Friday, January 30, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 30, 2015

Our area is getting ready for a deep freeze. The National Weather Service says sub-zero temperatures and blowing snow are expected through the weekend. Nighttime temperatures could reach as low as 20 below zero. State public safety officials are urging people to make sure that plenty of fuel reserves are on hand, be careful with pets outdoors and check on neighbors who may need assistance.

The Vermont Health Department says six children and one adult from the Charlotte Central School test positive for tuberculosis (TB). Parents of the children with positive test results have been notified by the health department. None of the children or adults at the Freedom Rain Children's Center in Colchester, have tested positive for TB infection. The Health Department says there is no active cases of TB at the school or children's center and there is no ongoing risk. The one person who has active TB is not at the school. Because there were some positive results found in the first round of testing, they are expanding skin testing to all students. Children who tested negative in the first round of testing will be re-tested in eight to 10 weeks. A total of 150 students and staff at Charlotte Central School were tested for TB.

An motor vehicle accident this morning knocked out power to residents in and around Shoreham this morning. Just after 5am, a tractor trailer traveling on 22A was driving in the middle of the road due to snowy conditions. As the first tractor trailer was approaching the intersection with Route 74, another tractor trailer was doing the same and did not move over. The first truck went off the road and struck a utility pole. No injuries were reported and Green Mountain Power quickly replaced the pole and restored power.

A Rutland man is facing charges accusing him of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. Police say Jon Gilbert worked at the Vermont Achievement Center as a therapeutic advocate in the autism program when the crimes occurred. He allegedly sexually abused the female student on a school trip last summer and had sexual conversations with her on social media. Gilbert is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, and is due in Rutland Superior Court next month.

The effort to name the beagle as Vermont's state dog is being met with resistance from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA says they oppose any effort to designate a specific breed to be the state dog. They say that would encourage unscrupulous breeders to churn out litters of the specific breed in puppy mills. PETA is suggesting that Vermont designate the all American mutt as the state dog instead.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 29, 2015

The Vermont Public Service Board has ordered Vermont Gas Systems to submit an update on its Phase 2 cost estimate by February 17. The state’s utility regulatory board wrote in an order issued January 23 that Vermont Gas must submit a new cost estimate update for the project planned to run from Middlebury to Ticonderoga. If a cost estimate is not available, the board wrote, the company must submit a status report. The board’s order comes after a Dec. 30 decision to postpone hearings on the project.

On Town Meeting Day, voters in Middlebury will be asked to approve an almost $10-million budget for the next fiscal year. The proposed 2015-2016 municipal budget represents a 6.7 percent increase over the budgeted 2014-2015 spending plan. The selectboard held a public hearing on the proposed budget last week and earlier this week, they approved the warning for Town Meeting Day, March 2.

Vermont state police are asking the public's help in identifying two men who attempted to steal goods from a warehouse at Crescent Orchards in Orwell. Police say workers at the orchard confronted two men who had piled up goods both inside and outside the apple warehouse. The men took off on foot when the workers confronted them. A state police K-9 was brought in to track the men, but police say they were picked up by a vehicle that had been seen circling the area. Police ask that anyone with information about the incident contact them at 802-388-4919. Information can also be submitted online at or text "CRIMES" (274637) to Keyword: VTIPS.

Authorities are warning people not to let their Super Bowl celebrations go too far this weekend. State Police plan to have additional patrols on roads and highways on Sunday to crack down on drunk drivers. People are being advised to designate a sober driver, or make plans to get home safely after the big game. People hosting Super Bowl parties are being encouraged to make sure all of their guests have safe rides home, and make sure food and non-alcoholic drinks are served.

Senator Bernie Sanders has lost in his bid to add a big solar energy provision to legislation in the Senate pushing the Keystone XL pipeline. Sanders' office says his proposal would have helped home and business owners install up to 10 million solar power systems around the country in the next decade. It got 40 of 100 votes in the Senate. Sanders' amendment called for a 15 percent rebate for people who install solar power. He says the new solar power could have replaced a fifth of that from coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 28, 2015

Governor Peter Shumlin testified before Congress earlier today. A press release says Governor Shumlin urged Congress to quickly replenish the Federal Highway Trust Fund so Vermont and other states can get to work repairing crumbling infrastructure. Vermont relies on $300 million each year in funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which will become insolvent in May if Congress doesn't act. Governor Shumlin says projects relying on federal money would be in jeopardy if Congress fails to act.

Gun rights activists are telling state lawmakers to reject a measure that would require background checks for private gun sales. Dozens of orange clad gun rights supporters visited the Statehouse in Montpelier yesterday to take their message to lawmakers. The bill would require background checks for all private gun sales, unless it involves an immediate family member. It would also require the seller and buyer to appear before a licensed gun dealer before the sale can be completed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revised the U.S. Standards for Grades of Maple Syrup. The USDA says the revision defines quality factors and establishes new color determinations for Grade A. The grade will be determined based on flavor, odor, damage, and turbidity or cloudiness. The changes were based on a petition from the maple syrup industry and public comments received through May 2014.

The White House has dropped its proposal to end the popular 529 college savings plan. The Obama Administration pitched the possibility of ending the program as part of an upcoming budget plan, but congressional Republicans and Democrats criticized the move. They say ending the plan would lead to more debt and less opportunities for students. The 529 plan allows users to save money and withdraw it tax-free, as long as the money is used to pay for college. The White House says it will now call on Congress to look at education tax relief.

Today marks the 29th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which killed all seven crew members, including New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 28, 1986. McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concord High School. She was picked from among 11,000 candidates to be the first teacher and private citizen in space.

Monday, January 26, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 26, 2015

The Pulp Mill Bridge in Middlebury will be closed for about 3 weeks. Crews began working on the historic structure today. They will be repairing damage caused by a car accident in the bridge this past fall. The work is expected to be done and the bridge re-opened by Monday, February 16. Until, you are advised to seek an alternate route.

Officials at VTrans say they are ready for the coming storm. Although we will not be getting as much snow as Southern New England, VTrans is still prepared. There is 250 orange plow trucks, all stocked with salt and ready to roll once the snow starts moving into our area. Snow totals will vary across the region with more snow toward the south.

Tonight’s Select Board meeting in Brandon will be a busy one. On the agenda tonight, the board will be appointing a new member, electing a new chairperson, and possibly adopting a budget. The budget has been under discussion since December 15th but must be put on the Town Meeting Warning by February 1st. Tonight’s meeting will take place in the basement of the town hall at 7 o’clock.

Vermont's top officials say legal enforcement of water quality rules on the state's farmers is going to be one of the tools that will be used to help clean up Lake Champlain. The enforcement could include civil fines, a loss of tax breaks for agricultural lands and the ability to limit livestock. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross, Attorney General Bill Sorrell and others outlined the steps today during a meeting in St. Albans.

An employees at the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, who was injured on the job Friday Morning, has passed on. The company announced 57-year-old Jorg Borowski, a member of the maintenance team, was hurt while working. He was take to the UVM Medical Center where he passed away Friday evening. International Paper, and a corporate investigation team, are still investigating the incident.

Friday, January 23, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 23, 2015

Governor Peter Shumlin has requested a federal disaster declaration for last month's winter storm. A press release says the request is to help 10 of Vermont's 14 counties pay for repairs to the power grid and other public infrastructure damaged in a severe winter storm last month. If a disaster declaration is granted, communities and public utilities will be reimbursed for 75% of the cost of eligible work. The request was sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA will then review and send a recommendation to President Barack Obama who will then approve or reject the request.

A boil water order has been sent out in Westport. The water system was contaminated after a rusty end cap broke off causing a leak. Officials expect the order to be lifted Sunday after two clear water tests.

MIlk production was up in Vermont last month. The USDA says production during December totaled 225 million pounds. That's up 3.2 percent from December 2013. Average per-cow production averaged just over 1,700 pounds for the month or 55 pounds more than December 2013. But the USDA reports that the price for that milk is also dropping.

Governor Peter Shumlin issued pardons to three women today, saying the women have atoned for their mistakes. According to the governor’s office, Aimee Sheehan, of Williston, Amber Thibault, of Charlotte, and Lori Morse, of Bennington, have been pardoned for various convictions. Shumlin said Friday he decided to pardon all three women because of the progress they have made since their convictions. Those seeking pardons must file an application. The Department of Corrections reviews the applications and conducts an investigation before they are forwarded to the governor.

Lawmakers in Montpelier are looking at changing the state constitution about how the governor is elected. Currently, when no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the 180 members of the Legislature to decide the race via secret ballot. That was the case in the most recent election between incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin and challenger Scott Milne. One proposed amendment would create a runoff election when no candidate secures a majority. The other would allow a candidate to take office by receiving the most votes and at least 45 percent of those casts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 22, 2015

The Vermont Health Department says a case of tuberculosis has been confirmed at the Charlotte Central School. The department is working with the school to identify and follow up with staff, students, and others who may have had close contact with the sick employee. The Health Department says there is no ongoing risk of disease at the school. According to the Vermont Health Department, tuberculosis is a bacteria disease that usually affects the lungs. Tuberculosis can be spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Health officials say that the disease is not spread by shaking someone's hand, sharing food or drinks, kissing, or touching surfaces an ill person has touched. On average, Vermont has six to eight cases of tuberculosis a year.

A former Vermont State Police lieutenant is now the first female captain in state police history. Captain Ingrid Jonas received the promotion earlier this month. Jonas is now the commander of the Staff Operations Section, where she oversees operations that include recruiting and training, internal affairs and professional standards. Prior to her promotion, Jonas had served as the commander of the Internal Affairs Unit. Jonas is replacing Captain David Notte, who is now the C-Troop commander covering the Rutland, New Haven, and Shaftsbury Stations.

LIHEAP, Vermont's home heating subsidy program is one of the beneficiaries of the current low oil prices. The dropping cost of oil is helping the low income home energy assistance program to provide assistance to more Vermonters this winter. Nearly half of Vermont residents heat their homes with oil, which is at its lowest prices since 2009. Around 25-thousand families in the state qualify for home heating assistance.

Vermont state police are investigating burglaries at two Addison County schools. According to reports, electronics were stolen from the Lincoln Community School in Lincoln sometime between January 17th and the 20th. Burglars also hit the Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro. Anyone with information on either burglary is asked to call Vermont state police in New Haven at 802-388-4919 or you can also submit an anonymous tip through or by texting "CRIMES" (274637) with keyword: VTIPS.

The 2015 Legislative Breakfast series is getting set to kick-off on Monday, February 2. This year’s series will include a March 23 luncheon with Governor Peter Shumlin. The first breakfast of the season will take place at the Grange Hall in Bridport. All of the breakfasts start at 7 am, with the program beginning at 7:30 am and ending at 8:45 am. Each Breakfast and Lunch is a weekly chance for residents to personally meet and talk with their state representatives and senators on legislation being debated in Montpelier. The last legislative breakfast of the season will be on June 1st.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 21, 2015

The official who led the heavily criticized launch of Vermont Health Connect is stepping down. Mark Larson is leaving his position as commissioner of the Department of Health Access in March. Governor Peter Shumlin says Larson worked hard for the last four years, and nobody cared more or tried harder than he did. The department manages the state health insurance exchange and administers its Medicaid program.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders today introduces a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. A press release says an amendment originating in Congress must be approved by a two-third majority in the House and the Senate in order to be submitted for consideration by the states. Ratification by three-fourths of the states is required to amend the Constitution.

The Addison County Economic Development Corporation has approved financing that will allow Middlebury-based start-up Stonecutter Spirits to begin production. Robin Scheu, executive director of ACEDC, confirmed the organization will use its revolving loan funds to lend $100,000 to the local gin and whiskey manufacturer. The financing is part of a $500,000 project with additional funding coming from Opportunities Credit Union and the National Bank of Middlebury. As a result of this investment, Stonecutter Spirits expects to create seven to 12 full time jobs as well as six part-time positions over the next three years. Stonecutter Spirits is a new Vermont spirits company specializing in barrel-aging techniques.

Governor Peter Shumlin and lawmakers on the Emergency Board found out revenues for this year and next are predicted to be lower than previously thought. State economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet says revenues for FY 2015 should be downgraded by $10 million. Revenues for FY 2016 should be downgraded by $18.6 million. Gov. Shumlin gave his budget address last Thursday, closing a $94 million gap. That gap will now add $18.6 million to its total. The economists did give some good news--they predicted the economy will be on an upswing thanks to low oil and gas prices.

The Vermont Health Department is warning travelers to the Caribbean, Central and South America and parts of Mexico of a new mosquito-borne disease. In 2013 the Chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas. There have been three cases reported to the Health Department in Vermonters who traveled to the Caribbean. In the last year, there have been more than 2,000 cases reported by U.S. travelers returning from affected areas. Epidemiologist Erica Berl says there's no vaccine or treatment. She says the most effective way to avoid being infected is by using insect repellent.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 20, 2015

Students at CVU were sent home early today due to a situation at the school. Hinesburg police and Vermont state police were on the scene. Principal Jeff Evans said the students were dismissed at 12:40 p.m due to a bomb threat. School officials say police searched the school and nothing was found. After-school activities were back on this afternoon and there will be school as usual on tomorrow.

A coalition of Vermont hospitals and other groups is calling for a stiff new tax on sugary beverages. The Alliance for a Healthier Vermont, which also includes businesses, the statewide teachers' union and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, wants an excise tax on sugary beverages of 2 cents per ounce. They say the funds generated could be used to offset health care costs and for food programs for low-income Vermont residents. But Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell said earlier today that the tax is not the way to encourage healthy behavior. He says it will hurt businesses and put parts of Vermont near bordering states at a competitive disadvantage.

The pipeline vote in Cornwall has been cancelled. A special referendum vote was scheduled for February 12, in which resident would decide whether the town should or should sign a compensation agreement with Vermont Gas in exchange for the town backing Phase II of the Natural Gas Pipeline Project. The selectboard cancelled the vote citing a recent decision by Vermont Gas to suspend its permitting efforts for Phase II.

Governor Peter Shumlin is offering his plan for improving water quality of Lake Champlain and other locations around Vermont. Shumlin has presented a 59-page draft bill to lawmakers that imposes strict new pollution control rules on developers and farmers. The measure also includes a certification process for small farms to make sure they comply with accepted agricultural practices. The draft bill does not explain how it would be funded or enforced.

The deadline is near if you’d like to run for local office. If you’d like to service on the Middlebury Selectboard UD-3 School Board, you have until next Monday, January 26th at 5 pm, to have all the necessary paperwork, including 30 signatures from local residents, to the town clerk’s office.

Friday, January 16, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 16, 2015

The Public Service Board wants the state’s high court to send back Phase 1 of Vermont Gas Systems’ pipeline case so they can take another look. In an order issued earlier today, the board said that the estimate for the project has increased twice from the original $86.6 million to $121.6 million, and then to $153.6 million. They want to look at whether the pipeline is still in the public good.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is proposing a payroll tax hike on state businesses as part of his budget. Shumlin delivered his budget address to lawmakers yesterday, saying it is his most difficult budget yet. The governor says the payroll tax increase would raise 41-million-dollars and would be matched with 45-million-dollars from the federal government.

The Cuomo Administration has outlined a $1 billion broadband program for the Empire State. A press release says the New NY Broadband Program would use public and private resources to ensure every New Yorkers has access to high-speed internet by 2019. The $500 million program, would utilize capital funds from bank settlements to incentivize the private sector to expand high-speed broadband access in underserved and unserved areas.

A new study says legalizing marijuana in Vermont could produce millions in tax revenue if no other nearby states also allow it. That was one estimate in the Rand Corporation study released today of what legalization could mean for the state. The study says legalization could generate up to $75 million a year in tax revenue. Gov. Peter Shumlin has said Vermont should eventually legalize marijuana, but he wants to learn from the experiences of the state of Washington and Colorado first.

Vermont's Agency of Transportation has started a statewide study on bicycle use. It's collecting information in the busiest bike-use corridors in the state. Data will be gathered through the spring. The state plans to release its rankings of roads that see the most use and those which are most in need of upgrades. The improvements could include signage, striping and widening.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 15, 2015

Gov. Peter Shumlin outlined his proposed budget earlier today in a joint session of the House and Senate. He is proposing a lean budget because of a looming $94 million deficit. His plan relies on cutting some services, consolidating some programs and raising taxes for some by closing what he calls tax loopholes. But the governor does not plan on raising broad based taxes. There still is lot of work to do on the proposed budget. Officials say the finalized version will not be ready until at least May.

A 16-million-dollar federal grant is being provided to help improve the water quality of Lake Champlain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to Vermont and New York will also be used to bring together partners to work towards the goal in a new way. Governor Peter Shumlin says cleaning up the lake is imperative, as it creates millions of dollars in economic activity each year.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office announced a formal public comment period on proposed genetic engineering labeling rule. The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 20 at 5 p.m. in Room 11. This will be the only public hearing on the proposed rule. A press release says members of the public are invited to send formal comments on the proposed rule to the Attorney General at any time until January 28. The public can send comments through the Secretary of State's website, or by sending an email to

Voters in Middlebury will discuss in March whether to give raises to Select Board members who have been paid the same stipend for more than 20 years. The six members are currently paid $1,500 a year, and the chairman $1,800. An article on the draft town meeting warning asks whether those numbers should go up to $2,700 and $3,250.

Fort Ticonderoga has purchased a Vermont-based Lake Champlain cruise boat and will offer tours as part of the historic site's ongoing efforts to develop its waterway recreation resources. Officials with the not-for-profit organization that operates the privately owned heritage tourism destination in the southeastern Adirondacks say the ownership of the Carillon cruise boat will be finalized this spring, with waterway tours to begin during the 2015 season. The Carillon is a 60-foot replica of a 1920s Thousand Islands cruise ship.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 14, 2015

Voters in Brandon and Forest Dale approved a $2.5-million bond yesterday. The bond will be used to overhaul the town’s aging water system. Officials say the bond passed 196-27.

A group of Vermont mayors is calling for a reduction in the number of school districts in the state. Eight mayors visited the State House yesterday to call on lawmakers to reform school funding and governance. The mayors of Burlington, Rutland and Montpelier were among those on hand yesterday to call for reform. Vermont has more than 300 separate school districts.

Vermont Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson is set to testify before a legislative committee over the delinquent taxpayer list. The House Ways and Means Committee wants to know why Peterson did not release the amounts owed by the state's biggest tax scofflaws. Peterson only released the names on the top 100 individual and business tax scofflaw lists, not disclosing the amounts. The committee approved the bill authorizing the list released last year.

The Vermont Legislature is working on legislation that aims to expand background checks to the Internet and gun shows. Gun Sense Vermont, a group in support of the legislation, held a news conference at the Statehouse earlier today. They delivered a petition with close to 15,000 signatures to Gov. Peter Shumlin's office in support of the legislation. They said they want legislation that will “close the dangerous loophole in Vermont’s background check system that allows criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to buy guns over the internet and at gun shows without a background check.” Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks.

Governor Peter Shumlin and federal officials are talking about a project that will help clean up Lake Champlain. The program being discussed is funded through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. It works to improve water quality and promote a sustainable working landscape. During last week’s inaugural address, Shumlin’s called for better efforts to clean up Lake Champlain.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 13, 2015

The polls are open until 7 o’clock tonight at the Brandon Fire Department on Franklin Street. Voters who live in Brandon Fire District No. 1, which includes all of Brandon and Forest Dale, can vote “yes” or “no” on a $2.5 million bond to fund a major water system replacement. The district expects to use a grant of $756,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help pay off the bond and bring the total cost to ratepayers closer to $1.7 million. The fire district is a separate government from the town and the local schools.

Vermont's list of the top 100 individual and business tax delinquents is now public. The state tax Department released the information yesterday, but did not release the amounts each alleged tax scofflaw owes. However, the top 100 individuals and businesses owe the state a total of 25-million-dollars. In total, the state is owed a total of 175-million-dollars in unpaid income, room and meals taxes.

The Chairwoman of the Brandon Select Board has resigned. Maria Ammatuna resigned her position "effective immediately" in a letter to another selectman last night. Ammatuna said she is experiencing health problems. Also in her letter, she recommended Seth Hopkins, member of the Budget Committee, be appointed to take her place until March.

Burlington Police are still trying to figure out who killed a former University of Vermont student in his Greene Street apartment earlier this month. Kevin DeOliveria died from a single gunshot wound, and the death has been ruled a homicide. Police are continuing to follow leads, with more than two dozen law enforcement personnel working on the case. DeOliveria was originally from New Jersey and last attended UVM in 2013.

Vermont's congressional delegation says about 67 percent of the state's dairy farmers have signed up for a new price protection program. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch say that figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that 582 dairy farmers are now enrolled in the Margin Protection Program that began last year. The voluntary program offers financial assistance to participating farmers when the difference between the price of milk and national average feed costs falls below the coverage levels selected by individual farmers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 12, 2015

It doesn't look like property tax relief will be coming to Vermont residents this year. House Speaker Shap Smith says any real tax relief would only be masking fiscal challenges being faced by the state in the future. Governor Peter Shumlin says school districts are already setting their budgets, so the state cannot make changes that impact those local budgets in a significant way.

A Moriah Man has been arrested and is facing charges after allegedly shooting another man while hunt this past season. Police say 33-year-old Shawn M. LaValley of Moriah shot 83-year-old Joseph R. Rodriguez in the abdomen with a 12 gauge shotgun December, 1 while hunting in an area off Bartlett Pond Road in Moriah. Authorities say Rodriguez has been released from the hospital but is still recovering from his injuries. LaValley has been charged with assault, as well as reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.

Vermont State Police are investigating a horse shooting in Danby. According to reports, someone entered the property owners horse barn on Brook Road during the overnight period between January 8, and January 9. Once inside the barn the perpetrator shot one mare and one gelding, which were in different stalls. The gelding succumbed to its injuries. The mare was seriously injured and is being tended to by a veterinarian. Anyone with information pertaining to the two horses being shot is asked to contact the Vermont State Police-Rutland Barracks at 802-773-9101.

The Vermont Gas Pipeline Project might be scrapped. The contract between Vermont Gas and International Paper in Ticonderoga allows the paper company to dissolve the contract because of a scheduling delay or a cost increase. The contract also lets either party back out at their convenience. International Paper says it’s waiting for Vermont Gas Systems to submit a final cost estimate on the natural gas pipeline before the company decides whether the project still has merit.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding hunters that hunting blinds must be removed from water before February 15 on Lake Champlain or May 15 on inland waters. A press release says state law requires the blinds to be removed to protect natural areas and to prevent boating accidents once the ice melts.

Friday, January 9, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 9, 2015

Voters in Cornwall will decide if the town should oppose or approve a pipeline agreement. Last month, the selectboard negotiated an agreement with Vermont Gas in which the town would receive some financial compensation from Vermont Gas and effectively lower the municipal tax rate by about 4-percent. Many of the town resident opposed the plan say the town should continue to fight the pipeline. On February 12, voters in Cornwall will decide if the town should go forward with the agreement. Town Officials say if the agreement is voted down, the town will continue to tap its legal fund to oppose the pipeline.

JC Penney is closing two stores in Vermont. The Texas based department store chain is closing locations at the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland and at the St. Albans Shopping Center. The closures are among 40 that are taking place nationwide at JC Penney. The company stores in Bennington, Berlin, St. Johnsbury and South Burlington are all staying open.

Dozens of protesters were arrested at the Vermont State House yesterday. Vermont State Police say they will charge 29 people with trespass, and 9 of those with resisting arrest. Police escorted people out of the Statehouse, dragging some, after they were ordered to leave when the Statehouse closed at 8:00 pm. Most were from the Vermont Worker's Center. They arrived ahead of Gov. Peter Shumlin's inaugural address, calling on him to move forward with single-payer health care. The protesters said they would not leave until House Speaker Shap Smith agreed to a public hearing about single-payer. A spokesperson for Smith said the House Health Care committee would hold public hearings throughout the session, as they usually do.

The state is investigating what it says about 130 invalid applications for driver's licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Bennington, Vermont. Glen Button, director of enforcement and safety for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, says staff recognized the addresses were invalid. Investigators spoke with about 15 of the applicants and learned some paid $2,000 in New York City for help in getting licenses in Vermont. Sue Minter, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, says there has been no effort by the DMV to entrap anyone.

The East Middlebury Fire District No. 1 will hold its annual meeting at 7 p.m. Monday Night. The meeting will be held at Sarah Partridge Community House at 431 East Main Street. in East Middlebury.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 8, 2015

The Vermont Legislature has elected Peter Shumlin to a third term as Governor of Vermont. Of the 179 lawmakers, Scott Milne received 69 votes, incumbent Peter Shumlin got 110, and Dan Feliciano received zero. Yesterday the Legislature was gaveled into session. Shap Smith was re-elected by his colleagues as House Speaker while Senator John Campbell was re-elected as Senate President. Milne says he's not sure if he'll run again, but says it's important to be engaged in the election process.

Protestors supporting single payer were standing at the entrance of the House Chamber prior to Governor Peter Shumlin's Inaugural Address earlier today. When Speaker Shap Smith gaveled in, asking the House to come to order, the protesters kept singing and chanting. The protesters were escorted out, but came back, interrupting the inaugural address. Protesters were singing and shouting at Governor Shumlin to continue with single payer health care. Last month, Governor Shumlin announced that he is abandoning single payer as it is too expensive to consider right now.

A man accused of killing a 2-year-old boy has been sent back to jail after a judge ruled prosecutors may continue of pursuing a case against him. 27-year-old Joshua Blow of Shelburne is once again being held without bail, accused in the July death of Aiden Haskins. Last month, Judge James Crucitti denied a request by lawyers for Blow to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Blow pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Firefighters in Vergennes were busy this morning battling an apartment fire on White Street. According to officials, the flames broke out around 1 am at the multifamily apartment complex. Firefighters arrived on the scene to find the building completely engulfed in flames. Crews not only had to battle the fire but also had to deal with issues from the cold. The cause is still unknown officials say there were no injuries.

The initial budget for Vergennes Union High School for next year is an 11-percent increase of the current year’s budget. Superintendent JoAn Canning says the proposed budget is a financially responsible plan that sets the school on the right track for the future. The spending plan calls for cutting 4 full time teaching positions or the equivalent. Canning said this would not mean that classes would be cut, but rather offered less frequently. Last year, a majority of voters in each of the supervisory union’s five towns rejected the original budget proposal of $9.73 million. Voters in May approved a pared-down budget of $9.4 million, which called for the elimination of the equivalent of 3.9 teaching positions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 7, 2015

The Vermont General Assembly convened for the start of the 2015 session today. The new Legislature took the oath of office this morning. One of the first orders of business will be to elect the governor tomorrow, a choice left to lawmakers after no candidate received 50-percent of the vote. Lawmakers are also expected to focus on a number of things, including education reform and property tax relief, and health care reform-even though single payer is off the table for now.

Vermont Gas has asked the Vermont Public Service Board to “reset” the timetable for the Addison Natural Gas Project by postponing hearings on Phase II of the project. New CEO of Vermont Gas Systems, Don Rendall, stated in a release the company was asking for the delay in part because of financial concerns. Rendall said, “We’ve been determined to get this job done effectively and to communicate it openly, honestly and quickly.”

The Vermont Health Department is urging those who have the flu to stay home to prevent others from getting sick. The Health Department says young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, are at an increased risk of flu complications. Flu viruses are mainly spread through droplets in the air when people cough or sneeze. Someone can get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it.

Vermont's new GMO labeling law is facing its first legal challenge. Food manufacturers are suing the state, arguing that the law requiring labels on products made from genetically modified ingredients is unconstitutional and violates federal law. One central issue of the case is whether the state is exceeding its authority by trying to regulate the safety of food. Today’s hearing is not the start of the trial. The judge is considering the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit and the plaintiff's motion to block the law from taking effect until after the outcome of the trial.

With extremely cold weather expected to affect the region tonight and into tomorrow, here are some tips from the American Red Cross to prevent your pipes from bursting:
- Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, but keep the outside valve open;
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing;
- Let cold water drip from faucets that are served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe, even a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing;
- If you're going to be away from your home during cold weather, set the temperature no lower than 55° F.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 6, 2015

Enrollment numbers are on target, but problems are continuing with Vermont's health insurance exchange. Officials say for people signing up who have a change of circumstance, it has been taking weeks for the problems to be resolved manually. Health officials say 68-hundred people signed up for a plan for the first time , which is within the state target range. In addition, 23-thousand people renewed their policies from last year.

Preliminary reports show that Vermont traffic fatalities declined 38 percent in 2014 to the lowest number since World War II. The Vermont Highway Safety Alliance says 43 people died on the state's roadways last year, down from 70 in 2013. In 2011, 55 people died on the state's roadways. That number jumped to 77 in 2012 and 70 in 2013. Of the 43 fatalities last year 46-percent were unbelted and about 25 percent involved drugs or alcohol and about 25-percent involved speeding.

Fire officials say a water heater caused an explosion at a building located on Main Street in Ludlow Saturday. The incident happened at around 9:30 p.m. No one was inside the building during the time of the explosion. No injuries were reported. The building is being considered a total loss, with an estimated cost of $500,000. Police say while the cause of the explosion is not known, it is not being considered suspicious.

Congress is returning to work with Republicans now running the show. For the first time in eight years, the GOP is assuming control of both the House and the Senate. That means a loss of power for Vermont's congressional delegation. Senator Patrick Leahy loses the president pro tem title and his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. And Senator Bernie Sanders loses his spot as head of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

The state is offering some precautions as the mercury continues to dip across Vermont. Temperatures could dip well below zero at times this week, and people are urged to take steps to protect themselves and their family. People are urged to check on elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to make sure they are safe. Residents are also advised to have plenty of fuel, and emergency heating equipment in case electricity is lost.

Monday, January 5, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 5, 2015

The Vermont Attorney General's Office has determined that a Vermont State Police Trooper was justified in the use of deadly force in an incident in Bristol back in September. On September 4, 2014, Vermont State Police were called to a home on Pine Street after a report that 56-year-old Norman Michaud was threatening to kill himself. When officers arrived on scene they say they heard gunshots. While at the scene, police learned that 42-year-old Tina LaBossiere of Crown Point was at Norman's home and had a gun. A short time later, she was ordered multiple to drop her weapon. She refused and was shot by a Vermont State Trooper. After the situation was under control, police found Michaud with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No one else was injured. Both Michaud and LaBossiere were taken to Fletcher Allen Healthcare. They both survived the incident.

Voters in Brandon are being asked to approve a bond for repairs and upgrades to the water system. Officials say the town has qualified for a $756,000 federal grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The remaining $1.7 million of the $2.5-million project would be paid for through the bond, if approved. The bond vote is set for next Tuesday, January 13, at the Brandon Fire Station. An information meeting on the bond will be held at the station tonight at 7 p.m.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has tapped Sarah Hofmann to serve as a member of the Public Service Board. Hofmann is a former deputy commissioner and public advocate at the Department of Public Service, and is currently the executive director of the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners. She will begin to hear new matters at the Public Service Board starting in March. Hofmann replaces retiring board member John Burke.

The project to replace two railroad overpasses in Middlebury has been put on hold till next year. The project was suppose to start this spring. Officials say due to raising cost estimates and the longer-than-anticipated construction timeframe, they will have to post-pone the project to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row overpasses.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board is set to meet later this month to consider a number of proposals. One would allow all hunters to use crossbows during the archery season regardless of age or disability. Another would do away with spikehorn restrictions for archery and muzzleloader seasons. Spikehorn restrictions have been in place for all hunters for a decade in an effort to increase the number of larger bucks. Any rule changes approved by the board would not take effect until 2016.

Friday, January 2, 2015

WVTK Local & State News January 2, 2015

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the entire listening area, which is in effect from Saturday Evening through Sunday Morning. We could see 3 to 5 inches of snow with some significant ice build up as well. This storm will start as light snow before changing to a mix of snow and ice and then change to all rain Sunday Morning.

The Vermont Health Department announced this morning that the flu, in Vermont, is considered “widespread”. Health officials say it is not too late to get your flu shot. However, the CDC says this year's flu strain has mutated in ways that make the vaccine less effective than experts initially hoped.

It took nearly two hours of 2015 for Vermont's first baby of the year to be born. The first baby is identified as Emma Grace Densmore, born before 2 a.m. yesterday at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She is an unlikely first baby, as her mother spent 50 hours in labor before finally giving birth nine days late. The baby is a healthy seven pounds and 14 ounces.

The lottery for personal roadside firewood lots on state forest lands opens today. A press release says the two-week registration for "cut-your-own" lots ends on January 16. Each lot costs $30 and yields about three cords of wood. This year's roadside lots are available in the towns of Duxbury, Orange, Johnson, Groton, and Sutton. Participants will need to indicate where they prefer to cut. You can register online at The department will accept one signup per household. Winners of the roadside lots will be notified in early March.

Residents of Middlebury and East Middlebury can dispose their Christmas trees for free tomorrow. Place the tree next to the curb before 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning without any ornaments, garland, or other decorations. The tree will be collected as part of the "Middlebury Merry Mulch" event that happens every year. Residents can also bring their trees to the District Transfer Station in Middlebury through the end of January so it can be turned into "Merry Mulch" in the spring.