Friday, April 29, 2016

Declare Your Bookstore Independence!

Declare Your Bookstore Independence!


Scott Stearns [The Book Nook] 

Tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day! 
Declare Your Bookstore Independence!

The Book Nook will celebrate our bookstore independence on April 30 from 10am - 5pm at the store on Main Street in Ludlow, VT. We will have our new "For the Love of Reading" t-shirts for sale.  We will have special Independent Bookstore items for sale.

The Book Nook
An independent bookstore in Ludlow, Vermont

What's the WPA? Find Out on Sunday

Scott Stearns [The Book Nook]

1:01 PM (3 hours ago)
to me
In May 1935, as part of the great return-to-work effort known as the Works Progress Administration (the WPA) President Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought Americans back to work in the service of the rebuilding of a society staggering under the weight of the Great Depression. Under the Federal Art Project of the WPA, these workers included artists, writers, actors, and musicians: for FDR believed that in order to lift ourselves out of economic stagnation we would also need to rebuild the culture of America at the grass roots level.
On Sunday, May 1, the Mount Holly Town Library and The Book Nook will co-sponsor a screening of “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” at the Mount Holly School. Independent filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton of 217 Films will introduce the film and take questions following the screening.

Featuring more than 70 works of art from this period, including notable works by Rockwell Kent, Dorothea Lange, Stuart Davis, and Reginald Marsh, as well as rare footage of WPA artists at work, this film tells the story of how Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal moved art in America out of the rarified atmosphere of the elite and brought it directly to the American people as an inspiration and catalyst for change and recovery in the 1930s.

Screening of 217 Films’ “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA”
Director Michael Maglaras and executive producer Terri Templeton will introduce the film and take questions following the screening. Co-sponsored by Mount Holly Town Library and The Book Nook.

Sunday, May 1
4:00 PM


Mount Holly School
150 School St.
Mount Holly, Vermont


Free and open to the public
The Book Nook
An independent bookstore in Ludlow, Vermont

Vermont House gives towns little say on renewable energy siting -

Home > Vermont > Vermont House gives towns little say on renewable energy siting

Vermont House gives towns little say on renewable energy siting

By   /   April 27, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments
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Photo courtesy of Vermonters for a Clean Environment

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Members of the Vermont House of Representatives voted 142-0 to give towns more input into the siting of renewable energy projects, but one Democratic lawmaker said that input is a sham.
On Tuesday, lawmakers gave unanimous approval to S.230, a bill that aims to give towns a say over where renewable energy projects are sited.
While some Vermonters hoped the Legislature would let towns make siting decisions, lawmakers created a complex statewide planning process that involves local, regional and state planners.
Under S.230, the Public Service Board sets renewable energy goals and standards for plans by regional planning commissions, and RPCs in turn set goals for towns.
“This is fundamentally about ensuring that both our ambitious state renewable energy goals and our Vermont values around local decision making are not mutually exclusive,” said state Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, who presented the bill.
Under the House-approved bill, towns participate in a supposed “bottom-up” planning process.  If a town’s plan receives a “determination of energy compliance,” the PSB will give the town “substantial deference” on where renewable energy projects are sited. Substantial deference means the board must accept the town’s plan unless a “clear and convincing demonstration” shows the plan conflicts with the “general good of the state.”
Notably, the alleged bottom-up process begins at the top. First, the Department of Public Service issues energy siting standards for regional planners based on greenhouse gas reduction goals, building efficiency goals, and distributed generation and energy transformation categories aligned with the state’s renewable energy standard. Renewable goals are derived from the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and 20-year plan for electric generation.
Next, the commissioner of public service helps regional planners develop plans that comply with state energy goals. Once the commissioner determines that  regional plans are “energy compliant,” regional planners help municipalities receive a similar determination of energy compliance. A town’s plan is determined to be compliant if it aligns with the regional plan.
During debate on the House floor, state Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, challenged the process.
“This planning provision seems to me circular. The state, the Public Service Board, the General Assembly, the Department of Public Service will establish the targets and the standards and the definition of compliance, and then you will get substantial deference to your plan from the Public Service Board if you do what they want you to do. I actually don’t think that’s deference,” Browning said.
“We’ll tell you what we want you to do, and if you agree to do that, we’ll give deference to what you say you’re going to do,” she added. “That’s circular! It’s not deference in my definition in the word.”
Ram, responding to Browning, said the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, along with certain RPCs, preferred the House process to the one passed by the Senate. In the Senate version, the Public Service Department works directly with towns in the creation and approval of plans.
Browning asked if the Public Service Board could reject a town’s plan at the end of the entire process.
“Substantial deference is not an absolute,” Ram said. “The Public Service Board still does retain the ability to determine that there is a significantly adverse impact on the public good if they do not site a specific project.”
The part of the bill that House members seemed to like the most pertained to noise coming from wind turbines. According to the bill, the Public Service Board will set new sound standards through a rulemaking process by Sept. 15, 2017.
When Browning asked if the new standards would apply retroactively, Ram said the noise rules pertain only to projects approved and built after April 15.
“The future standards will not help,” Browning objected. “There is no clear path through which the future standards would help anyone negatively impacted from noise pollution from an existing project.”
State Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Albany, thanked the Energy Committee for including the wind noise provisions, but she spoke with mixed emotion.
“At the Lowell wind project there are 500-foot towers — 21 (of them). In Sheffield there are 16 500-foot towers that affect property values, health issues, and aesthetics,” she said. “Every day when I drive through my towns to get here I see those wind towers, and they’re painful.”
“Our towns have been through a lot,” she added. “Lives have been disrupted. Some folks have had to give up their property and their homes. … Personally, I would like to see a future where wind towers are banned — I don’t think they’re a good fit for the state of Vermont.”
Also regarding wind energy, the bill provides appeal status for adjacent towns and RPCs if a renewable energy facility is within 500 feet — or 10 times the height of a wind turbine’s tallest component — of their border. It also requires newly built wind turbines to use radar-controlled lighting if permitted by the FAA. The sensors light up with red lights when planes fly within range.
On matters of hydro power, the bill exempts hydroelectric dams from obtaining a certificate of public good since they are subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval and licensing. Also, in cases where an environmental permit requires a reduction in electric energy generated by a hydroelectric facility, electric utilities may petition for a reduction in the renewable energy requirement set by the state’s renewable portfolio standard.
Some provisions passed by the Senate were excluded by House lawmakers. Under the House version, appeals of energy compliance determinations are made to the the Natural Resources Board, not hearing officers; municipalities work with RPCs, not the Department of Public Service; and projects do not receive a a lifecycle cost analysis of greenhouse gas impacts. House lawmakers also cut a provision to establish and fund a public service officer to guide towns through the siting process.
State Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chair of the House Energy Committee, defended the bill.
“We are in the middle of a grid transformation,” he said. “The days of big base-load generation power generators located hundreds if not thousands of miles away, transmitting their product over huge transmission lines over many of our mountains and fields, is not the future.
“We are going to what’s called a distributed generation grid. We’re going to it because it makes more sense for the environment, it makes more economical sense, and mostly because it is independent, secure and reliable.”
The third reading of the bill is scheduled for Wednesday. If approved by both bodies and signed into law, S.230 will take effect on July 1, 2016.
Contact Bruce Parker at
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Bruce Parker is a reporter for His stories have been featured at, Bloomberg, Politico, The Daily Caller, the Washington Times, Human Events and Thomson, among other outlets. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @WatchdogVT.
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    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    Mt. Holly Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary Roast Pork Supper

    Nicole Griffin Fire Dept Aux -President

      MAY 7, 2016
     Settings 5 P.M. till Gone
         Odd Fellows Hall, Belmont, VT
    Mt. Holly Volunteer Fire Department
       Roast Pork Supper
    Mashed potatoes, w/gravy, Vegetable,
        Rolls, and homemade pies
       ADULTS $12.00

    For more information: call 802-236-3536

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Business Community Pushes Back on Tax Increases

    Dear Joseph,
    Last week the Senate Finance Committee took testimony from representatives of two groups, bank officials and lobbyists for employer associations, who are affected by tax increases. Meanwhile a new  $2.5 million dollar budget hole was created by the Labor Relations Board decision in favor of a two-year package of raises for state employees.Senate Finance Committee Chair Tim Ashe has stated publicly that he does not favor another round of increases in the bank franchise tax or employer assessment tax but the outcome is anyone’s guess given budget pressures.
    The Bank Franchise Tax. This tax is computed monthly on average monthly deposits for the previous 12 months and is paid quarterly; this tax is in lieu of corporate income tax. The miscellaneous tax bill under consideration creates a higher tax for banks with larger deposits, in excess of  $75 million dollars, jumping the rate from .000096 to 000121.
    This translates into large payments and comes on top of an increase last year. Thomas Leavitt, President and CEO of the Northfield Savings Bank (NSB), the second largest bank in Vermont, testified that given projected deposits for 2016 at a rate of .000118 the tax obligation would be $849, 600 dollars (a 23%increase). He contrasted this with what would be owed if they paid an income tax, a considerably lower amount. NSB Is a “mutual bank” owned by depositors, with 13 locations in central Vermont and Chittenden County. Mr. Leavitt cautioned that they are facing stiff competition from credit unions that do not pay the franchise tax and the number of independent banks in Vermont is decreasing. Vermont banks are major employers, important partners in community development, and they are active in community contributions (both financially and by way of volunteered time and resources to nonprofits). The loss of independent banks will eliminate local decision-making and result in a lack of focus on Vermont.
    Sarah Cowan, Senior Vice President of the National Bank of Middlebury, gave similar testimony. The National Bank has seen their franchise tax obligation increase from $260 thousand dollars to $291 thousand dollars over the past three years. The proposed franchise tax rate would increase this obligation by $77 thousand dollars. Due to increasing costs in key areas such as cyber security and regulatory compliance, the National Bank has not been able to increase staff or offer more than 2% annual salary increases. They are not a “high performing bank” that could absorb a tax rate increase. Like NSB, the Middlebury National Bank is active in its community.
    Employer Assessment Tax. The employer assessment tax is intended to offset Medicaid costs for uninsured Vermonters by way of a tax on employers who do not offer health insurance plans for full- time workers. The quarterly tax assessment calculation includes employees who receive Medicaid as well as people who elect not to participate in employer health care plans, usually because of the co-pay. Businesses that employ part–time workers with varying shifts may find that the hours accumulate to the equivalent of full-time employees.
    This tax has been expanding since 2007 to capture smaller and smaller businesses while the rate has increased. In 2014 the rate was $133. 30 and in 2015 it was adjusted per a formula tied to health exchange insurance costs. The proposed tax is tiered. An employer with between one and 19 full time equivalent (FTE) “uncovered” employees would pay $151.12 for every employee over 4. An employer with 20-99 FTE uncovered employees would pay $210 per employee and for larger employers the assessment is $249 per uncovered employee.
    Opponents testifying in the Senate Finance Committee included lobbyists for the Vermont Retailers and Grocers Association, the Vermont Ski Areas Association and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. As pointed out by the Retailers and Grocers Association, the employer assessment tax is “unique to Vermont” and is on top of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) assessment on employers not offering health care benefits. Most retailers have a mix of seasonal (busy-season), part-time and full-time employees. Small convenience stores estimate a 53 % increase in their tax obligation under the proposed rate while larger statewide convenience stores expect a 68% increase.
    The Ski Areas Association offered similar objections to the tax increase. Although Vermont ski areas offer health care plans for full-time employees the industry relies heavily on seasonal workers. In the ski industry there is no “ bight line “ for full-time workers and seasonal workers. Larger ski areas are anticipating a “north of 65% increase” in employer assessment tax obligations. This is particular punishing for the industry given the mild winter.
    A more general opposition to the employer assessment tax came from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. From their perspective the employer assessment tax is just plain bad for business. They pointed out that "uncertainty is a business obstacle.” Employers crave stability so they can create long term business plans but Vermont has had years of continuous uncertainty around health care policy. The Chamber of Commerce took a strong stand against making employers pay for rising Medicaid costs based upon policy decisions, at both the federal and state level, that are not “employer related” and had nothing to do with lower wages. The full opposition statement of the Chamber of Commerce gives an historical overview of the many shifts in Vermont’s health care policy and can be seen here:
    Employer Assessment Testimony
    The Chamber of Commerce has also published a breakdown of tax and fee increases over the past several years known as the “Total Impact List.” It can be found here:
    If you want to weigh in on the miscellaneous tax bill contact your legislators immediately.
    All Representatives - Vermont Legislature

    Barbara Crippen
    Policy Coordinator
    We believe Campaign for Vermont offers substantive insight, information and advocacy on a non-partisan basis relative to Vermont's affordability crisis. We hope you have found value in the above presentation. A contribution of $50 dollars, $100 dollars or more would be greatly appreciated and well used to keep us working hard for you. We do recognize that not all of our supporters can afford this so a donation in any amount is highly valued. Please renew that support with a donation.
    And visit us on Facebook or Twitter too!

    Cookies $4/dozen; Pies $15 ea.; Organic Seeds; Bake Sales!

    Cookies $4/dozen; Pies $15 ea.; Organic Seeds; Bake Sales!
    Aiyana Fortin, junior at Black River, applied for and was accepted into the Bioengineering and Nanotechnology module of Project SMART at the University of New Hampshire. This month long pre-college program will provide an in-depth experience and conversation about genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, biotechnology in agriculture, medicine, and the environment, biological warfare, nano-technology and templates, STM-scanning tunneling microscope, and "nano-fear."  To raise the tuition of $3,200 for this program, Aiyana will be doing multiple bake sale fundraisers.

    Cookies! She will be taking orders for a cookie sale, at $4/dozen, from April 25 to 29, and she'll deliver these on May 3 and 4 in Ludlow and Mount Holly. She is baking chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies (her great-great-grandmother's recipe!), oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter cookies.

    Organic Seeds! She will also be taking orders for High Mowing organic seeds, a Vermont based company, from April 25 to May 9. The seeds come in 25 tasty varieties and also in boxed gift sets. Contact Aiyana Fortin at 259-3800 to order or for more information.
    Pies! Aiyana will also be taking orders for pies, at $15 each, from April 25 to May 20. They will be available to be picked up in front of Shaw's from 8:30am to 1pm on Saturday, May 28. She is accepting orders for blueberry, apple, swedish apple (gluten free available), strawberry rhubarb, peach, pear, pumpkin, egg custard, and vinegar pies. 

    Bake Sales! There will be two bake sales: one in front of Brewfest Beverage & Co. on Saturday May 14 from 10am to 2pm, and one in front of Shaw's on Saturday May 28 from 8:30am to 1pm.

    Please contact Aiyana Fortin to support her in this endeavor at 259-3800, email, or in-person.    Thank you!!!

    Combatting Witchgrass with Mulch Posted By Joe Mc.

    with Mulch

    in asparagus, grapes, rhubarb, blackberries and other perennials
    anywhere else it's not wanted.

    by Tom Roberts, 

    Click on photos to enlarge.
    In case you are not familiar with it, witchgrass is everpresent in Maine, especially in pastures and fields. It spreads via rhizomes, or underground stems, which sprout up new spears of grass every few inches. It can withstand frequent cutting, grazing or mowing and keeps coming back. Like most grasses, it loves cool wet weather.

    When the gardener tries to pull it up, the rhizomes break off in the ground, making it very difficult to eradicate that way. Tilling breaks the rhizomes into hundreds of small pieces, each of which sprouts a new plant, although any left entirely on the surface in dry weather will dry out and die in a few days.

    When tilling witchgrass in the garden, it is advisable to go very slowly, thus breaking the rhizomes into the smallest possible pieces. That way, although there will be more sprouts of grass emerging, there will be less energy per rhizome piece, so subsequent control become easier. When the new sprouts have exactly three leaves on them, the rhizome has put out a maximum amount of energy without getting much back yet. This is the point at which pulling or re-tilling works best.

    But what about witchgrass in perennial crops where tilling is not an option? Over the years we have discovered several mulching methods which do not work. These include mulching with new grass clippings, hay, leaves, pine needles, or wood chips. They do not work because the energy reserves the witchgrass allow it within a few months to grow its sharp pointed rhizomes upward to the light, and then sprout leaves of grass to the point that it is now growing stronger than ever.

    But that doesn't mean that mulching doesn't work, it just means that a simple layer of mulch doesn't work. What we have developed over the past ten years is a method that does work, and we use several variations of it.

    The secret is to cover the witchgrass with a layer of cardboard (or many layers of newspaper) and then cover this with a layer of hay, leaves, grass or wood chips, which will serve not only to hold the bottom layer in place, but to help it biodegrade over time as well as improve the appearance of the mulched area. In the photo to the right, which is a closeup of the photo at the very top of this page, I first added a layer of compost to the blackberry beds, then covered this with cardboard (either cereal box cardboard or corrugated) then added a layer of wood chips. Before putting down the compost, I spent some time pulling all the witchgrass rhizomes out that I could, just to increase my chances of success. In many places it was just like digging into a plate of spaghetti, the roots were so thick.

    You will find the process much easier if it is done in late fall or early spring when the grass is not growing. Alternatively, during the growing season you can mow the grass very close, then use the mowings as part of your top mulch. (The fresh tops won't root; only the underground rhizomes will propagate the plant.) Next, lay down overlapping layers of newspaper or cardboard. If using newspapers, use about 20 sheets per layer—we use folded newspapers about a quarter inch thick and overlap them by at least six inches. The work goes much easier if the newspaper or cardboard has been left out in the rain or soaked in a tub overnight. This keeps the wind from blowing them as you work, and removes any stiffness, which makes it easier to cover irregularities in the ground.
    In the above photos, Jill is putting down an overlapping layer of newspapers on mowed witchgrass in the rhubarb patch in late May, then covering these with leaves. Note how the newspapers are tucked in under the rhubarb plants, and how much the newspapers are overlapped. At right, in the same rhubarb patch the following November, you can see why the newspapers need to be overlapped more than was done in May. The grass was able to find its way between the papers and emerge, weakened, but ready to catch up. So remember to overlap your bottom layer quite well. You will note that the second bed over has much better witchgrass control, since the newspapers were overlapped more.

    Another thing we have learned is that, altho the two layer system works well, the fact that the newspaper layer is biodegrading at the same time the witchgrass is trying to poke through it means that sometimes some of the witchgrass will get through. Other times witch grass will be invading from the edges of the mulched patch. This will be evident within a few months, and usually happens only in a few patches here and there. What we have learned to do is to apply the very same method again the following year. The second time, the grass is weaker and sparser, and the mulching even more effective. Once you've killed the witchgrass, it is gone, and won't be coming back. However, it may be forever invading from the edges of your planting, so re-applying the two-layer mulch may become an annual or biennial necessity, at least in certain patches.

    In the photo to the left, you can see the grape arbor as it appeared in early November. The area in the foreground was mulched with hay-over-newspaper in the spring of the previous year, and now eighteen months later the grass is well on its way to recovering. Further back, you can see where we applied the hay-over-newspaper again in the spring of this year, and there is essentially no witchgrass in that section. Prior to our initial application of the mulch two years ago, the grass was as thick as I've ever seen it, very much enjoying the leaves-only mulch I had used several years previously.

    We are always saving pizza boxes, cereal boxes and any cardboard boxes we come across. Mulching the eighty foot long Blackberry Garden this October used up two years worth of cardboard hoarding. Better to use too much than too little. Last year we were fortunate enough to have someone deliver us a van of bundled newspapers, and to date we've used about a third of those.

    What is our preference for the top layer? Generally whatever is available. During the summer months we are mowing the fields every few weeks so we have a good supply of young hay. Sometimes we have a large pile of wood chips that we make ourselves or is delivered to us. And as you can see in ourUsing Mulches article, we get pine needles, hay and leaves delivered to us every fall by the good residents of Pittsfield. For each of these we have other uses as well, besides using them for the top layer in our witchgrass battle. So whenever we are applying our two-layer mulch, we look around to see what's in surplus for the top layer.

    Chips or sawdust as a top layer will last the longest, although for mulching witchgrass it is the bottom layer, not the top layer, which determines effectiveness. Leaves, pine needles and old hay are the second longest lasting, but loose leaves have a tendency to blow off exposing the bottom layer if they are in a windy location. Old hay may itself contain grass seeds (but not witchgrass seeds, for witchgrass produces few if any viable seeds). Young hay and grass clipping are the shortest lived, completely disappearing by the following year.

    The lack of longevity of the bottom layer is surprising to most people. Newspaper and cardboard when kept moist and in contact with the soil will biodegrade almost completely during the first season with the help of micobes and earthworms. Meanwhile, if applied thickly and overlapped enough, it will have done its job. Then bottom of the top layer will then begin to decompose, slowly feeding your plants.

    Adding a layer of compost prior to the application of the newspaper or cardboard layer is a way of feeding your plants an even better diet than the decomposing mulch would be. Compared to simple layer of compost on the top of the ground, compost under the mulch will remain moist decomposing and combining with the soil more completely.