Southern Vermont

Susan Keese / VPR

The closing of Vermont's only school for the deaf has opened new debate about the best way to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing children. For decades, mainstreaming in public schools has been seen as a more enlightened alternative to residential schools for the deaf.  Now some Vermonters are questioning that assumption.

Susan Keese / VPR

More than 40 Vernon residents turned out for their town select board meeting Monday. Many said they’d come to air frustrations with the board and with the leadership of Select Board Chairwoman Patty O’Donnell. Their efforts were stymied when board members declared that public participation at the meeting was limited by law to issues on the agenda.

O’Donnell, a former state legislator, is under investigation for allegedly trying to intervene in a friend’s drunk driving arrest. Since the allegations became public disgruntled residents like Sue Cobb have been showing up at meetings.

Susan Keese / VPR

Two dozen fallow deer confiscated from Santa's Land in Putney have a new home. They’re living in the deer park at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington. The 22 deer were the last of more than 40 animals removed from the once popular theme roadside park. A llama, an emu, and assorted goats, ponies, donkeys and birds have been taken in by volunteers.

The park’s owner, Lilian Billewicz, and her employee, Brian Deistler, are awaiting trial on animal abuse charges. Last winter some 20 animals were found dead at the park. Others were emaciated and living in unsanitary conditions.

Vermont’s newly formed Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel held its second meeting last month at the Vernon Elementary School.

The panel was created to encourage communication between Entergy Vermont Yankee, the state, and communities around the plant. The reactor is closing in December. It’s expected to take decades to dismantle.

Chris Recchia, the commissioner of the Public Service department, is the panel’s acting chairman. He says communication with Entergy has improved, but areas of disagreement remain.

A three-way contest is underway for the two Senate seats that represent Bennington County and the Windham County town of Wilmington. Two Democrats – a longtime senate incumbent and a current house member – are running as a team. They face a relative political newcomer  who’s running as a Republican.

Jason R. Henske / AP/File

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is questioning Entergy Vermont Yankee’s claims that the risk of accidents is negligible after the plant stops operating. 

Entergy Vermont Yankee applied to the NRC in March for permission to scale back emergency planning once its fuel is moved from the reactor core to the spent fuel pool. That includes eliminating or drastically reducing emergency planning zones in towns surrounding the facility.

Mark Burke

The Vermont Jazz Center has been honored with a national Acclaim Award from Chamber Music America. The award recognizes arts organizations around the country for “extraordinary cultural contributions” in the regions they serve.

The award was presented Saturday at a concert at the jazz center’s performance space at the Cotton Mill, an old Brattleboro factory. Vermont Jazz Center Director Eugene Uman says the space invites creativity.

John Dillon / VPR

A coalition of  deaf and hard-of-hearing Vermonters and their allies wants the legislature to create a state Commission on the Deaf. The group is also calling for the state to reopen the recently closed Austine School for the Deaf as a state school. And they want deaf people to have a say in replacing services that ended when Austine’s parent group dissolved in September.

Susan Keese / VPR News

The town of Springfield has been considering an anti-loitering ordinance to help keep drugs and criminal activity off the streets. Those efforts have led to a broader discussion of the town’s problems.

Sitting in the Jenny Wren Café on Springfield’s main downtown street, Kimberly Bombria says she’s seen a lot of gang activity and drug sales. She traces much of the problem to tenants of the building that also houses the cafe.

State officials have named six members to a new panel that will oversee the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The 19-member panel was created to help assure transparency, communication and citizen involvement as Vermont Yankee is dismantled. The nuclear plant is scheduled to stop operating in December.

Susan Keese / VPR

The Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing plans to close by the end of September. The center’s trustees made the decision at an emergency meeting late last week, citing ongoing financial problems as the cause.

The center provides a wide range of services for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s headquartered on the sprawling campus of the Austine School in Brattleboro. The 100-year-old residential school has been under the center’s umbrella since 1998.

Susan Keese / VPR

The agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid has approved a plan by the Brattleboro Retreat to correct problems found during a recent inspection. The psychiatric hospital was warned that its Medicare and Medicaid contract would end unless it filed correction plans by the beginning of this week.

The psychiatric hospital's most recent problems surfaced during a special inspection this summer, triggered by a fight in the hospital’s adolescent unit. The incident sent four employees to the hospital.

Susan Keese / VPR

Officials have removed a number of the animals from the shuttered Santa’s Land theme park in Putney. The park’s owner and her employee were already facing animal cruelty charges, after about 20 animals died this winter. They now face additional charges alleging that they failed to follow a court-ordered animal care plan.

Since March, animal rights advocates have been calling for authorities to remove the animals from Santa’s Land.

Voters in Windham County’s democratic senate primary chose incumbent Senator Jeanette White  of Putney to run for a seventh term in November. White was the top vote-getter in a four-way race for two senate seats.

"I think it says that people think I listen to their concerns," White says. "I don’t know that they always like the votes that I take, but I think they like the way I approach issues."

Toby Talbot / AP

The owners of Vermont Yankee are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to cut the number of personnel it assigns to some emergency operations. If approved, the staff changes would take effect when Yankee stops operating later this year. The Shumlin Administration is still evaluating the proposal.

Susan Keese / VPR

The Brattleboro Housing Authority is asking the public to come up with a new use for Melrose Terrace, a public housing complex in West Brattleboro. The 50-year-old complex can no longer receive federal subsidies because it’s in a flood hazard zone. Its residents will move to new public housing in a few years. But officials say the sturdy, red brick buildings at Melrose should be good for something. Suggestions have been pouring in.

Susan Keese / VPR

It’s been almost a year since the announcement that Entergy Vermont Yankee would close at the end of 2014. At the time of the announcement, the plant employed 632 people, at salaries well above the norm for southern Vermont.

Toby Talbot / AP

Applications are now being accepted for the first round of funds provided by Entergy Vermont Yankee for economic development in Windham County. In a settlement with the state, Entergy agreed to pay $10 million over five years to help the region recover from the plant’s closing later this year.

An effort to stop construction of a 30 megawatt ridge-line wind development in the Green Mountain National Forest got a hearing Wednesday in Federal Court in Brattleboro. The 15-turbine Deerfield Wind project has been authorized by the U.S. Forest Service and permitted by the state. But opponents say the Forest Service approval process was flawed. And they argue that the installation would compromise a federally designated wilderness area near the site.

Susan Keese / VPR

The owner of Santa’s Land in Putney has filed for bankruptcy.

Lillian Billewicz, of Fair Haven, bought the once-popular theme park last June but has not opened it this year. In March, Billewicz and an employee were charged with animal cruelty after 16 of the park’s fallow deer and some other animals were found dead and emaciated.

The surviving animals are still at the shuttered tourist attraction while the case is pending.

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