April 21, 2018

Study calls for lower speed limit on U.S. 2 in Williston Village (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

50 crashes reported on stretch through village

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The speed limit on U.S. 2 should be slowed to reduce the high number of crashes in Williston Village, a new study by the state Agency of Transportation recommends.

The traffic study found that most motorists were traveling at or around the current speed limit along the mile-long stretch between Old Stage and Oak Hill roads. But Amy Gamble, traffic operations engineer with the Agency of Transportation, said that the high number of crashes suggests that the limit, which is either 35 mph or 40 mph depending on the precise location, should be lowered.

Gamble said the state tries to make speed limits match the speed most motorists travel. But safety is also a consideration.

“It’s kind of a judgment call, how to best service the interests of the traveling public,” she said. “You have to both preserve mobility and ensure safety.”

The report recommends that the 35 mph speed zone be reduced to 30 mph from Old Stage Road to Johnson Lane, which is about a quarter-mile east of the Oak Hill Road intersection. The report also recommends establishing a new 40 mph “transition zone” east of that point, where the speed limit now abruptly rises to 50 mph.

The traffic study came in response to the controversy over the Selectboard’s decision to install a roundabout at the intersection where U.S. 2 meets Oak Hill and North Williston roads.

During a June meeting, the board listened to a presentation by state transportation officials about the roundabout, then asked for the study as a way to temper an emotional debate with hard facts.

The board was responding to opponents who said the town should consider lower speed limits or other safety measures instead of installing a roundabout, which they claimed was unnecessary and would hurt the village’s historic character.  

The roundabout’s nearly $1 million construction cost would be funded through a federal program designed to fix unsafe intersections. With 25 crashes during a five-year period ending in 2006, the intersection is considered among the 50 most dangerous in the state.

The new study tallied twice as many traffic accidents when the entire stretch of U.S. 2 through the village was considered, with 50 crashes from 2004 through the end of 2008. The accidents resulted in 12 injuries but no fatalities.

Speed limits are generally based on the speed at which 85 percent of all motorists drive, Gamble said. That rule of thumb is the primary consideration, Gamble said, but there are other factors, including accident rates, traffic volume, the number of crosswalks and the location of civic buildings such as schools.

Each of the above are present in the sometimes congested stretch of U.S. 2, which includes Williston Central School and Town Hall as well as several pedestrian crossings.

The study, as the Selectboard requested, also looked at speeds and accident rates along Vermont 2A between Taft Corners and the Essex Junction town line. Gamble recommended the speed limit, also 35 mph or 40 mph depending on location, remain the same.

The number of accidents over the past five years on that stretch – 254 – is far higher than on U.S. 2 in the village. But because of a greater traffic volume, Gamble said the accident rate on 2A falls below a level that would prompt lower speed limits.

The Selectboard is scheduled to decide at its meeting next Monday whether to ask the Vermont Traffic Committee to vote on the study’s recommended speed limit reduction. The three-member committee, headed by Vermont Transportation Secretary David Dill, next meets on Sept. 3.


[Read more…]

Green Mountain Coffee to expand into Williston (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

One of Vermont’s fastest growing companies will be expanding into Williston in the coming months.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Green Mountain Coffee, based in Waterbury, will soon be expanding into Williston.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. is growing at such a fast rate there is a need to expand further from its company headquarters in Waterbury, said public relations manager Sandy Yusen.

Yusen said the Williston expansion will include the company’s non-manufacturing capabilities. She said gift box and variety pack assembly will take place at the new location, as will inventory control and some of Green Mountain Coffee’s K-Cup operations. K-Cups are single-serving coffee containers that work only in Keurig-brand brewing machines.

The company’s brewer service department will also be located in Williston, according to Yusen. The department ensures that Green Mountain Coffee’s wholesale customers have the right equipment to brew the coffee and everything is working properly, Yusen said.

“The department includes an equipment service call center as well as brewer refurbishing, technical support and training,” she said.

Green Mountain Coffee will be moving into a 70,500 square-foot warehouse at 687 Marshall Ave. in the E-Commerce Park within the next 30 to 60 days, Yusen said. According to town records, Williston-based Miller Realty Group owns the property.

As part of the company’s expansion, Green Mountain Coffee is planning to move its corporate headquarters from Waterbury, as well. Yusen said the company is looking at space in “southern Chittenden County,” but would not say if that includes Williston or other nearby cities and towns.

For several years, the company has been expanding its operations outside Waterbury. The company has an 87,000 square-foot warehouse location in Essex for much of its K-Cup production. Green Mountain Coffee also has operations in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Washington state.

Sales and earnings at Green Mountain Coffee have grown steadily in recent years. For the past five years, the company has had an annual growth rate of 18.7 percent, according to its Web site. Its net revenues in the most recent quarter were a little more than $193 million as opposed to $120 million during the same quarter last year.

In recent weeks, a report from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development said Green Mountain Coffee was considering moving its operations out of state due to rapid growth. The report suggested the move would be detrimental to the state’s economy.

But Yusen said Green Mountain Coffee will remain in Vermont.

“We’re committed to maintaining our home here,” Yusen said.  

She also said the company ill remain committed to Waterbury, even with some of its production and corporate headquarters in the process of moving. Yusen said the product development team would expand in Waterbury, along with the special coffee business branch.

As for Williston, Yusen said she did not have the specifics as to how many employees would be relocated to the new facility, nor how many new employees Green Mountain Coffee may hire.

“As our business grows, there’s room for the number of our employees to grow,” Yusen said.


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Board denies appeal by Maple Tree Place (8/20/09)

Tax value remains pegged at $80.9 million

Aug. 20, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Board of Civil Authority rejected an appeal that could have reduced the tax bill for the corporate owner of Williston’s priciest property by more than $200,000.


    File photo
Inland Western, owner of Maple Tree Place, sought a tax break from the town, but was denied on appeal.

Inland Western, the owner of Maple Tree Place, had sought the tax break, arguing that the slumping real estate market and numerous vacancies make the property worth $15 million less than the $80.9 million appraised value.

But the tax appeal board, in a hastily called meeting on Aug. 13, voted 4-0 to accept the inspection committee’s recommendation and keep the value at its current level.

The board’s written decision said the town determined the value using the cost approach, which among other things considers the quality of construction, the age of buildings and the price that was paid for the property. That method of valuation is used with all commercial property in Williston.

“In order to keep things consistent, that’s all we have,” said BCA member Terry Macaig. He acknowledged that using another method of valuation, as suggested by Inland, could prompt a flood of appeals by other Williston businesses.

Macaig, one of three board members who inspected the property, said the committee viewed vacant spaces at Maple Tree Place during their 30-minute tour. The inspection started at the Majestic 10 movie theater and then moved to the adjacent building housing Mexicali and other businesses.

Bill Parks, Inland Western’s vice president for property management, said he could not comment until he reviewed the written decision. Richard Wulsin, an attorney who argued the tax appeal for Inland, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Deb Beckett said the rushed meeting – public notice for the session was posted only two days in advance – was prompted by statutory deadline and looming vacations by board members.

Under state law, the board had 30 days from the July 20 appeal hearing to make a decision. Meanwhile, many members were going to be on vacation in the days leading up to the deadline, so Beckett said the meeting was quickly arranged to ensure those who inspected the property were present and the required minimum of three board members attended.

The poor turnout for last week’s meeting – the board has 18 members in all – continues a trend of recent years. An Aug. 6 story in the Observer noted that many of the Selectboard members and justices of the peace who staff the BCA rarely attend meetings.

The appeal hearing last month, despite the fact it involved property so expensive that a big devaluation could impact municipal and school budgets, drew only half of the board. By statute, only those who attended the hearing could vote on the appeal.

Beckett, who had been critical of the no-shows at previous meetings, said the low turnout was OK this time because of the short notice.

“Being able to get it in today was the best that could have been done,” she said shortly after the meeting adjourned last Thursday. “Ideally, it would have been nice to have more people there.”

Williston listers in June denied Inland’s request to reduce the appraisal, prompting the appeal.

Absent further appeal, Inland Western, a real estate investment trust affiliated with Illinois-based Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, one of the nation’s largest owners of commercial real estate, will pay $1.3 million in property taxes during the 2009-10 fiscal year. If the appraisal had been reduced to $65 million, the tax bill would have dropped by roughly $241,000.

Critics have questioned the town’s valuation of the property. Inland paid $102.3 million for Maple Tree Place four years ago. Wulsin argued at last month’s hearing that the purchase price was “somewhat irrelevant” in establishing the current value because commercial loans and potential buyers have dried up amid the economic meltdown.

Wulsin claimed Maple Tree Place was overvalued compared to other large retail centers in the state. But Macaig said that Maple Tree Place is unique and there are really no comparable properties in Vermont.

Wulsin also argued that Maple Tree Place has a significant number of vacancies, reducing income and hence value. One of its largest stores, Linens ‘n Things, went bankrupt last year, and there is other vacant retail and office space.

Wulsin said using an income-based method of valuation would reduce the appraisal to $65 million. The Board of Civil Authority’s written ruling acknowledged using that method would indeed reduce the tax value while noting the town does not calculate commercial appraisals that way.

Inland Western now has the right to further appeal, either to the state appraiser or in superior court. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of when the Board of Civil Authority’s written decision is mailed.


[Read more…]

Tax-free holiday this Saturday (8/20/09)

Williston businesses gearing up for busy shopping day

Aug. 20, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Williston retailers and businesses are preparing for an onslaught of shoppers from Vermont and beyond this weekend. That’s because the state’s sales tax holiday will take place this Saturday, Aug. 22.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Williston businesses, such as North Country Tile on Marshall Avenue, are gearing up for this Saturday’s tax-free day.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Flooring America is one of several stores that are offering a layaway plan prior to the tax free holiday.

For one day only, the state is suspending its 6 percent sales tax. Patrons of Williston businesses will have the added benefit of not having to pay the town’s extra 1 percent local option sales tax. The tax-free benefit only applies to items under $2,000.

Every business, from big box stores to locally-owned shops, is hoping this Saturday will turn into one of the biggest shopping days of the year. And many are holding extra sales with extended business hours to entice customers to spend even more.

“I expect this weekend to be extremely busy,” said Doug Whitaker, general manager of the SuperStore, which sells appliances, electronics and furniture.

Tasha Wallis, executive director of the Vermont Retailers Association, said the tax-free Saturday will be a boon to all Vermont businesses, especially those that sell a lot of back-to-school supplies and electronics.

“I think we’ll see the most activity in those stores,” Wallis said.

Many shops have already seen steady activity in the two weeks leading up to this Saturday. Since Vermont is allowing layaway programs this year for shoppers, customers have been pre-shopping in order to find the best deals and available products.

Laurie LeDuke, manager of Vermont Furniture Galleries, said the layaway program has already been a success. Each day gets busier and busier, she said.

“We’re trying to convenience (customers) by having them come in earlier,” LeDuke said, adding the store’s free delivery bonus has also brought in people.

With a layaway plan, customers can pick out what they want ahead of time while being charged on Saturday and receiving the tax-free savings.

“It’s great because a lot of people don’t want to waste a Saturday in a store,” said Dianne Daniels, sales representative for Flooring America.

Stores are also rolling out extra sales even as Vermont suspends its sales tax for a day. Flooring America is matching Vermont and Williston’s sale tax by taking an extra 7 percent off every purchase, which includes items already discounted. The SuperStore is offering a similar deal.

At North Country Tile, the store will be holding a warehouse sale on a day it’s normally closed. Sales representative Jessica Kaiser said many overstock and discontinued items will be on sale, along with items in its showroom.

“This will be a good thing for people to take advantage of,” said Kaiser.

Customers at Guy’s Farm & Yard will be treated to an extra 10 percent off nearly the entire store, according to manager Giles Jackson. He hopes this Saturday’s sales tax holiday will be as successful as last year’s tax-free weekend.

“Both days last year our sales were double,” Jackson said.

Last year, the sales tax weekend took place on July 12 and 13. The state decided to have two tax-free Saturdays instead; one taking place this weekend and the next occurring on March 6, 2010.

“It’s to provide more opportunities for retailers and consumers to benefit,” said Wallis, adding that March is typically a slow time of year for businesses.

LeDuke from the Vermont Furniture Galleries said creating two tax-free Saturdays was a good thing since “one day is not enough.”

“We probably did three weekends worth of business in one weekend last year,” LeDuke said.

“We’re hoping we can do the same numbers that we did last year,” said Whitaker from the SuperStore.

Wallis said this Saturday’s tax holiday also comes at a time when sales have been down for some retailers in the economic recession. Any boost helps, she added.

“It’ll be nice to have a real positive, upbeat event for retailers,” Wallis said.

Jackson at Guy’s Farm & Yard said he’s hoping for a large boost in sales in what has been a slower-than-normal year.

“(This year) hasn’t been like other years, but we’re doing OK,” Jackson said.


[Read more…]

Allen Brook

    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Rich Langdon (left) of the Vermont Department of Conservation gives instructions to members of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps before Monday morning’s fish survey along the Allen Brook. See story below.

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Sports Notes (8/13/09)

Aug. 13, 2009


Williston swimmers succeed at state championships

Seven swimmers from Williston’s EDGE Swim Team, ages 8 through 17, captured first, second and third place finishes in the Vermont Swim Association State Championships, held Aug. 1 and 2 at White River Junction.

All were members of the EDGE Swim Team coached by Melinda Antonucci.

Leading the way were Ben Ogle with four first place finishes and Ellie Laukaitis with a pair of wins and two third places.

Chandler Brandes scored a runner-up in the 200 freestyle and John Laukaitis tied for second in the 25 backstroke.

Third places were captured by Anna Shelley in the 100 backstroke, Baxter Bishop in the 25 backstroke and Ben Kinsley in the 100 individual medley.

EDGE finished fourth in Division 3.

Williston swimmers Maddie, Caroline and Elliott Limanek helped Burlington Tennis Club to a first place finish in Division 1. Hannah Durkee of Williston was on the Burlington Country Club team that finished first in Division 2.

Paralyzed Barre football player sues school

A paralyzed former Spaulding High School football player is suing the Barre school district over his injuries.

Derek Felix was a 16-year-old high school junior four years ago when he was paralyzed on his second play in the game as he tried to tackle a player on the opposing team.

The lawsuit says Felix should not have been sent into the September 2005 game because he hadn’t completed the minimum 10 practices needed to play and he had not been taught how to tackle.

Felix is now 20 and living with his family in Barre. He uses a wheelchair.

School district lawyer Pietro Lynn told the Barre Times Argus that school officials wish Felix the best, but they do not believe any school employees were negligent.

— The Associated Press


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Armadillos edged by Charlotte (8/13/09)

Loss drops Williston from first place

Aug. 13, 2009

The Williston Armadillos squared off against last year’s Vermont Senior Baseball League champions, the Charlotte Bison, on Sunday in a battle of the two teams with the league’s best records.

The game lived up to its potential, as each team had the lead, but was unable to hold it. Unfortunately for the Dillos, in the end, the Bison handed them their third straight one-run loss, this time 7-6 in 10 innings. While both teams now have identical 10-3 records, Charlotte assumes first place in the league given its victory.

Williston was held to just seven hits, but two of them were out of the yard, one by first baseman Pookie Martin (1-3, BB, HR, 3 runs, RBI) and the other by third baseman Jeff Boucher (3-4, HR, 3 runs, 3 RBIs). Boucher was the only Dillo to collect more than one hit.

On the mound, starter Bill Supple threw six innings, giving up six runs on eight hits, while walking two and striking out four. Greg Bolger, who took the loss, threw the last four innings, giving up one run on six hits, while striking out three.

Williston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first. After Supple (0-3, BB) was hit by a pitch, Bolger (0-4) forced him at second. Martin walked and second baseman Pete Picard (1-3, sac, 1 RBI) singled, scoring Bolger. One batter later, Boucher singled home Martin.

The lead was cut to 2-1 in the second as Charlotte registered a single and a double, with an Armadillo error in the middle.

Williston scored twice in the fourth as Boucher hit a two-run homer. Charlotte answered with a run in the bottom of the frame on a walk, an error and a single.

The Bison then tied the game in the fifth on two singles, a double and a sacrifice fly and knocked a two-run homer in the sixth for a 6-4 lead.

The Dillos, however, refused to fold, coming back with one in the seventh inning on Martin’s solo four bagger and tied the game in the eighth as Boucher and Jesse Stein (1-3) singled and catcher Darby Lee Crum (1-3, 2B, RBI) doubled home Boucher.

The score remained knotted at 6 until the bottom of the 10th. With two outs, Charlotte recorded a single and a double to put the winning run at third. After an intentional pass to load the bases, the following batter hit a hard grounder in the hole between short and third. While Dillo shortstop Tremblay dove and fielded the ball, his throw to third was too late to get the runner, as the winning run scampered home.

On Sunday, the Dillos travel to Northfield to take on the 2-11 Stars.

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


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CVU football season kicks off Monday (8/13/09)

Aug. 13, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Valley Union High football team will be getting uppity in its fifth varsity football season, with practice starting Monday with double sessions.


    File photos
Champlain Valley Union High players Kyle Goodrich (34), Konnor Fleming (10) and Collin Teator (26) take down Mount Abraham Union’s Josh Masterson during a game on Oct. 25, 2008. The Redhawks move from Division 3 to Division 2 this season.

Equipment pickup is set for Sunday, starting at 5 p.m. That is also a time previously unregistered aspirants can report and get equipment.

Head coach Jim Provost said formal practice will open with sessions starting at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Friday there will be a single practice beginning at 1 p.m.

The uppity part of it lies in the fact that this year the Redhawks are moving to Division 2 after four seasons in Division 3.

“We are going to be playing good teams week in and week out,” Provost said of the enhanced schedule. “We are going to compete for the playoffs, which means we have to keep getting better.”

The Redhawks finished with a 3-5 record last fall.

The season opens the night of Friday, Sept. 4 with a trip to Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. The Redhawks will travel to Rice Memorial High on Sept. 12 before launching the home opener on Sept. 19 against Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax.

Provost believes he will be working with some 80 or more players and plans to have two junior varsity level teams, so there will be playing time for all hopefuls.

The preseason scrimmages are set for Aug. 29 at 10 a.m., with the varsity at Colchester High and junior varsity at Essex High.

“We are looking at numbers in the 80s from grades nine through 12, and we are hoping to have at least 25 freshmen trying out,” Provost said.

The veteran head coach’s immediate wish was for players to report in playing shape.

“When they come to us in condition that leaves more time for teaching and less time on conditioning,” he said.

Provost was asked if there is anything the football candidates should do on the final weekend before practices start.

“If they have not done anything all summer then it is too late,” he replied. “If they have been working out, get some rest.”

An intra-squad scrimmage and parents conference has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22, starting at 10 a.m.

Working with Provost again this season will be defensive coordinator Kevin McCarthy. Tim Halvorson will handle the offensive line and Doug Belisle the running backs.

Rahn Fleming, the team’s conditioning guru, will oversee the junior varsity.



Other CVU fall sports also begin on Monday with tryouts. Competition starts early next month.

Cross country

Tryouts: Monday

Opening meet: at South Burlington, Sept. 1

Field hockey

Tryouts: Monday

Opening game: at Burlington High, Sept. 1

Boys soccer

Tryouts: Monday

Opening game: at Mount Abraham Union, Sept. 8

Girls soccer

Tryouts: Monday

Opening game: at Milton High, Sept. 5


[Read more…]

Education Briefs (8/13/09)

Aug. 13, 2009

Williston residents earn Mater Christi awards

Two students from Williston collected awards at Mater Christi School’s Recognition Night earlier this summer. The ceremony honored eighth graders graduating from the private Catholic school in Burlington.

Ellen Sartorelli was one of two students to win the DAR Good Citizenship Award.

She also received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, as did fellow Williston resident David Ro. Twenty-two students from Mater Christi received the Educational Excellence award. A message from President Barack Obama accompanied the President’s Education Award certificates.

Ro was one of several performers at Recognition night, playing a piano solo.

Mater Christi hires assistant principal

Principal Bev Broomhall of Mater Christi School in Burlington announced that Michel Heller became the school’s new assistant principal on Aug. 3.

According to a press release, Heller has eight years of teaching experience and believes, “All children have a natural need to explore, to reflect, to communicate, to dream and to celebrate their successes in all areas of their education.”

Heller has a bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies from Alvernia College in Reading, Pa. and a master’s of science degree in Educational Leadership from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minn.

Along with his wife Kim and son Aidan, Heller is moving from North Carolina to live near other family members in the Burlington and Williston area. He looks forward to becoming involved in the Mater Christi and Williston communities.

Mater Christi School draws some students from Williston.

State Education Board chairman to step down

The chairman of the Vermont State Board of Education is stepping down.

Tom James, a retired IBM executive, has served a six-year term on the board and will attend his final monthly meeting on Sept. 15.

James was appointed chairman in February 2005.

He says he is pleased to have participated in the initiation of the transformation of education in Vermont, an effort to ensure all students will be prepared when they graduate from high school to be successful in college, careers and as citizens.

A new chairman will be chosen at the board’s September meeting.

— The Associated Press


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Fire Log (8/13/09)

 Aug. 13, 2009

Motorcycle accident

On Aug. 2 at 9:26 a.m., a Harley-Davidson motorcycle collided with a Nissan Sentra on U.S. 2 near the South Burlington town line. The motorcycle received extensive damage, but the driver had only minor injuries, according to Williston firefighter Ryan Prouty, who said the individual was “very lucky.” The driver reportedly received a few scrapes, bumps and bruises, and refused treatment and a ride to the hospital.

The Nissan suffered heavy damage on its front right end and had to be towed from the scene. Fire crews cleaned up the debris once the vehicles were removed. Seven firefighters responded, along with Engine 3 and Cars 2 and 3.

‘Curious child’

A “curious child” pulled a fire alarm at a business on Harvest Lane on Aug. 7 at 12:37 p.m., according to Prouty. Fire crews had to respond to the building to turn off the alarm.

“Once you pull (an alarm), we have to set it back with a key and reset the system,” Prouty said.

Prouty said the alarm was an older one that did not have a preemptive alarm associated with it to warn curious children away from the device.


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