Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 31, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin has released more details on why he will not move forward on single payer healthcare in Vermont. He says it would have cost $4.3-million in the first year of operation. Shumlin says the government financed healthcare system would have covered more than 500-thousand Vermont residents. It would have covered all state residents except those on Medicaid or military benefits, and those who work in Vermont but live in other states. Shumlin says well over $2-billion in new taxes would have been needed to fund the program.

The Ripton man charged with robbing the Rite-Aid on Court Street in Middlebury on Sunday has plead not guilty. Police say 40-year-old Michael Maheu handed the pharmacy clerk a note demanding narcotics. He then made off with 30 prescription pills. According to reports he turned himself in to police on Monday and pleaded not guilty in Rutland criminal court yesterday. He was held for lack of $5,000 bail. Maheu was ordered to start a drug treatment program within seven days of his release.

Minimum Wage works in both Vermont and New York are getting raises. In the Green Mountain State, the minimum wage will increase to $9.15 an hour starting tomorrow from the current rate of $8.73 an hour. While workers in the Empire State got a raise starting today from $8 to $8.75 a hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

A fire last night destroyed a house in Brandon. The blaze on Cram Road started at about 8:30 p.m. No injuries were reported. The people that were inside the home at the start of the fire got out in time. Fire crews from Pittsford, Proctor, Salisbury, and Whiting helped knock down the fire. Crews were still at the scene this morning making sure there were no more hot ambers. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 30, 2014

Police in Middlebury have arrested a Ripton man in connection with a robbery at the Rite-Aid on Court Street. Authorities say 40-year-old Michael Maheu handed a note to the pharmacy clerk around 5 pm on Sunday demanding narcotics. He then left the store on foot with an undisclosed amount of pills. Maheu was cited yesterday for assault and robbery.

Residents in Middlebury will have a chance to give feedback on the proposed budget at a public hearing before the town votes March 3. The public hearing will take place at the Select Board’s special meeting at 7:15 p.m. January 20 in the town office conference room. Copies of the proposed budget are available at the town’s website, or by calling the town manager’s office.

Starting Thursday, January 1, consumers in the Empire State will no longer be able to dispose certain types of electronic devices in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, in the trash, or at the curbside for trash pickup. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says you have two options on how you can dispose electronic devices. They include using a Manufacturer's Takeback Program or going to an Electronic Waste Collection Site. The NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act requires manufacturers to provide free and convenient recycling of electronic waste to most consumers in the state.

Vermont State Police say they will be out in force on New Year's Eve. Police want everyone to slow down, designate a driver and be sure to buckle up. Law enforcement around the state will conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. The special holiday enforcement started on December 10 and ends Thursday. In 2014, there were 44 fatal crashes on Vermont roads. A dozen of them involved drugs and alcohol.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he will not be campaigning in the days leading up the special January 8 vote in which the Legislature picks Vermont's next governor. Shumlin won the popular vote in a close election on November 4, with 46.4 percent to 45.1 percent for Republican Scott Milne. Since neither got a majority, the race goes to the Legislature to decide. Shumlin said earlier today that he is not worried about the outcome of the vote and believes lawmakers should follow precedent and chose the one who received the most votes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 29, 2014

Investigators have ruled the deaths of 2 people in Moriah on Saturday as accidental. According to reports 28-year-old Barry Raymond of Ticonderoga and 50-year-old Stephen Welch died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation during a fire at a residence on Route 9N. The owner of the property returned home at 5:45 Saturday Morning to find the structure engulfed in flames. Police say the man went inside and found Raymond collapsed and removed him from the home. The man then went back inside to get Welch, but had to leave after becoming overcome by smoke. Both Welch and Raymond died in the fire. Fire officials say the fire is under investigation, but they believe the fire was accidental.

Vermont State Police are investigating an armed robbery at the Shoreham Service Center. The robbery happened at around 8:40 last night. Police say a man entered the store, brandished a handgun, and demanded all the money from the drawer. After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, the man fled on foot toward Lapham Bay Road. A police K9 was able to track and recover some evidence, but the man was not captured. Police say additional evidence was collected at the store. Anyone with information is asked to contact Vermont State Police at 802-388-4919.

After almost 43 years of producing electricity, the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is off the New England energy grid. The plant announced that is ceased operations at 12:12 p.m. this afternoon, at the end of its 30th operating cycle. Plant owner Entergy Corp. says it is closing the plant for economic reasons. The plant employed more than 600 people when it announced it would close. The workforce will be cut in half after a round of layoffs and retirements on January 19.

Police in Middlebury say a robber targeted two Middlebury pharmacies yesterday. Authorities say a man walked into the Rite Aid pharmacy around 5 p.m. yesterday with a note demanding narcotics. After getting the drugs, police say he then fled on foot. The suspect is described as a white male, 5'10", average weight, wearing a black jacket with a green hooded sweatshirt. Police obtained surveillance from a Kinney Drugs where they say the suspect also entered. Anyone with information is asked to call the Middlebury Police Department.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 23, 2014

Middlebury has selected a new Fire Chief. Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay made the announcement that David Shaw has been appointed as chief with a one-year probationary period. Shaw has a lot of experience with the department including 12 years as a captain and he has been the assistant chief since 2001. The current chief, Richard Cole is retiring at the end of the month.

Vermont's food pantries need donations to meet rising demand for the holidays. Governor Peter Shumlin highlighted the need for donations during a visit to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington yesterday. Shumlin says the food shelf is 50-thousand dollars behind on its fundraising goals. He says that food donations are helpful, but the financial donations will be most helpful at this time.

A small earthquake was reported in the Adirondacks this morning. According to the United States Geological Survey, the magnitude 1.4 earthquake was recorded about 18 miles southeast of Tupper Lake at 6:40 a.m. The Adirondack region is one of the most seismically active areas of the Northeastern United States thanks in part to a series of small fault lines around the area.

The Neshobe School is offering incentives for a group of teachers to retire who have reached the top of their pay scales. According to Jeanne Collins, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, eight teachers have salaries in the $70,000 range because they all have high levels of education and experience.

A Bristol Police Officer is being honored for his quick work to help a suicidal woman. Chief Kevin Gibbs says Sgt. George Crowe noticed a message on the department's Facebook page earlier this month describing another woman's post about her plans to kill herself. Crowe immediately began working with the woman who had reached out to police to locate the distressed woman and ensure she was safe. A letter of commendation for Crowe was presented at the Bristol Board of Selectmen's meeting last night.

Monday, December 22, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 22, 2014

A Middlebury man was severely injured in a car accident in Whiting. State police say 24-year-old Todd Brigham was traveling on Route 30 just before midnight Sunday when he hit a tree. Authorities say the impact of the collision split his Kia Rio in two. Brigham was taken to the hospital with a fractured neck. Authorities say he was not wearing a seat belt. The crash is under investigation.

Vermont's 2015 Hunting, Fishing, Trapping Lawbook is available where licenses are sold. A press release says the Lawbook has news laws, 2015 season dates, two free fishing days, a state map showing Wildlife Management Units, the species of fish found in lakes and rives, contact information of Fish & Wildlife personnel, and other information. A digital version can be found on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website. Click on “Law Enforcement and Game Wardens” on the top right of the home page.

A prisoner at the Marble Correctional Facility in Rutland is facing charges after allegedly being found with heroin. Charles Keefe was found with dozens of small pouches of heroin during a routine search on Friday. Officials say it's unclear how Keefe was able to obtain the heroin while incarcerated. He's charged with possession of heroin and transporting drugs into a place of detention.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation will offer free financial aid workshops at local high schools in January. A press release says students and families can learn more about the college financial aid process and guidance when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA Form. Workshops in our area will take place on January 8th at Vergennes Union High School at 6:30 pm and at Mount Abe on January 14th, also at 6:30 pm. Information on VSAC’s college planning resources can be found at

The Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis has been appointed the 10th Bishop of Burlington in Vermont. The Reverend Christopher James Coyne was appointed today and will be formally installed as pastor of Vermont's 118,000 Catholics on January 29th.

Friday, December 19, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 19, 2014

Vermont Gas is raising the projected cost of Phase I of the Natural Gas Pipeline again. The cost was projected at $86-million almost one year ago. Back in July the cost estimate was increased. And now officials at Vermont Gas say the project will cost an estimated $33-million more for a total of $154-million.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has expanded their damage assessment to 12 Vermont counties for last week's winter storm. The added counties include Addison, Caledonia, Essex, Grand Isle, Orange, Rutland, Washington, and Windsor. The initial assessment included Chittenden, Franklin, Lamoille, and Orleans counties. A press release says the agency will review the counties and see if they could qualify for federal disaster assistance following the response and recovery from the storm. In order to qualify for federal assistance, Vermont must show at least $1 million in damage.

Supporters of a single payer healthcare system in Vermont are upset that Governor Peter Shumlin has abandoned the concept. Shumlin announced this week that the plan is off the table because it's not affordable at this time. Supporters took to the lawn of the Statehouse yesterday to speak out against Shumlin for abandoning his signature issue. Republicans piled on as well, saying he waited until after the election to scrap the plan.

A judge is ruling that murder charges can be pursued by the state against Joshua Blow. The Shelburne man is accused of killing two-year-old Aiden Haskins earlier this year. Blow told police that the boy's injuries were accidental, but prosecutors argue that they were intentional. The defense had asked that the case be dismissed for a lack of evidence, but that motion was rejected.

2 Secret Santas payed for all the layaways at a Vermont Toy Store. On Wednesday, some customers received a call from the Toys R Us in Williston that their items on layaway were paid for and ready for pickup. Their bills were paid for by 2 Secret Santas. One, walked in the store and paid off 1 order for $94. Another paid for the 19 others over the phone. That totaled $4,150. The “Layaway Angels,” as some people call them, also regularly visit the Kmart in South Burlington. Already this year, between 10-20 people have come forward to make someone else's holidays, just a little bit better.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 18, 2014

The Middlebury Gym has been cleaned up and is ready for use by the public once again. Last week the gym was turned into a shelter for use by people without power due to the winter storm. Sometime early Saturday afternoon, some teenagers took advantage of the unlock doors and caused a large amount of damage. Soda had been dumped on the basketball court floor, and a coating of chips and other food layered on top, creating a sticky mess. The teen center downstairs had racial slurs on the walls. The lift machine that is used to repair ceiling lights was also damaged. Officials say there were holes punctured in the tank, causing about 4 gallons of hydraulic fluid to leak out onto the floors. The floors themselves cost about $600 to clean-up. Middlebury Police say the case is still under investigation.

A private assessment of how Vermont handles child protection cases says workers need to be better trained and more focused on their priorities. The report by Casey Family Programs comes after the death of two toddlers who were known to the state's Department for Children and Families. Former DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone asked Casey to review department practices following the death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon of Poultney and 15-month-old Peighton Geraw of Winooski.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a border wait time app for both Apple and Android devices. A press release says the app provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land port of entries. Wait times are broken down by lane type. Travelers can download the free app from Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Allen Prue is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of St. Johnsbury teacher Melissa Jenkins. However, the judge refused to sentence Prue to life in prison without parole, so he could earn his freedom down the road. Prue apologized to Jenkins' family at the sentencing hearing yesterday, but again denied killing her. Prue's wife Patricia is scheduled to go on trial in March for her role in the killing, although she has recently expressed a desire to plead guilty.

On January 1, 21 states will raise their minimum wage. Vermont and New York are among those states. In the Empire State, minimum wage will increase from $8 an hour to $8.75 an hour. Minimum wage workers in the Green Mountain State will see their income go from $8.73 to $9.15 and hour.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 17, 2014

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin announced that he is delaying moving forward with single payer. A press release says a financial report released by Governor Shumlin would require double digit payroll tax on Vermont businesses and up to 9.5 percent public premium assessment on individual Vermonters' income to pay for Green Mountain Care, the statewide public healthcare system. Governor Shumlin acknowledges that the financing plan would be detrimental to Vermonters, employers, and the state's overall economy.

Porter Hospital and the nurses union have reached an agreement on a contract. This is the first-ever contract for nurses at Porter Hospital. Details of the 3-year-pact were not disclosed but will be available once the contract has been ratified, which official say should be in about a week or two.

The Cornwall Selectboard voted last night to table the a negotiated agreement with Vermont Gas Systems regarding the Phase II natural gas pipeline. About 25 people should up to the meeting last night saying the agreement is flawed. The agreement calls for Cornwall to drop its opposition to the project in exchange for Vermont Gas making some substantial financial concessions that would collectively reduce local residents’ property taxes by an estimated 4 percent. You can look at the proposed agreement on the town’s website,

More narcotics charges are being dropped because of lost evidence linked to former Colchester Police Detective Tyler Kinney. Prosecutors say four more cases are being dismissed because of missing evidence, all felony or misdemeanor drug offenses. Kinney was arrested last month on federal charges accusing him of stealing drugs and a handgun from the department evidence locker he managed.

Patricia Prue is offering to plead guilty to the murder of private school teacher Melissa Jenkins in exchange for a life sentence. Prue's offer was revealed yesterday, and is contingent on her being able to communicate in writing with her husband in prison. Allen Prue was convicted of killing Jenkins in October and is scheduled to be sentenced today in St. Johnsbury. A judge says he will not consider Patricia Prue's offer until she undergoes a mental competency exam.

Vermont Health Connect is extending the deadline to sign up for coverage that starts on January 1. The website has a message on it saying, Please note: January 1 will be the default start date if you confirm a plan choice by December 31. If you don’t need coverage in January, please call and request a February 1 start date. The initial deadline to get coverage by January 1 was December 15. Open enrollment ends February 15.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 15, 2014

Most of the lights are back on after utility crews from across the region spent the weekend working to reconnect power to Vermont customers. Governor Peter Shumlin toured the state's hardest hit areas in a utility company helicopter on Saturday. At the height of last week's storm, more than 100-thousand homes and businesses were left in the dark. State officials say the power situation was worse from this storm than Irene and the ice storm of 1998.

The State of New York has passed a new law making it illegal to pierce or tattoo your pet. The new law signed signed this morning by Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes effect in 120 days. There's an exception in the law for is marking done under a veterinarian's supervision for a medical reason or identification. The exceptions, for example, would be for pets like a cat which was spayed by a vet and given a little green mark to show it. Cuomo says penalties for violations range up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $250.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says he will introduce legislation to break up large Wall Street banks. Sanders says his proposal will come in response to the weekend vote on a spending bill that he says weakened the 2010 Wall Street reform law. Sanders says it's now time to break up the too-big-to-fail banks so they can never again destroy jobs, homes and the life savings of the American people.

Vermont's snowmobile trails open for the season tomorrow. State Police are advising people to familiarize themselves with the rules and state laws that apply to snowmobiling before heading out this season. Anyone over the age of 12 must pass a snowmobile safety course, and their machine must have a working head and tail light. Operators are required to wear a helmet and protective eye wear, and police say snowmobiling while intoxicated will be strictly enforced.

There will be an early dismissal for students in the Ticonderoga Central School District and St. Mary’s School this Friday, December 19. The dismissal times for the Elementary School are 1:05 p.m. Middle School 1:10 p.m. St. Mary’s School 1:15 p.m. and the High School at 1:20 p.m. Students will return from the holiday break on Monday, January 5.

Friday, December 12, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 12, 2014

The Lazarus Building in Middlebury will be demolished on January 19. Officials had considered tearing down the structure this month but decided that the work would disrupt the downtown area too much during the busy holiday season. Once the building is gone, the property will become a pop-up park and the staging area for a major project to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row railroad overpasses with a concrete tunnel. That project is expected to start in the spring.

A Ferrisburgh man will spend four to 15 years behind bars for promoting child porn and violating his probation. Scott Cota was sentenced yesterday. According to court documents, Cota posted about 90 ads on Craigslist looking for "taboo material." That's how police say he connected with other people around the country trading explicit images of kids.

A federal grand jury is handing up a formal indictment in the case of former Colchester Police Detective Tyler Kinney. The indictment charges Kinney with three counts of heroin distribution, along with firearms trafficking and theft. Kinney was arrested last month after he allegedly developed a heroin addiction and began providing drugs and a gun to a fellow drug user. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Governor Peter Shumlin says $ 7.3 million of what is expected to be $33 million four year federal grant will be used to expand access to quality early education for Vermont children in need. Shumlin and other officials spoke at a press conference in an early education class in Burlington yesterday. Shumlin also said that by the end of the grant Vermont will be serving 70 percent of all 4-year-olds at or below 200 percent of the statewide poverty level.

A judge is rejecting convicted killer Allen Prue's request to delay his sentencing for the killing of Melissa Jenkins. Prue is facing two life sentences when he goes before a judge in St. Johnsbury next week. Prue was convicted of luring Jenkins out of her home in March of 2012 and killing her. His wife Patricia is also charged with first degree murder and is awaiting trial.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 11, 2014

The Vermont State Police wants to remind you to clear all the snow and ice from the roof and windshield of your vehicle. Snow dislodging from a moving vehicles can create an extreme driving hazard for all motorist. In addition, snow and ice covering the windows of the vehicle creates blind spots. You can be pulled over and ticketed for not having your vehicle cleaned off … $162 for Obstruction to driver's view and $134 for travelling with an unsecured load.

Vermont is the second healthiest state in the country. A new report from the United Health Foundation places Vermont only behind Hawaii among the healthiest states in the nation. The report says the state's excellent high school graduation rates, low child poverty and low rates of violent crime all are factors in the state's score. It also indicates that Vermont's obesity rate is seventh lowest in the country, although that rate has risen from eleven-percent to 24-percent since 1990.

Governor Peter Shumlin is praising a decision by Apple to stop offering an app that some Vermont high school students say had been used to bully their classmates. Students at Rutland High School last week launched a petition drive to Apple and the creators of the After School app after they said it had been used to post negative and obscene comments and surveys about some students at their school. Shumlin says he's proud of the students, and pleased their message was heard.

Early child care workers in Vermont will not be joining the American Federation of Teachers union. Earlier this year, the Vermont Legislature pass a law allow early educators to unionize and negotiate a contract with the state. Voting was done by mail. When the votes were counted yesterday, the measure was defeated, with 418 against joining the union and 398 for joining. The union would have represented about 1,300 home child care workers.

Line crews are working around the clock to restore power to all customers. Earlier today there was over 18,000 customers still without power. That number is down from 55,000 on Tuesday Night. Over 200 line works have been brought in from out of state to help fix all the broken lines. GMP officials say it could be tomorrow before all the power restored.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 10, 2014

Vermont has been awarded more than $7.2 million, part of $33 million over the next four years, under the Preschool Development Grant Program. This grants program will allow more than 33,000 children to be served in high-quality prekindergarten programs. Vermont was one of 18 states to receive a piece of the $226 million in funding. The latest award is in addition to the $37 million the state received last year to lay the foundation for it's preschool program.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, the Vermont Health Department says it's not too late. This is National Influenza Vaccination Week and the Health Department says the flu is spreading in our area. Flu season usually peaks between December and February, and can extend to May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for people aged 6 months and older. Last year about 44 percent of Vermont adults received a flu vaccine.

A state representative and some activists are traveling to Washington in a bid to stop a federal law that would pre-empt states like Vermont from requiring labels on genetically modified foods. Representative Kate Webb, a Shelburne Democrat and a key backer of the GMO labeling bill that passed in Vermont this year, is set to testify today before a U.S. House committee. Vermont's new law aims to make the state the first to require labels on genetically modified foods.

The State of Vermont scored above the national average in the 2014 National Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI). A press release says the index measures a state's ability to protect public health in the event of epidemics, foodborne disease outbreaks, terrorism, and other emergencies. Officials say the Index measures more than 200 areas of preparedness, and they are happy with the results. Vermont scored a 7.8 out of 10 points, compared to the national average of 7.3.

Line workers at Green Mountain Power are working around the clock to restore power to those affected by the storm. Last night there was over 18,000 power outages. GMP says they have 220 line workers currently working to restore power to those still without it. Officials say the storm caused massive damage and repairs could take until Friday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 9, 2014

A fire last night caused the evacuation of a senior living facility in Shelburne. Firefighters responded to Shelburne Bay Senior Care just after 8 o'clock for reports of a fire in a resident's room. They arrived to find the third floor room fully engulfed in smoke. No one was inside. Firefighters then evacuated the entire wing of the building. Firefighters believe a candle likely started the blaze. It's still under investigation. No one was injured during the incident.

The Rutland City Police Department has a new acting chief. Commander David Covell was appointed by the city's police commission. He will take over for Chief James Baker. Baker resigned after three years with the department to take a job with the International Association for Chiefs of Police. Covell joined the department 11 months ago as part of a major overhaul. The former trooper worked for the Vermont State Police for 25 years before taking the Rutland job.

Police are investigating a robbery at Chuck's Mobil Gas Station in Winooski early this morning. The robbery happened at around 1:30 a.m. Police say a man approached the counter and demanded cash. After receiving the money, he fled on foot. The man is described as being white, wearing glasses, a green "AERO" hoodie, blue jeans, and a red banana covering his face. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Winooski Police Department at (802)-655-0221.

A company that wants to bring Canadian power to New England through a new line under Lake Champlain has formally asked the Vermont Public Service Board for approval. TDI New England late yesterday filed documents promising several benefits to Vermont in exchange for the board's approval for a project that would run the length of the lake, and then cut east from Benson at the lake's southern end to link to the New England grid at Ludlow. Among the company's promises: $136 million in power cost reductions, and more than $120 million for environmental improvements on the lake.

Vermonters are encouraged to join the 115th annual Christmas Bird Count. The count begins on Sunday and runs through January 5. A press release says bird watchers will be on the lookout for snowy owls, some types of ducks, and songbirds. In Vermont, there are more than a dozen count areas where bird watchers gather together to conduct the Christmas Bird Count. The dates and contract information for each event are listed on the Vermont eBird website.

Monday, December 8, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 8, 2014

At a press conference earlier today, Vermont Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne said he is not conceding and he hopes that legislators will vote for him, but he is not going to actively ask legislators for votes. Since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, lawmakers will chose the next governor at the state of the next legislative session in January. Milne says he thinks he can win if legislators put politics aside.

A New Haven man is facing charges after he allegedly crashed his pickup truck, then reported it stolen. Police say the incident occurred Friday, when 20-year-old Matthew McKinley reported that his truck was stolen. The vehicle was found near his home a short time later, and police determined that the crash occurred before the bogus report. State Police say that McKinley later admitted to the false report, and that he was driving when the crash occurred.

Police in Bristol Vermont are looking for the Grinch who cut power, to an outdoor holiday lights display. According to reports, sometime between December 3 and yesterday someone took a cutting tool to light strands hung on a Bristol home. Police are asking anyone with information on the Burritt Lane vandalism to contact the state police at 802-388-4919 or online at .

The Middlebury Select Board has unanimously approved the Lions Club’s request to plant a new evergreen in Court Square. The Lions Club has put lights on the existing evergreen tree in Court Square for years but due to increasing costs, the Lions recently reached out to the town to explore cost-sharing options for purchasing and planting a new tree in the square. The town staff have identified three locations in Court Square for such a tree and pending identification of any underground utilities, hope to have the tree in the ground this week.

The state is gathering information from the public as it develops a new on-road bicycle plan. The Vermont Agency of Transportation plans to use a WikiMap to collect information about where the public rides and wants to ride. It also will be holding a statewide public meeting tomorrow night using Vermont Interactive Technologies. The information will be used to identify the best corridors for bicycling. The agency says a number of other states have developing statewide bicycling plans including Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, and Colorado.

The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department has announced that they will be conducting sobriety checkpoints around the county during the week of Christmas. Officers will also enforce seat-belt, child restraint and other motor vehicle laws during these checkpoints. All motorists are urged to use a designated driver whenever necessary.

Friday, December 5, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 5, 2014

Local 22 / Local 44 Meteorologist say we can expect another round of wintry weather tonight and into tomorrow. Similar to earlier in the week, our area will be under snowflakes, rain drops, and things in between! Snow showers will begin tonight around 9 o'clock and last through the wee hours of Saturday morning before mixing with rain and pockets of freezing rain. It does not appear the area will get a lot of sleet out of this system, but some ice pellets will fall. Many areas will change to all rain showers tomorrow, then change back to a rain/snow mix tomorrow evening and ending late tomorrow night.

A Hinesburg man who struck a swimmer with his boat on Lake Iroquois can clear the case from his record by going arrest free for a year. Christopher Thompson pleaded no contest to charges of reckless operation of a motorboat and simple assault yesterday. Jane Marinsky of New York state suffered 13 different fractures in her ribs. Marinsky is a regular swimmer in the lake, and was around 100 feet from shore when she was struck.

International Paper in Ticonderoga has given a large donation to help the St. Mary’s School rebuilding fund. The Ticonderoga plant donated $12,000 to the school. The school is still in the rebuilding process after a September 5 fire severely destroyed the facility. Plant communications specialist Jane Kuhl said the plant decided to use all the money from the current funding cycle as a donation to the school. The check was presented during a meeting and dinner by the company where Kuhl and Neuhoff gave the donation to St. Mary’s Father Kevin McEwan and Sister Mary Dalton, principal at the school.

Passengers and crew are all safe after an airplane taking off from Burlington International Airport struck a bird. The United airplane was headed to Washington Dulles International Airport when it struck the bird 40 miles from the airport. The plane's windshield was badly damaged by the impact, and the plane landed in Burlington without incident 15 minutes later. No injuries were reported.

The Vermont Lottery confirmed today that a couple from Chittenden claimed the $2.45 million Tri-state Megabucks Plus jackpot that was drawn November 19. According to Greg Smith, the executive director of the Vermont Lottery, Ronald and Cynthia Senecal claimed the jackpot.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 4, 2014

The deadline for Vermont dairy farmers to enroll in a new price protection program has been extended to December 19. The Margin Protection Program is a voluntary insurance program that enables dairy farmers to protect themselves when prices fall. The program buffers farmers when the difference between milk prices and feed costs falls below an amount selected by the farmer. Minimum coverage costs $100. The deadline to enroll was tomorrow but Vermont's congressional delegation announced earlier today that the date has been extended by two weeks.

Governor Peter Shumlin says he will have a new healthcare financing plan ready by the end of the month. Shumlin's proposal will include single payer benefits and public financing proposals for the state's universal healthcare system, Green Mountain Care. Shumlin has targeted the end of the month for the release of his plan. He says that would give state lawmakers time to review it before their session begins next year.

A report from the group Grassroots Leadership is criticizing Vermont for shipping inmates out of state to serve their time in for profit prisons. The report indicates that in fiscal year 2013, Vermont spent nearly 13-million-dollars to send 500 prisoners to Kentucky and Arizona. The report says the practice is costly to families as well, not just financially but emotionally. Grassroots Leadership is a group dedicated to ending for profit prisons, and they visited the State House yesterday to bring attention to the issue.

After receiving a request from Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont Gas Systems says it will hold off on filing eminent domain proceedings. Last week the Shumlin Administration sent a letter to Vermont Gas suggesting they should stop eminent domain filings against landowners along the pipeline route, provide a contact list of landowners who have not signed easements, and make copies of all easements signed so far to extend the company’s natural gas pipeline. The letter came four days after the governor’s executive team met with 11 landowners along the pipeline route in Addison County.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 3, 2014

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the town of Middlebury, the Middlebury College trustees, the publisher of the Addison Independent, and the architecture company Bread Loaf Corp. Middlebury resident, 64-year-old Alpine Bingham alleged that the parties being sued caused “undue influence” in two elections this spring. The first election in question happened in March when voters approved the new Town Office Building Project. After which more than 230 voters petitioned for a re-vote of the project. The second election took place on May 13 and residents passed the bond once again. Bingham has since said that the judge made errors in the decision and he is writing up an appeal.

The fallout from criminal cases handled by suspended Colchester Police Detective Tyler Kinney is starting to take place. Prosecutors were forced to drop felony heroin trafficking charges against two people this week because evidence from the cases has vanished. The cases involved more than 60 bags of heroin that were confiscated during an arrest that are now gone. Kinney was in charge of the Colchester police evidence locker for more than two years before his arrest last month, and is now in a drug rehabilitation center.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office says they are continuing to enforce the state's Home Improvement Fraud statute. The statute protects homeowners who enter in contracts with contractors who do not perform the required work or repay homeowners for down payments. A press release says since January, the Attorney General's Office has had 2 convictions and is currently investigating 5 others for violating the statute. Homeowners can report a complaint of Home Improvement Fraud should contact their local police department and file a report with the Consumer Assistance Program.

Towns across Rutland and Addison Counties will share nearly $100,000 in grants from the state’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development to fund special planning projects within their communities. Clarendon will receive approximately $8,000 to update their town plan, Middletown Springs will receive $7,800 to revitalize their village center, and Middlebury will get about $20,000 to research how to make a Route 7 intersection more pedestrian-friendly. ​

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 2, 2014

Vergennes Union High School students will be back in the classroom tomorrow. Last Friday, there was a steam leak from a pipe that caused some damage. Since then officials have been moving equipment and planning on were some classes will be moved to. The building was open to teachers and staff today. Tomorrow all classes and activities will be back to normal schedules.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is calling for a two-cent increase in the state school property tax rate for the 2016 fiscal year. Shumlin says the increase is needed to offset a projected three-percent increase in statewide school spending. The governor says the projected increase is half of what was put into place for the current fiscal year. Around 30-percent of the state's general fund spending is on education.

The number are in and Vermont State Police were busy over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Troopers investigated 245 crashes over the holiday, with two of them involving a death. State Police also made 19 drunk driving arrests, wrote close to 500 speeding tickets and assisted drivers of close to 200 disabled vehicles. Troopers were forced to cancel several sobriety checkpoints that had been slated for Thanksgiving Eve because of heavy snow.

Supporters of a plan for Vermont to become the first state in the country to enact a single-payer health care system are urging the governor and Legislature to move forward with the plan. 16 groups, including the state employees' and teachers' union, say that the election was not a call to abandon the move to Green Mountain Care, a universal publicly funded system. The Shumlin Administration is scheduled next month to release a funding plan for that effort.

Green Mountain Power is the first utility in the world to receive B-Corporation certification. The certification means the company had to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance as well as accountability and transparency. GMP joins Ben & Jerry’s, Vermont Creamery, King Arthur, and SunCommon along with 17 other companies in the Green Mountain State to receive the B-Corp Certification.

Monday, December 1, 2014

WVTK Local & State News December 1, 2014

Vergennes Union High School students will have another day off tomorrow. On Friday, a steam pipe leak caused some damage. Officials were on hand today doing air quality tests. JoAn Canning, Superintendent of Schools, says classroom re-locations and moving of materials and equipment is taking longer than expected. So all classes at VUHS are cancelled for tomorrow. Students who attend outside school placements will not be provided with transportation but if parents or students can transport, by all means they are encouraged to do so. You can contact the Superintendent's Office if you have any questions or concerns.

Vermont's rollout of universal pre-kindergarten is being delayed by a year. State education officials say challenges with school budgets and establishing rules for the program are causing the delay. The program was supposed to begin in the fall of 2015, but it is now scheduled for one year later. State education officials last week notified school districts to budget for the programs beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is warning you about a IRS phone scam. According to reports, a number of residents have reported receiving calls from either a recorded robocalls or live phone calls from persons identifying themselves as IRS agents. The caller then threatens legal action if an alleged outstanding debt is not paid immediately. The bogus IRS agent then directs the resident to call another phone number to make an immediate payment by credit card or other direct means of payment. Officials say this is a scam.

Vermont officials are investigating an outage that affected the state's 911 coverage for six hours on Friday. The state did not immediately realize the problem, which was apparently caused by a weather-related fiber optical line failure. While some calls did get through, around 45 callers were not able to reach a 911 operator. The state received a list of calls that didn't get through Saturday and began reaching out to those people.

U.S. Representative Peter Welch is urging farmers to sign up for the new dairy insurance program under the latest Farm Bill. A press release says the last day to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) is December 5. The program is a federal safety net that's available for dairy farmers when milk prices fall. MPP information is available through: Local FSA offices throughout Vermont, the UVM Extension Service, and online at Farmers who do not enroll by Friday will not have another opportunity to do so until July 2015.