2017 Legislature has a new fan

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copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

EAST ALBANY — Many people complain about state regulations, but few are willing to take the time and trouble to go about changing them. Bill Pearce, the proprietor of Pearce’s Pastured Poultry has been raising, slaughtering, and selling chickens from his farm in East Albany for the past seven years.

State law allows growers to sell up to 1,000 birds to end users from their farm, without state inspection. Mr. Pearce recently sold part of his business to Hannah Pearce, one of his daughters, and realized that the two could not make ends meet if they could only sell 1,000 chickens.

“You can’t support yourself on that few birds,” he said.

Mr. Pearce said he has no problem with regulations about how birds are slaughtered, but having to pay for state inspectors would raise the price of his birds a dollar or more a pound.

He said he takes great pride in producing a clean bird, and sends a sample chicken from each batch he processes to the same lab the state uses to test poultry for e coli bacteria.

“We’ve really learned a lot by doing that,” Mr. Pearce said. The state has three categories for processed chicken, based on the amount of bacteria discovered by the lab. Acceptable means there is a minimal amount of e coli on the chicken, a somewhat higher amount garners a rating of marginal, unacceptable is the label for contaminated chickens.

“We were all over the place

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Local senators muse over legislative session

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copyright the Chronicle March 22, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

Due to concerns about federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration, Vermont’s Legislature may adjourn early this year and go back to Montpelier in October.

“Trump’s been talking about cutting a lot of stuff,” Senator Bobby Starr of North Troy said. “It may make more sense to draw up a temporary budget and reconvene when we have some real numbers.”

Senator Starr agrees with colleagues in the Legislature who are saying that it would make more sense to finish the budget in October than to function without a finished budget until next year.

“We’ve been taking testimony on the 2018 budget,” Mr. Starr said. “Where we’re going to run into trouble is not knowing what’s going to happen in Washington.”

In addition to being chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Mr. Starr sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Word is going out that the legislators should be making plans to be back here in the fall,” he said.

Meanwhile, he’s keeping busy in Montpelier, as is the region’s other Senator, John Rodgers of Glover.

“There’s always plenty to do here,” Mr. Rodgers said.

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Current Use penalty too high, Starr says

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

A recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court could cost the new owners of the former Champion lands in Essex County a million dollars in lost property tax relief.

State Senator Bobby Starr of North Troy thinks he has a better way to approach such situations, but said he needs to wait until the courts are finished with the matter.

The question involves 56,000 Northeast Kingdom acres that were once owned by Champion International Corporation, but sold to the Essex Timber Company in 1998. Essex Timber enrolled the property in the state’s Use Value Appraisal program, more commonly known as the Current Use program.

Under that program, a landowner is taxed for a forested or agricultural property at its “current use” value, rather than at its fair market value.

One of the conditions of the tax relief program is that a landowner must submit a forest management plan to the state. That plan must conform to state standards and be approved by the state Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), which must periodically inspect each property to make sure the owner abides by the management plan.

If Forests and Parks finds that a landowner has failed to comply with its forest management plan, the director of the state Division of Property Valuation and Review (PVR) must remove the parcel in question from Current Use for five years.

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Rodgers considers a run for lieutenant governor

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copyright the Chronicle March 16, 2016

by Tena Starr

GLOVER – State Senator John Rodgers of Glover is considering a bid for lieutenant governor.  If he decides to run, Senator Rodgers will face fellow Democrats Kesha Ram, David Zuckerman, both of Chittenden County, and Brandon RIker of Marlboro in the August Primary Election.  Republican Randy Brock is also running.

Mr. Rodgers was a four-term incumbent when he lost his House seat in 2010 to Sam Young of West Glover by one vote.  He was elected to the state Senate in 2012 and 2014, representing the sprawling Essex-Orleans district with fellow Democrat Bobby Starr from North Troy.  Mr. Rodgers is up for re-election again this year.

He said Monday that he can run for lieutenant governor in the Primary Election without relinquishing his Senate seat.

A main reason for pondering a run is that “I don’t really care for any of the other candidates…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Keep small schools, school directors say

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Bobby Starr.  Photo by Micaela Bedell

Bobby Starr. Photo by Micaela Bedell

copyright the Chronicle March 18, 2015 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Legislators from the Northeast Kingdom were told in no uncertain terms to oppose Montpelier’s efforts to shut down small schools and consolidate districts.

That stern warning came from school board members from around Orleans County and was delivered Monday night at a gathering held at the North Country Career Center. About 20 legislators and school board members sat around a big table while another 30 or 40 people sat nearby.

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Governor’s race: County lawmakers lean toward Milne

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Scott Milne.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Scott Milne. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle November 12, 2014

by Tena Starr

If Orleans County’s legislative delegation had its way, Scott Milne would be Vermont’s next governor.

That’s not a surprising decision for the Republicans who represent the county, but as of this week only one of the three Democrats was willing to unequivocally say that he’ll follow tradition and support the candidate who won the popular vote.

Representative Sam Young of Glover said he will vote for Governor Shumlin.

“I think it’s generally a bad precedent if the Legislature starts electing people who didn’t win,” Mr. Young said.

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Barrup protests $400,000 sales tax bill

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Rod Barrup stands in the yard of his company, Green Mountain Mulch.  He said his problems with the state Department of Taxes sometimes make him want to shut down his operation.  He doesn’t, he added, because of his workers, who stuck by him when he lost everything in a fire and got the business back in operation in short order.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Rod Barrup stands in the yard of his company, Green Mountain Mulch. He said his problems with the state Department of Taxes sometimes make him want to shut down his operation. He doesn’t, he added, because of his workers, who stuck by him when he lost everything in a fire and got the business back in operation in short order. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle October 15, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

DERBY — Rod Barrup is not happy with the government of what he calls “the first communist state in the U.S.” In particular he is angry about a $400,000 bill from the Vermont Department of Taxes.

Mr. Barrup’s business, Green Mountain Mulch, has been operating for close to 40 years and ships five million bags of bark mulch and another 3,000 trailers full every year.

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Taxpayers angered by big tax jumps

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albany schoolhouse smaller

copyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

by Tena Starr

WESTFIELD — Since property tax bills here went out recently, town officials have heard a lot of griping — and confusion. Why did the residential property tax rate go up 24 percent when the Jay-Westfield School budget went up by about 5 percent?

“We’ve had a lot of people not happy, and I’m in that category,” said Westfield Town Clerk LaDonna Dunn. “This year in Westfield we got hit pretty hard.”

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Louis Garneau celebrates new U.S. headquarters

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Governor Peter Shumlin helps Louis Garneau cut a ribbon to symbolize the opening of his company’s new Derby facility.  Flanking the pair, from left to right, are Paul Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s father; Josée Ferland, company vice-president; Jeanine Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s mother; Megan Sullivan of Congressman Peter Welch’s office; Monique Arsenault, Mr. Garneau’s wife; William Garneau; and Victoria Garneau.  Edouard Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s other son, is not visible in the photograph.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Governor Peter Shumlin helps Louis Garneau cut a ribbon to symbolize the opening of his company’s new Derby facility. Flanking the pair, from left to right, are Paul Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s father; Josée Ferland, company vice-president; Jeanine Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s mother; Megan Sullivan of Congressman Peter Welch’s office; Monique Arsenault, Mr. Garneau’s wife; William Garneau; and Victoria Garneau. Edouard Garneau, Mr. Garneau’s other son, is not visible in the photograph. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle August 20, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

DERBY — A champagne toast celebrated the opening of the brand new U.S. headquarters of a family business that started in a Quebec garage 30 years ago. Louis Garneau, the founder of the company that bears his name, raised a glass along with Governor Peter Shumlin, state senators Bobby Starr and John Rodgers, local officials, and a host of other guests Thursday morning, August 14.

The toast followed the ceremonial ribbon cutting that inaugurated the 60,000-square-foot building.

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In the Legislature: Local control in wind siting unlikely

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David Mealiea and Anna Dirkse, both of Burlington, were two of four singing pickets who stood outside the State House last Thursday in support of raising the minimum wage.  “We fight for human rights so all can be free,” they sang.  Photo by Paul Lefebvre

David Mealiea and Anna Dirkse, both of Burlington, were two of four singing pickets who stood outside the State House last Thursday in support of raising the minimum wage. “We fight for human rights so all can be free,” they sang. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

by Paul Lefebvre

MONTPELIER — Regional and local planners are expected to be the big losers in a bill to open up the siting process for ridgeline industrial wind projects.

Scheduled to appear on the Senate floor, the bill was rerouted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations Tuesday as negotiations continued behind the scenes to strike a compromise and keep it alive.

“Unfortunately, regional planning is one of those things we’re probably not going to wind up with,” said Senator John Rodgers of Glover during a telephone interview Tuesday.

One of the stated purposes of the bill was “to strengthen the role of planning commissions and local selectboard and planning commissions in the siting review process for energy facilities by giving greater weight to their recommendations and plans.”

But at the end of the day, that’s not likely what’s going to happen.

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