YCQM :January 20, 2013 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM :January 20, 2013

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

>> GOOD MORNING EVERYONE, YOU'RE NEWS MAKE THEY ARE SUNDAY STEVE JEFFREY OF THE VERMONT LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS. WE'LL DISCUSS THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET SHORTFALL, WHAT IT MEANS FOR TOWNS, OUR TOWNS ZERO BOUNCING BACK AFTER IRENE AND THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSALS TO OVERHAUL EDUCATION AND WHAT THAT MEANS FOR TOWNS AS WELL, JEFFREY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US. LET'S START WITH THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS, THE GOVERNOR LAYING OUT SPECIFIC DETAILS AS TO WHAT SHE WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON EDUCATION. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

>> I VOTED FOR THE -- THE OTHER HALF OF LOCAL BOTTOM, THE SCHOOL -- THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND THE LOCAL PRIORITIES AND SERVICES THAT NEED TO BE PROVIDED, WE DO SHARE THE PROPERTY TAX FOR THEIR EDUCATION. AND UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE TO -- ABOUT 70 PERCENT OF IT WE COLLECT WE SHIP TO THE STATEWIDE PROPERTY TAX, THAT LEAVES 30 PERCENT TO PAY FOR SUCH THINGS AS HIGHWAYS, POLICE AND FIRE. SO WE'RE VERY CONCERNED IF, INDEED, THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSALS END UP ADDING TO THAT PROPERTY TAX BURDEN, LOOKING AT THE EDUCATION FUNDING FOR THE SCHOOL BUDGETS BEING PROPOSED GOING UP 5 PERCENT, 4.8%, AND THE TAX COMMISSIONER HAS UNVEILED THE NEED FOR A NICKEL INCREASE IN THE PROPERTY TAX RATES BEFORE WE ADD ALL OF THE EXTRA SPENDING REQUIREMENTS ON TOP OF THAT, TOO.

>> WHICH WOULD INCLUDE EXPANDING PRESCHOOL IS ONE OF THE PROPOSALS THAT THE GOVERNOR HAD LAID OUT. IS THAT THE PRIMARY CONCERN?

>> THAT IS THE CONCERN. WE KNOW THAT THERE MAY BE OTHER REVENUE SOURCES, AND WE'RE ENCOURAGING HIM TO DO SO. ONE OF THE THINGS WE'VE LOOKED AT THE THE INCEPTION OF THAT 60 IS THAT THE EDUCATION PROPERTY TAXES HAVE GONE UP TWICE AS FAST AS ALL GENERAL FUND REVENUES, AND THERE'S A CHART WE'VE GOT THAT REALLY POINTS TO THAT, THAT SHOWS THAT BASICALLY GENERAL FUND REVENUES OVER THAT PERIOD, SINCE ACT 60, HAVEN'T GONE UP MORE THAN THE CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, HOWEVER, THE PROPERTY TAXES FOR EDUCATION HAVE GONE UP PRICE THAT. SO WE'RE NOT SO MUCH SAYING THAT THESE AREN'T GOOD IDEAS -- GOOD IDEAS BUT COME FROM SOME PLACE PROERPB THE PROPERTY TAX.

>> EXPLAIN WHAT WE'RE SEEING HERE.

>> THE ORANGE LINE IS CONSUMER PRICE INDEX CHANGE, SINCE 1990 -- 1999, 199 #, WHEN ACT 601ST GOT PASSED, THE GREEN LINE IS ALL OF THE STATE REVENUES THAT GO INTO THE GENERAL FUND, OTHER THAN FEDERAL FUNDS. ALL OF OUR TAXES, ALL OF OUR RECEIPTS, THEY ARE FINES AND FEES AND THE PURPLE LINE, THE TOP LINE AND THE STEEPEST ONE, IS THE STATEWIDE PROPERTY TAX THAT IS HAVE BEEN COLLECTED SINCE THE INCEPTION OF ACT 60. AS PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT STATE WADE PROPERTY TAX HAS GONE UP 114 PERCENT SINCE ITS INCEPTION AND THE STATE GENERAL FUND HAS GONE UP IN THE MID 50S PERCENT. SO AGAIN, THAT -- THEY ARE VERY GOOD IDEAS BUT AS LONG AS THE FUNDING DOESN'T COME FROM THE STATEWIDE PROPERTY TAX, THAT'S FINE. WE'RE VERY CONCERNED THAT THAT CONTINUED RELIANCE ON THAT PROPERTY TAX, THAT OVERRELIANCE THAT VERMONT HAS, WE'RE SIXTH IN THE COUNTRY AS FAR AS PROPERTY TAXES, ABOUT 24 ON INCOME TAXES, 24 IN SALES TAXES, LET'S TAKE IT SOME PLACE OTHER THAN THE PROPERTY TAX TO PAY FOR THESE THINGS.

>> DO YOU HAVE IDEAS TO TOSS OUT, HOW ELSE WOULD WE PAY FOR IT?

>> WE HAVE 14 DIFFERENT TAXES IN THE STATE GENERAL FUND TO FUND THAT, AND ANY ONE WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO US THAN THE STATE WOOD PROPERTY TAX.

>> WHAT'S CAUSING THESE EDUCATION COSTS TO BLOOM LIKE THEY ARE?

>> THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS THAT GO INTO IT. ONE THING THAT DOESN'T INCREASE THE COST IS THE CONTINUING EROSION OF OUR -- OUR PROPERTY TAXES GO DOWN BY A PERCENT AND A HALF THIS YEAR, THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW THAT'S GONE DOWN, WHICH MEANS THAT THE TAX RATES HAVE TO GO UP TO COMPENSATE THAT, TO GENERATE THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY. THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS THAT WE'RE EDUCATING IS GOING DOWN BY 1 PERCENT THIS YEAR, IT'S DECLINED BY 15,000 OVER THE LAST 15-20 YEARS, SO IT'S A SUBSTANTIAL DECREASE. THAT MEANS THAT THE COST PER PUPIL IS GOING UP, BECAUSE AT THE SAME TIME THAT WE'RE TEACHING AND EDUCATING A SMALLER NUMBER OF CHILDREN, THE COST PER PUPIL IS GOING UP, 4.8% INCREASE IN TOTAL EXPENSES ON A 1 PERCENT SMALLER POPULATION MEANS THAT WE'RE SPENDING AN AWFUL LOT MORE PER PUPIL.

>> THIS SEEMS TO BE A PERENNIAL ISSUE IN THE STATE OF VERMONT, THE SO-CALLED BRAIN DRAIN, WHERE YOUNG PEOPLE, YOUNG FAMILIES ARE LEAVING THE STATE. HOW CONCERNING IS THIS TO THE LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS?

>> IT'S A HUGE CONCERN TO US. THE POPULATION OF VERMONT HAS BASICALLY STABILIZED, WHERE WE'RE SEEING EDUCATION IN YOUNGER CHILDREN. IT MEANS WE'RE GRAYING, IT MEANS THAT THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE GETTING OLDER, WHICH IS GOING TO REQUIRE AN AWFUL LOT MORE SERVICES. IT WOULD BE GREAT IF WE COULD BEGIN TO REALLY CREATE THE JOBS THAT THE GOVERNOR HAS CALLED FOR AND REALLY ATTRACT AND RETAIN THE KIND OF KIDS THAT WE'RE BRINGING UP IN THIS STATE AND EDUCATING, OBVIOUSLY, AT A VERY HIGH EXPENSE AND BEING ABLE TO FIND JOBS FOR THEM TO BE HERE.

>> SWITCHING GEARS A LITTLE BIT HERE, YOU KNOW, EDUCATION, OBVIOUSLY, COSTS, A BIG CONCERN, THE SO-CALLED BRAIN DRAIN, AND SOMETHING THAT WE DID NOT ANTICIPATE WAS TROPICAL STORM IRENE, AND A LOT OF TOWNS, 61 TOWNS, REALLY IMPACTED. HOW ARE WE DOING SO FAR AND HOW ARE THOSE TOWNS RECOVERING?

>> WITH THE HELP OF THE STATE AND FEMA, MOST OF THEM ARE BACK ON THEIR FEET. THERE'S A BIG -- OR LAST YEAR, THE PROPERTY TAXES THAT MUNICIPALITIES COLLECTED, I WOULD ATTRIBUTE THAT TO THE IRENE COSTS THAT THEY HAD TO MATCH NOT ONLY FOR FEMA GRANTS AND THINGS, BUT THOSE COSTS THAT WERE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR FEMA OR FEDERAL HIGHWAY REIMBURSEMENT. THE STATE REALLY HELPED UP TO TRY TO FILL THAT GAP, FEMA DID A GREAT DEAL. ONE OF THE UNMET CONCERNS THAT MUNICIPALITIES HAVE IS FUNDING BRIDGE AND CULVERT PROJECTS THAT WERE ST-LT TO -- BUILT TO STATE STANDARDS THAT FEMA IS SAYING AREN'T ELIGIBLE FOR FULL REIMBURSEMENT.

>> THESE WOULD WITHSTAND LARGER FLOODING EVENTS GOD FORBID THEY HAPPEN HERE.

>> EXACTLY. WE HAVE ABOUT 40 MUNICIPALITIES WITH A TOTAL OF ABOUT $10 MILLION OF EXPENSES TO BUILD TO THIS NEW STATE STANDARD THAT FEMA IS SAYING IS NOT REQUIRED, NOT STATEWIDE IMPOSED, AND, THEREFORE, THAT THEY ARE DENYING IT SO FAR. THAT IS BEING APPEALED, AGAIN, THE STATE TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF THAT WITH PRAOEPLER HIGHER-UPS. ALSO, WE KNOW THAT THERE ARE SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN WALSH ARE WORKING ON LEGISLATION WHICH MAY ADDRESS THAT. THAT LOOKS LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN NOW UNFORTUNATELY. AT THIS POINT THIS $10 MILLION BILL THAT'S HANGING OUT THERE, WE WILL BE BACK FOR THE LEGISLATURE THIS YEAR TO SAY HEY, WE BUILT THIS TO THE STANDARDS THAT YOU ASKED FOR, FEMA SAYS NO, YOU'VE GOT TO STEP UP, TOO. SO WE'RE HOPING THAT WE HEAR THAT FROM THE GOVERNOR MAYBE ON THURSDAY AS WELL, AND WE ALSO HOPE, BETTER, THAT FEMA SAYS THIS IS AN ELIGIBLE EXPENSE, AND THOSE TOWNS AREN'T GOING TO BE REQUIRED TO COME UP WITH THAT. ALL IN ALL, I THINK THAT'S THE BIG UNKNOWN STILL THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH AT THE LOCAL LEVEL.

>> HOW COMPLICATED IS THE SITUATION FOR CITIES AND TOWNS IN THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET? THE STATE BUDGET RIGHT NOW THIS YEAR, IN TALKING TO LEGISLATORS, ARE TELLING ME THAT 20, $30 MILLION GAP THIS YEAR, BUT A $240 MILLION GAP OVER THE NEXT FIVE. HOW CAN CITIES AND TOWNS DEAL WITH THAT AS THEY LOOK TO MAINTAIN PASSABLE ROADWAYS IN THE COMING YEARS?

>> EXACTLY. MUNICIPALITIES ACTUALLY MAINTAINED A VAST MAJORITY OF THE MILES OF ROAD, ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF THE MILES OF ROAD IN THE STATE ARE LOCAL ROADS, THEY ARE THE LESS TRAVELED ROADS. BUT THEY ARE THE ONES THAT PEOPLE WORK ON AND LIVE ON. SO THEY ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT PART OF THAT NETWORK AS THE STATE ROADS ARE. AND WE DO GET ABOUT 40 PERCENT OF THE FUND THANK WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE TO SPEND ON ROADS -- FUNDING THAT WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE TO SPEND ON ROADS FROM THAT TRANSPORTATION FUND SO IT'S A REAL DRAW ON THAT, AND A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT PERCENTAGEWISE. WE'VE GOT ABOUT $55 MILLION OF AID FROM THE TRANSPORTATION FUND THAT COMES FROM THE GAS TAX THAT EVERYBODY PAYS, AND IF, UNFORTUNATELY, THEY COULD ELIMINATE ALL AID TO TOWNS, AND WE WOULD HAVE TO RAISE PROPERTY TAXES BY A NICKEL OR 7 CENTS TO MAKE UP THAT DIFFERENCE, AND THEN THAT WOULD STILL ONLY FILL A QUARTER OF THE HOLE THAT THE STATE IS LOOKING TO FILL. SO WE REALLY BELIEVE THAT IT'S GOING TO COME ON THE REVENUE SIDE. WE REALLY NEED TO LOOK AT THE GAS TAX THAT HASN'T BEEN INCREASED SINCE I THINK 15 YEARS. WE NEED TO LOOK AT NEW ALTERNATIVES DOWN THE ROAD, VEHICLE MILE TAX NEEDS TO BE LOOKED AT. IT'S NOT CAPE TABLE OF BEING IMPLEMENTED AT THIS POINT, BUT I THINK IN THE LONG RUN, THAT THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE NEED TO LOOK AT. BUT WE REALLY DO NEED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY FOR THE USERS OF THOSE ROADS FOR TO BE PAY TO ABLE TO PAY FOR THEIR UPDEEP.

>> AND THE VEHICLE MILE TAX IS WHERE THEY ARE TAXED ON THE MILES TRAVELED RATHER THAN CONSUMED.

>> THAT'S RIGHT. A REPORT CAME OUT THAT THE SECRETARY REPORTED ON THIS WEEK, IT TALKS ABOUT -- IT HAS LOTS OF CHARTS AND GRAPHS AND ONE SHOWS GAS CONSUMPTION GOING DOWN BUT ALSO VEHICLE MILES ARE GOING DOWN, SO EVEN THAT'S NOT GOING TO DO IT. THERE HAVE GOT TO BE NEW WAYS TO LOOK AT IT TO BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN THIS INFRASTRUCTURE.

>> ANY IDEAS FROM THE LEAGUE ON WHAT WE CAN DO, GIVEN THAT IT'S SORT OF -- I THINK SOME FOLKS WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS, THE TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY, IT'S KIND OF A BITTERSWEET DEAL, FUEL EFFICIENCY IS UP, THAT MEANS EMISSIONS IN THE AIR BUT ALSO MEANS LESS TAX REVENUE.

>> RIGHT.

>> SO WHAT THEN?

>> THERE ARE 16 DIFFERENT REVENUE SOURCES THAT WERE IDENTIFIED BY THE COMMITTEE AND WE, AGAIN, WOULD SUPPORT THE LEGISLATURE PUTTING TOGETHER FROM THAT LIST A NUMBER OF REVENUE SOURCES THAT WOULD FILL THAT GAP, AND WE WOULD BE SUPPORTIVE OF THAT. MUNICIPALITIES ACTUALLY PAY THE GASOLINE TAX THEMSELVES, AS DOES THE STATE, SO IT WOULD BE PARTLY THE CONTRIBUTORS TO THAT, AS WELL AS THE BENEFICIARIES OF IT. IT'S GOING TO TAKE A REAL MENU, I THINK, AND HARD WORK BY BOTH THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEES AND FINANCING WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE FROM THE LEGISLATURE TO PUT TOGETHER A PACKAGE THAT'S GOING TO MEET THOSE NEEDS AND NOT OVERBURDEN THE PEOPLE THAT ARE PAYING.

>> AND SOME OF THESE PROPOSALS ARE ALSO AT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, BUT YOU DON'T THINK VERMONT CAN WAIT FOR FEDERAL ACTION ON THIS.

>> I'M VERY CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL FOR A LOT OF REASONS. THE TRANSPORTATION ISSUE PREDATES THE RECENT GRIDLOCK THAT WE'VE SEEN. WE HAVEN'T SEEN A FEDERAL GAS TAX INCREASE SINCE 1993. STATES HAVE FIGURED OUT THAT THERE ARE DONOR STATES AND RECEIVING STATES, AND WE, VERMONT, IS A RECEIVING STATE, AND WE HAVE THREE MEMBERS OF THE DELEGATION. TEXAS IS A DONOR STATE. THEY'VE GOT, I DON'T KNOW, 62 PEOPLE IN CONGRESS. SO I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE VERY DIFFICULT TO COME UP WITH SOME CONSENSUS AT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. I REALLY BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE TO LOOK TO ADDRESS AS MANY OF THE ISSUES AS WE CAN LOCALLY HERE AND IN VERMONT.

>> IF I UNDERSTAND CORRECTLY, STATES LIKE TEXAS USED TO GET ABOUT 80 CENTS BACK OF WHAT THEY PUT INTO THAT FUND AND NOW ARE MANDATED TO BE GETTING CLOSE TO 92, 93 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR.

>> EXACTLY. THE ONLY PLACE ALL THAT MONEY IS COMING FROM TO MAKE THAT UP IS THE FEDERAL GENERAL FUND THAT BORROWED $30 BILLION FROM THE GENERAL FUND WHICH IS RUNNING UP A TRILLION DOLLARS BILL A YEAR OF MORE THAN WHAT IT'S BRINGING IN, TO BORROW TO ANOTHER FUND THAT DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY. SO IT'S THAT'S NOT A LONG TERM SOLUTION AS WELL.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT ANOTHER SORT OF NATIONAL ISSUE THAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW, AND SOME CITIES AND TOWNS IN THE STATE OF VERMONT ARE LOOKING AT ASSAULT WEAPONS BANS, CITY COUNCILMAN BURLINGTON HAS VOTED TO BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS. WHAT OTHER TOWNS, WHAT OTHER CITIES, WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT THIS IN THE WAKE OF THE SANDY HOOK TRAGEDY?

>> ON MONDAY, I BELIEVE THE MAYORS FROM THREE CITIES HAD A PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THEIR SUPPORT FOR A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT REACTIONS TO THE SANDY MASSACRE, AND THEY ARE LOOKING AT A LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS. I THINK THERE'S, AGAIN, A MENU OF DIFFERENT OPTIONS THAT PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT, BOTH AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL AND AT THE LOCAL, STATE LEVEL. WE, THE VERMONT LEAGUE OF CITIES AND COUNTS, THE ONLY POSITION ON WHICH WE'VE TAKEN IN THIS AREA, IS ON BANNING CONVICTED FELONS FROM BEING ABLE TO BUY WEAPONS. IT'S NOT A STATE LAW THAT IT'S ILLEGAL AT THIS POINT. IT IS ILLEGAL ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL BUT NOT A STATE. SO THAT WE REALLY NEED THAT OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO WORK WITH THE FEDS ON MAKING SURE THAT THAT IS PUT IN. BUT SOME OF THE MAYORS HAVE BEEN MORE PROACTIVE THAN OTHERS, THOSE ARE THE ONLY ONES I'VE HEARD OF SO FAR THAT HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT DOING WHAT, FOR EXAMPLE, BURLINGTON IS DOING, WHICH IS PROPOSING -- IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG PROCESS -- PROCESSING TO AMEND ITS CHARTER AND THAT WILL NOT BE BEFORE THE LEGISLATURE UNTIL I BELIEVE 2014.

>> IS THIS POTENTIALLY AN ISSUE THAT COULD BE PRETTY DIVISIVE?

>> OH, ABSOLUTELY. IT'S DIVISIVE AMONG FAMILIES AND NEIGHBORS AND AS WELL AS MUNICIPALITIES. I DO KNOW THAT THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS HAS TAKEN A VERY OUTSPOKEN ROLE IN THIS WHOLE THING, AND WAS MEETING ACTUALLY THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON AND WORKING WITH CONGRESS AND WITH THE ADMINISTRATION ON PUSHING MORE ACTIVITY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. BUT I DON'T BELIEVE THAT ANY OF THE VERMONT MAYORS WERE DOWN FOR THAT.

>> COULD THE LEAGUE POTENTIAL LY SUPPORT LEGISLATION THAT GOES FARTHER THAN SIMPLY EXTENDING THAT FEDERAL LAW TO VERMONT? IS IT JUST A MATTER OF WAITING UNTIL ALL THE BILLS COME FORWARD? AND I DO UNDERSTAND THAT SOME ARE DUE TO COME UP ON THE SEVENTH OF FEBRUARY. BUT IS THE LEAGUE'S CURRENT POSITION MORE A COMMENT ON THE LEGISLATION THAT'S COME FORWARD SO FAR, OR IS THAT A POSITION THAT'S GOING TO HOLD THROUGHOUT THE SESSION?

>> THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. WE DEVELOP OUR MUNICIPALITY POLICY, WHICH IS OUR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES BACK IN THE FALL, WHICH WAS BEFORE THE EVENTS IN NEWTOWN. SO WHAT COMES FORWARD NOW AT THIS POINT, AS FAR AS PROPOSALS, OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS THAT MEETS EVERY FOUR WEEKS DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION WILL BE REVIEWING WITH THE MAYOR OF BURLINGTON, AND OUR BORDER DIRECTOR, SO WE MAY BRING UP THOSE ISSUES AND PROPOSE MORE SPECIFIC INITIATIVES THAT WE WOULD BE TAKING POSITIONS ON.

>> THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION THAT IS JUST GOTTEN UNDERWAY. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO HEAR FROM THE LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS, WHAT PRIORITIES MOVE FORWARD?

>> AS I MENTIONED, I THINK WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE GOVERNOR'S INITIATIVES ON EDUCATION GO FORWARD WITH SOME FORM OF FUNDING OTHER THAN THE EDUCATION PROPERTY TAXES. WE REALLY DO NEED TO ADDRESS THE POSITION FUNDING HOLE THAT IS THE LARGEST EXPENSE ON THE MUNICIPAL SIDE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, MAINTAINING BRIDGES AND HIGHWAYS IS A VERY EXPENSIVE OPTION, OR THAT WE NEED TO DO. THIRDLY, I THINK IS TO REALLY ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF DEALING WITH LAKE SHAM PAIN AND THE WATER ISSUES. THERE'S POTENTIALLY A BILLION DOLLAR DEAL FOR THAT THAT IS COMING TO BE DUE OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS OR SO, AND MUNICIPALITIES HAVE USUALLY HAD TO DEAL WITH POLLUTION ISSUES THROUGH SEWERS AND SEWER TREATMENT PLANTS. A LOT OF THIS STUFF IS NONPOINT FORCE POLLUTION, COMING OFF OF LANDS FROM FARMS AND GRASS AND LAWNS AND EVERYTHING, SO IT'S GOING TO BE AN AWFUL LOT MORE EXPENSIVE A PROCESS AS WE GO FORWARD, FINDING A WAY TO PAY FOR THAT KIND OF INITIATIVE THROUGH SOMETHING OTHER THAN, AGAIN, PROPERTY TAXES WOULD BE A PRIORITY OF OURS.

>> STEVE JEFFREY FROM THE VERMONT LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS, WE CERTAINLY APPRECIATE YOUR TIME THIS MORNING.

>> THANK YOU soon have a new full service spot -- to

>> DRIVERS COULD SOON HAVE A FULL SERVICE SPOT TO TAKE A BREAK OFF INTERSTATE 89 AND THE NEW STATE PROJECT COULD BE COMPLETED WITHOUT GOVERNMENT FUNDING.

>> JUST NORTH OF RANDOLPH ON I89, A LIGHT SNOW COVERSAN OF THE STATE'S FORMER REST STOPS. IT CLOSED IN 2009, AS FEDERAL FUNDS COVERED LESS AND LESS OF THE OPERATING COSTS. WEDNESDAY, PUBLIC OFFICIALS SIGNED OFF ON THE FIRST OF ITS KIND DEAL TO CONSTRUCT A NEW PRIVATELY RUN FACILITY JUST OFF THE RANDOLPH EXIT.

>> AND IT WILL NOT COST VERMONT TAXPAYERS ONE SINGLE DIME.

>> I DON'T SEE A NEGATIVE OF THIS PROJECT. THIS PROJECT IS A HOME RUN.

>> SAM SAMIES HAS RUN THE THREE STALLIONS IN FOR 40 YEARS, HE WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR BUILDING AND MAINTAINING A NEW VISITORS' CENTER BY 2019, TO TURN A PROFIT, HE PLANS TO HAVE A SHOWCASE IN THE SAME BUILDING AND SURROUND IT BY RESIDENTIAL SPACE, COMMERCIAL SPACE, A HOTEL AND CONVENTION CENTER.

>> THIS DRIVING RANGE WILL REMAIN IN PLACE BUT GIVEN FINAL APPROVAL, MUCH OF THE SURROUNDINGS WOULD BE NEARLY UNRECOGNIZABLE.

>> STATE OFFICIALS SAY THEY EXPECT TO ATTRACT HALF A MILLION VISITORS WHEN IT OPENS, EQUAL TO THE BUSIEST STOP ALONG THE MASSACHUSETTS BORDER. BUILDING OFF AN EXIT RATHER THAN ON THE INTERSTATE, THEY BELIEVE THAT THE FACILITY WILL DRIVE MORE BUSINESS DOWNTOWN.

>> WE'RE GOING TO PROMOTE RANDOLPH IN THE DOWNTOWN AREA LIKE CRAZY.

>> FEDERAL GUIDELINES CALL FOR REST STOPS EVERY 60 MILES STATE OFFICIALS SAY OPERATING A FACILITY IS NOW $350,000 A YEAR AND WOULD COST 4- $10 MILLION TO CONSTRUCT A STATE-RUN FACILITY HERE. THEY SAY PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS CAN HELP THE STATE CONFORM WITH FEDERAL RULES WITHOUT STRETCHING THE PUBLIC'S WALLET.

>> SIMON SAYS HE'S 80 PERCENT OF THE WAY OF RECEIVING AN ACT 52 PERMIT, THE LANE IN THE SOUTHBOUND LANE OPERATES BUT AN OUTDATED SEWER SYSTEM MAY FORCE IT TO CLOSE SOON.

>> GOOD NEWS FOR FOLKS WHO LOVE TO HEAD OUT BO BOLTON VALLEY'S BACK COUNTRY, A LARGE CHUNK IS BEING PRESERVED FROM PRIOR DEVELOPMENT.

>> A LARGE GROUP OUT FOR A MORNING SKI ON GROOMED TRACKS TO A SOLITARY TELEMARKETER MAKING TRACKS IN THE BACK COUNTRY. THE BOLTON VALLEY NORDIC TRAIL SYSTEM FOR YEARS HAS PROVIDED A PLACE TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL.

>> IT'S A PHENOMENAL PLACE.

>> THE TERRAIN, IT'S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL UP THERE, AMAZING.

>> WHEN WORD GOT OUT TWO YEARS THAT THE PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP THAT OWNED THE LOAN AND LETS THE NORDIC CENTER USE IT WAS LOOKING FOR A BUYER IT SENT A SHOCK WAVE THROUGH THE SKIING PROPERTY.

>> THE PROPERTY WOULD HAVE FALL TONE A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL AND THEY PLANNED TO SHUT DOWN PUBLIC ACCESS TO THIS PROPERTY AND THAT TOOK PEOPLE BY SURPRISE, AND MADE THEM REALIZE WHAT WAS AT RISK. A FRIEND OF BOLTON VALLEY FORMED ALMOST OVERNIGHT AND HAD ALMOST 100 PEOPLE SIGN ON IMMEDIATELY AND THEY REALLY PROVIDED THE ENERGY BEHIND NOT ONLY GETTING THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAVE THIS LAND, BUT ALSO, DOING A LOT OF THE FUNDRAISING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

>> THE GROUPS ARE NOW ON THE HOME STRETCH OF A $1.8 MILLION CAMPAIGN TO BUY THE NEARLY 1100-ACRES OF LAND. THE LAND WOULD BECOME MARKET OF THE MOUNT MANSFIELD STATE MORE FORE -- FOREST, THE STATE WOULD ALLOW THE NORDIC CENTER TO OPERATE AS IT HAS.

>> THERE'S HARDLY A PROPERTY IN THIS AREA THAT HAS THE DIVERSE SET OF VALUES THAT THIS PROPERTY HAS. RECREATIONALLY, I THINK IT SPEAKS FOR ITSELF, WITH OVER 90-KILOMETERS OF GROOMED AND UNGROOMED TRAILS, IT'S ONE OF THE LARGEST NORDIC CENTERS IN THE STATE.

>> AT 2100 FEET, IT'S ALSO ONE OF THE HIGHEST, WHICH MEANS SOME OF THE MOST CONSISTENT SNOW IN THE REGION, ALL WITHIN ABOUT 30 MILES OF ABOUT HALF THE STATE'S POPULATION.

>> NONRECREATION, THE LAND TRUST SAYS IT IS A CRITICAL WILDLIFE CORRIDOR AND BETWEEN MOUNT MANSFIELD AND CAMEL STATE PARK TO THE SOUTH. ALONG WITH THE PROPERTY COMES THE LEGACY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN THAT FIRST BLAZED THESE TRAILS MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY AGO.

>> THERE'S BEEN QUITE A HISTORY OF VOLUNTEERISM, AND A LOT OF THE COMMUNITY BEING VERY ATTACHED TO THIS LAND, DATING BACK TO THE '60S, WHEN GARDENER LANE, A BIT OF A LEGEND AROUND HERE, STARTED CUTTING THE TRAILS AND MAINTAINING THEM WITH OTHER RETIREES AND THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE OLD GOATS.

>> SO FAR, SOME 900 INDIVIDUALS, INCLUDING THE OLD GOATS, AND THE NEXT GENERATION OF SO-CALLED YOUNG CATTLEMOUNTS, HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE CAUSE.

>> WHEN WE HEARD ABOUT THAT AND HEARD THERE WAS A -- KIND OF GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT AFOOT, WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO DONATE PHYSICALLY OUR TIME, BUT WE DEFINITELY SEND SOME --

>> YES, CHARITY. WE WROTE A CHECK TO THE LAND TRUST.

>> PROTECTING BOLTON VALLEY'S BACK COUNTRY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.

>> LEXI REUBENSTEIN, CHANNEL THREE NEWS, BOLTON.

>> THE LAND TRUST HAS TO RAISE $100,000 BEFORE MARCH. WE HAVE A LINK TO MORE INFORMATION ON OUR WEBSITE.

>> VERMONT IS THE TOP DOG FOR PET OWNING STATES IN THE COUNTRY, ACCORDING TO A RECENTLY RELEASED SURVEY. THERE ARE PEOPLE TAKING GOOD ENOUGH CARE OF THOSE PETS -- ARE PEOPLE TAKING GOOD ENOUGH CARE OF THOSE PETS? WHY THOSE NUMBERS HAVE VETERINARIANS CONCERNED.

>> THIS IS RUFUS.

>> STOP OUTSIDE ANY PET STORE IN VERMONT AND YOU'LL QUICKLY FIND OUT THIS IS A STATE THAT LOVES ITS PET, OF ALL PERSONALITIES.

>> HOLLYWOOD DIVA, AND MY LITTLE CLOWN.

>> IN A NEW SURVEY FROM THE AMERICAN VETERINARIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, BETWEEN 2006 AND 2011, VERMONT RANKS FIRST IN THE NATION FOR PET OWNERSHIP WITH 70 PERCENT OF HOUSEHOLDS SAY THEY HAD A FULL LEGGED MEMBER IN THE PEOPLE. BUT AS FOR CAT PEOPLE --

>> MY CAT, MALI, SHE IS, I WOULD SAY BLISSFULLY UNAWARE.

>> OR ARE THEY DOG PEOPLE?

>> THEY'RE GREAT COMPANIONS, VERY LOYAL.

>> AS IT TURNS OUT, THE GREEN MOUNTAINS ARE PERFECT FOR CAT LOVERS. VERMONT RANKS FIRST IN THE NATION FOR CAT OWNERSHIP. NEARLY HALF OF HOUSEHOLDS ARE OCCUPIED BY FELINE FRIENDS, COMPARED WITH THE 37 PERCENT OF HOUSEHOLDS THAT HAVE A CANINE COMPANION AND DOG OWNERSHIP HAS DECLINED 19 PERCENT OVER FIVE YEARS. WHILE PET OWNERSHIP IS STILL HIGH, NATIONWIDE, VISITS TO THE VET ARE DOWN AND VETERINARIANS SAY THEY'RE CONCERNED.

>> LAST YEAR, WE'VE BEEN SEEING REDUCED VISITS, AND REDUCED NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WANT TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT WE MAKE.

>> BUT MORE PET OWNERS AREN'T GOING TO THE VET AT ALL. VISITS BY DOG OWNERS ARE DOWN 8 PERCENT, AND A WHOPPING 24 PERCENT BY CAT OWNERS. AND VETERINARIANS SAY THE COST OF PET CARE ARE THE MAIN CULPRIT.

>> A LOT OF THEM DO EVERYTHING THAT THEY CAN, AND SOME OF THEM, EVERYTHING THEY CAN IS NOT EVERYTHING THAT THEY SHOULD.

>> THEY SAY IT CREATES PROBLEMS FOR TREATING ANIMALS LATER ON.

>> PREVENTION IS ALWAYS LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF A BIG PROBLEM ONCE IT HAPPENS.

>> VETS SAY IT'S IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE A STATE THAT RANKS FIRST IN PET OWNERSHIP ALSO RANKS FIRST IN PET CARE. CHANNEL THREE NEWS, SOUTH BURLINGTON.

>> IN THAT SURVEY, ABOUT 57 PERCENT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE HOUSEHOLDS SAID THEY OWN PETS, AND SO DID HALF OF THE HOUSEHOLDS IN NEW YORK.

>> THAT WILL DO IT FOR US. WE'LL SEE YOU SOON, EVERYBODY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, HAVE A GREAT DAY!

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    Drug bust in Burlington's Old North End

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:04 GMT
    Police made a drug bust Wednesday night in Burlington's Old North End. Police and the U.S. Marshal's raided this home on Cedar Street around 8 o'clock. They say they seized heroin and cocaine. Six people were inside when authorities went in. But they're not saying how many arrests were made. The raid was part of an ongoing drug investigation.More >>
    Police made a drug bust Wednesday night in Burlington's Old North End. Police and the U.S. Marshal's raided this home on Cedar Street around 8 o'clock. They say they seized heroin and cocaine. Six people were inside when authorities went in. But they're not saying how many arrests were made. The raid was part of an ongoing drug investigation.More >>
  • Fire damages Lyndonville tree farm

    Fire damages Lyndonville tree farm

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:21 GMT
    Fire has damaged ten acres of a Lyndonville tree farm. Eight department were called in to battle the blaze. And it took four hours to get the flames under control. Fire officals say a discarded cigarette combined with dry conditions are to blame. One firefighter suffered from minor smoke inhalation.More >>
    Fire has damaged ten acres of a Lyndonville tree farm. Eight department were called in to battle the blaze. And it took four hours to get the flames under control. Fire officals say a discarded cigarette combined with dry conditions are to blame. One firefighter suffered from minor smoke inhalation.More >>
  • A warning for bird watchers: Give eagles space

    A warning for bird watchers: Give eagles space

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:36 GMT
    Bird watchers are being reminded to give nesting bald eagles plenty of space. The Vermont Fish Wildlife Department is urging anyone who sees a nesting eagle not to get closer than 300 feet. Activity too close to their nest can result in them abandoning their young. Harassing a bald eagle is illegal and a violation of the state endangered species statute.More >>
    Bird watchers are being reminded to give nesting bald eagles plenty of space. The Vermont Fish Wildlife Department is urging anyone who sees a nesting eagle not to get closer than 300 feet. Activity too close to their nest can result in them abandoning their young. Harassing a bald eagle is illegal and a violation of the state endangered species statute.More >>
  • Gun fired into New Haven home

    Gun fired into New Haven home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:48 GMT
    Police are searching for who fired a gun into a home in New Haven. It happened late Tuesday night at 2420 Munger Street. Police say a bullet passed through a window of the home. Luckily no one was hurt. Investigators say a stop sign at the intersection of Munger Street and Cobble Road had also been shot. Anyone with information should call state police.More >>
    Police are searching for who fired a gun into a home in New Haven. It happened late Tuesday night at 2420 Munger Street. Police say a bullet passed through a window of the home. Luckily no one was hurt. Investigators say a stop sign at the intersection of Munger Street and Cobble Road had also been shot. Anyone with information should call state police.More >>
  • What triggered a shooting inside the Bennington police station?

    What triggered a shooting inside the Bennington police station?

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:57 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:57:35 GMT
    A Bennington man is in stable condition after being shot by an officer inside the Bennington Police Department. Investigators say Gregory Filo had a knife and was behaving erratically.More >>
    A Bennington man is in stable condition after being shot by an officer inside the Bennington Police Department. Investigators say Gregory Filo had a knife and was behaving erratically.More >>
  • Former Fortune 500 exec indicted in fatal NH crash

    Former Fortune 500 exec indicted in fatal NH crash

    A New Hampshire grand jury has indicted a former Fortune 500 executive on second-degree murder charges in connection with a crash that killed a Vermont couple in December.More >>
    A New Hampshire grand jury has indicted a former Fortune 500 executive on second-degree murder charges in a crash that killed a Vermont couple in December.More >>
  • Convicted Vt. embezzler charged with stealing from employer

    Convicted Vt. embezzler charged with stealing from employer

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:24 PM EDT2014-04-23 23:24:36 GMT
    Nearly two decades after her first conviction, a white-collar criminal returns to court once again charged with stealing from her employer. More >>
    Nearly two decades after her first conviction, a white-collar criminal returns to court once again charged with stealing from her employer.
    More >>
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