Friday, February 27, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 27, 2015

Those who have already filed their taxes are seeing some nice returns this year. The IRS says it has already paid out $125 billion in refunds. That's from some 50 million tax returns already filed. A whopping 83 percent of those filed qualified for a refund. The average check weighs in at a hefty $3,120. That's over $300 more than average. People expecting large refunds typically file earlier. Those who will owe Uncle Sam come April 15th are more likely to procrastinate.

A medical emergency this morning at the West Rutland School triggered a lockdown. Authorities say, just after 8 am, an ambulance was called to the school for an unspecified medical emergency. For roughly 15 minutes, students and teachers were asked to stay in their rooms to keep the hallways clear. No students or teachers were ever at risk, but an automated message was sent out to parents. The automated message triggered a flood of phone calls to the school.

Vermont lawmakers and Governor Peter Shumlin's administration are working to close the deficit in the current fiscal year. The 18-million-dollar shortfall comes after revenue projections were downgraded last month. Some early cuts being suggested are ending bottled water for state employees and trimming funds for the state health insurance exchange. Lawmakers and the governor are also wrangling with a projected deficit of 94-million dollars in the upcoming fiscal year.

Help is on the way for low-income Vermonters with their heating bills. The state is giving $375,000 to five community-action agencies. They estimate that the new funds will help about 1,500 families buy up to $250 of home heating fuel. The grants are going to be available to households that have already used up their seasonal and crisis fuel grants.

Vermont is naming a new state forest after the late Senator Jim Jeffords. He passed away this past August at the age of 80. The state is designating the 13-hundred acre tract of land in his hometown of Shrewsbury as the Jim Jeffords State Forest. Jeffords served in the U.S. House and Senate for a combined 32 years, leaving the Senate in 2007.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 26, 2015

The Vermont House Education Committee is set to release a bill today reforming the state education system. A key component of the draft bill is an effort to create integrated education systems of one-thousand-250 students by July of 2019. The measure will also keep small schools grants unchanged until 2020, but they will only continue in certain circumstances after that date.

Voters in the UD-3 School District approved $400,000 for capital improvements. Around 20 resident attended the UD-3 Annual Meeting on Tuesday Night to discuss the proposed $17-million budget for next year. Also during the meeting, a $400,000 capital improvements measure passed unanimously by a voice vote. The improvements include: renovating the bathrooms outside of the MUHS auditorium, renovating four MUHS science classrooms, making sure key windows at MUMS are shatter-proof, for security reasons, and improving security, including the installation of additional cameras at both MUMS and MUHS.

A key Vermont lawmaker says a firearms bill that drew a huge crowd to a recent Statehouse hearing will not get a vote this year. Bennington Senator Dick Sears says the bill is no longer on the table, a comment made after he told gun supporters that he does not fear them. The measure would have required nearly all firearms sales to go through a background check and a federally licensed firearms dealer. Governor Peter Shumlin, hunters and Vermont police chiefs all have expressed opposition to the measure.

The Monkton Central School will soon begin looking for a new principal. Principal Susan Stewart, who was hired in 2010, was on unpaid leave. Earlier this month, she submitted a letter of resignation to the school board. In Stewart’s letter, she did not explain why she was resigning. The school board has hired Betsy Knox as interim principal for the rest of this year.

Vermont has a new law that tightens reporting restrictions for convicted sex offenders. Governor Peter Shumlin yesterday signed into law a measure requiring offenders to report to Vermont's registry within 24 hours of release. They previously had up to three days to report on where they would be living. Shumlin calls it common sense legislation that will make Vermont a safer place for everyone.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 25, 2015

The Crown Point Fire District will no longer provide ambulance service to the area. Instead, Lamoille Ambulance Services, which has been responding to Crown Point emergency calls under a temporary contract for just over a year, will now be the primary ambulance service provider. The District will now move to fill a first responder roll, being the first on the scene to assess the situation while an ambulance is on route.

Vermont State Officials say about 26 towns are experiencing water issues from frozen pipes. Earlier today, the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) took an informal survey to see how many towns had problems with frozen pipes. Communities that need assistance in dealing with water emergencies should contact the DEMHS Watch Officer at (800)-347-0488. If needed, the agency can work with towns to coordinate state agency support from Agency of Transportation, Agency of Human Services, the Department of Health, or the Agency of Natural Resources.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to expand pre-K to 3-year-olds in the state's highest-need communities. The Governor's Office says they are committing $25 million to fund the pilot program. More than 250 districts are eligible to apply.

A Woodstock police officer is under arrest, charged with domestic assault. Vermont State Police say 45-year-old Mark McComas, of Quechee, was arrested yesterday. Police say McComas assaulted someone at his Quechee home twice in the last month. McComas is a Woodstock police officer and previously worked at the Hartford police department. The case has been referred to the state police.

Vermont residents with suspended drivers' licenses because of unpaid traffic tickets are getting a chance for amnesty. March 20th is driver restoration day for people with unpaid tickets in Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Washington counties. Offenders can visit the Costello Courthouse in Burlington that day and pay 20-dollars per delinquent ticket and get their license back. Around 22-thousand people in the state have unpaid tickets.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 24, 2015

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) says that Vermonters were affected by a security breach at Anthem on February 5. Affected members at BCBSVT most likely received health care services in one of the 14 states Anthem operates. Those states include New Hampshire and parts of New York. Personal information that was part of the breach included names, addresses, and in some cases dates of death. For more information regarding the breach visit

For the second consecutive year, funding for afterschool programs in Moriah, Schroon and Westport is in jeopardy. Officials say that funding comes from a number of state and federal sources but the problem is supply can’t keep up with demand. Adirondack Community Action Programs needs over a $150,000 to continue programming at their three sites.

A state audit says Vermont officials ignored evidence of problems with billing submitted by health care economist Jonathan Gruber. The audit indicates that Gruber's invoices for work in designing a single payer health system for Vermont lacked detail, but were not questioned by state officials. The auditor says the matter is being referred to Attorney General William Sorrell for further action. Officials in Governor Peter Shumlin's office say they believe Gruber was doing his work and not falsifying hours.

A new report doesn't paint Vermont's nursing homes in the most favorable light. New ratings show that 30-percent of Vermont nursing homes are below or much below average. The new rating system is from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They take into account health inspections, staffing levels and other factors over the last three years.

A new poll suggests that parents should be required to vaccinate their kids. The CNN/ORC poll reveals that nearly eight out of 10 Americans believe vaccines should be required for healthy children. Most poll-takers also said children should be barred from daycare or public school unless they are vaccinated. The vaccine debate has heated up following a nationwide measles outbreak.

Monday, February 23, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 23, 2015

This year at the Vergennes Town Meeting, alderman will be distributing a survey about recreation. Earlier this month, a 10-question survey was created to get feedback from area residents on how they use existing city parks and recreation programs, how they rate their condition and importance, how funds should be spent on them and how those funds should be raised. Questions on the survey also ask what kind of programs should be offered and how they should be scheduled, and whether residents would support the position of a part-time recreation coordinator. Alderman say the results will help as they make plans for the future.

A bill aimed at clean up Lake Champlain has won approval in one Vermont House committee. House Bill 35 is on its way to the Agriculture Committee after the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources committee approved it on a 7-2 vote on Friday. The bill provides new funding and requirements for farms, municipalities and developers to control runoff flowing into rivers that feed Lake Champlain. It's to be paid for in part with an increase in Vermont's rooms and meals tax, which goes to 9 and a half cents on the dollar, and the tax on alcohol served in restaurants and bars, which goes from 10 to 10 and a half cents on a dollar.

Authorities are once again warning you to be on the lookout this tax season. Vermont State Police say they've learned of a possible identity theft scam involving tax information. They say there have been reports of people receiving letters from both the IRS and the Vermont Department of Taxes advising them to complete a tax return because more information about them is needed. Police are asking any who receives any letters asking for information that should already be on the Form 1040 to please contact the IRS, the state Department of Taxes and the state police.

Funding for the United Way of Addison County is below projects. During this funding year, which runs through June 30, they hope to raise $720,000 for local nonprofits. So far they have received around $550,000. Officials say one of the main reasons, they are below in their goals is that workplace contributions are down. In that one category of fund raising they are around $100,000 below what they received during the previous funding year. They also added that many of their donors are older and they need to start recruiting younger donors.

Friday, February 20, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 20, 2015

This long stretch of cold weather is causing a number of issues with water pipes. Earlier today, Winooski, Alburgh, Jeffersonville and Ticonderoga all issued warnings about freezing pipes. There was also a main water line break in Rutland today on Lincoln and West Streets as well. In most cases, officials are recommending residents keep faucets open to prevent freeze-ups. When you are not using your water, just leave the faucet dripping. This will help in preventing pipes from freezing.

The Empire State is trying to entice more snowmobilers to visit the more that 10,000 miles of trails that the state has to offer. Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday announced a free snowmobiling weekend on the weekend of March 7th & 8th for out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers. For the entire weekend, registration fees will be waived if you are already registered and insured elsewhere.

A former employee at the Brandon Inn has plead not guilty to embezzlement. 38-year-old Carmen Dozier of Middletown Springs is accused of stealing about $70,000 while she was in charge of payroll records. Dozier allegedly make personal purchases with credit cards issued to the inn's owners and deposited bad checks. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in jail and a fine of up to $1 million.

Fire officials are investigating a dairy farm fire that killed 20 calves. The South Burlington Fire Department took nearly four hours to put out the blaze that burned two structures on Ethan Allen Drive. Authorities say they don't believe foul play is involved and are calling it an accident, but they are still trying to find out what caused the fire.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell are offering their support for tighter regulation of Vermont's rent-to-own stores. Christopher Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, says rent-to-own stores often target low-income Vermonters with deals that end up with them paying far more than the usual retail price of an item over the life of a rent-to-own contract. A bill in the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee would cap the effective interest rates in rent-to-own contracts and require better disclosures of the deals that consumers are getting.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 19, 2015

FairPoint Communications has announced the company and workers have reached a tentative deal. FairPoint says deal includes new collective bargaining agreements and gives them a more competitive position in the marketplace. Union members will vote on ratification of the tentative agreement as soon as possible. If the agreement is signed, striking workers will return to work on Wednesday, February 25. FairPoint workers have been on strike since October 2014.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles declared an emergency exists pertaining to the delivery of home heating fuels (fuel oil, propane) within the state. The department says the declaration of emergency is required to ensure the continuation of essential services. The emergency designation suspends the work shift restrictions when transporting home heating fuels from terminal locations and local delivery operations. However, the declaration does not permit fatigued or ill drivers to operate a motor vehicle. The emergency declaration is effective immediately and will expire on March 7, 2015 at midnight.

Walmart announced Thursday they are giving approximately 500,000 employees a raise. Walmart says by April 1, hourly employees will earn $9 per hour. That wage will increase by at least another dollar by February 1, 2016. The company and the Walmart Foundation will also spend $100 million over five years to help increase economic mobility for entry level workers by advancing their careers. The wage increases are for both Walmart and Sam's Club employees.

Vermont Health Connect has announced that some Vermonters who missed this year's open enrollment still have an opportunity to apply for 2015 health coverage. Vermonters who don't have health insurance and learn about the new federal penalty for having no coverage when they file their 2014 taxes now have a chance to avoid paying the full federal fee next year. Vermonters affected by the federal fee should call Vermont Health Connect's Customer Support Center toll-free at 1-855-899-9600. They must apply for and select a plan within 60 days from the date they discovered they would be subject to the federal Shared Responsibility Payment, but no later than May 31.

Just a reminder … Ferrisburgh’s Town Meeting will take place on Saturday, February 28th, starting at 10 am. Last March, residents changed the meeting date by a voice vote from the first Tuesday of March to the previous Saturday. The annual Ferrisburgh Central School meeting will follow, starting at 1 pm. Australian balloting will be held as usual on Tuesday, March 3rd, from 7 am to 7 pm. On that ballot will be all school spending measures and races for town officers, including contested races for the selectboard and delinquent tax collector.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 18, 2015

The Shumlin Administration says two new reports support increase in funding to Vermont's Blueprint for Health. A press release says the program is leading national efforts to slow the growth of health care costs. One report found that the state was saving up to $2,200 per person, per year. The Vermont Blueprint for Health (Blueprint) is a program for patients, improving the health of the overall population, and improving control over health care costs by promoting health maintenance, prevention, and care coordination and management. The two reports were from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services, which focused on the Support and Services and Home (SASH) program.

The most detailed bill yet to legalize and regulate marijuana in Vermont was submitted in the legislature yesterday. The 44 page bill was offered by Chittenden Senator David Zuckerman, and would allow residents to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Zuckerman says the bill is a good starting point, but he does not expect it to gain any real traction this year. However, he feels the bill will lay the groundwork for a serious effort for passage next year.

The Vermont Lottery is launching a new program that will provide competitive technology grants to school districts. The program will provide successful bidders with 20 new iPads or Google Chromebooks, with the choice made by the winning school. Special consideration for the grants is being given to school districts in very rural areas, especially those in the free and reduced lunch program. The deadline for schools to apply for grants is March 27th.

Organizers have set the date for this year’s Middlebury Maple Run. The seventh annual Maple Run will take place on May 3. The half-marathon is expected to attract 800 to 1,000 runners and raises money for Addison County nonprofit groups. This year’s race includes a post-run pancake breakfast, finisher’s medals from Maple Landmark Woodcraft, personalized race bibs and a shot of UnTapped maple syrup, which organizers describe as “an all-natural athletic fuel.” The Addison County Chamber of Commerce estimates the race provides direct economic impact to the area of at least $100,000. For information, visit

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 17, 2015

Lake Champlain is completely frozen over. The National Weather Service says high resolution satellite images confirm that the lake is frozen over for the second year in a row. Temperatures have been below freezing the entire month of February in Burlington, and the wind chills of 40 below zero this past weekend likely finished the freeze over. The last time the lake completely froze for two years in a row was a decade ago.

Voters in Vergennes, Waltham, and Panton will be asked to approve a $4.7-million Vergennes Union Elementary School budget on Town Meeting Day. The proposed budget represents a 7.7-percent increase over the current spending plan. Officials say the increase is due to a number of factors including adding a math specialist and accounting for mistakes made in previous budgets at the ANwSU level. Vergennes, Waltham, and Panton voters will also be deciding on a proposed $10.47 million Vergennes Union High School budget and a related $100,000 VUHS capital improvement spending article.

A new bill seeks to partner Vermont beer makers and agriculture. The bill would create a new Vermont farm brewer's license for people who want to brew beer with at least one product grown on their land. Farm beer would have to include 20-percent local hops and 30-percent of other local ingredients, which could not be water. The Bill from Bennington Representative Bill Botzow would also create similar designations for Vermont-made cheese and wine.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Vermont was unveiled in Montpelier today. State Senator David Zuckerman has been crafting the bill. He says the bill is modeled on laws in Colorado and Washington state, with the goal of having the state regulate cultivation and distribution, and place a heavy tax on retail sales.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is proposing free tuition at public colleges for the first two years. A press release says he is also calling for reforms in federal student loans. Sen. Sanders announced the proposals at Johnson State College today. Sen. Sanders welcomes President Obama's proposal to make community college free, but says we must go further.

Friday, February 13, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 13, 2015

Vermont State Police are warning skiers of the dangers of skiing or riding out of bounds. Areas of southern Vermont have received between three and four feet of snow in recent weeks, and this has led to a dozen lost or stranded skiers this season. Six of those cases have occurred since the beginning of the month, and all were eventually rescued without serious injury. People are urged to watch the weather, and to be especially careful when the temperatures are bitterly cold.

A day after pleading guilty, Patricia Prue was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of the St. Johnsbury teacher, Melissa Jenkins, in 2012. Yesterday, she plead guilty to 1st degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. In the plea deal, she waived the right to an appeal. Prue addressed the court saying "actions speak louder than words." She says she is giving away her freedom to show how sorry she is. Prue's husband Allen was sentenced for the murder and kidnapping death of Melissa Jenkins back in December.

The Vermont House has approved a bill increasing fees for a number of items in the Green Mountain State. Among the biggest percentage jumps would be for a license to operate a small bed-and-breakfast, with a capacity of up to 10. That license would increase from $80 to $150 - a jump of about 88 percent. In total, the bill would raise about $2.8 million in new revenue for the state. The bill still needs to be approved by the state senate.

Police hope new surveillance pictures will help lead to the arrest of an armed robbery suspect in West Rutland. The Rutland County Sheriff's Department released the photos yesterday showing a man armed with a knife inside the Cash Market on Main Street on Tuesday just before 7 pm. Investigators say he was in the store for less than a minute and took off with an undisclosed amount of money. The clerk on duty chased after the suspect, who was running towards the Napa Auto Parts building. Police believe the alleged thief may have gotten into a vehicle near the Rite Aid Pharmacy and left the area. He is described as a middle aged man between 5 1/2 and 6 feet tall with a heavy build, wearing a brown or grey plaid, snowboard type hooded jacket and a ski mask.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 12, 2015

The Vermont Supreme Court has given permission to the Public Service Board to launch a second investigation into Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The Department of Public Service encouraged the PSB to evaluate whether the project still deserves a Certificate of Public Good, or if that Certificate of Public Good should be amended to reflect substantial changes to the project. The Supreme Court stated that there is no time limit on the remand, but the PSB must update the court on the case every 30 days, starting March 15. Construction on the project has been suspended while the ground is frozen. The company projects to complete Phase I by the spring of 2016.

The Vermont Department of Taxes has started issuing tax refunds checks. The Department halted sending out refunds last week after an influx of fraudulent returns being filed in the state. As of last Friday, 121 phony returns had been filed. The department has allocated additional staff to work on fraud full-time. Returns flagged by software as possible fraudulent are being manually reviewed by staff members. Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson urges Vermonters to get their tax returns in promptly in order to head off any criminals trying to file in your name. To check if that has already happened, go to the Tax Department's website.

The Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, the largest union in the state, is supporting legislation that would remove the philosophical exemption to vaccinations for parents who don't want their children immunized. Vermont-NEA President Martha Allen says the fact that almost a third of Vermont's public schools have vaccination rates lower than what's considered safe is alarming and unacceptable. She says now that the country is seeing the worst measles outbreak since it was eradicated nearly 15 years ago, it's time to make sure children who can be vaccinated gets the protection they and society deserve. Vermont is in the top three states for people taking the exemption. Lawmakers have announced plans to introduce a bill to eliminate the exemption. A similar effort failed three years ago.

A Vermont lawmaker says expanding the number of DNA samples taken into a state database will be put off for at least a year due to a backlog in the existing program. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been considering a plan to collect DNA samples from anyone convicted of a misdemeanor. Vermont currently collects samples just from those convicted of felonies. But Senator Richard Sears, the committee's chairman, says public safety officials have told the committee that the existing program has a backlog of about 2,500 DNA samples waiting to be processed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 11, 2015

Governor Peter Shumlin is sending up to 40 members of the Vermont National Guard to Massachusetts, a state dealing with record snowfall. The troops will also bring up to a dozen pieces of heavy equipment to the Bay State, including dump trucks and backhoes. The specific details of their mission will be decided by Massachusetts officials, but it will involve snow removal. The Vermont troops, from the 131st Engineer Company, will be based at Camp Curtis Guild, located northwest of Boston. They will be deployed for at least 15 days, and will depart from White River Junction tomorrow.

According to a report released today by the Washington, DC, based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Vermont ranks in the top ten states for school breakfast participation. Vermont’s ranking fell slightly from 6th to 8th from the previous year, not because Vermont’s participation has dropped, but because other states had early access to the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which allows schools in high poverty areas to serve free school meals to all children regardless of their families’ incomes. While some states piloted CEP as early as 2011, the new provision only became available to Vermont schools this school year.

A new bill being introduced would increase the smoking age in Vermont from 18 to 21. Representative George Till from Jericho pitched his bill to the Human Services Committee. Till says it will reduce smoking rates among 18- to 20-year-olds, preventing lifelong addiction and illness for many, and will keep younger teens from lighting up, too. Some lawmakers worry about push-back, including from military members. The committee will decide whether to advance the bill.

A Vermont school bus driver has been issued a traffic violation after police say a student caught him texting while driving. Police say the Colchester High School student captured video footage of 43-year-old William Blanchard, texting while driving the bus. The student’s parent called police to report the incident. Vermont banned texting while driving in 2010. A law also went into effect Oct. 1, 2014 that banned any use of handheld cellphones. Police say they have issued Blanchard a traffic violation for using a handheld phone while driving a commercial vehicle. He faces two points on his license and a fine of $479. Police say Blanchard is employed by Mountain Transit, Inc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 10, 2015

Vermont Gas announced that it will not proceed with plans to extend natural gas service to the International Paper Plant in Ticonderoga. Vermont Gas says they had numerous discussions with International Paper and were unable to find a mutually acceptable path forward. The company will ask the Public Service Board to dismiss the pending petition for approval of Phase 2. Vermont Gas says due to the cost increase, International Paper decided to withdraw. Officials at Vermont Gas say today’s announcement does not affect Phase 1. Vermont Gas will now focus on completing Phase 1 to serve Addison County.

The Vermont Health Department says eight more kids have test positive for tuberculosis (TB) at the Charlotte Central School. Skin tests were conducted on 223 students on Friday and were evaluated by nurses yesterday. To date, a total of 15 children and one adult have tested positive out of 380 students and staff who have been tested and evaluated. The Health Department says there are no active cases of TB at the school and there is no ongoing risk. A positive skin test result does not mean a person is sick with TB, or that they can pass bacteria to anyone else. Health officials say a positive skin test means that a person has been exposed to TB, and has the bacteria in his or her body. Additional skin tests were conducted yesterday for school staff. Those tests are expected to evaluated tomorrow.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is boycotting next month's address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Sanders says the main reason he will skip the speech is because Netanyahu did not consult with President Obama in scheduling the event. Sanders says the fact that Obama heads the nation's foreign policy and was not even consulted is wrong and bad for the country. Vice President Joe Biden is also boycotting the speech, scheduled for March 3rd.

A newborn baby is in critical condition after police say the infant was shaken by his teen mother. Police arrested 17-year-old Desiree George of South Burlington. She's charged with aggravated domestic assault and child cruelty. Police say the 3-week-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries after being shaken and remains hospitalized. His mother pleaded not guilty to the charges this morning.

Monday, February 9, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 9, 2015

Officials at VTrans say you can expect messy driving conditions to continue. Earlier today, there was some freezing drizzle along with snow which caused slick roads, and they say they're re-freezing, which isn't helping. Crews are out in force as this slow moving weather system continues to move out of the area tonight. Roads will improve going into tomorrow.

A group of public and private officials from Vermont is in Colorado to learn about that state's legalized marijuana program. The delegation is being led by Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Chittenden State's Attorney TJ Donovan. The group will tour a marijuana cultivation facility, along with a retail marijuana store. The group will also sit down with Denver's U.S. Attorney and a representative of the Colorado governor's office.

There is a public hearing tomorrow night on expanding background checks for all gun purchases, including individual, private sales. The Senate Committees on Health & Welfare and Judiciary will hold the public hearing starting at 5:30 pm in the House Chamber at the State House. Members of the public interested in testifying regarding bill S.31 may sign up 30 minutes prior to the hearing outside the House Chamber. Each person will have 2 minutes to testify and the hearing will adjourn at 8:00 pm.

The University of Vermont says it has received an all-time high number of applications for enrollment this fall, 25,146. UVM Officials say they have received applications from all 50 states and from 85 countries. They added that they also set application records both in its traditional markets of New England, New York and New Jersey and in states like Florida and North Carolina, which are typically beyond their historic recruiting area.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is calling on the CDC to make the measles vaccine and booster shots free.
This is in light of recent outbreaks in the U.S. So far this year at least 102 people have become infected with measles in 15 different states, including New York. Schumer said the vaccine should be more readily available and free like the flu vaccine, so health coverage is not an issue. Health experts said measles is highly contagious in both children and adults.

Friday, February 6, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 6, 2015

The Vermont Tax Department says it has temporarily stopped issuing personal income tax refunds while it makes sure that tax refund fraud isn't occurring in the state. TurboTax, the country's most popular do-it-yourself tax preparation software, said today that it has temporarily stopped processing state tax returns because of an increase in fraudulent filings. So far, Vermont has suspended refunds after 150 returns after they were flagged as fraudulent. Vermont officials say there were no Vermont systems were hacked or breached.

Police have arrested and charged a para-educator at Champlain Valley Union High School with sexual assault. According to investigators, 25-year-old Julianne Graham of Burlington, has a relationship with a 17-year-old boy during the spring of 2014 who attended CVU. Police say the Vermont Department of Children and Families reported the relationship to the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations Wednesday. Graham was arrested and arraigned in Chittenden Superior Court today. Vermont state law stipulates that no person shall engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 18.

The Vermont Legislature is considering a bill that would require people to opt out of an organ donation system. Burlington Representative Barbara Rachelson says many people want to be donors but fail to register for the donation registry. Rachelson says this creates confusion for families, who are forced to make the decision under the most painful of circumstances. The nonprofit group Donate Life Vermont says 90-percent of people nationally want to donate their organs, but only 45-percent are registered donors.

Vermont is receiving more than two-million dollars from the federal government for transportation projects in several towns. The largest grants of 300-thousand-dollars are going to Colchester, Rutland, St. Albans and Williston. Essex and Killington are receiving large grants as well. Governor Peter Shumlin says every little bit helps, and these investments will make a difference for communities across Vermont.

Despite recent downgrades, Vermont revenues have come up short of expectations again. The Shumlin Administration released figures yesterday showing that the income for the General Fund, Transportation, and Education are all below projections. The governor and the legislature are now working on implementing tens of millions in cuts to balance the budget.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 5, 2015

Lawmakers in Montpelier today are looking at a bill that would consolidate a number of school districts in the state. The legislation calls for school districts within a supervisory union to merge into a single supervisory district, a move that would see multiple schools governed by a single school board. Also under the proposal, principals would have more authority. The bill would also mandate language on ballots to give voters a better understanding of how a school budget will impact them financially.

A key Vermont lawmaker is looking to stimulate more renewable energy projects in the state. Representative Tony Klein of East Montpelier says incentives could be used to encourage clean energy projects on developed lands. Klein is chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He told the panel yesterday that expedited permitting and generous rates on clean energy will encourage developers to invest.

Castleton State College says a four foot Rainbow Boa was stolen from a science lab on campus. The snake was a personal pet of a professor and was on campus for observation in a class. The college says it is unlikely that the snake would try to get out of its habitat or try to leave the room on its own. The snake cannot survive outside the lab for more than a couple hours in the building and minutes if not placed in a heat protected environment. The college says the snake is not poisonous and doesn't have any teeth. The Boa is orange in color and has a Brazilian origin. The college is investigating the incident.

A citizen’s group has two proposals to the ID-4 school district regarding the school budget for Mary Hogan Elementary School. At their next meeting, on Monday Night, the ID-4 School Board will review the proposals. Currently the budget is voted-on during the ID-4 annual meeting, which is held on the second Wednesday in April. The citizen’s group would like to see the school spending plan approved by Australian Ballot on Town Meeting Day instead of at the annual meeting by a voice vote.

Governor Peter Shumlin says the biggest challenge facing Vermont's economy is finding enough skilled workers. Shumlin attended the Vermont Manufacturers Summit yesterday in Burlington. He says the state needs to make targeted investments in workforce development to continue job creation progress made last year. Shumlin says the state created around four-thousand jobs in 2014, with most coming in the private sector.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 4, 2015

More than 7,000 Northeast dairy farmers stand to get an average of $4,000 in a proposed settlement with the cooperative Dairy Farmers of America to resolve antitrust allegations. A final court hearing was held last week in Vermont on the $50 million settlement. The 2009 class-action lawsuit charged the cooperative, its marketing arm Dairy Marketing Services and Dallas-based Dean Foods with working together to monopolize the market for raw milk in the Northeast, driving down prices paid to dairy farmers. A judge is expected to decide soon whether to approve the DFA settlement, and farmers now have until May to submit a claim.

The Public Service Department issued its first request for proposals under the new Connectivity Initiative. A press release says Internet Service Providers are invited to submit proposals to serve locations identified by the Department as needing improved access to broadband Internet service. The Department will award grants up to $964,350 to organizations willing to serve these areas. The Department says they have identified 1,700 locations eligible for support through the first round of funding. The lowest acceptable speed for funding is 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. However, the Department is encouraging higher levels of service.

Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that targets so-called revenge porn. Bill supporters say they have heard from victims who have had sexually explicit pictures of themselves distributed against their will on the Internet. The measure would make it a felony to share intimate photos or video if the person depicted does not grant permission. The measure also would make it illegal to edit photos falsely showing someone engaging in sexual conduct.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Vermont to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by the severe winter storm back in December. The President's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 3, 2015

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles wants motorists to replace faded license plates. The state says plates that have faded to the point they are hard to read must be replaced. The department says a problem with the manufacturing process of plates produced between 2003 and 2005 may cause fading. State law allows those plates to be replaced at no cost to the owner. Owners of vehicles with faded plates should fill out a form available on the department's website.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is continuing to position himself for another run for reelection next year. Leahy has made no secret that he plans to seek an eighth term in the Senate, and is now in the process of raising money for the race. The 74-year-old Leahy is currently the most senior member of the Senate, having first been elected in 1974. He earned 64-percent of the vote in his last re-election race in 2010, easily defeating six opponents.

A fire last night destroyed a building in Hinesburg and left 6 residents displaced. The building that was on fire was on Route 116 in the village. The building was the home of the Grateful Dog Grooming business and several apartments. The building was not a complete loss as crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly. Two people were taken to the hospital for minor injuries. The cause of the fire in still under investigation.

A Connecticut man involved in major drug distribution rings in Vermont and Maine is going to prison for more than 17 years. Prosecutors say that 34-year-old James Nastri of Deep River, Connecticut, was sentenced last week to 210 months in prison following his conviction on a federal drug conspiracy charge. At sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions said Nastri financed and managed a sophisticated, multi state drug operation. Court records show Nastri's group distributed an especially strong form of heroin in the Burlington area that caused several overdoses.

Monday, February 2, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 2, 2015

VTrans has added a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Route 7 and Exchange Street to it’s list of priority projects. Since 2004, officials in Middlebury have pushing for the roundabout saying trucks entering Route 7 from Exchange Street have a tough time because of the traffic moving at 50 mph and limited visibility. So far, there is no timetable on the project and as for funding, officials say it will cost over six figures due to land acquisition in the area. New businesses on Exchange Street might also be asked to participate in the local share of the roundabout.

A new study indicates that the dairy industry has an impact of more than two-billion-dollars a year on Vermont's economy. The study from the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council says that dairy brings three-million-dollars in circulating cash to the state each day. It also shows that dairy accounts for 70-percent of Vermont's agricultural sales, and its farms produce 63-percent of New England's milk.

The Brandon selectboard last week warned what they are calling a “no-frills” budget for Town Meeting Day. The proposed spending plan call for a 2 percent, or $47,000, increase in the amount to be raised by taxes. Also on Town Meeting Day, residents will be deciding on a number of improvement projects with separate votes. The budget also restores the public works director to a full-time position.

The Vermont Senate Committees on Health & Welfare and Judiciary are holding a public hearing next week on a bill regarding firearm background checks. The public hearing will be held in the House Chamber at the Statehouse starting at 5:30 p.m. on February 10. A press release says the public is invited to comment on bill S.31 and will have two minutes to testify. Anyone interested in testifying may sign up 30 minutes before the hearing outside the House Chamber.

Due to a shortage of rock salt, the Rutland City Department of Public Works says they are now restricting the use of salt on the roads. Salting will now be limited to hills and major intersections. The Department of Public Works are urging drivers to slow down and use extra caution as many streets will remain snow covered after plowing. The Department of Public Works says some roads may remain slippery for several days until back-ordered salt is delivered.