October 21, 2014

School budget hinges on configuration costs (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The budget season began in earnest last week in the Williston School District. School Board members received their first look at the 2010-2011 school budget but are still awaiting news on how much next year’s planned reconfiguration will cost the district.

The board did receive some good early news. According to figures provided by Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason, Williston’s baseline budget for next year is lower than in years past. If the district begins next school year with the same services and staff as this year, the district is looking at a 1.05 percent increase from the current budget. In total, the baseline budget adds up to roughly $16.49 million.

“That’s a good place to start from,” District Principal Walter Nardelli said.

As for reconfiguration, Nardelli said he’s still awaiting final enrollment projects for next year. Once the administration has the numbers, it will be able to determine whether or not a sixth upper house will be needed within the school. Nardelli said the enrollment projections should be ready for the board’s next budget meeting on Dec. 3.

In next year’s reconfiguration, pre-kindergarten through second grade students will be housed at Allen Brook School and third through eighth graders will be housed at Williston Central School. There will also be a mix of two-year and four-year houses for grades five through eight.

The cost of the reconfiguration is something School Board members are cognizant of, board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said at the meeting. There is also pressure from state officials to keep budgets level funded. Department of Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca sent a letter to superintendents last week urging districts to keep budget increases to a bare minimum and to look for ways to cut costs to help taxpayers during the recession.

But reconfiguration could make that difficult, Worth said. Last year, the district kept its budget increase low at .03 percent.

“I’m not sure we can do that this year,” Worth said.

School Board member Deb Baker-Moody said once the board hears from the administration on reconfiguration costs it will be able to move forward in determining the rest of the budget. She said reconfiguration will also establish what may need to be cut from the budget.

“That’s what we’ll have to decide,” Baker-Moody told the Observer after the meeting.

Also on Thursday, the board heard presentations on technology, operations and special education budgets for next year. Technology Director Bonnie Birdsall presented student work to the board, showing how technology plays into all subject areas. Next year, the technology department will need to replace 53 desktop computers and 37 laptops, Birdsall told the board. She may also push for more SmartBoards so every teaching team in the school has one. SmartBoards are interactive white boards that can cost up to $3,500.

Special Education Director Carter Smith said his department may require additional staff and paraeducators to best meet student needs. With additional students that may need special education focus in the early grades, Smith estimated his department would be looking at a $213,000 increase.

Operationally, Williston Central needs a new boiler system. The school has three large boilers used for heating, all of which are nearly 45 years old. The age of the heating units means less efficiency and higher costs when parts break down. Allen Brook Principal John Terko said each boiler costs roughly $100,000. He said this is a pressing need, although all three would not have to be replaced at once.

Terko also said the board should consider leaving money in next year’s budget for the removal of the temporary classrooms at Allen Brook. He said the Charlotte school district may be interested in acquiring them for renovations. If not, the modular’s builders might be able to take the classrooms back.

 

The next Williston School Board budget meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at Williston Central School. A regular board meeting is scheduled to begin afterwards at 6 p.m.

 


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CVU buzzes with renewable energy (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Despite cool temperatures and sunshine filtered through milky clouds, Warren Colomb knew there was a good chance he could get his solar-powered water pump working. The Champlain Valley Union High School senior from Williston aimed a solar panel toward the sun rising above the school’s northern roof. Like magic, the pump pulled water from a clear plastic tray up through a cylindrical column. Groups of students watched as water spilled over the column and back into the tray.

“If this were a warm, summer day, this would be overflowing,” said Colomb’s friend, senior Jacob Hinsdale of Charlotte, as he helped demonstrate the pump.

The two students, members of the CVU’s Advanced Physics course, displayed their projects for the high school’s Renewable Energy Day last Thursday. The one-hour event was open to all CVU students and celebrated the school’s efforts to use more renewable energy resources on a daily basis, said Adam Bunting, the event organizer and director of Snelling Core, an academic team at CVU.

Bunting, a former student at CVU, said the new focus on renewable resources at the high school represents a “cultural shift.”

“We weren’t having these conversations when I was a student here,” he said.

It’s a change physics students embraced during their project demos. Outside in the fall chill, physics students explained how their small-scale projects could be transformed into large-scale practices. Colomb said the water pump demonstration could be used anywhere in the world that has sufficient sunlight. Instead of running up electric bills, cities and towns could employ solar power to run water lines.

While students generated small amounts of energy with their projects, a new solar panel recently installed above CVU’s front entrance supplied power to the school. As part of CVU’s Renewable Energy Day, the school unveiled the solar array. The panel, which will provide about 1 kilowatt of energy per sunny day, will be a perfect learning tool for CVU science students, said science teacher Phil Surks.

The panel will be used to power one classroom’s lights and computers, “but it’s technically pushing that (electric) meter back the other way,” Surks told students.

The solar array was paid for with a grant from the ski and snowboard company Rossignol and Protect our Winters, a nonprofit environmental group.

While fellow students concentrated on solar power, Hinesburg sophomore Jake Berino said he was interested in wind. Inside the high school cafeteria, Berino displayed his mini wind turbine. When one of his friends found an old box fan within the school, the two were able to demonstrate how the wind generated power into small multi-cell batteries. Berino said his best results yielded six volts of electricity. He built the turbine using household materials.

“I originally wanted to make it out of galvanized steel,” Berino said.

Berino said much of his research focused on wind turbine design and engineering, including models built by Hinesburg-based NRG Systems. The alternative energy company specializes in wind technology.

Phil Pouech, NRG System’s director of manufacturing, praised CVU’s solar panel and the student projects as steps in the right direction for further renewable energy resources at the high school.

Speaking to students, Pouech said developing environmentally friendly designs will be a key in the fight against global climate change.

As a high school student in the 1970s, Pouech said he remembered an alternative energy craze that began during the oil shortages, but quickly ended when oil prices dropped in the 1980s. He drew parallels between 30 years ago and today’s world.

“I wonder if this time things are going to change and I think it is,” Pouech said.

Hinsdale believes his generation is already ingrained with using as much renewable energy as possible in everyday life. Standing outside the cafeteria, Hinsdale used a small solar panel to collect enough of the sun’s energy to power a motor that lifted a 20-gram weight.

“The sun can power almost anything,” Hinsdale said. “We know this.”

The sun’s power can also make for creative cooking devices. Students enjoyed cinnamon buns cooked in a solar oven and Williston senior Chris Nigh attempted to cook hot dogs by using only tin foil and a concave homemade oven. The cool temperatures slowed the process, but the project proved to be a fun experiment for the student who plans to study engineering in college.

For Colomb, the lessons he’s learned at CVU have already paid off. He plans on attending Montana State University next year to study renewable energy and physics.

“I’ve always loved physics and anything to do with it,” Colomb said. “I’ve decided to make this my focus.”

 


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Police Notes (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

 

Embezzlement

Travis Hightower, 29, of Richford was cited on a charge of embezzlement and possession of a controlled substance on Nov. 9 after police received a call from Kinney Drug in Blair Park regarding alleged employee theft, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

False information

Melinda J. Morgan, 28, of Hinesburg was cited on charges of driving with a suspended license and giving “false information to a police officer to implicate another” on Nov. 15, according to police reports. No other information was released. She was cited to appear in court.

Domestic assault

Kevin S. Perry, 44, of Waterbury, was cited on charges of domestic assault and driving with a suspended license on Nov. 12, according to police reports. After an argument with his girlfriend, Perry allegedly struck the back of her vehicle while “chasing her” en route to her workplace, according to a police affidavit. The two vehicles continued to the woman’s workplace, where she ran inside and locked the front door, according to the affidavit. Perry allegedly hit the front door of the business trying to “gain entry,” and then left in his vehicle, the affidavit notes.

Perry’s license had been criminally suspended for a previous driving under the influence conviction, and he has three prior DLS convictions, the affidavit states.

Police apprehended Perry and he was taken to Chittenden County Correctional Center, after bail was set at $1,050, according to the affidavit.

Driving under the influence

• Following a motor vehicle stop on Nov. 12, Domingo Rodriguez, 42, of Essex Junction was cited on a charge of driving under the influence, according to police reports. His blood alcohol test registered .144, according to the report. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08. He was cited to appear in court.

• Gregory D. Alling, 38, of Essex was cited on a charge of driving under the influence on Nov. 13, according to police reports. His blood alcohol test registered .141, according to the report. He was cited to appear in court.

• Following a motor vehicle stop on Nov. 14, Jennifer A. Murphy, 38, of Williston was cited on a charge of driving under the influence, according to police reports. Her blood alcohol test registered .130, according to the report. She was cited to appear in court.

Theft

• Donald J. Clogston, 36, of Burlington and Tina M. Rice, 33, of Burlington, were cited on charges of retail theft from Wal-Mart after allegedly stealing $38.85 worth of merchandise on Sept. 14, according to police reports. They were cited to appear in court.

• Troy Parker, 46, and Lucy Tompkins, 33, both of Williston, were cited on charges of retail theft from Wal-Mart, after allegedly stealing $70 worth of merchandise on Oct. 9, according to police reports. They were cited to appear in court.

Driving with suspended license

• Christopher Clark, 20, of Hinesburg was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on Oct. 9, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court

• Tim A Gardner, 20, of Barre was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on Oct. 17, according to police reports. He was also cited on charges of “numerous vehicle violations,” the report notes. He was cited to appear in court.

• Virginia Garcia, 26, of South Burlington was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on Nov. 10, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.

Drug sale

Following an investigation, Clifton H. Bevins, 24, of Winooski was cited on charges of selling regulated drugs on Sept. 17, according to police reports. No other information was released. He was cited to appear in court.

Fraud

On Sept. 18, Jeffrey W. Sanford, 40, of St. Albans was cited on a charge of “false pretenses or tokens,” according to police reports. No other information was released.

Multiple charges

• Philip J. Pelkey, 29, of Milton was cited on a charge of driving with a criminally suspended license on Sept. 18, according to police reports. He was also cited on a charge of retail theft from Home Depot for allegedly stealing $161 worth of merchandise, the report notes. He was cited to appear in court.

 


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Everday Gourmet (11/19/09)

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Thanksgiving pig-out

Nov. 19, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Want to blow your collective family gathering away this year at the Thanksgiving table? Serve praline bacon on anything — anything at all — and they will go berserk. This bacon is more than just a trendy kiss from hog heaven — in my kitchen it’s already a tradition.

I know it’s shameful, but I have always found the traditional Thanksgiving menu a bit lackluster; now that there is going to be a little pork action at the table, I’ll be much happier. Praline bacon freezes well, so do it ahead and dole your stash out like a crack addict. This holiday I am torn between embedding precious chunks among roasted sweet potatoes, or topping creamy cheddar crackers with it. Maybe I’ll do both — after all, Thanksgiving is the official pig-out.

Praline Bacon

(From Chef Robin Schempp; rightstuffent.com)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a wide, shallow dish combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup roughly ground almonds or pecans, 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse ground pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/3 cup mustard seeds.

Separate 2 pounds of bacon into strips. Dip and press each slice into the sugar mixture on both sides. Lay bacon strips on a large, rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment. Sprinkle excess sugar mixture over the bacon slices in the pan. Roast the bacon until fat begins to render, about 6 minutes. Rotate the pan front-to-back and continue roasting until the bacon is crisp and brown, 8 minutes. Cool; cut bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Sweet Potatoes

Peel and chunk-cut desired amount of sweet potatoes. Toss potatoes in a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes; gently flip the batch halfway through cooking for even roasting. Pour potatoes into a serving bowl and stud with lots of praline bacon.

Cheddar Cheese Hors d’oeuvres

In the bowl of a food processor, chop 1 pound of very sharp white cheddar cheese. Add 3 tablespoons of milk and pulse until the mixture forms a creamy paste. Meanwhile, caramelize apples by sautéing 5 peeled and chopped apples in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft (but not mushy.) Spread cheddar on a plain rice cracker; add a layer of apple, top with a chunk of praline bacon.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

 


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Little Details (11/19/09)

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Ready … or not

Nov. 19, 2009

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

“With my mom in and out of the State Hospital, it was like we were living a little like gypsies because different people were always taking care of us,” Ed Ball remembers.

Ed grew up in Montpelier. His dad died when he was 9. His mother, struggling with mental illness, was left to care for him and his younger sister. The family moved to an apartment in northern Vermont.

Lamoille County Mental Health soon stepped in and moved the entire family into a foster home. The goal was to keep the family intact while providing additional support. Ed’s mother moved to a group home after one year. The children remained.

“I liked the stability my foster parents provided,” Ed reflects. “They gave me a solid foundation to grow from, and I still keep in touch with them because of all the things they did for me.”

Ed earned a high school diploma and hatched a plan to move to California.

“At 18, I drove as far as Illinois and then chickened out. At 19, I made it to Nebraska before turning around,” Ed laughs.

“When I was 24, I left Vermont with a buddy in an ’87 Honda Prelude. We broke down in Green River, Utah. A guy named Virgil picked us up in a wrecker, and helped us out,” he recalls.

Car repaired, they returned to the road, arriving in sunny Mission Viejo, Calif.

“I slept in a garage for a month and then got an apartment with friends,” Ed remembers. “I spent five years in California working lots of different jobs.”

He was a salesperson at a pool supply store, an assistant to an entrepreneur and a shipping clerk.

“The shipping clerk job was really mundane,” he says.

A friend picked up on Ed’s broader aspirations and gently nudged, “You need to go to college. You should think about joining the Army to pay for it.”

College was something he never thought he’d do. He just wasn’t quite sure how to make the numbers work.

At age 29, Ed found himself signing on the dotted line in a Los Angeles recruitment office. He committed to two years, noting something in the fine print about the Individual Ready Reserve, and reported to Fort Knox, Ky. for four months of basic training to be a Calvary Scout (19D).

“Most of my fellow soldiers were younger than me, kids out of high school or married people looking for a way to support their families,” Ed recalls.

Basic training was about discipline, push-ups and heeding this warning from his drill sergeant: “If you embarrass me in front of my peers, I will @#&% crush you in front of yours.” Ed made a mental note while keeping his room spic and span and his locker reflecting the standard.

Ed shipped out to the 4th Squadron 7th Calvary Regiment at Camp Gary Owen near Sonyuri, South Korea. A mere six kilometers separated Ed and his comrades from the communist regime of Kim Jong-Il. Close proximity and strained relations would require an elaborately choreographed military response in the event North Korea violated the border.

Although trained as a cavalry scout, Ed became a commander’s driver after about seven months on post. It was a privileged job.

“People stopped messing with me,” Ed laughs.

When you’re low soldier on the totem pole, folks who outrank you sometimes use their position to “inspect” your room or “require” push-ups. Ed drove around South Korea in a HMMWV, military-speak for a Humvee.

Ed’s contract with the United States Army concluded two years later. He walked away with $32,000 and immediately enrolled in a Vermont state college. He studies hard and works long shifts on weekends performing patient intake at a Vermont hospital.

A letter arrived last February, threatening to disrupt his college career. The Army called him up through the Individual Ready Reserve, acting on the fine print of his enlistment papers. He was ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C.

“I didn’t really know what to do,” Ed recalls. “I called to explain I was in college with one semester left.”

Ed carefully followed instructions to seek a deferment. He sent the Army a copy of his transcript indicating strong grades. One of his professors wrote a letter stating it would be detrimental to his education to interrupt his studies. The Army listened.

Ed earns a bachelor’s degree in Business Management in December. Four weeks later, he reports for duty. The Army owns him for 400 more days.

“I’m going to show up with a duffle bag and a toothbrush and I’m just going to hang on,” Ed laughs.

He’ll pack a book on Zen philosophy and, in his free time, make plans to backpack through Europe and earn his MBA.

“No matter what happens, if you’ve got a good attitude, it makes life easier.”

Well said, Ed. Anticipating his job search at the conclusion of his studies, I raised the question of why someone should hire him: “That’s easy,” Ed says with a smile, “I’m a hard worker. I’ve a sense of humor. I like a challenge. I’ve lots of experience working at many jobs.”

Oh, yeah, and he’s a veteran too.

 

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

 


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Letters to the Editor (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

 

Hats off to CVU’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’

The CVU Drama has once again done a fabulous job with their fall musical that was worthy of the wonderful new auditorium at Champlain Valley Union High School.

This year’s production was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance, BVI” a comedy filled with pirates, beautiful girls and high drama. Despite the fact that the show was written in 1890, Director Sebastian Ryder succeeded in making the show fresh, allowing the students to inject their own humor into the script (I’m assuming the Pepto-Bismol moment was not written into the original script), not to mention the incredible choreography.

Standouts in the cast were Amelia Munson as Mabel with her sweet and pure voice on incredibly high notes; Justin Small as the Major General singing faster than you could imagine possible, not sacrificing enunciation for speed, all while dancing Monty Python style; Sasha Torrens-Sperry as the nursemaid who had some of the finest acting in the show and an incredible singing voice to match; Jameson Hurd as the Pirate King who kept the audience in stitches with his antics; and Adriel Elijah-Rondell Miles as Frederick with his lovely voice that had all the girls in the audience swooning.

Not that the supporting cast wasn’t just as amazing. It was like being at a three-ring circus and knowing you couldn’t catch it all, because everyone you saw was hamming it up in his or her own way. The battle between the pirates and police was one of the highlights of the show. I watched the show three times and each time saw something new that kept me laughing.

The orchestra did a fine job keeping a lively tempo that kept the show moving along. What a difference the new pit made in the quality of the sound.

Bravo to CVU Drama for taking on a difficult show, but succeeding to make it funny and memorable.

Cathy O’Brien, Williston

 

Roles of the School Board

Recommendations from the Frameworks Committee included improved communication from the Williston School Board. As a result, we will regularly utilize this space to update the community regarding board work. This week, we explore the roles and responsibilities of the School Board.

Your Williston School Board is made up of five elected members. As elected members, we try to hear and represent the many voices in our community. As individuals, we hold no decision making power and can only take action at duly warned meetings. Community members who wish to discuss educational issues are welcome to contact us. However, keep in mind that we are not able to make any decisions until we are gathered as a board. All board meetings are open to the public and there is always time reserved for audience communications.

If you have attended a School Board meeting, you know that it is a board work session. Executive session is the only portion that is not open to the public. These sessions are confidential deliberations regarding issues such as contract or labor relations, real estate purchases, disciplinary or dismissal actions, or public safety.

Our biggest role as a board is to determine educational policies. The administration’s role is to develop, disseminate and implement procedures that describe how each policy will be implemented. While we oversee this process, we try not to impede the quality educational work that is carried out by our licensed administrators and staff, who are truly the “experts.” Along with policy adoption, we also work with the administration to develop a budget, monitor expenditures, serve as community liaisons and deal with personnel and disciplinary issues.

We invite you to attend our next meeting on Dec. 3 at Williston Central School. A budget meeting is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a regular meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Please join us!

Darlene Worth, Holly Rouelle, Deb Baker Moody, Laura Gigliotti, Keith Roy, Williston School Board

 

For 50 bucks per year, you can pollute

Fifty bucks per year is what a family membership costs to join an organization willing to risk leaching lead into your Williston well head protection area and potentially harm you or your children’s health. I have been reading with great frustration the letters regarding potential toxic lead pollution produced by the North Country Sportsman’s Club.

As a physician, I am appalled that this problem is still not being addressed. As a resident of Williston and nearby neighbor to the gun club, I am outraged.

Lead is a severe health hazard and severely regulated in homes, fuels and industry. The town of Williston is to be applauded for holding a meeting last year to openly address community concerns. That meeting, however, was opened by a state hunting educator with a statement of support for shooting clubs and noting the importance of the hunting heritage and rural tradition. I don’t disagree, but his statement completely ignored the health issue at hand. Dumping lead into the groundwater is neither a second amendment right nor a hunting issue.

Lead has been removed from our paint, from our gas and from our fishing sinkers. It defies logic that an organization that entertains itself shooting box after box, pound after pound and ton after ton of lead into the same location refuses to take any real responsibility for the results of their fun and refuses to protect its neighbors. If an industry behaved this way the outcry would be deafening.

The North Country Sportsman’s club is no different than any other toxic waste polluter and should be treated as such.

Dr. Robert D. Nesbit, Williston

 

Check the numbers on health care

To elaborate on James Rude’s Nov. 12 guest column, “Government’s role in health care,” the oft-quoted statistic of 47 million is actually a gross overestimation of the problem, as recent research suggests the number of Americans who cannot currently afford health insurance is much lower.

A new study by Dr. June O’Neill, who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995-1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans could likely afford to purchase health coverage. The average “voluntarily uninsured” household makes $65,000 per year.

We should not rush into the creation of a new, expensive health care system without a better understanding of the uninsured population. As long as we continue basing our arguments on inaccurate numbers, it’s hard to see how we can make effective policy decisions.

 

Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Senior Economic Analyst

Employment Policies Institute, Washington, D.C.

 


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Guest Column (11/19/09)

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Health care reform should be based on free market principles

Nov. 19, 2009

By Patricia Crocker

Of late, America’s health care debate is clouded with strong emotion and often short on facts and evidence. Meaningful reform will occur only in the presence of civil deliberation based on facts and evidence.

For starters, any legislation should be consistent with our Constitution. Health care is not a human right under our Constitution. Nevertheless, every citizen of this country has the right to pursue health care treatment and insurance coverage based on innovative and patient-centered free market principles.

Proponents of government controlled health care claim that our current health care system is broken and needs an overhaul because we have a lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than other Western countries, according to a 2008 report from the CATO Institute, a non-profit public policy research foundation.

However, when corrected for homicide and accident rates, the United States actually rises to the top of the list for life expectancy. Also, high risk pregnancies have a much greater chance of being brought to term using the latest technologies. However, many of these infants die shortly after birth — raising the infant mortality rate.

Evidence shows that the United States outperforms other countries in survival rates for illnesses such as cancer, pneumonia, heart disease and AIDS.

Medicare and Medicaid are held up as successful government-run programs, yet their costs are wildly out of control with massive unfunded liabilities and fraud, waste and abuse. How can even more people realistically be added to these programs without bankrupting them?

Polls show that 80 percent of people are happy with their present health care insurance. This personal view obscures the reality that costs for the system overall will soon approach an unacceptable 18 percent of GDP unless changes are made.

So, back to the question, how can we insure the uninsured and bring our health care system to a level of excellence Americans expect? The answer is not to overhaul the system by setting up a government takeover of health care but to make gradual changes based on past experiences.

Four states — Massachusetts, Hawaii, Tennessee and Maine — have enacted government-controlled programs that are now failing. These programs have common threads. First, they all contain a high level of government control. Second, the costs of every program have exceeded projections. Lastly, none of these states have enacted tort reform, or eliminated fraud, waste and abuse, major drivers of health care costs.

In contrast, successful experience can be found in the private sector. Since 2005, Safeway Inc. has kept health care costs flat while maintaining high employee satisfaction, while most American companies have experienced a 38 percent increase. CEO Steven Burd told The Wall Street Journal that Safeway has “borrowed from the well-tested automobile insurance model” that recognizes the critical role of personal responsibility. Burd believes that savings of this scale could happen in the national system.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, provides his employees with high deductible health insurance paired with health savings accounts that allow money to accrue if not used. He has suggested that other reforms far short of a government takeover could make health care insurance affordable for all.

To prevent frivolous lawsuits that raise the cost of health care services, tort reform is essential. Prices should be transparent so that consumers understand their undistorted treatment cost. Insurance companies should be allowed to compete over state lines to drive down the cost of premiums and allow individuals to pick plans based on their own risks. Lastly, progressive tax credits could be used for those unable to afford paying insurance premiums.

All these changes would drastically reduce the cost of health care and insurance policies and allow people — not the government — to be in charge of their health care.

The evidence is compelling. Our country should not support a government takeover of the health care system. Health care should remain under the control of the individual and health care providers. All Americans should contact their representatives and let them know that every citizen has the right to pursue health care coverage based on innovative and patient-centered free market principles.

 

Patricia Crocker lives in Essex Junction.

 


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Business Briefs (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

 

Williston businesses receive federal funding

Sen. Patrick Leahy visited two Williston companies on Monday to announce that he had obtained contracts, worth a total of $3.2 million, for the firms, Microstrain and Triosyn.

MicroStrain received a $2.4 million Department of Defense contract to continue developing independently powered wireless sensors that will help the Navy monitor wear and tear on its hel-icopters.

MicroStrain manufactures measurement systems and wireless sensing networks, among other technologies. The company’s sensing systems are used in a wide variety of applications, including testing new designs, controlling critical processes, navigating unmanned vehicles and monitoring the health of structures and machines.

“We’re proud of our many breakthroughs in advanced wireless sensor networks,” MicroStrain President and CEO Steve Arms said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to the next phase of this project which is taking the system onto real helicopters in flight and we thank the U.S. Navy and Senator Leahy for their continued support.”

Triosyn received an $800,000 contract with the Department of Defense to develop an antimicrobial wound dressing, which could reduce deadly infections. Triosyn has already used $15 million of federal investments secured by Leahy to develop an antimicriobial mask for the military. The mask kills 99.9 percent of viruses on contact.

By the end of the year, Triosyn estimates the masks will have resulted in the hiring of more than 100 people.

 

Vonage settles with Vermont and 31 states

Vermont’s attorney general says the state will receive $45,000 as part of a $3 million multistate settlement with Vonage Holdings Corp., an Internet-based telephone company.

Vermont and 31 other states had reached a settlement that requires Vonage to changes how it markets its service and handles consumer cancellation requests.

Attorney General William Sorrell says many consumers were charged activation and regulatory fees and taxes during trial periods.

He says the settlement requires Vonage to refund eligible consumers and honor their decisions to cancel the service.

 

— The Associated Press

 


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Around Town (11/19/09)

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Nov. 19, 2009

 

Shumlin declares gubernatorial candidacy

The election’s still almost a year away, but the Vermont governor’s race is heating up. And there’s another Democrat in it.

State Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin came to Williston on Monday to announce his candidacy, saying the state needs a governor with business experience who knows how to create jobs and how to make state government live within its means.

Shumlin made the announcement at a news conference at the headquarters of Earth Turbines Inc., a wind and solar energy manufacturer. The location aimed at underscoring his commitment to green energy initiatives.

The 53-year-old Putney resident, who represents Windham County in the state Senate, joins four other Democrats seeking the nomination to succeed Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who’s not running for re-election. The other Democrats include state senators Susan Bartlett and Doug Racine, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and former state Sen. Matt Dunne.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is the only Republican in the race.

— The Associated Press

 

History Mystery awards handed out

All cities and towns in Chittenden County received an Award of Merit in the Educational Outreach category from the Vermont Historical Society at an awards ceremony on Nov. 6.

The ceremony took place at the 56th annual Meeting of the League of Local Historical Societies, held in St. Albans. The awards were given for the towns’ creation and organization of the Quadricentennial History Mystery that took place in August.

During the History Mystery, participants could fill out brochures that contained riddles about historical sites in each Chittenden County community. Participants who found all the correct answers were entered in a raffle in September.

In Williston, Karen Maklad, her two daughters Alexandra and Elizabeth, and grandfather Gary Farrell correctly answered all 18 riddles. They received a prize of maple syrup.

Chuck Conn was another Williston winner. He took home maple syrup, a book about the history of Underhill and a sweatshirt.

The Williston Historical Society donated two books about the town’s history as prizes.

 


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Vermont authors nature walks book back in print (11/19/09)

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Compilation features spot in Williston

Nov. 19, 2009

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Elizabeth Bassett’s book that highlights nature walks for people of all ages and abilities is back on bookstore shelves.

 


    Observer photo by Stephanie Choate
Charlotte author Elizabeth Bassett highlights 42 nature walks, including one in Williston, in her book, ‘Nature Walks in Northwest Vermont and the Champlain Valley.'

“Vermont really is an attractive outdoor environment, and there are a lot of people who hike and bike and ski,” the Charlotte resident said. “There are times of year, day or life when you can’t do those things, but you can almost always take a walk. A walk in a beautiful place is something that almost everyone can enjoy.”

Bassett’s revised and updated edition of her book, “Nature Walks in Northwest Vermont and the Champlain Valley,” was released last month.

The original book, published in 1998 by the Appalachian Mountain Club, or AMC, had been out of print for five years.

“I really wanted this book to get back out there because I feel that the more people appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, the more they will take a feeling of ownership in the state of our outdoors, our environment, our world,” she said.

Although working on getting the book back in print wasn’t feasible in the past few years as she dealt with family health issues, she recently reached a point in her life where it made sense, she said.

The new edition, published by Full Circle Press, includes updated road names and directions, as well as various organizations’ Web sites. Bassett also built her own Web site for the book, www.naturewalksvermont.com, where she has updates about trail conditions, events and more information.

Currently, the book is stocked at The Old Brick Store in Charlotte, The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Shelburne Farms and Brown Dog Books and Gifts in Hinesburg. It will soon be in other bookstores across the state.

The book includes a trail at Mud Pond Conservation Land in Williston.

“I was delighted to find a place so lovely and quiet just a stone’s throw from lots of congestion,” Bassett said.

The land has been used for gravel mining, peat extraction, ice harvesting, logging and agriculture. It has one of the only two ponds in the state that has characteristics of both a bog and a fen, two types of wetlands, she said.

The book is more than a list of walking trails, Bassett said.

“This is a description of the journey, and what is interesting about the geology and the flora and the human history,” she said. “This book is designed to give you some knowledge to take with you after the walk that might enhance your future walks.”

The book details 40 trails across northwestern Vermont, as well as two in New York. Bassett said she left out some “wonderful” walks in order to include others that were more ecologically diverse.

“Part of the selection process was really to find as much ecological diversity as I could show in this part of Vermont,” she said. “It isn’t very hard to find a northern forest, but it’s tricky to find a sand plain forest or a bog or vestigial sand dunes.”

Burlington resident Tiffany Bluemle bought the first edition of the book about 10 years ago, and said she uses it every year.

“She kind of opened my eyes to what is right in my own backyard,” Bluemle said.

Bluemle said she often chooses a walk from the book when she has out-of-town visitors. The book has also been a good resource for activities with her young children.

“As our children have grown, the book has grown with them,” she said. “There are more and more challenging hikes throughout the book.”

Bassett said AMC was cooperative in her efforts to republish the book. The organization approached her about writing the first edition of the book, which she said was a “dream phone call.”

Bassett had written about recreation with children for the club’s magazine, “AMC Outdoors,” and already knew a lot about walking trails in the area, she said.

She moved to Vermont when her children, Putnam and Victoria Pane, now 26 and 24, were both under 2.

“I moved to Vermont with two babies, so there was no way I was doing much hiking,” she said.

Bassett walked each trail included in the book at least three times. She mostly walked the trails alone, she said, because if she went with a friend, she ended up focusing on them instead of the trail.

Bassett said she sees the book as “a little bit of a mission.”

“I’m very committed to the beauty that surrounds us, and we can’t take it for granted if we expect it to remain that way,” she said.

 


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