Steve Zind / VPR

Dollar General and Family Dollar both have plans to expand the number of stores in Vermont. Opponents say the stores are a bigger threat to small towns than big box stores.

Residents in South Hero are organizing to fight a proposed dollar store in their community.  They join a number of towns where there is opposition to proposals to build the small box stores.

Two national chains, Dollar General and Family Dollar, have established a number of new stores in Vermont in recent years.

Workers from the troubled Vermont Veterans Home have taken to the streets of Bennington.

They hope to enlist community support for what they see as a fight to save the state-run nursing facility.

On Friday afternoon, Veterans home workers and supporters were waving signs on all four corners of Bennington's main intersection.

The signs read, ‘Save the Vets' Home -- Listen to the front line workers.'

The workers have been saying for over a year that the facility is understaffed.

John Dunham is a nurse at the home.

Vermont Lawmakers this week looked at legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. VPR's Bob Kinzel lays out the arguments in favor and against and discusses the likelihood of the bill's passage with Peter Biello.

VPR's Public Post pores through municipal public documents, posted online, to bring you local news from Vermont's cities, towns, villages and gores. Here are some tweet highlights from the past week:  

State officials have learned this week how federal across-the-board spending cuts will affect Vermont.

Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says the most tangible consequence is the federal mandate that the state reduce unemployment benefits by 10 percent for the long-term jobless.

Noonan says that cut, which goes into effect today, will be difficult for the 1,000 Vermonters who receive long-term unemployment checks.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority has been awarded a $1.6 million federal grant to expand cellular phone service and provide wireless internet in areas hit by flooding in 2011. 

The disaster relief grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development will help pay for expansion of cell service along 120 miles of roadway in five Vermont counties including Addison, Essex, Washington, Windham and Windsor counties.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver's licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers' authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that most Americans are uninformed about the federal health care changes that are coming, and about how health care exchanges are going to work. That situation appears to bear out in Vermont, too, given the types of questions VPR listeners posed to two leaders of Vermont's health care exchange on VPR's Vermont Edition on Friday:

While the governor fought criticism of his plan to change the low-income tax credit, there were others issues at the Statehouse this week. The annual Doyle Survey showed support for decriminalizing marijuana, and treatments for Lyme Disease became a subject of legislative debate. FEMA said updating Vermont flood maps is a low priority. The House passed a bill to ban wild boar. And industrial maple sugaring operations were at work.

These were some of the voices in the news this week:

Pete Hirschfeld, bureau chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, talks with Vermont Edition about some of the issues being debated at the Statehouse this week.

A popular recreation center in Derby closed its doors earlier this week.

The Indoor Recreation Center of Orleans County, known as IROC, shut down after along effort to save it from foreclosure. But, in the end the Community National Bank took over the facility, months after IROC stopped paying the mortgage.

The facility opened in 2005, with construction debt it was never able to pay off.

Susan Keese / VPR

Workers at the Vermont Veterans Home say the Bennington facility needs better financial management and better staffing.

The nursing home has projected an estimated $3.5 million budget shortfall for 2014.

Unionized caregivers at the home complained of understaffing before troubles that threatened to close the facility last year.

In September, the federal government threatened to take away the home's certification because of deficiencies that were found in a series of inspections.

AP/John Flesher / This 2012, photo shows a Mangalitsa boar, left, and two Russian swine on a farm in Michigan. Known by various labels, feral

If lawmakers have their way,wild boar will not find a home in the Vermont woods.

Wild boar and feral pigs area nuisance species around the country. Vermont wildlife officials are concerned that the animalscould escape from captive hunting facilities and take hold in the Green Mountains.

So the House approved a banon wild boar on Thursday. Williston Democrat Jim McCullough explained the billfor the Fish, Wildlife and water Resources Committee.

Wild hogs are an invasivespecies, reproduce rapidly and are known to cause significant damage, he said.

Senate To Mull Immigrant License Bill

Apr 5, 2013

The Vermont Senate is scheduled to take up a bill allowing immigrant farm workers to become Vermont drivers.

It was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farm workers, many of whom are in the country illegally. They say they are isolated in rural areas and have to get rides from their employer or volunteers or sometimes pay for transportation to go to the grocery store or doctor.

Pharmacy Robbed In Berlin

Apr 5, 2013

Police are investigating the report of an armed robbery at a pharmacy in Berlin.

Police say a young man robbed Harry's Pharmacy on Route 302 Thursday afternoon shortly before 3 p.m. and fled with an unspecified quantity of narcotic drugs.

The suspect is described as in his late teens to early 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, with blond hair and wearing a bright blue hooded sweatshirt. Police say he fled in a dark colored car heading west.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Berlin police department.

Students To Compete In Geographic Bee

Apr 5, 2013

Organizers say 100 young geography pros from around Vermont will compete in a statewide geographic bee at Middlebury College.

The winner will go on to compete in the 25th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

Vermont fourth to eight-graders will compete today in the statewide bee. The preliminary rounds take place at 1 p.m.with the final round at 3:30 p.m. in Mead Chapel.

Sugaring Equipment Vandalized In Newbury

Apr 5, 2013

Vermont State Police are investigating vandalism to maple sugaring equipment in Newbury.

Owner Michael Emerson says someone stole,smashed and destroyed his sugaring operation equipment in three locations sometime between Monday night and Wednesday morning.

He told police that the damage is estimated at more than $5,000 and possibly triple that in the loss of maple syrup production.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call Vermont State Police at the Bradford barracks.

We’re getting a better idea today of the effects that across-the-board federal spending cuts will have on the state.

In February, it was estimated that Vermont would lose $15 million. While that figure hasn’t changed, Vermont’s legislative Joint Fiscal Office now estimates that the state is poised to lose $9.3 million over the next two fiscal years, most of which will be felt in 2014.

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million dollars set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two year spending cycle for state construction projects.

And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

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