MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The top Vermont story of 2011 reverberated enough to take the title again in 2012, as residents continued mopping up from Tropical Storm Irene, according to a year-end survey of journalists at Associated Press member newspapers and broadcasters.
The year began with high hopes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide funding generous enough to fix up most of Vermont's state complex in Waterbury, while retooling its mental health system with a new state hospital to replace the Waterbury facility wiped out by floodwaters.
By mid-year, big questions arose about just how generous that FEMA funding would be. Those questions are still unresolved.
The year was punctuated in late August with observances of Irene's anniversary, and ended with an announcement by Gov. Peter Shumlin that in lieu of a second inaugural ball, he would hold a fundraiser at the Statehouse so the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund could continue helping people still suffering.
No. 2 on the top story list was the continuing saga of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The year began with a ruling from Judge J. Garvan Murtha of the U.S. District Court in Brattleboro that the plant could continue operating despite the state's efforts to close it. The judge ruled that in its efforts to close the Vernon reactor, the Legislature had improperly let its concerns about nuclear safety influence it. Federal law makes nuclear safety the sole purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The stories were ranked by combining the number of votes they got among survey respondents with the ranking each voter gave them.
Crime stories took three spots in the top 10 ranking, with another story that started in 2011. Story No. 3 was about Bill and Lorraine Currier, who were killed in their Essex home in June 2011. The case was not resolved until their alleged killer, Israel Keyes, took his own life in an Alaska prison this month.
Fourth place in the ranking went to the merger of Vermont's two largest power companies, as the Canadian company that owned Green Mountain Power Corp. finished its acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service Corp. The merger triggered a big fight in the Legislature, as some lawmakers said consumers who bailed CVPS out of financial trouble a decade ago weren't getting the compensation they were due.
A ski resort owner, with the help of foreign investment encouraged by a federal program designed to bring capital into the United States, took fifth place in the ranking, with big plans announced in September to bring multiple bursts of economic development — and thousands of jobs — to Jay, Newport and Burke.