May 23, 2019

Local, bestselling author offers glimpse into new novel

Bohjalian visits Dorothy Alling Library

By Colin Ryan
Observer correspondent

Author Chris Bohjalian strode confidently to the podium at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library over the weekend, thanking the crowd for coming out on a rainy Saturday to listen to a few passages from his not-yet-published manuscript, “Skeletons At The Feast.”

The energetic novelist welcomed the room of 50, filled with longtime readers of his novels and his weekly newspaper column, calling them “medieval monks of the digital age, who still care about words, about reading and about what books can mean to the soul.”

The well-attended event was a success for the library, according to library Director Marti Fiske.

“This was the first time Chris has read at the library in Williston,” Fiske pointed out. “Ever since he’s gotten Oprah’s stamp of approval, his speaking prices have increased. But he tries to get out into the community as much as he can, and he was very gracious to take our much reduced offer.”

In a sharp dark suit worn over a pink and purple shirt, Bohjalian looked like a trendy Manhattanite, more publisher than author. Yet he is the first to joke about himself, quoting one Internet review for his 2003 novel “The Double Bind” as “the single worst book ever sold anywhere ever.”

He can afford the self-effacement. In a literary career spanning 19 years, he has published 10 books, three of which, including “The Double Bind,” have been New York Times bestsellers. His weekly column in the Burlington Free Press, “Idyll Chatter,” is in its 16th year. His book “Midwives” was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club.

He read the prologue of his new novel, a World War II era love triangle set on a sugar beet farm in East Prussia, with boyish enthusiasm. His hands gestured as his voice carried across the room, the phrases in his confident, researched descriptions exploding like the bomb blasts his characters hunker beneath.

Bohjalian’s novels have covered topics from home birth to homelessness, from animal rights to transgender identity, prompting the New York Times to label him an “issues novelist.” The author does draw the inspiration for many of his stories from real life characters. Yet the living figures are not recreated in his work — rather they are departure points for his fiction.

“I begin each story with the vaguest of premises. A couple, grieving for the loss of their girls in a flood, takes in a foster child. A public school teacher falls in love with a man about to undergo a sex change,” Bohjalian said. “Or when, in 1999, a friend asked me to take a look at his mother’s journal. Spanning from 1920 to 1945, it told the story of a matriarch trying to keep her family together on a massive estate in East Prussia, and how their lives change when their part of Prussia is taken over by the Polish, then the Germans. In the end, the family had to run to stay ahead of the Soviets.”

The author, still glowing from the creative effort of bringing the journal to life, remarked on how society and the industry have changed so much that the writer doesn’t get to just write anymore.

“I am fascinated by the process of publishing books. For an eight-week period earlier this year, I kept a time sheet to see how I spend my time,” Bohjalian said. “I discovered that I spend 15 percent of my time filing, 20 percent marketing, and only about 50 percent of my day writing. If you said to me in 1988 that as a writer, I’d only spend one out of every two hours writing, I’d have been really surprised.”

In Bohjalian’s search for ways to keep his books selling, he has discovered the Internet to be a vast marketplace he can utilize.

“While I worry that there are people out there who would rather watch sock puppet videos on YouTube than read, there are also a lot of people who are using the Web to connect about books. I am thrilled and astonished by the number of people who have reviewed and recommended my books on the Internet. On my Web site there are active discussion boards, reading group signups and you can ask me questions online. To sell books, I try to make myself incredibly accessible via the Web.”

Bohjalian seemed to enjoy fielding questions about his books, because they offered him the opportunity to talk about the origins of his stories. “The Double Bind,” for instance, came to him when Rita Markely, director of Burlington’s Committee on Temporary Shelter, brought to his attention a box of photos left after the death of a homeless man named Bob “Soupy” Campbell. The photos were of luminaries, jazz musicians, and cityscapes. Bohjalian was fascinated by how Soupy had traveled from photographing beauty and glamour to dying homeless and unknown in northern Vermont.

With Bohjalian’s curiosity alive and well, his stories still highlight the sublime in everyday life. “Skeletons At The Feast” is expected to hit store shelves in May 2008.

[Read more…]

Black Friday brings crowds

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Shannon Brown drove two hours from St. Johnsbury to Williston on Friday to battle crowds and packed parking lots and take advantage of sales offered by retailers at Maple Tree Place and Taft Corners.

“I had to go to three stores to find what I wanted,” Brown said, before she finally grabbed one of the last two Dance Dance Revolution video games at Toys “R” Us.

Brown and the masses came out for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally opens the holiday shopping season with huge sales.

“Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us were crazy. You had to elbow people just to get anywhere,” Brown said, adding that she saw three car accidents in Maple Tree Place.

Many shoppers declined interviews with the Observer as they hustled off to the next sale or a short lunch break. And as much as shoppers were looking forward to deals, retailers were also waiting for the day with anticipation.

Tasha Wallis, executive director of the Vermont Retail Association, said, “Because of uncertainty around the economy,” a lot of attention was focused on the retail sales of Black Friday and the entire weekend.

Though Wallis said national sales figures for the weekend jumped 8 percent over last year –
she said retailers expected a 4 percent increase – she did not have specific figures for Williston or even Vermont.

“Anecdotally, I can tell you it was busy in the county,” Wallis said, adding that electronics made up a large portion of sales in Williston.

A dollar that has fallen in value may have actually benefited Vermont retailers.

“ Chittenden County saw a bump in Canadian shoppers. I think that’s a real opportunity for Vermont merchants throughout the holiday seasons,” Wallis said. “It’s because the Canadian dollar is so strong. The purchasing power is so much stronger down here.”

At Best Buy, general manager Brian Shedd said he heard of people lining up at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The store opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

“The day after Thanksgiving, compared to years past, was decent,” Shedd said. “It was certainly comparable.”

Top-selling goods at the store, according to Shedd, included Sony laptops, Garmin GPS systems and Kodak digital cameras.

Toys “R” Us in Williston directed questions to its corporate public relations office in New Jersey. Bob Friedland, the company’s public relations manager, had few details about the scene in Williston and would not reveal sales numbers due to company policy.

Friedland did say every Toys “R” Us in the country opened at 5 a.m., and said, “We were very pleased with Black Friday weekend.”

For all the hype around Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year has yet to come – Wallis said that distinction belongs to the Saturday before Christmas.

“I think there were so many promotions on Black Friday and around the (Thanksgiving) holiday, it really got people out. It’s early to tell how the whole season is going to be,” Wallis said. “People may have come out early because they want to stretch their holiday dollar. We’re hoping they came out early as a sign of a good holiday season.”

[Read more…]

Connecting Youth gives annual

By Rachel Gill
Observer correspondent

Blushing cheeks and teary eyes were common trends during a volunteer recognition awards ceremony on Nov. 15 at Champlain Valley Union High School. Recipients were honored for everything from years dedicated to mentoring youth to being known as “everyone’s mom.” No matter how big the good deed, every award drew a consistent “aw shucks” reaction.

The reactions were entirely appropriate, as the recognitions were called the “Aw Shucks” awards, given by the Connecting Youth program, also known as CY. According to Dayna Scott, CY coordinator, for the past 13 years the community-based Vermont organization has honored local volunteers with “Aw Shucks” awards for their dedication to volunteerism.

The residents help CY create a safe, healthy environment for young people through substance abuse prevention and community programs.

For this year’s ceremony, CVU students Jessica Spadaccini, a CY board member, and Jonathan Bateman, CY youth co-chairman, presented the awards to 10 recipients from Williston, Charlotte, Shelburne, Hinesburg, St. George and CVU.

Among the blushing honorees were Shona Mossey-Lothrop and Cathy Kohlasch of Williston. Lothrop was recognized for, among other things, seven years of volunteering as a CY Youth Mentor at Williston Central School.

“The difference that Shona has made in mentoring relationships and the program is beyond measure,” said Nancy Carlson, CY Mentoring Director. “Shona supports the program with consistency, wisdom and boundless energy through putting her amazing personal touch on everything she does.”

Attending the awards ceremony were two experts on Lothrop’s mentoring skills.

“I like to talk to Shona because she listens and understands me,” said Brittany Hoyt, a seventh-grader at Williston Central School. “She has made me more self-confident and always cheers me on and cheers me up.”

For Kayla Brasard, a CVU senior, it took just seconds of talking about Lothrop for her voice to quiver and the tears to flow.

“Shona has been my mentor for the past seven years and now I am going to be heading off to college and I hope she will always be a part of my life,” Brasard said.

Kohlasch, who is known in Williston as “everyone’s mom,” also took home an “Aw Shucks” award. Kohlasch’s volunteer work includes coaching Mini Metro girls and boys’ basketball for the last six years and serving on the Williston Recreation Commission for nine years.

“It’s definitely humbling to be receiving this award,” Kohlasch said. “I just do what I do because it energizes me and working with kids is what makes me tick.”

Lindsay Hawley, a CVU student, said she has been lucky to be on the receiving end of Kohlasch’s volunteerism.

“She is a loving mother, coach and friend,” Hawley said. “She has always been there for me and I am one of many who have learned a great deal because of her.”

Every year CY honors one business with an “Aw Shucks” award. This year that recognition went to Perry Rianhard and Chris McCown of The PhotoGarden in Williston.

“It is impossible to fully capture the PhotoGarden’s support of CY,” said Carlson.

According to Carlson, for the past five years, PhotoGarden has designed and printed posters honoring the CY mentors.

“These posters have been a powerful recruitment tool,” Carlson said. “The posters also remind our kids of the wonderful, caring adults in our community.”

Jan Bedard, CY Community Prevention liaison, said the awards are the one chance to honor volunteers that typically shy away from recognition.

“These volunteers have gone above and beyond with their efforts and that’s what made them candidates for an ‘Aw Shucks’ award,” Bedard said.

Award recipients are nominated by community members. Bedard said CY contacts schools, CY board members and the community to seek out recipients.

[Read more…]

American Legion struggles with growing pains

Post 45 heading to Burlington for Veterans Day

By Garret K. Woodward
Observer correspondent

“We take care of our own,” said Walter Trepanier. His voice struck a sense of strength and patriotism over the phone, but the tone of the 83-year-old veteran faltered a little as he pondered the obstacles facing the Williston American Legion, now in its second year. “But it’s rough you know and we can’t do it alone.”

A South Pacific Army Engineer during World War II, Trepanier enlisted shortly after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. Stationed in the Philippines, Australia, New Guinea and eventually Japan, he witnessed the carnage brought upon Nagasaki just weeks after the hydrogen bomb decimated the city.

“It was an awful sight to see, we knew it was somewhat radioactive but we had a job to do,” he said.

Now retired after years as an electrician, Trepanier is Commander of American Legion Post 45 in Williston and sees many challenges, which include having no official meeting house, a lag in membership and a lack of funding. Because of these barriers, the group plans to celebrate the Nov. 11 Veterans Day in Burlington’s Battery Park.

Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day was marked for commemoration by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. The significance of the 11th day of the 11th month was established to remember the exact day in 1918 that fighting ended in World War I — and to commend all who heroically gave their lives in The Great War and previous conflicts.

“It’s kind of hard seeing as there is nothing really active in the town. We’d like to celebrate here in Williston but we really have no place to go or not enough members present,” Trepanier said while thinking about the Nov. 11 memorial services. “If someone wants to donate a building they can, if they want to donate money to Post 45 they can, but until then we must go outside our community to celebrate.”

For now, the post meets once a month for an hour at the recreational hall in the Whitney Hill Senior Housing complex. According to Trepanier, of the 70 or so members, only 45 have paid the yearly membership dues. Many are not around this time of year, either hunting or migrating south as the winter months set in.

But this does not deter those who remain, especially Trepanier, who is trying to get the organization off the ground.

“A lot of people don’t even know we’re out here. We’re trying to get more to join and have the younger generations come in and take over, but with no money and no building it’s difficult,” Trepanier said.

According to Burlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Bob Colby, Williston’s isn’t the only chapter in Vermont struggling with financial and membership needs.

“Every group whether it be the American Legion or VFW has been affected from certain bills being passed in the legislature, the biggest one being the smoking ban,” Colby said. The imposition of the smoking ban at American Legion and VFW meeting spots angered many veterans, Colby said, who felt their group was a private fraternal order and not a public establishment.

With the rules enforced by the state, the club began losing members and a major source of income at establishments, according to Colby.

“The money that we fundraise goes to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or somewhere else in the community. There isn’t much left over for the veterans themselves, which is why we rely on the tavern and we lost a lot of income and people over the ban,” Colby said.

Yet regardless of who needs how much money or how many members, military colleagues in Burlington wait with open arms for those outside the city looking for a place to properly celebrate soldiers fallen and those who have come home safely.

“We welcome all veterans to our services. We’re all the same and are all veterans trying to do our part in the community,” Colby said.

[Read more…]

Murky results cloud Allen Brook testing

Pollutants sometimes prevalent, but why?

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The town of Williston has completed a four-month water testing program in Allen Brook. The results showed the water is polluted, but the cause is as muddy as the sometimes slow-flowing stream.

The tests indicated that parts of Allen Brook are consistently contaminated with high levels of E. coli. Two other types of pollutants were present in relatively low levels.

The source of pollution, however, remains a mystery. The only sure thing is that the problem gets worse when it rains.

“I think we can clearly say that some of the pollution problem we have in Allen Brook is related to stormwater runoff, which is what I totally thought based on the fact that the whole watershed is stormwater impaired,” said Carrie Deegan, the town of Williston’s environmental planner. “We definitely see some spikes in all of these parameters following rainfalls.”

The testing involved taking samples weekly during June, July, August and September from eight locations along Allen Brook. State laboratories analyzed the samples for E. coli, phosphorus and nitrogen.

E. coli contamination is common, the tests show. At five of the eight sampling sites – each in or near a residential area – levels exceeded the state’s strict standard of 77 colonies per 100 milliliters of water on at least 75 percent of the tests. At a sampling site on River Cove Road, every one of the 17 samples collected over the summer exceeded the E. coli standard.

But in rural areas near the southern headwaters of Allen Brook, E. coli numbers were relatively low. If farming was the cause, the tests could be expected to show elevated levels of E. coli and perhaps phosphorus in those areas, Deegan said.

Instead, with some exceptions, the highest levels of contamination were found along the more developed stretches. Many of those areas are in residential neighborhoods such as the South Ridge and Brennan Woods subdivisions. In some cases, Allen Brook literally runs through backyards.

That would seem to point a finger at homeowners as the main polluters, particularly those who use chemicals containing phosphorus or nitrogen to kills weeds or fertilize lawns. But the tests showed relatively low levels of those chemicals in areas of the stream near homes.

Residents’ dogs and cats, however, could be responsible for the high E. coli numbers, said Jim Pease, a biologist with the state Division of Water Quality. Cats and dogs defecate on driveways and streets, and the waste is washed into streams when it rains.

A recent study of the Lake Champlain watershed found that stormwater runoff was the major cause of pollution, particularly in developed areas, said Nicole Ballinger, communications coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program, an organization whose mission it is to protect and restore the lake and its watershed. The study concluded that runoff in urban and suburban areas was quadruple that found near agricultural land.

Deegan said Williston’s testing program clearly shows that stormwater is a factor in how much pollution is present in Allen Brook. The highest levels of E. coli were recorded after storms.

For example, after a heavy rainfall in early July, testing recorded E. coli levels at six of eight sites that were literally off the scale – more than 30 times the state standard.

Allen Brook runs 11 miles through Williston. Beginning at Sunset Hill, it flows through Williston Village, bending north near Taft Corners and crossing Vermont 2A before it reaches its confluence with Muddy Brook near the Williston/South Burlington line.

Since 1992, portions of Allen Brook have been included on Vermont’s list of impaired waterways. The state has long known the stream’s health was hurt by stormwater runoff, but limited data was available on specific pollutants.

The tests likely indicate that most of the contamination is not related to any one source. That “non-point source” pollution is difficult to track, but it does point out the need for everyone, especially residents, to do their part in reducing it, Ballinger said.

“We all have to look at our own individual behavior,” she said.

[Read more…]

Selectboard rejects rezoning fee

Attorney says town can’t impose $1,500 levy

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Selectboard on Monday nixed a $1,500 fee for rezoning applications after learning Williston could not legally impose the levy.

The proposal was aimed at defraying costs associated with reviewing and processing rezoning requests. A recent case consumed considerable staff time and required public hearings before the Planning Commission and Selectboard.

But Town Manager Rick McGuire said in a memo that the town’s lawyer concluded Williston did not have state authority to impose the fee. He recommended the Selectboard vote against the proposal.

Town Planner Lee Nellis, who proposed the fee, told the board he recently received another rezoning application that will “take hundreds of hours of staff time” to process. He suggested the application, combined with an already heavy workload, could be too much for planning staffers to bear.

“We have a difficult workload, and problems with stress on the staff are beginning to manifest themselves,” Nellis said.

When the proposal was first presented at the Selectboard’s Sept. 10 meeting, board members Ted Kenney and Judy Sassorossi said it could discourage citizen participation in municipal matters and worried it might be viewed as a tax on free speech.

After hearing Nellis’s presentation on Monday, Sassorossi abruptly moved to table the proposal and Kenney seconded the motion. Chairman Terry Macaig said no further discussion would be allowed and the board quickly approved the motion.

Tabling a proposal usually means it will resurface in the future. But Macaig and Sassorossi said after the meeting that the issue was unlikely to be revisited.

In addition to effectively killing the fee proposal, the vote also short-circuited what might have been a discussion of staffing and personnel issues. Sassorossi said she made the motion to quickly move through a long agenda. Under meeting rules of order, Macaig said, discussion ends with a motion to table.

The fee proposal was in part prompted by a rezoning application filed last year by Bill Dunn, owner of the Hillside East business park off Hurricane Lane. He asked to change zoning from residential to commercial for a parcel adjacent to the business park to accommodate a tenant’s expansion plans.

The Selectboard and Planning Commission eventually agreed to change zoning, but the company ended up moving to South Burlington.

Nellis complained that the process took weeks of staff time that could have been spent on other tasks. He estimated that a consultant would have charged $4,000 to complete the job.

Nellis surveyed area towns to see if they charged a fee. He found that Colchester charges $1,300 for rezoning applications and Shelburne charges $901.25 for applications that require changes to both the town’s bylaws and comprehensive plan.

McGuire acknowledged there may be differing legal opinions on the issue. Board member Andy Mikell, a lawyer himself, said Colchester and Essex might be surprised by Williston’s take on the fee’s legality.

“Don’t tell the two towns that charge fees,” Mikell said with a wry smile.

[Read more…]

Plant a Row exceeds goals

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Almost 20 people gathered at the Observer’s office last week to celebrate the successful end of this year’s Plant a Row for the Hungry — and strive for even loftier goals next year.

Residents and businesses brought in more than 2,200 pounds of produce — with more food still arriving — during the summer and fall charity event. Plant a Row encourages local gardeners to drop off extra food at the Observer office for donations to food shelves in Hinesburg and Burlington. The Observer had set a goal of raising 2,000 pounds.

“Next year we’ll get the word out for more small families, because every little bit counts,” said Sierra Flynn, the Observer’s office coordinator and Plant a Row organizer.

Publisher Marianne Apfelbaum set a goal at the reception to raise 2,500 pounds next year.

This year, residents donated 921 pounds of produce. The Foley-Fontaine farm contributed 625 pounds, the Williston Master Gardeners gave 584 pounds and other businesses chipped in with 82 pounds of food.

Led by June Jones and Sue Stanne, the Master Gardeners, a program out of the University of Vermont Extension Service, worked a 2,000 square foot plot in the Williston Community Garden to grow tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and other vegetables for Plant a Row.

The channel 3 television program “Across the Fence” recently ran a segment about the Master Gardeners and their contribution to Plant a Row.

Master Gardener groups exist throughout the state, and director Nancy Hulett said that toiling in a community garden to donate to a food shelf helps with the mission of educating others about safe gardening.

Communicating with the food shelves helped educate the Master Gardeners on what people like to eat.

“It’s nice to have interaction with the food shelf people,” Jones said. “We, through dialogue, learned what things they like and don’t like.”

The Hinesburg Food Shelf, which serves more than 60 families a month according to director Doug Gunnerson, received 536 pounds of food.

“The (Plant a Row) gardening project has opened a new opportunity for us to serve our clients. Many clients have expressed appreciation for the fresh produce,” Gunnerson wrote The Observer by e-mail.

Dan Boomhower, whose family has a farm in Williston, got involved with the program after seeing an ad in the paper and donated 171 pounds of squash, beans tomatoes and zucchini.

“It seemed like a great idea for us to be involved, because we have a large garden that’s been going for a long time. As the family gets smaller, people have moved away, we have less need for the produce growing here,” Boomhower said.

[Read more…]

Lake Iroquois dock proposal draws opposition

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

When Boy Scouts recite their oath, they pledge “to help other people at all times.” Eagle Scout candidate Jeffrey Dumas is finding some people may not want the help you offer.

The 16-year-old Williston resident has for the past year been planning the construction of a boat dock on Lake Iroquois to fulfill an Eagle Scout requirement. He has researched materials, attended meetings and raised funds.

The project appeared to be going smoothly. The dock would be installed next spring. Dumas would receive his Eagle badge, Scouting’s highest rank.

Then the neighbors found out.

About 30 people who live around the lake have now written to the Vermont Division of Water Quality, which must grant a permit before the dock is built. While not everyone expressed outright opposition, state officials said, many neighbors questioned the proposal. They worry the dock will attract noisy motorboats and increase the risk of infesting the lake with invasive aquatic life.

“We just think it would be better if his efforts were directed toward something else,” said Tom Moody, who owns a summer camp near the lake and a home in Williston. “This has nothing to do with a scout’s Eagle project, which we’re very supportive of. We’d like to find some project where we can be collaborative.”

Moody and other residents said they hope to convince Dumas to instead build a boat wash or a shelter where boats brought to the lake could be inspected for contamination.

Dumas sounded a conciliatory note about the opposition.

“I know I have to work with them and listen to their concerns or possibly work around them and find a way to make them content with this project,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be happy with it in time.”

The dock Dumas proposed would be as long as 50 feet, although he said it could be shorter. It would supplement the nearby boat ramp on the northern end of the lake. Mounted on wheels, the dock would be rolled out of the lake each fall and pulled back in the spring. The town of Williston has agreed to maintain it.

The dock would allow smaller craft such as rowboats and kayaks to be launched without their owners having to wade into the water and then clamber aboard. It could also ease access for seniors and people with handicaps.

The Lake Iroquois Recreation District, which oversees the beach and public land near the lake, wrote a letter to the state supporting the project. The district is governed by a four-member board comprised of representatives from Williston, Hinesburg, Richmond and St. George.

But some residents are worried the dock will bring more motorboats to the relatively small lake, which covers 229 acres where the four towns intersect. Yet they are also aware the project represents a good deed.

“Most people have been very outspoken about the fact that there’s no need to be totally negative because it’s a goodwill project,” said Carlie Geer, Hinesburg’s representative on the Recreation District board and a Lake Iroquois property owner. “They don’t want to make this a totally negative experience for the scout.”

Dumas has been a scout for about six years. The boat dock will fulfill the leadership portion of his Eagle Scout requirements.

He spoke stoically of the hubbub his dock, which was suggested by a friend of his family, has created.

“The whole point of the project is to help out the community and do something that needs to get done,” he said. “I thought if people in the community want it, then I’d get it for them to help out.”

Lake Iroquois residents have over the years struggled to control boat traffic. State records show that a proposal to restrict boat speeds to 10 mph was rejected in 1978.

Some residents say current efforts center on preventing the spread of invasive species of aquatic life, which can foul the water for swimming and boating. The lake already has a milfoil problem. Residents are in the process of forming a homeowners association to better deal with water quality issues.

Word about the dock proposal spread after abutting property owners were notified by the state and told others. Letters began to flow into the Division of Water Quality offices in Waterbury.

Most expressed at least some concern about the dock if not outright opposition, said Steven Hanna, environmental engineer with the Division of Water Quality.

The quantity of correspondence is important because the agency is required to hold a public meeting on a permit application upon the request of 25 or more residents. Hanna said a meeting date has not been set, but it will not take place until mid-November.

State officials said that residents’ worries about increased boat traffic are misplaced. When docks were installed at other lakes around Vermont, they say, there was little change.

“The fear is that it will bring bigger boats and more people,” said John Guilmette, senior facilities engineer with the Division of Water Quality. “From a historic perspective, it just doesn’t happen.”

Roger Krouse, who owns a camp on Lake Iroquois, said he is skeptical of that assertion. He said boaters visit both Lake Iroquois and Lake Champlain, and easier access will only make Lake Iroquois a more desirable destination. That could lead to Lake Iroquois being infected with more invasive species such as the zebra mussels that now plague Lake Champlain.

Dumas has until he is 18 years old to earn his Eagle badge. He said he’d like to receive the rank soon so he has time to pursue the three higher levels of the Eagle designation.

Asked what the process has taught his son, Steve Dumas replied “perseverance” and defined that word.

“The ability to keep working toward your goal and not let a bump in the road throw you off course,” he said. “There’s a lot of different viewpoints in the world. You need to work with people and find a common goal.”

[Read more…]

School Board asked to take stance on landfill

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Members of Vermont Organized Communities Against Landfills took their fight to the Williston School Board last week, presenting information they hope will convince board members to oppose the landfill planned on Redmond Road.

With 2-year-old daughter Karina in his arms and 5-year-old Kayleigh sitting nearby, Scott Bushweller gave the five board members a packet with a map of the landfill and studies and news articles about the dangers of landfills. During the public comment period of the meeting, he told the board he wanted to offer them and the public information Chittenden Solid Waste District would not likely provide.

The waste district is considering a landfill on 66 acres on Redmond Road. The site is more than a mile from Allen Brook School.

Diane Frank spoke after Bushweller, asking the board to spread information about the landfill to the public.

“The reason I went to them (the School Board members), is because their primary role is to educate students. At a higher level, it’s being concerned about children’s health. (A landfill) affects quality of life and the ability to learn,” Bushweller later told The Observer.

Unaware of the landfill plan when he moved to Williston two years ago, Bushweller has since done his own research and said he has used his father, a former chairman of the University of Vermont chemistry department, and brother, a biochemist at the University of Virginia, as resources.

“We’re trying to stop this from happening, and the more public figures that come out and are against it the more pressure on the Chittenden Solid Waste District, that this is bad idea,” Bushweller said.

Frank, who, like Bushweller, was unaware of the landfill proposal when she moved to Williston more than four years ago, said the landfill debate encompasses issues of quality of life, home values, the environment and economics. But she said none is more important than health and safety.

Darlene Worth, chairwoman of the School Board, had not decided earlier this week whether the board would take a stance for or against the landfill.

“Apparently some research indicates that it might be a safety issue. We haven’t had a chance to talk about it, or go in deeper or even read (Bushweller’s packet). But we plan to, and hopefully talk about it more at the next meeting,” Worth said, adding the board could act by writing letters to newspapers, either as a group or as individuals.

Waste district General Manager Tom Moreau, upon hearing about the presentation at the School Board meeting, said he wanted to schedule a similar opportunity to talk to board members.

“I need to get a copy of what they (Bushweller) gave, see if they’re salient facts, see if anything is exaggerated and try to get an understanding from the School Board if they’re going to take action,” Moreau said. “If they’re being reasonable, they’ll want to hear both sides of the story.”

Moreau said the decision whether or not to permit and build the landfill would go beyond just the neighborhoods near the site.

“Nothing will be built that does not pass either EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) muster or State of Vermont muster,” Moreau said, adding that the ultimate decision for or against the landfill would consider science, engineering and economics.

[Read more…]


By Mary Lake
Observer correspondent

Student-written humor and music that will make the audience want to get up and dance has Champlain Valley Union High School’s drama program certain “Hot Mikado” will be a hit Thursday night.

After a jittery moment about a week ago when junior Jacob Tischler said cast and crew felt a little unprepared, spirits are changing.

“Now, we’re like, ‘Oh, man, we’re ready to rock,’” said Tischler, who plays Koko.

The musical comedy written by David Bell is a 1940s version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 opera “The Mikado,” a satire of British rule set in Japan. CVU’s adaptation adds local references, present-day political jokes and a youthful interpretation of a complicated love triangle, or rather, quadrangle.

Along with writing most of the comedic sketches under the guidance of director Sebastian Ryder, students put in two hours each to design and build the set with art director Tim Duvernoy. Also a CVU art teacher, Duvernoy said he and Ryder acted more as facilitators because of the high level of motivation and creativity of the students.

To set the scene of 1940s Japan, CVU’s stage is decorated with blue and purple paper lanterns constructed by junior Matt Winter and illuminated white paper walls designed by freshman Jenn Dunn.

To add to the brightness, costumes – zoot suits and 1940s attire hand-made by Joann Frymire, a program member’s parent – consist of all the colors of the rainbow.

“Take a box of 64 Crayola crayons, take out the black, browns and white. That’s the color palette for this show,” Ryder said.

If the visual intensity of “Hot Mikado” isn’t enough to please the audience, the physical humor of the actors and jokes grown-ups will appreciate should do the trick, said senior Dan Liebman.

Liebman, who plays the Mikado, spent the fall learning tap dance so he could perform a six-minute number for the musical. In the scene, cast members are supposed to act surprised by his talent, but when Liebman completed the routine for the first time in rehearsal, fellow actor, junior Haley Perkins, said no one had to act.

Learning tap was the highlight of preparing for “Hot Mikado,” said Leibman, who worked one-on-one with Ryder after rehearsals.

Ryder, a dance instructor at Essex High School, said it is important that acting be a comprehensive learning experience. To help prepare students for CVU’s past production of “Les Miserables,” Ryder had a French teacher attend rehearsal to talk about French history, brought in a doctor to explain the effects of hunger and invited a former prisoner to describe what it’s like to be incarcerated.

In “Hot Mikado,” students are learning about comedy, which may seem trivial, Ryder said, “but the ability to see what’s funny in life will enable a person to be happy forever.”

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