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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Frontier's BTV-Denver Flight Will Go on Seasonal Hiatus in November

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 4:15 PM

  • Sean Metcalf
In January, Frontier Airlines announced a new nonstop flight from Burlington International Airport to Denver, Colo.

Not reported at the time: The flight is seasonal. It began in May and will stop running as of November 13, 2019, for a winter hiatus before resuming in spring 2020, an airline spokesperson told Seven Days. Two days after the route is suspended, the discount airline will again offer its seasonal cold-weather flight from BTV to Orlando, Fla.

"We’ve been very happy with the results we’ve seen so far and look forward to continuing our success at BTV," Zach Kramer, Frontier's manager of corporate communications, wrote in an email.

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On Target? Axe Throwing Venue to Open in Burlington's Old North End

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 10:41 AM

Jules Townsend, Mike Garber and Jesse Snyder of Burly Axe Throwing - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Jules Townsend, Mike Garber and Jesse Snyder of Burly Axe Throwing
Burlington entrepreneur Mike Garber has an axe to grind: There aren’t enough places to have good, clean fun in the Queen City. So he’s opening one of his own.

By sometime next month, Garber hopes to have Burly Axe Throwing, a competitive axe throwing venue, up and operating at 294 North Winooski Avenue.

Participants chuck two-pound axes — really more like hatchets — at a bullseye painted on a wooden wall to earn the most points.

“It’s a lot like darts,” Garber said. “It sort of gives you the feeling of danger, but it’s under control.”

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Winooski-Based BioTek to Sell for Nearly $1.2 Billion

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Briar and Adam Alpert at BioTek's Winooski headquarters - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Briar and Adam Alpert at BioTek's Winooski headquarters
The family that founded one of Vermont’s largest tech firms has reached a blockbuster deal to sell it to a publicly traded California company.

Agilent Technologies, a Silicon Valley spinoff of Hewlett-Packard, plans to acquire Winooski-based BioTek Instruments for $1.165 billion this fall, the two companies announced Thursday morning.

The late Norman Alpert, a University of Vermont professor of physiology and biophysics, founded BioTek in a Charlotte garage in 1968.

“We have accomplished extraordinary things,” said Alpert's son, BioTek president and chief executive officer Briar Alpert. “I think we got to a point where, to make the next step — to really become a true, global leader — we needed to partner with someone who had a reach and a scale … to take BioTek to the next level.”

A BioTek device at the company's Winooski headquarters - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • A BioTek device at the company's Winooski headquarters
The Vermont company, which designs and manufactures life science instrumentation used in research and medical settings, had revenues of $162 million in 2018 and expects to grow by 10 percent this year, it said in a statement. BioTek employs 500 people worldwide, 300 of whom work out of its Tigan Street headquarters in Winooski.

Representatives of both companies said the deal would not imperil Vermont jobs.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Vermont Senate Approves Paid Family Leave Bill

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 5:50 PM

Members of the Senate take their oaths of office. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Members of the Senate take their oaths of office.
The Vermont Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would create a mandatory paid family leave program for workers, funded through a 0.2 percent payroll tax.

The bill, H.107, would allow Vermont workers to be paid for up to 12 weeks of “bonding leave” after the birth or adoption of a child, or for six weeks to care for a sick or injured family member. The program would be run by a private insurance company and would pay workers at 90 percent of their earnings up to $27,000 per year, and 55 percent of additional earnings.

Before the Senate voted 19-10 to advance the bill, Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) said the program would cost about $30.5 million a year. Of the 0.2 percent payroll tax, businesses and employees would each pay half.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Vermont House Panel Approves Slower Minimum Wage Increase

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2019 at 7:15 PM

Vermont's House Appropriations Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Vermont's House Appropriations Committee
The House Appropriations Committee made a big change Monday to a Senate-approved bill that was designed to bring Vermont's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024.

The new version of the legislation would raise the wage by 2.25 times the rate of the consumer price index until it reaches $15; at that point, the annual increases would go up at the same rate as the index.

House Appropriations chair Kitty Toll (D-Danville) told the committee that the alteration means the lowest-earning Vermonters wouldn't begin earning $15 per hour as soon as previous versions of the legislation.

“So what this does, it pushes [the $15 minimum wage] out to 2026, whereas the bill that was before us had 2024,” she said.

The panel voted 6-5 to approve the change.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

High THC Cannabis Found at Farm Linked to Champlain Valley Dispensary

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 2:28 PM

A sample of a cannabis plant that was found on a farm by staff from the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in October 2018. - AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND MARKETS
  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
  • A sample of a cannabis plant that was found on a farm by staff from the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in October 2018.
Updated at 5:28 p.m.

The medical marijuana business Champlain Valley Dispensary allegedly outsourced the growth of approximately 300 cannabis plants to a farm that wasn't licensed to grow pot, which grew them to maturity before the dispensary returned to harvest the crop.

A lab test conducted last fall by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets found that a piece of plant debris recovered at Pete’s Greens vegetable farm in Craftsbury contained 21 percent THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana.

The farm had a license to grow hemp plants, according to an agency document, but the legal limit for THC in Vermont-grown hemp is 0.3 percent. Plants with a higher concentration of THC are considered marijuana and are subject to strict growing regulations that require a permit, locked facilities and other security measures.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Vermont House Panel Approves $15 Minimum Wage

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Legislative economist Joyce Manchester, center - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Legislative economist Joyce Manchester, center
The House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee approved legislation Friday to increase Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 by 2024. The bill has already passed the Senate.

The House committee didn’t make many changes to the bill, but this week’s deliberations were occasionally tense as lawmakers argued for protections to prevent the bill from hurting the business community.

The bill, S.23, would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in 2020, $12.25 in 2021, $13.10 in 2022 and $14.05 in 2023.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Vermont House Backs Paid Family Leave Bill

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 7:16 PM

Members of the House taking their oaths of office - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Members of the House taking their oaths of office
After a long debate Thursday, the Vermont House voted 92-52 to advance legislation that would create a mandatory, statewide paid family leave program. Though the bill won widespread support, it fell short of the two-thirds margin necessary to override a potential veto from Gov. Phil Scott.

The initiative would launch in October 2020 and allow up to 12 weeks of paid “bonding” leave for new parents and eight weeks of paid leave for workers who are sick or injured, or caring for a sick or injured spouse or relative.

During approved leave, workers would receive 90 percent of their normal pay up to $13.34 per hour, the current livable wage established by state economists. The benefit drops to 50 percent for wages above that amount.

To fund the program, businesses would be required to pay 0.1 percent of employees’ earnings beginning in April 2020. Starting in October 2020, that rate would go up to 0.55 percent, or 5.5 cents for every $10 paid to employees. Businesses would have the option to deduct those payments from employees’ checks, share the cost with workers or pay the entire cost.

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

REI to Open Its First Vermont Store in Williston

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:44 PM

Rendering of the new REI store - COURTESY TOWN OF WILLISTON
  • Courtesy Town of Williston
  • Rendering of the new REI store
Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI Co-op, is preparing to open a store in Williston, the company's first in Vermont.

The Seattle-based outdoor gear retailer will take over a 31,100-square-foot space at 244 Retail Way that has been vacant since Toys "R" Us went out of business last year. The store will be next door to a Marshalls, near the intersection of Route 2A and Marshall Avenue.

Planning documents filed with the Town of Williston describe approximately $2 million in work planned for the building, including an update to the façade.

The Williston Observer first reported the news.

The town's Historic and Architectural Advisory Committee reviewed the plans at its March 19 meeting, and Matt Boulanger, director of planning and zoning, approved them on Monday. Boulanger said company officials gave no indication when they expect to open, but he said retailers that start the fit-up process this time of year generally hope to accommodate shoppers by the holiday season.

"Based on what I see in the permit application and the changes they're proposing, it'll take some work out on the exterior," Boulanger said. "But it's the proverbial big box, so those are pretty easy to configure."

An REI spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chittenden County is home to several outdoor gear stores, including many in downtown Burlington. An Eastern Mountain Sports store in South Burlington closed in 2017 after the company declared bankruptcy.

Retail centers in other parts of the country have been hit hard by online shopping and other market changes, but Boulanger said that Williston has been relatively lucky in that regard.

"At least for now, we’re not having that problem where stuff sits empty for years and years,” Boulanger said, “and that’s a good thing.”

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Monkton General Store Will Stay Open After Raising Needed Cash

Posted By on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 5:55 PM

  • Courtesy of Darcee Alderman
There's new life at the Monkton General Store.

Days after sending out a desperate plea for help, the shop's owners have raised enough money to pay a debt they owed the state. Darcee Alderman told Seven Days last Thursday that she and her husband, Sam, needed $20,000 to keep the 150-year-old store in business. The community responded by spending at the store and donating about $8,200 through a GoFundMe page started by a store employee.

"It was wonderful," Alderman said Monday. "I've already paid the state. Now I need to restock!"

The couple bought the store in 2007. With interest, fees and penalties, the couple owed the state tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and bottle deposits, she said. About $20,000 came due Saturday night, a deadline Alderman said the state extended until Monday.

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