<![CDATA[NECN - ]]>Copyright 2018https://www.necn.com/feature/vermonthttp://media.necn.com/designimages/clear.gifNECNhttps://www.necn.comen-usSun, 24 Jun 2018 03:09:42 -0400Sun, 24 Jun 2018 03:09:42 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[Christopher Lloyd Appearing in Vt. Theater Production]]>Thu, 21 Jun 2018 18:09:42 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Christopher_Lloyd_appearing_in_VT_theater_production.jpg

A Hollywood actor, well-known for his roles in movies like “Back to the Future” and TV shows including “Taxi,” is in Vermont performing at a landmark theater in Windsor County.

Christopher Lloyd first walked onto the stage of the Weston Playhouse more than a half-century ago. His late brother, Sam, was a mainstay there, and became a lifelong supporter of the playhouse.

“I love it here,” Lloyd said of Weston. “It’s so beautiful.”

Lloyd is playing a starring role in the classic work “Our Town,” which opens this week at the Weston Playhouse.

“Thornton Wilder wanted a very minimalist set,” Lloyd said of the author of “Our Town.” “So you just focus on the human element.”

Lloyd’s also reflecting on his family’s many ties to the playhouse, saying it provided him with critical experience during an early chapter in his career, which has now spanned six decades.

Necn asked if without his experience in Vermont as a young actor, would the world have known Doc Brown as it did? Lloyd chuckled, “Maybe—Who can say?”

The actor said he marvels at how popular the “Back to the Future” films still are, and how they continue attracting fans. He said the subject matter pertaining to family relationships is likely a key reason why.

“Everybody has a moment when they think, ‘Gee, I wish I could go back to this moment,’ or, ‘I wish I could go to the future.’ Everybody has that wish,” Lloyd observed about another perennial appeal of his best-known movie. “And the film somehow made that fantasy come alive.”

At 79, Christopher Lloyd still has a lot of jobs in his future. The Emmy winner said he has several movies and other projects in the works.

“I love it,” Lloyd said of the life of a working actor. “I can say I don’t need to work, but it’s what I do. I have no interest in retiring.”

Christopher Lloyd is in “Our Town” at the Weston Playhouse through July 7.

Click here for more information on the show and other performances this season at the playhouse.

<![CDATA[Biologists: Climate Change Could Claim Songbirds’ Habitat]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 18:06:24 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Researchers_Fear_Loss_of_Bird_Habitat.jpg

Researchers in Vermont are closely watching a certain type of songbird, believing it could be among the first species in the state most noticeably impacted by climate change.

Atop Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, researchers Wednesday continued what they see as a race against time.

“I’m very concerned,” said conservation biologist Chris Rimmer, who heads the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

He and his team set up nets around the top of Mount Mansfield, hoping to capture a small bird known as Bicknell’s Thrush.

“It’s one of the most rare songbirds in eastern North America,” Rimmer told NBC 10 Boston.

The researchers netted several Bicknell’s Thrush both Tuesday and Wednesday, and said the bird is facing a serious threat.

The concern at these higher elevations is climate change. Trees that do well in the cold would struggle if mountaintops keep getting warmer, Rimmer explained. And that matters to the birds, because fewer trees would mean fewer places to nest.

“It’s happening, slowly, but surely,” Rimmer said of impacts to tree growth on mountaintops.

Already, the bird summers in only limited places high above northern New England, New York, and parts of Canada.

The conservation biologists are banding the birds’ feet with ID tags to help estimate their numbers and follow their health, as well as to help track how many return to Vermont from winters in the Caribbean.

“This work is incredibly important,” said Tom Rogers of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, noting that songbirds are part of the very identity of the outdoor world here. “If we lose these species, and the woods go silent, we will have lost something incredible.”

Rimmer said the study will continue for years, and will likely fall to future generations of conservation biologists to fully understand how changes to the environment may impact all the species in it.

Rimmer said a legion of citizen scientists is helping research Bicknells’ Thrush around the Northeast and Canada, by contributing observations to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

<![CDATA[Vermont State Police Readying for Era of Legal Marijuana]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:30:56 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-103280230+edited.jpg

Vermont is less than two weeks away from ushering in a new era of legalized marijuana, months after Republican Gov. Phil Scott authorized rules passed by the state legislature in January.

Ahead of that change, members of law enforcement are preparing to adapt.

Vermont State Police just sent a training bulletin to troopers, as the state readies for the legalization of recreational marijuana July 1.

"It’s going to be a change," Capt. Jim Whitcomb of the Vermont State Police observed Tuesday.

The new law removes the civil penalty for possession of an ounce or less of pot for folks 21 and up, and takes away the criminal penalty for growing a handful of plants at home.

The document recently sent to troopers lays out what it all means for them, and reminds them that good partnerships with their local state’s attorneys should really help navigating many situations.

The force is also expecting operational changes, Whitcomb noted.

"We are looking at potentially purchasing items like scales for cruisers," he said. "Our K-9s are now not being trained to indicate marijuana — and that’s across the board in Vermont."

Laura Subin with the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana sees the new law as a modest criminal justice reform step, and said she expects police should have fewer reasons for searches of property.

"I really hope that this will be a positive change," Subin told necn. "There is a culture that harassed people for being marijuana users. And I also think that people of color and poor people suffered way more than others in the era of prohibition."

Many acts will still be against state rules for the tens of thousands of regular marijuana users in Vermont: including selling pot, using it around kids, and driving high.

"We’re going to be aggressive in our pursuit of impaired operators, and that does not change," Whitcomb said.

State police added that adapting to the new era of legal marijuana goes beyond the recently-distributed training bulletin. They expect their policies and approaches will continue to change, as case law is developed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thunderstorms Break Hot Weather]]>Mon, 18 Jun 2018 23:03:33 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/211*120/vermont+weather1.JPG

Vermonters sweated through a hot start to the week, before thunderstorms rolled in during the afternoon.

Some isolated damage came from the storms Monday, including downed trees on Interstate 89 between exits 9 and 10, as reported to the National Weather Seevice.

The storms ushered in cooler air after what was a hot start to the week.

At Still Smok’n BBQ in Essex Junction, there’s no day off for hot weather.

Brothers Larry and Phil Bissonnette are always at their 200-225 degree smoker preparing food for customers, no matter the air temperature.

“It gets hot,” Phil Bissonnette said of the smoker, which is wood-fired. “Standing behind it gets hotter. My brother has to do that. I don’t have to do that because I’m not good at fires.”

They make sure to stay hydrated: good advice for anyone dealing with the kind of heat Vermont and the rest of the northeast saw Monday.

Temperatures climbed into the high 80s and low 90s, with an even higher heat index—what the temperature feels like to people when humidity is factored in.

The high temps were also on the minds of electric utilities, whose usage demands on these extreme days can influence prices for bulk power for the whole year.

“On a day like this, everything we can do to reduce the amount of energy that we use during the peak time will save our customers money,” said Josh Castonguay of Green Mountain Power.

So GMP has built out a network of large batteries to store energy, like at the Stafford Hill solar farm and microgrid facility in Rutland.

The company taps into the batteries for some of its needs, instead of relying entirely on the grid, during the costly demand spikes on really hot days.

Green Mountain Power said it has enough energy storage capacity in its battery units to take the equivalent of 3,000 homes off the grid at peak times.

Castonguay said that kind of conservation can have a real impact on ratepayers.

“That’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, easily,” he told necn. “And as that goes on through the year, it becomes millions of dollars overall.”

Some high schoolers were staying cool during Monday’s heat, while helping get Rutland’s new municipal pools ready to open.

Lifeguards were in their final training tests before the White Memorial Park Pool and renovated poolhouses open to the public Friday night.

City voters approved a $2.5-million bond to replace a crumbling facility that had been closed for several seasons.

“It’s the first thing people think about is swimming in the summer,” observed lifeguard Ethan Notte. “And it’s been missing in the city for what, three years now? So it’s really good to be back.”

“Both pools are heated,” noted Rutland Recreation & Parks Superintendent Kim Peters. “We have the cool nights here in Vermont. So in the morning, you’re going to wake up to a 78 degree pool, as opposed to a 68 degree pool, which makes a big difference.”

The new White’s Pool area has play features for kids as well as a traditional lap pool, and is sure to be a popular place to be for all the hot days still to come this summer.

<![CDATA[Lawmaker Visiting Southern Border to Investigate Separations]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 18:28:00 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Texas+border+fence.JPG

Congress plans to take up two immigration issues next week, including the controversial family separations taking place on the southern border of the United States.

Before those discussions, a New England lawmaker is traveling to Texas to witness the situation firsthand.

“That is absolutely appalling,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, describing the practice of separating minor children from their undocumented parents awaiting legal proceedings. “It’s cruel and unnecessary and un-American.”

Welch is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Saying there’s now zero tolerance for people trying to enter the U.S. without government permission, federal authorities have been separating many undocumented parents and children, instead of keeping them in detention facilities as families.

“If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently warned. “It's that simple.”

U.S. Health and Human Services this week released video of one of its centers for young undocumented immigrants in Texas, which Welch and six other members of Congress plan to visit Sunday.

It’s a crowded old Walmart now housing more than 1,400 children and teens.

“This is urgent,” Welch said of the need to address the practice of housing children separately from their parents. “They’re cruelly taking children out of the arms of wailing mothers. My view? We’ve got to stop this policy right away.”

The Trump administration has said tougher enforcement policies are overdue, to try to stem the flow of illegal immigration—especially from Central America.

However, in many U.S. communities, including last week outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Williston, Vermont, protestors have been saying the Feds’ behavior on the border feels un-American.

“I think all of us who are parents, who are grandparents, can't imagine the idea of having our children pulled away from us,” protestor Ginny Sassanian of Calais, Vermont said at the Williston demonstration last week.

With detention cases backing up, Republicans in Congress have now agreed to take up two immigration issues next week, including family separation.

“We can come together on the fact that families need to be unified,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said this week on MSNBC.

“Now what we have is an actual chance at making law and solving this problem,” predicted U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

Welch said he and his colleagues should come back from their Texas trip with key info for Congress, as he pushes for increased oversight of border policies.

“Is it fair?” Welch said, starting a list of just some of many questions he seeks to answer through going to Texas. “Is it legal? Is it necessary?”

The other members of Congress traveling with Welch to investigate immigration enforcement practices are Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas.

<![CDATA[Dozens in Vermont Request Marijuana Records to Be Erased]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 17:51:38 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Requests_to_Expunge_Pot_Convictions_Heard_in_Vt..jpg

With recreational marijuana use about to become legal in Vermont, several dozen people convicted in Chittenden County under the old rules headed to court in Burlington Tuesday to request those convictions be erased.

"I'm really excited for kind of a second chance," said Casey Bonneau of Burlington.

Bonneau sought that second chance on what was called "expungement day" in the criminal courthouse serving Chittenden County.

People with low-level marijuana offenses could apply to have those crimes erased from their records. The Pennywise Foundation even helped cover paperwork fees.

Bonneau said he wants to shed a misdemeanor pot possession conviction.

"I felt like it was holding me back applying for jobs — even applying for a place to rent," Bonneau said in response to a question from necn about the impact of his marijuana conviction. "Some people don't want to rent to someone who has a possession charge on their record."

Expungement day happened in advance of changes to Vermont law coming July 1.

People 21 and up will legally be able to use recreational marijuana in private, possess up to an ounce of it and grow a few plants at home.

However, pot sales will still be barred, and furnishing marijuana to someone under age will be a crime.

"Since the values of our community are changing, we're kind of going back and trying to repair some of the damage that past policies have done," said Tom Dalton, the executive director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, a non-profit that helped promote the education event in Burlington as well another this past weekend in Windsor County.

Glyn Wilkinson of Shelburne said he came to the expungement day event to have two misdemeanor possession convictions cleared from his record. One of them was from 50 years ago, the 70-year-old said.

Wilkinson added that his past would occasionally haunt him, resurfacing, for example, at border checkpoints when traveling to Canada.

"I'm not a criminal," Wilkinson told necn. "This has been on my record for half a century. Imagine that? Half a century."

"It's heartbreaking to think about the impacts that that had on them at such a young age," Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George said of participants in her office's expungement day event — many of whom were convicted of marijuana crimes shortly after high school. "Getting these when you're coming out of high school means no federal funding — no student loans — potentially no college, maybe not as good of a job. It follows you in so many different ways."

George said even if people missed the special expungement day event at the Costello Courthouse, her office will gladly help with paperwork at any time moving forward.

The prosecutor added that she encourages people in other Vermont counties to contact their local state's attorney and ask about having minor marijuana convictions erased from their criminal record.

<![CDATA[Vt. Begins "Capitol For A Day" Initiative in Rutland]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 17:27:25 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Rutland_Capital.jpg

Vermont's governor is moving the state capital... sort of.

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, is essentially picking up state government and taking it on the road for a series of individual visits from his entire cabinet to hear from people in all corners of the state.

Monday was day one of the Scott administration’s "Capitol for a Day" initiative, focusing on Rutland County.

A walking tour of downtown Rutland with economic development leaders, a conversation about promoting Vermont travel destinations outside of ski season, and a look at how energy innovations may impact affordability were some of the more than a dozen meetings in the Rutland region Monday involving the top-level members of state government and local leaders, business people, and other residents.

"We should be getting outside of Montpelier," Gov. Scott said in an interview with necn.

Scott explained he wants his agency secretaries and department commissioners more plugged in to the needs of the whole state, not just to the center of government in Montpelier and the largest population area around Burlington.

So he'll be taking his cabinet on a series of working field trips.

"It’s not only a great way to connect with the people of Vermont, but also to some of the challenges we face," Scott said.

Mayor Dave Allaire of Rutland said he appreciates the move, because while his region has a lot to be proud of, including world-class outdoor recreation, there are worries—like a population decline, and infrastructure concerns.

"I think it’s important just to have that communication," Allaire said of the visit Monday from Scott and members of his team. "Just seeing the condition of our streets and our bridges, for transportation folks, I think that all means a lot."

Gov. Scott and his cabinet plan to visit each of Vermont's counties over the course of the summer and fall, according to his office.

<![CDATA[Charges in Fatal Crash in Vermont]]>Sun, 10 Jun 2018 12:45:55 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Police-GettyImages-187062332.jpg

A Vermont woman is facing charges following a crash that killed two people in Newfane on Friday.

According to police, Sarah Loos was driving northbound on Vermont Rte. 30 when she drifted into the southbound lane. When in the wrong lane, Loos hit another car carrying two passengers head-on.

One of the people in that car, Robert Lind, was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Mandi Gamache, was taken to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire,with severe injuries. Gamache died Saturday.

Loos was treated at Memorial Hospital in Brattleboro, Vermont for minor injuries.

During the investigation, police obtained a search warrant to test Loos' blood.

Following that test, she was charged with DUI Drugs and Grossly Negligent Operator.

She is scheduled to appear in court at a later date and she remains in the hospital recovering from her injuries.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Vt. Man Facing Murder Charge in Bridge Death]]>Sun, 10 Jun 2018 17:31:21 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Joshua+granger.PNG

A Vermont man is facing 2nd degree murder charges after a person fell off of a bridge near Burlington.

Burlington Police say they responded to a call that a man had fallen off of the Blue Bridge that connects Burlington and Winooski.

The man who fell off the bridge has been identified as 20-year-old Jared Streeter of Milton, Vt.

After police spoke with witnesses, they discovered that Streeter and another man had a physical altercation on the bridge. Police have described the altercation as "consensual".

Police identified 20-year-old Joshua Granger of Winooski, Vt. as the other person involved in the altercation.

He was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder.

Granger turned himself into police after fleeing the scene. He is being held for lack of bail.

<![CDATA['Hamilton' Star a Headliner at Vt. Jazz Festival]]>Fri, 08 Jun 2018 19:21:40 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Leslie_Odom_Jr._to_Perform_in_Vermont.jpg

This will be a big weekend for music lovers in Vermont's largest city.

The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is marking its 35th year with concerts all around the city, with one of the original stars of the smash Broadway hit "Hamilton" joining the celebration.

"It is my first performance in Vermont — my first time visiting Vermont," said musical artist Leslie Odom Jr.

Odom, a Tony winner for his leading role as Aaron Burr in "Hamilton," is one of the headliners of the second weekend of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, giving a sold-out concert at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts Friday night.

"We're going to try to get in a zip line or a hike or something while we're here, I think," Odom said of his visit to Vermont with his wife.

The Jazz Fest is celebrating 35 years in 2018.

It's 10 days long, and along with ticketed shows, showcases at least 100 hours of free music – much of it on the city's famous Church Street Marketplace.

"The free programming is something that's very important to the festival, because it's supposed to be accessible to the whole community," said Chelsea Lafayette, the managing director of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

Percussionist and band leader Sasha Berliner is performing late Friday at the FlynnSpace with her quartet.

"It's really impressive that this isn't happening in some major city," Berliner observed of the level of passion for live music in Burlington. "The turnout is incredible, and there's such a sense of community."

The event is drawing applause from the downtown business community, too.

Leunig's Bistro says the Jazz Fest is a major attraction which helps boost outdoor seating at a critical time for the marketplace.

"If we didn't have a nice summer, there's a good chance many of us might not survive the winter," Bob Conlon of Leunig's said of Church Street merchants that benefit from the Jazz Fest.

Festival organizers said they're already planning next year's event, and are even looking forward to the 40th annual Jazz Fest several years down the line.

As for Odom, the star of stage and screen said he's thrilled to be a part of such a long-running community tradition.

"We hope you guys dig it," he said of his performance Friday night.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Vt. Man Arrested After Placing Fake Bomb Next to Retreat]]>Fri, 08 Jun 2018 09:25:14 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Police+lights+generic5.jpg

Police in Brattleboro, Vermont have caught a man allegedly responsible for a bomb hoax on Thursday night.

Brattleboro's Justin Clough, 39, was arrested and charged with a felony for placing a hoax device at the Brattleboro Retreat.

Brattleboro police responded to a call around 9 p.m. on Thursday to a report of a suspected explosive device that was located outside of the building. The perimeter was secured and area evacuated as the Brattleboro Fire Department assisted the police in setting up an incident command post.

Vermont State Police, the Windham Sherrif's Department and Rescue, Inc. also responded to the call, with a bomb squad from both the VSP and Albany, New York's FBI office called in to investigate the device.

Upon examination, the device was determined to be inert.

Clough was located near the Retreat and placed under arrest and ordered held on $2,500 bail. The investigation remains ongoing.

<![CDATA[Stinky Trash Heap Removed, Concerns Over Rats Linger in Vt.]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 17:39:53 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Crews_Called_in_to_Clean_Up_Mountain_of_Trash_in_Vt..jpg

After the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, determined a problem property was a public health hazard, workers came in Thursday to clear out a mountain of trash.

But that job revealed a possible new concern — rats.

"There were at least a dozen rats," said contractor Dan Blanchard of East Creek Mowers, who was helping haul away a pile of rotting garbage and junk from a neglected garage on Gay Street in Rutland. "They were just scattering."

The city of Rutland brought in contractors to empty the garage of an abandoned property, after neighbors complained to city officials about both the smell and rodents.

"They'll end up at someone else's place or something," Blanchard theorized about the rats.

Rutland Mayor Dave Allaire said the city tried in vain to locate someone associated with the property to take responsibility for the mess. When multiple warnings and notices were ignored, he said the city had to act and clear it out, because it was becoming a risk to public health.

Neighbors Harvey and Joan Cutts are now hoping the displaced rats don't come around their home.

"That ain't good,” Harvey Cutts said of the thought of rats looking for new homes in his neighborhood.

"People shouldn't have to be living around something like that," Joan Cutts added.

A similar problem was reported this spring about 70 miles to the north in Winooski, after an old building was demolished.

People who live nearby said it sparked a neighborhood invasion, with the vermin that had been inside the razed property left looking for new places to nest.

Winooski residents sent necn affiliate NBC 5 News photos of rats they were left trying to get rid of.

"You can't control what your neighbor does," observed Paul Garland, who owns Superior Pest Control in Rutland.

Garland, who also sells rat traps and repellents at his other business, Garland's Farm & Garden, said the best things anyone can do to keep rats away are to keep your home and outbuildings well-sealed, and to not leave garbage sitting around too long.

"They find that inviting to make a home, have their young, and increase their flock," Garland warned of cluttered areas full of trash.

Rutland's mayor said he's glad to see the Gay Street mess cleaned up, and said the city health inspector will stay on top of it.

Allaire said the well-being and quality of life in Rutland are top priorities of his team.

"We will be monitoring the situation up there — just looking around for the whole city," the mayor told necn.

<![CDATA[Vt. Beaches Get All-Clear After Large Wastewater Discharges]]>Wed, 06 Jun 2018 17:17:19 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Wastewater_Discharges_Won_t_Close_Vt._Beaches.jpg

Newly-released test results of water off beaches in the city of Burlington, Vermont, showed the destinations were safe to use Wednesday evening, following a series of discharges that threatened to foul Lake Champlain.

The city's main treatment plant that handles both storm water and wastewater, including from bathrooms, was overwhelmed by downpours Saturday and Monday. The rain came at a bad time, plant managers said—during a period of heavy flow from industrial customers.

The Burlington Public Works Department said over the course of the two events, the strained system dumped roughly 1.8 million gallons of only partially-disinfected waste and storm water a half-mile out into the scenic lake.

The discharge included higher-than-allowable levels of E. coli bacteria, the city said.

"One gallon is too many," Burlington Public Works Director Chapin Spencer told necn affiliate NBC 5 News on Tuesday, describing discharges of water that hasn’t been fully treated. "And our team is focused, day in and day out — days, nights, weekends — on protecting Lake Champlain."

The city said because of the distance out into the lake where the discharge happened, known risks to human health were minimal.

Still, Burlington officials alerted the public to the potential health threat using signs on beaches, until new test results came out Wednesday afternoon.

That sampling showed normal bacteria levels close to zero, according to the Burlington Public Works Department, which allowed for closed beaches to reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"There is a visceral reaction people have -- and rightly so -- to sewage," Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore told NBC 5 News Monday after an announcement of new federal funding for Lake Champlain in Burlington. "There are public health concerns when you have wastewater that is not fully treated. This time of year, people like to be out on the water and recreating, so those concerns are more significant."

Lori Fisher advocates for cleaner and healthier water with the nonprofit Lake Champlain Committee.

"It's an international treasure," Fisher said Wednesday of the lake.

Fisher is discouraged to hear of sewer discharges whenever they happen up and down the shoreline, blaming, in part, aging water-handling infrastructure that really struggles with heavier rainfall.

"We have to make those investments," Fisher said of upgrades to water handling plants both in the Lake Champlain basin and nationwide. "Clean water does not come about for free."

The city said its biological treatment system, which was knocked out of whack by that heavy rain, is now improving. Spencer added that his department is working with large users of the wastewater plant to try to find ways to reduce strain on the system.

A portion of more than $8 million in new federal funding for the lake announced this week by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, will help some cities and towns come up with ways to prevent rainwater from overwhelming their treatment plants.

<![CDATA[Vt. and NH Ski Resorts Sold to Industry Giant]]>Tue, 05 Jun 2018 17:59:16 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/New_England_Ski_Areas_sold_to_Vail_Resorts.jpg

News that ski industry giant Vail Resorts of Colorado has agreed to acquire Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort has become the talk of the town in Ludlow.

“It’s the way the market and the business of skiing is going,” observed skier Janet Salem. “So to me, it’s not a surprise. And hopefully, the new group will do a good job.”

The $82-million deal announced Monday also includes Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and a third destination out West—Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado.

In a separate $67-million transaction, Vail Resorts announced it is also purchasing Stevens Pass Resort in Washington.

Both deals are subject to certain adjustments, closing conditions, and approvals, Vail noted in its announcement.

Some in Ludlow are worried about possible impacts from Okemo, a family-owned ski area, going to a big corporation that has the marketing muscle to attract even more visitors, said longtime resident Karen Sherer.

“I’m not very happy,” Sherer told NBC 10 Boston. “It’s going to be crazy. Traffic is going to be totally screwed up. It does bring us jobs, but it brings us headaches, too.”

A year ago, Vail Resorts purchased mountain operations of Vermont’s famous Stowe Mountain Resort. Over time, that transaction did mean some changes.

Several Stowe insiders, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 Boston that certain staff positions, such as accounting jobs, were centralized to Vail’s home office if they could have been done elsewhere.

Prices for single-day lift tickets rose, the industry sources added.

However, season passes to Stowe became much more affordable, and a bonus of Vail’s Epic Pass, as it is known, is that it includes access to the company’s network of other highly-regarded resorts. The trade group Ski Vermont said that was a major pro-consumer development to come out of Vail’s arrival in the state.

“I think it’s a win for skiers and riders,” Ski Vermont’s Molly Mahar said of Vail acquiring the Vermont destinations.

Mahar also noted that the lower season pass prices at Stowe caused other resorts’ pricing to become more competitive.

She also predicted that her tourism-dependent state will benefit from more travelers, through additional rooms and meals tax receipts and consumer spending.

A Vail Resorts spokesperson told NBC 10 Boston that the company will invest $35-million in its four newly-announced properties over the next few years. The spokesperson said the company will work with stakeholders and knowledgeable people at each of the resorts after the sales close to identify specific capital improvements.

“Vail is a world-class resort operator,” Mahar said. “And the fact they are re-investing in the state of Vermont is very positive.”

Vail’s spokesperson said its New Hampshire and Vermont purchases, along with Stowe, will create a regional hub that it hopes will offer more options and better experiences for its guests.

The Mueller family, which owned Okemo, Mount Sunapee, and Crested Butte, said in a statement Monday that the decision to sell to Vail Resorts was very hard for them, because they had so many friendships and positive relationships with members of the communities where they operated their ski areas.

The Muellers said in their prepared remarks they were not naïve in understanding that changes would likely come to their properties following the sale, but added that ultimately, they decided moving forward with the sale would be the best option for their resorts and guests.

The Muellers also said they believe the sale will ensure strong futures for the communities surrounding the ski destinations.

Molly Mahar of Ski Vermont praised the Mueller family and their 36 years of dedication to the Vermont skiing and riding industry, and for having built Okemo into the four-season destination it is today.

“They’ve done many great things for Vermont skiing, and it’s sort of an end to an era,” Mahar told NBC 10 Boston. “Props to them, because they’ve done an excellent job.”

<![CDATA[Flood of Interest in $10K for Remote Workers Moving to Vt.]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:39:10 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Remote_Workers_in_Vt._Could_Get_Cash_Grants.jpg

Vermont economic development officials say they’re thrilled with the response to an offer to give remote workers cash grants to relocate to the Green Mountain State.

Joan Goldstein, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development, said her office has received hundreds of inquiries over the past several days from all over the country and world.

“People are overwhelmingly responding to this,” Goldstein said. “We had no idea it would have this much response.”

Last week, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, authorized a law that’ll give future grants of up to $10,000, paid over a few years, to people who’ll move to Vermont to live, then telecommute to out-of-state jobs.

The grants are meant to spark new economic activity and encourage growth in Vermont’s workforce.

“We have a demographic problem in this state,” Gov. Scott said Friday. “We need more people.”

Many of the details are still being worked out, but to start, the grant pot is a half-million dollars over the next several years.

Only people who move to Vermont on or after January 1 2019 will be eligible to apply, Goldstein explained, with the money meant to help cover relocation costs or purchases such as a new laptop.

“If this is oversubscribed, it’s a good thing, because then it would be informative that this type of incentive works to draw people,” Goldstein said of the large number of people who have emailed or signed up to receive more information.

Goldstein encouraged people to go to the website of the state’s Think Vermont initiative and sign up to receive updates as the program’s January 2019 start date approaches.

“If you have options about where to live, why not work in an aesthetically-pleasing place that offers tremendous opportunities for outdoor recreation as well as tremendous opportunities to make an impact in your community?” Goldstein asked. “You may not feel that in larger metropolitan areas, so that’s who we’re trying to appeal to.”

The effort is part of a larger push to turn around the Green Mountain State’s population struggles. Overall numbers are flat or even slightly declining, and the workforce is aging.

So the thinking is, incentives to draw younger people who could work anywhere will pay off long-term—including through new consumer spending and tax receipts.

Ed Shepard works in marketing for a Seattle-based financial technology company called Tiller, but does so from clear across the country, in downtown Burlington.

“Vermont is an ideal place to work remotely from,” Shepard told necn. “It’s a great place for a young family to grow up and enjoy the outdoors.”

Leah Fishman, the community manager of Study Hall in Burlington, a co-working space, said people who relocate to Vermont and work remotely could form meaningful professional connections here.

Fees for joining co-working spaces like Study Hall could be covered by the future grants.

“There are options besides your living room as far as working once you get here and get settled in—finding places where you can be productive, form community, and network,” Fishman said of co-working spaces like hers.

Goldstein said the program’s already been a major success in generating national media attention, helping further plant that seed in people that Vermont could be a great place to live—not just a place to take a vacation.

<![CDATA[ Judge Schedules 10-Day Trial in Mystery Deaths Case]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2018 14:25:46 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/CARMAN-OUTSIDE-COURT-2.jpg

A judge has rejected a request from a Vermont man to dismiss a lawsuit filed by his own family accusing him of killing his millionaire grandfather and possibly his mother in an attempt to collect inheritance money.

Judge David King scheduled a 10-day trial in probate court in the case of Nathan Carman, starting in 2019.

Carman is acting as his own attorney. He has been called a suspect in the 2013 Connecticut shooting death of real estate developer John Chakalos. No one's been arrested. Carman also was questioned about when his boat sank with his mother aboard near Rhode Island in 2016. She is presumed dead. Carman has denied involvement in both cases.

Carman's aunts sued in New Hampshire last year.

Messages seeking comment from Carman were left Monday.

Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA[Endangered Fish Species Draws Attention of Vt. Researchers]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 17:25:13 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Endangered_Lake_Sturgeon_Being_Studied_in_Vt..jpg

Scientists eager to learn more about an endangered species of fish in Lake Champlain caught, examined and tagged rare lake sturgeon Thursday as part of an ongoing research project.

Lake sturgeon are an endangered species in Vermont, and they are the largest freshwater fish in Lake Champlain.

"We have the only remaining lake sturgeon population in New England here," noted Chet MacKenzie of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with scientists from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Geological Survey, were on the Winooski River Thursday, between the cities of Winooski and Burlington, where these giants come to spawn.

They set up nets to try to catch them to weigh, measure and tag the fish, and they netted two during the time NBC10 Boston was with the team.

Lake sturgeon are a prehistoric species. They can live 100 years or more, and can grow six or even seven feet long.

But they take two decades to mature sexually, were over-fished for generations and have struggled with habitat loss, so their numbers plummeted.

"We'd like to see them recovered so we can have a large, healthy population," MacKenzie said.

The work to catch and tag sturgeon is aimed at giving scientists a firmer sense of their population in the Lake Champlain basin.

The tags give researchers a better way to track the fish.

Right now, estimated numbers are really as murky as the waters of the Winooski. Anecdotally, fisherman seem to be spotting more of the endangered sturgeon and are reporting their finds to the state.

"I think it definitely is an encouraging sign what we've seen so far for the population," said Lisa Izzo, a PhD student researching sturgeon at the University of Vermont. "So we're hoping once we get a number, we get a better handle on if they're going up or staying stable."

"We're here hoping to do good, and make sure the fish stays here for a long time," added Donna Parrish, a U.S. Geological Survey employee who is also Izzo’s advisor at UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

As the study continues, conservationists are pleading with anglers to join their renewed push for protection — asking them to release any sturgeon they may accidentally catch immediately. Not doing so is illegal, and could further threaten this ancient fish, MacKenzie said.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[New Marina Under Construction on Lake Champlain]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 17:54:52 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/257*120/LakeChamplainMarina.JPG

A significant change is coming to the scenic Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington, Vermont.

Work started this week on a new marina that’s aimed at boosting access to the city by boat—something economic development leaders have described as a valuable and growing driver of summer tourism in the city.

“That’s only going to enhance tourism,” predicted Jack Wallace, one of the developers of the Burlington Harbor Marina, which is expected to open in time for the boating season in 2019.

The marina will have 160 boat slips, pump-out facilities, a fuel dock, and more.

The new construction will become a private marina, operating under a long-term lease agreement with the city, which will create new revenues for Burlington in the form of rent, new taxes, and revenue-sharing under an agreement crafted with the Burlington City Council.

“The boating community loves to come to Burlington and enjoy all it has to offer,” Wallace said, describing the appeal of the roughly $7-million project to create the marina and related amenities.

The work has, however, meant a seasonal shutdown of the popular fishing pier on the Burlington waterfront, which has long been a destination for walkers, anglers, and people just looking to relax.

“It is a bummer,” said fisherman Jake Rugg, who had hoped to cast a line into Lake Champlain Wednesday, before he learned the pier is offline for the whole summer as a safety measure during construction. “It puts a little crimp in my plans.”

The developers of the Burlington Harbor Marina have agreed to reserve 40 percent of the new slips for people who want to visit just for a few days—travelers who are called “transient boaters”—and that should alleviate some pressure on Burlington’s city-owned docks.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away, and right now, we’re at capacity most of our weekends,” said Erin Moreau, who manages the waterfront division of the Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department.

Moreau said the city has increasingly become a destination for people who want to moor in the city’s harbor, then walk just a few blocks to downtown restaurants and shopping.

Full-summer slip rentals are also now hard to come by in Burlington, Moreau acknowledged.

“In general, I would say the wait is two to five years, but it does get longer the bigger the boat size,” Moreau told necn.

And while folks like Jake Rugg may be disappointed in a summer without access to the fishing pier, the mayor’s office said long-term, the area will be back, with new public amenities—including restrooms, more parking, and a new park, which are all part of the project.

Photo Credit: NECN]]>
<![CDATA[Vt. Men Sentenced in Connection to Mass. Retiree's Murder]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 17:54:28 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Vt._Men_Sentenced_in_Connection_to_MA_Retiree_s_Murder.jpg

The final legal step in a nearly eight-year ordeal of criminal investigations and courtroom twists came Tuesday for a family from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, whose mother was shot and killed in 2010.

However, the family said after the sentencing hearing that they believe the convicts got off way too easily.

“We were hoping it would go to trial,” said Matt O’Hagan, one of the sons of Pat O’Hagan, a grandmother of nine from Chelmsford who retired to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

O’Hagan, 78, was shot and killed in 2010 when three men broke into her home to steal cash and prescription pills.

“She volunteered with a lot of groups and she helped a lot of people,” remembered Shawn O’Hagan, another of Pat O’Hagan’s children. “She looked for nothing in return. And I think that’s a legacy we can all live by: give back.”

Tuesday, Keith Baird and Richard Fletcher were sentenced for kidnapping and burglary, after plea deals saw murder charges dropped.

The kidnapping charges were brought because investigators said the men held O’Hagan against her will while she feared physical harm.

Michael Norrie was sentenced in late 2015 and is already serving at least 27 years for murder. He pulled the trigger during that break-in.

Tuesday, Baird declined to address the court. Fletcher spoke briefly before the sentence was finalized.

"I’d like to apologize to the O’Hagan family,” Fletcher said. “There’s no amount of time to change what I’ve done.”

Judge Michael Kupersmith told Baird and Fletcher that while they might not have planned for Pat O’Hagan to die, their involvement in the break-in that turned violent was “cowardly” and “despicable.”

The judge said each would have to work hard to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow following their eventual releases from prison.

The victim’s children, who traveled to Vermont for the sentencing hearing from Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, and Michigan, said they were disappointed that Baird and Fletcher’s 15 year minimum sentences—with credit for time served—will overlap with sentences for unrelated crimes.

The O’Hagans perceive that as meaning only a few measly years for their mom’s brutal death.

Prosecutors worried about taking the case to trial, because of several potential problems with evidence.

“Hopefully they don’t hurt anybody else, and if they can be productive in the future, that’s good for everybody,” Pat O’Hagan’s son Mark said of Baird and Fletcher.

“Hopefully we can all, in our way, not forget it, but put it behind us and move forward,” added Terry O’Hagan, another of the victim’s children.

It was only a very small consolation after losing their mom and the nearly eight-year-long legal marathon, but the O’Hagan family said they did appreciate the apology from Fletcher.

<![CDATA[Red Sox Honor Vt. Gold Star Families at Fenway Park]]>Mon, 28 May 2018 17:23:41 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Gold_Star_Families_Honored_at_Fenway_Park.jpg

Several Gold Star families from Vermont were honored at Fenway Park in Boston in a Memorial Day service held before Monday’s game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Heather Sheehan of Milton, Vermont lost her husband, Sgt. Kevin Sheehan, in a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq.

“It’s really great to be with this group of people,” Sheehan said of the Gold Star families that traveled together from Vermont to the ballpark. “We have that common bond.”

Sheehan was one of 29 Gold Star family members from the Green Mountains whose sacrifices were honored on the field before the Memorial Day game.

Kevin McLaughlin of West Bolton, Vermont, whose son, Sgt. Scott McLaughlin, died from enemy fire in Iraq in 2005, had the high-pressure job of throwing out the first pitch.

“We were always afraid Scott would get forgotten, along with the rest of the soldiers,” McLaughlin told necn. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

The Vermont National Guard Fallen Heroes Memorial Committee organized the tour, with donations from businesses, individuals, and the Red Sox making it all possible.

“We need to do whatever we can do to take care of the families and show the respect that’s due for everything they’ve been through and continue to go through,” said Lt. Col. Dave Leonard of the Vermont National Guard.

For Kim Bean of Bridport, whose son, Spec. Alan Bean, was killed 14 years ago in Iraq in the same attack that claimed Kevin Sheehan’s life, Memorial Day brought a mix of profound sadness, followed by deep pride in the respect shown for her son’s service.

“I’m so happy for the people who made it happen for me,” Bean said of the trip to Fenway.

The Gold Star families got player escorts onto the field and loud applause from the Fenway fans before the singing of the National Anthem.

“I would say you’d find a very patriotic crowd here, for sure,” Heather Sheehan said.

The Vermont Guard pledged to remember and revere these families not just on Memorial Day, but year-round.

<![CDATA[Vt. First Responders Urge Drivers to 'Move Over']]>Fri, 25 May 2018 21:11:32 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Troopers_Tell_Vermont_Drivers_to_Move_Over.jpg

A new public safety push is underway in Vermont after first responders expressed concerns that drivers aren't giving them enough room on the road to do their jobs safely.

Vermont State Police, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles and the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program have teamed up to spread the word about the state's existing "move over" law, including through targeted patrols.

The education campaign comes at the traditional start of the busy summer driving season.

"We want to avoid a tragedy," said Bill Jenkins of the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program. "And it only takes a split second to ruin the weekend — ruin their life."

Friday, necn rode along with Trooper Charles Gardner of the Vermont State Police as he patrolled Interstate 91, looking to stamp out a big source of worry for first responders.

"It's a safety hazard," Gardner said of drivers who fail to move over.

The trooper showed the news station how, despite laws requiring it, some drivers just don't change lanes to the left when passing an emergency vehicle parked on the right shoulder.

It happened four times in the five minutes the necn news crew was at another trooper's traffic stop.

Gardner pursued and stopped a driver from Massachusetts, who told the trooper she simply didn't know about the rule.

"You're supposed to move over on the approach of all emergency vehicles," Gardner told the driver.

Drivers who fail to move over may get cash fines and points on their license for failing to move over.

"It's dangerous," said Vermont State Police Capt. Mike Manley. "Throughout the United States every year, there's police officers, firefighters, EMS, highway workers, tow truck drivers — there's accidents every year. People are getting hurt."

"It has a lot to do, maybe, with distracted driving," added Lt. Bob Giolito of the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. "Cellphones are a big thing — texting and driving."

First responders like Trooper Gardner are grateful for the majority of drivers who do move over properly.

That driver from Massachusetts who didn't shift lanes got just a written warning, promising Gardner that she'll be sure to move over next time.

"Drive safe," he told the driver before she pulled away and continued her journey.

Manley acknowledged that drivers cannot always move over. Sometimes, there's someone in the lane to the left of you. In those cases, police want you to at least slow down and do whatever you can to make the situation as safe as possible for everyone.

<![CDATA[Runners Prepare for 30th Annual Vermont City Marathon]]>Thu, 24 May 2018 17:58:06 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Planning_for_Vt._City_Marathon.jpg

New England's second-largest marathon, behind Boston, is this weekend — the People's United Bank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington.

In 2018, the event is celebrating a milestone 30th year.

"I'm always excited," said hand-cyclist Pat Standen, who's racing in Sunday's marathon. "It builds community."

Standen will be among roughly 8,000 racers who will wind their way through Burlington, cheered on by huge crowds of spectators.

The wheeled racer has won his division three times.

"I always get a little worried until the gun goes off, and then I put all those worries behind and just race the race," Standen said.

Race director Peter Delaney said he expects participants from all 50 states and several foreign countries, giving the region's businesses a big boost.

"Whether you're running, whether you're volunteering, or just out there cheering somebody on, it's become a staple of the community," Delaney said.

For this milestone year, 2014 Boston Marathon champ Meb Keflezighi will be running a relay leg and making special appearances.

"You get the feel of a big-city race like New York or Boston, in a small city like Burlington," Delaney said of the Vermont City Marathon.

As the hours tick down to Sunday, Run Vermont's office is buzzing with last-minute preparations. The big tents are going up on the city's waterfront, and portable bathrooms are arriving.

Along the route, staffers of the Burlington Public Works Department have been filling potholes from this rough winter — both for race day and for the drivers who use the busy roads the rest of the time.

"Trying to get all the ankle-breakers out of the road," Brian Bessette said of the department's work to attack potholes. "There's a lot of divots in the road, and we're smoothing them out for them."

While there's a robust security plan in place for Sunday, the Burlington Police Department has asked spectators to lend a hand in that effort, reminding them, "If you see something, say something."

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Vt. Coffee Roaster Producing ‘Green’ Beans]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 17:50:07 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Vt._Coffee_Roaster_Uses_100_Percent_Renewable_Energy.jpg

A Vermont food company, whose products are on store shelves throughout New England, is now making its coffee using an emerging power source that’s gentler on the environment.

The coffee beans look the same—dark brown as always—but it’s green energy now fueling the operation at the Vermont Coffee Company in Middlebury.

“It was a huge morale boost for the company to accomplish something that no one had done before,” said company founder Paul Ralston.

The Vermont Coffee Company is boasting that it’s the nation’s first roastery powered entirely by renewables.

With all the heat and machines needed to roast coffee beans, this is an energy-intensive business, and Ralston wanted to reduce his carbon footprint.

So he ditched propane for biogas. It is made from the methane given off by a Canadian landfill.

Vermont Gas pipes the biogas to the roasting facility, which employs 35 people across its various departments. The renewable power source is considered cleaner than conventional natural gas.

Ralston also went with “cow power” electricity from Green Mountain Power, which is produced from the methane in manure on Vermont dairy farms.

“What can a small company do that a big company won’t do?” Ralston asked rhetorically. “A big company won’t spend the money on renewable fuels, but we can, because we know our customers will appreciate it.”

The biogas costs more than twice what his old fuel did, Ralston said, but the company assures customers across the Northeast that they will not face price hikes.

That’s because new roasting equipment that operates far more efficiently has cut energy consumption, the company explained, helping make those higher costs of renewables less of an issue.

“Efficiency is the most important first step to take,” Ralston said.

“I think you’re going to continue to see this more and more,” predicted Elaine Young, a marketing professor at Champlain College’s Stiller School of Business.

Young said she believes companies that make sustainability a key part of their branding and public messaging are primed for growth, noting that both millennials and baby boomers alike increasingly want to feel good about the ethics of the labels they support.

“It’s a crowded marketplace,” Young said of consumer goods. “You have to win [customers’] loyalty—you have to get on their radar to win their loyalty. Showing yourself as being sustainable and speaking to that particular market segment can have big dividends. But it’s not easy to do.”

Paul Ralston said he’s glad he put in the hard work.

“I do believe people will take notice,” he told necn.

While the Vermont Coffee Company may be the first roaster to switch to all renewables, Ralston said he hopes the company is not the last.

<![CDATA[Police Seek Public's Help Finding Missing Vt. Woman]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 06:47:58 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Emma-Jean+Farina.jpg

Police in Vermont need the public's help in locating a missing woman from Strafford.

State police said Emma-Jayne Farina, 23, was last seen at her home on May 16.

Two days later, police said her family's home was burglarized. Investigators believe Farina may have played a role in the burglary.

Since Farina went missing, police said her family and friends have received some type of communication indicating that she may be in danger.

Anyone with information on Farina's whereabouts is urged to contact Vermont State Police.

<![CDATA[Vt. Man Denies Clubbing Victim With Pipe, Torching His Home]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 17:42:59 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Man_Accused_of_Killing_Victim_With_Pipe.jpg

A man from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is behind bars, after being accused of beating a man with a pipe over money, then leaving him to die in a burning house.

Allen Draper, 30, of St. Johnsbury, pled not guilty Tuesday to the accusations against him.

The murder investigation was sparked last week by the discovery of a dead body in the debris left by a raging house fire on Crepeault Hill Road.

Vermont State Police said a large team of investigators and dogged detective work led them to Draper, who walked into court Tuesday with crutches because of a physical disability.

A defense attorney entered not guilty pleas on murder and arson charges that could bring life sentences if Draper is convicted.

The suspect is accused of clubbing 52-year-old homeowner Tim Persons with a radiator pipe, because Persons wouldn’t give him money for drugs.

Draper allegedly then doused old rags in fuel to torch the property, leaving Persons dying inside.

Investigators believe the victim’s volunteer work with a halfway house for men with substance abuse disorders is how the suspect knew about Persons and his home-based carpentry business.

“We ran into a lot of hurdles in this one,” said Vermont State Police Capt. Dan Trudeau, describing the complexity of the investigation.

In a police affidavit, detectives said Draper tried telling multiple stories and blaming other people, but eventually confessed.

Detectives are still stitching together the timeline, Trudeau said, so anyone with potentially helpful information is asked to call the barracks in St. Johnsbury.

“Tim was a very giving person—always with a big smile,” said Pastor Clifton Bullock of Union Baptist Church in Waterford, where Persons worshipped.

Bullock remembered Persons as a man of deep faith who’d always go out of his way to help others.

“We know that he’s with the Lord, and that’s the thing that gives us hope through this process of grieving,” Bullock told necn. “But we are very much hurt by everything that’s taken place.”

There was no comment from relatives of Tim Persons after the arraignment Tuesday.

Allen Draper is currently jailed without bail, at least until his next court hearing. 

<![CDATA[Vt. School District Closes After Verbal Threat]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 09:33:35 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Randolph+Union+High+School+Vermont.PNG

A school district in Vermont will be closed on Tuesday after authorities say a student made a verbal threat.

Police in Randolph said a parent notified them at about 11 p.m. Monday after their child said another student said they were going to "shoot up the school tomorrow."

Investigators arranged to speak with the parent and student at the police station and determined that the statement was made during an altercation between two middle school students.

Police notified Randolph Superintendent Layne Millington and other school staff of the potential threat.

Due to the nature of the statement, officials made the decision to close all schools in the district for Tuesday.

"At this time we do not believe any action will take place, but out of an abundance of caution the schools will remain closed and locked until Wednesday, May 23rd," police said in a statement.

Authorities said the person of interest, a juvenile, is known and a threat assessment is being conducted.

The investigation is ongoing.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Man Killed in Vermont Plane Crash]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 22:32:33 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/BALD-MOUNTAIN.jpg

A Manchester, Conn. man was killed in a plane crash in Vermont Sunday, according to Vermont State Police.

According to Vermont State Police, 31-year-old Ramsey Sampson Ah-Nee was the pilot and only occupant in a 1975 Piper PA-34-200T that crashed in Woodford, Vt. Sunday evening.

Police said the Federal Aviation Administration contacted them regarding a lost aircraft in the area of Bald Mountain in Woodford just before 6 p.m. Sunday. The FAA was tracking the plane and lost it on radar.

Search and rescue teams began searching the area of the last known coordinates and located the aircraft in the woods around 1 a.m. The pilot was found deceased on scene, police said.

The plane was scheduled to fly from Burlington, Vt. to Oxford, Conn. Police said Ah-Nee was an experienced pilot with more than five years of experience.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

<![CDATA[Vermont Police Urge Safe Summer Driving]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 17:12:05 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Vt._Police_Tell_Public_to_Buckle_Up.jpg

With Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kickoff of the busy summer driving season just days away, members of law enforcement are issuing an urgent plea to drivers.

They are asking drivers to buckle up, keep their speeds down, stay sober and put down electronic distractions.

Regarding the value of seat belt use, Vermont State Police pointed to a case this month in Bolton, where troopers say a woman was forced off Interstate 89 by a box truck when merging. The car flipped several times and landed on its roof in the median.

The 19-year-old driver walked away with just a minor wrist injury, and investigators attributed that to the fact she was wearing her seat belt.

"It's clear — the data show that if you wear your seat belt and you're in a crash, you are way more likely to survive than if you don't," said Chris Herrick, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety.

That message is being shared by law enforcement across the Northeast ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend and start of the summer travel season.

"It's shocking to me how anybody could conceivably get into a car and not seat belt themselves in," said Chief George Merkel of the Vergennes Police Dept. "It takes a matter of seconds."

According to state records, of Vermont's 69 crash deaths in 2017, 24 involved unbelted drivers or passengers.

So far in 2018, the state has seen 13 motor-vehicle-related deaths, according to Vermont State Police. More than half of them have involved unrestrained motorists, said Lt. John Flanigan, the commander of the Vermont State Police's safety programs.

In at least some of those cases, police believe buckling up could have been a game-changer, along with other simple safety steps.

"People need to be mindful of speed limits, aggressive driving, distracted driving, the use of electronic devices, and impaired driving," said Joe Flynn, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation. "These are all terrible problems that we share: New York, Vermont, Quebec, all of New England."

A bill that proposed stricter enforcement of Vermont seat belt rules stalled in the state senate this year, but lawmakers are expected to bring it up again next year.

<![CDATA[Man Charged With DUI, Cruelty to Child After Erratic Driving]]>Sun, 20 May 2018 21:12:53 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Darrell+Boudro.jpg

A Hartford, Vermont man is facing several charges after police received several complaints of erratic driving Sunday.

Investigators allege 48-year-old Darrell Boudro was driving under the influence of drugs with a 9-year-old child in the car with him.

Boudro is being charged with DUI-drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless endangerment, cruelty to a child, and grossly negligent operation.

Police say they received multiple complaints that Boudro was driving all over the road and striking signs on Route 131 in Weathersfield before the vehicle got on Interstate-91 at exit 8.

Weathersfield police eventually located Boudro's vehicle on I-91 northbound at mile marker 62 in Hartland where the car became disabled.

No one was injured in this incident.

It's not immediately clear if the child is related to Boudro, or where the child was taken after Boudro's arrest.

Boudro is expected to appear in Vermont Superior Court Windsor Criminal Division on May 23 at 12:30. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

No other information was immediately available.

<![CDATA[First Prize in Vermont Essay Contest: A New House]]>Fri, 18 May 2018 17:58:39 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Homely_Essay_Contest_in_Vermont.jpg

There’s one month left in an essay contest that’ll win someone a free house in Rutland, Vermont.

From the solar panels on the roof to the electric car charger by the driveway and the energy storage batteries in the attic, construction is nearly complete on the high-tech green home on Cleveland Avenue.

The 1,500 square foot house, with three bedrooms and 1.5 baths, will be given away mortgage-free.

“We’re really excited about how it’s come out,” said Steve Costello of Green Mountain Power.

GMP teamed with nonprofits, the city, and dozens of contractors and businesses that donated goods and services as part of a charitable community revitalization project.

“This is really about building community,” Costello said.

“The quality of life was really deteriorating down here,” Rutland Mayor Dave Allaire said in February of the situation in Rutland’s northwest neighborhood several years ago.

That comment came when a ramshackle house was being torn down to make way for the brand-new one.

The neighborhood is bouncing back from a long period of decline, Allaire said, with new vitality and improvements.

The Rutland region also wants to attract more workers to help employers fill jobs that have sat vacant, the mayor said, adding that attention on this giveaway could help draw others to the area.

Committee members will award the free home to the person or family that writes an essay convincing them of their passion for community-building.

“I think it’s going to be really magical for someone,” Costello said. “A lot of people applying have never owned a home before—I would say a majority of them.”

Costello said applications so far have come from both coasts of the U.S., and many places in between.

The winner will have to pay property taxes and could have some other tax liabilities, he noted.

Project superintendent Jason Clement of Naylor & Breen Builders said he predicts the home will be affordable to heat and cool, because of top-of-the line systems and insulation.

“It’s one tight building,” Clement told necn. “You’ll be able to light a candle and heat this thing from the inside—it’s not going to take very much at all.”

The deadline to apply for the home is June 18.

If the person who wins it has kids, they should be able to move in by the start of the school year.

For more information on the contest, visit this website: https://greenmountainpower.com/2018/02/22/rutland-innovation-home-contest/

<![CDATA[Popular Vt. Rec Path Offline Following Severe Weather]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 19:38:27 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/214*120/Severe_Weather_Leaves_Popular_Vt._Rec_Path_Closed.jpg

With the start of the summer travel season right around the corner, a popular destination on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain is out of commission for now, following a damaging wind storm.

The normally-busy Colchester Causeway now looks more like Swiss cheese than a recreation path, with washouts and ruts from recent severe weather. Its surface is gone in some places.

The "Causeway Closed" signs come as sad sights for visitors, who are used to more active scenes at the destination.

Bikers, joggers and walkers love the causeway for the unique experience of traveling a path that takes you across the lake.

"This whole causeway – 3.5 miles looking left and right, you've got water – it's just a wonderful feeling having water all around you," Peg Clement of Local Motion said in an necn feature on the causeway in June 2016.

When asked by necn Thursday if many people are disappointed by the causeway’s closure, Glen Cuttitta, the head of the Colchester Parks & Recreation Department, said, "I think it's not just the Colchester community, but looking at the causeway as a whole, it's a regional, state, and national treasure. People come from all over the country and Vermont to utilize this resource."

The damage came earlier this month when Lake Champlain was at flood stage and a powerful storm brought 40 and 50 mile per hour winds, with even stronger gusts creating the kind of waves you'd expect on ocean coastlines more than freshwater lakes.

"You had these four, five, six-footers, maybe even higher, that broke over [the edge of the causeway], and it's the crashing wave effect, as a lot of people know on coastal New England, that causes the damage," said Scott Whittier of the National Weather Service.

Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with state and local officials, toured the causeway and other places impacted by that May 4 storm.

The damage assessments were aimed at tallying the costs from the storm to public property and public utilities, to see if Vermont meets the threshold to qualify for federal repair aid.

The threshold is roughly $1 million, said Erica Bornemann, the director of Vermont Emergency Management.

Early estimates showed a $1.8 million hit, Bornemann noted, with the causeway alone nearly a third of that.

"It's so important to the recreational economy of that area," Bornemann said of the causeway. "And we want to ensure that they can recover effectively and in a timely manner in time for the summer season."

Assuming FEMA verifies that Vermont has met the damage threshold, ultimately, it'll be up to President Donald Trump to approve or deny disaster aid to the state.

<![CDATA[Vermont Selectman Denies Paying Alleged Prostitute for Sex]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 15:47:11 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Lynn+Doney+VT+court.jpg

A select board member in a central Vermont town pled not guilty to an accusation he paid an alleged prostitute for sex.

Lynn Doney, 57, faced appeared in court Thursday morning in Burlington.

Doney serves on the Northfield Select Board and is also an EMT and a part-time police officer in Barre Town.

Police said the Harbor Place Motel in Shelburne alerted them to suspicious behavior in one of the units, where they found a man who admitted to having sex with the selectman for money.

The man, who is half Doney’s age, told officers a recent paid sexual encounter was just one of several over the past few years in both Barre and Shelburne.

According to court paperwork, Doney told police he was merely friends with the man, and he gave him money to help with his rent—not for sex.

Because of his police background, Doney also faced an obstruction of justice charge, which he denied.

Doney did not comment to reporters after he entered his two not guilty pleas.

Police said earlier this week their investigation is ongoing.

NBC5 News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC5]]>
<![CDATA[Vt. City Aims to Ease Visitors’ Travels During Construction]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 17:50:35 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/City_Helps_Visitors_Navigate_During_Construction_Season.jpg

As the city of Burlington, Vermont enters its busiest time of year—starting with the University of Vermont’s graduation this weekend and continuing with summer and fall tourism traffic for the Lake Champlain region—travelers may notice some significant changes due to construction.

Because of that, the city wants to get ahead of any inconveniences by helping people navigate the streets with ease.

“We’re trying to do a better job of helping people find those available [parking] spaces,” said Chapin Spencer, the director of the Burlington Public Works Department.

A transformation is now underway for downtown Burlington, with an old mall demolished to make way for a high-rise of housing, offices, retail and dining space.

Elsewhere in the city, infrastructure upgrades are taking shape, including this week’s paving work on Pine Street.

The various jobs have left frequent visitor to Burlington Samantha Marchessault struggling sometimes to navigate streets and park her car.

Marchessault, who lives in Enosburgh, said she experienced frustrations parking, especially on weekends and at night, because of construction and the mall’s old garage being out of the picture.

“It’s hectic, it’s really hectic,” Marchessault said of parking. “Finding a spot is ridiculous.”

That perception is exactly what the Burlington Business Association and the Burlington Public Works Department now want to reverse.

The BBA pointed people to the interactive website ParkBurlington for updated maps and rates, and advice on finding parking.

BBA executive director Kelly Devine said even at peak times, plenty of spaces are available if you know where to look.

“It’s a nice map there, that shows you where any traffic pattern changes are happening and where you can park,” she said of the ParkBurlington website.

Public works director Chapin Spencer encouraged people to download the ParkMobile smartphone app for digital meter-feeding and re-feeding.

“We’re here to help people have a great time in downtown, even in this time of generational reinvestment in our streets and our sidewalks,” Spencer told necn.

Business owner Moe O’Hara said she appreciates the public education campaign.

“The perception that there’s no parking around is kind of incorrect,” she said. “There is parking around.”

O’Hara just opened a new Pine Street shop for artist-made goods called Thirty Odd.

She said she hopes locals and visitors alike will be excited about exploring the creative Burlington business community this summer, and not deterred by the changes happening on city streets.

“Business is open,” O’Hara said of independent businesses throughout the Burlington area. “It’s time for you guys to come down here and support us!”

<![CDATA[Police: Woman Called 911 About Husband Before Death]]>Wed, 16 May 2018 10:35:22 -0400https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/vermont+state+police1.jpg

A Vermont woman called 911 to say her husband was pointing a gun at her while he was drinking before she was found dead, state police said.

State police said responding troopers found Thea Swartz dead on the floor in a room inside her Orleans home and her husband, Randall Swartz, suffering from an apparent gunshot wound in the same room Tuesday night following the 911 call.

Randall Swartz, 58, was first taken to North Country Hospital in Newport and was ultimately taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, for further treatment. He has not been charged in connection with his wife's death at this time.

The Vermont Chief Medical Examiner's Office will determine the exact cause and manner of Thea Swartz's death, state police said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Photo Credit: Vermont State Police]]>