May 20, 2018

Trustees put Pine Ridge School on the market (7/23/09)

July 23, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The property and facilities at Pine Ridge School are for sale to schools, nonprofit groups or any other organization that might be interested. The school’s board of trustees chairman, Mitch Roman, said the property has been on the market since the school’s final graduating class exited in June.

Buyers are looking at a $4.5 million price tag, which will also cover debt accrued by the school in recent years. While Roman said he did not know the school’s total debt, Pine Ridge officials said in March it was estimated at approximately $3 million.

The alternative learning school closed after years of financial difficulties grew even worse under the current economic downturn. Since the middle of June, the campus has sat quietly off Route 2 on French Hill. According to Roman, only a few maintenance staff remain to oversee the property.

“It’s pretty much vacant right now,” said Roman, a former student of Pine Ridge from the 1970s.

Roman said there’s been some interest in the property, including from different private schools and organizations. While school officials would love to fill the campus with another school like Pine Ridge, they are looking at any organization at this point, Roman said.

One group almost purchased the property last month, but the deal fell through, Roman said. He would not reveal the organization.

The $4.5 million asking price for the nearly 100-acre property includes the student dormitory, classroom buildings, administrative offices and athletic fields. Roman said the property is not formally advertised anywhere, but has traveled by word-of-mouth through nonprofit organization circles. Roman also added the board of trustees would accept a “best offer” from any interested parties.

Pine Ridge School formed in 1968 as an alternative learning center for middle and high school students with dyslexia. In recent years, the school took on students with other learning and behavioral problems, which officials said steered Pine Ridge from its original mission. It was also around that time that Pine Ridge experienced yearly financial losses, which some blamed on poor administrative oversight and over-staffing.

In 2007, Dana Blackhurst took over as headmaster and attempted to bring Pine Ridge back to its roots by teaching only students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. Enrollment dropped from nearly 100 students in 2007 to just more than 20 during the past school year. Pine Ridge also experienced deep cuts in staffing.

Despite making changes to the school, Blackhurst announced in the spring that Pine Ridge would close for good.

Roman said the school is unlikely to be resurrected any time soon.

“We’re not going to open as Pine Ridge again,” Roman said.


[Read more…]

School plans to remove temporary classrooms (7/23/09)

July 23, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Officials with the Williston School District will go before the Development Review Board next month to discuss a master plan for the temporary classrooms at Allen Brook School.

A temporary building permit for the classrooms expires in February, and school administrators are asking the board to extend the permit by six months until August 2010. A planned reconfiguration of the school district in 2010 will make the classrooms obsolete at that time.

Senior Planner Matt Boulanger said school officials are scheduled to meet with the Development Review Board on Aug. 25.

Last month, the School Board voted to reconfigure the school district for the 2010-2011 school year. The temporary classrooms will no longer be needed under the new configuration, referred to as Option A.

“It was wonderful we could make that happen,” School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said.

Allen Brook students first moved into the modular classrooms during the 2002-2003 school year. The classrooms were meant to be a temporary solution for increasing enrollment until another wing could be built on the school.

As enrollment leveled off and then decreased, the district decided against building an Allen Brook addition. Instead, the Development Review Board granted a second temporary building permit for the classrooms in 2006. According to the 2006 permit’s conditions of approval, school officials were to return to the board in February 2008 with a master plan of what the district would do with the site.

School officials did not meet with the Development Review Board until September of last year.

The Development Review Board appeared reticent in past meetings to agreeing to another temporary building permit. Administrators looked into making the rooms a more permanent structure at Allen Brook, moving them to another part of the school building or building another permanent addition.

Option A will place pre-kindergarten through second grade classrooms at Allen Brook, while grades three through eight will be at Williston Central School. The move reduces the student population at Allen Brook, bringing the building back to its capacity without the temporary classrooms.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said he’s heard varying opinions on Option A; some people who question the merits of the configuration still support the removal of the Allen Brook trailers.

“For most parents in Williston, it does make sense,” Nardelli said. “People realize there’s an educational benefit and an advantage in removing the mobile classrooms.”

Once the trailers are removed, plans call for returning the site to previous conditions. The ground will be top soiled, seeded and mulched. An existing sidewalk will be extended to improve student access from the school to the bus stop.

Nardelli and Worth said this option should appeal to some members of the Development Review Board who have made it clear in past meetings that they would not approve another building permit.

Nardelli also said another school in Chittenden County is interested in purchasing the classrooms from Williston. Charlotte is looking to make renovations to its elementary and middle school, Charlotte Central School, starting in 2010 and would need temporary classrooms to house students while construction is under way.

“It could work out very well for Charlotte and Williston,” Worth said.


[Read more…]

Recipe Corner (7/23/09)

You can be a peach of health

July 23, 2009

By Ginger Isham

Peaches are now abundant in the supermarkets and those I have bought from the south have been delicious.

Did you know peaches give us a serving of phytochemicals, which protect our body from aging and disease? One of these is called hydroxycinnamate. It is in the peel and flesh of the peach. It helps our body to prevent oxidation of blood fats and harmful plaque in our arteries.

Peaches also give us compounds called anthocyanins and flavonols, which are found in their skin. And to think, I always pour boiling water on the peaches, let them stand a few minutes and then pour off and add cold water to cool them and then skin them, throwing away these vital compounds.

The beta-carotene that is found in all yellow and orange flesh vegetables and fruits is also found in the peach. Beta-carotene helps promote clear vision, resistance to infection and healthy skin.

Here is a recipe, taken from an old Eating Well magazine, that uses peaches:

Berry Peach Betty

(This is called a betty because it uses old bread)

Fruit mixture

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

5 cups sliced peaches (thinly sliced)

1 cup raspberries

1 cup blueberries

4 cups day-old country whole wheat bread, cubed

Stir sugar, orange juice, cinnamon and extract together in large bowl. Add peach slices and bread cubes and toss until well mixed. Gently stir in the raspberries and blueberries.


2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small chunks

Mix flour and sugar and cut in oil and butter until well blended.

Using a 9-by-13-inch shallow baking dish, sprinkle 1/4 cup of the topping in the bottom of the dish. Spread the fruit mixture over this. Sprinkle remaining topping over all and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

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


[Read more…]

Liberally Speaking (7/23/09)

The sticky problem with ‘judicial activism’

July 23, 2009

By Steve Mount

Federal judges and justices of the Supreme Court hold a unique position in our governmental system, with special protections for their positions enumerated in Article 3 of the Constitution. Specifically, the positions are appointed, the positions are held for life and while a judge holds a seat, his salary may not be reduced.

These three protections are notable for a few reasons. First, they tie directly to one of the complaints against the king the colonists listed in the Declaration of Independence. Second, they are designed to make the federal bench apolitical, allowing judges to focus on the law and ignore political considerations. Lastly, ironically, they make the process of confirmation particularly political.

As we saw last week with the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, nominees come under intense scrutiny; indeed, the scrutiny is mandated by the Constitution, as part of the separation of powers. A potential justice must not only satisfy the requirements of the president but of the Senate as well.

Senators look for disqualifying comments or rulings; they dig for prejudices and bigotry; they look for indications of bad character or conduct unbecoming of a judge. Since the 1950s, Senators have looked specifically for something called “judicial activism.”

Judicial activism has no concrete meaning, but it is generally taken to mean a judge who would look at cases with some specific agenda in mind. They might find more weight in an argument that appeals to their political leanings than one that appeals to the letter of the law.

That’s what much of the lengthy questioning of Sotomayor was all about — an attempt to pin the “activist judge” label on her. Conservatives were gleeful when two comments by Sotomayor, in particular, came to light. The first was her now infamous “wise Latina” comment; the other was a comment where Sotomayor acknowledged a truism: That it is in the courts “where policy is made.”

To her first comment, Sotomayor’s backers pointed out that the comment, in context, is far less onerous than it has been made out to be. Sotomayor herself said that she made a poor choice of words, and that the comment was not meant to say that her life experiences made her a better judge than someone with different experiences.

What does this have to do with judicial activism? The message Republicans were trying to convey is that Sotomayor would go into the job thinking that her background gave her a better perspective on some cases than the experiences of the men on the Court, a perspective that would allow her to see a different side to a case, a side that was not in line with the law. And it is the law, after all, that judges are sworn to uphold.

Sotomayor’s response was basically this: She believes the law to be paramount, her comments and various interpretations of those comments notwithstanding. In my opinion, without a smoking gun to contradict her, she must be taken at her word on this point, as much as any person would be.

To her second comment, I noted that the “policy” statement is a truism. That may make some cringe, but it is reality. The legislative branch makes laws; the executive branch puts procedures in place to implement the laws; and the judiciary interprets the laws. Often, in the interpretation, policy is made.

Jeffrey Segal of Stony Brook University gave a perfect example: Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a school official could be sued for having a strip search conducted on a 13-year-old girl believed to be carrying contraband ibuprofen. This is now a policy of the United States, a policy that is not found in the U.S. Code and not in the Federal Register, but a policy nonetheless. When the law and procedures are unclear, it is the courts that set policy.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue — it is simply a fact.

Looking for activist judges is a good thing. We do not want judges with an agenda sitting on the bench, especially the federal bench. The problem is in the widening definition of what it means to be activist. So long as only a few partisan Senators carry the banner ad nauseum, the process is safe. Congress must ensure that judges will not overstep their bounds. We, however, must ensure that in that quest, Congress does not overstep its own bounds.

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


[Read more…]

Right to the Point (7/23/09)

Judicial activism — not in the Constitution

July 23, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Last week’s Senate committee hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court brought to the forefront the judiciary’s role in making, interpreting and enforcing laws. Fulfilling its constitutional duties, the Senate must advise and consent to President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments. Given the Senate’s makeup, Sotomayor’s confirmation is by most accounts a foregone conclusion.

The U.S. Constitution separates powers to make, interpret and enforce laws between the three branches of the federal government. The legislative branch’s duty is to make all laws. The executive branch — led by the president — signs bills into law. The president may veto bills, but a two-thirds majority of Congress can override the veto. Additionally, the executive branch is charged with faithfully executing and enforcing all laws of the United States.

The Founding Fathers designed the judicial branch as the government’s weakest branch. Essentially, the judiciary’s role is to determine the constitutionality of laws. Thus, the judicial system’s power was intentionally limited.

The concept is for impartial judges to review the facts and apply the law during disputes. If the judiciary finds a law to be unconstitutional, it is supposed to strike down the offending provision — leaving all corrections to Congress. That is because only the legislative branch has the power to create, modify and repeal laws.

The Constitution does not authorize unelected judges to overrule policies and laws of the elected branches of government, even if they personally object to them. Legislating from the bench usurps the two other branches’ power — undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Much to the chagrin of many Constitutionalists, there is an increasing tendency for judges to make decisions by not adhering strictly to the letter and intent of the Constitution. Judicial activism is defined as judges not interpreting the law in an unbiased manner, but ruling based on their personal beliefs.

Bradley Canon, professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky, described actions activist judges may take. These include overturning policies adopted through the democratic process or establishing policy itself, as opposed to leaving discretion to the other branches. Activists may alter previous decisions, doctrines or constitutional interpretations. In addition, they may interpret constitutional provisions contrary to the drafter’s clear intentions or contrary to the clear implications of the provision’s language.

Although created as the weakest branch of government, the judiciary has evolved into the strongest. So much so, that Congress and the president often appear helpless to override judicial decisions. When judges decide cases based on their personal views rather than on the law and the facts, the democratic process erodes.

The framers knew the Constitution would need to change over time. When it was written, the Internet, weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, space travel and even the automobile were future phenomena. Therefore, steps to amend (i.e., change) the Constitution were enumerated. Amending the Constitution is not easy, but it has been done 27 times.

Since the Constitution must progress over time, many people view it as a living, breathing document. It should change to keep up with the times, taking into account new technologies and changes in cultural norms. While there is no doubt the Constitution should evolve, for many the question is how to do it.

Judicial activism advocates cite the amendment process as being too slow and not very adaptive. They argue that the judiciary can revise and grow the Constitution more efficiently. While that may be true, when judges rewrite the Constitution as they deem fit, they remove the legislative branch from the process. When that happens, unaccountable judges end up making the rules, rather than duly-elected representatives.

The most criticized example of judicial activism was the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which gave women the right to an abortion. The 1973 case legalized abortion for any reason, up until the point the fetus becomes viable. The judgment’s effects have been far-reaching: According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, one in three American women has an abortion during her lifetime.

To justify its decision, the Supreme Court cited a woman’s right to privacy under the Constitution’s due process clause. Since the clause does not explicitly state this privacy right, many critics of judicial activism claim that the justices simply invented it. Thus, the court in effect changed the Constitution — rather than interpreted it — to fit its desires.

As reported by the National Right to Life organization, since Roe v. Wade, more than 49.5 million abortions have been performed in the United States. That means that almost 50 million potential lives have been ended — abetted by an activist judiciary.

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.


[Read more…]

Letters to the Editor (7/23/09)

Food Shelf thanks Williston for Fourth

What an incredible community we live in! During the Fourth of July parade and evening fireworks display, Williston donated over $1,800 and a pickup truck full of food to the Community Food Shelf! This generous support will completely fund our Summer Program for Kids, which provides breakfast and lunch supplies to children who, during the school year, receive these subsidized meals at school. We believe that no Williston child should ever go hungry and, clearly, so do many, many of you.

The Food Shelf is currently looking for volunteers (18 years and older) to staff our Tuesday evening (5:30 to 7:30) and Saturday morning (9 to 11) shifts. If you can spare two hours a month, please e-mail us at or stop by to sign up during our open hours. We are located at 121 Connor Way above Belle’s Cafe in Maple Tree Place.

Williston Community Food Shelf Board

Editor’s note: The Observer’s publisher, Marianne Apfelbaum, is a member of the Williston Community Food Shelf Board.


[Read more…]

Guest Column (7/23/09)

The fatal conceit of health care reformers

July 23, 2009

By Sheldon Richman

It’s easy to get distracted by the details and crushing cost estimates of “health care reform” while losing sight of the key question: Can a handful of congressmen and women, most of whom probably have never even run a small business, design an entire market for medical services and insurance?

A few moments’ thought should be enough to see the answer. Markets are unbelievably complex, and the details are beyond the grasp of any individual. They consist of hundreds of millions of people making countless judgment calls, tradeoffs and transactions with respect to a huge array of services and products. Each person makes these choices within his personal situation, which no one can know as well as that particular person. Providers of medical services, insurance and products undertake those activities after calculating that such work is their best opportunity for income and other forms of satisfaction.

Given this complexity, only someone lusting for power or incredibly conceited would presume to design a market. An appalling ignorance of economics is also a prerequisite for such a conceit.

As a way to coordinate supply and demand, economize resources and create wealth, markets are simply unmatched. They do so well precisely because they use the critical knowledge scattered among all the participants. This is one reason central planning never works. No planning board could possibly know what everyone put together knows. Individuals contribute their partial knowledge to the market process through their decisions about what to buy, how much to buy and what not to buy. Those decisions, based on subjective, often unarticulated information, send signals through the price system, guiding entrepreneurs who buy resources and turn them into usable products and services according to consumer demand.

The process constantly rewards those who serve consumers well and penalizes those who don’t. That is the economic function of profit and loss.

When politicians arrogantly attempt to design a market — specifying services, setting terms, controlling prices — they undermine precisely those features that make markets perform effectively. Planning a market is a contradiction in terms. When it’s the medical market that’s being designed, the politicians are playing with people’s lives. The philosopher and economist F.A. Hayek called the belief that institutions such as markets can be consciously planned “the fatal conceit.” In the case of the medical market, the term is highly appropriate because those who vote to overhaul the medical industry rather than let the market work spontaneously will be responsible for the death and suffering of a great many people.

But, the advocates of “reform” say, people are dying and otherwise suffering now because of the deficiencies of today’s medical system. That is no doubt true, but it is not the free market that is doing it. There is no free market in medical care. On the supply side, government controls the production of medical services and insurance through licensing and comprehensive regulation. On the demand side, about 80 cents of every dollar spent on care is paid for by government — Medicare and Medicaid — or employer-based insurance, which most people neither choose nor pay for directly. The upshot is that most people’s medical care, even routine services, seems to be paid for by someone else. As a result, they do not act like cost-conscious consumers, which is key to efficient markets. (Unlike other medical services, the price of elective services not covered by insurance, such as cosmetic surgery, has been falling.)

In contrast, people in a free market would typically buy high-deductible catastrophic insurance to protect themselves financially in case of serious illness, while paying for cheaper routine services out of savings. The analogy with homeowner’s insurance is obvious.

Competition and innovation, unmolested by bureaucrats, would bring down the price of medicines and medical devices, as they have brought down the price of cell phones and computers.

What about low-income people? This question dissolves when one understands that it’s government that inflates prices by stifling competition and stimulating demand.

In a free market and an ever more prosperous and generous society, no one need go without medical care.

If the egotistical medical czars on Capitol Hill get their way, lots of people will go without. I predict the politicians won’t be among them.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of The Freeman magazine.


[Read more…]

Williston band gains fans, popularity (7/23/09)

Pale Fire to play Maple Tree Place and Higher Ground

July 23, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

For the members of the Williston-based band Pale Fire, next Thursday’s show at Higher Ground will be like hitting the big time. The Celtic-rock musicians have previously played the famous South Burlington-venue for benefit concerts and talent competitions. But next week, for the first time, they’ll be the opening act for nationally recognized musician Ben Sollee.


    Courtesy photo
Pale Fire a Williston-based band, plays at a past show.

“This is definitely a big deal for us,” band member Dylan Hudson said.

The concert is on Thursday, July 30 at 8 p.m. Sollee, a cellist and singer, has performed his avant-garde set around the country. Hudson said the Higher Ground management approached Pale Fire for the gig, believing the band’s music would make a good warm-up.

Since early 2008, Pale Fire has gained a following in the Champlain Valley. Their mix of traditional and original Celtic-flavored music is bolstered by the band’s unique musicianship and commitment to trying new things, Hudson said.

The band consists of Williston residents and Champlain Valley Union High School graduates Hudson on guitar and vocals, Colin Doherty on bass and Duncan Yandell on fiddle and vocals. Kaitlin Boudah, a Colchester teen and former Williston resident, plays drums and sings on selected songs.

Pale Fire formed in December 2007, when Hudson, Yandell and Doherty decided to perform at Burlington’s First Night teen talent competition. They felt the sound of guitar, bass and fiddle worked well together and, to their surprise, so did the competition’s judges. Pale Fire placed second overall.

Next came occasional gigs around the Champlain Valley and at CVU. They again placed second at a battle of the bands in the spring of 2008 at TeenFest Vermont, an event hosted by Williston Publishing and Promotions, which also prints the Observer. Hudson said the band started getting serious about its music after receiving positive feedback from area musicians and music critics. The group added Boudah, a Colchester High School student, on drums and vocals in mid-2008 and Hudson said the band’s sound was complete.

“I feel so lucky playing with them,” Boudah said. “They are just the coolest musicians ever.”

“Adding a drummer brought us into an alternative, edgier area,” Hudson said.

He said the band stretched away from traditional Irish roots and into areas of electronic and indie rock. Still, the band maintained its core sound and identity, Hudson said.

Pale Fire continued entering talent competitions and placed first at the Young Traditions Showcase last year and at Higher Ground’s Bash for Cash this year. The success led to more independent gigs.

Boudah said at the band’s early shows, it was mostly friends and family in attendance.

“Now it’s more and more people we don’t know that keep showing up,” she said.

Earlier this year, the band recorded its first album, “Life Can Change So Fast.” It’s a mostly instrumental 10-song set featuring many original songs written by various members of the group. The album can be purchased through Pale Fire’s Web site,, or by download on iTunes.

Before opening for Sollee next Thursday, Pale Fire will play Maple Tree Place on June 23 as part of the shopping center’s Groovin’ on the Green concert series.

Pale Fire’s show at Maple Tree Place begins at 6 p.m. on July 23. A rain date is scheduled for Friday. The band opens at Higher Ground in South Burlington at 8 p.m. on July 30. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.


[Read more…]

Beware of wild parsnip (7/23/09)

July 23, 2009

With the emergence of wild parsnip in Vermont, poison ivy no longer stands alone as the number one plant to avoid this summer.

Wild parsnip is a tall, yellow, flowering plant that causes severe blisters and rashes and is found along roadsides and in abandoned fields. Master Gardeners from the University of Vermont Extension have identified the plant in Vermont, including in Williston.

The effects of wild parsnip set in when juice from the plant makes contact with skin and the infected area of skin is then exposed to sun. In mild cases, affected skin reddens and feels sunburned. In more severe cases, the skin turns red and then blisters rise, leaving the area feeling as if it’s been scalded. Wild parsnip can leave a dark red or brownish discoloration of the skin that can last up to two years in the area where the burn occurred.

In Williston, Master Gardener June Jones said there is wild parsnip growing along U.S. 2 and at the intersection of Oak Hill Road and U.S. 2.

— Ben Portnoy, Observer correspondent


[Read more…]

Town water and sewer bills to jump (7/23/09)

Selectboard approves big rate hike

July 23, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard has approved a hefty hike in water and sewer rates, passing on a price increase by regional suppliers that are coping with rising costs or falling revenue.

Water prices will rise 8.8 percent and sewer charges will go up 11.3 percent. The new water rate will be $2.40 per 1,000 gallons and the sewer rate is set at $3.45 per 1,000 gallons.

The rate hikes will increase the water and sewer bill for an average Williston residential user by $3.20 a month, according to Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

With little discussion, the Selectboard on Monday night unanimously approved the rate hike. Board member Jeff Fehrs said the rate-setting exercise was a formality because the town’s water and sewer budgets were approved months ago.

“I’m not happy with these increases, but we don’t have a choice,” he said. “In order to fund the budget that was approved, we have to raise rates.”

Water rates have been driven up by decreased usage, primarily due to cutbacks at IBM, one of the state’s largest employers and the water district’s biggest customer.

IBM was using 4.8 million gallons a day at its peak nine years ago, according to the Champlain Water District. Now the company is using only about 3 million gallons a day.

It all adds up to a dramatic drop in income for the water district. Though CWD says it produced a level-funded budget for this year, fixed costs still need to be covered with less revenue.

“CWD’s budgeted water sales revenue is continuing to dramatically decline due to major changes to industrial water sales that have occurred,” Jim Fay, the water district’s general manager, wrote in an April memo.

He has said that 85 percent of the rate increase can be attributed to reduced usage by IBM.

Essex Junction originally wanted to raise sewer rates by 31 percent, but that increase was nearly halved after Williston officials complained that the village was shifting expenses from the municipal to sewer budgets. Expenses were also up, with a major breakdown at the treatment plant.

Williston urged village officials to change how they accounted for expenses and to pay off the plant’s repair bill over several years.

“The sewer rate could have been much worse than it was,” Boyden said.

The town has over the past few years kept water and sewer rates down by reducing the amount budgeted for infrastructure upkeep, Boyden said. He acknowledged the bill will one day come due for the deferred maintenance, noting that many underground pipes are decades old and sewer pump stations are nearing the end of their useful life.

The rate increase was set in motion when the Selectboard approved water and sewer budgets earlier this year. Those expenditures are funded entirely by user charges and kept separate from the municipal operating budget.

At the time, both the Champlain Water District, which supplies 11 Chittenden County municipalities and fire districts, and the village of Essex Junction, which owns the sewage treatment plant that serves Essex and Williston, had announced big rate hikes. Payments to those suppliers account for more than half of Williston’s water and sewer expenditures, with much of the remaining budget paying for infrastructure such as underground pipes and pump stations.

Water and sewer bills have risen steadily over the past few years, but the new rate increase is particularly steep. Sewer rate hikes since 2004 have ranged from 12.5 percent to 2.1 percent, although the rate remained stable last year. The water rate hike this year is the largest during that period, with the per-gallon price rising by 4.6 percent last year.

This year’s rate increase will be included when the next monthly bills are mailed in late August.


[Read more…]