Monday December 17, 2012

Vermont signs up
with tech vendor
on health exchange

WILLISTON, Vt. (AP) -- The Shumlin administration has signed a contract with global information technology provider CGI to provide the computer and networking infrastructure that will support Vermont’s new health insurance exchange to be set up by the beginning of 2014.

Officials say the state will pay about $36 million for the first two years of work and $51 million if Vermont uses CGI’s system for four years, plus $4.5 million a year for operational costs.

The exchange is being set up in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. State officials hope that they will be able to use it later as a springboard for a Vermont single-payer health care system to be set up by 2017

Vt. police to target drunken drivers

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont police will be out in force during the holidays to stop drunken drivers.

Police say they will be conducting checkpoints to keep impaired drivers off the roads and to enforce seatbelt, child restraint and other motor vehicle laws.

Highway fatalities are up significantly from last year. As of Dec. 2, there have been 67 fatalities this year, compared to 48 in 2011.

Checkpoints are planned in Essex and Caledonia counties between Friday and New Year’s Day as well as in Bennington County starting on Dec. 23.

Vermont delegation has key committee seats

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont’s three-member delegation on Capitol Hill is getting some additional clout.

New committee assignments announced this past week show Sen. Patrick Leahy keeping his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee and senior position on the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders gets his first committee chairmanship, on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Among his other committee assignments are Environment and Public Works and Energy and Natural Resources.

Rep. Peter Welch will be returning to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce after two years away from that panel. He’ll also continue on the Democratic leadership team, as deputy minority whip.

Rutland preparing for ‘gift of life’ blood drive

RUTLAND (AP) -- Red Cross workers from across the northeast are going to be descending on Rutland for the Gift-of-Life blood drive in the Vermont city.

Blood drive organizers are taking their last shot at setting a national record for collections during a one-day community blood drive.

About 180 workers are expected to begin arriving in Rutland on Monday so they will be ready to start the drive at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Hundreds of volunteers are scheduled to assist Red Cross staff at four Rutland locations: the Rutland Elks Club, the American Legion, the College of St. Joseph and the Paramount Theatre.

Donors at most locations are asked to make appointments, but the Paramount theater will be open to walk-ins.

The drive hopes to break the one-day record of 1,968 pints.

Vt. police say 7 hurt in 8 vehicle crash

SHREWSBURY (AP) -- Vermont State Police say five people suffered minor injuries in a chain-reaction crash on Route 103 in Shrewsbury.

Police say three of the vehicles were moving during the crash at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday while five parked vehicles were hit by others involved in the crash.

Police say a northbound vehicle crossed the centerline, hitting a southbound car. The crash caused a chain reaction involving another moving vehicle and five vehicles parked at a car dealership.

A motorist in one of the moving vehicles had to be freed from her car by emergency personnel.

Bridge work will stop traffic on I-95 in N.H.

SEABROOK, N.H. (AP) -- The New Hampshire Department of Transportation says night-time motorists will face stoppages as bridge work is being done over Interstate 95.

Structural steel will be set into place on the New Hampshire Route 107 bridge over I-95 in Seabrook as part of the $6.4 million bridge-widening project.

The work will take place between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Monday night through Thursday night. It will require some short-term traffic stoppages on I-95 between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Officials say the I-95 closings should not exceed 15 minutes at any one time. State police rolling roadblocks will be used to control traffic along I-95 during the shutdown periods.

New England colleges win awards in environmental contest

BOSTON (AP) -- Teams from three New England colleges have won approximately $15,000 each in a student competition to design sustainable technologies that help protect public health and the environment.

The technologies also aim to promote economic development.

Teams from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., University of Massachusetts in Lowell and the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, were among 45 teams nationwide to win awards in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual competition.

Dartmouth designed a hydropower generation and distribution system to bring electricity to rural areas of Rwanda.

College of the Atlantic students designed a process to pre-treat food waste to produce liquid fuel and biogas.

At UMass-Lowell, students are designing a new class of non-toxic wetting agents used in soap and other items.

Feds shut down
area with support
of scallopers

BOSTON (AP) -- The federal fisheries service has closed an important scallop area to fishing at the request of New England regulators and with the support of the scallop industry.

The closure of the so-called "Elephant Trunk Area" aims to protect growing scallops there.

The area off the coasts of Delaware and New Jersey is used by scallopers around the Northeast. It was closed for 180 days starting Dec. 12. The fisheries service says it’s likely to be closed an additional two years after that.

Officials say a survey of the Elephant Trunk Area this year found the third-highest observed abundance of small scallops there since 1979.

Regulators say the scallops must be protected as part of a program that rotates fishing between different areas to give scallops time to rebound in places that aren’t in use.

Maine ski area, Saddleback, for sale

RANGELEY, Maine (AP) -- Skiing enthusiasts who have an extra $12 million lying around might want to consider western Maine’s Saddleback this Christmas season.

The $12 million includes 400 acres with ski trails and lifts, the base lodge and most of the surrounding 121 condominium units. The property was listed with a Portland broker a month ago.

The Berry family, owners of the Rangeley-area resort, have put $40 million worth of upgrades into Saddleback over the past decade.

Faith Berry, one of seven Berry children, says Saddleback’s workforce has increased from 66 to 250 since the family bought it in 2003. The family wants the resort to continue to create jobs in a part of Maine with limited employment opportunities.

Maine birders take part in Christmas
Bird Count

FALMOUTH, Maine (AP) -- Bird enthusiasts are fanning out across Maine to record their bird sightings as part of the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

The event, now in its 113th year, kicked off nationally on Friday. Bird-watching groups with Maine Audubon began their bird-counting excursions in Maine on Saturday.

In all, more than 30 groups will take to the field between Saturday and Jan. 1 to record their observations in Maine. The results are sent to the National Audubon Society to track the migratory patterns of birds.

About 63,000 volunteers participated last year in all 50 states, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific islands, with Maine birders counted nearly 13,000 birds