December 9, 2019

Board takes bite out of dog owner

$500 fine levied in case involving alleged attack

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The owner of a dog accused of biting a Williston man will have to pay a $500 fine and enroll her pet in a training program, the Selectboard ruled last week.

The written decision also stipulates that Paco, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, must wear a collar and be kep on a leash by a person over the age of 18 whenever the dog is outside. Michelle LeBlanc, Paco’s owner, must compensate Brooks McArthur, the victim of the attack, for “out-of-pocket” expenses incurred because of the incident.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he notified both LeBlanc and McArthur of the board’s decision on Friday — four days after a public hearing on Paco’s attack. McGuire said LeBlanc indicated that she was considering an appeal of the decision in the court system. She asked the town for all material gathered in the municipal investigation of the incident, McGuire said.

LeBlanc and McArthur told their respective versions of the incident at the April 25 hearing. The Selectboard met in a brief closed-door session following the meeting to discuss the case.

Selectboard member Andy Mikell then composed a draft of a written decision, which was discussed and amended among board members through e-mail over the course of a few days last week, according to McGuire.

McGuire said the Selectboard was allowed to meet in closed session and to discuss the case using e-mail because it was serving as a quasi-judicial board. He compared it to the deliberations of a panel of judges.

The Selectboard decision reflected significant concern with Paco’s behavior, despite the testimony of LeBlanc and her friends and family that the dog was gentle and obedient.

“The board concludes that at the present time Paco has behavioral issues that render him dangerous unless certain controls are instituted,” the decision read.

McArthur, a deputy state’s attorney for Washington County, alleged that Paco attacked him in his Seth Circle driveway on April 18 after he and his wife, Amy, had returned from an evening walk with their pug, Oliver.

McArthur said Paco bit him repeatedly without provocation. McArthur was treated at Fletcher Allen Health Care for his wounds.

LeBlanc said Paco slipped out her front door while she was moving items from her car into her condominium. She questioned various aspects of McArthur’s version of the event, expressing regret for his injuries but saying he had exaggerated the severity of the attack.

McArthur said Paco had also attacked his wife and dog in an incident in August 2004.

The Selectboard threatened stricter sanctions for Paco in the event of another attack, appearing to raise the specter of putting the dog to sleep — an option under state law if the board feels it is necessary to prevent future attacks.

The decision said the Selectboard wanted “to give notice that any further incident or incidents involving Paco and injury to a person or animal will likely be dealt with in the most extreme manner.

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Board agrees to clamp down on Van Sicklen Road speeders

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard agreed last week to a series of traffic-calming measures for the Williston portion of Van Sicklen Road, though some board members said they believed the measures should have gone farther.

The Van Sicklen Limited Partnership, operating under the aegis of the Snyder Companies, will fund the installation of the calming measures as part of an agreement attached to the Act 250 permit for a nearby housing development in South Burlington.

The list of eight traffic calming tools recommended by the Dufresne Henry engineering firm include changing the striping on the road to give it a narrower feel, providing chokers in the middle of the road, installing a guardrail at a culvert crossing, posting warning signs and increasing police presence on the road.

As part of its Act 250 permit, Snyder was originally required to fund the installation of speed tables on Van Sicklen Road in Williston. The stipulation came at the behest of the town, which signed on as a party in the Act 250 application.

However, a subsequent engineering study showed that the road did not meet the state standards for speed tables, because of the volume and average speed of traffic. The road, the study showed, is being used as a collector road rather than a local road.

Selectboard members Ginny Lyons and Jeff Fehrs expressed regret that the road has become something other than a local road, carrying more traffic that travels faster than the town would like.

They asked engineer Gregory Edwards of Dufresne Henry whether the town could do anything to return Van Sicklen to being a local road. However, Edwards said, the road’s classification was simply decided by how traffic utilizes it.

Edwards told the board that putting speed tables on a road that did not meet the state standards for it could expose the town to legal liability.

Complicating matters, the city of South Burlington views Van Sicklen as an east-west collector road and “has no interest in putting traffic calming on their half of the road,” said Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire. Therefore, South Burlington would not be interested in discouraging use of the road.

Still, Fehrs said, he did not support the proposed traffic calming steps, though he agrees with Snyder’s contribution of $8,000 for the work.

“I don’t think what we suggested in this letter is enough,” Fehrs said.

Lyons said she supported the traffic calming measures because she believed it was important that some changes be made on the road. Lyons agreed with Selectboard member Andy Mikell’s assessment that the board could review the efficacy of the traffic calming tools at a later date.

“I’d rather have something than nothing,” Lyons said.

Mikell resides on Van Sicklen Road and his wife, Ashley, attended the meeting and asked questions on various aspects of the traffic-calming plan.

McGuire said Van Sicklen neighbors would have preferred the speed tables, but found the calming measures an acceptable alternative.

Lawsuit negotiations

As a possible court date approaches, town attorneys have entered negotiations with a developer suing the town.

Village Associates filed suit against the town in 2003 after it did not receive sewer allocations for its large multi-use project proposed for property on Zephyr Lane near Taft Corners. The project, which would include 110 residential units, had received phasing allocation from the Development Review Board.

The lawsuit seeks a sewer allocation for the project and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire said the two sides have held talks, but he declined to disclose further details publicly at last week’s Selectboard meeting. The Selectboard held a closed-session to discuss specifics of the negotiations.

Ambulance study

The Selectboard renewed discussions of an ambulance and staffing study that advocates hiring nine full-time fire and rescue workers and purchasing two ambulances.

The Selectboard weighed its next step in reviewing the study at last week’s meeting with Fire Chief Ken Morton and Peter Soons, the chief of St. Michael’s Fire and Rescue, which currently provides the bulk of the ambulance service in Williston.

Morton and Soons agreed to be part of a group that solicits information from various fire and rescue officials, including South Burlington Fire Chief Doug Brent. South Burlington recently added ambulance service.

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Bike jacking reported

Suspect grabbed bike, dumped rider on ground

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Police are looking for an Essex man accused of stealing a bicycle literally out from under a teenager as the youth pedaled through the parking lot at Toys ‘R’ Us in Williston.

Williston Police Officer Debbie Davis said the suspect apparently veered his vehicle toward three boys, ages 8, 13 and 16, who were riding bicycles near Toys ‘R’ Us late Saturday morning. She said the suspect nearly hit one of the youths.

Davis said the suspect got out of his vehicle and approached the boys. He then grabbed the front of the bicycle being ridden by the 13-year-old and lifted it up into the air, sending the boy sprawling off the back of the bike. The suspect then loaded the bicycle in his pickup truck and left the scene, according to the police report.

Davis said the man told the boys that the bicycle was his. However, Davis said she contacted the retailer where the bike was purchased and confirmed that the 13-year-old had bought it.

Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden said the boys apparently knew the suspect. He said the case, which would be classified as a larceny from a person if the allegation proves true, remains under investigation. Davis said the Essex Police Department is looking for the suspect.

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