodexo wants to redefine full time employees so that workers who take the summer off would now be considered part-time.  Sodexo says its about complying with the Affordable Care Act.  Sodexo has promised to continue other benefits for the effected employees.  But the chancellor of the state colleges says there is too much uncertainty about the impacts on individual employees for the colleges to okay the changes in Sodexo's contract.  UVM also contracts with Sodexo but has not yet made a decision about whether to challenge the personnel changes.

The College of St. Joseph will host a trick or treat event tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m. at St. Joseph Hall on the CSJ campus.  The event gives families the opportunity to bring children (supervised by an adult) to a safe environment where they can collect treats and show off their costumes.  A map will be provided detailing trick or treat destinations.  This event is free and open to the public. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 29, 2013

The Town of Bristol is encouraging residents to keep an eye out for animals possibly infected with rabies.  Town officials released a statement this week indicating there has been two reported incidents involving rabid animals. The first involved a raccoon biting a man and the second after a dying fox was found to be infected with the disease. The events in Bristol are not the first reports of the disease in the area this year. Fifteen people have been treated for rabies after a 9-week-old puppy tested positive for the disease.  The town of Bristol advises residents to report suspicious animals to the town office (802-453-2410) or to the police department (802-453-2533).

The former Econo Lodge on Route 7 in Shelburne now has a new name and new mission.  The 59-room facility is now called Harbor Place, and was sold yesterday to the Champlain Housing Trust for one-point-eight million dollars.  It’s going to be a new temporary housing unit, with case workers helping others find basic needs, jobs and long-term housing.  Harbor Place should be open and receiving residents by this Friday.

The Vermont Agriculture Agency is going to hold a webinar so Vermonters can provide feedback on rules for a new law that some say could significantly affect the state’s fruit and vegetable farmers.  The webinar will be held on November 4.  It will walk participants through the comment process for the Produce Safety and Preventive Control Rules.  The deadline for making comments on the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act is November 15.  When finalized, these rules will affect many Vermont vegetable and fruit growers.

Although more than 28-thousand households in Vermont rely on the Low Income Heating Assistance Program known as LIHEAP, two oil dealers are saying they won’t participate this year.  The state is adding more than eight million dollars to the program which is getting nearly 17-million from the federal government.  But, Jack Corse in Cambridge and Bourne’s Energy in Morrisville are not joining in because of the way the contract is set up this year with pricing formulas.  Customers of the two dealers are being told they’ll have to find another if they’re going to be heating this winter with LIHEAP funds.

The Moriah Food Pantry is asking for your help.  The holidays are approaching and the Moriah Food Pantry is not prepared.  Its shelves are near empty.  The Moriah Food Pantry, located in the basement of All Saints Church on Bartlett Pond Road in Mineville, is an emergency service that provides a three-day supply of food to families in need.  It serves about 85 families a month.  Officials hope people will keep the food pantry in mind this holiday season, when demand for food is at its greatest.

Monday, October 28, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 28, 2013

Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott is now calling for delaying the full implementation of the federal Affordable Health Care law for a few months.  He’s concerned over the technical issues with Vermont Health Connect which has state officials scrambling.  Governor Peter Shumlin says he has, quote, “absolute confidence” the problems will be solved in the next few weeks.  Scott, who is the highest ranking statewide Republican officeholder in the state, says his approach is different from the Governor’s but doesn’t want this to turn into a partisan debate.  

Ticonderoga has taken a major step toward meeting a state order that its water system be upgraded.  Supervisor Deb Malaney says a substantial groundwater source has been located at a second test well site on the east side of Streetroad, Route 9N.  The state has ordered upgrades and/or new water sources be in place by 2016.  Ticonderoga currently obtains its drinking water from Gooseneck Pond and Lake George.  But because the infrastructure for those sources is no longer in compliance with state and federal requirements, the state Department of Health is requiring the town to either upgrade these facilities or look for a new source of water.

There will be major showdown between opponents and supporters of the F-35 in Burlington tonight.  The Burlington City Council will hold a public hearing about the jets and debate whether to try and stop them from coming to Vermont.  There are two resolutions about the F-35's up for consideration.  The first resolution says the city would try to stop the Air Force from basing the jets at Burlington International Airport.  The second measure would simply ask the Air Force to not select Burlington during this round of jet basing.  The public hearing tonight is from 6 to 8 at City Hall in Burlington.  Then the council will debate the two resolutions at a special meeting which starts at eight.

Firefighters believe a front deck fire at a home in Charlotte was intentionally set.  The fire was reported by a passing motorist at about 6:20 Friday Night.  No one was at home and only the deck was damaged.  The State Police Fire Investigation Unit has determined someone intentionally set the fire and is seeking the public’s help with any information.

Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy is talking about a bill he’s planning on introducing which would limit just how much electronic spying U-S agencies could do.  Leahy says his bill is not only is supported by Democrats and Republicans but also members of the House and Senate.  Over the weekend the heat was turned up on the Obama Administration over revelations the country has been listening in to phone calls of nearly 35 top world leaders, even those considered close allies such as Germany and France.

Vermont's minimum wage is set to increase to $8.73 per hour on January 1. The current rate is $8.60 per hour.  The Vermont Labor Department says the minimum wage increases each year at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index for the previous year, or at 5%, whichever is less.  Service or tipped employees rate will also increase to $4.23 per hour from $4.17.

Addison County HOPE in Middlebury is looking for volunteers for the holiday season.  They are looking for people to help staff the Holiday Shop and put together food baskets.  In the HOPE Holiday Shop, volunteers will be assisting parents in selecting gifts for their children in the HOPE Holiday Shop.  They also need people to be Salvation Army Bell Ringers and people to help pick up and deliver donations. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 25, 2013

Police say a Vermont man is a suspect in burglaries in two counties.  Hans Rumble of Vergennes was initially taken into custody Wednesday on a warrant charging with narcotics possession.  Police said a search warrant for his car resulted in the seizure of several items linked to burglaries in Brandon and Benson.  Rumble was later arrested on a stolen property charge, as well as drug charges.  Police also searched his home and two storage units, where they found numerous items that were determined to be stolen.  They are still investigating. 

The Vermont Department of Health has confirmed the second case of human illness due to West Nile virus infection this year.  A Chittenden County resident became ill in late September and has since recovered.  This season, West Nile virus has been detected in mosquito pools in 12 different towns.  Mosquito surveillance was conducted mainly in southern Addison and northern Rutland Counties with limited trapping and testing done in parts of Franklin and Chittenden counties.  While the peak of West Nile activity is usually in late August and early September, mosquitoes will remain active until the first widespread hard frost.

The Crown Point Senior Citizens Center is now up and running with meals and activities at a new location.  The Knapp Center was home to the Crown Point Senior Citizens Center until a storm knocked over a tree, causing significant damage to the building’s roof, kitchen, rest rooms and storage area.  The center is now in the basement of the Crown Point Methodist Church on Creek Road.  

Officials with the Shumlin Administration say the performance of the Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange website has improved since its launch on October 1.  At a news conference yesterday, officials said the website’s speed has improved by 311 percent since it opened, and that it is now consistent with other Internet sites.  Officials also say the state’s connection with the federal data hub supporting the system has improved.  And they say error messages are being reduced, with some types of them being reduced to zero.

Killington has become the first winter resort in the east to open for the season.  It was originally scheduled to open today, but officials say conditions were good enough to open yesterday.  The resort prides itself on trying to have the longest season among east coast resorts.  This year it stayed open past Memorial Day.  Season pass holders and express card members got access yesterday.  The resort will open to the public tomorrow.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 23, 2013

So far just over 11-hundred Vermonters have selected a new health insurance plan.  That means just over one-percent of those projected to enroll have actually done so.  That’s according to Vermont Health Connect.  Governor Peter Shumlin says Vermont’s Health Exchange is getting better, but nearly three weeks after the launch of the new website, Vermonter still cannot actually buy health insurance.  The system cost just over 172 million dollars to develop.

It’s not just the health care marketplace exchange websites having problems.  Technical issues with the online Common Application for the University of Vermont is having U-V-M extend its deadline for early action and spring semester applications.  The Common Application is used by over 500 colleges and it’s the only way to apply to U-V-M.  While the deadline was originally November 1st, it's now pushed out to November 11th.  Applicants for the University of Vermont are also being urged not to wait until the last minute.

A backpacker is going to have a rude awakening when he tries to return to his car parked at the Long Trail parking lot on Forest Road 10 in Rutland.  There’s not much left of the 2002 Subaru Legacy with Washington state plates after fire swept through it.  The car was parked within the Green Mountain National Forest, and was caught in the fire sometime between sunset Sunday and 3:30 a.m. on Monday.  Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call State Police.

Police in South Burlington are looking for a woman who vanished from their town about two months ago.  That’s when anyone can remember seeing Melissa Dawn Simmons, and now her mom has reported the 40-year-old woman missing.  She is telling State Police her daughter was last known to be staying at the Ho-Hum Motel on Shelburne Road, after moving to Vermont to be closer to her estranged husband and child who live in northern New York.  State Police says according to her mother, Simmons suffered some sort of head injury.

A garden and park will be constructed in Port Henry for families who have lost a child.  Luci and Tom Carpenter of Moriah, whose son Brian died in a car accident in 2005, are leading the effort to create a Lake Champlain Memorial Garden & Angel of Hope Monument.  It will be located at the Moriah town hall, Park Place, Port Henry.  The Angel of Hope Monument is a replica of the angel monument inspired by the book “The Christmas Box.”  The book, written by Richard Evens, is the story of a mother’s grief and eventual solace over the loss of her child.  The Carpenters are forming a committee to help with the project. Committee members will assist in fund raising, design, promotion and other areas. Interested people can call Luci Carpenter at 518-572-6427.

An Addison County farmer wants to know who made off with his pumpkins.  Scott Stone of New Haven found out yesterday that someone had taken his pumpkins and broke into the cash box at his farm stand.  It wasn’t immediately known how many pumpkins or how much cash was taken.  Vermont State Police said a hatchback-type station wagon was seen on camera at the time of the theft.

Monday, October 21, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 21, 2013

The state treasurer’s office is getting ready to sell about $25 million of Vermont Citizen Bonds.  The general obligation bonds will be made available first to Vermont residents and businesses.  They will be sold on Nov. 4.  They are sold in $1,000 increments and must be bought through a registered broker or dealer.  The bonds’ maturities range from one to 20 years.  State Treasurer Beth Pearce says the number of bonds to be sold could increase, depending on demand.  The Preliminary Official Statement for the bond offering will be available Oct. 28 on the website of the Vermont Treasurer.

Student test scores in Vermont could drop when more rigorous standards take effect and students start taking a new education test in 2015.  In New York, student test scores based on the new standards plummeted.  And while Vermont typically rates high among the 50 states in student performance, officials don’t know how the state will do two years from now.  Officials say the Common Core standards are designed to better equip young people for careers or college; Vermont schools are making changes to prepare students for them and the test.

Burglars hit three businesses and a church in Rochester in 24-hours.  Police say the spree on North Main Street took place last Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.  The thieves hit the Federated Church, J. Jensen & Friends Gallery, Sandy's Book and Bakery, and tried but failed to break into the Rochester CafĂ©.  No arrests have been made yet.

Price Chopper is recalling some of its store brand pies.  The company is recalling eight and ten inch coconut custard pies because of a lack of ingredient information on the label.  The pies have milk, egg, soy, wheat and coconut, which are known allergens.  The pies were sold between August 11 and October `8 and can be returned to a store for a full refund.

It should be an interesting Burlington City Council meeting tonight with a proposed gun control measure up for debate.  The proposed ordinance would require any residents with permits for concealed weapons to store those guns in locked containers.  It also allows police to take away guns from people convicted of domestic violence and bans guns in bars.  The public has its say on the proposal tonight from 6 until 7, and if approved by Council it would go to a city-wide vote on Town Meeting Day before going before the Legislature for approval.

The Vermont office of the American Cancer Society estimates that it will raise more than $325,000 from its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer march.  The Sunday march saw more than 2,000 participants from 168 teams take part in the South Burlington event that was part of a nationwide series of walks. 

The Vergennes Lions Club presented the Vergennes Community Food shelf a check last wek for $2,850.  Mary Ann Castimore of the Vergennes Community Food Shelf thanked the club for its annual support, being the largest contributor.  She said that it is gratifying to see local churches participating, as well as local people who bring in fresh produce from their gardens throughout the summer and fall.

Friday, October 18, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 18, 2013

Officials with the AARP are saying scammers are bilking money from seniors confused by the new Affordable Care Act.  They say scammers are cold-calling Medicare-enrolled seniors and telling them to provide Social Security numbers and other private information or risk losing coverage.  The Champlain Valley Agency on Aging and the attorney general's Consumer Protection Bureau have not received any reports of this scam in Vermont yet, though it has been seen at the national level.

If the Air Force decides to base the new and controversial F-35 fighter jets at the Vermont Air National Guard base, there’s little, if anything, the city of Burlington can do to stop it.  That’s the opinion of city attorney Eileen Blackwood who sent a memo on the subject to the City Council.  She also says if the city did try to stop it that could jeopardize federal funding for the Burlington International Airport.  Mayor Miro Weinberger says the information clarifies the decision now before the City Council.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell says he has some unfinished business he wants to complete, so the 66-year-old says he'll seek another term next year.  Sorrell has been re-elected every two years since former Gov. Howard Dean appointed him to the post in 1997, but last year narrowly survived a challenge in the Democratic primary by Chittenden County prosecutor T.J. Donovan.  Sorrell says he wants to continue pursuing the state’s crackdown on abusive claims by companies that Vermont businesses are infringing on their patents, so-called ‘‘patent trolling.’’ He says the inclusion of third-party charges on cellphone bills, known as ‘‘wireless cramming,’’ is a new consumer protection concern. And he says child pornography needs more enforcement attention.

The Main Street and Merchants Row Bridge Replacement project is moving into the next phase.  Starting next week, crews will be at various locations up at the street level and down along the railroad surveying the land and taking soil borings as they gather information before the winter starts. 

Someone has helped themselves to 14 laptops at the University of Vermont.  Police say that sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, someone broke into the Old Mill Building, swiping the laptops from the first floor computer lab.  Authorities say the computers were used for homework and research and did not contain sensitive information.  Campus police believe the suspect is the same one behind a string of purse, cash, cell phone and computer thefts last week.

Two men from New York were arrested on heroin charges this morning in Burlington.  During one of the state’s largest bust, authorities seized over 9,000 bags of heroin with a street value of $126,000.  Police arrested 34-year-old Marcus Davis of Brooklyn and 25-year-old Eddie Eason Jr. of Medford.  Authorities say the investigation is continuing and there may be more arrests.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 17, 2013

Middlebury College has suspended a student who took part in the desecration of a 9/11 memorial on campus.  A photo from the campus newspaper showed protesters removing nearly 3,000 small American flags from the lawn outside Mead Chapel.  Only one of the protesters was a Middlebury student.  She was brought before a college disciplinary board, which found she violated the school's "respect for persons and respect for property" policy.  She's been suspended for one year.

Police say a pedestrian was killed this morning when he was struck and killed by a train in Waterbury.  It happened at about 9:45 a.m.  Police say the man was struck by an Amtrak passenger train just north of the Amtrak stop in Waterbury, under a bridge.  Investigators are still trying to determine why the man was on the tracks.

The Bristol Health Center has earned a federal designation.  Mountain Health Center has been officially designated a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike by the U.S. Government.  Mountain Health Center provides access to primary and preventative health care services, and includes medical, dental, and behavioral health care for residents.  The Look-Alike designation makes it possible for Mountain Health Center to offer a sliding fee scale to uninsured and underinsured patients meeting federal guidelines based on income.

Williston Police are looking to identify a woman accused of shoplifting clothing from Old Navy.  Police say the woman, with 3 children, was concealing clothing in her belongings.  When the woman was approached by a store employee and asked what she was doing, the woman said "This is what shoplifting looks like."  The woman then continued to conceal clothing.  She left the store once police were called.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Williston Police Department at (802)-878-6611.

Officials at the Ferrisburgh Central School are considering wood heating for the school as a way to save money.  During a school board meeting last week, a representative from Renewable Energy Resources said a wood chip boiler could pay for itself in as few as four years and a wood pellet unit in as few as nine years, depending upon among other things the price of fuel oil.

Vermont State Police are conducting a Drug Take Back Day on October 26.  The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 57 locations throughout the state of Vermont.  Police say Drug Take Back Day is a law enforcement effort to assist with the proper disposal of medicines.  Pills should not be flushed or thrown away, but instead brought to a proper disposal.  Police say no identification or questions are asked at these sites.  In 2012, Vermont law enforcement hosted 2 separate Drug Take Back Days where a total of 3,405 pounds of drugs were taken back.  The last Drug Take Back Day, held in April, collected 2,393 pounds.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 16, 2013

Three sisters accused of hoarding more than 50 cats were in court today.  Eileen, Caroline and Linda Generess all pleaded guilty to two counts each of animal cruelty, after 55 cats were seized from their mobile home in North Clarendon.  The sisters were all given a four-year deferred jail sentence and ordered to seek treatment immediately for their hoarding disorder.  They are also required to pay $6,000 in restitution to the Humane Society.

A Vermont investment board has announced the availability of $40,000 in grants for investment into poultry processing projects.  Applications received by the Working Lands Enterprise Board must be for the construction of a mobile or fixed, commercially inspected poultry slaughter and/or processing facility.  A mobile facility operating under the 20,000-bird exemption would be considered.  The board began operations in August 2012.  In the fiscal 2013 budget year it awarded over $1 million in grant funds.

Vermont has a new Supreme Court justice.  Gov. Peter Shumlin swore in Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford today at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington.  Crawford replaces Associate Justice Brian Burgess, who recently announced his retirement.  Crawford is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School.

They’ve been grounded for two weeks, but the Vermont Air National Guard pilots are back in the air.  A spokeswoman for the Guard says the pilots are resuming training operations in order to maintain readiness levels.  The majority of Guard members have been working and paid ever since returning to work October 7th, but stopped from doing much because the purchase of fuel, new parts and ammunition were suspended.  Not anymore, thanks to new direction from the Air National Guard allowing flight operations and any logistical support needed for those missions.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health epidemic.  The National Safety Council has released a report showing 47 states must improve existing standards if they are to reduce the number of deaths involving prescription drug overdoses.  Kentucky, Vermont and Washington were the only states that met standards.  The NSC is calling on states to take immediate action to improve the prescribing, monitoring, treatment and availability of opioid pain relievers.

Vermont Legal Aid and Law Line of Vermont have just launched a redesigned, easy-to-use website, Vermont Law Help, that provides up-to-date guidance on health care access, health insurance issues, and other civil legal issues.  One of the goals of Vermont Law Help is to inform and empower Vermonters to help themselves, find resources they can use, and know where legal services are available. Guided interviews show visitors how to complete common court documents, and form letters help them address specific problems.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 15, 2013

It’s one up and five to go in the case of six Castleton State College student athletes facing criminal charges.  19-year-old George Busharis was the first yesterday to go before a judge, pleading not guilty to theft charges.  Prosecutors say they were all part of a theft ring targeting Dick’s Sporting Goods in Rutland.  A spokesperson for the college says the four football players and two soccer players are all suspended from participating in sports but are still enrolled at Castleton, and, the college still stands by them.

State health officials are testing someone they say may be the second Vermonter this summer to have West Nile virus.  At this point, they are not saying who that person is or the hometown.  More West Nile has turned up in recent mosquito tests done in Colchester, as well as Whiting.  Epidemiologists say the danger of catching the mosquito-borne illness won’t go away until the first hard frost.    The previous Vermonter contracting West Nile was a Lamoille County resident, with lab tests confirming that diagnosis in August.

Even with most IRS workers on furlough because of the shutdown, today is a tax deadline.  This is if you applied for a 6-month extension back in April.  Even though your paperwork must be in, the IRS says there will not be any refunds issued until normal government operations resume.  There also won't be anyone available to take calls or help taxpayers in person.  More than 90% of the IRS staff is home without pay.

Officials at Vermont Health Connect say 631 people have signed up so far.  The website allows users to compare approved health care plans side-by-side.  From there, users can select and purchase the plan that will work best for them.  The state is expecting 100,000 people to enroll for the new insurance system that starts January 1st.

Two more Rutland Police officers accused of watching pornography on the job have been named.  A total of three officers have been investigated by the Rutland Police Department for downloading inappropriate images at work.  An investigation that began in 2004 initially focused on a detective who had downloaded 25,000 graphic images.  The investigation into the other officer says he emailed explicit images and videos at work back in 2010.  Both were suspended during the investigation.  The commissioner says the mistakes happened years ago and he doesn't believe they jeopardize the police department now.

A newly released survey finds Vermont has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the U.S.  More than 15% of respondents over the age of 12 say they've used illicit drugs in the past month.  That ranks Vermont highest in the country.  Right above Rhode Island.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 14, 2013

It's 14th day in the government shutdown and just three days before the U.S. Government bumps up against its projected borrowing limit.  Talks both on ending the shutdown and avoiding the debt ceiling have shifted to the Senate.  Senators began discussions this weekend, but at this point there are still no signs of progress.  The Senate reconvened earlier this afternoon. 

Prices at the pump are down!  Gas prices are at a one-year-low in some areas.  Here in Middlebury, we have has some of the lowest prices around.  Its $3.44 a gallon for unleaded.  According to gasbuddy,com.  Drivers in Rutland are enjoying even lower prices - Shelling out an average of $3.39 a gallon.  The U.S. average is about $3.37 right now.

Vermont is in line to receive up to an estimated $4 million in additional funding to help reduce future flood damage, and communities have just over a month to apply for the money, which can be used for such projects as buying out flood-prone properties or replacing undersized culverts.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted the state an extension through Dec. 1 to apply for more funding. The state oversees the applications sent to FEMA and has set a Nov. 18 deadline for towns to file theirs.

The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing is seeking people interested in becoming tourism ambassadors for the state.  The department will hold a free training workshop next month in Montpelier, Rutland and Bennington.  The workshops are open to employees of Vermont businesses and organizations.  The goal is to provide visitors with readily available travel information throughout the state and to provide businesses with the know-how and resources to help provide quality customer service.  Those attending the workshops will learn about tourism opportunities in the arts, history, food, agriculture, recreation and lodging.

Before last weekend, the city of Burlington was not insured against airport-related issues.  The debate over F-35 jets landing in Vermont brought the issue to light.  Friday the city purchased a $5 million policy for lawsuits in the future.  This came after the city attorney discovered it was not insured in this capacity.  Some city officials are pushing a ban on F-35 fighter jets in Vermont.

The East Charlotte tractor parade attracted farmers and spectators from all over.  The 13th annual tractor parade marks the end of the harvest season.  Over 150 tractors participated this year.  During the first tractor parade in 2000, only 20 tractors were in the parade. Charlotte Grange 328 organized the event.

Friday, October 11, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 11, 2013

After 27 years, Rutland police officer Thomas Fuller has retired, according to his attorney, because he believed the department was improperly run.  But an internal investigation was launched because of an allegation of misconduct, and the investigation found that Fuller was in some trouble.  The investigation focused on two cases.  In the first, he arrested a woman and made a report that conflicted with his own dash cam.  In the second, he kicked a paramedic and shoved him backward violently.  He had been on administrative leave since that incident.

Town officials in Cornwall want the state to stop a plan to build a pipeline through the town to the paper mill in Ticonderoga.  The town Select Board recently sent a letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin condemning Vermont Gas Systems' plan for the pipeline.  A spokesman for Vermont Gas Systems says the project is good for Vermont because it will bring natural gas to the Rutland area 15 years sooner than planned.

A former Vermont State Police sergeant who pleaded guilty to padding his timesheets has been released from prison.  Jim Deeghan served nine months of his two-year sentence after earning reductions for his ‘‘work camp’’ duty while in prison and because he was a nonviolent offender with no prior record.  Deeghan, a 22-year police veteran, pleaded guilty in January.  He recently began paying back the $200,000 he owes the state.

The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) has approved Fletcher Allen Health Care's renovation project for a new maternity unit at the hospital.  The new facility will be moving to a renovated space on Baird 7.  A press release says the renovated space will provide patients with larger rooms for mothers and families, placing the new mother and baby unit closer to the birthing center, and reducing the number of double-occupancy rooms.  The new mother baby unit will feature 28 patient beds in 25 patient rooms plus 3 boarder rooms for discharged mothers whose babies remain inpatients.

The city council in Burlington will not be taking up a ban on semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines after a committee voted to remove the provision from a larger gun control proposal.  The Charter Change Committee voted 2-1 on Wednesday to remove the assault weapons ban from the proposal, while retaining provisions related to concealed gun permits, safe storage of firearms, the seizure of weapons during domestic abuse incidents and a ban on firearms at bars.  The City Council is scheduled to consider the issue later this month.  Any changes would require a public vote and approval by the state Legislature.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is also chair of the Democratic National Governors Association, is urging the president and Republicans to end the government shutdown.  Speaking at the Statehouse, Shumlin urged the president and the GOP to get the nation out of this "mess."  Until now, the governor had reserved his criticism.  Now, Shumlin is urging all sides, including the president, to end the standoff that has left some sections of the federal government shutdown.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 9, 2013

While Vermont officials work out glitches in the new online health insurance exchange, officials are offering a low-tech way to get the information — on paper.  Commissioner Mark Larson of the Department of Vermont Health Access says employers can download forms before choosing their plans.  But he acknowledges that the online applications have more information than the paperwork does.  He says the state has made significant progress over the past week and continues to work to address the slow-to-respond website.  He says more than 3,400 Vermonters have started to create accounts so far.

A child was hit crossing the street at the intersection of Main Street and Church Street in Essex, Vermont this morning.  Police say the accident occurred in the mark crosswalk.  The child was on her way to school.  The child was transported to Fletcher Allen with non-life threatening injuries.  The cause of the accident is still under investigation.  Police say it appears there was no negligent operation by the driver.

Area residents will have an opportunity to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs as part of a county-wide “Take Back” initiative.  The Ticonderoga Community Coalition will partner with the town and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to host a “Take Back” event at the Ticonderoga Police Department on Saturday, Oct. 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The Essex County Sheriff’s Department will also host “Take Back” events that day at the Schroon town hall and the public safety building in Lewis.  Essex County residents turned in almost 100 pounds of prescription drugs for disposal at a “Take-Back” event last spring.  Officials say the service is free and anonymous and there are no questions asked.

Vermont State troopers were warned that they might lose overtime if they did not write more tickets and summonses during a summer crackdown on drunk driving. A Burlington police officer was caught up in the drunk driving stops, and is trying to get his case dismissed. Deputy Chief Andi Higbee says he was off duty and the state troopers had no cause to pull him over.  Trooper Jay Riggen said that the grant allowed the department to allot overtime so that troopers on the impaired driver detail would not have to race off to deal with other issues.

A recent study determining how well the states are likely to fare during the government shutdown found that Vermont is somewhat in the middle of the road on the issue.  Vermont came in 21st, largely because it has a high percentage of seniors.  If the shutdown is compounded by the debt ceiling crisis, Social Security may become a major issue.

Vermont's health commissioner says that college students tend to drink less when their parents are aware of what they are doing, especially during the first six weeks students are away at college.  Dr. Harry Chen made the comments earlier today during a meeting at Castleton State College with representatives of 14 Vermont colleges and universities who are sharing methods they've developed to help reduce problem drinking by students.  One aim of the conference is to look at programs that are working on one campus that others might adopt.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 8, 2013

An Addison man, Raymond Ritchie, could spend the rest of his life behind bars as a habitual offender, but that’s small comfort to the victims who are trying to find any small item among the things he was caught with.   Victims were invited to come to the New Haven State Police Barracks yesterday to see if they recognized any of the recovered items.  More than ten-thousand dollars in stolen goods were recovered from Ritchie’s home.  Half of that has been claimed by 54 victims.

Almost 450 National Guard troops were called back to duty yesterday after being furloughed for almost a week. Those who are returning are not sure when they’re going to get paid for their enforced time off, however.  And while the National Guard is back on duty, no training costs are covered.  Neither are spare parts, ammunition, or fuel.  A monthly training weekend that would have called up 3,000 troops this month was canceled.

Ticonderoga voters may have an opportunity to see supervisor candidates face off in a debate.  Incumbent Supervisor Deb Malaney has challenged Republican challenger Bill Grinnell and independent candidate Steve Whitford to a debate before the Nov. 5 general election.  Grinnell said he will welcome a debate, although he wants to know the dates, formats and details before formally agreeing.  Whitford is also willing to debate, but said his participation will depend on the dates.

A major development project in Killington has won an Act 250 permit.  SP Land wants to build hundreds of housing units, retail space and other amenities near the Killington Ski Resort.  The $100 million first phase of the project has been in the works for several years.  It ran into some opposition over traffic concerns, and one condition of the Act 250 permit is that a traffic study be conducted before future phases of the project.

A Vermont couple charged with killing a St. Johnsbury Academy science teacher last year entered not guilty pleas to new charges of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder.  Allen and Patricia Prue of Waterford were in Caledonia Superior Court Monday, where they were ordered by a judge to have no contact with one another.  The new charges came after police found a torn up letter in Patricia Prue’s cell describing the murder.  Prue wrote, “It was fun. It was like hunting, catching, and killing an animal.” The judge will decide on a trial date soon. 

The New $100 bills will be showing up at banks this week.  The Federal Reserve Board says the new currency will begin circulating today.  The new bill has several new features designed to make it easier for people to authenticate, but more difficult for counterfeiters to replicate.  Those measures include a blue, 3-D security ribbon, as well as a color-shifting ink that changes from copper to green when the note is tilted.

Monday, October 7, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 7, 2013

The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for our area until 8 o’clock tonight.  We could see gusts as high as 50 miles per hour.  The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is encouraging people to do the following: 

-          If you have time, remove anything from your lawn that could cause injury or damage if blown around by high winds. 
-          Drive cautiously in case a wind gust hits your car.
-          If you lose power and run a generator, make sure it is always run outside and that exhaust is NOT entering the home.
-          If a tree or tree limb is blown down do not touch it unless you are 100% CERTAIN it is not in contact with power lines. 
-          Make sure your family emergency supply kit is stocked with fresh water, batteries, flashlights, and other basic necessities.


Burglary victims across Addison County are being encouraged to stop by the state police barracks in New Haven today to possibly reclaim their stolen goods.  Police say there are still a lot of stolen items that haven't been returned to their proper owners.  If you have reported a robbery in the last 3 years, head to the State Police barracks in New Haven between 5 p.m. and 7:00 p.m this evening.

Vermont residents can now sign up to receive emergency alerts through text messages, e-mail, phone calls or even their game consoles.  The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security today launched Vermont Alert, a website where the public can sign up to receive notifications ranging from weather advisories to alerts from fire, police and other emergency responders.  The system is modeled after New York Alert, which was designed by the state of New York and has been running since 2006.  You can check it out for yourself by going to VTAlert.gov.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says it’s time for Congress to stop hampering Vermont’s fragile economic recovery and find a responsible solution to what he calls a manufactured crisis.  Shumlin was joined by Vermont National Guard officials and others today to outline how the federal government shutdown is affecting state.  They say an estimated 5,000 federal workers who live in Vermont are seeing reduced hours or furloughs.  The processing of Small Business Administration loans also has been affected, and officials say if the shutdown continues into November, delays in rental subsidies could affect nearly 14,000 low-income residents.

Friday, October 4, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 4, 2013

There are questions, support and opposition to a proposed bill regarding shoreland protection in Vermont.  The Lake Shoreland Commission itself was established by the Legislature this year, and the bill focuses on cleaner lakes and ponds, with new regulations to improve quality for state waters.  It’s already passed in the House but has yet to be reviewed by the Senate, with some lake community residents and property owners already taking sides on the proposed regulations.  Lawmakers say they want feedback from the public before the bill is dealt with by the Senate in January.

A woman from Addison has been charged in connect with the wave of Addison County burglaries.  29-year-old Nicole M. Burgos was cited for a felony charge of possession of stolen property.  Burgos is already facing a charge from a marijuana-cultivation operation police said they found while searching the property in the burglary investigation.  Police say she will be arraigned later this month. 

Vermont Gas Systems has announced plans to advance its proposed “Phase II” pipeline segment from Middlebury to the International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga.  Officials from Vermont Gas anticipate filing a formal petition with the Vermont Public Service Board around November 19.  Phase II will follow the Phase I project already being reviewed by the Public Service Board.  That project calls for a natural gas pipeline to be constructed from Colchester to Middlebury, beginning with the town’s Exchange Street (industrial park) area next year.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Mary Kay Foundation has awarded the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter a $20,000 grant for critical services and programs.  The shelter’s services include a 24/7 crisis hotline and emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is proposing new legislation to help keep guns out of the hand of domestic abusers.  Current law prohibits people arrested for domestic violence from possessing firearms.  Officials say there is a shortage of facilities to store seized weapons.  The governor announced yesterday that he will push legislation to allow law enforcement to charge a fee to the defendants to cover the cost of secure storage.

The Burlington City Council was supposed to hold a forum and vote Monday on the controversial proposal of basing F-35 jet fighters at the airport, but now the session is on hold.  The problem is the councilors need to deal with a city insurance issue on Monday instead.  Opponents of the F-35 proposal were hoping for the vote as a last-ditch effort before the Air Force makes its final decision, since four Progressives on the city council are in favor of banning the new jet from the city airport.  So far, the forum and vote on the F-35 has not been rescheduled.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 3, 2013

Federal employees in Vermont who are furloughed during the current government shutdown may be eligible for help from the state.  The Department of Labor is ready to help those who may be eligible for unemployment benefits as a result of the furlough.  Although the state labor department is about 80-percent federally funded, its unemployment insurance program will continue without interruption, according to the state’s Labor Commissioner.

A federal court jury has now done what a state jury did: convicted a man of murder.  Frank Caraballo has been found guilty of murder in the killing of Melissa Barratt in Dummerston two years ago, but he was found not guilty of firing the gun that killed her.  Prosecutors say Caraballo was operating a drug network in Brattleboro, and believed the woman stole 10-thousand dollars’ worth of drugs from him.  His defense lawyers say there’s no proof their client was at the scene, and it’s just as likely his partner killed the woman.

Home care workers in Vermont have overwhelmingly voted to unionize.  1,412 workers voted to organize while 566 were opposed.  The 71 percent in favor easily surpassed the simple majority needed.  There were 23 voided ballots.  The workers will organize under the umbrella of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  Legislation passed this year allowed independent home care workers to unionize for purposes of negotiating with the state.

Rutland Police have arrested the 46-year-old man wanted in the beating of a 14-year-old boy last month.  Jean Gaboriau was taken into custody Wednesday night after police said they recieved a tip from someone.  Gaboriau is charged with simple assault and interference with emergency services, according to police.  Police say the incident took place on September 11 when four teenagers on the playground at Rutland Intermediate School got into a physical altercation and it then escalated from there.

A new program in Vermont is helping create domestic violence awareness in the work place. Safe at Work is a project launched by Women Helping Battered Women. It is designed to help employers created domestic violence awareness in the work place, and create a safe place for employees and community member to turn to for help. There are currently seven businesses involved statewide. If you are interested in learning more about the Safe at Work project, visit the Women Helping Battered Women website.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 2, 2013

GE Aviation announced Wednesday it will invest another $20 million in its Rutland facility next year, bringing total investment since 2010 to nearly $100 million.  Over the last three years, the GE Rutland plant has increased employment from 950 to 1,250 workers.  At the same time, the plants on Windcrest Road and Columbian Avenue have completed $75 million in capital improvements.
GE said the growth is driven by a record backlog and rising production rates.

The Middlebury Selectboard held a special meeting last night about the Main Street and Merchants Row Bridge Replacements.  During the meeting, an engineering firm presented conceptual plans for the Tunnel Option.  The presentation, which included a summary of the overall schedule and project development process, was a lead-in to the Selectboard's formal consideration and unanimous approval of the Tunnel Option as the Town's Preferred Alternative for the Bridge Replacements project.  Construction is slated to begin next spring.

State police want to make sure people living in Rutland are aware of some training coming up Friday on city streets.  During daylight hours October 4th, the training will happen in the area of Merchants Row and Evelyn Street in Rutland City, with state police swarming over the area.  The exercises will primarily be inside the building next to the Chamber of Commerce, as well as an old C-C-V building on Evelyn Street

On the first day of the Vermont marketplace for health insurance, the website was up and running, but not without problems.  By late afternoon yesterday, 85-hundred people had logged on to vermont-health-connect-dot-gov and some had problems with it running very slow at times.  The Vermont Health Access Commissioner, Mark Larson, says with a new system that size they knew there would be some issues and were disappointed it was as slow as it was, but doesn’t see that as a long-term thing.  He says while the contractor handling the site has missed some milestones, he’s confident the work will get done.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation to improve safety for boaters in New York’s waterways by requiring safety classes for all boat operators.  The new law (A.3471-A/S.1639-A) requires all boat operators to obtain a boating safety certificate by completing an eight hour safe boating course.  The requirement will be put into effect over a period of years, beginning next year with all 18-year-old boaters.  The previous law only required the operator of a personal watercraft to obtain a boating safety certificate or be accompanied on the vessel by a person over 18 years of age who is the holder of a safety certificate.  The new law extends the requirement to all motorized water vessels.

Burlington Police are investigating a hit and run involving a pedestrian that happened just before 8 p.m. last night on Main Street near St. Paul Street.  Officers say the victim, a 55 year old man, suffered substantial injuries.  The car that hit him then took off.  Police are looking for a blue or black hatch-back type.  The vehicle did not have Vermont plates and had a white license plate with dark letters.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Burlington Police Department.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WVTK Local & State News October 1, 2013

Today is the day you should be able to go to a new online marketplace to shop for your health insurance.  Vermont Health Connect is designed to make sure all Vermonters have access to health insurance, and through the marketplace can compare the plans, side-by-side, according to Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson.  It has its critics, though, with one group, Vermonters for Healthcare Freedom pointing out the I-T company which set up the website is now getting paid twice the original contract for a system the group says doesn’t work.

Ticonderoga’s town budget will include a dedicated fund for building maintenance and repair next year.  An 18-month review of town-owned buildings has been completed and has identified areas in need of repair.  One of the biggest issues is the crumbling police station.  Some of the other structures looked at include the historic Community Building, the 1888 Building, the armory, and the highway garage.  Supervisor Deb Malaney says, “Our first step is to create a capital reserve account in the next (2014) budget for repairs and maintenance.”

The Vermont National Guard says 450 of its employees are being furloughed as part of the federal government shutdown.  The shutdown is also affecting national parks services, such as those at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock.  Despite the furlough, Adjutant Gen. Steven Cray says the guard will be ‘‘as ready as possible’’ to respond in the event of a crisis.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) announced earlier today that 3SquaresVT benefits will be lower for most recipients starting November 1.  A press release says the lower benefits result comes from the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  That act was passed in 2009 to help stimulate the economy during the recession.  DCF says those who are affected should visit http://mybenefits.vt.gov to find out about other DCF programs that may be able to help pay for child care, fuel, phone service, and utilities.  You can also dial 211 from anywhere in Vermont to find out about state and local resources. 

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is reminding wildlife enthusiasts about the upcoming Dead Creek Wildlife Day.  The event, scheduled for Saturday at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, has been listed as one of Vermont’s Top 10 fall events.  Activities are geared for people who enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching or learning about Vermont wildlife.  The day will begin with bird-banding demonstrations at 7:00 a.m. There will also be wildlife-related exhibits and kids’ craft activities such as decoy carving, face painting and building bluebird boxes.  The day’s main activities will include nature walks, illustrated talks, live wildlife presentations, hunting dog demonstrations, fishing and hunting tips.  All the events are free.