News Roundup: Human Rights Commission Finds Chester Police Discriminated Against Black Driver

Jun 3, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, June 3.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Vermont reports 8 new cases of COVID

There were eight new COVID-19 infections reported across Vermont Thursday. Chittenden County had six of those cases.

Hospitalizations due to the virus are down to three people, none of whom are in intensive care.

CDC data used by the state shows 78.5% of Vermonters 12 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

That leaves about 8,200 eligible Vermonters needing that first dose for the state to hits its 80% target for dropping all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

- Matthew Smith

Burlington to end state of emergency June 15

The City of Burlington will end its state of emergency by the middle of this month.

WCAX reports Mayor Miro Weinberger's emergency declaration from March of last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic will end on June 15.

The mayor cited rising vaccination rates and Vermont's low case counts as reasons for the change.

State vaccination data show more than 81% of Chittenden County residents 12 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the most progress of any of Vermont's 14 counties.

- Matthew Smith

71% Quebec residents 12 and older vaccinated

So far, 71% of Quebec residents 12 and older have now received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine.

The Montreal Gazette reports the vaccination campaign has ramped up in the last few weeks. An average of 80,000-plus shots have been administered each day in the last week, compared to about 40,000 in early April.

Meanwhile, the province reported close to 290 new cases Wednesday, according to the CBC. Some 340 people were hospitalized, and five more people died from the virus.

- Henry Epp

Brattleboro drops mask mandate

Brattleboro is ending its pandemic-related mask mandate starting on Friday.

The select board voted 4-to-1 on Tuesday to lift the mandate requiring masks inside establishments.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports board member Jessica Gelter voted against the move, saying she had concerns about immunocompromised community members and children who cannot be vaccinated yet.

Vermont ended its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people on May 14 following federal guidance. Unvaccinated people are still urged to wear face coverings. Municipalities and establishments can keep their own mask rules.

- Brittany Patterson

2. Human Rights Commission: Chester police discriminated against Black driver

The Vermont Human Rights Commission says the Chester Police Department discriminated against a Black man who was ordered out of his car at gunpoint during a traffic stop.

The incident occurred about two years ago when Chester Police Sergeant William Frank pulled a car over to follow up on a three-day-old road rage incident report, which happened in a nearby town.

Frank followed the driver, who was Black, even though his car did not match the description in the original police report.

When the car stopped, the police officer drew his gun, and ordered the man to put his hands on the car.

No weapons were found during a search of the car and the incident lasted about 18 minutes.

An investigation by the Human Rights Commission found the police officer had no reason to make the stop, and determined the police discriminated against the driver because of their racism.

In a press release, town officials said they dispute the findings, but are looking forward to working with the Commission, and the driver, to settle the matter.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

3. William Kelly pleads guilty to involvement in EB-5 fraud scheme

A man connected to one of the largest fraud cases in Vermont history pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court.

William Kelly admitted to a scheme where millions of dollars raised through the federal EB-5 program were embezzled or used to pay off debts – instead of being used to create a biotech facility in Newport.

Kelly’s jail sentence will be capped at 36 months.

Kelly is one of four people who faced federal charges in this case. Former Jay Peak Developers Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger and South Korean businessman Alex Choi were also indicted.

Quiros pleaded guilty in August 2020 to several charges, including wire fraud and money laundering. Stenger has pleaded not guilty. Choi is still at-large, according to prosecutors.

- Liam Elder-Connors

4. Green Mountain Power files request to raise electricity rates nearly 5%

Vermont's largest utility is planning to increase rates by nearly 5%.

Vermont Business Magazine reports Green Mountain Power has filed a request with the Public Utility Commission to push its base electricity rates up 4.69% by Oct.1.

GMP held base rates flat over the last year in an effort to help customers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The nearly 5% jump this year completes a three-year plan for GMP to boost rates incrementally each year.

The utility says more than half of the rate hike is tied to increases in transmission costs to the New England grid.

- Matthew Smith

5. Back at game night with the Lake Monsters

After a two-year hiatus, the Vermont Lake Monsters are back. But this season, Burlington’s baseball team is not playing as an affiliate of Major League Baseball.

The Lake Monsters have joined the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, an eight-team college summer baseball league.

At a recent home game, fan Abby Ferrara said they're glad to be back at Centennial Field watching their favorite team.

"I mean, it's a little bit strange, because it's been so long of them being like an affiliate to the Oakland A's, but I feel like the atmosphere is still gonna stay the same, like in terms of game nights,” Ferrara said. “So I think I'm honestly fine with it."

Ferrara has been coming to Lake Monster games since they were a little kid. They also worked at the stadium, and say it's nice to visit to say hi to old friends and enjoy the community.

They hope, despite the new league, Vermonters continue to come cheer on the Lake Monsters.

- Reed Nye

6. Tunnels proposed to help timber rattlesnakes cross under Route 22A

A plan is in the works to help endangered timber rattlesnakes cross the road.

Seven Days reports five tunnels are proposed under a mile-long section of Route 22A near West Haven.

On one side of the road lies the snakes' winter hibernation area. On the other side is their feeding grounds.

The proposal has not yet been funded, but state fish and wildlife officials told the paper they're optimistic federal infrastructure money can help fund the project.

The timber rattlesnake was added to the endangered species list in Vermont in 1987.

- Brittany Patterson

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