May 23, 2019

CVU preps for summer auditorium work3/19/09

March 19, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Now that area voters have approved funding for Champlain Valley Union High School’s auditorium upgrades, the work begins on finding a contractor for the first phase of the two-year project.

Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason said on Monday that CSSU is in the pre-qualification phase for contractors before the bidding process begins. Mason explained that builders send resumes, examples of past work and references to the supervisory union to be considered as potential contractors.

“Basically, they send in packets that are kind of like marketing brochures,” Mason said, adding he’s accepting applications from in-state and out-of-state contractors.

Mason said he and his staff are reviewing materials and looking for builders with experience in timely construction and school projects. He said the auditorium renovation project was advertised on appropriate Web sites and in area newspapers.

CVU School Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen said the bidding process will likely begin in mid-April. By law, bidding cannot begin until 30 days after the Town Meeting vote passed. Jensen said the time allows citizens to petition the vote.

Voters in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston, by a tally of 2,217-1,329, approved the use of $537,000 in leftover construction funds for the auditorium. Voters also approved, 2,546-999, to allow the School Board to take $140,000 from its current fund balance to offset taxes in next year’s budget and to put additional funds toward the auditorium. Private donations and sponsors are also helping to raise money. Currently, there is just more than $1 million available for the first phase of the renovation.

Once the 30 days have passed, contractors will bid on the project, according to Mason. The School Board will then have a chance to review all bids before making a decision.

“We’re hoping the bids will be very competitive,” Jensen said, citing the poor construction climate and current recession.

The School Board is also compiling a list of add-on projects for the auditorium if bids come in well under budget. In a proposed renovation plan, new catwalks and an improved electrical system would be installed, among other major changes. Jensen said the plan is to begin the renovations this summer and have the first phase completed no later than September.

A second renovation phase will likely occur the summer of 2010. Mason said law requires the bidding process for the rest of the project to begin again next spring.


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Supervisory union unveils new Web site3/19/09

District schools also planning new designs

March 19, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Quietly and without fanfare, the Chittenden South Supervisory Union unveiled its new Web site design earlier this month. The changes will make the site more accessible for the communities served by the supervisory union, said Mike Kanfer, CSSU’s director of network services.


    Courtesy image
Chittenden South Supervisory Union recently launched a new Web site design, that is expected to serve as a model for schools in CSSU. The CSSU Web site is located at

Most notable are the changes to the site’s homepage, A large picture of a Champlain Valley Union High School play is on display, along with the high school’s basketball jersey and a pastoral picture of Camel’s Hump.

Every part of the site has been redesigned, including its “Operations,” “Superintendent” and “Contact Us” pages. Using drop-down menus on the homepage allows access to all of these pages. There are also links to all schools in CSSU, as well as links to supervisory union programs such as Connecting Youth.

Kanfer said his staff has been working on creating and developing a design for more than a year. He had help from technology directors in all the school systems, he said.

The Web site officially launched on March 1, Kanfer said. Since then, he’s fielded mostly positive comments from visitors.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the school communities,” Kanfer said, though he hasn’t received many public comments since the Web site redesign was never formally announced.

The new CSSU Web site design will be the first in a series of design overhauls, Kanfer said. All school systems in CSSU — Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston schools as well as CVU — will see big changes in Web designs sometime this summer. Kanfer said all school sites will resemble CSSU’s in an effort to keep everything uniform.

Each school’s Web needs are different, however, with each site designed accordingly. For instance, Williston School District’s house system will require a different Web design than Charlotte Central School’s.

Despite any differences, “there will be a resemblance to CSSU’s homepage in all the pages,” Kanfer said.


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Recipe Corner3/19/09

Maple breads

March 19, 2009

By Ginger Isham

Growing up we had baked beans on Saturday nights and also had brown bread with raisins. The brown bread was baked in 1-pound coffee cans. I do not remember any other details, but the bread was delicious warm and spread with butter. For a breakfast treat, slice and toast, then spread with cream cheese. Serve with a fruit salad plate for lunch.

Maple brown bread

1 cup corn meal

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

dash of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup dark maple syrup

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins, light or dark (optional: try dates and nuts also)

Combine dry ingredients. Mix liquids and stir into dry ingredients. Stir in raisins. Pour into three 4-by-8-by-2-inch greased loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Cool slightly and turn out on rack.

My favorite maple soda bread (for the Irish)

4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

dash of salt

2 tablespoons dark maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 cup raisins

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons oil

Mix dry ingredients. Add oil, maple syrup and buttermilk and stir in raisins. Stir just until all ingredients are evenly moistened, but lumpy. On a well-floured surface, gently knead this mixture about 8 times to form a smooth ball. Cut in half and shape into two balls. Place each ball on an oiled and floured baking sheet and pat into a domed 6-inch round shape. With a sharp knife, cut an X 1/2-inch deep on top of each and brush tops with softened butter. Bake in 375-degree oven for about 35 minutes, until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow.

Maple eggs and toast

Here’s a quick and easy recipe from grandmother’s days:

For each serving, heat to boiling 1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup in a skillet. Drop in two eggs, reduce heat and let simmer until eggs are preferred doneness. Remove from heat and pour over a slice of toast. Use a good white bread. If you like sweetness, try Challah bread. Serve with a couple slices of bacon or sausage patties or links.

Ginger Isham was the co-owner of Maple Grove Farm Bed & Breakfast in Williston, a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road where she still lives.

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Liberally Speaking3/19/09

Greasing the right squeaky wheels

March 19, 2009

By Steve Mount

It was recently reported that Latreasa Goodman got her money back from McDonald’s.

Who is Goodman, you might ask? She recently placed an order for Chicken McNuggets at a Florida McDonald’s, paid for her order, and was then informed that the restaurant was out of her particular culinary choice. Goodman wanted her money back; the manager offered a substitution. Goodman called 911 to report the manager’s “transgression.” Three times.

Goodman was arrested for her antics, but despite this, the McDonald’s Corporation will be presenting Goodman with an Arch Card loaded with a refund for her purchase.

The point of this is to illustrate a classic idiom (with, in this case, an unintended pun): The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Had Goodman not been a squeaky wheel, to the point of misdemeanor, her story would have been a non-story.

Historically, we have our share of squeaky wheels. Thankfully, they are often not as trivial as Goodman.

Thomas Jefferson is one example. His tirade against the King of England became our Declaration of Independence, which is considered our charter of freedom, along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But before it was released to the American public, Jefferson’s screed had to be toned down, by no less a figure than Benjamin Franklin.

More recently, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post wrote reports almost daily about a minor burglary at the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. More and more information was leaked to them, leading to more and more stories. Each new story took a small chip out of the Nixon presidency, leading to Nixon’s eventual resignation.

Sometimes the squeaky wheel has a noble goal, but because of the fervor generated by the squeaker, the means to the end can be tragic.

John Brown is a perfect historical example. Brown was an ardent abolitionist in antebellum America, anti-slavery before it was a national priority. Though his ultimate goal was laudable and noble, his methods were not.

He led one attack on pro-slavery settlers in Kansas that left five settlers dead. His raid on an armory in Harpers Ferry, Va. left 10 of his men and five defenders dead.

After the Harpers Ferry attack, Brown was captured, tried and convicted of murder, conspiracy and treason. He was hanged.

Though Brown became a rallying point for anti-slavery forces, and a song written in his honor would evolve into the well-known Battle Hymn of the Republic, his tactics cannot be defended.

Other squeaky wheels deserve no attention, and are easy to write-off. I’m thinking here of Holocaust deniers; the anti-Semitic publishing of industrialist Henry Ford in The Dearborn Independent; those still trying to prove that George W. Bush planned, or purposefully did not stop, the 9/11 attacks. In this day of instant communication, it is easier than ever for those nuts to get their message out, but at the same time, thankfully, our skepticism has also increased.

More worrisome are the squeaky wheels who sound reasonable to a bigger audience, those who appeal to the pre-conceived notions of the public, or a bloc of the public.

One, who keeps rising up like the proverbial cockroach that just cannot be squashed, is Ann Coulter. Coulter is an attention hound, especially after the publication of one of her books which, though waning in popularity, are released every couple of years.

Her good looks, quick and sharp wit and inflammatory language maintain her as a media darling. But her rhetoric does not deserve the kind of airtime she is able to extract from the mainstream media. The titles of her books alone illustrate her penchant for hyperbole: “Slander,” “Treason,” “Godless,” “Guilty” and “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans.”

Then there is the best example of all. Rush Limbaugh. He wraps his divisive rhetoric in catch phrases, appealing to the basest prejudices of the human character.

Whether calling women “feminazis” or repeating the President’s middle name ad nauseam, his broadcasts are masses of verbal bile — squeaks that many conservatives are quick to pick up and run with.

The challenge for us, listening to all the rancor, is to discern what’s worthy of our attention from what’s not. Are the squeaks leading us to needed and desired change, or down an undesirable path that only a few truly wish to follow.

It’s a conscious decision — make it wisely.


Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at


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Right to the Point3/19/09

Obama’s bear

March 19, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Since January, President Barack Obama and his congressional cohorts have been busy spending — or plotting to spend — trillions of taxpayer dollars. This is not surprising given that Democrat leaders are firm followers of Keynesian economics.

Believing the private sector does not efficiently stimulate the economy, John Maynard Keynes called for massive government spending increases during economic downturns. This spending flies directly in the face of President Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economic policies.

But these days, conservative fiscal policies are out of vogue. Americans voted for change. Obama won.

Increased spending actually started during the final months of the Bush administration with the $700 billion bailout of teetering financial institutions under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

Shortly after Obama’s swearing in, Democrats (supported by only three Republican senators) pushed through a $787 billion economic stimulus package. Keynes, especially, would be proud that the stimulus was the largest spending bill in world history. The Keynesian spending was just getting started.

About a month ago, the Obama administration revealed its $700 billion plan for the financial system. As Stephen Bernard noted, a new capital-injection program allows the government to pour hundreds of billions into banks that undergo “stress tests” to determine their financial health. The plan also calls for increased government ownership of troubled banks.

For the housing market, the government said it would help lower mortgage rates by giving $200 billion more to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This will be in addition to the $200 billion the two institutions previously received.

Further, the administration promises to spend $75 billion helping homeowners who are near default with their mortgages. A government-backed refinancing program plans to reduce mortgage payments for up to 9 million at risk homeowners.

Last week, President Obama — despite his pledge to curb earmarks — signed a $410 billion “omnibus” spending bill to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year. The bill, which spends 8 percent more than last year’s, contains almost 8,000 earmarks.

In February, Obama presented his $3.55 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget. The proposal calls for annual deficits more than $500 billion for the next decade, according to USA Today. As a result, the federal debt will soar to $23 trillion by 2019.

President Obama’s budget includes $634 billion to start an overhaul of the nation’s health care system. While raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000, the plan extends the stimulus package’s middle class tax cut for a decade — costing almost $1 trillion.

Obama’s budget contains economic reforms, reinventing health care, fighting climate change (formerly global warming) and increased education spending. Columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, “Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.”

Krauthammer documents that the credit bubble, housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking system caused the economic crisis. Since health care, education and energy — worthy as they may be — did not cause the financial collapse, they are not the cure.

As former President Clinton adviser Dick Morris points out, “Getting out of this economic mess depends on consumer and business confidence, a faith that Obama is eroding with his looming tax increases as rapidly as he tries to kindle it with his excessive spending.” One only needs to turn to the stock market for proof of that lack of faith.

In economic terms, a 20 percent decline in the stock market defines a bear market. Since Obama’s inauguration, the stock market has experienced the fastest drop under a newly elected president in at least 90 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s the Obama bear market,” said Capital Management’s Dan Veru.

Investors have responded to Obama’s agenda with pessimism. According to Dick Morris, “The stock market has figured out his (liberal) priorities and is responding accordingly.”

Just as in a family’s budget, debt reduction is crucial to economic wellbeing. Recovery starts with halting excess spending. In a February letter to top Democrats, Republicans called for a spending freeze, the first step toward a “new standard of fiscal discipline.”

If the excessive spending continues, Morris foresees a future in which the current recession is followed by hyperinflation. Since other countries besides America are borrowing and spending money they do not have, this inflation will be global in scale.

Obama’s Democrats have the ability to change this future. Unfortunately, we may be already doomed as they are too far committed to Keynes to reverse course now.

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


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Guest Column3/19/09

Remembering a ‘good day’ with an uncommon American

March 19, 2009

By Edwin Cooney

“Hello, Americans,” said Paul Harvey, but this time he wasn’t on the radio. He was emerging from a small aircraft he had flown from Chicago to a small airport in the Finger Lakes region of central New York state.

It was Saturday, Sept. 26, 1964. Paul Harvey was invited to speak to those attending the annual Grape Harvest Festival at Naples, N.Y. It was shortly after 3 p.m. when he arrived. I was invited to ride into Naples with Robert Simpson, a local businessman, and his wife, who were acting as Mr. Harvey’s official hosts.

The approximately 30-minute drive into Naples from the airport through rich central New York farmland was pleasant. I sat in the very rear of the station wagon. Mr. Harvey sat in front of me in the back seat while Mr. and Mrs. Simpson sat up front. Although anxious to ask many questions, I minimized my conversational participation since I was a guest of the Simpsons.

“Mr. Harvey,” I asked, “I know President Johnson is considerably ahead in the current presidential campaign, but do you think Senator Goldwater can catch up?”

“His campaign hasn’t really caught fire yet, Ed,” Mr. Harvey replied. Then, perhaps realizing that his answer was discouraging to me, he continued with that cheery optimism in his splendid voice, “It still could. There’s time. It just hasn’t, as yet.”

Periodically, as we rode through the fall foliage, I’d ask Mr. Harvey about something he had said during one of his broadcasts. Finally, he said to me: “You know, Ed, you’d make somebody a good wife. My wife is always reminding me, Paul, you said this and you said that.”

Most 18-year-old boys, me included, don’t get much pleasure from the suggestion that they’d make someone “a good wife,” but this was Paul Harvey, after all, and he did chuckle as he said it, so I chuckled in response.

Finally, we arrived at the place where we’d have dinner and where Paul Harvey would address us. I rejoined my mother — she had arranged everything — our school principal Mr. Paul Ruhland and his son David, and then Mr. Harvey went on his way.

Of course, I would have liked more time with him, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had met, shaken hands, chatted and had my picture taken with one of the finest men — and voices — in broadcasting.

As the evening wore on, I met two local Rochester, N.Y. celebrity newsmen from WHAM (“1180 on your AM dial”) and their assessment of Paul Harvey seemed to me to be a tad reserved. To Ray Hall and Dick Tobias, Paul Harvey wasn’t a newsman, he was a news “reader.” He gets all of his material from the wire services, he doesn’t go out and seek information from primary sources, they insisted. However, they heartily agreed that he was “an excellent broadcaster!”

As for Mr. Harvey’s speech, it was entertaining and inspiring. He said that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world and it can continue to be so as long as Americans stick to the Ten Commandments and the Constitution. They must remember that liberty is the business of the people, not of the government. Only through eternal vigilance, he asserted, would we successfully “… keep on keeping on” — a key phrase in Paul Harvey’s lexicon.

Saturday, Sept. 26, 1964 was just past Paul Harvey’s 46th birthday. It was within only the 14th year of what would be his 58-year ABC broadcasting career. His brief television stint and his “Rest of the Story” feature were yet some years away — as was receiving the Medal of Freedom from President George Walker Bush in 2005.

My political views would be in tune with Mr. Harvey’s for another decade or so, but eventually they would shift. The irony is that as a 1964 Conservative Republican, I found his assessment of the GOP’s chances for victory too objective. As my own views became increasingly liberal, however, I found Paul Harvey’s points of view too rigid and, even worse, too partisan. As a broadcaster, though, he had few peers. Paul Harvey deserves to be right up there with Edward R. Murrow in the front row of Broadcasting’s Hall of Fame.

Harsh as his judgment could occasionally be, his social and political pronouncements were void of personal attack.

More than 44 years have passed since that happy Sept. 26. I still possess the record album I purchased called “The Testing Time” and the printed evening program he autographed for me that night after his address. The picture taken of him and me standing by his plane is, of course, still in my wallet.

“Good day,” was Paul Harvey’s closing signature of every news and commentary broadcast and, as you can imagine, those two words perfectly describe Saturday, Sept. 26, 1964.


Paul Harvey died at the age of 90 on Feb. 28, 2009. Edwin Cooney is a national political and historical columnist.


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Around Town3/19/09

March 19, 2009

Roy chooses treasurer

Selectboard member Chris Roy has picked the mayor of Barre to serve as treasurer of a committee he has formed to explore a candidacy for Vermont Secretary of State.

Thomas Lauzon was tapped for the post last week in Roy’s exploratory committee. Roy also filed the bank designation form needed to formalize the creation of the committee.

Roy, who grew up in Barre, said he has known Lauzon for years. Lauzon has held the position since 2006.

Roy, a Republican, is considering a run for the post currently held by Deb Markowitz, a Democrat whose term expires in 2010. Markowitz is mulling a bid for governor.

Others besides Roy have expressed interest in the post. Charles Merriman, a Middlesex lawyer and a Democrat, told the Burlington Free Press last week that he will run for Secretary of State. Former state Sen. Jim Condos, also a Democrat, is also rumored to be interested in the office.

Roy was elected to a two-year term on the Selectboard in 2008. His term ends in March 2010, eight months before the statewide election. He has said he would likely run for re-election to the Selectboard, then decide whether to stay on if he becomes secretary of state.

Transportation workshops slated

Regional planners are giving citizens a chance to help shape the future of transportation in western Vermont.

The Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission will hold a trio of workshops to solicit input on the Western Corridor Transportation Management Plan.

The first session, on livable communities, will be held Tuesday, March 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. A discussion of economic development and freight transportation will be held on Monday, March 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. And a local government workshop will be held Tuesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Each workshop takes place at the CCMPO/CCRPC offices, 30 Kimball Ave. in South Burlington. To attend, RSVP to Leslie Bonnette at 846-4490 x21 or e-mail


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Board elects leaders3/19/09

March 19, 2009

The Selectboard has re-elected Terry Macaig as chairman and Jeff Fehrs as vice chairman.

At its March 9 session, the five-member board voted unanimously to maintain the existing leadership.

Fehrs is the longest-serving board member, having been on the board since 1998 and a vice chairman for the past three years. He works for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

Macaig has served for seven years on the Selectboard and for three years as its chairman. He is a retired state employee who also represents Williston in the Vermont House.

Macaig said it is “not a problem” juggling his legislative duties with the extra work that comes with chairing the Selectboard.

Williston’s town charter requires the Selectboard to elect a chair and a vice chair each year.

— Greg Elias, Observer staff


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Williston man sentenced to six years3/19/09

March 19, 2009

A Williston man has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars from a captive insurance company where he was a senior vice president.

Federal prosecutors say Kenneth MacKay, 37, admitted that he came up with a scheme to defraud Willis Management and others of $5 million.

He used the money to build a $1.9 million home, pay about $240,000 into college tuition savings plans for his five children, and buy a condominium in Florida.

At the March 10 sentencing, Chief Justice William Sessions III ordered him to pay $5.3 million in restitution. Prosecutors say MacKay has already forfeited $4.24 million, including the college fund, home and condo.

— The Associated Press


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Douglas announces community block grant3/19/09

March 19, 2009

Gov. Jim Douglas visited Williston on Tuesday to announce a $360,000 community development block grant that will fund housing rehabilitation projects throughout the region.

The town of Williston applied for the grant on behalf of the Champlain Housing Trust, David Mace, spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said in an e-mail. The funding will be sub-granted to the Champlain Housing Loan Fund, allowing it to continue providing loans to residents whose homes need repairs.

A media release from the governor’s office said the town of Williston would receive the grant. But the money will in fact be used to provide loans to eligible home-owners throughout Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, Mace said. The exception is Burlington, which has its own block grant.

Low-to-moderate income home-owners who cannot afford or qualify for a conventional loan are eligible to participate in the program. Low-interest loans can pay to repair or weatherize homes, remove lead-based paint and make homes handicapped-accessible. Mace said loans can also be used to provide counseling services for applicants.

The Champlain Housing Loan Fund is one is one of five regional loan funds in Vermont, according to information the Champlain Housing Trust provided to the town. It was established in 1997 and has loaned more than $2 million over the past 11 years.

— Greg Elias, Observer staff


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