June 26, 2019

Rising gas prices defended

By Kim Howard

Williston gas station owners say they are not to blame for skyrocketing prices, though they are still hearing a lot about the high cost of refueling.

“It’s not easy,” said Joe Marriott, manager at the Short Stop Mobil at Taft Corners. “All five of my cashiers are stressed out” from dealing with customer complaints and keeping an eye out for people driving off without paying.

Mario Herceg, manager of Simon’s Plaza Store and Deli, concurred. “We hate for the gas prices (to be) this high,” he said.

“Some customers think that we are changing the prices,” Herceg said, noting that he had changed the price sign four times in the preceding week. However, “gas station owners and managers and employees have nothing to do with these gas prices,” he said.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which damaged Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines, prices spiked sharply to more than $3 a gallons last week. The jump comes after a steady rise in prices over the summer amid increases in the price of crude oil.

This week, “every single time you get a delivery, you get a new price” from the supplier, Herceg explained. Local station representatives who agreed to be interviewed indicated that deliveries range from two times a week to daily, sometimes even twice a day.

S.B. Collins of St. Albans, which supplies gas for three of the five gas stations in Williston, including Simon’s, did not immediately return a phone call for comment. A.R. Sandri of Springfield, Mass., which supplies gasoline and leases the station to Clark’s Sunoco, also did not respond.

However, Bradford Oil Company, supplier for Korner Kwik Stop in Williston Village, did comment on the role of suppliers in rising gas prices.

“The suppliers are in the same boat as the retailers,” said Richard Browne, general manager of the Bradford-based company. “The reason the retailers’ costs have gone up is because our costs have gone up. What we pay when we pick up a load of gas for a station has gone up in some cases by as much as a dollar in the last week.”

“It’s somewhere before there, that anybody’s making any money,” Browne said, referring to where they load the gasoline.

Shane Sweet agreed. “The money is being made way, way upstream,” said Sweet, the executive vice president and director of the Northfield-based Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. “I can say categorically that there’s absolutely no party for anyone in Vermont. It’s really expensive to be in the fuel business.”

Allen Lemieux, who leases and owns Clark’s Sunoco, explained how in fact he is making less money as the price of gas goes up.

“As the dollar amount gets higher, I pay higher credit card fees,” Lemieux said of purchases made at the store, which has been operated by the Clark family since 1984.

For each credit card used, Lemieux pays the credit card company a percentage of the total purchased. With last week’s gas prices, Lemieux estimated he was paying nine cents per gallon in credit card fees, but only making back “pennies a gallon.” For debit cards, Lemieux said he pays 35 cents per usage just for swiping the card.

“We’re talking $7,000 a month in fees I’m paying,” Lemieux said.

Though Lemieux acknowledges that eventually A.R. Sandri, their leaser and supplier, will adjust Lemieux’s rent so that he breaks even on gasoline, the gas price increases may still have a negative effect on his ability to turn a profit.

“We make our money in the store,” Lemieux explained, from sandwiches and other goods. “My biggest fear is that as their wallets dry up because they’re putting it in their gas tank, (people) won’t buy other things in the store,” he said.

A number of Williston residents surveyed late last week indicated their behaviors will change as a result of rising gas prices.

Heather Burnett, a University of Vermont student who also works at Circuit City in Williston, filled her suburban SUV at Clark’s last week when gas there was still only $2.99 per gallon.

With the rising gas prices, “I won’t be going anywhere,” said Burnett. “No extracurriculars. No weekend activities.”

Those in the fuel industry say that with behavior changes like Burnett’s, consumers do have some control over gas prices.

“This is entirely a supply and demand situation,” Browne said. “If demand for the product declined, prices would decline.”

Sweet said that individual consumers can make a difference in the short-term by “breaking your habit or your routine when you fill up.” If you have half of a tank of gas, that’s enough, he said. “People just shouldn’t contribute to the problem.”

Over the long term, “what the consumer can do is just to be smart,” Sweet said. For example, people need to begin looking at the type of vehicle they drive, he said, and consider alternative fuels like biodiesel.

“It’s not the be-all, end-all,” Sweet said. “It’s just another tool in the toolbox.”

[Read more…]

Residents concerned over Superfund site

Federal agency seeks input on Commerce Street Plume

By Kim Howard
Observer correspondent

Representatives of a federal agency met individually with Williston residents last week who wanted to discuss the Commerce Street Plume, which in April was added to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) national priorities list for cleanup.

State officials emphasized there is no reason for alarm over the hazardous contamination site just west of Taft Corners, but Williston residents and business owners have mixed concerns about health and property values.

Approximately 30 people attended last Wednesday’s meetings with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, according to Steve Richardson, one of the agency’s environmental health scientists.

“There weren’t widespread concerns,” Richardson said by phone two days after the meetings, which were designed to gather community health concerns. “It was more [that] people were interested in what we were doing and what was going on at the site because they hadn’t heard about it in a while,” he said.

From 1960 to 1984, liquid waste containing heavy metals and solvents was disposed of sporadically into an unlined lagoon and a leach field at 96 Commerce St., just south of U.S. 2, according to the EPA Web site.

Mitec Systems Corp. discharged hazardous waste from electronic and microwave components manufactured on the site, which they leased from 1979 to 1986. A Mitec employee expressed concern about the practice to the Vermont Agency of Environmental Conservation in 1982. Thereafter the state found the company responsible for violating hazardous waste regulations.

As recently as 2002, investigations found elevated levels of thirteen metals and eleven volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene (TCE). Elevated levels of TCE consumed in drinking water over many years can cause liver problems or increase the risk of cancer, according to the EPA.

Richardson said that although some people were “kind of alarmed by the stuff that they read in the paper,” only a few who attended last week’s meetings discussed adverse health conditions they felt could be related to the site.

The Plouffes, who have lived on South Brownell Road just west of the site since 1958, were among those who met with the agency.

Louise Plouffe said she is not sure if the breast cancer she had twenty years ago – or other instances of cancer in her neighborhood – are related to the contaminated site.

“Nobody can really know for sure,” said her husband, Marcel Plouffe. “That’s the problem with something like this.”

At least four South Brownell Road houses used water wells until state officials detected concentrations of chemicals and solvents beyond drinking water safety standards in 1984. In 1985 those residences began using the town water system.

Neysa Peterson, who moved into her home in Lamplite Acres in 1972, met with the federal agency representatives last week, as she was not sure when her property moved from well water to town water.

“Geographically we’re quite close” to the contaminated site, Peterson said. “We’re on sand and we were living here at the time so I thought it was important to get information to see if we were exposed to any risk and if it was related to my husband’s health issues,” she said. Her husband suffers from dementia.

“When he was diagnosed, they could find no familial component … and asked questions about exposure to metals, heavy metals, chemicals in his history,” she said, explaining her curiosity about the meetings.

As long as people are not drilling wells, they need not fear for their health, said Michael B. Smith, a hydrogeologist in the Waste Management Division of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We really want to stress that people are not at risk,” Smith said. “They can walk around. They can grow vegetables in their soil.” He indicated the contamination starts twenty or more feet underground, and that at this time it appears unlikely it will migrate. It would be difficult for someone to be exposed to the chemicals unless they put in a well, he said.

Still, the contaminated area needs to be cleaned.

“Ground water – by state law– is defined as suitable for water supply,” Smith said. “We’re mandated by statute to keep it clean.”

Though Mitec conducted extensive testing of the site in 1999, the State of Vermont and Mitec could not come to an agreement about the company’s role in cleaning up the contamination. The state brought it to the attention of the federal Environmental Protection Agency for further action.

After its own studies, the EPA concluded the Commerce Street Plume should be designated a “Superfund” site, which enables public funds to be used for toxic waste site cleanup when private monies are not available. The federal government then seeks reimbursement from the parties they find responsible for the contamination.

“Superfund is all about managing exposure to risk,” said Karen Lumino, a geologist and remedial project manager with the EPA.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry “will help us evaluate what the risks at the site are,” Lumino explained, referring to both human health and ecological risks. “If there is risk that is outside an acceptable risk range, we take action. If there isn’t, we don’t,” she said.

Environmental health specialist Steve Richardson anticipates that a document outlining his agency’s recommendations will be available for public comment in the spring. The agency will provide copies to the public, at locations yet to be determined.

Richardson said they may send out notices to residents when the report is available for feedback. He apologized that many people – including all eight residents interviewed for this article – appeared to not have received one of the 900 notices Richardson said the agency sent to announce last week’s meetings.

“Normally everyone knows well in advance of the meetings,” Richardson said. “We felt bad that people either didn’t receive the flyer or [felt] that we weren’t trying to reach them, and that was not our intention at all.” Richardson acknowledged that many staff members have been deployed to assist in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, leaving the agency understaffed.

Kirby Lane resident Monica Dattilio attended last week’s meetings, but has no health concerns in spite of the fact that her house is on the residential street closest to the site.

“Who knows how long it’s going to take them to get the clean up accomplished?” said Dattilio, who knew about the contamination prior to purchasing her house a little over two years ago. “We do have concerns about property value. It’s not a great concern, but it is there.”

Rick Harrison, commercial real estate broker with J.L. Davis Realty, said they have had no trouble selling or leasing industrial and commercial property on Commerce Street. In the last two years they have sold two industrial buildings, one directly across the street from the former Mitec property.

“Because those properties are all on municipal water and sewer, the buyer had no problem getting financing to purchase the site,” Harrison said.

Several Kirby Lane residents said that occasional media attention is the only potential detriment to property value, otherwise it isn’t a concern.

“We have all kinds of wild animals; we have all kinds of gorgeous trees; we’re not glowing,” said Michele Commo, who has lived on Kirby Lane for twenty years.

“If anybody questions it, we have air quality reports from the state,” Commo continued. “None of my friends have air quality reports on their houses.”

“The planes bother me much more than the water issue,” Commo said, referring to airplane flight paths. “That’s an issue I want to talk about.”

To Share Concerns

Residents with concerns about possible exposure to contamination at the Commerce Street Plume site – just west of Taft Corners and south of U.S. 2 – are encouraged to contact the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to share their concerns.

Phone: (888) 422-8737 (toll free) – Steve Richardson or Debra Joseph

Web: www.atsdr.cdc.gov/contacts

Mail: ATSDR/HPCIP, Debra Joseph

1600 Clifton Road Mailstop E-32

Atlanta, GA 30333

[Read more…]


By Jen Butson
Observer correspondent

For 4-year-old Sydney Gickman, giving up the money saved for a class pet in order to help people who lost their home was just the right thing to do.

Across Williston, children of all ages are finding numerous ways to earn money for families and animals affected by Hurricane Katrina.

At the daycare center of American International Distribution Corp. (AIDC), a classroom of 4-year-olds held a bake sale, built bird boxes and forewent the purchase of a turtle in efforts to raise $147 to donate to the American Red Cross.

Becky Blais, director of AIDC daycare, said the class started making bird boxes and having a bake sale to raise money for a pet turtle, but when the children were told of the tragedy, they wanted to help.

“Their teacher Judy Smith was trying to educate the students about how if you want something, work for it,” she said. “They selflessly gave money they worked hard to earn to people who needed it more than they did.”

David Gickman, Sydney’s father, said that what was really special about the classroom effort was that it was a decision made by a few children who worked with their teachers to act on an idea they had. “Their teacher Judy Smith made one comment to the children about how Hurricane Katrina left people’s homes underwater and the children decided to help on their own,” he said.

The children at AIDC experienced both sides of the giving spirit – in the end they received their classroom turtle. Local radio show hosts Lana Wilder and John Nolan of WEZF-FM heard about the children’s efforts and presented the daycare class with a turtle.

Sydney Gickman remembered the lesson she learned about working for others and teamwork. “All of my friends at my daycare built bird boxes for people,” she said. Happy to have a new class pet, she also made a point to talk about where he lives. “His name is Bubbles and his home is in the water,” she said.

Duncan Yandell, a freshman at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School, travels to Church Street in Burlington with his mother, Lauren Yandell, to utilize his talent as a musician in an effort to earn money for Katrina victims.

“I just go down and play for 45 minutes to an hour on the weekends," Duncan said. "I put up a sign that lets people know I am playing for Katrina victims and sometimes I'll get a $10 donation."

Lauren Yandell explained that her son performs because he loves to play and being in a family with three dogs, he wants to help animal relief efforts.

“As a kid raising money, what Duncan earns in just an hour amounts to a lot,” she said.

He plans to play for at least two more weekends and then make a donation to the Humane Society.

A member of CVU’s music program and the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association, Duncan plays the violin and fiddle and knew that he could put his skills to use.

"I have been playing the fiddle for around six years," he said. "I haven't been to New Orleans and I don't know much about it, but I know it's just important to help."

Duncan estimated that he has raised almost $200 performing jigs and reels, different Celtic types of songs.

Cassie Green, 10, put on her walking shoes and embarked on a door-to-door campaign with her mother, Susie Green.

The two have covered the Highland Drive and Oak Hill Road areas of Williston and earned $300, of which $200, Susie Green donated straight to the Humane Society at its Web site: www.hsus.org.

The Greens decided to bring the other $100 to Guy’s Farm and Yard, a registered Blue Seal feed dealer For one week, the store matched donations received with supplies.

“Everyone has been wonderful and almost everyone we approached donated,” Susie Green said. “We will keep it up now that it has hit parts of Texas, too.”

Cassie said that she saw what happened on the news and knew that she needed to help the animals. “I have two dogs and two cats,” she said. “I love animals and there’s a lot of people donating to the Red Cross for humans, so we wanted to help the animals.”

A Student Council member at the Williston Central School, Cassie intends to approach the Council with a plan to send a portion of the money that the school’s coin collection campaign has earned to the Humane Society.

Enrichment teacher for the Williston School District and Student Council advisor Richard Allen said that the coin collection has proven to be effective and also an easy way for the schools and students to get involved.

With jugs placed around the school in classrooms and the main office, students, staff and teachers can donate through the end of October.

“We did a similar drive last year for victims of the tsunami and earned $1,700,” Allen said. “It’s a simple thing to do; the work just comes in getting it counted.”

Allen said the Student Council researches where the money should go, on a basis of how much goes to direct aid versus administration costs and then they take a vote. Last year, the money was divided between three nonprofits.

[Read more…]

Rain garden flows out of effort to reduce stormwater runoff

By Kim Howard

A new rain garden behind Dorothy Alling Library in Williston will serve as a community model for reducing pollution.

The garden is a “demonstration of what individual homeowners can do to reduce the volume of stormwater runoff into their local streams,” said Carrie Deegan, coordinator of the project through the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the leading causes of water quality impairment in the United States is stormwater runoff — water that flows from roofs, streets, parking lots and other surfaces into storm drains, carrying with it pollution from those areas into lakes, streams, rivers and oceans.

Rain gardens, planted with native perennial plants, are bowl-shaped. They catch and absorb rainwater that either falls onto it or is directed there through a roof gutter downspout extension. This reduces the amount of runoff into storm drains, which in turn diminishes pollution carried into local waterways.

In Williston, that local waterway is Allen Brook, which begins in town and 10 miles later feeds into the Winooski River. The state considers the Allen Brook watershed — an area comprising 6,900 acres — stormwater impaired. So it is considered a priority to reduce the runoff in the area.

Williston’s library was chosen because it is “a good educational demonstration site,” said Abbey Willard, Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District manager. School groups and families tend to frequent the library more than Town Hall, another site that had been under consideration, Deegan indicated.

“We plan to include the rain garden into some of our youth programming,” said Debbie Roderer, the library’s assistant director. Education will come in “showing it to the kids, explaining how it will benefit the watershed.”

The project was funded through an Environmental Protection Agency grant earmarked through Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office, according to Willard. Willard and Deegan’s district created four rain gardens in South Burlington earlier this summer. Next spring, rain gardens are planned for Butler Farms and Oak Creek developments in South Burlington.

Native perennials are the plant of choice for rain gardens because they do not need to be treated with fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in order to thrive. In the library’s new garden, those perennials include bee balm, cinnamon ferns, lady ferns, blue cardinal lobelia and black-eyed Susans. Hostas also were planted, though they are not native, because a smaller selection of plants was available late season, Deegan said.

The 200-square-foot garden required the labor of seven people to level the soil, add compost, plant about 50 plants and attach a pipe to the end of the rain gutter that goes to the garden.

For homeowners who either do not have that kind of space in their yards, or who do not have that many willing volunteers, “you make a smaller one and put it in with your family over the weekend,” Deegan said.

For more details on building rain gardens, call Carrie Deegan at 865-7895, ext. 14.

[Read more…]

Police officers plan pickets to publicize contract dispute

Negotiations with town move into fact-finding phase

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer staff

After mediated talks between town officials and police union representatives fell apart, the two sides agreed to move on to the next stage of negotiations, fact-finding. Meanwhile, officers plan informational pickets to make their case with the public.

Up until Aug. 31, the two sides met at least three times with a federal mediator in an effort to reach an agreement on the contract. Now that negations have moved on to the next phase, Detective Sgt. Bart Chamberlain, a member of the police union bargaining committee, said that the union plans to distribute information to the public within the next two weeks.

“For us it’s going to be giving more information to the public, which will include informational picketing. We’ll get to show more detailed information on salaries,” Chamberlain said.

The two sides must now agree on a fact finder, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. The union and the town will have the opportunity to share information supporting their arguments with the fact finder, who would be charged with studying the information and suggesting a settlement between the two sides. Fact-finding is not a binding process, McGuire said, and the two groups do not have to agree to the fact finder’s recommendations.

Chamberlain said Williston police are the lowest-paid in Chittenden County. McGuire said the town’s analysis show that is not true. After weeks of presenting their information to one another and attempting to negotiate salaries and benefits, among other things, the two sides will give their information to the fact finder to analyze.

“We’re confident that the fact finder will at least decide, ‘Yes, you’re living and working in this county and not making a comparable salary to other towns,’” Chamberlain said. “Hopefully, the town will at least agree to make an average of the towns.”

“The problem is, whose average?” McGuire said. “You have to make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges. They can take numbers and make them look any way they want.”

Chamberlain said the union is asking for an additional $20,000 to $30,000 per year to be budgeted for police pay, which would translate into roughly a $1 per hour raise for each of the department’s 11 employees. He said that the town balked at what would amount to an 18 percent raise for some officers.

Chamberlain said that the pay increase was based on some officers being 18 percent underpaid. He prefers to characterize the difference as a wage adjustment. McGuire would not comment on the details of the negotiations.

“The town has and will continue to strive to pay a competitive wage,” McGuire said. Based on an annual survey he conducts and periodic surveys done by consultants, McGuire said that town employees’ wages overall are comparable to pay in neighboring towns.

Pay and health care benefits are the two big issues the union is focusing on in the contract talks, according to Chamberlain. The town wants officers to pay a portion of their health insurance, which is now entirely paid by the town.

Chamberlain said that since the department pays officers less than other Chittenden County towns, it loses officers and wastes money it invests in training.

McGuire insists that pay is not the only issue affecting the department’s retention rate. He notes that police officers cite a variety of factors when leaving the department.

[Read more…]

Officials striving to keep public safety project within budget

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer staff

Town officials and contractors are working hard to keep the cost of the new police and fire stations within budget.

It’s a difficult time for the project because those involved are scrutinizing everything in the plans to make sure that the buildings come in on budget, said Alan Brown, a project manager/architect at Dore and Whittier.

“The project is over budget and we’re working to bring it back under budget,” Brown said.

“It’s always going to be a struggle; on every project it’s a struggle to stay within the budget,” said Town Manager Rick McGuire. “This project will come in on budget, but the budget is tight.”

McGuire and Brown said that it’s normal to wrestle with unexpected costs during a project’s preliminary stages. The budget for the public safety project is $6.8 million; voters approved $6.3 million in bond funding last year. The remaining $500,000 will come from the municipal budget reserves.

Complicating the effort to keep costs down are projected price increases for building materials because of Hurricane Katrina and changes in state building codes.

“It is better to be doing this now than later,” Brown said. “Otherwise you would go out to bid and find out that you’re over budget. Now we’re doing it before we finish design. We don’t have to spend a lot of time designing something that we can’t afford.”

Everything would be considered when figuring out how to stay within budget, including structural materials, exterior and interior design and mechanical systems, said project manager Tom Barden of Barden Consulting and Design Services.

“There are probably thousands of things that will get cut out in this process,” McGuire said. “Our goal is to maintain the facilities that serve the program goals of each department and end up with quality construction so that you’re not sacrificing quality.”

For example, choices will include whether the structure of the building should be steel, wood, concrete or a combination of materials, Barden said. Also under consideration are using slate or shingles on the roof and using masonry or concrete clapboard siding on the exterior.

The new fire station will be built on the former Mahan property on U.S. Route 2, land now owned by the town. Demolition of farm buildings on the site could occur as early as Sept. 29, said Public Works Director Neil Boyden. The Williston Fire Department is doing chainsaw training on the site and may do fire training in October.

The new police station will be built at the current fire station location next to Town Hall in Williston Village. The town had originally planned to convert the fire station into a police facility.

But it has since been decided to instead demolish the existing fire station and build a police station from the ground up. The change is expected to save $224,000.

Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden said other changes to the police station plans include moving a bathroom to reduce plumbing and using painted concrete floors instead of carpet in some areas. A carport was scrapped because it would be too expensive.

Nothing that addresses a functional need has been cut, McGuire said. Some areas had to be scaled back, but were not eliminated, said Fire Chief Ken Morton. For example, the area where the fire trucks are parked was moved to save space.

Morton is hoping that the overall design of the building will not be compromised.

“We designed a building that meets our needs and we don’t want to give up any of it,” said Morton. “We designed a functional building, not a frivolous building. We need to and expect that we will be able to keep it within the budget.”

McGuire said the project would stay on budget, even if it meant scaling back plans.

Lucas Jenson, chairman of the Public Safety Building Committee, said that the planned multiple uses in the fire station, such as the training and community meeting spaces, are appealing. “I would hate to see something like that disappear,” Jenson said.

The project needs approvals from the town’s Historic Preservation Committee, the Design Advisory committee, and the Development Review Board. The project also needs to win approval under the state’s Act 250 land-use law.

Brown said the design team would make decisions within the next several weeks and arrive at a final plan. Barden said that the project is still on schedule.

The design phase will end this month and construction design will begin in October, he said. The project is slated to go to bid in January, subcontractors will be selected in February and construction will begin in May.

[Read more…]

Local kids pitch in with disaster relief effort

By Marianne Apfelbaum
Observer staff

Just as adults have been horrified and saddened by news of the conditions facing victims of Hurricane Katrina, so too have children, who may also feel frightened and confused after viewing scenes of death and destruction they do not fully understand.

“I watched the news and it made me upset,” said Kelcey Lamphere, 13, of Williston. “It looked hectic and there was lots of confusion about getting help to people.”

Kelcey and her friend Sarah Thompson, 12, decided to funnel their fears and frustrations into positive action. They established Katrina Relief of Williston to empower other children, and adults, to help as well.

The Wildflower Circle residents began last week by spending three hours baking batches of brownies, which they offered for sale around their neighborhood. They’ve already raised $62 and are taking their efforts a step further this week by coordinating a bake sale in Williston Central School’s Voyager House.

“We’ll have the bake sale Friday, and also be putting out boxes for donations of water, clothes, nonperishable food and daily essentials like toothpaste and toothbrushes,” said Kelcey.

The duo are also hoping to put donation boxes at various other locations, including the Williston Central and Allen Brook school offices and the town library, “so people all over town can donate,” explained Kelcey. Their goal, said Thompson, is to raise at least $150 and bring the money and other donations to the Red Cross for distribution to the hurricane-affected areas.

For Kelcey, the disaster has become even more personal. Her father, Bryan, is a technical sergeant with the Vermont Air National Guard, and is now on standby for possible deployment to the hurricane-stricken area to assist with relief efforts.

Local animal lovers have also assisted with the relief effort, including Cassie Green, 10, of Williston. With the help of her mother, Susie, she has been going door-to-door collecting donations for the Humane Society to help animal victims of the hurricane.

“There are lots of people donating for humans, so I thought it was a good idea to help animals, too,” said Cassie. She has collected more than $100 so far, and hopes to set up donation boxes at Williston schools this week.

Both groups have set a limit of two weeks to collect donations.

Those who want more information on helping animal victims can call Susie Green at 878-4511. For more information on Katrina Relief of Williston, contact Kelcey Lamphere at 872-8875.

Those who wish to donate can also do so directly through the American Red Cross or the Humane Society of Greater Burlington.

The Selectboard, at its Aug. 22 meeting, agreed that the zoning ordinances should be amended to allow for an electronic scoreboard, but did not agree on whether advertising should be permitted on the scoreboard and on fences surrounding the field.

“The good thing is we’re going to have a scoreboard,” Healy said. “Whether there will be good news down the road as far as whether or not the Little League can be self-sufficient, we’ll have to see.”

The estimated cost of the scoreboard is $5,000. Coca-Cola has offered to pay for the scoreboard if a portion of it is devoted to advertising one of its products.

A Williston health club, Sports & Fitness Edge, has also offered to buy a scoreboard, but the business said it would not require its logo or advertisement to be placed on it. The town also considered paying for the scoreboard, a motion that is currently tabled.

The Little League wants to sell banners with sponsor advertising, which would hang on outfield fences, to generate revenue. Healey said the revenue would offset expenses, which include uniforms, field maintenance and equipment. The Little League would split the revenue from the sales of the advertisements with the town. Healey said the town’s portion of the revenue could be used for field maintenance.

[Read more…]

Little League scoreboard debate goes into extra innings

Selectboard not scheduled to make decision until 2006

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer Staff

The Williston Little League will probably have to wait until next year before learning if it can use an electronic scoreboard and place advertising on outfield fences.

The Planning Commission, which is required to hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance that would allow the scoreboard, won’t likely discuss the issue until November, Town Manager Rick McGuire said. The Planning Commission is busy with updating the town’s comprehensive plan through the end of October, said Chairwoman Judy Sassorossi. That means that the public hearing on the zoning changes cannot be held until December. The commission would then make a recommendation to the Selectboard in January, McGuire said.

The field where the Little League plays is located in the town’s historic district. Current zoning does not allow an electronic scoreboard or advertising on signs, so the rules would have to be amended to accommodate the Little League’s proposal.

Little League board member Mike Healey said waiting until January or February will make it tough for the league to plan for the next season. The league would like to have a scoreboard ready at the beginning of April. He said it takes 10–12 weeks to order and install a scoreboard.

But Healy said he understands that the months-long timeline is unavoidable.

“I think that it’s part of the process we have to go through. I’m just going to go to the public hearing, whenever it is, and plead our case,” Healey said.

As part of its review, the Planning Commission will look at other communities’ sign ordinances and it will consider alternatives to advertising in order to recognize sponsors. Sassorossi said any changes to the zoning ordinance would apply to the entire town, including public fields at Brennan Woods and Rossignol Park.

“What gets lost is that we can’t make a rule that just applies to this Little League field,” Sassorossi said. “We can’t make rules for one entity. The rules have to apply evenly to all.”

When the Planning Commission takes up the issue, it will discuss how to word a public hearing notice and what public comment to consider, Sassorossi said. After holding the hearing, the commission will draft revisions to the ordinance based on the information gathered from the public and other towns, then report back to the Selectboard.

“Nobody wants the kids to suffer,” Sassorossi said. “We want the kids to be proud of their field, but we want to be proud of our community, too, and that’s an important life lesson for our kids.”

The Selectboard, at its Aug. 22 meeting, agreed that the zoning ordinances should be amended to allow for an electronic scoreboard, but did not agree on whether advertising should be permitted on the scoreboard and on fences surrounding the field.

“The good thing is we’re going to have a scoreboard,” Healy said. “Whether there will be good news down the road as far as whether or not the Little League can be self-sufficient, we’ll have to see.”

The estimated cost of the scoreboard is $5,000. Coca-Cola has offered to pay for the scoreboard if a portion of it is devoted to advertising one of its products.

A Williston health club, Sports & Fitness Edge, has also offered to buy a scoreboard, but the business said it would not require its logo or advertisement to be placed on it. The town also considered paying for the scoreboard, a motion that is currently tabled.

The Little League wants to sell banners with sponsor advertising, which would hang on outfield fences, to generate revenue. Healey said the revenue would offset expenses, which include uniforms, field maintenance and equipment. The Little League would split the revenue from the sales of the advertisements with the town. Healey said the town’s portion of the revenue could be used for field maintenance.

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Katrina victims find new home in Williston

12 family members and friends move to town

By Marianne Apfelbaum
Observer staff

Audrey and Irving Trevigne lived only a block away from each other growing up in New Orleans. They met, fell in love, got married and raised three children in the city they have always called home.

But like thousands of others, their home and everything they owned was washed away on Aug. 28 when Hurricane Katrina barreled into the Gulf Coast, leaving only memories of their former life in its wake.

Sitting in their daughter Ava’s apartment in Maple Tree Place two weeks later, the couple, both 79, are still stunned that “the big one” finally hit.

“All our lives we’ve been through hurricanes, and they always said one day we’re gonna get the big one,” said Irving Trevigne.

“We thought it would be like (Hurricane) Ivan — a big threat — and it wouldn’t come to us,” said Audrey Trevigne.

With nothing more than the clothes on their backs, they got in their car and left with their daughter Cheryl just 18 hours before Katrina hit.

“I said, ‘Let’s go take a ride to Houston,’” said Irving Trevigne. “It was like a little vacation.”

They reached Houston and soon realized this storm was unlike any other they had lived through growing up in the South. They later took a bus to Roanoke, Va. By that time their home, car and everything they owned were destroyed.

They think they will eventually collect insurance money, but that will likely take months. In the meantime, they are relying on the help of family and friends and the kindness of strangers.

“The Red Cross helped us. We got $130 vouchers for clothes and $75 for gas and money for food for the trip,” said Irving Trevigne. “I have no complaints except we lost everything we owned.”

The Trevignes are just two of 12 hurricane victims — members of an extended family and their friends — who relocated to Williston in the days and weeks following the hurricane. Some are staying at a local motel; others are with family members and friends. All are seeking permanent housing.

For now, the Trevignes are staying with their daughter, Ava Andrews, who moved to Williston four years ago. Ava’s daughter, Gina DuVernay, also lives here with her husband and two children on O’Brien Court.

It was Gina DuVernay, in fact, who encouraged the entire family to evacuate while she was in New Orleans for her annual summer visit. She has welcomed family and friends from the city into her home, and is trying to help them find places to live and get back on their feet.

“I moved here five years ago because of the school system, and I’ve been trying to import the family. So (Katrina) was not all bad …my family’s coming up!” she said.

Her husband’s cousin, Edwinn Bernard, arrived last week with his daughter, Amber, who started sixth grade at Williston Central School on Tuesday. Entering the classroom for the first time, all eyes were on her.

“I’m nervous,” she confided. “I feel kinda weird ‘cause I don’t know anybody here.”

The school is trying to accommodate the needs of Amber and other new students. “We’ll be starting new student groups tomorrow to get them acclimated,” said school counselor Carol Bick, who escorted Amber to her new classroom.

Some will have an easier time than others. Kolby Bloom, 6, entered his new classroom early Tuesday morning with his visibly nervous mother, Danielle, by his side. After being introduced to his new teacher, he announced, “I think I like this classroom!”

The Blooms, friends of the DuVernays, evacuated first to Texas. “Our house was right in front of one of the levees in the Gentilly section,” said Danielle Bloom. “Our house was under water. Kolby cried when he found out his school was gone.”

Gina DuVernay told her to come to Vermont to start over. In fact, many families have begun to settle here, according to Rob Levine, executive director of the Northern Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Twenty-five self-evacuating cases have been processed through the Northern Vermont Chapter in Burlington,” he said. “I expect some of those folks to settle in Williston.”

Danielle Bloom and her husband are hoping to find work in their respective fields, she in marketing and he in the restaurant business.

Edwinn Bernard, who was a chef at a New Orleans steakhouse for 14 years, hopes to find work as well, and may even start his own restaurant.

“I’m having culture shock,” he said. “I had everything, now we have nothing. That’s what I had to get used to. I just want to get back on my feet. Then I’ll be happy.”

Bernard is among the many victims who are unhappy with President Bush’s response to the disaster. “He moved a little slow,” Bernard said, trying to be diplomatic.

His cousin, Gina DuVernay, was more pointed in her criticism.

“Bush does not care about Louisiana black people,” she said. “You don’t know poverty ‘til you’ve seen Southern poverty.

“It’s because of the crooked politicians. They’re not just crooked, they’re bent,” she said with a laugh, bending sideways to demonstrate the point.

But all the evacuees have nothing but praise for the reception they’ve received in Williston. “People here have been so nice, offering places to stay,” said DuVernay.

Her grandmother agrees. “People are so nice here it’s unbelievable,” said Audrey Trevigne. “ New Orleans was getting violent, even in the nice neighborhoods. This is a calm, peaceful place.”

Like the others, the Trevignes are trying to look toward the future optimistically.
“New Orleans used to be a beautiful place to live,” said Irving Trevigne. “The emphasis now is on bringing tourists to town. In the rest of the city, the administration doesn’t care one way or another. I’m glad we’re up here myself. I just hope we can make it here.”

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Gasoline station owners cope with customers who don

Increasing ‘drive-offs’ parallel steep price hikes

By Michelle Edelbaum
Observer Staff

An increasing number of gasoline thefts in Williston and across the state may translate into higher prices for consumers.

With the price topping $3 per gallon, gasoline thefts, often referred to as “drive-offs,” squeeze profit margins and force station owners to carefully monitor pumps.

“I’m sure the price of gas tends to turn honest people the other way,” said Joe Marriott, manager of the Short Stop Mobil at Taft Corners.

Marriott said that five customers in the past week filled their tanks and did not pay before fleeing the station. Three of the thefts happened on the same day.

That’s more than usual for the station, which usually has one or two incidents per week, Marriott said. The value of gasoline thefts ranged from $7 to more than $50.

Officer Jason Brownfield responded to many of the recent reports of drive-offs. “I can’t really say why they’re doing it,” he said. “Could I guess it’s because gas prices are so high? Yeah.”

“I think that people do it as a matter of economics,” said Shane Sweet, executive vice president and director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

Sweet said he heard from Vermont gas station owners that drive-offs are up and fuel volume is down. With profit margins for station owners at less than 10 percent and credit card companies receiving a 2-3 percent service fee on each transaction, Sweet said station owners have to sell a lot of gas and convenience store items to make up for the profits they lose in drive-offs. Many stations are also being allocated less fuel than they previously received, complicating the situation, Sweet said.

“This is a cents per gallon over cost business,” he said. “In a drive-off market, retailers get squeezed just like consumers do. If you’re going to survive, you can’t sustain taking drive-offs and not pass that on to customers at some point.”

In response to the increased number of thefts, Marriott has added staffing and advised employees to be more alert.

“We have to be more vigilant and have two people on at all times,” Marriott said. “We’re watching the pumps really closely.”

Other gas stations are responding similarly, said Marriott, pointing to a Colchester station that has one employee whose sole task is to monitors the pumps.

Allen Lemieux of Clark’s Sunoco in Williston, said when prices rose at the end of August he had several drive-offs, but since requiring prepayment on several pumps there haven’t been any more thefts.

Sweet said he approached the Vermont Attorney General’s Office about having all stations require prepayment after hearing from a colleague that all gasoline customers in Illinois must pay before pumping.

“There’s no theft, period, if you prepay and then pump, versus pump and hopefully get paid,” Sweet said.

He acknowledged that requiring prepayment could pose a problem for gas station owners who have older pumps without credit card readers. It is also inconvenient for customers who want transactions to be as quick as possible.

In addition to insisting on prepayment, Sweet said that some stations have installed video surveillance equipment.

Marriott said employees at his station are trying to ensure thieves are apprehended, providing a description of the vehicle and driver and a license plate number to police. Unfortunately, he said, the plates don’t always match the vehicle, making it difficult for police to apprehend suspects, said Marriott.

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