April 20, 2019

Right to the Point 9/25/08

Barrage attacks against Palin

Sept. 25, 2008
By Mike Benevento

Back in my Air Force days, while flying F-111F jet fighters, I was involved with practice attacks against simulated Soviet targets in Europe. Most of the time, a pair of aircraft would fly together to make laser-guided bombing attacks on high priority targets like bridges, dams and airfields.

However, on occasion, instead of only two F-111s, a package, or “group,” of airplanes assisted in attacking the target. The strike package included tanker aircraft, which gave in-flight refueling to extend the range of our jets. F-15 Eagles served as fighter escorts, clearing any opposing fighters from our path.

Meanwhile, F-4G Wild Weasels, F-16 Falcons and EF-111 Ravens took on the enemy air defenses, including their radar and surface-to-air missile sites. These aircraft used radar jamming and other electronic warfare techniques to “blind” the enemy. When the ground defenses tried to fight us, bombs and missiles were used against them. Thus, in order to avoid being targeted by American aircraft, the enemy was forced to turn off their radar.

Without any radar, the enemy could not aim or guide its weapons. Instead, it would fire a barrage of missiles into the sky, hoping to hit an American fighter. Oftentimes, they were just shooting at the sound of the passing jets. This wild, blind shooting rarely resulted in hitting an American aircraft, but it was all the enemy was capable of doing.

As I witness the Democrats’ criticism of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, their panicked attack reminds me of the barrage fire at my F-111 from enemy defenses. The Democratic Party has been firing at Palin with everything it has — desperately hoping something will hit and bring her down.

Like hunting dogs that have lost the scent, Democratic leaders are wandering aimlessly. They do not know what to do next. John McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate caught them completely off guard. Injecting real change into the presidential race, Palin is a Washington outsider with proven executive experience as Alaska’s governor.

The Democratic talking heads first attempted to marginalize Palin by describing her resume as nothing more than just being a small town mayor. They attempted to mislead Americans by conveniently leaving out her experience as governor.

Their goal is to minimize her executive experience. They have to. Democrats Barack Obama and Joseph Biden have zero executive experience. Palin alone has more experience in her two years as Alaska’s governor than those two combined.

For the most part, elitist Democrats are stunned she is so popular. Their political leadership is out of touch from everyday Americans. Thus, they don’t understand that Palin appeals to common Americans because she is genuine and real. She is not another slick politician in a suit. She really does give a darn about the common folk.

In many ways, she is a typical American. She is a hard-working mother of five, who went into politics to help clean up corruption. She saw flaws in Alaska’s government and started fixing them.

Palin connects emotionally with Americans everywhere. She is a hockey mom who is plainspoken, open, honest and down to earth. Americans appreciate that Palin earned her way through good, old-fashioned hard work.

Americans realize that she does not know all the right answers. However, they see that she is willing to learn and is up front with her shortcomings. For instance, as governor she has no foreign policy experience. Because Palin understands that national security is key to America’s future, she is working hard to learn about foreign policy and eventually make it a strength.

As columnist David Limbaugh wrote, “It’s her very authenticity that appeals to us, her decency, her commitment to family, her unapologetic veneration for America’s founding principles and traditional values — the very principles and values that are repugnant to the elites.”

In the end, Democrats have been reduced to trying to dig up dirt on Palin. They scour the Alaskan landscape, leaving no stone unturned in their worried attempt to undermine her popularity. Commentator Bill O’Reilly recently pointed out that attempts have been made to marginalize Palin as some kind of country bumpkin — a religious fanatic who is not fit to serve. He also noted, “The personal attacks against Palin and her family angered millions of Americans and, almost instantly, made the governor a folk hero in some circles.”

Instead of spending time tearing down individuals like Sarah Palin, Democrats need to spend more time focusing on fixing the nation’s problems. The American people challenge them to do that.

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.

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Liberally Speaking 9/25/08

Back to (Electoral) College

Sept. 25, 2008
By Steve Mount

Every four years, we Americans go back to college — the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is important because despite conventional wisdom, it is not presidential candidates that we will vote for in November but instead the members of this exclusive college.

Officially, the president is chosen not by the people but by the states, and each state has as many votes as it has members of Congress. All states get at least three electoral votes — one for each senator and representative. Vermont, then, only gets three. California, by contrast, has 55.

These elector counts are how commentators can tell you how many electoral votes a candidate needs to win the election. There are 100 senators and 435 representatives in Congress, for a total of 535 electoral votes. Add three more for Washington, D.C., for a total of 538. You need half plus one to win outright, or 270.

It is these electors you are selecting when you cast your ballot in November, not the exact candidate, though each political party chooses its electors. In most states, including Vermont, the slate of electors that garners the most votes will vote in the Electoral College. The electors from the other parties get to watch from home like the rest of us.

After the electors all vote, the votes are bundled up and mailed off to Congress, where they are eventually opened and tallied, and a winner is officially declared.

This year, Election Day falls on Nov. 4. Elector Day, when the electors gather in their state capitals to cast their votes, is Dec. 15. Finally, Congress will count the votes on Jan. 6.

Most of this process is pro forma after Election Day. Though electors are not technically bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged to, they almost always do; and unless an elector goes against the grain, the reading of the votes in Congress is no surprise.

Why so convoluted a system? Why do we not just vote for the presidential candidate directly? The answer goes back to the great compromises the Framers made when they wrote the Constitution back in 1787.

The Electoral College does a few things. The biggest effect it has is to protect the smaller states, like Vermont, from the whims of the larger states. For one thing, large-state favorite sons can only get as many electoral votes as their state has; for another, because of equal suffrage in the Senate, smaller states have disproportionately large voting power in the College.

Another effect is our quadrennial reminder of the power of representative democracy. Just as we elect senators and representatives to weigh our demands with those of the nation, we elect electors to weigh our vote with the choices available. Even if the Electoral College always ends up voting as expected, there is always that slim possibility they could change their collective mind.

I have vacillated on the issue of the Electoral College over time, from supporter, to detractor, to compromiser.

As a resident of a small state, I am happy that my vote counts for more than a New York vote or a California vote. I am, however, uncomfortably happy, this being the equivalent of electoral schadenfreude.

The populist idea is a straight national popular vote. After the election debacle of 2000, I cringe, though, at any national plan. If there is dispute about the national vote, do we mandate Florida-style recounts in all 50 states? Would this grind the process to a halt?

Undoubtedly we could work something out, where recounts are by precinct or district or state, but still the prospect of needing a national recount is plausible. At least with the Electoral College as it is now, a recount in New York or New Hampshire does not necessitate a recount here.

A promising compromise is an interstate compact whereby, once enough states to total 270 or more electoral vote have signed on, those states would change their laws to select the slate of electors for the winner of the national vote, regardless of the state vote.

In any case, it is too late for change this year, so the Electoral College process is going to go forward at least one more time. So, revel in our little electoral idiosyncrasy and, as homework, try to find out the names of the electors you’ll be voting for when you cast your vote on Election Day.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.

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Summer’s Final Harvest 9/25/08

Observer photo by Stephen Mease
Larry Godard of Shelburne helps his 2-year-old granddaughter, Megan Healy, pick an apple at Adams Apple Orchard & Farm Market's 15th annual Fall Harvest Festival. The weekend festival brought in between 7,500 and 8,500 people, according to market owner John Adams. Visitors could pick apples, watch marionette shows, enjoy live music and take hay and pony rides. Adams said the hay rides raised $800 for Williston school trips.

[Read more…]

Tutoring business opens in Williston 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008

A Williston resident has launched her own one-on-one tutoring business to help local students in reading.

Michal Ricca, who holds a master’s of education and is certified as a reading instruction specialist, recently moved to Williston from Chicago. Before moving to Vermont and becoming a reading specialist, Ricca taught first and second grade for nearly 10 years. While in Chicago, Ricca also taught students of all ages to gain fluency in reading.

The reading sessions are one-on-one between the student and Ricca, and focus on understanding the sounds of the English language to comprehend the meaning of words.

Ricca is licensed through the Academic Associates Reading Program, which was designed by nationally known Cliff Ponder, reading instructor and former teacher.

Ricca’s reading program is geared to students of all grade levels, from elementary school to high school.

Interested parents can sign up their child for a no obligation reading evaluation. For more information, contact Ricca at 862-1820 or nowicanread@hotmail.com.

— Tim Simard, Observer staff

[Read more…]

Beating back blight and disease in the garden 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Summer has passed and the growing season has but a few weeks remaining — if blight or disease hasn’t already put a stop to local gardening and farming.

If allowed to spread through a garden or farm blight and disease can turn veggies into a rotting mess, and they were not uncommon this year in Vermont.

One disease that appeared in the state, late blight, primarily affects potatoes and tomatoes. In fact, it’s the same one that caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s.

Another disease that plagued Vermont gardeners and farmers this year, downy mildew, attacks cucurbits, which include squash, pumpkins and cucumbers. “It’s a blight on the potato leaf,” Ann Hazelrigg, a Williston resident and plant pathologist with the University of Vermont Extension, said of late blight. “You’ll see a greasy black spot on the foliage. If you turn it upside down in the morning or when humidity is high, you’ll see a white fungus sporulating on the underside. … It rapidly moves through the whole plant if you have the right weather conditions.”

She described the “right weather conditions” as moist, with lots of rain.

Hazelrigg, who also runs UVM’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic to help commercial growers and home gardeners with disease, insect and weed diagnosis and identification, first identified late blight in Lamoille County after receiving a call from a grower.

Though Hazelrigg said the blight hasn’t been identified in Chittenden County, she figures it has probably made an appearance.

“It can wipe out potatoes very quickly,” Hazelrigg said. “Most conventional growers are putting on fungicides to protect tissues from disease. It’s trickier in a home garden when you’re not protecting tissue with fungicide.”

Regardless of protection method, Hazelrigg suggested the best preventative at this point in the season is to simply harvest the spuds.

“If growers are seeing it at this point in the season … the potatoes are probably sized up. They should go ahead and cut the tops and harvest the potatoes rather than trying to keep the foliage healthy,” Hazelrigg said.

Even if the blight has infected the tuber — the potato itself — Hazelrigg said there’s no health risk. The infected spot will be a brown or purple discoloration on the skin of the potato, and below the skin will be what Hazelrigg described as “a dark, reddish brown, corky rot.” Cutting away the rot makes the potato edible; the problem worsens when the blight is allowed to fester from year to year.

“That’s how the Irish got in trouble. They harvested the potatoes and stored them in trenches. When they opened the trenches, it was just a mass of rotting tissues,” Hazelrigg explained.

But even if the late blight has spread to Chittenden County, it’s unlikely it would ever cause problems anywhere near the level of the Irish potato famine. For one thing, the Irish essentially relied on potatoes as their sole food source, and their storage methods — as well as several years of cool, wet weather — allowed the blight to fester.

Furthermore, the spores that cause the blight cannot survive the winter in Vermont — Hazelrigg said they don’t have the right mating types.

Downy mildew

Downy mildew has caused problems in Chittenden County this year.

“If you notice a lot of die back in cucumbers, it’s likely this fungus disease,” Hazelrigg said.

The disease causes small, angular spots on a plant’s foliage, and turning a leaf upside down reveals a “velvety, brownish purplish sporulation,” said Hazelrigg. Downy mildew can overtake plants in a matter of days, and also spread to pumpkins and winter squash.

“Fruit turns white and rots in the middle of the field. Powdery mildew, downy mildew, there are several diseases there,” said John Adams, owner of Adams

Apple Orchard & Farm Market in Williston. “Some you can spray for. We don’t spray much in our field. We’re not organic, but close to it.”

Adams said a lot of vegetables, particularly squash, rotted on the ground. The market managed to save most of its pumpkins, which were brought in from the field once they were ripe to avoid disease and potential frost.

June Jones, a Vermont master gardener from Williston, said gardeners can treat downy mildew organically by spraying plants with a mixture of one gallon of water and three tablespoons of both baking soda and horticultural summer oil.

Hazelrigg said she first identified downy mildew in Addison County in early August, and has heard more widespread reports of downy mildew than of late blight. She’s even lost the foliage in her personal garden’s pumpkins, winter squash and tomatoes due to the mildew, and said many growers will likely miss the last planting of cucumbers due to the disease.

“It can be devastating for commercial growers. It means they may have lost the last planting of cucumbers,” Hazelrigg said, but added that most Vermont farms grow a variety of produce to avoid problems caused by losing one crop.

“For home gardens its more of an annoyance, because we’re not relying on this to keep us healthy, to eat through winter or make money,” Hazelrigg said.

Planning for next year

Though neither late blight nor downy mildew can winter in Vermont, according to Hazelrigg, they can appear in any particular year as spores are carried on storm fronts.

“It’s good for people to plan for next year,” Jones said.

As the current growing season draws to a close, Jones and other master gardeners are cleaning their plot in the Williston Community Garden. Jones said all vegetable matter needs to be taken to a landfill, rather than put in a compost pile, and the ground needs to be rototilled once now and again in a month or so.

Those steps will help prevent disease from remaining in the soil. Jones also suggested spraying any equipment, including tools and tomato cages, with a bleach solution.

When next year’s planting season arrives, Jones and Adams suggested rotating crops so veggies won’t be in the same soil that held similar, diseased plants the previous year.

“You don’t want to plant the same thing in the same area, or blights or various diseases develop,” explained Adams, who said his farm rotates crops as much as possible in its relatively small growing space.

Also, many gardening stores sell disease resistant varieties of vegetables.

Jones’ other suggestion was to start thinking about disease before it even arrives.

“The first thing, in the spring, when you put new plants in, is to start spraying them with fungicide before you even see anything,” Jones said. “A lot of people wait until they see (disease), then start spraying. And that’s kind of too late.”

Learning in the garden

➢    Questions about a garden? The University of Vermont Extension’s Master Gardener program has a helpline to offer advice on trees, plants, bushes, bugs and more. Call 800-639-2230 with a question, and someone will call back with an answer.

Ann Hazelrigg is also available at the University of Vermont Plant Diagnostic Clinic at 802-656-0493.

➢    The Master Gardeners are offering a Master Composter Course starting next month. The course runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, from Oct. 23 through Nov. 20. A Williston course will be held at Vermont Interactive Television, and cover topics including the biology of composting, worm compositing and trouble shooting.

Tuition is $45. Enrollment deadline is Oct. 3. For more information call 656-9562.

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Puppets teach students about hunger 9/25/08

Show kicks off a yearlong school program

Sept. 25, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Accompanied by eclectic jazz music and a flurry of puppeteer hands, inanimate objects came to life on the big screen for students at Williston Central School. But the art had a message, as well.

Observer photo by Tim Simard
Los Angeles-based performance artist Dan Froot talks to students at Williston Central School about his puppet theater production, ‘Who’s Hungry.’ The three-act puppet play tells the story of southern California’s homeless and hungry citizens.

During an assembly on Thursday to kick off the school’s community-oriented program, “Good Citizens, Good People, Good Learners,” students in grades four through eight were treated to a multimedia presentation by performance artist Dan Froot.

Froot, based in Los Angeles, is the creator of and performer in a show called “Who’s Hungry,” which uses puppet theater to tell the stories of three homeless people. The show will appear at Burlington’s Flynn Theater early next month.

But Froot’s performance at the school wasn’t an average puppet show. Though he does perform the show live, at Williston Central Froot showed a video of puppeteers commanding inanimate objects to create lifelike characters and an emotion-fueled story.

In addition to showing a video of the show to students in the Williston Central auditorium, Froot also talked about what it means to be hungry in America and how important it is to recognize the less fortunate in the country.

Froot said hunger and food insecurity is a nationwide problem, in cities and rural areas. He praised the students for being a “part of the solution” in learning about the complex issues behind hunger.

“That’s the most powerful tool — knowledge in putting an end to it,” Froot told the audience.

Finding out who’s hungry

Froot, an actor, dancer and artist, has been working to make puppet theater a form of entertainment for children and adults. While looking to do a new project, he visited homeless shelters in the West Hollywood streets of southern California.

The shelter Froot focused on has been giving out 120 hot meals every night for the past 20 years. In doing research, Froot volunteered at the shelter for two years and befriended many of the area’s needy.

“There’s an incredible diversity between the food insecure people we worked with,” Froot said, referring to people who can’t afford food on a regular basis.

He began taking an oral history of three homeless citizens by conducting 10 one-hour interviews. He took their stories and, with fellow performer Dan Hurlin, wrote three one-act puppet plays. “Who’s Hungry” is the result.

At the school assembly, Froot talked about one of the plays, which tells the story of Sandy and her faithful dog of 11 years, Sharryll. Sandy lives in a van with her dog and has no job or money, but hopes to one day work in elder care, he said.

“We wanted to portray this beautiful and intimate relationship they have together,” Froot said.

The students watched the play “Eight Days Without a Dog,” which told the story of when Sharryll went missing and Sandy’s frantic search to find her. All of the puppets were designed using items found in California’s popular 99-Cent Only stores, which Froot said is Sandy’s favorite store. For instance, Sandy’s puppet was comprised of a pair of kid’s binoculars, ribbons for hair and children’s flip-flops for feet. A small, puffy shower scrubber represented Sharryll.

Froot said the other puppet plays look a lot different from Sandy’s story, and focus on more adult themes with what he calls “gritty” storylines.

Good citizens

In going to Froot’s presentation, students at Williston Central also collected non-perishable food items for the Williston Community Food Shelf.

Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks said she hoped Froot’s presentation, as well as the students’ work in raising food and money for the food shelf, would bolster a community connection. She hopes the work with the food shelf will be an ongoing, long-term partnership, starting with the “Good Citizens” program.

“We wanted to educate about hunger here in Williston, because it certainly exists,” Parks said. “To understand is a great first step.”

Parks said the three-part, yearlong “Good Citizens, Good People, Good Learners” endeavor will promote citizenship with students. Students will gather during Thursday’s morning meeting times to continue to work and learn about the community. “Good Citizens” will be the fall focus, with “Good People” and “Good Learners” following in the winter and spring.

“Who’s Hungry” will be performed live at 8 p.m. on Oct. 2 and at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Flynn Center. For tickets, call the Flynn Center for Performing Arts at 863-5966.

[Read more…]

DRB not keen on temporary classrooms 9/25/08

School missed deadline for submitting master site plan

Sept. 25, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Citing a bad economy, a moratorium on state aid for school construction projects, and voter apathy towards budget increases, members of the Williston School Board made their case to extend the permit that allows the modular classrooms at Allen Brook School.

School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth and Vice Chairwoman Holly Rouelle, along with Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pinckney, discussed the need for an extension before the Development Review Board at its Tuesday, Sept. 23 meeting.

But members of the Development Review Board did not seem enthusiastic in granting an extension, instead stating they wanted to see a master site plan for Allen Brook School that would address what to do with the classrooms.

The board granted the school district a four-year permit extension in February 2006 for the temporary classrooms, which were installed in 2002. Under conditions for the permit, the school district had to provide a site plan by February 2008. The permit for the classrooms expires in February 2010.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the planning office had not received any site plans and neither had the Development Review Board. Technically, the school district was in violation of its conditions, he said.

Worth told the board the issue would be remedied and a master plan would be brought forth soon.

During the meeting, Worth, Rouelle and Pinckney continually gave reasons as to why the temporary classrooms should stay, since new construction is not a possibility.

“If we went for a bond for Allen Brook, we wouldn’t have a chance,” Pinckney said.

Worth said the original purpose of the modular classrooms was to accommodate increased enrollment. In recent years, enrollment has leveled off, she said.

“We don’t have a decrease in enrollment that has dropped enough to where we don’t need them,” Worth said.

Pinckney added if the board did not grant a permit extension, both Williston Central and Allen Brook schools would become overcrowded.

Development Review Board Chairman Kevin McDermott said it was the board’s policy not to make exceptions for any applicants, and that an applicant’s budget concerns are not the board’s concern.

McDermott faulted the Development Review Board for originally granting temporary classrooms  and putting both parties in an uncomfortable position.

Pinckney said she was looking for more guidance in regards to what the Development Review Board’s intention was towards the classrooms and what the school district should do for a master plan. McDermott was not about to offer suggestions.

“I have no idea, that’s what you guys were supposed to do,” McDermott said. “It’s your job to provide us with a solution.”

McDermott said he did not want to see a master plan that stated only that the school district would be asking for a permit extension after 2010. For him, that would not be considered a master plan.

“It will be rejected,” he said.

Worth said after the meeting a master plan would be drafted, adding she liked Development Review Board member Cathy O’Brien’s suggestion to morph the temporary classrooms into the Allen Brook structure.

Worth also said the School Board intends to bring the modular classroom issue before the Selectboard when the boards meet during a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Williston Central School.

[Read more…]

Rotary to host candidates 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Williston-Richmond Rotary Club will give citizens a chance to assess candidates for state offices in coming weeks.

Scheduled to appear are Republicans Gov. Jim Douglas, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Democratic Vermont House member Jim McCullough, according to Rotary member Mike Coates. Other candidates will be Terry Macaig and Denise Barnard, hopefuls for House and Senate seats, and Thomas Costello, who is challenging Dubie.

The appearances will take place during the Rotary’s regular Thursday meetings at Williston Federated Church. The meetings start at 7:15 a.m.

As in past elections, the Rotary is also organizing a candidates forum. Details are still being worked out, but Coates said the event may take place around mid-October and include the four candidates — Democrats Macaig and McCullough and Republicans Shelley Palmer and Brennan Duffy — vying for Williston’s two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives.

The forum would likely be held at either Williston Central School or the Old Brick Church, Coates said.

The schedule for candidates appearing during Rotary Club meetings is as follows:

Oct. 2 – Thomas Costello, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor

Oct. 9 – Gov. Jim Douglas, Republican seeking re-election

Oct. 16 – Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, Republican seeking re-election.

Oct. 23 – Jim McCullough and Terry Macaig, Democratic candidates for Williston’s two seats in the Vermont House

Oct. 30 – Denise Barnard, Democrat seeking election to Vermont Senate

To be scheduled – Forum for Vermont House candidates from Williston.

[Read more…]

Hearing set on charter changes 9/25/08

Sept. 25, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Changes to Williston’s charter that alter how zoning enforcers are supervised and provide more clout in negotiating solid waste contracts will be considered during a pair of public hearings in coming weeks.

The hearings are scheduled for Monday, Sept. 29 and Monday, Oct. 6. Each takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

The charter changes address issues the town has faced in recent months. Each change circumvents state laws that town officials regard as disadvantageous.

The first change was prompted by a controversy that swirled around former zoning administrator D.K. Johnston after he was charged with stalking and disturbing the peace. Police alleged that he sent dozens of harassing e-mails and left a profanity-filled message at the home of a real estate agent who had sold him a condominium.

With personnel actions confidential, it is unclear if the town tried to fire Johnston or force him to resign. But because state law requires zoning administrators to be appointed to three-year terms, it evidently influenced how the town handled the matter.

Johnston insisted that he first serve out his term, which ended June 30, and remain on the town’s payroll until he stepped down. A written resignation agreement also forbids bad references.

The proposed charter changes would make the zoning administrator a hired, rather than appointed, position. Town Manager Rick McGuire would have the authority to hire and fire the person holding the position.

During a discussion of the charter changes in July, Selectboard member Judy Sassorossi recalled that the town has run into other problems with zoning administrators in years past.

“Once burned, twice shy,” she said. “But twice burned? I don’t want to do this again.”

Johnston’s departure left the town in a bind because two other members of the planning staff had recently resigned and there was no other obvious candidate to fill the opening. The Selectboard ended up appointing Planning Director Ken Belliveau as interim zoning administrator.

The other charter change turns on a single word in the state statute governing solid waste contracts. Under the law, municipalities “may” strike agreements with solid waste districts requiring them to pay fees.

Williston has three such host-town agreements, including two it recently renewed with All Cycle Waste Inc. and Burlington Transfer Station Inc. The fees they pay totaled more than $300,000 in the last fiscal year, helping offset wear and tear on local roads caused by the larger number of trucks that come and go from each facility.

McGuire said the use of “may” in the state statute puts the town at a disadvantage when negotiating solid waste contracts. He proposed a charter change that states solid waste providers “shall” enter into such agreements prior to receiving certification and recertification.

McGuire said “neither company raised the state law as an issue” during the recently completed negotiations with All Cycle and BTS. Still, he said the new language could give the town more clout in future contract talks.

“We felt the way the state law is worked would give us less leverage than having it in our charter and using the word ‘shall’ instead of ‘may’,” McGuire said in an e-mail.

The public hearings are part of a state-mandated process for approving charter provisions. Voters must sign off on the changes, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. The state Legislature would then have to approve the changes.

[Read more…]

Eagle Scout project still tied up in court 9/25/08

Proposed dock intended to serve community

Sept. 25, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Summer has come and gone, another season of waiting for a Williston teen whose Eagle Scout project, a dock on Lake Iroquois, is stalled amid neighborhood opposition.

File photo
Boy Scout Jeffrey Dumas stands near Lake Iroquois last year. The teen has been trying to build a dock on the lake, but the proposal has stalled during an appeal process.

Jeffrey Dumas proposed the dock to fulfill a requirement for Eagle Scout, Boy Scouting’s highest rank. But residents who live near the lake are against the idea, saying it will bring more boats to the already overcrowded lake and spread invasive aquatic life.

Now, months after the dock received state approval, the proposal remains tied up in the appeal process. Under Boy Scout rules, Dumas must complete Eagle Scout requirements before he turns 18 in April, well before the next boating season begins.

Dumas did not return telephone messages left at his home and his school. But Diane Dumas said her son is now doing other work to earn his Eagle rank, although he’d still like to complete the dock after spending so much time on the project.

“It hopefully will happen soon,” she said.

Meanwhile, absent a “magic wand” Dumas said her son will continue to wait.

Jeffrey Dumas has put more than a 100 hours into the project, his mother said. He spent months researching the dock, raising funds and attending meetings before the permit application was filed.

As planned, the dock would be located adjacent to the public boat launch on the northwestern side of the lake. It would be 50 feet long and have wheels so it could be removed when the boating season ends each year.

The dock was intended to ease access for those with age or physical limitations. Boaters must now launch from a ramp and then climb over the side after their boat is in the water.

But neighboring property owners are urging the state to deny a permit for the project.

Dozens turned out for a January meeting on the proposal. Opponents argued that it would attract more boat traffic and thus increase the chances of a collision on the small lake. They also asserted that the lake was already infested with milfoil and warned that more boaters could bring in other invasive aquatic species.

Supporters complained that the neighbors wanted to turn the lake into their own private recreation area. Some noted that not everyone was fortunate enough to own lakefront property.

In March, the state Department of Environmental Conservation granted the permit. The Lake Iroquois Association, a nonprofit group that includes residents who own property on or around the lake, then appealed in Vermont Environmental Court.

Roger Crouse, president of the association, said the appeal questions whether the state followed its own rules and procedures when issuing the permit. The appeal also questions the dock’s effect on wildlife, water quality and boat navigation and asks if there is no feasible alternative.

Despite the opposition, Crouse reiterated his and other residents’ previous expression of support for Boy Scouting in general and Dumas in particular.

“Poor Jeff Dumas,” he said. “He had very good intentions in trying to receive his Eagle badge. Personally, I feel sad to have him waiting while all that crap goes on in court.”

The appeal was still pending before the Environmental Court as of Tuesday afternoon.

Lake Iroquois Association members had urged Dumas to undertake an alternative project, such as a check-in station where volunteers could ensure boats do not have invasive aquatic life clinging to their hulls.

Over the summer, the association did open such a facility and took other steps to protect water quality and ensure boater safety, Crouse said. Channel markers and speed limit signs have been installed, and weevils were introduced to control invasive plants.

William McSalis is the scoutmaster for Williston Troop 692, according to the Web site for the Green Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. McSalis did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Diane Dumas said her son is working on another project to complete Eagle requirements before he turns 18. She declined to be more specific.

She said she is not angry or resentful about the opposition and neither is her son.

“There’s nothing to be done about that now,” she said. “So he’s mature enough to push forward with a project that he thinks will benefit the general public.”

She and her husband, Steve, have remained circumspect throughout the process, deflecting questions about their views on the issue and framing the controversy in terms of their son’s future. The latest interview was no different.

“It’s a learning process,” she said. “He’s gained so much knowledge that he’ll use the rest of his life.”

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