September 3, 2015

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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You lookin’ at me

    Courtesy photo by Shelley Forrest
Five young long-eared owl perch above the Forrest family yard on June 10. The long-eared owls are rarely observed birds that have taken up residence in Williston’s Tamarack Drive neighborhood. See story below.

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Kolibas scheduled to be arraigned Monday (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A Williston man accused of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl will likely be arraigned Monday.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said Robert Kolibas, 50, is scheduled to go before a judge at that time in Vermont District Court in Burlington.

Kolibas is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, second degree unlawful restraint, and giving a drug to a minor. Police say he molested a 13-year-old friend of his daughter’s during a sleepover at his home in the early hours of May 30. Kolibas allegedly slipped a sedative into the teen’s smoothie drink the evening of May 29. Kolibas fled to Maine before police could arrest him in Williston on the charges.

On June 1, Kolibas was apprehended by a police officer in Washington County, Maine and held there on a warrant. On June 5, he waived extradition in a Machias, Maine courthouse and is currently incarcerated at the Washington County Corrections facility in Machias.

Donovan said Kolibas is expected to return to Vermont over the weekend. He said the state’s attorney’s office and Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department have been working on “logistics” of how and when they could bring the suspect back to Vermont.

Donovan said it’s not unusual for a delay to occur in extraditing a prisoner.

“I’d say the ballpark for this can be around 30 days,” Donovan said.

If convicted, Kolibas could face up to 20 years in prison.


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Champlain Valley Union High School Graduation

    Observer photo by Pogo Senior
Members of the Champlain Valley Union High School class of 2009 mingle moments before graduation ceremonies begin at the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium on Friday. CVU graduated 330 seniors. See story below.

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Dillos cruise to seventh win with 24 hits (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

The Williston Armadillos improved to 7-0 on Sunday, beating the 2-5 Chelsea Bat Company 17-2 in the Vermont Senior Baseball League.

The Dillos collected 24 hits, with 10 of 11 Armadillos hitting safely and nine of them scoring at least once. In addition, the team was aided by five walks from Chelsea’s pitchers. Individual offensive stars included shortstop/pitcher Greg Bolger (3-4, BB, 4 runs, 1 RBI); catcher Tom “Bambino” Fitzgerald (3-5, 1 Run, 6 RBIs); pitcher Bill Supple (3-5, 3 runs); center fielder Ray Danis (3-5, 2B, 2 runs, 2 RBIs); second baseman Pistol Pete Picard (3-5, RBI); and outfielder Billy Daw (3-5, 1 run).

On the mound, Supple picked up the win to improve his record to 4-0. He pitched the first six innings of the game, giving up two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out five. He was relieved by Bolger in the seventh inning, who pitched the final three innings, allowing no runs while surrendering five hits, striking out two and walking none.

The Dillos now lead the league in pitching with a 1.55 ERA and in hitting with a team batting average of .387. They have hammered out 121 hits in seven games while scoring 91 runs, accumulating an on-base percentage of .470 and a slugging percentage of .514.

“The team is relaxed and having fun. When you’re not pressing, the runs come easier,” the Bambino said of his teammates.

Once again, the Dillos struck in the first frame, this time for four runs, as Danis, Supple and Bolger all singled to load the bases. Second baseman Brent Tremblay (2-4, BB, 3 runs, 2 RBIs) singled, scoring Danis and Supple. Bolger and Tremblay would later score on successive groundouts by Dann “DVDV” van der Vliet (0-4, BB, 1 run, 1 RBI) and the Bambino.

After Chelsea scored one in the fourth on a double and two ground outs, the Dillos answered in the bottom of the inning by scoring seven runs after two were out and no one on. Third baseman Darby Crum (2-4, BB, 1 RBI), Daw and right fielder Brian Donahue (1-4, 1 run) all singled, and the runners advanced an extra base when the throw on Donahue’s hit was wide of the bag, allowing Crum to score. Danis then doubled in Daw and Donahue. Supple followed with a single, moving Danis to third. Both runners advanced a base, with Danis scoring, on a wild pick-off attempt at first. Bolger followed with a single to plate Supple. Tremblay walked, DVDV reached on an error, allowing Bolger to score, and the Bambino singled in Tremblay. First baseman Dennis Johnson (1-4, BB) had the dubious distinction of making the first and last outs of the inning for the Dillos.

Chelsea cut the lead to 11-2 by scoring one in the sixth, but the Dillos came right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Bolger singled, Tremblay reached on a two-base throwing error and the Bambino singled both runners home.

The Dillos plated their final four runs in the eighth inning. Supple walked, Bolger singled. After DVDV walked, the Bambino came through with another key hit to score the two lead runners. Johnson, Picard and Crum all followed with singles, the latter two scoring DVDV and the Bambino.

On Sunday, June 21, Williston travels to Harwood High School in Duxbury to take on the 3-4 Waterbury Warthogs. Game time is noon.

League standings and individual and team statistics are available online at Enter “Vermont Senior Baseball League” under league name search.


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Sports Notes (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

CVU track stars tested by New England’s best

It may have been in Champlain Valley Union High’s back or front yard (depending on one’s views of such intra-county matters), but for the first time since 1983 the New England Interscholastic Track and Field Meet came to Vermont on Saturday. Specifically, the meet took place at Burlington High School’s layout.

Six members of the CVU track and field team turned up for the high level competition and were led by Matt Sulva’s 19th-place finish in the boys’ 800-meter run.

Sulva posted a solid time of 1 minute, 59.45 seconds. The winner, Nick Wade of North Attleboro, Mass., sped around the course in 1:54.46.

The event produced the best meet finish by a Vermonter. Adron Pitman from Mount Mansfield Union High, the long-time friendly foe of the Sulva brothers, earned a ribbon by coming in third in 1:55.34.

CVU’s Tony Sulva came in 29th in the 800 and 24th in the 1,600.

Among the girls, CVU’s Maya Grevatt tied for 20th in pole vault at 9-0 feet.

Haleigh Smith took 22nd in the triple jump at 31-8.75 feet. Maddy Christian and Virginia Farley were 23rd and 24th in the 3,200 run.

Bedard bows in state scholastic golf tourney

Andre Bedard earned some medalist honors for Champlain Valley Union High in golf this past season, but last Wednesday he met stiff competition from other top Division 1 high school golfers in the tournament at Ralph Mahre Golf Course in Middlebury.

Mount Anthony Union High senior Thomas Sennett laid down a two-under par 69 marker for the best score of the day. Bedard, who made the event as an individual, toured the spread in 83 strokes. Bedard’s Redhawks had gotten nipped in regional action earlier this month, while he qualified for the event with the fifth best score.

Essex High took the team title for the third straight year, some 10 strokes better than runner-up Hartford High.

Legion ball begins

The S. D. Ireland American Legion baseball team will see lots of action this week.

Coach Jim Neidlinger’s club will be home at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, hosting Montpelier at the Champlain Valley Union High field.

On Friday, the Irelands are scheduled to open the annual weekend wooden bat tournament at CVU with a 5:30 p.m. game against visiting Saratoga, N.Y. Two more tournament home games are slated for Saturday, starting at 9:30 a.m.

The team opened its season Tuesday at home against the Burlington Lynx.


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Rebels knock CVU boys off tennis perch (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The odds favored the Champlain Valley Union High boys tennis team.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
David Hilderbrand (left) and Marc Vecchio, co-captains of the Champlain Valley Union High School boys tennis team, watch teammates warm up for last Thursday’s Division 1 title matches.

Twice victorious over the South Burlington High Rebels during the regular season, coach Frank Babbott’s 13-1 Redhawks were top-seeded for the set of championship matches last Thursday; the 10-6 Rebs came onto the courts at Davis Park in Shelburne as seventh seed.

South Burlington then completed its run through the tournament by bumping off CVU 5-2 in the matches that, once started, had to be switched to the University of Vermont’s indoor courts due to thunder and potential storms.

It was the third straight Division 1 crown for South Burlington and its sixth in the last eight seasons. In 2008, the Rebels charged from sixth seed to win.

Keys to the South Burlington triumph were wins by its top three players over CVU’s ranking racket men.

The Hawks’ top slammer, David Hilderbrand, fell to the Rebels’ Steve Bolger in an epic struggle, 6-3, 4-6 and 7-5. It was Bolger’s first win this season over the CVU star.

In the second slot, South Burlington’s Mark Mallory lost to the Redhawks’ Marc Vecchio 3-6 in the first set, but then rallied for 6-3 and 6-2 victories.

The number three pairing went to the Rebels’ Brad Cole over CVU’s Tabor deGroot, 6-3 and 6-0.

The Red and White wins came from Liam Kelley in straight sets singles and the doubles team of Will Hurd and Corey Dawson, also in straight sets.

CVU’s only other loss this season was to Stowe High, which was top-seeded in the Division 2 championship.


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Title time for CVU girls tennis team (6/18/09)

Coach departs on high, watery note

June 18, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

“Since I’ll be leaving this job, I would like to go out with a bang,” Champlain Valley Union High girls tennis coach Chris Hood said last Thursday, as his team was swapping forehands and backhands with Burlington High in the championship matches at Davis Park in Shelburne.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Champlain Valley Union High tennis player Cassie Smith launches a serve toward her opponent, Burlington’s Alex Suppan, during the Division 1 team championships last Thursday. Smith won her match to stay undefeated in the season, and CVU took the title, 4-3.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Colleen McCarthy of CVU winds up for a shot during her match at the state’s Division 1 tennis championships.


Coach Chris Hood

Hood got his wish. The Redhawks bumped off the Seahorses 4-3 to capture their second Division 1 team tournament crown in three years and the third during Hood’s 10-year stint at the helm.

The coach’s departure included some wet stuff, and not the rain that fell later in the afternoon.

After Hood playfully poured some water on number one player Cassie Smith while she was being interviewed by television reporters, Smith and a teammate — the bucket required two to haul it — moments later laid a deluge on the coach.

“There, we got him back,” Smith said with a chuckle.

It was another victory for Smith, who won her match on the court, 6-4 and 7-6, over Burlington’s Alex Suppan. Smith took the tiebreaker 7-2.

The CVU senior has not lost a match in Vermont for the past two seasons and rolled up individual championships both years. This year she lost just one set, in the season opener back in April against Essex High.

Since then, a perfecto.

Joining Smith with victories Thursday were juniors Kylie de Groot, Abby Stoner and Colleen McCarthy. De Groot became the second Redhawk to put up an undefeated season, rolling past the Seahorses’ Sophie Reville, 6-2 and 6-1.

Freshman Anna Clare Smith lost her singles match to BHS’s Clara Gottesman.

The two doubles teams also got nipped, but CVU’s Kate Farley and Catherine Akin put up a mighty struggle before bowing 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.

“This is a great way to top off my senior year,” said Smith, who will go to Connecticut College in the fall where, yes, she will play tennis.

When was the last time she lost in Vermont?

“My sophomore year,” Smith replied. How many times? She put up two fingers.

With seniors Farley and Akin departing along with Smith, there remain several veterans coming back next spring to mount another Red and White assault on a title.


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Departing staff expected to benefit school budget (6/18/09)

New hires chosen from massive applicant pool

June 18, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

With nine teachers and staff leaving the Williston School District, administrators have been busy searching for replacements from an immense pool of applicants. Yet for all the time the administration has spent and must still devote to the hiring process, the new employees could save the district tens of thousands of dollars in the upcoming school year.

Since April, District Principal Walter Nardelli said his administration has been hiring new teachers to replace those not returning next school year. Seven staff members are retiring, while two others are pursuing careers elsewhere. The district has already hired two new team members for Swift House; former teacher Jason Lamb has left to pursue a master’s degree and longtime teacher Al Myers passed away unexpectedly in April.

Positions have also been filled for retiring Allen Brook School teachers Jane Wilson, Nancy Leonard, and Jeanne Desilets said Principal John Terko. Only Charlie Wilson’s technology educator position has yet to be filled, Nardelli said.

Nardelli also announced this week that John Duncan, a Williston teacher for 42 years, retired at the close of school last week. Duncan’s upper house teaching position will not be filled, Nardelli said. A larger-than-average number of eighth graders will move up to Champlain Valley Union High School in the fall. Full House, where Duncan taught, will therefore revert back to a four-person team, Nardelli said.

Record applications

Terko said the response to job openings was enormous this year. When he advertised for a third and fourth grade teacher in April to replace Desilets’ position at Allen Brook, he received 270 applications. That’s 150 more than that he would normally see for that type of position and the most he can remember.

“I was shocked,” Terko said.

Thanks to the large number of applications, Terko was able to find teachers to replace Leonard and Wilson, as well.

Terko said he received applications from all 50 states, and even a few from the United Kingdom. To pare down the vast number of applications, Terko said he set up a list of criteria to consider, which included experience and licensure. After narrowing the applicants to a list of 50 or 60, a committee picked eight people to interview.

“When you want to make sure you have a good teacher and the right fit, you want to spend the time reading every one,” Terko said.

Terko said there are a few reasons for the high number of applications. A slow economy and shifting 401ks are keeping teachers from retiring early. And an influx of recent college graduates with teaching degrees creates a bubble, Terko said. Add the fact that many schools across the country have cut teachers and it’s not unthinkable to receive double the normal amount of applications.

“Certainly, it’s all economy driven,” Terko said.

Budgetary changes

In terms of next school year’s budget, Nardelli said he had taken into account three retirements when formulating the budget earlier this winter. Though it’s too early to tell how much money will be saved by the more recent departures, Nardelli expects a large surplus in the budget. When longtime teachers retire at higher pay grades and new teachers are hired at lower pay grades, it changes the numbers, he said. Another factor is whether the new teachers will sign on for the district’s health care plan.

“It’s complicated because we don’t know the final numbers yet,” Nardelli said. “We might not know until September.”

Excess budget money is placed in a fund balance for emergency purposes and to go toward projects that need immediate attention. For instance, the School Board agreed at this Monday’s meeting to place $50,000 from this year’s budget surplus in the school’s construction fund to replace windows and carpets. Another $50,000 went to offset the school’s food service fund. The fund experienced a shortfall this year, though Nardelli said the deficit was half of last year’s.

School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said it’s always good to have a surplus at the end of a budget year for emergencies. As for next year’s budget, “we’re in a better place than we thought we’d be in,” Worth said.


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Police Notes (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

Whipped cream found

A cooler with about 20 half-empty cans of whipped cream was found behind Vermont Furniture Galleries on Blair Park Road on June 12, according to police reports. No other information was released.

Driving under the influence

Benjamin Lagrow, 24, of Williston was cited on a charge of driving under the influence following a motor vehicle stop on June 10, according to police reports. Lagrow’s blood alcohol test registered .185, according to the report. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08. He was cited to appear in court.

Wanted person

Gregory M. Allard, 24, of Waterbury was arrested on June 12 on an outstanding warrant for “failure to appear,” and was cited on charges of having an expired vehicle registration and driving with a suspended license, according to police reports.


• On June 8, police received a report that 60 to 80 pounds of copper had been stolen from a construction site on Harvest Lane that was being worked on by Essex-based A. Cooper Mechanical, according to police reports. The case is under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611.

• An Eagle Crest resident reported to police on June 9 that cash was stolen from her purse sometime between June 6 and 7, according to police reports. The investigation is ongoing.

• Arthur Beshaw, 54, of Essex was cited on a charge of retail theft from Wal-Mart on June 9 after allegedly stealing $12 worth of merchandise, according to police reports. Beshaw, who is on “federal parole,” was cited into court, the report notes.

• A black Mariner 25 horsepower outboard motor valued at $800 was stolen off a boat in the yard of an Essex Road resident on June 10, according to police reports. The case is under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Williston Police at 878-6611.

• Brian Kasuba, 34, of Burlington was cited on June 13 on a charge of retail theft from Wal-Mart and was taken to Chittenden County Correctional Center on an unrelated “arrest warrant,” according to police reports. No other information was released.

Simple assault

• A 16-year-old from the Jean Garvin School on Harvest Lane was cited on charges of simple assault, disorderly conduct and unlawful mischief on June 8, according to police reports. The teen was cited to appear in court.

• A 15-year-old was cited on a charge of simple assault at Northeastern Family Institute on June 10, according to police reports. No other information was released.

No trespassing

Michael D. Parker, 31, of Colchester and Kristin Perrin, 25, of Burlington were issued no trespassing citations from Wal-Mart on June 8, according to police reports. No other information was released.

Driving with suspended license

• Following a motor vehicle stop on June 8, Sara L. Young, 18, of Burlington was cited on a charge of “criminal” driving with a suspended license, according to police reports. No other information was released.

• On June 10, Gary R. Marsha, 29, of Stowe was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court on July 6.

• Aaron Lafountain, 25, of Jericho was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on June 12, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

• Following a motor vehicle collision on June 12, Sean M.K. Parker, 28, of Hinesburg was cited on a charge of “criminal” driving with a suspended license, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.


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