April 19, 2014

Wall collapse injures construction workers

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By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Two construction workers were hurt Friday when a house wall they were erecting fell on them.

Ian Dewey and Andrew Francis were both transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care following the accident. Dewey’s condition was considered the more serious of the two workers. He had suspected internal injuries, according to Jim Hendry of the Williston Fire Department.

Dewey was still hospitalized at Fletcher Allen on Monday. He was listed in fair condition. No more details on his injuries were available. Francis suffered an apparent broken ankle, Hendry said.

Hendry said the incident had the potential to end worse than it did.

“They were both lucky,” Hendry said. “They easily could have been killed.”

Dewey and Francis were working at the house on Overlake View, which is off Old Creamery Road, around midday when they lost control of the exterior wall they were raising into place on the deck of the second floor. Two other construction workers were present, but it was not clear whether they were helping raise the wall or not.

When the workers lost control of the wall, it apparently fell toward them and then slid off the deck and dropped about 12 feet to the ground, according to Hendry. Dewey was struck by the wall and knocked to the ground, Hendry said. The wall landed in a leaning position, propped against the first floor of the house. Dewey lay injured in the space created between the wall and the house, Hendry said.

Hendry said one of Dewey’s fellow workers went under the wall to tend to Dewey and felt it slipping. The worker then braced the wall. When fire and rescue personnel arrived, they further stabilized the wall.

Dewey departed in an Essex ambulance about 20 minutes before Francis left on a South Burlington ambulance.

Francis’ injury occurred when the wall initially fell and temporarily pinned his ankle, said Hendry, who added that Francis’ ankle appeared broken. While rescue personnel prepared to move Francis, the other two construction workers lingered nearby, talking to fire and police officials and apparently looking for a way to help.

Francis Construction Co. in Colchester employed the workers building the house. Gary Francis, who is Andrew’s brother, owns the business, Hendry said. Francis Construction is a subcontractor on the construction project, according to Hendry.

Fire officials contacted the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the accident. Hendry said the investigators are called whenever there is a question about whether proper workplace safety procedures have been followed.

George Walker, the state occupational safety compliance officer who reported to the scene, did not return a message seeking comment on the status of the investigation.

Hendry said a University of Vermont rescue vehicle broke down en route to the scene. However, a South Burlington ambulance soon took its place. Overlake View, a quiet residential street, was lined with fire, police and rescue vehicles for nearly an hour.

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Town urges businesses to comply with sign ordinance

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$100-a-day fines face scofflaws

By Mal Boright
Correspondent

Williston zoning administrator D. K. Johnston is gently but firmly reminding businesses that they must comply with the town’s rules governing signs.

Johnston said he intends be proactive in making sure that businesses are in step with the sign ordinance.

“It doesn’t do a lot of good to have a review and permitting process with which to make the town and developments attractive and then have signs that are not in compliance,” Johnston said.

Johnston is concerned about a potential domino effect if the rules are not enforced. He said once a few businesses have signs that are not permitted by the ordinance, then others will start appearing, some made by companies and sold to businesses without going through the permitting process.

On the job for two months, Johnston said he is going to use a velvet glove approach with businesses using non-permitted signs. He has already found businesses willing to comply once he visits.

“Most people have been cooperative once I am able to find them,” he said.

One of those was Mike Ather, manager of Gardeners’ Supply Outlet. Ather had put up a sandwich board sign visible from Harvest Lane to compensate for not having a sign on that side of the building.

Under the ordinance, sandwich board signs can only be used to advertise temporary events such as a restaurant lunch specials or retail store sales. The ordinance mandates that sandwich board signs must be removed at close of business each day and are limited to one per lot.

“He (Johnston) was probably right when he told us we could not use it as we were,” Ather said. “I have no problem with it.”

Actually Ather had his problems with the sandwich board itself. “We spent $600 on it. Winds kept blowing it over and getting it when it snowed was a problem,” he said.

Ather said that Johnston showed him how to solve his signage problem by making space for one on the building itself.

Another type of sign that Johnston believes is finding more non-permitted use is the neon variety.

“The only neon sign allowed is one that says “open,” Johnston said. “And these are supposed to be turned off when the business is closed.”

He said beer companies and others give free neon signs to businesses that sell their products. “If we don’t contain this in the early stages, it becomes a trend,” Johnston said.

Johnston admits that the 23-page sign ordinance can be confusing. Since it was written in 1990, the ordinance has been amended 17 times.

“The amendments are often responses to specific issues, and when they are inserted into the ordinance they are fine on their own,” he said. “But they can be confusing with something else in the code.”

Johnston was reluctant to talk about penalties for businesses that don’t comply after he visits and sends warning letters. But he acknowledged that the ordinance does permit fines for businesses that refuse to comply.

He said fines start at $100 and go up with each violation. Each day the non-permitted sign appears is a new violation.

But Johnston said he is not eager to start levying fines. He’d prefer to work cooperatively with businesses.

“I’ll go and talk with the business owner, and when I do I’m told, ‘Yes, that makes sense,’” Johnston said.

He also sends businesses or property owners warning letters that describe the violation and gives them five days to fix it.

Johnston said he understands that some businesses have issues with less visible locations where signs are needed so customers can find them.

"There are provisions in the code to help out in a permitted way,” Johnston said.

Another business recently visited by Johnston was the Williston Antique Center, also on Harvest Lane.

“The visit was fine with us,” said owner Gail Savage. “We are going to try and get on a state sign. She also raised the possibility of a permitted directory sign.

Johnston will be making the rounds over the next few weeks. He said businesses have a right to appeal sign ordinance decisions to the town’s Development Review Board.


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Town rules shut out scoreboard

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Little League can’t use ads on digital device

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Town zoning regulations for the village will likely mean that the Williston Little League cannot accept a sponsor’s offer to purchase a new electronic scoreboard.

Mike Healey, a member of the Williston Little League Board of Directors, said Coca-Cola representatives had indicated a willingness to fund a new electronic scoreboard for the Community Park baseball field. Healey estimated the cost of the scoreboard at $10,000.

However, the Coca-Cola sponsorship would include a sign for the company on the scoreboard. D.K. Johnston, the town’s zoning administrator, said municipal zoning regulations appear to prohibit that sort of sign in the village.

Johnston said the Coca-Cola sign would technically be classified as a billboard sign — which is not allowed in town — because it advertises a product that is off site. Also, the town’s sign code does not allow for moving parts, which the scoreboard would have.

“Saying no to the Little League is like saying no to Mom and apple pie, but it does not seem to be permitted,” Johnston said.

Johnston gave Healey input based on an inquiry about the scoreboard and not a formal application. The Development Review Board and the Historic Preservation Committee would both review an application for the scoreboard and might disagree with Johnston’s assessment.

Johnston told Healey that the scoreboard would more likely fit the town’s regulations if there was no sign attached. He said the scoreboard alone would be considered a structure, like a fence or a shed, and would be considered under those guidelines.

“The scoreboard without the sign seems innocuous enough to me,” Johnston said.

Of course, the absence of the sign would mean the absence of the sponsorship dollars. Healey said the Little League has discussed ways to raise money to buy the electronic scoreboard. He said the Little League will pursue a capital campaign this year that could target the scoreboard purchase.

“Our feeling is that the facilities at the field should be of top quality and represent the town of Williston well,” Healey said. “It’s also something the kids deserve.”

Healey said the Williston Little League had an opportunity to host a regional tournament game last summer, but was unable to do it because the Community Park field was not equipped with an electronic scoreboard. Little League rules require an electronic scoreboard for tournament games, Healey said.

In order for the Little League to apply for a permit for the electronic scoreboard, the town will need to sign onto the application because it has a licensing agreement with the school to use the field.

To that end, Healey approached the Selectboard on Monday night and asked for direction. The Selectboard decided to seek Recreation Committee input and to put the item on an agenda in April.

The Community Park field is one of three fields utilized by the Williston Little League. The others are at Brennan Woods and Rossignol Park. The Community Park field hosts games for teams in the Major League, which is the top division in the Little League. It has a manual scoreboard.

Healey initially approached Johnston with a broader sign inquiry. He asked about the viability of the Little League selling advertising to sponsors for signs on the outfield fence.

However, those signs faced similar obstacles as the scoreboard. Johnston said a survey of signs in the village indicates that the signs currently posted, including signs for the school, the library and the recreation fields, already amounted to more than was permitted in the district.

Johnston said the town allows for temporary permits for signs, but the Little League season runs longer than the permits.

Healey said the Little League remains interested in posting signs on the fences, but is shelving the proposal while it focuses on the scoreboard.

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Spring brings memories for former major leaguer

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Williston resident recalls stint with Dodgers

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Jim Neidlinger always begins to feel a tingling this time of year. The hair on the back of his neck stands on end, and he starts to get antsy. He senses a call to get to back to work.

Neidlinger’s symptoms can be traced to a particular strain of spring fever familiar to current and former professional baseball players. In a sweatshirt and hat, the 6-foot-4 Neidlinger still appears fit and capable of throwing a 90 mph fastball.

However, Neidlinger has not worn a professional uniform in about a decade. His relationship with the game today is as a coach and teacher for young players.

Neidlinger, a Williston resident, spent 11 years in pro baseball, including two heady months on the roster of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He now helps coach the baseball team at Williston Central School and will coach an American Legion team this summer. He also serves as the director of baseball at Sports & Fitness Edge, providing individual lessons to burgeoning talents.

His students know Neidlinger played major league baseball. However, few probably know the unusual arc of his career. The brevity of his stay on a big league roster is not atypical, but the fact that he thrived at the major league level without receiving a further opportunity makes him an unusual case.

Neidlinger was called up to the Dodgers on Aug. 1, 1990. He was a 25-year-old unknown rookie with six years in the minors already under his belt. The Dodgers hoped Neidlinger could help patch a hole in a starting pitching rotation depleted by injuries.

He produced beyond their expectations, compiling a 5-3 record and a stellar 3.28 ERA in 12 starts. The Dodgers, who had been lagging in the National League West standings, suddenly caught fire, playing torrid baseball in the season’s final two months and offering a stiff challenge to the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

Although the Reds ultimately captured the division, Neidlinger had made his mark and realized his childhood dream. He had pitched in front of 55,000 faithful at Dodger Stadium in the midst of a pennant race and had excelled, receiving a standing ovation as he walked off the mound after one particularly stirring outing. Suddenly thrust onto the big stage, he had performed admirably.

“It really was a great ride,” Neidlinger said. “Because I was a rookie, I started with the idea of just trying to keep my job and not embarrass myself. Then, I started to pitch some of the best ball of my life and I started to feel like I was a part of the team. I was giving them a chance to win. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

However, that would signal the abrupt end of Neidlinger’s major league career. The Dodgers signed a pair of pricey free agents in the off-season, Bob Ojeda and Kevin Gross, and Neidlinger struggled in spring training and was shipped to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Neidlinger spent his subsequent summers in the minor league systems of the Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, fighting for a place in a major league clubhouse, but never making the leap again.

“I got the chance to pitch my way into the big leagues, but I never got the chance to pitch my way out,” Neidlinger said. “I never got the opportunity to fail. It was very frustrating to deal with for a while.”

However, any lingering bitterness seems to have fallen away over the years. Ask Neidlinger about his career and he extols the thrills of professional baseball, and, particularly, of taking the mound for a team in a pennant race.

“It would have been great to have made millions of dollars, but I had a great time and I’m proud of what I accomplished,” Neidlinger said. “I’m content with my career.”

Today, Neidlinger has vivid memories of the players he played alongside at the pinnacle of the sport. Early in his career, at Single-A Prince William ( Va.), Neidlinger was teammates with a young Barry Bonds, who was in his first season of professional baseball. During his time in L.A., Neidlinger played with such luminaries as Eddie Murray, Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Willie Randolph, Mike Scioscia and John Wetteland. The manager was the legendary Tommy Lasorda.

There was also Kirk Gibson, the MVP and two-time World Series champion. Neidlinger became friendly with Gibson during his tenure with the Dodgers, partly because both shared a love of hunting and fishing.

Neidlinger remembers Gibson sprinting from home to first over and over again on an empty practice field one year at spring training in Florida. The team workout was over, and no one else was around, but there was Gibson practicing the most basic aspect of the game.

“The teaching I do with the kids is not just all about hitting and throwing and catching and running,” Neidlinger said. “I want them to understand and respect the game. I want them not only to enjoy it, but to play it right. That’s the important thing.”

Neidlinger has lived in Vermont since he married his wife, Ann, in 1986. The couple met in Burlington when Neidlinger’s minor league team visited for a series at Centennial Field. They have two daughters, Ally, 14, and Erica, 12.

Neidlinger said Ann held the family together during his professional baseball career, serving as a de facto single parent while the season was in progress. The salaries in minor league baseball were tiny compared to major league paychecks, and the challenges of managing a household often fell on Ann.

“She was just a rock,” Neidlinger said. “The wife of a minor league baseball player is a tough job.”

Neidlinger said when he retired from baseball he turned down offers to coach in the minor leagues. At the time, he wanted to step away from the professional side of the sport and be at home more. Now, with his daughters edging closer to college, he’s ready to return.

He applied for a position with the Washington Nationals this winter and plans to continue to send off resumes and aim for the major leagues again.

“I think I’ve got something to offer,” Neidlinger said. “I’m ready to go back now.”

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Sewer proposal limits commercial growth

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Town tries to make newly acquired capacity last 10 years

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Proposed sewer allocations for the next fiscal year would provide little for new commercial development, despite the expected addition of a large amount of sewer capacity for the town.

Selectboard members will hold a public hearing Monday night on the proposed allocations. The board is expected to decide whether to adopt the allocations after the hearing.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he expects the proposed allocations, if approved, will result in some competition among developers.

“I imagine there’s going to be a battle for the limited capacity — at least on the commercial side and probably on the residential side, too,” McGuire said.

Williston expects to have 200,000 gallons per day of new capacity available on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The capacity will come through an expansion at the Essex Junction wastewater facility.

However, town officials say they plan to parcel out the new capacity slowly because they do not know how soon they will be able to obtain additional capacity. The Selectboard has said it wants the 200,000 new gallons per day to last 10 years.

The proposed allocation for commercial development in the 2005-06 fiscal year is particularly sparse, allowing only 1,144 gallons per day for new development. For the current year, before the arrival of the new capacity, the allocation for new commercial development is 1,500 gallons per day.

McGuire said the commercial allocation was limited in part because 20,000 gallons per day is proposed for existing commercial uses that are using more sewer than they were allocated. Examples include Maple Tree Place, Sports & Fitness Edge and Vermont Technical College. He said the number is expected to be much lower next year.

On the residential side, the proposed capacity includes 7,665 gallons per day for new residential construction and 3,285 gallons per day for affordable housing. There was 3,600 gallons per day allocated for new residential in the current fiscal year and none tagged specifically to affordable housing.

The allocations also include 14,655 gallons per day that have been set aside to specific projects. The total includes 10,500 gallons per day for the Shunpike Road abatement project, which is expected to be completed in the next fiscal year, and 3,555 gallons per day for future school expansion. There are no current plans for a school expansion in Williston. Also, 600 gallons per day were set aside for the public safety facilities expected to be finished in late 2006.

The allocations will only be valid if the new sewer capacity is available by July 1. The sewer treatment plant expansion was expected to be completed in the fall, but the new system failed its operational tests. Modifications were made to the system, and new testing began last month. Town Manager Rick McGuire said the town believes the state will certify the additional treat capacity by July 1.

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Selectboard considers roundabout resolution

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Three other towns have already approved statement

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard will consider a resolution next month that expresses strong reservations with a proposed alternative to the Circumferential Highway.

The resolution, which has already been adopted by the governing boards in Essex, Essex Junction and Colchester, targets the Smart Growth Collaborative’s proposal to install a series of roundabouts on Vermont Route 2A.

The resolution, which was generated by Essex Junction, requests that an environmental study currently underway measure each alternative against a list of standards. It also asks that the environmental impact statement consider the Circ as one of the alternatives.

Essex Junction Village Manager Charles Safford said the governing boards in Essex Junction and Essex approved the resolution jointly because of concerns about the “roundabout solution.” Safford said residents in the two municipalities see potential problems with the plan.

“Our concern is that whatever alternative they consider should be given the same level of public and technical scrutiny as the Circ has historically received,” Safford said.

Safford also said the boards in Essex and Essex Junction did not want existing plans for the Circ to be ignored. He said municipal planning in the two communities has been based for years on the eventual arrival of the 16-mile highway linking Williston, Colchester and Essex.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire said Monday night he did not believe the Selectboard should consider the resolution.

“I don’t see where it’s necessary given the alternative study is underway,” McGuire said. “I don’t see the need to give any extra direction.”

However, Selectboard Chairwoman Ginny Lyons and Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs both expressed an interest in considering the item.

Preliminary work began on the Williston stretch of the Circ last spring, but a federal judge halted the project in May. U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions said a new study of the project that more thoroughly examined the environmental impact of the Circ and other transportation alternatives needed to be completed.

The resolution lists 11 specific concerns that should be considered as part of the environmental impact statement of alternatives to the Circ. The items echo concerns that have already been raised publicly about the roundabout plan, including its impact on pedestrian safety, the widening of Vermont Route 2A and the impact on traffic volume through Taft Corners and Five Corners.

The wording of the resolution excludes the Circ from needing to address the 11 concerns, but Safford said that does not hold the Circ to a lower standard.

“The boards feel comfortable that the Circ does meet these standards,” Safford said.

Fehrs said he saw a couple of items he would like to see changed on the resolution, but believed the concept of the resolution was “fine.” Safford said he believed the Essex boards would be willing to alter their proposal to add Williston concerns as long as there are no substantive changes to the items already listed.

Lyons said she wants to hear more details about the various proposed alternatives to the Circ, including the roundabout solution.

“I’ve heard concerns that the decision has already been made and that the alternatives won’t be taken as seriously as the Circ proposal,” Lyons said.

However, she said she might be interested in a resolution that announces “strong reservations” with the roundabout proposal. Lyons said the Selectboard has previous noted its aversion to seeing a roundabout at Taft Corners.

The discussion was one in a series the Selectboard has had in recent months about the level of involvement it should have during the review of the highway’s environmental effects. The Environmental Impact Statement process requires the state to consider all options when deciding whether to build the highway.

The resolution advocates a strong voice for the municipalities. One item says the selected alternative should be “acceptable to the local legislative bodies, businesses and citizens of the communities … where the implementation of the chosen alternative will likely have the greatest impact.”

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Selectboard briefing

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Holiday shoppers help sales tax revenue exceed expectations

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The town enjoyed record-setting revenue from the local option sales tax during the final quarter of 2004, reaping the benefits of a busy holiday shopping season in Williston.

The tax yielded $791,371 for the town during the period of October, November and December — traditionally the year’s biggest retail sales period. The previous high was $738,838 for the same quarter in 2003.

“We beat it by a fair amount,” McGuire said. “That’s really good news.”

Williston had several new retailers in place this holiday season, including the Christmas Tree Shopd in Maple Tree Place. The sharp increase in revenue over the previous year marked a departure from the previous two quarters, which showed returns in line with the 2003 revenues.

Also, the local option rooms and meals tax produced $54,120 for the town in October, November and December. Combined, the local option taxes have produced more than $1.56 million so far in the 2004-05 fiscal year, which ends July 1. The Selectboard budgeted for $2.7 million in revenues from the local option taxes for the fiscal year.

The revenue from the local option taxes is projected to lower the municipal property tax rate from 39 cents to 12 cents for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.

Public safety building

A town committee directing the $6.8 million public safety facilities building has settled on a project manager.

Tom Barden will handle the responsibilities. Barden operates Barden Inspecting and Consulting Services in Hinesburg. He has been involved in the $18.4 million expansion project now underway at Champlain Valley Union High School. His letter of qualifications also mentioned work on the previous CVU construction project as well as on the new fire station in Ripton, an office addition at S.T.Griswold in Williston and the Higher Ground renovation in South Burlington.

The project manager will serve as the town’s advocate in the construction process, starting to work with the town as early as this month.

The building committee’s contract with Barden is for an amount not to exceed $74,000. The committee had budgeted $75,000 for the position.

The committee is currently reviewing the qualifications of 10 architectural firms that officially notified the town of their interest in the project last week. Among the interested architects is Kaestle Boos, the Connecticut firm that produced the conceptual designs used to formulate the project’s $6.8 million price tag.

The committee hopes to have the architect selection process completed by early next month.

Workers in Wood

The Selectboard approved a lease agreement for the former Workers in Wood building in Williston Village.

The lease will be set up in three-month increments and include a rent of $600 per month plus utilities. The tenant is Leslie Trifilio, who plans to sell paintings, crafts and other artwork. McGuire said the incremental aspect of the lease will provide flexibility for both the town and the tenant.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said he had concerns about a retail use for the building and the traffic it might produce, but McGuire said he did not expect Trifilio’s business to attract so much traffic as to cause problems.

The Development Review Board has approved the use for the building.

The Selectboard vote to approve the lease was 3-1. Selectboard member Andy Mikell opposed the lease because he believes the funds to raze the building should be in the municipal budget for the upcoming year.

The town agreed to tear down the building years ago and use the vacant space to expand the Town Green. The School Board later signed off on an expansion of the library with the understanding the Workers in Wood building would be razed.

McGuire said a decision to keep the building and not demolish it would likely require a town meeting vote, as well as the approval of the Williston School Board. Some Selectboard members have expressed a willingness to have a public discussion of whether the building should still be razed.

Town service officer

The Selectboard reappointed Dawn Philibert to the position of town service officer. The town service officer is expected to assist individuals who require emergency food, fuel or shelter assistance. Typically, the service officer is called upon during evenings and weekends when the Vermont Department of Social Welfare is closed.

Philibert has served the past two years in the position.

“I can honestly say I can’t think of anyone better qualified to do this job,” Fehrs said.

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Gumby replica kidnapped from Williston home remains missing

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Police have no leads in bizarre abduction

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Gumby kidnapping case remains as impossible to break as the pliable claymation character at the center of it.

Barb Giardi said there have been no new developments in the abduction of the 8-foot-tall Gumby replica that she and her husband, Norm Reuss, posted prominently in the front yard of their Spruce Lane home for 14 consecutive winters. The replica of the television character has been missing since the overnight hours of Jan. 27.

The perpetrators left behind a ransom note with such quixotic demands as removing President George W. Bush from office, decriminalizing marijuana and establishing a national holiday in the name of the Blockheads (Gumby’s arch enemies). However, they have not contacted Giardi and Reuss since the abduction.

It is possible the kidnappers have elected to stay underground in light of widespread interest in the case. Giardi said she has been surprised at the public’s reaction to the kidnapping, which was detailed in the Feb. 3 Observer.

“I get asked about it every day,” Giardi said. “Every time I go to work or to the store and somebody recognizes me, they want to know if we’ve gotten it back yet. Unfortunately, nobody has had any information.”

The statue features a beaming Gumby with his left hand raised in a cheerful wave. He is wearing a smart red bow tie. Reuss built the statue, which was paired in the yard this winter with an equally buoyant Frosty the Snowman. The kidnappers’ note included a demand to replace the snowman statue with Pokey, an orange horse and Gumby’s sidekick.

The public appears to have reacted to the theft with the same mixture of humor and regret that Giardi feels.

“People really sympathize with us,” Giardi said. “They think it’s kind of funny and that the ransom note was wacky and stuff, but they also think (the kidnappers) should give it back now.”

Giardi said the kindhearted response of her neighbors and fellow Williston residents has helped ease the disappointment of losing Gumby.

“It has been appreciated,” Giardi said. “To me, it shows we live in a town where people care about each other. Somebody loses something and people are concerned.”

Gumby was the malleable star of a television series that ran from 1957 to 1967. The show was revived for a few years in the 1980s.

Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden confirmed last week that there had been “no breaks” in the kidnapping case.

Giardi finds it hard to believe that something as conspicuous as a towering Gumby replica can completely disappear and says she’s hopeful it reemerges soon.

She said her husband has not decided whether he will build another Gumby next winter if the kidnapped version never resurfaces.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Giardi said. “We’re still hoping this one turns up. We hope people keep a lookout for it. They should remember to investigate a little closer if they see a little green poking out from behind something.”

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Developer pays to fix roundabout

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By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard has accepted the road that bisects Maple Tree Place as a municipal public street. But the town is requiring that Starwood Ceruzzi, the Connecticut-based owners of the development, to make improvements that will help trucks navigate the road’s roundabout.

The plan to make the road, which is also called Maple Tree Place, a public street was approved years ago during the local permitting process. The half-mile road snakes through Maple Tree Place, connecting Vermont Route 2A to U.S. Route 2. The board on March 21 also accepted a portion of bike path that runs on the north and northwest ends of the development.

The town’s acceptance of the road comes attached with a requirement that Starwood Ceruzzi complete construction work on approaches to the roundabout.

The roundabout has worked well for passenger vehicles and smaller trucks, but not tractor-trailers, said Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden. A recent test with a 65-foot-long truck showed there was insufficient room to maneuver around the roundabout without drifting off the road or across so-called “inlands,” which divide each of the four approaches to the roundabout.

The modifications will improve the ability of large trucks to navigate the roundabout, Boyden said, allowing trucks to drive over the islands without sustaining damage.

Starwood Ceruzzi provided a $25,000 cash bond to insure the work is completed. Boyden said if the company does not complete the roundabout modifications, then the town will use the money to fund the work. Boyden said the work would cost much less than the bond amount.

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Court ruling halves price for proposed landfill on Redmond Road

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By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Chittenden Solid Waste District General Manager Tom Moreau declined to celebrate after a judge cut a major chunk out of the potential purchase price for Williston property that CSWD hopes to transform into a landfill.

“It was a favorable ruling, but who knows what the next one will be?” Moreau said Monday. “It’s just part of a long, complicated process. It’s like one of those back-and-forth basketball games. We’re up two, which is better than being down two, but it’s not over.”

Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Matthew Katz ruled last week CSWD would not have to pay the $4.8 million in business losses that a jury found Hinesburg Sand and Gravel would suffer if CSWD seized its Redmond Road property. The jury had last year awarded the business a total of $8.8 million, including $4 million for the cost of the land itself.

Robert O’Neill, an attorney for Hinesburg Sand and Gravel, said the business plans to appeal Katz’s decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. O’Neill noted Katz’s ruling was a matter of the interpretation of a statute and did not indicate the jury’s verdict had been unsubstantiated by the facts.

O’Neill said Hinesburg Sand and Gravel represents an unusual situation because its business is so closely associated with its property. O’Neill compared it to a situation with a warehouse filled with raw materials. By seizing the land, O’Neill argued, CSWD was not just taking Hinesburg Sand and Gravel’s warehouse, but its raw materials, too. O’Neill said Hinesburg Sand and Gravel has one of the most sophisticated aggregating operations in all of North America.

Moreau said the Supreme Court appeal, which could take as much as two years, would not affect the timeline of the proposed development of the landfill. CSWD disclosed plans this winter to open the regional landfill by July 2008. CSWD hopes to start the design process in April.

CSWD plans to develop most of the landfill on the 76-acre Hinesburg Sand and Gravel property. Hinesburg Sand and Gravel declined to sell the property, prompting the plan to condemn the land for the landfill. However, the seizure cannot take place until compensation for Hinesburg Sand and Gravel has been settled.

One potential scenario could cause major delays in the project, Moreau said. Katz did not rule on the $4 million land price, instead leaving it up to CSWD to decide whether it wanted him to consider the motion. If Katz did reduce the land price, it would likely lead to a new jury trial. Moreau said if the court proceedings returned to a jury trial, the development of the landfill could be postponed another two years.

Moreau said the CSWD Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting on April 13 to consider whether it should ask Katz to rule on the motion. Moreau expects the board to reach a decision before the end of April.

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