August 30, 2015

CVU science teacher takes place of mentor (9/17/09)

Three part-time teachers also new to CVU

Sept. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

For Champlain Valley Union High School’s newest full-time science teacher Bill Schoonover, working at CVU is like coming “full circle.”


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Bill Schoonover, a new science teacher at Champlain Valley Union High School, stands in a biology lab at the school.

Ten years ago, Schoonover began his education career under the tutelage of former science teacher Dave Ely. Now, Schoonover has replaced his former mentor and is looking forward to continuing the legacy Ely created in his 36 years of teaching.

“I feel like CVU is a place where I want to develop some roots,” Schoonover said. “There’s a reason teachers teach here for years and years.”

Schoonover, who teaches biology and physics, said the school atmosphere at CVU was appealing. It’s a community of learners, he said, and not just a school.

“I’m really impressed with how mature the kids are here,” Schoonover said. “They seem willing and eager to learn right off the bat.”

Schoonover is a native of Chicago, and received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Iowa in 1996. As a kid, he said he was always fascinated by the physical world and how things worked. Science drew itself to him, he said.

He spent three years working as a veterinary technician in and around Chicago before moving to Vermont with his wife in 1998. He earned his teaching certification in 1999 and worked as a science teacher at Mount Mansfield Union High School and The Gailer School when it was in Shelburne; The Gailer School has since moved to Middlebury.

For the past seven years, Schoonover was a teacher at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon. He received his master’s degree in education from St. Michael’s College in 2006.

Schoonover said he’s enjoyed his first days at CVU and is impressed with the knowledge his students already have in science. His job will be to further that interest, he said.

“Students are treated like adults here and because of that, they act in kind,” he said.

Part-time teachers join staff

CVU also welcomed three part-time teachers earlier this month: Stacy Wulff as a social studies teacher, Michael Burris as a science teacher and Xue Li as a Chinese language teacher. The Observer was unable to reach the educators for interviews by press deadline.

Wulff, who received a history degree from St. Michael’s College in 2002, has worked at CVU since she graduated college. She’s worked as a paraeducator, a tutor and a long-term substitute at the high school. Wulff replaces long-time teacher Alexander “Sandy” Lord, who retired after last school year. She earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Vermont in 2007.

Burris, who worked as a science teacher at Peoples Academy High School in Morrisville since 2004, earned a bachelor of science degree from UVM in 1994. He earned his master’s degree in education from the university in 2004.

Li came to CVU when the high school added Chinese to its world language program this school year. Li earned her bachelor’s degree in China in 1994, then taught English at a medical university in that country for four years. In 2004, she completed her master’s degree at Auburn University in Alabama. Most recently, Li was a Chinese language teacher at Vermont Commons School in South Burlington.


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Recipe Corner (9/17/09)

The staple of life

Sept. 17, 2009

By Ginger Isham

The nickname for the potato is spud. A spud was used to dig a hole and somehow this connection to potato planting gave it this name. “Spud” has many other meanings but this is my favorite.

The potato when baked has only 93 calories; mashed it has 65 calories. If you use a pat of butter you add 35 more calories. A potato has the same amount of vitamin C as a glass of tomato juice and iron content is similar to that of an egg.

Scalloped Potatoes Made Easy

Peel and slice 6 medium potatoes and 1 onion. Layer in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with the following:

2 tablespoons flour

Dash of salt

Pepper to taste

Heat 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons butter and pour over the potatoes. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove cover for the last 15 minutes. If you want, sprinkle a cheese of your choice on top.

Potato Dumplings

Peel, cook and mash 6 potatoes. Stir in the following, and mix well:

Dash of salt and pepper

2 tablespoons shortening, melted

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Drop by spoonfuls into salted, boiling water. Cover tightly and boil about 12 minutes.

To save time, cook and mash potatoes ahead of time and reheat and add rest of ingredients and cook.

Serve with a cheese sauce, hamburgers or other types of beef. Makes about 15 servings.

Potatoburger Pie

(A popular dish in England; this recipe comes from my Prince Edward Island Potato Recipe Book)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1 pound ground beef (very lean)

Pinch of salt and pepper

2 cups green beans, cooked

1 can condensed tomato soup

2 cups mashed potato

1/2 cup grated cheese, optional (use any cheese you choose)

Cook onion in oil; add hamburger and seasonings and brown. Add beans and soup. Stir and pour into an oiled casserole dish. Top with spoonfuls of hot mashed potato. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 4 to 6 servings. You could substitute another vegetable, such as carrots, for the green beans.

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


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Liberally Speaking (9/17/09)

Sizing up the 2010 governor's race

Sept. 17, 2009

By Steve Mount

Just a little under a year ago, in this space, I noted that Gov. Jim Douglas was a virtual shoo-in for governor in the 2010 election, should he decide to run. As you’ve surely heard or read by now, Douglas has, indeed, announced his intention to not run in 2010.

True to his Vermont spirit, Douglas assured Vermonters that he would serve out his term, unlike some other notable Republican governors. When VPR’s Bob Kinzel suggested that Douglas could give his Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie a leg up in the 2010 election by stepping down early, Douglas was unequivocal about his intention to go the distance.

With the curtain on the Incumbent Protection Plan drawn back, Douglas’ decision opens up possibilities for a new face in the office, the same way Howard Dean’s decision gave Douglas his chance and Madeleine Kunin’s decision allowed Richard Snelling to step back into the governor’s office.

On the Republican side, there are several familiar names mentioned as contenders, though none have officially announced as yet. These include Dubie, former Vermont National Guard Commander Gen. Martha Rainville, recent Republican convert Tom Salmon and Mark Snelling, son of the late aforementioned governor. The general consensus is that everyone else is awaiting Dubie’s decision before moving ahead with their own plans.

On the Democratic side, there are several familiar names, many of whom are now serving the state with distinction. Unlike the Republicans, though, some are not waiting to make their intentions known.

Deborah Markowitz has been Vermont’s secretary of state since 1998, having been elected to the office six times. In 2008, she was reelected with 70.8 percent of the vote. In her role, she has been a champion of towns and cities and of open government. I’ve been impressed with her efforts promoting free and fair elections, and in her office’s efforts to move the state to higher and higher voter turnouts. Though she is the veteran of many statewide elections, I’m not sure of her experience as an executive.

Doug Racine is a former lieutenant governor and on-again-off-again member of the state Senate. Racine lost a bid for the governor’s office in 2002, to Douglas. Racine has the benefit of statewide name recognition and executive experience, both in business and government. In Chittenden County, at least, he enjoys wide popularity, being reelected to the Senate in 2008 by the highest vote count in history. Fair or not, though, I do feel like Racine had his chance in 2002.

Both Markowitz and Racine have officially announced their intention to run for governor in 2010.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin has been mentioned frequently as a possible contender, but has not made a formal announcement as yet. Shumlin has served in the House and the Senate since 1989. Shumlin ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, losing to Dubie. It would be interesting to see the two lock horns again for the big chair in 2010, but I have a feeling the experience may have left Shumlin gun shy. He may be more content to serve the state on the legislative side.

A possible dark-horse candidate could be Treasurer Jeb Spaulding. TV commercials produced for the treasurer’s office, offering Vermonters a chance to recover misplaced bank accounts, have graced the airwaves for years, boosting Spaulding’s statewide name recognition. Spaulding also enjoyed a whopping 89.9 percent support rate in the last election, though he had no serious Republican opponent, a luxury he would not enjoy in 2010.

Finally, there are rumblings that our U.S. Rep. Peter Welch might be interested in the governor’s job, and also that recently selected Speaker of the Vermont House, Shap Smith, is contemplating a run. I’m dubious, however. Welch, like Racine, has made a trip to the trough, in 1990, losing to Richard Snelling; and Smith, with even less experience than 2008 Democratic loser Gaye Symington had in the same job, might not see statewide office as attainable just yet.

Lastly, this question: Kunin, after leaving office, joined the U.S. diplomatic corps, serving her adopted country as ambassador to her native Switzerland. Dean, as we can well remember, ran for president in 2000, then became head of the Democratic National Committee. What, then, is in store for Douglas?

When he spoke with Kinzel at the end of August, he had no plans yet, but I’m sure offers will begin to flow soon, if they have not already. Whatever role he plays, I am certain of one thing. He will play it with distinction.

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 [email protected] or read his blog at

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Right to the Point (9/17/09)

Dubie leads 2010 gubernatorial race

Sept. 17, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Since his 1972 election to the Vermont House, Gov. James Douglas has been a hard-working public servant for Vermonters for more than 36 years. Looking to start a new chapter in his life, Douglas recently announced that he would not seek reelection in 2010.

As he noted in last month’s speech, Douglas has made health care reform a priority — creating Catamount Health and implementing the Blueprint for Health. He spoke of Vermont’s commitment to the environment and his efforts to make communities safer. Perhaps most importantly, the governor also talked of how he fought to keep state government affordable.

Looking ahead to the final 16 months of his term, Douglas promised he will “continue to fight for working Vermonters and small business owners who struggle to make ends meet by resisting efforts to raise taxes to grow government and increase spending.”

Just as Vermonters do with their family budget, Douglas advocates living within the state’s means. Because he has tried to reduce both spending and taxes, the governor has often locked horns with Democrats in Montpelier.

Democrats responded to Douglas’ efforts to reduce Vermont’s economic burden by increasing spending and taxes. They overrode his veto of the state budget to ensure their desires became law. Because Democrats could not curb their insatiable appetite for spending, during the next two years Vermonters will face a revenue shortfall of more than $200 million.

Should a Democrat replace Douglas as governor, Vermonters can expect more of the same liberal agenda and tax-and-spend policies of this year’s Legislature.

Although others may enter the fray, so far the Democratic contenders for the top state office are former Lt. Gov. (and current State Sen.) Doug Racine, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and State Sen. Susan Bartlett. Additionally, it looks like Senate President Peter Shumlin may also throw his hat in the ring.

While a melee may ensue on the Democrat’s ballot, the most obvious gubernatorial candidate is our current lieutenant governor, Republican Brian Dubie. Understandably consulting with his wife Penny and their family, Dubie expects to announce whether he will run for governor in the relatively near future.

I have known Brian for more than 30 years. As we both grew up in Essex Junction, our parents were good friends. Additionally, Dubie and Benevento children were classmates all the way through high school back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Because he had just completed two years at the military college, in 1980 Brian advised me on what to expect during my upcoming four years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

In the late ’80s, we dueled in the air in our fighter jets over Lake Ontario. I still have a cassette tape in which I recorded several dogfights between Brian and his wingman in their F-16s and my unit’s F-4s, including the one I was flying in. While Burlington’s newer jet fighters beat our older warbirds, we got our fair share of “kills” that day.

After I left the Air Force, I had the privilege to serve on Brian’s 2004 reelection committee. The meetings were full of camaraderie. Brian respected everyone’s opinion — even those from a political novice like me. I was struck by how he cared for those around him and the long hours he spent traveling throughout Vermont to listen to the public’s concerns.

Brian is deeply committed to his family, Vermont and our country. He genuinely cares for all citizens — no matter what their political affiliations are. He humbly puts the welfare of Vermonters and the wellbeing of the state first. He is a very likable person and a natural leader.

The Burlington Free Press’ Terri Hallenbeck pointed out that Dubie has spent a lifetime in leadership positions. He was student council president, captain of the football team and governor at Boys State in high school. Hallenbeck wrote, “The list goes on after high school: F-16 squadron commander, airline pilot, school board chairman, colonel in the Air Force Reserves with missions at Ground Zero, Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, four-term lieutenant governor.”

During his time in office, he has been heavily involved with public safety, green energy issues, economic development and homeland security.

Should Vermonters elect Brian Dubie governor, they will be rewarded with 100 percent effort from a dedicated family man and a caring leader. He will fight to hold the line on taxes and spending and will collaborate with other elected officials to improve the state’s future. Vermont will be hard-pressed to find a better person to serve as governor.

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.

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Letters to the Editor (9/17/09)

Sept. 17, 2009

Never forget

It has been eight years since the horrific attacks scarred our country on Sept. 11, 2001. The terror that gripped our nation that day would certainly never be forgotten.

As we prepared to start our day on this Sept. 11, our two youngest children took a few moments to lower our flag to half-mast as a remembrance and tribute to all those who were lost. We then went our separate ways and my morning travels brought me past numerous businesses. While driving, I could not help but notice how many flags were flying at full mast. In some cases, I stopped my vehicle and took it upon myself to lower the flag. I also placed several phone calls and stopped at many locations, asking whoever was present to take a moment and lower their flag. These locations included a large telecommunications company, a small insurance company, a local car dealership and a fitness gym. Additionally, a local high school and the City of Burlington Department of Public Works were both flying Old Glory at full mast. I called the mayor of Burlington and the high school office and was thanked for alerting them to this oversight.

This was an eye-opening experience and I plan to make this personal public service an annual tradition. Hopefully the need for stops and phone calls will be less each year.

Additionally, I would like to commend the Williston Fire Department for holding a ceremony at the fire station as well as an assembly at Taft Corners later in the day. Their actions made me proud to be a member of this community.

Tony O’Rourke, Williston

Facts about health care reform

Millions of our fellow Americans, including our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members, are physically suffering and going bankrupt without health insurance or because of the coverage they have. Despite this, there are still people out there that want to hold on to the status quo. We are the only democracy, the only industrialized nation, that does not provide a safety net to its people when it comes to health care.

People are being swayed by the myths, distortions and lies promoted by the insurance industry, which has spent millions of dollars buying out the politicians who are fighting against reform. Right-wing extremists who want to take down the Obama presidency have resorted to using whatever tactics necessary to kill health care reform, trying to convince people of the concept of a “Death Panel” or that health care reform is a “government takeover,” or that illegal immigrants would get coverage.

Unfortunately, many citizens who are being bombarded by misinformation are starting to believe in these lies. It’s propaganda that is being funded by the millions of dollars in special interest advertising and a 24-hour news cycle.

Here are three basic facts about the proposed health care reform:

1. The government would NOT start making decisions about when to stop providing care to the elderly.

2. The public option is just an option that would give Americans more choice and keep private insurance companies honest. Think of University of Vermont’s tuition as an option to Middlebury College’s tuition.

3. The non-partisan accountability group says President Barack Obama’s plan will cover only those who are legally in the United States.

The health care system we currently have is broken and unsustainable. Let’s stick to the facts and start taking care of each other.

Deborah Miuccio, Williston

Circ Highway is long overdue

I have not heard a word as to the status of this project that has been in the works for over two decades. I think that the interstate highway from Williston to Montpelier would not have taken this long to build.

It is a tragedy that some $44 million has been expended over this period of time for the acquisition of land and engineering cost, as well as study after study have taken place. Who in their right mind would have invested this kind of money for some 28 years without putting anything to work?

The importance of this project is clear, as detailed in the many meetings, i.e. traffic control, the conservation of energy, the ravage taking place on the county residential streets, an emergency route for ambulance and fire trucks and the need for an escape route in the event of major disasters.

I have contacted our local, state and national leaders, with only standard political replies from our senators. I have been advised that it is being held up by the Army Corps of Engineers and again awaiting a reply on the latest environmental study. It is high time that our representation “got this shook loose” and stimulated the “stimulus.” What’s your opinion?

George Baron, Williston


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Guest Column (9/17/09)

Pack mentality

Sept. 17, 2009

By Robert Evans Wilson Jr.

When my son was 2 years old, we got a Samoyed puppy, and for the next 18 months they were the best of friends. Then the dog changed. Suddenly she started growling at my son and biting him. At first I thought that maybe he was pulling her tail or something else that was irritating her, but that wasn’t it.

My dog had become an adult and instinct kicked in. She became concerned with her place in the pack hierarchy. I learned that our family was her pack, that I was alpha-dog and that she had no intention of being at the bottom of the pecking order. That meant someone had to be beneath her and the easiest choice was my toddler.

Through training and discipline we got the biting to stop, but to this day she still considers my son subordinate to her.

It’s all about status and exclusivity. And human beings are just as motivated by it as a pack animal. When Abraham Maslow created his Theory of Human Motivation in 1943, he identified five levels of motivation or five needs that humans strive to satisfy. Those needs are, in order: Survival, Safety, Social, Esteem and Fulfillment.

Status is an esteem need and regardless of where we fall on the economic ladder, we all strive to achieve status before we can move on to the highest need. Whether we admit it or not, we all want to feel as if we are a little bit better than the people around us. We begin to establish that — at least in our own minds — with the accoutrements of wealth such as branded clothing, jewelry, luxury automobiles and exclusive neighborhoods. Even the poorest of people find symbols with which to establish their status. The visibility of these status symbols can create the powerfully motivating emotion of envy.

Most happiness that is acquired by achieving status symbols is short lived. Over time, such trappings become meaningless to us, at which point we seek genuine achievements to prove our worth. Studies have shown that after reaching a certain income level — usually around $250,000 a year — an individual’s happiness does not increase until they reach the status of super rich, approximately $10,000,000 a year.

But, status can continue to motivate us long after money ceases to do so. Bestowing a new title with added responsibilities yet without any added pay is a common method for rewarding employees.

Volunteers can be motivated in a similar fashion. I have been a Boy Scout leader for the past five years. The Boy Scouts of America rewards its leaders with patches embroidered with colorful square knots that are worn on the adult uniform. Different colored square knots represent the variety of services a volunteer has provided or achievements that he or she has earned. Some square knots represent achievements earned years earlier when the volunteer was a Boy Scout. When I attend formal full uniform functions, I find myself scanning fellow leaders’ square knots to note their status. There is one we all look for: It is the red, white and blue knot that indicates the wearer earned the highest status in scouting as a youth: the Eagle Scout award.

When the United States was founded, one of its distinguishing characteristics from the rest of the world was the lack of a feudal or caste system. That doesn’t mean status doesn’t exist in America. Indeed it does, but here we must earn it. Best of all, people have a choice and can rise above the station they were born into.

Lacking status puts us in the un-comfort zone and drives us to achieve. When you help someone up the social ladder, you can motivate them in a powerful and positive way.

Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. For more information on Wilson’s programs, visit


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St. George Day in the offing? (9/17/09)

Event would raise money for schoolhouse

Sept. 17, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A St. George resident is organizing an event that would celebrate civic togetherness and raise money for the community’s historic schoolhouse.

“St. George Day” would allow residents of the tiny town to emulate the festivities of its big-town neighbors, said organizer Lori Ring. After all, Williston and other municipalities have Independence Day or similar events where all residents gather — why not St. George?

“Most towns have things like that,” she said. “We don’t do anything over here. We’d be happy to start a new tradition.”

Ring said she has yet to determine exactly what form the celebration would take, what activities would take place or even the date it would be held. She does think it would be held on municipal land next to St. George Town Center.

She hopes to have more answers after an organizational meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29. The session, which takes place at Town Center, starts at 6:30 p.m.

Ring is hoping the meeting will draw volunteers who would offer suggestions and help organize the event, which she said could be held in early May and include a barbecue, games and perhaps even a parade.

The idea was first suggested by Les Parker, a South Burlington resident who is originally from England, where St. George’s Day is celebrated each April 23.

Parker said he has celebrated the day with neighbors and wanted to expand the festivities beyond his backyard. St. George seemed an obvious venue, even if the town is named in honor of King George instead of the patron saint of England and other countries, who died in A.D. 303.

Parker said money for the schoolhouse could be raised by selling donated food. A group of residents led by Ring is trying to restore and relocate the schoolhouse, but funding is needed for the project, which will cost an estimated $247,000.

Phil Gingrow, a member of the St. George Selectboard, said he liked the idea of a town-wide gathering. St. George residents must travel to other towns’ Independence Day activities to participate in a civic event.

“Right now, I think the only time people in this community get together is at Town Meeting,” Gingrow said. “It would be great have something like this where people in the community could meet in a more cordial environment than where we discuss agendas and budgets.”

For more information about volunteering to help organize the St. George Day fund-raiser, call Lori Ring at 482-3747 or send an e-mail to [email protected]


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VT Tech students find home in Williston (9/17/09)

Sept. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Williston has become the perfect new home for Vermont Technical College student Jordy Fraties. He has a third-floor room with a view overlooking the Champlain Valley and Adirondack mountains. Outside his door is a brand new kitchen, as well as a widescreen television and Wii gaming system. Best of all, the electromechanical engineering student is a few steps from class.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Vermont Tech student Jordy Fraties prepares for a class in his new residential housing room. Last year, the college purchased an office building on Helena Drive and converted the third floor into student housing over the summer.

Fraties, a Highgate native, is one of 22 Vermont Tech students living at the college’s Blair Park campus. The new rooms are located on the top floor of a converted office building at 72 Helena Drive, which has become Williston’s first college dormitory.

“It’s like a hotel here,” said Fraties, who also acts as the floor’s resident assistant.

Due to its rapid growth, the college purchased the office building near its Blair Park campus in an effort to expand. The first thing school officials wanted to do was create a small housing area for students who wanted to attend the Williston campus but found the commute too demanding. The rooms booked up well before construction was complete, said Brent Sargent, dean of Vermont Tech’s Williston campus.

Students living in a double room pay $4,650 for the room. Students living in a single room pay $5,888 per year. Those costs come on top of the $9,960 tuition for full-time, in-state students.

The students have only occupied the residential housing for three weeks, but the building’s top floor has already taken on a community feel. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, a bulletin board in the hallway was full of college messages and information. The doors of the 17 rooms — a mix of doubles and singles — were decorated with the names of the residents.

In the student lounge, the couches were arranged facing the television and respiratory therapy student Jenna Aldrich was busy making a quick snack in the lounge’s kitchen. Aldrich, who’s hometown is West Charleston, said the daily commute for her classes would have been around four hours round trip.

“This is so much easier for me to go to school,” Aldrich said.

Since it opened in the fall of 2003, Vermont Tech’s Williston location has always been a commuter satellite school for the college’s main campus in Randolph. When it opened, the Williston location only occupied part of the Blair Park office complex, with 32 students enrolled in four associate degree programs.

Today, Vermont Tech has close to 480 full- and part-time students enrolled in more than 20 degree programs, including engineering and health care-related fields. The college has completely absorbed the 50,000 square-foot office complex at Blair Park and has added the Helena Drive office building.

“We’ve sort of grown into everything here,” Sargent said.

Sargent said the goal for Williston’s campus is to increase to the size of Randolph’s, which has close to 800 students.

Residential housing isn’t the only new addition at the Helena Drive building. The college is also building a fitness room on the first floor and converting the first and second floors into office and classroom space.

Two other tenants remain in the building. Sargent said Williston Mortgage Corporation and Stelletta Salon will stay until their leases expire in two years.

Sargent doesn’t expect Williston’s Vermont Tech campus to grow to the same size as Randolph’s for a few years. The college is looking at other avenues for growth, including the possibility of adding more housing. Vermont Tech has 23 nursing students rooming in the former New England Culinary Institute’s housing facility in Essex Junction. Sargent would like to see those students live closer to campus.

Fraties said the students on his floor have developed a quick bond and enjoy each other’s company. All the college asks is that the students remain respectful to the school and the community. So far, no problems, Sargent said.

With his electromechanical engineering classes demanding much of his attention, Fraties said Vermont Tech keeps him engaged.

“My focus is green energy and whatever I work on, I want it to be environmentally friendly,” Fraties said.

But he doesn’t mind the workload. He foresees Vermont Tech giving him a bright future.


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Construction starts on rec path (9/17/09)

Easements granted for Mountain View segment

Sept. 17, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

With easements finally secured, work on a long-planned recreation path along Mountain View Road is expected to begin this week.

The company submitting the low bid, Jericho-based Dirt Tech, broke ground on a project that will run between North Williston and Old Stage roads.

Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said the final two property owners along the route granted easements for the recreation path last week.

The town has planned the project since voters approved a $2.6 million bond for recreation paths and sidewalks five years ago. Property owners reluctant to grant permission to run sidewalks and paths in front of their homes have in some cases slowed progress.

But Boyden said it would be unfair to blame the final two property owners who granted easements for the Mountain View path for the delay. He said it was just a matter of scheduling time with them to discuss the project.

“They weren’t holdouts, they just needed to be informed,” he said.

Common concerns expressed by property owners include privacy, drainage and the impact of construction on access to driveways.

The town, which has traditionally not paid property owners for sidewalk easements, instead tries to make accommodations, Boyden said. For the Mountain View Road project, the town is installing fences along some stretches to protect privacy and grading some other portions, allowing property owners to more easily mow areas adjacent to the path.

The town received a half-dozen bids to complete the Mountain View Road project, which will consist of a 6-foot-wide paved path about 4,000 feet long. Dirt Tech’s bid of $141,998 was more than $40,000 less than the next lowest bid.

The contract requires the company to finish the project by Nov. 10. If the deadline is missed, the town can impose a $500-a-day fine.

The Mountain View Road project is one of three to be funded entirely with voter-approved bonds. The others are along North Williston Road, from U.S. 2 to Mountain View Road, and on U.S. 2, from North Brownell Road to Taft Corners. The North Williston Road project has been completed, but parts of the U.S. 2 segment remain unfinished.

Boyden said there are a couple of reasons that construction of the bond-funded sidewalks and recreation paths have taken so long. One is the time is takes to file for and win permits. Another is the amount of legwork required to schedule meetings with the scores of property owners affected by the project, then get a written agreement from each.

He acknowledged that in some cases property owners have refused to grant easements because they don’t want a recreation path running through their yard. But mainly owners just want to be reassured that the path won’t unduly impact their property and their daily lives.

“Most folks we’ve dealt with are pretty civic-minded,” Boyden said. “It’s a public infrastructure improvement and they generally buy into it.”


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Sustainable living course offered to Williston residents (9/17/09)

Sept. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A six-week seminar meant to help Williston residents pursue more environmentally-friendly lifestyles begins next week at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library.

Called “Choices for Sustainable Living,” the course is free and open to Williston residents. It starts at 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 and is due to wrap up on Oct. 28. WING Green Initiatives, the Vermont Earth Institute and the library are sponsoring the seminar.

The course is limited to 12 people and six have already signed up, according to Library Director Marti Fiske.

Each week, the class will discuss a different sustainability topic, ranging from understanding sustainability to putting green living into practice.

“Our main goal is to create awareness of sustainability for residents of Williston,” said Mariana Lamaison Sears, a member of WING Green Initiatives.

Those taking the class will be given a free course book. The book is a compilation of readings focusing on sustainability topics. Fiske said the Northwest Earth Institute, a sister organization to the Vermont Earth Institute, supplied the books through a library loan.

Sears said the course will follow the format of a community discussion, rather than a structured class. Attendees will need to prepare for each discussion by reading an assigned chapter of the book. Everyone should also be prepared to discuss ideas from the book and their own life experiences, Sears added.

The course idea came from discussions held by members of WING Green Initiatives, Sears said. The group formed last year immediately following the town-wide gathering for WING, which stands for Williston Into the Next Generation. Recently, the group has met twice each month. Sears said the Green Initiatives group has a steady attendance of eight to 10 residents at each meeting.

The sustainable living course is just one of the activities WING Green Initiatives has planned for this fall. On Oct. 11, the Williston-based company Building Energy will conduct an energy audit of the library. Fiske said it was always in the works to be audited, but the WING committee helped spur the project along at a faster rate.

Last year, Building Energy did an energy audit of Town Hall and discovered Williston could save thousands of dollars a year with better insulation and improved lighting systems. Fiske said the library is a newer building than Town Hall, but that doesn’t mean it won’t need any efficiency improvements.

“I expect we’ll be making some changes,” Fiske said.

WING Green Initiatives will also hold a sustainability fair on Oct. 24 at Town Hall. Sears said the fair will be a mix of workshops and displays, with booths from organizations such as Efficiency Vermont and the Chittenden Solid Waste District on hand. It’s being held in conjunction with the International Day of Climate Action, organized by Vermont author Bill McKibben’s global organization.

“We’re trying to create the idea that we’re all part of something bigger,” Sears said.

For more information about the “Choices For Sustainable Living” course, call Dorothy Alling Memorial Library at 878-4918.


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