June 26, 2019

Williston school enrollment falls again after years of growth

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer staff

Williston School District enrollment has fallen by more than three-dozen students this year, continuing a trend that could prompt the district to permanently shelve expansion plans.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said that enrollment totaled 1,165 students on the first day of school, down 39 students from 1,204 students on the last day of school in June.

September is a time of flux, as new students move into the district and administrators determine the status of students they thought would show up but didn’t, Nardelli said. The district may have gotten eight new students since the first day, he said.

The district will report final enrollment numbers to the state on Oct. 1. The figures will be used as part of a calculation for state aid.

This is the third year enrollment did not grow as expected. In 2004-05 enrollment dropped by six students over the course of the year. The previous year, enrollment fell by two students. For many years before that, the district grew at a brisk pace, adding an average of 37 students each year.

Williston’s declining enrollment mirrors a statewide trend, said School Board Chairwoman Marty Sundby. Sundby said she is reserving judgment on whether Williston’s situation is a long-term trend or just a brief reprieve, and wants to study it further.

“I think it supposes the possibility that we might not have to expand down the road if the numbers hold,” said board member Jeanette DiScala.

The uncertain enrollment picture has led the School Board to delay a proposed expansion of Allen Brook School and instead develop a plan for capital improvements, including a potential renovation of the aging Williston Central School.

“There are ongoing needs at both schools, more at Williston Central School, because it was built several decades ago and is old,” said Sundby. She said Williston Central School needs general repairs and energy efficiency improvements.

The School Board is also trying to renew the permit for temporary classrooms at Allen Brook School, which expires Sept. 27. Nardelli said that structures — trailers converted for classroom use, are helping the district get though a period of uncertainty.

“We have growth pressures, obviously, because we have trailers, but we need more time to see whether it’s an aberration or a trend. There is still a lot of housing to be developed in the next five years,” said DiScala. “We need a few more years of data before we can see whether or not we have to bond.”

DiScala and Sundby said the board is holding off on a final decision on expansion plans. The board was scheduled at its meeting Wednesday to discuss options. The results of that session were not available by press time.

When the board formed a Facilities Committee some years ago, enrollment projections showed that the district’s schools would soon run out of room. But when actual enrollment began declining, it gave people pause, Nardelli said.

“This may mean that Williston may not have to build another school,” he said. “If they just modify the current structures … rather than adding a whole other building or big addition, the difference to taxpayers will be tremendous.” A previous estimate pegged the proposed Allen Brook School expansion at $6 million.

The district wants to obtain new projections that account for the recent decline in enrollment and new development in town. Nardelli said the board would receive updated projections in October and hopes that the figures show a small addition to one of the schools will suffice. An addition could allow the trailers, which hold roughly 80 students, to be removed.

Nardelli said that Allen Brook School was built to accommodate an expansion, which the district has contemplated for some time. The addition would be a wing that could accommodate 12 classrooms, about 240 students, he said.

[Read more…]

Williston School Board will hold most meetings in Hinesburg

Venue more convenient for administrators

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer staff

The Williston School Board has moved most of its meetings out of town.

The board will now hold all but a few sessions at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, about 10 miles away. The board will meet in Williston only when it is discussing the budget or when there is a “hot” issue, said Chairwoman Marty Sundby.

School officials said the change was made to ease the burden on administrators from Chittenden South Supervisory Union, who must attend many area towns’ school board meetings. They say the venue allows all boards to meet in a central location at one time, facilitating cooperation among schools in the supervisory union, which includes Williston, St. George, Shelburne, Hinesburg and Charlotte.

“We’re still at a district school,” Sundby said. “It makes good use of time. It will make it more productive to get work done as a district.”

Some Williston residents, however, question the board’s choice of venue.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Jeffrey Smith, a Williston resident and parent. “I don’t think it is in the public’s or the teachers’ best interest.

“But I understand why they’re doing it. If I were the superintendent, I would want that, too. They have a lot of meetings. But it is not good for the public.”

Sundby said that the board decided at its July retreat — itself held outside of Williston, at the upscale Inn at Essex — to have its monthly meetings at CVU on the second Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m., following the Chittenden South Supervisory Union meeting at 5 p.m. The four other School Boards in the supervisory union will have meetings at the same time and location; some boards that have more than one meeting a month and may hold a second meeting in their town.

In 2003, the Williston School Board decided to alternate meeting locations between CVU and Williston Central School. The recent change means fewer meetings will occur in Williston.

Sundby said the board has 11 regular meetings per year and in the past it held six of those meetings in Williston. The board will now hold all 11 monthly meetings at CVU in Hinesburg.

The board will still hold meetings in Williston during budget season, in addition to its monthly meetings. The board would also consider holding meetings in Williston when there is widespread interest in a topic, Sundby said. The School Board last met in Williston in June.

CSSU administrators, such as Superintendent Brian O’Regan, often attend School Board meetings, which keep them out many nights per month, said Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli. With the supervisory union school boards in one location, reports can be presented to all boards at once, he said.

School officials say that few people attend board meetings when they are held in Williston.

“If we include teacher and administrators, we’re lucky to have one or two people,” Sundby said. “We didn’t make a decision because we don’t want people to come. We would love for people to come. But we generally don’t have it.”

School Board member Jeanette DiScala said the decision to hold most meetings in Hinesburg wasn’t controversial among board members.

“If the community has concerns about that, I’d like to hear that,” DiScala said.

Meg Hart-Smith, a Williston resident, member of the CVU School Board and former Williston School Board member, said that she understands the benefit of having the meetings in one place and thinks there is value in not burning out administrators. Because of those reasons Hart-Smith voted for the change as a CVU board member. But she said that if she were a Williston School Board member, she would not have voted in favor of holding meetings in Hinesburg.

“I think it’s a loss for the Williston community,” Hart-Smith said. “Even though the turnout was not good in Williston, it will be dismal in Hinesburg.”

Smith said he doesn’t think it makes sense to have to drive to Hinesburg for a Williston School Board meeting. When asked what Sundby would tell parents who were frustrated about driving to Hinesburg, she said, “I would encourage them to drive to CVU and see the other school that their children attend.”

Hart-Smith has another suggestion for parents.

“I think they should ask the board for an auxiliary meeting in Williston once an month and ask for more advance notification on agendas for the CVU meeting and the Williston meeting so if there is something important, they can plan to attend,” she said. “Other boards meet twice an month and maybe it’s time for Williston to reconsider that.”

DiScala said she would understand parents’ frustration and would be open to having meetings in Williston if that’s what people wanted.

Smith wondered how the board plans to communicate their decision to hold fewer meeting in Williston to the public.

Sundby said that all the meetings have to be legally warned in the newspaper and other places she was unable to specify. She said she was not sure if something was in the School Bell, the Williston School District newsletter.

There was no mention of the change in the Sept. 8 School Bell. Cindy Pavlik, who prepares the newsletter, said she hadn’t received anything from the Williston School Board announcing the change.

[Read more…]

Town mulls police mutual aid pact

First-ever agreement would cover county

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer staff

The town of Williston is considering whether to approve the first-ever formal mutual aid agreement governing Chittenden County law enforcement agencies.

The agreement covers 10 municipal police departments. It also includes the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department, University of Vermont police and the Vermont State Police. The agreement allows police to give and receive mutual aid with agencies outside of Chittenden County, including federal agencies.

The agreement puts in writing informal assistance arrangements that area police departments have had for years, said Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden. It also outlines officers’ responsibilities in emergency and non-emergency situations.

Lt. Alan Buck, station commander at the Vermont State Police barracks in Williston, said the agreement would have been helpful during previous large-scale crises. The idea for the pact came from a similar agreement among fire departments, Buck said.

“9/11 and things that have happened since then were part of the impetus to get it in writing,” said Lt. Alan Buck, station commander at the Vermont State Police barracks in Williston.

Voters authorized the Williston Fire Department to enter into a mutual aid agreement with other fire departments at town meeting in 2002, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. Recent changes in state law made it possible for the town to enter into mutual aid pacts by vote of the Selectboard rather than a vote by citizens at town meeting, McGuire said.

The Williston Selectboard and governing boards in other towns are mulling the proposal. At the Sept. 12 Williston Selectboard meeting, McGuire suggested amendments to the proposed agreement, including an expiration or renewal date, and a process for yearly reporting that would indicate how much the aid is being used and the distribution of aid among the towns. The town of Milton requested language addressing a way to exit the agreement. McGuire is working on communicating suggested changes with other towns.

Under the current informal arrangement, if Williston police need help a dispatcher calls other police departments to request assistance. Williston police when it has officers to spare and it won’t impact the community, Glidden said. McGuire pointed out that in a major event, police don’t want to waste time calling people to respond.

The proposed protocol dictates which police departments would respond to another department’s call for assistance. Vermont State Police and the Department of Motor Vehicles would be the first two departments to respond to a call for assistance from Williston. A more serious event would also bring Essex and South Burlington police. If more assistance is needed, officers from Richmond, Shelburne, Hinesburg, Colchester, Burlington, UVM, Winooski and Milton would also respond.

Buck said that the agreement, which the Chittenden County law enforcement officials have discussed for eight years, addresses response in emergency situations rather than the day-to-day aid police departments will continue to provide to each other. Glidden said that the agreement doesn’t include or dictate any practice that the police departments don’t already have in place. Instead, it establishes procedure so things can go more smoothly when an emergency arises.

The agreement states that the department responding to another town’s request for aid will absorb the cost associated with the response. That also continues an existing practice.

“One hand washes the other,” Glidden said.

Buck said that money becomes part of the equation when departments look at how to distribute their resources — within a town or somewhere else. McGuire said that cost is not an issue for Williston, as it would simply continue the existing agreement of each town paying for its own police force’s response to other towns’ calls.

The pact would also take the politics out of mutual aid, Buck said, since town managers can tell the police departments not to respond to calls outside of their jurisdiction. McGuire said he is not aware of this authority and hasn’t used it.

McGuire said it is beneficial for police to give and receive aid from other departments.

“I don’t think a formal written agreement is a bad thing as long as there is a time and a way to make amendments. It’s a good thing. It’s good to make things formal before something big and bad happens,” said McGuire.

[Read more…]

Town makes first police department promotions in decade

Two Williston officers make rank of sergeant

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer Staff

The Williston Police Department promoted two officers, Brian Claffy and Scott Graham, to sergeants last week.

The promotions, effective Sept. 12, are the first in the department since Detective Sgt. Bart Chamberlain was made a sergeant in 1994. Four officers applied for the promotions, said Chief Ozzie Glidden.

Funding for the positions was included in the 2005-06 municipal budget, following a study to assess the need for additional supervisory positions and discussions with Town Manager Rick Maguire and the Selectboard. The positions provide a much-requested rank structure in the department, which has only two ranked officers — Glidden and Chamberlain.

“We’ve been in need of a deeper rank structure for some time,” said Chief Glidden. “There was no way for people to move up … this should help in our retention and give our officers something to look forward to. We’ll definitely have more supervisory positions in the future.”

Claffy and Graham will have additional job responsibilities including training new officers and serving as shift supervisors. Currently there are no supervisors on the night and late nights shifts, Glidden said. The new sergeants will supervise the 3-11 p.m. shift and the 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. shift. Glidden and Chamberlain will continue to supervise the day shifts.

“This will give the guys someone to answer their questions and will decrease liability issues for the town,” Glidden said.

For years, the Williston Police Department lobbied the Selectboard to include a rank structure. The department said the lack of advancement opportunities contributed to high turnover. The Selectboard finally agreed to budget money last year for the promotions.

Claffy has been with the Williston Police Department for seven years. Prior to joining the department he was stationed with the Burlington Coast Guard for eight years. Before that he performed search and rescue operations with the Coast Guard in Long Island and in Alameda, Calif. Claffy said he looks forward to having more input into training new officers.

Graham has served as a Williston patrolman for five years. Prior to joining the Williston Police Department, he retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after 21 years. During his enlistment was stationed in Burlington for five years and before that in Sandy Hook, N.J.

[Read more…]

Town bids adieu to longtime librarian Rickie Emerson

By Ashley Matthews

Community members gathered at the Dorothy Alling Library on Sunday to say goodbye to Williston's own literary legend.

Rickie Emerson officially retired as the library's director in July, but faithful patrons are not ready to forget her 30 years of service to the community.

"She's been here 30 years, and for everyone on the board, she's the only executive director we've ever known," said Stephen Mease, chair of the library's Board of Trustees. "She's taken this library from one little room and made it one of the best libraries in Chittenden County and Vermont."

When Emerson came to the library in 1976, it was a one-room facility and she was the only librarian. In her tenure, Emerson led the library through several major building additions and constant technology updates. In its 100th year, the library boasts almost 102,000 books, 22 computers, 15 full- or part-time employees, wireless Internet access and large collections of DVDs and books on tape.

"I'm proud that people think this library is user friendly," Emerson said. "The staff is helpful, people can get the resources they need and we provide what they want — technology, children's services and a constantly growing collection."

Though the library's patrons said they appreciate its many advancements and resources, they also reminded Emerson of how much they appreciate her.

Victoria Francis has been one of Emerson's faithful patrons for as long as she can remember. Now, at the age of 40, Francis said she likes to bring her own young sons to visit the librarian who has touched her life.

"The library was always a nice, welcoming place to come. It was much smaller then, but just as welcoming," Francis said. "It's not a library where you feel hushed."

Emerson said she's always worked to make the library a comfortable gathering place that counters the stereotype of a dark, quiet institution with stern staff members.

"Libraries have changed over the years, and the stereotypes are outdated," Emerson said, "We consider ourselves the community living room, and you just don't sit in your living room shooshing each other."

Dorothy Alling Library has become a harbor for all sectors of Williston's population — adults seeking quiet escape, children looking for a fun story hour or students who gather to study with friends. With cookbooks and picture books, history and science fiction volumes, magazines and newspapers, the library's resources serve a wide variety of needs.

In a memory book left at the front of the library, patrons wrote page after page of messages expressing appreciation for Emerson's contributions.

"From beginning to end, you've been a great friend to each book and individual you have met," wrote one well-wisher. Another wrote, "Dear

Rickie, I remember your warm and gracious welcome to my family on our first excursion in Williston."

The book bore messages from friends and co-workers, patrons and children — all recognizing the lasting impact of Emerson's friendship, leadership and kindness.

Though Emerson’s retirement date was officially July 1, she worked part time in July and on an occasional basis since then to help with the transition. The town continues to seek someone to fill her position.

At the end of the party, Friends of the Library and other supporters presented Emerson with a gift certificate for a European cruise as a gesture of appreciation.

Even then, she insisted she should be the one saying thanks.

As she waved at friends with a joyful smile on her face, it was clear the library touched Emerson just as much as she touched it.

"All these people came here to say thank you to me, but I should be saying thank you to them," Emerson said. "It has been a labor of love, and I'm not really leaving. I'll still be around."

[Read more…]

Thieves feast on food, steal cash register at Lake Iroquois

By Kim Howard

Thieves made off with food and cash during a theft last week at Lake Iroquois Beach.

On Monday, Aug. 22, employees running the snack bar at the Lake Iroquois Recreation District beach reported that approximately $500 in food and supplies had been stolen. According to Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden, there are no suspects at this time.

Bridge Street Cafe and Grill in Richmond has been running the snack bar since June, according to cafe owner Marvin Carpenter. Employee Linda Sweet, who has worked at the snack bar since it opened earlier this summer, was the last one to leave on Sunday, Aug. 21, at approximately 1:30 p.m., she said. She and co-worker Janet Irish returned Monday at 10:30 a.m.

"She had a funny feeling when she came in," said Irish of her colleague Sweet. Irish was the first to notice that the cash register was missing.

The police report indicated that in addition to the cash register, which is owned by the recreation district, the thieves stole approximately $200 worth of food including corn dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, M&M candy, soft drinks and sports drinks. Approximately $10 in cash was all that was in the register, as cash is removed from the building every night, according to Sweet and Irish.

In late June or early July, said Irish, the doorknob on the backdoor was taken off by someone in an apparent break-in attempt. A new doorknob was installed and a padlock added. This time, however, the trespassers came in through the front.

"They came in the hard way," said Irish of the thieves. "It was with a lot of hard work."

Through a hole about a half-inch wide, it appeared a curved tool of some kind had been used to reach through the door and lift up a deadlock on one of the top doors, said Irish, pointing to scratches along the deadlock. An additional lock has been added since the entry.

Carpenter said that while the impact to his business as a result of the theft is "not huge," there are other impacts.

"It's such a great place over there," he said, noting he went to Lake Iroquois as a kid. "The majority of people over there are young families and the kids. I hate to see stuff like this influence that."

The Lake Iroquois Recreation District is comprised of Williston, Richmond, Hinesburg and St. George. Neil Boyden, Richmond commissioner and chair of the governing board, said that the theft could have an impact on the district.

"It's always on a shoestring," Boyden said, as the district operates on season pass sales and daily sales at the gate. "So $500, if that's the replacement cost for the cash register, is pretty significant. We try to keep our rates as low as possible."

Aside from the attempted and completed break-ins of the snack bar, two other acts of vandalism have been documented this summer at Lake Iroquois.

In May, the aluminum boat used to put out buoy markers was stolen and has not been recovered, according to Glidden. And in mid-July, seven rose bushes were stolen according to resident Dorothea Wilkinson, whose family was instrumental in planting 24 rose bushes in the area adjacent to the new playground.

Glidden does not believe vandalism in Williston is increasing. "We have just sporadic incidents here and there. We don't have a lot of vandalism."

"In the past we've had picnic tables vandalized" at Lake Iroquois, said Glidden.

From time to time police have also noted beer cans left on the beach from apparent parties, or tracks on the beach from all-terrain vehicles, he said. "Usually the incidents are pretty minor in nature."

Anyone with information about these vandalism incidents is urged to call the Williston Police Department at 878-6611.

[Read more…]

Soccer facility planned

Proposal includes indoor and outdoor fields near Taft Corners

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

A local developer has filed plans for an indoor sports facility in Williston that could supply more warm and dry space for the region’s burgeoning soccer-playing population.

Plans call for a 33,600-square-foot building housing an indoor soccer facility, with an additional outdoor field at the site. It would be located on Commerce Street, a dead-end street that runs off U.S. Route 2 just west of Taft Corners.

Al Senecal Jr. is the applicant. He is the owner of the Williston Driving Range and developer of Taft Farms Village Center, a retail and office project near the driving range.

A representative of one local soccer organization said her club would welcome more playing space.

“Any indoor or outdoor facility would benefit our children,” said Josie Bateman, a member of the Williston Soccer Club’s governing board. “We tend to run out of facilities very quickly.”

The nonprofit club, which serves 150 children ages 6-16, currently has to vie for indoor practice space at Williston Central and Allen Brook schools. Another venue, she said, might allow the club to serve more children.

Senecal said he envisions a facility that could accommodate a variety of sports, including lacrosse and basketball, but with the emphasis on soccer. He thinks there is a demand for an additional indoor athletic facility, despite the fact that the well-established Sports & Fitness Edge is located nearby and another indoor/outdoor sports facility is slated to open next month in Shelburne.

“I feel pretty confident that there’s demand for one more indoor athletic facility, especially when it’s cold and snowy outside,” Senecal said.

He plans to demolish the existing structure at the site, which is located at the end of Commerce Street farthest from Route 2. The building now holds trucks and tools used for the business he owns, Omega Electric Construction.

The 3.7-acre site would include parking for 85 vehicles, according to the application filed with the town. The project’s estimated cost is just under $1 million.

The Williston Development Review Board tabled the application during a meeting earlier this month. D.K. Johnston, the town’s zoning administrator, said the board delayed a decision until it could obtain more information about the facility’s impact on traffic and determine landscaping requirements.

Thousands of children and adults play soccer in Chittenden County. All evidence indicates that participation in soccer programs has grown substantially in recent years.

Williston Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan called interest in playing soccer “huge.” He noted that when he started his job four years ago, about 300 youth participated in the town-run soccer league. This fall, about 430 children signed up.

The town is able to accommodate most requests from outside soccer groups for field space, Finnegan said, although demand in the spring tends to outstrip supply. The town gives first priority to children participating in school activities and the Recreation Department’s own programs.

Despite the apparent demand for more space, a representative from Senecal’s would-be competitor suggested that one more facility could be overkill.

Bob Fredette, program manager for Sports & Fitness Edge, said demand for indoor playing space at his club is seasonal. In the winter, the club’s 26,000-square-foot sports field is buzzing with activity. In the summer, he said, the business struggles to find people who want to play inside.

“I have to wonder how much indoor space is really necessary,” Fredette said. Sports & Fitness Edge also includes a fitness club and other facilities.

Other indoor soccer venues in Chittenden County include a building at the Champlain Valley Exposition, home of the Nordic Soccer Club, and a soon-to-open Shelburne structure dubbed The Field House, which will host Vermont Voltage soccer games and numerous other sports leagues, according to its Web site.

Fredette expressed concern that Senecal may have struck a deal with one of the area’s soccer clubs, saying that would be the only way a new facility would be financially viable. Sports & Fitness Edge has an agreement with Far Post Soccer Club that runs through August 2006.

Senecal declined to comment on potential tenants beyond saying that no written agreement had been signed. Representatives of Far Post Soccer Club did not return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The town is awaiting updated information from Senecal regarding the project’s traffic impact. Once the information has been submitted, Johnston said the Development Review Board would reconsider the project. Johnston did not know when that would take place.

[Read more…]

Sewer, water rates rise

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer Staff

The Williston Selectboard on Sept. 19 approved an increase in the sewer and water rates for the town, including the highest increase in sewer rates in 21 years.

The water rate went up from $1.95 per 1,000 gallons of usage to $2.00, an increase of 2.56 percent. The cost of sewer services rose from $2.40 per 1,000 gallons of usage to $2.70, an increase of 12.5 percent. The increases are effective retroactively to Aug. 1, to be included in the November billing cycle.

The rise in sewer cost is the largest percentage increase the town has seen since 1984, but Public Works Director Neil Boyden said the price is still “a bargain.” Boyden said Williston’s rates are at the low end of the cost scale for water and sewer rates of similar size towns. The sewer rate in 1984 was actually higher, $3.34 per 1,000 gallons used, according to a Public Works memo.

By comparison, the sewer rate in Burlington is $3.24 per 100 cubic feet, or about $4.30 per 1,000 gallons of use, according to the Burlington City Department of Public Works Web site.

Boyden said Williston’s increase was driven by an 11 percent rise in sewer treatment costs. Wastewater is treated by the tri-town sewer district, which treats water for the Town of Essex, the Village of Essex Junction and Williston. The Champlain Water District sells water at wholesale prices to 12 municipalities including Williston. The town in turn charges a retail price for the services to residents and businesses.

The average ratepayer will see a total increase of about $20 per year for the services, Boyden said.

[Read more…]

School district fails to meet deadline

Permit for temporary classrooms expires Sept. 27

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Williston School District has missed the deadline for submitting paperwork needed to continue using temporary classrooms that house dozens of students at Allen Brook School.

D.K. Johnston, zoning administrator for the town, was informed Monday morning that a new site plan application for the structures would not be completed until Sept. 12. That is nearly two weeks later than when the information was needed to ensure the Development Review Board could consider the matter before the existing permit expires on Sept. 27. A hearing on the application is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 11.

The situation raises questions about what the town will do once the permit expires or if no new permit is approved.

Contacted on Monday afternoon, Johnston said he was checking to see if local ordinances and state statutes addressed the issue. Asked if the district will be ordered to vacate the classrooms after the permit expires, he replied, “I think that is very unlikely.”

Still, the permit issue has school officials concerned, though they are hopeful it will be resolved without disrupting classes.

“We are worried about it, about what would happen if the DRB doesn’t approve it and we had to take them down immediately,” said Williston School Board Chairwoman Marty Sundby. She said the board has not made contingency plans should the school district be ordered to move students out of the classrooms.

“If we got word that they were not going to approve the permit, we would have a hastily called meeting,” Sundby said.

Bob Mason, chief operations manager for the Chittenden South Supervisory Union, which helps administer Williston and other area school districts, said the contractor working on the new site plan had previously promised it would make the deadline. But Mason has since learned that the engineer assigned to the project was double-booked and could not finish the work until this month.

Mason also said he was hopeful the situation would not disrupt classes.

“This is an issue of paperwork and process between adults,” Mason said. “I see no reason to involve the students.”

Kevin McDermott, chairman of the Development Review Board, said the board is in charge of reviewing projects, not enforcement, so he could not say what the town would do about the expired permit.

The board had required the new plans because the three-year permit was set to expire and because there were deviations from the original plans. Johnston said the changes include the addition of storage buildings and parking, altered lighting and different traffic flow around the structures.

McDermott said the unapproved changes raise general safety issues since the board did not review them. He did not cite anything specific that would endanger students or school staff.

Johnston noted the soon-to-expire permit presents a novel situation for the town. Enforcement actions generally fall into two categories: projects that violate the zoning ordinance and those that don’t get a permit before construction begins. The temporary classrooms don’t fit either scenario.

The temporary classrooms, which are doublewide trailers adapted for school use, house between 72 and 80 students in four rooms. They were installed in 2002 to ease crowding amid rising enrollment in the district’s two schools.

At the time, the Williston School Board said they were a stopgap measure until a permanent addition to Allen Brook School was constructed and vowed to remove them after three years. The three-year expiration date on the permit was imposed at the district’s request.

The long lead time for the permit application was in part needed because of a change in state law effective Sept. 1. The law now requires all site plan hearings to be warned. That means towns must print a newspaper legal notice two weeks in advance of a hearing.

Factoring in extra time for newspaper deadlines made it impossible to legally warn the meeting unless the district’s site plan application was filed before the end of August, Johnston said.

If the board refuses to issue a new permit or the town takes issue with the expired permit, the district would have limited options. Both Allen Brook School and Williston Central School are at or near capacity.

Three years ago, the district was forced to teach students in Allen Brook’s gymnasium when the temporary classrooms were not ready by the start of the school year.

In the years leading up to the classroom’s installation, school enrollment in Williston had increased steadily, with an average annual addition of 37 students.

But since the classrooms were added in 2002, enrollment has leveled off. Enrollment has dropped by a handful of students in each of the previous two school years. And based on preliminary figures, it appears that enrollment is down again this school year.

The murky enrollment picture led the Williston School Board to delay plans to expand Allen Brook with a permanent addition and instead try to renew the temporary classrooms’ permit for another three years.

[Read more…]

Sally Bryant, newspaper co-owner, dies at age 76

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Sarah “Sally” Bryant, former co-owner of Williston’s newspaper, died Aug. 30 after a long illness. She was 76.

Bryant died at her family home with her son, Peter, at her side. He remembered her as a kindly woman who carefully nurtured her relationships with family and friends while staying true to her beliefs.

“She always did what was right, whether it was convenient or not,” he said. “But she never pushed her views on anybody. She just lived them.”

Bryant was born in Waltham, Mass. on May 18, 1929, the daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Brackett. She graduated from Walnut Hill School in Natick, Mass. in 1946, Wellesley College in 1950 and Boston University’s secretarial school in 1951. She married her husband, Roger Bryant, later that year.

The couple moved to Williston in 1965. Peter Bryant said his dad “had a dream of living on top of a hill in Williston. And he found it in a cow pasture.” The Bryant home is located on Partridge Hill, off Oak Hill Road.

The couple raised four children. Peter Bryant recalled his mother taking him and his siblings to hockey practice at 3 a.m. “She never, ever, complained about it,” he said.

Bryant later became the business manager for the town’s first newspaper, the Williston Whistle.

The paper had been founded in 1985 as a monthly publication by three residents — Ruth Painter, Elaine Park and Louise Ransom — who were dissatisfied that there was no way to get the word out about municipal matters before Town Meeting Day, according to Ransom. Bryant joined the paper the following year.

“She was good at what she did, she had financial acumen and she applied it to make us stay solvent,” said Painter. “The rest of us were all intensely involved with the news and the community. We needed her to keep us on track.”

A few years later, Bryant and Ransom bought out the paper’s other partners and added staff members.

“She and I got along very well,” said Ransom, who was the newspaper’s editor. “Things she didn’t want to do I did. Things I didn’t want to do she did.”

Bryant and Ransom sold the newspaper in 1994 to its current publishers, Paul and Marianne Apfelbaum. The paper’s name was changed to the Williston Observer in 2003.

"Sally was one of the nicest people I have ever met, said Marianne Apfelbaum. “She always had a smile and a kind word for everyone.

“She made the transition of ownership of the paper run smoothly by the very fact that she was just a sweet and caring person. Paul and I can only imagine the sorrow her family must feel at her passing, and we offer them our deepest sympathies.”

In 1979, Bryant and her husband opened a bed and breakfast called One Point of View that they operated out of the family’s home for 19 years.

Bryant was a member of Williston Federated Church and enjoyed gardening. She and her husband held many longstanding friendships with people in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, where they owned a second home. She also stayed in touch with her newspaper colleagues, who regularly gathered to share meals until shortly before Bryant’s death.

Bryant had for years suffered from a blood disease called amyloidosis. Peter Bryant said his mother had been given two years to live — six years ago. Her death came less than a month after her husband died on Aug. 1.

Though Bryant struggled with the illness in her final years, she bravely handled the situation, said Ginger Isham, a longtime friend.

“She was straightforward and accepting of her illness,” Isham said. “A lot of people didn’t even know” she was sick.

Bryant is survived by her daughter Pamela Prehmus and her husband, Warren Prehmus of Norcross, Ga.; her son Peter and his wife, Margaret Bryant of Williston; her son Daniel Bryant and his wife, Elizabeth Bryant of East Greenwich, R.I.; and her son Geoffrey Bryant and his wife Kathryn Bryant of Buford, Ga.; 11 grandchildren, seven nieces and one nephew. 

She is also survived by her brother Nathaniel Brackett and his wife, Anne Brackett of Bath, Maine; and her brother James Brackett and his wife Georgia Brackett of Hanover, N.H. 

A joint memorial service for Sarah and Roger Bryant will be held Sunday, Oct. 23 at 1:30 p.m. at Williston Federated Church. The burial service will be private. 

In lieu of flowers, donations in Sarah Bryant’s memory may be made to the Amyloid Treatment and Research Program, Boston University, 715 Albany St., Building K-5, Boston, Mass. 02118.

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