April 24, 2014

Everyday Gourmet (6/18/09)

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Tostadas for Dada

June 18, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Father’s Day is celebrated Sunday, so usher in glorious summer by firing up the grill. A build-your-own-tostada meal is just the kind of feast any dad will appreciate: Bold flavors, a chockablock of protein, no utensils required and it all pairs well with beer. Locally available microbrews — a few clicks up the flavor meter — make for a festive gift: Try Oro de Calabaza, Artisan Golden; Allagash ‘Tripel Reserve’ Ale; or Vermont’s own Magic Hat #9. (Don’t forget the kid’s root beer!)

The grilled corn tostadas, a kind of mini flatbread, provide a crunchy platform for meat, black bean salad and toppings. Kids can help prep the 6-inch corn disks by lightly finger-painting each side with a bit of canola oil; disks go on a hot grill, toasting until crisp with lovely char-marks on each side. (Prep them one hour ahead and rest at room temperature.) Go ahead and grill the meat up to one hour ahead, too: Just seal the meat into double layers of foil and set the packets on a platter to rest. Now, it’s time to sit back and relax with that microbrew, ‘cuz there’s a whole lotta Dada love going on here.

Classic Tostada

Ingredients: corn tortillas; grilled flank or sirloin steak, thinly sliced; grilled chicken breasts, thinly sliced; grilled shrimp.

Toppings: shredded pepper jack cheese; ribbon-cut romaine lettuce; salsas.

Black Bean Salad

Dice a red, yellow and orange sweet bell pepper and add to a large prep bowl. Rinse and drain 2 cans of black beans; add to peppers. Add 1 cup of diced cucumber and 1 cup of red onion. Add 2 handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves.

Dressing: Combine 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar, a large pinch of salt and red pepper flakes, 3 minced garlic cloves. Shake well and pour over the salad. Just before serving, cut 2 ripe avocados into small cubes and gently fold them into the salad.

Bonus Rice Cheese Bake

Combine 3 cups cooked white or brown rice, 6 sliced scallions, 7 ounces canned green chilies, 2 chopped zucchini, 12 ounces sour cream, 1 can diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro. Pour into a baking dish and cover with 12 ounces of shredded Monterey jack cheese; bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 8.

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 kimdannies.com.

 

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Little Details (6/18/09)

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Meanwhile, at the White House

June 18, 2009

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Are you wearing guest passes?” the Secret Service agent asked sternly.

My heart sank. We were busted.

As a parent chaperoning Williston Central School students at the White House on June 3, I relished wandering the Blue Room, Red Room and State Dining Room wide-eyed, dazzled by crystal chandeliers and carved mantelpieces.

Chatting with Secret Service agents provided numerous teachable moments. The kids learned to study hard in college, maintain good credit and never ever smoke marijuana. Landing a job protecting America’s political elite requires navigating multiple hoops of selectivity.

Asked about their favorite part of their job, the agents overwhelmingly answered, “Travel.”

“I’ve been to Europe more times than I can count,” one agent mused. “Pakistan was hard though. We drank bottled water that ended up being tainted. We got so sick.”

Friendly conversation ended abruptly as I struggled to respond to the agent’s question about our seeming indiscretion.

“Actually, Brian * told us to tuck them in our shirts during the self-guided tour,” I stammered. “He isn’t going to get into trouble, is he?”

“No,” the agent said, “but I need for you to hand me the passes.”

We reluctantly turned over the trinkets, which would have unlocked behind-the-scenes mysteries of the White House. Queen Elizabeth might get to see the President’s Reception Room. I wanted to rummage around the basement to meet real people who work to keep America’s First Home running smoothly. (We did see the Reception Room and the carpet Laura Bush commissioned but ultimately disliked. We thought it looked just fine.)

Crestfallen, we proceeded to our agreed-upon meeting place with Brian. I explained to the kids that, without passes, Brian wouldn’t be able to take us beyond tourist areas. I feared we got him into trouble.

Brian met us with a sly smile and playfully removed our passes from his pocket. He played a joke on us, enlisting the staid Secret Service agent in the ruse. His sister-in-law, my colleague in Vermont, warned me that he loved practical jokes.

Brian grew up in Montpelier and worked for Ben & Jerry’s before landing the job of HVAC guru at the White House. He keeps the First Family warm in winter and cool in summer. It’s clear he loves his job and enjoys his colleagues. He stressed that staff are apolitical — their job is to serve whoever is in office, regardless of affiliation.

Brian poked his head in the private movie theater and we were invited in by the cleaning crew. I asked if they felt well-treated by the Obamas.

“Oh, yes,” the woman said. “The president came into our break room and was like, ‘What’s up, guys?’”

“When the girls have friends over, they throw blankets on the floor in front of the seats,” Brian said. “The White House gets movies before they’re released to theaters.”

I guess Malia and Sasha will see the new Harry Potter flick before it hits Vermont.

Stepping inside President Obama’s elevator provided a personal thrill. Jay, the older black gentleman who serves as operator, welcomed us into the carved wood interior. I checked my hair in the mirror as the president might before returning upstairs for dinner with Michelle and the girls.

We left the gilded hallways of the main floor, descending into the basement. Carpeting gave way to cement and a doorframe bearing singed stonework from the burning of the White House by the British in the War of 1812. Thick pipes skimmed low ceilings. The hum of motors and machinery accompanied our visit to the florist, where friendly staffers arranged flowers from White House gardens. We stepped inside the walk-in refrigerator, dazzled by tantalizing, aromatic blooms — many of them roses, of course.

The kitchen, from which state dinners are prepared, appeared spotless amid a sea of stainless steel. It was far smaller than any commercial kitchen I’d ever worked in.

The White House bowling alley, a two-laner built during President Nixon’s administration, was a hit with the kids. We picked up balls emblazoned with the presidential seal but did not dare a roll.

The buzz of activity was palpable as staffers who kept the White House safe, clean and climate-controlled went about their business.

Brian, who’s worked in the White House since the 1980s, was once called to the Oval Office to address a problem with the fireplace. He opened the door and, to his surprise, found President Reagan sitting at his desk.

“Pardon me, Mr. President,” Brian said, a little startled. “I didn’t realize you were here. I’ll come back later, sir.”

“It’s no problem,” Reagan said. “Come on in.”

Brian worked on the chimney with his tools. Reagan engaged him in friendly conversation about football. Brian said Reagan changed his demeanor significantly when his wife Nancy was around. She held considerable sway over her husband and disapproved of his fraternizing with staff. Once Nancy departed, the banter resumed.

Brian spoke well of the current First Family’s graciousness and commented that, when home, President Obama requests a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call because he likes to get his girls up for school.

How you treat those who work for you is more telling than how you treat those who work with you. I delighted in learning that the current inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. treat behind-the-scenes staff well. To me, that’s real class.


* Last name omitted to protect confidentiality

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at [email protected] or [email protected]

 

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Letters to the Editor (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

A family touched

Williston students, teachers, faculty and community, we wanted to thank you so much for the warmth and generosity that all of you shared with our family following Allen’s passing this April. The school community was truly Al’s “second family” and he would have been so touched, as we were, by your outpouring of love and support.

The celebration of his life that you hosted was a wonderful way to honor him. We were so appreciative of the chance to share memories, music and stories with some of the people most important to him.

Warmest wishes and deepest thanks from all of us.

Deborah Hardy, Briana Myers, Eli Myers, Meredith (Myers) Gordon and husband Andy Gordon, Family of former Williston Central School teacher Allen Myers

Dwindling resource

If you do a random survey of 20 people on Church Street in Burlington asking about the greatest threat to the world’s population, you will probably get replies such as global warming, a pandemic disease or terrorism. Those threats pale in comparison to the global water shortage that many scientists believe has already started. Human beings can last up to a month without food, but only days without water.

There are 36 states in the U.S. that are predicted to face water shortages in the next five years, according to an estimate by the U.S. government. There are also 80 countries worldwide that are facing water shortages. This number will only rise in the coming years. Water may well become an even scarcer resource than oil. Inevitably, conflicts will spawn over it. There has been a surprisingly small amount of press regarding this issue, and the threat remains underappreciated by the general populace.

We need to be aware of this issue, because even though many people might think that it is a problem that is far-off in the future, it is happening right now. We need to spread awareness of this imminent threat to the world, and change the way we act to start dealing with it now.

There are many ways to save water at home. One of the best is to install low-flow faucet aerators. These can be found at any hardware store. Many other tips for saving water can be found by searching “water conservation” on the Internet.

Greg Meyer, Williston

Pretending to follow the law

My son Max Palmer led the graduation ceremony at Williston Central School last week. During the rehearsal Ms. Jackie Parks, the principal, told the attendees that it was OK to do the Pledge of Allegiance without a flag present and that they could just pretend that there was a flag. During the actual ceremony, again no flag was present and the Pledge went on without a flag.

The following Federal Law (Title 35, Chapter 10, Section 172) may interest the school staff, but then again it might not. The public might be interested in what our children are learning.

§172. Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery:

“The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.”

Shelley Palmer, Williston

 

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Guest Column (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

Vermont ‘goes dry’

By Ginger Isham

I don’t think any law was ever passed so quickly as H.446, the one allowing Vermonters to hang out their wash. What a wonderful law!

This reminded me of when my mother would hang out the wash. She would spread the towels on the grass, saying the sun would do a better job bleaching them. Anytime there was not enough line space she would put clothes on the grass.

When I first moved to the farm, we had a clothesline in back of the house. When winter came, a clothesline was strung across the front porch.

When the babies came, I remember hanging cloth diapers on the line in the winter and bringing them in at the end of the day, “stiff as a board.” I hung them over clothes bars, for they quickly “melted” when brought into a warm room. I always thought the moisture they created was good for us and the rooms smelled good, too.

Today I still hang out the wash in the backyard in warm weather, but tend to like my dryer in the winter. Then I sometimes partially dry clothes in the dryer and then hang them on clothes bars or clothes hangers to finish drying.

On a recent trip to the Vermont Country Store in Weston, I saw all kinds of laundry in public view in front of the store on clotheslines and clothes bars. There were men’s socks, briefs, shirts and more. This reminded me of a step the Legislature left out in the language of H.446 — how to hang your laundry.

•    After winter is over, run a cloth over the clothesline to clean it, unless you bring it in for the winter; there is a dirty black substance on the line.

•    Tighten the lines, as warm and cold weather cause them to sag.

•     Hang the whites together and the darks together.

•     Hang shirts by the bottom so the seams and sleeves can blow and dry.

•    Hang them out in the cold weather so they “freeze dry” and then bring them inside to finish drying.

•     Always hang those unmentionables on the inside lines, so they’re out of sight.

•    Hang towels and sheets on the outside lines.

•     Bring clothes in before dew sets in and makes them damp.

•     Always bring in the clothespins after each wash as they become stained and can stain your wet clothes.

•    Fold laundry as you remove it from the line so it doesn’t wrinkle.

•    Never hang out wash on Sunday.

•    Shake the line of clothes before removing them, for sometimes there are little insects attached. I have found beetles in the corners of my fitted sheets when I went to put them on the bed.

Some of the disadvantages of hanging out the wash, if you have children, is kids playing hide and seek behind the laundry or running through the clothesline of clothes. Another is that usually in the early summer I have a sheet or towel a bird has spotted!

The advantage in a small and close neighborhood is visiting over the laundry. On the other hand, your laundry can tell your neighbors a little about you. If there is no laundry for a few days you may be on vacation and if a new member has arrived the clothes on the line will spread the news.

Ginger Isham writes the biweekly “Recipe Corner” column for the Observer. She is a longtime Williston resident.

 

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Correction (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

A photo of the Muddy Brook cleanup effort that appeared in last week’s issue of the Observer incorrectly identified the people pictured. The people were Kevin Batson, Kathy Hudson and Matt Stone.

 

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Around Town (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

Relay for Life comes to Vermont

In recognition of Relay for Life’s 25th anniversary, Dr. Gordy Klatt, the founder of the cancer research fundraiser, is coming to Vermont.

Klatt will make the opening remarks at the Relay for Life of Chittenden County, set for June 19-20 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, and the Relay for Life of Northeast Kingdom on June 20-21.

During Relay for Life events, teams of walkers camp near a path or track and take turns walking that route.

Olivia Aiken, a cancer survivor and co-chairwoman for Relay for Life of the Northeast Kingdom, invited Klatt to Vermont. Klatt started the event 25 years ago after a friend died of cancer. Since then, Relay for Life has raised more than $1.7 billion to fight cancer and support those living with it. More than 1,000 Chittenden County residents have already registered for this weekend’s event, raising more than $154,000.

To sign up or donate, visit www.relayforlife.org.

Family tennis

With help from U.S. Professional Tennis Association pro Nick Marchand, Williston is hosting the Pilot Pen Tennis Family Classic from June 19-21 at Sports & Fitness Edge. The tournament has given families the chance to play alongside tennis pros for the past nine years.

Williston will host three tournaments, including Husband/Wife, Father/Child and Mother/Child doubles tournaments. The cost is $15 per team. Winning teams advance to the Regional Tournament on July 25-26 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University.

To register, contact the Williston  Recreation Department at 878-1239.

Maple Tree Place offers summer concerts

The classic rock band Fox & Company kicks off the Groovin’ On The Green concert series on Thursday. The concerts run from June 18 – Aug. 20 at Maple Tree Place in Williston, and music ranges from blues to a capella to bluegrass.

Thursday’s concert opens with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. to unveil a new band shell on The Green at Maple Tree Place.

Shows begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.shopmtp.com.

 

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Sunrooms approved at Churchview Estates (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Development Review Board revisited a request last week for a design change on several units in the Churchview Estates subdivision. Developer Rene Thibault asked the board to allow sunrooms to be built on eight units; the units were originally approved in 2007 for decks, not sunrooms.

The board unanimously agreed that four units, spread across two duplex homes, could be built with three-season sunrooms. Four units were denied the sunrooms.

The board agreed last July to allow sunrooms on two units. That duplex is thus far the only home completed in the development, located off Old Stage Road near U.S. 2 in the Village zoning district. Another duplex, also with two sunrooms, is under construction.

When completed, the Churchview Estates subdivision will be a nine-acre, private, senior living community. Plans for the 17-unit development call for a mix of duplexes and single-family homes. All will be two-bedroom, two-bathroom units with a two-car garage, with prices ranging from approximately $300,000 to $325,000.

After receiving permission to make changes to the two units last July, Thibault went before the board again in September to request changes on four more units. The board denied that request. Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the board asked Thibault for more information regarding the proposed sunrooms, since they would be changing the footprint of the homes. He said Thibault was not able to provide specifics at the time.

“The problem with the (Development Review Board) is that they were sort of guessing (at the final design),” Belliveau said.

Thibault appealed the board’s decision to the Environmental Court of Vermont. The court hears all appeals dealing with local development boards and can overturn decisions.

Belliveau said parties from the town and Churchview Estates attended a mediation meeting in March. It was agreed that Thibault could again request changes to any units he wanted, but that the Development Review Board did not have to approve the changes. Belliveau also said the mediator urged Thibault to bring an engineer to a future meeting with the board.

At the last Development Review Board meeting on Tuesday, June 9, Thibault’s engineer, Debra Bell of Trudell Consulting Engineers, accompanied him. Bell provided the board with detailed measurements and statistics for all units in question.

Though he eventually voted to allow the four new sunrooms, board Chairman Kevin McDermott appeared wary of the changes during discussion.

“We didn’t pass these (in 2007) to be as big as you want them to be, but that’s just my opinion,” McDermott told Thibault.

Belliveau said Thibault has the right to appeal the most recent Development Review Board decision. Belliveau also said if Churchview Estates can be fully built according to its plans, it would be a good addition to the village.

“If we had a little more population here, it’ll go a long way in helping to support the local businesses,” Belliveau said.

 

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Delayed financial audit holds up contract dispute between Comcast and RETN (6/18/09)

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June 18, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Officials at the Regional Educational Technology Network are wondering when a promised audit of their finances will be released, after cable provider Comcast stated a report would be completed by May.

RETN provides educational coverage of local school districts, including Williston. Comcast hosts RETN on channel 16.

As part of a contract dispute between the two parties, Comcast was due to issue an auditor’s report detailing RETN’s assets last month. RETN Executive Director Scott Campitelli said he does not know why the report is late and the delay is leaving the small cable access organization “in limbo.”

“We only know that it’s obviously taking longer than (Comcast) expected,” Campitelli said.

Campitelli also said the process is becoming more expensive as it drags on, with increased lawyer fees and other costs.

RETN released a statement last week outlining the steps it has taken to work with Comcast. Campitelli said that now it’s time for Comcast to hold up its end of the deal.

“I’m not surprised Comcast failed to deliver its report as promised,” Campitelli said in the statement. “It’s consistent with their behavior throughout these negotiations. Apparently Comcast believes RETN should be held to a higher standard than it is capable of meeting itself.”

Since November 2007, RETN has been in a contract dispute with Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company. Per federal law, Comcast uses cable subscriber fees to fund local access programming, including RETN.

Comcast has argued that RETN’s finances were not up to spec and told the Vermont Public Service Board it would not renew its contract with RETN South, which covers educational events for Charlotte, Ferrisburgh, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Vergennes.

RETN North’s contract does not expire until 2011, although Comcast has petitioned the Public Service Board to suspend that contract. RETN North broadcasts in Burlington, Essex, Essex Junction, St. George, South Burlington, Williston and Winooski.

In February, both sides met before the Public Service Board in a preliminary hearing. At that time, RETN stated it had made some changes Comcast had requested in terms of its finances and purchases. RETN declined to make other changes, claiming they would usurp the authority of the organization’s governing board, Campitelli said. The board is made up of representatives from the communities RETN serves.

To keep RETN functioning during contract negotiations, both sides agreed to an interim funding deal. Comcast also stated it would audit RETN and have a report available by mid-May. It was expected that both sides would meet again before the Public Service Board this month for a status conference. But Campitelli said it might be July before both parties meet.

Kristen Roberts, a public relations spokesperson for Comcast, said an independent auditor is in the midst of finalizing the report. She said the process has taken longer than expected due to scheduling conflicts between the auditor, Comcast and RETN. Roberts also said the auditor did not receive all the information it requested from RETN until early May.

“We look forward to reviewing the report and expect to provide the findings to the Public Service Board and RETN within the next several weeks,” Roberts said in an e-mail to the Observer.

When the report is released, Campitelli expects it to reflect well on RETN’s finances and the changes it has made in the past 18 months.

“We know our financial integrity is intact,” Campitelli said. “Knowing how we operate, we know there will be no problems.”

During the audit process, RETN hired its own independent certified personal accountant to help prepare documents for Comcast. The CPA did not find anything out of the ordinary, Campitelli said.

Campitelli also said RETN plans to file a counter petition with the Public Service Board in the coming weeks. He said Comcast’s demands for stringent oversight go beyond what RETN’s board believes is fair and take away the organization’s ties to the community.

Meanwhile, the national organization Alliance for Community Media recently awarded RETN its “Overall Excellence in Educational Access” award. RETN won in the cable access category for organizations with annual budgets between $200,001 and $499,999. Officials from RETN will receive the award next month.

 

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Board chooses new classroom configuration (6/18/09)

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Option A eliminates need for temporary classrooms

June 18, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

More than a year after a number of parents called for changes in the Williston School District’s configuration, the School Board unanimously voted for major restructuring.

Starting in the 2010-2011 school year, a new district configuration will form at Allen Brook and Williston Central schools. All pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first and second grade students will be housed at Allen Brook. Students in third through eighth grade will be housed at Williston Central.

Currently, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and some first through fourth grade students attend Allen Brook. Other first through fourth grade students are at Williston Central, which also holds all fifth through eighth grade classrooms.

A small number of parents and staff turned out to hear the final configuration decision, made Monday afternoon at Williston Central. One parent raised concerns over equity with the new configuration, while another supported the change and urged administrators to take time while determining the final details.

“It has the ability to solve a lot of problems,” parent Nicki Layman said.

The school administration developed the configuration late last year for consideration by the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee, a group formed to find the ideal classroom structure for the district. The building configuration, known as Option A, originally failed to garner support due to a lack of available space in both schools. Last month, however, the administration released enrollment projections for 2010-2011, which indicated that space would be available.

The numbers also showed that temporary classrooms at Allen Brook would no longer be required. A temporary building permit for the trailers expires with the town in February. The board indicated that Option A would positively impact the town, since taxpayers will not need to foot the bill for a possible addition or classroom refurbishments. Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said comments from the public in the last few weeks centered on the trailer situation.

“The community was very supportive of getting rid of the modulars this way instead of refurbishing them,” Worth said.

New classroom structure

Under Option A, lower house teams of first through fourth grade will be split into first and second grade houses at Allen Brook and third and fourth grade houses at Williston Central. Allen Brook Principal John Terko said four new lower houses would be created, though the exact structure has yet to be determined.

Terko said with the new configuration, Allen Brook would hold 385 students. The building is designed for 400, he said, and the school currently has 470 students with the temporary classrooms.

For Williston Central School’s upper houses, the board decided to allow two structures. Some houses will maintain the current four-year, multi-age classroom configuration, and new two-year houses could be created for families that don’t like the four-year system. Williston Central Principal Jackie Parks said the school would survey parents, and use that input to determine how the new houses will be set up.

Parks said Williston Central will hold roughly 740 students. Three new houses for third and fourth grade will be created. Six upper house teams will also form, with four four-year houses and two two-year houses. Parks said that formation could change.

Parks also told the board that space would be limited at Williston Central, with language and math labs, along with four offices, needing relocation. There would be just enough available classroom space, she added.

“Overall, I’d say it’s tight, but doable,” Parks said.

While the Frameworks Committee did not spend much time discussing Option A during its months of configuration research, the board was quick to acknowledge the group’s hard work. Discussions on multi-age structures and communication were invaluable, the board said.

“Look at the conversation that came up within the community,” Worth said.

Parent Kevin Mara, a Frameworks Committee member, said the group likely would have recommended Option A had it seen updated enrollment projections and known the temporary classrooms would become obsolete.

But parent Ann Smith warned there might be problems with the new configuration.

“To me, it has inequity written all over it,” Smith said.

Worth said the Frameworks Committee will discuss equity in the next school year. The equity issue was the third charge the School Board asked the committee to research, in addition to communication and configuration. Facilitator Mary Jane Shelley hopes the committee can reconvene over the summer to get started on the final piece.

 

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Roundabout debate shifts to speed limits (6/18/09)

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State to study traffic on Routes 2 and 2A

June 18, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The great roundabout debate took an unexpected turn on Monday as the Selectboard moved toward reducing speed limits on two Williston thoroughfares.

The board voted to ask the state to study traffic on U.S. 2 in and around the village and on Vermont 2A north of Taft Corners. The study could be a precursor to lowering speed limits on both thoroughfares to improve safety.

The board invited Vermont Agency of Transportation representatives to answer questions about the consequences of reversing a previous decision to install a roundabout at the intersection where U.S. 2 meets North Williston and Oak Hill roads.

That vote two months ago angered many residents, hundreds of whom have since signed a petition saying the traffic improvement is unwanted and unnecessary.

Earlier this month, the Selectboard voted 3-2 to reaffirm its choice. Board member Jeff Fehrs, who cast the swing vote, said he might change his mind but first wanted more information.

Kevin Marshia and Josh Schultz from the Agency of Transportation answered numerous questions about the implications of a change of heart. Because the traffic-clogged intersection is ranked as among the most dangerous in Vermont, the nearly $1 million cost of a roundabout would be entirely funded by the federal government.

“What I’m trying to do is make sure we’re not losing the opportunity for funding by making a decision tonight or in the near future,” Fehrs said.

Schultz said as long as the intersection stays on the 50-most-dangerous list, funding will be available to either install a roundabout or a traffic light. Accident data collected over a multi-year period is considered when forming the list, which is revised annually.

Marshia said there were 25 crashes at the intersection over a multi-year period ending in 2006. But roundabout opponents assert that accidents have decreased since a flashing beacon was installed warning motorists of the four-way stop sign at the corner.

Schultz said if the accident rate falls in the future, the intersection could be moved off the list, eliminating the chance for federal funding. He also noted the state would not unilaterally impose intersection improvements.

“We’re with you folks, and that’s how we anticipate playing it,” Schultz said.

The discussion then turned to other steps that might improve safety, including reducing the speed limit along U.S. 2. Roundabout opponents had urged the town to consider lower limits rather than make changes at the intersection that they said would alter the character of the historic village.

Schultz said the Agency of Transportation considers requests to alter speed limits along state and federal highways on a case-by-case basis.

After receiving a request by town officials, the agency conducts a study that looks at how fast traffic moves on the road in question and a host of other factors, Schultz said. The idea is to make the speed limit match the actual speed of 85 percent of motorists.

The study is then forwarded to the Vermont Traffic Committee, which sets speed limits and other traffic regulations on state highways.

Board member Judy Sassorossi said as long as the town was going to seek lower speed limits on U.S. 2, for the sake of consistency it should also ask for lower limits on Vermont 2A, where bicycles and pedestrians have to dodge speeding vehicles.

Board member Ted Kenney expressed doubts that reduced speed limits would improve safety. Nonetheless, he made separate motions that called on the state to study speeds on three stretches: U.S. 2 east of the North Williston Road intersection; U.S. 2 westward from the intersection to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church; and Vermont 2A between Taft Corners and the Essex Junction town line.

The board voted 4-0 to approve the motions.

However, the decision is not likely to be the last word in the intersection saga. The board asked for additional information on the roundabout design as well as more traffic data with an eye toward a future meeting on the subject.

Even the decision on the speed limit was carefully crafted to allow for a change of course. Because the board only asked the Agency of Transportation to “study and evaluate” speeds, it still needs another vote to actually request a speed limit reduction before the state will consider changes.

 

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