December 5, 2002 – News at a glance

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Needle exchange discussed
Saint Johnsbury held a second community forum Wednesday night to discuss the Vermont CARES needle exchange program. The first forum in August elicited emotional reactions in the debate over whether the needle exchange program should continue. (VPR)

Interview: landmine dinner
Steve Delaney talks with Martha Hathaway of Clear Path International, about efforts to raise funds and awareness for clearing landmines. (Listen to the interview online.) (VPR)

State budget faces revenue shortfalls
In less than a month, the Vermont Legislature will begin to craft a new state budget. But when lawmakers return in January, they’ll face an unprecedented financial situation. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Long term revenue projections
State revenue growth has dropped sharply, while demand for state services is rising. The trend of state revenues will likely have a long term impact on Vermont’s state services. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Agreement could limit asylum seekers
The United States and Canada are scheduled to sign an agreement this week to increase cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts. But critics say one section of the pact is designed to cut down on the number of immigrants allowed asylum in the two countries. They argue the pact will hurt people who have fled persecution and could lead to more refugee smuggling. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Administration appointments
Governor-elect Jim Douglas plans to announce appointments to his administration Thursday. The incoming governor has scheduled a news conference for late today. His staff isn’t being specific about what Douglas plans to announce other than to say it involves appointments. (AP)

Connecticut River land preservation
Governor Howard Dean is pushing to complete one last big land conservation deal before he leaves office. This one along the upper reaches of the Connecticut River involves both Vermont and New Hampshire. The deal between the two states and US-Gen New England would protect 8,000 acres along a 15-mile stretch of the Connecticut River near the scenic Moore Reservoir. (AP)

Teachers’ contract
The South Burlington school board is disappointed with the progress of contract talks with the city’s 217 teachers. The board is offering a raise over three years of more than 11%. But the teachers want a 16% raise. (AP)

Ludlow bus program
Efforts by the Ludlow school district to avoid part of Vermont’s education funding law by setting up a municipal bus system to carry students is illegal. State Education Commissioner Ray McNulty told town officials the system is a school bus system that incidentally transports non-students. (AP)

SAT inventor dies
The man credited with turning the SAT into an admission standard used by thousands of colleges and universities has died at his home in Shelburne. Henry Chauncey was 97. In 1947, Chauncey founded what became known as the Educational Testing Service to administer the SAT. (AP)

Housing prices
The price of housing in Vermont declined slightly in the last quarter, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which regulates government-sponsored mortgage companies. Housing prices across Vermont fell about a half percent during the past three months. They’ve risen nearly 7% over the past year and are up 35% over the past five years. (AP)

Heating assistance programs
It’s shaping up to be a tough winter for Vermonters who use heating assistance programs. Benefits from the federal Low-Income Home Energy Program dropped from $590 to $425 on average. Meanwhile, heating oil prices are expected to rise as much as twenty-five cents a gallon this winter to $1.35. (AP)

Utility lawsuit
The Attorney General’s office is considering whether to help towns being sued by a utility over tax appraisals of the company’s property. Washington Electric Cooperative is suing Chelsea, Orange, Tops-ham, Tunbridge and Williamstown for overvaluing the utility’s poles, wires and substations. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns asked the Attorney General’s office yesterday to help the towns defend the lawsuits, saying the suits could set a statewide precedent. (AP)

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