Tuesday, March 31, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 31, 2015

A Vermont State Police trooper has been cited for driving under the influence with a BAC above 0.08. Vermont Attorney General's Office says the charge against Eric Rademacher, of Mendon, stem from an incident on March 2, 2015. He will be arraigned on April 13. Rademacher has been placed on paid administrative leave. The Attorney General's Office says they will be submitting charging documents to the Rutland Criminal Division before the end of the week.

During the past decade, Vermont has spent $675 million setting up Medicaid managed-care programs, but state documents say it has done such a spotty job monitoring them that they can't even be audited. State Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote to lawmakers last week about the problems highlighted in an internal report by the Agency of Human Resources in January. The report found that several agency departments lacked crucial data on how managed-care programs set up under the Medicaid waiver were operating, and whether they were delivering the desired outcomes.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing for $5 million in federal funding to support the New York State Maple Syrup Industry. A press release says the funding will help increase production, strengthen conservation, and drive efficiency in maple sugaring. Schumer says, “by tapping into New York’s maple industry and allowing it to expand, the potential to grow our state’s economy and provide income to hardworking Upstaters is truly astounding.” Across New York State, there are over 280 million maple trees with syrup-tapping potential.

State cuts in Vermont library funding could have a ripple effect that results in a loss of federal funding as well. Governor Peter Shumlin's budget contains a 17-percent cut in library funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The state usually receives 900-thousand-dollars from the federal government for libraries. However, officials say that number will be reduced because of the cut in state services that receive matches.

The latest Doyle Poll is out, and it shows Governor Peter Shumlin's approval rating at 21-percent. The unscientific poll has been conducted for many years by Washington County Republican Senator Bill Doyle. He received around eleven-thousand responses to this year's survey, which are passed out at polling places on Town Meeting Day. A recent Castleton Poll Institute survey shows Shumlin with a 41-percent approval rating, with 47-percent disapproving.

Monday, March 30, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 30, 2015

State environmental officials are warning people to be careful on Vermont's frozen lakes, as the ice is becoming unsafe. This was highlighted by an incident yesterday on Lake Champlain near Benson Landing. Six fishermen on all terrain vehicles fell through the ice, and all were able to get out of the water before rescuers arrived. Four people were taken to the hospital for treatment, but none of their injuries are considered serious.

Police in Vergennes arrested a man they say robbed two banks in the area. On Saturday, police arrested 44-year-old Ricky D. Putnam. Investigators believe he robbed the Peoples United Bank on March 13th and the Vermont Federal Credit Union this past Friday. Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel did not say how authorities got a break in the case, but he credited Vermont State Police and Addison County Sheriff’s Department officers with help in the investigation.

A 37-year-old woman is facing numerous charges after trying to flee a traffic stop in New Haven. Police say Leah Jamieson was driving a black Audi erratically on Route-17 last night when she was pulled over. However, Jamieson allegedly fled the scene in her car, then resisted arrest when she was finally stopped at the intersection of Route-Seven. Jamieson is charged with DUI, resisting arrest and other offenses, with her bail set at 50-thousand-dollars.

Green Mountain Power has partnered with a family farm to set up its 3rd wind turbine to save money on electricity. The 250-cow Nea-Tocht farm in Ferrisburg is owned by the VanderWey family. The family says the turbine will save them $2,200 a year on electricity. The turbine can produce about 155,000 kilowatts a year, equal to the amount of electricity used by 25 homes. The utility's first community-scale turbine was installed at the Northlands Job Corps in Vergennes in 2011. The second was at the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport in 2013, which also the first Vermont farm to put power from cow manure on the grid.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials are warning you about black bears. Experts say, they're coming out of their dens and it's time to take bird feeders down. They recommend doing so between now all the way through November. Vermont law requires you to take reasonable measures before you can use lethal force against nuisance bears.

Friday, March 27, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 27, 2015

State Police this morning arrested seven people in connections with break-ins at camps in Ferrisburgh. The seven people were four adult males and 3 minor girls. The four men were arraigned this morning and all pled not guilty while the 3 minor girls were all given citations and released into the custody of their parents. The arrests came after an investigation that began yesterday morning, when state troopers and officers from the Vergennes Police and Addison County Sheriff’s departments looked into a report of a burglary at a seasonal cottage on Sleepy Hollow Lane that is currently vacant and on the market for sale.

Lawmakers approved a big budget and tax legislation yesterday. The House voted 96-46 on next year's budget, a $5.5 billion bill. Earlier yesterday, they voted 76 to 67 on a bill to raise $35 million in taxes. The $113 million dollar gap lawmakers are grappling with is one of the largest in recent history. For the past several years, lawmakers have disagreed on how to fill these gaps as revenues shrink.

South Burlington Police arrested a man they say had stolen license plates on a stolen car. The operator, 20-year-old Nathan Morrill of Burlington, is charged with aggravated operation without the owner's consent. Police stopped Morrill on Long Meadow Drive after the Saab he was driving had license plates belonging to a 2010 green Subaru Outback. Police say the license plates and Saab were stolen from a location in Williston earlier in the night. The license plates were seized and the vehicle was towed from the scene. Morrill was taken into custody and lodged at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Center on $10,000 bail.

The Vermont Department of Labor says the state's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of 1 percent in February to 3.9 percent - the first time it's been below 4 percent since May 2007. The rate also was as low as unemployment rates reported before the start of the Great Recession. The February rate was down from 4.1 percent in January and 4 percent in February of last year. Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says her department is working with schools and workforce trainers to ensure Vermonters can find good jobs.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 26, 2015

Vermont's Senate is supporting a measure that would ban violent felons from owning firearms. The bill approved yesterday makes it a crime for people with certain violent or drug related convictions to possess a gun. Some in the legislature say the law is repetitive, as federal law already bans felons from possessing guns. However, the bill was proposed because Vermont is the only state without a law mirroring the federal measure.

By a more than 2-1 margin, the Vermont House has defeated a proposal to raise about $12 million in new revenues by increasing income tax rates on Vermont's top earners. The amendment backed by a group of Progressives and Democrats went down by a vote of 98-to-43 as the House prepared to vote today on taxing and spending bills for fiscal 2016.

Governor Peter Shumlin's Chief of Staff Liz Miller is stepping down at the end of the legislative session. Governor Shumlin says Darren Springer, the current Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Service (DPS), will serve as his next chief of staff. Shumlin said, “four and half years and two jobs later, she has decided it is time to leave state government. She has been an amazing Chief of Staff, and while I wish I could keep her around longer. I’m thankful for her dedicated service to me and to Vermont over these past years.”

Vermont officials are calling for the creation of child saving of child savings accounts to help save for higher education. A press release says under the initial legislative proposal, Vermont kids would be able to withdraw funds once they turn 18 or enroll in a post-secondary education including, a college; university; vocational school; or any two or four-year degree program from an accredited educational institution. The money could then only be used for school expenses including, tuition; mandatory fees; books; supplies; and other costs associated with attending school.

Middlebury residents, the Town's contract for curbside recycling pickup with Casella ends on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. As of Wednesday, April 1st, residents will be responsible for having a licensed hauler pick up your recycling. A list of licensed haulers, with descriptions of the services they provide, is available at: http://www.addisoncountyrecycles.org

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 25, 2015

The Vermont Attorney General's Office is filing a lawsuit against Dean Corren for campaign finance violations. According to the office, the violations stem from Corren requesting contributions to his campaign for lieutenant governor in 2014. The requests, with the help of the Vermont Democratic Party (VDP), were allegedly made through an email distribution list of between 16,000 and 19,000 people. Attorney General Bill Sorrell says Corren qualified for public financing for his campaign and received more than $180,000 in campaign finance grants from the state of Vermont. A condition for receiving these grants, is candidates are prohibited from soliciting or receiving contributions.

Some educators are calling for the resignation of the Superintendent David Adams. In front of a packed gymnasium last night in Lincoln, educators from six different districts got together to show disappointment with their leadership. A spokesperson for the Addison Northeast Education Association said, “Based on the AOE competency standards, the Addison Northeast Education Association believes that Superintendent Adams is no longer the right fit for our community, our school, and our kids." A vote of no confidence was held and passed 163 to 1. A community petition is now circulating, calling for Superintendent Adams to step down.

The Rutland City Police Department has started their Park, Walk, and Talk initiative. A press release says the Park, Walk, and Talk initiative is designed to allow officers time to walk designated neighborhoods in the city and make contact with the residents. The department says the goals of the initiative include, allow officers to better get to know the residents in our community; listen to and address any concerns/issues that may be affecting the neighborhood; answer any questions residents may have about the Rutland City Police Department and the current public safety strategies; and provide higher visibility in neighborhoods and at the times when they are experiencing an increase in calls for services.

A county health ranking shows that Vermonters' health varies from region to region. The national county health rankings released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation show Chittenden County is the healthiest county in Vermont, based on length and quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care and the physical environment. Addison County came in second in the Green Mountain State.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 24, 2015

Middlebury Police are confirming a link to accused killer Robert Durst and the case of a teenage girl who vanished in 1971. Durst was operating a health food store in Middlebury at the time Lynne Schulze disappeared. Schulze was an 18-year-old student at Middlebury College when she went missing, and police say the possible Durst link to the case has been known for some time. Durst was arrested in New Orleans last week on unrelated murder charges following comments he made on an HBO documentary.

It looks like the Vermont House is working to keep all four 911 dispatch centers in the state open at least into September. The move will allow the areas where dispatch centers are slated to be closed a little more time to weigh the decision. Governor Peter Shumlin's budget proposal calls for consolidating the four call centers into two in order to save well over one-million-dollars. The plan was approved by the House Appropriations Committee as part of a larger budget bill yesterday.

The Vermont Senate once again has delayed debate on a trimmed-down bill that sets some new restrictions on firearms ownership. The bill includes new authority for state law enforcement officials to prosecute someone for being a felon in possession of a firearm for certain classes of violent felonies. It also includes new provisions for reporting to the federal background check system when someone has been determined by a court to be mentally ill and a danger to himself or herself or others. The bill originally was on the calendar for debate last Thursday, and then today. Now it's set for tomorrow.

Middlebury broke ground on its new office building earlier today. The new home of the town offices is at the former location of the Osborne House. Plans are to demolish the old town office building after the new town offices are built and occupied. Middlebury College plans to build a public park at the site.

Congressman Peter Welch is seeking to end the federal requirement that corn ethanol must be added to gasoline. Welch visited a motorcycle shop in Essex Junction to highlight the destructive effects of ethanol. The owners of Frank's Motorcycles say ethanol causes corrosion and other damage to smaller engines, especially older motorcycles. Welch is proposing a bill that would ban the federal ethanol mandate.

Monday, March 23, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 23, 2015

Brandon Town Manager Robin Bennett has officially resigned from her position. Chairman Doug Bailey said the resignation was effective “in principal” since the Select Board placed Bennett on administrative leave back on March 9. Bennett’s severance package includes a lump sum payment of $12,778.52. Bennett had previously served as town manager in Southwest Harbor, Maine, and in Barre, where she left office after lengthy negotiations in 2006.

Residents in Starksboro will be re-voting on their school budget. Last week a group of residents submitted a petition to the school board. Those who signed the petition were upset disappointed that voters increased the size of the school’s budget from the floor of the annual meeting on February 28. That makes four of the six Addison Northeast Supervisory Union budgets are going back to the voters. The re-vote is tentatively scheduled for May 2.

Vermont, New York, and Quebec renewed their agreement to protect Lake Champlain. A press release says through a memorandum of understanding, the group agrees to share research and information on water quality and conservation, improve flood resilience of communities in the Lake Champlain watershed, protect natural and cultural resources, reduce polluted storm water runoff and blue-green algae blooms, and protect the lake from aquatic invasive species. The partnership is renewed for five years.

Police in Shelburne are trying to locate a missing woman. Seventy-one-year-old Janice Jordan was last seen walking from the Residence at Shelburne bay Friday afternoon. Family members say they have no idea where she was going, and that it's unusual for her to not contact anyone for this much time. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to contact Shelburne police.

A South Burlington police lieutenant is facing charges after being arrested for DUI. Jeffrey Martel was arrested early yesterday after he was involved in a crash on Route-15 in Colchester. His blood alcohol level later tested at point-one-one, which is above the legal limit to drive a vehicle. Martel has been placed on paid administrative leave by the South Burlington police department as the investigation continues.

Friday, March 20, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 20, 2015

Former Rutland City Attorney Christopher Sullivan was found guilty a deadly hit-and-run case. In 2013, 71-year-old Mary Jane Outslay was hit and killed as she crossed Strongs Avenue in Rutland. The next day, Sullivan went to police to say he was the driver who sped away after the collision. Just before 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon jurors returned with their decision. Sullivan was found guilty on both charges of leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence. Sullivan is being held on $500,000 bail pending his sentencing.

The tax-writing committee in the Vermont house has passed a bill that would raise and spend $8.1 million on cleaning up the state's lakes and streams. The move comes in response to a call by Governor Peter Shumlin in his inaugural address to tackle water quality problems, particularly in Lake Champlain and its tributaries. The House Ways and Means Committee is calling for raising the state property transfer tax by one fifth of 1 percent, along with new fees on farms.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families is taking part in a national pilot program that will provide specialized training to food stamp recipients with the goal of helping them move off the program. Vermont will be receiving an $8.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide clinical assessments to hard-to-serve populations including the homeless, ex-offenders and people struggling with addiction to find for them the best education, training and support services.

The Vergennes Union High School Board has put together a two-tiered budget proposal to put before voters on May 5. The original proposed budget the failed on Town Meeting Day was almost $10.5-million. Article one the Ballot, calls for voters to approve a new spending plan that includes about $156,000 cuts. Article two would only take effect if the first article is approved and it is then also backed by a majority of voters. It would restore the $156,000 to the VUHS budget and allow school officials to spend it in the best interest of the students.

The Bristol Elementary School Board is looking for help for voters on a new version of the budget. On Monday, the board will be holding a community form to help get ideas from the public. The forum will take place at 7 pm in the BES cafeteria. The board has also created an online survey that residents can fill out next week. Then on Monday, March 30, the board will convene again to got through all the ideas and start working on a new spending plan.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 18, 2015

A bill that would close two Vermont State Police dispatch centers is not being received well in law enforcement circles. Police, firefighters, dispatchers and others came to the Statehouse yesterday to express their opposition to the cost saving measure. State officials say closing the Rutland and Derby dispatch centers would save the state one-point-seven-million-dollars.

Vehicle Inspections Stations across the state are reporting stolen inspection stickers. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles says over the past 3 months about 500 stickers have been stolen in a dozen separate burglaries at state inspection stations from Georgia to Bethel. DMV officials believe the stickers are being sold illegally for up to $120 to people with vehicles that can't pass a safety inspection.

A bill that would ban Vermont public school teachers from going out on strike is advancing in the state legislature. The House Education Committee approved the bill yesterday. It calls for mediation and fact finding, but no binding arbitration as previously proposed. Teachers say the bill is anti-union and changes the balance of negotiations to favor school boards.

The trial against Christopher Sullivan got underway yesterday morning. The former Rutland City attorney is on trial for a deadly hit-and-run crash. Prosecutors say Christopher Sullivan was driving drunk two years ago when he hit Mary Outslay as the 71-year-old walked across Strongs Avenue. The defense attorney for Sullivan argued that factors such as the weather, Sullivan's state of mind after the crash, and that people who were around Sullivan that night say he didn’t appear intoxicated.

A man and a woman are facing charges accusing them of an armed robbery of a Milton pharmacy. Police say Leroy Hughes of Fairfield and Siobhan Bird of Fairfax robbed the Kinney Drug Store on Monday. The pair allegedly indicated that they had a weapon and escaped with Oxycontin pills. The arrests came yesterday after an investigation by State Police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

This weekend, it’s Maple Weekend in New York. About 160 different maple producers around the Empire State will be showcasing what they’ve got going on along with special demonstrations and events. For a list of all the producers and a map you can visit www.NYMaple.com.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 17, 2015

Governor Peter Shumlin kicked off the 2015 Maple Sugar season by tapping a tree at Slopeside Syrup today. A press release says the governor was joined by Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross and students from Richmond Elementary. In 2014, Vermont produced 42 percent of the nation's syrup. That's twice the amount produced by the next two top states, New York and Maine combined.

Police are asking for the public's help to identify two suspects involved in a burglary this morning at Vermont Coin and Jewelry on Dorset Street. When police arrived on scene, they discovered the front door had been broken. South Burlington Police are looking to locate any potential witnesses and need help identifying the suspects involved. If you have any information you are asked to contact South Burlington Police at 802-846-4111.

The governor says the budget gap isn't getting any better. Earlier today he said we've got a $118 million budget challenge and the state employees are going to have to be part of the solution. The governor wants the State Employees Union to consider pay cuts or he says he will be forced to lay off hundreds of state workers. The governor's budget figure is about $6 million more than previously thought. Tonight, lawmakers will hear from the public about a plan to cut a number of employees who work for the Public Safety Department.

A woman in Rutland is facing multiple charges after police say she tried to shallow heroin at a traffic stop. Sunday night, authorities pulled over 24-year-old Ruth Tenenbaum for using an electronic device while driving. While stopped, she tried unsuccessfully to get rid of a bag of heroin by swallowing it. She was also found in possession of Marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Police say they arrested her after a brief struggle.

If you are going out for drinks today, St. Patrick's Day, think twice before getting behind the wheel. Vermont State Police will have extra patrols out tonight. Troopers will be on the lookout for any impaired drivers. State Police officials are reminding everyone to keep safety in mind. St. Patrick's Day is one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year. Last year, Vermont State Police arrested nine people for DUI.

Monday, March 16, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 16, 2015

The Vermont Legislature will be looking at a new Gun Control bill this week. The original legislation included language calling for background checks on all private gun sales, except those between immediate family members. The new measure requires dangerous mentally ill people to be reported to the federal background check registry and also allows the state to prosecute felons in possession of a firearm. The Senate will be taking up the new bill this week.

Officials are asking fishermen to remove shanties from the ice. The warmer weather means ice fishing season is coming to a close. Vermont State Law says all ice shanties need to be off the ice by March 28th or if the ice becomes unstable, whichever comes first. Officials say pooling water on the ice means the ice is weakening and shanties still on the ice could fall through the thin ice.

Police in Vergennes are still looking for a man who robbed the People’s United Bank on Main Street. According to investigators, the unidentified white male walked into the bank at 2:15 Friday afternoon and showed a knife to the teller. He made off with an undisclosed amount of money. He was last seen on North Maple Street. The suspect is described as being in his late 20’s or early 30’s, 5'5” to 5'6” tall, approximately 180-200 lbs. He was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and a scarf over his face. Please call the Vergennes Police Department if you have any information.

Lawmakers this week will be taking about dispatcher consolidation again. Governor Peter Shumlin has proposed cutting the number of dispatch centers down from 4 to 2, closing the Rutland and Derby Centers. The Governor says it's a way to save about $2 million during a budget crunch. There is a public hearing set for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the statehouse.

The Department of Vermont Fish and Wildlife is looking for volunteers for the “Let’s Go Fish” Program. They are looking for people with a love of fishing to pass along those skills to kids. The volunteer instructors will organize and volunteer at fishing clinics in their communities to teach young people and their families about water ecology while instilling lifelong skills. Instructor training is available for volunteers on March 28 in Castleton and on April 11 at Fish and Wildlife's regional office in Essex Junction.

Friday, March 13, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 13, 2015

A Senate panel has passed rare gun legislation on what's called "crossover"; a deadline day at the Vermont Statehouse. After three hours of discussion this morning, Senate Judiciary voted 5-0 on a bill that bans gun possession for certain violent felons in Vermont. The crime, already a felony under federal law, would be just a misdemeanor under Vermont law. It would allow local prosecutors to charge felons convicted of certain crimes who are found with a gun. The bill passed the committee just in time to have a chance to become law this year. It will go to the Senate floor next. An earlier gun proposal in the Legislature tried to expand gun background checks to private sales. That was not included in this bill.

In an effort to get health care for more Vermonters the House Health Care Committee passed a health reform bill yesterday. The bill is focused around affordability and access. It would increase Vermont Health Connect subsidies for certain customers, increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and improves access to primary care doctors. If passed, the bill will also add 2 new taxes, 0.3% payroll tax on all employers, and 2 cent per oz excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The man charged with killing toddler Dezirae Sheldon is back behind bars. Prosecutors say Dennis Duby was the only one home when his 2-year-old stepdaughter's skull was fractured back in February 2014. Duby maintains his innocence. Pending that trial, state police say Dennis Duby is under a 24-hour curfew. But in January, they were tipped off that the 32-year-old was breaking curfew. Police say Duby was wearing a GPS tracking device. Once investigators were able to get court documents, they arrested him last night.

A man accused of leading police on a 38 mile chase across Vermont this week is a suspect in the theft of an expensive guitar. Police say Thomas Popke walked out of a Burlington music store this week with a guitar valued at 56-hundred-dollars. Popke is accused of leading police on a long chase that ended when he crashed his Porsche into a police cruiser. He's being held without bail.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is calling for better federal enforcement of maple sugar labeling. Leahy says Vermont's maple producers are hurt when products misrepresent that they contain genuine maple syrup. Leahy says in some cases, products such as oatmeal do not contain any maple at all. Leahy is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to take action against companies that engage in these deceptive practices.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 12, 2015

Hundreds of state jobs are on the line as the lawmakers in Montpelier are looking at ways to cut over $10-million in spending. A memo from Administration Secretary Justin Johnson says the state needs to find $10.8 million in the General Fund in labor savings. And if that doesn't happen, Johnson says it translates into roughly 325 jobs. He says depending on the positions and funding, the range would be 150-325 positions to cut statewide. The new fiscal years starts on July 1st.

More information has come to light on the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. Testimony during a recent Public Service Board Meeting revealed that Vermont Gas Systems officials knew last year that the cost of the of the proposed natural gas pipeline through Addison County would cost much more than anticipated. Vermont Gas say they knew about the increasing costs but didn’t want to release the information till they had all the details. While the Public Service Board’s investigation continues crews from Vermont Gas are preparing to resume construction on Phase I of the pipeline once the ground thaws.

A Vermont game warden says an undernourished 1-year-old bear believed to be orphaned has been taken to a sanctuary in New Hampshire to recover. Game Warden Timothy Carey says the caretaker of a home in Wallingford called last week and saw the bear in a tree. The bear was determined to be underweight and smaller than it should be. Carey brought the bear to a place in Lyme, that is a shelter for bears. The bear is being kept in an indoor pen there until he's released into the wild again.

Still awaiting your tax refund from 2011? The IRS says you need to act now or else you'll lose it. By law, taxpayers have just three years to claim their refunds. So if they don't file their 2011 federal returns by April 15th, that refund money goes to the U.S. Treasury. The IRS has about $1 billion in unclaimed refunds.

Just a reminder, property taxes in Middlebury are due by the end of the day on Monday. The town clerk’s office will be open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Late payments will incur an 8% penalty.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 11, 2015

Lawmakers in Montpelier today were once again debating the tax on sugary beverages. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee heard from experts and regular folks on both sides of the issue. The tax would essentially be a 2-cent per ounce tax levied on the seller of the item, not on the purchaser. Proponents of the measure hope that it will drive down consumption. They also hope that some of the funds raised will pay for health reform efforts. Opponents of the measure say there's no conclusive evidence that it will actually have a health effect, given sugary beverages have been dropping in consumption over recent years. They also worry that it would hurt businesses. The tax is estimated to bring in an extra $30-million to the state coffers.

The Vermont State Police announced the formation of a Major Crime Unit within the VSP Criminal Division today. The Major Crime Unit will consist of a group of experienced investigators with the primary responsibilities of investigations of homicide, officer involved shootings, missing persons where foul play is suspected, cold case homicides/missing persons and other complex criminal investigations deemed appropriate. While the concept of a Major Crime Unit is new to Vermont, it is consistent with the operations of other state police agencies and large police departments across the country. Detectives in the Major Crime Unit will receive additional specialized training directly related to the investigation of major crimes.

The Vermont House is sending a bill to the Senate that seeks to increase the use of renewable energy in the state. The measure would require utilities to get 50-percent of their power from renewable sources by 2017. It would then require that 75-percent be renewable energy by 2032. The bill was approved in the House yesterday despite opposition of some Republicans who are concerned it will cause electricity costs to rise.

The Vermont Attorney General's Office reached a settlement with Cary Buck's AAA Accredited Pest Control company. A press release says Buck and the company will pay a $70,000 penalty and he will surrender his pesticide license. A press release says Buck used pesticides not approved for bed bug infestations. He also used approved pesticides at excessive rates. Under the settlement, Buck is not allowed to seek employment at another pesticide application company, and must legally dispose of all pesticides and equipment still in his possession.

A Hinesburg man was arraigned today on multiple charges after police say he hit a cruiser during a high-speed chase. Just before midnight, troopers say they tried to pull over Thomas Popke after he didn't pay for his gas in Vergennes. That's when they say the 36-year-old raced away in a blue Porsche. The chase topped speeds of 90 mph through a handful of towns, covering 38 miles. The chase ended in Hancock when police say Popke tried to avoid spikes they had laid out, and crashed into a cruiser. Popke was arrested after Vermont State Police surrounded his vehicle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 10, 2015

The Brandon Select Board has placed the town’s manager on administrative leave. The decision came following the Select Board meeting last night. Board members entered into a closed-door executive session and proceeded to place Robin Bennett on administrative leave. It is unclear if Bennett’s administrative leave is paid or unpaid.

During some questioning from the the Appropriations Committee today, Vermont's health care reform chief says the cost of the Vermont Health Connect health insurance exchange is projected to grow to nearly $200 million, and he says a key part of the system won't be functional for the foreseeable future. The system still isn't able to enroll employees of small businesses whose employers pay for health coverage. Meanwhile, its duties are scheduled to expand soon to include medium-sized businesses, those with between 50 and 100 employees.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says that if he runs for president, it will be to debate the serious issues facing the country. Sanders is expected to announce soon whether he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for president next year. Sanders says he's not worried about other possible candidates as he considers whether to run. He also dismissed the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton's e-mails, saying it's not a major issue for him.

Vermont State Police have completed their investigation into a trooper suspected of driving under the influence. All their information has been handed over to the attorney general's office. The AG's office is now reviewing those findings. They will decide whether any criminal charges are filed. Trooper Eric Rademacher works out of the Rutland barracks. He is on paid leave. Rademacher has been a trooper for 19 months.

President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Student Aid Bill of Rights. The memo directs the Department of Education and other federal agencies to look for ways to help with loan repayments. One proposal would focus on lenders to provide better customer service and create more repayment options.

Monday, March 9, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 9, 2015

Five School Budgets failed last week during Town Meeting and now those districts are working on new proposals. The Vergennes Union High School board will meet tonight at 6 o’clock in the school library to consider its next move. Its $10.47 million budget proposal lost, 831-718. School Board members in Ferrisburgh will be meeting on Thursday Night at 6 o’clock to start the process of trimming down the budget for next year. And spending proposals for Mount Abraham Union High School, Monkton Central School and Bristol Elementary School were all defeated on Town Meeting Day. The Bristol Elementary board will meet tonight at 5:30 p.m., the Mount Abraham board will meet tomorrow night at 6:30, and the Monkton Central School board will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

A Rutland Police probationary officer is suspended after being arrested for drunk driving. Police say Justin Barrell's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he was pulled over early Saturday morning. Barrell was hired as a probationary officer last fall, and began the full time police academy last month. An internal investigation into Barrell's arrest is now being conducted by Rutland Police.

Former Vermont Governor Ray Keyser passed away at the age of 88. Keyser was elected governor in 1960 and only lasted a single term. The Republican was Vermont's youngest governor when he was elected at the age of 34. When he lost to Democrat Phil Hoff in 1962, it marked the end of more than a century of control of the governor's office by Republicans. He also had the distinction of being the only state governor to be alive 50 years after leaving office.

A new survey indicates that Vermont residents have plenty of state pride. The Movoto real estate blog places Vermont seventh out of the 50 states in measuring state pride. The site used Facebook and determined what percentage of the population of each state liked their home state, and Vermont scored very well. The state atop the pride list is Ohio, while California is 50th and last.

Friday, March 6, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 6, 2015

A suspicious package earlier today closed off part of West Street in Rutland and prompted an evacuation. The area in front of the federal building between Merchants Row and Pine Street was blocked off while bomb sniffing dogs were brought in to investigate the package that the United States Postal Service identified as a suspected explosive device. The dogs and investigators found nothing and the package was deemed harmless. The area was reopened just before 3 o’clock.

The Vermont Supreme Court today upheld an environmental court judge's ruling that a plan to bring F-35 fighter planes to the Burlington International Airport doesn't need a Vermont land use permit. Opponents had appealed the environmental court judge's decision that said F-35s flying from the National Guard base were not subject to Act 250 review because the development served no state purpose. Lawyer Jim Dumont says his clients are disappointed but says they're going forward with their federal lawsuit. The guard is scheduled to get 18 F-35s in 2020.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be among the lawmakers participating in the march in Selma this weekend. The event is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 voting rights marches where peaceful protesters were violently beaten by police. The senator is criticizing Republicans planning to attend the march. He says it's hypocritical for them to march when they are not supporting a bill to update the Voting Rights Act.

A new study shows that Vermont is one of the best states in the country for women to live. The WalletHub survey places Vermont as the third best place for women. The state places first in the country in women's healthcare, and sixth in women's economic and social well being. Minnesota is listed as the best state for women, while Arkansas is at the bottom of the list.

Weekly unemployment claims increased for the second week after a long downtrend. Claims had risen in the late fall and peaked around the holidays and had then fallen back in January. For the week of February 28, 2015, there were 975 new, regular benefit claims for Unemployment Insurance in Vermont. This is an increase of 102 from the previous week's total, and 34 fewer than they were a year ago.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 5, 2015

Across the state 20 school budgets were defeated on Town Meeting Day including 5 budgets in our area. Residents rejected spending plans for Vergennes Union High School and Ferrisburgh Central School in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, and three schools in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union: Mount Abraham Union High School, Monkton Central School and Bristol Elementary School. Meanwhile, the UD-3 School budget of $17,287,008 was approved. The UD-3 School District includes Middlebury, Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.

During a press conference yesterday, Bill Beaney, Head Coach of the Middlebury College Men’s Hockey Team, announced that he was stepping down as Head Coach of the team. Beaney has been with the program for 28 seasons and said he would like to explore some other options in hockey, possibly USA Hockey. His Middlebury teams have won eight NCAA Division III titles, including an NCAA record five in a row between 1995 and 1999. His record at Middlebury stands at 516-184-51. His total coaching record is 602-257-59. He is just one of a dozen NCAA coaches to earn 600 wins, and retires as the career leader in NCAA D-III. Beaney say he will remain with the college as the men’s golf coach, a physical education instructor, a teacher of a winter-term course, and what he called a mentor of other coaches in the Middlebury athletic department.

State Police are continuing to search for a missing Connecticut mother who disappeared during a visit to Vermont in January. More than a dozen police divers braved bitter cold waters yesterday and searched Otter Creek in Cornwall for Denise Hart. The creek is not far from where Hart's vehicle was found on fire, days before she was reported missing. Police wrapped up their search yesterday afternoon without finding any clues.

A Vermont state trooper is under investigation on suspicion of driving under the influence. Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell confirmed today that trooper Eric Rademacher of the Rutland barracks is being investigated. The state says Rademacher was placed on paid leave on Monday. Vermont State Police Director Colonel Tom L'Esperance said the case will be fully investigated by the Vermont State Police and the Vermont Attorney General's office.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 4, 2015

Incumbents faired well on Town Meeting Day while school budgets didn’t do so good. In Bristol, residents passed the town budget and the highway budget but defeated the school budget. In Ferrisburgh, voters also defeated the Ferrisburgh Town School budget while passing the town budget. In Monkton, voters approved the purchase of a truck for the highway department, a $78,000 addition to the Monkton Fire Department, and use a parcel next to the Methodist church for the proposed new town hall. And in Vergennes, residents turned down a proposal to build a children’s park at memorial Park.

A boil water order has been issued for some communities in Crown Point. A press release says the boil water order is in effect for District #1, which includes Main Street from 9N & 22 intersection with Sugar Hill. Residents and business owners in this area are advised to boil all water for drinking and culinary purposes. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and food preparation until further notice. The boil water order was issued following a water main break. Some residents, according to a press release, may be without water until repairs are made.

Dive teams were searching Otter Creek in Cornwall earlier today for the body of a missing woman. 25-year-old Denise Hart was last seen January 25th, leaving a friend's home in Sudbury. The next day, the car she was driving was found on fire. Police suspect foul play, but are still calling this a missing person case. Divers today used sonar and an unmanned underwater robot. Hart is from Hartford, Connecticut, but has connections in Addison and Rutland counties.

Voters in Rutland re-elected Mayor Christopher Louras to a 5th term. Louras fended off challenges yesterday from Board of Aldermen President David Allaire and city resident Kam Johnston. According to the city clerk, Louras received the highest number of votes in all four of the city's wards. Louras received 56.4-percent of the vote; Allaire 40.6-percent; Johnston 3-percent.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 3, 2015

It's Town Meeting Day in Vermont. Many town residents gather to vote on various budgets, special town issues, and other community matters. Residents in Middlebury gathered last night to discuss articles 1 through 6. Today, the polls are open till 7 o’clock tonight at the Municipal Auditorium / Gymnasium in Middlebury to vote by Australian ballot on Article 7, the electing local officials. In Vergennes and Bristol, the polls are open until 7 o’clock tonight. In Ferrisburgh, the Town Budget passed, resident are voting on the school budget today. And in Starksboro, both the Town and School Budgets passed.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife is reminding ice fishers that shanties need to be removed from the ice before it melts. The law requires shanties to be removed before the ice loses its ability to hold the shanty, or by March 29 … whichever comes first. Officials say the law exists to help ensure that shanties don't become a boating hazard and create debris that will wash up on shore. The fine for leaving a shanty behind is up to $1,000. Shanties cannot be left at state fishing access areas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and juvenile justice reformers say New York should stop automatically prosecuting 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. Supporters of the change were at the Capitol today to make their case to lawmakers. They want to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, so all but the most violent 16- and 17-year-old offenders would be handled by the juvenile justice system. New York and North Carolina are the only two states that still automatically treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, even though most offenders of that age face misdemeanor charges.

Police arrested a woman after they say her 4-year-old child was found walking alone, not properly clothed. Police say the child was spotted walking on Crescent street in Rutland at 9 am Monday morning. Police arrested the child's mother, 26-year-old Lena Herchenroder. Police say she left the child home alone while the father was at work. She was charged with Cruelty to Children under 10 by one over 16.

Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings have introduced legislation to dramatically improve access to dental care. The Comprehensive Dental Reform Act would expand dental coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs, filling the gap for the more than 1 in 4 Americans who lack dental insurance. Sanders said, “we have a dental crisis in America. Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford to see a dentist or live in parts of the country where there are no dentists. Because untreated dental problems can have serious health consequences, we must ensure that people have access to care before it’s too late.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

WVTK Local & State News March 2, 2015

It's the traditional Town Meeting Day break, when Vermont lawmakers head home to report to their constituents at annual municipal meetings and rest up for the second half of the legislative session. This year's week off comes after lawmakers made progress on child protection, education, and renewable energy - but are voicing increasing worries about the state budget. This past week, the Senate approved legislation designed to strengthen the state's system for protecting children from abuse and neglect. The legislation follows the deaths of two toddlers last year. Efforts to reform school governance and slow education spending growth reached an early milestone with approval of a bill Thursday by the House Education Committee. And the full House endorsed a renewable energy bill.

A new poll shows support for Governor Peter Shumlin is slipping. VTDigger.org commissioned the Castleton Poll, which found the Governor's approval rating at 43-percent. His disapproval is now at 47-percent. Among Democrats the poll found 62 percent approve of the Governor. But when it comes to independents, support is at 37-percent.

A fire this weekend on Weybridge Street in Middlebury kept crews busy through the overnight, Saturday into Sunday. Six departments from around Addison County responded to the call of an apartment building on fire. Middlebury College said five students escaped that home safely, and the college is now working to find them on-campus housing. Officials say the building is a complete loss. They are still investigating as to what caused the blaze.

Tomorrow is Town Meeting Day. Voters in many Vermont communities will be deciding issues large and small over the next several days during their annual Town Meeting Day votes. Over the years, Town Meeting Day has evolved in some communities to meeting over the weekend while others will vote tonight. Voters will be deciding town and school budgets, electing officials and deciding issues such as whether to buy a new piece of road equipment or appropriate small sums of money for local social organizations. Last year, more than three dozen communities rejected school spending plans.