Story + video: Shumlin promises to bring high-speed rail, natural gas pipeline to Vermont

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.orgFresh from a two-day jaunt to Montreal, Governor Peter Shumlin announced to the press on Wednesday that he hopes to see the construction of a high speed passenger rail line that links Montreal to New York in the near future. In addition, he is looking to solve the state’s long-term energy needs through an enhanced power agreement with Hydro-Quebec and the extension of a natural gas line from Chittenden County to Rutland. Shumlin, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott and former Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie met with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and officials from Hydro-Quebec and Gaz Métro of Montréal, Québec, which owns Northern New England Energy Corporation, which in turn owns Vermont Gas and Green Mountain Power. Shumlin said he was grateful for Dubie’s willingness to provide introductions to Charest and the other officials. (He also joked about Scott’s expertise on the icy road way en route to Montreal and described it as a demolition derby. Scott is a well-known race car driver at Thunder Road, a local race track).Shumlin told reporters that the Quebec officials were surprised by his arrival with Dubie, his former campaign rival. Shumlin said they remarked such political amity was unprecedented in Canada.The visit was something of a trade mission, though it seemed that Vermont was buying and Quebec was selling ‘ power. ‘Quebec is our biggest trading partner,’ Shumlin remarked. ‘It’s an extraordinarily important friendship.’Shumlin said he continues to negotiate with Hydro-Quebec for additional power. Vermont has already sealed a 20-year agreement with the power company at a rate of roughly 6 cents a kilowatt hour. Shumlin declined to give specifics about the nature of the talks.‘It’s a buyer’s market,’ Shumlin said. ‘They want to sell us power.’Shumlin said he couldn’t say how much electricity the state will need until he completes a comprehensive energy plan that’s ‘credible.’ Until his advisors devise a comprehensive plan the state’s energy needs will be a ‘guessing game.’‘There is a glut of electricity on the market,’ Shumlin said. ‘They want to sell us power â ¦ and it’s a buyers’ market.’When asked whether he was trying to purchase Hydro-Quebec power to find a way to increase power reliability in the aftermath of the likely closure of Vermont Yankee, Shumlin said he is ‘eager’ to see the state expand its natural gas pipeline to Rutland. He said he believes the gas could help drive economic development in that area of the state. He said the project could give a boost to GE Rutland and Omya, the calcium carbonate extraction company in Florence, Vt.As for high-speed rail, the main sticking point is Homeland Security.‘I think we are learning from the ongoing reaction to 9/11 that we have to see the border as a border between friends,’ Shumlin said. ‘If it means we can’t (renew) passenger rail from Vermont to Montreal then the terrorists are winning.’  www.vtdigger.org(link is external) February 17, 2011last_img read more

Virgin Atlantic Set to Launch New Service to Tobago

first_imgTobago (CJ Photo)Virgin Atlantic is set to launch service from London Gatwick Airport to the Caribbean island of Tobago.The service will launch beginning in March, and will operate as an additional sector between the carrier’s nonstop St Lucia service.That means a short stop in St Lucia before the flight continues to Tobago.The flight will operate weekly on Sunday mornings between March and October, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays beginning in October.In a statement, Virgin said the addition of the flight came in response to “an opening in the market.”“The Caribbean has long been at the heart of our leisure operation and we’re really excited to be offering our customers flights to beautiful Tobago once again,” said Joe Thompson, director of network and alliances at Virgin Atlantic. “We are always looking for opportunities to grow our network and provide our customers with even more travel options and with other operators withdrawing from this route, we believe our new services will be very popular with British holidaymakers.”The flights will operate on Airbus A330-300 aircraft with 33 upper class, 48 premium economy and 185 economy seats.Virgin Atlantic currently operates 23 peak return flights a week across the Caribbean. 378 Views   no discussions Share BusinessLifestyleTravel Virgin Atlantic Set to Launch New Service to Tobago by: Caribbean Journal – January 5, 2015 Tweetcenter_img Share Share Sharing is caring!last_img read more

Sumner County Commissioner District #3 Candidate’s Forum: Cliff Bales and Jason Boyd

first_imgby Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — The following is a candidate’s forum for the two Republicans of the Sumner County Commissioner third district. Cliff Bales of Oxford is an incumbent. Jason Boyd of South Haven is a challenger. The third district encompasses the east side of Sumner County. The district can be found here for Sumner County (third district is in white) and here for the city of Wellington.1. Give us some background about yourself.Bales – I am a life-long Sumner County resident who lives with, and endorses, Christian, conservative, traditional values. My wife Anita and I have been married for 48 years. When we met, she was 13 and I was 14. We both understand the meaning of responsibility and commitment.We live on the family farm southwest of Oxford where we have lived for 38 years becoming Century Farmers in 2009. We have a grown son and daughter with 2 grandsons.Along with an extensive, successful business background, I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Management. My businesses have had dealings primarily in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri. I currently manage real estate investments.When I sold my last sales/service business, I was hired by the Sumner County Planning, Zoning and Environmental Health Department. I served for 10 years as a Field Tech. Those 10 years gave me the opportunity to observe the workings of the County. Being well versed in county regulations now serves me well as Commissioner. When it comes to county issues, I apply solid business practices at every opportunity.Boyd – Here is a list of my qualifications:• Raised in Sumner County – age 31• Received Associate Degree from Cowley County Community College, Johnson County Community College, KLETC• Employment: law enforcement past four years; prior eight year career with BNSF Railway• Family: son of late Sheriff Kenny Boyd and Cindy Boyd; father of two sons; finance’ Kori Martin• Recently constructed new home in my district• 240 acre land owner and farmer in Sumner County• My current position is the Chief of Police in my hometown of South Haven, where I work with citizens and local government daily.2. What is your primary reason for running the Sumner County Commissioner?Bales – When I came to office four years ago, we did not have a casino but we knew it was coming. For the 14 years prior, I watched as Sumner County property valuations became skewed to the high side by using valid/invalid sales ratio as the tool. (Lower value houses thrown out as invalid -higher value houses counted as valid sales.) My concern was justified when I contacted Topeka and was told they were also watching it closely. During those same 14 years, our Commercial valuations never, not one time, met State requirements. As a County, we had totally moved away from “fair and equal” taxation. The department operated with total autonomy and acted with impunity with very little upper echelon understanding of the department and accompanying lack of oversight. That is not now the case. We now have a new County Appraiser, working closely with Commissioners, whose goal is a return to “fair and equal” in a culture that demands compliance with State guidelines.My reasons for running are many. Primarily was/is a concern that casino money might be spent on starting new projects and not turning it over to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief which is where it has all gone so far. And; as you can tell from my statement above, I’m driven to see that there is a return to “fair and equal” property taxation.Boyd – My primary reason is that I care for Sumner County. I am a lifelong resident. I was raised on County wages. I have an appreciation of where this county has been and an appreciation for where it is going. In addition to that, I believe there is room for improvement in some core areas, and the overall direction of the county.3. The Kansas Star Casino has been protesting their taxes for the past three years. What role does the Commissioners have in this process?Bales – The valuation process is controlled by Property Valuation Department in Topeka. The County Appraiser uses the Topeka procedures to arrive at valuation. The Commissioners involvement is responsive in nature through the appeal process and/or litigation. Boyd – The County Appraiser sets the taxes and evaluations. The commissioners have a role in the support of the Appraiser and her department along with going through the normal appeals process pertaining to that. 4. With what you know about Kansas Star and the possibility of other casinos popping up, what do you anticipate as far as county funding in the future?Bales – I am unaware of the possibility of other casinos “popping up,” in our area on either side of the Kansas/Oklahoma border. There are however, in my opinion, some bright spots in county funding in our future. Two of those bright spots come in the form of wind energy revenue and oil and gas revenue.Boyd – I anticipate no funding above and beyond the Kansas Star at this point, as I am not aware of any additional possibilities for further casino development in the foreseeable future; for this county or region. I will direct focus of the thorough distribution of the funds generated by our current casino Kansas Star. 9. Sumner Regional Medical Center appears to have financial problems. If the time comes would you be supportive of financial funding for the Wellington-based hospital through the Sumner County Budget?Bales – Since I have a background in hospital patient accounting and one of my business ventures produced millions of dollars in revenue for various hospitals, I have kept a fairly close eye on our local facility.Sumner Regional Medical Center is an important asset to the city and the county. Right up there with schools when it comes to Economic Development. If you’ll go back to my answers to the Sheriff’s Department question, Economic Development, taxation, rental properties, etc., you begin to understand that all of these issues are connected. Over the years, we have developed into two basic groups of patients or two basic forms of healthcare provided. These two groups are insured and free.Historically, when a community’s hospital begins to lose its luster, the people of the community fire the administrator, then elect or appoint new board members and install a new director of nursing, CFO, and outsource various departments. As they continue to sag and patient census declines, they close a wing or a floor. A mill levy or sales tax or both are imposed to just help them stay afloat till things turn around. The facility and equipment suffer. Doctors leave their practices. Tax support increases. Eventually, doctors from other communities hold clinics Monday, Wednesday and Fridays with doctors rotating duty. When the facility finally closes, it becomes adult day care, a government occupied structure, rec center, ect.The trouble with tax support is once that money begins to flow into the facility, the day to day operation can become sloppy. The pressure is off to obligate efficient operation and sound, timely prudent business practices. Additionally, receivables are considered as assets until charged off as bad debts. In general, smaller community hospitals appear to remain viable on paper because of the high number of receivables that are actually bad debts carried as assets. Sumner Regional is no exception and has carried an alarming dollar amount of receivables on the financial statement since at least 1980’s.Hospital “facts” will have to be addressed in the fairly near future. Not merely disguised or masked. Reality is closing in. The county currently donates from sales tax money earmarked for “medical” purposes.Boyd – Yes, I believe the hospital is a vital asset to the County. The county does currently give funding to the facility, and upon need for further funding to keep the Hospital operational, I would be in support. 10. What is your No.1 concern for Sumner County in the next four years? Bales – With everything currently on my plate and all the subjects just discussed, I would be hard pressed to position any of my concerns as #1. My concerns are many. 5. Do you believe the Sumner County Sheriff Department is adequately funded for the demands of the casino and elsewhere?Bales – Short answer, yes. We just finalized the budget. Long answer; look back to a time when the Sheriff’s Department was six people occupying 1,200 square feet in the Courthouse. Compare the number of crimes and arrest with today. What has changed? Our population demographic. According to the WSU small business development department, 68% of single family dwellings in Sumner County are non-owner occupied. Additionally, 40% of the dwellings in Sumner County were built 1939 or before. 1939 was 75 years ago! As the area ages and property conditions decline, the demographic has changed. Some of those demographic changes are reflected through higher demand for law enforcement and increased demand for healthcare with decreased payment for services rendered.Cause and effect is shared among several agencies and departments. We currently have a Sheriff willing to outhouse inmates from Sedgwick County. He, therefore, produces about a million dollars of his own budget. We need to keep a close eye on the balance of the budget to make sure funding is adequate.Boyd – Yes, I believe the Sheriffs Department is adequately funded for the county’s current needs. Strong and effective law enforcement will always be of my main concerns, coming from a law enforcement background.6. Is there any road or construction projects that you would like to see in Sumner County in the next four years?Bales – Yes. We just approved a bond issue in the amount of $11,836,990 to totally re-do Oliver Road from 160 Hwy to 166 Hwy, re-do Clearwater Road and the Lake Road. Various road striping projects are in the works including Oxford Road south to Geuda Springs. Also, the bridge south of Belle Plaine is set to be replaced in the next couple of years. And, just so the taxpayers know, in 2011 when budgeting for 2012, we budgeted enough money to chip seal 33 miles of road. When the summer of 2012 came along and time to chip seal, the money budgeted would only pay for 8 miles. Prices had gone up! It’s a fact of life.Boyd – First, I would like to see all current projects that are underway be completed. Second, road repairs can be very costly to undertake, so an evaluation of current conditions and a proactive look at what can be improved would be my goal.7. What is your view on the Neighborhood revitalization Program?Bales I dealt with the NRP for the 10 years I was at Planning and Zoning. I did the sight and structure inspections. The NRP has been an exercise in “not enough”, loaded with pitfalls and opportunities to stub a toe and be disqualified from the program, forfeiting all rebates and opportunity to participate in the plan ever again. A meager attempt at enticing people to build here or improve a structure here. I believe most people who have availed themselves of the program simply did so because it existed. Most would have built what they built without the program. Of course, there are exceptions.Wellington City and Sumner County recently re-wrote the program to include several improvements. Among the improvements is a requirement for the County to notify the offender (tardy taxpayer) that there has been a transgression, giving the offender 90 days to correct the error. Under the previous plan there was no notification. If a taxpayer was disqualified from the plan, he could never be re-admitted even for a new project. Under the revised plan, if you’re disqualified, you are allowed to re-apply with a new structure or project. There are other changes but those are the main ones.I still feel that the incentive is too small. It simply matches what most other counties do. If I were an Economic Development Director, I would tell you “It’s not a strong selling point”.Boyd – I believe it is a very beneficial program. I am currently in the program with a new home we have recently built in rural South Haven. The program gives people an opportunity to improve their property. Also, giving builders an opportunity for tax relief, and is a promoter for economic development for the county.8. On an economic development standpoint, what do you feel is the most important thing Sumner County can do to bring in more business to the county? Or do you think it is even necessary?Bales – When it comes to Economic Development, we talk out both sides of our mouths. One side says “we want to look like Wichita”. The other side says “we don’t really want that here”. One thing I do know is, we cannot meet prospective new businesses or residents at the county line with over taxation and over regulation and expect them to come here in spite of us. A stellar example is the fact that the City of Wellington has taken away the incentives for development of the eastern corridor. The only direction Wellington can grow. I don’t believe we’re serious and people are staying by the hundreds. Boyd – Fair tax base, quality schools, friendly environment. Boyd – My number one concern will be the people. To govern fairly, and to provide energy to move this county in a positive direction.Follow us on Twitter. Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comments (15) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. +3 Vote up Vote down Outsider Watching · 314 weeks ago Mr Bales you had better open your eyes as SOUTH WIND is building all new at the first exit in OKLAHOMA. 9 miles south of South Haven, 6 miles south of Exit 4 in Kansas. First phase will be open with casino in only a few months. The Kansas Star is going to have a run for their money. People love their RED SCREENS. Report Reply 1 reply · active 314 weeks ago +4 Vote up Vote down SuCo Pride · 314 weeks ago This isn’t an election that I have been following closely, but just based on this questionaire, it appears that Mr. Bales is much better prepared for the position. He was more complete with his answers, and seemed to have a better understanding of the totallity of the responsibilities in the position. Mr. Boyd has his work cut out for him, but I wish him well. Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago 0 Vote up Vote down Ronda. L · 314 weeks ago We need someone in office who will strive to make a difference. We (as a county) have always had “more of the same.” As stated above Boyd will Govern fairly and move us into a positive direction. Keep doing what your doing, Boyd. This county needs you. Report Reply 1 reply · active 314 weeks ago +6 Vote up Vote down Ron · 314 weeks ago Mr. Bales has been in this position 4 years… He knows the ins and outs of what’s “going on” within the commissioner panel. What he DOESNT know….. Is how much he has let the citizens of the county down by taking away their blue cross and blue shield health insurance. He doesn’t know how to connect with the people of this county to see what exactly the needs are. Yes, of course he has long winded answers of what he “hopes” to do….. But what has be does in the past 4 is the better question. … If you are in doubt of this gt ahold of the recording of the Canidate forum that was held July 10th at the Raymond Frye building…. That will answer MANY of your questions. Mr. Cliff Bales need to step down. Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago +1 Vote up Vote down Ron · 314 weeks ago Mr. Bales has been in this position 4 years… He knows the ins and outs of what’s “going on” within the commissioner panel. What he DOESN’T know….. Is how much he has let the citizens of the county down by taking away their blue cross and blue shield health insurance. He doesn’t know how to connect with the people of this county to see what exactly the needs are. Yes, of course he has long winded answers of what he “hopes” to do….. But what has he done in the past 4 is the better question. … If you are in doubt of this get a hold of the recording of the Candidate forum that was held July 10th at the Raymond Frye building…. That will answer MANY of your questions. Mr. Cliff Bales need to step down. Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago +5 Vote up Vote down Louis · 314 weeks ago I have spoken to Jason Boyd on many occasion about this campaign and he has impressed me every time. This young man had a lot to offer to this county. Vote Jason Boyd Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago -2 Vote up Vote down Spot · 314 weeks ago Are either candidate worth of darn??? I know Bales has helped to hose the County Employees on health insurance. I also know that Boyd has been asked to leave and/or has been fired from two law enforcement jobs due to lying while on the job. Can we trust either one??? Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago +5 Vote up Vote down Brian B. · 314 weeks ago Spot – The Bales/Health Insurance statement cannot be denied.. But you “Know” that about Boyd?? Your “spot” may be to refrain as opposed to sharing misleading comments. Boyd is and always has been respected as an officer and deputy along with still having good relationships with both departments he served with…and is very happy and content with serving in his hometown, where he has for going on 3 years. Thanks Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago +4 Vote up Vote down Boydvoter · 314 weeks ago We need someone with a new point of view. New eyes. New blood. A passionate person to get this county back to where it should be. Bales had his 4years…… Are we worse off even now than before.? Boyd has been raised with the understanding of what this county needs. Give him the chance to turn this county around. Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago -3 Vote up Vote down Ray · 314 weeks ago The truth is, commissioner Newell made the motion to buy the health insurgence currently in force for county employees. Bales is only one of three. Report Reply 0 replies · active 314 weeks ago 12Next » Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new commentslast_img read more