April 25, 2019

The Williston Whistler

Local man played for Apollo astronauts

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The pace is quick. Bows fly furiously across fiddle strings. Fingers pluck and strum a banjo and a guitar. A wooden tipper strikes an Irish frame drum, a bodhran, to mark the beats.

Just outside the bar area of The Lincoln Inn in Essex Junction, Bill Chambers, 70, is marking the beats, too, as he does every other Wednesday night with the rest of the group that performs weekly for Celtic Party Night. As Chambers fingers the six holes along his tin whistle, both of his white sneakers tap simultaneously to the beat, tapping faster as the pace picks up.

A nearly full pint of Guinness sits on the floor behind his chair. Behind the lenses of Chambers’ glasses, his eyes focus intently on the sheet music in front of him. As the group hits the end of the song, Chambers raises his whistle up in his left hand, exhales audibly, and breaks into a wide smile.

“He practices a lot; you can tell,” said John Dodson, 24, a member of the Celtic music group who has been playing with Chambers for about three years. “He will come to a session with six new tunes … he’s always learning.”

On the Wednesday nights he’s not at The Lincoln Inn, he plays his tin whistle with the band Circadia at Ri Ra The Irish Pub in downtown Burlington. Chambers has taught himself to play over the last 39 months, after having played with musicians who did a lot of Celtic music, he said. Due to mouth surgeries earlier in his life, having an instrument to play with no embouchure – or a mouthpiece that requires a lot of adjustment of the player’s mouth to play – is key for comfort at this point, he explained. Before the pennywhistle, he played the recorder.

For Chambers, who grew up in St. Albans, music has been a lifelong passion.

“I always wanted to be a musician I guess from the time I was five,” Chambers said recently. “Every time I’d hear a band play, it’d be uptown, and I’d be way down on South Main Street – I don’t know, a half, three-quarters of a mile away I’d hear the band. I had to go.”

Chambers said he had to wait until he was 15, when he was in high school, to start playing. His first instrumental music teacher, Sterling D. Weed, who passed away last fall at the age of 104, was well known in the Vermont music world. Chambers’ first instrument resembled a trumpet: the cornet.

“Serial number 11213,” he said, laughing at himself. “Why I remember that one I don’t know.”

When Chambers got a rag caught once in his cornet while cleaning it, Weed told him he needed a horn player so Chambers ended up playing a mellophone or alto horn (which looks like a small tuba) the rest of the year. He went to the state competition playing the new instrument.

After school got out, “the cornet magically appeared again without the rag in it,” Chambers said.

In time, Chambers picked up the tuba, the baritone horn, and the trombone. In 1955 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

“It was the only place I could make a living” playing the instruments he played, Chambers said. There was little need in symphonic orchestras for the euphonium or baritone horn, he said.

Except for some time away to get married and get a college music degree, Chambers played in military bands until his retirement in 1984.

He started off at Parris Island, near Beaufort, S.C. Then he spent a year in Okinawa. He played in the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. For seven years he was based in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Army Band. He played at the White House about 75 times, and at Arlington National Cemetery at least 1,200 times, he said, for funerals of fallen Vietnam War soldiers.

An old tan briefcase carries remnants of his nearly 30 years in military bands. He pulls out a plaque signed by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin; Chambers was among the band members who played for them in August 1969, upon their return from humans’ first walk on the moon. At that time Chambers was playing in the herald trumpet section.

“That section laid the people’s hair back for about the first ten rows,” Chambers said.

Chambers played at the grand opening of Disney World in 1971, and at President Nixon’s last coronation parade.

The “fun band,” though, Chambers said, was the 33rd Army Band based in Heidelberg, Germany, in which he got to play all over Europe.

“It wasn’t just military music. We could play rock or swing or whatever.”

After his retirement, Chambers tried not playing music for a while, but he couldn’t. He practices virtually every day he’s not performing, his wife Patricia Chambers said.

“He forgets to eat,” Patricia said. “He’ll be out there for hours.”

In the senior living building in which they live, in the winter her husband plays in the corner of a stairwell so as not to bother anyone, she said.

“How many people shut themselves up in a basement corner so they can play?” Patricia said. “It’s like (how) I love my grandchildren, (is how) he loves his music.”

[Read more…]

Study predicts near-gridlock by 2018

Taft Corners improvements recommended

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Motorists face increasingly clogged traffic around Taft Corners unless millions of dollars are spent building new streets and widening the Interstate 89 overpass, a new study concludes.

The study evaluates a proposal to construct grid streets around Taft Corners in order to relieve congestion on U.S. 2, Vermont 2A and Marshall Avenue, the town’s busiest thoroughfares. Traffic snarls are already commonplace on those roads, but the study predicts they will get much worse over the next 10 years.

“What it shows is that we can in fact improve traffic congestion at all the intersections if we are willing to invest in the improvements,” said Town Planner Lee Nellis. If the new streets are not built, he added, “gridlock might be too strong a word, but there will be lots of problems.”

An estimated 10,000 cars roll through the Taft Corners area during morning and afternoon commutes. More vehicles are expected as a handful of proposed subdivisions are built out over the next decade.

The town commissioned the $50,000 study done by South Burlington-based Resource Systems Group. It analyzes the impact of four road-improvement alternatives:

Build a road called Depot Street that runs east to west from Harvest Lane near Home Depot to Vermont 2A near the Vermont State Police barracks.

Extend Helena Drive in Blair Park southward to Trader Way near the Hannaford grocery store. Build a street connecting Vermont 2A at Wright Avenue to Harvest Lane.

Complete both of the above projects.

Build no new roads, but widen existing streets and improve intersections.

Widening the Interstate 89 overpass at Vermont 2A, however, is the key to making vehicles move smoothly, said Mark Smith, senior consultant with Research Systems Group.

“The whole thing unravels” unless the I-89 underpass is widened to include additional lanes, Smith said.

Southbound traffic approaching the I-89 interchange on Vermont 2A already backs up during the evening rush hour. Smith said the study does not even address what happens in 10 years without the interchange widening because the computer model showed such “tremendous delays” if it is not fixed.

It remains to be seen how – and if – the road improvements will be funded. The study estimates that it will cost about $4.1 million to build all the grid streets. Smith estimated the interchange widening will cost $10-$15 million.

The town has about $750,000 saved in transportation impact fees developers have paid over the years. That is enough money to fund smaller improvements such as new traffic signals, but nowhere near enough to pay for the grid streets.

An early draft of the new Williston Comprehensive Plan suggested the town allow increased density in commercial areas if it encouraged developers to build some of the grid streets.

That provision was altered after Selectboard members bridled at the idea of doing anything that might permit more big-box stores. The plan approved by the board leaves open the possibility of increasing density while maintaining previous agreements with Maple Tree Place and Taft Corners Park that limit the number of box stores.

Funding for the I-89 interchange project is an even bigger question. The state has a long backlog of road construction projects and not enough money to pay for them all, transportation officials say.

There are currently no plans to improve the Williston interstate interchange, said Christine Forde, senior transportation planner with the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The study rates traffic congestion at intersections around Taft Corners by looking at the current level of service and how each will function in 2018, both with and without the various road improvement alternatives.

Each intersection is given a grade from A to F, a standard measure of traffic congestion. For example, signalized intersections rated an “A” have delays of less than 10 seconds; those given an “F’ have more than an 80-second delay.

Currently, all but one of the intersections near Taft Corners are graded “C” or better during weekday rush hours, according to the study. The Marshall Avenue intersection rates just under a “D.”

If no improvements are made, the computer model used by the study shows some of the intersections will get a failing grade by 2018. Smith said the study assumes additional development will occur in the next decade around Taft Corners, particularly the giant Finney Crossing project, which, if approved, will include more than 350 housing units.

“If you don’t do any of the alternatives, traffic will become unbearable,” Smith said.

If no new roads are built but improvements are made at I-89 and other intersections, congestion remains roughly at its current level, the study shows. Building all the grid streets “would relieve the current congestion as well as expected future congestion,” according to the study.

The Selectboard is scheduled to hear a presentation on the grid street study at its Sept. 18 meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

[Read more…]

Senior housing project clears legal hurdle

Appeal of town permit settled out of court

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Two Williston neighborhoods – one long-established, the other not yet built – have settled their legal dispute through mediation, clearing the way for a new senior housing subdivision.

Pinecrest Village and the developer of Balsam Circle reached an out-of-court settlement, according to papers filed Aug. 28 in Vermont Environmental Court. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The court requires parties to an appeal to attempt mediation before a trial is held.

In May, the homeowners association for Pinecrest Village appealed a decision by the Williston Development Review Board giving preliminary approval for Balsam Circle. The board has since granted final approval.

No details about the settlement were available. Balsam Circle developer Russell Barone said a nondisclosure agreement was part of the settlement. “It’s settled, resolved, and now the parties can move forward,” he said.

The project still needs an Act 250 state land-use permit before construction can begin. Barone said he hopes to obtain that permit in time to break ground before winter.

The dispute concerned access to the new subdivision. Pinecrest Village representatives complained during the approval process that plans for Balsam Circle called for an access road that crossed their common land.

After the appeal was filed, Pinecrest Village lawyer Vincent Paradis told the Observer that the neighborhood association appealed the DRB’s preliminary approval because the town improperly allowed Balsam Circle to use Pinecrest Village’s private road and set a speed limit of 25 mph on it. The board’s final approval omitted the speed limit requirement.

The settlement brings to a close a rancorous town review of Balsam Circle, which will have 14 units. The dwellings will be age restricted to those 55 and older.

Former Williston Selectboard member Herb Goodrich, who owns the land between Taft Corners and Williston Village where the subdivision will be located, filed a permit application in October 2004.

During the review process, Pinecrest Village expressed concerns about the development’s impact on their neighborhood. They said Balsam Circle’s access road crossed their property and complained the new subdivision would create traffic problems on Timothy Way, the road that connects Pinecrest Village to U.S. 2.

The Development Review Board initially rejected a permit for Balsam Circle, reasoning that it needed an emergency road and that such a road was not included in plans. The board later determined that Pinecrest Village had an emergency road that Balsam Circle could share and approved the project.

But then a town inspection of the road revealed it was not passable for emergency vehicles. D.K. Johnston, Williston’s zoning administrator, issued a notice of violation that alleged the road did not comply with conditions in Pinecrest Village’s original subdivision permit.

Pinecrest Village appealed. Lawyers for the town and Pinecrest Village continue to negotiate, said Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire.

[Read more…]

School enrollment steady

Housing developments raise concerns

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

As the Sept. 26 public hearing for Finney Crossing approaches, some Williston taxpayers question if the large development – and others like it – will increase school enrollment, forcing construction of new school buildings.

For the moment, however, preliminary data suggest the number of students in Williston schools is leveling off after a sizeable drop last fall.

As of Aug. 31, Williston Central and Allen Brook schools together had 1,180 students enrolled. When the district reported enrollment numbers to the Vermont Department of Education on Oct. 1 last year, enrollment also stood at 1,180.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said enrollment fluctuates over the course of the year – even between now and Oct. 1. Last year during the first month of school, the district enrolled an additional 15 students. When school closed in June, the district had another nine students enrolled, or a total of 1,189, Nardelli said.

For the last five years, some Williston taxpayers have monitored enrollment numbers because they can drive classroom needs. In 2001, enrollment jumped 7 percent in one year, forcing the School Board to consider a multi-million dollar expansion project for Allen Brook School. Enrollment peaked the following year at 1,218 students and leveled off until last year when it dropped nearly 3 percent.

Though enrollment appears to be steady for now, both schools are feeling pinched for space due to increasing numbers of students requiring one-on-one services.

“We’re squeezed about as tightly as we can be right now,” Nardelli said.

There are other space considerations. Full-day kindergarten, which national data say puts students ahead of those who attend half-day, would be viable only with additional classrooms. Temporary classrooms at Allen Brook School, in the form of trailers, are permitted only through February 2010; the Development Review Board is requiring the school district to provide a long-term facility plan by 2008.

Effects of new housing

Town planning limits new housing units to about 80 a year for the next 10 years, so residents can expect to see about 800 new units over the next decade, according to the most recent town growth report.

The largest development seeking approval is Finney Crossing, a mixed residential and commercial development proposing 356 housing units. Bob Snyder, the developer of the residential portion of Finney Crossing, said the development would add only about 67 students to the schools over the 10-year building period.

Town Planner Lee Nellis said Snyder’s estimate could be high. On average, two-bedroom units – which comprise the majority of new units at Finney Crossing – have generated an average of 0.16 school-age children per unit in Williston.

“Given that the school population is falling and they projected it to rise using those numbers, I would say (0.16) is high,” Nellis said.

Single-family homes are estimated to generate on average 0.25 students each.

Volunteer school demographer Bill Smith, a retired engineer from IBM Corp., who now works for the State of Vermont Department of Taxes, said new housing is only a small piece of the total enrollment picture. When housing changes enrollment from one year to the next, he said, it is more likely to be sales of existing houses than new construction.

Still, any enrollment increases as a result of new construction may, over ten years, be offset by a declining birth rate, Smith said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002 saw the lowest U.S. birth rate since national data has been available.

“The biggest single factor involved in change in enrollment in schools is the fact that there are fewer kindergarten students coming in than there are eighth graders leaving,” Smith said.

[Read more…]

Meeting will detail Internet options

A high-speed Internet connection has become nearly a necessity. Yet access to a fast connection is hardly universal in Williston and elsewhere.

This Monday, telecommunication companies will give an overview of Internet options and issues during a meeting at Williston Town Hall. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

Representatives from Adelphia, Soundtivity and Verizon will attend the session. An official from the Vermont Department of Information and Innovation will talk about other vendors and technologies, as well as state initiatives.

Rep. Mary Peterson, D-Williston, said Internet access remains an issue for many residents.

“High-speed Internet access in the home is becoming critical, as any number of stories on the ‘digital divide’ will tell,” she wrote in a media release. “Although clearly there is more high-speed coverage in Williston than more rural towns, we face challenges with existing services, and particularly on our longer country roads and south of the interstate, dial-up is still a reality.”

Monday’s meeting will provide information on Internet technology, but Peterson said the session will be geared to those who have little or no technical knowledge.

High-speed access is available in Williston through Verizon and cable television provider Adelphia, which was recently sold to Time Warner and Comcast. Under the sales agreement, Comcast will provide service to all of Adelphia’s Vermont customers.

Neither Verizon nor Adelphia provides service to all of Williston. To use cable Internet, customers must be in Adelphia’s service area. For DSL access through Verizon, customers must be within a certain distance from a central switching office.

Adelphia and Verizon representatives who attend next week’s meeting will provide details on their service areas and explain plans for future expansions.

Other Internet options will also be discussed. A representative from Colchester-based Soundtivity will explain the wireless service it provides, which “broadcasts” Internet access to multi-unit dwellings and in rural areas. The company will explain how a group of homeowners may make their service feasible in Williston.

For an overview of home broadband services, visit www.vtruralbroadband.org. For more information about Monday’s meeting, call Peterson at 878-8241 or send an e-mail to marypeterson@adelphia.net

[Read more…]

State, feds appeal Circ Highway ruling

Officials say environmental study will continue

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

State and federal officials plan to appeal a court ruling that required a costly environmental study and halted construction of the Circumferential Highway in Williston.

The officials announced last week that they had filed a notice of appeal. The notice is a precursor to the appeal. The U.S. Solicitor General must first determine if the appeal can proceed before a court considers the matter.

The filing comes more than two years after U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions ruled that the 18-year-old environmental impact statement for the project was outdated. A coalition of environmental groups argued that a new study was needed because the existing document failed to account for changes in the area since the 1980s.

The updated study was originally scheduled to be completed this fall. The completion date has since been moved back to spring 2007, a delay that will add $1 million to the study’s original $6.3 million budget.

With the study nearing the finish line, the appeal seems oddly timed. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City is expected to take more than a year to rule on the appeal, well after the study is completed.

The appeal is not intended to stop the environmental study, said state Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville. Instead, he said, it is aimed at settling precedents that could affect future highway projects.

“The state wants to clarify parts of Judge Sessions’ ruling, especially as it pertains to other projects around the state,” Lunderville said.

Specifically, Lunderville said, the legal action could affect how the state looks at cumulative and indirect impacts of proposed highways. But he acknowledged the ruling would probably not alter any current or planned project.

The appeal and the study are “really on parallel tracks,” Lunderville said. The study will continue while the state awaits a decision on the appeal.

The notice of appeal was filed now in order to preserve the right to further litigate the matter. Sessions’ originally ruled on the case in May 2004. Vermont transportation and Federal Highway Administration officials asked him to reconsider the decision, but Sessions did not affirm his ruling until July of this year. The state and federal governments then had 60 days to file notice of appeal.

Brian Dunkiel, a lawyer representing Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative, a coalition of groups opposed to the Circ, said he was confounded by the appeal.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “All it’s going to do is waste taxpayers’ money with continued expensive litigation. Transportation dollars are in high demand and short supply right now.”

The Circumferential Highway was first proposed more than 20 years ago as a 16-mile divided highway running from Williston to Colchester. At issue in the legal battle is the segment that would start at Interstate 89 in Williston and connect to the existing stretch of Circ at Vermont 117 in Essex.

That environmental study now underway, however, has cleared the way for alternatives in Williston. The dozens of options considered at the study’s outset have been narrowed to eight alternatives that fall into four broad categories: build the Circ Highway as originally designed; construct a boulevard-style road along the Circ route; widen Vermont 2A and/or replace traffic lights with roundabouts; or combine elements of both plans. A no-build option also remains a possibility.

The boulevard and roundabout options were proposed by the Smart Growth Collaborative.

The environmental study will culminate with one of the options being picked as the so-called “preferred alternative.”

Though he vowed the study would continue despite legal uncertainties, Lunderville left open the possibility that the appeal could affect what is actually built. But he denied the appeal is a strategy to avoid constructing anything but the Circ if the study concludes one of the alternatives makes more sense.

Dunkiel suggested that politics may have prompted the appeal, noting Gov. Jim Douglas has long supported building the Circ as originally planned. The Douglas administration has repeatedly clashed with groups in the Smart Growth Collaborative.

Lunderville said the appeal will be worth the expense if it helps the state avoid future court battles.

“It makes sense from a financial perspective to hear from the court so we don’t make the same mistake again,” Lunderville said.

[Read more…]

Williston crime 5 percent of Chittenden County

Property crimes dominate

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Williston had 5 percent of total crimes reported to law enforcement in Chittenden County in 2005, according to a report released last week.

The 474 reported crimes tallied in Williston for the 2005 Vermont Crime Report were largely property crimes including shoplifting, vandalism, larceny, burglary, and drugs/narcotics. Forty-five, or 10 percent, of the reports were crimes against people: simple assault led that list, followed by aggravated assault and intimidation. There was one report each of kidnapping, robbery, forcible rape and forcible fondling.

“Overall I think the violent crime in Williston is fairly level and at a fairly low rate,” Williston Police Chief Jim Dimmick said. “I think with our population that rises during the day, we have a lot of smaller property crimes.”

Williston came in seventh of 18 Chittenden County towns for crimes reported per 1,000 residents. Williston saw 57.64 crimes per 1,000 residents. Burlington was close to twice that rate. Underhill had the lowest crime rate of towns reporting crime (Buel’s Gore had zero reports). Overall, 9,960 crimes were logged for Chittenden County last year.

Dimmick said Williston records show reported crimes between 2004 and 2005 as static, though there appears to be a slight up tick in 2006 to date.

“We’re part of an emerging group of communities,” Dimmick said, giving as examples Williston, Colchester and Essex. These towns, he said, are getting more complicated with population and business growth.

Statewide, overall crime dropped between 1 and 3 percent last year, according to the report summary written by Vermont Criminal Information Center Director Max Schlueter. Homicides dropped from 11 reported victims in 2004 to eight victims in 2005, but the overall violent crime index – which includes homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery – increased by about 2.5 percent. The property crime index – composed of burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson – declined by 3 percent.

The report says Vermont’s figures are consistent with national data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that measured violent crimes up 2.5 percent and property crimes down 1.6 percent.

The report emphasizes that even in the new system, statistics compiled do not represent all crime that occurred in a given year, only crime that was reported to police or other enforcement officers. Some victims may not report crimes committed against them.

Still, the new Vermont Crime Online system can provide detailed data to towns, agencies and the general public who want to understand what’s going on in their areas, Vermont Criminal Information Center Deputy Director Bruce Parizo said.

“We hope it’s going to provide a service to other people to help them in governing their towns or communities,” Parizo said.

Dimmick advises residents and workers to take precautions like not walking alone at night. Just because Williston’s violent crime numbers are comparatively low should not lull people into believing this is an “all safe” community, he said.

“There are not walls around each town,” Dimmick said. “The crimes that occur in Burlington could just as easily have happened here.”

“Although we have a lot to be proud of as far as being a safe community,” Dimmick continued, “overall when you look at the county globally, we should take precautions and continue to be vigilant.”

[Read more…]

Louisiana schools thankful for Williston gifts

A year later, Hurricane Rita still felt

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The Gulf Coast was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina when Rita, the most intense hurricane on record for the Gulf of Mexico, hit last year on Sept. 24. Less than two months later, 2,900 pounds of supplies from Williston residents were headed to Abbeville, La., as the culmination of the Vermont to Louisiana School-to-School Helping project.

“Everything was used,” Jennifer McRee, a fourth grade teacher in Abbeville, said. “What we didn’t hand out at schools to families or teachers, we gave to a service center.”

McRee, a friend of Williston resident Nancy Kahn, had told Kahn last fall that her school and others nearby could use assistance when she learned that Alison Kahn, then 10, was looking for a way to help people affected by the hurricanes. McRee’s school, James A. Herrod Elementary in Abbeville, had taken in between 250 and 300 students from nearby Henry Elementary School due to extensive damage there.

“Almost everybody had a family member or a friend who had lost a house,” McRee said. “At one time in my household, I had three families, from September until January. We were like 10 people in a house. And that’s how the majority of the houses were all around here.”

Alison and her mother organized the supplies project with teachers in Allen Brook Elementary School’s Vista classroom team. Students were encouraged to bring in games, toys, clothes and school supplies from the greater Williston community to send to Louisiana. Land Air Express of New England donated a driver and freight truck to take the goods free of charge.

“The kids unloaded the boxes,” McRee said of the elementary school students sharing a school. “They were just very touched by how much people were willing to help others. … It really helped with spirit, you know. At one point people were really down; just knowing that people were out there supporting them helped them push through it.”

McRee said the games and the books were the fastest to be picked up by teachers who had lost most or all of their teaching materials; though federal funding existed to re-order school supplies, it was not made available until the end of the school year. McRee said also it was a relief when teachers could hand out coats to kids who no longer had one.

Each item meant a lot to the recipient, McRee said.

“Those kids who got those games lost everything – their bed, their pillow, their toy – everything,” McRee said. “So to be able to get one toy that they could play with was like Christmas to them. They were so excited for that one little thing.”

McRee said even now many people still are living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or in extended stay hotels, while trying to rebuild their houses. Builders and those with carpenter skills, however, are in short supply. Henry Elementary School never re-opened; those area schools that did could not re-open until March of this year.

The outpouring of community support from such faraway places as Williston touched McRee, too, she said.

“Knowing what people did for us made me and others around here want to help others more,” she said. “When people call and ask for donations, I’m ready to give now, because I know how much we needed it at that time.

[Read more…]

Williston Justice of Peace candidates named

Observer staff report

Twenty-nine candidates will vie for 15 slots to be Williston’s next Justices of the Peace.

As of last Friday’s filing deadline, 15 Democratic and 14 Republican names had been submitted for inclusion on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election. No Independent candidates or candidates from other parties filed.

“It used to be that each party nominates half the number (of slots),” Town Clerk Deb Beckett said, referring to the Democratic and Republican parties. “But what happens now is both parties nominate all 15.”

Justices of the Peace are commonly believed to be the people who perform civil unions and weddings, but in fact few in Williston do. Currently, only three of 15 Justices – Jim McCullough, Tony Lamb and Bill Skiff – conduct ceremonies.

Justices have two significant responsibilities to the towns in which they serve. Along with Selectboard members, they serve as the Board of Civil Authority, or the officials responsible for overseeing elections. Voters most commonly see Justices of the Peace when they check in to vote or when they submit their ballot in the ballot box.

Justices of the Peace also serve as a quasi-judicial board, hearing property tax appeals when a reappraisal is conducted, and hearing requests from residents who cannot afford to pay their property taxes by the stated deadline.

The two-year term begins in February after a candidate has been elected.

Democratic candidates for Williston Justices of the Peace are as follows: Steve Bradish*, Meg Hart-Smith, Jeanne Jenson, Ted Kenney, Tony Lamb*, Ginny Lyons*, Terry Macaig*, Jim McCullough*, Andy Mikell*, Ruth Painter, Mary Peterson*, Ben Rose*, Carter Smith*, Gordon St. Hilaire, and Tom Vieth. Republican candidates are as follows: Patrice Clark, Marion Cushner, Brennan Duffy, George Gerecke*, Herb Goodrich*, Andrew Guernsey, James Haug, Virginia Morton, Shelley Palmer, Michael Quaid*, Christopher Roy, William Skiff*, Ruth Stokes* and Karol Tymecki.

* Denotes incumbent

[Read more…]

Palmer requests primary recount

Williston resident 25 votes behind in state Senate race

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Williston resident Tim Palmer on Monday filed a petition requesting a Chittenden County vote recount for last week’s Democratic primary election for state Senate.

“The margin of less than one vote per polling place is so small that the slightest mechanical or tabulation error could have resulted in an inaccurate outcome,” Palmer, 56, wrote in a statement explaining his recount request. Though there are only 18 cities and towns in Chittenden County, several municipalities have multiple polling places.

Palmer ended the primary election 25 votes behind Dennis McMahon of Burlington, according to Chittenden County Superior Court Clerk Diane Lavallee. According to the vote tally, Palmer earned 3,471 votes compared with McMahon’s 3,496, giving McMahon the last spot on the Democratic slate for Chittenden County representation in the Senate. Each major party is allowed six candidates on the ballot for November’s general election; eight Democrats ran for that office in the primary.

According to Vermont election law, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is less than 5 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for the office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, the losing candidate has the right to have the votes for that office recounted. More than 43,000 votes were cast in Chittenden County’s Democratic Party primary for state Senate. Recounts must be requested within 10 days of the election.

“Having had my faith in the electoral process shaken by the handling of votes in the last two presidential elections, I have a responsibility to those who voted for me, and to all voters, to make certain that their votes are accurately counted,” Palmer said in the statement.

McMahon said he thinks a recount will not change the outcome and that a recount is not “good for business.”

“I would rather it not happen, but that certainly is his right,” McMahon said. “I think it does set me back a little in terms of fundraising and other things.”

“I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing myself,” he added.

Palmer said he hopes the recount moves forward expeditiously so that time may be spent on the issues significant to Vermonters. Lavallee said the recount is set for Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The five Democratic candidates whose slots on November’s ballot for senators representing Chittenden County are, in order of most votes received, Doug Racine, Ed Flanagan, Ginny Lyons, Jim Condos and Hinda Miller. The Republican slate will include J. Dennis Delaney, Diane Snelling, John Stewart and Agnes Clift. Darren Adams, the Republican with the sixth highest vote total, has said he will not be running as he has enlisted with the Marines; the Republican Party caucus must nominate a replacement.

Lavallee said there were 109 different write-ins for the position to represent the Progressive Party, and 12 different write-ins for the Liberty Union Party so it is likely there will be no one on the ballot for each of those parties. Independents interested in the position must file with the Secretary of State’s office; that information was not available prior to press time.

[Read more…]