November 26, 2015


Nov. 20, 2008

Last week’s article “Williston students turn to Stern Center for extra help,” incorrectly identified the groups of students that can receive additional educational support with financial help from the Williston School District. The district is only required to fund supplemental services to economically disadvantaged students. The money comes out of the district’s federal Title 1 funds for low income students, which are allotted based on the number of those students in the district.

[Read more…]

Around Town11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008

Observer online

The Observer has launched some new features on its Web site, Go online to check out a staff blog, or register to post comments on articles.

Both features are in their infant stages, so please be patient with updates.

Williston resident joins Peace Corps

Carly Brown of Williston joined the Peace Corps and left earlier this month for a two-year service as a secondary science educator in Kenya. Brown will work with Kenyan students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills in science, help teachers instruct students in science subjects and help communities improve their understanding of HIV and AIDS.

Brown is a graduate of Champlain Valley Union High School and attended the University of Vermont and University of Hawaii, where she earned a bachelor’s in biology in 2007. Most recently, Brown was an AmeriCorps volunteer in Oregon. She is the daughter of Williston residents Patrick Brown and Amy Huntington.

Brown said she wanted to join the Peace Corps for several reasons, including improving the United State’s image in the world and helping people in Kenya, not just in the short term, but also in the long term.

Brown also said she’s eager to see Africa and look beyond images the media portrays of destruction and despair.

“When many of us think of Africa we think of HIV/AIDS, famine, and civil unrest,” Brown said in a statement. “I am excited to see the other side of Africa that we don’t normally see in the U.S. and share it with the people back home.”

Thanksgiving dinner

The Williston Federated Church is hosting a free community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The church will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at noon in the church hall. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call Denise at 878-0617 by Nov. 24 to register. All are welcome.

[Read more…]

CSWD seeks permit revision for recovery facility11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Officials with the Chittenden Solid Waste District will go before the Development Review Board on Tuesday to ask for a permit revision, which would allow the district to double the weight of recyclable loads to its Material Recovery Facility.

The permit, originally granted in December 1992, currently allows CSWD to truck in a maximum of 100 tons per day to the facility, better known as the “Murf.” The permit allows a peak allotment of 52 vehicles per hour.

Under the proposed revision, CSWD wants to increase its tons per day to 200 — it already exceeds the 100 allotted tons — while keeping the same amount of peak trips.

The Murf is located on Avenue C, off Industrial Avenue. The site processes all recyclable materials for Chittenden County.

Brian Wright, project manager for the district, said CSWD had been conducting a review of all permits and conditions when he said he noticed Williston’s permit limited trips and tonnage.

“We really just want to upgrade our permit and be in compliance with the town,” Wright said.

Wright said as more people recycle, the Murf has become busier than ever.

“People continue to recycle more and more,” Wright said. “With more materials comes somewhat more traffic.”

Currently, CSWD is averaging 158.8 tons per day while traffic has increased by 10 percent to 15 percent, Wright said. Traffic has not increased enough to warrant a revision to the 1992 permit, he added, saying that in a peak hour the facility will see 30 vehicles.

With the increase of recyclables will come the additional need for space, Wright said. CSWD is looking at expanding its operations on Avenue C and in the next few years will see if there is room to expand at the current location.

“We’re up to our rafters over there,” Wright said.

The Development Review Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

[Read more…]

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

They may not feel like they deserve special recognition, but several local residents who quietly donate countless hours to help area youths no doubt earned the honors handed to them earlier this week.

Known as the “Aw Shucks” Award and given out by Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s Connecting Youth organization, the accolade recognizes those that have volunteered at local schools in the supervisory union.

“They affect kids and go above and beyond what’s expected,” said Jan Bedard, administrative director for Connecting Youth.

Bedard said the award got its name from the reactions people gave when they learned of the honor and felt they didn’t deserve it: “Aw shucks, I haven’t really done anything special.” The award is now in its 14th year. A ceremony recognizing the recipients was held Tuesday night at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Bedard said the people chosen this year were “no brainers.”

Winners included Williston residents Tim O’Brien and Charlie and Ruth Magill. Charlotte resident Rahn Fleming was recognized for his work at CVU. St. George resident Micaela Wallace received the first ever Brian O’Regan Mentoring Award, named after the former superintendent of CSSU. Other volunteers from Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne also took home awards.

Rahn Fleming

    Courtesy photo
Rahn Fleming

Fleming, who is CVU’s Learning Center director and hall supervisor, is being honored for his contributions outside of school hours. But Bedard said Fleming’s work with students in and out of school is intertwined, which is why students nominated him.

“You just have to recognize Rahn because he just does everything,” Bedard said. “He’s everywhere doing everything for everyone.”

Fleming has coached youth football for five years and youth baseball for seven years, and participated in countless volunteer activities. He’s especially proud of his rapport with students and his job at the learning center.

“The number one most important and satisfying role I have is being dad to my two kids,” Fleming said of his sons Connor, a sophomore, and Ryan, a freshman.

Whether it’s for his children or students at CVU, Fleming said he’s always there to help and be a friend and helper.

“I’m genuinely humbled (by the award),” Fleming said. “My face hurts from grinning so much.”

The Magills

    Courtesy photo
Charlie and Ruth Magill of Williston were given an ‘Aw Shucks’ award Tuesday night by CSSU’s Connecting Youth organization.

Charlie Magill said he and his wife, Ruth, feel that giving back to the community is something they have to do and don’t feel worthy of earning a special award.

“We both just tend to try and stay active,” Charlie Magill said.

But Nancy Carlson, Connecting Youth’s mentoring director for Williston, said the importance of the Magills to the town can’t be described in words. For instance, Carlson said Ruth Magill spearheaded a scholarship that allowed 20 St. George youths to participate for free in Williston’s summer recreation program.

Charlie Magill, who served on the CVU School Board from 1978 through 1988, said he and his wife heard they would receive the award while working on the so-called Vermont House in Three Rivers, Miss., volunteering with other members of the Williston Federated Church to rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Incidentally, he helped several CVU students who were also building the house, something he also does when students get involved with Habitat for Humanity as part of their eighth grade or high school graduation challenges.

Carlson called the couple a “dynamic duo.”

“They’re perfect for the Aw Shucks award because they never call attention to themselves,” Carlson said.

Tim O’Brien

    Courtesy photo
Tim O’Brien

Like many recipients of the Aw Shucks award, O’Brien doesn’t feel like he should be singled out for his volunteerism. He said his reasoning for helping is simple: “My answer to people is ‘you just do it,’” O’Brien said.

Williston Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan said O’Brien has been “incredible” in his contributions, which include being a member of the town’s Recreation Committee, and being involved with Little League and Cub Scouts for 10 years.

“If he’s got a kid in the sport, he’s coached it,” Finnegan said. “He’s really one of those unsung guys.”

O’Brien did say he’s honored by the award, but doesn’t find volunteering extra time a chore since much of his work revolves around his children — CVU sophomore Nick, seventh grader Emily and fourth grader Christopher.

“Without the help of my family and my wife (Danielle), I couldn’t do what I do,” O’Brien said. “I share this right along with her.”

Micaela Wallace

    Courtesy photo
Micaela Wallace

Wallace, who received the Brian O’Regan Mentoring Award, said she’s been mentoring for six years at Williston Central School and has been working with one mentee for four years. She also serves on the mentoring program’s advisory board.

“I’m fortunate to be able to put some time into this,” said Wallace, who also works as a math para-educator at Williston Central.

Carlson said Wallace’s contributions have made all the difference in the mentoring program.

“She’s an extraordinary, caring and wonderful mentor,” Carlson said.

Wallace also helps put on three events for the mentoring program, which includes all mentors, mentees and their families. It’s an event that Carlson said she couldn’t do without Wallace’s help, calling her the program’s “creativity director.”

Wallace said she feels “uncomfortable” being given the award, because the purpose of mentoring isn’t for special recognition. It’s about being a good friend to students.

“It’s nothing special, really,” Wallace said. “It’s just something I want to do.”

[Read more…]

Williston Food Shelf celebrates grand opening11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of Williston resident Jill Lang, who recognized a need in town, the Williston Community Food Shelf has become a reality, holding its official grand opening over the weekend.

More than 30 community members and representatives for area food shelves gathered in the 688-square-foot room in Maple Tree Place to dedicate the new food shelf. Also on hand during the ribbon cutting were Gov. Jim Douglas and his wife, Dorothy


    Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum
Williston resident Cathy Michaels and her son Evan give Gov. Jim Douglas and his wife, Doroth, a tour of the Williston Community Food Shelf at its grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 8.

“It’s been amazing and I’m so happy this community cares so much,” said Lang, who serves as president of the Williston Community Food Shelf.

The food shelf officially opened on Nov. 1, but had its grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 15.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett helped conduct the proceedings and showered Lang with praise for her dedication.

“She had the passion and zeal, and energy and enthusiasm — more than I’d ever seen before,” Beckett said.

Beckett also praised officials from Inland U.S. Management, the owners of Maple Tree Place, for donating the space for the initial six-month period.

“Inland management graciously stepped up to the plate,” Beckett said.

Inland Vice President Bill Parks and Maple Tree Place Property Manager Richard Golder were on hand to accept an award presented by the food shelf. Parks said the shopping center was an important part of the community and Inland wanted to help out as best it could.

“We hope it works well for everyone through the winter months,” Parks said.

Awards were also handed out to businesses and individuals who had contributed through donations or through proceeds for the recent Williston Eats Out benefit.

Before going on a tour of the food shelf, Gov. Douglas spoke to the gathering. He said the food shelf would be a big help for families in need during the coming months of economic uncertainty.

“This is a tough time and I think everybody understands that,” Douglas said. “It’s going to take an effort from all Vermonters to help.”

Doug Gunnerson, who helps run the Hinesburg Food Shelf, agreed it will take a lot of help this winter to meet the growing demand for food. He said the Hinesburg Food Shelf’s record number of families helped in one day was 30, and that happened Friday.

Gunnerson said he expects the Hinesburg and Williston food shelves to work together helping families.

“It’ll certainly give families more resources,” Gunnerson said.

Lang said the Williston Community Food Shelf saw four families in the morning before the grand opening and has served a total of 40 families in the two weeks it has been open. Concerns about the food shelf’s location in a public place aren’t an issue anymore, she said.

“And our hours are better and more convenient for a lot of people,” Lang said.

Vermont Foodbank Network Relations Manager Joe Dauscher said the Williston Community Food Shelf’s numbers are encouraging for the amount of support it can provide.

“It’s a good sign that people feel comfortable coming here,” Dauscher said.

The Williston Community Food Shelf is open Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. For more information, call 735-6303.

Busy times at Hinesburg Food Shelf

The Williston Community Food Shelf is not the only area organization gearing up for the busy winter months.

The Hinesburg Food Shelf, which serves some Williston residents and is located in the Hinesburg United Church, is collecting turkeys for Thanksgiving. Many have been provided by the Shelburne-Charlotte-Hinesburg Rotary, Hannaford and Lantman’s Best Yet Market, but the food shelf is in need of more birds.

Furthermore, a $10 donation will help the food shelf provide accompaniments for a turkey dinner.

Last month the food shelf provided more than 7,000 pounds of food to 87 families, and co-director Doug Gunnerson said the food shelf serves 90 families a month.

“Funds are tight, much of our funding comes in at this time of the year,” Gunnerson said. “Supplies cost more and we need more for the increasing demand.”

To volunteer or donate turkeys, call co-directors Doug Gunnerson at 482-3069 or Laurie Sweeney at 482-5519.

[Read more…]

Budget for Williston schools to require two votes11/20/08

Proposal likely to exceed state spending cap

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Williston School Board members and school officials learned an unfortunate truth last week concerning the district’s budget.

The budget proposal, to be released in January, may exceed the state’s school spending cap mandated by Act 82. Unless significant cuts are made, voters may have to approve two budget articles in March.

“This is so hard to accept at the beginning of the process,” School Board chairwoman Darlene Worth said at last Wednesday’s meeting.

If Williston’s budget vote was held today, voters would have to to decide upon a school budget of $16.44 million, and a second article for an additional $325,000. Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason said the numbers are rough estimates at the beginning of the process, but it’s likely the two-vote requirement will affect Williston.

Act 82, passed this year by the Vermont Legislature, poses potential challenges for school districts across the state. The state has set a maximum 3.9 percent increase for all districts, which led to the cap of $16.44 million in Williston.

If a district’s budget increase exceeds the 3.9 percent raise, a second vote is required for extra funds. Mason said the increase is determined by the state based on per pupil spending, and could vary annually.

Unless major budget cuts occur in Williston, the district will likely need the two votes to pass what the School Board believes will be a complete budget.

While Williston’s baseline budget — the total cost if nothing is cut or added from the current school year — is a 3.03 percent increase, the district’s revenues have dropped considerably. Mason said a number of factors contributed to revenue declines, including smaller interest yields in the district’s investments in certificates of deposit, changes in special education costs, and requirements for Williston and other supervisory union schools to move some federal Title 1 funds for low income students to CSSU.

In all, revenue dropped 8.09 percent, causing the estimated Williston budget to exceed the spending cap, Mason said.

“It’s ironic that we have the lowest per pupil spending in the (supervisory union), yet we’re the ones with the penalty,” School Board member Holly Rouelle said at the meeting.

Mason said Hinesburg and Shelburne would not have to deal with the two-vote requirement, while Charlotte’s budget is still in the works.

Worth said after the meeting that the reality of exceeding the state’s spending cap would likely require her board to make sacrifices and cuts to the budget. She’d prefer to not have residents vote twice for the budget, but hopes there will be understanding in the community if it does comes down to two votes.

“It’s still one budget, whether there are two votes or not,” Worth said.

Around the county


Other schools in the region are still forming baseline budgets with the Act 82 limitations in mind. John K. Stewart, business manager for the South Burlington School District, said he’s been fully cognizant of the possibility of two votes as he works to form the budget. Already, South Burlington’s baseline budget has come very close to the spending cap.

“We came in at $166,000 short, but there are still factors that could change that,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the South Burlington School Board would have a better idea of final figures by a Dec. 10 meeting.

In the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, which includes Essex, Essex Junction and Westford, budgets are still being formulated. Grant Geisler, CCSU’s executive director of operations, said Westford’s budget looks to stay under the spending cap, but the Essex budgets are still in the works since voters make budget decisions in April. He hopes Act 82 doesn’t pose a problem, but it’s too early to say.

“Most districts (in the state) will have to deal with the limitations of it,” Geisler said. “We tried to position ourselves so we can get through it this year without having to deal with it.”

Overall, Williston School Board members did not hide their frustration over the two-vote system. Worth said she wants to make appeals directly to the state’s Legislature to change the language and requirements of Act 82.

“We’ll be complaining about it a lot,” Worth said.

“I’ll be complaining with you,” Mason added.

[Read more…]

Recount requested in state Senate race11/20/08

Barnard points to voting irregularities

Nov. 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

State Senate candidate Denise Barnard first thought she had won. Then she learned that she lost. Now she wants the results checked one more time.

Barnard, a Democrat from Richmond, has asked for a recount. She finished seventh, 417 votes behind Tim Ashe of Burlington for the final place in Chittenden County’s six-seat senate delegation.

Initial reports showed Barnard finishing ahead of Ashe, who was running as both a Democrat and a Progressive, by a few dozen votes. But those results did not include Burlington’s count, which was later corrected to reflect a recording error involving one ward.

Barnard said hundreds of supporters have called and sent e-mails urging her to seek a recount. That support, combined with Burlington’s ballot-counting problems and the won-then-lost result, convinced her to seek a recount.

“I’d always wonder for the next two years if I didn’t ask for a recount,” Barnard said. “I just want to make sure every vote was counted the way it was intended.”

The recount, scheduled to begin Dec. 3, will be time and labor intensive, said Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee.

She hopes to have 20 representatives from each of the state’s three major parties — Democratic, Republican and Progressive — to help count ballots by hand. The effort is expected to take 10 days.

Roughly 95,000 ballots were cast in Chittenden County, said Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections for the Secretary of State’s office.

Neither DeWolfe or Lavellee could attach a price tag to the recount. Each count is different, they said, and costs vary considerably. Those helping count votes will be paid the same as a juror, $30 a day plus reimbursement for mileage and parking.

To request a recount, a candidate must finish within 5 percent of the winner. In the Senate race, that percentage is based on the vote total divided by six to account for the number of seats being contested. Barnard said the margin between her and Ashe was about 3 percent.

Barnard reviewed voting records at the Secretary of State’s office last week. She said she discovered multiple problems with the Burlington count, including tabulation sheets with crossed out numbers. And she said vote totals on Burlington’s Web site did not match the Secretary of State’s tallies.

“It was a mess. It was an absolute mess,” Barnard said.

Jonathan Leopold, Burlington’s chief administrative officer, did not return a phone message Monday seeking comment. But DeWolfe said the differing vote totals were simply the result of Burlington officials not having time to update numbers posted on the city’s Web site.

Barnard is the owner of Bridge Street Hair in Richmond. She did not run for re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives so she could seek a Senate seat.

Barnard emphasized that she respects the hard work of election workers who counted the vote. No matter what the outcome of the recount, she said residents will be pleased with their representation in the Senate.

“What people need to keep in mind is that Chittenden County will be well-served with the five Democrats and one Republican we have in the Senate,” she said.

[Read more…]

Panel advises against sex offender ordinance11/20/08

Experts say education helps keep kids safe

Nov. 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

A panel of experts agreed that ordinances that restrict where sex offenders can live are ineffective and instead emphasized education as the best way to protect children from predators.

That advice came during a forum titled “How to Keep Our Children Safe” held Nov. 13 at Williston Central School. The event grew out of a proposal by Selectboard member Chris Roy to consider restricting where convicted child abusers can live.

The forum featured a panel of four experts on the topic: Robin Castle of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont; Sally Borden, executive director for the KidSafe Collaborative; Cathleen Wilson, executive director for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center; and Chris Ford, a counselor at Williston Central School.

Each made an opening statement and then took questions from the small audience of about a dozen people, including four of the town’s five Selectboard members.

Jim McCullough, who represents Williston in the Vermont House, asked the panel what it thought about residency restrictions.

Panelists said there is no research that shows such rules — typically ordinances that forbid sex offenders from living close to schools and other places children frequent — are effective.

Borden said residency rules tend to drive sex offenders underground, away from family support and treatment.

“That might in fact do the opposite of what we are trying to do, which is protect children,” she said.

Roy, who has three children, noted that Barre has already enacted an ordinance barring sex offenders from living near schools and childcare facilities. With Burlington also considering an ordinance, might Williston need similar rules lest it become a refuge for sex offenders?

Panelists said that me-too approach is flawed because it further marginalizes sex offenders to the fringes of society. Borden said judges can impose restrictions based on the specific circumstances of a given case, a much more effective method of keeping kids safe than a one-size-fits-all ordinance.

Instead, panelists emphasized education, both for adults and children, as the best way to prevent abuse.

Ford said kids should know the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexuality and good and bad touches.

“Messages to ‘just say no’ don’t work,” Ford said. “It’s hard to say no to adults and to those that are perceived of having power over an individual.”

Castle said children should be taught the correct names for body parts and told that they can refuse physical contact — even with adults who intend no harm.

“You have to back them up,” she said. “So if they don’t want to give Aunt Mary a kiss, that’s OK.”

Borden said adults should know the signs of sexual abuse.

“Educating ourselves as adults is even more important because children may feel uncomfortable or yucky about what has happened,” she said.

Sudden behavioral changes may indicate abuse, Castle said. Children may become withdrawn or aggressive or behave like a much younger child.

“Reactions to abuse are as different as children are,” she said. “But as adults we should be looking for anything troubling.

Selectboard member Ted Kenney, who has two daughters, ages 4 and 6, said he was worried about recent cases in which the abuser threatened to kill anyone the children told about the abuse. He wondered how to broach such scary subjects.

Ford said age-appropriate information can be shared with even the youngest child. For example, kids can be taught that surprises are good but secrets are not — and touching should never be a secret.

The forum was held the day after the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report outlining a 34-point plan for improving how the state handles child abuse. The committee was convened in the wake of the slaying of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Her uncle, Michael Jacques, has been indicted on charges of murder and sexual assault in the case.

The report echoed what panelists said: residency restrictions are ineffective and perhaps counterproductive. It instead recommended that the Vermont League of Cities and Towns work with local communities on education efforts.

“I think part of the reason why is that because the reality is that in so many of the cases the perpetrator is known to the victim,” said Wilson. “Residency restrictions are sort of based on the principle of stranger danger, and we know that is not really the reality of sexual violence.”

Roy said in an interview Monday that he hopes the town continues to explore ways to protect children so the forum doesn’t end up being a one-shot effort.

He said panelists convinced him that residency restrictions are a bad idea. He said their informed opinions were even more credible because their concerns centered on children.

“There are people who clearly don’t have a soft spot in their hearts for sexual predators,” Roy said.


Sex abuse facts


* In all, 322 children in Vermont were sexually abused in 2007. That represents a 58 percent drop from 1990.

* Many abusers are themselves young, with 43 percent of perpetrators under age 20.

* Most victims are young or very young children. Eighteen percent of child sex abuse victims are 5 years old or younger; 43 percent were 6-13 years old.

* Sexual abuse cases account for 38 percent of all child abuse cases.

Source: Vermont Department of Children and Families

[Read more…]

Sales tax revenue falls again11/20/08

Numbers may reflect economic downturn

Nov. 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Local sales tax revenue fell 11.8 percent in the third quarter, another ominous sign that national economic woes may be hitting home in Williston — though other factors likely contributed to the decline as well.

The town received $598,258 from the local option tax during the months of July, August and September. That’s $80,463 less than the same period in 2007.

Williston relies on the tax to fund about a third of the municipal budget. The new sales tax numbers have Town Manager Rick McGuire concerned but still hoping for a rebound in the near future.

Revenue from the sales tax “continues to be very weak, but we’re hoping it won’t go down a lot more,” he said.

There is evidence that the latest slide in local sales tax revenue mirrors numerous negative developments in the national economy and may foreshadow an even larger drop in coming months.

The numbers predate the announcement last month that Linens ‘n Things was going out of business and last week’s bankruptcy filing for Circuit City. Both chains have stores in Williston.

Proceeds from the statewide sales tax are also falling, a change from earlier this year when Vermont enjoyed rising revenue even as Williston’s sales tax numbers declined.

“Right now, we’re in the middle of a typical economic downturn,” said Jeff Carr, president of Economic & Policy Resources in Williston. “With the economy down, it’s not surprising that you see downward pressure on sales tax revenue.”

Consumers have stopped using credit to purchase big-ticket items like appliances and flat-screen televisions, Carr said. Some of Williston’s largest retailers sell such items.

Since 2002, Williston has collected a 1 percent local option tax that is tacked onto the state’s 6 percent sales tax. The levy has allowed the town to significantly reduce reliance on property taxes to fund municipal services.

But changes in state rules in 2007 apparently wounded Williston’s cash cow. Vermont now levies the sales taxes based on a purchase’s destination, so Williston and the other towns with a local sales tax receive no revenue when items are shipped elsewhere. Since the rule change, local sales tax revenue has fallen in six of seven quarters.

Williston has slightly raised the property tax and increased its budget reserves to deal with the declining sales tax revenue. The town currently has about $1 million to cover shortfalls or unexpected expenses.

Another factor in this quarter’s sales tax decline was a pair of tax holidays in July. The state has promised rebates to towns with local option taxes. McGuire expects Williston to receive about $10,000.

McGuire suspects that the town’s revenue losses may have been much larger, theorizing the tax holidays siphoned off sales that would have occurred before and after the holidays.

Though local sales tax revenue was already falling, it appears that the latest decline may be tied to the national recession.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported last week that retail sales fell 2.8 percent in October, the largest single-month decline on record.

The state saw a 3.6 percent drop in sales tax revenue for the four-month period ending Oct. 31, said Susan Mesner, an economist with the Vermont Tax Department. The state this week plans to revise downward its forecast for all revenue sources.

The most recent drop in Williston’s sales tax proceeds points out its pitfalls as a revenue source, Carr said.

When times are good, local residents enjoy bargain-priced government services, he said. When the economy declines, other types of taxes must be raised or services cut at the worst possible time.

“This is the dark side of funding public services with a cyclically sensitive source of revenue,” Carr said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

[Read more…]

Students give waste the heave-ho at CVU11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Sounds of laughter drifted out from a bright orange tent as smiling Champlain Valley Union High School students stood in a circle, giddily ripping apart garbage bags last Thursday. Candy and chip wrappers stood out in an odorous pile of half-eaten sandwiches, fruits and granola bars. Plastic bottles rolled out of the mess when a slight breeze blew by. Students, some wearing what looked like hazmat jumpsuits, laughed with each other and mocked their peers for tossing out clearly useable items and foods.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
CVU seniors use claws to sift through garbage bags at the school’s Trash on the Lawn Day.

Students in Susan Strack’s environmental science class, as well as members of CVU’s Environmental Club, tore apart bags of last Tuesday’s garbage in an effort to sort the waste and determine what students were throwing away instead of recycling.

“The environmental class uses the data to make change here at CVU,” Strack said.

This was the third year for CVU’s Trash on the Lawn Day, and progress in recycling and composting was evident just in the numbers.

The high school reduced its daily trash output by nearly 170 pounds from last year’s numbers. The 2007 Trash on the Lawn Day counted 482 pounds of trash, while this year saw 312 pounds.

Jen Sankey, the waste reduction coordinator for the Chittenden Solid Waste District, said she’s overseen similar Trash on the Lawn Days in Essex and Colchester, and at Mount Mansfield Union High School. She said CVU continues to be a leader in recycling and composting.

“It’s amazing how much you can tell about a school or individual by what they throw away,” Sankey said.

According to Strack, the school reduced its Styrofoam waste by 98 percent, metal can recyclables by 88 percent, and compostable items by 68 percent.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Charlotte junior Kate Litke and Williston senior Dylan Fath, co-presidents of Champlain Valley Union High’s Environmental Club, help sort garbage and recyclables last Thursday during the school’s third annual Trash on the Lawn Day.


“That’s huge,” Strack said. “We had half the bags we had last year.”

Environmental Club co-president and Williston senior Dylan Fath agreed.

“We’ve eliminated a lot of Styrofoam with some of the changes in the lunchroom,” Fath said as he helped sort trash and recyclables into labeled piles.

Last spring, the Food Service staff and the Environmental Club helped get new reusable plates for the cafeteria, along with a better composting system. Fath believes those changes made a world of difference. It also made the sorting time go by faster with less garbage.

In past years we have been out on the lawn ripping open bags and sorting trash well through third block,” Fath said, referring to the school’s lunch period. “This year however, we were done opening new bags halfway through third block.”

The sorting of trash began at the beginning of second block.

Plastic bottles seemed to be the problem item this year. Strack said students discovered 31.5 pounds of plastic bottles, mostly from classroom trash bags. Fath said since most bottles came from classroom trash bags, there needed to be more recycling opportunities school-wide.

“The simple solution may just be putting a few more recycling bins out by the trash cans in the halls and in other commons areas,” he said.

As trash and reusables collected in different areas, students agreed the hands-on experience reinforced the need for recycling. Charlotte senior Virginia Farley said she helped out with the event two years ago and took the environmental class this year because she’s interested in pursuing environmental science in the future. While she likes the fact students recycle more, she’s hoping they’ll continue to curb their waste.

“The fact that there’s still so much uneaten foods people throw out is disheartening,” Farley said. “I just found a non-eaten cookie, and the cookies are good here.”

But overall, Fath said he couldn’t complain with Thursday’s results. He said CVU has made a concerted effort in reducing all its waste, from saving electricity by turning off computers at the end of the day, to reducing paper waste by using more electronics-based programs.

“As you can see, the CVU society certainly cares about our footprint,” Fath said.

[Read more…]