VERMONT

Coverage of Vermont from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

On a recent weekday at Whites Christmas Tree Farm in Essex, longtime employee Mark Tourville was easy to spot amidst the trees in his neon yellow waterproof coat and big work boots. Tourville took a 9-foot Frasier fir from a customer and loaded it into the tree shaker, a machine that shakes off snow, dead needles and other vestiges of the forest.

Audio for this story will be posted.

"You’ll find small critters in there, and that’s why we like to shake ‘em down," he explained.

From 2016 through 2019, Thanksgiving weekend at Killington was crowded, noisy and jubilant.

Thousands of roaring fans watched the best women ski racers in the world rocket down a wall of ice and blister through slalom and giant slalom courses.

The fact that Olympic champion and Burke Ski Academy alum Mikaela Shiffrin kept winning just added to the euphoria and clang of cowbells.

A photo showing a crowd of people.

Rep. Peter Welch will run for the U.S. Senate, aiming to win the seat that will be vacated next year when Sen. Patrick Leahy retires.

Vermont Public Radio has learned that Welch, who has served eight terms in the U.S. House, is planning to seek the seat that will become open after the announced retirement of Sen. Patrick Leahy.

In an office at Burlington High School, just off Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, Chacha Ngunga made a phone call.

Jambo jambo,” he said, greeting a student’s father in their shared language, Swahili.

Ngunga is a multilingual liaison — one of 12 employed by the Burlington district.

Sen. Leahy announces he won't seek reelection next fall

Nov 15, 2021

Updated 11 a.m.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy has announced he won't seek reelection next fall. He's the longest-serving Senate Democrat, first elected in 1975.

"It's time to put down the gavel," Leahy said. "It's time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter, who will carry on this great work for this great state. It's time to come home.“

Leahy, 81, shared the news at a press event Monday morning at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. He planned to return to Washington afterwards.

The town of Vernon is considering a new plan that lays out a path forward for the redevelopment of the land around the former Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

The plan offers a number of options which include housing, industrial development and recreation, and the town seems willing to move forward with using the site — even if high level radioactive waste remains there.

The Scott administration on Monday unveiled its long-term plan for people in emergency motel housing.

The new proposal could extend motel housing stays for low-income Vermonters for up to 18 months. The emergency housing program had been set to expire Thursday, but the administration now says it’ll extend it until Dec. 31.

Vermont’s ski industry lost an estimated $100 million last winter due to COVID-19. That means this year is critical.

With travel restrictions loosened, many in the ski industry hoped this season would be easier.

But a housing crunch and worker shortage — problems that have been simmering for years — have gotten even worse since the pandemic.

So ski resorts, and businesses that rely on them, are having to get creative about doing more with fewer people.

Kate Messner's novel "Chirp" is set on a cricket farm. Messner said she visited cricket farms in Vermont and Texas for research.
Courtesy

“Chirp” by Kate Messner is a story about friendship, the joys of summer — and how to make yourself heard if an adult acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable. 

At 9:30 in the morning on one of the hottest days in August, it was still cool at Maple Hill Cemetery in the town of Dorset. That is the time of day when Caitlin Abrams likes to come here. She wore rubber boots in the dewy grass that soon, a man would start to mow. She walked over to a marble stone, whiter than the rest.

It reads, “Joseph Porter Baldwin, son of Silas and Sarah Baldwin, who died April 26 1811, in the sixth year of his age. His death was occasioned by accidentally falling under the pitman of a sawmill, which instantly terminated his existence.”

Vermont author Thomas Henry Pope pictured with his latest novel, "Imperfect Burials."
Gail Meyer / Submitted Photo

Bennington County, Vermont, is home to novelist Thomas Henry Pope. His latest novel is a spy thriller featuring a journalist on a quest for truth, surrounded by political intrigue.

President Joe Biden nominated Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson on Thursday to serve on the federal appeals court.

Robinson would fill the seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit previously held by Justice Peter Hall who died in March. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would be the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve on any federal circuit court, according to the White House.

Robinson, who spent nearly two decades in private practice with Langrock, Sperry & Wool, LLP, played a key role in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont.

Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury is now home to the largest anaerobic digester in the Northeast. Several dozen people, including Gov. Phil Scott, gathered at the dairy farm Wednesday to celebrate.

So how exactly does the digester work?

The digester has the capacity to turn more than 180 tons of food waste, and 100 tons of cow manure, into biogas in a single day.

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has given $350,000 to a think tank established by members of his family.

On April 1, the Bernie 2020 campaign made the donation to the Burlington-based Sanders Institute, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The Institute previously said it had suspended operations in early 2019, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest with Sanders’ presidential campaign. A spokesperson for Sanders’ campaign said the donation will be used for a relaunch the Institute.

A photograph of a garden at Bill Noble's property in Norwich, Vermont. Bill Noble's personal garden is included in the Smithsonian Institution's Archive of American Gardens.
Image used with author's permission

Garden designer and author Bill Noble says gardening is about feeling connected and getting familiar with your chosen piece of earth.

States across the country are proposing bills and passing laws that will make it harder to vote. Vermont, on the other hand, has taken an extraordinary step: over the veto of Governor Phil Scott, they have now passed two bills that will allow legal non-citizens of two Vermont towns to vote in local elections. Representative Hal Colston of Winooski is one of the sponsors of the bill that passed, and he discusses whether this would set a precedent for the rest of the state. 

When Erika Hoffman-Kiess first heard about people applauding for frontline workers in big cities, she didn’t think that would work so well in her town of Thetford.

“There are some places in Vermont where you can go outside your door and bang a pot and pan and nothing’s going to happen because nobody hears you,” she said. “But we do have a lot of churches.”

And those churches have bells.

The emergence of the 17-year cicadas has dominated bug news of late, but in the northeastern parts of the U.S. and Canada, another cyclical menace has emerged that has the potential to do more lasting damage.

A nearly two-year investigation into the Bennington Police Department has found that officers failed to adequately investigate alleged threats against former state legislator Kiah Morris because of its racism and prejudice.

A vaccine for COVID-19 being prepared.
Alison Montemagni / Baystate Medical Center / The Republican / masslive.com

A public health expert says several factors may explain why many New England states are near the top of the list for getting their residents vaccinated against COVID-19.

Bald eagles are soaring again in Vermont. The magnificent birds were pushed to the brink of extinction by hunting, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning.

The push to switch from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy will mean a lot more demand for battery storage. It's just part of massive efforts to modernize the electric grid in New England and the nation to meet the challenge of climate change.

A health care worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the FEMA mobile unit in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in March.
Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public

All six New England states are pausing use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The decisions follow a federal recommendation for a pause while investigators look into six cases of a rare and severe blood clot reported in women who received the vaccine.

New England Council Backs Bank Protections For Pot Industry

Apr 6, 2021
The cash drawer at INSA in Easthampton, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The New England Council, a business-minded organization that maintains close ties to members of Congress from the six northeast states, last week voiced its support for federal legislation to protect banks working with state-legal marijuana companies from federal regulatory penalties.

UMass Medical School student Timothy Winn prepares doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Hotel Grace homeless shelter in Worcester.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

All residents 16 and over will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine fairly soon in New England, but the date varies by state.

The Fish and Wildlife Department and a state science advisory panel disagree over how to protect endangered bats in Vermont from a large-scale pesticide spraying program.

It’s the first Tuesday in March, and that means one thing in Vermont: Town Meeting Day. But this year, like so many things in our pandemic era, things are different.

Since Act 46 was passed by the Legislature in 2015, small school districts across the state have had to make difficult decisions about whether to merge rural schools. In some parts of the state, geography creates some challenging decisions about how to do so.

It Has Been Slow To Arrive, But High-Speed Rail Could Be Coming

Feb 4, 2021

In 2016, federal officials unveiled a plan for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor that included a 50-mile passage from Old Saybrook to the village of Kenyon, R.I.

The route went through Old Lyme and other historic small towns while bypassing New London. The plan, called NEC Future, met with heavy — almost unanimous — opposition. Hundreds turned out at meetings to oppose the plan. Sen. Richard Blumenthal seemed ready to lash himself to the tracks, calling the idea “half-baked and hare-brained” and “unworthy of any sort of taxpayer dollars.”

A driver buckles up.
Facebook / National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A highway safety advocacy group says Vermont and New Hampshire are "dangerously behind" adoption of recommended traffic laws, and Massachusetts and Connecticut are faring only slightly better. 

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