by John Herrick vtdigger.org The Environmental Protection Agency wants to see a stronger commitment from the state to clean up Lake Champlain. In a letter to state environmental and agriculture officials last week, the EPA pressed for more details on a plan to reduce phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain. The feds asked the state to provide specific policy commitments, timelines and details, including outcome measures and the delegation of authority.DEC Commissioner David Mears. VTDigger photo‘In general, you know, it was a sobering letter in that EPA is asking for a lot of additional detail,’ said David Mears, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, who is part of the team orchestrating the cleanup.Last fall, the department and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets released a draft plan for restoring the Lake Champlain Basin. The EPA ordered the state to revise its total maximum daily load (TMDL), which sets targets for phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain, or face federal funding cuts and tightened regulations for facilities around the lake, among other regulatory pressures.Phosphorus from sewage, farm runoff and stormwater is blamed for fueling algae blooms that persistently crop up in areas of the lake.With a plan in place, the EPA wants details and commitments by the end of March. After the proposal is finalized, the EPA will decide whether to approve the plan as soon as this summer.‘They want to know timelines by when we would implement these programs, what it would take to implement them in terms of authority ‘ whether we have the authority or not, how do we get it if we don’t. And also resources: what do we need to implement, in terms of staffing or helping to put money out on the ground for our partners,’ Mears said.The letter calls on the agencies to ‘provide final policy commitments in a basin-wide scale implementation plan,’ including a commitment letter from Gov. Peter Shumlin by the end of April.‘They recognize this is going to be a multiyear process, but there has to be a down payment this year; there has to be a demonstration of good faith,’ said Anthony Iarrapino, a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, which has long advocated for lake cleanup.This year’s major water quality bill, H.586, is being reviewed in the Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources. The bill would alter agriculture and livestock practices and require new road and bridge standards, among other provision, to limit phosphorus runoff into Vermont’s water bodies.Mears said many of the state’s agencies are on board with the proposal, which would apply new water runoff standards across the state. Many lawmakers support the concept of cleaning up the lake, but need to see more details before they enact legislation, Mears said.The letter asks that the cleanup proposal include a plan that acknowledges the realities of climate change, such as higher intensity rainfall. Specifically, the proposal should include phosphorus projections outlined by previous EPA reports that detail several climate scenarios.‘These measures will be a critical component of the implementation of a revised Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the lake,’ David Deegan, a public affairs officer for the New England Region of EPA, wrote in an email to VTDigger. ‘EPA’s letter applauds the scope and ambition of the Proposal while noting that aggressive application of all the measures will be needed to achieve water quality standards in the lake. The letter also lays out EPA’s expectations for the remaining planning for the TMDL as well as implementation after issuance by EPA later this year.’The letter says that current water quality models suggest that all the state’s proposals would have to be fully implemented to achieve required water quality standards set by the EPA.‘What I took the letter to basically say is that this is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough,’ Mears said. ‘But, I think in terms of not going far enough, it was more that they wanted some more detail about the proposal, rather than they wanted some new initiatives added on to it.’EPA LETTERPHOTO: Silt flows heavily into Lake Champlain during a record flood in May 2011. Photo courtesy governor’s office.
Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Monday that the City of Burlington and Citibank have reached a Mediated Settlement Agreement in the Burlington Telecom lawsuit, which will settle the $33-plus million lawsuit for $10.5 million, plus a share of BT’s future value. The settlement is expected to be funded largely from BT revenues and non-City sources and will avoid removal of BT’s fiber optic system. Earlier today, federal district court judge The Honorable William K Sessions, III, granted the parties’ joint request to stay the litigation to allow for implementation of the settlement agreement, following City Council approval and Vermont Public Service Board action. ‘I am pleased to announce to the people of Burlington that with this agreement, there is now for the first time a clear path to resolution of our BT challenges,’ said Mayor Weinberger. ‘The agreement ‘ once completed in the months ahead ‘ will accomplish all the goals the City has pursued over the past two years.’ The Administration’s long-stated BT goals have been to:Protect taxpayers from further BT-related losses;Maintain BT service for its more than 4,000 customers;Preserve BT as a telecommunications competitor to maintain affordable Internet, cable, and telephone services for Burlington residents and businesses;Restore Burlington’s credit rating; andSecure, if possible, the opportunity for recovery of a portion of the $16.9 million spent by the City prior to 2010. Additionally, in the last year, the Administration added the goal of securing the right partner for BT that is committed to working with the City on its BTV Ignite economic and community development initiative. This agreement will give the City the opportunity to achieve all these goals through a settlement that includes the following major elements:The $33+ million Citibank lawsuit will be dismissed fully in exchange for $10.5 million of payments to Citibank from the following funding sources: o Approximately $6 million in bridge financing from a special situation lender ‘ the terms of this financing, which will be secured entirely by BT revenues and assets, currently are under negotiation (paragraph 4.1(i) of Settlement Agreement); o $1.469 million from co-defendant McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan, P.C. law firm and/or its insurance carrier (paragraph 4.2 of Settlement Agreement);o $981,000 from BT revenues that have been paid to Citibank or into a court escrow since early 2012 (paragraphs 4.1(iv), 4.3, and 4.5 of Settlement Agreement);o $250,000 of additional payments from BT revenues that will be made to Citibank between now and the closing of this settlement (paragraph 4.1(vi) of Settlement Agreement);o $500,000 from the City of Burlington’s insurance carrier (paragraph 4.1(v) of Settlement Agreement) ‘ this payment is in addition to the costs of defending the City in the litigation over the past two plus years; ando An anticipated approximately $1.3 million payment from the City of Burlington (paragraph 4.6 of Settlement Agreement). § It is anticipated that this payment would be financed in large part by BT revenues. § This amount could increase and other City funding sources may be required depending on the amount of bridge financing finally negotiated. § The Settlement Agreement contemplates this contribution being prioritized for repayment to the City at the time a permanent financial partner for BT is found.The settlement contemplates that the terms of the bridge financing will give the City an appropriate period of time to find the right partner for BT. At the time of an eventual transaction, it is anticipated that the City will receive a percentage of any net proceeds, additional funds available after repayment of the lender’s principal and costs and Burlington’s new $1.3 million participation. These future net proceeds of the City will be split evenly with Citibank and will provide the opportunity for partial repayment of the $16.9 million previously expended. The City of Burlington and Citibank also agreed to a number of important milestones that the City must meet to complete the Settlement Agreement (paragraph 5 of the Settlement Agreement). Those milestones include:· City Council approval of the settlement no later than February 28, 2014;· Continuing monthly payments from BT revenues to Citibank until agreement is completed;· Securing a special situation lender to finance up to $6 million of the settlement ‘ this financing will be secured only with BT revenues and assets; and· Public Service Board approval, for which the City will file no later than March 15, 2014. ‘The City of Burlington owes a great debt to the citizen members of the former Blue Ribbon Committee who recommended in 2010 the wise course of action that led to this moment,’ added Mayor Weinberger. ‘I also want to thank Terry Dorman of Dorman & Fawcett ‘ this agreement simply would not have been possible without his firm’s skillful work to stabilize BT’s finances and operations and to secure a bridge lender. It would not be possible to make today’s announcement without the willingness of Citibank to pursue in the coming months the path forward laid out in the agreement.’ Mayor Weinberger was joined at today’s announcement by both citizen and City Council members of the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB), created from what was formerly known as the BT Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC). City Council President and BTAB member Joan Shannon stated: ‘Today, the big, dark cloud that has hung over the City of Burlington for four years is breaking up, and the sun is beginning to shine through again. I cannot thank our negotiating team enough for their hard work to get us to this point. I also want to thank the Citibank participants for their commitment to the negotiating process and for entering into this agreement with the Burlington team.’ City Councilor Karen Paul, also a BTAB member, stated: ‘This settlement represents an outstanding outcome ‘ the best possible outcome ‘ for taxpayers and for Burlingtonians who believe that BT is an important economic and community development asset for the City. Given the huge risks the City faced in the lawsuit, I could not be more pleased with the terms of this settlement. I am grateful to Mayor Weinberger for his ability to direct a complicated and very trying negotiation and garner this result for our City.’ City Councilor Vince Brennan, also a BTAB member, stated: ‘This news will create an opportunity for BT to move forward and seek the true potential it has to offer for the residents of Burlington. Even as we talk about a dark cloud being lifted, the residents and subscribers’ of BT never gave up.’ David Provost, former member of the BRC, current member of the BTAB, and Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration at Champlain College, added: ‘This settlement represents the fulfillment of the goals for BT that the Blue Ribbon Committee laid out in 2010. Stabilization of the operations of BT is in place, and today the future payment obligations have been restructured to position BT to meet the future needs of residences and companies throughout the City of Burlington.’ The settlement was reached following two days of mediated negotiations that took place in Burlington at the law offices of Downs Rachlin Martin (DRM) on January 21 and 22, 2014 and was executed on January 30. Mayor Weinberger led a City negotiating team that included: BTAB member Pat Robins, Executive Chairman at SymQuest Group. Inc.; Terry Dorman, Principal at Dorman & Fawcett; City Attorney Eileen Blackwood; attorney Marc Heath of DRM; and attorney Thomas Melloni of Burak, Anderson & Melloni. Attorney Richard Cassidy of South Burlington served as the federal court-appointed mediator during both the January 2013 and 2014 negotiations. After the agreement was conceptually reached but before it was finalized, the Mayor briefed the Board of Finance and other City Councilors on the agreement in a Board of Finance executive session on January 27. The Mayor expects to request City Council approval of the agreement in open session no later than February 28 and, if approved by the Council, the City will file its PSB petition no later than March 15.PHOTO: Burlington City Council members Vince Brennan (from left), Karen Paul and Joan Shannon join Mayor Miro Weinberger to announce a settlement between Burlington Telecom and Citibank. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDiggerSource: City of Burlington 1.3.2014 AGREEMENT
The Overland Park Presbyterian Church sanctuary would be torn down to make way for a four-deck parking structure under plans submitted to the Overland Park Planning Commission.By Roxie HammillAn office, retail and entertainment center that has been compared in concept to Kansas City’s Power and Light district is being proposed for downtown Overland Park.The $48.5 million project would include a five-story office building, a two-story food hall building, parking garage, surface parking and outdoor gathering space at the southwest corner of 80th Street and Marty Street. If approved, it will become a commanding presence in the heart of a downtown of small shops and eateries.A “benchmark” image provided to the city to show the general style proposed for the office building portion of the project.“I don’t want to use the term Power and Light District because this is a little bit more family oriented than that,” said development attorney John Petersen as he reviewed the project for the city council’s finance and economic development committee Wednesday night. But the development would have a similar outdoor gathering area, perhaps with alcohol sales.The project is in its beginning stages and is set to be considered by the city planning commission next month, Petersen said. The finance committee was briefed in order to start the process for a tax increment financing district.The Edison district was conceived by developer Overland Park Real Estate, LLC. Tim Barton, founder of freight brokerage firm Freightquote and Matt Druten, former Freightquote president, are the principals.The project would be on 3.3 acres of land that is now occupied by single-story retail, a city parking lot and a vacant Presbyterian church. The southern end is across from Santa Fe Commons Park, which has been mentioned as a possible new location for the farmers’ market. Petersen said the developer would be open to allowing public parking in the development on weekends, which would help ease parking problems if the market is moved.Altogether, there would be 109,000 square feet of office space and 12,000 square feet of retail.There are several components to the development. The office building with some first-floor retail is farthest east, at the 80th and Marty corner. Just to the west would be a two-story “food hall” with kiosks and an open deck during warm weather. An outdoor gathering area is envisioned for the space between the two buildings. It would be a possible venue for concerts and would also have a large screen for outdoor movie or sports viewing. There would be a 41-space surface parking lot farther west that could also be used for art fairs or additional farmers’ market space, Petersen said.Developers plan a structured parking garage for 329 vehicles at the southern end of the development. Most of that space would be dedicated to the office workers during the week, but Petersen said the off-hours use could help the city deal with tight parking problems on weekends.Parking was a key issue in a discussion Monday about the future of the farmers’ market. A consultant-backed plan to move the market to Santa Fe Commons Park depends on use of that parking.Developers will negotiate for some public financing of the project in the form of tax increment financing, a community improvement sales tax district and bonds to exempt sales tax on materials. No amount has been officially asked on the TIF district, but paperwork filed on it suggested $6 million of the project would be TIF eligible and $2.8 million CID eligible.Discussions on the public financing are still fluid, but the five committee members present voted unanimously to have city staff move begin to work up an agreement with the developers for further consideration. The full council will review the committee’s recommendation Monday, and a public hearing could be scheduled as early as Jan. 22.Council member Dave White noted that the developer is asking for 100 percent of the TIF revenue, which is higher than city policy currently allows. “That’s a non-starter for me,” White said. However committee members voted to continue to explore the idea.“This is probably the single greatest application we’ve had for downtown Overland Park,” said council member Dan Stock. “There’s a lot of opportunity here.”But council member Paul Lyons said he’s already getting negative feedback from people worried about the impact of such a big development. “They’re concerned about how big the building is going to be,” he said. “There is an opinion out there that says maybe we’re doing too much in downtown Overland Park.”A preliminary site plan of the project.
An overhead view of the project plan for the former Ramada and Knights Inn site.The Metcalf Crossing project that will raze two shuttered hotels at Metcalf Avenue and Shawnee Mission Parkway got its final go-ahead from the city Monday so demolition can begin this year.Register to continue
The New York Times:In today’s 18 and Under column, Dr. Perri Klass writes about new science of bilingualism and how scientists are teasing out the earliest differences between brains exposed to one language and brains exposed to two.The learning of language — and the effects on the brain of the language we hear — may begin even earlier than 6 months of age.Janet Werker, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, studies how babies perceive language and how that shapes their learning. Even in the womb, she said, babies are exposed to the rhythms and sounds of language, and newborns have been shown to prefer languages rhythmically similar to the one they’ve heard during fetal development.In one recent study, Dr. Werker and her collaborators showed that babies born to bilingual mothers not only prefer both of those languages over others — but are also able to register that the two languages are different.Read the whole story: The New York Times More of our Members in the Media >
The Wall Street Journal:The first time that the neuroscientist Sophie Scott performed standup comedy, in 2010, she did it out of professional jealousy. One of her colleagues at University College London had done his own amateur routine at a new comedy club and was bragging about how good he’d been. As one of the world’s leading researchers on laughter, Dr. Scott, 48, decided that she had to try it herself.At the pub where she made her debut, she locked herself in the restroom and wondered, “What am I doing? Why would I put myself through this needless level of stress?” Once she got on stage, though, she was hooked. “For a standup comedian, I make a pretty good scientist.”Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal More of our Members in the Media >
So far about 700 cases and four deaths have been reported in Boston, which is experiencing its worst flu season since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to a statement from Mayor Thomas Menino, who urged the city’s residents to take the flu threat seriously. Though the CDC has said it’s impossible to predict how severe a flu season will be, officials have said the current season might be bad due to its early start and the strong showing so far of the H3N2 strain. She said if the oral suspension isn’t available, pharmacists can use the capsules to make a liquid suspension for patients. The H3N2 flu strain also dominated the 2007-08 flu season, which peaked in the middle of February and was marked by greater morality and higher hospitalization rates in young children than each of the previous three seasons, according to a background report from the CDC. Among flu infections reported in Boston so far this season, 25% have been severe enough to require hospitalization, according to the statement. Flu cases are accounting for 4% of all emergency department visits to Boston hospitals, compared with 1% of visits during non-flu season months. The dominant flu strain in the United States so far this season has been H3N2, which has been known to cause more severe infections. The most recent surveillance update from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a national spike in doctor’s visit for flulike illness similar to that seen in the 2007-08 season, which the CDC had characterized as moderately severe. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” he said. “It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.” Heavy levels of flu have also led to concerns about the supply of oseltamivir (Tamiflu), both in Canada and the United States. Yesterday the Canadian government released a supply of the drug from its National Emergency Stockpile to address a potential shortage, and a spokeswoman from Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said yesterday that some parts of the United States may face thin supplies of the liquid suspension of the drug. “The FDA is continuing to monitor this closely and will post information on our website. We are also working with the company to increase supplies,” Clark-Lynn said. Google Flu Trends, which uses patterns of flu-related search terms as a surrogate for flu activity, shows a dramatic spike in US flu activity that it classifies as intense. Jan 9, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – Signs of an increasingly severe flu season prompted city officials to declare a public health emergency in Boston, where infections have increased tenfold compared with last season. Today Sarah Clark-Lynn, with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) office of public affairs, told CIDRAP News that recent increased demand has led to some temporary local supply interruptions of Tamiflu oral suspension. She said Genentech, which markets Tamiflu and serves as US headquarters for Roche, is working to increase the supply of the oral suspension and has the capsules available. Jan 8 CIDRAP News story “Canada, US brace for potential Tamiflu shortages” The mayor’s office and the Boston Public Health Commission are working with community health centers to offer free vaccination clinics this weekend and are urging residents to contact their primary care doctor to get vaccinated. The mayor’s office is also offering a phone hotline to help Boston residents find where to get vaccinated. CDC summary of the 2007-08 flu season Widespread flu activity in many states has prompted several health facilities to limit visitors and establish special measures to handle the influx of flu patients in emergency departments. Recent rigorous reviews of the flu vaccine have found that it is only about 60% effective in healthy adults, but until better vaccines are developed, health officials say immunization against flu is still the best tool for preventing the disease. Jan 4 CDC weekly surveillance report chart Google Flu Trends US flu activity See also: Jan 9 City of Boston press release
Today World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, in a press conference on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said, “We have averted a much larger outbreak, and we will not leave when the outbreak ends.”Tedros, who goes by his first name, said, “We will stay and work with communities and government to stay and provide services for all health needs. This is what the community is asking for.”The press conference came on the heels of Tedros’s visit to the DRC last week with Robert Redfield, MD the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also comes on a day DRC officials added 5 new cases to the outbreak total and reported new acts of violence.Community acceptance amid violenceAt the start of the visit, Tedros said he spoke with health workers in Butembo who were targeted by violence. Their commitment to staying and fighting the outbreak gave him hope that the people on the ground in the DRC will be able to end the outbreak, and he confirmed that security is the number one challenge facing health workers in the DRC.Throughout the press conference, Tedros said the acts of violence and resistance are not coming from the community, but rather are being inflicted upon the community by rebel forces, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Mai Mai.”We see more community cooperation and increasing acceptance,” Tedros said; “87% of families agree to safe and dignified burials, and over 90% of people have accepted vaccination.”What the community has asked of the WHO, Tedros said, is support in building a health system after Ebola transmission ends. He pledged as much, saying, “Leaving the area is not an option, evacuation is not an option” for the WHO.Half as many cases as in JanuaryIn contrast to recent remarks from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) International President Joanne Liu, MD, who said the strategies being used in the DRC were not adequate to end the outbreak, Tedros described signs the virus was on the retreat in DRC.”There’s half as many new cases per week now as there were in January,” he said. January saw an average of 50 cases per week, which is now down to 25 cases per week.Additionally, Tedros said the outbreak has been contained in 11 of 28 communities that have reported Ebola.Five more cases, new attackToday the DRC’s ministry of health recorded five new Ebola cases, three in Mandima and one each in Kalunguta and Lubero. Three deaths were also recorded, including a community death in Mandima.The cases bring the outbreak totals to 932, including 587 deaths. A total of 210 suspected cases are under investigation. Also today, both the DRC and Tedros mentioned a new attack in Biena. A mob attacked Biena’s General Reference Hospital and a local transit center, and all outbreak activities are stopped for at least today, the DRC said.Finally the DRC updated its vaccination campaign totals: 87,985 people have been vaccinated since August with Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV, including 22,336 in Katwa, 20,849 in Beni, and 10,939 in Butembo.See also:WHO Ebola outbreak page Mar 14 DRC report Mar 7 CIDRAP News story “MSF warns of DRC Ebola response losing upper hand”
CIMC Yantai Raffles in China and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding in Korea have selected extensive Dynamic Positioning (DP), Automation, new generation Safety System, Integrated Navigation, Hydroacoustic positioning and latest riser management solutions from KONGSBERG.The contracts are for two new Frigstad D90 Design drilling rigs and one Bassoe Technology BT-UDS Design drillship. The total value of the contracts is in excess of MNOK 150. The contracts have options for a total of 8 additional units. The rigs are destined for operation in the burgeoning Brazilian offshore oil & gas sector and Gulf of Mexico.Both projects are design according to DnV Dynpos Autro, IMO DP Class 3, and will operate in water depths up to 3000 meter. The rigs are due for delivery to the owner Frigstad Drilling in Q1 and Q3 2016, and to Sigma Drilling in Q2 2015.The projects will be supplied with the latest integrated technology from Kongsberg Maritime.“Kongsberg Maritime has close cooperation with CIMC Yantai Raffles and has already delivered six systems to advanced drilling units at this yard. The latest round of contracts reflects our strong position in the advanced offshore vessel and drilling rig market,” comments Tor Erik Sørensen, EVP Sales, Marketing and International Operations, Kongsberg Maritime. “The orders represent our Full Picture strategy, and strengthen our position in China for advanced projects in the Oil & Gas sector. We are supplying all key positioning and automation systems, whilst the Riser Management Systems are designed and delivered by our sister company Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies.”Kongsberg, July 2, 2013
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