November 21, 2014

Town

Share

Contracts set fees, regulate operations

Sept. 18, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston has renewed contracts with two solid waste companies that pay more than $300,000 in annual fees, the town’s third-largest source of revenue.

The Selectboard on Monday approved so-called host town agreements with the Burlington Transfer Station and All Cycle Waste. Each operates facilities that accept household and commercial waste brought by haulers, which is then trucked to landfills elsewhere in Vermont. The Burlington Transfer Station is located on Redmond Road; All Cycle operates facilities off Industrial Avenue.

The contracts continue to require each company to pay a per-ton fee pegged to inflation and impose restrictions on operations.

The fees are intended to account for wear and tear on roads caused by the large number of trucks coming and going from each facility, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. The Burlington Transfer Station agreement also regulates where trucks can travel and mandates wind-blown waste be cleaned up.

“We’re requiring them to do a better job of policing and picking up trash,” McGuire said.

Stray trash and heavy truck traffic have long been concerns among residents living near the facility.

Property and sales tax revenue fund the vast majority of Williston’s municipal budget. But next to those, the transfer station fees are the town’s largest sources of revenue.

In the previous fiscal year, the facilities paid a combined $317,081 in fees, according to Susan Lamb, Williston’s finance director. All Cycle paid $175,158 during the period and Burlington Transfer Station paid $141,923.

The new three-year contracts continue the longstanding practice of charging a per-ton fee that is adjusted each year to account for increases in the Consumer Price Index, the federal government’s principal measure of inflation. The contracts each call for a base rate of $2.11, which was immediately adjusted upward to $2.22 to account for inflation, Lamb said.

Other provisions allow the town to verify the amount of waste collected by mandating access to records and to impose fees for late payments.

The 10-page agreement with the Burlington Transfer Station — double the length of the All Cycle contract — adds rules governing where waste can be trucked and how stray debris is controlled. The Burlington Transfer Station facility is near residential areas while the All Cycle transfer station is in an industrial district.

Tractor-trailers hauling trash to and from Burlington Transfer Station may use only Vermont Route 2A, Mountain View Road and Redmond Road. The contract makes an exception for trucks that need to refuel or “gain access to other necessary services.”

The contract also requires Burlington Transfer Station to pick up debris at or around the transfer station. The company must, on the request of the town or any resident, promptly collect debris that blows away from the site. And the company must maintain a log detailing dates and times litter has been picked up.

Contract talks took place over the past year. The town was represented by Selectboard members Judy Sassorossi and Jeff Fehrs as well as McGuire and Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

Negotiations moved slowly in part because of scheduling difficulties associated with the relatively large number of people involved, McGuire said. The town was also trying to be fair to both companies, which compete with each other, while getting the best deal for Williston.

McGuire declined to detail specifics involved with the contract negotiations.

“There were lots of issues we talked about, and I don’t want to pick one out,” he said. “Fees and everything else were on the table.”

Asked how the public could confirm the town got the best possible deal, McGuire said the contracts speak for themselves and noted they include provisions protecting the public’s interest, such as the trucking restrictions.

Mike Cozad, general manager for All Cycle Waste in Williston, could not be reached for comment.

Tom Badowski, general manager of Burlington Transfer Station, said talks did not turn on any one issue.

“I don’t thing there was any bones of contention, per se,” he said.

Due to the competitive nature of the market, Badowski said his company does not always pass the town’s fee increases on to customers. Sometimes the transfer station simply absorbs hikes.

The transfer stations are used mainly by commercial trash haulers. Residents can dispose of their household waste without using a hauler by using drop-off centers operated by the Chittenden Solid Waste District. The Williston drop-off center is located on Redmond Road near the Burlington Transfer Station facility.

The new contracts comprise two of the three host town agreements in Williston. The other, with CSWD, permits a landfill to be built in the future.

That 1992 agreement has generated considerable controversy in recent years, and organized opposition has formed to the landfill. Residents living near the proposed site filed a legal challenge to the agreement. But a Vermont Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that the agreement was valid.

[Read more...]

Sales tax revenue better than expected

Share

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Sales tax collections in Williston rebounded in the second quarter of 2007, easing fears that state rule changes had sent a major source of local revenue into a permanent freefall.

Williston received $689,491 from the local option tax in the quarter ending June 30. The 1 percent levy is tacked onto the Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax.

The latest figures represent a 10 percent drop from the same quarter in 2006. But that is less than half the decrease seen in the first quarter, when same-quarter collections fell by 22 percent.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the new figures give him guarded hope, although he emphasized that numbers from additional quarters are needed before a solid trend emerges.

“There’s a drop-off, and it is large, but it may not be quite as bad as it first appeared to be,” he said.

Starting January 1, the state of Vermont altered rules that determine what goods and services are subject to the statewide sales tax and their piggybacked local options taxes. The changes exempted some items that were formerly taxed and began taxing others.

The state also changed rules governing when the local option tax is charged, with the levy now based on the purchase’s destination. Items bought in Williston but shipped or delivered elsewhere are no longer subject to Williston’s local sales tax.

The changes are part of a nationwide effort to standardize collections. The goal of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project is to convince Congress to pass legislation requiring taxes on Internet sales, thus capturing additional revenue for states and municipalities.

Michael Wasser, policy analyst with the Vermont Tax Department, said the smaller decrease in local option tax collections in the most recent quarter represents a more accurate picture of what is really going on. He said the previous quarter’s figures were inaccurate because not all the sales tax returns from merchants were processed when the numbers were reported.

On a statewide level, sales tax collections continued to rise, increasing in the latest quarter by roughly 5 percent over the same period in 2006, Wasser said. But in Williston, state sales tax revenue fell by around 3 percent during the quarter.

He speculated that a downturn in the housing market may have in part caused the local drop in state sales tax revenue, with people buying fewer home improvement products and perhaps cutting back on other purchases at Williston’s many retailers.

As for the local option tax, Wasser said both changes in sourcing rules and the new exemptions for clothing and beer are likely reducing collections in Williston.

Town officials had expected a decrease in local option tax revenue when the new rules were enacted. The 2006-07 budget assumed that revenue would remain level despite the fact that proceeds had risen steadily since the town started collecting the tax in 2002.

But officials were startled by the larger-than-expected first-quarter drop. The decrease was especially remarkable because same-quarter revenue had increased all but one time over the past five years.

In June, the Selectboard decided to raise the property tax rate by an additional penny and withdraw money from budget reserves to make up for the anticipated drop in sales tax revenue in the coming fiscal year.

Now town officials will be watching closely what happens over the next four quarters, which comprise the 2007-08 fiscal year. A yearlong drop in sales tax proceeds could force the town to cut spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars, raise property taxes or further draw down budget reserves. Revenue from the local option tax funds about 40 percent of the town’s budget.

Wasser said it will take about a year to accurately assess the impact of rule changes on local sales tax revenue.

“You won’t really get the full picture until you get 12 months accounted for,” he said. “But there will be a loss.”

[Read more...]

Observer rakes in four awards

Share

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Williston’s weekly paper took home four awards for writing and photography at the Vermont Press Association annual meeting and awards luncheon in Montpelier last Thursday.

The Williston Observer team won awards in the feature stories, headline writing and feature photo categories.

The annual contest is open to the 10 daily and approximately four-dozen non-daily newspapers circulating in Vermont, according to Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. Donoghue said the contest judges were chosen by the New England Newspapers Association from top newspapers in the region (not including Vermont).

Observer staff reporter Greg Elias took home second place for headline writing (non-daily). Headlines such as “Essex church seeks sanctuary in Williston,” about the Essex Alliance Church’s plans for a facility in Williston; “New radio station signals more competition;” and “Dispute could short circuit Adelphia deal;” impressed judges.

“The headline writer puts a nice spin on even the most prosaic of stories,” wrote one judge.

Reporter Kim Howard took third place in the same category, with zingers like “Teacher stands out from the herd,” about a dairy farmer turned teacher, and “Golden years: A gay old time?” about gay and lesbian seniors in Vermont.

“The headlines tell a lot in just a few words,” a judge commented.

Howard also won third place for feature writing (non-daily) with her story on the retirement of Williston Central School receptionist Mavis Tremblay after 37 years at her job.

For photography, freelance photographer Dave Schmidt won first place for Best Feature Photo. Schmidt won over judges with his photo of a group of turkeys running around on Sunset Hill Road in November.

At the meeting, outgoing VPA president and editor of the Brattleboro Reformer, Sabina Haskell, acknowledged Mike Donoghue of The Burlington Free Press. Haskell said Donoghue has been selected to receive the 2007 Yankee Quill Award, considered the top journalism award in New England. Haskell said Donoghue is the third Vermont journalist to win the Yankee Quill.

The featured speaker at the VPA lunch was Col. James Baker, director of the Vermont State Police.

Baker, who took over as director a year ago, spoke about the importance of transparency in the State Police, and how the department will move toward greater transparency and accountability in the next year.

[Read more...]

Williston sends delegates to conventions (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share
 
 


    Courtesy photo by Chris Roy
Republican delegate Chris Roy snapped this photo during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

[Read more...]

Convention recollections (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

Residents attend party gatherings

Sept. 11, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

For Chris Roy, the Republican convention affirmed his longstanding support for the party’s presidential nominee. For Taylor Bates, the Democratic convention provided a political education.

Both Willistonians recently attended their parties’ national gatherings.

Roy, co-chairman of McCain’s Vermont campaign, was on hand for the Republican convention held Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

 


    Courtesy photo
Taylor Bates poses with Vermont Rep. Peter Welch during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Bates, 18, was one of the youngest delegates at the Democratic National Convention, held Aug. 25-28 in Denver.

The Observer asked about their impressions of the national party gatherings. Given the difference in their ages and levels of political experience, Bates and Roy unsurprisingly took away very different things from the conventions.

Republicans: loyalty rewarded

Last week’s Republican convention was Chris Roy’s second. He also attended the convention held in 2000 in Philadelphia.

That was a year after Roy began his involvement in McCain’s political efforts in Vermont. McCain of course failed to win the nomination then, so Roy said it was especially gratifying to see his candidate emerge victorious this time.

“It was great being there for the final roll call, hearing state (after) state calling out his name,” Roy said. “I’ve been doing this for years and it was nice to finally get to that point.”

Roy, an alternate delegate, attended the convention as part of the 31-member Vermont delegation.

Not surprisingly, Roy ranked the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice president as the convention’s highlight. The surprise announcement energized what was expected to be a routine convention.

The selection wasn’t immediately welcomed by some Republicans, Roy said. It was only after her speech that support for Palin was cemented.

Roy said he wasn’t entirely surprised by the selection. He said he had been telling people that she might be picked based on his experience with the campaign and McCain’s tendency to defy expectations.

Critics say McCain failed to thoroughly vet Palin. In the days following her selection, there were revelations about questionable decisions as governor and the pregnancy of her teenage daughter.

But Roy thinks those things came as no surprise to McCain. While acknowledging he has no special access to the campaign’s inner workings, Roy believes that McCain knew about Palin’s record and family and still concluded she was the best pick.

“There are a lot of people in the media that cannot imagine that someone would do all research, and, having thought about it, still select Sarah Palin,” he said. “He tends to rely on his gut instincts, good and bad, which tends to drive some people up the wall.”

Roy, 43, is married and has three children. He is a lawyer with Downs Rachlin Martin in Burlington and serves on the Williston Selectboard.

Unlike many delegates, Roy said he skipped most after-hours activities. His lone nighttime activity was a concert by the classic rock band Styx.

“I had more interest in what was going on during the day than staying out until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

Besides, he added with a chuckle, he no longer has the energy of the younger delegates.

Democrats: energy and networking

Bates graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in the spring and now attends Tufts University. He is the son of Dennis Bates and Ann Hazelrigg of Williston.

Bates was selected as a Vermont delegate after a short but intense campaign. The effort included baking 600 brownies and distributing them at the state Democratic convention.

His selection to the 27-member delegation made him one of the youngest to attend the national convention. Only 30 delegates were age 18 or younger, according to the Denver Post.

Bates was impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of his fellow delegates.

“As the cliché goes, we were revved up and ready to go,” he said.

Bates, along with the rest of the delegation, enjoyed front-row seats at the Pepsi Center in Denver. He attributed the prime placement to Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who now serves as the national party chairman.

Bates participated in the party’s efforts to hold a “green” convention. He chipped in $200 to buy carbon credits to offset the impact on the environment the Vermont delegation had by flying to Denver.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had challenged delegations to be carbon neutral and organized a contest. Vermont came in second behind California.

Bates said he was surprised by the amount of networking going on during the week. Despite feeling “awestruck” and being younger than most, Bates said he too tried to introduce himself to as many new people as possible.

“Everybody was trying to meet everyone else,” he said. “That’s really a big skill in politics, trying to create a web of political connections.”

Bates met the state’s leading Democrats, including Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch. He attended a breakfast event hosted by Leahy and got to shake hands with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and comedian Al Franken of “Saturday Night Live” fame.

The speech by Barack Obama was the highlight of the convention for Bates. He said the speech at the sold-out, 75,000-seat Invesco Field at Mile High — home of the Denver Broncos — combined an inspirational message and policy specifics. And again, he had a good view, sitting at the 35-yard-line, not far from the stage in the middle of the field.

Bates thinks the convention may one day be viewed by historians as the beginning of a long-term change in American politics.

“There was just the sense of history in the room,” he said. “Some day someone will look back on it as the beginning of one of the great changes of the 21st century.”

 

[Read more...]

Judge dismisses landfill lawsuit (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

Foes sought to overturn agreement

Sept. 11, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

A judge has dismissed a legal challenge by Williston residents to an agreement between the town and the Chittenden Solid Waste district that permits a proposed landfill near their homes.

Chittenden Superior Court Judge Mathew Katz issued the five-page ruling last week. In it, he said the lawsuit filed by 37 residents living in the Martel Hill subdivision located less than a mile from the landfill site was without merit.

Katz said the town of Williston and CSWD were legally allowed to strike the 1992 agreement and that issues raised by the plaintiffs were political rather than judicial.

“As courts are limited to deciding actual cases or controversies, we must be wary of entering into solely political frays,” he wrote. “Here, it appears the plaintiffs may indeed have an interest affected by the contract at issue, however, their concerns with respect to the contract are largely political, rather than juridical. It is not our place to determine town policy — those decisions must be made by the town Selectboard.”

The ruling, while removing one obstacle, does not mean construction of the proposed landfill off Redmond Road will occur anytime soon. CSWD officials note they must still deal with another legal issue and have yet to settle on a landfill design.

“We expected this result,” said Tom Moreau, the waste district’s general manager. “Two municipalities ought to be able to enter into an agreement and have that agreement upheld. And it was.”

Craig Abrahams, one of the plaintiffs and a member of VOCAL, Vermont Organized Communities Against Landfills, said he and the other plaintiffs have yet to decide if they will appeal the ruling. Though supportive of the legal action, he said VOCAL was not directly involved in the legal action.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision, and are waiting for our lawyers to review the judge’s findings,” Abrahams wrote in an e-mail. “VOCAL will continue fighting this unnecessary landfill. Nothing has changed. The proposed landfill is not needed by Chittenden County.”

The neighbors alleged that the agreement unlawfully delegated town authority to CSWD with an agreement that allows the waste district to build a landfill at some undefined time in the future. The agreement, the plaintiffs said, mandates that the town support any permit application regardless of the specific proposal.

Williston voters approved the so-called host town agreement. But opponents argue that the ballot question was so vague that voters did not realize what they were approving.

“People didn’t really know what they were voting for,” said Gwen Blankenheim, another one of the plaintiffs.

She and Abrahams also disagree with the judge’s reasoning that issues surrounding the host town agreement are political, not legal. They believe the contract in fact prevents the town from exercising any political control over the landfill or changing course into the future.

In his ruling, Katz said the Vermont Legislature explicitly permitted towns and waste districts, which are legally treated like municipalities, to enter into landfill agreements. He noted that municipalities are not required to set a termination date for contracts.

He also said that a town-wide vote was not needed to approve such contracts, making the argument that the ballot was vague seemingly beside the point.

“A popular vote is not required every time a town takes action,” Katz wrote. “This is a contract permitted the town, just like buying a snowplow, purchasing liability insurance or retaining legal services.”

Other hurdles must be cleared before CSWD builds any waste disposal facility. In fact, a much-publicized proposal made last year for a landfill that could have cost $89 million has been shelved, Moreau said.

The district is still trying to resolve a legal dispute with Hinesburg Sand and Gravel, which owns property where the landfill would be located. CSWD previously won the right to purchase the land through eminent domain proceedings, and a court set the price at $4 million. But with an appeal pending, the price has yet to be settled, Moreau said.

Meanwhile, the district is searching for ways to reduce waste, which is currently trucked to Coventry because there is no landfill in Chittenden County.

Mike Coates, Williston’s representative on the CSWD governing board, said recycling technology is changing so fast that it is not clear what type of facility will be best by the time all the legal and permitting issues are settled.

“The thing is technology has fast-forwarded so fast that we have an obligation to take a step back and look at everything that is happening,” he said. “It’s possible that it would be a very small, sophisticated landfill or something that processes waste into energy.”

 

[Read more...]

CVU sports schedule (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

CVU SPORTS SCHEDULE

Cross country

Saturday: vs. Essex High at Catamount Center, 9:30 a.m.
Tuesday: at Mount Mansfield Union, 3:45 p.m.

Field hockey

Thursday: at Colchester High, 4 p.m.
Saturday: MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH, 10 a.m.
Wednesday: at Union-32 (East Montpelier) 4 p.m.

Football

Saturday: WINOOSKI HIGH, 1 p.m.

Boys soccer

Thursday: MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: SOUTH BURLINGTON HIGH, 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday: at Mount Mansfield Union, 4:30 p.m.

Girls soccer

Saturday: STOWE HIGH, 10 a.m.
Tuesday: MOUNT MANSFIELD UNION, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday is Spirit Day at Champlain Valley Union High School, with the field hockey, football and soccer teams all playing at home.

[Read more...]

Armadillos ousted from playoffs by Warthogs (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

First round playoff loss eliminates chance of repeat championship

Sept. 11, 2008

The Williston Armadillos concluded their season on Sunday with a 2-0 loss to the Waterbury Warthogs in the first round of the championship bracket of the Vermont Senior Baseball League. The Armadillos collected just seven hits, though up and down the lineup, they hit the ball hard.

“The vast majority of our outs were hit hard, but right at people. We had plenty of chances to break the game open but failed to get the big hits when we needed them,” said third baseman Pat “Pookie” Martin.

Martin (2-4) and pitcher Bill Supple (2-4) were the only Armadillos with multiple hits. Thus, the Armadillos left 11 men on base in suffering the first shutout in their five-year history.

Supple threw a complete game, giving up just eight hits. Both runs scored by the Warthogs were unearned, the results of the only two defensive miscues committed by the Dillos, both of which took place on bunts.

“Overall, Bill pitched well enough to win and, outside of the two errors, we played excellent defense, including several great plays, one a running catch of a pop up by (shortstop Greg) Bolger in short center and another a diving catch of a hard hit grounder headed for right field by (first baseman Dennis) Johnson, who threw the runner out at first while on his rump,” summarized second baseman/catcher Darby Crum.

As a result of the loss, the Dillos, the league champions last year, also lost the opportunity to claim the championship two years in a row, something that has yet to be done, as the championship has been belonged to 10 different teams over the last 10 years.

The Warthogs took a 1-0 lead in the second. After a one out walk, Supple fielded a hard bunt right back to the mound, but threw wide of second, allowing the runner on first to reach second safely.

“I had so much time to throw the ball, I thought about it too much,” said Supple. “I should have just thrown the ball.”

The next batter doubled, bringing in the runner from second.

Waterbury’s second run was scored in the fifth inning. After a leadoff single, the next batter bunted down the first base line. Johnson had plenty of time to pick up the ball and win the race to the bag, but failed to pick it up before he began his move backward. By the time he regrouped, the runner was safe and no out was recorded. Two sacrifice flies later, the runner on second scored.

Meanwhile, the Armadillos repeatedly threatened but could not push a run across. They left runners at first and second in the first, seventh and eighth innings and at first and third in the sixth. In the eighth, the third out was recorded on a fly ball to the warning track by catcher Tom “Bambino” Fitzgerald.

“Another three feet and we would have been moving on to the second round,” said the Bambino.

After the game, the team was particularly solemn, as the players reflected on the early exit from the tournament as well as being shut out. Their mood was captured by ball girl Charlene Johnson, who commented, “There was no joy in Mudville today.”

The Armadillos will have a long winter to think about what could have been as their next game will be at noon on the last Sunday in April 2009, the location and opponent yet to be determined.

 

[Read more...]

Redhawks, Hornets lead pack in cross country (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

Sept. 11, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

After a narrow, two-point victory over Essex High in the combined boys and girls team competition on Saturday at Harwood Union in Duxbury, the Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams are poised to run against the Hornets again at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday at the Catamount Center in Williston.

In winning the Saturday meet that included many of the top runners in the north-central part of the state, the Redhawks wound up with 80 points for the narrow decision over Essex, which had 82.

The girls were led by fifth place Maddie Christian, followed closely by Summer Spillane (seventh), Danika Frisbie (eighth) and Adrienne Devita (ninth). Four other Redhawks finished in places 11 through 19.

Matt Mainer led the CVU boys with a fourth place finish, followed by Tony Sulva (seventh), John Dixon (eighth) and Zack Pete (ninth).

 

[Read more...]

Field hockey team on three-game winning streak (Sept., 11, 2008)

Share

Sept. 11, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Coach Kate McDonald and her Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team will have a nifty three-game victory streak in tow when they come back home on Thursday for a 4 p.m. meeting with Colchester High.

Saturday’s 10 a.m. Spirit Day contest will be the team’s first meeting of the season with Middlebury Union High, which bumped CVU out of the playoffs last year in overtime.

The Redhawks’ latest triumph came Tuesday night under the lights in Essex, a 1-0 nudging that knocked the now 3-1 Hornets out of the ranks of the unbeaten.

“That was a big win for us,” McDonald said after the game. “A lot of our kids had their best games of the season.”

The lone goal came in the first minute of the second half when junior KK Logan knocked in a rebound from a flurry in front of Essex goalie Anne Levy. It was Logan’s third score in the last three games. After some discussion, Kelsey Gagnon was given the assist.

In chalking up her second shutout in the last three outings for the 3-1 Redhawks, junior net minder Elizabeth Goddette had four saves. CVU had nine shots on goal at the other end.

The Redhawks dominated play for much of the game although the Hornets, after being back on their heels much of the first half, put together several sustained offensive bursts after intermission and CVU’s early second half strike.

Juniors Mireille Kelley, Kelsey Jensen and Kathryn Powell led the opportunistic CVU deep defenders, who kept Essex from making any open shots on Goddette.

A dynamo on right wing all night was sophomore Gillian Shelley, who made foray after foray into Hornets’ territory to keep pressure on the Essex defense.

This, along with some long blasts up field by Jensen, helped keep matters under control at the CVU defensive end.

Last Friday, the Redhawks laced South Burlington at the Hinesburg field, 4-1, as senior co-captain Katie Longshore put the game away with two late goals after Logan and Jensen put CVU ahead with earlier pointers.

“That game was a lot closer than the score,” said McDonald. “Those two late goals came in the final five minutes.”

Two days earlier, the Hawks earned their first victory, also at home, 2-0 over Mount Mansfield on scores by Longshore and Logan.

 

[Read more...]