Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 27, 2014

Peter Shumlin easily won the Democratic primary for Vermont governor, while Scott Milne will carry the standard for the Republicans. H Brooke Paige, who ran for both governor and attorney general in the Democratic primaries, lost both elections. Bill Sorrell will face Shane McCormack, who announced his candidacy for attorney general for the Republicans five days ago.

State police say they pursued a driver through several towns in at speeds up to 100 mph before making an arrest. A trooper attempted to stop a vehicle for crossing the center line and failing to stop at a stop sign early yesterday in the town of St. George. The vehicle drove off and the pursuit started southbound on Route 116, through Hinesburg Village. It continued into Monkton and then into Bristol, where the vehicle was stopped by spike strips, getting two flat tires. Police say the driver ran off and got into a scuffle with police before being arrested and taken to a hospital. He suffered minor injuries. Authorities say arrested 50-year-old Fred Seavey of North Clarendon.

Governor Peter Shumlin has directed the Department of Public Service to provide independent appraisals for landowners entering eminent domain proceedings with Vermont Gas Systems for Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The Shumlin Administration says the change in policy is in reply to a letter written by Addison County legislators earlier this month, who expressed concerns about the direction the project was taking.

Rutland City police arrested two men they say are behind an assault and robbery. On Monday night police were called to Terrill and East Streets for an alleged attack involving a Rutland couple. Police say the victims were approached by a friend and two men. Reports are the two men then assaulted and robbed the woman and tried to keep her boyfriend from helping her. 24-year-old Jeffrey Bussino and 44-year-old Jack Reed are now facing multiple counts of assault and robbery. They're are both being held at the Marble Valley Correctional Center.

Police say a body was found in Mallett’s Bay this morning. The Colchester Marine Unit discovered the body of a man at 7:45 a.m. Investigators say it was discovered off of West Lakeshore Drive in the area of the International Sailing School. Police have been searching this area for missing boater Brian Webb, 65. He was last seen at Rozzi’s Bar on Saturday. Police received a report of a man yelling for help just before 9:30 p.m. but they were unable to locate anyone. Police say the body has been transported to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Burlington for positive identification.

Monday, August 25, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 25, 2014

A published author and freelance journalist who is a graduate of Middlebury College was released Sunday after almost two years in captivity in Syria. 45-year-old Peter Theo Curtis crossed into Syria in October of 2012. That's when his family thinks he was captured by a militant group. National security adviser Susan Rice says Curtis is now safe outside of Syria. The family say they're relieved he is safe, and are deeply saddened by the killing of New Hampshire Journalist James Foley.

The Addison Northwest Supervisory Union board has scheduled a forum this week so that residents can learn more about and ask questions about the district’s accounting problems and its efforts to correct them. The meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday Night at at 6:30 p.m. in the Vergennes Union High School library.

A team of draft horses, spooked by a nearby tractor pull, bolted Sunday at the Champlain Valley Fair. Witnesses say several cars were trampled by the panicked animals. They had been on their way into the show ring when the noise alarmed them and they broke free of the cart. Their handler sustained minor injuries and the horses suffered minor scratches; no one else was hurt. Fair officials called it a "freak accident".

Voter turnout for this week's primary in Vermont is expected to be low. This is not a presidential election year and it's an off year for U.S. Senate campaign. So far, a three-way primary for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House and a three-way primary for the Republican nomination for governor have been relatively quiet. Secretary of State Jim Condos says turnout is driven mostly by competitive statewide races.

Tonight Vergennes residents will have a chance to learn more about and discuss a proposed toddler playground for a parcel of land between the city pool and East Street. The park is projected to cost $42,000. The Vergennes City Council will hold the informational meeting at 6:30 tonight in the Vergennes Fire Department basement immediately following a hearing on a proposed update to the Vergennes City Plan scheduled for 6 o’clock..

If you plan on attending the Champlain Valley Fair, local police have a warning about counterfeit passes. The Essex Police Department says it's investigating the distribution and sale of bogus day passes to the fair. So far the counterfeit passes have turned up in both Essex and Williston. Police say the only place to buy legitimate passes is at the fair itself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 22, 2014

According to the Vermont Department of Health, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been detected in two batches of bird-biting mosquitoes collected in Whiting earlier this week. This marks the first time EEE was detected in southern Addison County this year. The department says this is also the first detection of the virus in Vermont since it was found in mosquitoes in Grand Isle in the middle of June.

Two fires at Rutland Plywood Corporation Wednesday and Thursday have left 170 people out of work. The fire department responded to a fire in a building near the main building Wednesday afternoon. Then Thursday morning at 1 a.m., they were called back to a report that the main building was on fire. By the time they arrived, the plant was 90 percent involved. The 30-thousand square foot building was a total loss. Fire investigators say that arson has been ruled out, and that the two fires were unconnected.

In a related story, Green Mountain Credit Union announced they are offering free financial counseling to employees and families impacted by the Rutland Plywood fire. A press release says the credit union is also offering a special loan program to those affected.

The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to extend and agreement with the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). Vermont's congressional delegation said they are pleased that the department is going to continuing its loan-servicing contract. The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters plan and pay for education or training beyond high school.

Three Mile Bridge Road will be closed to traffic between Route 7 and Halladay Road, from 7:30 p.m. on Sunday till just after midnight while a film crew is working in the area. Flagging personnel will be on scene for traffic control during this period.

Keurig Green Mountain says it struck a deal to make Kraft's branded coffees, such as Maxwell House and Gevalia, for its single-serve brewing systems in the U.S. The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal. Kraft had also announced a deal to distribute packaged McDonald's coffee to supermarkets and other retailers. That deal will mean people will also be able to make McCafe drinks with Keurig machines.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 21, 2014

Firefighters battled a massive fire at Rutland Plywood this morning. The five-alarm blaze broke out around 1 a.m. Officials say the fire originally broke out yesterday afternoon, but was contained by around 5 p.m. But early this morning, the large commercial building was fully engulfed. About 100 firefighters from area departments helped in fighting the blaze. A firefighter battling the blaze did suffer an ankle injury. No other injuries were reported. No word on what sparked the fire.

The Vermont Health Department is urging young adults to be sure they are up to date with their vaccinations. The Health Department is joining with other groups across the country by recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. Every year, thousands of young adults suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines. Young adults should talk to their health care providers to determine which vaccines are right for them.

Vermont State Police are investigating shootings that left a man and woman dead in Townshend. State police received a 911 call around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday requesting help at a house on Grafton Road. While on the telephone with the caller, a dispatcher heard what is believed to be gunshots. The call then ended abruptly. When troopers arrived they found a man dead outside the house from an apparent gunshot wound. Inside was a woman who'd been shot. She was airlifted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where she later died. The identities of the victims are being withheld until their families are notified. The state medical's examiner will perform autopsies. State police say there's no known threat to public safety.

If you're feeling lucky, you might want to pick up a Mega Millions ticket. The multi-state lottery jackpot is at an estimated $180 million! The next drawing will be held on Friday at 11 p.m. It's not a record, that would be the $656 million prize awarded in 2012. Mega Millions is the nation's largest lotto, with tickets sold in 43 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The new Farmer’s Almanac is out and it is predicting a colder than usual winter and next summer to be hotter. The Almanac calls for normal winter precipitation, and below normal snowfall. Despite that, it warns that holiday travel periods, like late November and late December, will be the snowiest periods. The Almanac says next summer will likely be hotter than normal.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 20, 2014

Paving on Route 7 between Middlebury and Brandon and Brandon and Pittsford is set to begin this week. According to the Agency of Transportation, the 15-mile stretch between Middlebury and Brandon will begin near the McDonald’s in Brandon and end near the South Village Green in Middlebury. Workers will be filling in the potholes and sealing cracks on the road’s surface. Drivers are advised to expect delays.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) is offering funding to help cover dual enrollment courses for low-income high school students. A press release says eligible high school students can receive $150 to help cover the costs of books, fees, and travel. Funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on the dual enrollment program and obtaining a voucher, visit

There are some new residents at Green Mountain Power's Middlebury hydro building, a colony of state endangered little brown bats. State biologists believe they like the building because of its closeness to Otter Creek and the warmth from the power generation. Green Mountain Power says It’s great to know we are helping the bat population and the animals are welcome to stay.

Champlain College is adding dorms. More than three residential structures are part of a grassy quad on campus. The new residence halls and related infrastructure cost about $30 million. Geothermal wells will provide heating and cooling to the buildings. About 460 students will be occupying the buildings.

A new poll shows Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to maintain a 2-to-1 advantage over his Republican challenger in New York's gubernatorial race. The Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday gives Cuomo a 56 to 28 percent lead over Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. That's essentially unchanged from Quinnipiac's poll in May.

Ski resorts in Vermont are upgrading their snowmaking equipment with help from a statewide energy efficiency program. Efficiency Vermont is offering rebates from $500 to up to $4,000 in a snow gun exchange program. Resorts can trade in four older snow guns for every five new ones they buy. The old ones will be scrapped and proceeds would be donated to the Vermont Ski Areas Association's Learn to Ski and Ride programs.

Monday, August 18, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 18, 2014

Former Vermont U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords has passed away. He was 80 years old. Senator Jeffords spent 32 years in Congress. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, he retired in 2006 after serving his third term as a U.S. Senator. According to a press release, Senator Jeffords became a household name and earned a spot in Senate history in 2001 when he left the Republican Party, creating a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Vermont's unemployment rate inched upward last month for the second straight month. The Vermont Department of Labor says the seasonally-adjusted statewide jobless rate for July was 3.7 percent -- that's three-tenths of a percent point higher than the rate in June. The equivalent national average was 6.2 percent, down a tenth.

Vermont's Fletcher Allen Health Care has been recognized as one of 78 hospitals in the country to meet certain standards by switching to electronic health records. The requirements were developed by the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The standards are part of the centers' Meaningful Use program, which help hospitals focus on electronic records to improve patient safety, quality of care and health system efficiency.

Rutland Police are searching for two suspects behind an assault and robbery this morning. Police say three men beat up and robbed Joshua Cave behind a building on West Street. They tracked down one of those suspects to an apartment at 17 Pine Street. He was arrested and identified as Brandon Burns. Those two other men are still on the loose.

Next Monday night, Vergennes residents will have a chance to learn more about and comment on a new municipal plan that city officials are calling an update to the award-winning 2009 Vergennes plan. They stress that this is not a rewrite. The Vergennes City Council set a public hearing on the updated plan for 6 p.m. next Monday in the Vergennes fire department’s basement meeting room.

Friday, August 15, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 15, 2014

The parent company of Shaw's says customer information may be at risk after an unlawful intrusion into its electronic payment system. So far the company says there is no evidence of misuse, but it cannot yet determine if any credit or debit card data was stolen. Customers who shopped at Shaw's locations between June 22 and July 17 in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island should monitor their accounts. The company says that's when the breach occurred. The company says, free consumer identity protection services will be offered for any customers impacted.

The use of chemicals on utility poles around Vermont is under scrutiny. The Public Service Board (PSB) directed utility company representatives, state officials, and members of the public to form a special group. The goal is to develop best practices for the chemical use. Some from Monkton says that's not enough. They say they’d like the PSB to allow more public comment as this group gets started. The group is expected to be formalized by month's end.

Vermont's congressman, attorney general and main student finance entity are warning consumers away from companies that promise to relieve student loan debt. Attorney General William Sorrell says customers could end up paying a lot more for no real benefit in dealing with student loan burdens. The president of VSAC and Congressman Peter Welch said many of the companies are simply scam artists.

It's the last day for hunters to apply for a muzzleloader permit to hunt antlerless deer in December. Today marks the deadline to apply. Hunters can apply online on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's website or they can fill out a paper application available from license agents. The department encourages applicants to use the online application because it's more efficient. The state will be giving out 17,050 permits for the muzzleloader antlerless deer season.

Members of the Vermont Air National Guard have been taken to a hospital as a precaution after a fuel used in F-16s spilled during maintenance operations at a South Burlington hangar. Maj. Chris Gookin said hydrazine spilled at 9:35 a.m. Friday at the 158th Fighter Wing base. Hydrazine is an inorganic compound. It is colorless, and flammable, with an ammonia-like odor. Gookin said the hangar has been secured and there is no danger to the public. Hydrazine fuels emergency power units for F-16s.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 14, 2014

State lawmakers have approved $31 million dollars in budget cuts, just one day after giving citizens a chance to sound off. Some of the cuts will come from surpluses, but some will target the neediest Vermonters. The Vermont State Police will leave seven positions vacant, while other departments will trim four-percent from their budgets. Also on the chopping block was some of the funding to the enterprise fund, which provides incentives to bring business to Vermont.

Keurig Green Mountain announced they are raising coffee prices nine percent in November. A press release says the price increase affects all portion packs sold by Keurig for use in its Keurig brewing systems, traditional bagged, fractional packs, and bulk coffee products. Green Mountain says the price increases are attributed to a number of factors including cost environment in the coffee and consumer packaged goods industries, prices of green coffee and cocoa, packaging materials, energy, and transportation costs. The price increase goes into effect on November 3.

Corrections officers and other prison staff in Vermont would be subject to search as they enter the facilities, under rules being drafted by the Department of Corrections. Officials from the department told the Legislature's Corrections Oversight Committee earlier today that the new rules are needed to crack down on drugs and other contraband being carried into the prisons. The draft rules say employees won't be physically forced to submit to a search, but could be fired for refusing to cooperate.

Some of Vermont's 10-thousand historic barns are getting a new lease on life -- as wedding venues. Farmers say that the wedding business is one way to preserve the old buildings. As the state moves into crop agriculture, there are many unused or abandoned barns in Vermont. Neighbors had noise and traffic complaints at first, but most see the wedding barn movement as a good thing. Towns are fast tracking re-zoning to allow farmers to use their barns for weddings, too.

Many children may not want to think about it, but it's back to school season. The Vermont Department of Health is taking this opportunity to urge parents to make sure their kids vaccinations are up to date. The department is joining with partners nationwide to recognize August as National Immunization Awareness Month. Most schools require current vaccinations before a child can be enrolled.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 12, 2014

The head of Vermont’s Agency of Human Services will be stepping down. According to a release from the governor’s office, Harry Chen, commissioner of the Department of Health, will step in as interim secretary when Doug Racine leaves. Racine has been secretary of AHS for the last three and a half years, and his leave comes at a time when the agency faces criticism. The state’s health care exchange has problems, and the Department of Children and Families is under fire for the recent deaths of two children. Chen is expected to remain as interim secretary of AHS through the end of the year.

An accident during the Addison County Fair and Field Days could have been a lot worse than it was. During a tractor pull, one of the 700-pound tractor tires came off and hit a concrete barricade. It flew into the air and landed on a group of spectators. One man in his 70s from Georgia suffered a broken leg. Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler said that if the tire had not hit the barricade, many more would have been injured.

To prevent the spread of rabies in Vermont., the 18th Annual Bait Drop is underway. This will happen in 8 counties. Vaccine in the form of sweet-scented bait will be dropped from planes in rural areas. Pilots know to stay away from homes, roads, and people. In more populated areas, a team of two people will hand-place the bait. The health department says there are no harmful health effects for people or pets, but don't touch the bait. If you have to remove it, use gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

More than 200 people, including a small marching band, converged on the Vermont Statehouse to protest the Vermont Natural Gas pipeline being built to serve the western part of the state. The rally organized by the group Rising Tide Vermont featured 10-foot-tall puppets and many banners saying "System Change, Not Climate Change." The group said it also wanted to protest budget cuts requested by the Shumlin administration, which they said would hurt human services for low-income Vermonters.

Washington is sending Vermont more than one-point-five million dollars to help homeless vets. The money is a grant to the University of Vermont to help Support Services for Veteran Families. Senator Bernie Sanders says that the VA is giving 300 million to help low-income veterans and their families across the country.

Monday, August 11, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 11, 2014

A report by the federal government says Vermonters spend more than the average American on food, gasoline and health care, but about average on housing and utilities. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report comparing the personal consumption expenditures of the 50 states. The report found Vermont’s per capita personal consumption expenditure for 2012 was $39,677. Vermont’s per person spending increased 13 percent from 2009 when the recession ended, to 2012. It was the strongest pace in the region.

The heroin and opiate epidemic isn't something new to the northeast. Officials in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York are continuing to work to find ways to reverse the trend. Ticonderoga Police Chief Mark Johns says last year alone at least 40% of all arrests were drug related. A pharmacist in town says over the last 5-7 years he's seen the number of people abusing prescriptions increase dramatically. The Ticonderoga Neighbors Addressing Drug Abuse Coalition was formed last year, but this week it will host its first community forum. Johns says the goal is to begin a conversation about the community’s drug problem and create local strategies to fight it. The community forum is free and open to anyone. It will be tomorrow night from 7- 8 p.m. at the North Country Community College in Ticonderoga.

Governor Peter Shumlin is unveiling his plan to cut Vermont's budget by $31-million this afternoon. At a press conference earlier today, the governor said it's imperative for Vermont to act quickly to get the maximum benefit of cuts. The governor ordered a two percent cut in overall general fund spending last month after the latest estimates from state economists show revenues for the fiscal year will grow by three percent instead of the five percent the budget was based on.

The Vermont State Fair is getting back on its feet after being over $200,000 in debt. Fair organizers discovered the financial problems earlier this year, and after an audit, let go of the fair manager. Now fair officials say they have paid off more than half of the deficit and have worked out a schedule to pay back taxes to the IRS. The state fair starts in Rutland on August 29th.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 7, 2014

Police in Granville are looking for two missing teenage girls. Both 16-year-old Rachel Miltenberg and 14-year-old Bernadette Doyle were camping with a program called True North in Granville's National Forest. They were last seen late last night. Counselors reported them missing this morning. Indications are that the two willingly ran away from the camp. Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is asked to contact police.

Construction begins tomorrow morning in Middlebury on South Street from Main Street to 8 South Street. The Town of Middlebury Highway Department will be removing the asphalt and sub-base material from a section of the southbound. This work is necessary to stabilize the roadway in preparation for repaving later in the month. The north end of South Street will be reduced to one lane during construction. Traffic control personnel will be on site throughout the day to minimize disruption to motorists.

Police in Bristol are investigating a burglary that occurred on Monday at a home on Main Street. Authorities believe the suspect removed the screen to the front window sometime between Sunday Night at 5:30 and Monday morning before 8:30. Police urge anyone with information about the crime to call them at 453-2533.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says Vermont General Fund revenues came in almost 1.8 percent below forecasts in July. Spaulding released Vermont's monthly revenue report earlier today. In July, the first month of the fiscal year, General Fund revenues were about $1.8 million below projections. Spaulding says the results reinforce the need to implement a spending reduction plan. The state had projected this year's state revenues to grow 4.8 percent over last year, but last month officials reduced that estimate to 3 percent, leaving the state with about $31 million less to spend.

Next Tuesday, at 7 p.m., the Addison Selectboard will be holding a public hearing to discuss changes to the town plan. The changes would allow Addison to adopt some new zoning laws that have been on hold since late last year. Planning commission members say they hope to hear from as many residents as possible during the upcoming discussion on rewriting the plan.

Friday, August 1, 2014

WVTK Local & State News August 1, 2014

Vermont's public television station will pay a $15,000 fine for violations of open meeting laws. The station, now known as Vermont PBS, acknowledged earlier this year that on 18 occasions its board of directors failed to post proper notices after coming out of executive session. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides $1 million in funding to Vermont PBS, decided the violations warranted a financial penalty.

Taxpayers in Addison and Panton are receiving higher tax bills this year than last year, but the increase in Panton is not as dramatic as Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials had originally projected. Selectboards in both towns adopted municipal tax rates, levies to pay for town office and road spending, in July, Addison’s on July 1 and Panton’s on July 22.

The Middlebury selectboard earlier this week unanimously approved an agreement with Middlebury College that formalizes a property swap that will lead to new municipal offices, a new recreation center and a new public park.

For the fifth time this year, authorities in Vermont are investigating the death of a child. Burlington police responded to a house on Isham Street last week, with an unresponsive baby rushed to Fletcher Allen Health Care. Thursday, the four-week-old infant died after he was taken off of life support. The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigation and the County State's Attorney are working together on this, and awaiting autopsy results to determine how the baby boy died.

There may actually someday be a Champlain Parkway in Burlington after all. A ruling by the Vermont Environmental Court late Wednesday supports the city's claim that if built, the parkway would improve driving conditions in much of the South End. The judge also directed both sides, the city which wants to build it, and opponents to the parkway, to work in good faith to resolve any traffic congestion and safety issues.