February 2018 newsbriefs

-A A +A

February 2018 newsbriefs

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 11:45am -- tim

Quiros to pay back $81 million, give up resorts

Ariel Quiros is no longer the owner of Jay Peak Resort and all told is liable for nearly $84 million resulting from the EB-5 fraud on immigrant investors. The result of all this is that Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts could be put up for sale as soon as May and all the original EB-5 immigrant investors might all get their permanent “green cards.” Governor Phil Scott is also asking the court if the state can make public documents related to the case.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced in early February that the Miami-based businessman behind the alleged scheme involving investments in the Vermont-based ski resorts has agreed to pay back more than $81 million of investor money that he used illegally.

Quiros also owes prejudgement interest on disgorgement in the amount of $2,515,798, and a civil penalty in the amount of $1 million, for a total of $83,859,964.

VEC CEO Christine Hallquist resigns, to run for governor

The Vermont Electric Cooperative Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Christine Hallquist and has appointed VEC General Counsel Vickie Brown as interim CEO. The change will take effect March 2, 2018. Hallquist announced in January that she intended to run for governor as a Democrat in the next election. Hallquist, 61, would become the nation’s first openly transgender, major-party candidate for governor if she were to win the Democratic primary. She has led the Johnson-based company since 2005. Hallquist, who went by David until 2015, lives in Hyde Park. Governor Phil Scott is expected to run for re-election. No Vermont governor has lost re-election since 1962.

Amtrak could suspend Vermont service

The continuation of passenger rail service in Vermont is under scrutiny by Amtrak as a safety issue in the wake of congressional testimony given by Richard Anderson, the national rail provider's CEO, on February 15. Anderson said he doubted that the state's two passenger services would continue running after December 31, 2018, but subsequent statements from the company indicate it is not making any decisions just yet. A decision to end service would face fierce opposition by Vermont's congressional delegation and in other states facing service suspension.

Anderson spoke at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the slow-paced implementation of positive train control (PTC), a crash-prevention technology which, under federal law, must be installed on some 60,000 miles of the nation's rail routes by year's end, including in Vermont. He was addressing safety concerns in the aftermath of several fatal accidents that the Amtrak system has witnessed since December.

Vermont Gas rate decrease would save customers $270 a year

Vermont Gas announced has asked the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to approve a 3.8 percent rate reduction beginning in November of this year. This decrease represents the net of a 14.8 percent decline in the natural gas charge, a 4 percent increase in the daily access and distribution charges, and a request to return $8.1 million of the System Expansion and Reliability Fund back to customers through lower rates. This filing also includes the full benefit of lower federal income tax expense associated with the recently enacted tax laws. Customers began to see the benefits of that tax rate reduction in the form of lower energy bills starting in February.

Maine power line picked over Vermont options for Mass RFP

It appears that Vermont has lost out again on a massive powerline proposal that would have sent upwards of 1,200 megawatts of electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts and brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the state. Vermont appeared to be back in the running for the renewable power project after Eversource Energy's Northern Pass, which would have run through New Hampshire, failed to get a key permit after winning the initial bid. Eversource had been selected as the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources' winner on January 25. But on February 1, a permit was unanimously rejected by regulators in New Hampshire. But renewed hope appeared dashed February 16 when the MassDOER said it will enter into negotiations with runner up Avangrid and its Maine-sited transmission line.

DOER issued a request for proposal for renewable power last year, with proposals flooding in, including two using a Vermont route: TDI-New England and National Grid. TDI proposed an under-Lake Champlain option, while National Grid proposed using an existing right of way that cut through the Northeast Kingdom on its way to New Hampshire. TDI promised more than $200 million to the state, which Governor Phil Scott envisioned to help clean up the lake. National Grid also committed $20 million to local development in the NEK. Both would have added millions more in property taxes and other fees.

Woodchuck Cider ends relationship with Pabst

In October 2012, an Irish cider maker and beverage distributor stunned the Vermont business community by paying $305 million for Vermont Hard Cider Company, the maker of the Woodchuck brand. By all accounts it did not go well. Within two years the owner enlisted the Pabst Brewing Company to distribute and market the brands as sales did not meet expectations. Pabst also had a $150 million option to buy VTHCC, which it will not exercise.

On February 20, C&C Group plc, owner of the Middlebury cidery, announced that VTHCC on April 1 will resume full responsibility for the sales and marketing of the Group’s portfolio of cider brands in the US, including Woodchuck, Wyders and Magners. By mutual agreement the Group will terminate its current arrangements with Pabst.

Scott, lawmakers put gun control bills on fast track

Republican Governor Phil Scott had been one of the most ardent opponents of new gun laws in Vermont. Then came an incident in Rutland County February 15 (just after the shootings in Parkland, FL) when police, acting on a tip, arrested a man who was allegedly planning to inflict mass casualties at Fair Haven Union High School.

VPR reports that Scott is now leading the charge in Montpelier for new restrictions on gun ownership. He has since unveiled an “action plan” that includes passage of gun legislation before Town Meeting Day.

Police said former Fair Haven Union student Jack Sawyer, 18, indicated he wanted to cause "mass casualties" in an attack he had been planning for two years. Police were tipped off to the plan by a friend of Sawyer's from New York state.

Scott came out in support of several pieces of legislation, including one that would allow police to temporarily remove firearms from the scene of a domestic assault. He’s also throwing his weight behind a measure that would let police seek a court order to seize firearms from anyone they believe is dangerous. Scott says he wants to consider raising the age at which someone can purchase a gun to 21, with some exceptions for military personnel, law enforcement, and people who complete an accredited gun safety course.

The state Senate has been moving quickly to pass such legislation, but the future of the bills is less certain in the House.

Vermont Senate approves $15 minimum wage

The Senate has passed a bill that would raise Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, according to Seven Days. Supporters of the proposal called the vote a victory for working Vermonters and said the bill would have long-term benefits for the state’s economy.

If the House passes the proposal and Governor Phil Scott signs it into law, employers would be required to increase hourly pay every year through 2024. The first increase would come January 1, 2019, when the minimum wage would rise from $10.50 to $11.50 an hour. Basically the increase would add an additional 50 cents to the typical annual minimum wage hike.

Governor Scott has been a vehement opponent of the $15 minimum wage hike because of the cost to employers and the potential for job loss. But he has not yet definitively said he would veto it.

Hermitage Club faces foreclosure

The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the private Hermitage Club in Wilmington has announced that a long-time official at the company would take the helm and that the town received a bank's foreclosure complaint on a number of properties at the Haystack Mountain resort.

The Hermitage has failed to make mortgage payments and pay taxes on properties in Dover and Wilmington, according to a complaint filed by Berkshire Bank, the Reformer reports. The bank is seeking foreclosure on properties including the Hermitage Inn, Snow Goose Inn, Horizon Inn, the Chamonix Townhouse Village and the Hermitage golf course.

According to the February 25 article, three notes went into default: A $15 million "base lodge note" signed in December 2014, a $1 million "bridge loan note" signed in June 2016 and a $1.1 million "second bridge loan note" signed in July 2017.

BMH agrees to settle billing dispute for $1.655 million

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital has agreed to a civil settlement with the Federal government, the State of Vermont, and a former employee in which it has agreed to pay $1,655,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act with regard to coding of claims submitted for certain laboratory tests performed between January 2012 and September 2014.  Specifically, that, in some instances, the clinicians’ orders for laboratory tests did not appear to adequately document the diagnosis code included on the billing claim form as required.

Beginning in early 2016, BMH undertook a detailed internal investigation of the issue, and, in June 2016, BMH voluntarily self-disclosed to the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) that BMH received overpayments as a result of this billing issue.

Castleton enrollment, financial troubles lead to layoffs

Castleton University has announced that as part of a comprehensive response to a projected operating loss of $1.5 million for the current year, it will restructure its current workforce through a combination of layoffs, position eliminations, and early retirements. The restructuring will also enable the University to minimize a projected shortfall for the fiscal year 2019 and place it in a more sustainable position for future growth. The actual number of staff reductions has yet to be determined.

Paris-based Antin to acquire FirstLight

A leading fiber optic firm that has been aggressively acquiring other telecoms in the Northeast, including Sovernet in Vermont, itself is being acquired. Antin Infrastructure Partners has entered into a definitive agreement under which it will acquire FirstLight from Oak Hill Capital Partners IV. Basically it's one private equity firm buying FirstLight from another one. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Antin is based in Paris. Oak Hill is based in Menlo Park, CA. FirstLight is based in Albany. And Sovernet is based in Bellows Falls. Sovernet was re-branded FirstLight last year. Oak Hill had acquired Sovernet in 2016 before merging the two into FirstLight.

Scott: Commercialize the phosphorus problem

There’s little question that farmers, especially dairy farmers, in the Northwestern part of Vermont have been painted as the “bad guy” regarding phosphorus pollution in Lake Carmi, Lake Champlain and many points in-between. Governor Phil Scott has tried to both mollify some of the hysteria involving farmer responsibility while also trying to find a solution to what is a clear problem fouling the state’s waterways.

Picking up where he left off in his budget address, at the Farm Show in Essex Junction in early February, Scott released his plan to reduce farm-based phosphorus pollution by working with farmers to capture and commercialize this valuable mineral.

$37 million raised in VHFA bond sale to build up to 650 homes

Governor Phil Scott has announced the successful sale by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) of Vermont’s first Sustainability Bonds. The bond sale raised $37 million in proceeds for affordable housing, exceeding the expected amount by $2 million. The bonds will fund the “Housing for All” initiative proposed by the governor and enacted by the Vermont Legislature in 2017. Proceeds from the sale of the bonds will be awarded by the Vermont Housing Conservation Board (VHCB) to construct 550-650 homes statewide over the next two to three years.

UVM, Champlain agree to contribute $8.9 million for infrastructure bond

The City of Burlington, University of Vermont, and Champlain College have now all approved new agreements that include payments by the institutions to support the City’s 10-Year Sustainable Infrastructure Plan. The payments are contingent upon voters approving ballot question number 3 on the March 2018 ballot to support a new infrastructure bond funded by the agreements.

Tax reform to protect Vermont’s working families from $30M tax hike

Most Vermonters will see a tax increase from the new federal law that was supposed to cut taxes. So, Governor Phil Scott has released details on his tax reform plan, the Working Family Taxpayer Protection Act, to ensure Vermonters don’t see a surprise $30 million tax increase due to changes in federal law. The Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changed many components of the federal personal income tax structure that will impact Vermont’s tax system. The Legislature will have to work out the details of a plan that ultimately would be revenue neutral and as fair as possible to all taxpayers.

Business owners more optimistic for US economy than for Vermont's

Business owners are taking an increasingly sour view of the Vermont economy, according to a new survey. Over 130 Vermont businesses completed the latest semi-annual economic survey in January regarding the outlook of Vermont’s small- to medium-sized businesses; 71% of those business owners who responded have fewer than 25 employees. The survey, presented by Davis and Hodgdon Associates CPAs and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, revealed that while business owners share an increased level of optimism about the US economy, they do not have the same enthusiasm for Vermont’s economy: 27% of businesses exclusive to Vermont believe the state’s economy is improving (compared to 34% previously); 27% feel it is in decline (compared to 14% in January) and 44% indicate there is no change (compared to 37% previously); For businesses with out-of-state interests, 25% believe the state’s economy is improving (19% previously); 33% of businesses believe the state’s economy is in decline (compared to 21% previously) and 32% see no change (46% previously).

Personal tax falls short, but revenues positive overall

Personal income tax revenues in January didn't quite live up to their newly heightened expectations, but General Fund revenues, supported by the Corporate tax, finished ahead of projections. On January 18, 2018, the Emergency Board approved a new consensus revenue forecast as presented by the state and legislative economists. The recently and modestly resurgent Personal income tax was upgraded after several down years following the Great Recession.

The upgrade to expected revenues for Fiscal Year 2018 increased the target in the General Fund by $8.1 million (.5%), by $1.4 million (.5%) in the Transportation Fund, and by $0.4 million in the Education Fund. All three funds are ahead of schedule and ahead of the previous year's totals.

Hospitals hold system-wide revenue growth to 2.8 percent

A report by the Green Mountain Care Board on hospital financial performance says overall spending for the state’s not-for-profit hospitals in 2017 was $23.7 million over budget (1 percent). The UVM Medical Center was over-budget by 3.3 percent for a total of $38.3 million, but in aggregate the rest of the hospitals were under budget. Meanwhile, from 2016 to 2017, Vermont’s hospitals contained growth in net patient revenue to 2.8 percent, significantly lower than annual increases of nearly 9 percent a decade ago. Net patient revenue targets are set by the GMCB each year and account for revenue hospitals collect from delivery of patient care before accounting for any expenses.

Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said in a statement that this historically low budget growth is the result of disciplined budgeting, a focus on operational efficiencies and efforts to address cost drivers such as chronic disease, misuse of emergency services and extended stays.

Governor signs net neutrality executive order for state contracting

Governor Phil Scott has signed Executive Order No. 02-18, which directs the Agency of Administration to ensure that all state contracts with internet providers include net neutrality protections. The Democratic leadership welcomed with reservation the governor's order, but will continue to push for a more comprehensive net neutrality law.

Tony Pomerleau dies at 100

Burlington businessman and philanthropist Tony Pomerleau has died, his family announced February 9. He was 100 years old. He grew up in Newport in hard times and made himself a millionaire. He liked to say that the only thing he knew how to do was "make money." But what he did with that money endeared him with Vermonters from across the state, especially those who needed a helping hand in order to have a better life. Tony Pomerleau's hand always seemed to be there.

White supremacist posters work of outsiders

An investigation by the Burlington Police Department and the FBI has determined that the racist posters recently distributed on the local college campuses, particularly at the University of Vermont, were not undertaken by local college students, but were the work of provocateurs and "that these individuals intended to cause strife, disruption and mistrust on local college campuses by expressing hostile and troubling messages in their public places. There is also evidence that these individuals have participated in extremist group activities in other communities." Police added that the actions did not rise to the level of criminal activity.

In protest to the racist activity and what they perceived to be a slow reaction by UVM, students occupied Waterman Hall, the university’s administration building, February 26.

BED, CUs launch plan to help make EVs more affordable

You can fill up your car with electricity for the equivalent of $1.50 a gallon of gas. Burlington Electric Department has a way to drop that to around $1 a gallon equivalent, while also reducing the upfront costs of electric vehicles. The upfront cost has been the primary barrier for people who want an EV from buying an EV. Burlington Electric, in partnership with three local credit unions, has  launched a first-in-Vermont, new financing program to help make EVs more affordable for its customers. The plan could reduce upfront costs or financing for both fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The credit unions – Green Mountain Credit Union, Vermont Federal Credit Union, and VSECU – are offering low- and, under certain circumstances, no-interest loans and allowing Burlington Electric customers to apply their $600, $1,200, or $1,800 Burlington Electric EV incentives toward the purchase of EVs.

Electric supply good for now, future uncertain

New England has reduced its consumption of electricity dramatically since 2006 as well as its production of dangerous gases, according to ISO New England. The region also relies much more heavily on natural gas for generation than it did then.  New England as a region has the highest electric rates in the nation.

Thousands of megawatts of generation will go off-line in the coming years. New wind power will have a profound effect on the grid, while energy efficiency and storage will become official data points in the wholesale market.

Vermont (14.62 cents per kilowatt hour) is the only state in New England without retail competition for electricity. Vermont has the second lowest electric rates in New England, behind Maine (12.63/KWH). All six New England (16.24/KWH) states are in the top 10 highest in the nation, with Connecticut (17.71/KWH) the highest among them, with Hawaii (27.49/KWH) and Alaska (19.50/KWH) the highest in the US (10.38/KWH).

Despite the rates, New Englanders, with the notable exception of Connecticut (number 3 in US), have average electric bills compared to the rest of the nation. This is attributed to lower air conditioning use and more conservation. Vermont ranks low, at 33rd in the US with an average electric bill of $116 per month. South Carolina is highest at $173 per month.

Cold winters cause of higher energy costs, not electric or gasoline

In the US, energy costs eat between 5 and 22 percent of families’ total after-tax income, with the poorest Americans, or 25 million households, paying the highest of that range. And lower energy prices don’t necessarily equate to savings. Where one lives and how much energy one uses are a big part of the equation.

For instance, although electricity is relatively cheaper in Southern Louisiana, its scorching summer heat raises costs for residents compared with the temperate climate in more energy-expensive Northern California, where heating and cooling units stay idle most of the year. Vermont ranks 10th overall in energy dollars consumed, but this is not due to relatively high electricity and gasoline prices; it's because of our cold winters. Vermont ranks relatively low in total electric and gasoline consumption due to frugality and conservation, and because of the short summers.

Vermont Gas could pay $25,000 for violations

Vermont Gas, the natural gas utility owned by Canadian fossil fuel giant Énergir, has likely buried an Addison County gas pipeline improperly, regulators stated in a filing with the Public Utility Commission, according to vtdigger.org.

The Department of Public Service has asked the PUC to assess a $25,000 fine against Vermont Gas for failing to bury the pipeline according to the standards set out in the state permit authorizing the pipeline’s construction.

Vermont Gas had agreed, as a condition of its 2013 Addison County gas pipeline construction permit, to bury the pipeline on top of sandbags, or on other support structures, or on at least six inches of approved backfill material. But the Department of Public Service has said that it had identified about 4,300 feet of pipeline sitting on unsupported earth.

Mike Smith named interim president of VITL

The Board of Directors of Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc (VITL) has announced that Michael K Smith will become Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the struggling health information exchange, following the end-of-year retirement of John Evans. Evans lead VITL for five years and helped create Vermont’s health information highway through VITL’s online patient medical records portal known as VITL Access.

Smith has extensive leadership experience in the public and private sector. Smith began his career serving honorably in the US Navy, first with Underwater Demolition Team 21 and then with SEAL Team 2. He then was elected to the Vermont Legislature and later served as Deputy Treasurer, Secretary of Administration, and Secretary of Human Services. As Secretary, Smith oversaw the creation of the State’s partnership with VITL. After leaving state government in 2008, Smith was Vermont State President for FairPoint Communications. He also has served as interim president of Burlington College and as a consultant to the Enhanced 9-1-1 Board and the Burlington School District.

He most recently was host of the "Open Mike" radio program on WDEV and was a commentator for Vermont Business Magazine and VTDigger.

Job loss shows effects of solar energy regulatory actions

The new National Solar Jobs Census show a loss of 232 full-time jobs in the state’s workforce after a 2017 marked by a volatile regulatory environment. Nationally, the solar trades saw a 4% slow-down which experts attribute to, among a variety of factors, general uncertainty caused the Trump administration’s solar tariff, which first started to rattle the national market for panels early last summer. Vermont’s job loss is over three times the national average, at 13%, indicating that something more than national politics is affecting the sector.

The news of both the decrease in installed solar capacity and loss of jobs does not come as news to solar installers who warned of these consequences during the reconfiguration of net metering rules in 2016.

UVM, faculty union begin fact-finding

An independent fact-finder has begun hearing evidence from The University of Vermont and its faculty union, United Academics. As part of the process, both parties will present evidence and data to the independent fact-finder, who will make a recommendation at a later time regarding the single open issue, which is to determine the level of an appropriate salary increase.  There may be a need for a second fact-finding session in March.

CCV faculty seek first union contract

CCV United Faculty has opened negotiations with the Community College of Vermont Administration for their first contract after organizing more than 500 faculty into their union. Members of the CCV United Faculty Bargaining Committee met at the Vermont Statehouse before the first meeting with the Administration to share their goals for their contract and for advocacy this year in the Legislature.

Vermont nets $60 million in job-creating federal tax credits

Vermont Rural Ventures will receive $60 million in federal tax credits to spur economic development projects throughout the state. Congress established the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program in 2000 to spur private investment in economic development projects in communities with high poverty and high unemployment. Under the New Markets program, investors receive a credit against their federal income taxes in exchange for making equity investments in job-creating development projects.

Report outlines Vermont’s child care shortage

Vermont continues to face a critical child care shortage, according to an updated report by Let’s Grow Kids on the supply of and demand for child care in Vermont. The report found that more than half (51%) of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care (LTNC) don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and 77% don’t have access to high-quality programs. Looking at care for infants only, the shortage is especially severe: 65% of infants likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and 84% don’t have access to high-quality programs.

VHCB awards $9.3 million to support housing and land conservation

In January, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board committed $9,359,800 for the construction and rehabilitation of 133 homes and for the conservation of 152 acres of land. The Board awarded $6,795,000 in Housing Revenue Bond funds, $1.45 million in federal HOME Program funding, $478,000 in federal farmland protection funds, and $636,500 in state funding to nine applicants.

UVM Medical Center pitches $22.1 million property purchase

University of Vermont Medical Center is seeking state permission to make a $22.1 million property purchase in South Burlington, according to vtdigger.org. The hospital has been leasing the two medical buildings, on Tilley Drive in the Mountain View Business Park, at a combined cost of more than $2 million annually.

Vermont to get $140,000 from Merrill Lynch and agent

The State of Vermont will receive $140,000 from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated and Lawrence K Barber as a result of a Department of Financial Regulation investigation. Commissioner Michael S Pieciak announced that Merrill Lynch and Barber will pay a combined administrative penalty of $98,000 to the general fund, $30,000 to reimburse the Department for the costs of its investigation. They will also pay a combined $12,000 to the Department’s investor education and training fund.

Altus completes Highgate solar projects

Altus Power America, Inc and Reservoir Road Holdings, LLC recently combined efforts to develop two 648 kW DC ground-mounted solar systems located in the Town of Highgate, Vermont. The two arrays are built over old gravel pits on Frontage Road, converting previously unusable land into a renewable energy generator.

Vermont State Police report on fatal shooting on I-89

Vermont State Police have released the following information on a fatal shooting on Interstate 89 on the afternoon of February 11. At approximately 3:51 pm a Vermont State Police Trooper and an officer with the Richmond Police Department shot a male subject following a traffic stop that occurred on Interstate 89 southbound near mile marker 69 in the town of Bolton. The highway was open and traffic was passing during the incident. The subject, later identified as Benjamin Gregware, 42 of Sheldon, was the sole occupant of the vehicle and he was subsequently transported to UVM Medical Center in Burlington where he later died. Gregware was in possession of a loaded handgun and indicated he was suicidal. The trooper and Richmond police officer were not injured.

The officers involved were identified as Trooper Chris Brown and Richmond Police Corporal Richard Greenough. Brown, who has been involved in other recent shootings, including the fatal shooting of a bank robbery suspect at Montpelier High School in January, was placed on paid leave.

Hill Farmstead ranked Best Brewery in the World, again

Hill Farmstead Brewery has been named Best Brewery in the World for the year 2017, as well as Best Brewery in the United States and Vermont, by RateBeer, the world’s largest, most popular beer review and rating website. This is the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in the past six years that the brewery has been honored as Best Brewery in the World, United States and Vermont. Hill Farmstead was the only Vermont brewer to make the Top 100. Eight Hill Farmstead beers were included in the Top 100 beers in the world. The Alchemist's Heady Topper was the only other Vermont beer so honored for 2017.

Marcelle Leahy christens USNS Burlington

Marcelle Leahy, accompanied by her husband, US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has christened the USNS Burlington (EPF 10) at the Mobile, AL, shipyard where it is being finished.  Marcelle Leahy was chosen to sponsor this newest aluminum, twin-hulled Navy ship, named for Vermont’s largest city, which will be able to quickly deliver service members and materiel for military and humanitarian missions.

Richards Group to acquire Centurion Insurance from Mascoma Bank

The Richards Group has reached an agreement to acquire Centurion Insurance Group in West Lebanon, NH, from Mascoma Bank. The transaction will be completed in April of 2018. The Centurion office will remain at its current location while The Richards Group’s Norwich branch office, which has served Upper Valley clients for the past 10 years, will consolidate operations into Centurion’s office space.

Retailer H&M to open first Vermont location

KeyPoint Partners, LLC (KPP) has negotiated a lease with H&M at University Mall in South Burlington. H&M will anchor the mall and anticipates that it will open this first Vermont location just in time for the 2018 holiday season. KPP Vice President of Leasing Don Mace completed the transaction. Target will also open its first Vermont store at UMall this fall.

AG will not prosecute former VTrans official

The Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office received the investigation regarding former VTrans Aviation Program Manager Guy Rouelle’s expenditures as a state employee for review on August 17, 2017. The allegations regarding Rouelle were possible misappropriation of state funds. Having completed the review of the matter, the Attorney General’s Office has chosen not to prosecute due to insufficient evidence of criminal conduct.

14th annual Peak Pitch event gives entrepreneurs a lift

FreshTracks Capital has announced the return of Peak Pitch, a start-up business pitch event on the slopes, scheduled for Thursday March 15th at Sugarbush. Now in its 14th year, Peak Pitch brings aspiring entrepreneurs and investors together for a unique version of the classic "elevator pitch." At Peak Pitch, a shared chairlift ride gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch and tune their business plans with venture capitalists, individual investors, commercial lenders and other entrepreneurial advisors during a day of skiing and snowboarding at Sugarbush.

Adequate electric resources at lower cost for 2021-2022

New England’s annual capacity auction for power system resources concluded that there will be sufficient resources to meet peak demand in 2021-2022, and preliminary results indicate the clearing price was the lowest in five years due to a surplus of capacity in the region. The auction is run by ISO New England Inc to procure the resources that will be needed to meet consumer demand for electricity in three years. The clearing price for the power is 12.6 percent lower than at last year's auction. However, because of the complex nature of what goes into the current cost of electricity, which includes transmission costs and other fees, electric bills might not necessarily go down.

FEMA to provide financial assistance for last fall's flooding

The Federal Emergency Management Agency within the US Department of Homeland Security is giving public notice of its intent to provide financial assistance to the State of Vermont, local governments, and private nonprofit organizations under major disaster declaration FEMA-4356-DR-VT.  FEMA is also giving public notice that, in some cases, it may provide financial assistance for activities that may affect historic properties, may be located in or affect wetland areas or the 100-year floodplain, and/or may involve critical actions within the 500-year floodplain. President Trump declared a major disaster for the State of Vermont on January 2, 2018, as a result of a severe storm and flooding that occurred from October 29-30, 2017.

Vermont gets an A in reproductive health/rights for 2017

On the heels of the Trump administration's proposed 2019 budget, which would slash support for reproductive health programs, the Population Institute has released its sixth annual report card on reproductive health and rights in the US. The results showed declining overall reproductive health and rights and growing disparities between states after a year of Trump administration policies. For 2017, the overall US grade fell from a "D" to a "D-." 18 states got a failing grade. Vermont received an "A."

405 pot plants found in Proctor home

On January 30, 2018, Troopers from the Vermont State Police, Rutland Barracks conducted a motor vehicle stop on Vermont Route 103 in the Town of Mount Holly (VT) for a speeding violation. The operator was identified as Kevin Burnham (49). Troopers also identified Deana Burnham and Keeghan Burnham (25) as passengers in the vehicle. (VSP did not identify the relationship of the Burnhams).

Scott appoints Thibault as Washington County state’s attorney

Governor Phil Scott has appointed Rory Thibault as Washington County state’s attorney. Scott appointed Thibault as the county’s interim state’s attorney earlier this month, filling the vacancy after former State’s Attorney Scott Williams resigned. He brings more than seven years of litigation experience with a practice focused on complex cases, including murder, sexual assault, child exploitation and fraud.

Black Lives Matter flag raised at Burlington High School

Burlington High School (BHS) has become the second high school in the country to fly the Black Lives Matter flag. More than 700 students and staff participated in a brief and optional ceremony held during noninstructional time on February 20. Flown below the American Flag and Vermont’s State Flag on the school’s only flagpole, the Black Lives Matter flag is flown in honor of black history month and will remain up throughout the year.

Ledyard reports 4Q and 2017 earnings

Ledyard Financial Group, Inc (ticker symbol LFGP), the holding company for Ledyard National Bank with an office in Vermont, has reported earnings for 2017 of $3,845,238, a 6.9% decrease over the prior year. As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that was enacted into law on December 22, 2017, the Company revalued its net deferred tax asset position to reflect the reduction in its federal corporate tax rate from 34% to 21%. This revaluation resulted in an increase to income tax expense of approximately $503,800.

Jay Peak Resort creates community-focused foundation

Jay Peak Resort has announced the creation of the Flake Foundation, a community-oriented initiative focused on supporting local causes and events throughout the Northeast Kingdom. The foundation is also tasked with promoting other civically-focused organizations within Orleans, Essex, Caledonia, and Franklin counties.

Montpelier selects Putney artists for $50K Taylor Street project

The Montpelier City Council has awarded Putney-based artists Rodrigo Nava and Gregory Miguel Gomez $50,000 to create a major work of public art, to be installed at the new One Taylor Street Transportation Center in the spring of 2019. The team’s design – a two-part installation involving a revolving stone bench and a split-flap counter – was chosen from among five designs presented to the public on January 31 by finalists selected from a pool of 24 applicants.

Gardener’s Supply opens Lebanon, NH, garden center

Employee-owned and Burlington-based Gardener’s Supply Company has opened its newest garden center in Lebanon, NH. Longacres’ Nursery, an Upper Valley icon for over 40 years, was bought by Gardener's and recently re-fitted.