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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tax Department Backlog Leads to Errors in Tax Bills

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 7:18 PM

Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and Administration Secretary Susanne Young - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and Administration Secretary Susanne Young
Thousands of homeowners were overbilled for property taxes in July because of a Vermont Department of Taxes processing backlog, the department told local officials this week.

Commissioner Kaj Samsom said that about 5,000 taxpayers were affected. In an interview, he emphasized that local officials were not responsible for the situation and said his department is working overtime to send corrected information to municipalities.

“We dropped the ball, frankly,” Samsom said. “I can’t put any better spin on it than that.”

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Friday, July 13, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses to Return to Work Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 8:01 PM

Nurses rallying outside the hospital - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Nurses rallying outside the hospital
Nurses will start work as usual Saturday morning at the University of Vermont Medical center after a 48-hour strike. But their union has said another strike is not off the table as it remains at odds with the hospital over a three-year contract.

Members of the 1,800-member union walked off the job Thursday complaining that low wages have led to staffing problems. The union is seeking roughly a 23 percent wage increase for registered nurses over three years.

The hospital's chief operating officer, Eileen Whalen, called the union’s request “unrealistic” at a press conference Friday afternoon. Hospital spokesman Michael Carrese said it would cost $30 million over three years.

Meanwhile, the two-day strike cost the hospital about $3 million, according to Whalen. Much of that went to paying for nurses from out of town to cover for the strikers.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Leahy: Trump's Supreme Court Pick 'More Than Frightening'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 2:18 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy and other senators discussing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy and other senators discussing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Senate has vetted 19 Supreme Court nominees since Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took office in 1975, but Vermont's senior senator said the stakes have never been higher than they are over President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

“I’ve never seen a president act as though the Supreme Court has to be a wing of the White House instead of an independent branch of government," Leahy said in an interview Tuesday. "And they made it very clear that the president expects it to be.”

Leahy is the longest serving member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold confirmation hearings on the nomination. The full Senate must approve Kavanaugh's nomination before he can replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement at the end of June.

As special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether Trump and his campaign were involved with Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Leahy said the independence of federal courts is as important as ever.

“We’ve got the Russia investigation, which is a significant one, and here we’ve got [a nominee] who said that the president should be above the law when they’re president,” Leahy said.

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Contract Talks Yield No Breakthrough for Nurses, UVM Medical Center

Posted By on Sat, Jul 7, 2018 at 9:08 AM

Nurses at a honk-and-wave rally outside the hospital - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Nurses at a honk-and-wave rally outside the hospital
Updated at 6:45 pm.

No deal was reached during Friday night negotiations between the University of Vermont Medical Center and its nurses, and less than a week remains until nurses plan to strike. On Saturday, the union and hospital both released statements announcing that bargaining will continue Monday and Tuesday afternoons without a federal mediator.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

UVM Medical Center Seeks to Hire Hundreds in Advance of Strike

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 6:19 PM

Hotel Vermont
  • Hotel Vermont
University of Vermont Medical Center is making plans to fly hundreds of out-of-town nurses to Burlington to fill in if its nurses strike for two days next week. A staffing agency is recruiting nurses online and reserving local hotel rooms.

Hotel Vermont general manager Joseph Carton said Tuesday morning that an agency tried to reserve 600 rooms in Burlington. Hotel Vermont, which has 125 rooms, could not accommodate the entire request. But the agency ultimately reserved 32 rooms between Hotel Vermont and the Courtyard Burlington Harbor next door, which is owned by the same company, Carton said.

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Despite Extreme Heat, Vermonters Find Their Chill at Cannabis Legalization Party

Posted By on Sun, Jul 1, 2018 at 6:50 PM

The celebration is on - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • The celebration is on
At 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, seven people were sweating on Flynn Avenue in Burlington, waiting for a shuttle to take them to the Heady Vermont Legalization Celebration in Johnson.

They joked among one another that they shouldn’t have expected a bus for a pot party to, well, be on time. One man offered the others hits on his doobie, and they smoked in a circle, debating whether the parking lot would count as a public place under Vermont’s new cannabis law.

Sunday, July 1 marked the first day cannabis was legalized in Vermont — though some aspects of the law remain open to interpretation. Approximately 1,000 celebrants gathered at the Heady fest at Willow Crossing Farm, while others in southern Vermont attended the Original Green Mountain Cannabis and Music Festival in West Dover.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Nurses' Union to Serve UVM Medical Center With a Strike Notice

Posted By on Sat, Jun 30, 2018 at 5:12 PM

  • Sara Tabin
This story was updated at 7:20 p.m.

University of Vermont Medical Center nurses plan to serve the hospital on Monday morning with a 10-day notice of a two-day labor strike.

Keith Brunner, a spokesperson for the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, on Saturday announced a press conference at 11:30 a.m. Monday to reveal a “critical development” in contract negotiations. Prior to the press release, a UVM Medical Center nurse informed Seven Days that a strike notice will be served Monday. Brunner confirmed that Monday’s press conference is to announce that notice.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Lakeview Mobile Home Park in Shelburne to Be Sold

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 6:31 PM

Lakeview Mobile Home Park - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Lakeview Mobile Home Park
Residents of Lakeview Mobile Home Park in Shelburne got a letter Wednesday from park owner Trey Pecor informing them that the property will be sold. Now they must quickly decide if they want to buy the park and turn it into a co-op.

“We are all kind of reeling here,” said retiree Chris Pratt.  He had intended to live in the park until he dies, he wrote in an email to Seven Days.

Under Vermont law, mobile home residents have the right of first refusal if an owner decides to sell, and they are given 45 days to consider the purchase. Lakeview’s residents have a few extra days since the state has not yet received notice via certified mail, according to Arthur Hamlin, the state’s housing program coordinator for mobile home parks. If the occupants choose to make the purchase, they have an additional 120 days to appraise the land and negotiate with the owner.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leahy Bill Would Limit Feds' Authority to Search Near Borders

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:44 PM

  • Kym Balthazar
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday that would reduce the area near international borders where federal agents are allowed to conduct warrantless searches.

United States Border Patrol agents have for years established temporary checkpoints along Interstate 91 in southern Vermont to ask motorists about their citizenship and where they’re going. Some are detained for additional questioning. Because the checkpoint is within 100 miles of the Canadian border, federal law allows agents to do that without a warrant.

Federal law gives authorities expanded power near the borders in order to protect national security. But Leahy said in a statement that a range of 100 miles from the border is unreasonable. The new legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), would shrink the that zone from 100 to 25 miles.

"[T]his 100-mile zone is neither limited nor reasonable," Leahy said. "It includes marine borders. At present, it encompasses almost two-thirds of the population of the United States. This includes major cities such as New York, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles, even the 'border town' of Richmond, Va., as well as entire states such as Maine, Delaware, and Florida."

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Old Lantern Wedding Barn Prevails in Lengthy Legal Battle With Neighbors

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The Old Lantern
  • The Old Lantern
The Old Lantern wedding barn in Charlotte has won a decisive legal victory in a battle with its neighbors over noise.

The business, owned by Roland and Lisa Gaujac, will continue to operate under the terms of a June 7 settlement that the couple reached with neighbors Adrian and Alison Wolverton.

“We're so grateful that it's over," Lisa Gaujac told Seven Days Tuesday. "We just want to get back to focusing on our business."

The lawyer for the Wolvertons, James Dumont, did not return a message seeking comment from him and his clients.

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