June 18, 2019

Landfill conflict persists

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Frustration and anger. Disbelief and distrust.

Residents expressed these emotions and more Tuesday night at a 3.5-hour meeting about a proposed regional landfill in Williston. The landfill, approved by voters in 1992, is planned for the site of the current trash transfer station on Redmond Road. Engineers are expected to complete a conceptual design of the facility around February 2007. The earliest officials expect the landfill would open is 2011.

Tuesday night’s meeting was likely the first in a series hosted by the Chittenden Solid Waste District to inform the community and solicit feedback on the project.

And feedback they got.

After a one-hour presentation by District General Manager Tom Moreau that included 95 PowerPoint slides, more than a dozen people in the audience of 130 hammered Moreau with questions. Property values, health risks, capacity and management were among the concerns raised.

Property values

“Why didn’t you take responsibility and go to the realtors in the greater Burlington area and say ‘you need to inform these people (about the landfill)’?” Gwen Blankenheim asked District representatives.

Moreau responded that the District did think it was important to notify people moving into new developments about the landfill.

“So we wrote (the Town of) Williston, and were frankly discouraged that they chose not to do anything with that,” Moreau said. The District sent a letter dated Nov. 30, 1995 to the Williston Planning Commission asking them to require XYZ Real Estate, the developers of the Ledgewood subdivision, to notify potential buyers of the project.

Bob Blankenheim said he stood to lose up to $600,000 on a house on Ledgewood Drive that should be valued at $800,000.

“A simple phone call, an ethical behavior on your part, would have directed me to buy in another part of this community,” he said.

Moreau said Tuesday night he heard the concerns about property values “loud and clear.” The District has spoken with waste management facilities in other parts of the country, he said, to determine how they’ve handled property value issues. After the meeting, he told a reporter there “appears to be a rule of thumb” that within a quarter of a mile from a landfill, there could – and he emphasized the word “could” – be an impact on property value; beyond that, he said, it’s speculative.

One way other waste districts have addressed property values, Moreau told the audience, is by increasing dumping fees. That additional money was then used to compensate abutting landowners for any loss in property value.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do that,” Moreau emphasized; he said it’s something they will study.

Health risks

District officials declined to comment on health studies cited by several members of the audience. The studies, residents said, indicate increased risk of disease for those living near landfills.

Without knowing the credibility or specifics of the studies cited, Moreau said it was difficult to respond.

Even if the studies are accurate and there are health concerns, Moreau said, continuing to send trash to Coventry and Moretown – where other people live – should be a concern for Williston residents. The landfills there are less technologically sophisticated than the one proposed for Williston, Moreau said.

“If our trash is causing (health issues) … we’re exporting our problem to someone else,” Moreau said.

Moya Muller asked Moreau if he lived next to a landfill; Moreau said he used to live near one in Burlington and felt it was safe. Muller said that sounded like the tobacco industry justifying to others decades ago that it was safe to smoke.

Moreau said he did not like being equated with the tobacco industry.

“It’s my trash, ma’am, it’s your trash,” he responded. “We’re trying to do the very best we can with that trash.”

“If you believe it’s so safe, if you believe it’s fine, why don’t you buy these people’s homes?” Muller asked, adding she did not live near the site.

“Frankly, I don’t think I could afford $800,000,” Moreau said. “If I could afford it, I would have no problem raising my family 1,400 feet from a landfill.”

Capacity and management

Steve Casale asked Moreau to give a one-word answer whether the Chittenden County landfill capacity was needed in the state.

“No,” Moreau said. “But I don’t believe in just capacity alone.”

Casale tried to interrupt, but Moreau continued.

“I share the concerns of other people,” Moreau said. He started to speak to environmental issues and was interrupted again by another member of the audience.

Casale, who is president of the Williston Neighborhood Coalition, a landfill opposition group, then turned to another topic.

“Can you go on record saying you’re not going to bring in trash from out of district?” he asked.

“If we get the trash from inside the district, we’re all set. If not, then no,” Moreau said.

Later the conversation swung back to this issue. Moreau emphasized the economic model behind the proposed landfill is based on receiving just 80 percent of the trash currently collected locally. Also, Moreau said he believes technology will be even better 15 years from now, requiring less to be put in landfills.

Moreau said he would “go on record” as willing to amend the host town agreement with Williston to limit the tons of waste accepted. Williston signed the host town agreement – which says the town will support the landfill proposal – with the District in 1992.

Casale had one more question about management.

“Will you go on record as saying you will never off-lease this landfill or sell this landfill to manage, to operate, or own for any reason?” he asked.

Bill Leach, the solid waste district board chairman, was among the responders.

“It would be my intention to have somebody operate it, but under our scrutiny and under our controls so they do it the way we want them to,” Leach said.

Zero waste

Gwen Blankenheim asked Moreau why the District doesn’t supplant the landfill efforts and money with education programs to move toward zero waste, which would not require landfills.

“I’m more willing to compromise and do what needs to be done,” Blankenheim said. “Why not start in Williston? … We can be a model to the whole state.”

Moreau said his heart tells him zero waste is the right direction, but he doesn’t believe it’s practical.

He likened issues of recycling and trash management to global warming. Even with all of the warnings about global warming, Moreau said, in 2005 the U.S. had the lowest mile-per-gallon average for vehicles in the last 25 years.

“We don’t get it,” Moreau said. “As a society, we do not get it.

[Read more…]

Kids not active enough, parents say

More P.E. classes wanted

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Childhood obesity will only worsen if schools do not do more to intervene, some parents say.

Parents last week expressed frustration at a Williston School District Board meeting that children are not active enough in school.

During a report to the board on wellness and physical activity issues, board member Holly Rouelle said her problem is with the physical education program for fifth through eighth graders.

Currently students in first through fourth grades have P.E. twice a week for 40 minutes. Kindergarteners meet twice weekly for 30 minutes.

Fifth through eighth graders, however, take P.E. a total of 12 weeks a year, in two six-week sessions. Students meet daily during the rotation. The other weeks of the year they have no P.E. classes. Instead, they rotate through subjects the school calls “related arts:” music, art, family and consumer science, and technology education.

“As a physical therapist, I see a freight train coming down the track,” Andy Patterson told the board. Patterson has two kids at Williston Central School. The doubling of childhood obesity rates since 1980 and increases in diabetes are among his concerns, Patterson said.

“I know this is a shared responsibility, but I don’t think the school is doing its part.”

Patterson said his kids have told him they are active less than half the time they’re in P.E. class. Too much time is spent in the locker room, learning rules, or standing in line for fitness testing, he said.

School administrators say there are a number of barriers to offering P.E. more often, including the block schedule; limited gym facilities; the length of the school day; and the number of P.E. teachers.

Williston Central School P.E. teacher Dick Farrell said there are benefits to the six-week rotations. Teachers get to build student excitement for daily activity, he said, which teachers hope continues after the rotation ends.

Farrell said the current structure, which he estimates has been in place about 15 years, also helps build kids’ “muscle memory.” They learn the skills, safety techniques and rules that will allow them to continue sports on their own, he said.

Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli said in an interview this week that some people are blending two topics into one conversation.

“If you’re saying you want the students to be active every single day, that’s a little different than saying we’re going to put them into a physical education class every day,” Nardelli said.

By definition, P.E. classes are a lot about instruction. Vermont’s state standards require P.E. teachers to ensure students demonstrate competency according to grade level in the areas of knowledge and motor skills and social interaction in addition to physical fitness.

Adding more time to P.E. classes, Nardelli said, may not be the whole answer.

“They’ll get more instruction and they’ll get more exercise, but it’s not pure exercise, it’s a combination of both,” he said.

Nardelli said in addition to looking at P.E. class scheduling, the school will look at the possibility of adding more breaks dedicated to student activity.

He emphasized, however, that kids are in school only about 6.5 hours a day.

“What about all of the other hours in the day? What are they doing?” Nardelli asked.

Out-of-school eating and activity habits – and role models – are key, he added.

“It’s going to take everybody to solve this problem,” Nardelli said. “Children are not going to be healthy adults if their models are not healthy adults.”

School Board Chairwoman Marty Sundby said at last week’s meeting this is an issue the board will look at this year. A wellness committee for the Chittenden South Supervisory Union is charged with six priorities, one of which is to ensure all students have 35 minutes of structured physical activity daily exclusive of recess.

[Read more…]

Center for learning disabilities seeks permit

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

An organization that operates educational centers for children with learning disabilities is seeking to open a Williston facility.

The Augmentative Learning and Movement Center recently filed an application with the town for a conditional-use permit. The facility would open in an existing office building on Wentworth Drive, which is off James Brown Drive and Vermont 2A.

Margaret Novotny, ALMC’s executive director, was traveling outside the country and was unavailable for comment. Other employees referred questions to Novotny.

But the application indicates that the facility, ALMC’s third in Vermont, would provide “therapeutic and education services as well as behavioral medicine for individuals with learning disabilities with a special focus on autism.”

The center will accommodate a maximum of eight children at any given time, according to the application, and employ between six and 10 staff members. Hours of operation will roughly parallel those of public schools, between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The Augmentative Learning and Movement Center works with students with developmental delays and learning disabilities, according to its Web site. It currently operates facilities in Morrisville and Enosburg.

ALMC works with local school districts to provide the wide-ranging services often required by students with learning problems.

The center’s Web site notes that it can help public schools with such students by “integrating educational, therapeutic and medical programs in the school setting and in the community.” The center also offers evaluations, training and workshops for school districts.

Staff members at ALMC facilities include a special educator, a clinical behaviorist, a speech and language pathologist, and an occupational therapist.

ALMC also operates independent schools at its Morrisville and Enosburg locations. The Williston facility, however, will not include an independent school.

The Development Review Board is scheduled to consider the permit application at its Nov. 28 session. ALMC’s Web site indicates it plans to open the Williston facility in January.

[Read more…]

Town settles over icy roads

$450,000 awarded to crash victim

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The Town of Williston has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a claim from a car accident involving icy roads last December.

Kaitlyn George, age 51 at the time of the accident, suffered what Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire called “life-altering injuries” on Dec. 4, 2005.

George lost control of her car as she was driving north on Oak Hill Road on what police later said were icy and snowy roads that afternoon. George was pinned beneath her car, police said, and rescued by passersby.

George could not be reached for comment this week to outline the extent of her injuries. George’s attorney, Robert Luce of the firm Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, said George’s current health is a matter of privacy and something he is not at liberty to discuss.

In her claim, George alleged that Williston’s road crew “was slow to respond to the hazardous road conditions that were caused by the snowstorm,” McGuire said. “The town’s response that day was slow,” he acknowledged.

The settlement agreement was reached in an Oct. 9 mediation process, McGuire said, and ratified by the Williston Selectboard on Nov. 6. The town’s liability insurance, offered through the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, will cover all but the $500 deductible of the town’s policy. McGuire said without the settlement, there would have been a lawsuit.

This is the first time the town has paid such a settlement in McGuire’s time as town manager, he said. McGuire has been town manager since February 1998.

A breakdown in the communication system is believed to be what delayed the roads being cleared earlier on the day of the accident, McGuire said. On Sundays, the State Police is responsible for dispatching calls. According to McGuire, the road foreman was paged to respond to the road conditions after a localized snowstorm. However, McGuire said the foreman did not have his pager on because he was home. Though state police paged the road foreman repeatedly without a response, McGuire said they did not contact the next person on the list, as the protocol requires.

“We’ve worked with both the Essex and state police to clarify the proper procedures for when we have emergency calls like that, so we don’t have an incident like that happen again,” McGuire said.

Essex police also may dispatch the Williston Public Works crew.

McGuire indicated that allegations last fall that the town failed to clear another road in an emergency were false. On Nov. 22, a two-engine airplane crashed near Partridge Hill Road, a dirt road off Oak Hill Road, during a snowstorm. The road was unable to be immediately accessed by responding fire personnel, according to police.

“The town does not have responsibility for maintaining private roads,” McGuire said, noting that Partridge Hill Road is private. “We did end up getting our crew there to clean it up because of the emergency situation. Some people … thought that road should have been cleaned before the accident. Maybe, but it wasn’t the town’s responsibility.”

[Read more…]

Companies collected too much trash, state says

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Two Williston trash consolidators violated their permits by exceeding annual limits on how much refuse they collect, state regulators allege.

Transfer stations operated by All Cycle Waste Inc. and North East Waste Services Inc. each accepted more than the permitted tonnage of trash for periods beginning in 2005 and extending into this year, according to the Waste Management Division of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The excess in each case amounted to thousands of tons.

All Cycle, which operates a facility on Avenue B, was permitted to accept 65,100 tons for the year ending Sept. 30. The state said the company actually collected 73,878 tons as of June 30.

North East Waste Services, which operates a facility on Redmond Road, was permitted to accept 40,000 tons of waste for the year ending March 31. It actually collected 49,104 tons of trash for the period, according to the state.

Transfer stations serve as consolidation points for area trash haulers. Refuse collected from area homes and businesses is dropped off at the facilities, then loaded on larger trucks and brought to landfills in Moretown and Coventry.

The alleged violations pose no threat to the environment, said Tony Barbagallo, facilities manager for the Chittenden Solid Waste District, which leases the Redmond Road transfer station to North East Waste Services.

Instead, Barbagallo said, they are the result of companies underestimating how much trash they would collect for the period. Companies pay in advance for the annual tonnage based on the estimate.

“This is all about money,” he said. “It has nothing to do with environmental protection. It’s the state taking action because (the companies) haven’t paid enough.”

The state charges transfer stations 75 cents per ton of trash. The levy costs each facility tens of thousands of dollars a year.

“What companies have to do is guesstimate,” said Tom Badowski, compliance manager for North East Waste Services. The state does not refund fees if the estimate is too high, he said, so his company tries to closely match the estimate to the actual tonnage it will collect.

Janet Shatney, permits and compliance administrator for All Cycle, did not return phone messages. All Cycle is a division of Casella Waste Systems, a company that operates throughout the Northeast.

Neither facility is close to exceeding its maximum operating capacity, which is set during a state certification process conducted every five years. The North East Waste transfer station can accept up to 120,000 tons annually; All Cycle’s facility can take in 175,200 tons.

Transfer stations can request routine administrative approval for increases in annual tonnage as long as they stay under the ceiling established during the certification process. Both companies made such requests and wrote checks for the additional tonnage – but only after they had exceeded the annual limits, according to the state.

In the North East Waste case, the company said in correspondence to the state that it was “confused by the various dates related to its certification,” leading to a late request for additional capacity.

Chris Wagner, chief of the state’s Certification and Compliance Section, acknowledged the state needs to better align dates. But he said it is also important for transfer stations to comply with permit conditions.

The alleged violations come as the Chittenden Solid Waste District prepares to seek approval for a new landfill on Redmond Road. A large and vocal group of residents who live near the proposed facility has organized to oppose the landfill.

It is unclear if a landfill would lead to the closure of the two Williston transfer stations. Barbagallo said the key issue is whether the district will win the legal right to collect all the county’s trash in the proposed landfill.

The district claims that eliminating the transfer stations and bringing all area trash to the landfill would result in a net reduction of 7,000 truck trips a year.

Trucks traveling to and from the transfer stations have long provoked complaints from some residents, who worry about safety and noise.

“My beef is with the speed of the trucks,” said Geri Carpenter, whose family has lived on Redmond Road for 14 years. “I go to my mailbox and I think I’m going to get run over.”

Complaints to CSWD over the years have produced temporary relief, Carpenter said, but the speeders soon return. She said the trucks are so noisy that she cannot carry on a phone conversation on her front porch.

Both North East Waste and All Cycle have asked the state to waive penalties for the alleged permit violations.

Wagner said no decision has been made about penalties. He said potential sanctions and fines vary considerably depending on the precise nature of violations.

[Read more…]

Observer staff makes headlines

Observer staff report

Williston Observer Editor Ben Moger-Williams and former editor Greg Elias won headline writing awards Sunday at the annual Vermont Press Association awards banquet.

Moger-Williams placed first for headlines that included “School district faces trailer hitch: Board disapproves making temporary classrooms permanent” and “Fa-la-la brouhaha: Local chorus’ lyrics reflect national debate.” Elias took third place for headlines that included “Singer-songwriter still glowing after supernova start.”

Awards recognized work published in 2005.

The annual contest is open to the 10 daily and four dozen non-daily newspapers circulating in Vermont, according to Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. Donoghue said independent judges were secured through the New Hampshire Press Association and the St. Michael’s College Journalism Department.

Judge Edward Cashman was awarded the second annual Matthew Lyon Award. The Award recognized Cashman’s professional commitment over his career to ensure journalists had access to the public records and events about which the public has a right to know.

Williston resident Traci Griffith, a journalism professor at St. Michael’s College, was voted onto the Executive Board during the association’s business meeting Sunday.

A complete list of the Vermont Press Association awards for 2005 follows:

General Excellence (daily newspapers): 1. The Burlington Free Press; 2. (tie) Rutland Herald and Times Argus (Barre); 3. Brattleboro Reformer;

General Excellence (non-daily newspapers): 1. Seven Days ( Burlington); 2. Stowe Reporter; 3. Addison County Independent (Middlebury);

The Mavis Doyle Award (daily and non-daily combined): 1. Ken Picard, Seven Days ( Burlington);

John D. Donoghue Award for Arts Criticism (daily and non-daily): 1. (tie) Margot Harrison, Seven Days and Casey Rea, Seven Days; 3. Brent Hallenbeck, The Burlington Free Press;

Editorial (daily and non-daily): 1. Jeffrey Good, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.); 2. Randy Holhut, Brattleboro Reformer; 3. Ross Connelly, Hardwick Gazette;

Rookie of the Year (daily and non-daily): 1. Victoria Welch, The Burlington Free Press;

Sports writing (daily) 1: John A. Fantino, The Burlington Free Press; 2. James Biggam, Times Argus (Barre); Honorable mention. Jonathan Howard, Brattleboro Reformer;

Sports writing (non-daily): 1. Andy Kirkaldy, Addison Independent (Middlebury); 2. Dave Morse, Hardwick Gazette;

Best state story (daily and non-daily): 1. Kevin O’Connor and Darren Allen, Rutland Herald/Times Argus (Barre); 2. Ken Picard, Seven Days ( Burlington); 3. Nathan Meunier, Hardwick Gazette;

Best local story (daily): 1. News Staff, Times Argus (Barre); 2. John Briggs, The Burlington Free Press; 3. Sky Barsch, Rutland Herald/Times Argus (Barre) Sunday Magazine;

Best local story (non-daily): 1. Amy Kolb Noyes and Alicia Morissette, News and Citizen ( Morristown); 2. John Flowers, Addison County Independent (Middlebury); 3. Cathy Resmer, Seven Days ( Burlington);

Feature writing (daily): 1. Sally Pollak, The Burlington Free Press; 2. Kevin O’Connor, Rutland Herald; 3. Candace Page, The Burlington Free Press;

Feature writing (non-daily): 1. Paula Routly, Seven Days; 2. Margaret Michniewicz, Vermont Woman ( South Burlington); 3. John Flowers, Addison Independent;

Headline writing (daily): 1.Ernie Kohlsaat, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.); 2. Tom Brown, The Burlington Free Press; 3. Anne Adams, Valley News;

Headline writing (non-daily): 1. Ben Moger-Williams, Williston Observer; 2. Margaret Michniewicz, Vermont Woman; 3. Greg Elias, Williston Observer;

Photo – sports (daily): 1. Stefan Hard, Times Argus; 2. James Patterson, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.); 3. David Barreda, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.);

Photo – sports (non-daily): 1. Robert Eddy, The Herald of Randolph; 2. Vanessa Fournier, Hardwick Gazette; 3. Trent Campbell, Addison Independent;

Photo – general news (daily): 1. Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, Times Argus (Barre); 2. David Barreda, Valley News; 3. Geoff Hansen, Valley News;

Photo – general news (non-daily): 1. Tim Calabro, The Herald of Randolph; 2. Trent Campbell, Addison Independent (Middlebury); 3. Robert Eddy, The Herald of Randolph

Photo – feature (daily): 1. Glenn Russell, The Burlington Free Press; 2. James Patterson, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.); 3. James Patterson, Valley News ( West Lebanon, N.H.);

Photo – feature (non daily): 1. Robert Eddy, The Herald of Randolph; 2. Jay Erickson, Seven Days ( Burlington) ; 3. Trent Campbell, Addison Independent (Middlebury).

[Read more…]

Animal control volunteer steps forward

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

A new animal control officer means police can redirect their energies toward other issues, according to Williston’s police chief.

Chief Jim Dimmick said Williston resident Sue Powers has volunteered to respond to animal concerns in town starting this week.

Every town handles animal control differently, Dimmick said: Some towns have a paid animal control officer, while other towns require the town constable to do the job. In Williston, the responsibility had fallen to police officers. Dimmick said that seemed strange to him.

“They’re not trained in any specialized way to deal with the animals,” Dimmick said, nor do they have the right equipment.

Responding to animal concerns takes time. In the last 22 months, Williston police officers have responded to 177 animal control calls, from dog bites to wandering animals. Last week, for example, Dimmick said a blind dog was wandering in the middle of North Williston Road.

“I just thought that (police) expertise is better served other places,” Dimmick said.

Residents still should call the police department with their concerns or complaints; the police in turn will page Powers.

Powers is a long-time animal rescuer, she said, and has taken seminars on cruelty investigations and wildlife rehabilitation. Her expertise is responding to domestic animals, but she also has some experience with farm animals.

“Because I’ve been involved in this field for over 25 years, I have a really large network,” Powers said by phone. A cat meowed and birds chirped in the background as Powers explained that even if she doesn’t have the expertise needed for a specific situation, she knows others who do.

Powers’ passion for rescue has ebbed into her home. All of the birds chatting in the background were rescued, she said, and include parakeets, finches, a dove, a cockatiel, and a lory parrot. She and her husband also foster a number of dogs and cats at any given time while searching for an adoptive family.

“Her heart is just totally into not only how do we take care of this issue in town, but also humanely,” Dimmick said.

Police will still respond to ordinance violations, Dimmick said, as well as any issues that arise when Powers is not available. Dimmick said he hopes the town will find a way to compensate Powers for her time.

[Read more…]

Cancer survivor makes change for others

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Stephanie Fraser had been a social worker for cancer patients for seven years when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last fall.

“Just dealing with the cancer diagnosis and going through the treatment takes everything out of you,” said Fraser, who works in the Fletcher Allen Health Care Hematology/ Oncology Clinic.

Last October, doctors found the ovarian mass; mid-November Fraser, 44, was in surgery to have it removed. The cancer, doctors determined, was in the earliest stage. Fraser began chemotherapy Dec. 1, and continued every three weeks through March.

Fraser was accustomed to life-threatening medical situations; for more than 26 years, she has lived with a kidney transplant. Such transplants, on average, are expected to last 13 years. The cancer diagnosis was a new challenge, but not just for Fraser.

“It’s harder on the family watching you, I think, than being a patient and going through it yourself,” Fraser said. Her greatest concern was her daughter Abby, age seven at the time of the diagnosis. “You never want to see your kids see you sick.”

Her husband, Kent, and their dogs – a cockapoo named Sophie, and Blake, a black lab and golden retriever mix – were an enormous support as she recovered.

“These guys,” she said, pointing to Sophie and Blake, “they got walks. We went into the woods every day.”

By September, she was strong enough to ride her bicycle 100 miles for a Lance Armstrong Foundation fundraiser.

“It was tough training this summer, but I did it,” said Fraser, whose monthly blood draws are now normal.

She raised $5,000 for the foundation. But for Fraser, there was more she wanted to give.

Action begot action: Last month she found herself as one of 700 people chosen to attend the inaugural LiveStrong Lance Armstrong Foundation Summit. The goal of the Austin, Texas event was to broaden the awareness of unmet physical, emotional and practical needs of those living with cancer.

“I was fortunate enough to have what I needed,” Fraser said, noting she had good disability insurance, a supportive family and an accommodating workplace. “I have a stronger desire to make sure that cancer patients get what they need.”

Over three days, Fraser and other cancer survivors and caregivers from 49 states developed personal action plans to bring back to their towns and states.

Lance Armstrong, Fraser said, is “a big advocate for wanting people to share their stories and experiences and learn from one another, to do something about it rather than sitting there. He wants you to take it and go that step beyond and make a difference.”

Fraser said Armstrong’s books about his struggle with cancer – which started well before he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times – had been an inspiration to many of her patients. Armstrong not only started a foundation to raise money and provide information, but lobbies Congress on cancer policies.

The LiveStrong Summit provided many examples of people taking their experiences with cancer – or their grief at having lost someone to cancer – to make change right around them, Fraser said. One father from California lost his five-year-old son to leukemia; when he learned there were children near him who did not have the transportation they needed to get to their chemotherapy treatments, Fraser said, he began a transportation service.

Fraser’s personal action plan will stay on paper. Flipping through a big binder in the kitchen of her house in North Williston, Fraser said her focus is the creation of a comprehensive handbook for cancer patients that can be used statewide.

The handbook, she hopes, will help make the journey more positive by putting in one place the information necessary to understand how to navigate insurance and other bureaucratic processes, as well as knowing basic things like which Web sites are best for reliable information and connecting with other patients.

Fraser looks forward to using her personal and professional experiences to continue helping others. There is one overarching question she wants to answer: “What can we be doing to make a cancer survivor’s journey the most positive one it can be?”

[Read more…]

Time takes toll on church clock

Leaky steeple threatens mechanical marvel

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The stairs creak as Bill White ascends the clock tower at Williston Federated Church. A nostalgic old-attic scent pervades the interior. The wind whistles outside.

On the first landing, White, who maintains the clock, points to a long chute containing the cables and weights that drive the movement and ring the bell. A pyramid-shaped wooden enclosure houses the pendulum.

Up another set of stairs is the clock movement, a century-old work of industrial art. The shiny gold gears are encased in a green cast-iron housing. Its rhythmic ticking is both surprisingly loud and strangely soothing – an amplified pocket watch.

The uppermost level contains the 2,000-pound bell, which is suspended beneath the church’s spire. White strikes it with a hammer, producing a loud but not quite ear-splitting bong.

The church’s four-faced clock tower and bell have marked the passage of time in Williston for more than a 100 years. They are considered municipal and church treasures, and so have been maintained at considerable expense over the years.

“The town is distinguished by its steeple and clock,” White says. “Whether you are Catholic, Jewish or Protestant, this is a landmark. It’s the town’s alarm clock.”

The church owns and maintains the building, but the town of Williston owns the clock. The structure and its mechanical components were restored less than a decade ago. But now a new problem has emerged.

White discovered a leak during a driving rainstorm last month. Apparently originating in the steeple, it poses at least a small threat to the lovingly restored timepiece. The clock’s mechanism is flecked with bits of surface rust.

“I don’t know how to describe the problem other than to call it very serious,” White wrote in a memo to trustees at Williston Federated Church. But White emphasizes in an interview that the church is doing its best to keep up a high-maintenance structure.

Brian Goodwin, chairman of the church’s trustees, says the clock is not the only worry because leaking water can flow down walls and affect other parts of the building. Trustees talked about repainting and repairing the steeple even before the recent leak, he said, but instead decided to fix windows in the church.

“Unfortunately, the church, like any homeowner, has to pick and choose what projects to do,” Goodwin says. “In hindsight, I wish we had done the (steeple) work this year.”

The leak comes less than a decade after a major renovation to the structure. Hundreds of individual donations helped fund the $140,000 project, which included repainting the steeple and bell tower, replacing rotting beams inside the tower and restoring the clock.

The structure was removed with a crane and placed on the ground next to the church for the repairs, which were completed in 1998.

“It gets a lot of weather,” Goodwin explains. “It’s up there in the wind, rain and snow. It takes a beating.”

The tip of the steeple is more than 100 feet high. White figures temperatures up there exceed 100 degrees in the summer and plummet to 40 below zero in the winter. Not to mention the wind, which was apparent on a walk to the top of the tower on a recent morning, despite just a light breeze on the ground.

The innards of the tower are a marvel of mechanical engineering. One must climb 64 steps and wriggle under thick beams to see it all.

A relatively new bicycle sits on the first landing. It seems a strangely modern touch, but it’s really a concession to human frailty.

White installed the bike to save his back from the strain of winding the mechanism. The bike pulls a 1,500-pound weight attached to a cable-and-pulley rig, which drives the mechanism that rings the bell each hour. A similar rigging with a lighter weight drives the clock movement, which is wound with a crank and regulated by a pendulum.

The mechanism as a whole is akin to an oversize cuckoo clock, with the bell taking the place of the cuckoo.

The clock movement was manufactured by the E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston. White faithfully winds the clock, keeping it accurate to within 20 seconds a week.

White took on the job of the town’s clock winder – he calls the position clock custodian – in 1997. Before that, Howard Carpenter and his family shared the task for about three decades. Both men have an engineering background: White as a retired computer engineer at IBM and Carpenter as a former professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Vermont.

Carpenter still feels an attachment to the clock after all these years. “If I hear the bell, I want to know how fast or slow the clock is running,” he says.

There was apparently one major mishap involving the mechanism a long time ago. Timbers in the chute that guides the weights are charred. White theorizes that lightning struck a cable, severing it and sending the weight crashing through the church’s floors and into the basement.

White discovered the leak on Oct. 26 when he was installing a new drain to cure another problem, this one involving rain blowing in through the tower’s louvers. As he finished the job during a wind-blown storm that day, he noticed water dripping through the ceiling of the clock room. The water was coming from the steeple and splashing on the clock movement.

Williston Federated Church was formed in 1899 when the Methodist and Congregationalist denominations joined to boost declining membership that threatened to close both churches. The building itself, which was originally the Methodist church, was completed in 1869. The clock was installed in 1900.

Goodwin says church trustees will talk about the leaking steeple at their December meeting. He thinks the repairs will include repainting the bell tower and plugging the leak.

“It’s a beautiful structure,” Goodwin says. “We want to do everything we can to make it look good.”

During his tour of the structure, White shows the logbook where he records maintenance of the clock. It is located near the shiny clock movement in a cozy space with walls lined with pine planks.

There is a feeling of peaceful solitude in this room, amid the ticking timepiece and the whistling wind high above Williston Village.

“Sometimes I feel like … ,” White trails off, trying to recall the historic reference, “like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

[Read more…]

Deer hits up 133 percent in Williston

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Williston drivers are nearly three times as likely to hit a deer this year compared to last year, according to state statistics.

Maj. David LeCours, assistant director of the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement division said 12 deer were hit by cars in Williston last year between Jan. 1 and Nov. 20. This year, in the same period, 28 car vs. deer accidents were logged, an increase of 133 percent.

“Williston is an aberration as far as the state average,” LeCours said. According to state records, car accidents involving deer are up about 16 percent over last year.

“It’s primarily the size of the herd more than anything else,” LeCours said.

Hunting restrictions implemented last year along with a mild winter have led to a greater number of deer in this part of the state, he said. Last year the department enacted regulations restricting the number of young bucks and antlerless deer that could be killed, and the Fish and Wildlife Department now estimates the deer population to be between 110,000 and 140,000.

LeCours said this time of year is traditionally when more deer are killed by vehicle hits.

“It really spikes once we get the time change in late October and the commuting hour coincides with dusk,” he said. Dusk and dawn are when many deer become active, and are more likely to stray into the road.

When a deer is struck by a car, if the animal is not killed immediately, a police officer or game warden will go to the scene and shoot the deer, LeCours said. Injured deer generally have broken legs and would not survive long after the accident anyway, he said. Deer are also highly stressed after an accident and often die from the stress alone, he said. If the person involved in the accident wants to keep the deer for food, they must seek permission from the Fish and Wildlife Department. Deer killed in this way do not count towards a person’s allotted deer ration, LeCours said. Under state law, hunters are allowed to take two deer per hunter per year.

“That’s an expensive way to get one,” LeCours said, referring to the costly vehicle damage that usually results from hitting a deer.

If the person doesn’t want the carcass and it is not too badly damaged, the department will often donate the meat to church groups or other organizations for “game suppers.”

“We’d just as soon have people eat them as let them go to waste,” LeCours said.

If the body is not salvageable for food, LeCours said, it is put into a landfill or buried in a pit.

Carol Winfield, president of the Vermont Wildlife Rescue Association said that she has had many calls from drivers who have struck deer but there is little she can do.

“I think it’s a shame but there really isn’t anyone I know of that has the resources to take on a full-grown animal,” Winfield said.

Winfield, whose organization helps wounded animals recover from their injuries, said people can take simple measures to prevent the accidents.

“A lot of those collisions could be avoided if people would take their foot off the gas and lean on their horn,” she said.

If you are involved in an accident with an animal, call the state police at 878-7111.

[Read more…]