News Roundup: Brattleboro Makes Historic Hire Of Veteran Police Chief Who's Also Vermont's First Black, Female Dept. Leader
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about COVID-19, air quality and more for Tuesday, July 27.
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1. Brattleboro makes historic hire of veteran police chief who's also Vermont's first Black, female dept. leader
The town of Brattleboro has hired a new police chief — Norma Hardy will start the job on Wednesday.
Hardy is the first Black woman to lead a Vermont police department.
She spent 26 years with the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, and was the first female chief, according to the New York Daily News. She retired in 2018.
Hardy will now lead the Brattleboro Police Department, which is currently struggling to fill its ranks — only 16 of its 27 positions are filled, according to VTDigger.
The town also faces calls to reform the department.
A municipally-supported report, released last December, made numerous recommendations — those include overhauling the civilian oversight board and shifting certain calls, like mental health incidents and welfare checks, away from the police.
— Liam Elder-Connors
2. Scott Administration asks Legislature to extend protection from out-of-pocket COVID-19 costs
Health insurance regulators will ask lawmakers to extend an emergency rule that shields Vermonters from out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19.
Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak says the rule was first instituted in March of last year.
"If you are treated for COVID-19, whether that’s inpatient, or whether you need to be in the hospital or whether it’s outpatient, there will be no out-of-pocket cost if you have commercial insurance," Pieciak said.
That rule is set to expire this summer. But Pieciak’s department is asking the Legislative Committee on Administrative rules to extend the prohibition on cost sharing until at least next March.
Pieciak says access to health care is one way to keep the coronavirus at bay.
“We want people to get tested," he said. "We want people to get treatment, and the more people that get tested, the more people that get diagnosed and get treated, the less COVID-19 will be spreading in Vermont.”
The committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Thursday.
— Peter Hirschfeld
3. Air quality alert remains in effect for Central, Northern Vermont tonight
An air quality alert is in effect for all of central and northern Vermont through 11 p.m. tonight.
Smoke from wildfires in Manitoba, Canada is creating hazy conditions across the northeast. Air quality alerts are also in place for all of New Hampshire and much of Massachusetts.
Older people, children and those with certain heart and respiratory conditions are at greater risk when air quality declines.
— Henry Epp
4. People's United Bank in Brattleboro announces layoffs
Over 50 employees of People's United Bank in Brattleboro will lose their jobs in the coming months.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports the layoffs are expected to begin in October and continue through next spring.
The announcement comes as the bank is being acquired by M&T Bank, based in Buffalo, N.Y. Both companies' shareholders signed off on the acquisition in May, but the deal still needs regulatory approval, according to a press release.
M&T is also laying off nearly 750 People's employees in Connecticut, according to news reports. But bank officials note that there are over 1,500 open positions across the company.
Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty to be acquired by Ontario-based company
A luxury real estate firm in Vermont and New Hampshire is being bought by a Canadian company.
Ontario-based Peerage Realty is acquiring a majority stake in Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty. In a press release, Peerage says the acquisition is a key part of its plans to expand into what it calls "recreational real estate markets."
Four Seasons expects its sales to surpass $1.4 billion this year. It boasts over 200 agents and 15 offices in Vermont and New Hampshire.
It will become the third Sotheby's franchise associated with Peerage. The company acquired a Sotheby's firm in Canada in 2019, and partnered with a firm in Chicago last year.
Disclosure: People's United Bank and Four Seasons Sotheby's are VPR underwriters.
— Henry Epp
5. Vermont River Conservancy places wildlife managers at popular swimming holes
You might see a new face at some of Vermont’s favorite swimming spots — a wildlife manager.
The nonprofit the Vermont River Conservancy says active management is critical in protecting swimming holes. It created a program to station extra hands at popular sites.
Reilly Butler is with the group and has been spending her summer maintaining the health and safety of three swimming spots in Chittenden County.
"There's been lots of conflict and lots of issues with parking and overcrowding, especially since it's so close to neighbors — both of those spots," Butler said. "So I'm basically just someone to be on site, helping clean up, helping manage, inform people ... answer questions."
You can find Butler at the North Branch Cascades Trail in Elmore, Bolton Potholes,and Triple Buckets in Richmond.
— Tulley Hescook
This story was written by Community New Service reporter, Tulley Hescock.
You can find Tulley’s full story on the Community News Service website.
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.