Local & Regional Briefs for Tuesday, March 18

Vt. Land Trust Won’t Support Easement Changes

Colchester, Vt. (ap) — The Vermont Land Trust has withdrawn its support from a bill that would allow conservation easements to be altered or lifted after a legal review because officials feel the legislation is too broad.

The organization had been reminded “how much our members care about the land we have protected and believe in the permanence of our easements,” Land Trust President Gil Livingston said.

The bill was opposed by experts who believe legal avenues already exist to amend easements. They also warned the change could cause some people to stop making donations for conservation easements.

“We now agree that the current bill is too broad, so we are working on changes that would greatly reduce its scope,” said Livingston. “We hope to share our suggestions in the next few weeks.”

Vermont Law School Professor John Echeverria, who opposed the bill, told Vermont Public Radio he was pleased by the Land Trust’s change.

“It is wonderful that VLT is listening to its members and has abandoned its support for” the bill, said Echeverria. “... But when the Legislature turns back to the easement issue next year one can only hope, in light of VLT’s track record on this issue, that the Legislature will look beyond VLT for good ideas and advice.”

Vermont Bus Driver Strike Begins in Burlington

Burlington (ap) — About 70 bus drivers in Vermont’s largest county went on strike Monday leaving about 9,500 people in greater Burlington who ride the buses every day scrambling.

Most, however, appeared to find workable alternatives, although there was a slight increase in absenteeism at Burlington schools.

At midmorning Monday, the normally busy main bus stop at Church and Cherry streets was largely empty with about 20 drivers from the Chittenden County Transportation Agency walking a picket line a few feet away.

When people arrived looking for a ride, the drivers would tell them none were coming, said driver Derek Lorrain, who was among the Monday morning picketers.

“We feel terrible for the people,” Lorrain said. “We’re here to help people and we’re doing this because we need to do this at this time. The passengers mean a lot to us, we love to bring our passengers where they need to go.”

Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont’s largest private employer, said it had received no reports of employees having trouble getting to work.

Burlington School Superintendent Jeanne Collins said while there was a slight increase in absenteeism and tardiness on Monday, the increase was most noticeable among students who receive free and reduced priced lunches.

On Friday, about 54 percent of the district’s absences were free and reduced lunch students. On Monday the figure was 64 percent.

Report: Shumlin Has $1 M Toward Campaign

Montpelier (ap) — The latest campaign finance report shows that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has more than $1 million in the bank heading into the fall election season.

In a Monday campaign filing, the Shumlin for Governor campaign said it had raised almost $329,000 in cash and in-kind contributions in the reporting period that ended March 15.

The total contributions received in the campaign to-date are $416,000.

During the current period the campaign spent just under $20,000 for a total of $41,000 in the campaign-to-date.

Shumlin, a Democrat, was first elected in 2010. He was re-elected in 2012. He is expected to run again this fall.

So far no major party candidate has emerged to challenge him.