News Features

Earlier this week, Vermont State Police reported the deaths of two people in a possible murder-suicide in Fairlee.

Police said a preliminary review indicated that Troy Gray shot his wife Rhonda Gray and then himself. They also said Troy Gray had a history of domestic violence, including an arrest in July for a domestic assault charge. He was released on conditions not to harass his wife, possess firearms, or enter the house. Police had been called to the home just the day before the shootings.

AP Photo/Brattleboro Fire Department/Jason Henske

In our series, “Burned Out, Vermont’s Apartment Fires,” we looked at some major fires that displaced tenants. We also learned how landlords are required, or, in some cases, merely advised, to make their buildings as fire-proof as possible.

Photo Courtesy, Vermont Division of Fire Safety

In Vermont, there are 32 fire inspectors, in four regional offices around the state.  In 2012, they did 17,000 inspections, according to Mike O’Neil, Director of the Division of Fire Safety for the state of Vermont.

“It’s a lot of work, we’re covering a pretty big footprint of the state, rural areas, municipalities as well,” O’Neil said.  

That’s just the state inspectors.

VPR/Charlotte Albright

Over the past few years, Burlington  has tried to make its rental units more fireproof, or at least easier to evacuate during a fire.

In Vermont, any residential property in which people sleep, excluding single family homes, must meet fire codes and be inspected, either by the state or by a municipality. In Burlington, code inspections are done by the City, and there have been twice as many this year as there were four years ago. And only about ten per cent pass inspection on the first round.

William Morlock, Courtesy, Springfield Housing

In the summer of 2008, a block at the center of  Springfield was totally destroyed by fire. The blaze was set by an arsonist. Over 40 people were temporarily homeless and the fire leveled a movie theater and a few other businesses.

But today, the Ellis Block has been totally re-built.

AP/Toby Talbot

Over the past five years, some spectacular fires have ripped through apartment buildings in Vermont. St. Johnsbury has been especially hard hit.

It was a warm July night in 2009, and Bob Wilkins, a third floor tenant  at 1244 Main Street, had kicked off his shoes and settled in to watch the eleven o’clock news. 

As he  remembers, apartment neighbors pounded on his door, but he ignored them, mistaking them for, in his words, “rowdies.” Then he started smelling smoke.

AP Photo/American Red Cross

Vermont has seen a number of large fires over the years, in Burlington, Brattleboro, Springfield and St. Johnsbury, to name a few, leaving deep scars across Vermont, damaging property and leaving people homeless. 

But what happens after these fires strike? And more importantly, what’s being done to keep Vermont’s renters in these buildings safe?

Vermont Telecommunications Authority

Vermont officials continue to promise that the state will have 100% broadband coverage by year’s end, but they’ve always stressed that they can’t make a similar pledge for cell coverage. 

Improving cell service involves financial and technological challenges different from broadband. 

Consider the basic differences between broadband and cell service.

Broadband only has to be available in those places where people live and work. Cell service has to cover the miles of highway between work and home.  A small gap along the way is all it takes to drop a call.

VPR/Charlotte Albright

In early July, North Country Hospital, in Newport, announced that it would end two programs and lay off at least nineteen workers.

The cuts come after two years of red ink, and a projected three percent shortfall.  Now the question is how the hospital plans to move forward.

VPR/Annie Pruitt

This year, August 7 is the final day of Ramadan for more than one billion Muslims around Vermont and the world. Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims mark this special time with a month of prayer, charity, and daily dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and other habits from sunrise to sunset, Muslims break this fast each evening with a meal called Iftar. Iftar is traditionally a communal meal, where Muslims gather with friends and family to break their daily fast.        

AP/Toby Talbot

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene a number of groups sprung up to help people recover. The largest is the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.  The fund has distributed $3.4 million so far to help people rebuild.

While many recovery groups are wrapping up their work, the VDRF plans to stay active for future disasters.

The founders were thinking about forming the group even before Irene hit.

VPR/Jane Lindholm

Iain MacHarg founded the Vermont Institute for Celtic Arts and the Catamount Pipe Band, which is headed to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland this month. He's been playing the pipes since he was eight years old and now teaches others.

AP/Toby Talbot

The operator of Vermont’s electric grid warns that customers will face higher and higher transmission costs unless some regional power line projects are scaled back or canceled.

The Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) says some costly projects could be avoided in New England as the growth of distributed, solar energy systems eases the strain on the grid.

AP/ Toby Talbot

Technology is being implemented in the health care industry in a variety of ways including text message appointment reminders and using robots during surgical procedures. At the Veteran’s Affairs medical center in White River Junction, more patients now have the option of consulting with their doctor over video chat.

Flickr: Daveybot Image 56094800

From street signs to copper piping, metal theft continues to be an issue in towns and cities around Vermont. While taking and destroying public property is certainly not a new phenomenon, law enforcement officials say they have seen a significant rise in metal thefts since the price for scrap metal has shot up in recent years.

Photo, Courtesy Lea Davison

On August 3rd and 4th, some of the country’s top mountain bikers will descend on the Catamount Outdoor Center in Williston for one of the most important races of the year - The ProXCT Mountain Bike Series National Finals.

Dave Martin/AP

The Town of Sharon revised its Tobacco Use Policy this month. Many towns have tobacco policies, which regulate the use of tobacco by town employees while on the job. Some policies also lay down rules for tobacco use on town-owned properties. And the State of Vermont has several smoke-free laws on the books.

VPR/Claudia Marshall

Dozens of Charlotte residents are spending hours, voluntarily, pulling weeds out of a local wetland this summer.  It’s part of an organized effort to control an invasive species that threatens to choke the life right out of an otherwise vibrant ecosystem. 

On a beautiful, breezy evening and half a dozen people are paddling around in kayaks and canoes, pulling from the water a plant that looks like a bunch of little lily pads.

AP/ Toby Talbot

It’s no secret that Vermont is a proud member of the Red Sox Nation. Greg Pearson’s book Fenway Fanatic: 50 Boston Red Sox Fans Tell Their Stories highlights a few Vermonters among the die-hard Red Sox fans he profiled. Pearson says he attempted to include a diverse group.

“This is by no means supposed to be the 50 craziest or most devoted Red Sox fans. Many of them would qualify, but some of them were kind of new fans, some of them were really young,” says Pearson.

VPR/Sage Van Wing

Welcome back to Vermont Edition Summer School! Get ready for a treat because on this week's installment, we have something special for the seafood lovers out there: how to shuck an oyster.

While you don't need to cook oysters before enjoying them, getting them out of their shells to eat can be quite a challenge. To learn, we spoke with Didier Murat, co-owner of Vergennes Laundry - an espresso bar slash restaurant in Vergennes.