Monday, June 30, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 30, 2014

Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act goes into effect tomorrow. The new law applies to activities within 250 feet of a lake or pond. The Act establishes a new state regulation for guiding shoreland development. The intent of the Shoreland Protection Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands by defining standards in creation of buildings, driveways, and cleared areas next to shorelands.

Vermont Soap is moving into a new much larger space. They are relocating from the fire damaged location on Exchange Street to a facility that is about twice the size on Industrial Avenue. Vermont Soap founder and CEO Larry Plesant says, “we are going into double the space and will be able to expand production.”

The Addison Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing tonight at 7 PM on the proposed revisions to the Addison Town Plan. The hearing will be held at the fire station on Route 17. Some of the changes include new goals for an “Emergency Plan” and on “Child Care,” a new section on town history, a “completely rewritten” section on education, “entirely new” sections on economic development and recreation/tourism, and a “statement made to continue to address issues such as lot density.”

Eligible Vermont small businesses have until July 21 to file for federal disaster loans for losses from the excessive rain and flooding in May. The U.S. Small Business Administration says federal economic injury disaster loans are available to businesses and nonprofits in all 14 counties. The SBA says the loans can be for up to $2 million with interest rates of 4 percent for small businesses and 2.8 percent for nonprofit organizations.

Senator Patrick Leahy will lead the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, in a field hearing in Vermont tomorrow morning on “Preserving an Open Internet: Rules to Promote Competition and Protect Main Street Consumers.” The hearing will be held at 10 am at the Davis Center on the campus of the University of Vermont. The Judiciary Committee field hearing will focus on the need to restore open Internet rules to replace FCC rules that were struck down earlier this year by the D.C. Circuit Court, including the rule prohibiting broadband providers from blocking lawful content and the rule barring them from unreasonably discriminating against lawful Internet traffic. The FCC currently is accepting public comments on a new set of proposed open Internet rules.

Friday, June 27, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 27, 2014

Flying's not cheap these days, and prices are about to go up. Next month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fee you pay on your airline ticket will jump, but not all of that added revenue is going toward security. Starting July 21, the TSA will increase its fee on flights. Right now, the TSA's passenger security fee is $2.50 per flight. The new charge will be $5.60 flat fee. So a roundtrip, nonstop flight will now cost passengers $11.20 versus $5.

The Vermont Gas pipeline is getting some strong support from two Rutland business organizations. The company just got its last permits to bring the natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury. Phase 2 is still in the planning phase and now the Rutland Economic Development Corp. and the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce have sent a letter to Vermont Gas asking for preliminary work on Phase 3 to bring the pipeline to Rutland. They've asked for a preferred route by the end of the year.

Vermont’s new rules on smoking go into effect starting next Tuesday. The new law, which takes effect July 1, bans smoking in hotel rooms, state property, and any other area within 25-feet of state-owned buildings and offices. It also extends protections to school grounds and sponsored events, child care facilities, and in motor vehicles when young children are present.

Works at FairPoint will vote next month on whether or not to strike. Officials with the IBEW and CWA say they'll vote July 12 on whether to hit the picket lines when their contract expires in August. The workers from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine say they have been in contract talks with FairPoint for several weeks now and negotiations are going nowhere. Union officials contend the company has fallen short on its promise to grow jobs.

The Vermont Army National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade is coming home. The men and women have been training in Fort Polk Louisiana for the last few weeks. They'll be coming in on charter flights starting today. Training in Louisiana focused on leadership skills. The soldiers will be tested in future training exercises.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 26, 2014

Some Vermont legal advocates say they are worried that new health care rules will make some people ineligible for long-term care Medicaid. State officials say that the eligibility requirements are more streamlined but have not changed in law or practice. Vermont Legal Aid's Office of the Health Care Advocate told lawmakers today that the rule, as written, might affect people under age 65 who require relatively short-term intensive care. The rule in question deals with a program called Choices for Care, or long-term care Medicaid.

A Rutland couple whose home was made uninhabitable after it was sprayed for bed bugs with a banned pesticide has reached a $450,000 settlement with the Vermont agency that hired the exterminator. The couple’s attorney says the settlement will allow his clients "to start their life over with a little cushion." Assistant Attorney General Eve Jacobs-Carnahan says the state is admitting no wrongdoing.

Senator Bernie Sanders today introduced legislation to make federal regulators invoke emergency powers to stop speculators from taking advantage of turmoil in Iraq to drive up oil prices and make motorists pay more for gasoline. Wall Street has pushed up the price of crude oil by more than 5 percent since June 12, when militants attacked and took control of several Iraqi cities. Nationwide, the average price of a gallon of gas yesterday was $3.70-a-gallon.

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation says White Pine Needle Disease is affecting Vermont. White Pine Needle Disease damage was widespread again this spring. Officials say it's been in the region since 2010. The department is working with the U.S. Forest Service and other states to determine the cause and impact of the damage.

The trial for a Vermont man charged along with his wife in the killing of a popular St. Johnsbury teacher has been scheduled for October. Allen and Patricia Prue face kidnapping and first-degree murder charges in the March 2012 death of Melissa Jenkins. Police allege the Prues lured Jenkins from her home and then killed her. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 25, 2014

Vermont Gas is ready to break ground on the Addison Natural Gas pipeline. Phase one now has its final stamp of approval. Vermont Gas Systems says it received its final permit from the Vermont Army Corps of Engineers this was needed before construction can get started. The next phase will extend the pipeline to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga a project that supporters say could save Vermonters $45 million.

Once again, voters in Brandon said no to the proposed municipal budget. The vote was 671-376 to reject the municipal budget. Also rejected by voters were three money items totaling $60,000. Those items included the creation of an emergency fund, a matching grant fund, and a capital improvement program. Select Board members will have to go back now and work on a new reduced version of the budget to bring before the voters for approval. Some of the options the Select Board will be looking at is reducing services and possibly laying off as many as 25 town employees.

New statistics show that in the first quarter of 2014, Vermont ranked second in the nation for fastest personal income growth. Federal data released yesterday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that personal income in Vermont increased about 1.4 percent in the first quarter. The national average was 0.8 percent. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says overall the trends indicate economic strength.

A fire last night completely destroyed a home in Monkton. Crews arrived on the scene and found the home completely engulfed in flames. Only one person was home at the time and tried to fight the flames by themselves till help arrived. No one was injured in the blaze. Firefighters say the house is a complete loss.

The Vermont attorney general's office is warning people about a promotional flyer being mailed to consumers in the northeastern part of the state that offers free airline tickets and hotel accommodations. The attorney general says the advertisement is intended to lure people into a sales promotion that violates the Vermont Consumer Protection Rule on Bait Advertising. Consumers who contact the number on the flyer are told they must attend a seminar to obtain vouchers for free air fares. Last year, the attorney general's office shut down a number of such operations.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 24, 2014

Four Vermont high schools are awarded grants from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) to help raise awareness of ACT 77 legislation. A press release says Act 77 encourages Vermont schools to offer "flexible pathways" to high graduation with both traditional and non-traditional learning. The four schools selected for the grants include Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon; Twinfield Union School in Plainfield; Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg; and Colchester High School in Colchester. The four schools will gather several times over the next academic year to learn a host of skills related to building public understanding of educational redesign and deep engagement.

Buss drivers at ACTR will not be unionizing. Driver earlier this month voted 9 to 8 against joining the Teamsters Local 597. Officials at Addison County Transit Resources say they are confident that they can work together with drivers to resolve any issues they may arise.

A teen driver says his food caused him to flip over and smash into a tree. Police say Gunnar Sonwaldt, 16, was also speeding on Fuller Mountain Road in Ferrisburgh when he lost control Monday, went off the road, flipped and hit a tree. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police say the teen told them he was eating and not paying attention to driving in the moments before the crash.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it's had two rescues in Lake Champlain in the past two weeks. Both were kayakers who capsized. Although the Coast Guard says there has not been an increase in water rescues, anytime they need to help someone in need is one time too many. The Coast Guard says federal law requires life jackets on board every boat and enough of them for every passenger. A violation can cost up to a $100 fine in New York State and Vermont State Police say fines for the same violation range from $70 to $105.

The U.S. Senate has approved the nomination of Vermont Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Crawford to become the state's next federal court judge by a vote of 95-0. Crawford was nominated by President Barack Obama May 19. 59-year-old Crawford has served for more than a decade as a superior court judge before being nominated last year to the state Supreme Court. He will replace Judge William Sessions III, who has taken senior status, a kind of semi-retirement.

Monday, June 23, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 23, 2014

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to combat heroin and opioid addiction in the state. A press release says legislative leaders reached an agreement last week that will include new programs and insurance reforms; improve treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction; strengthen penalties; implement new tools for law enforcement to crack down on the distribution of illegal drugs; provisions to ensure proper and safe use of naloxone; and public awareness campaigns on drug abuse.

A rabid fox attacked six people in Montpelier Saturday afternoon. Police say one woman was in the front yard with some children when a small gray colored fox ran into the yard. The fox bit her arm, hand, and leg. She was able to get free from the fox and run into the house with the kids. Police say another woman reported being bitten by a fox on Derby Drive. A mail carrier also reported that a fox tried to attack him while on his route on Colonial Drive. Police say the fox was later spotted on Hillcrest Drive by a resident who watched the fox try to bite a small small child and the parent. Police say the fox did test positive for rabies. All of the victims who had contact with the fox were contacted by the Vermont Department of Health. All six victims are reported to be doing well.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking applications for grants to preserve and repair housing for low-income families in rural areas. Eligible applicants include town or county governments, public agencies, federally recognized Indian tribes and nonprofit and faith-based organizations. The USDA does not provide funding directly to homeowners under this program. Up to $3.9 million is available in fiscal 2014. Applications are due July 28.

Castleton police chief Bruce Sherwin is planning to retire almost 40 years to the day since he began his career in Vermont law enforcement. The 62-year-old Sherwin received his certificate from the Vermont Police Academy on June 28, 1974. He's stepping down Friday, a day short of the anniversary. Sherwin's first job was as a part-time office in the city of Rutland. He was accredited as a full-time officer in 1980 and he spent the next 19 years climbing the ranks in Rutland. Sherwin joined the Castleton department in 2002. He became chief in 2004.

Friday, June 20, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 20, 2014

The State of Vermont announced this afternoon that there will be "significant changes" at the Department for Children and Families. The moves come following the deaths of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon and 14-month-old Peighton Geraw. Now, state officials say an experienced field services director will take over as supervisor of the Rutland office on an interim basis. A nationally renowned child welfare foundation will also help DCF conduct a thorough review of its child safety practices. There will also be other changes still to be announced.

Vermont's unemployment rate has remained unchanged for May, registering at 3.3 percent and ending a streak of seven consecutive months of decreases. The seasonally-adjusted rate compared to a national average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, which also held steady for May. Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan said the monthly data was unchanged despite some staff reductions by several companies. But some larger employers like GMCR/Keurig, and Cabot Cheese have been hiring.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced an agreement to legalize medical marijuana in New York State. The bill allows medical marijuana to be administered to patients via vaporization, oils, pills or other ways as research advances. The bill does not allow the medical marijuana to be smoked, as Gov. Cuomo and the Department of Health cited public health risk commonly associated with smoke. Doctors will have to take a course before they can prescribe the drug and will have to certify the patient should be considered for the use of medical marijuana. The drug can be considered for patients struggling from a range of issues including cancer, Parkinsons, Epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and many others.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice knows what it's like to be at the White House when tensions mount in the Middle East. She had plenty to say about the situation in Iraq Thursday when she came to Norwich University. While conceding to mistakes made during the Bush administration she focused her remarks instead on what needs to be done now to control the current terrorist threat. Hecklers interrupted her from time to time, calling her a war criminal for promoting the Iraq War, but Rice said she's glad to live in a country where dissent is tolerated.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 19, 2014

Vermont Gas announced today that they have reached and signed a memorandum of understanding with Shoreham on Phase II of the proposed natural gas pipeline project. Phase II calls for the construction of a line to serve the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga. The agreement with the Select Board includes distribution of natural gas to homes and businesses; conditions on how and where the 10-inch underground transmission pipeline is built; the creation of a community fund, and enhanced emergency training and safety management measures. Shoreham is also considering converting its municipal buildings to natural gas.

Fletcher Allen Healthcare announced earlier today that they are changing their name to the University of Vermont Health Network. A press release says the name change is to reflect ties with the University of Vermont and collaboration among hospitals in the region. CVPH Medical Center will adopt the name Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and will use that name with the University of Vermont Health Network. Central Vermont Medical Center and Elizabethtown Community Hospital will also use their name with the University of Vermont Health Network. The new branding will begin once Fletcher Allen receives approval from Vermont and New York. Fletcher Allen says the rollout is expected to start this fall and take approximately 12-18 months.

Vermont's Congressional delegation is opposed to U.S. military intervention in response to rising conflict in Iraq. Sen. Patrick Leahy opposed sending U.S. troops to Iraq 11 years ago and still feels that way. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch also oppose any military action in Iraq and says a regional solution is needed. President Barack Obama has been weighing a range of responses, including sending a small contingent of U.S. special forces to Iraq to help train security forces there and launching limited airstrikes.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that Vermont's moose hunt auction is open until August. A press release says auction winners will hunt in one of several wildlife management units across the state during the October 1-7 archery season or the October 18-23 regular season. A minimum bid of $1,500 is required, and winning bids are typically at least $4,000. Bids do not include the cost of hunting licenses. Additional information about the auction is on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website (

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 18, 2014

A new law to help in the state's fight against opiate addiction is now on the books. On Tuesday Governor Peter Shumlin put his signature to the "Risk Assessment Law" which essentially gives prosecutors the option to send someone to treatment instead of jail. When someone is arrested on drug charges, a third party screens them to see if they can be potentially rehabilitated. And, if that person successfully completes treatment they'll lose that arrest from their record.

Electric vehicle ownership is up some 260% since last year in Vermont. Now it's more cost effective than ever to make the switch. Drive Electric Vermont is offering a 500-dollar incentive to purchase a totally electric, or plug in hybrid vehicle, this summer. The deal comes as Governor Peter Shumlin works with seven other states to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. The discount can be applied at one of seven dealerships fanned out across the state anytime between now and August 15.

A tractor trailer accident in Bristol shut down a portion of Route 116 yesterday afternoon. Investigators say the big rig veered across the center land around 2 o’clock near Lords Prayer Rock. The truck crashed through the guardrail and rolled over into a ditch. The driver was not injured in the incident. The road was reduced to one lane for a couple of hours while cres removed the vehicle and cleaned up the scene.

Michael Jacques has been moved to an Arizona prison as he serves a life prison term for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of his niece, 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Jacques' attorney had asked that he not be held at a regular prison out of concern he could be targeted by other inmates. The judge declined to make the recommendation, but Jacques was recently sent to a high-security prison in Tucson. There are about 1,600 inmates and a high percentage of them are sex offenders.

Authorities are warning you to be on the lookout for a new scam. Resident in South Burlington have reported a number of complaints of receiving unsolicited mail indicating the recipient has won money. The documents request that the “winner” call a telephone number and provide personal information which may include Social Security numbers and bank information. Authorities say if you are contacted and asked to pay any amount, for any reason, to claim a prize, you have not heard from a legitimate company.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 17, 2014

If you smoke, starting July 1st it will be illegal to smoke in a car with children present. The new law applies when kids have to be in a car seat, which is typically children under the age of 8. The new law also applies to when there are older children who are still under a certain height and weight. The fine for those caught in the act is $100.

The New York Senate has passed a bill to stop identity thieves who target children. The bill previously passed the New York Assembly and now heads to the Governor for consideration. A press release says the bill would help stop identity thieves from victimizing children by requiring credit agencies to place a credit record freeze on an account of a minor when requested by a parent or guardian. Parents are urged to check their children's credit reports to see if their personal information is being misused, and to take immediate action if it is.

New England governors are calling for stronger cross-border monitoring of prescription drugs as part of a regional strategy for fighting opioid abuse. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick convened a meeting Tuesday in Waltham, Mass. Governors from New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, along with Peter Shumlin all attended the meeting. The governors announced an agreement to strengthen the sharing of data on prescription painkillers that officials say can lead to heroin abuse. Shumlin said it is a battle all the states need to fight together.

A former staffer at the University of Vermont is going to prison. Jody Farnham was sentenced yesterday to 13 months in prison followed by three years of probation, plus she'll have to repay the university 200-thousand dollars. Farnham pleaded guilty to stealing at least 185-thousand dollars from the school's artisan cheese-making program. Farnham, who worked as an administrator, admitted to diverting tuition checks which had been earmarked for the program which closed down last year.

A family-owned taxi service in Burlington is closing for good. Management of Benway's Taxi confirmed last night that they're shutting down, a move which will effect about 100 workers. They are not saying if this will affect Benway's other transportation services which fall under its umbrella company Morf Transportation. More details are expected to be released soon.

Monday, June 16, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 16, 2014

Now through Wednesday, June 18, Water Street and Charles Avenue will be closed to through traffic. Access to Water Street will be limited to resident traffic only. Charles Avenue to Duane Court will remain open from the south while construction continues. Workers will try to reopen Water Street and Charles Avenue at the end of work each day.

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in an attempted armed robbery in Rutland. Investigators say a man robbed Mac’s Convenience Store on North Main Street just before 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Anyone with information is asked to call the Rutland Police Department at 802-773-1816.

Officials in Montpelier were talking about Vermont's opiate addiction problem today. Governor Peter Shumlin, health officials, and others were part of a daylong forum at the statehouse on the growing drug health crisis. Organizers say the goal is improving addiction services that are working, and finding better prevention methods. Governor Shumlin will be meeting on the topic tomorrow too. He's holding a discussion with fellow Northeast governors on possible regional solutions to the opiate epidemic. That meeting will not be open to the press or public.

Criminal charges are pending in a vehicle accident that took place last night in Starksboro. State police have not released a lot of details but do say 23-year-old Andrew Bissonette of Huntington was thrown from the vehicle and was unresponsive when rescue crews arrived on the scene. Bissonette was taken to the hospital. A passenger in his car was also hurt. Police say speed was a factor in the crash.

Officials say Vermont small businesses required to purchase employee health insurance through the state’s exchange will have to enroll directly with insurance companies for another year. Due to ongoing issues with the state healthcare exchange, the state and its primary vendor, technology firm CGI, will continue to develop the software to allow online purchases by small businesses but it will not be read by the time open enrollment starts on November 15.

Friday, June 13, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 13, 2014

Rutland Police are investigating an armed robbery at the West Street Mobil. The incident happened last night at about 11:30 PM. Police say a man entered the store with a bandana covering his face. He is accused of brandishing a knife and demanding money. The man is described as being white, approximately 5'8", 160-170 lbs, light brown/blonde hair, wearing tan cargo pants, and a blue sweatshirt. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rutland City Police Department (802)-773-1820.

The mother of Dezirae Sheldon, whose stepfather is facing charges of her murder, is seeking reunification with her other child. Sandra Eastman filed for divorce from Dennis Duby after the death of two-year-old Dezirae. She had lost custody of her daughter for breaking her leg. The other child, a five-month-old, is in Department of Child and Families custody. Dezirae Sheldon's death resulted in a massive review of DCF earlier this year.

Vermont businessman Scott Milne said yesterday that he will run against Governor Peter Shumlin. Milne will face Emily Peyton in a primary. Milne says he is running because Shumlin is focused on social issues at the expense of the economy and a looming issue with the state's Health Care Connect. Shumlin welcomed him to the race, saying it is "good for democracy".

The numbers are in, and despite a slow start to the sugaring season, Vermont remains the top maple syrup producing state in the country. Compared to last year, the numbers are down. This season the Green Mountain State produced 1.3 million gallons of syrup, compared to 1.4 million gallons last year. New York is the nation's second largest producer, but the Empire State also suffered losses from last season. This year sap in Vermont ran on just 28 days compared to 41 days last year. Officials say this was due to the colder than average winter and spring.

A coalition of food industry associations filled a federal law suit against Vermont over the newly passed GMO Labeling Law. The lawsuit filed late yesterday makes multiple claims against the state, including that it violates manufacturers' rights to free speech because it mandates labeling, interferes with their marketing and that federal law already controls what the state GMO law is attempting to cover. Attorney General Bill Sorrell says labeling GMO ingredients is no different than labeling salt content. Governor Peter Shumlin says consumers deserve to know what is in their food, and Vermont will continue to push for common-sense labeling on packaged foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 12, 2014

The Vermont Public Service Board will be holding its second and final hearing on the proposed Phase II of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project tonight, beginning at 7 PM at the Middlebury Union High School auditorium. All are welcome.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed a ban on using a cell phone behind the wheel of automobile in to law today. Starting October 1, drivers cannot hold their portable devices to talk, text or look anything up. You can however use your phone if you use a hand free device. Vermont health officials say 40 percent of accidents in the state are caused by drivers who are distracted by various things, including cellphone use.

If you have a “Vermont Strong” license plate on your vehicle, you can keep it there for another 2 more years. Earlier today, Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation extending the date at which you can still display the special license plate on you vehicle. The license plates were sold all over the state to raise money to help people recover from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

The state's Attorney General has cleared a state agency of criminal wrongdoing in the death of a toddler. However, the conclusion is some very real mistakes were made by the Vermont Department for Children and Families in the welfare of Dezirae Sheldon. Her stepfather is now charged with her murder, but investigators say it was a mistake for the DCF to put her back in her home after her mother was convicted last year of breaking the child's legs. The toddler died a few weeks after she was returned to her mother's custody.

The Lake Champlain International Father's Day Fishing Derby gets underway soon, with Friday being the last day to register. It's become a Father's Day tradition, and with this being its 33rd year, you can bet new generations of anglers are planning on going. The LCI Outreach Director says it's pretty common to see three, maybe even four generations in the same boat. The derby attracts thousands each year, and runs Saturday through Monday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 11, 2014

Vermont Route 125 (College Street) in Middlebury will be closed to all traffic starting next Tuesday at 6 AM to Wednesday at 7 PM due to construction. Middlebury College is replacing a section of steam pipe crossing under the road and both lanes must be trenched across at the same time, completely shutting off the road. Traffic control will be on hand to assist with directing traffic around the construction.

A Rutland jury is defending its decision to acquit Jennifer Berube of attempted murder, even though a security camera caught the woman sneaking up on the victim with a knife. The jury foreman said that although she certainly assaulted the officer, and there was a fight for the knife, at no time did she attempt to stab him or slice at him. Berube was in the police station with her husband. The couple had been accused of attempting to use a stolen credit card. Berube said her only object was to get the keys from the officer, who was not hurt.

According to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, a new FDA mandate would change artisanal cheese production methods. The FDA issued a mandate that would prevent cheese-makers from using wooden boards to age their cheese. Sen. Schumer says cheese-makers will be forced to use new material for cheese-aging which will be costly and could alter the taste of cheese. Schumer is calling the FDA to reverse its opinion.

Bloomberg Business News is reporting that IBM is close to a deal that will sell its entire chipmaking division, including the Essex Junction plant to another chipmaking company, GlobalFoundries. The future of the Essex Junction plant could have a big impact on Vermont. A recent report by the Greater Burlington Industrial Development Corporation found IBM pumps $1 billion into Vermont's economy. IBM employs about 4,000 people in Vermont 10,000 families are directly or indirectly supported by IBM.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law earlier today promoting clean heating technologies. A press release says the law promotes incentives for homes using clean-heating technologies like cold-climate heat and geothermal pumps. The legislation will start a process at the Public Service Board to determine how efficiency providers like Efficiency Vermont can use their resources to help Vermonters install technologies like cold-climate heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps. More information about heat pump technology can be found on Efficiency Vermont’s website.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 10, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin has signed a law that makes Vermont the first state in the nation to have a policy dictating how police officers use their stun guns. The bill calls for the creation of a policy determining how and when the weapon should be used and the adoption of that yet-to-be-written policy by police departments across the state. The new policy will only allow police to use the device if someone presents a threat to themselves or others and doing so is the only way to prevent injury.

Academics from across the country are at Middlebury College to learn about ways to encourage young people to be social entrepreneurs. The conference at Middlebury College began today and continues through Thursday at Middlebury's Breadloaf Campus in Ripton. The conference is the third such event to be hosted by Middlebury.

The New York Senate passed 23 bills recommended by the bipartisan New York State Join Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. A press release says the bills passed to help prevent drug abuse and overdoses; increase the availability and efficacy of addiction treatment; and enhance the tools provided to law enforcement to keep heroin off the streets. In May, the task force proposed a number of bills to target prevention, treatment, and enforcement of drug-related issues after holding 18 forums throughout the state. The bills have been sent to the Assembly.

The Vermont Public Service Board will hold its second and final hearing on the proposed Phase II of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project on Thursday at 7 PM at the Middlebury Union High School auditorium.

Vermont officials say state revenues from income taxes have been down over the last few months, but those losses are being made up by unanticipated revenue from estate taxes. Eleven months into the fiscal year, personal income tax receipts are off about $17 million, or 3 percent of projects. But Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the gains in the estate tax are more than making up for the losses in the income tax because a small number of wealthy people pasted away.

Monday, June 9, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 9, 2014

You might want to take a closer look at your grocery bill. If you haven't noticed already, milk prices are way up from where they were a year ago. The price of milk is a lot higher than where it was last spring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a gallon of whole milk cost $3.69 in April. That's up 7.5 percent from where it was at the same time a year ago and is the highest price shoppers have seen since way back in September of 2011. Unfortunately, analysts expect prices to continue to rise, at least for now. Farmers here aren't getting as big a cut as you might think, though. Currently, only a third of retail prices is what's called the "farm share." In the 80's, they used to get half.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed a law earlier today that will increase the state’s minimum wage. The law will increase the wage in stages, by 2018, it will increase to $10.50 an hour. Beginning in 2019, the law calls for annual increases, which will be tied to inflation. Vermont’s currently minimum wage is $8.73 an hour.

The South Burlington Police Department is investigating vandalism done at Rice Memorial High School. The incident happened sometime during the overnight hours between Saturday and Sunday. Police say vandalism consisted of light blue paint on many windows, doors, and skylights on the roof. Eggs were also thrown at several windows and doors. The vandalism was discovered a few hours before graduation ceremonies scheduled at the school.

Vermont Health Connect has missed another deadline. People were supposed to be able to make small changes to their health insurance accounts Sunday, but that's being delayed again. The contractor's original deadline was May 21, but then it was pushed back to June 8. Commissioner Mark Larson said good progress is being made, but the change isn't ready for the public yet.

Republican Randy Brock says he will not run for Vermont governor this year. Brock says he had been thinking about running for awhile. He says after considering many factors including campaign-related and personal he decided not to run. The republican lost to Democrat Peter Shumlin in the 2012 Vermont governor's race. Business owner Scott Milne says he is considering running in the republican primary. Milne says he is "disappointed" by Brock's decision.

Friday, June 6, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 6, 2014

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Arizona Senator John McCain have hammered out a compromise for legislation reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure includes pieces of three VA bills, including expanding a veteran's access to health care, allowing them to see private doctors outside the VA system under certain conditions, as well as making it easier to fire VA officials. Similar legislation overwhelmingly passed in the House last month. The bill will now go to the Senate floor, possibly as soon as next week.

More than 40 people and 9 legislators gathered last night at the Isley Library to discuss Vermont’s DCF. It was one of a series of nine public meetings being held across the state to get the public’s input on child protection issues in the state. Emotions ran high as people spoke out. Some saying DCF is quick to break up families while others said DCF keeps dysfunctional families together. During the meeting, it was pointed out that substance abuse is a huge part of the problem and that DCF social workers are neither drug counselors nor mental health clinicians. Lawmakers will host their final three hearings on child protective services next Tuesday in St. Johnsbury, Montpelier and Morrisville. Committee members say they hope to present their recommendations to lawmakers by the end of the year.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a revised draft of the Adirondack Park Trail plan for the North Country National Scenic Trail. A press release says the plan recommends following approximately 81 miles of existing foot trail and constructing 38 miles of new trails within the Park. The trail will be approximately 158 total miles in length when complete, going from Forestport to Crown Point.

While there's apparently a lot of alcohol consumption in Vermont, according to a new report, it's not as much as seven other states. A new ranking by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ranks Vermont as 8th highest in the nation for consumption. The average is about two-point-three-three gallons per person in one year, which translates to more than 25 bottles of whiskey or 320 bottles of beer annually. The number for Vermont, however, is a bit higher: two-point-nine-two. But, the number one state, New Hampshire, is almost double that amount, with the District of Columbia coming in second. Utah was at the bottom.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 5, 2014

Vermont plans to hire a contractor to help address a backlog on Vermont Health Connect, the state's online health insurance marketplace. The chairman of the House Health Care Committee says it's intolerable that there's a backlog of 10,000 households who want to make changes to their applications or policies. Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, says the state will hire a contractor to try to address any problems before open enrollment begins in November. He would not say who the state is negotiating with or how much the state would pay for the work.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of a fire at Vermont Soapworks. The blaze was reported around 9 o’clock last night. Fire officials say they were able to knock down the fire relatively quickly. The amount of damage and the cause of the fire are still yet to be determined. Fire officials say that no one was in the building at the time and there were no injuries.

Vermont's new lakeshore protection standards take effect July 1st. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law yesterday. The law establishes guidelines, and requires a permit, for most landscape changes within 250 feet of Vermont's larger ponds and lakes. While legislators say this is a major step in cleaning up Lake Champlain, they admit that there are still challenges ahead, especially when it comes to enforcing this new law.

Noonie Deli in Middlebury is for sale. The owners, Bryan and Jenny Phelps, announced that they have listed their business for sale. After owning and operating the business for over four years, the Vermont couple wants to change directions and pursue other career opportunities. The staff will all remain in place and Jenny and Bryan will continue to be involved in all aspects of the operations as they seek out a buyer to bring the business to the next level.

Vermont's Attorney General wants to know how you think the state's new GMO law should be implemented. The attorney general's office put out a food labeling questionnaire. This will help the office put together rules to help with the labeling of GMO foods. That's now required because of a recently passed law. CLICK HERE to fill out the questionnaire.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 4, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin says a new "Great Jobs in Vermont" campaign will help put job seekers in touch with job openings in businesses. The campaign is a partnership among the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Recruiters' Association, as well as businesses, chambers of commerce, higher education institutions, and alumni networks. The page can be seen at

The Vermont Ski Areas Association says the state had another successful season. 4.5 million skier & rider visits were reported for the 2013-14 season. The preliminary figures from the National Ski Areas Association rank Vermont number one in the East, and number three in the country.

Voters in six school districts, including Burlington have now approved the school budgets. That passage in Burlington Tuesday just barely made it by 68 votes, although more than 64-hundred votes were cast. The new budget approved is actually an increase over the one which failed on Town Meeting Day, but it covers a budget shortfall which was later discovered. Other districts which approved new school budgets Tuesday are Colchester, Milton, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, Elmore, and Fairfield.

Governor Peter Shumlin has signed 2 bills to help protect minors in Vermont. The first bill addresses guardianship, in a case where parents cannot properly care for their child. This includes what to do if for some reason, a caregiver cannot look after the child. The second bill will allow for a study on how to better help children with incarcerated parents, or parents who are addicted to drugs. The study will focus on what resources these children need. The Department of Corrections says on any given day, Vermont has on average 1,600 children with a parent in jail.

The state of Vermont is still trying to get the Federal Emergency Management to help pay for repairs to the fish hatchery in Roxbury. Restoring the hatchery is the state's largest remaining Irene repair project. At issue is whether FEMA should help for a replacement hatchery that meets federal clean water standards. If the hatchery, Vermont's oldest, were to be restored to its pre-Irene condition it would violate federal water quality laws.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 3, 2014

Health officials say an outbreak of salmonella connected to baby chicks has sickened five people in Vermont. The Vermont Department of Health says out of the five cases, four were children. Health officials say the birds were traced back to Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio. Vermont health officials are working with other state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate the outbreak.

The two health insurance companies offering coverage through the state health exchange want to raise their rates for people and small businesses. The state's largest insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, has requested an average 9.8 percent increase and MVP Health Care is seeking a 15.4 percent increase. Blue Cross says the increase in premiums was due to changes in the federal and state health care reforms, an increase in the federal fee that is included in exchange pricing, reduction in federal subsidies of premiums, and expansion of dental benefits for children. The Green Mountain Care Board is expected to issue a final decision on the rates in early September. If approved, the new rates would go into effect starting on January 2, 2015.

Police in South Burlington are seeking to identify three men involved in a protest at Vermont Gas where authorities say an employee was injured. A group that opposes a natural gas pipeline to extend service to Addison and Rutland counties protested outside of the company's headquarters on May 27. Police say two men went to the rooftop of the building to display a banner. Police say another man injured a worker while trying to chain another protester to the door. The female employee was struck in the arm by the large chain. Police say trespassing as well as simple assault and disorderly conduct complaints could be filed.

A pretty unusual sight on Lake Dunmore Sunday, as Vermonters in Brandon saw a pelican out on the lake. It's only the second time a sighting of a brown pelican has ever been reported in Vermont, with the last and only other one in October 2003 on Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh. A park ranger at Branbury State Park says the bird ended up landing between two buoys, and basically spent the rest of the day just hanging out there on the freshwater lake.

Police are warning folks particularly the elderly about a scam circulating in Vermont. Authorities have gotten several complaints about scammers claiming to be “police officers” with the IRS. The calls originate from 202-864-1220 but police believe they're actually coming from overseas. The crooks try to convince elderly victims they owe the IRS money and threaten them with jail time property and assets seizures. Police say do not give these scammers money and report the calls to the State's Consumer Assistance Program.

Monday, June 2, 2014

WVTK Local & State News June 2, 2014

A legislative committee is holding public hearings across the state this week dealing with the state's system of child protection. There have been two deaths of children earlier this spring, children who at one point were being safe-guarded by the Department for Children and Families. The first three hearings are Tuesday, with one in the Chester Town Hall at 11 a-m, then one in the Park House in Manchester at 2:30 and the day wraps up with a third at Rutland High School starting at 6 p-m. Three more hearings are on Thursday, and the final three are next week.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Officials are reminding the public that deer fawns are being born and are asking people to avoid disturbing them or picking them up. According to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, most deer are born during the first and second weeks of June. Deer Biologist Adam Murkowski encourages people to resist the urge to assist wildlife in ways that may be harmful, and he adds that deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, and often leave their young alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mother knows where they are and will return.

A New Vermont bus service is coming soon. Starting next Monday, Vermont Translines in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of Transportation are offering two new routes. Once a day, seven days a week, service will be provided from Burlington to Albany, NY, and from Rutland to the White River Junction, West Lebanon area. There will also be stops along the way, and connections to other intercity services to places like New York City, Boston, and Montreal. The new routes are being subsidized by the state with federal money.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed the largest transportation bill in state history. Earlier today, Shumlin signed the bill that approves $685.7 million in infrastructure improvements and maintenance. The bill includes $115.7 million for paving, a 7 percent increase that's part of an ongoing plan to improve the condition of the state's highways and $140.3 million for bridges, up 6 percent over last year. The governor's office says Vermont is making progress in catching up with needed maintenance.