July 20, 2019

New signal slated for Talcott Road

Impatient motorists may find relief

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The town of Williston will install a traffic signal on Talcott Road that could provide relief for frustrated motorists trying to access busy U.S. 2.

Engineers Construction of Williston submitted the winning bid of $222,237 for the work. The project involves installing signals for both vehicles and pedestrians at the west end of Talcott Road, where it connects with U.S. 2.

U-shaped Talcott Road intersects with U.S. 2 at both ends. Homes, stores and offices line the road, which is located less than a mile east of Taft Corners.

Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said he’s long heard complaints about the hazards of exiting and entering Talcott Road. The road is located just west of a long, downhill stretch of U.S. 2 and east of dense commercial development.
Motorists who try to turn left out of either end of Talcott Road often wait several minutes before a gap in the traffic materializes. Some grow impatient, gunning their engines and squealing their tires as they force their way onto U.S. 2.

“That’s a good place to have a signal right there,” said Marianne Allen, who lives in the Taft Farms Senior Living Community along Talcott Road. “We need it there, we desperately need it.”

Boyden said most of the complaints he’s heard about the road are school-related. Allen Brook School is located on the eastern end of Talcott Road. Like other vehicles, school buses have trouble entering and exiting the road.

But a traffic study commissioned by the town concluded that only the west end of Talcott Road met the criteria for installing a signal. The state of Vermont requires intersections along state and federal roads to meet criteria called warrants before new signals are allowed.

The study found that the east intersection met only one of the eight criteria, peak-hour traffic volume. The west intersection met three standards: eight-hour traffic volume, four-hour traffic volume and peak-hour traffic.

Allen Brook School Principal John Terko said he wished the light was going to be installed on the school end of Talcott Road. He said parents dropping their children off struggle with the intersection, not to mention school buses.

“To me, it makes more sense to put it on our side,” Terko said, noting that 13 school buses will travel to and from the school each day in the coming school year.

Though the signal on the other end of Talcott Road may create breaks in traffic, Terko worries that it may also cause backups that clog the east intersection.

Rerouting buses to use the new traffic signal would add 3-5 minutes to travel time, Terko said. He said it is too early to say whether bus routes will be changed to use the signal.

Boyden said schools and other public institutions should not be given special consideration when evaluating where to place a traffic signal. He noted that Williston Central School also has traffic problems with its access to U.S. 2.

“You have to be consistent in how you analyze these things,” he said.

Williston is funding the project through its municipal budget. Boyden said the project will use impact fees collected from developers to pay for the signal.

Preliminary work on the project began this week. Engineers Construction said it would complete the work in November, according to Boyden.

But he is skeptical that the project will be finished by then. Boyden said severe weather and delays in obtaining signal parts could delay the work, making it likely the signals will not be operating until next spring.

[Read more…]

Maritime mystery writer to sail through the area

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Linda Greenlaw became a writer – and a famous one—seemingly overnight.

The captain of Hannah Boden, a commercial swordfishing boat, Greenlaw was “very happy with my female fisherman thing,” she said, when Sebastian Junger published “The Perfect Storm” a decade ago. The book tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a swordfish boat based out of Gloucester, Mass., that became lost at sea and whose crew perished during a 1991 Nor’easter. In the book, Junger called Greenlaw, whose character went on to have a significant role in the Warner Brothers movie, “one of the best sea captains, period, on the entire East Coast.”

Publishing houses began calling, wanting her to write her story.

“It changed my life,” Greenlaw, in her mid-40s, said earlier this week by phone from Madison, Conn., where she was scheduled for a book signing. “I have friends who would kill for the opportunity I’ve been handed…. I never had a desire to write.”

Now the Colby College graduate is on tour for her fifth book, and her first fiction endeavor, since Junger crossed her path a decade ago. Scheduled to arrive in town this week for two book signing engagements – one in Shelburne and one in South Burlington – Greenlaw has years of experience from which to draw for her writing.

To help pay for college, where she studied English “because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Greenlaw said one summer she headed to the commercial fishing industry in which there was a lot of money to be made in 1979. She said she lied her way onto a commercial boat for a job as a cook (though she enjoys cooking now, she said, she had no skills at 19). To her delight she soon found herself as a deckhand when the hired deckhand was forced into the galley due to an injured back.

“I love physical work,” Greenlaw said. “I love being outside. I spent my childhood trying to catch anything that crawled around my home.”

In time she became a captain, one of a few women in a largely male-dominated profession.

Her first book, “The Hungry Ocean” (1999), chronicles a 30-day swordfishing voyage, interspersed with tales of other moments in her then 15-plus years of professional fishing. The book became a bestseller. Hyperion, her publisher, offered her a two-book deal to follow, Greenlaw said: “The Lobster Chronicles,” a book about lobster fishing, a profession to which she had recently shifted after moving to an island off of Maine, and an “untitled novel.” After the lobster book, Hyperion asked her to hold off on the novel while she completed another non-fiction book, “All Fishermen are Liars,” and a cookbook with her mother, Martha Greenlaw.

After winning the U.S. Maritime Literature Award in 2003 and the New England Book Award for nonfiction in 2004, Greenlaw finally had the chance to try her hand at fiction. “Slipknot,” a maritime mystery, is the result.

Greenlaw makes no bones about the fact she finds writing to be hard work – this from a woman who once worked 21-hour days for 10 days at a time on swordfishing trips.

“I assumed that writing fiction would be easier than writing nonfiction,” she said. “But starting with a blank page where anything was possible was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.”

Slipknot’s protagonist, Jane Bunker, is a Miami homicide investigator turned marine insurance investigator, who returns home to her sleepy native town of Green Haven, Maine. A dead body shows up on page one, and the lead character decides to find out who is responsible.

“I felt like I floundered around for the first few months,” Greenlaw said of the plot. She rewrote the first seven or eight chapters when the book was done, she said, “to make everything work.” For the next two Jane Bunker books for which she’s contracted, Greenlaw said, she’ll do an outline at the beginning.

Though Greenlaw in print does not take sides on controversial issues – she touches on wind farm construction and fishing regulations in “Slipknot” – she is not shy in person about sharing her views.

The biggest public misconception currently about the fishing industry, according to Greenlaw, is the idea that people shouldn’t eat certain fish for fear of mercury poisoning.

“It really sickens me because I’m well aware the number one killer of women in this country is heart disease,” she said. And, she added, the country is facing an obesity epidemic.

“And there are people out there saying don’t eat fish because of mercury poisoning?” she said. “Forget about the french fries. Eat the fish!”

[Read more…]

Vt. Supreme Court says

Lawsuits over planned landfill will persist

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The Vermont Supreme Court has denied a motion by Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. to reargue a case the company lost this spring to the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

“That pretty much does it for Vermont,” said Tim Casey, general manager of Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. “We already have (the waste district) in court with a case on the federal level anyway. Now that will be able to go forward.”

In April, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that Hinesburg Sand and Gravel is not entitled to $4.8 million in business losses due to the seizing of their Williston sand pit by Chittenden Solid Waste District. The court also ruled the company is not entitled to interest beyond the fair market value of the land as of January 2000. The Vermont Supreme Court said the company proved their case the wrong way, according to company attorney Robert O’Neill of Gravel and Shea, even though the lower court judge had instructed them to proceed that way. Hinesburg Sand and Gravel therefore filed a motion to reargue.

Waste district General Manager Tom Moreau said the next step is to determine the value of the land.

“I still don’t expect this thing to be done for another year and a half,” Moreau said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Moreau said it was “nice” the waste district won the denial for re-argument.

“It was 5-0 by the Supreme Court,” he said. “It was pretty simple.”

The decision is only one sentence, stating the motion for re-argument “fails to satisfy the criteria set forth in Vermont Rules for Appellate Procedure 40, and it is therefore denied.” That rule states that the requesting party must identify the “points of law or fact” that the party believes the court “overlooked or misapprehended.”

Casey said he is frustrated by the court’s decision.

“They gave no reason,” Casey said. “They didn’t point out why it was, and they just left it at that. So we have no idea why.”

The court’s most recent decision, however, is not the end of the line for lawsuits regarding the 76 acres on Redmond Road for which the Chittenden Solid Waste District is planning a regional landfill.

An earlier federal lawsuit by Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. against the waste district was stayed pending the outcome of the Vermont Supreme Court process. The waste district began legal proceedings 15 years ago to seize the sandpit for creation of a new regional landfill. Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. sued the waste district for violating its constitutional rights in the taking of the land. Now that legal options in Vermont have been exhausted, Casey said, the federal case should move forward.

Not even that will be the end of it, Casey said.

“They still have to provide us the sand in a suitable condition from that site without damaging it, which we don’t believe they can do,” Casey said. “Once they do that and ruin the sand, which they will, we’re going to sue them again” for violating the court’s order.

“It’s just going to be endless lawsuits,” Casey said.

Outside the ongoing legal battle with Hinesburg Sand and Gravel, a group of 37 Williston residents and property owners – representing about 20 households – has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Williston and the waste district regarding the planned landfill. Those residents are seeking to invalidate a 1992 agreement in which Williston town officials promised the town would host a regional landfill.

Moreau said he and his colleagues turned over 35 banker’s boxes of documents to their attorneys last week, who Moreau said have advised that the earliest that case will go to court is the fall of 2008.

Craig Abrahams, one of the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail they have recently asked the court to accept a motion for judgment without a full trial.

[Read more…]

Company to test green fuel in trucks

Local franchise taking part in national trial

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A Williston business will help roll out a national alternative fuel program that could lead to cleaner and greener trucks worldwide.

Aaron Fastman, owner of the local 1-800-GOT-JUNK? outlet, will be among 10 franchisees scattered around the country to fuel their Isuzu trucks with biodiesel. In addition to standard diesel, the formulation contains fuel derived from renewable resources such as soybeans, recycled cooking oil or animal fat.

An ardent environmentalist, Fastman said he repeatedly urged his company to use alternative fuel in its trucks to lessen the company’s impact on the planet.

“I really pushed for it, I kept being persistent,” Fastman said. “I really believe we have to change.”

Isuzu and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a company that makes house calls to pick up customers’ discarded items, recently launched the biodiesel test program. For six months, participating franchises will each run a truck on the fuel. Isuzu will monitor the trucks and cover under warranty any problems.

Todd Bloom, vice president of sales and marketing for Isuzu’s commercial truck division, said the idea is to closely study how the trucks perform using the fuel and check how well varying formulations work.

“The biggest problem is the quality of the fuel,” he said. “The whole goal of the program is to get everybody involved with setting a standard.”

He hopes that program and other initiatives will lead to regulation and standardization of the alternative fuel so that automakers can manufacture vehicles designed to run on it.

Fastman said as a small business he could ill afford to risk a $50,000 truck without assurance Isuzu would cover the vehicle under its standard 36,000-mile, three-year warranty. Using biodiesel, which can clog fuel systems, would ordinarily void the warranty.

In addition to the Williston franchise, other 1-800-GOT-JUNK? outlets in California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania will participate, said company spokeswoman Jennifer Maloney.

The van at corporate headquarters in Vancouver was the first 1-800-GOT-JUNK? vehicle to run on biodiesel. Maloney said the company, already on the lookout for ways to go green, was nonetheless pushed to move more quickly by franchisees like Fastman.

The company collects junk from customers who call the eponymous 800 number to schedule a pick-up. About half of the refuse is recycled. The Williston franchise, the company’s first and only Vermont location, is one of more than 270 in North America.

1-800-GOT-JUNK? provides an ideal laboratory for Isuzu. Maloney said the company requires franchise owners to purchase a specific Isuzu truck model. There are more than 1,000 of the vehicles in use company-wide.

Franchisees were asked if they wanted to participate in the biodiesel program, she said. Roughly two-dozen franchises applied.

With the general public increasingly aware of global warming, companies have been emphasizing their green credentials as a marketing tool. While acknowledging the public relations value of the biodiesel program, Fastman said his and his company’s involvement comes out of genuine concern for the environment.

“It truly was a green company before it was fashionable to be a green company,” he said. “We keep stuff out of the landfill, which is why I got involved with this. It’s another ingredient in this great pie that we are baking.”

The program will use a formulation that includes 5 percent biodiesel in the winter and a 20 percent blend in the summer, Fastman said. Higher concentrations are prone to freezing, hence the change in percentages depending on the season.

The fuel costs about 10 cents a gallon more than standard diesel, but Fastman said because it produces slightly better mileage biodiesel ends up being no more expensive to use.

One problem is that biodiesel is not widely available. The closest supplier is Lucky Spot Variety in Richmond. Only a few other gas stations in Chittenden County sell the fuel on a retail basis, according to the Vermont Biodiesel Project, a renewable energy initiative.

The biodiesel program is expected to begin next month, after Isuzu representatives visit 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchises to check each truck.

Fastman excitedly described the potential ripple effect of the test, which he said could lead to widespread use of alternative fuels in one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks. He hopes that eventually it would result in “every single Isuzu in the world” using renewable fuel.

Though one truck running on alternative fuel will have a miniscule effect on the environment, Fastman said that knowing his truck is using biodiesel will “make me sleep better at night.”

“I have a 10-month-old son,” he said. “I don’t want to leave him a mess when he grows up.”

[Read more…]

Goodwill coming to town

Thrift store will be nonprofit’s first in Vt.

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Goodwill Industries plans to open its first-ever Vermont thrift store here in Williston.

The nonprofit, which sells donated household goods and clothing in its stores to fund training and job placement programs for people with disabilities, will occupy retail and warehouse space at 329 Harvest Lane. The building, owned by developer Al Senecal, will also house a health food store and a consulting firm.

The Williston Development Review Board last week approved his plans to retrofit the building and add parking spaces for the new tenants.

Randy Finemore, director of retail programs for Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, said the new store would allow the organization to tap into Vermonters’ good will.

“It’s just that I think we are aligned with our values, that we fit well in a state that cares about helping people from a social perspective,” he said.

In addition to clothing, Goodwill stores typically carry household goods and knickknacks that “some people think of as yard sale stuff,” said Mike Coughlin, executive director of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. Some stores offer larger items such as furniture and appliances.

Inventory varies among stores because they depend on donations, so it is unclear what the Williston Goodwill outlet will have for sale when it opens. Couglin said Goodwill tries to tailor offerings to each community.

Goodwill will occupy about 10,000 square feet of retail space on the second floor, and use about 12,000 feet of warehouse space in the sprawling structure, said Senecal, owner of Allenbrook Development Inc., and Omega Electric Construction in Williston.

Natural Provisions, a health food store, will move into a 10,000-square-foot space on the building’s lower level, Senecal said. Daybreak Intellectual Capital Systems Inc., a computer software consulting firm, will move into office space on the top floor.

(Disclosure: the Williston Observer leases office space from Senecal in Taft Farm Village Center.)

The project initially raised concerns among town planners and the Development Review Board. The board tabled the permit application at its June 26 meeting until Senecal submitted revised plans showing how all the space would be used and addressed other concerns about the project.

The delay irked Senecal, who told the board that the building had been vacant since office supply company Boise Cascade moved out about two years ago. He said Goodwill needed the space as soon as possible.

“I can’t stress enough that this town and this board is supposed to work with us to make this happen,” he said.

Couglin confirmed that Goodwill wanted to move in this fall. He said that season was a particularly busy time for its stores.

The project will more than double existing parking to 128 spaces. A new loading door will be added to the building, as well as a drive-through, drop-off area for Goodwill donations.

Senecal said he is still awaiting a state Act 250 permit. He hopes to receive that within the next few weeks, and then have the building ready for his new tenants by fall.

Goodwill Industries International is one of the world’s largest nonprofit providers of education, job training and career services for people with disabilities and others who are having trouble finding employment, such as victims of domestic violence and refugees. About 60 percent of its funding for those programs are generated by sales at its retail stores, according to the organization’s Web site.

Goodwill will build relationships with area businesses to help clients find employment, Couglin said. He noted that Goodwill Industries already has existing employment services contracts with a couple of area companies.

The new store will give Goodwill, which has more than 2,000 retail outlets, a beachhead in Vermont. Finemore said the warehouse space would be big enough to allow the location to serve as a hub for other future retail stores in the state.

The organization has yet to determine where those stores will be located. For the immediate future, Finemore said, Goodwill will concentrate on garnering donations to stock the Williston outlet.

“It’s going to be central to our success to gain community support for the store with quality, gently used donations,” he said.

[Read more…]


By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston residents will find a cornucopia of food and crafts, seasoned with music and accompanied by ready-to-eat meals, when a pair of farmers’ markets opens this week.

The Williston Farmers’ Market opens for the season on Saturday. It will be held weekly through Oct. 13 on the green next to Dorothy Alling Library in Williston Village. Hours each Saturday are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The other market will be held Wednesdays in a grass-covered field next to New England Federal Credit Union off Harvest Lane. It begins on July 11, and will be open from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each week.

The village market will host live music some weeks, said Christina Mead, the Williston resident who organized the market. The first act booked is the Vermont Suzuki Violins, a youth group. The musicians will play in the gazebo next to the green on July 21.

Mead said she is talking with a folk singing duo called the Native Daughters and hopes to find other musicians to perform, although there probably won’t be music every week.

“The idea is just to be a showcase,” she said. “If people want to perform, I’m open to it.”

Vendors will offer an eclectic variety of Vermont-made produce and crafts. Many of the vendors listed on the market’s Web site are home-based businesses from Williston.

Among them are Beltz & Whistles, which crafts belts, decorative pillows and jewelry; Boutin Berries & Veggies, which grows fruits and vegetables; LuLu Art & Design, which sells paintings, cards and candles; and Three Brothers Bake Shop, which makes baked goods.

The market also plans a youth day at which students from Williston Central School and perhaps elsewhere will offer food they have grown and goods they have made, Mead said. It is part of a program sponsored by the Vermont chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Mead asked students interested in participating to contact her via e-mail at christinamead@willistonfarmersmarket.com.

Meanwhile, New England Federal Credit Union has firmed up plans for its market.

It will host 20 to 25 vendors in all, with offerings ranging from maple syrup to organic meat, said Cindy Morgan, NEFCU’s marketing director.

Morgan said the idea is to have a diverse enough range of products to allow one-stop shopping.

“The goal was to have a really good mix of vendors so you can actually buy everything you need for a meal in one place,” she said.

Mead said she’s both eager and a little apprehensive as her market’s opening day approaches. In particular, she hopes the weather cooperates and everything goes as planned.

“I’m very excited,” Mead said. “But I think I’m like anybody who has put a lot of work into something – a little anxious.”

[Read more…]

Small-scale energy pioneer hopes to prove a point

Landfill gas electricity project set to launch this summer

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

If you haven’t read “Gas Cyclones and Swirl Tubes,” you are probably not alone.

But to Ed DeVarney, who is getting ready to fire up a small scale electrical generation project in Williston using landfill gas, it is practically gospel.

“Anytime you talk to anyone in a particular discipline, you better keep your ears open,” DeVarney said in an interview at the Williston landfill last week. “Because that’s your magic moment to make up what you didn’t learn in engineering school.”

For the last five years, DeVarney, 53, has traveled – anywhere from 4-12 times a week – from his home in Milton to the site of the closed Phase III landfill in Williston owned by the Chittenden Solid Waste District to work on his project. DeVarney said the generators should be online this summer.

Beneath the lush green hill that is Phase III’s outer facade lies a quarter-million tons of decomposing trash. The landfill was closed in 1995 and has since been generating a mix of methane, carbon dioxide and other organic compounds, produced by microbes eating the garbage. For more than a decade, the gas has been burned off using flares, rated to destroy 98 percent of the greenhouse gases. DeVarney’s idea is to capture the gas and reroute it into engines, which, when operational, will produce 0.09 megawatts of electricity for at least five years. The electricity will be fed back into the electrical grid and sold to Green Mountain Power.

DeVarney, a retired auto mechanic, has a do-it-yourself philosophy about his project. He hopes to prove that a small-scale electricity generation project – using any renewable energy source – is both profitable and affordable.

He keeps the cost low by refurbishing used items purchased at online auctions, using recycled materials when possible, and by doing virtually all of the work on the project himself.

“This whole project has been: What can I buy on eBay, what can I use for off-the-counter stuff?” he said.

DeVarney estimates that by acting as his own engineer, legal team and construction crew, he has saved at least 50 percent over a typical landfill gas electricity generation project.

So far he has constructed a building to house the generators; bought the generators themselves (purchased on an Internet auction); designed the fuel delivery and engine control system for the generators; installed a backup flare to burn off excess gas or operate in an emergency shut down; and built a cyclonic moisture separator based on designs in “Gas Cyclones and Swirl Tubes,” by Alex Hoffman and Louis Stein. The device is used to separate water from the landfill gas as it comes out of the landfill, before it goes into the generators.

“The gas is allowed to enter, but centrifugal force says to the water vapor, ‘you can’t hang on any more, honey,’” he explained.

His use of the book is indicative of the types of things he’s had to learn – without the benefit of a college degree.

“I’m an avid reader and student of all things fascinating,” he said. “I have no institutionalized post-secondary education whatsoever.”

DeVarney ordered the book online, read it, but still had some questions about how to make the moisture separator. So he e-mailed one of the authors, Louis Stein, and eventually called him to ask for advice.

“In the ensuing week, I give him my rudimentary drawings, he marks them up, sends them back, and all of a sudden I have a cyclonic collector supposedly of my design, but validated by ‘the man,’” DeVarney said. “That’s the kind of help that I’ve gotten.”

Vermont has three operational landfill biogas electricity-generating projects, according to a report in “The Vermont Energy Digest,” published by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. A landfill in Brattleboro produces about 0.25 MW; the Intervale in Burlington produces about 0.7 MW; and the Coventry landfill cranks out 6.4 MW. The CSWD has been planning a regional landfill in Williston since the 1990s. If the landfill is built, it could have a capacity of 1 MW by 2015, according to the report. DeVarney’s 0.09 MW is comparatively tiny, but he estimates that is still enough electricity to power 75-80 homes.

Green Mountain Power will pay DeVarney by the kilowatt-hour, a portion of which will go to CSWD. The price is calculated hourly by ISO New England, a nonprofit company that oversees the region’s electricity market. DeVarney said he has personally pumped over $100,000 into the endeavor, but he hopes to have the project pay for itself within two years of coming online.

Dave Lamont, power planner for the state Department of Public Service, said projects like DeVarney’s, while small-scale, are a positive thing.

“This is not going to solve the world’s energy problems,” Lamont said. “But they do add up to something. Taken on an individual basis we’re creating energy from waste, which is good.”

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, the environmental benefit of DeVarney’s generation project (compared to using fossil fuels to generate the same capacity) is equal to planting 128 acres of forest or taking 90 vehicles off the road.

After the Williston project is live, DeVarney hopes to expand. He sees this as just the beginning of a series of waste-to-energy projects.

“I want to look at what you’re throwing away, where I can park, is there electricity to it, and I want to make a project,” he said. “And I don’t care if it’s a third this size. But I do want to make 200 of them.”

[Read more…]

Dottie 2 draws a crowd

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The recorded trumpet call that echoed through Brennan Woods and Pleasant Acres neighborhoods Tuesday night announced not the start of a horse race but the arrival of a different kind of horsepower: Dottie 2, the Dorothy Alling Library bookmobile.

A bookmobile holiday last week for the Fourth of July got some families out of practice for this week’s return of the service. The Varricchione family had been eating dinner when the trumpet call came.

“They jumped down from dinner today and ran over!” Glenn Varricchione said of his three children perusing the books on the bus.

Though some were caught off guard, kids and parents biked, walked and ran Tuesday night to the bus that can carry about 800 children’s and young adult books.

The bookmobile, driven by library staff, allows patrons to check out and return books on board Tuesday through Thursday evenings weekly during the summer months. The bookmobile visits 10 neighborhoods, with South Ridge and Pleasant Acres being the busiest stops, according to Aislinn LaCroix, bookmobile assistant. Patrons don’t have to be residents of a particular neighborhood to come aboard.

Children and teens may choose from categories like easy readers and picture books, mysteries and sports, fiction and young adult. Youth services librarian Jill Coffrin said graphic novels – books that tell stories through illustrated characters – and non-fiction are most popular.

Zachary Varricchione, 7, selected two Junie B. Jones titles Tuesday night.

“It has so many good books we can read and look at,” Zachary said after getting off the bookmobile. The service is great, he said, because “you can wait at home and you don’t need to get in the car and pack everything up. You can just wait for the bus to drive in.”

Abby Veronneau, who had four children who boarded the bus to return and pick up new books Tuesday night, said she thinks the bookmobile influences her children’s reading habits.

“I find they like to read more,” Veronneau said. “I think they enjoy seeing the woman that works on the bus. It’s like an ice cream truck, but it’s a bookmobile.”

Keeping up reading habits during the summer is in part what the bookmobile is all about, according to Jill Coffrin, youth services librarian and Dottie 2 driver on Tuesday night.

“Bookmobiles are meant to reach people who don’t traditionally go to the library,” Coffrin said of national bookmobile trends. Williston’s bookmobile visits local schools before summer starts to get kids excited about it, Coffrin said.

LaCroix, the Champlain Valley Union High School student who assists each night the bookmobile runs, said when kids aren’t in school, too often their focus is videos, games and television.

“Most of my friends don’t read at all,” LaCroix said.

The bookmobile service may help to break what LaCroix sees as a trend among her peers. Circulation of bookmobile books has been climbing according to data provided by library staff. In 2001, for example, 552 books were checked out of the bookmobile. Last year 1,311 books were checked out.

Regulars of the bookmobile have found two major improvements this year: the retrofitted retired mini school bus is new to the library, providing more space; and thanks to the effort of a CVU High School student graduation challenge project, the book check-out process is now automated.

[Read more…]

Bridge jumpers in Richmond to face court citations

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Until now, a leap from the Bridge Street bridge in downtown Richmond was a way to quickly get into the cooling waters of the river below.

From now on, jumpers will find the hot waters of a court citation after their leaps off the creaky spanner.

Police Chief William “Joe” Miller has said over the past week that individuals caught trying to dive off the bridge will be charged and prosecuted with disorderly conduct under Vermont law.

According to Miller there are dangers for the jumpers and also passing motorists.

“The depth of the Winooski River in the area of the bridge is unpredictable, and it is unknown what hazardous items may be under the surface of the water,” Miller said recently.

“Those jumping off the bridge are also distracting motorists traveling in both directions and thus creating the potential for a motor vehicle accident on or before the bridge,” he said.

The chief also acknowledged possible danger to pedestrians and others on the bridge.

Miller said that there have been numerous complaints from citizens about the teenage bridge jumpers. Some complaints came by phone and at least one came in a more dramatic fashion.

“I was in a line of cars waiting to cross the bridge—it has been temporarily reduced to one lane—when a woman jumped out of a car waiting ahead of me and began waving her arms. I got out and she was pointing to a youngster on top of the bridge about to leap into the river,” the chief recalled.

Miller estimates that to be a 50- to 70-foot drop.

Starting last week, Richmond police were to start issuing the court citations to the jumpers after letting them off with warnings for the past few weeks.

“We are going to enforce it,” the chief said. “This is a potentially dangerous situation so I have an obligation to do something about it.”

[Read more…]