Archive - Sep 29, 2008
By KATHRYN FLAGG
MIDDLEBURY — State officials approved the budgets for Vermont’s 14 hospitals earlier this month, green-lighting a statewide average 9.5 percent increase in hospital rates, which tops last year’s increase by three percentage points.
Middlebury’s Porter Medical Center topped the list for approved percent rate increases with an 11 percent hike. But Porter officials explained that only a portion of its patients will actually feel the full brunt of this double-digit increase in fees.
“There aren’t that many patients that actually pay full rates,” explained Porter Vice President for Finance Duncan Brines, noting that many insurance companies, and certainly Medicaid and Medicare, have negotiated lower rates.
The increase in hospital’s approved spending plan for the 2009 fiscal year represents an 11.5 percent increase. It comes in at just over $57 million, up from a nearly $51 million expense budget for the previous year.
Two other Vermont hospitals had requested bigger rate increases than Porter — Northwestern Vermont Medical Center in St. Albans and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington had requested 11.4 and 11.8 percent increases, respectively. Porter itself sought an 11.2 percent rate increase.
But state officials at the Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA), the agency that regulates Vermont hospitals, determined the Middlebury health center would need to cut its rate increase by 0.2 percent, and the other hospitals by more.
Fletcher Allen Health Care, the state’s largest hospital, asked for and received a 10 percent rate increase. BISHCA gave its largest cut in a proposed rate increase to Rutland Regional Medical Center, which saw its requested 10.9 percent rate increased dropped to 9.6 percent.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh planning and zoning officials heard on Sept. 24 a preliminary proposal to build a McDonald’s Restaurant, Jiffy Mart convenience store and gas station on the 2.5-acre Route 7 parcel that was most recently occupied by the Ferrisburgh Roadhouse and before then by Burdick’s Country Kitchen.
Champlain Oil Co. (COCO) has a deal to buy the parcel contingent on getting permits for its proposal, according to landowner Marcos Llona, who operated the Ferrisburgh Roadhouse until it was destroyed by fire in June 2007. COCO had no further meetings with Ferrisburgh zoning officials scheduled as of Friday morning.
Llona and his wife, Claudia, Shelburne residents, bought Burdick’s Country Kitchen, the 2.5 acres and a home on the property from Vergennes residents Sue and Greg Burdick for $450,000 in July 2006.
Llona said he and his wife decided it was too risky to rebuild the restaurant given the current economic climate, and added their window for rebuilding without a completely new and more costly septic system is also coming to a close.
“I would love to rebuild the restaurant, I really would. It’s a good site. It is needed ... But I don’t have the resources,” Llona said, adding, “I can’t do a second mortgage on my home and take that risk.”
COCO, which had been interested in the property before the Llonas, approached them this summer, he said.
Ferrisburgh officials said Wednesday’s meeting was not a public hearing because no formal application has been filed. It was described in the warning as a “special meeting” for “sketch plan review.” Such meetings often serve to give applicants feedback on possible issues with their plans.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — People who shop and dine in Middlebury will notice a slight jump in their bills beginning this Wednesday, Oct. 1. That’s the date on which a 1-percent local option tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol will take effect in Addison County’s shire town.
The transition should be fairly seamless for most Middlebury merchants and lodgers, who will have to go through the time and expense of reprogramming their cash registers.
The state will collect the new tariff along with the existing state taxes. The Vermont Department of Taxes will then return 70 percent of the local option taxes it collects back to the town of Middlebury. The community will use the funds to help pay for the new Cross Street Bridge.
Backers of the new bridge are hopeful the new taxes will be painless for those who routinely shop and dine in Middlebury.
“I think during the course of people’s regular transactions, they aren’t going to notice it,” said Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny.
Townspeople last May voted 305 to 102 in favor of implementing the local option taxes, projected to raise $7 million over the next 30 years. That money will be combined with another $9 million that Middlebury College has agreed to contribute to the $16 million bridge project.
A 1-percent local option tax on sales, meals, rooms and alcohol would’ve netted Middlebury a combined total of $725,319 in 2007, according to the Department of Taxes.
The new bridge, slated for completion in 2010, will link Main Street with Court Street over the Otter Creek, via Cross Street. The project, which will include a roundabout intersection at Cross/College/Main streets, is designed to move traffic more smoothly through, and around, downtown Middlebury.