June 19, 2018

Dillos win (8/20/09)

 Aug. 20, 2009

After three consecutive one-run losses, the Armadillos turned the tables on Sunday, defeating the Northfield Stars 5-4. With the win, the 11-3 Armadillos kept pace with Charlotte, also sporting an 11-3 record, but seeding ahead of the Dillos due to their victory over Williston last week. “Obviously, we need to win the rest of our games and have someone beat Charlotte for us to take first,” said pitcher/third baseman Pookie Martin.  

Williston erupted for fifteen hits, but left thirteen men on base and had two runners thrown out attempting to take an extra base following a hit. Individual stars for the Dillos were third baseman Darby Crum (3-4, 1 Run); Brent Tremblay (3-4, BB, 1 RBI); catcher Billy “Vegas” Daw (2-3, BB, 1 Run, 1 RBI);  shortstop Greg Bolger (2-4, BB, 1 Run); and center fielder Ray Danis (2-5, 1 RBI).

 On the mound, Martin got his first league start, throwing the first four innings and giving up just one earned run on three hits, all in the first inning, and two walks, while striking out one. He was relieved by Bill Supple, who uncharacteristically faced seven batters but recorded only one out while giving up three runs, two of which were earned, on two hits and three walks. Bolger, who collected the win to improve his record to 4-2, came on with the bases loaded in the fifth and three runs in to retire the next two batters without a run scoring. In total, he hurled the last four and 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up only four hits, striking out four and walking none.

 After Northfield jumped to a 1-0 lead on three singles in the first, the Dillos took a 2-1 lead in the second.  Daw singled, but was forced at second by Crum. After right fielder Dennis Arnold (1-3, BB, 1 Run) reached base on an error, Pete Picard (1-3, Sac., 2 RBI) singled home Crum. Danis followed with a single to score Arnold, but, after Arnold scored, Picard was thrown out at third on the play to end the inning. Williston scored another run in the third when Supple and Bolger singled and Tremblay’s double plated Supple and took a 4-1 lead in the fifth when Bolger and Tremblay and Daw singled home Bolger.While Crum followed with another single, Tremblay was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second.   

 In the fifth, Northfield tied the game by scoring three runs off Supple, who came in at the beginning of the inning to render up two hits, three walks, and an error, while getting just one out.   Bolger relieved with the bases loaded and induced a grounder to short, which resulted in a force out at home, and struck out the next batter to end the inning. The Dillos scored what turned out to be the winning run in the eighth when Daw was hit by a pitch, Crum singled, Arnold walked and Picard plated Daw with a sacrifice fly.

 On Aug. 23, Williston returns to Williston Central to take on the 9-5 Caledonia Bucks. League standings and individual/team statistics may be found at www.scorebook.com. Enter Vermont Senior Baseball League under league name search.


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Recipe Corner (8/20/09)

Blueberry tales

By Ginger Isham

This is our first season with blueberries and Mother Nature sure has cooperated! We have been enjoying them every day and in every way. As well as a great anti-oxidant, the consumption of blueberries keeps us looking young. I recently read an ad in a woman’s magazine that blueberries can actually help you lose tummy flab. They have an effect on how your body processes sugar in relation to fat storage.

I have created the following sauce for vanilla ice cream or your favorite berry ice cream.

Blueberry Sauce

4 cups blueberries, separated

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg

sliced almonds (optional)

Place 2 cups of blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water in saucepan. Stir and cook over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in rest of blueberries. Cool. Serve over ice cream and garnish with sliced almonds.

Blueberry Crisp

3 cups blueberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice (I omit this if none in house)

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

Put blueberries in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix the brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, salt and butter. Sprinkle on top of blueberries. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Fresh Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie

Make your favorite baked one crust pie shell or buy a pre-made one and bake according to directions. Pie shell should be cooled. Whip an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese and add sugar to taste. Spread over bottom of piecrust. Sprinkle 2 cups of fresh blueberries over the cheese. Put 2 cups blueberries in sauce pan and add 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar and pinch of cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Pour over fresh berries and refrigerate for several hours. Serve with whipped cream, lightly sweetened.

Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.


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Right to the Point (8/20/09)

A peek at Vermont’s dairy industry

By Mike Benevento

Aug. 20, 2009

As Vermonters know, dairy farms are vital to both the state’s economy and character. In a recent letter, Senator Bernie Sanders wrote, “The dairy industry has been, and remains, a vital part of Vermont’s economic engine and a central part of the fabric of our communities.”

However, the Ethan Allen Institute, an independent Vermont think tank, points out that since 1975, the number of Vermont farms has decreased from 3688 to 1050. In addition, large business-intensive farms have replaced many small dairy farms throughout the state.

As posted on the Institute’s website, “Like it or not, small dairy farms are becoming less and less viable…The dynamics of the national dairy market are shouting ‘get big or get out’ more loudly than ever.”

Sen. Sanders wrote, “All Vermonters understand that if family-based dairy farming is to continue in any significant way in our state and throughout the country, America’s dairy farmers must receive fair prices for the products they produce.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the All Milk Price paid to dairy farmers dropped nearly 70 percent over the last year. Despite the drop, consumers have not seen a corresponding fall in the price of milk.

Vermont’s congressional delegation and dairy farm proponents believe that along the farm-to-store supply chain, everyone but the farmer is making surplus profits.

This is not a recent phenomenon. In the past, Sen. Patrick Leahy raised many of the same concerns Sanders currently voices. “Vermont farmers are not getting a fair share of the retail price of milk, while giant corporate processors are raking in windfall profits as they raise prices…,” Leahy said in 2000.

Sanders asked the Department of Justice to begin an antitrust investigation into the dairy industry, especially targeting Dean Foods. He wrote that Dean Foods nationally controls 40 percent of the fluid milk market and 70 percent in New England.

The Obama administration intends to step up enforcement of antitrust laws. Per Scott Kilman of the Wall Street Journal, a Justice Department official said earlier this month that the administration will take an extensive look at concentration in U.S. agriculture as part of its increased emphasis on antitrust enforcement.

According to Michelle Monroe of the St. Albans Messenger, Sanders said antitrust investigations, a growth management plan, and a revision of the milk pricing system are part of the solution to the problems facing Vermont’s dairy farms.

In order to ensure they receive a fair price for their milk, dairy organizations have spent a great amount of time and money lobbying the federal government to fix milk prices. According to the Ethan Allen Institute, in 1935 the federal government created a complicated dairy program to set minimum prices that handlers must pay farmers for milk.

Since then, the government has employed many different strategies in an effort to boost the amount of money farmers get for their milk. This included the creation of the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact in the mid-90s, which taxed consumers and passed the proceeds to dairy farmers.

Championed by Sen. Leahy, Sen. James Jeffords, and then-Rep. Sanders, the Compact artificially raised the price of milk in New England. At the same time, it prevented cheaper milk from entering from outside the region.

The Ethan Allen Institute notes that government-forced subsidies in effect prop up inefficient farmers at the consumer’s expense — especially the poor and young families who consume more milk. While subsidies help keep small farms alive, government support results in lower overall dairy industry efficiency.

Recent state efforts include the passage of S.89, “An Act Relating to Stabilization of Prices Paid to Vermont Dairy Farmers.” Sponsored by Peter Shumlin and Robert Starr, Gov. Douglas signed the bill into law in late May. The act directs the Vermont Milk Commission to deliberate imposing an “assessment” on processors who buy milk from Vermont farms.

What is unspoken is that milk producers will most likely not absorb the tax, but will pass it on to consumers.

Dan McLean of the Burlington Free Press writes that the proceeds could go to create an emergency fund to help local dairy farmers during price downturns.

Nevertheless, the Ethan Allen Institutes sees a more sinister plan unfolding: An unaccountable commission levying a hidden milk tax on consumers with proceeds distributed to members of Bobby Starr’s special interest group.

Instead of more taxes, the Institute advocates dropping government support for dairy farms over time. After doing so, Vermont’s farmers will prosper from innovation, efficiency, and hard work — rather than relying on undependable government subsidies.

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…]

Liberally Speaking (8/20/09)

Milking the market

By Steve Mount

Aug. 20, 2009

Anyone who has ever prepared a family budget knows that there is one basic, overriding principle: don’t spend more than you take in. If you earn $100, don’t spend $110. If you do, you’ll either dip into savings or start to accumulate debt. Vermont dairy farmers are keenly aware of this simple formula. They have one problem, though: It costs more to produce a gallon of milk than anyone is willing to pay for it.

The individual farmer can do nothing to change milk prices. The price is set in an international marketplace, and that price has been going down. The farmer could try to get into a niche market, like organic products, and some supplement their income by selling small amounts of raw milk to neighbors, but the real money is (or should be) in the general bulk market.

If a farmer cannot make money on his farm, there are only a few options. One is to change what he produces. This is a viable option for a grower, but not so much for a dairy farmer, who has a herd to take care of. Another is to get out of the business completely. The loss of a farm or two might not be any more than a local tragedy, but according to the Rutland Times-Argus, since January 1, Vermont has lost over thirty farms.

The federal government has resurrected the Milk Income Loss Compact (MILC) program through which farmers can receive payments from the government when milk prices fall below a certain level. The formula is a bit complicated because it is adjusted monthly for feed costs, but it is roughly $17.50 per hundred pounds of milk.

The government is also helping by increasing the floor that it pays for milk for its own needs. Vermont’s congressional delegation pushed hard for this increase, and spoke favorably of Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement.

Senator Bernie Sanders is attacking the problem from another angle, directing his office to investigate the pricing policies of monopolistic dairy companies, companies large enough to be able to influence prices in ways that individual producers can only dream of.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because dairy prices rise and fall in cycles. The problem is the low end of the cycle is often far too low. The last big dip was in 2006. Back then, Vermont Public Radio commentator John McClaughry touted programs that were trying to make dairy farmers more productive in their business. Watching the nightly news on WCAX, it seems that there are unending reports of dairy farmers who are making milking or feeding more efficient.

Our ultimate goal should be the elimination of all subsidies. Government subsidies and tariffs are generally not a good thing, and can have far-reaching economic implications.

The imposition of tariffs on imports can hurt domestic producers, to the point where the exporting country retaliates with tariffs of its own. This sort of tit-for-tat economics has the real possibility of cutting goods off from a nation in the best case, and becoming a diplomatic crisis even leading to war in the worst case.

Looking to avoid such games, the United States has sought and supported free trade agreements across the world, from our own continental neighborhood to the tiny nation of Singapore. Even so, most free trade agreements have exceptions, as with the prohibition of Mexican trucks on most U.S. roads and U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwoods.

The increase in the number of free trade agreements the U.S. has with other nations is recognition of the general proposition that tariffs and subsidies are not of long-term benefit. Though dairy may be a special case, given the perishable nature of liquid milk, we should still try to avoid subsidies when we can.

Because dairy is in a precarious position right now, we should continue to pay out subsidies. At the same time, we should be increasing our technological aid to dairy farmers, to ensure that those who are capable can get their product out for the least cost possible. We should take a close look at each dairy operation and make hard but necessary choices about farms that are beyond saving. And we should ensure that no one company has too great an effect on pricing.

Taking coordinated steps such as these can provide us with an industry that is both local and sustainable, and which protects vital national interests.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.


[Read more…]

Letters to the Editor (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

Asking too much?

As a justice of the peace and therefore a member of the Board of Civil Authority, I read with interest the article on “Elected officials often missing in action” (Aug. 6). I think that you may have missed the real story, which is whether or not the Selectboard and the School Board have too many meetings and that their meetings are too long.

I have a great deal of empathy for those members of the Selectboard who have difficulty attending the BCA and Board of Abatement meetings. The issue is can they serve and still have a life?

The same can be said of the School Board. The heavy meeting schedule and the time needed to prepare for those meetings exact a toll and make it difficult for very many to be willing and indeed to be able to serve on either of those boards.

I would ask the question, “Do we do these boards a disservice when we do not question the amount of time they seem required to spend in service?”

Is there a better way? What steps can be taken to reduce the load?

I appreciate their service and believe we should encourage them to also have a life.

Tony Lamb, Williston

Legislative update

It’s been a great honor serving Williston residents in my first year in the Vermont Senate.

I’d like to share a few achievements from the 2009 session that didn’t receive much media attention.

On Senate Institutions, I worked with Dick Mazza to fund a major initiative aimed at rebuilding our state park system. From nearby Mount Philo to Fort Dummer in Brattleboro, our chronically underfunded parks will get the investment they need to avoid irreparable decline, while putting dozens of unemployed Vermonters to work.

Serving on the Senate Economic Development Committee, I joined Chittenden County Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Burlington, to establish a Farm-to-Plate initiative that will create the infrastructure needed to strengthen local agriculture throughout the state. The farmers’ market in Williston points to the tremendous potential to create markets and jobs in our local economy, and the need to reduce barriers and costs to get local meats and vegetables to Vermonters.

The energy bill authorizes communities like Williston to create Clean Energy Assessment Districts. Essentially, voters can now choose to create a special fund to provide town residents long-term financing for energy-based home improvements. This offers the possibility of lower interest rates and more manageable payback periods than most banks have been willing to offer.

As I campaigned throughout the county, small business owners spoke of the heavy burden they carried in workers compensation costs. Some businesses are misclassifying their employees to dishonestly reduce their workers comp costs. For example, one construction company involved in building the Lowe’s in South Burlington was classifying high-risk steel erectors as laborers to reduce their costs. This results in a cost-shift to the majority of honest businesses. Sen. Douglas Racine, D-Richmond, and I led the effort to pass a bill that will ramp up enforcement of workers comp abuse. Of all the challenges facing Vermont small businesses, subsidizing cheaters shouldn’t be one of them.

Please contact me at timashe@burlingtontelecom.net with ideas, questions or comments.

Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Burlington


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Guest Column (8/20/09)

The ultimate question

Aug. 20, 2009

By Edwin Cooney

It was bound to happen. The ultimate question –“do you love America?” – has finally caught up with me.

It’s a painful question, not because of its answer, but because sincere people feel compelled to ask it.

I was a four-year-old kindergartener and America was fighting Communism in Korea when I first became aware of our country. I knew we were “the good guys” because everyone I knew – my foster parents, my friends, my teachers in regular school and Sunday school, and, of course, my minister – were “good” and THEY were Americans. If, as they assured me, Korean, Chinese, and Russian Communism was bad and had to be stopped by brave American soldiers, it must be true.

Like most American boys, I loved adventure stories and most of the heroes were American to the core. I thrilled to the stories of young George Washington’s adventure from comfortable Virginia into the wilderness of the Ohio River Valley during 1753-54 where he and his companion Christopher Gist nearly drowned in the icy waters of the Monongahela River while demanding that the French stop stirring up the Indians against British settlers. I relished the stories of General Jackson’s 1815 victory at New Orleans, Admiral David Farragut’s Civil War naval battles at Mobile Bay and New Orleans, and Teddy Roosevelt’s adventure at San Juan Hill (really it was Kettle Hill) in 1898, and, oh, so many more.

The America I grew up in stood for ideals: crime doesn’t pay, freedom and justice for all, America – the land of opportunity, and, of course, the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

My boyhood heroes included: Abraham Lincoln who walked 15 miles to return two cents to a customer of his Salem, Illinois store and, as President, freed the slaves; Douglas MacArthur who returned to liberate the Philippines during World War II; and, of course, President Eisenhower, a soldier who became President to insure our safety and our peace.

America, of course, wasn’t all about war. America was also about baseball, the Mickey Mouse Club, Hula hoops, strong, taciturn men in cowboy hats, sweet, smart and fun-loving girls in cuddly sweaters, pop music, and, ultimately, the space race.

As a teen, I fretted about Nikita Khrushchev’s hair-trigger temper and dependence on vodka as his finger wavered above the nuclear button.  Then there were those five tense days in October of 1962 during which a determined President Kennedy, who had himself tasted war in the South Pacific, calmly and steadily applied pressure in the right place and gave ground where necessary until the crisis had passed. While during the years that immediately followed “The Missiles of October,” I would have gladly sacrificed my physical well being to teach North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Min, a lesson, I began slowly but steadily to take an intense interest in what America was all about.

America, after all, was and is my home. If Vietnam was a quagmire, if civil wrongs needed to be transformed into civil rights, if in foreign affairs we experienced crisis after crisis, what was wrong? If there were political scandals, why did they occur? Thus, my study of American history became and still remains a passion.

As I assert to those who wonder what makes me tick, my personal regard or love doesn’t require perfection. Nor do I regard political differences as moral differences.

It has been observed that forty years ago the differences between Republicans and Democrats were primarily strategic. Today, political differences are too often viewed as moral differences. Hence we have “the Radical Left” and the “Wacko Right.” Few people press the Right to identify “the moderate left” or the Left to identify “the sane right.” The result of this is that the well of ideas in this free society has been at least temporarily poisoned. Even worse, we too often dehumanize rather than merely politically oppose one another.

At least twice in our history, during the time of the Civil War and the Vietnam War, Americans have experienced this emotional phenomenon. It could be that much of our domestic frustration stems from the Vietnam War era and has been enhanced by additional political and economic crises.

Even with all of our suspicions and fears, we know that it is here where Americans have traditionally debated and created the promises and opportunities for the strongest, most intelligent and safest land on earth.  Here we were born or here we came to thrive and this is our home.

As an old familiar song reminds us:  “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.”

It’s hard not to love that idea!


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Business Briefs (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

Airport gets $2.4 million stimulus funds

The Burlington International Airport has been awarded $2.4 million in economic stimulus funding for work on its taxiways.

Vermont’s congressional delegation says the funding will be used to rehabilitate and repave the intersection of two taxiways and to extend another one.

The work is part of a development project at the airport that officials estimate could create as many as 350 new jobs in the next decade.   – AP

Economy, rain take toll on Vt. Mozart Festival

The Vermont Mozart Festival is in financial trouble.

Representatives of the outdoor classical music events told the crowds at this season’s last two summer concerts in Shelburne and Stowe that the festival is $400,000 in debt and needs help to return next year.

For 36 years the festival has been offering concerts at striking outdoor venues such as Shelburne Farms and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.

The economy and rain took a toll on ticket sales this summer. The festival typically sells about 13,500 tickets. This year it planned for 11,500 but sold only about 9,500.   – AP

State lodge opens dining room to public

A waterside lodge operated by the state of Vermont is opening its dining room to the public for once-a-week dinners.

Seyon Lodge, which is located on the shores of Noyes Pond in Groton, serves meals at its dining room seven days a week to guests. But now, the lodge is opening for Thursday night dinners, with seatings at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Dinners cost about $20 per person, and feature Vermont foods including Misty Knoll chicken, Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. chevre and other farm-to-table favorites. The menu changes weekly. There’s also a $5 children’s menu.

The 16-unit Seyon Lodge is located in 27,000-acre Groton State Forest.   – AP

Wineries, vendors happy about new law

A new law that makes it easier for wineries to sell bottles of their product has come as a pleasant surprise for some vendors.

Wineries had been allowed to sell wine by the glass at food and wine festivals. A law that went into effect in May added the words “or by unopened bottle.’’

In Danville, the Caledonian-Record reports Eden Ice Cider had a license from the state but didn’t know about the law. John Blackmore, the town’s insurance agent, advised Selectmen there should be no liability problem as long as the vendor supplies a certificate of insurance with the town as a named insured.

Selectmen approved a waiver for Eden Ice Cider at the farmers market and another for a vendor at the Autumn on the Green event this fall.  – AP

Mortgage seminar

New England Federal Credit Union, or NEFCU, is holding free educational seminars on Reverse Mortgages and Understanding Social Security.

The Reverse Mortgages seminar will take place on Thursday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Scott Funk, reverse mortgage specialist, MetLife Bank and Aging in Place advocate, will host an informative talk explaining the basics of reverse mortgages and answer questions about how they work, the benefits and drawbacks, and how they can fit into retirement planning strategies.

The Understanding Social Security seminar will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Registered Representatives of Baystate Financial Janet Cooper, Roger Webster and Chris Miner will discuss the benefits of waiting to collect social security in order to make the most of retirement.

Both seminars will take place at the NEFCU Member Education Center at 141 Harvest Lane, Williston.

Seating is limited so call 879-8790 or visit www.nefcu.com to sign up.

Dwyer to succeed Bard as CEO of NEFCU

New England Federal Credit Union CEO David Bard will retire at the end of this year, according to an announcement made by NEFCU Board Chair Geoff Akiki last week.

Since Bard assumed the role of CEO in 1986, NEFCU saw tremendous growth.

According to a press release, what was a 30-employee operation in 1986 is now seven branches in six counties with 170 employees. Today, NEFCU has more than $740 million in assets, as well as more than $1 billion in serviced first mortgages, making it one of the top 50 credit unions out of more than 7,000 in the country for first mortgage balances.

Akiki attributed “Bard’s creativity, expertise, and leadership…to NEFCU’s emergence as one of the pre-eminent financial institutions in Vermont and, in some areas, in the country.”

NEFCU President and COO John J. Dwyer, Jr. will succeed Bard as CEO.

Dwyer has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Dwyer began his career with NEFCU in 1987 as a CPA with audit and tax advisory firm KPMG in Boston, Mass. Since then, Dwyer has held various positions increasing in responsibility, leading to his becoming President and COO in 2006.

“This transition is an important step in a sequence of strategic actions that continue to reinforce NEFCU’s long term strength, capacity, and stability,” said Akiki in the press release. “As President/CEO, he (Dwyer) will provide the critical leadership necessary as NEFCU continues its development in the 21st century’s challenging environment.”

– Ben Portnoy, Observer correspondent


[Read more…]

Rossignol building transforms into business park (8/20/09)

Synergy fitness club to open next month

Aug. 20, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

By late September, Williston will be home to the Champlain Valley’s newest fitness center. And the owners hope Synergy Fitness will not only be the most modern facility in the area, but also the most dedicated to its members.


    Courtesy image
Synergy Fitness will have a variety of cardio and strength machines, as well as a juice bar when it opens next month.


Courtesy image
The White Cap Business Park, shown here in an artist’s rendering, has transformed itself from the former Rossignol ski warehouse to an environmentally sound office complex.

When work is completed next month, Synergy Fitness will have some of the most state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment available today, said co-owner Christina Schueneman. The facility is currently under construction in the White Cap Business Park off Industrial Avenue in what used to be the Rossignol warehouse.

Synergy will occupy more than 12,000 square feet, with rooms for one-on-one training, yoga sessions, spinning classes and more. There will also be a juice and snack bar providing all-natural juices and smoothies, which Schueneman said will be a highlight for Synergy.

“We want this to be a destination facility,” Schueneman said last week, while outside the future Synergy location.

Schueneman and her business partner, Yuri Trump, both lived in Vermont several years ago, with Schueneman attending the University of Vermont. After living in New York City and working in the high-stress environment of banking and finance, the couple knew they wanted to head back to the Green Mountain State. Both fitness enthusiasts, Schueneman believed Williston and Chittenden County could use a different kind of fitness facility.

“We saw a need for a sophisticated health club,” she said.

Synergy Fitness is locally owned and operated and not associated with a similarly named chain of fitness clubs based in New York and New Jersey, according to Schueneman.

Williston is also home to a Sports & Fitness Edge location, which has a pool and field house. Maple Tree Place is home to the RehabGym, which operates as a physical therapy and health and fitness center.

Sports & Fitness Edge Manager Laurie Adams said her club is currently undergoing some minor “face lift” repairs, which should be completed next month. She said she’s not worried the new competition will adversely affect her business.

“It’s a hard business to crack into and we certainly wish them well,” Adams said.

Schueneman said she wants a health club that really focuses on its members. She said she wants Synergy to be focused on customer service, which she believes can be lacking in many clubs.

“That’s what we see being wrong with a lot of gyms,” Schueneman said.

Once Synergy is completed, it will have 25 cardio machines, including treadmills, step mills, and elliptical machines. Each will be equipped with its own 17-inch, high-definition widescreen television. Synergy will also have 35 strength and weight machines, Schueneman said.

Synergy will also have a separate cycling studio, with 20 indoor bikes for spin classes and cycling training.

There will also be men’s and women’s locker rooms, showers and bathrooms on site.

Schueneman said the monthly membership will be $59, but is cheaper if someone signs up for six-month or yearlong memberships. Annual membership will cost $589. The club will offer corporate rates, as well.

Synergy’s location at White Cap, with the business park’s federal and state office tenants and proximity to Industrial Avenue, should be convenient for many Champlain Valley residents, Schueneman said.

“There’s a strong pool of people around here,” she said.

For more information, visit www.synergyfitnessvt.com, call 310-4018 or or email ask@synergyfitnessvt.com

Building tenants varied

When Synergy Fitness officially opens next month in the White Cap Business Park, it will be the latest in a host of businesses and government agencies already established at the site.

The federal government, in particular, has a large stake in the business park. The Department of Homeland Security has a variety of offices, as the does the Vermont headquarters of the U.S. Census.

“They’re definitely a large chunk of our property,” said Graham Goldsmith Jr., vice president of White Cap Ventures LLC.

Besides Homeland Security and the Census, the business park is home to the offices of Vermont’s Division of Children and Families and the Systems & Software Company Inc.

Since the Rossignol ski company relocated its East Coast operations to Utah in 2005, the owners of the business park have worked to transform the 150,000-square-foot space. When Rossignol owned the location, much of the building served as a giant warehouse, where skis and winter sports accessories were shipped worldwide, Goldsmith explained.

But drastic changes have occurred in the four years since White Cap Ventures bought the warehouse. First, the company partitioned off portions of the warehouse to create different-sized office spaces. White Cap then added more natural light to the building by constructing several large skylights.

Goldsmith said one purpose of the skylights was to help earn the building LEED certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a national standard for “green” and sustainable building construction.

Besides the addition of natural light, Goldsmith said the building has the some of the most energy-efficient insulation on the market, and its indoor lighting is regulated to save power. Goldsmith said he hoped to earn a silver certification sometime next year.

“The positive is that we’re helping to reduce operating costs this way,” he said.

White Cap has also worked to make the building’s interior more attractive. The company built two atriums, both complete with skylights and greenery, and one with an indoor fountain. Carpeting should be installed around the atriums sometime this week, Goldsmith said.

Besides Synergy Fitness, the Department of Homeland Security will expand. Currently, the department has 17,000 square feet of office space. By November, it will have accumulated close to 11,000 more square feet, Goldsmith said.

The government agency signed a 10-year lease in June, he said. The U.S. Census Bureau will occupy nearly 7,000 square feet of office space until December 2010. Goldsmith said Systems & Software could expand into the Census space at that time.

Another new tenant is also in the works. Goldsmith said a café and sandwich shop could be ready to open in the coming months.

Nearly a quarter of the business park remains vacant — mostly small office spaces are available — but Goldsmith said that could change, as several interested parties have stepped forward in recent weeks. There are also plans for expansion, if necessary, Goldsmith said.

“But we really like the campus feeling we have here,” he said.


[Read more…]

Sales tax revenue continues downhill slide (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

Tax holiday hurts revenue, officials say

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Local option sales tax revenue resumed its long decline during the final quarter of the fiscal year, dropping by 5.9 percent over the same period in 2008 and failing to meet even the town’s not-so-great expectations.

The new numbers, released last week, show Williston received $590,954 for the quarter ending June 30. Local option sales tax proceeds in the 2008-09 fiscal year were down by 4.4 percent over the previous year. (Figures do not include a payment from the state to offset a sales tax holiday.)

Town officials made conservative estimates for the tax when they assembled the budget. Town Manager Rick McGuire said the numbers could have been worse, noting that revenue came in just short of projections.

“I’d hoped for better … but you know it’s close,” he said. “You can’t ask for a lot more than that.”

The tax is a key source of revenue for Williston, funding about a third of the municipal operating budget. The town piggybacks the 1 percent levy on the 6 percent state sales tax.

Enacted in 2003, the levy initially allowed the town to dramatically reduce property taxes. Revenue from the local option tax increased in each of its first four years.

But then in January 2007 the state made rule changes that exempted certain purchases from the tax, most notably items bought in Williston but shipped elsewhere. Revenue for the town began to erode, falling by 22 percent over the next two years.

The town has since adjusted expectations. Officials assumed there would be no increase in sales tax revenue for the just-completed fiscal year.

Same-quarter revenue fell in the first two quarters, but rebounded to post a small gain before dropping yet again in the most recent three-month period. In all, the tax generated $2,360,442 for the fiscal year.

Sales taxes and other sources of government revenue are falling amid the economic slump, state officials said.

“There’s no denying that all of our revenue sources, including the sales and use tax, are being hit by the depressed economy,” said Susan Mesner, an economist with the Vermont Department of Taxes. She said sales tax revenue statewide dropped between 8 percent and 9 percent in June, and fell about 5 percent for the fiscal year.

“Which means we’re going the wrong direction on this,” she said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Tax holiday hits town

This Saturday’s tax holiday gives consumers a break and boosts sales for local retailers, but officials acknowledge that it is costly for both the state and the handful of towns that charge a local option tax.

Mesner said the Tax Department estimates that the state lost $2.2 million in revenue last year due to the tax holiday.

The event lasted an entire weekend and extended for a week on purchases of energy efficient appliances. This year the holiday will be held on a single day this weekend and another day in March.

The Legislature budgeted $100,000 both last year and this year to help offset the impact of the tax holiday on towns that have the local option tax.

Officials used different methods to try to estimate just how much each town would lose, said Ken Jones, policy analyst with the Vermont Tax Department. But Jones said they concluded the most equitable way to divide the money was to calculate what proportion of total local option receipts were produced by each town.

State officials acknowledge that consumers time their purchases for the tax holiday to take advantage of the savings, making it difficult to know just how much tax revenue has been lost.

Jones and Mesner both said reasonably accurate estimates can be made for the state as a whole. But determining the impact of the tax holiday on individual towns is more difficult due to differences in local economies and other variables.

McGuire said the $22,000 in state reimbursement Williston received last year probably did not entirely compensate for lost revenue because so many people bought things on the tax holiday that they would have purchased days or weeks earlier or later.

“My gut feeling is that it was not enough,” he said.


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Developer files appeal with Vermont Environmental Court (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

Wetlands, affordable housing at issue

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The developer of a proposed subdivision off North Williston Road has filed an appeal after a Development Review Board decision on the project.

Jeff Atwood, along with fellow applicants Dana and Brenda Hood, have appealed the conditions of approval that went along with a discretionary permit granted by the board in late April. The lawyer for the applicants filed the appeal before Vermont’s Environmental Court late last month. The Environmental Court hears all appeals dealing with local development boards and can overturn decisions.

Atwood and the Hood’s lawyer, L. Randolph Amis, said his clients have taken issue with the town’s growth management system and stringent requirements in regards to wetlands.

“What the town requires… it just doesn’t make sense to us,” Amis said.

According to plans, the proposed nine-unit development will be located between North Williston Road and Lefebvre Lane. Plans include a triple-plex, two duplex homes, and a single-family home.

A separate project by Atwood on a different property along North Williston Road would transform an old carriage house into a dwelling unit. Atwood and his lawyer are also appealing the conditions of approval with that project.

The Atwood projects have caused strife with neighboring Lefebvre Lane residents over the past year. Both sides have charged the other with being unreasonable during the development’s planning.

Among the issues raised in the Environmental Court appeal is whether or not the town has the authority to require Atwood to build the subdivision as perpetually affordable housing. Atwood has argued before the board in the past that, while he wants to build an affordable housing development, it could prove impossible due to the town’s phasing requirements. Building affordable housing was one of the main reasons he wanted to develop the property, Atwood told the board at previous meetings.

During the town’s annual growth management allocation in March, the Atwood-Hood project was granted phasing for construction from 2011 through 2015. Only a certain number of units are available for allocation each year based on the growth district they are in and the town’s sewer capacity.

In the appeal written by Amis, he questions the town’s phasing decision. The appeal states construction would take place over too long a period of time for the development to be built as affordable housing “without undue financial sacrifice” by Atwood.

Amis said the most cost-effective approach would be for the nine units to be built at the same time. He argues the town is in conflict with its own Town Plan by encouraging affordable housing, but making the construction of such projects nearly impossible.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the Environmental Court has heard cases involving Williston’s growth management system.

“(Growth management) has been litigated in the past and I believe the courts have upheld the right for phasing,” Belliveau said.

Atwood is also appealing wetlands conditions on both of his projects. For his carriage house property, Atwood is appealing the town’s conditions that he move his driveway’s location due to a wetland buffer. The state has found the construction of the driveway to be permitted in class three wetlands, while the town does not. Amis has filed a similar appeal for the nine-unit subdivision’s access road, as well.

“We prefer to operate on the state’s permit,” Amis said. “If the state says we can, we can. The town can’t say ‘no’ when the state says ‘yes.’”

Amis said he expects the Environmental Court to hold its first hearing on the Atwood appeals either at the end of this month or early September. He said the appeal process could take a significant amount of time.

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