November 28, 2015

Track and field team preps for final home meet (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The home folks will get their last look at Champlain Valley Union High’s track and field team Tuesday afternoon when teams from Vergennes Union High, Milton High and Mount Mansfield Union High descend on the Redhawks’ facility for the last home meet of the campaign.


    Observer photo by Pogo Senior
With room to spare, Champlain Valley Union High sophomore Summer Spillane easily clears the bar during the pole vaulting competition at the track meet hosted by CVU last Wednesday.

And the team’s followers will gaze upon some stellar performers in the red and white outfits, as results from Tuesday’s meet at Essex High would indicate. The CVU boys won their division, while the girls finished second to the host Hornets in the four-team contests. Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans and Missisquoi Union were also involved.

CVU boys winners included Matt Sulva in the 400-meter race with a time of 54.81 seconds, with teammate Ryan Nick taking second.

Jason Clairmont captured the 800 in 2:07.47. Tony Sulva hit a winning stride in the 1,500, beating out second place teammate Zak Pete.

Both the 4-by-400 and 4-by-800 relay teams were victorious.

James Pieper-Lococo took second in the 110 and 300 hurdles.

In field events, Scott Cherhoniak won the triple jump (36-8.75) and Dale Conger the shot put (40-9.5).

For the second place girls, it was a sweep in the 800, where Kendall Berry won with a time of 2:29.33; Summer Spillane took second and Virginia Farley third.

Maddy Christian ruled the 1,500 with a time of 5:04.44, with Farley second.

The 4-by-400 relay team also scored a victory.


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Federal grant to teach safety for bikers, walkers (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston School District recently received more than $14,000 in federal grant money to help educate students about bike and pedestrian safety, as well as determine the safest alternative transportation routes to school.

As part of the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program, both schools in the district will split up the funding — $6,780 going to Allen Brook School and $7,415 for Williston Central School.

Williston received the funding through the efforts of the nonprofit organization Local Motion. The Burlington-based group works to foster alternative and active transportation through education and the creation of new bike routes throughout northwestern Vermont. Local Motion secured more than $103,000 in grant money from VTrans for schools around Chittenden County, including Williston.

Starting in the fall, students in the district will take part in educational programs focusing on walking and biking to school, as well as how to do so safely. Charlene Wallace, the director of operations for Local Motion, said the Safe Routes to School program encourages students to find alternative means for getting to and from school, as well as teaching them safety.

“We can help students get outside before school starts and after it ends,” Wallace said. “And we know that physical activity improves educational performance.”

Wallace said the funding goes toward events for the Safe Routes to School program, as well as supporting the program’s coordinators, who will visit students during physical education classes.

Aimee Pope, the Safe Routes to School coordinator with VTrans, said the program is 100 percent federally funded. Starting next school year, 75 schools around Vermont will participate, Pope said.

Wallace said Safe Routes to School coordinators from Local Motion will visit physical education classes in Williston several times next school year. The fall semester will be geared toward information about walking to school and determining safe routes for students. Wallace said students would learn which side of the road is best to walk on, as well as how to use crosswalks and road signals.

In the spring, students in grades three through eight will learn about bicycling to school and the safety issues that can arise from that.

Wallace said Williston might choose to start an incentive program for students who choose to walk or bike to school. Schools in the past have created punch cards for students, she said. Once a student walks or bikes to school a certain number of times, as determined through the punch card, that student may receive a prize.

Cathy Kohlasch, a physical education teacher at Williston Central, said the idea of bringing the Safe Routes to School program to the district would help the department. Kohlasch said students learn about pedestrian and biker safety “sporadically” in school, but this will make it a focus.

“With all the bike paths going through town, it seemed like a natural fit to us,” Kohlasch said.

While some students will invariably live too far from school to walk or bike to class, they’ll still learn the importance of safety in these activities, Wallace said.

“These are life lessons,” Wallace said.


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Everyday Gourmet (5/21/09)

A crowd pleaser

May 21, 2009

By Kim Dannies

With potlucks, bridal showers and graduation parties upon us, why not choose a festive Mexican theme that’s easy on the clock and the pocketbook? I’ve made these super-delish, healthy enchiladas a few times for gatherings, and now it’s the only dish my girlfriends will let me bring. It is so fast, I don’t even season the sauce, and one 8-by-12-inch pan feeds 10 people. The rice and chicken can be prepped a few days ahead; make the casserole 2 hours ahead, it only takes about 10 minutes.

Encore Enchiladas

30 ounces medium-hot salsa

1 16-ounce package of fresh spinach

4 10-inch flour tortillas (not whole wheat)

1 16-ounce can spicy, fat-free refried beans

2 cups cooked brown rice

12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

12 ounces grilled boneless chicken breast, cut into dice-sized cubes

Cover the bottom of an 8-by-10-inch (approximate size) baking dish with 6 ounces of salsa. Poke a few holes into the plastic package of spinach and zap for 2 minutes, until slightly wilted. Lay 4 10-inch flour tortillas on a work surface. Divide the can of refried beans among the tortillas, spreading 4 ounces of the bean paste evenly. On one half of each tortilla, layer 1 ounce of cheese, 3 ounces of diced chicken, 1/4 portion of spinach and a handful of brown rice. Carefully roll the tortillas and place seam side down into baking dish. (Stuff any food drops into the rolled tortillas.) Cover with remaining sauce and top with cheese. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. The tortillas will soften and form a lasagna-like casserole. Cut into squares and serve with green salad.

Avocado Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

In a small processor combine 1 bunch rinsed and de-stemmed fresh cilantro and a large garlic clove. Pulse until minced. Add 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, a pinch of kosher salt and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar; blend until smooth. Makes 6 ounces of dressing.

Combine a variety of fresh mixed greens (figure a handful of greens per person) and 1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced. With clean hands, toss the salad, adding half the dressing and then adjusting for quantity. Gently fold in as many avocado slices as desired. Top with a grind of black pepper.

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 who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to

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Letters to the Editor (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

It may not be perfect, but if it works, leave it alone.

I came away from Monday night’s meeting on May 11 disappointed with the presentation of information regarding a roundabout for the village. I felt I was given statistics on a national level to persuade me we need a roundabout. I think statistics can be misleading and not fit in everywhere.

I also felt like there was not enough evidence presented that we have a dangerous intersection. I was pleased to hear a fire department member’s report that it was clear we have had few serious accidents in the last few years. Something like four fender benders and one with a person injured. They occurred during non-busy traffic hours.

I don’t understand paying millions of dollars to build a roundabout for heavy traffic that occurs one hour a day for five days a week, or maybe a little more, when our present four-way stop is working so well.

I was also very pleased to hear a former selectman remind us of the work and thousands, if not millions, of dollars that went into planning for the Circ Highway that would have relieved wear and tear on our local roads and redirected traffic away from our village center. Let’s not repeat this situation.

It was evident from the future steps needed in the planning process that it could easily cost millions of dollars — another Circ Highway situation — even though we are told it will cost just over a million dollars to build.

Ginger Isham


Grateful friends

We in the Williston School District want to express our most sincere thanks to everyone who helped create last Saturday’s celebration of Al Myers’ life.

Many volunteers worked on tasks, from ushering to arranging overflow parking and directing traffic. The technical challenges of closed circuit TV and audio running in two different directions were great, and we couldn’t have done it without all the expert assistance we received. Moreover, support came not only from individuals, but from businesses across Chittenden County, all of whom had some connection with Al.

Of course, the centerpieces were the marvelous speakers and performances ranging from solo piano through bagpipe to choruses that filled the stage with people and song. All drew on their experience with Al. Their words and art brought tears to many eyes.

It was truly a team effort, and together we created a worthy tribute to our friend, Al Myers. Thank you again.

Rick McCraw and Richard Allen

Williston School District


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Guest Column (5/21/09)

Auf wiedersehen, Williston!

May 21, 2009

By Bianca Jager

One and a half years ago, I arrived at the Burlington Airport. Very nervous! I kind of calmed down with saying to myself, “It will be fine, I’ll get my luggage and then I will meet my new host family.”

But the Jennings were faster! They picked me up before I could even finish that thought. I saw all those blond little heads in front of the gate’s entrance. I was about to die, because I was so nervous. But not for long. Not even a minute later I was so happy and the question, “Why did I do this? Why do I have to go away from home?” never even came back into my mind.

I have never met a family like them. They are so full of energy, lovely, funny, kind. I will probably never find the right expression to say how awesome they are.

Then, after six months in Vermont, my host mum’s mother came to stay with us. Nervous again! But I have to tell you, she is the coolest lady I have ever met in my life.

I wish every au pair that makes that step and goes to a foreign country, nervous about her destination and the people she will meet there, will have so much luck like I had.

I have to say this was the best decision I have ever made in my life. And I would tell everybody who thinks about it to go for it. Who knows, maybe I will see your kids sometime in Germany or Europe, having the most awesome year of their life like I had.

My time as an au pair did come to an end, and I have to say, auf wiedersehen — goodbye.

I will miss Williston and all the nice people I met here. I really appreciate how kind and helpful everybody was. Thank you so much for that. All the great activities the town does, how kind the teachers are in the school and also all of Laura, Emma, Adele and Charlie’s friends. I want to say thank you to every single one of you. I don’t think there would have been a better place to be an au pair than in this lovely little town and also no better host family than the Jennings. I will miss you all a lot.

I will never forget the great time I had here and hope to see some of you some time again.

Dankeschön for all the help you gave me, Williston residents.

Bianca Jager served as an au pair for the Jennings family in Williston from November 2007 until earlier this month.


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Little Details (5/21/09)

Helping hands, transformed lives


By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

In order to graduate from Williston Central School, all students are required to complete an Eighth Grade Challenge. This year-long academic project requires each student to research a topic he or she is interested in, integrate an element of community service and formally present findings before peers, teachers and community members. Topics range from addressing hunger, to sports psychology, to drumming. Sound daunting? You bet.


    Courtesy photo
Mario, a mason from Honduras, shows Joy Trigg (left) and her son, Niles, how to build with concrete blocks at the IHNFA worksite in the town of Tela. The Triggs went to Honduras in January to volunteer with Hands to Honduras, an organization that provides educational, cultural and humanitarian assistance.

Niles Trigg, a current eighth grader, was looking for a project engaging him in active volunteerism while satisfying his natural curiosity about foreign cultures. As a student of Spanish, he was excited to learn of a service trip to Central America, offering the chance to work on humanitarian building projects while testing his linguistic skills among native speakers.

“I’ve always been interested in volunteering,” Niles observed. “When the tsunami happened (in the Asian Pacific), I wanted to help. I thought it would be good to help folks outside of the United States. It’s hard to find international volunteer opportunities that kids can participate in.”

Niles’ mother, Joy, read a news article in January 2008 about a group of Vermonters traveling to Honduras to perform volunteer work through a program called Hands to Honduras ( The organization provides educational, cultural and humanitarian assistance.

“Every January, volunteers from Vermont travel with Hands to Honduras to the small Central American nation to build community centers and schools or to set up clinics,” Niles said.

On Jan. 24, following a careful year of planning, Niles and his mother flew from Burlington to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The weary travelers — a group of about 80 volunteers — piled into vans at the airport for a two-and-a-half hour trip to Tela, their first work site.

“Niles and I took this trip because we had enough of typical vacations,” Joy said, “and I sensed this would be a life-changing event for both of us.”

Through the windows of the van, Niles’ first glimpses of Honduras were surprisingly western. They passed a Pizza Hut and ubiquitous Pepsi signs as their caravan snaked its way out of the city. Fast-food icons of multinational corporations were soon replaced by endless banana trees and simple houses with roofs of corrugated iron.

“We passed lots of banana plantations. The roads were bumpy. We came to this one-way bridge where our van had to stop and wait. (Local) kids knew the cars had to stop. They came right up to the window to sell us coconut,” Niles remembered, a hint of surprise in his voice.

“Our hotel in Tela was very simple. Our room had a couple of beds and a tiny TV that sometimes worked. Our room was apparently the room with hot water — we were lucky,” Niles laughed. “We had to close our eyes and hold our breath when we showered — there were parasites in the water. We used a gallon of (store-bought) water to brush our teeth and wash our faces.”

Niles remembers eating lots of rice, beans and fish. The fruit included just-picked bananas and succulent papayas, some as long as two feet. Abundant, fragrant flowers seemed like oversized versions of plants he’d encountered in North America. Pepsi advertisements seeped into smaller towns and tiny villages. The syrupy soda appeared to be consumed with gusto in this nation lacking potable tap water. Niles observed blackened, rotten teeth among many of the children.

“Our group built two new school rooms at IHNFA, a government-run daycare center in Tela. We used cinderblocks and mortar. It was really hot and humid,” Niles recalled. “We started work around 9 (o’clock) and finished around 4:30 most days. It was hard work. I got used to it.

“The (Honduran) people were extremely accepting and welcoming. They were very proud to show us what they had. A few could speak a little English. I could understand a good amount of what they said in Spanish and learned to apply what I know,” Niles said.

“This one lady in Las Palmas (a rural worksite), she basically didn’t have anything at all. She lived in a stick and mud hut and used one sheet of metal to cook on,” Niles observed. “She saw what we were doing — building a schoolhouse and a library — she burst into tears, she was so grateful.”

An important element of the Eighth Grade Challenge is sharing something of one’s experience to inform and inspire others. Niles contacted Mary Jane Wirsling, his former teacher at Allen Brook School’s Vista Team, to arrange a screening of a short film he produced on location. Here are some comments from his audience of third and fourth graders:

Allie P.-R.: “Going to Honduras was a brilliant idea for your Eighth Grade Challenge. Now I know how lucky I really am … By the looks of the movie, you did a great job on building the school.”

Alexis M.: “I learned that Honduras is a very poor country … I’m more thankful for having fancy gadgets …”

Molly D.: “I think it was a very kind choice to choose helping a poor country as your Eighth Grade Challenge. It must have been kind of scary not knowing if you could get sick by taking a shower!”

Brigham F: “I think it is really cool how you went to Honduras and helped all the children.”

Maddie H.: “I never thought about how grateful I am to have everything I’ve always had until watching your video about Honduras.”

Reflecting on his experience in Honduras, Niles said, “I learned a lot about myself in the sense that we, as Americans, have everything we want at our fingertips. Still, we sometimes miss the smaller things in life that really matter, like cooperation and community. People in Honduras, even though they have so little, are really happy.”

“It is a priceless gift to be able help a desperately poor culture — to live, work and laugh among the people there for a week,” Joy observed. “Niles and I realized quickly that their lives are very rich with warmth and sharing. And, that it’s not things that make us rich — it’s experiences like this trip.”

Visit and search for “Hands to Honduras” or enter to watch Niles’ film.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or


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Scrapbook store looks to become mainstay in town (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Taft Corners Shopping Center is now home to Williston’s newest scrapbook store. Island Scrapbook opened on April 10 and has already generated buzz in the local community, thanks to the store’s Friday night “crop” parties.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Island Scrapbook owner Laura Sharples (right) examines a new shipment of scrapbook supplies with her friend Lorna Swann.

Owner Laura Sharples said she was looking to expand her business into busy Chittenden County and believes Williston will prove a good fit. She has owned the original Island Scrapbook in Grand Isle for the past four years.

Island Scrapbook offers everything needed to create a scrapbook, from binders to different paper styles, from various tools to unique design flourishes.

Sharples said Williston has been lacking a scrapbook supply store since Scrapbook Central closed two years ago. She hopes her store will fill that specific need in the Williston area, although on a smaller scale.

“I think the key to my success will be staying within my means,” Sharples said.

Having a weekly crop party could also be a way of forming a loyal customer base, she said. Since she opened last month, Sharples has hosted several Friday night events where people can come together to create, or crop, they’re very own scrapbook. Sharples said it acts like a social get together, with friends helping friends design creative books.

She said the Friday parties have lasted until midnight and most attendees are already experienced scrapbook enthusiasts looking for a good place to work.

“They’re looking for a place to get away from the husband, the kids,” Sharples said. “It gives them time to focus.”

Sharples also attends scrapbook parties all over the Champlain Valley, providing supplies and assistance. Many of the shows she’s attended are charity events in places including Winooski, St. Albans and Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Sharples’ friend Lorna Swann, a Northfield resident, said scrapbooking acts as a creative outlet for people, as well as a way of preserving someone’s past. Plus, they make great gifts, she said.

“It’s homemade, it’s personal,” Swann said. “The scrapbooks that people make will outlive the people they give them to.”

“It’s a preservation of memories,” Sharples added.

Island Scrapbook is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store is closed Mondays, but will be open this Memorial Day Monday, Sharples said.


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Around Town (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

Recreation guide available

The Williston Parks and Recreation Department released its summer 2009 activity guide last week.

The program contains information on many youth activity camps scheduled for the summer, including soccer, baseball and basketball camps. Specialty camps, such as art and music camps, are highlighted. Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan said this summer’s offerings are similar to last year’s popular events.

Also included in the program is information in this year’s Fourth of July celebration. The theme will center on the 400-year anniversary of Lake Champlain’s discovery by European explorers.

The summer guide can be picked up at the Parks and Recreation office on the second floor of Town Hall Annex. Call 878-1239 for more information.

Residents honored for volunteerism

HowardCenter’s Community Friends Mentoring program recognized two Williston community members last month for their enthusiasm and commitment over the past year.

Deb Chisholm is in her 11th year of mentoring. Nancy Colbourn is in her third. The two women joined 100 other volunteers to provide approximately 14,000 hours of service to Chittenden County youth over the past year in big-brother and big-sister type of relationships.

The Burlington-based HowardCenter aims to improve the wellbeing of children, adults, families and communities. The Community Friends Mentoring program is now in its 25th year.

To join the program or learn more about it, contact program coordinator Kristen Hayden-West at 488-6650 or visit


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Taft Corners offers community garden (5/21/09)

May 21, 2009

A new community garden has opened in Taft Corners this spring, and a few plots are still available to interested gardeners.

The Taft Corners Community Garden is sponsored by Gardener’s Supply Co. and organized by employee Debbie Page. She said the garden would not have been possible without help from Jeff Davis of Taft Corners Associates, who’s allowing the use of the property for the purpose of the garden.

Page said Tuesday there are 10 plots at the garden, with four still available for anyone who is interested. The plots are 10 feet by 24 feet and cost $30 for the season.

A generous gardener has already paid for an extra plot, Page added. There will also be eight raised beds, where vegetables will be grown and donated to area food shelves, including the Williston Community Food Shelf, Page said.

If interested in acquiring a plot, contact Gardener’s Supply Co. at 879-0099.

— Tim Simard, Observer correspondent


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Sales tax shows surprising upturn (5/21/09)

Revenue for local levy rises by 3.8 percent

May 21, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Sales tax revenue rebounded in the first quarter of 2009, raising hopes that a two-year slump for a levy that funds much of the municipal budget may be ending.

The 1 percent local option tax brought in $487,084 for the three-month period ending March 31. That’s a 3.8 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago.

The surprising turnaround came after sales tax revenue dropped in seven of the previous eight quarters. And it happened amid the biggest economic downturn in decades.

Town Manager Rick McGuire expressed guarded optimism about the latest sales tax numbers. Williston relies heavily on the tax, which provides about 30 percent of the town’s revenue.

“I don’t see a reversal where it starts going up dramatically,” he said. “But maybe there will be a leveling off.”

Williston started collecting the local option tax, which piggybacks on the state’s 6 percent sales tax, six years ago. Revenue increased in each of the first four years of the tax, but then began dropping after the state imposed new rules on the levy in January 2007. Among the changes was a provision that no longer allows the town to collect tax on items bought in Williston but shipped elsewhere.

Revenue over the next two years fell 22 percent. The latest three-month period marked only the second same-quarter increase since the rule changes.

The upturn in local sales tax revenue seems counterintuitive given the economy. The state faces huge budget shortfalls due to reduced revenue from all sources, including the sales tax.

The national economy is also bleeding jobs and bankrupting companies, although recent positive news on consumer spending, unemployment claims and housing prices have some speculating that a turnaround is in store.

Art Woolf, an associate professor of economics at the University of Vermont, said it is impossible to identify a trend with the local sales tax numbers until at least two more quarters show similarly improved revenue.

The most recent figures may be more of an indicator of local retail trends than evidence the economy is rebounding, Woolf said. He noted that Williston, home of several national retailers including Wal-Mart, may simply have become a destination for more faraway shoppers trying to pinch pennies.

“When times are tough, people are willing to drive further for a bargain,” Woolf said.

As for the national economy, he said the picture is also murky.

“Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the downturn, or maybe we’re seeing a false spring,” he said.

McGuire said he is worried that the latest quarter’s numbers may not yet fully reflect two troubling developments: The bankruptcy of Circuit City, whose Williston outlet was still open for part of the first quarter before finally shutting its doors for good; and increased competition for the town’s Home Depot store from a pair of new Lowe’s outlets in nearby Essex Junction and South Burlington.

Still, the new sales tax numbers put the town on track to meet revenue projections for the fiscal year ending June 30, McGuire said. The town had estimated it would receive $450,000 for the fiscal year’s third quarter, a figure exceeded by $37,000.

Williston now needs only to slightly exceed the projected $620,000 for the quarter ending in June to meet the yearly revenue estimate and avoid dipping into shrinking reserves to balance the municipal budget.


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