July 18, 2019

Everyday Gourmet 1/29/09

Cooking the books

Jan. 29, 2009

By Kim Dannies

So many wonderful cookbooks, so little time! Here are a few of my favorite books from this past year:

“Spain: A Culinary Road Trip” by Mario Batali (with Gwyneth Paltrow) makes for a charming cookbook/travel guide highlighting the pleasures of sunny Spain. Earthy but elegant food, fascinating sidebar interviews and tips for travelers make for pleasure on the page and the palate; a companion PBS special series on Thursday evenings at 10 brings it all to us in living color.

“How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman would make a worthy wedding gift for a couple new to the kitchen. I’m thinking of downsizing my general cookbook collection a bit and using this as a single reference.

Always a soft touch for “anything Ina,” I love “The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten. The cookbook is filled with well written recipes and paired with excellent food styling and photographs. While her food is not typically kind to the waistline, it is always comforting, gorgeous and easy to prepare. The joy Ina Garten brings to her cooking is simply contagious.

The staff of Food & Wine magazine produced a book called “The Best of the Best,” where first they chose the 25 best cookbooks from 2008, and then they flushed out the best recipes from the winning cookbooks. Sounds like “Darwinian dining” to me; maybe this can be the new foodie catch phrase for 2009.

I never knew that pancakes made without eggs or butter could be so fluffy and so delicious; these healthy vegan pancakes will add a bit of sunshine to many a dark winter morning. The recipe is from “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It is a terrific primer for vegan cooks, or those interested in new learning new techniques; the recipe makes 8 to 10 pancakes.

Lemon blueberry corn pancakes

1.    In a work bowl, combine 3/4 cup of white whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2.    In a 2-cup measure combine 1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1/3 cup water, 1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract, 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup.

3.    Preheat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

4.    Add wet ingredients to dry bowl and mix until just combined; do not over-mix as pancakes will become tough, a few lumps are fine.

5.    Spray pan with cooking spray. Lower heat to medium. Pour 1/4-cup portions into pan to create pancakes. Sprinkle in some fresh blueberries (frozen blueberries work fine, too, simply thaw on a paper towel to eliminate excess moisture.) Cook one side about 3 minutes and flip when browned; cook until barely firm, another minute or so. Repeat as needed. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.


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Letters to the Editor1/29/09

Jan. 29, 2009


Local elections will be held on Tuesday, March 3. Please note the Observer will not run any Letters to the Editor pertaining to the elections on Feb. 26, the week prior to the election.

All Letters to the Editor written in regards to the March 3 election MUST be received no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 16, and will appear in the Observer on Feb. 19. Please be aware that normal guidelines will apply, including a 300-word limit for all letters.

E-mail letters to editor@willistonobserver.com.

Don’t change phys ed in the schools

I am a Williston homeowner and moved to the town specifically because of the fine schools, teachers and approach to education. As an undergraduate, I student taught at Williston Central School in physical education, did a practicum at Allen Brook and created an adapted physical education program for children with intensive special needs in grades five through eight at Williston Central. Currently I run the physical education program at Jericho Elementary School.

My perspective is that of an insider having firsthand experience of the multi-age classrooms at Williston Central School and a teacher who teachers single-age classes. I have received national recognition for my work in physical education as the 2006 AAHPERD Outstanding Future Professional.

Please, for the sake of my children and all others in our school’s future, DO NOT CHANGE the physical education structure. The multi-age classroom makes learning in this environment intrinsic. It reduces classroom behavior issues, helps promote personal and social responsibility and offers real life opportunity to work and learn in a diverse setting.

Teaching personal and social responsibility is at the very core of teaching physical education. Having a multi-age, diverse classroom promotes such learning.

The physical education department at Williston Central School is structured so the students in grades five through eight choose what they want to learn. It is rare to find a program that has the willingness and talent to be so flexible and the resources to make it happen. This ability to choose activities in physical education provides a sense of ownership to the students and promotes the concept of lifelong physical activity.

Moving to a single-age class in physical education puts in jeopardy all these benefits and opportunities for our students. Nothing from a pedagogical point of view or from a student’s experience would be gained by moving to a single-age class in physical education.

Glenn Steinman, Williston

A bleak future?

What I read about our economy and people losing jobs scares me, yet this recession is good for the country as it makes us take a good look at our spending habits. Hopefully it will show us what we really need to exist and how to balance living a good but happy life.

A few years ago our household had to sit down with a financial advisor and put down on paper exactly what we needed for a monthly income to pay the monthly necessities. It was good for us. It takes time well spent. This happened especially when we sold our business and were suddenly on a fixed income. One does not have to wait for this to happen to review household budgets and expenses. We found out how many magazine subscriptions we had and how much we spent to eat out, for grandchildren’s birthdays and Christmas gifts. It can be an eye-opener to your spending habits.

I would like to challenge everyone in Vermont to take a pay cut so no one has to lose their job and go on unemployment. I think to lose one’s job and income and health insurance has got to be far worse than taking a pay cut. No one can know everyone’s family situation, how many are dependent on that income and insurance, so to just tell someone they no longer have a job or insurance seems harsh and cruel. How long can unemployment benefits last? When a job is lost where is there one to be found?

In the past, Vermonters have been known to be leaders.

Ginger Isham, Williston

A decade of mentoring

Ten years ago, a group of eighth graders from across Williston Central School came together to plan a new “mentoring initiative,” made possible by funding from Connecting Youth. They envisioned creating strong mentoring relationships based on trust, listening and caring.

Today, Connecting Youth Mentoring has blossomed into a thriving program serving over 120 middle school youth throughout Chittenden South Supervisory Union. CY Mentoring has remained true to the vision created by these Williston eighth graders.

On this 10th anniversary, CY Mentoring at Williston Central School will benefit from the Brick Church Music Series contemporary jazz concert on Feb. 20, featuring “Picture This.” All proceeds from this event will support the Williston Central School “Guardian Angel Fund,” helping Williston students participating in mentoring to identify and develop their unique gifts, talents and interests.

Tickets are available at the Town Clerk’s office or at the door.

With your support, this wonderful program will continue to thrive for many, many years to come.

Carol Bick, Nancy Carlson, Nancy Colbourn, Kathleen Cramer, Chris Ford, Sarah Klionsky, Shona Mossey-Lothrop, Jackie Parks, Michael Thomas, Micaela Wallace, Darlene Worth, WCS Mentoring Advisory Board


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Guest Column1/29/09

First peek of the Obama watch

Jan. 29, 2009

By Edwin Cooney

“What did you think about the Obama Inauguration?” surely has been one of the most frequently asked questions throughout America over the past several days. Exactly how one answers that question is likely to be as much a reflection of who the respondent is as it is of the real value of the event itself.

If you’re like me, absolutely enthralled by what you know of our new president, your response to that question will echo both enthusiasm and hopeful optimism. If, on the other hand, you don’t much like either President Obama or what you know about what he stands for, your response is likely to reflect skepticism and a “let’s wait and see” outlook tinged with doubt.

Any time I need to get my head straightened out on a matter of this significance, I usually visit my favorite watering hole to see what my buddies Lunkhead and Dunderhead have to say. So there I was just the other night, sitting between the two of them, and that’s where I got my first shock.

Lunkhead had been humbled by having to wear a set of donkey ears as dictated by his wife, the “beloved Bertha,” after he lost his election bet with her last November. He was still wearing them now, even though the inauguration was over. He responded to my inquiry.

“It’s the least I can do, after all. My candidate didn’t have any better idea as to how to fix the economy than Obama seemed to have. It seemed like Obama was turning to socialism. If we can criticize Obama, and I did, it is equally true that those tax cuts the Republicans insist are the economic savior haven’t helped. All they have gotten us is fewer jobs and lousy home mortgages. So it seems to me we’re all donkeys when it comes to understanding how to keep America prosperous,” Lunkhead said, sipping his newly poured scotch.

Dunderhead, to my complete surprise, was glum.

“Dunderhead,” I began, “What’s wrong with …”

“Don’t ask me any questions!” Dunderhead said sharply. “Let me ask you a question: Who was distinctly absent from President Obama’s inauguration? Don’t get me wrong, I love Obama, but someone was missing. Who was it?”

“Wait a minute,” Lunkhead shot back, “I’ll tell you who was there. America was there. Men and women who work and those who have been thrown out of work were there. Blacks, women and ethnic minorities were there. All your people, Dunderhead — that’s who were there. I don’t get what you’re talking …”

“Thank you,” said Dunderhead, “for answering the easy part of the question. As a spectacle, the Inauguration was spectacular. Nearly two million happy people were there and you’re right, Lunkhead, those are my kind of people. I’m glad they were there. So, as a spectacle, it was great — even grand. But ‘grand,’ I suppose, really has to be reserved for the jewels, furs and limousines of the Reagan Inauguration 28 years ago.

“What’s grabbing me is who didn’t seem to be there,” Dunderhead moaned.

“Look,” I replied, “Joe the Plumber would have been there if only …”

“Ah, cut the comedy,” said Dunderhead. “What was the headline alongside the inaugural story Tuesday night?” he asked.

I took a healthy sip of my beer. I could hear the ice rattling in Lunkhead’s scotch. To my right, I heard the sound of Dunderhead digging deep into his bowl of peanuts. Then, it hit me.

“The stock market fell by some 300 plus points,” I said.

“Precisely!” exclaimed Dunderhead. “While the people and their politicians played, the money changers, the decision makers, were up in New York, wheeling, dealing and getting paid.”

“Those are the decision makers?” asked Lunkhead. “You know, Dunderhead, you’re the one who usually lectures me about the currents in American history, so I’m surprised at you. If the founding fathers (like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin) were responsible for putting this great nation together, who shook things up enough so that they HAD to come together?”

Then he answered his own question: “The guy who got it all going was a destitute western Massachusetts farmer named Daniel Shays. It was his rebellion in 1786 that frightened the rich bankers and well-off legislators enough so that they demanded that a political and economic order had to be created out of the existing economic and political chaos.

Then he asked his second question.

“If Dr. Joseph Lowery, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Congressman John Lewis were all responsible for leading the Civil Rights movement paving the way for Barack Obama’s election as our 44th president, who started it all? I’ll answer that with another question. Who was that little lady who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. city bus?”

With that, Lunkhead sat back without even mentioning the lady’s name — Rosa Parks.

“It would seem that decision makers are largely dependent on ‘condition setters,’ wouldn’t it?” I said reflexively.

“Yep,” responded Lunkhead, “and unless I miss my guess, condition-setting is right down Barack Obama’s alley.”

What was there to say after that? All I could do was to stroll home — so, I did.


Edwin Cooney is a national political and historical columnist.


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Visions of Youth1/29/09

Exams: A necessary evil?

Jan. 29, 2009

By Kayla Purvis

What comes around twice a year, is dreaded by every high school student, and has kids cramming for a week? If you said exams, you’re correct. Whether they are midterms or finals, exams have us stressing and reviewing notes like crazy.

Though exams can be a pain in the butt and fairly stressful, I think they are really important parts of our education. Without them there wouldn’t be pressure for students to retain the information they’re taught throughout the course of a semester- or year-long class.

Having long, grade-influential tests twice a year also helps to prepare us for college. Our ability to effectively review, study and prepare for tests is an important skill to master. Exams also allow us to exercise our capability of recalling needed information and details from past classes.

Some students, like my friend Andrea Lavalette, 16, of Gilbert, Ariz., don’t like exams because, “They (teachers) expect us to remember stuff from the beginning of the year. I don’t even remember my own birthday sometimes! But they can be helpful for teachers.”

I’ve never really freaked out about exams. Yes, it can be a bit stressful to try and keep everything in your head for a collective test. But teachers don’t expect us to remember everything we have been taught; it’s an unlikely expectation to have fulfilled. We are constantly learning and experimenting, and we can forget the details sometimes.

That’s why exams have a certain advantage. They’re called “collective” tests because they’re a compilation of everything learned over the course of one or two semesters. This means that more content will be covered on the test, and thus the test will have more questions. With more questions, the student’s grade is hurt less by an incorrect answer because each question is worth fewer points.

For example, a test worth 100 points with four questions comes out to 25 points per question. If the students gets one answer wrong, she receives a 75 percent. But on a test worth 100 points with 50 questions, the questions are each worth only 2 points; one wrong answer would result in a 98 percent.

Believe it or not, our exams aren’t meant to torture us. (Okay, maybe a tiny bit.) They’re used to measure how much we learned within a certain time period and how well we use important skills. Those skills can be study skills, review skills, note-taking skills or reading skills, all of which are necessary to make our college life easier, if indeed we decide to take that route.

So, even though we dread one week in January and one week in June, we should remember that exams are helpful to us in a few different ways. They let us track our progress, practice skills and stir up our new knowledge a little bit. We even get half-days out of the deal.

And to students: Remember not to stress out too much! You already know what you’re being tested on, it’s just a matter of reviewing what you’ve learned.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School.


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Little Details1/29/09

Laid off … not laid to waste

Jan. 29, 2009

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

It happened at Chef’s Corner. I munched on a delectable currant scone, waiting for my boss. It wasn’t unusual for us to rendezvous at the eatery, halfway between my home and office. As soon as she sat down, I sensed something wrong.

“Is everything ok?” I asked.

“No … I’m sorry,” she hesitated. “It’s your job. We no longer have funding for it. We tried everything we could. We just couldn’t make the numbers work to balance our budget.”

My fingers released the buttery scone. All I could say was, “Bummer.” A rock hard lump of emotion lodged in my throat. My vision blurred as I fought back tears. I felt my part-time “career” slip away, like water through my fingers. I had no control, no ability to hold on to what had been a perfect job. I loved facilitating workshops for incarcerated women preparing for re-entry to the workforce.

“Yes, it is a bummer,” my boss said. She assured me my work was valued and appreciated, that I’d done a great job. “I’ll do whatever I can to help you find something else.”

I worked for the non-profit for four years. Funding always seemed shaky. Grants came and went. My salary, funded largely by U.S. Department of Labor monies, seemed relatively safe. Our director always found money, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. She worked her magic splendidly, every time … until now.

Funding to train Americans — laid off tech workers, displaced homemakers, and yes, formerly incarcerated folks — transitioning back to work became less of a priority as increased dollars were funneled to Baghdad to fund the war effort. My job seemed just another casualty of misguided foreign policy.

I called my husband. He bought me lunch. Tears mingled with balsamic vinaigrette at Three Tomatoes as he gently offered support.

I grieved for losing work with a strong social mission. I mourned the loss of fair wages recognizing my education and experience, albeit slightly interrupted by parenting. I feared I’d never regain the flexibility to set my hours, indulging in 5 a.m. work sessions at my computer while my family slept upstairs.

My dream job was gone. I needed a new dream. I scoured newspapers and Web sites, sent an e-mail blitz to former colleagues and casually mentioned my job search in social situations.

Applying for jobs yielded a humbling spate of rejection letters. I was told on one occasion I was “one of 60 highly-qualified applicants.” During an interview I’d spent hours preparing for, the stressed interviewer kept calling me “Diane.” She skipped over the warm fuzzies entirely and fired her first round with, “What are your computer skills?” I sent a nice thank you letter and withdrew my application. I was interviewing employers just as much as they were interviewing me.

Confidence weakened, I wondered if I should invest in a bottle of Clairol to mask sprouting gray. I didn’t. I revamped my resume and took classes through CVU’s Access Program to enhance skills in desktop publishing, databases and spreadsheets. I asked my then 10-year-old for help with PowerPoint. I sought advice from trusted women friends in the working world. I consulted a job coach guru. My boss kept her word — we met for breakfast periodically and she shared job leads.

Each day, press outlets report on mounting job losses. Economic staples such as GE Healthcare, Gannett, United Airlines and numerous retailers reduced jobs. Dark clouds of potential lay-offs hover locally over some of our most prominent employers — the State of Vermont, University of Vermont and IBM. Yahoo and Microsoft, icons of the information age, announced first-ever reductions in force.

As the ground beneath us trembles, it’s hard to acknowledge that sometimes our worlds are shaken up for good reason. Although I want to see jobs preserved, I acknowledge we’re sometimes torn down just so we can build ourselves up again in newly configured ways.

I worked through emotions of surprise, sadness and anger when my job evaporated. We tightened our financial belts at home. That’s when the light bulb went on: I realized I’d enhance my job security if I learned to bring money into an organization. I wanted to be viewed as a revenue-generator, not a revenue-drainer.

I signed up for a one-day workshop on grant writing that cost $125. I learned a lot and wrote the facilitator a thank you note. She called and offered me a job! A successful stint at her firm allowed me to parlay my experience to my current position as a part-time development professional. I’ve found teaching and writing gigs to round out my work. Looking past the tears and frustration, I realize I was supposed to lose my job to find new work to love.

In this uneasy economy, my husband and I continue working together, paying life’s bills while feeling grateful for every paycheck that rolls in. Times are tough but we must remind ourselves, so are we.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com or editor@willistonobserver.com.


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Review board not satisfied with temporary classrooms1/29/09

Jan. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The conundrum over what to do with Allen Brook School’s temporary classrooms became no clearer this week during Tuesday night’s Development Review Board meeting. Members of the Williston School Board and administration sat before the board to present two options for more permanent classrooms.

One option is to put a new façade on the modular classrooms to match the rest of the school. Another option is to build an already designed wing onto the building — at a cost of more than $5 million.

The Development Review Board listened carefully to the presentations but, on the whole, said it was hoping for more details.

“I don’t think you gave us two good options,” review board chairman Kevin McDermott said.

“You have to do a lot of selling,” added review board member Brian Jennings. “A temporary solution has gone on long enough.”

The review board has asked the school administration for a master plan on what to do with the Allen Brook temporary classrooms. The permit for the classrooms, which was originally approved in 2002 and then again in 2006, expires in February 2010. The School Board was supposed to present a master plan in February 2008, but was late in getting it going. Now, time is of the essence in getting a plan worked out and approved, McDermott said.

Representing the school district was School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth, Vice Chairwoman Holly Rouelle, District Principal Walter Nardelli and Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pinckney.

A new wing, which was designed for construction 12 years ago, was deemed impractical because the school would essentially be overbuilding with its current enrollment, McDermott said. Also, the large price tag would have to be brought before voters as a bond, which does not seem practical given the economic outlook. But board members agreed their opinions could change if the project were to be funded by a potential federal stimulus package.

Pinckney said she has put the project on a list of potential “shovel ready” construction projects that could begin almost immediately if President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package is passed in the coming weeks. The president’s $850 billion plan to jumpstart the economy is to fund infrastructure works, including road and bridge improvements and construction projects. School construction could be part of that list.

Pinckney said she wasn’t sure if the Allen Brook project would be near the top of a local list.

“It could drastically change things,” Pinckney said.

The Development Review Board seemed enthused by the idea of a stimulus project in Williston, although they weren’t convinced it was likely. Pinckney said she would know more in a few months. If it became a reality, the School Board would return for building permits.

“That’s the end all solution right there,” Development Review Board member Scott Rieley said. “If that came up, that’s something we would fast track.”

Much of the meeting focused on how to make the temporary classrooms a permanent structure. Even with plans to put new siding on the rooms to match the school, review board members weren’t convinced by the option.

“I still see it as temporary, and I don’t see it being a long-term solution,” board member Richard Asch said.

Review board members expressed doubt that the interior of the temporary classrooms would last as long as the school itself.

The slow rate of declining enrollment was also discussed with the option. Nardelli said the temporary classrooms would definitely be needed for at least the next 10 to 12 years. After that, the rooms could be used as offices or for other educational purposes.

McDermott had a lot of questions school officials couldn’t answer, including how long the modular classrooms last, exactly what kind of siding would be put on rooms, how the rooms would be better attached to the ground, how to build a better and more appealing entryway for the school near the rooms, and how landscaping issues would be dealt with.

McDermott also wondered why an engineer or architect wasn’t at the meeting.

“Typically, someone brings an engineer with them on a project of this scale,” he said.

Worth said the initial quote for the re-siding came in at $100,000, although all at the meeting agreed that was a very low figure.

“For me to support this option, it would take a lot of convincing,” Jennings said.

Pinckney said she was pleased to hear some reasonable requests in regards to the re-siding of the temporary classrooms and planned to bring it all back to the supervisory union’s architect. McDermott said he wanted to see the School Board and administration return in the summer with a solid plan.


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Skating in the great outdoors1/29/09

CVU carves out a new club with pond hockey

Jan. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Last Wednesday afternoon, as the high temperatures of the day barely hit 10 degrees, a group of Champlain Valley Union High School students donned hats, gloves, thick winter coats and ice skates for an informal, pick-up game of hockey. The ice was frozen solid on the fire department’s emergency pond behind the high school, perfect for a fast game.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Pond Hockey Club organizer and Champlain Valley Union High senior Thomas Eddy passes the puck to Sam Schneider as Marcy Webster looks on during a game at the school last Wednesday. 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Thomas Eddy gets ready to start last Wednesday’s game with the drop of a puck, as fellow club organizers Mike Toof (left) and Carl Lozon (right) square off.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Sam Schneider, a senior from Williston, laces up his skates in preparation for an afternoon of pond hockey.

As Hinesburg senior Thomas Eddy dropped the puck in the middle of the pond and two players started slashing their sticks, the familiar sound of blades on ice signaled the beginning of a spirited game.

Started this winter by Eddy and seniors Mike Toof and Carl Lozon, CVU’s new Pond Hockey Club is giving students a chance to play hockey as it was meant to be played — outdoors and in the fresh air, according to the club’s organizers.

Generally, the club meets on Wednesday afternoons around 3 p.m. and plays until dark. On this day, the members met early since the school had a half-day for final exams.

The Pond Hockey Club is open to all students who want to join, even members of CVU’s hockey team. Lozon said none had shown up yet since practice coincides with the club’s games on Wednesdays.

Eddy, who only took up skating and hockey last year, thought it would be fun to get a group together to play weekly without the pressure of team practices and regimented games. He envisioned it as an extended neighborhood get together.

“I really loved playing for the first time last year,” Eddy said.

Eddy, Toof and Lozon peppered the high school with posters in December, hoping to get a decent turnout at their first club meeting.

“We weren’t quite sure how many people would actually want to do it,” Eddy said.

They guessed about 10 students would turn out. Instead, they had more than 40 students stop by their meeting.

Toof, a Shelburne native, had been playing hockey since he was little and competed in some informal leagues in the area. Lozon, from Williston, has been skating for a couple years, but playing hockey for a little less.

Toof said there’s a lot of appeal in playing hockey on a pond. First, it’s free, unlike ice time at a local rink. Second, you get to be outside, even if it’s seriously cold, like a few weeks ago when the temperature didn’t get above zero degrees.

“Once you get playing, though, you warm up pretty quickly,” Toof said.

Last Wednesday could have been considered a heat wave compared to the previous week. Sam Schneider, a Williston senior, didn’t seem to mind as he laced up his skates on the ice. Schneider said the club gave him an opportunity to reconnect with a sport he used to play frequently. In fact, he hadn’t strapped on skates in six years until joining the club.

“I think it’s good to take a break before going back to study,” Schneider said.

Shelburne sophomore Leigh Johnson said he’d been skating for five years and wanted to find more people to play hockey with. The club gave him the break he was looking for. It also gives him a chance to practice and hone his skills.

“I’m not good enough to play on a team … yet,” Johnson said.

While the turnout last Wednesday was primarily young men, two senior girls also came out to play. Charlotte residents Marcy Webster and Amanda Russell, who competed on separate teams that day playing defense, said they’re already familiar with pond hockey. Each girl has a pond on her family’s property and likes to frequent the town pond.

“We’re not competitive, we’re just here for fun,” said Webster, who used to figure skate when she was little.

Math teacher Olaf Verdonk, who used to play pick-up hockey on the same pond with faculty and staff more than 10 years ago, advises the club. He helped shovel the pond with Lozon and Eddy while others skated and knocked pucks around.

“I might as well get my skates, everyone else is having fun,” Verdonk said, putting down the shovel.

Once enough of the ice was cleared off, the players set up makeshift wooden goals and split into even teams. There were about nine players to a team — a little less than in previous weeks, most likely due to exams, Eddy said.

The game was fast and furious, but all in good fun. A few players just learning the ropes of hockey got tripped up by the cracks in the ice and found themselves struggling to get out of snow banks. Others took serious slap shots at the goals, narrowly missing. The scores were low, but nobody cared. Besides the swishing of blades on ice, laughter was the most common sound of the afternoon.


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Spending freeze: Selectboard OK

Plan keeps spending, taxes level

Jan. 29, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Mindful of the chilly economic climate, the Selectboard on Monday passed a $7.6 million operating budget that freezes spending and property taxes.

The board unanimously approved the spending plan for the 2009-10 fiscal year. It represents a fraction of a percentage point decrease in spending from the current year and maintains the municipal property tax rate at 20 cents per $100 of valuation.

Monday’s vote represented the culmination of months of budget discussions among town officials. Much of the talk had revolved around the economy and how the town should rein in spending to show solidarity with struggling taxpayers.

Williston resident Mike Isham, who owns a farm on Oak Hill Road and works at IBM, told the board before it voted that he was worried the computer maker will soon lay off more people. He said the town should be talking about spending cuts rather than just maintaining the status quo so it can prepare for even harder times.

“I feel like in today’s current economic situation, we’re not really in a recession any more, we’re in more of a depression,” he said. “People are losing their jobs every day, the paper is full of it.”

Indeed, Isham’s worries proved prophetic. IBM decided on Tuesday to lay off 2,800 workers in North America, according to Reuters. Some of the layoffs hit the IBM plant in Essex Junction, according to media reports, but it remained unclear by press deadline how many.

The Selectboard made only minor adjustments to the budget on Monday, shifting $10,000 from a fund for buying development rights on open land to another pot of money set aside for building a new public works facility. Support had already solidified among initially noncommittal board members for an earlier proposal by Jeff Fehrs to cap spending at the current year’s level.

Instead, a brief discussion centered on worries about revenue, with board members mulling the mounting economic woes of retailers. In particular, they wondered how the bankruptcies of Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City would impact local sales tax revenue and thus the overall budget. Revenue from the 1 percent local sales tax funds about a third of the municipal budget.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he could only guess how the downturn might affect revenue because the release of relevant sales tax data is still months away.

“It’s like parenting,” said board member Ted Kenney. “We make the best decision on what we have for the future based on what we know right now.”

McGuire originally proposed a $7.8 million budget in early December that would have boosted spending by 3 percent and increased the property tax rate by 2 cents.

The board then began to pare spending, making small cuts in numerous areas, particularly for the Fire and Rescue Department, which was originally slated for an 11 percent increase, the largest of any department. Under the approved budget, that increase is downsized to 6 percent.

Notably absent from budget talks was any proposal to freeze or reduce pay for town employees, a cost-cutting measure taken by state government and many private companies in recent months. The budget includes funding for a 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for non-union employees, as well as merit increases of 1 or 2 percent, according to McGuire.

He said in an interview that pay levels have to be adequate to attract top-notch employees. He added that police officers and full-time firefighters are unionized, so their pay is set by multi-year contracts. Reducing pay for non-union employees, McGuire said, might raise fairness issues and prompt them to join unions, too.

Expenditures for pay raises and funding increases for public safety were offset by dipping into reserves and making reductions in other areas.

Funding for capital expenditures was cut by 36 percent, delaying or putting on hold projects such as reverse 911 service and work on a trailhead at Brownell Mountain. Also sliced was funding for a new administrative aide for McGuire.

The town is using $500,000 of its $1.3 million budget reserve. The board has in each of the last few years also dipped into that pool of money, called fund balance, to keep taxes down, but this year’s withdrawal is the largest to date.

Finance Director Susan Lamb said fund balance will now total just 10 percent of the operating budget, the lowest amount allowed under Selectboard policy.

Basically, McGuire said, the town has taken all the slack out of the budget. Residents will see little or no change in services when the new fiscal year starts on July 1, he said, but the spending plan leaves the town vulnerable should the economy further deteriorate. If so, the Selectboard will have little choice but to raise taxes or cut services next year.

“If it continues to go the other way, next year will be far more difficult,” McGuire said.


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Local election to feature just one contest1/29/09

Municipal offices on March 3 ballot

Jan. 29, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Williston residents will see a long list of candidates but find just one contest when they pick municipal and school representatives.


Ted Kenney


Shelley Palmer

Monday was the deadline for filing petitions for public offices ranging from Selectboard to town constable that will be on the March ballot. A last-day filing by incumbent Ted Kenney produced the only race, for a two-year seat on the Selectboard. He will face off against Shelley Palmer, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett theorized that a lack of interest in local elected positions may be the result of weariness with politics after state and national elections in November.

“I think people in general are just tapped out,” she said. “It’s been a very long election cycle this past year.”

Kenney is seeking his third term. He was first elected to the Selectboard in 2005.

“I’m a municipal government junkie,” he said.

A lawyer with offices in South Burlington and St. Albans, Kenney is married and has two children. He has in the past served on the Williston School Board and run unsuccessfully for Chittenden County State’s Attorney and Vermont Senate.

Kenney said he is most interested in the relationship among municipal services, taxes and spending. He said his goal is to produce budgets that keep taxes affordable but maintain services.

Palmer is an equipment operator who previously worked for A.C. Paving, a division of Williston-based Engineers Construction. He is married and has three children.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Vermont House of Representatives in 2004 and 2008. Palmer said he hopes those bids for public office have increased his name recognition around Williston.

Palmer said he is concerned about municipal spending. Though the proposed 2009-10 budget keeps spending on par with last year, he thinks the town should be making substantial cuts amid the sour economy.

“We’ve seen consistent increases every year, but people’s pay hasn’t been going up,” he said.

Terry Macaig, chairman of the Selectboard, will seek re-election for a three-year term. He has served on the board for seven years.

Macaig was elected in November as one of Williston’s two representatives in the Vermont House.

He said he will have no problem juggling responsibilities among his two elected offices and his part-time employment with the Vermont State Employees Association.

“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could manage all those things,” he said.

Three School Board members — two from Williston and one from Champlain Valley Union High School — are running for re-election this year, all unopposed.

Williston School Board member Deb Baker-Moody is seeking a second three-year term. “I just really think we have great schools here in Williston and I want to keep that going,” she said.

Laura Gigliotti is running for another two-year term. “I find it rewarding and certainly feel I’m an asset to the board after what I’ve learned,” she said.

Both women said they want to help Williston schools through a potential reconfiguration in the coming years as well as rebuilding the district’s world

languages program.

CVU School Board member Jonathan Milne is running for his second three-year term. Milne said because his family benefits from CVU education, he feels a responsibility to serve.

“Given the current economic environment, I hope to see the dedicated faculty and staff, diverse academic curriculum, well-maintained physical plant and strong sense of community at CVU sustained,” Milne wrote in an e-mail.

Two other elected offices have drawn newcomers but will not involve a contest because the incumbent is stepping down.

Marcy Kass has filed for a five-year term as library trustee. She will replace Stephen Mease, who is retiring after 10 years. Susan Williford is also seeking re-election as trustee.

Mease, who is director of news and public information at Champlain College, said he wanted more time to pursue other interests. He said Dorothy Alling Memorial Library is running efficiently and in good hands.

“This just seemed like a great time to step out and let someone else step in,” Mease said.

On the Board of Listers, which oversees property appraisals, Charles Coney will run for a three-year term. Coney, a retired accountant who has also sold real estate, ran unsuccessfully for the position last year.

This time he’ll face no competition, instead filling a position on the three-person board vacated by veteran lister Fred Webster.

The list of names on the ballot is shorter this year because of a town charter change that shifted some formerly elected positions to appointed posts. Members of the boards that oversee the town’s cemeteries, public funds and the Old Brick Church are now chosen by the Selectboard.

Reporter Tim Simard contributed to this article.


On the ballot

Here are the candidates running in the March 3 election:

Selectboard, three-year term

Terry Macaig

Selectboard, two-year term

Ted Kenney

Shelley Palmer

Williston School Board, three-year term

Deb Baker-Moody

Williston School Board, two-year term

Laura Gigliotti

Champlain Valley Union High School Board, three-year term

Jonathan Milne

Library Trustee, five-year term

Marcy Kass

Susan Williford

Lister, three-year term

Charles Coney

Town Constable, one-year term

Kermit Laclair


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Census Bureau finds home in Williston1/29/09

Office will bring 800 jobs to state

Jan. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It might be tough to count on a job these days in an uncertain economy, but the U.S. Census Bureau is counting on hiring more than 800 Vermonters for key positions.

John Hameline, the local census office manager in Williston, said the bureau is currently collecting a pool of applicants for jobs that will be available well into 2010. He said people interested in part-time work and being part of a statewide team are welcome to apply.

“We’re pretty good at (census operations) now. We’ve been doing it since 1790,” Hameline said, referring to the census bureau.

The U.S. Constitution requires that a census take place in the country every 10 years. Hameline said the data, which includes the number of individuals in a household and median family incomes, is used in a wide variety of ways. Census numbers help in creating and updating districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as determining revenue sharing data for federal dollars.

The census bureau’s Vermont headquarters is located in Williston on Industrial Avenue in part of the former Rossignol building. The census last had its office in Blair Park in 2000.

Hameline said people interested in a job can take a basic aptitude test at several locations across the state, including at the headquarters in Williston. He said the bureau has already tested 1,000 people and will continue testing through 2010 as different jobs become available. The test focuses on basic math and computer skills.

Hameline said it’s a massive undertaking in any state to do the census, which is why the bureau hopes to fill the temporary and part-time positions throughout the next year and a half. The census office in Williston will close down in October 2010 when operations wrap up.

The majority of the jobs will be located in towns across the state, Hameline said. There are currently 30 staffers in Williston, and he guessed another 50 positions would be added at the Industrial Avenue location throughout the process.

Jobs start at $13.50 per hour and offer flexible schedules, Hameline said.

Positions throughout the state include office clerks, recruiting assistants, field workers and address listers, who verify peoples’ addresses before the census mailers are sent out. Hameline said the address lister position is important because the more confirmed addresses there are, there is generally a better rate of return for census forms.

Overall, the rate of return is 60 percent nationwide, and just a little higher in Vermont, Hameline said. That’s why it’ll be important to hire people in 2010 to visit homes that have not mailed

back a census.

“We’re all geared to getting the most accurate and best count we can,” Hameline said. “Our obligation is to count everyone where they are.”

Hameline said the U.S. Census Bureau must report its numbers to President Barack Obama by Dec. 31, 2010. After that, Americans will be able to see the final tally. Hameline said he expects to see some growth in Vermont’s population — potentially around 5 percent — when the process is over.

Anyone interested in applying for a census job should call 866-861-2010 or visit www.2010censusjobs.gov. The Williston office is located at 426 Industrial Ave., Suite 150. Appointments must be made in advance for the test.


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