April 22, 2019

Liberally Speaking (6/25/09)

A historical look at the Fourth of July

June 25, 2009

By Steve Mount

As a young boy, I remember quite well the trips that I, my siblings and cousins would all take to the fireworks stands that sprouted up all around Los Angeles and Orange counties, Calif. in late June. July 4 was not only a celebration of our nation’s birth, but of my grandfather’s, too. We would buy some fireworks to celebrate each. On the night of the Fourth, the entire block would close down as families set off all sorts of pyrotechnics to honor the nation and my grandfather.

As an early teen, my family celebrated a private Fourth of July. We lived in Canada, and the big July celebration there, July 1, is for Canada Day. Since we lived in Quebec, the Canada Day celebrations were a bit ironic, since Quebec seemed poised to secede from Canada.

As a full-fledged grown-up, I gained distinct and fond memories of my first Fourth of July in Williston. We came here from Starksboro, a town too small for any extensive July Fourth celebrations. Coming to Williston, with its magnificent parade, daylong family activities, cacophonous book sale and glorious fireworks show, I suddenly had something to look forward to, like those youthful days in California.

It’s worth taking a few moments to remember what the fuss is all about, and to realize that if not for the work of some very dedicated men, we might not be celebrating at all. In early 1776, the case for independence had not yet been forcefully made. Compromise with Britain, and seats in Parliament, were seen by many as the better way to go.

A relatively short pamphlet, “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine, finally made a convincing argument for independence, and the opinion of the populace and the Congress began to change.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, delegate from Virginia, formally brought the arguments in “Common Sense” to the Second Continental Congress. He proposed both a declaration of independence and a union of the colonies. A committee was formed to craft a document. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson was assigned by the committee to write the declaration, which he completed in just a few days.

Jefferson’s first draft was edited by Franklin, then forwarded on to the Congress, which toned down some of Jefferson’s most inflammatory language. In the end, the Declaration of Independence listed almost 30 grievances against the king, called for independence and unification, and told the people of Britain that the quarrel of the United States was with the king, and not with them.

The document was accepted by the Congress on July 4, 1776, though not until Aug. 2, 1776 was the Declaration actually signed.

Though the new United States was still at war in 1777, history records several small-scale celebrations in honor of the first anniversary, including several 13-gun salutes. In Philadelphia, official dinners and celebrations were held along with prayers, parades and fireworks. In 1778, Gen. George Washington ordered a double ration of rum for the troops.

By the turn of the 19th century, fireworks were becoming more and more common, as were formal celebrations of the day at the White House. Parades, military revues, bands, songs, plays, poems, anthems and ballet were all performed to celebrate the date.

In 1870, July 4 was designated a day off, without pay, for federal workers; in 1938, the law was changed to give the day off with pay. In 1998, Congress designated the days between Flag Day and Independence Day as “Honor America Days.”

Many notable events have been scheduled to happen on July 4, including temperance and anti-slavery speeches, the laying of cornerstones (of the Washington Monument, for one) and the christening of ships. In recent memory, the July 4’s of 1976, the nation’s bicentennial year, and 2002, the first following the Sept. 11 attacks, were notable for the proud displays of patriotism from the citizenry.

The Fourth of July is a uniquely American holiday, and we celebrate it in a uniquely American way. At some point before the holiday, to celebrate the 233rd year of the American Republic, take a few minutes and read the Declaration of Independence; refresh your memory about what the fireworks, barbecue and camaraderie are all about.

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 steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.


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Right to the Point (6/25/09)

The Fourth of July: Celebrating America

June 25, 2009

By Mike Benevento

For those old enough to remember, back in 1974, Chevy ran an extremely effective television advertising campaign centering on the song “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.” As one of the all-time top car commercials, the ad campaign succeeded because the jingle was synonymous with what was best in 1970s America.

Today, these American symbols are experiencing hard times. Performance enhancing drug use by baseball superstars like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds has brought shame to the national pastime. Additionally, dieticians frown upon hot dogs because they possess little nutritional value, making them somewhat unhealthy to eat. Finally, the federal government is bailing out General Motors — which sells Chevy trucks and vans. Chevrolet is now part of what many call “Government Motors.”

Despite the fall of these once mighty icons, there remains a lot to celebrate in America. For starters, mom’s apple pie is still as good as it gets.

With Independence Day nearing, let’s take a small peek at some of what keeps America great. Consider it as four slices of good old American apple pie. Don’t forget to savor every morsel and come back for seconds ….

First slice: Adam Bender

Last year, 8-year-old Adam Bender became an American hero via the Internet. A child playing sports at Adam’s age is not unusual. However, everyone who watches Adam play sports and live life is impressed. Adam is inspirational because he plays baseball, soccer, football and wrestles — with only one leg.

The cancer survivor from Lexington, Ky. was born with a tumor in his left thigh. After chemotherapy failed, doctors amputated Adam’s leg on his first birthday. That setback did not deter him. He quickly started crawling and now plays two of the most difficult positions in sports. The youngster is a Little League baseball catcher and a flag football quarterback — without the aid of prostheses.

Watch Adam in action and you can tell that he considers himself just one of the kids. To others, however, he is much more than that. He embodies the American spirit. By not letting his loss of a leg stop him, Adam motivates others to overcome their problems. He is truly inspirational.

If you would like to learn more about Adam, including watching videos of him playing ball, check out his homepage at AdamBender.net. You can also search for “Adam Bender” at YouTube.com. Warning: keep tissues handy!

Second slice: foster parents

Today, with so many shattered families and difficult financial times, foster parents play an increasingly important role in raising children. These unsung heroes provide a loving and nurturing home to approximately 1,200 Vermont children. Although it is a difficult job, foster parents help children and parents rebuild broken lives.

Two years ago, the Vermont Legislature recognized the importance of foster parents (like Williston’s Theresa Tomasi) by adopting Resolution 205 — Honoring the Role of Foster Parents. Following the Legislature’s lead, Vermonters should honor and support foster parents. They provide one of the world’s most important jobs — being a parent — under trying circumstances.

Third slice: Williston’s Medal of Honor recipient

The Congressional Medal of Honor is America’s highest military award. Since 1861, 3,446 military personnel have earned the medal — the majority posthumously. Ironically, only 10 medals were earned on the Fourth of July, none by a Vermonter.

According to the Home Of Heroes Web site, 47 Medals of Honor have been accredited to Vermont. Of these, only one recipient was from Williston — Edward A. Holton.

On April 16, 1862, 1st Sgt. Edward Holton earned the decoration for his extraordinary gallantry and exemplary valor during the Civil War Battle of Lee’s Mills. As recorded by the History of War Web site, two Vermont regiments of Union soldiers attacked parts of eight Confederate regiments near Yorktown, Va. Fighting against heavy odds, the Union attack failed and was pushed back across the Warwick River.

First Sgt. Holton’s citation reads, “Rescued the colors of his regiment under heavy fire, the color bearer having been shot down while the troops were in retreat.”

Final slice: Take me out to the ballgame

Back in the old days, towns all across the United States sponsored a hometown baseball team. On Sundays, townsfolk gathered on the village green to root for their team in a match against rival towns.

Harkening back to the old days, everyone is invited to attend Williston’s second annual Fourth of July Little League Baseball game. The game starts at 2 p.m. at the majors’ field behind Williston Central School. For an enjoyable time, bring a chair and watch Williston’s version of this time-honored tradition.

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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Letters to the Editor (6/25/09)

June 25, 2009

Support the Williston Food Shelf

This Fourth of July, many Williston residents will commemorate our independence by watching the parade, then barbecuing with neighbors and friends. Much that we take for granted is becoming impossible for a rapidly increasing number of families in our current economic climate. The over 100 volunteers who staff the Williston Community Food Shelf are asking for your support this Fourth to ensure those in need will always have some place to turn.

During the parade, we will have a fire engine or other vehicle flanked by red-shirted volunteers accepting donations of money or food. Food items we need are pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter and jelly, but our most pressing need is financial to meet our annual expenses. Volunteers will carry donation buckets; please step forward as they pass to offer donations.

Opened in November 2008, our initial goal was to feed 35 families. We fed 76 in the first month and 110 in May. The dramatic increase in working families, unemployed and disabled visiting us has presented a challenge to continue at current levels. We also assist the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington, Vermont Respite House and Joint Urban Ministry Project, and we fill the summer void as our schools have closed, supporting the Summer Program for Kids, in which each child receives 10 meals per week.

Our monthly food budget is $1,000, yet we spent $1,600 in May. We also recently incurred a monthly rental fee of $250, while philanthropic donations have decreased.

Our longer-range goals include installing telephone and Internet service, increasing the type and quantity of food available and, lastly, we hope to partner with Williston businesses and individuals willing to adopt the Food Shelf. Perhaps your business would join us by sponsoring an annual month or half a month of food purchases, rent or telephone and Internet service. Interested organizations, individuals or families should contact Ron Stankevich at 879-7092 or stop by the Food Shelf, located on Connor Way, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thursday or Saturday.

Have a safe and happy Fourth and thank you for your generosity during the parade.

Williston Community Food Shelf Board


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Guest Column (6/25/09)

See you later, alligator — I hope

June 25, 2009

By Edwin Cooney

For two weeks and three days now, I’ve been meeting or revisiting some really special people who live everywhere throughout America except where I live.

As I rode the rails eastward between Oakland, Calif. and Buffalo, N.Y., I met Patti — a temporarily wheelchair-ridden lady from Elko, Nev. Patti runs a safe haven for stray animals looking for a home. Even more incredible, she’s about to marry her husband for the second time. A very dynamic individual, Patti devoutly believes in second chances. She divorced her husband some years ago and wants to be with him once again almost as much as she wants to walk following the motorcycle accident which five years ago destroyed both knees and severely damaged her back. Her recovery has been an exceedingly slow and painful one. This July, she’ll undergo surgery to replace both knees at once. She hopes to discard her wheelchair by mid September — just in time to remarry the man she once thought she could do without. It’s not likely that I’ll see Patti again, but it would be a treat to have that opportunity.

Then there’s Denny from Erie, Pa., a truck driver looking forward to coming off the road so that he might spend more time with his wife and son. Denny is an excellent conversationalist in part because he’s as good a listener as he is a talker. Deeply devoted to his family, Denny has a wide range of interests and is especially curious to know how people think and feel as well as what they care about.

Many of those I meet I expect to see again, especially those I have known for awhile.

For openers, there’s the lady I call my mother who we all hope will turn 100 on Jan. 1, 2010. Edith Gassman has been blessed enough to see many seasons. She’s lived during the administrations of 18 U.S. presidents going back to William Howard Taft. Edith, however, often opines that too many worthy people don’t live nearly long enough.

Then there’s a really sweet lady named Joanie whose family is hoping and praying — as am I — that her upcoming cancer surgery will allow her at least five more happy years. Joanie’s sister Barbara is someone I’ve known since I was a lad of 11. Joanie, although I don’t know her as well, has been sweet and generous to me. I hope to see her again next year and as many times in the coming summers as humanly and medically possible.

It has been my experience that ongoing contact too often causes us to take those around us for granted. However, as I prepare to return to my California diggings, I’m keenly aware of the preciousness of those with whom my contact has been all too fleeting.

As these sentiments go to press and I begin my trek westward along steel rails, I’ll offer heartfelt telepathic greetings to people such as the following: my dear friends Chet and his wife “Lady Linda,” who are both thoughtful and intellectually energizing; Judy Joy, whose middle name is a commentary on what she brings to others; dutiful Jan, whose intensity and sincerity is matched by few; unpredictable Kathlyn, whom I’ll always treasure; my pal Paul, who makes me feel good just by saying hello; Barbara, whose passions bubble like the finest champagne; Bob, who watches out for me but doesn’t want me to know it; and Roe, who cares more than she should which causes me to feel humblingly grateful.

The people I’ve mentioned above are only the beginning of a list of those who matter to me. That which is fleeting (the time I shared with them and others) is of value by virtue of its brevity. However, what really matters is the opportunity to experience people of quality for whatever time there may be.

Fifty-three years have passed since Bill Haley and the Comets sang out “See Ya Later Alligator.” Haley’s “goodbye” was to a spurning lover. My expression of that silly salutation expresses the hope that I may have the good fortune to encounter this gang of wonderful alligators many more times to come.

Edwin Cooney is a national political and historical columnist.


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Business Briefs (6/25/09)

June 25, 2009

Health care in retirement

The New England Federal Credit Union hosts “Understanding Retirement Healthcare Expenses” on June 25. Janet Cooper and Roger Webster, registered representatives of Baystate, will speak at the free event.

The presentation takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at New England Federal Credit Union, 141 Harvest Lane in Williston. Seating is limited. To register, call 879-8790 or visit www.nefcu.com.

Williston remodeler joins building committees

Remodeler Mike Gervais, president of Williston-based Prime Renovation Group and DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen of Northern Vermont, has been appointed to the State and Local Government Affairs Committee and the Environmental Issues Committee of the National Association of Home Builders.

The State and Local Government Affairs Committee works closely with NAHB’s 800 affiliated state and local homebuilder associations to advocate for the residential construction industry. The committee oversees NAHB’s efforts to give state and local government officials the building industry’s perspective on regulatory issues related to land development, insurance, taxes, fees and other concerns.

The Environmental Issues Committee monitors and analyzes environmental issues affecting the home building industry.

Prime Renovation Group, is a remodeling and renovation company.

Consultants get together

The Vermont Consultants Network will have its monthly meeting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 9 at Network Performance Inc. in South Burlington. Richard Munkelwitz of Chittenden Ventures will speak on “Planning in a Tsunami Economy.”

First time visitors can attend for free. For more information, contact Steve Silverman at 862-9488.

Vermont objects to GM bankruptcy provisions

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is joining with attorneys general from nine other states to object to some provisions of General Motors’ bankruptcy plan.

Sorrell says the state opposes a provision that would relieve GM of liability for prior manufacturing problems, he told the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.

It also opposes a provision that would allow the post-bankruptcy GM to modify or terminate contracts with franchise owners, forcing them to take on new cars they don’t want and barring them from carrying other makes.

On Friday, Vermont and the other states filed the objections in a U.S. bankruptcy court, which plans a hearing at the end of the month on the proposed sale of GM to a new firm backed mostly by the U.S. Treasury.

— The Associated Press


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Brennan Woods grows arborists (6/25/09)

June 25, 2009

Since last fall, the Brennan Woods Street Tree Pruning Crew has volunteered to maintain the health and beauty of trees on local streets as part of the Pruning Initiative for Neighborhood Trees, or PINT. A recently released final grant report based on the Brennan Woods Crew indicates that the project was a success and is ready to move forward in other neighborhoods without further grant money.

With grant funding from Trees for Local Communities, which is part of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program, Williston conducted an inventory in 2005 finding that 96 percent of public trees would benefit from pruning. Since Public Works could not tackle the task alone, PINT was created in 2007 as a Community Forestry Plan calling upon local volunteers.

PINT meets for two days a year in the spring and fall and provides pruning equipment and a free training workshop.

The Brennan Woods Crew consists of 11 neighborhood volunteers and five professional volunteers, and has pruned 95 trees over 139 hours during last fall and this spring. The crew still has 344 more trees to prune.

To volunteer this fall, contact Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti at 878-6704.

— Ben Portnoy, Observer correspondent


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Local bands unite for benefit concert (6/25/09)

June 25, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Fans of two Burlington-based bands, one of which features a Williston musician, will converge Friday at South Burlington’s Higher Ground, all for a good cause.


    Courtesy photo
Collin Cope (left) and Aaron Burroughs of Funkwagon perform at a past show. Funkwagon and another local band, WAGAN, will perform at the inaugural Lundapalooza to benefit the Lund Familiy Center.

The event on June 26, the first ever “Lundapalooza,” will benefit Burlington’s Lund Family Center, a nonprofit aid organization for women, children and families. Formed in 1890, it is also Vermont’s oldest and largest adoption agency.

Performing at the concert will be the bands Funkwagon and WAGAN, as well as musician DJ Question. WAGAN is fronted by Williston-based keyboardist and vocalist Zach Rhoads. Funkwagon includes vocalist and harmonica player Collin Cope, a Lund teacher. Lundapalooza is his brain child.

Cope organized the Lundapalooza event because he wanted to create a different kind of fundraiser. As an educator with the family center, he said his love of the job led him to form the event.

“I was really wanting to do something to make a difference,” Cope said.

Staff members at Lund are also pleased with Cope’s effort and dedication.

“Collin and his band have worked with Lund staff to create a blueprint for an unconventional fundraising effort with great music,” Jen Woolf, the center’s chief development officer, said in a press release. “The approach is exciting, fresh and inspired.”

Cope said he wanted to find a way to combine his work and his music. With the help of his fellow band members, the idea of a benefit concert came to be.

“It’s kind of like my band and my work colliding together,” Cope said.

Funkwagon, a four-man group, also includes front man Aaron Burroughs, who plays keyboard and sings. Rounding out the group with Cope and Burroughs are Jacque Perron on bass and Rob Jones on drums. The band plays funk and blues music, mostly singing original material written by Burroughs and Perron. In the past year, Funkwagon has become a staple of Burlington’s lively night scene, routinely playing shows at Nectar’s and Red Square.

Cope has worked at Lund for about a year, teaching toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2. The family center has even paid for his classes to earn his associate’s degree in Child Development, he said.

Cope, a 2005 graduate of Champlain Valley Union High School, went to school with members of the band WAGAN, including Rhoads. Both groups have a love of rock and funk, with WAGAN a more blues-driven band, according to Rhoads. He said both bands find it funny they have similar names and interests, although it’s an unintentional resemblance. The groups have performed together on several occasions, most frequently at Nectar’s.

Rhoads said he discovered his love of music thanks to former Williston Central School — and now Charlotte Central School — music teacher Andy Smith. After graduating from CVU, he came together with a group of friends to start a band.

“At first, we just started by playing parties,” Rhoads said.

WAGAN includes Rhoads on keyboards and lead vocals, Chris Myers on drums, Sam Johnson on guitar, Chris Kunitz on bass and Justin Small on lead guitar. The group covers many popular rock and blues songs, with original songs written mainly by Rhoads.

WAGAN’s name came about in an interesting way, Rhoads said. He said the group didn’t have a name until someone asked at a show, and Small responded to the crowd, “We ain’t got a name.” The band was amused with the response and turned Small’s off-the-cuff remark into an acronym.

Like Funkwagon, WAGAN has played many Burlington bars and clubs. The band is now looking to book Boston and New York venues, and is also working on a studio demo recording, Rhoads said.

Rhoads said the band members of WAGAN are looking forward to helping their friends in Funkwagon put on a great Lundapalooza show. And Cope said he’s been anticipating the event all week. Both bands are hoping for a chance to play together as well.

“We want to offer some surprises,” Cope said. “It’ll definitely be different.”

Lundapalooza tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. on June 26, with the concert starting at 7:30 p.m. in Higher Ground’s Showcase Ballroom. There will also be a raffle. Items include a Burton snowboard, an iPod Nano and gift certificates for massages and oil changes. All proceeds from the concert will go toward the Lund Family Center.

Music samples from both bands are available on their Web sites, www.myspace.com/funkwagonmusic and www.myspace.com/waganband.


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Public works director stepping down after 24 years (6/25/09)

Neil Boyden to retire

June 25, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

When Neil Boyden started working for the town of Williston, there were no big box stores or 100-home subdivisions. The sewer system was still under construction. And the building that now houses Town Hall was an abandoned structure where Grange meetings used to be held.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Public Works Director Neil Boyden, shown above in his office, has announced that he plans to retire in October.

Boyden, the public works director, is stepping down after 24 years with the town. He plans to stay on until October, long enough to train his replacement.

“I guess from a purely selfish standpoint, I’m very, very sorry to see him go because he’s just been such an important part of town government for so long,” said Town Manager Rick McGuire. “Part of it is his institutional memory is tremendous. Part of it is he’s the kind of person that gets things done.”

“It’s time to move on to next phase of my life,” Boyden wrote in his resignation letter.

He acknowledged in an interview that eligibility for pension, having reached age 55 with more than 30 total years of government service, played a role in his decision.

The public works director is one of the key positions in Williston’s town government. Boyden heads a department that has more than a dozen employees and a $3.5 million annual budget. The department provides many of the town’s nuts-and-bolts services, including road maintenance, snowplowing and water and sewer infrastructure.

Boyden grew up in Waterbury and Richmond. He attended Norwich University and the University of Vermont.

Boyden worked in the Water and Sewer Department in Richmond for 13 years before being hired by the town of Williston in 1985.

He initially served as Williston’s water and sewer superintendent. Over the next few years, Boyden said he helped oversee completion of the town’s sewer system and form what would become the Public Works Department.

Boyden’s time in Williston has been marked by sweeping changes, as the town was transformed from a rural community to a bustling suburb and commercial center. Over his past two-plus decades with the town, the big-box stores were built, the town’s largest subdivisions were constructed and the building now housing Town Hall was renovated.

Boyden measured the changes in terms of water and sewer connections. He said there were at most 300 residents and businesses on the system when he started; now there are more than 3,000.

Boyden is second on the town’s seniority list. The honor for the longest-serving employee goes to his wife, Kathy, an assistant town clerk who has worked for the town for 37 years.

McGuire said Boyden months ago raised the possibility of retirement but struggled to make a final decision. Boyden said it was an emotional process, which was apparent from the catch in his voice as he described his affection for co-workers and the job itself.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I love this job. I live and breathe it.”

McGuire said he is in the beginning stages of the search for someone to fill Boyden’s position. The town will seek candidates from around the nation, although McGuire did not rule out hiring an existing town employee.

Boyden said after he steps down this fall he’ll have more time to spend with family and to pursue favorite pastimes, such as fishing. He said he may eventually find another job, perhaps a part-time position with considerably less overtime and responsibility.

“I’m going on to something different,” Boyden said. “I just don’t know what it is yet.”


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Molestation suspect brought to Vt., held without bail (6/25/09)

Kolibas arraigned in Burlington

June 25, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A Williston man accused of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl was arraigned Monday on three charges.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Robert Kolibas stands next his public defender during his arraignment in Vermont District Court on Monday. Kolibas faces charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, second degree unlawful restraint and giving a drug to a minor. Judge Ben Joseph ordered Kolibas held without bail.

Robert Kolibas pleaded not guilty in Vermont District Court in Burlington to the felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, second degree unlawful restraint and giving a drug to a minor.

Kolibas returned to Vermont over the weekend after having fled the state on May 31 before he could be arrested by police on the charges. He was apprehended on an arrest warrant in Maine on June 1 less than 25 miles from the Canadian border. Chittenden County prosecutors believe he may have been trying to flee the country.

Judge Ben Joseph ordered Kolibas held without bail after the charges were read. Kolibas appeared before the judge in shackles. Upon hearing he would be held without bail he looked down at the table in front of him and shook his head.

Kolibas is accused of molesting a friend of his daughter during a sleepover at his home on the early morning hours of May 30. According to a police affidavit, Kolibas allegedly drugged the girl, and possibly his daughter, when he gave each girl a “smoothie” drink the Friday night shortly before the alleged incident occurred. The alleged victim tested positive for the sedative benzodiazepine after a urine test was administered.

Police seized five computers and four cameras from the Kolibas home on the afternoon of the alleged incident. The alleged victim told police she saw flashes of light, possibly from a camera, while Kolibas allegedly molested her.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said the investigation is ongoing and would not reveal the contents of the computers and cameras. He said other similar incidents may have occurred at the Kolibas residence and he urged anyone with more information to contact police.

“We want no stone left unturned in this case,” Donovan said after the arraignment. “This case involves kids in our communities, kids in our schools doing something as innocuous as having a sleepover, something kids do every weekend.”

Kolibas is registered as a sex offender in Florida but, according to Donovan, the charges did not require him to register in Vermont. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Web site, Kolibas registered for the offense of providing obscene material to a minor.

Donovan said the Florida charges, which were brought against Kolibas in 1994 and 1995, started out as felonies but were reduced to misdemeanors. Therefore, Kolibas did not have to register as an offender in Vermont when he and his family moved to the state five years ago, Donovan added.

Donovan also said he was unsure if the old charges would require Kolibas to register in Vermont after a new sex offender law takes effect on July 1.

Donovan said all Florida charges would be considered as part of the ongoing investigation.


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Elusive owls nest in Williston (6/25/09)

June 25, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The residents in the Tamarack Drive neighborhood have had quite a hoot in recent weeks. Perhaps it’s because of the new neighbors that moved in last month and soon made their presence known.


    Courtesy photo by Shelley Forrest
Only a few weeks after first leaving the nest, an adolescent long-eared owl practices flying on June 14 while swooping above the Forrests’ home.

Located on the Forrest family’s property in the quiet neighborhood are seven rarely seen long-eared owls. A mating pair of these full-feathered birds decided to use the Forrest’s trees as their new home while raising five offspring, much to the joy of nearby residents.

“We’ve had so much fun watching them,” Shelley Forrest said. “We call them the little babies.”

Forrest’s husband, Corey Forrest, said he discovered the long-eared owls one night while playing outside with his children, Evan and Tyler. He saw an owl fly over his head and heard unusual chirping sounds coming from the pine trees above the family swing set. After further investigation by Shelley Forrest, the family was able to correctly identify the type of owl. Little did they know what a find it turned out to be.

“You can thank Shelley and her family for this amazing discovery, and it really is amazing,” bird expert Carl Runge said.

Runge, a member of Audubon Vermont and a former board member of the organization, also happens to be the Forrests’ neighbor. When the Forrests discovered their new feathered friends, they told Runge. And after confirming the birds were in fact long-eared owls, Runge invited several bird-watching acquaintances to witness the owls in the wild.

Runge said observing the owls has been a once in a lifetime experience for many birders in the area.

“This is a life bird for them,” Runge said. “They’ve never seen this before and might never again.”

While long-eared owls aren’t considered rare for the northeastern United States and Vermont, seeing them in the wild is considered next to impossible. The birds prefer nesting in high coniferous trees near open fields where they can hunt, but away from populous areas.

Jim Shallow, conservation and policy director for Audubon Vermont, said owls are birds that typically do not announce themselves. The fact that this owl family of seven has taken up residence in a populated neighborhood surrounded by children and pets is interesting to note, Shallow said.

“They are very uncommon and so this sighting is unusual,” Shallow said.

Shelley Forrest said the owls seemed to have adapted to their busy surroundings without much of a problem.

“They don’t seem to be frightened or skittish by us,” she said.

Runge said the last confirmed nesting pair of long-eared owls in Vermont came during a statewide study between 2003 and 2007. During that time, birders discovered a nesting pair in Charlotte. Before that, a nesting pair was confirmed in Brandon in the 1970s, Runge said.

Due to their feathers, which resemble the look of tree bark, it’s almost impossible to spot them. Runge said he relies on Evan and Tyler Forrest to find the owls every time he comes to their home to observe.

“The suspicion is that (the owls) are more common than they’re observed in Vermont,” Runge said.

Long-eared owls are smaller than their more famous great horned owl cousins. The name comes from the very noticeable tuft of feathers resembling ears on their heads. In fact, the owls’ ears are on the sides of their heads and are not related to the feathers.

The Forrests have watched the owls’ chicks grow in size in the past few weeks. First, the young birds were covered in gray down feathers. But now they’re beginning to increasingly resemble their parents.

The young have also abandoned the nest and have been following the elder owls on hunting expeditions in the nearby open fields around the Catamount Family Center. Apparently, the hunting trips have been a success, judging by the amount of owl pellets discovered around the Forrests’ home.

Runge believes the young are preparing to leave the neighborhood and find their own hunting grounds. He surmises that they may choose the trees around Catamount due to the amount of open fields for hunting. Until then, the Forrest family intends to continue watching their new friends swoop through the Williston skies.


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