The Associated Press

Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Emergency Board on Thursday approved an additional $2 million in funding to help low-income residents heat their homes this winter, as the state continued to step in to offset cuts in federal funding.

The 2013 Legislature approved $6 million for this program as part of the annual appropriation bill, with the expectation that additional funds might be necessary. The total amount of funds for this year's LIHEAP will be approximately $25 million. Funds will be distributed in the first half of November.

A Swiss firm that has maintained its North American headquarters in Essex Junction, Vermont, is moving that operation to North Carolina, meaning an expected loss of jobs.

Huber + Suhner says it will complete the move by June. The workers in Essex Junction handle duties including product assembly, sales and distribution. Some employees are expected to be asked to move with the company, but most of the assembly jobs will be eliminated by the end of this year.

Affected employees will get severance packages and outpatient services.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling National Security Agency electronic surveillance of some of America's closest allies "outrageous."

Sanders wrote to President Barack Obama to express his views after reports that the NSA spied on heads of state in Brazil, Mexico, France and Germany.

Sanders pointed to reports that the U.S. hacked into the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and had harvested more than 70 million French phone records.

A Montpelier city employee who supports the creation of a public state bank says she's been chastised by her superiors for speaking out on the issue.

The Times Argus of Barre reports that Planning and Community Development Director Gwendolyn Hallsmith says the city's mayor, John Hollar, went to City Manager William Fraser to complain of Hallsmith's advocacy for a state bank.

Hollar is a Statehouse lobbyist whose clients include Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

With food donations down 18 percent and federal funding cuts coming Nov. 1, the Vermont Foodbank says Vermonters in need of nutrition assistance are facing a "perfect storm."

Foodbank CEO John Sayles says a food aid funding boost passed by Congress in 2009 expires at the end of the month. Households will see benefit cuts ranging from $11 to $36 per month.

Meanwhile, a major donor to food banks in New England has discontinued that activity, resulting in a 10 percent drop in donated food.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says he's going to encourage his five New England counterparts to work with the company that manages the regional power grid to take better advantage of the fast expanding sources of clean electricity across the region.

Shumlin says the discussion between the governors and ISO New England becomes critical because of the region-wide rush to add more sources of wind and solar power.

He visited ISO New England headquarters on Tuesday and discussed many of the issues.

VPR/John Van Hoesen

Burlington police say a man has been charged with arson in connection with a fire at an historic church near downtown.

Police were called at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday after the custodian at the College Street Congregational Church found a door open and heard someone in the steeple.

32-year-old Alaiksandr Bychkou of South Burlington was found inside the church and was initially taken into custody on a charge of unlawful trespass. Shortly afterward, the bell tower erupted in flames.

Bychkou was being arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

A panel that advises Vermont state policy makers on activities at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is again expected to tackle the question of the plant's decommissioning.

The Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel failed to reach a consensus on the question of how long it will take for the plant to be taken down at a meeting last week, due to abstentions and absences among members.

The panel meets Wednesday in Montpelier and is expected to take up the issue again.

Vermonters are invited to take part in a discussion about the state budget for the fiscal year beginning next July 1.

Vermont Interactive Technologies will host the public forum tonight.

Each fall, the governor's administration prepares a budget to be presented to lawmakers in January. In 2012, lawmakers passed a bill calling for forums during the fall so budget writers can hear from the public.

The first forum is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. by going to VIT studios in Brattleboro, Johnson, Lyndonville, Middlebury, White River Junction, Williston and Montpelier.

The Green Mountain Care Board has chosen Susan Barrett of Norwich to be its new executive director.

Barrett, an attorney, is currently director of public policy in Vermont for the Bi-State Primary Care Association.

She joined Bi-State in 2011 after nearly 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry with Novartis, Merck, and Wyeth.

Her health care experience also includes pro bono legal work and an internship with Health Law Advocates, a nonprofit public interest law firm in Massachusetts.

Barrett joins the board on Nov. 18.

Advocates for psychiatric patients say they don't want to see a relaxation of rules governing the use of involuntary treatment in the state's hospitals.

At a meeting Monday of an advisory group called the Mental Health Transformation Council, Mental Health Commissioner Paul Dupre heard extensive and vehement comments from advocates — some of them former mental health patients — that rules drafted by Dupre's department would harm patients' rights.

A bridge leading vehicles along Route 100 from Jamaica toward Wardsboro is nearly complete as part of the "Accelerated Bridge" program designed by the state.

The bridge had been destroyed as a result of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and a temporary bridge had been put up in its place.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports the new bridge project started in April.

The bridge program accelerates the design process, permitting and right-ofway by doing different activities at the same time.

Vermont's fall turkey hunting season will open next weekend.

The shotgun and archery season runs from Saturday through Nov. 3 in many parts of the state and until Nov. 10 in parts of Chittenden, Addison, Rutland and Bennington counties.

State Wildlife Director Mark Scott says hunters may need to search the forests this fall to find the turkey flocks. He says unlike some years when large flocks were often seen in agricultural fields, hunters will have to look for the birds' ground scratchings to find their feeding areas.

Renewable energy advocates and industry players are set to gather in South Burlington next week for a conference devoted to topics ranging from energy project siting to net metering to the future of individual energy technologies.

R-E 2013, the annual conference organized by the industry group Renewable Energy Vermont, begins Monday, October 28 and runs through Tuesday October 29 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington.

More rigorous test standards take effect for Vermont students with a new education exam in 2015.

Vermont schools are already making changes to prepare students for standards that officials say are designed to better equip young people for careers or college.

Mount Mansfield Union High School has tweaked an algebra course and will make changes to its geometry instruction in preparation for the new standards adopted by 45 states.

Two Vermont House committees are planning a special trip to the state's southeast corner to hear about the impact of the impending closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

On Oct. 28, the lawmakers travel to Vernon Elementary School to hear from business and other local leaders from 1:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon and from the general public from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state officials are going to be marking founding of Vermont's 1,000th captive insurance company.

Shumlin will highlight the occasion Thursday at the Statehouse.

Vermont leads the nation in captive insurance companies.

Captive insurance companies are wholly owned subsidies of large corporations that want to insure themselves against property loss, casualty and liability.

Before Vermont law was changed in the early 1980s most captive insurance companies had to incorporate outside the country.

The Children's Literacy Foundation is making grants to rural libraries in Vermont and New Hampshire so they can buy books and hold storytelling presentations for local children.

Each grant includes money for storytelling presentations and books that will be chosen by the town librarian.

In addition to the money for the books, each local elementary school library receives a selection of 25 new books and daycare centers receive 15 books.

Two Vermont communities have reached an agreement that clears the way for a railroad company to build a propane facility along Route 5.

The agreement between the town of Rockingham and village of Bellows Falls and Green Mountain Railroad this week permits installation of three 60,000-gallon propane tanks alongside the tracks in Rockingham.

In exchange, the area gets improvements to local roads and water mains.

The Rockingham selectmen and Bellows Falls village trustees approved the contract and agreed to issue the fire permits the company needed to proceed.

Representatives of five Vermont colleges and universities are gathering to talk about solutions to problems created by binge drinking among college students.

The daylong symposium Wednesday is designed for campus leaders, substance abuse workers, community partners and students leaders. It's being held at Castleton State College.

Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen says one aim of the conference is to look at programs that are working on one campus that may be replicated on others. He says one successful strategy has been to keep parents involved.

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