April 19, 2014

Corporate landowners appeal appraisals

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Reductions would cost homeowners

Aug. 21, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston homeowners have shouldered an increasing share of the property tax burden in recent years as residential values rose rapidly and commercial land inched up slowly.

A town-wide appraisal this spring continued the trend, with home prices increasing an average of 43 percent and commercial property up just 20 percent.

But some of Williston’s largest corporate landowners still think their property is overvalued. If successful, their appeals would shift more of the tax burden onto residents and strain the town’s budget.

Among those appealing is IBM, which owns the second most expensive property in town. The company designs computer chips at the 482-acre complex off Redmond Road.

IBM said the town’s $31.6 million valuation is too high, even though it represents an increase of just 0.2 percent from the town’s last appraisal five years ago.

In a letter to the town, IBM asserts that the appraisal is inaccurate because the town failed to consider the facility’s actual market value and did not physically inspect and consider the condition of buildings.

Jeff Couture, an IBM spokesman, said the company simply wants to be treated the same as any other taxpayer.

“We just want to pay our fair share,” he said. “The same set of rules should apply. Taxation is taxation.”

IBM asked the town to reduce the appraisal to $18.4 million, a 42 percent decrease. The request was denied, and now the company has appealed to the town’s Board of Civil Authority.

IBM is one of a dozen businesses that were unsatisfied with the results of the grievance process, which includes a chance to informally meet with the town’s appraiser and then have a hearing before the Board of Listers. Each has appealed to the Board of Civil Authority.

They include Pizzagalli Properties LLC, which owns property valued at $8.9 million on Harvest Lane, and BankNorth, which has property on St. George Road valued at $5.2 million.

The highest-valued property in town is Maple Tree Place, the huge retail center at Taft Corners. The town’s appraisal valued it at $80.9 million.

The owner, Inland Western, initially appealed but dropped the matter after the town refused to reduce the value.

Bill Hinman, Williston’s assessor, said the appraisal was fair. Inland bought the property three years ago for $102.3 million.

“I said, ‘Look, you guys paid a lot more than we assessed you for,’” Hinman said. “You have to assume that the company is at least not crazy, that it must of put a lot of thought into it before plunking down a hundred million.”

Matt Tramel, a spokesman for Illinois-based Inland Group of Companies, which is affiliated with Inland Western, would say little about the aborted appeal.

“Inland thoroughly reviewed all the documentation and decided not to pursue the appeal,” Tramel said. He declined to further elaborate.

The town appraised Maple Tree Place for $42.2 million just before it was sold in 2005, raising questions about the accuracy of commercial valuations. Hinman has said he thought there were other business considerations in the deal, driving the price paid for Maple Tree Place beyond its actual market value.

Residents vs. corporations?

At least one resident believes the town has a bias favoring businesses to the detriment of residents’ wallets.

“What’s happening is that these are corporate bullies and they intimidate us,” said Jeffrey Haslett, president of the neighborhood association in the Eastview condominium development. “If they can’t get concessions, they threaten to leave town.”

Haslett, whose own valuation rose 44 percent, said many residents have neither the time nor the money to contest their property values, but big companies don’t have that problem.

Hinman said the appraisals are determined largely by looking at sales of comparable properties, and home prices have increased more than those for commercial and industrial properties. He said no special consideration is given to corporations, even IBM, the state’s largest private employer.

“It does not come into play whatsoever,” Hinman said. “It is not a thought on our radar, not even a blip.”

Hinman did not know exactly how much commercial property values have been reduced during the appeal process to date, but he said adjustments are comparable to those done for homeowners.

Municipal finance considerations

Williston officials have expressed concern about the impact of appeals on the town’s budget. Earlier this year, Town Manager Rick McGuire urged the Selectboard to be conservative in setting the tax rate because successful appeals by a couple of large business properties could reduce revenue and create a budget crunch.

A reduction in the appraised value of IBM caused an uproar in Essex Junction last year. The town dropped the value of the aging computer chip manufacturing facility located just across the Winooski River from Williston and other IBM-owned properties from $147 million to $104 million, according to Randy Viens, Essex’s assessor.

The decrease, combined with a quirk in the way the state funds education through property taxes, drove up taxes for homeowners. Jeff Carr, a Williston economist and the former chairman of the Essex Selectboard, remembers many residents accusing officials of “sticking it to the village’s taxpayers.”

On average, Essex homeowners saw an increase of $200 to $250 in property tax bills after the reappraisal, Carr said.

Viens said one reason the affect was so dramatic was because IBM’s plant – 3 million square feet – comprised more than 20 percent of Essex’s grand list, the total value of all property. In Williston, the impact of a devaluation of IBM’s 435,000-square-foot complex would be much smaller because it accounts for only a small fraction of the $1.6 billion grand list.

Still, IBM has drawn parallels between the Williston and Essex facilities and is seeking an even larger percentage devaluation here.

“The reappraisal overvalues the property significantly, in great contrast to a very recent, independently performed, and very thorough appraisal of IBM property in Essex Junction, Vermont,” wrote John DiToro, senior location executive, in the company’s notice of appeal. “IBM notes that the value attributed to square footage of building space in Williston is about 2X the value attributed to building space in Essex Junction.”

The Board of Civil Authority begins hearing appeals filed by commercial property owners next week. The IBM hearing is scheduled to take place Sept. 16 at Williston Town Hall.

Biggest property owners

Here are the 10 highest-valued commercial properties in Williston and the percentage increase in the town’s appraisal.

Property Owner/Location                            Value                    Increase
Inland Western/Maple Tree Place                  $80.9 million        19%
IBM Corp./Chip Alley                                   $31.6 million        0.2%
Miller Realty/Marshall Ave.                          $14.2 million        28%
Taft Corners Associates/Harvest Lane           $9.5 million        26%
Pizzagalli Properties/Harvest Lane.                $8.9 million        28%
Allen Brook Development/Cornerstone Dr.   $8.9 million        12%
Home Depot/Harvest Lane                            $8.7 million        26%
ST Griswold/Industrial Ave.                         $8.2 million        22%
Winter Development/Interstate Corp. Ctr.     $7.6 million        21%
The Miller Group/Holly Court                      $7.5 million        25%

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Heroes

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Observer photo by Greg Elias
Members of the Williston Little League All-Stars mingle with supporters on Friday. The team got a police escort as it rolled into Williston.  Read all about it here.

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Late inning rallies lift Armadillos over Warthogs (Aug.14 2008)

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Aug. 14, 2008

 After six innings, the Waterbury Warthogs, who came into Sunday’s Vermont Senior Baseball League game with a 9-2 record and a one game lead over the Williston Armadillos in the standings, led the Dillos 2-0. It was the first time in years that the Dillos had been held scoreless so late in a game.

But the Armadillos broke out of their stupor in the seventh inning by scoring five runs, and followed the outburst with three more in the eighth to notch an 8-2 victory.

By improving their record to 9-3, the Dillos moved into fourth place in the standings, behind Charlotte (12-0), Barre (11-1) and Colchester (8-2), with four games left to play.

The Armadillos outhit the Warthogs 16 to eight, with 10 of 11 players hitting safely. The team was led by third baseman Pat “Pukie” Martin (3-4, 1 run, 3 RBIs), catcher Bambino Fitzgerald (2-3, BB, 2 runs), pitcher Bill Supple (2-4), shortstop/pitcher Greg Bolger (2-4, 2 RBIs) and outfielder Billy “Vegas” Daw (2-4, 2 RBIs).

Supple pitched the first 6.2 innings, giving up seven hits, walking five and striking out five. Bolger picked up the win to improve his record to 3-0, giving up just one hit and walking none in the last 2.1 innings.

The Warthogs scored one run in the second inning on two walks and two singles and another run in the fourth on a walk, a throwing error and a fielder’s choice.

The Dillos stayed close with several key defensive plays. In the fifth, with a man on first and one out, Supple fielded a liner and threw to first to double off the runner. In the sixth, after a leadoff single, the Bambino threw to first to pick off the runner, which proved costly to the Warthogs, as the next two batters reached base, the latter on a single.

In the meantime, the Dillos’ offense was eerily silent until the seventh inning, when the team scored five times with some help from the opposing pitcher, who walked the Bambino, first baseman Dennis Johnson (1-3, BB, 2 runs) and left fielder Dann Van der Vliet (1-3, BB, 2 runs) to open the frame. Daw and Martin followed with infield hits to tie the score and the Dillos went ahead when Danis reached base on an error. Bolger then followed with a single to left, the first ball to hit out of the infield in the inning, to drive home two runs.

The Dillos came back with three more runs in the eighth as second baseman “DW” Wark (1-3, BB) walked and the Bambino, Van der Vliet, Daw and Martin all singled, with Daw driving in one run and Martin two.

On Sunday, the Dillos travel to Woodstock to play the 9-4 Killington Saints.

 

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Two losses knock Irelands out of Legion tourney (Aug.14 2008)

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Aug. 14, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

 
S.D. Ireland came up short last weekend during the American Legion baseball Northern District tournament. Ireland suffered two losses at the tournament in Middlebury to finish the season at 18-15, including non-league games.

The S.D. Ireland team came into the Northern District Tournament as the second seed, right behind the Colchester Cannons. Addison County seeded third, followed by the O.E.C. Kings.


File photo by Ben Sarle
S.D. Ireland player Paul Handy watches a pitch during a mid-season game against Orleans-Essex County. The American Legion baseball team rode a 14-4 league record to a second-place finish in the regular season, but bowed out of the Northern Division tournament this month with two straight losses.

The tournament began Friday, Aug. 1 in a four-team, double-elimination event. The Cannons played against the Kings, with S.D. Ireland taking on Addison. The Kings won in a lopsided 13-2 game.

S.D. Ireland lost to Addison in another one-sided game, 10-2, on Friday. Addison’s Corey Haight allowed just one hit in six innings, striking out four. Ireland infielder Justin Raymond smacked a triple for the team’s biggest hit of the game. Williston pitcher Nick Angstman took the loss.

S.D. Ireland played against the Cannons on Saturday morning in the losers’ bracket. Ireland could only muster one run, losing 7-1 and falling from the tournament. Cannon’s pitcher Matt Goulet took the win, with Williston pitcher Whitney Mikell taking the loss for Ireland. Raymond again tripled in the second game.

In the winner’s bracket, Addison defeated the Kings 4-2, advancing to the finals. The Cannons, winners of the losers’ bracket, took on the Kings on Sunday morning after rain shortened the Saturday afternoon game. The Kings beat the Cannons on Sunday, 6-5.

In the afternoon finals game, Addison and the Kings again faced off. Addison was dominant throughout and won the Northern District Tournament with a 23-3 win over the Kings.

Addison faced Rutland, the Southern District winners, in the state tournament. The team advances to play in the Northeast Legion Regional tournament, held in Bristol, Conn., on Thursday.

 

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Sports up and running at Champlain Valley Union (Aug.14 2008)

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Aug. 14, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Despite some weather-caused interruptions, tryouts and practices were going strong this week for Champlain Valley Union High School fall sports participants.

But not always out of doors.

Late Tuesday afternoon brought storm clouds and thunder, forcing football and boys and girls soccer into the gymnasium for conditioning exercises.


File photo by Terri Zittritsch
Champlain Valley Union football players make a tackle during a 2007 playoff game against Windsor. The team began tryouts this week and, under new head coach Jim Provost, will look to improve upon last year’s 4-6 record.

“The rule is, and I agree with it, once you hear thunder or see lightning, everybody has to go inside for at least a half-hour,” said first year head football coach Jim Provost. “If there is more thunder and/or lightning, then the clock starts again.”

Provost, in his second day of tryouts, has some 80 hopefuls working out, with more expected as family vacations come to an end.

After double sessions this week, the plan is for single workouts from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. this coming week with a scrimmage against Rice Memorial High set for a week from Saturday, on Aug. 23.

Provost was head coach at Rice through the 1990s.

Parents will get an opportunity to meet Provost and his staff on Saturday in a boosters-sponsored program featuring an intra-squad scrimmage and discussions starting at 9 a.m.

Also forced inside Tuesday were coach T. J. Mead and his boys soccer candidates.

When the boom was heard, Mead and the defending Division I champions were late in the second of their two workouts. Once inside the gym, the players were jumping, stretching and going through additional conditioning.

The third-year coach said that while the team reported in generally good physical condition, “we are going to get in better shape.”

The two-a-day sessions continue through Friday for boys soccer. On Saturday, the Redhawks will travel to St. Albans for a scrimmage against Bellows Free Academy.

Meade says he has 43 athletes currently on his varsity squad, but a few could wind up with the junior varsity.

Gym time was also an unplanned aspect of practice for coach Brad Parker and the girls soccer team, which quickly started doing sprints.

Parker has about 40 girls on his squad. Freshmen were due in Wednesday.

Coach Kate McDonald and the field hockey candidates and coach Scott Bliss and the cross country runners were not at the school during the early evening sessions.

 

FOOTBALL PARENTS DAY SCHEDULE AT CVU

Saturday, Aug. 16

9 a.m. – Photo session and chalk talk for parents
10 a.m. – Red and White scrimmage
Noon – BBQ for players and families
1 p.m. – Mandatory parents’ meeting with coaches

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Fire Log (Aug.14 2008)

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Overturned boat

Firefighters responded to Lake Iroquois at 10:14 a.m. on July 26 for a report of an overturned boat, and had word that one of the sailboat’s occupants was still in the water. Soon after firefighters were dispatched to the scene, however, the fire department received a report that the boat was upright and all occupants had made it to shore, according to the fire log. The report did not specify the number of people in the boat.

Aircraft emergency training

Firefighters conducted aircraft standby training in the early morning hours of July 27. At 1:55 a.m., the fire department was called to Burlington International Airport for drills on emergency landings.

Sandy Loisel, administrative assistant at the fire department, said planes often have problems with landing mechanisms that lead to emergency standby.

“There’s an area we go to and stage at, and wait there until the plane has successfully landed,” Loisel said.

Drills also involve fire departments from Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Mallets Bay and South Burlington, Loisel said.

Motor vehicle accidents

  Firefighters responded to a motor vehicle accident at South Brownell Road and Marshall Avenue at 11 a.m. on July 27, in which three people were transported to the hospital. According to the fire log, there was a collision between a Chevy Cobalt and a Pontiac van. The driver of the Chevy refused transportation to the hospital, but two females and a baby in the Pontiac were transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care by St. Michael’s College and Essex Rescue, the report notes.

Eight people from the Williston Fire Department responded in the command vehicle, engine 3 and the hazmat truck.

  Firefighters responded to a three-car accident on Vermont 2A at 12:25 p.m. on Aug. 2. One woman was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care by St. Michael’s College Rescue, according to the report. The crash involved a Toyota, Ford Focus and two-door Acura. More details were not available.

Campfire call

A resident on Hillside Drive called the Fire Department at 7:57 p.m. on Aug. 4 after she noticed smoke drifting through her windows from outside, a report notes. Firefighters responded and found a neighbor having a campfire in a fire pit. Wet wood caused the smoke, the report notes.

Sandy Loisel, administrative assistant at the fire department, said the fire pit met standards, and the resident in charge of the fire had obtained a permit.

Loisel said campfires in Williston must conform to regulations that include having the fire in the confines of a stone or other type of enclosure, and recommended having water nearby.

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Police Notes (Aug.14 2008)

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Police notes

Aug. 14, 2008

 
Burglaries

• On Aug. 7, a Maple Road resident returned home to find the front door open and a computer missing, according to police reports. The front door had been left unlocked due to a broken house key, the report notes.

• An air gun and a vacuum cleaner were stolen from a camper parked on Williston Road on Aug. 7, according to police reports. Anyone with information is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611.

• Several incidents were reported on Aug. 8 on White Birch Lane, according to police: A “dash was ripped out of a car in an attempt to steal the radio;” a garage door was kicked in but nothing was taken; and a car was “gone through.” Police say the incidents are possibly related to four other burglaries committed in Williston on Aug. 6. The investigation is ongoing.

• On Aug. 9, 100 CDs were stolen from an unlocked car on Seth Circle sometime during the night, according to police reports.

Driving with a suspended license

• Kevin M. Martin, 46, of Hinesburg was charged with driving with a suspended license following a motor vehicle stop on Aug. 4, according to police reports.

• Brenda L. Leclair, 44, of South Burlington was charged with driving with a suspended license following a motor vehicle stop on Aug. 5, according to police reports.

• Clayton Reynolds, 49, of Westford was charged with driving with a suspended license on Aug. 7, and released on a citation, according to police reports.

• Dana Mercier, 41, of Burlington was charged with driving with a suspended license on Aug. 8, according to police reports. He was released on a citation, the report notes.

Outstanding warrant

• Christopher Belanger, 50, of Essex Junction was “arrested on two outstanding warrants” on Aug. 4, according to police reports. No information was available as to the nature of the warrants.

• On Aug. 5, Deric Ducharme, 26, of Hinesburg was found to have an outstanding warrant for “disturbing the peace by phone,” according to police reports. Ducharme was subsequently taken to Chittenden County Correctional Center, the report notes.

Driving under the influence

• Mario E. Cassani, 44, of Graniteville was arrested on charges of “suspicion of driving under the influence” on Aug. 4, after police observed a vehicle “weaving” and having “run a red light,” according to police reports. Cassani refused a breathalyzer test and was cited to appear in court, the report notes.

• Jeffrey Lasko, 41, of Essex was charged with driving under the influence on Aug. 6, according to police reports. His blood alcohol content registered .119, according to the report. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08. He was “released on a citation,” the report notes.

• While traveling on Interstate 89 in Williston near exit 12 on Aug. 8, police observed a vehicle “weaving and crossing the yellow line as well as crossing white fog lines,” according to police reports. Johnathon Poss, 36, of Johnson was subsequently charged with driving under the influence and cited to appear in court, according to the report. His blood alcohol content registered .098, the report notes.

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Letters to the Editor (Aug.14 2008)

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Letters to the Editor
Aug. 14, 2008

All-Star welcome

I would like to congratulate Williston Little League’s 2008 State Championship Team: Manager Will Mikell, Coach Jeff Smith, Davis Mikell, Erik Bergkvist, Tommy Fitzgerald, Hayden Smith, Ryan Schneiderman, Brendan Gannon, Connor Stankevich, Peter Scrimgeour, Jeffrey Martin, Max Whitcomb, Jamie Pierson and Chris Reiss.

The 2008 season, an amazing ride that started back in April, will never be forgotten by the 12 players and their families. The boys represented Williston and Vermont with pride, class, sportsmanship and baseball ability.

Many thanks to the families who transported the boys to and from every event. It is hard to believe that 12 boys from a little town with a population around 8,100 can produce such talented and determined young men. These boys clinched the state championship in Brattleboro two weeks ago, and represented Vermont in the New England Regional Little League Championship in Bristol, Conn. They went 2-3, coming only two wins away from Williamsport, Pa. to vie for the 2008 Little League International Title.

Thank you to the many volunteers who have been working to defray costs that 12 families didn’t expect to incur. A special thanks to Joel Klein, who created a video on the town of Williston, a requirement from Little League International; we hope to have a public viewing at some point. A special thank you to the Town of Williston for the police escort, the town employees and summer camp staff and kids who welcomed home our “boys of summer.”

Please join us for a formal welcome home, Thursday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. at the entrance to Williston Community Park. This is a potluck, so bring a dish to share. Williston Little League will cook burgers and dogs. Contact Chris Geffken at [email protected] or 879-0489 to contribute. To help recoup some of the travel costs incurred by the 12 Little League families, there will be a donation bucket. You can also mail a check to Gene McCue at 111 Chamberlin Lane or donate online at www.eteamz.active.com/wllbaseball/ (click on the “Donate Now” link on the left side of the page).

Tim O’Brien
On behalf of the Williston Little League Board

 

 

Well wishes from ‘Uncle’ Ron

I assume the residents of Williston are buzzing and proud of the Williston Little League All-Stars and their great success. Winning a state championship, especially from a small town league, is quite an accomplishment. Battling through the round robin and reaching the semifinals is like David taking the field against Goliath. It took the eventual regional winners to send your boys home. Those pesky — or should we say gutsy — Williston boys!

However, I’m not writing about winning ball games. I’m writing to talk about 12 young men who represented their parents, schools, churches and community in exemplary manner.

The New England Regional Tournament is staffed by a multitude of volunteers. I was assigned as team “uncle” for the Vermont champions. The “uncle” is a host, guide and extra set of hands, eyes and ears. Where the team goes, the uncle goes, rise and shine to bedtime.

The Vermont champions, your Williston boys, were great! There was no bickering, moods, attitudes, complaining or conflicts. They were always cooperative, saying “please” and “thank you” to all the volunteers. They mixed easily with teams from other states.

“What?!” you say. “Are these boys normal?”

Yes, I assure you they are. But always with respect and within the guidelines. One of my duties was to make them feel at home and comfortable. Instead they made me feel at home and part of the team. What nice young men they are. I congratulate their parents and you, the community.

Much credit must go to the coaches, Will Mikell and Jeff Smith, for positive coaching while letting the boys enjoy the entire experience. Credit must also go to the parents, who supported the boys with love and encouragement without pressure or unending expectations.

Finally, I want to say to Erik Bergkvist, Tommy Fitzgerald, Brendan Gannon, Jeffrey Martin, Davis Mikell, Jamie Pierson, Chris Riess, Ryan Schneiderman, Peter Scrimgeour, Hayden Smith, Connor Stankevich and Max Whitcomb that it has been a pleasure to know you. You are, without exaggeration or exception, simply stated, good boys. Thank you for being who you are and what you do.

“Uncle” Ron Russo
Watertown, Conn.

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Comcastic? (Aug.14 2008)

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Aug. 14, 2008
By Sen. Bernie Sanders 

They say the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes, but if you are a customer of one of the cable TV giants, you can add constantly rising rates and bad service.

Many Vermont subscribers to Comcast — the nation’s largest cable company and the service provider for 83 percent of Vermonters who have cable — are seeing that truism played out once again. Comcast has decided to remove up to 13 channels from its analog cable packages without any reduction in the price customers pay. In a meeting in my office, a Comcast executive held to the view that this is not a price increase. That type of executive math may explain the corporate world’s seemingly ceaseless accounting problems, but in Vermont we all know that when you get less for the same price, it is a price increase.

Comcast has offered to help people who want to keep all of their channels make the transition to digital cable, but digital cable subscribers need to lease a box (from Comcast, of course) at a rate of $3.95 a month for now. Comcast is offering to waive that fee for a year, after which subscribers will pay the full price for each box they rent for every television in their home. That means you will end up paying more to keep what you used to have. In Vermont, that’s a price increase, too.

The right thing for Comcast to do would be to lower the cost of analog packages if they are going to provide fewer channels. Likewise, if people choose to switch to digital to retain all their channels, Comcast should hold those people harmless — meaning they should get the use of a digital box at no charge and keep the same pricing plans.

Sadly, the latest increases are part of a pattern of ever-escalating cable price hikes since Congress, over my objection, deregulated the cable industry in 1996. Competition was supposed to ensure fair prices and good customer service. Instead, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally, cable prices have risen 77 percent since 1996, roughly double the rate of inflation. In rural places like Vermont, competition often is non-existent. The monopoly pricing power that follows allows companies like Comcast to rake in huge profits — $2.58 billion in 2007 — and pay their executives exorbitant salaries. Comcast’s top CEO received $134.6 million over the last five years.

The profits and exorbitant salaries are occurring at the same time that Comcast, by most measures, provides pretty dismal customer service. Last year, over a six-month period, the Vermont Department of Public Service received 952 Comcast consumer complaints. The largest single type of complaint focused on rates and bills. In a recent national survey conducted by the University of Michigan, Comcast tied for last in terms of customer service among cable, satellite and television providers. It was dead last in landline telephone service.

Comcast’s recent moves in Vermont also show another problem with the current system of unregulated cable companies. Comcast apparently made the decision about which channels to strip based on some statistical data, but without any consultation with the people who watch those channels.

One of the networks widely targeted for removal was EWTN, which provides Catholic religious content. With our cold winters and mountainous geography, basic cable service is the television lifeline for many older Vermonters. In the case of many older Vermont Catholics, EWTN is (or was) their spiritual lifeline as well. It is this kind of insensitive nickel-and-diming by an unregulated monopoly that the more than 100 Vermonters who have contacted my office complain about the most.

Perhaps one solution to Comcast being out of touch with its Vermont subscribers would be for Comcast, and other cable providers, to agree to periodic public meetings in Vermont to discuss issues such as channel lineup and pricing. To make the meetings meaningful, they should be held under the auspices of some state or local authority. That way, Vermonters could give their feedback directly to the company and company leaders would (hopefully) get a better understanding of how their policy decisions affect real people.

That won’t happen tomorrow, but in the meantime my office has scheduled a town meeting at the Rutland City Town Hall on Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Comcast representatives will be present, as will state officials and a consumer group.

We’ve already had one small success. During the meeting in my office, Comcast agreed to waive the $16.95 installation fee for those analog customers who lost channels and chose to go to digital. In addition, those who have already paid the fee will get a credit on their bill.

I hope Vermonters will use the Aug. 14 meeting as a chance to have their voices heard on this issue. Maybe we can start a dialogue that will convince Comcast to stop picking the pockets of Vermont customers. If you cannot make it to the meeting but would like to share your views on this matter, please call my office at 800-339-9834 or send me an e-mail at www.sanders.senate.gov/qa/comcast.cfm.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate.

 

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Recipe Corner (Aug.14 2008)

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Recipe Corner

Aug. 14, 2008

Here are some fruit-based dishes for those dog days of summer when the family dog doesn’t do anything but lay around because of the heat. I seem to remember when August was known as having the most dog days of summer, but that sure doesn’t hold true anymore.

Pineapple limeade

1 cup sugar

6 cups pineapple juice, chilled

1 cup lime juice

2 liters sparkling water, chilled

Mix sugar and juices in large plastic or glass pitcher. Pour half of this into another pitcher. Just before serving, add sparkling water and serve over ice. Garnish with lime slices.

Easy lemonade pie

1 graham cracker piecrust

1 quart of vanilla ice cream, softened

1 can (6 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

Mix ice cream and lemonade and pour into piecrust and freeze about 4 hours until firm. Remove a few minutes before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and/or lemon peel.

Raspberry shortcake

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup milk

3 cups raspberries

6 tablespoons confectionary sugar

3 tablespoons orange juice

Mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, stir in milk just until mix forms a ball. Knead on floured surface 5 times. Roll to rectangle shape about 1/2 inch thick, then cut into 6 shapes. Brush tops with egg white that has been beaten a little with fork. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake in 450-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Make raspberry sauce by putting 1 1/2 cups berries, powdered sugar and orange juice in blender.

Cut shortcakes in half, with one cake for each serving and put 1/4 cup sauce on bottom half and 2 tablespoons whipped cream. Top this with other half and drizzle sauce over the top half and sprinkle with fresh raspberries. Makes 6 servings.

Fruit salad with lemon glaze

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons lemon pie filling (made from scratch or canned)

4 cups mixed fresh fruit, cut up (berries, peaches, bananas, melon, apples, plums)

Mix sour cream and lemon pie filling and gently fold into fruit. Refrigerate until serving time. Can serve as is or over a slice of cantaloupe.

Ginger Isham was the co-owner of Maple Grove Farm Bed & Breakfast in Williston, a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road where she still lives.

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