Thursday, July 31, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 31, 2014

A court diversion program for some drug offenders in Vermont's largest county is going to be part of a national study to see how effective it is. Chittenden County's Rapid Intervention Community Court will be part of the second phase of a research project, funded by the Department of Justice, and other groups. The Chittenden County program will be one of three sites in the country participating in the second phase of the study. The study is designed to look at the effectiveness of the program, which offers alternatives to some people charged with crimes such as theft, drug possession or writing bad checks.

Tensions are rising after protesters were at a Vermont Gas construction site in Williston yesterday. Those belonging to Rising Tide Vermont temporarily blocked the entrance to the site, issuing a stop work order to the company. This is part of a project to extend natural gas pipeline service to Rutland. When police were ready to issue a trespass warning, protesters marched away to avoid being arrested. A spokesperson at Vermont Gas says while they understand the right to free speech, they believe safety has become a major issue.

A construction worker removing fog lines on Interstate 89 was killed after being hit by a car yesterday. Vermont State Police say 61-year-old Robert Stanhope was hit by a Prius driven by a 22-year-old South Burlington woman just after 11 p.m. Police say the incident happened on the northbound side of I-89 in South Burlington. Stanhope, of Richford, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say he worked for the Whitcomb Construction Company. Police say the investigation is ongoing and asks that anyone with additional information please call the Vermont State Police in Williston at (802)878-7111.

Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, will join Rutland County legislators at the Rutland Downtown Farmers’ Market to kick-off National Farmer’s Market Week this Saturday. The market, located at 98 Merchant’s Row in Rutland’s Depot Park, is one of eighty farmers’ markets across the state. Per capita, Vermont has more farmers’ markets than any other state in the nation. According to Ross, Vermont’s thriving farmers’ market community is a reflection of the values of Vermonters.

Champ Day is coming back to Moriah after a short hiatus. Organizers are hoping for a big turnout for this Saturday's event. Major setbacks, like flooding and bridge construction in the area caused organizers to take a year off, and that gave them time to make this year's celebration even better. For those who grew up here near Bulwagga Bay in Moriah, the stories and sightings of Champ the lake monster are abundant.
Organizers said they hope this year's Champ Day will be bigger and better, especially since Champ Day was called off last summer. Saturday’s events includes a 5K run, a cardboard boat race, and hopefully a visit from the guest of honor.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 30, 2014

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced earlier today that Vermont will be receiving funds for health care providers. A press release says the $250,000 four year funding will help the state hire more health care professionals in underserved areas across the state. The funding will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the state and will provide loan repayment assistance to 25 health care professionals. Eligible recipients will include doctors, nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants and dentists hired at Federally Qualified Health Centers or rural health clinics.

The Vermont food fight fund is racking up the cash. So far, the fund had collected $160,000. The fund was set up to help the state defend its GMO labeling law. Trade groups led by the Grocery Manufacturer's Association filed suit against the state in federal court. The biggest donor so far is, with a $53,000 donation. The second largest is $50,000 from Kent Whealy and Judy Kern from Michigan. Ben & Jerry's has not donated yet, but a spokesperson said yesterday they plan to donate $5,000 this week. The company unveiled "Food Fight Fudge" in June, promising to donate a dollar for every scoop sold. Gov. Peter Shumlin has donated $100. Vermont has until August 8th to respond to the lawsuit.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says child abuse cases should be open to the public. Sorrell says an open family court will allow for greater scrutiny of social workers. It will also make the public aware of the problems of child abuse and neglect. That idea, and several others, were proposed Tuesday in response to the deaths of children being supervised by the Department of Children and Families this year.

The Vermont National Guard will be holding an open house for the public. The Saturday open house at the Air National Guard base at the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both Air and Army guard aircraft and equipment will be on display. The Air Guard flies F-16 jets. The Army guard flies Blackhawk helicopters. Vermont National Guard members will be on hand to answer questions and talk about the capabilities of the equipment. Adults will be required to bring identification to get into the base.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 29, 2014

The state Public Service Board has ordered Vermont Gas Systems to stop digging for its pipeline near power lines owned by the Vermont Electric Cooperative because of nearby pesticide concerns. The cooperative’s poles have been treated with a chemical that the EPA has found to be toxic. Last week, Vermont Gas said in a letter to the board “it would be prudent” for the company to develop a soil management plan for the project. In response, the board required the company to stop digging until a plan has been reviewed and approved by the board.

Police in Rutland have cited two parents for cruelty to a child. Sunday there was a toddler wandering the streets wearing just a diaper and a baseball cap. Worried neighbors say they had no choice but to call the authorities. Rutland Police say the father admitted to drinking alcohol and losing track of his son. By the time the boy was found, he had made it nearly a half mile from home. Now, by court order, the child is in DCF custody.

A crash last night in Bridport sent multiple people to the hospital. Troopers say one of the cars crossed the center line and smashed into the car coming the other way. Vermont State Police say one person had multiple broken bones. Three others were treated as a precaution. Police say they don't think alcohol was a factor in the crash.

The clock runs out Saturday night on a contract between nearly 18-hundred IBEW workers at FairPoint in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Contract negotiations between the union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pick up again on today. The Communications Workers of America are also about to lose their contract, and members of both unions have voted overwhelmingly to strike. The union has a scheduled candlelight vigil in down Burlington Saturday night at 10 pm.

Governor Peter Shumlin says he wants to help with the immigration crisis on the border but he doesn't think the Green Mountain State has the space. Shumlin told the Department of Health and Human Services in a letter that Vermont doesn't have the kind of facilities they’re looking for to handle a large influx of people, up to 1,000 children. However Shumlin did say there are some options to house 75 to 100 children. He also says they have offered to help Massachusetts after Governor Deval Patrick proposed two military bases there as solutions.

Monday, July 28, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 28, 2014

The state airport in Rutland has won an $8 million dollar federal grant to make safety improvements. The money will be used to extend the runway and additional 300 feet, which will provide a larger margin of safety and also allow departing aircraft to carry more fuel. They'll also clear an area at the end of the runway in case planes over-shoot their landings. State officials say Vermont's congressional delegation helped secure the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Vermont Senior Senator Patrick Leahy said he hopes a bill approved by Congress will help victims of domestic violence get cell phones -- phones that can serve as 911 lifelines in case of emergency. The bill sponsored by Leahy and approved last week gives consumers the chance to switch cell phone carriers without changing phones. Organizations like Women Helping Battered Women hope that change leads to more donations of used phones so they can give them out to victims of abuse.

Novelist, poet and Middlebury College instructor Julia Alvarez has won a National Medal of the Arts.
Alvarez, who lives in Weybridge, will receive the award along with other recipients at a White House ceremony today. Alvarez is author of "How The GarcĂ­a Girls Lost Their Accents" and "In the Time of the Butterflies." Her latest book, "A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship," is a nonfiction story that starts at a farm and literacy project she and her husband set up in the Dominican Republic.

It’s back to the drawing board for the selectboard in Brandon. On the heels of the municipal budget’s last defeat, they are meeting tonight to discuss further cuts to the budget in order to get it passed by the voters. One of the cuts being proposed is cutting one position at the police department. Police Chief Christopher Brickell is warning town residents that cutting an officer position would make it very difficult to continue 24/7 police coverage. One of the budget proposals that was expected to come up tonight also includes a 10 percent cut for the library and a 10 percent cut for the senior center.

A beverage company Honest Tea decided to test just how honest people really are when no one's watching. They conducted an experiment in all 50 states, setting up unmanned kiosks full of drinks and snacks. People are asked to pay a dollar for each item, and buy based on the "honor system." Honest Tea said they're expecting the best from the green mountain state. Last year Vermont was 95 percent honest. The national results will be released on August 19th.

Friday, July 25, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 25, 2014

A 70-year-old Vermont man charged with fatally shooting two electricians who were working on his rented home last winter is asking for a new lawyer. Sylvester Labartino of Fair Haven has been held on $750,000 bail in the Feb. 12 shooting deaths of 57-year-old Shane Plummer and his 26-year-old son Christopher, both of West Haven. Labartino says the Rutland lawyers Mark Furlan and Christopher Montgomery have not been in touch with him since his arraignment. Judge Theresa DiMauro is scheduled to hold a hearing on Labartino's request on Wednesday in the criminal court for Rutland County.

A Shelburne man pleaded not guilty this morning to the murder of a toddler in his care. 26-year-old Joshua Blow was arrested last night after a three-day investigation into the death of 2-year-old Aiden Haskins. The boy was found unresponsive Tuesday morning and pronounced dead later that day. Police called his death suspicious from the start. Blow is the boyfriend of the child's mother. She told police that she did have involvement with the state Department for Children Families when Aiden was born. That makes him the third toddler with DCF connections to die this year.

Police in Colchester say they quickly captured a bank robber this morning. The Merchants Bank in Colchester was robbed shortly before 9:30 a.m. The bandit handed the teller a note saying he had a gun and demanding cash. After the robber got the money, he took off on foot. But investigators say before the call came in to police, an on patrol nearby and spotted a man acting suspiciously. The man ran from the bank toward Price Chopper, wearing a hat and sunglasses. Corporal Akerlind caught up with the man just as dispatch radioed that the bank had been robbed. Police say 31-year-old Erik Weinmann of Colchester, surrendered to Akerlind and was arrested. He's charged with assault and robbery. Police say Weinmann had a toy gun when he was arrested, along with the note to the teller and the stolen loot.

No one was hurt, and everything went according to plan when a jet airliner had to make an emergency landing. That happened Thursday afternoon at Burlington International Airport shortly after the Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft took off. The pilot felt what where called "unknown vibrations" and after 15 minutes in the air returned, with the airport's and South Burlington's fire departments responding, along with local police and the Air National Guard. The plane landed safely and everyone evacuated okay.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 24, 2014

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding announced a spending reduction for the current fiscal year. A press release says revenues in the state are projected to climb by three percent, instead of the 4.8 percent increase previously projected. In order to ensure that the state's budget is balanced, the Shumlin Administration is proposing to trim approximately $31 million from Vermont's $1.4 billion general fund budget, about a two percent reduction.

Voters in Brandon have once again defeated the municipal budget. The vote was 600 no to 425 yes. The $3-million spending plan, which looked for almost $2.5-million to be raised through property taxes. The selectboard will meet on Monday at 7 p.m. to go over their options looking forward.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a heart valve procedure tested at Fletcher Allen and UVM. Fletcher Allen says the procedure tested during a clinical trial replaced heart valves using catheters instead of open heart surgery. The procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) have been added to the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines. Fletcher Allen and UVM are currently enrolling patients in a national, randomized clinical trial comparing the safety and effectiveness of TAVR versus standard surgery in these lower risk patients. For more information on this trial, contact the Cardiology Research office at (802)-847-4746.

Rutland police say a study found the number of calls for service in the Vermont city dropped almost 25 percent in the first six months of this year compared to 2013. Police Chief James Baker says they're still working to make sure the numbers are correct and if so what caused the drop. Baker says burglary and larceny reports are down 2 percent, but drug complaints were up. He says he'll release the report once the numbers have been verified, which he expects to take about a week.

The bridge connecting Middlebury and East Middlebury on Route 125 is finally complete. The structure was damaged by decades of storms, including Tropical Storm Irene. The construction maintained the bridge's historic arched design. The work also included new pedestrian walkways that provide access to the Middlebury River. It's one of six bridges VTrans is working on in Rochester and Middlebury.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 23, 2014

Strong to locally severe weather will move through the area this afternoon and the biggest threats will be damaging wind gusts, heavy rain, and frequent lightning. Showers and thunderstorms will pop up this afternoon and evening. Storms will move west to east so keep your eye on the western horizon. Storms should move out of the area around 9 o’clock tonight. The rest of this week's weather will be quiet!

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation strengthening penalties for theft and mistreatment of pets. A press release says the law increases the maximum fine from $200 to $1,000 for those who attempt to steal, harm, or transport a dog, cat, or other pet that isn't their own. The American Kennel Club reports that there were more than 590 thefts of pets in 2013.

A Vermont police department says it has issued its first ticket to a driver who was smoking with a child in his car. St. Johnsbury Police say a civil ticket that included a $162 fine was issued last week to 32-year-old male after his car was stopped July 19 for having a defective muffler. Officer Steve Hartwell found the man smoking a cigarette in the drivers' seat with a toddler in a car-seat in the back. Hartwell said he told him he knew of the new law, but didn't know if it was in force yet. On July 1, Vermont enacted a law that prohibits smoking in cars carrying children under age 8.

Gun laws in Colchester may be changing soon. A new proposal would not ban hunting in town but it would change where and how sportsmen could do it. The plan would introduce new limits on where certain types of guns can be fired, based on a number of factors including the size of the property and where it's located. The Colchester select board must now approve the proposed changes.

One man was struck by lightning as a line of storms moved through Northern New York Wednesday morning. The man was camping at Coles Creek State Park when he was struck, according to park workers. He was reportedly heading out to cover up some of his belongings when he was hit around 6:30 a.m. The man's wife told park officials that he is expected to be fine, but will remain in the hospital overnight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 22, 2014

Critics of the Vermont Gas Pipeline Project want construction halted while state regulators review a recent 40 percent increase in the project's cost estimate. Anti-pipeline activists protesting at the Public Service Board this afternoon to protest what they're calling a bait-and-switch by project developer Vermont Gas Systems. The company announced earlier this month the estimated cost of phase one of the project had climbed by 40 percent, to more than $121 million. The company attributes higher costs to route changes to accommodate landowners and towns along the route.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office is suing the makers, manufacturers and sellers of an energy drink called 5-hour ENERGY. The suit against Living Essentials L-L-C and Innovation Ventures L-L-C says the companies repeatedly violate state consumer laws by making what the state calls deceptive promotional claims. .Attorney General Bill Sorrell says the only ingredient in the drink which has any effect is a concentrated shot of caffeine, not caffeine plus a blend of nutrients as the makers claim. Sorrell says consumers are entitled to know the facts.

According to the Chittenden County Special Investigation Unit, a toddler found unresponsive at a Shelburne home has died. The Shelburne Police Department were called to a home at the intersection of Shelburne Road and Hunters Way around 7:30 this morning for an unresponsive 2-year-old boy. CPR was started at the home. The boy was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care where he later died. The name of the toddler is being withheld until family members can be notified. Police say the cause and manner of death is still pending the result of an autopsy.

The Vermont attorney general is suing Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. for selling jewelry that the state says contains toxic substances. The attorney general's office said today that the national discount chain has violated a 2010 settlement with the state to stop selling the jewelry. The attorney general says the items contain high amounts of lead and cadmium in violation of Vermont law. The office says Dollar Tree sold 30,000 pieces of jewelry including rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces through stores in Barre, Bennington, Burlington, Derby/Newport and Rutland.

The American Red Cross is putting out the call for donors. Platelet donors and those with O negative, B negative and A negative blood types are especially needed. The Red Cross says blood and platelet donations are down approximately 8 percent over the past 11 weeks, resulting in about 80,000 fewer donations than expected.

Monday, July 21, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 21, 2014

While the final vote tally isn't finished, union officials say a clear majority of FairPoint workers have already voted to authorize a strike. Contracts for two unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine expire August 2nd. The unions say the two sides are far apart from a settlement, and while workers in Vermont and Maine have already voted, those in New Hampshire have been delayed due to recent storms. The Vermont IBEW spokesperson says he believes all votes should be tallied by tomorrow.

There was another bear sighting in Bristol. Police received reports of a bear going through a dumpster behind 31 Main Street near Darcy's Salon. The resident who spotted the bear says this isn't the first time the bear has been in the area and says he tried to scare the bear away. Police advise residents to never take matters into their own hands when they see a wild animal, they say just call local officials.

Authorities have identified the three victims in a single-engine plane crash in the Adirondacks as a West Virginia man, his 24-year-old daughter and a 25-year-old Michigan man. State police announce today that 63-year-old Fred Kafka of Vienna, West Virginia, was piloting the Mooney M20 when it crashed Saturday morning after attempting to land at the Lake Placid Municipal Airport in the town of North Elba. Investigators say he took off from the Potsdam airport for a sightseeing tour of the Adirondacks. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Prepare for some delays in crossing the Vermont/Canadian border for the next couple of weeks. U-S Customs say a two-week construction holiday means traffic delays. They say travelers should plan on using the crossings during lighter traffic periods, or other ports of entry if possible between now and August 2nd.

An extensive search for a plane which crashed in Lake Champlain 43 years ago ended Sunday. The joint effort by Vermont and New York authorities over the week-end used high-tech equipment to search 15 square miles of the lake bottom near Shelburne. While no definitive evidence of the missing jet with five people on board was recovered, authorities did receive new tips from the public which could help in solving the mystery. The plane took off from Burlington in a snowstorm in January, 1971 bound for Providence before disappearing over the lake.

This Saturday, it the 6th Annual StreetFest in Downtown Ticonderoga from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. StreetFest is an annual celebration with shopping, sidewalk sales, non-stop live entertainment, arts and crafts, variety of vendors, food, farmers’ market, fun, cars and boat displays, as well as family and youth activities including professional full face art, caricatures, face painting, and a Kids Bike Rally and Rodeo to attract people to Ticonderoga’s historic Montcalm Street district. Admission to the event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 17, 2014

State Officials say Lewis Creek at Route 7 in Ferrisburgh and Tyler Bridge Road in Monkton are unsafe for swimming. This comes after water tested positive for high levels of E. Coli. The E. Coli level on July 2 at the Tyler Bridge location was 686.67 and at the Route 7 was 272.3. The state standard is 77. The Tyler Bridge site is now owned by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. The Lewis Creek Association tests water quality and Lewis Creek swimming holes and other locations each year.

Seventeen Vermont dairy farmers are sharing in a grant of over $384,000 for projects to improve herd management, cow health and working conditions. The grants fare from the Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program. Gov. Peter Shumlin says the grants are aimed at improving milk production and the financial viability of the farms. The projects included repairing barn floors, upgrading existing milking parlors, adding robotic milking parlors, replacing bulk cooling tanks, and other repairs.

The RAND Corporation Drug Policy Research Center is conducting a study of the taxation and regulation of legalizing marijuana in the state. According to Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding, the Vermont Legislature requested the study be conducted and have a reported filed in January. The RAND Corporation will also study other public health and safety issues.

Police in Castleton say a 76-year-old man is dead after a confrontation with a bull on East Hubbardton Road Tuesday night. Officers say Harold Stanyon was chased and fell down, but was not stomped or bruised, plus the bull did not have any horns. Stanyon's doctor believes the man had a heart attack.

The Obama administration has asked Vermont whether it can house immigrant children who have crossed into the United States over the Mexican border. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America have been crossing the border into Texas, overwhelming immigration facilities there. The government is struggling with what to do about the problem and Congress is debating the president's plan for billions in emergency funding for new detention centers and deportation proceedings. In the meantime, the Obama administration is asking states to help out. It's unclear what form Vermont's assistance would take and what type of facilities might be made available.

The state of Vermont has released its Web-based recycling map that connects residents, businesses, and institutions with collection services and food rescue agencies, haulers and composters with food scraps. Vermont's Universal Recycling law bans all food scraps from landfills by July 1, 2020. Larger generators of food scraps need to begin diverting them sooner if a certified compost center is located within 20 miles. Recyclable such as metal, glass, plastics and paper are banned from the landfill beginning July 1, 2015.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 16, 2014

The Bristol Police Department is investigating a man who reportedly was going through vehicles on East Street early this morning. Police say a man left the area after going through and taking some items from five vehicles. Some of the items taken were found near or inside other vehicles. The man is described as being white, between 5'5" and 5'9", weighing 120 to 140 pounds, brown hair, and wearing a bluish gray shirt and dark green pants. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bristol Police Department at (802)-453-2533.

The Vermont state auditor says a review of the state's online sex offender registry has found critical errors in 11 percent of offender records. Auditor Doug Hoffer said earlier today that the errors call into question the reliability of the registry. He says the audit found critical errors in 253 of the 2,340 records in the registry.
Hoffer says his office recommended tracking the treatment status of sex offenders who are no longer under state supervision, but that the state has not fully implemented that recommendation.

Brandon residents will vote for the 4th time next Tuesday on a $3 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Of that amount, almost to $2.5-million would be raised through property taxes. Three previous attempts to pass the budget were soundly rejected by voters. The latest budget proposal however goes further in making cuts, a total of $120,000. Those cuts include laying off of two Public Works Department employees.

While the actual Vermont Primary is scheduled for August 26th, it's possible to cast your ballot now. Early voting is an option for the next six weeks, simply by requesting a ballot from your town clerk, either in person, by phone or by mail. It's now estimated that as many as 20-percent of all voters will use the early voting option this year.

If you want to make your home more energy efficient, it is now easier to pay off that loan. Green mountain Power has partnered with Neighbor Works to make loans available if you want to make energy improvements. GMP customers can now pay off that loan through part of their monthly electric bill. Green Mountain Power's Spokesperson Dorothy Schnure says this trend could save you money in the long run. Loans can be used for improving thermal and electric efficiency or renewable energy. The loan can be up to $15,000 with a maximum of 10 years to pay it back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 15, 2014

The Vermont Student Assistance Corp. is urging students who applied for financial aid to double-check their numbers. This past year the U.S. Department of Education made some updates to the online free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA. However, when the updates were made, a glitch in the system happened and it's causing students to lose out on Pell grants, or other financial aid. A misplaced decimal point could mean all the difference between you, and thousands of dollars toward your college tuition. VSAC discovered the problem last week when reviewing grant applications. The U.S. Department of Education believes 200,000 people across the country are at risk of losing financial aid, if the error isn't corrected.

State health care officials have promised to find additional financial support for a joint effort by Porter Medical Center and the Counseling Service of Addison County to expand medication assisted treatment services to local residents who are addicted to opiates. While Porter officials have not closed the door on a new clinic, they are currently committed to ramping up the Suboxone program at Bristol Internal Medicine, which will be beefed up over time to eventually accommodate 80-90 patients. A total of four primary care physicians based at the Bristol office will soon be able to prescribe Suboxone.

The Vermont Air National Guard will be flying with U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jets this week. The joint training starts today and continues through Friday. Guard officials say the aircraft will be operating during normal operating hours of the Burlington International Airport.

If companies are looking to build in Burlington, they might be forced to recycle during construction. There's been an uptick in construction in the city and that has some city councilors concerned. They want to make sure any waste from construction is recycled, including wood, sheetrock, and insulation. Yesterday, the city council started the process of requiring recycling during commercial construction as part of a permit.

Police say they've found unexamined evidence in the case of a Vermont couple charged in the killing of a popular Vermont teacher. 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, then killed her. They've pleaded not guilty. The items, which include a hard drive, memory cards and 8 mm video cassettes seized from the Prues' home, were found at the St. Johnsbury state police barracks. The state forensic lab has not evaluated them yet. A judge has approved a warrant to examine them.

The Pentagon has cleared the F-35 fighter jet to take flight, less than two weeks after the fleet was grounded. According to a statement from the U.S. Defense Department, the F-35 fleet will have limited flight clearance that includes extra engine inspections. An engine fire in an F-35 at Eglin Air Force base last month prompted military officials to ground the planes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 14, 2014

The Conservation Law Foundation has asked the Public Service Board today to require Vermont Gas Systems to seek an amended certificate of public good for Phase I of its natural gas pipeline project. In its filing, CLF cited a $35 million, or 40 percent, increase in the cost of the project. CLF also asked the board to require VGS to halt construction unless and until it receives an amended permit.

The cooperative Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to pay a total of $50 million to thousands of Northeast dairy farmers to settle antitrust allegations. A class-action lawsuit filed in 2009 charged Dallas-based Dean Foods, DFA, and the cooperative's marketing arm, Dairy Marketing Services, with working together to monopolize the market for raw milk in the Northeast, driving down prices paid to dairy farmers. DFA does not admit any wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement. It says the legal costs have become too great.

The Vermont State Police have renewed their agreement with the state Department of Corrections to help fight drug smuggling at prisons with the use of police dogs. The police are providing dog teams on a pre-planned and on-call basis to search correctional facilities, including during visitation hours. State police, in cooperation with the Department of Corrections, have investigated several attempted smuggling and contraband cases in the last few months.

Vermont State Officials say higher gas prices would mean better roads. State and highway officials met to discuss possible ways to replenish the national Highway Trust Fund, which they say is running out of money. There are 38 highway construction projects scheduled to start August 1 and they are threatened to be delayed or stopped altogether. Officials say an increase in the federal gas tax would fix the problem.

It's likely to be another week before the results of a strike authorization vote by members of the union representing FairPoint Communications workers are known. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, IBEW, represents about 18-hundred FairPoint employees in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. While votes authorizing a strike sometime between now and the expiration of its contract with FairPoint August 2nd were expected to be counted by Sunday, there's problems in New Hampshire. Ongoing outages caused by the weather have prevented workers from attending meetings to vote.

More than 300 players divided into 28 teams to compete in the 21st Annual Rutland Mud Volleyball Tournament. The event benefits Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont and raised more than $8,000 dollars. The funds will go to various programs for children and families living with epilepsy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 11, 2014

Unions representing nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are set to vote on whether to authorize a strike. Meetings about the strike vote are scheduled for today in South Burlington; Saturday in Bangor, Maine; and Sunday in Portland, Maine and Manchester, New Hampshire. The company says service to customers will continue if there is a strike.

The Bullrock Corporation has signed an agreement to sell its senior care-related holdings, including the Lodge at Otter Creek. This will be one of the largest private transactions in the state’s history. An official closing on the deal is slated for later this month. Bullrock CEO Gregg Beldock says he expects a seamless transition to the new ownership, which he said will retain the current 400-person workforce of the four businesses.

Parking Rates in Burlington will be going up soon. Starting in October, rates at parking meters and at the Marketplace Garage will be going up. Putting a quarter in a parking meter currently buys 15 minutes, but after the rate change, that number will drop down to 10 minutes. The city will also add credit card swipes at 300 parking meters, or customers will have a pay by phone option. The city hopes to raise $400,000 from the price raises.

The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2015 municipal tax rate of 94 cents per $100 in property value. When added to education property taxes computed by the state, Middlebury taxpayers will be assessed an overall fiscal year 2015 residential property tax rate of $2.717 per $100 of property value. That rate is up 8.4 cents from the fiscal year 2014 rate of $2.633, an increase of about 3.2 percent.

The Burlington Police Department is investigating an arson at Champlain College. Police say they responded to a fire at 203 South Willard Street at around 2:45 a.m. Thursday. The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes. No one was living at the residence which was being renovated. Police say damages are estimated to cost approximately $25,000. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Arson Tip Line at 1-800-32-ARSON or the Burlington Police Department.

IBM’s union group says they’re expecting Big Blue to announce the sale of its Vermont plant soon. Earlier this week, IBM announced they will be investing $3-Billion Dollars in new chip technology over the next 5-years. The new chips will be smaller more powerful chips that could be integrate into technology that already exists. Industry experts say the sale of the manufacturing arm would allow them to fund further development. What this means for the IBM Plant in Essex Junction still remains to be seen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 9, 2014

While crews continue on work on Water Street, please be advised there there will be no water service till about 4:30 this afternoon on Water Street, Duane Court, and a portion of Charles Avenue, from Duane Court to the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. Water Street is also closed to traffic from entering from Cross Street during this construction. The road will remain closed for the rest of today and most of tomorrow.

Vermonters who use their 3SquaresVT Benefits at farmers' markets will now get double their money making it easier to get fresh fruits and veggies. Here's how it works: starting this month, Vermonters can will swipe their EBT card at a participating farmer’s market, saying how much they want to spend, and in turn can they’ll receive fresh produce from vendors and will be given Harvest Health Coupons to match their purchases, up to $10. There are now 41 Farmers' Markets in Vermont accepting EBT cards, which carry 3SquaresVT Benefits.

Residents in Salisbury will gather for a special meeting next Tuesday, During the meeting, town officials will discuss a plan to replace the deteriorating Maple Street Bridge. The total for the project is estimated to be $850,000. Most of which would be funded by a bond that voters would have to approve this November.

FairPoint Communications says it has plans to ensure that its services to customers continue in the event of a strike. Unions representing nearly 2,000 employees in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have scheduled a strike authorization vote for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Leaders of both unions say they expected members to vote in favor of strike authorization.

All of North Beach in Burlington is open to the public. The south end of the beach was closed Monday due to elevated levels of E. coli. Officials at Burlington Parks and Rec tested the waters again yesterday and got the results back this morning showing normal results.

The Vermont Health Department is warning people to watch out for ticks that could carry Lyme disease. This time of year, the immature ticks, which are about the size of a poppy seed, are biting and they could spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. People should use insect repellent while enjoying nature and do daily tick checks on themselves, children and pets. Immature ticks can be found anywhere on the body. In 2013, there were more than 600 confirmed cases of Lyme disease. Most cases were from four southern counties, but it has been found throughout the state.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 8, 2014

Work is underway to revitalize part of Rutland. The city has received more than one-million dollars to fix or demolish run-down properties in the Pine Street area. All in all, the money will be used to fix twelve homes in need of repair or tear them down. The money will also help families buy a home here. Work began yesterday in the demolition of one of the blighted properties. Neighbors say it's a start to improve the look and safety of their streets. The money comes as a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Work on the homes is expected to take place during the next five-years.

Over the holiday weekend, Vermont State Police took part in a national enforcement campaign called Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort or Operation CARE. The goal was to reduce serious injury and deadly crashes. There was an increase in fatal crashes, two this year. There were none last year. Alcohol related crashes fell from 12 to 9 and speeding violations issued dropped by 140.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office has announced the team that will take on the lawsuit against Vermont and its GMO labeling law. It includes the help of a D.C. firm that will be paid nearly $1.5 million. Attorney General Bill Sorrell has named Assistant Attorney General Megan Shafritz as the lead attorney on the case. Kate Duffy, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Human Services, is returning to the Attorney General's Office to be part of the GMO lawsuit team.

New York has become the 23rd state in the country to authorize marijuana as a medical treatment. Although the state will have one of the most restrictive programs in the U.S. Under legislation signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, patients with one of 10 different diseases including AIDS, cancer and epilepsy will be able to obtain non-smokeable versions of the drug.

Blodgett Ovens is moving another manufacturing company to Essex. The Middleby Corporation, the parent company of Blodgett, bought the assets of Market Forge Industries back in January and has moved all the production, sales, and engineering for the company from Everett, Mass to Essex, Vermont. Market Forge makes steam cooking equipment.

An organization that accredits colleges has placed Burlington College on probation because of concerns about the school's finances. The school has been making strides to grow enrollment. But the New England Association of Schools and Colleges thinks more need to be done. The college now has two years to prove they are financially sound. The probation does not affect academics or financial aid at Burlington College, which will continue to operate normally.

Monday, July 7, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 7, 2014

Meteorologist Steve Glazer from Fox 44 / ABC 22 says we can expect some severe Thunderstorms this afternoon. Which could include strong winds and possibly hail.

Infrastructure projects across the state are in jeopardy of losing their funding. If Congress doesn't fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund, VTrans says, it will have to delay 38 bridge, rail and road projects. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles says that's frustrating because that would mean a record highway construction season may now end prematurely.

The cost of the Natural Gas Pipeline from Burlington to Middlebury will cost about 40-percent more than originally thought. Vermont Gas has announced that expanding gas service to Addison County will cost $35.6 million more than originally planned, to a total of about $121.6 million. Vice President Jim Sinclair says it's "premature" to determine how rates will be affected, but they would still offer a savings over current energy costs in the area the pipeline will serve. The Public Service Board is expected to review the increase.

Rutland Police say a man is recovering from surgery after he was stabbed over the weekend. It happened at an apartment on Pine Street early Saturday morning. Police say 21-year-old Eric Furtado stabbed another man at the apartment where they were hanging out with friends. Police found the victim bleeding on a street corner. He underwent surgery, and is in stable condition. Furtado was charged with aggravated assault.

Porter Medical Center and the Counseling Service of Addison County are joining forces to help more opiate addicts. The move will allow Bristol Internal Medicine to deliver Suboxone to around 80 to 90 patients, up from the current 25. Suboxone is a medication that has proven effective in reducing the symptoms of opiate dependence.

Some local officials across Vermont say the state's new open meeting law has some unintended consequences that are prompting some communities to take down their websites. Some town officials say the new law's requirement that minutes be posted online within five days of a meeting will create excessive burdens. Others fear that if posting deadlines are missed, actions taken during those meetings could be ruled invalid. Vermont lawmakers say they may revisit the legislation next year. Even open government advocates agree there are problems with it.

Two new electric vehicle charging stations are opening today. The stations were installed by Green Mountain Power and will be located at the Red Hen Baking Company lot in Middlesex. It's all part of the effort to create an "EV Corridor" in the state, since electric cars only have about a 60 mile range. There are currently 27 charging stations in the state, with 15 more in the works.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WVTK Local & State News July 2, 2014

Green Mountain Power is responding quickly to outages caused by thunderstorms and strong winds across Vermont. The company encourages the public to stay safe and to report outages and any down lines they encounter. In addition to responding to outages, GMP is positioning workers in areas expected to be hit hardest. GMP also has contract line workers and tree trimmers available if needed to assist GMP crews in restoring power quickly. Customers may now sign up for text service to report outages and get updates. Simply text REG to 46788 or GMPVT, or sign up online at

It's the earliest Eastern Equine Encephalitis has ever been detected in the Northeast. Mosquitoes trapped in Grand Isle County a couple of weeks ago have now tested positive for the virus. Department of Health officials say part of why it may be detected earlier than usual is because they're doing more testing earlier. Triple-E, as it's usually called, can be deadly and just two years ago proved fatal for two people in Vermont.

Raw milk can now be delivered to farmers markets in Vermont. It's all a part of a new law that was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin during the 2014 legislative session. According to Rural Vermont, an organization that represents farmers, the new law says raw milk can be delivered to farmers’ markets by Tier 2 raw milk producers. The new law does not allow farmers to sell the raw milk at a farmers market. They can only deliver the product to customers who have already paid for the product.

New York State Police are stepping up their patrols to catch drunk and distracted drivers over the July 4 weekend. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier today that the effort will run tomorrow through Sunday. He says 500 electronic message boards will be placed alongside state roadways warning motorists against driving while intoxicated. In addition to increased patrols and sobriety checkpoints, state police say they'll devote more resources to stopping underage drinking.

Vermont lawmakers are going to be taking an independent look at health care costs over the coming months. The legislature's Health Reform Oversight Committee met today to begin planning an analysis that will examine who pays for health care in the state, both directly and indirectly. The committee is expected to choose a contractor to perform the analysis within the next two weeks.