Vermont prison wants to install solar array

ST. JOHNSBURY (AP) -- The Vermont prison in St. Johnsbury is planning to install a solar array outside the facility's fence as a way to help save money.

The Northeast Correctional Complex wants to install 87 Vermont-made, GPS-enabled, sun-tracking solar modules, each measuring 20 feet tall and more than 21 feet wide.

The system would help the prison save money and it's part of the state's effort reduce electricity costs and boost the use of renewable energy.

The details of the plan were included in a public notice mailed last month to town officials and nearby property owners.

The notice says the plan would have significant economic and environmental benefits, including reducing the amount of energy that is produced by fossil fuel power plants.

Mom had warned Vermont police about son before deaths

ESSEX (AP) -- A mother had warned police in the Vermont town of Essex that she feared for her son's safety hours before he and his father were found dead last month, according to court papers.

Ludwig "Sonny" Schumacher, 49, killed his 14-year-old son, Gunnar, before killing himself, police said. Their bodies were found Dec. 18.

Ludwig Schumacher, a longtime member of the Vermont National Guard, had separated from his wife, Christina Schumacher, last summer. Court papers say Christina Schumacher called Essex police the night of Dec. 17 to express concern about her son. She said she feared her estranged husband might try to take the teenager out of the country. Gunnar had not been heard from in a couple of days and hadn't attended school, she said.

The next day a friend of Ludwig Schumacher notified police about "a possible homicide/suicide which occurred at 8 Carmichael St. Apartment 201," Essex Detective Lt. George Murtie wrote in the court affidavit. Ludwig Schumacher lived in the apartment.

Essex police have applied for search warrants for Ludwig Schumacher's two trucks because they haven't located any cellphones or computers belonging to the father or son, court records said. Ludwig Schumacher left a typed suicide note in the apartment, police said.

Firm seeks huge housing development in Burlington

BURLINGTON (AP) -- A Burlington company wants to build a 247-unit housing development in what would be the largest such development in Vermont's largest city in two decades.

The S.D. Ireland concrete company is proposing the 11 apartment buildings and a community center at the Grove Street location where the company has been headquartered for 40 years.

The city's Development Review Board is weighing the proposal.

The city's planning and zoning staff and the Design Advisory Board is urging the board to deny the application because the Grove Street site is part of a residential area intended for single family homes and duplexes, but the Department of Parks and Recreation supports the plan.

New Hampshire House sends Medicaid expansion bill to Senate

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The New Hampshire House passed a new bill Wednesday to expand Medicaid to an estimated 49,000 poor adults even though the Senate rejected a similar measure in November.

The bill makes one major change from the old one. It would make as many as 37,000 of the poorest adults eligible for the state's managed care program instead of requiring them to obtain private insurance through the federal marketplace.

The House voted 182-154 to pass the bill, which Senate Republican leaders said undermines efforts to find a compromise.

"The decision by House Democrats to fast-track without a public hearing Washington's ObamaCare entitlement expansion again undermines the opportunity for bi-partisan cooperation on what is a very complex and costly issue," Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley said in a statement.

House Speaker Terie Norelli said the House wants to work with the Senate to find a workable way to expand Medicaid.

"Working together, with civility, reason and compromise, we can find long-term solutions to long-standing challenges," Norelli, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan praised the House for passing the bill. She said the Legislature's failure to approve expansion means New Hampshire is losing federal Medicaid funding to provide care for the adults that can't be recouped later.

"These are real people and families, working men and women who deserve the security of health coverage. They are restaurant employees, construction and health care workers," Hassan said.

Senate Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating to try to resolve the key hurdle that led to Senate Republicans to reject expansion so far: how and when to use the federal marketplace to buy coverage. Bradley said if a compromise is reached, the Senate will not rush it to a vote without a public hearing.

New Hampshire House approves hike safe card program

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's House voted Wednesday to give the preliminary OK to giving negligent hikers a chance to buy a hike safe card that forgives rescue expenses they'd otherwise owe the state.

The House asked the Ways and Means Committee to review a bill that authorizes the Fish and Game Department to sell voluntary hike safe cards for $25 per person and $35 per family. People who obtain the cards would not be liable to repay rescue costs if their rescue was due to negligence on their part.

The bill also would exempt people with hunting and fishing licenses and anyone with an off-highway recreational vehicle registration, including for a snowmobile.

Hunters, anglers, boaters, snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle riders currently pay almost all the rescue costs though license fees to the agency but averaged only 14 percent of the rescues since 2006.

The department has struggled to keep up with the cost of rescues, which are primarily for helping lost or injured hikers. Rescue costs have ranged from about $200 to more than $50,000.

State law holds those rescued liable if they acted negligently, but efforts to collect the cost of rescues is not always successful.

All but $3 from each hike safe card would be deposited in the agency's search and rescue fund.

Ice harvest at New Hampshire camps earlier than usual

HOLDERNESS, N.H. (AP) -- An annual tradition of harvesting lake ice at a New Hampshire camping area is happening earlier than usual this year, thanks to the very cold weather.

For over 100 years, crews have been removing blocks of ice for the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness. Campers have shunned refrigeration units, instead opting to use lake ice to pack into insulated ice houses that maintain the ice through the summer.

When the ice off the shore becomes 11 or 12 inches thick, up to 200 tons are removed. Last year, crews took the ice from the Deephaven Peninsula on Squam Lake. This year, it's being removed from Squaw Cove, a more isolated spot along the lake.

"It feels more remote there, and we are more sheltered from the wind," said camp co-manager John Jurczynski.

The ice blocks weigh between 120 and 160 pounds each and are stored. The blocks are 16-by-19 inches.

Camp officials said the harvest is starting Thursday and should take three days.

Last year, it started on Feb. 6, due to rain, warm temperatures and wind.

The process involves the ice being cut with a rotating blade on wheels, then cut with a chainsaw. Ice cakes are moved in a line toward a pulley system where they are loaded onto a truck.

Tobacco sales to New Hampshire youth declined in 2013

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire health officials say fewer tobacco products were sold to children in New Hampshire last year compared to 2012.

The federal government requires states to survey retailers by having supervised youth attempt to buy tobacco products. The latest report shows tobacco sales to New Hampshire youth dropped from 13 percent in 2012 to 11 percent last year.

The number had declined dramatically from 14 percent to under 9 percent from 2009 to 2010 and then increased.

Dr. Jose Montero, the state public health director, says the results show the state is making progress but it needs to do more.

New Hampshire House votes to legalize home poker games

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's House has voted to legalize poker games at people's homes as long as they aren't commercial endeavors.

The House voted Wednesday to legalizes home poker games as long as no admission fee is charged, no profit is taken, odds don't favor any player, the games aren't advertised and there isn't a house "bank."

The Senate next considers the bill.

Maine lags when it comes to broadband service

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- When it comes to high-speed Internet service, Maine lags behind most of the nation.

Analysts say only Montana has less capacity to offer education, medical assistance, commerce and economic development via the Web.

Officials said the reasons for Maine's poor broadband infrastructure include the state's vast rural areas, a lack of tax incentives for network improvement, the aging population and inadequate understanding of the benefits of high-speed access.

The ConnectME Authority, a state entity working on ensuring all Mainers have access to broadband, is addressing the issue.

The Maine Technology Users Group, an organization of operators and large users of broadband digital infrastructure, has scheduled a conference Wednesday in South Portland to assess the state of high-speed Internet access in the state and its