Current News

by tim

Senate leadership today recommended over $14 million worth of savings in labor costs. The Senate is opposed to Governor Douglas proposal to lay off an additional three hundred and twenty employees and asks the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) and the Douglas Administration to move forward with negotiations. Senate leadership has put forward the recommendations to the VSEA and the Administration and urges them to move forward with their negotiations. The Senate's recommendations include ten ongoing furlough days, freezing the cost-of-living increase and individual step increases in pay, cutting five media related administration positions, cutting private contracts and more. The full proposal is attached to this email.

by tim

Governor Jim Douglas announced today that up to $6 million dollars in lower-rate operating loans will be made available through VEDA for farmers struggling during the economic downturn.
The loans, provided through State Fiscal Stabilization Funds in the Recovery Act, will provide working capital to farmers as they enter the busy planting season in the midst of a national credit squeeze. Volatile energy and commodity prices have caused further concern for the agricultural community in recent months.
The Governor, joined by legislative leaders, praised the collaborative work of VEDA leadership and members of the House and Senate agricultural committees.
Farms and farm suppliers are a vital part of Vermont s economy and heritage, the Governor said, I m pleased that we were able to make these funds available so that we can continue to preserve our working landscape.

by tim

Camels Hump Middle School is well on its way to hosting a $500,000 solar installation that could serve as a statewide model for power generation and renewable energy education. Thanks in large part to federal funding secured by Senator Sanders and grants from the state's Clean Energy Development Fund and Green Mountain Power, the Chittenden East school district will convert the roof of the 37 year-old school into a 72kW solar array.
"In 1992, we were one of the first schools in Vermont to convert to biomass heating," said Chittenden East superintendent Jim Massingham. "We are looking forward to taking this next step in showing the way to greater efficiency and hope that our project will help make it easier for other schools to make the best use of their resources. Having a system like this operational on our campus will also provide an invaluable educational resource for our students."

by tim

The state of Vermont continues to have the lowest foreclosure rate in the country, according to a national rating firm. RealtyTrac(R)(http://www.realtytrac.com), the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report(TM) for Q1 2009, which shows that foreclosure filings -- default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions -- were reported on 803,489 properties in the first quarter, a 9 percent increase from the previous quarter and an increase of nearly 24 percent from Q1 2008. One in every 159 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter.
Foreclosure filings were reported on 341,180 properties in March, a 17 percent increase from the previous month and a 46 percent increase from March 2008. The March and Q1 2009 totals were the highest monthly and quarterly totals since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in January 2005

by tim

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will today be holding two public sessions to discuss the criteria by which it awarded the Vermont Yankee power plant its highest rating green. In its Annual Assessment Letter dated March 4, 2009, the NRC said that overall, Vermont Yankee operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety and fully met all cornerstone objectives.
Brad Ferland, President of the Vermont Energy Partnership, which is comprised of over 90 business, labor, and community leaders, today issued the following statement regarding the NRC annual safety performance assessment report. The Partnership believes Vermont Yankee s continued operation is important for ensuring the state has a reliable and clean electricity supply so that the state s economy can recover and grow.

by tim

The Vermont House gave final approval April 15 to legislation that will significantly increase the number of wetlands nature s water filters that will be protected under Vermont law.
The bill, H.447, will require inaccurate state wetlands maps to be updated and also mandate better protections for wetlands.
This legislation shows what Vermonters with widely divergent interests can accomplish when they sit down, roll up their sleeves and focus on what s good for Vermont s natural resources over the long haul, said Kim Greenwood, staff scientist for the Vermont Natural Resources Council. All parties here have made compromises for the greater good of improving the regulation of our wetlands, Greenwood said.

by tim

US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today announced Ascension Technology Corporation (Milton, VT) has been awarded a $2,359,000 USAF contract for additional development of its phasorBIRDTM optical tracker. phasorBIRD instantly tracks a pilot's head movements (using emitters on a helmet or headset) for target acquisition and reception of mission-critical information.
Under the direction of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Ascension will focus R&D on both military and commercial applications of the tracking technology. The program will continue work, enabling phasorBIRD to meet rigorous flight safety, logistical support, and performance demands of new tactical aircraft. It will also jumpstart development of cost-effective phasorBIRD variants for use in commercial aircraft, flight simulators, virtual reality, and medical devices.

by tim

Burlington-based Blodgett Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial ovens, continues to expand its US presence through a new partnership with KFC. Blodgett will provide energy efficient ovens to over 5,000 KFC restaurants across the country to make KFC’s new Kentucky Grilled Chicken (KGC) product. With annual sales already over $71 million, and employing 160 local workers, Blodgett’s new deal with KFC is expected create more local jobs, according to information provided by the company.

by tim

The Board of Directors of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) has appointed Diane Leach interim president of the Association. The appointment will become effective upon Molly Lambert's departure from the organization. Lambert has been recommended by Senator Patrick Leahy for appointment by President Obama as State Director for Rural Development for Vermont and New Hampshire.
In announcing Leach's interim appointment, Chair of the Board Michael Bemi, stated, "Diane's 20+ years with the VCIA, her outstanding service to the Association and her deep understanding of the captive insurance industry make her the perfect interim leader." Leach is a resident of Stowe, VT and has held the position of Director of Education and Program Planning for well over a decade. She was the first staff person of the VCIA when she joined the organization in 1988.

by tim

The economist contracted by the Legislature for consultation and analysis has sent a scathing report back to the Joint Fiscal Office in regards to a bill before the Senate Finance Committee called "Vermont Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (S.137)." Tom Kavet is an economist from Williamstown. As part of his introduction, he says, "Virtually none of the proposed programs that reduce revenues or increase spending represent any net economic stimulus benefit to the State." He questions essentially all of the measures as benefitting near-term economic stimulus. He suggests that maximizing federal stimulus funds is by far the best opportunity for the state to recover from the current recession.

by tim

Congressman Peter Welch announced a $792,000 federal grant Wednesday to fund the acquisition of mountaineering equipment for the Vermont National Guard. Welch made the announcement at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, alongside Brigadier General John Farnham. Vermont s 86th IBCT (MTN) is the U.S. Army s only conventional unit designated as a Mountain Infantry Brigade. Welch was successful in securing $792,000 for Mountain Specific Operational Equipment, which will enhance the 86th IBCT s ability to complete its mission in the rugged, mountainous environment of Afghanistan.
The Vermont Guard is expected to deploy to Afghanistan in the near future.
We must do all we can to support our Vermont Guard as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan, Welch said. These funds are key to ensuring our Guard members have the equipment, training and support they need to achieve their mission.
Source: Welch's office

by tim

Moscow Mills Manufacturing and Foster-Miller, Inc of Waltham, MA, have announced a major new non-lethal system for stopping small boats such as those used by pirates, drug traffickers and terrorists. The companies are working in conjunction with the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate program in Quantico, VA, and the US Coast Guard to move the project into even more widespread usage.
The system, dubbed "Boat Trap" uses ballistic nets dropped from aircraft to ensnare and stop small boats without using lethal force. The Boat Trap has been extensively tested in both US waters and in the Caribbean. It is currently being deployed on a limited basis by US government agencies.