October 2, 2014

Two men dead in apparent murder-suicide10/30/08

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Oct. 30, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

What police are calling Williston’s first murder in nearly 20 years occurred over the weekend at a home on Isham Circle.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Two men were killed in this Isham Circle home early Sunday morning in what police are calling a murder-suicide. 

Police say Michael Putnam, 55, of Waterbury shot his estranged wife’s boyfriend, Gary Smith, 59, of Shelburne before turning the gun on himself.

Putnam forcibly entered the house at 279 Isham Circle shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday by throwing a rock through a back patio window, said Bart Chamberlain, Williston’s acting police chief.

Once inside, police say, Putnam walked upstairs to the master bedroom and confronted Smith with a handgun. Putman’s wife, Louise O’Hare, escaped with one of her three children before shots were fired. The children, who are not Putnam’s biological kin, are between the ages of 9 and 16.

State Police Lt. Brian Miller, who is handling the investigation, said there were “some comments” between Putnam and his wife before the shooting.

According to Miller, Putnam shot Smith four times before turning the gun on himself. It was after the shooting that police received a 911 call from O’Hare at a neighbor’s residence. A 911 call was also received from inside the house by one of the children, Chamberlain said.

Williston Police responded to the home soon after the call went out. Because initial details were sketchy, police officers evacuated nearby homes. Along with Williston Police, tactical units from the Vermont State Police came to assistance, as did officers from the Essex, South Burlington and Richmond Police departments.

“We didn’t exactly know what was going to happen, what we would find,” Chamberlain said of the need for extra assistance.

After making sure the other two children escaped the house, police entered the bedroom to find both men deceased.

Putnam and O’Hare had been married for 18 months and living in Williston before Putnam moved to an apartment in Waterbury one month ago, according to police. Chamberlain said police had never been called to the home before and the family was “new to us.”

Miller said it was unclear whether Putnam and Smith had known each other prior to the incident. Miller said Smith had a separate apartment in Shelburne, but had been staying over in Williston recently.

“You can speculate (Putnam) knew there was another man in the picture,” Miller said.

Putnam also left suicide notes to family and friends at the Isham Circle house, where three notes were found, and his apartment in Waterbury. Miller declined to give further details, only saying the notes corroborated the incident was a murder-suicide.

Miller also said there was nothing in Putnam’s past to indicate he was capable of murder. He did say there was a past assault conviction on Putnam’s record from more than 30 years ago in New Hampshire.

According to Chamberlain and Miller, Putnam was not registered as having a gun and police are trying to determine where he obtained the firearm.

Several neighbors who were contacted by the Observer declined to comment on the shootings.

Chamberlain said the last murder in Williston happened around 1989. Incidentally, it was a murder-suicide. A husband murdered his wife in the IBM parking lot before turning the gun on himself.

Miller said the current investigation is not complete, adding police were awaiting the results of a forensics test.

HED: Schools react to shooting

Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli e-mailed parents on Monday, informing them, “The Williston School District Crisis Team from (Allen Brook and Williston Central Schools) met on Monday morning along with representatives from First Call to prepare for student responses that might occur as a result of the murder/suicide in Williston.”

In the e-mail, Nardelli said staff went through guidelines for how to respond to student questions and concerns, as well as monitor student behavior. The principal said school counselors were available to help students and teachers.

“Our Crisis Team recommends to parents that you listen and validate your child’s feelings related to this incident, answer questions based on factual information that has been released through the news media and closely monitor for any behavior changes,” Nardelli wrote, urging parents to contact a student’s guidance counselor with questions or concerns.

— Greg Duggan, Observer staff

 

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Rotary candidate forum10/23/08

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Oct. 24, 2008

The Williston-Richmond Rotary hosts a candidate forum at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 27 at Williston Central School. The forum will feature candidates running for Williston’s two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives — Democrats Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough and Republicans Brennan Duffy and Shelley Palmer.

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Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans10/23/08

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    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gov. Jim Douglas (right) gets a tour of the Williston Fire Station from firefighter Lynwood Osborne on Wednesday, Oct. 15. 


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina (center) and supporters wave to motorists passing through Taft Corners on Friday.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gaye Symington, Speaker of the House and Democratic candidate for governor, stands in the Democratic Party’s Vermont headquarters in Burlington.

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Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans10/23/08

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Douglas, Pollina visit Williston

Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

If there’s one thing the major candidates for governor can agree on, it’s that the current state of the nation’s economy, as well as Vermont’s, is not good.

In recent weeks, economists have been warning that the country is either in a recession or soon will be. Locally, Vermonters have seen their savings dwindle in stock market losses. Last month’s unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent, the highest since 1993, according to the Vermont Department of Labor.

In the face of this information, Vermont’s gubernatorial candidates have been traveling the state and highlighting their economic plans prior to the Nov. 4 election. Last week, Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Douglas released a seven-part economic growth plan he wants to implement within the first 100 days of his new term, if he’s reelected.

Democratic challenger and Speaker of the House Gaye Symington has been touting her own plan while attacking Douglas’. Independent candidate Anthony Pollina, who’s been gaining support, according to recent poll data, has also been on the offensive with his own plan.

Jim Douglas

On a recent tour of the Williston Fire Station, Douglas talked about his plans to improve the state’s economy, attract businesses to the state and keep young, educated Vermonters from leaving the state for better jobs.

In particular, Douglas highlighted his seven-part economic growth plan, which features proposals including research and development tax credits for businesses, an innovation challenge for companies to create cutting edge technologies and the creation of “opportunity zones” which would provide tax incentives for businesses to renovate and expand into vacant industrial spaces.

“I believe the state that succeeds is the state that has innovation,” Douglas said. “We’ve got to set ourselves apart. We need businesses to set up shop.”

Douglas said everything is tied to the slow economy, including high food and fuel prices. He said he has a track record of dealing with dips in the economy and creating new jobs. He touted his “E-State Initiative” — a plan to offer all Vermonters cell phone and Internet service — and this year’s state tax holiday as economic successes.

Douglas admitted to facing difficulties with the Democratically-controlled Legislature in recent years while trying to pass his economic plans, but believes legislators have to act this next session.

Douglas says Vermonters should expect more “belt-tightening” and understands people are struggling, but is confident his ideas can address problems. He said his opponents don’t have fully realized economic plans, and Vermonters will realize that during upcoming debates.

“My record on fiscal responsibility and economic leadership is proven,” Douglas said.

Gaye Symington

Symington has been traveling the state and touting three economic initiatives she’d focus on if elected.

“When I talk to employers, they say their main concerns are workforce, infrastructure and energy for the future,” Symington said during an interview at her office in Burlington.

Creating a strong and viable work force has become a “lost second cousin” in the Douglas administration. She said she would support higher education and worker training programs to prepare Vermont’s workforce for better-paying jobs.

Vermont’s fading infrastructure for roads, bridges and rails is another concern, as is the need for better telecommunications. Symington said $140 million is available from the federal government to fix infrastructure, but the state is in danger of losing the funds if the current administration doesn’t act immediately.

Seeking cleaner energy, including wind power, should be another priority in the state, Symington said, and she wants the state to become a leader in the field.

“If we can enable Vermonters to use less energy, that could allow (alternative energy) projects to move forward,” she said.

Symington said Douglas’s recent economic growth plan is full of “old ideas,” many of which would not work. She focused her criticisms on Douglas, never mentioning Pollina.

Symington said the economy will hit all residents and communities hard and a change in Montpelier is necessary to soften the blow. She said Douglas has had six years to create more jobs and hasn’t done so.

“If we’re going to come out of this recession, we need new ideas and new leadership,” Symington said.

Anthony Pollina

Pollina said he worries about Vermont in the face of the sluggish economy, but believes he would be able to best move the state forward during this critical time.

He said the fastest-growing jobs in the state are low-wage jobs, median family incomes have declined and Vermont has the slowest economic growth in New England.

“We need to build the economy from the family level up,” Pollina said during a visit to Observer offices.

Pollina said one way to create jobs would be to put Vermonters to work repairing roads and bridges. By closing the capital gains tax loophole, Pollina believes about $20 million dollars would be available annually for roadwork.

The candidate also believes in investing in the state at a time when it needs it most. His many ideas include a Vermont Credit Card, which would reinvest a percentage of every purchase in local farms and businesses. Pollina also said he would ask businesses to join a new Vermont Merchants United network that would keep credit card processing fees in the state.

“The idea is to keep more money in state and encourage Vermonters to invest in their future,” Pollina said.

Pollina said Gov. Douglas’ “do nothing” approach and “misrepresentations” on the economy would not help the state. He said he believes in speaking honestly and doesn’t see a bright immediate future for Vermont’s economy. But with the tenacity of Vermonters, he feels the state will be OK in the end.

“Vermont is in a better position than a lot of other places,” Pollina said. “Putting money into the local economy helps everyone, and that’s what I want to do.”

 

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Larger houses not the best structure, teachers say10/23/08

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Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

With larger class sizes, new students and different team teaching dynamics, the five-teacher teams at Williston Central School have faced challenges adjusting to change in the first months of school.

The Williston School Board listened to Full House teacher Al Fletcher and District Principal Walter Nardelli give updates at its Oct. 15 meeting on how the larger houses are coping so far.

Fletcher said the first two months of school have been difficult in figuring out how to manage a larger student body within the dynamics of a five-teacher team. Most teams have four teachers.

“I would say we still haven’t hit our stride,” Fletcher said. “We knew there would be changes this year, but we’re feeling like we’re trying to do too many things.”

Full House has more eighth graders than other houses, and Swift House has a greater number of fifth graders. The new Pinnacle House, which has six lower house teachers, has an extra class worth of first, second, third and fourth graders.

With the larger number of students, it hasn’t been easy getting to know everyone, Fletcher said. He added that resources are stretched and the house’s teaching assistant has been putting in an amazing amount of hours helping in the transition.

“I don’t see a whole lot of positives in a five-person team,” Fletcher said.

Nardelli agreed the change hasn’t been easy for teachers and students in the larger houses.

“I think the amount of change was a lot more than people expected,” Nardelli added.

Fletcher said it’s been difficult organizing classes within the house’s five-person team. He said different teachers are licensed for certain subjects, sometimes causing problems in deciding who teaches what. Fletcher is licensed to teach social studies, as is teacher John Duncan, who joined Full House after Verve House was disbanded last school year. Duncan is also licensed in science, English and math.

Nardelli said he’d heard similar complaints in regards to team dynamics and class size from other larger houses, and has asked for input from Full, Swift and Pinnacle Houses.

Among the positives of the new house structures was incorporation of different teaching styles, more diversity among students and the opportunity to get to know more students, Nardelli said.

But while meeting new people was seen as a positive, forming a close bond with them proved to be more difficult, Nardelli said. It takes time to build relationships, and that time isn’t available, he added.

“How important the relationship factor was in Williston was underestimated,” Nardelli said.

Fletcher agreed, saying his team was able to build a strong “sense of house” in the past several years.

“We’re missing some of that and we’re realizing just how critical that is,” Fletcher said. “We do feel that need of equity and sense of school, but a lot of what makes Williston is the house system.”

Nardelli reported some teachers said there was less space, less time to plan the day or work one-on-one with students, and a lack of chemistry.

“Just because you put five or six people together, it doesn’t mean you have a strong team,” Nardelli said.

School Board member Holly Rouelle said the bigger class sizes seemed “contradictory” to what the board considered best practices in teaching. Fletcher agreed, stating “smaller is better.”

While other houses have either 26 or 27 eighth graders, Full House has 31. Swift House, which took on more fifth graders over the summer, has 33 fifth graders. Nardelli said the administration tried to keep a balance in the student ratios, but it wasn’t always possible.

“When you start moving kids around, you start losing the balance,” Nardelli said.

Rouelle, whose son is one of the 31 eighth graders in Full House, said while she understood the pressure teachers were facing, it was important to remember students were “struggling” in the configuration, as well.

Fletcher said it wouldn’t be a good idea to make any major changes to his house’s setup or to the school’s current configuration this year since students have already experienced enough change. He said he welcomed the work the Conceptual Frameworks Committee is doing to reconsider configuration for the next school year and beyond.

“Our house is looking at this as a temporary situation,” Fletcher said. “It’s not something we want to see continue.”

Fletcher said teachers, not yet involved with the Frameworks Committee, would soon be frequenting the meetings to give their input on configuration. For now, Fletcher said he and his team’s primary goal is to give students the best possible education.

“We need to just educate the children and get through the year,” Fletcher said.

 

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Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans

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Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Anthony Pollina

Pollina said he worries about Vermont in the face of the sluggish economy, but believes he would be able to best move the state forward during this critical time.

 


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina (center) and supporters wave to motorists passing through Taft Corners on Friday.

He said the fastest-growing jobs in the state are low-wage jobs, median family incomes have declined and Vermont has the slowest economic growth in New England.

“We need to build the economy from the family level up,” Pollina said during a visit to Observer offices.

Pollina said one way to create jobs would be to put Vermonters to work repairing roads and bridges. By closing the capital gains tax loophole, Pollina believes about $20 million dollars would be available annually for roadwork.

The candidate also believes in investing in the state at a time when it needs it most. His many ideas include a Vermont Credit Card, which would reinvest a percentage of every purchase in local farms and businesses. Pollina also said he would ask businesses to join a new Vermont Merchants United network that would keep credit card processing fees in the state.

“The idea is to keep more money in state and encourage Vermonters to invest in their future,” Pollina said.

Pollina said Gov. Douglas’ “do nothing” approach and “misrepresentations” on the economy would not help the state. He said he believes in speaking honestly and doesn’t see a bright immediate future for Vermont’s economy. But with the tenacity of Vermonters, he feels the state will be OK in the end.

“Vermont is in a better position than a lot of other places,” Pollina said. “Putting money into the local economy helps everyone, and that’s what I want to do.”

 

[Read more...]

Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans

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Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Gaye Symington

Symington has been traveling the state and touting three economic initiatives she’d focus on if elected.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gaye Symington, Speaker of the House and Democratic candidate for governor, stands in the Democratic Party’s Vermont headquarters in Burlington.

“When I talk to employers, they say their main concerns are workforce, infrastructure and energy for the future,” Symington said during an interview at her office in Burlington.

Creating a strong and viable work force has become a “lost second cousin” in the Douglas administration. She said she would support higher education and worker training programs to prepare Vermont’s workforce for better-paying jobs.

Vermont’s fading infrastructure for roads, bridges and rails is another concern, as is the need for better telecommunications. Symington said $140 million is available from the federal government to fix infrastructure, but the state is in danger of losing the funds if the current administration doesn’t act immediately.

Seeking cleaner energy, including wind power, should be another priority in the state, Symington said, and she wants the state to become a leader in the field.

“If we can enable Vermonters to use less energy, that could allow (alternative energy) projects to move forward,” she said.

Symington said Douglas’s recent economic growth plan is full of “old ideas,” many of which would not work. She focused her criticisms on Douglas, never mentioning Pollina.

Symington said the economy will hit all residents and communities hard and a change in Montpelier is necessary to soften the blow. She said Douglas has had six years to create more jobs and hasn’t done so.

“If we’re going to come out of this recession, we need new ideas and new leadership,” Symington said.

 

[Read more...]

Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans

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    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gov. Jim Douglas (right) gets a tour of the Williston Fire Station from firefighter Lynwood Osborne on Wednesday, Oct. 15. 

 


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina (center) and supporters wave to motorists passing through Taft Corners on Friday.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gaye Symington, Speaker of the House and Democratic candidate for governor, stands in the Democratic Party’s Vermont headquarters in Burlington.

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Boys soccer advances to face South Burlington in playoffs10/23/08

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Oct. 23, 2008

For the first time in years, the six-time defending state Division 1 champion Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team is looking up at the top seeds in the playoff pairings.

 


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Champlain Valley Union High captain Matt Sulva looks up the field during Friday’s 1-1 tie against South Burlington High, the regular season finale. The Redhawks opened the playoffs on Tuesday with a win over Colchester High, and play South Burlington on Saturday.

The seventh-seeded Redhawks unloaded their frustrations with a 6-0 opening round victory over visiting Colchester High on Tuesday, and hope to keep the tempo going when they roll into South Burlington on Friday afternoon. The 3 p.m. quarterfinal match against the second-seeded (12-2) Rebels will be the third meeting between the teams this year.

South Burlington won both regular season contests by similar 2-1 scores.

The Redhawks, now 8-5-2, unleashed their biggest scoring output of the campaign in taking out the Lakers, a team they had defeated twice previously.

The goal getting was spread around, with Nick Hart the lone Redhawk to cage two scores. Henry Sengle, Jack Jesset, Tom Eddy and Zack Blanchard popped single tallies and defender-offense creator Chris Beaton notched a pair of assists.

CVU goalie Chris Howard made four stops to earn the shutout, the Redhawks’ seventh of the season.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 

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Girls soccer opens playoffs at home10/23/08

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Oct. 23, 2008

The Champlain Valley Union High girls soccer team opened its bid for a Division 1 title on Wednesday with a home match against Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans.

It was the third meeting of the season between coach Brad Parker’s fourth-seeded Redhawks (10-4) and the 13th-seeded Comets (3-11). CVU nipped BFA 3-2 early in the season in St. Albans and then scored an 8-0 whitewashing on Sept. 30 at the home nest.

A victory Wednesday — the game was scheduled for after press deadline — means a home quarterfinal contest on Saturday against either fifth-seeded Spaulding High of Barre (9-3-2) or 12th-seeded Mount Mansfield Union High (3-10-1); the teams were scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Barre.

The potential Saturday quarterfinal was originally set for 3 p.m.

The Redhawks picked up their 10th victory and clinched the fourth seed on Saturday with their second overtime win over 2-11-1 Colchester High. Senior Amanda Blanchard cranked home a direct kick from, once again, captain Asia Sienko with 3:52 remaining in the first 10-minute overtime period to seal the victory.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 

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