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Orleans and Essex ranked least healthy counties in Vermont

in Newport/News/Vermont

Orleans_FotorNEWPORT — Vermonters are not equally healthy. According to the 2015 County Health Rankings released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Orleans and Essex counties rank the least healthy counties in the state.

The County Health Rankings shows, county-by-county across the nation, what makes people sick or healthy, and what can be done to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play.

“The counties of Vermont are as unique as each individual Vermonter,” said James Biernat, director of the Newport district office, which covers Orleans County and northern Essex County. “There are economic and accessibility challenges particular to this region that make moving the needle of health outcomes more difficult.”

This year Chittenden County was ranked the healthiest, as measured by length of life, quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care and the physical environment.

The Health Department continues to work to improve the health in the Northeast Kingdom. One such example is that now more employers than ever support breastfeeding in the workplace.

“Our local career center opened its doors to community indoor walking,” Biernat said. “A local store has taken down outside tobacco advertising. A community garden was built and continues to grow. This is public health in the making. These are the steps that lead to healthy Vermonters living in healthy communities.”

[AUDIO] Why is the AnC Bio project on hold and what needs to be done to move forward

in Newport/News/Vermont

NEWPORT — On Sunday, VTDigger broke news that state approval for AnC Bio Vermont was suspended in August. Newport Dispatch News spoke with Patricia Moulton, the secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development on Monday.

In this interview, Moulton explains why the AnC Bio project in Newport is on hold, and what needs to be done for the project to move forward.

911 dispatch center in Derby likely to close within 45 days

in Derby/Newport/News/Vermont

dispatcher1_FotorDERBY — Vermont’s public safety commissioner Keith Flynn told WCAX-TV reporters that the Derby 911 dispatch center will most likely be closing within the next 45 days.

The move is estimated to save the state around $2 million annually, but has come under criticism from lawmakers who fear that fewer dispatchers could cause a public safety issue.

Flynn told WCAX reporters that the consolidation is not going to affect emergency responder service, and the only thing that will change is the service delivery method.

The Professional Firefighters of Vermont (PFFV) disagrees. The union voted at their quarterly membership meeting to support the Vermont State Employees Association in opposing the cuts to the dispatch centers in Derby and Rutland.

“Response times are paramount and the members of the PFFV would hate to see anyone get hurt or killed because of cuts to public safety,” PFFV President Ben O’Brien said. “The longer it takes for responders to get out the door, the longer a fire goes unsuppressed or a medical condition goes untreated.”

The Vermont State Police have already confirmed that tests of the new system are already underway, with some 911 calls coming in to Derby having being rerouted to Williston.

Around 30 people are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the closings in both Derby and Rutland.

Police find 22-year-old St. Johnsbury man dead in Lyndonville

in Lyndonville/Newport/Vermont

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LYNDONVILLE — Polcie say that they recovered the body of a 22-year-old man from the Passumpsic River in Lyndonville. It is believed that the man fell through the ice.

According to a statement issued by the Vermont State Police, Alex Duranleau, of St. Johnsbury, was found deceased after a 45 minute search of the area by the State Police Scuba Team along with members of the Lyndonville and Sheffield-Wheelock Swift Water Rescue Team.

Chief Jack Harris of the Lyndonville Police Department began the investigation on Friday, when Duranleau’s fiancé reported him missing.

The woman told police that the last time she saw him was on Thursday at approximately 4:00 p.m. He had not reported to work or for classes at Lyndon State College.

Police were able to locate Duranleau’s vehicle at the Lyndon Park and Ride on Center Street. Chief Harris conducted a quick search of the area and located fresh foot tracks in the snow leading to the river. A jacket matching the description of one Duranleau was wearing was found in the snow.

Chief Harris requested assistance from the Vermont State Police, and a K-9 unit was deployed to the area. They were able to track Duranleau from his car along the VAST trail and to the river where the K-9 indicated where Duranleau was.

The scene was secured for the night while a team could be brought in during daylight hours.

A search of the river underneath the ice was conducted and Duranleau was located deceased after a 45 minute search.

Police are saying there is nothing at this time to indicate any foul play.

Senator Bernie Sanders to visit Lyndon State College on Monday

in News/Vermont

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LYNDON — The Lyndon State College Student Government Association is sponsoring a student town hall meeting hosted by Vermont’s U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday, February 16. The meeting will take place at noon.

The senator is looking to get student input and perspective on some of the current major issues.

During the meeting, Sanders will give an overview of some of the economic and political challenges facing the country.

In addition, there will be four student panelists on stage who will each speak for two to four minutes on women’s issues, climate change, college affordability, and big money in politics.

The town hall meeting is at noon in the Moore Community Room/ASAC 100. It is free and open to the public.

For more information, call (800) 339-9834 or go to sanders.senate.gov/events.

Ski accident at Q Burke claims life of 27-year-old St. Johnsbury woman

in Burke/News/Vermont

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EAST BURKE — A 27-year-old St. Johnsbury woman has died in a skiing accident at Q Burke Mountain on Friday. The accident took place at around 3:15 p.m.

Police say that the initial investigation indicates the woman exited the groomed portion of a trail on the upper portion of the mountain, where she struck a tree.

A search was initiated when the woman did not meet up with the individual she was skiing with. Q Burke Mountain Ski Patrol was notified at the time, and began searching the trail.

At approximately 5:24 p.m., the search and rescue team was able to locate the woman.

According to a statement issued by police, she was wearing a helmet. An autopsy will be performed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington.

The victim’s name is not being released, pending notification of the family.

Commissioner Flynn to travel to Colorado on marijuana fact-finding mission

in News/Vermont

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NEWPORT — Vermont Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn will travel to Colorado next week to study the effects of marijuana legalization.

“Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana, and we want to see the impacts of that law,” Commissioner Flynn said.

The Commissioner will travel with a delegation that includes Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan and advocates for and against marijuana legalization in Vermont.

“Legalization is being discussed in Vermont and we believe that an on the ground look at how it has been implemented will give us a unique insight into the issue,” Flynn said. “It is important to learn as much as we can about the regulation, the effects on communities, and any other information that will provide policymakers with as much information as possible when considering decision points around this issue.”

The delegation will meet with Governor John Hickenlooper’s staff, the U.S. Attorney in Denver, law enforcement agencies, schools, and drug treatment professionals. They will then tour a marijuana growing facility, visit a marijuana store, and speak with the public.

“The people of Colorado will know best how this has impacted their lives,” Flynn said. “Whether it has or it hasn’t, we can learn a lot from just listening to what people have to say.”

The delegation will include:

Keith Flynn, Commissioner, Vermont Public Safety
TJ Donovan, Chittenden County State’s Attorney
Bill Darrow, Assistant United States Attorney, District of Vermont.
Jake Perkinson, Counsel; Champlain Valley Dispensary.
Mary Alice McKenzie, Executive Director, Burlington Boys & Girls Club
David Mickenberg, Lobbyist, MPP
Bill Young, Executive Director , Maple Leaf Farm Treatment Facility.
Steve Benard, Sheriff, Rutland County, Vermont.
Paul Doucette, Chief of Police, Bennington , Vermont.

Jennifer Barrett was sworn in as Orleans County State's Attorney at the State House on Friday. Photo taken from Facebook.

Barrett sworn in as new Orleans County State’s Attorney

in Newport/News/Vermont
Jennifer Barrett was sworn in as Orleans County State's Attorney at the State House on Friday. Photo by Scott Wheeler.
Jennifer Barrett was sworn in as Orleans County State’s Attorney at the State House on Friday. All photos by Scott Wheeler.

NEWPORT — On Friday Gov. Peter Shumlin administered the oath of office to Jennifer Barrett, the new State’s Attorney for Orleans County. Barrett was one of five new State’s Attorneys sworn in, joining nine State’s Attorneys who have previously served.

A local swearing in ceremony took place on Monday at the Orleans County Superior Court.

“I was blessed to have so many supporters present at the State House today,” Barrett wrote on Facebook. “I am excited to be the next Orleans County State’s Attorney and serve the community.”

State’s Attorneys represent the people of the State of Vermont in criminal court cases ranging from DUI to homicide, in child protection matters, and in family court cases.

“State’s Attorneys enforce our basic social contract – ensuring that crime victims receive justice and that offenders are held accountable for their actions,” said David Cahill, Director of the Department of State’s Attorneys & Sheriffs.

Barrett being sworn in on Monday in Newport. Photo by Scott Wheeler.
Barrett being sworn in on Monday in Newport. Photo by Scott Wheeler.
police chase derby vermont newport
Mug shot of Valentina Velasquez, taken from a prior arrest. Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police.

Velasquez back in Vermont to face charges

in Derby/Derby Line/Newport/Quebec/Sherbrooke/Stanstead/Vermont

police chase derby vermont newport
Mug shot of Valentina Velasquez, taken from a prior arrest. Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police.
DERBY LINE — The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) arrived last week at the Derby Line port of entry with Valentina Velasquez.

Velasquez, the suspect in an attempted armed robbery that took place in Derby, who fled the country and illegally entered Canada without inspection in September, was subject to a Canadian Removal Order due to criminal activity in the province of Quebec.

Before Velasquez entered Canada and failed to present herself to a CBSA office, she is alledged to have attempted to rob the Derby Corner Mini Mart with a rifle, leading police on a high-speed chase on Route 5.

The pursuit ended in Quebec when she lost control of her vehicle and was apprehended by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Sûreté du Québec.

At court in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Velasquez pled guilty and was sentenced to 135 days of prison for offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada and under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

On January 7, after serving her sentence in Canada, she was turned over to U.S. authorities by the CBSA.

Police now say that law enforcement databases indicate that 31-year-old Velasquez has a lengthy criminal record and was the subject of two active arrest warrants outside of Orleans County.

“Active collaboration with our federal, state and international law enforcement partners led to the return of an alleged criminal to face justice in Vermont,” said Kevin W. Weeks, CBP director of Field Operations in Boston. “Protecting public safety is a responsibility that falls on both sides of the international boundary, and CBP is proud to work side by side with our Canadian counterparts, taking dangerous people off the street.”

The charges and allegations contained in criminal complaints are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Sterling College ranked top in nation for healthy, fair, and green college food system

in Craftsbury/Vermont

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CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Sterling College, already known for growing 20 percent of its own food on campus, has been confirmed as the top college in the U.S. that eats food that is local, sustainable, humane, and fair-trade.

This ranking comes from the Real Food Challenge, which surveyed over 160 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

After reviewing all of the food used in the Sterling College kitchen from June 2013 to June 2014, the college found that 76 percent of its food met the real food qualification for production methods. In comparison, the next-highest ranked institution eats only 34 percent real food.

“This is a significant achievement, and it reinforces that our entire community is invested in solving the biggest issues of the 21st century: our food, our water, our air, and our energy,” said President Matthew Derr. “We have one of the first sustainable agriculture programs in the country, and our students are tackling how to redesign the nation’s food system into one that is just, fair, and doesn’t exacerbate climate change.”

He continued, “We are leaps and bounds ahead of other higher education institutions on this issue because of our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and our ecological approach to farming and food systems.”

Students were excited about the findings. Sterling College students work on the on-campus farm and have a significant say in what food is served on campus.

“We keep Sterling special by growing a lot of our own food on campus and by not having vending machines here,” said Jesse Keck. “I was happy to learn that we had raised our real food consumption up from last year’s 73 percent. But being number one in the country shows that we’re not just studying environmental stewardship and sustainable food systems: we’re living it.”

Keck is one of the Food System Analysts for the 2014-15 school year for his Work Program job. “Going forward, we’re going to reach out to the community and see what we can do to improve our numbers even more for next year,” he said.

Simeon Bittman, the Executive Chef for Sterling College, agrees.

“The kitchen at Sterling is different from any kitchen I’ve worked at in my career,” he said. “We produce meals for every dietary need on campus—vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free, and all delicious. Our students are dedicated to making best use of the food we grow right here on campus and from our neighboring farms. There’s a passion for the entire food cycle here, from seedling to compost.”

Sterling’s Garden Manager, Gwyneth Harris, is pleased by the findings, but not terribly surprised. “At Sterling, we examine everything we do in terms of how it might affect the environment, from how we heat and light our campus to what coffee we use in the dining hall,” she said. “We use our campus as a living laboratory to grow our own food, but we also look at how to grow those crops for a changing climate, and how to feed our community in the best way possible.”

The survey also revealed that Sterling College eats 54 percent local food, meaning food that comes from either large farms within a 150 mile radius of campus, or small farms within a 250 mile radius.

Sterling College’s Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems has over 130 acres of farm and garden. Students grow crops, manage livestock, and use both tractors and draft horses to power the farm. The Center also includes an edible forest garden, the Alfond Draft Horse Barn, hoop houses, and a sugar house and sugarbush for maple syrup production.

Sterling College’s kitchen is at the center of the community’s life. All students must complete at least one week of dish chores per semester, student cooks work alongside the professional chefs, and Sterling uses no food service company to put out meals for all of the students, faculty, and staff.

The Real Food Challenge is an annual challenge for colleges and universities to have 20 percent real food on campus by 2020. Its goal is to shift $1 billion in institutional food spending to real food.

A successful year for Vermont turkey hunters

in Outdoors/Vermont

turkey hunting vermont

NEWPORT — According to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, wild turkey hunters had safe and successful spring and fall hunting seasons in 2014.

A total of 6,414 turkeys were taken by hunters during Vermont’s three hunting seasons, which consists of the spring youth hunt, the regular May spring season, and the fall turkey hunt.

Young turkey hunters mentored by experienced hunters took 554 bearded turkeys, which are almost always males, during the youth turkey hunt on the weekend before the regular spring season.

Hunters took 4,628 bearded turkeys in the May 1-31 regular spring turkey season.

Fall turkey hunting during October and November produced 1,232 turkeys of either sex, which was double that of 2013 and one of the highest fall harvests since Vermont’s wild turkey population was restored in the early 1970’s.

“Although the total harvest is less than last year’s record, I am pleased that it is higher than average,” said wild turkey project leader Amy Alfieri. “This year’s harvest number shows that Vermont’s wild turkey population at this time can sustain itself through long, cold winter’s like that of last year.”

Vermont’s wild turkey population is estimated at 45,000 to 60,000 birds.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife also reports that no turkey hunting-related shooting incidents were reported for the fourth consecutive year.

When to seek medical attention when you have flu symptoms

in Newport/News/Vermont

flu season _FotorNEWPORT — The Vermont Department of Health is advising that if you have symptoms of flu and are at increased risk for complications, you should contact your doctor or health care provider.

Those with increased risk for complications include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma.

Flu symptoms include fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and body aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur but are more common among children than adults.

“A health care provider can determine whether influenza testing and treatment are needed and your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs,” said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist for infectious disease. “These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications, especially if they are started within two days of getting sick.”

Flu symptoms can vary from mild to severe. If you get sick with flu symptoms, stay home from work or school and avoid contact with other people. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and cover your mouth every time you cough or sneeze.

Flu viruses spread mainly through droplets through the air when people cough or sneeze. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose.

Actions that everyone can take to stay healthy and keep illness from spreading:

* Wash your hands often and well with soap and water.
* Cover your cough.
* Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
* Keep hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
* Stay home from work, school or public places when you’re sick.

802 Quits offers help to stop smoking

in Vermont

802 quitsNEWPORT — According to a study published in December in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a graphic but effective national media campaign “Tips From Former Smokers,” has resulted in a 12 percent increase in quit attempts nationally.

In 2012, 62 percent of the 81,000 adult Vermonters who smoked attempted to quit.

In part due to the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, calls to the Vermont Quit Line, 800-QUIT-NOW, more than doubled in 2013 compared to previous years. In 2014, the number of coaching calls completed by lower income Vermonters more than doubled over 2013.

Two of the 30-second ads titled “Amanda,” and “Shawn,” are currently airing in Vermont as part of the Health Department’s overall tobacco cessation outreach. Research with Vermont tobacco users also led the Health Department to produce local testimonials, which are airing now along with CDC’s Tips ads.

“Tips From Former Smokers are tough to watch, but evidence shows that they are reaching people who most need our free resources to quit using tobacco,” said Rhonda Williams, chronic disease prevention chief for the Health Department. “We are committed to expanding the reach of these effective CDC ads.”

802Quits provides Vermonters with advice, tips, tools, and stories to help quit tobacco.

You can visit 802Quits.org for resources and information on the four ways to get help, including the Vermont Quit Partners, a team of people in communities devoted to providing support and motivation to help tobacco users throughout the quitting process.

The Tips from Former Smokers campaign marked the first federally funded national mass media antismoking campaign.

Brutal wind chills hammer the NEK

in Newport/News/Vermont

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by Kaitlyn Young

NEWPORT — It’s time to finally pull out those long johns. The National Weather Service is warning of cold temperatures for much of this week. Wind chills will be below-zero at times and could be colder than 20-degrees below zero Wednesday night into Thursday. Those temperatures have the potential to pose a danger to health and property.

Make sure to cover all exposed skin while braving the cold, which can cause frostbite in less then 30 minutes. Let’s not forget about our furry friends out there in the worst of the weather, animals should be brought inside due to the frostbite factor.

Below are some steps to take to keep yourself, your family, your pets, and any elderly or homebound neighbors safe during cold weather. Stay warm and safe.

* Monitor weather reports.

* Be a good neighbor. Check with elderly or disabled relatives, neighbors, and friends to ensure their safety.

* Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also, consider your pets and limit their time outdoors.

* Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

* Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissue that is frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately. Slowly warm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.

* Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care. If medical assistance is not available, slowly warm up the person, body core first, wrapping them in a blanket or using your own body heat. Do not warm the extremities first, for this drives the cold blood towards the heart and can lead to heart failure. Do not give the person alcohol, coffee, tea or any hot food or beverage. Warm liquids are best.

* Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity. If you need information on heating assistance you can call Vermont 211.

* If you lose power or heat and need a safe place to stay call 2-1-1. 2-1-1 can tell you if any warming shelters have been established in your area or connect you with the Red Cross, which can provide safe shelter to those in need.

* Test smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors, and change their batteries regularly. Malfunctioning heating equipment can produce harmful levels of CO, including: fuel-fired furnaces or boilers (nonelectric), space heaters with pilot lights or open flames (for example kerosene heaters, wood stoves, or fireplaces), and gas stoves or ovens – especially those with pilot lights. Cars, snowmobiles, trucks, and other vehicles run in a garage can also be sources of CO poisoning, which can be deadly. Never operate a vehicle or generator indoors; they should only be run be outside and away from the home so CO cannot vent inside living areas.

* If you lose power or heat, try to keep pipes from freezing. Leave cabinet doors around them open to allow as much heat as possible to reach them. Wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water (if available) to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

* Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields scraper and brush, shovel, sand, towrope, and jumper cables.

Derby native tapped for head game warden position

in Derby/News/Outdoors/Vermont

Col. Jason BatchelderDERBY — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has announced that Lt. Jason Batchelder has been named the new director of fish and wildlife law enforcement. Batchelder will begin the role of Colonel this week, filling the position vacated by Col. David LeCours who retired in October.

Batchelder grew up in Derby. He worked for the U.S. Coast Guard in Virginia and Alaska for four years before graduating from the University of Southern Maine in 2001 and from the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council Academy in 2005. He currently lives in Morrisville with his wife and two young children. Batchelder is an avid hunter, angler and runner.

He has been with the department for ten years, working most recently in the Morrisville area, first as a field warden and then as the lieutenant for the northeast district since 2013.

“I am pleased and excited that Lt. Batchelder will be our new head of law enforcement,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. “During his time with the department, Lt. Batchelder has developed a reputation among his co-workers and with the general public of energetically, meticulously, and fairly pursuing fish and wildlife violators.”

Porter also emphasized Batchelder’s knowledge and experience in his selection for the position.

“Lt. Batchelder has a deep understanding of the vital role that law enforcement plays as part of the department’s overall mission,” said Porter. “Lt. Batchelder’s calm, thoughtful demeanor will be an important asset to the department in this position.”

Police believe food allergy to blame for death in Lyndonville Sunday night

in Lyndonville/News/Vermont

ambulanceLYNDONVILLE — Police say they believe that a severe food allergy may have been to blame in the death of a 24-year-old man in Lyndonville on Sunday.

Edward Alfred Horan II, of Hookset, New Hampshire, collapsed at 93 South Street in Lyndonville on Sunday night at around 11:20 p.m. Emergency medical services were dispatched, but Horan was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities are reporting that there was nothing found during the initial investigation to indicate any sort of foul play. It is reported that Horan’s family has informed investigators that he suffered specific food allergies.

So far police believe that Horan may have accidentally ingested some of the food he was severely allergic to, causing a fatal allergic reaction. They have not said what that food may have been.
 
State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations was contacted to conduct an investigation in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, before a formal cause of death can be determined.

Many Vermonters enjoy watching birds at their bird feeders in the winter, but Fish & Wildlife says thoroughly cleaning the feeders once a month will help keep birds healthy.

Vermonters reminded to clean bird feeders

in Outdoors/Vermont
Many Vermonters enjoy watching birds at their bird feeders in the winter, but Fish & Wildlife says thoroughly cleaning the feeders once a month will help keep birds healthy.
Many Vermonters enjoy watching birds at their bird feeders in the winter, but Fish & Wildlife says thoroughly cleaning the feeders once a month will help keep birds healthy.

NEWPORT — Vermont Fish & Wildlife is reminding Vermonters that it’s alright to put out those bird feeders now that Vermont’s black bears are sleeping in their dens for the winter, but, the department is offering some advice about bird feeder cleanliness before you run out and buy that first twenty dollar bag of seed.

Fish & Wildlife says cleaning bird feeders on a regular basis is an important and often overlooked component of feeding birds so they don’t become sick.

“Feeding birds in the winter is a source of great enjoyment for bird enthusiasts, but it can also cause diseases to spread quickly among wild birds,” says John Buck, the state’s lead biologist on migratory birds. “It is critical to clean those birdfeeders at least once a month in order to prevent a buildup of harmful pathogens.”

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can cause diseases such as aspergillosis, salmonella, avian pox, trichomoniasis, and conjunctivitis. Species commonly affected by bird feeder diseases are redpolls, pine siskins, goldfinches, sparrows, and cardinals.

Buck recommends using a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water to kill bacteria. Hot water with unscented dish detergent also does an excellent job. Wear rubber gloves to avoid any contamination. Be sure to clean inside and outside surfaces. Bottle brushes work well in tube feeders.

Be sure to thoroughly rinse your feeders to prevent residual chlorine from being ingested by birds. Then, dry the feeders well before filling them again. Any remaining moisture could lead to mold and mildew that can cause rotten, unhealthy seed.

Also, take time to remove seed and droppings in nearby areas where birds congregate. Birds can spill seed and leave debris several feet away from feeders.

Clean birdfeeders and feeding areas will attract more birds and keep them healthier for birders to enjoy.

Vermont and Quebec police taking part in cross-border training today

in Newport/News/Quebec/Vermont

Derby Line Vermont Stanstead Quebec BorderJAY — Police from Vermont and Quebec are getting to know each other so they’ll be ready in case there’s a major incident or natural disaster along the U.S. – Canadian border.

The Vermont State Police and the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec’s provincial police, are participating in a joint exercise with federal border agencies in an effort to address the unique challenges of policing at the international border. The exercise is being held today and tomorrow at Jay Peak Resort.

At the training participants will get to know their cross-border state, provincial, and federal counterparts, including Royal Canadian Mounted Police, U.S. Border Patrol, Canadian Border Services Agency, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Field Operations.

They will be addressing ways to enhance cooperation and collaboration between their agencies. Training will be conducted today, and tomorrow they will put that training into practice with a practical exercise.

“Our goal is to eliminate the border as a barrier,” Lieutenant Michael Manning, of the Vermont State Police and Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said. “Terrorism, natural disasters and the needs of our respective citizens for public safety services are not restricted to or prevented due to town, county, state, provincial or international borders,”

Law enforcement representatives from New York and Maine will also be in attendance.

“This workshop is an opportunity to engage our state, provincial and federal partners in a series of discussion based exercises in order to address challenges and identify best practices for more effective management of incidents that require multiagency response and to continue to enhance cooperation and collaboration amongst allied public safety agencies,” Manning said.

Photo by Tanya Mueller.

Locals take to curling at Border Curling Club

Players from the Tuesday night league at the Border Curling Club stop to take a group photo. All photos from this dispatch are by Tanya Mueller.
Players from the Tuesday night league at the Border Curling Club stop to take a group photo. All photos from this dispatch are by Tanya Mueller.

BEEBE, QC — Sometimes given the nickname “chess on ice,” curling is a sport that has roots in medieval Scotland, but is most firmly established in Canada, having been brought here by Scottish emigrants.

Located just up the street from the U.S. border, the Border Curling Club in Beebe, Quebec, is the place to go if you want to learn more about this interesting sport. With a membership just about split between 40 percent American and 60 percent Canadian, the club is truly international.

Picture 57So what is curling anyway? Many of us have seen it played on television during the Olympics, but might not fully understand the game.

Curling is a sport where players slide polished granite stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area segmented into four concentric circles, known as the “house.” The stones, also called “rocks,” weigh in at 47 pounds each.

Two teams, each consisting of four players, take turns sliding the rocks across the ice toward the house. Each team has eight rocks. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score, with points scored for the rocks resting closest to the center of the house at the conclusion of each “end,” which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their rocks. A game may consist of ten or eight ends.

The path of the rock can be influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the ice, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the rock. The more they sweep the ice, the more the rock will travel.

It takes a great deal of strategy and teamwork as players work together to choose the ideal path and placement of a rock for each situation.

Picture 56Patricia Vana, from Derby, has been curling for fifteen years. She plays three times a week. Her career teaching French at North County High School fit well with being a member of the curling club. She used to bring groups up to the club to expose them to the French language. For Vana, the Border Curling Club provides a place for neighbors from both sides of the border to come together, and she enjoys that curling is something anyone can do.

“I like the fact that women can play as well as men in this sport,” Vana said. “It provides a physical activity, a mental activity, and it’s extremely social. I like the sweeping because it’s a really good workout, and I love the fact that this is a club where Americans and Canadians can play together.

Paul Bosco, who curls with his wife Elizabeth, is finding his way back to the sport after taking a 25 year hiatus.

Picture 55“I joined this club back in 1979, and I was a member for about five years,” Bosco said. “I took twenty-five years off when I moved out to Jay while I was raising my family, but I’m back now and have been curling here for about six years.”

Bosco also enjoys the way the sport challenges the physical and mental ability of those who play.

“It’s nice because it’s almost like being outdoors, and curling is a game that takes finesse and strategy,” Bosco said. “You have a combination of both physical and mental challenges to face.”

Getting involved in curling is not as difficult as it might seem as a beginner. The Border Curling Club offers clinics and workshops for newbies, and they even have some equipment that you can use while getting started.

“The best thing to do to get involved in curling if you might be interested is to come to one of our free workshops, and give it a try,” said Chris Planetta, who coaches the Stanstead College curling team. “The Friday night mixed league is a time for people to come out and have fun, and is less competitive than the Tuesday night league. On Saturday morning we have a program for kids and teenagers where they can try it out. It’s a lifelong sport.

Picture 59Anyone interested in trying curling can visit one or both of the free upcoming curling workshops:

Wednesday, December 3, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 7, at 1 p.m.

All that is needed is some warm clothing and a clean pair of sneakers. Questions or RSVPs can be sent to Pat at: 802-334-2590 or the club at: 819-868-0651.

You can visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/bordercurling.
They also have a website, located at: http://www.bordercurling.com.

For highlights from Tuesday night, watch the short video below:

Students in the Law Enforcement Response Actions for CBRNE Incidents (LERA) course secure a potential crime scene that may include hazardous materials. Photo courtesy of U.S. FEMA.

Vermont unveils new Disaster Response Vehicles

in News/Vermont
Students in the Law Enforcement Response Actions for CBRNE Incidents (LERA) course secure a potential crime scene that may include hazardous materials. Photo courtesy of U.S. FEMA.
Students in the Law Enforcement Response Actions for CBRNE Incidents (LERA) course secure a potential crime scene that may include hazardous materials. Photo courtesy of U.S. FEMA.

MONTPELIER – The state of Vermont has a new tool at its disposal to assist first responders identify and combat several hazards in the state. The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (VT DEMHS) has taken delivery on two vehicles that will assist in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) monitoring and responding to wildfires.

The trucks will carry specialized equipment for radiological plume tracking and monitoring for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear contaminants, and have the ability to tow other equipment, such as HAZMAT decontamination trailers, to incidents.

“Vermont is not immune from CBRNE incidents and we need to be ready for any such event,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said. “And despite the fact that Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is closing next month, incidents can still occur over the next several years. This vehicle will help in our planning, exercise, and response efforts.”

The vehicles will also allow the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation (VT FPR) to respond to requests from communities to fight wildfires. The response and command trucks are equipped to assist communities with wildfires and other incidents that involve state forestry. These events can include large wind events, invasive insect outbreak, or other natural disaster. The trucks are fully equipped with hose and hand tools, GIS mapping, communications equipment and other assets. These tools also allow the vehicles to assist in Urban Search and Rescue operations.

The vehicles were purchased with federal Homeland Security program grant funds that are intended to support programs and address areas for improvement such as resource gaps for first responders and stakeholders throughout Vermont.

One truck will be housed in the northern part of the state, while the other will be stationed in the south in order to assure a timely response.

One of the new vehicles that was unveiled today in Montpelier.
One of the new vehicles that was unveiled today.

Details and specs:

· Heavy duty ¾ ton truck with towing capacity for fire trailers

· Off-road capable with winch

· High visibility decals with emergency lights

· Utility cap for equipment storage

· Communications that include P25 digital radios and the UHF and VHF National Interoperability channels. These field programmable radios are equipped with onboard computer programming software.

· GIS mapping capability in remote locations. Ability to upload real-time incident mapping data to State Emergency Operations Center or Agency of Natural Resources GIS lab.

· Inventory of wildland firefighting tools and equipment

· Monitoring equipment for CBRNE emergencies.

· Capable of towing communications, DECON mass care/med surge trailers.

Rifle deer season starts Saturday in Vermont

in Newport/News/Vermont

Rifle deer hunting Vermont

NEWPORT — Hunters are gearing up for the start of Vermont’s 16-day rifle deer season that begins November 15 and ends Sunday, November 30.

“Vermont’s pre-hunt deer population is estimated at approximately 135,000 this year with the greatest numbers of deer found in the southwest, east-central, and northwestern regions of the state,” said Deer Project Leader Adam Murkowski.

A hunter may take one buck during this season with at least one antler having two or more points one inch or longer. A point must be one inch or longer from base to tip. The main beam counts as a point, regardless of length.

Spike-antlered deer, mostly yearlings, are protected during this season.

Vermont’s regular hunting licenses, including a November rifle season buck tag and a late season bear tag, for Nov. 15-23, cost only $25 for residents and $100 for nonresidents. Hunters under 18 years of age get a break at $8 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. Licenses are available on Fish & Wildlife’s web site and from license agents statewide.

Hunters are reminded of a new law prohibiting shooting a firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow while on or within 25 feet of the traveled portion of a public highway. An exception is a Class 4 public highway where it is illegal to shoot within the travelled portion. Class 4 roads are designated on town highway maps.

The new law also prohibits shooting a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow, or crossbow over or across the travelled portion of a public highway.

Fish & Wildlife urges hunters to wear a fluorescent orange hat and vest to help maintain Vermont’s very good hunting season safety record.

Hunters who get a deer on opening weekend of rifle season can help Vermont’s deer management program by reporting their deer at one of the biological check stations listed below that will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on November 15 and 16:

Marty’s Sports & Gunsmithing, Inc. – Bennington
Jericho General Store – Jericho
St. Marie’s, Inc. – Swanton
Wright’s Enterprises – Newport
Keith’s Country Store, Inc. – Pittsford
R&L Archery – Barre
Guilford Country Store – Guilford

Photo courtesy of 350Vermont.org.

Tar sands oil talk to be held at Lyndon State College

in News/Vermont
Photo courtesy of 350Vermont.org.
Photo courtesy of 350Vermont.org.

LYNDONVILLE — The Lyndon State Psychology and Human Services department will be hosting an event, “The People versus Big Oil: How Local Democracy Stood up to the Fossil Fuel Industry,” on November 19, at 6:00 p.m. in the Moore Community Room at Lyndon State College.

This event will provide critical information about the Montreal-Portland oil pipeline which passes through the Northeast Kingdom, and the threat that would be presented to our communities if the pipeline carries tar sands in the future.

The Portland-Montreal Pipeline runs through a number of our local watersheds including the Missisquoi River, Black River, Barton River, Passumpsic River, Upper Connecticut River, Clyde River, and Lamoille River. The pipeline also travels through the following towns in the Northeast Kingdom: North Troy, Jay, Newport, Irasburg, Barton, Burke, Sutton, Victory, Lunenberg, and Guildhall. These towns and watersheds could be at risk if leaks or seepage from the pipeline occurred.

In addition, members of Maine’s Protect South Portland’s project will discuss the passage of their “Clear Skies Ordinance” and the powerful and successful grassroots efforts to stop the flow of tar sands into Portland. Featured speakers include Bob Klotz of 350 Maine, Eben Rose of Protect South Portland, KC Whiteley, 350 Vermont board member and a VT delegate to the Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, and Jade Walker from 350 Vermont.

Tar sands oil, or bitumen, is an almost solid substance that is a combination of sand, clay, water, and bitumen. It is a thick, heavy oil that needs thinning in order to be transported. After it’s mined or drilled from the earth, by pumping steam and chemicals into the ground, the bitumen is blended with natural gas liquids or other light petroleum products that contain the carcinogens benzene, toluene, and xylene.

Due to the corrosive nature of the tar sands and chemicals used in the extraction process, there is a higher risk of eroding the transport pipe liners which could lead to leaks resulting in significant environmental damage.

Tar sands transported through the United States by way of pipelines from Canada have had leaks in the past. In July, 2010 a tar sands oil pipeline in Kalamazoo, MI burst and poured 877,000 gallons of tar sands oil into 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River. After over one billion dollars in clean-up costs to Enbridge Energy the river is still unsafe.

Photo by Tanya Mueller on the Derby Bike Path.

Scenes from Orleans County Fall Foliage 2014

in Arts and Entertainment/Vermont

orleans county vermont fall foliageAs we brace ourselves for another winter, we take time to look back on the brilliant show of color nature presented us this fall foliage season in Orleans County. From bright yellows to vibrant reds, the leaves transformed, showing their rich and vibrant hues.

At the beginning of the season, Newport Dispatch News asked our readers to send us their best foliage pictures. The collection of photos we received captured the area in all its fall glory.

As Orleans County turns white over the next months, we are reminded that no matter what the color of the landscape, we live in a beautiful world.

We would like to thank all our readers who sent in these photos, helping us to document a beautiful fall 2014 in Orleans County.

Photo by Tanya Mueller in Derby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Derby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller.
Photo by Tanya Mueller.
Photo by Bob Minnie in Newport.
Photo by Bob Minnie in Newport.
Photo by Tanya Mueller  in Derby Line.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Derby Line.
Photo by Laura Comtois Lawson in Derby.
Photo by Laura Comtois Lawson in Derby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller at Lake Willoughby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller at Lake Willoughby.
Alison Jeanpierre.
Photo by Alison Jeanpierre.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Newport.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Newport.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Irasburg.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Irasburg.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Stacie Lynn Greenwood in Derby.
Stacie Lynn Greenwood in Derby.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Bryan Marovich in Westmore.
Photo by Bryan Marovich in Westmore.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Greensboro.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Greensboro.
Photo by Becky Deyo on Rt. 100.
Photo by Becky Deyo on Rt. 100.
Photo by Tanya Mueller  in Westmore.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Westmore.
Photo by Maureen Gentile Profera.
Photo by Maureen Gentile Profera.
Photo by Michelle Letourneau on the Bike Path in Derby.
Photo by Michelle Letourneau on the Bike Path in Derby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Photo by Shirley Davis in Derby.
Photo by Shirley Davis in Derby.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Shirley Davis in West Charleston.
Photo by Shirley Davis in West Charleston.
Photo by Tanya Mueller at Lake Willoughby.
Photo by Tanya Mueller at Lake Willoughby.
Photo by Patricia Przybylinski in West Charleston.
Photo by Patricia Przybylinski in West Charleston.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood in Troy.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood in Troy.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Kaitlyn Young.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Newport.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Newport.
Photo by Shirley Davis  in Derby.
Photo by Shirley Davis in Derby.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood in Troy.
Photo by Dawn Greenwood in Troy.
Photo by Amanda Burdick in Jay Peak.
Photo by Amanda Burdick in Jay Peak.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Newport.
Photo by Alain De La Bruere in Newport.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Derby/Newport.
Photo by Coleen Cole in Derby/Newport.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Photo by Tanya Mueller in Holland.
Photo by Tanya Mueller on the Derby Bike Path.
Photo by Tanya Mueller on the Derby Bike Path.

Local election results for Orleans County

in News/Vermont

resultsNEWPORT — An election season that saw some of the fiercest campaigning for State’s Attorney in recent local history, came to an end last night.

Jennifer Barrett came out on top of the hotly contested race, winning over 1,500 more votes than James Lillicrap.

We’d like to congratulate all candidates for their hard work, and for running honest and respectful campaigns, free from the negativity that has started to turn people away from politics. The Northeast Kingdom should be proud that our politicians have proven to be competitive, but respectful toward each other.

A list of the results from other major local races are listed below:

States attorney Orleans County Vermont

state rep 1

state representative orleans 2

state rep orleans cald

state senator

assistant jugde

sheriff

Kevin Rice, of Pomfret, with this record moose bull taken with a bow and arrow on Oct. 1, 2014.

A successful season for Vermont moose hunters

in Outdoors/Vermont
Kevin Rice, of Pomfret, with this record moose bull taken with a bow and arrow on Oct. 1, 2014.
Kevin Rice, of Pomfret, with this record moose bull taken with a bow and arrow on Oct. 1, 2014.

NEWPORT — According to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, Vermont moose hunters had a successful hunting season this year. A record bull was taken in the October 1-7 archery moose hunt. The regular moose hunting season was October 18-23.

“A preliminary count shows that by October 28 the department had received official reports of 22 moose being taken by 54 hunters in the archery season, and 147 moose taken by 289 hunters in the regular season,” said Cedric Alexander, Vermont’s moose project leader. He said a few additional reports may still be sent in from other reporting agents.

“Vermont’s moose population is being managed scientifically, according to a plan developed on sound wildlife biology and input from the public,” said Alexander. “The overall regular season hunter success rate reported to date is 51 percent, down slightly from 54 percent last year.”

Hunters in northern Vermont enjoyed higher success rates, ranging from 68 to 72 percent in Wildlife Management Units in Lamoille, Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex Counties. Hunters in central and southern Vermont had lower success rates.

Of note, for the second year in a row, biologists who surveyed for winter tick larva on harvested moose found them much reduced. Tick loads were 41 percent lower than last year, perhaps due to a late snowpack last April. These reduced loads should help moose come through this next winter in better shape than in previous years.

After applying for more than 22 years, Kevin Rice of South Pomfret, finally received a moose permit and maximized his rare opportunity to harvest a moose. Using his hunting knife and black spray paint, Rice fashioned a cardboard cow moose decoy from a refrigerator carton.

On opening morning of the archery season Rice and his hunting partner, Steve Schaefer, of Hartford, tried using a moose call with no luck. But later that morning a huge bull moose Rice had previously seen while scouting saw the decoy and came running straight in.

“He was swaying his antlers from side to side, grunting and drooling,” said Rice, who stood up and drew his bow when the moose was 15 yards away. “He kept coming, anyway,” Rice remembers. “My opportunity for a good shot came when he was just seven yards away.”

The dressed moose weighed 919 lbs. with an antler spread of 52 inches and was easily the largest bull moose ever taken in a Vermont archery season and the 15th biggest of all moose taken since moose hunting started in 1993.

“All the effort was worth it,” said Rice. “We have a freezer full of delicious moose meat, and it truly was a hunt of a lifetime.”

A final report on Vermont’s moose hunting season will be available in January when all of the 2014 data has been received and reviewed.

Newport Dispatch News celebrates one year up and running

in Newport/News/Vermont

Newport Dispatch News

It all started in Derby Line last October. I was driving in my 1991 Saab, coming across the border on Route 5, when I heard Native American drumming. As I pulled into Irving, I saw a group of protesters gathered outside, banging drums and holding up signs saying “We stand with the Mi’kmaq Nation.” They were protesting against fracture drilling on Mi’kmaq lands up in Canada.

I had just started Newport Dispatch News, and was wondering earlier that day what my first story was going to be. As I filled up my tank, it was obvious that the story was right there. I approached the group and interviewed Melody Nunn, one of the demonstrators. That was October 20, 2013. I drove home eager to post the story up on the site.

Fast forward exactly one year to October 20, 2014. I’m about to post the 530th article at Newport Dispatch News, and it’s a story about a car accident on I-91. Two cars flipped early in the morning, and both drivers were taken to the hospital. One of those drivers was Melody Nunn.

It’s been an interesting ride, and a memorable first year. I’m not one to boast, but I am very proud of all that Newport Dispatch News has achieved.

In one year we have posted 530 stories, that have been served to 78,950 unique readers, totaling 326,828 pageviews. We have grown from an audience of a handful of early supporters, to over 19,000 unique readers in the last 30 days.

Our last 30 days:

30 Day Web Traffic

One year:

Picture 41

Our goal was to bring FREE local online news to Orleans County. In this first year, we have not only brought our local news to the people of Orleans County, but to the world. Our news has reached just about every country across the globe.

Below is a chart of our worldwide audience tracked through Google Analytics:

Picture 40

We have also reached every state and province in the U.S. and Canada:

Picture 43

Picture 44

We still receive about 90 percent of our audience from within Orleans County, and for that we are very thankful to all of our local readers. You have helped us grow this first year through word-of-mouth, and sharing our stories across social media. Our articles have been debated on Facebook, and some very useful discussions have come about through these social comments. We thank you all for your participation.

In the next year our goal is to continue to grow our audience. We also have plans to do more video news stories, and kick things up a notch.

We sincerely thank you all for your support.

Bryan Marovich
Publisher
Newport Dispatch News

Local social enterprise looking for support

in Newport/Vermont

cornucopia newport vermont

NEWPORT — The Northeast Kingdom has the highest poverty rates in the state and a population where nearly one in five residents is age 65 or older. Cornucopia, a social enterprise launched last year by nonprofit social justice organization Umbrella, addresses two of our region’s most pressing problems, hunger and unemployment, through creativity, empowerment, and community collaboration.

Their mission is to expand transitional job skills for women in culinary arts, and bring fresh, local food to seniors. They are currently looking to raise the necessary funds to grow the project.

Cornucopia trains women who are in transition, whether this is from an abusive relationship, reentry after incarceration, or recovery from addiction. The women in the program have all experienced trauma that undermines their ability to develop and maintain work relationships, which in turn limits their ability to lead safe, self-directed lives.

Cornucopia provides a supportive work training experience that builds confidence and marketable job skills in the culinary arts and hospitality field. Trainees are also giving back to their community by preparing more than 600 meals per week for older people receiving Meals-on-Wheels and attending the weekly meal site.

With just 19 days left in their fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, Cornucopia is reaching out to the community and looking to raise money to continue their efforts. The results from their first year prove that the program works.

Fifteen women participated in the 17 week job skills and economic empowerment program, serving 21,500 warm and healthy meals to 120 older adults in the Northeast Kingdom.

Cornucopia’s launch last year encountered a number of obstacles. Just two weeks before they began to cook Meals on Wheels, their kitchen fell through. They launched anyway, thanks to the generosity of community partners like the Newport City Fire Department and United Church of Newport, who let them use their kitchens while they found a place of our own.

The program has its own space now, and have more than doubled the number of meals they provide to the community. But that rough start left them needing to raise money to continue the program.

If you would like to donate, or to learn more, visit their IndieGoGo page at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cornucopia-nourishing-hearts-minds-and-bodies#home

Local FairPoint workers forming a picket line along Route 5 in Derby.

Local FairPoint workers take to the streets

in Derby/Newport/News/Vermont
Local FairPoint workers form a picket line along Route 5 in Derby on Wednesday.
Local FairPoint workers form a picket line along Route 5 in Derby on Wednesday.

NEWPORT — Local FairPoint workers took to the streets in Newport and Derby this week, after going on strike as of 12:01 a.m., October 17. Workers have gathered holding picket signs outside Orleans County Courthouse in Newport, and along Route 5 in Derby.

A union spokesman said that all members are joining in the strike and none have crossed the picket line.

Starting Friday, about 1,700 workers in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine went on strike. The main issues behind the strike are recent benefit cuts and a pension freeze. The union has also filed an unfair labor practice complaint against FairPoint, saying that the company has bargained in bad faith and illegally imposed terms and conditions without having reached impasse.

Talking with protesters who faced the cold and rainy conditions to get their message out throughout the week, most feel that the company wants to turn solid, middle-class jobs into low wage temporary jobs.

“FairPoint CEO, Paul Sunu, gets millions of dollars a year in bonuses, and they want us to take it in the shorts,” a protester in Derby said on Wednesday. “It’s wrong, and it should not be that way.”

Fairpoint Workers protest in Newport VermontFairPoint recently renewed its employment agreement with Sunu for three years. According to an SEC filing, he receives an annual base salary of $800,000. His target level bonus under the annual incentive plan is 100 percent of the base salary, and is eligible for a maximum bonus of up to 150 percent of his base salary.

In 2012, Sunu earned $4.2 million in total compensation. Other forms of compensation in 2012 included a $157,220 bonus, $1 million in stock options, $2.2 million awarded as stock and $103,783 from other types of compensation.

Bargaining began on April 25, with the collective bargaining agreements expiring on August 2. In July, union members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if union leaders decided to take that action.

According to a statement issued by union members, FairPoint began recruiting replacement workers in case of a lockout or strike, housing replacement workers all over the region, including in the hotel where negotiations were going on, until union bargainers protested.

The statement goes on the say:

When FairPoint took over Verizon’s landline business here, they made a lot of promises. They claimed they would bring more jobs to our region. Instead they’ve cut hundreds of jobs.

Chris Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, said he is concerned about the quality of service FairPoint can provide with the company’s employees on strike.

The Vermont Department of Public Service has already sent a letter of concern about service quality to FairPoint before the strike began, and reminded the company that it needed to provide regular updates on service quality.

Record season for Vermont tourism

in Outdoors/Vermont

10735954_10202563030229420_988105259_n

NEWPORT – Great weather, targeted advertising, and more than $300,000 focused on the fall season alone, prompted a strong summer and foliage tourism season in Vermont. More than 4 million people visited Vermont this summer from around the world, and the early reports regarding foliage visitors has been promising. In addition, the Department of Tourism and Marketing is fine-tuning a $350,000 winter ad campaign to ensure this ski and snowboard season gets off to a strong start.

“Columbus Day holiday weekend is the busiest of the year in Vermont, with visitors heading to hiking trails, inns and lodges, museums, restaurants and other attractions across the entire state,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said. “Given the importance of this industry to Vermont’s economy and job creation, I’m thrilled we’ve had such a strong year, and committed to doing what it takes to ensure visitors across the globe know how much Vermont has to offer.”

Fall accounts for $460 million in tourism spending, just over 25 percent of Vermont’s annual spending by visitors. The state sees approximately 3.57 million visitors in fall, who spend $128 per person. Fall is the season that universally canvasses the state with tourism. The economic impact reaches well beyond resort areas, major attractions or the cities, with back road and small town touring being on most travelers’ to-do lists.

Gov. Shumlin noted that the state committed $310,000 to an advertising campaign designed to bring visitors from New York and Boston. More than 2.7 million tourists travel from New York and Massachusetts annually to Vermont, bringing to $370 million the annual spending by visitors. Included in the advertising package is an editorial, print and digital campaign, as well as broad marketing.

Vermont saw a healthy summer tourism season, as well. With tax revenue for meals and rooms collected during September up 6.9 percent over last year – and up 5.16 percent for the three months of the fiscal year to date – the hospitality/recreation sector has clearly enjoyed a strong summer season. The room sales (essentially hotel/inn/lodge stays) were up 11.2 percent for the second quarter (April through June).

State Park visitation will easily surpass 950,000 this year, hitting 946,000 as of October 6, an increase of 8 percent. This is the highest visit count since 1989. The numbers roughly break down to 400,000 camping (184,000 residents/216,000 visitors), and 550,000 day use visits (450,000 residents/100,000 visitors).

Outdoor recreation activity generates $2.5 billion in Vermont retail sales and services (12 percent of gross state product) annually. That sector alone results in $753 million in salaries and wages for 34,000 jobs – and $176 million in state tax revenue.

974699_10202563035549553_217438811_n“Our working landscape, healthy forests and favorable weather have combined for another spectacular Vermont foliage season,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “With visitors and veteran observers alike calling this the best – most vibrant and extended – foliage season in memory, we are enjoying a strong finish to an exceptional summer and fall season for our parks and for outdoor recreation throughout the state.”

Although specifics are still being worked out, the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing has budgeted $350,000 for winter advertising. In addition, the state is collaborating with Ski Vermont, Cabot and the Burlington International Airport to increase this budget with partnered media purchases in Boston, New York, Toronto and Quebec. This year’s campaign will get a jump start by beginning earlier than in past years. Typical advertising campaigns begin post-holiday, however this year the Department is launching Vermont’s winter advertising campaign immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the 2013-14 season, Vermont ski areas logged over 4.5 million visits, nearly matching the most skiers and riders ever seen in the state’s history. Those visits translate into over $700 million in direct spending throughout the season, with over two-thirds of those expenditures occurring off-mountain throughout Vermont’s villages and towns. The resorts themselves spend over $250 million with nearly 3,000 Vermont businesses for the goods and services they need to run their resorts, and significantly supporting the creation of over 34,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry.

“As Vermont’s legendary leaves turn to snow, we can’t wait to start spinning the lifts after last year’s near-record season,” said Ski Vermont president Parker Riehle. “Vermont remains the top ski state in the east and the third-biggest in the country and we couldn’t be more proud of being an iconic cornerstone of Vermont’s critically important tourism economy. This season, we are excited to once again be offering the 5th Grade Passport Program which provides free skiing for 5th graders throughout the season at all alpine and Nordic ski areas.”

Finally, the Tourism booth at the Vermont Building at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., was staffed by more than 50 volunteers representing Vermont businesses, lodging establishments, attractions and chambers of commerce. The 17-day fair welcomed 1,498,605 visitors, which is a new record.

Vermont innkeepers participating in the department’s annual survey of lodging establishments consistently report that around 5 percent of their guests are visitors from overseas. Vermont’s inquiry data from information requests from overseas – not Canada – indicates the following ranking for the top 20 countries: Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Spain, Brazil, Italy, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Algeria, Israel, India, Austria, Russia, Ireland, Belgium, Argentina, Morocco, New Zealand, and Sweden.

“Vermont’s tourism economy continues to gain momentum year after year as development in our sector continues to grow,” said Megan Smith, Commissioner of Tourism and Marketing. “Investments in Vermont’s infrastructure and tourism facilities have helped to support this growth. Vermont’s strong reputation for outdoor recreation, unparalleled beauty and an unspoiled landscape have contributed to our strong tourism economy. It’s important that we keep these attributes in mind as our industry grows.”

Nancy Hill of Greensboro elected to Vermont Historical Society Board

in Greensboro/News/Vermont

GREENSBORO — The Vermont Historical Society elected Nancy Hill of Greensboro for a three-year term on its Board of Trustees at the organization’s annual meeting on September 27.

Nancy is a native of Greensboro and a graduate of the University of Vermont. She is active with the Greensboro Historical Society and facilitated their acquisition of a collection documenting the Hill family of Greensboro that had been assembled by her late husband, Lewis Hill.

She also is engaged with environmental issues in her community, working as a commissioner for the District 7 Environmental Commission and serving as a founder of the Greensboro Land Trust.

Nancy is currently married to Clive Gray, who is also involved in many community activities in Greensboro 7.

The Vermont Historical Society preserves the past, informs the present and promotes Vermont’s shared legacy for future generations. Their mission is to reach a broad audience through their outstanding collections, statewide outreach, and dynamic programming.

Two charged with murder in Hardwick after allegedly putting alcohol in disabled child’s IV bag

in News/Vermont

Hardwick Vermont homicide
HARDWICK — A mother of a 13-year-old boy who died on August 22, and her boyfriend, were arrested in Hardwick today and charged with second degree murder, after allegedly putting alcohol in the IV bag of the woman’s physically handicapped son.

On August 22, police received a 911 call from the residence of Melissa Robitille and Walter Richter III, in the village of Hardwick, reporting a deceased 13 year old male. Officers were dispatched to the location, and upon arrival emergency medical personnel verified that the child was deceased.

Authorities initiated an investigation, and learned that the caller, Melissa Robitille, discovered her son, Isaac Robitille, deceased that morning. Investigators also learned that Isaac was born with significant medical conditions, including multiple physical handicaps that required the assistance of caretakers, feeding tubes, and IVs to keep him alive.

As part of the death investigation an autopsy was done to determine the cause and manner of death. Awaiting the final autopsy report and toxicology, the Hardwick Police Department along with detectives of the Vermont State Police continued to investigate the case.

The toxicology report came back on September 5, indicated that Isaac’s blood alcohol concentration was .146 percent. The medical examiner reported the cause of death as “Semi-Lobar Holoprosencephaly with a contributory cause of death as Alcohol” and the manner of death as “Homicide”.

Through the course of the on-going investigation, it was learned that Isaac’s mother and her boyfriend put alcohol in Isaac’s IV bag and administered it to him, ultimately becoming the contributory cause of Isaac’s death.

Robitille and Richter were arrested today and are both facing 2nd degree murder charges.

Vermonters reminded to get what you pay for when heating your home

in News/Vermont

Picture 15

NEWPORT — As the nights grow colder, the Agency of Agriculture’s Consumer Protection Division is reminding Vermonters to takes steps to ensure they “get what they pay for” when heating their homes.

“With winter approaching, it’s important for Vermonters to know there are rules in place to govern transactions related to fuel and firewood,” Henry Marckres, Chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the Agency of Agriculture, said.

Whether you use fuel oil, kerosene, propane, or firewood, the Agency would like to share the following guidelines to help ensure the fuel you buy measures up:

Fuel

Any delivery of heating fuel requires an invoice be left, unless an agreement has been reached previously between buyer and seller to invoice at a later date. When you receive a delivery of fuel oil, kerosene or propane, the invoice should include the following information: the name and address of the dealer, name and address of the customer, date of delivery, the type of fuel delivered, price per gallon and the gallons delivered. Propane deliveries should also state that the volume delivered was adjusted for temperature. The gallons delivered must be printed by the meter register mounted on the delivery vehicle. Consumer Protection specialists annually test these meters and registers to assure accuracy.

Firewood

Firewood deliveries must also provide the customer with an invoice with the dealers name and address, customers name and address, date of delivery, number of cords delivered, price per cord and total price, and the type of wood (maple, etc.). Firewood must be sold by the cord, and terms such as “rack, facecord, or truckload” are illegal. A cord of firewood must equal 128 cubic feet. When you purchase firewood, the Agency recommends you pile it as soon as possible to determine if you have received the agreed upon amount.

If you have any questions on purchases of heating fuel, or if you feel that you have not received what you have paid for, contact the Consumer Protection Section of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at 802-828-2426.

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