Friday, January 31, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 31, 2014

Four out of the five towns that make up the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union could see slight tax increases because of next year’s proposed school budget.  According to the numbers supplied by the district, New Haven would be the only town not seeing a small increase.  School boards in all five towns have been working hard to keep district-wide costs down in budget proposals that will go before voters on Town Meeting Day.

Vermont will be receiving $2.5 million more in federal money for heating assistance.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports it has dispersed more than $19 million to Vermont so far for fiscal year 2014.  Vermonters seeking home heating assistance may visit the website of the Department of Children and Families.

Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is going to be holding a town meeting in Montpelier about constitutional rights and privacy.  According to Sanders’ website, the National Security Agency’s ‘‘surveillance of millions of Americans’ telephone and email records’’ will be the topic for Saturday’s meeting.  Sanders says the United States must be vigorous in protecting Americans from terrorist threats. He says this can be done ‘‘without undermining the constitutional rights which make us a free society.’’  U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will also be in attendance.  The 1 p.m. meeting at Montpelier City Hall also will be streamed online.

The 10-year-old boy injured in a Benson snowmobile crash last weekend has been upgraded to fair.  Brian Norton of Benson was learning to ride a snowmobile on Route 22A Sunday afternoon when the snowmobile he was operating with the help of Mark Lussier drove over a snowbank, launched into the air and struck a tractor-trailer on the road.  48-year-old was killed in the crash.  Norton was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where he was initially listed in serious condition.

If you have a "Vermont Strong" license plate, you may be able to keep it on your bumper longer.  The plates were sold after Tropical Storm Irene to raise money for flood victims. Over 39,000 plates were sold, and the law that allowed drivers to have them is set to expire in June.  A bill in the State Legislature would extend that expiration date two more years.  There are about 3500 plates still available for purchase. They cost 25 dollars. Of that, 5 dollars goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the rest goes to a fund that helps flood victims.  The bill to extend the expiration date is currently being debated in the Senate Transportation committee.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 30, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin says he’s against new laws restricting further the use of electronics while driving.  Distracted driving is being talked about once again, with a new state survey out finding a majority of Vermont high school seniors are texting while behind the wheel.  While Shumlin signed into a bill into law last year banning the use of handheld devices while driving through work zones, he says banning phones while driving won’t fix the problem.  The says cell phones are a way of life and he’s not a big believer in passing bills to make a point, adding you can’t legislate common sense.

The president of the Vermont State Employees’ Association says a bill that requires paid sick leave for private sector workers is the right thing to do, while the head of a state retailers’ group says the bill goes too far.  The bill proposes that most employees earn paid leave hours for personal and family health needs.  Testimony today before the State Legislature’s House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs came from part-time workers, business owners, teachers and single parents.

National Grid customers in upstate New York are getting a little bit of relief.  New York's Public Service Commission gave the okay to give out $32 million dollars in credits next month.  This after higher than normal bills to start the year.  In fact, next month's National Grid bill was expected to be even higher.  With the credits, February's bill should look similar to January's, which is still pretty high.  The commission says it will review National Grid's practices to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Experts say maple producers should be ''very careful'' if they have to set maple taps in very cold weather. Tim Perkins of the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center said that besides damaging the growth layer of the tree, tapping in extreme cold can also reduce the sap yield by creating a leak. Perkins said not every producer will be out this early, but large operations with more than 10,000 taps ''need to go out'' because it is a time-consuming process.

A bill introduced in the Vermont Legislature could change motorcycle helmet laws.  What it changes is the age of the person required to wear one, with operators older than 21 allowed to go without a helmet.  The bill is now in the hands of the House Transportation Committee.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 29, 2014

A new report is pointing out what it calls insufficient cost controls in Vermont’s school funding system.  The report was written by economists at Northern Economic Consulting of Westford, and says education spending is up to 70-percent above the national average.  The report was unveiled yesterday by Vermont Realtors, which represents the state’s real estate industry, and is concerned about local school property tax bills.  Voters will be considering local school budgets in Town Meeting Day elections in March, and many communities are seeing a big jump in tax rates.

The Vermont Education Agency has launched a new website to help schools and students develop personalized learning plans.  Governor Peter Shumlin and education officials discussed the new statewide initiative earlier today CVU High School.  Based on legislation passed last year, each student will have a personalized learning plan that matches career interests with their learning, and could include internships and college courses.  The plans will be reviewed and possibly revamped each year.  Schools will develop plans with 7th and 9th graders in 2015.

Governor Cuomo announced today that New York is the 3rd largest producer of milk in the country.  A press release says compared to 2012, New York's milk production increased by 2.2% in 2013.  There was 0.4% growth nationwide.  The growth is attributed to an increased demand for milk, largely due to the booming yogurt industry in the state. New York is also the number one producer of cream cheese and cottage cheese in the country.  The dairy industry is New York’s leading agricultural sector, accounting for more than one-half of the state’s total agricultural receipts.

The leader of the Progressive Party caucus in the Vermont House of Representatives says Vermont needs an “economic bill of rights.”  Representative Chris Pearson says this year Progressives and liberal members of the Vermont Democratic Party will work together to increase the minimum wage while requiring paid sick leave and paid family leave.  Pearson is supporting a bill raising the minimum wage to 15-dollars an hour which he says at least begins to approach a livable income.

The Vermont House is taking up legislation expanding a popular program allowing property owners to generate their own electricity and sell some of it back to their utilities.  State law now caps the amount of power a utility is expected to take under such arrangements at 4 percent of the companies' peak power demand.  The bill would expand that to 15 percent.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 28, 2014

Vermont State Police say a 12-year-old boy was found alive and well after an AMBER Alert was issued for him.  Zachary Lee was dropped off at the driveway of his foster home in Sunderland yesterday afternoon, but never made it inside.  Investigators immediately suspected his mother had abducted him since she has in the past.  Lee was located at a hotel in Lyme, New Hampshire at about 11:30 pm.  Police say he was in the company of his mother, 49-year-old Patricia Kane, and his sister, 17-year-old Martha Lee.  Police say both children were placed in protective custody and turned over to Vermont social workers.  This was the second time an AMBER Alert was issued in the state of Vermont.

Legislators have finally reached a deal on a new farm bill.  The old farm bill expired last year and negotiations have been extremely volatile.  The new bill does set a wide range of agricultural and food policies for the next 5 years but does not include a price stabilization program that daily farmers have been hoping for.  Senator Patrick Leahy was part of the negotiating team.  He says he was disappointed the stabilization program was rejected, but was able to strike a deal to make sure the insurance program mainly benefits smaller farms.  The full House and Senate still need to sign off on the overall bill.

Three new gun control measures will be presented to voters in Burlington on Town Meeting Day.  The measures would allow police to seize guns in cases of suspected domestic abuse, ban firearms in bars and require gun owners to keep their weapons locked up at home.  Few spoke out in favor of the measures.  During last night’s meeting, many questioned how these changes will be enforced and what it could mean for everyday safety.  If voters accept the measures, they would have to be approved by the state Legislature.

Governor Peter Shumlin has announced grants to install 13 publicly-available electric vehicle charging stations in six Vermont downtowns.  A press release says this will be an important step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement the Comprehensive Energy Plan, and promote more electric vehicle purchases and support local economies.  Middlebury is on the list and will be getting two publicly-available charging stations.  Also on the list were Barre, Bennington, Burlington, Morristown, and St. Albans.  Construction of the charging stations will begin this spring.

A report by Politico has found the best states in the Union.  According to Politico they averaged 14 rankings from the Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the FBI. They also factored in graduation rates, per capita income, life expectancy and crime rate.  New Hampshire topped the list, Vermont came in 3rd, and New York came in 27th.

Monday, January 27, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 27, 2014

An adult, who was giving a child a lesson on how to operate a snowmobile, is dead after colliding with a semi.  State Police say 48-year-old Mark Lussier of Benson had the 10-year-old boy sitting in front of him on the sled, and was traveling across the lawn of a home on Vermont Route 22-A.  According to police, the snowmobile went over a snow embankment, launched into the air, and collided with the side of the big rig which was passing by.  Lussier was dead at the scene while the child, Brian Norton, was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.

A fire over the weekend completely destroyed French’s Restaurant in Crown Point.  Fire fighters a number of area departments helped battle the blaze till 4 am on Saturday and then had to return a couple hours later when the fire spread to the second floor.  Investigators say the fire started inside a wastebasket in the pizza room of the snack bar Friday night.  The building is said to be a total loss.  A family living on the second floor was displaced.  Everyone made it out of the building without any injuries.  The owner of the building, Ronnie Ryan, says he plans to rebuild and open another food stand.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin appointed Sally Fox's Husband Michael Sirotkin to fill the open senate seat.  Fox passed away from cancer on January 10.  A press release says Sirotkin was chosen as one of 3 nominees sent to the governor by a large marjority of the 60 committee members.  Sirotkin has been an attorney and lobbyist focusing on consumer issues, labor issues, the civil justice bar, affordable housing and land conservation.  Sirotkin says he will cease lobbying activities and is selling his interest in the firm that he is a partner in.  Sirotkin will begin work in the senate on February 11.

Burlington residents can have their say for the last time tonight before voting in March on three gun ordinances.  The regular City Council meeting at City Hall will include hearings on measures banning guns in bars, give police authority to seize firearms from domestic violence suspects, and require safe storage methods by gun owners.  While opponents say the proposals unfairly restrict use of firearms in the city supporters say these ordinances are needed in order to prevent violence.  If approved by Burlington voters the measures then go before the state legislature.

Over 20 teams took part in the 15th annual Face Off Against Breast Cancer hockey event this past weekend.  All the money raised will go for The Cancer Patient Support Program, which helps cancer patients and their families with everything from counseling to helping buy food.  Organizers of this event say that they were planning on raising more than $60,000 at this year’s event for a great cause.

Friday, January 24, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 24, 2014

The price of a stamp will go up this weekend.  A panel that oversees the US Postal Service approved a three-cent hike to 49 cents.  The current price is 46 cents.  The hike includes a one-cent increase to keep pace with inflation.  The additional two-cents are intended to be temporary, and to recoup the losses the Postal Service suffered during the recession.  The increase will go into effect on Sunday.

Vermont health officials say the flu is now ‘widespread’ in the state.  "Widespread" means that more than 50% of geographic regions in a state are reporting flu activity.  The designation addresses the spread of the flu, not its severity.  Nine people are currently hospitalized with the flu at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.  To date, they have admitted 31 people this season.  In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials recommend washing your hands frequently and staying home when you're sick can help you get through the flu season.

The Vermont House has passed a midyear budget adjustment bill that boosts spending for the current fiscal year by about $12 million.  The House today approved the package on a 110 to 33 roll call vote.  More than half of the money, about $7-million, goes to meet growing demand on the state’s Medicaid program.  The money is coming mostly from higher-than-expected revenues coming into the state’s coffers.

The Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying Advisory Council presented a report Thursday to the House and Senate Committees on Education.  The council recently visited five schools in the state. It was part of a listening tour.  Students got a chance to weigh-in on what problems they face.  State education leaders want to be able to study bullying better, since it is rarely reported.  The council hopes to launch a survey this spring to better understand bullying in schools.

A talking cow which explains to kids how cow manure is turned into usable energy now has a name.  More than 170 students in Vermont submitted possible names for the cow at the new Energy Innovation Center in Rutland, and the wining choice is “Electra.”  Jared McGee of West Rutland and Dillon Brigham from Danville came up with the name, winning a tour of the center along with an ice cream party.  Electra is the star of the show at this mini-museum where people can come learn about alternative energy.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 23, 2014

Health risk and behavior reports from the Vermont Health Department say almost 60 percent of high school seniors text or email while driving.  This was the first year that the Health Department is assessing texting and driving behavior in students.  More than one third of students reported texting or emailing while driving.  Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen says that ‘‘significantly fewer students’’ drink, smoke or abuse prescription drugs.  Chen also highlights weight as a problem for Vermont state residents.  The risk reports show that 30 percent of students and 60 percent of adults have an unhealthy weight.

The Hannaford Supermarket in Middlebury was temporally closed and evacuated this morning.  Middlebury Fire Chief Rick Cole said a refrigerant supply line had broken off within a mechanical room, producing a leak of a chemical cooling agent known as R-22.  The substance spilled onto the floor and then produced a gas as it evaporated and triggered a store alarm.  Vermont hazmat officials went into the store, isolated the incident, and took care of the leak.  A spokesman said four employees were taken to Porter Hospital, examined, treated, and released.  The store re-opened for the day at about 10:30 this morning. 

The Ferrisburgh selectboard will meet next Tuesday to finalize a budget to present to the voters on Town Meeting Day.  Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 5:30 PM.  The current working proposal calls for a 1-cent tax increase. 

Police in Rutland say a man and woman are facing charges in a string of knifepoint robberies of convenience stores in Rutland County.  Arabellla Babcock of Rutland and Patrick Blodgett, who police say recently moved to the area from Barre, were arrested last night after police say they robbed the Granger Street Market and Deli.  Police say they are being charged with four other armed robberies in Rutland and Wallingford this month.

A Rutland business on Route 7 was destroyed by a fire.  Pratico’s Landscaping and Fence went up in flames last night, bringing out firefighters from several different communities and shutting down the highway for hours.  The cold made the difficult job of fighting the flames even harder, with the hydrant frozen solid.  While the official cause has not been determined, it’s believed space heaters may be to blame.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 22, 2014

The debate continues over the town offices in Middlebury.  The one thing both sides agree on is that something needs to be done.  The current structure has many issues and is in need of repair.  The town has come up with a plan that includes Middlebury College paying $5.5-million towards construction of a new town offices building and gym.  In return the college would get the land that the current offices and gymnasium sits on.  The Town plans to borrow $2 million to go ahead with the project.  But now some citizens say it would be more cost effective for Middlebury to just renovate the current facilities.  On Town Meeting Day voters can already expect a vote on the approval of the $2 million bond to complete the town office project.  But if a petition just handed to the town has the needed signatures, another warning would require voters to decide on keeping the town offices at the current property and keeping it publicly owned.

A man who worked as a sub-contractor at the General Electric plant in Rutland is going to prison.  55-year-old John Quinn pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to a charge of mail fraud.  Prosecutors say they learned he stole mostly high-speed carbide drill bits from the plant and sold them online, receiving more than 108-thousand dollars.  As part of his plea agreement, Quinn will forfeit the money and faces up to 20 years in prison along with a fine of up to a quarter of a million dollars.

The disappearance of a young man from Fair Haven remains a mystery, despite three days and an intensive search for him.  Yesterday, the cell phone of Jonathan Schaff was found in an abandoned vehicle at Loomis Trucking on Vermont 149 in West Pawlet.  That’s where Schaff was walking to when he was last seen early Saturday morning, leaving a pub in Granville, New York after a fight.  Yesterday, dozens of searchers were joined by a National Guard helicopter, but still was not found.  State police say the search will now continue on a limited basis, as leads are developed to give them some sort of direction.

The Brandon Town Office was closed today while they move to the new location.  The new office will be located at 2417 Franklin Street, in the former Vermont Made Furniture Building.  The vault was not available for the public today and also not be available tomorrow while they finish up te moving process. 

A former student from Middlebury College will be a part of Super Bowl 48 on February 2.  Steven Hauschka is the current football placekicker for the Seattle Seahawks.  Prior to his NFL career, he played college football at Middlebury College as well as North Carolina State University.  Hauschka graduated from Middlebury College in 2007 with a B.A. in neuroscience.  Before joining Seattle, Hauschka was a team member of the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Locomotives, and Denver Broncos.  In his three seasons with the Middlebury Panthers, he was a two-time All-NESCAC selection as both a kicker and punter.  He also owns the school’s single-season and career records for field goals.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 21, 2014

The Vermont Individual Income Tax Return Booklet for tax year 2013 is now available.  A press release says taxpayers can find the forms on the Vermont Department of Taxes website, email, or by ordering the booklet and forms by contacting the department at (802)-828-2865. All other tax forms will be available starting on January 31.  The booklet will no longer be distributed through town offices, post offices, and libraries.  Taxpayers can also e-file their federal and state income taxes using a vendor of choice beginning on Jan. 31.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture says free health screenings and vaccinations are going to be available to the state’s 82nd Farm Show.  The free immunizations will take place each day of the show from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Healthy Farmers-Healthy Farms booth.  Free health screenings and information will also be available. They will include blood pressure screening, blood glucose monitoring and DermaScan screening for sun damage.  The farm show this year will be held at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.

Vermont State Police are investigating a knifepoint robbery in Wallingford that took place late last night, the sixth knifepoint robbery in the region since the start of the year.  Police said around 9:30 p.m. they were called to the Mobil gas station and convenience store at 172 North Main St. for a reported armed robbery.  Police said an investigation revealed that a man went into the store, brandished a knife to the clerk and demanded money. An undisclosed amount of money was handed over to the robber who then fled the store on foot.  The robbery last night comes on the heels of another knifepoint robbery Sunday evening in Rutland.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is presenting a budget proposal this afternoon detailing how he will pay for a broad program of tax breaks while maintaining funding for schools, health care and infrastructure.  The budget proposal is expected to top $136 billion.  Cuomo and state lawmakers will try to maintain their three-year streak of reaching a final budget deal by the start of the state fiscal year April 1.  Cuomo says his budget will usher in three years of projected surpluses if lawmakers hold spending growth below 2 percent.

Vermont and New York authorities are searching for a man who went missing after a bar fight over the weekend.  Police say 23-year-old Jonathan Schaff of Fair Haven, was in a fight at a pub in Granville, New York, on Saturday.  A family member says he received a head laceration and his glasses were broken.  He was last seen walking toward the state line on Route 149.  Police do not suspect foul play at this time, stating that they got a ping off his cell phone around the time he disappeared, but there has not been any activity on the device since.  Anyone with information is asked to call Vermont State Police at (802) 773-9101 or the Granville Police at (518) 642-1414.

Monday, January 20, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 20, 2014

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory for tonight starting at 9 PM and remaining in effect till 11 am tomorrow.  With temperatures dropping this evening to between 14 below zero and 3 above zero, along with gusting winds, wind chill reading could be as low as 20 to 30 below zero. 

It looks like Vergennes might be getting a new grocery store soon.  Last week, Denecker Chevrolet co-owner Tom Denecker said his pending purchase of land owned by Ferrisburgh at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A is going well.  He also confirmed he has a prospective purchaser or tenant for the 14 North Main Street, Vergennes, branch of his existing dealership.  Also, back in December, the Vergennes Development Review Board approved an application for a proposed new business, Neil’s Family Market, a grocery store, at the current location of Denecker Chevrolet on Main Street in Vergennes. 

Middlebury College has signed a 10-year lease to occupy the office building located at 700 Exchange Street in Middlebury, between the Post Office Annex and Vermont Sun.  College officials say the building will provide them with much needed space for staff and allow for better use of space on campus. 

At there annual meeting this past Saturday, the Bristol Fire Department elected new officers and installed Brett LaRose as the new chief.  LaRose has been with the department since 1995.  He replaces outgoing chief John “Peeker” Heffernan, who served as chief for six years.  Heffernan said, “I think he’ll do a great job … he’s been doing hard work, and he deserves credit.”

Colchester police are looking for a man who robbed a woman at gunpoint.  Investigators say the man approached the woman in a car in a parking lot near the intersection of Route 2A and Route 7 Saturday night.  That’s when the suspect, pointed a gun at her and demanded money.  He then left with her mobile phone.  He's described as about five-eight, 150 pounds, wearing all black.  Anyone with information is asked to call police.

An environmental group has started a database of public sightings of cougars in the Adirondacks in an effort to determine whether there's any truth to rumors that have circulated over the years about the big cats.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says cougars are extinct in the eastern United States, although they're plentiful out West.  But there have been numerous reports in the Adirondacks of people spotting the cats, also known as mountain lions.  The group, Protect the Adirondacks will work with wildlife experts to investigate credible reports.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 16, 2014

The Vermont Senate passed a campaign finance bill today. The bill passed by a 20-8 vote. The Vermont House passed the bill last week by a 124-15 vote. The compromised bill that came out of conference committee would raise the donation limits for statewide candidates to $4,000. It would lower the limits for local elections, $1,500 for Senate candidates and $1,000 for House candidates. Vermont hasn’t had a campaign finance law since 2006.

Some people in New York got quite the shock this past week when they opened their electric bill. Some National Grid customers say it doubled.  The company is blaming the increase on colder temperatures in November and December and higher supply costs. The average wholesale market price for electricity went up 53% over the past few months. A company like National Grid, which purchases power and doesn't generate it, passes that increase directly on to the customer.

Vermont State Police are looking for a white pickup truck that may have hit a man found on a road in the village of Rochester. Police said 86-year-old George Goding of Rochester was struck a little after 9 a.m. yesterday on Route 100. Police confirmed he was struck by a white vehicle. He was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, where he passed away. Police said a witness saw a white pickup truck traveling north on Route 100 after hearing a collision.

The Rutland police department is restructuring after years of scandal.   Special Agent David Covell, formerly of the State Police, came in to serve as senior policy adviser.  He will help develop best practices.  The department will also work with a facilitator to get more feedback on how the process is going.

A former Rutland city attorney charged in a fatal hit-and-run was back in court this morning. 53-year-old Christopher Sullivan is preparing to stand trial on charges of DUI with death resulting and leaving the scene of a fatal accident for the death of 71-year-old Mary Jane Outslay of Mendon, last April.  The defense requested a change of venue due to the publicity of the case.  The court gave lawyers until the end of the month to file related motions on whether the case should be moved.

The American Red Cross released a new first aid app that helps dog and cat owners provide emergency care until veterinary assistance is available. A press release says the app, costing $0.99, provides information to help maintain their pets health and what do in emergency situations. The Pet First Aid App provides step-by-step instructions, videos and images for more than 25 common first aid and emergency situations including how to treat wounds, control bleeding, and care for breathing and cardiac emergencies. The Pet First Aid App and other Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 15, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin gave his annual budget address at the state house today.  The proposed budget for 2015 increases state spending by almost 3½-percent.  Shumlin says a projected $70 million budget shortfall can be made without any new broad-based taxes with about $30 million in one-time funds.  The rest of the gap will be made up with savings in debt costs and technology costs, increases in special and federal funds and a 0.8 percent tax on health insurance claims.  Shumlin is also calling for $10 million in new spending to combat the state’s opium and heroin abuse problem.

If you are a hunter of ducks or any other waterfowl, you need to pull your blinds in.  The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife says those waterfowl blinds need to be removed from Lake Champlain before February 15th.  Taking away the blinds and any posts which may be below the surface of the ice is very important because of the danger they pose for boaters on the water come spring.  The inland waters have more leeway, with the removal date there being May 15th.

Vermont federal Judge William K. Sessions III is taking senior status after 18 years on the bench.  U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says Sessions informed the president today.  Sessions was unanimously confirmed to the U.S. District Court in 1995 and served as its chief judge from 2002 to 2010.  He also served on the United States Sentencing Commission and was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to be chairman, which he served for two years.

Vermont State Police say a sinkhole on the southbound Interstate 89 in Milton has forced road crews to close the travel and breakdown lanes.  Police say the sinkhole was discovered at about 6 o’clock this morning.  Police say motorists should expect delays as individual travel lanes will be temporarily shut down to traffic.  Motorists are encouraged to seek alternate routes.  There’s no immediate word on what caused the sinkhole to form.

The former water superintendent for the Vermont town of Hinesburg has received a suspended sentence of 6 to 9 months for his role in using a town credit card to commit fraud.  40-year-old Brian Mattison will serve 13 days on a furlough to a Community Restitution Program.  The investigation began when questions were raised about charges on a $1,700 bill from Mattison for attending the New England Water Association conference in Boston last January.  Among the charges was $100 for breakfast for two.  Mattison was scheduled to go on trial this month; he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of credit-card fraud.  The town said a total of $2,600 was unaccounted for.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 14, 2014

Vermont Health Access is recommending small businesses who have yet to enroll to do so directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield or MVP. A press release says the recommendation comes after some uncertainty with the payment feature on the website. Testing is still ongoing. Any business who has already enrolled in a Vermont Health Connect plan for all of 2014 doesn't need to take any further action. Vermont Health Access says individuals who do not have access to insurance through work should continue to sign up online, through a Navigator, broker, or the call center. Businesses and individuals have until April 1 to pick a Vermont Health Connect plan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $21 million in funding to help create economic opportunities for dairy farmers across New York. A press release says the funding will help dairy farmers convert waste to energy and develop individual business and environmental plans to reduce operating costs and increase profitability. Gov. Cuomo also plans on hosting a second Yogurt Summit in 2014 to discuss growth opportunities in the yogurt industry in the state.

Brandon is among 17 towns to share in $257,000 in grants from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to help restore and maintain Vermont’s historic buildings.  Brandon received a $14,500 grant for its Town Hall and Community Center.  Built in 1861, the building was closed between 1979 and 2006. It was re-opened as a community center for concerts, lectures, auctions, theater productions, meetings and dances. The grant will be used to restore 10 triple-hung windows of the main hall.

Mayor Miro Weinberger wants to bring six public investment projects to the Burlington waterfront.  The tens of millions of dollars needed for this come from investments, plus nine-point-six million in tax increment financing funds.  The centerpiece is a development of the Moran Plant, the old power plant which has been vacant since the 1980’s.  The Burlington City Council has to approve it, and then the plan goes on the city’s ballot for Town Meeting Day in March, with voters having the final say.

He hit the magic mark, scoring more than two-thousand points in his high school career.  That’s the milestone reached and passed Monday night by Rochester High School senior Pavin Parrish who scored 40 points in the game against Arlington.  He only needed eight points to reach two-thousand, hit it early and just kept going.  Parrish is the seventh Vermonter to reach the 2-K mark, and the final score was 86 to 50 over Arlington.

Monday, January 13, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 13, 2014

The Vermont Health Department is encouraging health providers to screen for alcohol abuse. The Vermont Health Department says only 9% of Vermont adults in the past year were asked by a doctor, nurse or health care professional about their alcohol use. The department hopes to educate health care professionals about the importance of asking adults about drinking habits and behaviors as part of a regular checkup or appointment. The Vermont Health Department says high risk drinking is a public health problem in Vermont. Half of all young adults age 18 to 24 drink in excess. The Health Department recently received a $9.9 million Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) grant to help medical professionals provide brief interventions to reduce the risk of substance abuse.

Hundreds of people gathered to remember Vermont Senator Sally Fox on Sunday. Her fellow legislators say her helping hand to those in need will be missed. Her funeral was held at Temple Sinai in South Burlington. Fox died Friday after a more than year-long battle with cancer. Her friends describe her as compassionate, strong, and hardworking. She began her legislative career more than 25-years ago. House Speaker Shap Smith says she was a great role model for all legislators. A resolution will be read in her honor this coming Wednesday in the senate. Fox was 62.

Rutland City Police are investigating another knifepoint robbery of a convenience store. According to police, shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, a man wielding a hunting knife entered the Irving convenience store on South Main Street and demanded money. After receiving some money, the man ran from the store heading south. There were no injuries. Saturday’s incident was the third convenience store robbery in eight days and the fourth knifepoint robbery in the city since the start of the new year.

The Vermont Attorney General's office has settled a lawsuit against VerMints. According to a press release VerMints labeled flavored mints as a "Vermont" product when it was made in Canada with mostly out-of-state products. The Vermont Attorney General's office claimed this violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and Consumer Protection Rule 120.  The settlement requires VerMints and its President Gary Rinkus, of Braintree, Mass., to donate $35,000 to the Vermont Foodbank, pay the State of Vermont $30,000, and add corrective labeling to its products for 18 months.

Vermont business leaders gathered this morning to share their concerns with Governor Peter Shumlin. The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce invited 350 community members and businesses to attend the Legislative Breakfast. Governor Peter Shumlin updated business owners on the state's economic recovery. He said the key to a healthy economy begins with affordable health care, balanced budgets and access to education. The governor will share more of his economic vision, and his plan for how to close the state's $70-million budget gap this Wednesday during his budget address.

Friday, January 10, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 10, 2014

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is looking to change their name.  According to the VP of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations Suzanne DuLong, the company is trying to change their name to Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.  The company says they are trying to bring together their two strongest brands, Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee.  The company is hoping stockholders will approve a corporate name change to Keurig Green Mountain Incorporated.  The name change request will be voted on March 6.

Middlebury officials are closing watching the Middlebury River for potential flooding this weekend.  Officials say the presence of ice jams on the Middlebury River, in both East Middlebury and easterly up the mountain, pose the risk of flooding due to warmer and rain forecast for the weekend.  East Middlebury residents with properties in flood prone areas should take necessary precautions. Both Route 125 and Route 7 are in the area of the river are also at risk to see flooding.

A campaign finance bill passed in the House is now in the hands of the Senate.  The bill, which was rolled over from the last session, limits how much money individuals can donate to political campaigns in Vermont.  It raises donation limits for statewide candidates to four-thousand dollars while lowering the limits for local elections to 15-hundred for Senate candidates and a thousand bucks for House candidates.  The state has been operating without any campaign finance law since 2006 when courts struck down one which had been on the books for nine years.

Vermont Transportation officials say the state still has plenty of salt, but the stormy winter so far is putting a strain on the winter roads budget.  That’s because road crews are out working so much, and so far the state has spent about 12-million dollars so far on winter maintenance activities.  That’s about half of the winter budget, and the hope is the second half is much calmer.  If not, V-Trans will likely have to make up any overruns by reducing spring and summer maintenance.

Killington Ski Resort’s new Peak Lodge is officially open.  Sitting at just over 41-hundred feet, it’s the highest ski lodge in the state, offering spectacular views to match the fine dining.  The project has a six-million dollar price tag, with construction slowed by the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene two-and-a-half years ago.  The ski resort’s officials call the state-of-the-art facility the culmination of three years in the making.

Price Chopper is recalling Central Market Classics Chocolate ice cream.  A press release says the ice cream was sold beginning December 15, 2013. The UPC number of the affected product is 4173507233.  The product may contain strawberries and is safe for consumption for those not allergic to strawberries.  Products can be returned to your local Price Chopper for a full refund.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 9, 2014

Due to the presence of ice jams on the Middlebury River, in both East Middlebury and easterly up the mountain, the potential exists for flooding as a result of the warmer weather and heavy rain currently forecast for this coming weekend.  East Middlebury residents whose properties are prone to flooding should initiate the appropriate precautions.  Both Route 125 and Route 7 in the area of the river may also be impacted by flooding.  The Middlebury Police Department  will continue to monitor conditions closely over the next several days. The Public Works Department and Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) have also been alerted.

Ticonderoga is getting a second opinion on the Water Project. New Supervisor Bill Grinnell, who made the water project a central part of his campaign for office, asked the town board to reconsider the project in his first meeting. The key issue in the water project debate is whether the town should continue to use its present surface water sources — Gooseneck Pond and Lake George — or convert to groundwater wells. New York State has ordered upgrades and/or new water sources be in place by 2016.  Grinnell agrees Ti needs a water project, but it may not need new sources of water.

The administration of Governor Peter Shumlin wants to almost quadruple the amount of electricity that small renewable energy projects can send on to the grid while receiving credit on electric bills for that power.  Currently, net metering is capped at 4 percent at a utility’s peak capacity, but most of the state’s utilities have reached that limit. Officials want to raise the cap to 15 percent of peak demand for three years while a more permanent solution is found.

Vermont lawmakers are looking into whether the use of salt brine on the roads is causing unintended consequences.  For the past couple of years, VTrans has been pre-coating highways with the liquid salt mixture to get ahead of storms. But some truckers and mechanics have complained the brine is accelerating corrosion on the underside of vehicles.  VTrans maintains that brine has the exact same chemical makeup of regular salt and that by using the brine the total amount of salt on the roads has actually been reduced.

The Legislative Breakfast Series is starting back up soon.  Staring in February area residents will have the chance to sit down with lawmakers and ask questions about what is happening in Montpelier.  The first one for 2014 will take place on February 3 at the Grange Hall in Bridport.  All of the breakfasts start at 7 a.m., with the program beginning at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 8:45 a.m. The series this year will also feature two lunches, both beginning at noon and ending at 1:45 p.m. In addition to the March 24 Governor’s Luncheon at the American Legion in Middlebury, the series will feature an Ag Lunch on March 31 at the Community Hall in Bridport. Purchase of breakfast or lunch is not required to attend but helps the hosts to defray the cost of opening their hall. The legislative breakfast series will finish on June 2 with a post-session wrap-up at the Bridport Grange Hall.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 8, 2014

The Vermont Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to support the Early Educators' Right to Organize bill earlier today.  The committee chose to pass a bill that mirrors the bill the committee supported last year as an amendment to the Miscellaneous Education bill.  This year, the Education Committee chose to offer a stand-alone bill.  The bill is expected to be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee before moving on to the full Senate.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin addressed lawmakers in his State of the State address today.  Gov. Shumlin says Vermont's economy is rebounding from the worst national recession since the depression, with unemployment being one of the lowest in the nation.  Vermont leads the nation in high school graduation rates and Gov. Shumlin wants to expand pre-kindergarten and day-care programs across the state.  Gov. Shumlin focused much of the State of the State address on the growing crisis of drug addiction and drug-related crimes in the state.  Shumlin says the best prevention is to provide a great education, good jobs, a thriving economy, and a good quality of life to all Vermonters.

Moriah Central School will have pre-kindergarten sign up through January 31. Parents may call the elementary office at 546-3301 ext. 701 to sign a child up for entry into the program.  Children must be born on or before December 4, 2010, to be eligible to enter.

Vermont lawmakers have reached a deal on campaign finance reform-- a bill that will actually increase the amount of money candidates can collect.  The agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators Tuesday would raise the amount of money that individuals can contribute to statewide candidates and political action committees from $2,000 to $4,000. The contribution limit rises to $10,000 for political parties.  Reform advocates had pushed for ways of reducing money in campaigns, but lawmakers who worked on the bill say in the era of unlimited spending by super PACs, the higher limits help level the playing field for candidates who don't get super PAC support.

The harsh weather so far this winter season has kept road crews busy and now some highway departments are running short on road salt.  Towns across the region have been forced to use more salt on the roads this season than usual. The town of Moriah is down to its last few tons of salt until more arrives.  While waiting on salt deliveries, Essex County is using sand on its roads and has borrowed some salt from the state transportation department.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 7, 2014

The Vermont Legislature has officially started the 2014 session.  Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith gaveled the House into session earlier today.  Legislative leaders say the two top issues they expect to be grappling with this year are closing a $70 million budget shortfall and helping combat the abuse of opiate drugs.  Smith says the differences of opinion among the state’s lawmakers are what best serves the citizens they all represent.

The lab at Fletcher Allen Health Care has confirmed two dozen cases of the flu, and indeed it’s the H-1-N-1 strain, the one five years ago called “Swine Flu.”  More than 30-flu-related samples were tested this weekend alone at the hospital lab.  Health authorities say the standard flu vaccine protects against this particular strain, and young people are the most vulnerable to it.  So far flu cases in Vermont are considered sporadic, and not widespread as they are in 25 other states across the country.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new state-wide tax plan yesterday.  The tax-reduction plan is targeted at property owners and businesses. The $2.2 billion package is supposed to help provide tax relief, job opportunities, and provide tax revenue for the state and local governments within the span of 2 years.  Governor Cuomo is also pushing to freeze property taxes for 2 years. He plans to do this by having the state pick up the tab for levy hikes.

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is giving over $500,000 to 15 communities and nonprofits for recreational trail projects.  Funds may be used for the development, rehabilitation and maintenance of trails and trailhead facilities for multiple trail uses.  About half of the grant funds are awarded to Vermont Association of Snow Travelers for grooming, signage and safety patrol of the statewide system of snowmobile trails, with the other half divided between 14 other project sponsors.  Sponsors are required to contribute at least 20 percent of the total project costs. Municipalities and nonprofit organizations can now apply for Recreational Trails Program grant funds for fall 2014 and spring 2015 construction seasons.

During cold weather, pipes are susceptible to freezing and bursting.  Any pipes that burst can cause significant damage to the home and property.  Here are some ways you can help prevent frozen pipes:  Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.  Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home and use it if you find one of your water pipes has burst.  You can also open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.  And if you haven’t already, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.

Monday, January 6, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 6, 2014

The National Weather Service says freezing conditions will return this afternoon.  They say falling temperatures will cause moisture on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces to re-freeze shortly before and during the evening commute.  The Vermont Department of Public Safety is encouraging drivers to exercise extreme caution this afternoon and evening as roads are likely to become icy as temperatures drop, creating hazardous driving conditions.  Drive slow, leave sufficient distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you to allow for safe braking distances.  Also, remember that each snowplow is a mobile work zone; please give equipment operators plenty of room to complete their task of treating and clearing the roadway for a safer commute to you destination.   

The State of Vermont has received $2 million for cleanup of a contaminated gas station, the New Haven Maplefield - Mobil, located on Route 7 in New Haven.  The New Haven Mobil gas station was extensively contaminated as a result of releases of gasoline that were discovered during the 1990s.  Cleanup is still on-going today.  The funds will be applied to reimbursing the Petroleum Cleanup Fund for its prior expenditures and paying for future cleanup costs at the site.

The median income in Vermont is on the rise.  According to a Vermont Economy Newsletter, the median income of Vermont tax filers rose in 2012 to $70,573.  That was up by 0.8% from the previous year.  The study also found a 50/50 split of families that earn more or less then the median income. 

Vermont State Police say a woman died in a car crash in Starksboro yesterday.  It happened on Big Hollow Road.  Police say 23-year-old Stephanie Patsos of Starksboro went off the road and down an embankment.  She was not wearing a seatbelt and was partially thrown from the car.  Investigators say she died at the scene.  There is no word yet on what caused the crash.

Vermont legislative leaders are pushing for a bill which would overhaul public utility oversight.  The measure would require the Vermont Public Service Board, which oversees rates and service of public utilities, to 'give heightened consideration' to individual rate-payers and low-income individuals as well as small businesses at hearings.  Legislators and senior-citizen advocates say they heard numerous complaints after Green Mountain Power opted not to refund $21-million to CVPS rate-payers following the merger of the two companies.

Friday, January 3, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 3, 2014

The storm is over but the cold weather remains along with snow-covered road in many places.  The first winter storm of 2014 brought more than 2 feet of snow to some places, mostly to the south of us.  Highway crews say they are clearing the roads as best as possible, but salt is mostly ineffective in such cold weather.

Selectman Victor Nuovo has resigned from the Middlebury Select Board.  Nuovo submitted a letter of resignation yesterday. The announcement was made at last night’s special board meeting that was called to take up a citizens’ complaint that Nuovo had a conflict of interest in connection with the town and Middlebury College, his former employer.  Also during the meeting, the board found there was a conflict of interest and will now revote on the term sheet, which lays out in general terms a proposed sale of the town office and municipal gym property to the college for $4.5 million.  The town would then use the proceeds toward the cost of building a new town office and gym.  The revote will take place at the next Select Board Meeting on January 14.

Kinney Drugs is offering a 30 day supply of prescriptions at no upfront cost for Obamacare enrollees who have not received plan identification information.  Kinney Drugs says anyone who hasn't received proper identification from their insurer is encouraged to speak to a Kinney Drugs pharmacist to see if their eligible to receive a 30 day supply of their prescriptions.  The offer is available at any Kinney Drugs located throughout New York and Vermont.

Blood donations tend to drop off during the winter months, so the Red Cross is offering a little incentive.  January is National Blood Donor Month and the Red Cross is teaming up with Dunkin Donuts for the annual Give a Pint, Get a Pound promotion.  All donors who give blood in January will get a coupon for a free pound of Dunkin Donuts coffee.  Over the past six years, 520,000 donors have redeemed coupons for coffee.

The ferry that runs between Essex and Charlotte is currently closed.  Transportation officials say the closure is due to high winds.  The Grand Isle-Plattsburgh ferry is running as scheduled.  Officials with Lake Champlain Transportation hope to resume service on the Essex/Charlotte crossing tomorrow morning.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 2, 2014

The future of a pheasant preserve in Vermont is in question after a New Year’s Eve fire burned a barn that housed a hatchery and more than 100 adult pheasants.  Peaceable Hill game farm and preserve in Shoreham offers pheasant hunting and also sells pheasant eggs, chicks and mature birds raised at its hatchery.  Tuesday’s fire destroyed the barn, hatchery, a tractor, other equipment, hay as well as the 100 birds.  No people were injured.  The loss of pheasants could limit hunting this year, but the destruction of the hatchery could have a greater impact on customers.

A Dominos delivery man was robbed in Rutland last night.  Police say a white man approached a Dominos delivery man while he was making a delivery and demanded money.  The man left the area with an undisclosed amount of money.  The man is described as being approximately 6'0, 200 pounds, and wearing dark clothing. The man was armed with a knife.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rutland Police Department at (802)-773-1816.

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation has opened the lottery for ‘‘cut-your-own’’ firewood lots on state forest lands.  The two-week registration for the personal roadside lots ends on Jan. 16.  Each roadside lot costs $30 and yields out three cords of wood for the 2014 home heating season.  Trees are marked and lottery winners get a tour from Forest and Parks staff members on which trees are available for cutting.  This year roadside lots are available in the towns of Duxbury, Orange, Johnson, Groton, Westmore and Sutton. Participants will need to indicate where they prefer to cut.

Vermont hospitals and the state's two health insurance companies are going to be getting their first look at patient coverage under the new health care system.  Health insurance policies offered through the federal health overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act took effect on Jan. 1, but Thursday is the day hospitals and insurance carriers will begin processing the first claims filed under the new system.  Now the emphasis will shift to ensuring health insurance policy holders get the services they need and that health care providers are properly paid for those services.

To help raise awareness and support for the services available across Vermont, the Middlebury College Men’s Ice Hockey team is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter for an Alzheimer’s Awareness weekend during their Holiday Classic Tournament this weekend at the Kenyon Arena in Middlebury.  Attendees can join the Middlebury College Men's Ice Hockey Team in supporting the mission of the Alzheimers Association by making a $5 donation at the door and by participating in the 50/50 raffle sponsored by Friends of Panther Hockey.