Month: January 2021
Kitchens for the Rest of Us is a book as lovingly crafted as the kitchens it showcases. Everyone knows that the kitchen is the hardest working room in the house, and often serves many purposes. So it makes sense to understand not only how to improve its function, but how to make it inviting and beautiful as well. Many remodeling books fix design problems by increasing size. The designers in this book take a less expensive, more elegant approach, focusing on smart use of available space, organizing storage, and small details that make a big impact. Over eighteen kitchens from across the country are featured, each having special challenges that are solved with good design. Before-and-after plans, plus photographs, show both the problem and the solution. Lemos’ “Five Essential Steps” to remodeling is the kind of guide one needs to turn an overwhelming project into manageable size. And his chapters on specific concerns such as lighting, cabinets, and countertops are truly useful. Kitchens for the Rest of Us is about making ‘dream’ kitchens really work; it is a lovely book that will take you “from the kitchen you have to the kitchen you love”.Thunder Mill Design, Inc. was established by Irene Facciolo and her husband, Soren Pfeffer, in 1993. The firm designs and builds homes and additions throughout central Vermont. Further examples of their work may be seen on the web at www.thundermilldesign.com(link is external).
Seeking to prevent tragedy and raise awareness of improper heatingsystems, local Concord Group Insurance Companies is giving $500,000 totheir policyholders for the purchase of home heating fuel this winterseason. Thousands of individuals and families across the state ofVermont are eligible for Concord Group’s one-time “A Warm Hand:Policyholder Heating Lottery” program.According to Joseph A. Desmond, Chairman and CEO of Concord Group, “Werecognize the unique challenge the economy causes for many families thisholiday season. We have seen our policyholders through the GreatDepression, oil embargo and other economic challenges. This is one ofthe ways we can show our policyholders – in a way that touches theirlives – how we value their trust.”All Concord Group Insurance homeowner and mobile homeowner policyholdersof record as of October 31, 2008 are eligible in the state of Vermont. Concord Group Insurance will award fuel voucher checks in a lotteryformat. Policyholders who wish to participate can register one of threeways: . Directly on Concord Group’s web site located atwww.concordgroupinsurance.com(link is external).. Through their local Independent Insurance Agent who willregister them with Concord Group.. Or walk into one of Concord Group’s local offices in Concord,NH; Berlin, VT or Auburn, ME and register directly with the company. “Unlike some other companies, we’ve been prudent in our investments and in our daily operations,” said Concord Group President Linda J. Day. “We felt that this was the best way to offer safety and security to thethousands of New England families who turn to us for peace of mind.”Each fuel voucher check will be awarded at $250 each. Four drawings are scheduled: December 15, 2008; January 15, 2009; February 16, 2009 andMarch 16, 2009. All fuel voucher checks will be distributed by the end of March, 2009.Fuel sources eligible for the fuel assistance check include heating oil;natural gas; electric; propane (LPG); wood pellets; fire wood.
US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) says Vermont will receive $30 million under an innovative and proven economic development program New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) to spur economic growth and affordable housing in the state. The funds, included in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will be formally announced by Secretary Timothy Geithner at noon today. The New Market Tax Credit Program, created in 2000, offers incentives to private investors to invest in economic development projects that primarily benefit low-income Americans, by offering them 39 percent of their investments back as a federal tax credit. As a result, the developer can pay investors below-market interest rates, resulting in the equivalent of a federal grant to help buy down the developer s borrowing costs. Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a key role in including the program in the stimulus package and had also laid the groundwork for it in letters he sent both to President Obama and Senate leaders last winter while the recovery act was being drafted.The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $3 billion to meet the needs of unfunded 2008 NMTC applications and an anticipated high number of 2009 applications. During the summer of 2008, Vermont Rural Ventures, an organization consisting of Housing Vermont, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and the Vermont Community Loan Fund, submitted an unsuccessful application. Leahy worked to ensure that the new ARRA funding would allow funding of the Vermont application.Leahy said, These tax credits will leverage private investment dollars that are sorely needed by several Vermont communities. The program will take root immediately, putting Vermonters to work at construction sites, creating housing for vulnerable Vermonters and laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth. The New Market Tax Credit program will give us tremendous new resources to help communities meet their economic development and related affordable housing needs, said Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont. Private equity raised by the program will help close the affordability gap on critical local projects.”No Vermont entity has successfully competed to administer New Market Tax Credits in the past, though two affordable housing and community development projects have used the investment tool in recent years. In 2008, Champlain Housing Trust used $2 million in New Market Tax Credits to help build its new headquarters and 20 units of affordable housing on King Street in Burlington. In 2007, Housing Vermont used New Market Tax Credits to help rehabilitate downtown Richford s Sweat Cummings building which currently provides space for a downtown grocery store, the Richford Community Health Center and housing. According to Owens, Vermont Rural Ventures, which is controlled by Vermont organizations, will expand access to this proven federal program while minimizing operating costs. The many advantages of the NMTC program have been difficult to work on a Vermont scale, Owens said. This announcement means that Vermont finally has a program which fits our needs.Vermont Rural Ventures anticipates funding between six to twelve housing and economic development projects statewide as a result of the new tax credits. According to the Department of Treasury, projects must be in eligible census tracts which limits projects to severely economically distressed communities in the following counties: Grand Isle County, Franklin County, Orleans County, Essex County, Caledonia County, Chittenden County, Rutland County, Bennington County and Windham County.U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) also supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.Source: Senator Leahy (WEDNESDAY, May 27)
It’s the smiling face of Walt Disney that dominates the stock certificate recently turned over to the Unclaimed Property Division of the Vermont State Treasurer’s Office. The certificate is for 147 shares of stock in the Walt Disney Company. The Treasurer’s Office hopes to locate the Vermonter who is the rightful owner of this financial property. If they do, the person will be smiling right along with Walt. The stock is valued at around $5,000.There’s approximately $47 million in unclaimed financial property currently in the State’s unclaimed property fund. In the past year, the Treasurer’s Office has received more than $8 million in new financial property ─ including stocks valued at close to a million dollars. The Unclaimed Property Law directs the Treasurer’s Office to sell all abandoned stock within one year of receipt if the property is not claimed by the rightful owner. The proceeds of the sale are placed in the unclaimed property fund and may then be claimed by the owner or heirs. A sale of stock is scheduled for the end of May.“We sell the stock for the prevailing price at the time of the sale,” explained State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding. “Our goal is to locate the owners of unclaimed property as quickly as we can. Property is continuously received by my office and I urge Vermonters to go on-line and check once a year to see if we are holding any financial property for them.”Financial property becomes “unclaimed” after a business or non-profit entity loses contact with a customer over a period of years. The property is sent to the Treasurer’s Office to protect the funds, and centralize efforts to locate the property owners. Some of the most unique items turned over to the office come from safe deposit boxes. Numbered among these unique items include jewelry, gold bars, a repair bill for someone’s sports car, a pair of underwear, and a Cadbury Egg.A record number of Vermonters are checking for unclaimed property. From July 1, 2009 through May 1, 2010 there were 12,452 claims paid with a value of approximately $4.2 million. That is the greatest number of annual claims paid in the history of Vermont’s unclaimed property program.“It’s been great to see more people claiming their property, even the smaller amounts. This fiscal year, the average claim amount was $377. Many people are taking advantage of our express claim process for claims that are $200 or less. Through express claims, Vermonters have less paperwork to complete and they can usually receive their money within two weeks,” Spaulding said.Common types of unclaimed property include old bank accounts; uncashed paychecks; money orders; service deposits; estates; insurance policies; safe deposit box contents; and stocks, bonds and dividends. There is no time limit on filing a claim, nor is there any charge for claiming property through the Treasurer’s Office.Vermonters can check for property by going on-line to www.MissingMoney.Vermont.gov(link is external). There also is a link on the Treasurer’s Office site to a national searchable database of unclaimed property. People may contact Vermont’s Unclaimed Property Division by calling (802) 828-2407 or toll-free in Vermont at 1-800-642-3191.Source: Vermont Treasurer. 5.19.2010
Vermont Public Radio has announced the winner of its first Summer Car Raffle. Bob Moulton of Waterbury won a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid provided by Heritage Automotive Group in South Burlington. The raffle raised $146,000 for VPR.Barbara, Bob, and Lucy Moulton pick up their 2010 Ford Fusion HybridBob and his wife Barbara are residents of Waterbury and own and operate Moulton Custom Door of Vermont, which takes them all over the northeast. Bob said he had been saving for more fuel-efficient vehicle to replace their 1996 Toyota T100.“This is unbelievable,” Bob said during a visit to VPR last week. “[When I got the call from VPR] I had $2,000 in my pocket because I was getting ready to buy my wife a used car. We really need a car.”Bob said his family plans to donate their truck to the Good News Garage. “When you get a blessing like this you have to pass it along,” he said. “These days we all have to help each other.”VPR’s Brendan Kinney, Barbara, Bob, and Lucy Moulton, VPR’s Robin TurnauSource: VPR. 07.26.2010
The Vermont Department of Labor (VDOL) announced today upcoming changes that will occur with the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation 2008 (EUC 08) program.As of November 13, 2010, EUC08 Tier 3 will be phased out in Vermont. This results from the October unemployment rate declining to 5.8 percent, which brought Vermont’s three month average unemployment rate down to 5.9 percent, a level that is below the 6.0 percent federal threshold required for Tier 3.‘Based on the Federal criteria, Vermont will soon no longer be able to qualify individuals for Tier 3 extended benefits,’ commented Acting Labor Commissioner, Valerie Rickert. ‘Vermont has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation but this is of little consolation to individuals unable to find work. The Vermont Department of Labor continues to work with job seekers and employers alike to improve employment outcomes,’ added Acting Commissioner Rickert.Approximately 1,000 claimants are currently filing second Tier benefits. Individuals that exhaust their Federal Tier 2 benefits with a payment on or before the week ending November 13, 2010 will be eligible to transition into the third tier. However, those that exhaust Tier 2 after week ending November 13, 2010 will not be eligible for additional benefits. Claimants who have already established entitlement to Tier 3 will not be impacted. In addition, qualifying new unemployment claimants will still be able to collect regular unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks.The EUC08 program commenced in July of 2008, with various extensions to the end date of the program. As it stands now, without action by Congress, the entire EUC08 program is scheduled to begin phase out the end of this month. ‘While it is possible Congress will extend the program again, it is unlikely such will occur before the phase out period begins,’ said Acting Commissioner Rickert. ‘This will be a difficult period for some who may have been counting on the additional benefits beyond the traditional 26 weeks,’ Rickert continued. In order for individuals to qualify for Tier 1 or 2 EUC08 benefits, they will have to exhaust their current benefit entitlement on or before the week ending November 20, 2010. As with the phase out of Tier 3, anyone who is found eligible for a tier will be able to receive their full entitlement under that tier, but will not be entitled to the new tier after the phase out period begins.The EUC08 program had three tiers for which Vermont qualified. Each of the tiers has various caps, with Tier 1 providing up to 20 weeks and Tier 2 up to 14 weeks more. The EUC08 Tier 3 was designed to provide up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits during periods of high unemployment to individuals who exhaust state Regular, and Federal Tiers 1 and Tier 2 unemployment benefits. As noted above, the recent drop in Vermont’s unemployment rate means no new EUC08 entitlement under the third tier will be established after the week ending November 13, 2010.A year ago Vermont’s unemployment rate was 6.8, with a total of 6,135 unemployed workers receiving one of three tiers of federal benefits or the state’s extended benefit program. Since that time there has been a significant drop in the number of individuals receiving unemployment benefit payments. As of last week 3,565 individuals received one of three tiers of federal unemployment benefit payments.VDOL’s 12 career resource centers and satellite offices continue to provide Vermonters assistance with job seeking skills and strategies including a compilation of occupational data for those interested in career changes or new entrants to the workforce. In addition, the Department continues their collaboration with Community College of Vermont to offer the Career Readiness Certificate training, free of charge, to Vermonters interested in bolstering their work readiness skills. The Department has a variety of federal and state training programs to assist unemployed individuals seeking work and/or employers needing to train new hires. Regional career resource staff can assist folks interested in learning more about these opportunities.Source: Vermont DOL. 11.5.2010
December 31, September 30, December 31, (In thousands) 2010 2010 2009 ————- ————- ————-Commercial, financial and agricultural loans $ 112,514 $ 100,638 $ 113,980Municipal loans 72,261 71,822 44,753Real estate loans – residential 422,981 428,260 435,273Real estate loans – commercial 279,896 279,885 290,737Real estate loans – construction 16,420 17,600 25,146Installment loans 6,284 7,507 7,711All other loans 438 1,194 938 ————- ————- ————-Total loans $ 910,794 $ 906,906 $ 918,538 ============= ============= =============Merchants’ investment portfolio totaled $466.76 million at December 31, 2010, an increase of $57.95 million from the December 31, 2009 ending balance of $408.81 million. Merchants worked to redeploy excess cash into the investment portfolio during 2010, but found it challenging to find high quality investments at an acceptable yield in the low interest rate environment that existed throughout 2010. Merchants purchased bonds with a total par value of $354.23 million during 2010, all of which were agency backed paper. Merchants also selectively sold bonds during 2010, selling bonds with a total par value of $56.16 million for a net gain of $2.08 million.Total deposits ended the year at $1.09 billion, an increase of $48.88 million from year end balances of $1.04 billion. Average balances for the fourth quarter of 2010 were $1.08 billion, an increase of $42.84 million from fourth quarter 2009 average balances of $1.04 billion. Demand deposits have shown solid growth during 2010, increasing by $21.67 million to $141.41 million at December 31, 2010 from $119.74 million at December 31, 2009. Deposits have continued to migrate away from time deposit categories during 2010. Time deposits as a percentage of total deposits have decreased from 37.8% at December 31, 2009 to 33.5% at December 31, 2010. Merchants experienced strong growth in government and business banking during 2010, while also adding relationships across all business lines. Short-term retail repo balances ended 2010 at $224.69 million, a $46.38 million increase over 2009 ending short-term retail repo balances.Total noninterest income decreased to $2.54 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 from $3.38 million for the same period in 2009; and increased to $11.63 million for 2010 from $10.32 million for 2009. Excluding net gains (losses) on security sales and other than temporary impairment losses, noninterest income increased to $2.36 million and $9.72 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to $2.22 million and $9.10 million for the same periods in 2009. Income from Merchants’ Trust Company division increased to $573 thousand and $2.16 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to $469 thousand and $1.72 million for the same periods in 2009, a result of a combination of increased sales and improved market performance. Revenue related to service charges on deposits decreased to $1.08 million and $4.93 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to $1.45 million and $5.67 million for the same periods in 2009. These decreases are primarily a result of legislative changes restricting overdrafts that went into effect on August 15, 2010. Net overdraft fee revenue decreased to $858 thousand and $4.05 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to $1.22 million and $4.73 million for the same periods in 2009. At the same time other noninterest income increased to $1.12 million and $4.30 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, from $875 thousand and $3.75 million for the same periods in 2009. This increase is primarily a result of increased net debit card income. The recently enacted Dodd-Frank bill authorizes the Federal Reserve Board to regulate debit card interchange fees; although the changes are aimed at large banks, it is possible that all banks will be impacted. It is not possible to predict at this time what, if any, impact the changes will have on Merchants debit card revenue.Total noninterest expense increased to $13.34 million from $10.42 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009; and increased to $42.43 million from $40.10 million for 2010 compared to 2009. There were a number of increases and decreases that contributed to this overall increase. SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT–(Marketwire – January 26, 2011) – Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Financial Highlights (unaudited) (Dollars in thousands except share and per share data) 12/31/10 09/30/10 12/31/09 09/30/09 ———- ———- ———- ———-Balance Sheets – Period EndTotal assets $1,487,644 $1,481,908 $1,434,861 $1,405,607Loans 910,794 906,906 918,538 929,236Allowance for loan losses (“ALL”) 10,135 10,090 10,976 11,177Net loans 900,659 896,816 907,562 918,059Securities available for sale 465,962 502,467 407,652 353,842Securities held to maturity 794 865 1,159 1,306Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) stock 8,630 8,630 8,630 8,630Interest earning cash and other short-term investments 62,273 7,239 47,714 70,282Other assets 49,326 65,891 62,144 53,488Deposits 1,092,196 1,072,649 1,043,319 1,030,802Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 227,657 175,133 179,718 122,421Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 7,500 54,000 54,000 54,000Other long-term debt 31,139 31,158 31,215 68,698Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 9,202 29,236 15,365 19,069Shareholders’ equity 99,331 99,113 90,625 89,998Balance Sheets – Quarter-to-Date AveragesTotal assets $1,488,753 $1,436,703 $1,412,513 $1,394,070Loans 905,048 917,682 920,846 922,704Allowance for loan losses 10,676 10,461 11,510 10,958Net loans 894,372 907,221 909,336 911,746Securities available for sale and FHLB stock 482,846 424,116 371,059 367,979Securities held to maturity 830 920 1,224 1,374Interest earning cash and other short-term investments 48,217 29,933 63,553 53,576Other assets 62,488 74,513 67,341 59,395Deposits 1,080,790 1,059,591 1,037,955 1,026,527Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 205,529 160,738 148,282 115,447Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 38,353 54,000 54,000 54,000Other long-term debt 31,145 31,165 46,097 79,107Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 13,621 13,061 14,999 13,209Shareholders’ equity 98,696 97,529 90,561 85,161Interest earning assets 1,436,942 1,372,651 1,356,682 1,345,633Interest bearing liabilities 1,233,261 1,190,679 1,180,087 1,179,117Ratios and Supplemental Information – Period EndBook value per share $ 16.95 $ 16.93 $ 15.58 $ 15.49Book value per share (1) $ 16.06 $ 16.05 $ 14.76 $ 14.68Tier I leverage ratio 7.90% 8.11% 7.64% 7.57%Tangible capital ratio (2) 6.68% 6.69% 6.32% 6.40%Period end common shares outstanding (1) 6,186,363 6,174,524 6,141,823 6,131,175Credit Quality – Period EndNonperforming loans (“NPLs”) $ 4,104 $ 3,437 $ 14,481 $ 10,584Nonperforming assets (“NPAs”) $ 4,295 $ 3,457 $ 15,136 $ 11,386NPLs as a percent of total loans 0.45% 0.38% 1.58% 1.14%NPAs as a percent of total assets 0.29% 0.23% 1.05% 0.81%ALL as a percent of NPLs 247% 294% 76% 106%ALL as a percent of total loans 1.11% 1.11% 1.19% 1.20%(1) This book value and period end common shares outstanding includes 327,100; 321,776; 326,453; and 320,371 Rabbi Trust shares for the periods noted above, respectively.(2) The tangible capital ratio is a non-GAAP financial measure which we believe provides investors with information that is useful in understanding our financial performance. Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Financial Highlights (unaudited) (Dollars in thousands except share and per share data) For the Twelve Months Ended December 31, 2010 2009 ———– ———–Balance Sheets – Year-to-Date AveragesTotal assets $ 1,438,730 $ 1,376,054Loans 912,363 901,582Allowance for loan losses 10,609 10,430Net loans 901,754 891,152Securities available for sale and FHLB stock 436,094 386,772Securities held to maturity 964 1,443Interest earning cash and other short-term investments 30,054 36,529Other assets 69,864 60,158Deposits 1,053,503 1,003,778Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 174,895 115,395Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 50,056 54,000Other long-term debt 31,179 83,676Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 12,898 13,880Shareholders’ equity 95,580 84,706Interest earning assets 1,379,475 1,326,326Interest bearing liabilities 1,200,305 1,162,402 Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Financial Highlights (unaudited) (Dollars in thousands except share and per share data) For the Three Months For the Twelve Months Ended ended December 31, December 31, ———————- ———————- 2010 2009 2010 2009 ———- ———- ———- ———-Operating ResultsInterest incomeInterest and fees on loans $ 11,366 $ 11,855 $ 46,041 $ 47,646Interest and dividends on investments 3,038 4,158 14,221 18,694Total interest and dividend income 14,404 16,013 60,262 66,340Interest expenseDeposits 1,276 1,854 5,614 9,605Short-term borrowings 459 308 1,623 641Long-term debt 850 1,147 3,870 5,978Total interest expense 2,585 3,309 11,107 16,224Net interest income 11,819 12,704 49,155 50,116(Credit) provision for credit losses (1,950) 600 (1,750) 4,100Net interest income after provision for credit losses 13,769 12,104 50,905 46,016Noninterest incomeTrust Company income 573 469 2,163 1,724Service charges on deposits 1,076 1,454 4,929 5,671Gain (loss) on investment securities, net 185 1,163 2,082 1,219Other-than-temporary impairment losses on securities — — (169) –Equity in losses of real estate limited partnerships, net (409) (583) (1,672) (2,049)Other noninterest income 1,116 875 4,298 3,750Total noninterest income 2,541 3,378 11,631 10,315Noninterest expenseSalaries and wages 4,329 4,210 16,033 14,510Employee benefits 1,046 663 4,466 4,348Occupancy and equipment expenses 1,743 1,616 6,635 6,405Legal and professional fees 592 600 2,443 2,499Marketing expenses 492 328 1,505 1,470State franchise taxes 279 276 1,151 1,142FDIC Insurance 350 315 1,415 1,964Other real estate owned 1 (23) (298) 142Prepayment penalty 3,071 965 3,071 1,548Other noninterest expense 1,434 1,468 6,006 6,070Total noninterest expense 13,337 10,418 42,427 40,098Income before provision for income taxes 2,973 5,064 20,109 16,233Provision for income taxes 429 1,268 4,648 3,754Net income $ 2,544 $ 3,796 $ 15,461 $ 12,479Ratios and Supplemental InformationWeighted average common shares outstanding 6,183,555 6,139,739 6,167,446 6,105,909Weighted average diluted shares outstanding 6,195,432 6,139,739 6,171,530 6,107,389Basic earnings per common share $ 0.41 $ 0.62 $ 2.51 $ 2.04Diluted earnings per common share $ 0.41 $ 0.62 $ 2.51 $ 2.04Return on average assets 0.68% 1.07% 1.07% 0.91%Return on average shareholders’ equity 10.31% 16.77% 16.18% 14.73%Net interest rate spread 3.26% 3.61% 3.53% 3.62%Net interest margin 3.37% 3.75% 3.65% 3.80%Net recoveries (charge-offs) to Average Loans 0.23% (0.09%) 0.09% (0.19%)Net recoveries (charge-offs) $ 2,084 $ (824) $ 802 $ (1,708)Efficiency ratio (1) 66.66% 58.81% 62.16% 59.47%(1) The efficiency ratio excludes amortization of intangibles, equity in losses of real estate limited partnerships, OREO expenses, gain/loss on sales of securities, state franchise taxes, and any significant nonrecurring items.Note: As of December 31, 2010, the Bank had off-balance sheet liabilitiesin the form of standby letters of credit to customers in the amount of$4.91 million. Merchants Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBVT), the parent company of Merchants Bank, today announced net income of $15.46 million, or diluted earnings per share of $2.51 for the year ended December 31, 2010. Earnings for the fourth quarter of 2010 were $2.54 million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.41. This compares with net income of $3.80 million and $12.48 million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.62 and $2.04, for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2009.The return on average assets was 0.68% and 1.07% for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to 1.07% and 0.91% for the same periods in 2009. The return on average equity was 10.31% and 16.18% for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to 16.77% and 14.73% for the same periods in 2009. “We are very pleased to report record earnings for 2010. Our strong performance leaves us well positioned for 2011,” commented Michael R. Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer.Merchants’ earnings for the fourth quarter of 2010 were negatively impacted by the prepayment of a total of $46.50 million in long term debt during the fourth quarter with a weighted average maturity of just over two years and a weighted average interest rate of 3.74%. Prepayment penalties incurred in conjunction with the payment totaled $3.07 million; Merchants expects to save $1.74 million in interest expense during 2011 as a result of the prepayment. At the same time, Merchants earnings for the fourth quarter were positively impacted by a negative provision for credit losses of $1.95 million, a result of improved asset quality combined with net recoveries during the fourth quarter of previously charged off loans totaling $2.08 million.Merchants’ taxable equivalent net interest income for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $12.22 million, and was $50.35 million for the year ended December 31, 2010, compared to $12.83 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 and $50.38 million for the year ended December 31, 2009. Merchants’ taxable equivalent net interest margin decreased 33 basis points during the fourth quarter of 2010 to 3.37% from 3.70% for the third quarter of 2010, and decreased by 38 basis points when compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. The margin decreased by fifteen basis points for 2010 to 3.65% from 3.80% for 2009. One of the most significant drivers of the decrease in margin during 2010 is reduced yield on the investment portfolio. Merchants’ investment portfolio yield has come under pressure as a result of the pervasive low interest rate environment, decreasing 155 basis points to 3.24% during 2010. Over 80% of Merchants’ investment portfolio is in mortgage related product which experienced very high prepayment rates during the fourth quarter of 2010, resulting in increased cash flow that was reinvested at current, lower rates. Merchants expects that the margin for 2011 will be positively impacted by the long term debt prepayment mentioned previously.”Net interest income continues to experience significant pressure in the current environment. The low yields available for reinvestment of cash flows from the investment portfolio dictate that we need to increase the size of our loan book if we are to increase our net interest income. We have added resources to the lending area and have experienced increased demand during the fourth quarter of this year, which we expect to carry over to the first quarter of next year,” commented Mr. Tuttle.The provision for credit losses for 2010 was a negative $1.75 million compared to $4.10 million for 2009. The negative provision for 2010 was a result of net recoveries of previously charged off loans during 2010 totaling $802 thousand combined with improved asset quality during 2010. Merchants’ non-performing loans decreased to $4.10 million at December 31, 2010 from $14.48 million at December 31, 2009.”Asset quality remained very strong as of December 31, 2010. The improved quality for the entire loan portfolio was one of our major accomplishments during 2010,” commented Mr. Tuttle.Merchants’ quarterly average loans were $905.05 million, a decrease of $15.80 million from the fourth quarter of 2009, and ending balances at December 31, 2010 were $910.79 million, $7.74 million lower than ending balances at December 31, 2009. Loan demand remained weak during most of 2010 with many borrowers choosing to pay down existing obligations instead of taking on additional debt in the uncertain economic environment.The following table summarizes the components of Merchants’ loan portfolio as of the periods indicated: — The largest increase for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010 was due to the $3.07 million prepayment penalty incurred as a result of prepaying $46.50 million in long term debt mentioned previously. This compares to prepayment penalties on long-term debt totaling $965 thousand and $1.55 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2009.– Salaries and wages increased to $4.33 million and $16.03 million for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, compared to $4.21 million and $14.51 million for the same periods in 2009. Merchants added staff in its corporate banking and trust areas during 2010. Additionally, Merchants’ strong results for 2010 compared to 2009 have led to a higher incentive accrual for 2010.– Merchants’ FDIC insurance expense for 2010 was lower than 2009 as a result of the $630 thousand special assessment recorded during the second quarter of 2009.– Additionally, Merchants booked expense recoveries and gains during 2010 related to sales of OREO properties leading to a negative year to date expense of $298 thousand compared to an expense of $142 thousand for 2009.Merchants previously announced the declaration of a dividend of $0.28 per share, payable February 17, 2011, to shareholders of record as of February 3, 2011. Merchants also previously announced the extension, through January 2012, of its stock buyback program, originally adopted in January 2007. Under the program Merchants may repurchase 200,000 shares of its common stock on the open market from time to time, and has purchased 143,475 shares since the program’s adoption in 2007. Although Merchants did not repurchase any of its shares during 2010, and does not expect to repurchase shares in the near future, Merchants wanted to preserve the flexibility of an active buyback program.Michael R. Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer, Janet P. Spitler, Merchants’ Chief Financial Officer and Geoffrey R. Hesslink, Executive Vice President and Senior Lender will host a conference call to discuss these earnings results at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, January 28, 2011. Interested parties may participate in the conference call by dialing (800) 553-0327; the title of the call is Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Earnings Call. Participants are asked to call a few minutes prior to register. A replay will be available until noon on Friday, February 4, 2011. The U.S. replay dial-in telephone number is (800) 475-6701. The international replay telephone number is (320) 365-3844. The replay access code for both replay telephone numbers is 188055.Vermont Matters. Merchants Bank strives to fulfill its role as the state’s leading independent community bank through a wide range of initiatives. The bank supports organizations throughout Vermont in addressing essential needs, sustaining community programs, providing small business and job start capital, funding financial literacy education and delivering enrichment through local sports activities.Merchants Bank was established in 1849 in Burlington, Vermont. Its continuing mission is to provide Vermonters with a statewide community bank that combines a strong technology platform with a genuine appreciation for local markets. Merchants Bank delivers this commitment through a branch-based system that includes: 34 community bank offices and 42 ATMs throughout Vermont; local branch presidents and personal bankers dedicated to high-quality customer service; free online banking, phone banking, and electronic bill payment services; high-value depositing programs that feature Free Checking for Life®, Cash Rewards Checking, Rewards Checking for Business, business cash management, money market accounts, health savings accounts, certificates of deposit, Flexible CD, IRAs, and overdraft assurance; feature-rich loan programs including mortgages, home equity credit, vehicle loans, personal and small business loans and lines of credit; and merchant card processing. Merchants Bank offers a strong set of commercial and government banking solutions, delivered by experienced banking officers in markets throughout the state; these teams provide customized financing for medium-to-large companies, non-profits, cities, towns, and school districts. Merchants Trust Company, a division of Merchants Bank, provides investment management, financial planning and trustee services. Please visit www.mbvt.com(link is external) for access to Merchants Bank information, programs, and services. Merchants’ stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MBVT. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.Certain statements contained in this press release that are not historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and are intended to be covered by the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. These statements, which are based on certain assumptions and describe Merchants’ future plans, strategies and expectations, can generally be identified by the use of the words “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “plan,” “potential,” “estimate,” “project,” “believe,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “target” and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are based on the current assumptions and beliefs of management and are only expectations of future results. Merchants’ actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements as a result of, among others, general, national, regional or local economic conditions which are less favorable than anticipated, including continued global recession, impacting the performance of Merchants’ investment portfolio, quality of credits or the overall demand for services; changes in loan default and charge-off rates which could affect the allowance for credit losses; declines in the equity and financial markets; reductions in deposit levels which could necessitate increased and/or higher cost borrowing to fund loans and investments; declines in mortgage loan refinancing, equity loan and line of credit activity which could reduce net interest and non-interest income; changes in the domestic interest rate environment and inflation; changes in the carrying value of investment securities and other assets; misalignment of Merchants’ interest-bearing assets and liabilities; increases in loan repayment rates affecting interest income and the value of mortgage servicing rights; changing business, banking, or regulatory conditions or policies, or new legislation affecting the financial services industry, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, that could lead to changes in the competitive balance among financial institutions, restrictions on bank activities, changes in costs (including deposit insurance premiums), increased regulatory scrutiny, declines in consumer confidence in depository institutions, or changes in the secondary market for bank loan and other products; and changes in accounting rules, federal and state laws, IRS regulations, and other regulations and policies governing financial holding companies and their subsidiaries which may impact Merchants’ ability to take appropriate action to protect Merchants’ financial interests in certain loan situations.You should not place undue reliance on Merchants’ forward-looking statements, and are cautioned that forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain. Actual performance and results of operations may differ materially from those projected or suggested in the forward-looking statements due to certain risks and uncertainties, which are included in more detail in Merchants’ Annual Report on Form 10-K and other filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Merchants does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect circumstances or events that occur after the date the forward-looking statements are made.