Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Allows Gas Case to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:34 PM

Skip Vallee - MICHAEL TONN
  • Michael Tonn
  • Skip Vallee
An attempt by four gas wholesalers to quash a class-action lawsuit against them has failed.

The companies — R.L. Vallee, SB Collins, Wesco Oil and Champlain Oil — are being sued by plaintiffs who allege they colluded to set retail gas prices in northwestern Vermont, where the cost of filling up is often higher than in other parts of the state. 

In this week's Seven Days, Mark Davis reported that the defendants had asked the Chittenden Superior Court to throw out the case, but Judge Helen Toor denied the request. The companies then sought to appeal to the state's highest court. On Wednesday, the Vermont Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, allowing the case to move forward. 

It's far from the last legal hurdle the plaintiffs will encounter. As Davis reported, the Charleston, W. Va.-based firm Bailey & Glasser, which is representing the six residents who brought the case, has issued subpoenas seeking evidence. In response, the defendants have asked Toor to quash the subpoenas. 

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Despite Mediation, No Deal on Contract for Burlington Teachers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 6:58 PM

  • File
Burlington teachers trimmed their raise request but need to whittle it down further, Burlington School Board leaders said in a press release issued after a failed mediation session Wednesday.

Teachers reduced their raise proposal from 5.3 percent to 4.6 percent. The board offered 2 percent and said the city can’t afford more without laying off teachers.

The Burlington Education Association’s offer “remains unaffordable and would require additional cuts to teaching staff and other important services,” said a statement that the board released.

Board chair Mark Porter said in the statement that he wants to return to the table. “The board remains confident that we can reach an agreement that broadens student learning, keeps teacher pay competitive, and is fiscally sustainable for our community,” he said.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

GOP Official Says Bernie Sanders, Chris Pearson Violated Law

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 8:33 PM

Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), left, celebrates primary election victories last week with lieutenant governor candidate David Zuckerman, center. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), left, celebrates primary election victories last week with lieutenant governor candidate David Zuckerman, center.
When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) used his nationwide name recognition to give state Senate candidate Chris Pearson a major fundraising boost, Pearson “was totally stunned.”

Now, a Vermont Republican contends that both Sanders and Pearson violated state campaign finance laws in the process.

Brady Toensing, a Charlotte attorney and Vermont Republican Party vice chair, filed the complaint Tuesday with state Attorney General Bill Sorrell. 

At issue is a May email Sanders sent to the vast network of supporters he established as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders urged recipients to split a contribution between him and eight like-minded state legislative candidates around the country, including Pearson, who worked for Sanders in the late 1990s.

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Burlington, South Burlington Settle Airport Tax Fight

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 2:42 PM

Burlington International Airport - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Burlington International Airport
The property tax bill at Burlington International Airport is expected to shrink substantially under a settlement that ends a long-running municipal squabble.

The valuation on airport land and buildings will drop from $77 million to $52 million under an agreement approved by the South Burlington and Burlington city councils Monday night.

Airport director Gene Richards predicted the settlement will save the airport about $800,000 annually. Last year, Burlington paid South Burlington about $1.59 million in airport property taxes and payments in lieu of property taxes.

The roughly 870-acre airport is owned by the city of Burlington but is located in neighboring South Burlington. The host city dramatically increased the airport’s assessment and tax bill in 2012. Burlington protested and a four-year court battle ensued.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Gubernatorial Candidates Spent $5.3 Million in Vermont Primary

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 10:29 PM

Matt Dunne and Sue Minter embrace last Wednesday at a Vermont Democratic Party unity rally in Burlington. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Matt Dunne and Sue Minter embrace last Wednesday at a Vermont Democratic Party unity rally in Burlington.
Updated Tuesday, August 6, at 8:13 a.m.

Vermont's five major gubernatorial candidates spent a collective $5.3 million contesting last week's primary election, according to final reports filed Monday with the Secretary of State's Office. That makes the race the most expensive of its type in state history.

Far and away the biggest spender was Republican Bruce Lisman, who dropped $2.1 million — or $118 per vote — in his failed attempt to win the GOP nomination. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who prevailed in that race, spent just $806,000 — or $29 per vote. Scott defeated Lisman 60 to 39 percent.

On the Democratic side, Sue Minter and Matt Dunne spent close to $1 million apiece: $984,000 for Minter and $999,000 for Dunne. A third candidate, Peter Galbraith, doled out $372,000. Minter won with 49 percent of the vote. Dunne picked up 37 percent and Galbraith 9 percent.

The final fundraising figures show Minter got the best bang for her buck. She spent $27 per vote, while Dunne spent $37 and Galbraith $56. 

At the start of their general-election contest, Scott has a slight financial advantage. He has $158,000 in the bank, while Minter has just $54,000, according to their respective campaigns.

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Officials Warn About Potentially Deadly Heroin Strain in Vermont

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 12:20 PM

Heroin packets - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Heroin packets
Updated Tuesday, August 16, at 1:05 p.m. to include additional information about overdoses in Barre City. 

A potentially deadly strain of heroin is being dealt in central Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom and other parts of the state, according to state health officials.

The Vermont Department of Health issued a warning Monday morning after emergency responders reported at least 10 overdoses over the weekend that required more than one dose of Narcan to revive the person. The news release notes that some of those incidents have been linked to a strain of heroin labeled "Game of Thrones," which may be laced with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin. 

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Air Show Noise Sets Off Some Burlington Residents

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 6:24 PM

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington. - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … really friggin’ loud!

Some Burlington residents are making noise about the loud and low passes made by military jets and aerobatic aircraft ahead of this weekend’s Wings Over Vermont air show. Both Thursday and Friday, aircraft buzzed the Burlington waterfront, getting ready for a spectacle that organizers said could draw up to 40,000 people.

But the loud practice runs prompted some concerned citizens to vent online — or call the police. Chief Brandon del Pozo said “numerous” calls about the noise had the potential to clog the dispatch switchboard and hinder the response to an actual emergency.

“Please advise the public that no number of calls to the police will alter the plans for the show or the level of noise it creates,” del Pozo said in a press release.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pro-Wind Group Seeks to Change Message

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 2:31 PM

  • File: Kathryn Flagg
A new Vermont group in support of wind power has formed, and its members hope to counter the increasingly loud opposition movement.

Wind Works VT is a coalition of individuals and wind power developers, said Kyle Martel of KSE Partners, a Montpelier government affairs and strategic communications firm that represents the group.

Arguing that public opinion polls show strong support for wind power, the group has launched online ads to make the case that wind is a locally generated, clean and renewable source of energy critical to meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.

The individuals and developers behind the group don’t want to be identified, Martel said, “because of the way the anti-wind crowd has bordered on harassment.”

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Air Show to Wow Burlington — Minus One Local Flight School

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:45 PM

Thunderbirds - U.S. AIR FORCE
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Thunderbirds
Thousands of people and boats are expected to crowd the Burlington waterfront Saturday and Sunday for the Wings over Vermont air show. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and vintage aircraft will wow crowds.

But you won’t see the Vermont Flight Academy among the list of sponsors.

The local pilot training school, based at Burlington International Airport, paid to have a table with promotional material on the waterfront during the aviation extravaganza. 

“At the last minute we got notified that they said they had a contractual arrangement that prohibited us from participating in the show,” said Ed Antczak, executive director of the academy.

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Judge Dismisses F-35 Lawsuit, Paving Way for Jets to Arrive

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 9:32 AM

Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s.
  • Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by opponents of the Air Force's decision to bring a squadron of next-generation F-35 fighter jets to Burlington International Airport.

The 35-page decision by Judge Geoffrey Crawford, released Wednesday, removes one of the last major impediments to delivering 18 F-35s, which are larger and louder than the F-16s currently based at the airport, to the Vermont Air National Guard in 2019.

A group of Winooski and South Burlington residents, along with the city of Winooski, sued after the basing decision, arguing that the Air Force had failed to conduct a thorough review of the environmental impact of the F-35s. They asked Crawford to block the planes and order the Air Force to conduct a new review, known as an environmental impact statement (EIS).

But Crawford was not persuaded.

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