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Northeast Vermont Development Association calls for moratorium on big wind in Northeast Kingdom

first_imgby Taylor Dobbs | June 29, 2012 vtdigger.org Wind proponents are a bit flustered this week after the Northeast Vermont Development Associationâ s board passed a resolution that recommends a three-year suspension on â new construction of industrial size wind turbines in excess of two hundred feet.âThe suspension is an effort to slow down wind development in the northeastern part of the state, where projects like First Wind in Sheffield have polarized communities.â Theyâ re completely dividing our communities â ¦ theyâ re pitting towns against each other,’said Dave Snedeker, planning manager at NVDA. NVDA is the regional planning commission and the economic development corporation for 55 communities in the Northeast Kingdom.The resolution says the three-year freeze would allow the NVDA to analyze the effect of wind projects on the communities and economy within Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.â I think we really donâ t know the impact of these things,’he said.But Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV), says she does know the impact, and she offered to speak before the NVDA board multiple times and was denied.â If NVDA were really interested, if there was a lot of concern about learning the facts, and if a third party comes to them and says â Look, I can give you a lot of facts that are neutral’â ¦ and they do not put me on the agenda and there was time during the meeting, that says something, there, to me,’she said.Stebbins also said she was frustrated at the rhetoric of the debate at the NVDA board meetings.â When speaking, many statements were made as if they were fact,’she said. Stebbins referred to one speaker mentioning that noise from the windmills can cause birds’heads to implode.â Thatâ s not a fact, and it was presented as if it was a fact,’she said.Though the resolution recommends a three-year suspension on industrial wind projects in the region, it carries no legal weight and could not by itself keep such a project out of the region. That decision remains under the Public Service Boardâ s purview, and that group ‘though they must hear concerns from municipalities, regional planning committees and the public ‘does not answer to the NVDA.Snedeker acknowledges that the Public Service Board could ignore the resolution altogether and green-light a large industrial wind project, but he hopes NVDAâ s involvement in the board process will keep big wind out of the Northeast Kingdom for the next three years.â Itâ s our belief that they would take into consideration the recommendation of the regional planning board,’he said.Though the suspension has the potential to hinder the alternative energy economy in northeastern Vermont, Snedeker says it could save another, more important aspect of its economy.â If weâ re allowing the continued development of these large wind projects, how is that going to impact the tourism part of our economy?’he said.Elizabeth Miller, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said that while the proposed suspension is not enforceable because the Public Service Board is ultimately responsible for project approval, the board is required by statute to at least consider input from municipal and regional planning bodies.â I understand, and I know the Governor understands, the deeply held opinions in this state regarding large scale wind projects,’Miller wrote in an email statement. â Town and regional energy and development plans, and stances on particular projects brought forward by interested parties, play an important role in Section 248 proceedings in front of the PSB.âThe boardâ s process gives special consideration to public groups that have a specific interest in a given project.â They can become an interested party if they demonstrate their individual interest, and obviously towns â ¦ and regional planning commissions often do that,’Miller said in an interview. This would allow the group to submit comments such as this weekâ s recommendation for consideration in the Public Service Boardâ s process. June 29, 2012 vtdigger.orgPhoto: Sheffield Wind, by Vermont Business Magazinelast_img read more

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Composter appeals $100K bill for unpaid sales tax

first_imgby Viola Gad August 12, 2013 vtdigger.org The owner of Vermont Compost Company in Montpelier was surprised when he received a bill for $100,000 in unpaid sales taxes a year ago.Vermont Compost Co. owner Karl Hammer held a news conference Monday at the state Department of Taxes. Hammer believes compost products should be exempt from state sales tax. Photo by Viola Gad/VTDiggerMonday, Karl Hammer, president of VCC, appealed the tax audit decision with a letter delivered in person at the state Department of Taxes. Members of the farming industry and a state representative joined Hammer, citing an inconsistency in taxing agricultural products during a brief news conference in front of the tax department.‘It does not make policy sense tax-wise, to treat compost differently than a Vermont tree or a bag of fertilizer,’said Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham.This spring, Vermont Compost’s 208 commercial customers received letters in which Hammer explained that the company was being audited and that it might have to pay tax on sales made in 2009, 2010 and 2011.Many of his customers offered to pay the 6 percent tax retroactively, Hammer said, but it is VCC’s responsibility in the end.The invoice from the Department of Taxes is about $115,000, while the annual gross revenue of the company is around $1.5 million, Hammer said.If Hammer loses the appeal, he could go to court, but the state wins 95 percent of tax appeals, he said.‘We’re in business and hope to survive in business,’said Hammer after he delivered the appeal letter. ‘But we haven’t even talked about 2012, 2013 (unpaid taxes) yet.’There is no date set for payment of the invoice.Generally speaking, the tax department will work with companies to set up a payment plan if it doesn’t have the money, said Mary Peterson, commissioner of the Department of Taxes.The department doesn’t discuss specific cases and would not indicate whether other compost companies were audited for missed sales taxes. Companies are responsible for their taxes going three years back, Peterson said.The Department of Taxes cites a change of statute in 2007 that ruled that compost is not on the list of sales tax exemptions. According to Hammer, the law was put into effect in 2009.‘I’m certainly aware of it now,’Hammer said. ‘There’s an awful lot of government, and it’s hard to keep track of all of it even if you are sophisticated enough and have the resources.’VCC started charging sale tax to growers who are not able to present an exempt certificate after it received the audit notification in August of last year, Hammer said. The company has also taken written statements from growers who think it’s immoral to have a sales tax on compost, he said.Up until Hammer received the audit notification, he was under the impression that farmers who use 96 percent of their compost purchase for food production are exempt from paying sales tax.‘We have always said to people, ‘If you’re growing food, you don’t have to pay sales tax,’‘he said.Representatives from the farming industry have trouble understanding why compost is charged sales tax while other fertilizers used for growing food are not.‘The possibility of taxing compost while other agricultural inputs, including chemical fertilizer, are not taxed feels very much like conventional agriculture is being incentivized, whiled organic agriculture is being penalized,’said Rachel Schattman from Bella Farm, an organic certified farm that buys 20 yards of compost and potting soil from Vermont Compost Co. each year.Legislators and organic farmers are keen to change the current statute. Stevens is currently working on a bill, H.542, which was brought back for policy work. (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/bills/Intro/H-542.pdf(link is external)). The bill aims to make compost a non-taxable commodity for food growers.In addition to being a legislator, Stevens is a farmer and owner of the 88-acre Golden Russet Farms. Each year, he buys 400 yards of compost products from Hammer and he will have to pay him a total of $600 in sales tax for the 2009-2011 period.‘It will be one of my two priorities to get this bill past early next session,’Stevens said.last_img read more

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Solar panels donated by Sticks and Stuff to heat Lyndon State pool

first_imgLyndon State College has received a gift of 72 solar panels and associated heat pump equipment from Sticks and Stuff, the hardware and home supply store that recently purchased the Indoor Recreation of Orleans County (IROC) facility in Derby, Vermont. LSC plans to use the donated panels to heat the 25 meter swimming pool on campus. The panels will be mounted on the Rita Bole Gymnasium roof – – adjacent to the pool building – – sometime early next summer.’ Lyndon State College’s pool will be heated using solar panels donated by Sticks and Stuff. Left to right, front: Jeff Lamphere and Kris Bullock of Sticks and Stuff, LSC President Joe Bertolino. Back row: LSC Director of Physical Plant Thomas Archer, LSC Assistant Professor Ben Luce.The cost to purchase new solar powered pool heating equipment would be in the range of $100,000. According to Tom Archer, the director of LSC’s physical plant, ‘the cost to add additional support to the roof structure will be about $40,000. The cost to remove the panels from the IROC facility, transport and install the panels and associated equipment at LSC will be approximately another $45,000.’ Lyndon annually uses approximately 8,000 gallons of fuel to heat the pool; annual cost savings would be nearly $11,400. The 2-year-old panels have a projected life of 20 to 25 years, measure 7’ by 4’, and weigh about 104 pounds when empty.LSC President Joe Bertolino said ‘We are very excited to receive the donation of this solar hot water system and are deeply grateful to Jerry Belisle, Kris Bullock, and Jeff Lamphere at Sticks and Stuff for making this happen.’In addition to saving money on energy consumption, the green technology is of interest academically, especially for students in the college’s Sustainability Studies degree program. Ben Luce, assistant professor of natural science and physics notes, ‘We have been interested for years in the possibility of heating our athletic complex with solar hot water. This system is ideal. We plan to involve our students closely in both the installation and performance analysis of this system, which we anticipate will strongly advance our goals of making Lyndon State a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy implementation and education.’The solar panels donated to Lyndon State College by Sticks and Stuff were previously installed at the IROC facility in Derby, Vermont.‘ ‘last_img read more

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VEC’s net metering program full for 2016, will stay open for smaller systems through November 2015

first_imgVermont Electric Cooperative, Inc,Vermont Business Magazine In May, VEC reached its annual cap on net metering installations. To control the cost of the net metering program, the VEC Board of Directors voted not to exceed the annual cap, and VEC asked the Public Service Board (PSB) if VEC could continue accepting net metering applications in 2015 to count towards the 2016 annual cap. In September, the PSB gave its approval for this request. The PSB ruled that projects that submitted applications since June can construct in 2015 and even interconnect with VEC’s permission. Net metering is the program that allows members to install small-scale renewable generation such as solar panels and wind turbines.As of the beginning of November, VEC reached its annual cap for 2016. In a statment it said it will not be accepting any more projects larger than 15 kilowatts for 2016. However, it will continue to accept projects 15 kilowatts and smaller through November to accommodate members who have already begun the process of working with installers. Starting on December 1, 2015, the net metering program will close to all new projects for 2016.For projects larger than 15 kW starting now and projects 15 kW and smaller starting December 1, 2015, VEC plans to respond by asking the PSB to issue Certificates of Public Good with the following conditions: 1.) that the project not be constructed or interconnected until after January 1, 2017; 2.) that the rules of the net metering program that starts on January 1, 2017 will apply to these projects (the PSB will be issuing a draft rule soon); and 3.) if projects fall out of the 2015 or 2016 queue and space becomes available, VEC will notify applicants in the 2017 queue on a first come-first served basis.What does this mean for members who want to install solar?The way to reserve space in the net metering program is to submit a net metering application. Members interested in installing solar arrays 15 kilowatts and smaller in 2016 should submit an application in November to ensure a spot in the program. The application can be found on the PSB website. Members can also contact VEC at 1-800-832-2667 to receive an application by mail or email.The PSB ruled that members who apply in 2015 can proceed with construction as soon as their net metering application is approved. However, interconnection in 2015 cannot happen without approval from VEC. We are considering requests for interconnection as they come in.What is the net metering cap based on?In 2014, the legislature raised the net metering cap to 15 percent of a utility’s peak demand. When the law went into effect, VEC was at 4 percent of peak demand. The statute sets an additional 4 percent aside for VEC’s Co-op Community Solar project; and VEC is required to allocate the remaining 7 percent equally among 2014, 2015, and 2016 (ie 2.33 percent for each year).In 2017, there will be a new net metering program. The PSB will issue a draft of these rules in the next couple months.Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc, a member-owned Cooperative founded in 1938, is Vermont’s third largest electric utility, serving approximately 34,000 members in rural Vermont.last_img read more

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CVMC honored with third straight Governor’s Excellence in Worksite Wellness Award

first_imgCentral Vermont Medical Center,Gov. Phil Scott, far right, with, from left, Rebecca Schubert, Community Health Team; Mark Levine, Vermont Health Commissioner; Anne Darrow, RN, CVMC Employee Health nurse; Rebecca Reed, CVMC physical therapist; Robert Patterson, CVMC’s Vice President of Human Resources and Rehabilitation Services; and Monica Urquhart, RN, CVMC’s manager of Employee Relations, Health and Wellness.Vermont Business Magazine For the third year running, The University of Vermont Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC) earned the Governor’s Excellence in Worksite Wellness Award, highlighting efforts to promote employee health. Members of CVMC’s Wellness Committee accepted the award from Gov. Phil Scott(link is external) and the Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports at March 23’s Worksite Wellness Conference in Burlington.The award recognizes Vermont employers who have made healthy behaviors a priority.CVMC’s Wellness Committee’s mission is to “collaboratively promote positive lifestyle choices within the CVMC community.”CVMC offers employees at least one physical activity challenge per year, pays their entrance fees to the Vermont Corporate Cup Race, maintains a one-mile walking path on the main campus, and will hold a 5-mile Fun Run/Walk June 24 to raise funds for the Vermont Health Care Share program. Health Care Share provides food-insecure residents with local farm-fresh food throughout the growing season.The hospital launched a Couch to 5K program in February to help employees prepare for May 11’s Corporate Cup. Nearly 500 employees participated in last year’s race.Wellness Committee members are also focused on a recently launched program titled “pause. breathe. connect.” It encourages employees to enjoy a variety of stress-reducing activities throughout the workday including meditation, drop-in acupuncture and chair massages, 10-minute yoga and guided relaxation courses.“Our pause. breathe. connect. initiative supports employees in practicing a bit of self-care in their busy lives,” said Monica Urquhart, RN, CVMC’s manager of Employee Relations, Health and Wellness. “It only takes a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and be mindful of the present. It’s a simple gesture, but a powerful one that makes positive change. When employees feel well and affirmed in their own lives, this positivity transfers to the care of our patients and community.”Other wellness initiatives include promoting healthy food choices at work and at home, on-site tobacco cessation courses, easy access to counseling and spiritual care providers, and a continuing focus on workplace safety. Last year’s efforts included reaching a 79 percent employee vaccination rate against flu and completing 600 employee biometric screenings, which measured participation in a range of wellness activities.“During the screenings, employees speak with a nurse about their well-being goals, review certain health indicators such cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and BMI (body mass index), and create an action plan to make positive lifestyle changes,” Urquhart explained.Biometric data assesses employee risk factors and the findings help committee members address employees’ greatest barriers to health. Programs have helped staff reduce blood pressure and blood sugar readings over the past three years.“We care about our people and we invest in their wellness in and out of work,” said Robert Patterson, CVMC’s Vice President of Human Resources and Rehabilitation Services. “Wellness is our culture and a major satisfier for our workforce. It is one of the reasons why people chose to work and stay at CVMC.” CVMC also offers to the public a variety of Healthier Living workshops(link is external). Topics include tobacco cessation and managing chronic pain, chronic disease and diabetes. Additional wellness classes and events(link is external) are offered year-round.CVMC’s Wellness Committee members are Patterson, Urquhart, Sara Pryce, Lauren Briere, Charity Pratt, Ginger Cloud, Anne Darrow, Kim Giroux, Kelley Kendall, Mike Kennedy, Terry Redmond, Elizabeth Mauntler, Jim Phinney, Rebecca Schubert and Kristin Sweet.About The University of Vermont Health Network The University of Vermont Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center is part of a five-hospital system established to deliver high-quality academic medicine to every community it serves. Its partners are:·         The University of Vermont Medical Center;·         The University of Vermont Health Network – Alice Hyde Medical Center;·         The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital;·         The University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital.To learn more, visit Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or CVMC’s blog at UVMHealth.org/CVMC(link is external).Source: Berlin, VT – CVMC. 3.31.2017last_img read more

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Vermont State Police looking for Stanley ‘Joe’ Crowe

first_imgVERMONT STATE POLICECASE#:18a503392RANK/TROOPER FULL NAME:    Sgt. Sean Selby                         STATION:    Derby VT                 CONTACT#: 334-8881DATE/TIME: on goingINCIDENT LOCATION:  Orleans CountyVIOLATION: arrest on 3 warrantsACCUSED:         Stanley “Joe” Crowe                                       AGE:45CITY, STATE OF RESIDENCE: Brownington VTSUMMARY OF INCIDENT:  Vermont State Police are looking for assistance in locating Stanley “Joe” Crowe.   Crowe has three separate arrest warrants for his arrest in VT and is a suspect in numerous burglaries in the Orleans County area and is known to be involved with Drug use in the Connecticut area.    Anyone with any information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Vermont State Police Sgt. Sean Selby.,Yeslast_img read more

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Windham County real estate edges back into focus

first_imgPhoto: Betsy Wadsworth is president of the Southern Vermont Board of Realtors covering Windham and Bennington counties. Courtesy photo.by Bruce Edwards, Vermont Business Magazine It’s a tough time to be in any business these days including those who sell real estate for a living. Like many businesses real estate agents, appraisers and home inspectors were among many “non-essential” businesses shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic.But real estate agencies and many businesses have been given the go-ahead by Governor Phil Scott to go back to work, with restrictions. It means real estate agents can once again show homes in person – an absolute necessity for just about anyone looking to buy a home. Social distancing, however, remains in effect and individuals must wear cloth face masks.“Very, very thankful,” was the reaction of Betsy Wadsworth, president of the Southern Vermont Board of Realtors. “This will allow us to move property into closing, allow appraisers to go in unoccupied homes safely and inspectors to do the same, so we can move properties that are currently under contract to the closing table,” said Wadsworth, a broker associate with Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty in West Dover.Wadsworth said statewide there were 1,300 homes in the pipeline (as of April 17) under contract. She said agents can now photograph the inside of homes so those photos can be listed and shown online which is the “first showing” for most buyers.According to the Vermont Association of Realtors website “Services operating with a single worker (such as appraisers, Realtors, municipal clerks, attorneys, property managers…) may resume operations so long as no more than 2 persons (service provider and client) are present at one time.”Prior to Scott’s updated executive order of April 17, non-essential businesses including bars, restaurants and most retail establishments were ordered closed.According to Wadsworth, Vermont had been one of only a handful of states that did not designate real estate as an “essential business.” From the onset of the pandemic, real estate professionals in New Hampshire have been able to go about their business with some restrictions, said Wadsworth, whose group also includes Bennington County.In fact, Wadsworth said all the states adjacent to Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts regard real estate as an essential business. She said Realtors in the Brattleboro area have dual licenses, “so they can work in New Hampshire with guidelines.”Wadsworth said, that left people in Vermont, who are in the process of buying or selling a home, in limbo. It also made it difficult if not impossible to even start the process since most buyers want to visit the home they’re interested in buying.But she also said safety is the first priority and understood the governor was looking out for the interest of all Vermonters. A snapshot of home sales in Windham County showed a decline in March compared to the previous year.There were 36 homes sold in the county in March, down 12 percent compared to the 41 homes sold in March 2019. New pending sales showed a bigger decline, 27 percent compared to a year earlier.The median sales price was down nearly 19 percent to $182,750 from $225,000 the previous March, according to the Vermont Association of Realtors.Year-to-date through March, closed sales were up 4 percent while the median sales price showed a slight increase of 0.5 percent.Wadsworth said there has been an uptick in interest in the second home market. Condo and townhouse sales in March represented 22 percent of total residential sales in Windham County compared to 14 percent in February and  20 percent the prior March.Anecdotally, Wadsworth said this time of year most resort properties are largely vacant. This year she said it appears many of those properties remain occupied.Chris Campany of the Windham Regional Commission said one outcome of the current crisis could result in more people relocating to the state and other rural areas where the contagion was less severe.As deputy commissioner of planning for Orange County, NY, following 9/11, Campany said there was a surge of people moving to the upstate New York community which rippled into adjoining counties.He said that same ripple effect could be felt in Vermont and other less populated areas in the Northeast following the pandemic.Campany said that in turn could result in “more land use pressures than they have seen in quite some time.”“Already there is some anecdotal evidence that people are looking to buy homes in the area,” he said.Another factor in the housing equation is climate change. As sea levels rise, Campany said rural areas like Vermont become more attractive for people looking to escape coastal areas.Bruce Edwards is a freelance writer from Windham County. This story first appeared in the May issue of Vermont Business Magazine.last_img read more

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Businesses urge fast action on state emergency grants to survive

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Business owners from the restaurant, construction, retail and agricultural sectors held a press conference via Zoom on Tuesday to urge the Vermont State Legislature to act quickly to release much needed state financial assistance in the form of flexible grants.Various committees in the legislature have been reviewing the Scott Administration’s proposal for a $400 million stimulus package which uses federal CARES Act money. It includes emergency grants and loans for businesses impacted by the pandemic and subsequent closures. But many businesses across the state fear that the current legislative process will not get them the money they desperately need quickly enough.The $400 million is part of the $1.25 billion CARES funding the state received.“We appreciate the governor’s proposal and that the legislature is working hard to get relief to Vermont’s restaurant sector. But we need them to understand that every day without it edges many restaurants closer to closing their doors for good,” said Jed Davis, owner of the Farmhouse Group. “Simply put, the checks need to go out now. Restaurants were some of the first to close and last to reopen. Restaurants need grants, not just more loans, to give us a shot at long term survival.”  Businesses are also concerned that the current proposal would reduce the state assistance they receive based on prior acceptance of federal aid.“We are in a desperate situation – with cheesemakers seeing 25-75% sales losses across the state, they are concerned about closing their doors,” said Marty Mundy, Executive Director of the Vermont Cheese Council. “Most can’t take on any further loans at this point  – meaning this funding must be grant funding if the state is trying to help. This is the only way we will be able to keep businesses open in a crisis environment that will likely last well into 2021 and beyond.”Mundy said farmers and cheesemakers have spent maybe decades building up their businesses, “and it took a matter of weeks to downsize them.”She said that to support the food producers, the restaurants also need help getting back on their feet quickly.As the Scott Administration begins easing restrictions across sectors, businesses are navigating a complex and sometimes impossible framework of debt and diminished capacity.“By supporting immediate emergency grant assistance utilized in combination with federal relief, you will give our businesses and the communities they call home a fighting chance,” said Jim Bradley, President of Vermont Builders and Remodelers Association . “That’s what we are asking for today. A fighting chance.”Source: Montpelier, Vt. — Leonine Public Affairs 6.2.2020last_img read more

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UVM scientist plays lead role in #BlackinCardio campaign

first_imgFacebook: @blackincardiovascular YouTube (for#BlackInCardioWeek panels): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBMohHpbZ72iM8wTwoXRlRg(link is external)Source: Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont 10.19.2020 University of Vermont,Initiative Celebrates Black Excellence in Cardiovascular Research, Raises Awareness of Cardiovascular Diseases in Black CommunityVermont Business Magazine Monday marks the first day of a week-long international virtual event called #BlackinCardioWeek. This social media-based initiative was co-organized by Debora Kamin Mukaz, PhD, a postdoctoral associate conducting cardiovascular research at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kamin Mukaz received her undergraduate degree from Luther College in Iowa and PhD from the University of Delaware. Her research focuses on defining biomarkers related to incidence of hypertension and diabetes, with an emphasis on studying racial disparities.Read a blog post, titled “On the Price of Being a Black Scientist,” by Kamin Mukaz.(link is external)Visit the Black in Cardio website.(link is external)Follow #BlackinCardio on social media:Twitter: @blackincardiocenter_img Instagram: @blackincardiolast_img read more

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