Southern Vermont

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.

Seven Guilford fire fighters were hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after it was suspected they had been struck by lightning. The fire fighters were in the process of extinguishing a two alarm structure fire on East Mountain Road in Guilford, near the Massachusetts border.

A witness at the scene reported severe thunderstorms in the area at the time. Brattleboro Area Rescue and another ambulance service transported the firefighters to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Susan Keese / VPR

A member of a group that’s been protesting alleged animal mistreatment at Santa’s Land in Putney has been cited for trespassing.

Sarah Massucco received a citation Friday from the Windham County Sheriff’s Office. She says the charge stems from efforts by her and a few others to feed the animals at the theme park, which has been closed since December.

Susan Keese / VPR

A group that’s been picketing outside Santa’s Land in Putney wants to find new homes for the animals there. The theme park’s owner and caretaker have both been charged with animal cruelty, following the deaths of more than 20 animals this winter. But officials who have been spot checking the shuttered park say the remaining animals are not in trouble.

Residents of Windham packed the local meeting house on Tuesday night to hear about the findings of three wind test towers on the ridge between Windham and Grafton. The towers were erected last spring to determine the feasibility of a commercial wind project in the two towns. But the would-be developers say it’s too soon to reach any conclusions.

The test towers were built by the Spanish Energy conglomerate Iberdrola Renewables. But Meadowsend Timberland Limited of New London, NH,  also known as MTL, is the driving force behind the project.  

Voters at a special town meeting in Putney Thursday night reaffirmed the $1.8 million budget they approved in March.

The vote was an endorsement of Rescue Inc, a multi-town emergency services coop that Putney has used for decades.

The original budget, presented in March, called for the town to switch to Golden Cross, a for-profit ambulance service based in Claremont, NH and Westminster.

Golden Cross offered to serve the town for $22,000 less than Rescue Inc. But voters in March amended the budget to pay for the higher-priced services of Rescue Inc.

State officials were in Brattleboro this week to discuss how to spend more than $2.5 million earmarked for clean energy projects in Windham County.

The money is part of a final $5.3 million payment by Entergy Vermont Yankee to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Entergy has funded the state program since it began in 2005. Those payments will stop when the plant closes at the end of December.

Voters in Vernon Tuesday passed a slightly pared-down version of the $4.4 million school budget they rejected at town meeting in March. Vernon School Board Chairman Mike Hebert said the board shaved about $50,000 from the original budget.

"We did say to people that we were going to do as much as we could without changing our offerings in the school and what we need to do to maintain our quality level education," Hebert said.

Windham County resident Stephan Morse will serve as interim executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. The position opened up recently when Governor Peter Shumlin tapped current director Patricia Moulton Powden as Secretary of the State Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Moulton Powden had only been director of the Brattleboro development group for a few months when the administration announced her new appointment.

Susan Keese / VPR

Residents of Vernon have voted for a second time to eliminate the town’s police force.

The original vote to de-fund the Vernon Police Department came as a surprise at the town’s annual meeting this past March.

Local residents reaffirmed that decision at a special meeting Monday night that drew what some said was the biggest turnout in the town’s  history.

Voters agreed to contract instead with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department. They accepted a proposal made by Sheriff Keith Clark for round-the-clock police coverage at significant savings to the town.

The owner of Santa’s land in Putney and the park’s caretaker appeared in Brattleboro District Court Tuesday. Lillian Billewicz  and Brian Deistler pled not guilty to charges of animal cruelty. Earlier this winter 16 fallow deer, a pot-bellied pig and a pheasant were found dead at the once-popular theme park.  Court documents say other animals were found in stalls with frozen water and insufficient hay.

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