Monday, March 31, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 31, 2014

State Police are advising that flooding has forced the closure of the following roads in Brandon: Long Swamp Road is closed from the intersection with Short Swamp Road to the Sudbury town line; and Short Swamp Road is closed from the intersection with Long Swamp Road to the Hack Saw Mill.

Vermont State Police are investigating a suspicious incident that occurred early yesterday morning. Reports are that a tractor trailer driver was traveling north on Vermont Route 22A in Bridport, when a truck pulled up on the side of the tractor trailer. Suddenly the driver side window of the tractor trailer truck was blown in. The driver believes it was shot by someone in that truck as it passed by. If you have information regarding this incident please contact State Police at 802-388-4919. Information can also be submitted online at

The Vermont Attorney General's office has settled a consumer protection claim against Irving Energy for $425,000. A press release says the Attorney General found Irving delayed removing propane storage tanks and issuing refund checks after consumers terminated their service. Under the settlement, Irving Energy has agreed to pay $165,938 to Vermont consumers, $160,000 the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and $100,000 in civil penalties. Current Vermont law requires companies to remove propane tanks within 20 days of a customer's request to terminate service.

The strike of bus drivers for the Chittenden County Transit Authority is now entering its third week. Things were looking up Friday, but then a 17-hour meeting ended with no resolution. While CCTA management says it presented the union with a compromise proposal, the union says the company’s position on split shifts and safety remains unacceptable. On Saturday, hundreds of people marched up and down Burlington’s Church Street in support of the drivers.

Today is the deadline for Vermonters to sign up for health insurance through Vermont Health Connect. The Department of Vermont Health Access says open enrollment is the time when Vermont Health Connect accepts applications from Vermonters looking for new health coverage, including individuals who are currently covered by Catamount and VHAP. The call center will be open Monday until 8 o’clock tonight. More than 55,000 Vermonters have picked a health plan through Vermont Health Connect since open enrollment began in October and over 43,000 are fully enrolled in new coverage.

Friday, March 28, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 28, 2014 Second Update

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch along with a Winter Storm Warning for our area. Throughout the weekend we will see Rain, Freezing Rain, and 6 or more inches of snow along with melting snow which could lead to localized flooding and ice jams.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers to not respond to calls or texts about a debit card problem. Its Consumer Assistance Program has received a number of reports of fraudulent texts. Some of them claim to be ‘‘Merchants Bank’’ or different bank, indicating that the consumer’s debit card number has been locked and that the consumer should call a number to fix the problem. The attorney general’s office says these are fraudulent text messages and are not affiliated with any bank, part of a scam to try to obtain confidential personal information. The office says consumers who have already responded should contact the bank that issued the debit card immediately to protect their accounts.

Middlebury College is giving the town most of 1.4 acres parcel of land behind the Ilsley library as well as the Lazarus Building at 20 Main Street. Middlebury town officials are pleased with the college’s decision to donate the so-called Economic Development Initiative parcel. The selectboard will next decide how to proceed with soliciting input on how the property should be used and developed. It is currently the site of a municipal parking lot serving the library and downtown businesses.

A leader of the bus driver’s union that has been on strike for nearly two weeks in Burlington says there is going to be a meeting to seek a solution to the strike. Chief Steward Mike Walker says union negotiators and representatives of the Chittenden County Transportation Authority are meeting today. Unionized bus drivers have been on strike since March 17. The two sides are haggling over wages, disciplinary action from anonymous tips, part-time drivers and split shifts.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging people to take down bird feeders because hungry bears are beginning to emerge from winter hibernation and finding there isn’t any food because of the late spring. Biologists say bears typically begin to emerge from their winter dens when food becomes accessible, but this year the animals aren’t finding much to eat. State Wildlife Director Mark Scott says the state is urging Vermonters to take down bird feeders, seal garbage and turn on the electric fence around your chicken coop or beehive.

WVTK Local & State News March 28, 2014

Middlebury College is giving the town most of 1.4 acres parcel of land behind the Ilsley library as well as the Lazarus Building at 20 Main Street. Middlebury town officials are pleased with the college’s decision to donate the so-called Economic Development Initiative parcel. The selectboard will next decide how to proceed with soliciting input on how the property should be used and developed. It is currently the site of a municipal parking lot serving the library and downtown businesses.

The Vermont State Budget for the next fiscal year goes up for a final vote in the house today. Yesterday, the House voted 91-46 to give preliminary approval to the budget. The proposal made by the appropriations committee totals $1.4 billion. It's a 3.8% general fund increase from last year but does not raise income taxes.

The Bristol Elementary School board has chosen the school’s interim principal to be the permanent head. In a unanimous vote, Sandy Jump will continue as principal at BES. Jump has previously served as the principal in Milton, Charlotte and East Corinth.

Governor Peter Shumlin is pushing for more jobs in Vermont. The governor wants lawmakers to pass a number of bills related to economic growth. Some of those initiatives include downtown tax credits, investment in small businesses, and increased funding for worker training programs. He also wants to push more Vermont students to go to college after high school. The governor used Mylan Labs, BioTek, and Keurig Green Mountain as examples of businesses growing jobs in Vermont.

There’s some movement in the Chittenden County Transportation Authority strike which is going into its 12th day. C-C-T-A management says it has a contract proposal from the bus drivers’ union which they call "credible," indicating some possible compromise on some of the issues. The two sides now say they’ll meet for a mediated negotiated session sometime over the next several days.

Further delays are expected in the military’s new F-35 jet fighter program. 18 of the controversial and very expensive planes are expected to arrive at the Burlington Air Guard base in 2020 to replace the aging F-16’s in the Vermont Air Guard’s fleet. However, a Congressional committee learned this week delays in testing the jet’s software may delay its planned deployment. An updated timetable so far has not been released.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 27, 2014 Second Update

Horse owners, if you haven’t already; consider vaccinating your animal for Triple-E and West Nile virus. That’s the plea by veterinarians with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture saying this is the time of year to talk with your own vet about that protection for horses. Triple-E, or Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile are both viruses carried by infected mosquitoes, with vaccinations seen as the most effective way to prevent the illness in horses. There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from the diseases.

The Principal of the Monkton Central School will remain on the job. The school board unanimously renewed the contract her contract during a special meeting on Monday. Susan Stewart has been the principal at the school since 2010.

A recall is out for popular weight loss drug Alli. It's over complaints related to possible tampering. The British company that makes the over-the-counter drug says about 12 customers in seven states complained they found tablets and capsules of different shapes and sizes in the bottles. Some bottles were even missing labels or had phony tamper-evident seals on them. The makers of the drug are working with the FDA to investigate the alleged tampering.

Adirondacks Accountable Care Organization (ACOs) launched an informational website today. A press release says the site is designed to provide more than 25,000 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries in the region with more information on the role of the organization in patient care. Adirondacks ACO works with Medicare to make it easier for doctors and hospitals to collaborate to provide high quality coordinated care.

CCTA officials say they have a new proposal from the union for striking bus drivers. The offer came last night, after the Burlington City Council passed a resolution urging both sides to settle a 10-day strike. CCTA officials say they are open to more negotiations and they call the new union offer "a productive step."

The Vermont House has rejected raising income tax rates on top earners so the state can make up for cuts in federal support for food stamps. The House debate came during a discussion of taxes and spending that was expected to last the rest of today.

WVTK Local & State News March 27, 2014

Despite the cold, authorities say the ice on Lake Champlain is actually getting weaker, thanks to the higher sun angle. With the higher sun, warmth is being absorbed below the surface, and melting the ice from the bottom up. State, local and federal agencies are advising Vermonters and visitors to simply play it safe this time of year, and stay off the ice.

Horse owners, if you haven’t already; consider vaccinating your animal for Triple-E and West Nile virus. That’s the plea by veterinarians with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture saying this is the time of year to talk with your own vet about that protection for horses. Triple-E, or Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile are both viruses carried by infected mosquitoes, with vaccinations seen as the most effective way to prevent the illness in horses. There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from the diseases.

They’re clerical mistakes, but mistakes all the same in the record of a mom convicted of abusing her daughter. A special Senate Child Protection Panel was formed after the death of two-year-old Dezirae Sheldon with questions of why the toddler was even returned to her mother, Sharon Eastman after the conviction. Wednesday, it was revealed some troubling mistakes were found in the records, but it’s not known if the correct information would have changed the decision to return Dezirae to her mother’s care. Dezirae’s stepfather, Dennis Duby, is charged with her murder.

Burlington City Councilors held a special meeting last night to discuss the CCTA Buss Driver Strike. It was a packed house for tense and emotional public testimony as the community voiced their thoughts on the strike. After hours of debate, they pass a resolution strongly recommending both sides resolve their differences as soon as possible. At this point there are no negotiations scheduled so the strike will go on for now.

The Principal of the Monkton Central School will remain on the job. The school board unanimously renewed the contract her contract during a special meeting on Monday. Susan Stewart has been the principal at the school since 2010.

The Vermont Senate is holding a final vote on legislation setting up a new system in the state for restricting toxic chemicals. The bill calls for setting up by 2016 a working group to advise the Department of Health on a list of chemicals of high concern by 2017. Manufacturers would have to report to the state if they are using such chemicals in a consumer product sold in Vermont. The Health Department would adopt rules that could lead to restrictions on the use of the chemical or labeling requirements. The Senate approved the measure yesterday. A final vote is scheduled for today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 26, 2014

State officials are asking people to stay off the ice because it’s weakening. Despite the cold weather, Vermont Emergency Management says the sun’s high angle is warming up the water. The warmer water is melting the ice from the bottom up. Officials say that even if the surface seems solid … it’s not.

It’s not your imagination if you think it’s just getting too expensive to rent in Vermont. A new report says Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the country, in terms of affordability. The study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says a fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is one-thousand-seven dollars. That same study says 62-percent of renters pay more than what’s considered affordable for their income, with a typical renter here earning eleven-dollars-and 24-cents an hour.

The list of places where you can smoke in Vermont might be getting shorter. A bill working its way through the State Legislature would ban smoking in many new places, including any indoor location where the public has access. That includes offices, restaurants, stores, businesses and any sort of lodging, like a hotel or motel. The ban would extend to certain outdoor locations as well, like within 25 feet of state offices and hospitals. It would also prohibit smoking outside child care facilities or on public school grounds, or at public school events. Finally, the bill would ban smoking in cars with children of car-seat age.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is warning New Yorkers of tax season scams. A press release says individuals prey on seniors or college students by impersonating tax authorities to obtain personal information. In an effort to help New Yorkers avoid tax-themed scams, the Attorney General’s Office offered the following tips: The IRS and legitimate government agencies never demand payment by phone; If you owe money, you will receive a legitimate notice in writing that identifies the agency and the reason you owe money; Do not give out personal information, including your Social Security number or bank account information, to telephone callers; Legitimate government organizations will never threaten arrest or deportation for failure to pay a debt.

Police are investigating an armed robbery that happened at the Cumberland Farms Store at the corner of Bridge Street and West Main Street in Richmond. The armed robbery happened at around 11:30 last night. Police say the store clerk called 911 after being robbed at gun point. The man then fled the store on foot. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police at (802)-878-7111.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 25, 2014

The vote was right down party lines, but the House Appropriations Committee is recommending what it thinks should be done in the next fiscal year with the budget. The committee is working off the governor’s proposed budget, which they had to cut down a bit. The revised proposal finally did pass yesterday after a vote of seven to four, with all four “no” votes coming from the four Republicans on the panel. It now goes to the full House of Representatives for debate.

Many Vermont communities are considering what they call painful cuts, including laying off teachers. On Town Meeting Day dozens of school budgets failed; the most in more than ten years. Now, the challenge is finding where to cut. The Ferrisburgh Central School board decided to ask Addison Northwest Supervisory Union to come back at its April 10 meeting with a lower budget proposal to put before town voters. The budget proposed on Town Meeting Day called for an 11 percent increase.

The Monkton Central School board will be holding a special meeting to hear from the public and discuss whether or not to renew the contract of the school’s principal. About half of the teachers at the school left at the end of the last school year and some say that is because of the climate at the school. One parent spoke up at a recent meeting saying there was misinformation surrounding the departure of the nine faculty members. She pointed out that of that number, two teachers retired, two part-time faculty left for full-time jobs elsewhere, and some moved to take jobs out of state.

A bill up for debate in the Vermont House today would end the in-state tuition break for UVM graduate students. Current law requires that Vermont resident students in all but the College of Medicine at UVM pay no more than 40 percent of the tuition charged to students from out-of-state. Cynthia Belliveau, Dean of Continuing and Distance Education, says the school needs to shrink the differential so it can reduce the cost of its online graduate and certificate courses.

Neither side says it’s about to budge in the Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers’ strike. Yesterday marked the start of Week Two of the strike, which leaves an average of 92-hundred passengers daily looking for another way to work or school. Both the union and management said it’s up to the other side to make a move, and so far neither has done so.

Shoppers got quite the scare yesterday at the Burlington Town Center Mall. At around 6 PM a group of boys were walking when they got into a confrontation with a man in his 20’s. The man then appeared to pull out a gun and aimed it. That’s when everyone started running and the suspect took off on foot. Burlington Police arrived on the scene and questioned some witnesses. No arrests were made. Investigators say do not believe the public is in any danger.

Monday, March 24, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 24, 2014

More than 2,300 Vermont property owners who hold federal flood insurance policies are facing premium increases because of recent demands on the program. Property owners across the state received almost $63 million in claims from federal flood insurance policies to help recover from 2011 flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and two other flooding events. Federal officials say premiums need to rise to help put the federal program on sound financial footing.

A car crash on busy Route 7 slowed commuters this morning in Ferrisburgh. Police say a vehicle turning on to Route 7 from Greenbush Road was rear-ended by an oncoming car. No one was seriously hurt. One lane was closed while crews cleaned up the mess. Both vehicles were towed away about an hour after the crash.

Still no end in sight for the Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers’ strike. It’s now entered its second week, with a bargaining session Saturday failing to reach any resolution. While management says it delivered a complete contract to the union, a statement released by the union representing the drivers says the company was unwilling to address the two issues which led to a rejection of their last offer. About 92-hundred people, adults and Burlington school students, depend on CCTA bus transportation daily.

Vermont’s largest city is making an effort to collect more tax revenue from the online reservations of hotel and motel rooms in Burlington. Mayor Miro Weinberger says it’s an attempt to collect unpaid taxes owed to the city by out-of-state companies. Weinberger says it could bring the city a ‘‘significant’’ amount of money and level the playing field between local hotel owners and out-of-state companies. The city wants customers to be taxed on the price paid for the hotel room, the same way hotels are taxed directly. Philip Minardi of the Travel Technology Association says the online companies are service providers, not retailers.

A new pilot program in Vermont will allow farmers to recycle the plastics they accumulate for free at various locations statewide. Vermont dairy farms generate about 500 tons of plastic annually from the wrap around hay bales, covers feed bunks and other uses, but much of the plastic ends up at the landfill, at a cost to farmers. The new program will let farmers recycle that plastic, along with greenhouse film, nursery pots and trays, and tubing used by maple syrup producers. Any of the clean, dry material can be recycled through April in Middlebury, Montpelier, Highgate, Bennington and Hyde Park.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 20, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin is giving small businesses another option when it comes to purchasing health insurance. There’s still some technical problems with the state’s healthcare exchange, and while the online payment system now works for individuals, it does not for small businesses. So, the Shumlin Administration is allowing those businesses to purchase coverage directly from Blue Cross and M-V-P, bypassing the exchange entirely for this year. The online system is expected to be up by this fall, but the governor’s office wanted to have the contingency plan of purchasing coverage directly in place just in case of a delay.

It’s been a bad sugaring season so far for Vermont maple syrup makers in the state, thanks to the continued intense cold. But when conditions finally ease up, the sugar makers will be getting a break from the new farm bill and the Rural Energy for America program, or REAP. The 50-million dollar program means sugar makers will be able to apply for grants or guaranteed loans to make their operations more energy efficient.

Changes are coming to how Vermonters can keep people off their land. The state is drafting new rules concerning those hard to miss no hunting signs and not everyone is happy with the changes. The new signs which could be enforced by Fish & Wildlife are simpler, telling people no hunting, fishing or trapping or for the first time by permission only. But here's the catch. Right now, the idea is nothing can be added to the signs including no trespassing to stop other people besides hunters. To stop other people, landowners would have to add a second sign saying no trespassing. Landowners will still have to date a sign every year, register with the town clerk, and post them every 400 feet around the property. Hunters caught breaking the law could lose their hunting license for a year.

The Vermont House passed a new $685 million budget for transportation spending in the state. The proposed bill will pay for a wide range of paving and basic maintenance functions, as well as containing some new features. One of the items is studying the use of unused rest areas as transportation maintenance depots. The bill also calls for upgrading 16.5 miles of railroad track linking New Haven and Leicester. The Transportation bill still need approval in the Senate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 19, 2014

If you have not yet registered for health insurance through Vermont Health Connect, you have less than two weeks remaining to do so. Open enrollment ends March 31st. At the beginning of March, the numbers were up to 37-thousand Vermonters who have picked a plan. Those not signing up through the exchange could find themselves without coverage for the rest of the year, and facing a federal penalty.

Vermont is looking to change who is in charge of schools. Right now, lawmakers are considering doing away with supervisory unions and in their place push for bigger school districts to form. By 2020, supervisory unions would be done away with and districts would re-form, to provide education from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Officials say the new districts could offer more to students or make sure current programs are kept. Many school leaders, including those from current supervisory unions, agreed.

Police are investigating attempted burglaries at the Mobil gas station and Family Dollar in Wallingford early yesterday morning. The attempted burglaries happened between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Vermont State Police say the person didn't get inside the Mobil station, but did make it through one of the front glass windows at the Family Dollar. The person, believed to be a man, entered the store and went directly to the cigarette container. Police say the individual came from the area of the Wallingford Rescue building and returned there before leaving in a vehicle. The vehicle is possibly a maroon Subaru station wagon. Anyone with information is asked to contact Vermont State Police at (802)-773-9101.

It’s day three of the CCTA Bus Driver Strike and so far there is no new negotiations are scheduled. While the drivers are picketing, the busses remain parked inside the CCTA Garage. The union says it is ready for new talks, but officials from CCTA say they have not received a new written contract proposal from the drivers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 18, 2014

The Vermont House is has given preliminary approval to a bill setting a statewide policy on training police officers before they are issued electronic stun guns. The measure won preliminary approval this morning on a voice vote with little debate. Backers say the bill is aimed at ensuring uniform standards for police use of the weapons throughout Vermont. But critics say the bill is inadequate.

It’s Day Two of the Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus strike. Drivers went on the picket line Monday before sunrise at the C-C-T-A garage as well as at the Cherry Street Bus Station, with Burlington High School students joining them to show support. Talks between the drivers’ union and management fell apart over the weekend when the union rejected the idea of third party arbitration. Sticking points remain working conditions and long split shifts.

Thousands of New Yorkers have had their driver's licenses suspended after legislation was approved last year that strips driving privileges to people who fall behind more than $10,000 on their taxes. Once a notice is mailed, drivers have 60 days to set up a payment plan or a second letter is sent. If another 15 days pass with no response, the State can direct the DMV to suspend a license until a payment is made. The State will allow people to apply for a restricted license, so they can drive to work.

The Fish and Wildlife Department said Vermont state law requires that ice fishing shanties be removed from the ice before it becomes unsafe or loses its ability to support the shanty or before March 30, whichever comes first. The same Vermont law requires the name and address of the owner to be on the shanty. The fine for leaving an ice-fishing shanty on the ice can be up to $1,000, and shanties may not be left at state fishing access areas.

The American Red Cross released a new flood app. A press release says the app will provide users instant access to local and real-time information so they know what to do before, during, and after a flood. Some of the features of the app include … One-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to send a message letting family and friends know that they are out of harm’s way and Locations of open Red Cross shelters. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android smart phone users.

Monday, March 17, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 17, 2014

The cost to take the ferry is going up. According to Lake Champlain Ferries, the new rates will go into effect on Thursday, April 3, 2014. The increased price rates do not include the fuel surcharge. The cost of a car and driver will be going from $9.50 to $10 per trip; an adult passenger will go from $3.75 to $4. Lake Champlain Ferries says the last time rates were increased was in 2008. The 30% commuter discount will remain in place.

One person is under arrest and two others are recovering after being shot. Vermont State Police say it happened early yesterday morning in a Killington apartment on Killington Road. Jessica Martome and Matt Dunn were both shot in the legs and were taken to Rutland Regional Hospital where they were treated. Investigators determined there was a fight involving the two victims, Justin Bitar and Karl Albert. Bitar is now charged with several crimes including aggravated assault, while Albert was cited for simple assault and released.

Commuters that use the CCTA Buss Service are using other forms of transportation today as the drivers are on strike. The only routes that are in operation are some of the Montpelier Link Express and the 116 Commuter runs because those runs are done by GMTA or ACTR. Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers and supporters have been picketing since 6 a.m. at the CCTA garage. They’re also picketing near the bus stop on Church and Cherry streets in Burlington. Bus drivers say the strike is over hours. Union officials say the company wants drivers to go from a 12 ½ hour shift to a 13 ½ hour shift. CCTA officials say the union can restore negotiations by submitting a formal counter proposal to CCTA’s last contract offer.

The Vermont Department of Labor says the state’s unemployment rate for January was 4 percent, a drop of two-tenths of one percent from December. The Vermont rate, the fourth consecutive reported monthly decrease for the state, compares to a national unemployment rate of 6.6 percent for January. Unemployment in Vermont’s 17 labor markets ranged from a low of 2.5 percent in Warren-Waitsfield to a high of 7 percent in the Newport area.

For the first time, the public is invited to nominate next year’s Vermont Teacher of the Year. Nominations are now open and can be made online. In the past, educators nominated the state’s top teacher but now the public can join in the process. Eligible candidates must have a current Vermont teaching license and a minimum of five years of teaching experience, and must work in a public, private or approved independent school in the state. The education agency says the most important qualifications, though, is a superior ability to inspire learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities. For more information, visit

Friday, March 14, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 14, 2014

Vermonter dairy farmers are now getting record high prices for their milk. Officials say the demand for dairy products has risen, particularly overseas; and with drought conditions in the West and Midwest, prices paid to farmers is going up. The USDA says farmers are receiving a minimum of $23.57 per hundred pounds of milk. In 2009, prices dropped to less than $12 per hundred pounds of milk, which was far lower than the production costs. Vermont has lost 40 dairy farms in the first three months of this year and now has 889.

If you or your children use the Chittenden County Transportation Authority buses, plan on finding another way to work or school on Monday. Yesterday, the union representing the bus drivers rejected an offer from management to go into third party negotiations. A strike is planned for Monday, with no further talks scheduled. Mayor Miro Weinberger is asking both sides to go back to negotiations and avoid an interruption of service. CCTA is asking the union to reconsider its offer for binding arbitration to avoid a strike. The company says about 97-hundred passengers use the buses daily, including more than 700 students who depend on the buses for school transportation.

Plans are underway to raise money for amphibian tunnels to help salamanders and frogs cross Monkton Road safely. The Town of Monkton, the Charlotte-based Lewis Creek Association and other groups are banding together for the Save Our Salamanders, or S-O-S campaign. The goal is to raise 45-thousand dollars to build the two tunnels for the spring migration from the critters’ winter home in the woods to their swampy spring breeding grounds. Organizers say half the salamanders attempting to cross Monkton Road every spring are killed by vehicles, and the hope is the tunnels will save a lot of them.

Vermont police are warning the public about a person phoning residents in Essex and Montpelier, calling himself ‘Chief Mike’ or the ‘Police Chief’ and soliciting money. The Barre City Police Department says the phone calls are a scam and they are asking residents to write down the phone number if they receive a similar call and contact police. Earlier this week, the Vermont State Police in Rutland say a man calling himself ‘‘Lieutenant Bryant from the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department’’ phoned two residents in the Poultney area and said they missed a jury duty appearance. Police say the caller then threatened the victims with either an arrest warrant or a fine of over $400 to be paid through a prepaid credit card. Police said those calls were also not legitimate.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 12, 2014

The snow started this morning and it isn't expected to stop until tomorrow afternoon. This winter blast could rack up the highest snow totals of the season. The storm was already causing traffic troubles. Vermont State Police say there have been a number of crashes and spin-offs. And driving conditions are expected to get worse throughout the evening. From time to time tonight, there could be white-out conditions.

Vermont lawmakers are starting to tackle child abuse issues in the wake of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon’s death. State senators are reviewing possible revisions to statutory practices involving child abuse matters, not specifics of Dezirae’s case. Today, lawmakers heard testimony from Department for Children and Families Deputy Commissioner Cindy Walcott about the legal backdrop for child welfare in the state. Senator Peg Flory, a Republican from Pittsford, says the committee will be looking at if there are any systemic failures in the child protection system.

The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed yesterday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana, removing the previous 1,000 patient cap. The bill also gives the green light for the state to open two more dispensaries, offer patients edibles, and increase the per patient pot amounts from 2 to 4 ounces. The bill now heads to the Vermont House.

A certain bill now in the House has riled some Vermont State College students who say lawmakers need to move on and approve it. The bill, which was already passed by the state Senate last session, would mean Vermont would contribute more to state colleges. While the state currently contributes 15-percent, the bill reverts spending back to 1980 levels which was 51-percent. Students gathered at the Vermont Statehouse Tuesday demanding the bill’s passage, but as for now, it remains in a House committee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 11, 2014

Vermont law enforcement are being warned about a new threat on the roads … drugged drivers. According to data presented at a summit yesterday, driving under the influence of drugs is increasing but the impairment is more difficult to identify. Speakers recommended more training to identify drug impairment, developing new field tests for drugs and educating the public about the dangers of driving on drugs.

Vermont State Police are searching the Otter Creek for a Proctor woman who has been missing for two weeks. Police say there’s no indication that 59-year-old MaryAnn Foster planned to leave the area. Foster was reported missing by her boyfriend on February 26. He told police he had not seen her or heard from her since the night of February 24. Authorities say she disappeared without taking her jacket or keys. Anyone with any information about her whereabouts is asked to contact the Vermont State Police.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders announced that laid-off employees at IBM's plant in Essex Junction will be eligible for help through the federal training and reemployment program. A press release says the U.S. Department of Labor already approved benefits for 115 IBM laid off last June. Tuesday's announcement extends the benefits to more than 300 IBM workers who lost their jobs in June and last month. The federal training and reemployment program helps workers who lost jobs to foreign competition.

A proposal to raise the age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products has been rejected. Two bills aimed at raising the purchase age from 18 to 21 got the thumbs-down from the House Human Services Committee earlier today. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen testified saying people aged 18-20 are adults and should be able to decide for themselves.

The Vermont House has given preliminary approval to giving doctors more flexibility in treating Lyme disease. The bill would allow doctors to prescribe long-term antibiotics to patients diagnosed with the tick-borne illness; a practice that is currently not universally accepted. Many doctors have feared that prescribing long-term antibiotics could get them brought before the state Medical Practice Board on professional conduct charges. The measure got preliminary approval in the House today on a vote of 140-0.

Monday, March 10, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 10, 2014

Winter is not done yet … another snowstorm is on the way. Forecasters say snow will begin mid-morning Wednesday; will be heaviest Wednesday night, then end Thursday morning to midday. Total snow accumulations will add up to six inches or more for many areas. There is a chance cities and towns to get a foot of snow, even the chance for more in the mountains. The worst of the driving and traveling will be Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. has officially changed its name. Today, the company announced its name changed to Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. The change takes effect immediately. Brian Kelley, Keurig Green Mountain's President and CEO said "The name Keurig Green Mountain brings together our two strongest brands, Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee, into one single and powerful corporate identity." In January, the company announced that it planned to change its name. It was subject to shareholder approval.

CCTA busses are still running today. After 19-hours of negotiations, which stretched from Saturday into early Sunday morning, a new contract proposal was made by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority to the Teamsters union representing bus drivers. The union has agreed to bring that to its members for a vote, and say any labor action will be delayed until the voting is finished. Drivers have been working without a contract for 9 months, and were requesting fair treatment, and better access to breaks.

Firefighters say a long-abandoned Rutland motel has been damaged in a fire. The fire broke out at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon at Flory’s Motel. An hour later, firefighters believed they had contained the blaze to the right-hand side of the building, but the smoke soon spread across the entire structure and flames could be seen through windows. The building is part of a stretch of land on Business Route 4 that was abandoned decades ago. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. No injuries were reported.

Governor Peter Shumlin today called on the legislature to increase the minimum wage. Shumlin today at a press conference, joined by several business owners, called on lawmakers to approve a phased-in increase in Vermont’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Right now, a full time minimum wage worker earned $18,000 a year. Under the governor’s proposal, that same person would earn $21,100 a year in 2017.

Friday, March 7, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 7, 2014

U.S. Marshals and Rutland Police arrested a Bristol fugitive who is accused of stealing a car to flee from police yesterday. A press release says 41-year-old Kevin Williams of Bronx, New York, is accused of stealing a bottle of liquor from Cumberland Farms and then stealing a running, parked car on February 27. The vehicle was recovered 3 days later in a parking lot in Springfield, Vermont. Police say Williams' was located in Rutland, where he lied about his identity when confronted. Williams was lodged at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility.

Homeowners who have received a letter from Vermont Gas about the possible use of eminent domain met with state officials to express their concerns. According to a news release, state Sen. Chris Bray, a Democrat from New Haven, and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Recchia attended last night’s meeting in Monkton. Vermont Gas spokesman Stephen Wark says the letters indicated the possibility of eminent domain, not the start of any formal process. Wark says Vermont Gas is committed to continued discussion with landowners.

Senator Bernie Sanders says he is prepared to run for President of the Unite States. The junior senator told The Nation that he has begun meeting with political strategists, traveling to southern states and entertaining the logistics of a run for president in 2016. Sanders says he has nothing against Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee, but he believes she will not adequately address climate change and fight for working Americans. Democrats, in his view, are too beholden to corporations and special interest groups to implement needed political reforms, in his view.

The former Burlington Free Press building was vandalized last night. Police say the fire department discovered a small fire was set in an office on the third floor. The fire was extinguished from the building's sprinkler system. One firefighter sustained minor injuries. No other injuries were reported. Damages are estimated to be in excess of $40,000. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Arson Tip Line at 1-800-32-ARSON.

A fire which badly damaged a town house on the campus of St. Michael’s College is apparently not a case of arson. Fire investigators from the Vermont State Police have been going over the site ever since the fire on February 17th, along with local fire authorities. While the exact cause is not yet determined, they do know it’s not suspicious. No one was injured in the fire, but damages were estimated to be more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 6, 2014

A Rutland man has been sentenced to 33 months in jail for a fraudulent coupon scheme targeting baby-food companies. 44-year-old Jon Bilodeau plead guilty in October to a federal charge of fraud. Prosecutors say bank statements show baby-food companies were tricked into honoring over $571,000 worth of coupons. Bilodeau, owner of the Sweet Revival thrift store, would pay 50 cents to 80 cents for a $1 baby formula coupon, then started a business and website to sell the formula to ‘‘members.’’ Authorities say the name and website were a cover and the baby formula was never sold to anyone. He cashed in the coupons for about $114,000 over several years.

The Ticonderoga Select board has decided on water project. The town board voted in favor of the plan March 4, directing its engineering firm to design a system that will use water Gooseneck Pond, Lake George, and a recently-completed well. The new plan still needs approval from the state Department of Health. Supervisor Bill Grinnell said he has been in talks with state officials and doesn’t anticipate any problems.

CCTA is warning riders that you may need to find other forms of transportation due to a possible strike starting Monday. If CCTA bus drivers do not report to work on Monday, there will not be transportation service provided by CCTA. All routes except for a portion of the Montpelier LINK Express trips and 116 Commuter trips will be affected. Non-union drivers operate those routes. CCTA and the drivers' union have a contract negotiation meeting scheduled on Saturday. Drivers say their biggest concerns are surveillance and discipline, safety, and part time drivers.

Voters on Town Meeting Day gave their approval to four out of the five local high school spending plans. Residents rejected the Vergennes Union High School budget but the rest in Addison County passed.

The Vermont Labor Department is holding a day of workshops to help people improve their chances of finding jobs. The Friday workshops will be held at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington. Among the topics that will be offered throughout the day are helping people get the tools they need to find career options that match a person’s skills and long-term goals. There will also be workshops on honing interviewing skills. And there will be a session on resume writing that will provide practical, writing tips to enhance an individual’s competitiveness in finding a job.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 4, 2014

Today is Town Meeting Day and voters all across Vermont will be making decisions on a number of local issues. In Bristol, Article 19 will create a new zoning district called the Bristol Pond Camp District. In Middlebury there is a number of Articles that are in the spotlight. Article 9 asks voters if the town should replace or renovate town offices and municipal gymnasium. Article 7 is for a $200,000 bond to insulate the attic and replace the roof of the Ilsley Public Library. And Article 8 is for a $500,000 bond to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row Overpass Bridges. While voters in New Haven and Vergennes will be voting on proposed property tax increases and 15 and 14-percent.

Voters in the towns of Cornwall and Shoreham are saying ‘‘no’’ to a plan by Vermont Gas to extend a natural gas pipeline through their communities. In a non-binding vote during Cornwall’s Town Meeting Day last night, voters passed a non-binding resolution to oppose the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project. The vote was 126 to 16 in Cornwall, and 63 to 38 in Shoreham. The towns were voting on plans for a $70 million project would pipe natural gas from Middlebury to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, passing through Cornwall and Shoreham and eventually under Lake Champlain. The state has approved plans to extend pipeline to Middlebury.

A day after Vermont Health Connect announced its online payment system finally works, callers can't reach help over the phone. A message on the Vermont Health Connect number says it is closed for the holiday, Town Meeting Day. The phone line closure comes as Vermonters face two more deadlines to sign up for health coverage. Open enrollment ends March 31, but if your old insurance coverage was extended through the end of March, you’ll need to sign up for a plan by March 15. The website's online payment function is working and you can still log on and enroll, and if you run into any problems email Vermont Health Connect.

Vermont lawmakers are reconsidering the bottle bill. Since 1972, Vermonters have been able to redeem a 5-cent deposit for carbonated beverage bottles and a 15-cent deposit for liquor bottles. Some lawmakers think it should be expanded while other lawmakers say it is now longer relevant since the passing of the Universal Recycling Law; which among other things, calls for mandatory recycling of all recyclables by next year. A legislative report last year found the bottle bill costs some $12 million a year. It found elimination of the handling fees would cut much off that cost.

Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley says the new Vergennes Police Department headquarters should be up and running by the end of this week. Movers already started moving furniture to the new location last week. Officials still need to receive a certificate of occupancy, which they hope to get tomorrow. They also still need to move the phone and computer systems.

Monday, March 3, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 3, 2014

Hundreds of people gathered, relatives, strangers, even the governor, all to remember a two-year-old murder victim. The candlelight vigil Saturday night was in memory of Dezirae Sheldon of Poultney, who was killed more than a week ago, with her stepfather charged with her murder. Candles lit up Main Street Park in Rutland, with Governor Peter Shumlin joining the child’s aunts and biological father with the message being to stop child abuse. Shumlin has already ordered an investigation into how the child was returned to her home not long after her mother had previously been charged with abusing her.

Police in Fair Haven are investigating an attempted kidnapping. It was reported Sunday afternoon, when two girls say a man got out of his truck, and tried to snatch them. They were waiting at the intersection of West Street and This-A-Way Avenue, and when the man tried to grab one of the girls by her clothes she managed to break away, with both girls running to a neighbor’s. Police say the man is described as being in his 60’s with gray hair, scruffy facial hair and wearing glasses. He was last seen wearing a plaid shirt and driving a blue truck on West Street headed towards New York Street.

Vermont State Police say two school buses belonging to Bet-Cha Transit, Inc. were vandalized sometime between Friday (2/28) and Saturday (3/1) afternoon. Police say the buses had a couple smashed out windows, possibly from rocks. Suspects are unknown at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police at (802)-878-7111.

If you have purchased health insurance through Vermont Health Connect, you can now pay your bill online. The online payment function in the state’s online health marketplace had not worked since the system was launched last fall but officials finished an update this weekend to make online payments possible. Officials say any Vermonter who is enrolling by March 15th for April 1st coverage will be able to pay online in the normal part of the process, and anybody who has been enrolled will be able to go online and pay their bill that way as well. Small businesses were allowed to bypass the marketplace this year and buy plans directly from insurers. Officials expect the small business functions to be ready for 2015 enrollment.

Tomorrow is Town Meeting Day in Vermont. Towns from all across the state will have the chance to pitch their ideas to the legislature. Increasing property taxes to help fund education is by far the biggest issue. For example, Vergennes is asking for a 14% property tax increase. Williston needs the money for a new roof. Most poling locations open at seven tomorrow morning.