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Wednesday’s Local & Regional Briefs

Fire Destroys Vt. Farmhouse Of 12 Tribes Religious Sect

Westminster, Vt. (ap) — Fire has a destroyed a Westminster, Vt., house on a farm owned by the Twelve Tribes religious sect.

A member of Twelve Tribes said Tuesday that between 30 and 40 people live at the Basin Farm. He says no one was injured and no animals were hurt.

Westminster Volunteer Fire Department Chief Cole Streeter says he suspects the fire started in the chimney of the woodstove.

Twelve Tribes started in Vermont as the Northeast Kingdom Community Church in Island Pond and was the target of a police investigation on suspicion of child abuse in 1984. A judge later ruled the raid illegal and returned the children to their parents.

Town, Vt. Yankee Reach Tax Agreement

Vernon, Vt. (ap) — The selectboard in the Vernon has signed a contract with the owner of the closing Vermont Yankee nuclear plant that will stabilize the town’s tax base through March 2015.

The deal sets the value of the plant at $280 million for the fiscal year while the current assessment is $300 million, Vermont Public Radio reported.

The agreement is good for the town because the plant will stop selling power in December, halfway through the contract, officials said. Entergy announced in August of 2013 that it would shut down Vermont Yankee at the end of 2014.

“We negotiated a fantastic one-year contract for the town that really gives us some breathing space. But we all know what the future is,” said Vernon Selectboard chairwoman Patti O’Donnell.

Vernon has 2,100 residents and an annual budget of $2 million, half of which is covered by taxes from Entergy, she said.

“We have had resources for a lot of years that other areas in our area have not had. So we do have a large budget that needs to be cut,” O’Donnell said.

The town is planning a public meeting on Jan. 20 to discuss budget cuts. The board will meet with Entergy again after town meeting to figure out a five- or ten-year tax agreement, O’Donnell said.

N.H. Labor Groups Target Minimum Wage Increase

Concord (ap) — New Hampshire labor groups announced support Tuesday for an increase in the minimum wage and bills they say would improve the lives of working families.

State AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie listed a series of bills at a news conference that labor groups will work to pass this legislative session. MacKenzie said the most important one is increasing the minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, to $9 over two years.

“This is going to be a fight for working people,” MacKenzie said.

He said the extra money will be spent on rent, utilities and other essentials.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the federal minimum. Republicans overrode former Gov. John Lynch’s veto three years ago and stripped New Hampshire’s minimum wage law from the books.

The change had no consequence for employers or employees because New Hampshire’s minimum wage was the same as the federal wage. Lynch, a Democrat, and other opponents of repealing the state law argued it ceded control to Congress. Efforts to reinstate the state law failed last year.

Labor groups also are supporting bills that protect temporary workers’ rights; preserve the privacy of workers’ personal credit histories; prohibit employers from requiring access to private social media accounts; prohibit employers from barring workers from discussing their salaries; limit fees charged when employers pay workers with payroll cards instead of by check; establish a state prevailing wage law; and require contractors on state-funded projects to file certified payroll reports to show how money is spent.