News in brief for April 2019

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News in brief for April 2019

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 11:57am -- Anonymous

Unemployment rate sets another record low, 2.3 percent

The state unemployment rate dropped to 2.3 percent in March, a historic low and again tied for the lowest rate in the nation. This is third consecutive month in which the state's jobless rate has set a new record low. The March rate reflects a decrease of one-tenth of one percentage point from the revised February rate. The current seasonally-adjusted estimate of 7,971 unemployed Vermonters is the lowest monthly estimate since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics online historical series started in 1976.

Iowa also reported a jobless rate of 2.3 percent. New Hampshire remained at 2.4 percent and tied for third lowest in the nation. The US rate remained at 3.8 percent.

The decline is largely due to a steep drop in the number of unemployed, down 465 from February and down 1,431 from March of last year. Total employment was up by 481 for the month and 712 for the year. The labor force, whose decline in some months has been responsible for a drop in the jobless rate, was up marginally at 16 workers, while its down from March 2018 by 719.

Tax revenues rebound in March

Vermont General Fund revenues bounced back in March, notably for the vital personal income tax, but uncertainty continues as to how refunds ultimately will play out in April through June, which will mark the end of the fiscal year. Complaints from taxpayers on problematic under-withholding on the federal tax tables, and changes in recent years on the state side, has led to uncertainty as to how much the state will ultimately take in. As of now, the state is showing slightly positive results for FY2019. The personal income tax alone gained nearly 23 percent in March, to just over $30 million.

General Fund tax revenues collected for the month totaled $89.30 million, or $8.42 million above the monthly consensus revenue target. Year-to-date, fiscal year 2019 General Fund revenues are $5.37 million, or 0.60%, above expectations. March marks the ninth month of Fiscal Year 2019 and the end of the third quarter of the state fiscal year.

The Transportation Fund collected $22.32 million for the month of March, or -$2.19 million below target. Year-to-date, fiscal 2019 Transportation Fund revenues were -$1.81 million, or -0.89%, below target. Every line item in Transportation was below targets.

The Education Fund collected $39.30 million for the month, or $0.23 million above target. Year-to-date, fiscal 2019 Education Fund revenues are -$1.66 million, or -0.42%, below target. Secretary Young noted that the year-to-date shortfall in the Education Fund continues to decline, given the positive performance in both February and March.

Saint-Gobain agrees to fund waterline extensions on Bennington’s east side

The State has reached a final agreement with Saint-Gobain for the properties on Bennington’s east side affected by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination. As part of the agreement, 245 homes on the east side of Bennington are eligible to receive municipal water service. In total, the state has now secured the extension of waterlines to 470 homes or businesses in Bennington and North Bennington.

With this agreement, municipal waterline construction will begin on the east side of Bennington this summer.

Under this final settlement, which builds upon the agreement the State and Saint-Gobain reached in 2017, Saint-Gobain will directly fund a significant portion of the waterline extensions and be responsible for long-term monitoring, the drilling of replacement wells, and the long-term operations and maintenance of in-home treatment systems. Waterline work in the East Side of the Town of Bennington is estimated at $20 to $25 million. Pending final budget approval, the State has agreed to commit $4.7 million to extend waterlines to the maximum extent feasible.

Labor Dept finds fraudulent activity in UI claims system

The Vermont Department of Labor (VDOL) has identified eight cases of fraudulent activity in the Unemployment Insurance Claimant Portal system. Based on our initial review, this activity appears to involve individual claimant accounts, in which personal information was used to gain unauthorized access to the Unemployment Insurance system.

At this time, the Vermont State Police are actively investigating this incident, and it is believed that this situation is limited to only individuals with active unemployment claims. In each of the eight cases the claimants have been notified by the Department, and none have suffered the loss of any unemployment benefits.

Mariko Silver to leave Bennington College July 1

The Henry Luce Foundation (New York, NY) has announced that Dr Mariko Silver has been appointed as the foundation’s next president and CEO. Dr Silver will end her tenure as President of Bennington College on July 1, 2019, at which time Dean Isabel Roche will serve as interim president while the college launches a national search with a board-appointed committee. Silver has served as President of Bennington since 2013.

In that time, she has spearheaded the development of a 10-year strategic plan; forged lasting partnerships with some of the world’s premier arts and cultural institutions; overseen a revitalization of the campus, including the iconic Commons building; quadrupled commitments to the endowment since 2013 to $60 million; and guided the establishment of the largest capital campaign in the school’s history, raising more than $90 million to date for the college overall.

ON Semiconductor to acquire GlobalFoundries East Fishkill, NY, plant

ON Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: ON) of Arizona and GlobalFoundries have announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for ON Semiconductor to acquire the 300mm fab located in East Fishkill, New York. The GF fab is the sister site to its Vermont manufacturing plant in Essex Junction, which will remain part of GF. The total consideration for the acquisition is $430 million, of which $100 million has been paid at signing of the definitive agreement, and $330 million will be paid at the end of 2022, after which ON Semiconductor will gain full operational control of the fab, and the site’s employees will transition to ON Semiconductor.

Representative Robert Forguites dies

Representative Robert Forguites (D-Springfield) passed away the night of April 7-8. Vermont Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson announced his passing to the House. Born in Forest Dale, a village in the Town of Brandon. He grew up in Forest Dale and graduated from Brandon High School. Served in the US Army during the Berlin Build-Up, Cuban Missile Crisis, and early Vietnam Era. Served as a member of the Town of Brandon Board of Selectmen and the Otter Valley Union High School Board of Directors. Member of the Connecticut River Transit Board of Directors. Longtime member of Rotary. Married for 32 years, with one son. His wife pre-deceased him. Over 20 years banking experience, with positions ranging from bookkeeper to Chairman of the Board. Over 20 years municipal government experience, four years as Comptroller and 16 years as Town Manager for the Town of Springfield, Vermont.

GMP launches goal of 100% renewable power by 2030

Green Mountain Power announced it plans to shift entirely to renewable power by 2030 at its Earth Day Every Day fair in South Burlington on April 13. The plan, which also calls for the company to shift entirely to carbon-free energy by 2025, and would beat the state of Vermont’s goal of 90% renewable energy generation by 20 years.

GMP currently is 90% carbon free and over 60% renewable, according to a press release. The shift to 100% for both will be accomplished with increases in both wind and hydropower purchasing, as well as increases in power storage, such as battery technology.

State releases second set of EB-5 documents

The Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) has released an additional 259,315 pages of records related to the EB-5 and Jay Peak fraud. These newly-released documents are available now for download at eb5.vermont.gov/public-records. This marks the end of DFR records related to EB-5 and Jay Peak fraud. Per the governor’s document disclosure plan, approximately a half million pages of documents from other agencies and departments, including the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, are being prepared for release and will be posted on a rolling basis.

Burlington officials sought to change 'Homicide' finding in police case

Burlington city officials sought to influence how the state's chief medical examiner classified a Burlington man's death after learning that the autopsy would link it to punches thrown by a city cop during an altercation outside the UVMMC ER. Both Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger contacted state officials. The communications were made even though Burlington police had previously handed the case off to Vermont State Police for an independent investigation.

Seven Days reported that Del Pozo and Weinberger said their efforts were aimed at information gathering and accountability, not political influence. But never before had someone emailed Levine about how his medical examiners handled a particular autopsy, the commissioner told Seven Days.

The office listed the March 14 cause of death as “undetermined terminal mechanism due to multiple underlying conditions,” with the contributing conditions being “hypertension; cardiac and cerebral vascular disease; obesity; diabetes type 2; and skull fractures due to blunt impact.”

Health care spending for Vermonters exceeds $6 billion

Total spending on Vermonters’ health care surpassed the $6 billion mark in 2017, but the rate at which that number is growing slowed, vtdigger.org reports. Those are two findings in a new health care expenditure analysis released by the Green Mountain Care Board. The report shows that health care remains a huge chunk of the economy – 18.5% of the gross state product. But that number ticked downward in 2017.

Expenditures for Vermont residents grew 1.7% from the year prior. That rate represents a significant improvement from recent years, as spending grew an average of 3.2% annually from 2012-2017. Also, Vermont’s 2017 spending growth was far below the national growth of 3.8%. Per-person health care spending was $9,667 for Vermonters in 2017, compared with $10,229 nationally.

Total spending on Vermonters’ health care is up $891 million since 2012. Even with the relatively small increase from 2016 to 2017, spending still jumped by more than $100 million. Out-of-pocket spending on Vermont residents’ health care continues to go up. That figure, which includes deductibles and co-insurance, was $776 million in 2017 – a 1.8% increase from the previous year, vtdigger.org reported.

More than $20M in affordable housing and development funds for Vermont

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Welch (D-Vt.) jointly have announced that Vermont will receive $21 million in new affordable housing and community development funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and NeighborWorks America.  These new funds will help reduce and end homelessness by investing in rental assistance, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of affordable housing and community development projects.

Governor reveals $2.2 million in federal transportation TAP grants

Governor Phil Scott has announced the recipients of nearly $2.2 million in federal funds for municipal grant projects under the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for stormwater quality improvements across Vermont.

Senator Sanders has fought to bring more than $200 million a year over five years to the state of Vermont to improve and repair our roads and bridges, as well as fund important environmental initiatives like the Transportation Alternatives Program. Vermont’s stormwater infrastructure is projected to need $728 million in investments over the next 20 years.

The State of Vermont has reserved TAP funds for SFY18 and SFY19 for municipal environmental mitigation projects relating to stormwater and highways, including eligible salt and sand shed projects. The TAP committee chose 12 Vermont cities and towns to receive funds this year: Town of Bridgewater, for a new salt shed; Town of Castleton, for a stormwater management scoping study of the Staso Road area; Town of Derby, for salt shed improvement; Town of Duxbury, for a scoping study of Camels Hump Road; Town of Fair Haven, for a new salt shed; Town of Franklin, for stream bank stabilization and replacement of a failed concrete box culvert with an upsized culvert; Town of Middletown Springs, for a new salt shed scoping study; Town of Montgomery, for stream bank stabilization on the Trout River including bio-engineering techniques, toe protection and a new floodplain bench; Town of Norwich, for the replacement and upsizing of culverts on Tigertown Road; Town of Pittsford, for a new salt shed; Town of Stratton, for the replacement of a corrugated metal culvert with a larger concrete box culvert on Mountain Road; and City of Vergennes, for a new salt shed.

CMFG must pay $231,000 penalty for improper life insurance interest payments

The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) has entered into a Stipulation and Consent Order with the CMFG Life Insurance Company (CMFG) of Madison, Wisconsin, for improperly calculating interest amounts resulting in underpayments to approximately 200 life insurance policy beneficiaries. Under the terms of the settlement, CMFG will pay a $231,000 administrative penalty and implement a corrective action plan. CMFG has also paid the correct interest amounts to the affected beneficiaries.

Survey: Young professionals DO want to stay in Vermont

In a recently released survey, young professionals in the Burlington area defied stereotypes and said they want to stay in Vermont and even buy a single-family home. In both cases, however, circumstances and opportunity are limiting their opportunities. Completed by 500 young professionals in the region between January and March of this year, the State of the Greater Burlington Young Professional Community Survey covered housing, employment, and civic engagement topics as a means to understand what young professionals want and need to continue to live and work in the greater Burlington area:

74% of survey respondents were between the ages of 22 and 34; 85% of respondents were employed full-time; Average student monthly loan payments for those who completed the survey was $424;  56% are renting with Burlington and South Burlington being the top rental locations; Work topped the list of reasons respondents live in the greater Burlington area;  They listed culture and community, natural assets, and locavore values as the region’s top assets; While citing cost of living, housing and lack of job growth opportunities as the biggest challenges.

Colchester Exit 16 DDI project scheduled for 2020

The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is upgrading the roadway along the US Routes 2/7 corridor, in the vicinity of I-89 Exit 16, to enhance mobility and safety in Colchester (Water Tower Hill/Costco exit). The project area extends from in the Colchester-Winooski town line north for approximately 1 mile to just beyond the intersection of Sunderland Woods Road at US Route 2/7.

The core of the project is to reconfigure the existing tight diamond interchange to a Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-89 Exit 16. In part, drivers are diverted to the left side of the road. The project is estimated to cost approximately $10 million and is scheduled to be advertised for contractor bid in fall of 2019 with contract award in winter of 2020. Construction is anticipated to begin in Spring 2020 and be completed over the course of two full construction seasons, ending in Spring 2022.

LGK invests $1.7M to create 1,300 high-quality child care spaces

Let’s Grow Kids (LGK) has announced the second round of its Make Way for Kids projects. Make Way for Kids—launched in 2018 with the support of donors in Vermont and nationwide—provides grants and technical assistance to child care programs to help increase the availability and quality of early care and learning programs for Vermont’s children. In 2018 and 2019 combined, LGK is investing $1.7M to create 1,300 high-quality child care spaces for Vermont’s children though the Make Way for Kids program.

Vermont’s college savings plan assets surge past $400 million

Investments in Vermont’s 529 college savings plan have reached another milestone, topping 22,000 accounts and $400 million in assets, according to Vermont Student Assistance Corp, which administers the Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan.

Bennington College receives $4 million gift to support poetry initiative

Poetry at Bennington, a program of short-term residencies that brings established and emerging poets to Bennington College for public readings and close work with students, has been endowed with a gift of $4 million from longstanding donors to the College. This gift advances the endowment goal of the recently announced $150 million Bennington College capital campaign.

VHFA distributes federal tax credits to build hundreds of affordable apartments

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners has announced that its annual allocation of federal and state housing tax credits will support the development of 214 permanently affordable apartments in nine communities across the state. Low and moderate income Vermont renters will benefit from a 12.5 percent increase in Vermont’s annual allocation enacted by Congress last year.

Pecor family commits $500,000 to Old North End Community Center

A $500,000 gift has been pledged by Trey & Dominique Pecor to the Old North End Community Center Campaign, campaign committee Chair Peter Clavelle announced last night. “This is a very significant pledge of support – the largest in the campaign. This generosity will support generations of people from Burlington and beyond gain access to programs that build community and support our basic needs,” said Clavelle, a volunteer leading the campaign.

Rusch brings proven experience to Vermont and NH veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs has appointed Brett D. Rusch, MD, as the new Director of White River Junction VA Medical Center (WRJVAMC). Dr. Rusch will oversee the delivery of health care to approximately 26,000 Veterans throughout Vermont and the four contiguous counties of New Hampshire.

Dr Rusch received a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and completed medical school and a psychiatry residency at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH).

Union Bankshares presents 1Q 2019 earnings and dividend

Union Bankshares, Inc (NASDAQ - UNB), the parent company of Union Bank based in Morrisville, has announced results for the three months ended March 31, 2019, and declared a regular quarterly cash dividend. Consolidated net income for the first quarter of 2019 was $2.6 million, or $0.59 per share, compared to $2.7 million, or $0.62 per share, for the same period in 2018. Consolidated net income for the first quarter of 2018 included onetime increases to income that did not occur in 2019.

Vermont’s captive insurance legislative agenda signed into law

Governor Phil Scott signed new legislation into law strengthening Vermont’s captive regulation in a variety of areas. This year’s bill proposed several updates to Vermont’s leading captive law, including modifications to the captive examination schedule and improvements to the statute governing group captive investments. The many enhancements included in this year’s bill highlight the state’s ability to work closely in partnership with Vermont’s Governor and state legislature to ensure its captive law remains the industry gold standard.

2019 gift brings NorthCountry support of Y to over $800,000

Greater Burlington YMCA President & CEO Kyle Dodson has announced that NorthCountry Federal Credit Union has made an eighth annual gift of $100,000 to support Y Youth Development programs in the community. Combined with seven consecutive previous $100,000 gifts and earlier program funding, this brings NorthCountry’s support of the Y to more than $800,000 over a decade.

Vermont Women’s Fund announces $103,000 in competitive grants

The Vermont Women’s Fund awarded $103,000 through its competitive grant program to 15 nonprofit organizations that work to improve the economic security of women and girls in Vermont. In addition to its annual competitive grant round, the Women’s Fund is the lead funder of Change The Story. This initiative is the result of a partnership of three statewide organizations that also includes the Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women.

WhistlePig obtains additional $55 million revolving line of credit

WhistlePig, the No. 1 distiller in the fast growing, ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category, has announced that it received a $55 million revolving line of credit from JPMorgan Chase, extending the existing $40 million line with JPMorgan Chase, which was received in April 2018. The credit facility will provide the company with incremental funding to accelerate the production and aging of premium rye whiskey.

PC Construction names Jay Fayette president and CEO

The Board of Directors of PC Construction have announced Jay Fayette, a South Burlington, Vermont resident, will serve as president and CEO of the employee-owned construction company, Vermont's largest. Fayette has been at the company for 24 years and most recently served as President and COO leading the company at a time of heightened competition and alternative project delivery methods.

New report shows efficacy of automatic voter registration

A newly released report by The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has found that automatic voter registration (AVR) has markedly increased the number of voters being registered, ranging in increases from 9 to 94 percent, in several states across the country that have  implemented it.

Dartmouth campaign celebrates $2 billion milestone

Speaking before some 1,000 alumni, parents, and friends at New York’s Lincoln Center in April, President Philip J Hanlon ’77 announced that supporters have committed more than $2 billion to The Call to Lead: a Campaign for Dartmouth, putting the historic fundraising effort at two-thirds of its overall goal.

Ledyard Financial Group reports positive quarterly earnings

Ledyard Financial Group, Inc (ticker symbol LFGP), the holding company for Ledyard National Bank with an office in Norwich, Vermont, has reported quarterly earnings for the first quarter of 2019. Net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, was $1,307,760 or $0.42 per share compared to $1,207,304 or $0.39 per share for the same period in 2018, an increase of $100,456 or 8.3%. Revenue growth continues to contribute positively to results and returns to shareholders.

Eric Hanson wins GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award

Eric Hanson, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) who spearheaded recovery of the formerly endangered common loon in Vermont, was presented the 2019 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award today. The award, named for Milton resident Meeri Zetterstrom, who inspired recovery efforts that lead to the removal of the osprey from Vermont’s endangered species list, was presented at Lake Iroquois, one of the state’s most recently established loon nesting sites.

Farm & Forest Viability Program awards over $268,000 to nine farms

The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, has awarded a total of $268,684 to nine Vermont farms in March through its most recent round of Water Quality and Dairy Improvement Grants. Five farms in Chittenden, Addison, Orange, Rutland, and Grand Isle counties received a combined $115,000 in Water Quality Grants. These grants leveraged an additional $427,000 for capital improvement projects to reduce runoff and improve manure management and soil health.

Governor Scott appoints Jason Broughton as state librarian

Governor Phil Scott has appointed Jason Broughton as Vermont state librarian, effective April 1, 2019. Broughton will lead the Department of Libraries within the Agency of Administration and will be the first African-American to serve as Vermont state librarian.

New trustees appointed to UVM board

Three new public trustees have been appointed to the UVM Board of Trustees, with another being reappointed. The board also added a new student trustee. Three legislative trustees were elected to six year terms by the Vermont General Assembly. They include Kevin “Coach” Christie, representing Windsor district 4-2; Carole Ode, representing the Chittenden County sixth district, and Samuel Young, representing the Orleans-Caledonia district. They succeed Anne O’Brien, Donna Sweaney and Jeff Wilson.

Burlington ranks as one of the cleanest cities for air quality

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found Vermont’s Burlington- South Burlington-Barre metro area is ranked as the 12thcleanest city for year round particle pollution in the US, and was one of only 6 cities nationwide to also record zero bad air days for ozone and short-term pollution. Vermont is repeatedly considered one of the cleanest state for air quality in the U.S.. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. 

Vermont remains one of safest states in nation

Vermont continues its safety streak to remain one of the safest states in the nation, according to research firm SafeWise. The Green Mountain State beats national rates for both violent and property crime. Vermont comes in with 2.07 violent crimes per 1,000, half the national rate of 4.49. And the safest cities did even better—each of them saw fewer than 1.50 violent crimes per 1,000 citizens. The strong safety record continues when you look at property crimes across the state. Vermont had 19.89 incidents per 1,000, compared to 27.11 nationwide. The state’s safest cities were all below both national and state property crime rates.

CCV adds seven new certificate programs

Community College of Vermont (CCV) will offer seven new certificate programs beginning in the fall 2019 semester. The new certificate offerings are administrative medical assisting, clinical medical assisting, digital media production, funeral director, graphic design, media communications, and studio art. These join the College’s seven existing certificate programs to provide a comprehensive offering of high-value credentials that prepare students for the workplace or further education. Most certificates can be completed in just one year.

CSWD/Green Mountain Compost receives $500K DEC grant

The Chittenden Solid Waste District/Green Mountain Compost has been awarded a grant worth $500,000 by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), an arm of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The overall purpose of the grant award is to fund an expansion of CSWD’s Green Mountain Compost facility in Williston to include additional composting and organics transfer. The intent is to increase the facility’s food processing capacity and efficiency in keeping these materials out of the waste stream.

Study: Nearly 28,000 Vermont jobs supported by trade with Canada and Mexico

A new study from Business Roundtable finds that international trade supports 89,300 jobs in Vermont, representing more than one out of every five jobs in the state. Trade with Canada and Mexico alone supports 27,600 jobs in Vermont, highlighting the need to preserve and strengthen the North American trading relationship by passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) this year. The study found that trade-supported jobs in Vermont increased by 94 percent from 1992 (when NAFTA was implemented) to 2017 – more than five times faster than total employment.

The study also reveals:

  • Vermont exported $1.3 billion in goods and services to Canada and Mexico in 2017;
  • Goods and services exports account for 11.5 percent of Vermont’s total GDP; and
  • Trade has a positive net impact on both the services and manufacturing sectors across the country.
  • In 2017, free trade agreement (FTA) partners purchased 15.2 times more goods per capita from Vermont than non-FTA partners.

Norwich receives estate gift of $3M from Professor Don Wallace

Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider announced to trustees on April 25 that Professor Emeritus Don Wallace, who retired in 2017 after over five decades of teaching in Norwich’s Mechanical Engineering Department and passed away in November 2018, left in his will over $3 million to the David Crawford School of Engineering (DCSE).

PSD reveals over $200K in newest round of Connectivity Initiative grants

The Public Service Department has announced nearly $220,00 in grant awards to internet service providers to boost broadband internet speeds at more than 220 eligible locations in twelve rural Vermont communities. The Department awarded $63,250 to ECFiber to bring fiber optic cable service to 49 homes and businesses in the towns of Tunbridge and Corinth. Consolidated Communications, Inc. received $44,498 to expand broadband to 37 homes and businesses in Barnet. Pear Networks and Kingdom Fiber received a grant of $85,000 to bring fiber optic cable service to 126 homes and businesses in Bloomfield, Brighton, Brunswick, Canaan, Ferdinand, Lemington, and Maidstone. MCFiber received $21,200 to extend fiber optic cable service to six locations in Underhill. Southern Vermont Cable received $5,636 to provide cable internet to 11 homes in Putney.

Bennington College fire damage estimated at $250,000

On April 30, 2019 at approximately 1:00 pm a 911 call came in from the Administrative offices of Bennington College reporting a fire in the building. The staff was alerted to the fire by a contractor that was performing work on the outside of the building. At that time the North Bennington Fire Department was alerted and responded to the scene. Due to the amount of smoke and fire upon arrival additional assistance was requested and members of the following departments responded: Bennington FD, Shaftsbury FD, Bennington Rural FD, Hoosick Falls NY FD and North Hoosick Falls NY FD. Due to their efforts along with Bennington College Security everyone was safely evacuated and they were able to prevent extensive damage or spread of the fire. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was listed as accidental and the damage is estimated at $250,000.

More than $1M in federal funding set to repair Colchester causeway

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) have announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $1,153,409 to repair the Colchester Causeway. The popular Island Line Trail connects the towns of Colchester and South Hero on a three-mile long causeway in Lake Champlain that was part of the former Rutland Railroad.

AM Best improves ratings outlook of National Life to positive

AM Best, a global rating agency, has improved the ratings outlook of the insurance companies of National Life Group from stable to positive, reflecting the companies’ “continuing trends of strong sales growth, outperforming the broader life insurance market.” AM Best also reaffirmed the insurance financial strength rating of A (Excellent) for National Life’s two insurance companies, National Life Insurance Company and Life Insurance Company of the Southwest.

UVM names Patricia Prelock interim provost

Effective on April 15, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Patricia Prelock has been appointed Interim Provost and Senior Vice President of the University of Vermont. She will serve as a key partner and chief academic officer to UVM President-Designate Suresh Garimella, who will assume his position on July 1.

Gebhart leaving Montpelier Development Corp

Laura Gebhart, Montpelier Development Corporation’s (MDC) Executive Director has announced her resignation. Gebhart is stepping down to take a field hockey coaching position at a Division I university in Rhode Island. Gebhart has a strong connection to the sport, having volunteered with University of Vermont Field Hockey program this past year, and previously played on the US Women’s National Field Hockey team and for Penn State University, while earning her degree in Community, Environment, and Development.