July 23, 2019

Iraq war touches virtually everyone in Vermont

By Wilson Ring
The Associated Press

MONTPELIER — Vermont National Guard Master Sgt. Jennifer Brownell isn't one of the soldiers being called to active duty for service in Iraq or another Middle Eastern country. But her daughter is.

Spec. Margaret Brownell, 20, is in training in Mississippi before being sent to Kuwait where her unit is expected to provide base security for up to a year.

The Brownells are the only mother-daughter pair in the Vermont National Guard and are believed to be one of the few such pairs anywhere in the National Guard.

And the Brownells share a famous relative: Vermont's independent U.S. Sen. James Jeffords. Jennifer Brownell's aunt is Jeffords wife, Liz.

“It really hits home when you have the junior senator's great niece going,” Jennifer Brownell said. “It's amazing that nobody is untouched by the impact of these deployments.”

Jeffords' personal connection to the deployments is a perfect example of how the war in Iraq, through the National Guard, as well as the active duty military, touches just about everyone in Vermont.

But the shared connection helps ensure that the soldiers and their families receive the support they need from their neighbors, the National Guard and the state, officials say.

“We've got just about every town and city represented with our deployments,” said National Guard Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Jon Farnham. “Everyone knows somebody or has an employee or their spouse is related to someone. So it's either through in-laws or employees or acquaintances. Everybody has been touched by it.”

Between the Army and Air Guard, the Vermont National Guard has about 4,000 members, per capita one of the highest rates in the nation.

John Macleod of the Vermont chapter of the Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve said he spoke recently to a service club in Morrisville.

“We asked how many knew people who had been mobilized. More than half the crowd raised their hands,” Macleod said.

“I've often said the Vermont National Guard is like a family,” said Gov. Jim Douglas.

The governor said that as far as he knew he didn't have any relatives called up by the Guard, but he knew a number of people now on active duty or due to be called up.

He said eight state troopers are on active duty as well as a number of correctional officers. The son of a state senator has been called to duty. There's an attorney in state government and one of the Statehouse security guards.

“In some families more than one member is in the Guard and has been activated,” the governor said. “That's why it's so important to support the Guard, especially at this time of year.”

And Farnham said Vermonters have been stepping up to help their friends and relatives who are heading to war, as well as the family members who have been left behind.

“The fact that the real center of gravity is around the holidays makes it even more busy, more complex. We're having a hard time keeping up with the people who want to help out,” Farnham said.

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House speaker strives for diversity


By Ross Sneyd
The Associated Press

MONTPELIER — A diverse group of people will lead committees in the state House during the next two years, including five women, two gay men and a black man.

Speaker Gaye Symington said she was striving in making the committee assignments last week to achieve regional, gender, political and ideological balance across the 14 panels where the heart of the legislative work gets done.

“You will see, I believe, there are no committees which you could call dumping grounds,” Symington said as she announced the eagerly anticipated lists.

Heading the powerful Appropriations Committee will be Democrat Martha Heath, D-Westford. Former House Speaker Michael Obuchowski, D-Bellows Falls, will be chairman of the nearly as powerful Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy.

There will be no changes in the leadership of the Senate's highest profile committees. Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, will still be in charge of appropriations and Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, will be in charge of finance.

Progressive David Zuckerman of Burlington, who operates an organic vegetable farm, was appointed chairman of the Agriculture Committee. He is the first member of the Progressive Party to head a committee.

The other women who will lead committees, all Democrats, are Kathy Keenan of St. Albans, who will be in charge of Commerce; Donna Sweaney of Windsor, Government Operations; Ann Pugh of South Burlington, Human Services; Alice Emmons of Springfield, Institutions. The two gay men who will be chairmen are William Lippert of Hinesburg, Judiciary; and Robert Dostis of Waterbury, Natural Resources and Energy.

Rep. Francis Brooks, D-Montpelier, who is black, will be chairman of the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee.

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Golf club owner dies at age 77

 Benjamin F. Murray, 77, of Williston Road, died Saturday, Dec. 25, 2004, at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

He was born in Richmond, Va., July 20, 1927, the son of James and Mary (Pulaski) Murray. On Sept. 13, 1952, he was married in Williston to Shirley M. Talcott. He was the owner/operator of Williston Golf Club Inc. since 1960 and was a member of Williston Federated Church.

He is survived by his wife, Shirley M. Murray of Williston; his son, Jeffrey Murray, also of Williston; three brothers, Richard Johnson of Massachusetts, Thomas Johnson of Arizona, and Kenneth Johnson of Massachusetts; two sisters, Louise Gilpatrick of Connecticut, and Dorothy Beaver of New York; also several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his brother, James Murray, in June 2004.

Graveside services will be held in the spring in the East End Cemetery in Williston. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the Vermont Respite House, 99 Allen Brook Road, Williston, Vt. 05495; or to the American Cancer Society, 121 Connor Way, Suite 240, P.O. Box 1460, Williston, Vt. 05495.

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Firefighters can now resuscitate pets

Pet supply store donates oxygen masks

By Mal Boright

Max, a 125-pound Bernese mountain dog, might someday benefit from his owner’s foresight. If not, it is almost certain that another pet will.

In the unlikely event Max is caught in a fire, the Williston Fire Department now has the equipment to him, thanks to Williston resident Katie Stevens and a donation from Pet Food Warehouse.

Stevens contacted the pet supply chain, which gave the department 10 oxygen masks, two each for five sizes for animals from hamsters to Max-sized dogs.

Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton is happy to have the masks.

“When someone comes to you with the offer of this kind of equipment, how can you say no?” he said. “Besides, I am also a pet lover.”

The idea of ensuring her local fire department had the oxygen masks occurred to Stevens when she was visiting her family outside Boston over Thanksgiving weekend. A fire had left pets dead from smoke inhalation. Media coverage pointed out that the deaths might have been prevented had masks been available to resuscitate the pets.

“When I returned here I called around to see if such masks might be available, and most places I called had never heard of them,” Stevens said.

She said that at first mention of the equipment some people laughed, but then said, “Hey, I have a dog. That is not a bad idea.”

Stevens finally found information about the masks and their availability on the Internet.

“I was all set to pay for them myself, but first I wanted to run the idea past the people at Pet Food Warehouse. They said they wanted to hear more and then they paid for them,” Stevens said.

Evan Wisell, Pet Food Warehouse marketing and advertising manager, said his company was happy to put up nearly $300 for the masks.

“At the time we didn’t know there was such equipment available,” Wissell said. He noted that a first-aid seminar for pets sponsored by the firm last year never mentioned the masks.

Morton said homeowners can make work easier for firefighters by listing their pets by name.

Any information that is communicated to us, whether it is a tot finder or a list of pets and their names is helpful,” Morton said.

Pet alert cards can by purchased at pet stores.

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Few file for elected offices

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

With the filing deadline just days away, few candidates have filed for the many elected offices on the ballot in Williston this March.

Candidates have until Monday, Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. to submit a petition containing 30 signatures and a consent form to have their names placed on the ballot. Forms are available at Williston Town Hall or online at http://town.williston.vt.us/clerk/clerk.htm.

As of Tuesday at noon, only three incumbents — Town Clerk Deb Beckett, lister Linda Ladd and constable Kermit LaClair — had filed the required paperwork.

Candidates usually wait until the last minute to file their petitions, said Kathy Smardon, assistant town clerk. She said that has been the case since she started working for the town 16 years ago.

There are 20 elected positions on the ballot this year, including three Selectboard seats, two Williston School Board seats and the town clerk position. Other elected offices include seats on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board, the Champlain Water District Board, the Williston Cemetery Commission and the Dorothy Alling Library Trustees.

Williston’s annual town and school meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 28. Australian balloting takes place the following day.

Here are the positions on the ballot:

Town clerk, three-year term

Town treasurer, three-year term

Champlain Water District, three-year term

Selectboard, three-year term

Selectboard, two-year term

Selectboard, one-year term

Williston School Board, three-year term

Williston School Board, two-year term

CVU School Board, three-year term

Lister, three-year term

Cemetery Commission, five-year term

Cemetery Commission, three-year term

Constable, one-year term

Trustee of public funds, three-year term

Trustee of public funds, two-year term

Trustee of public funds, one-year term

Old Brick Church trustee, five-year term

Library trustee, five-year term

Town agent, one-year term

Town grand juror, one-year term

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21 teenagers cited on alcohol charges

CVU athletes suspended after police bust drinking party
By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Nine Champlain Valley Union High School athletes were suspended from competition after police broke up an underage drinking party in Shelburne earlier this month.

Shelburne Police Sgt. Allen Fortin said 21 teenagers were cited for alcohol violations stemming from the Jan. 9 party. Three teenagers with previous alcohol offenses were cited to appear in Vermont District Court, and 17 other teens were given tickets for a first offense, according to Fortin. He said one 15-year-old will face proceedings in Juvenile Court.

Fortin said Wednesday he could not release the names of any of the youths charged without clearance from Shelburne Police Chief Jim Warden, who was out of town.

It is unclear how many of the 21 teens cited for alcohol offenses are CVU students, or whether any of them are Williston residents. Williston students comprise roughly 40 percent of CVU’s enrollment.

CVU Principal Val Gardner said the nine student-athletes suspended included seven boys hockey players, a girls basketball player and a girls’ hockey player.

Four CVU boys hockey players and one girls hockey player were given three-game suspensions for drinking, while three members of the boys hockey team and one girls basketball player received one-game suspensions for being present when alcohol was served to minors.

The suspensions hit a CVU boys hockey team in the midst of a stellar season. The Crusaders opened the winter with 10 consecutive victories and were 10-1 at the time of the suspensions.

During the suspensions, CVU defeated Missisquoi Valley, 4-3, on Jan. 13 with seven players missing and then fell to BFA-St. Albans, 5-1, on Jan. 15 with four players still out.

CVU coach Bill Bodette said the four players would finish their suspensions by sitting out the Crusaders’ contest at South Burlington (8-2-2) on Saturday. CVU defeated the Rebels, 4-2, on Dec. 8.

Bodette said the suspensions should be only a temporary distraction for his squad, which reached the Division I state finals a year ago and is one of the favorites to win the title this winter.

“It’s a bump in the road as far as the team is concerned, but it’s not a pothole,” Bodette said. “It’s something we can get over.”

Bodette said he told his team that it possessed the talent to compete against anybody in the state with or without the suspended players.

“We’re focusing on keeping the team morale up and working hard,” Bodette said. “We’ve still got an excellent team. We’re going to get everybody back soon and get going again.”

CVU suffered another blow recently, losing standout goalie Trevor McGovern to injury in the BFA-St. Albans game. Dylan Thibault, a senior, has taken over for the Crusaders.

Bodette declined to comment on whether the suspended players would be disciplined any further; for instance, he did not say whether any players would see reduced playing time when they first returned to the lineup for next Wednesday’s home game against Middlebury.

Bodette deflected questions on the players’ identities to school administrators. Gardner said the school would not release the names of any of the student-athletes suspended, citing the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

Fortin said officers did not contact the school about the party and the students involved, but school officials did contact police for information.

Gardner was uncertain how the school learned of the party and subsequent charges, but wrote in an e-mail, “I know one of the students from the group notified his/her coach of the situation.”

Gardner said school administrators handed out the suspensions based on the school policy established by the CVU School Board. Under the policy, first-time offenders are suspended from extracurricular activities. Students are dismissed from extracurricular activities after a second offense.

The school does not discipline students for incidents that occur outside of school or school activities except to address the students’ standing in their extracurricular activities.

Fortin said Shelburne police were enforcing the town’s winter parking ban in the early morning hours of Jan. 9 when it encountered “a bunch of cars on the street” on Littlefield Drive. Officers visited a nearby house where a party appeared to be in progress to ask that the vehicles be moved. Fortin said officers discerned that those at the party were juveniles and that alcohol was present.

Fortin said officers were denied entry to the house, and partygoers covered the windows to impede their observations. While police woke up a judge to obtain a search warrant, officers were posted outside the house. Officers entered the house before 6 a.m. and gave partygoers breath tests, Fortin said.

Fortin said a few passed the test and were released. The others were cited. He estimated about three dozen people were inside the residence. Fortin said no parents were home at the time of the party.

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Board rejects town meeting agenda item


By Mal Boright

The Selectboard rebuffed a request by Rep. Jim McCullough to include a resolution in support of universal health care on the Williston town meeting agenda this year.

McCullough, D-Williston, submitted the request in writing. The Selectboard turned down the request at its Jan. 10 session.

“The board traditionally has asked for petitions on these issues so we know there are significant numbers of people in the community who want to discuss the issue and vote on it,” said Ginny Lyons, board chairwoman.

As proposed by McCullough, the agenda item would ask town voters if they “should authorize the Selectboard, the Governor and state legislators to support and actively work for the creation of a universal and comprehensive health insurance system which is publicly financed and accountable to the citizens of Vermont?”

The Selectboard has the authority to place items on the town meeting agenda without a petition. Board member Jeff Fehrs noted three years ago the board allowed a question of whether or not the town should express its support for the Earth Charter on the agenda at the behest of a group of local students.

Board members, however, were reluctant to include the health care discussion on this year’s agenda.

Selectboard member Mary Peterson said she was not inclined to allow one person to produce an article for the agenda “no matter how vital the subject.” In addition, Peterson, also a Democrat, who serves in the Vermont House with McCullough, questioned whether the vote would produce a clear message considering the complexity of the issue.

McCullough said he would not lead a petition drive to place the item on the town meeting agenda. He instead suggested the issue "might be brought up from the floor" of the meeting.

The Williston representative appeared to back away from his idea, wondering if it was even necessary to debate universal health care at town meeting because a health care bill may be considered by the Legislature this session.

Williston’s town meeting will be held Feb. 28.


Observer reporter Tom Gresham contributed to this story.

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