October 8, 2015

Guest Column (1/28/10)

Budgeting for police

Jan. 28, 2010

By the Williston Selectboard

Williston Police Detective Michael Lavoie raised important issues in his Guest Column titled, “Williston needs police officers” (Jan. 14), as does the flyer the Williston Police Officers Association mailed to Williston residents.

The Selectboard considered these issues and believes Williston residents should have the information and facts the board used when deciding on the town budget to be presented to Williston voters and voted on at Town Meeting on March 2, 2010.

When preparing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Selectboard was faced with a number of difficult choices.

At the beginning of the budget process, Town Manager Rick McGuire was directed to submit a budget that had about the same level of expenditures as was approved for both the current year and last fiscal year. The budget submitted by the town manager fulfilled that directive. The board’s goal was to maintain the quality of core services provided to Williston residents while trying to avoid an increase in municipal taxes. This task was made particularly difficult because of decreases in revenue. In the end, the board approved a budget that will result in some reduction in services provided by the town. Despite this, the board’s long-term goal is to increase the number of employees in town departments as the demand for services increase.

Included in the list of reductions is one currently vacant patrol officer position. Despite this reduction, once the chief’s position is filled, the department will have one more uniformed position than it currently has and two more than it has had for most of the past year. Detective Lavoie has argued that the department should have more officers and this is true. The question is, can the town afford more officers? The Selectboard believes that the answer is unfortunately no, given the current economy.

It is important to understand that the officers could have saved the position but chose not to.

The officers were given an opportunity to accept a slightly smaller pay increase than had been negotiated before the current economic downturn. The officers were offered a 1 percent cost of living increase and a 2 percent “step” increase for a total of 3 percent. This offer by the town is equal to or greater than what other police departments in the region will be receiving and certainly larger than what many others in the private sector will receive, assuming they have a job. The officers insisted that they keep their negotiated 5 percent increase, as they have the legal right to do, even though the actual cost of living has not gone up this past year.

While it is clear the officers are unhappy with the board’s decision, they use inaccurate numbers to support their position. They state that the average patrol officer makes between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. In reality, the starting pay for a patrol officer with no experience is just over $40,000, not including overtime. Therefore the “average” officer is making close to $45,000 per year, again not including overtime. The highest paid officers, when adding in their overtime pay, are among the highest paid employees in town. Benefits including health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, long term disability and retirement add close to $26,000 to the cost for each officer and are an important part of the compensation package.

In their mailing the Williston Police Officers Association states that the officers work a 12-hour shift. This is true. It is a schedule that was set up several years ago by former Chief Jim Dimmick and has mostly been favored by the officers because it provides them with three-and-a-half days off, on average, per week. The 12-hour shift schedule has nothing to do with the appropriate number of officers.

Detective Lavoie also talks about a possible $100,000 surplus from his department for the current year. Last fiscal year the actual amount was about $42,000. It is too early in this fiscal year to make any projections of this nature. Keep in mind that all unspent funds go into the town’s fund balance, which is then used to reduce taxes in the next year. Also keep in mind that the reason for a possible surplus in the current year is that three positions had not yet been filled. One position was filled starting Jan. 18, 2010. Another position, the police chief, is currently vacant and will likely be filled before the end of this fiscal year. The third position is the one proposed to be eliminated.

Finally, Detective Lavoie lists things that will possibly be cut. This is not the prerogative of the police union but rather a management and/or policy decision. Detective Lavoie is correct, however, in stating that there will likely be some diminution of service as a result of the budget reductions. The board did have a discussion about what services might be affected by the budget but the board made no decisions as to what changes to make.

The board wishes to thank the officers for their hard work and recognizes the challenges faced by Williston officers. Unfortunately, small departments do present challenges, particularly with respect to offering opportunities for advancement. The solution is not to make every position a detective or sergeant or even increase the size of the department, although that might be necessary in the future as the community continues to grow.

For the moment, growth has slowed and the 15-member department already has four supervisory positions plus one detective. The town has provided a first-rate building, first-rate equipment, better-than-the-average pay for its officers and shares many of the same goals held by the officers. Unfortunately, with the economic downturn, the board and ultimately Williston voters need to reevaluate the time schedule for achieving organizational goals.


The Williston Selectboard is comprised of Chairman Terry Macaig and members Jeff Fehrs, Ted Kenney, Chris Roy and Judy Sassorossi.


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Business Briefs (1/28/10)

Keeping Good Company leaving Maple Tree Place

A home decorating store in Maple Tree Place is looking to move to another location. Keeping Good Company will soon leave the outdoor mall, although owner Pam Carter said she has not set a date. Carter plans to downsize and focus solely on the interior design and personalization part of her business.

“That has really been the backbone of our business,” Carter said.

She plans to open a design gallery in the Champlain Valley after closing the retail store, although she does not know where the location will be.

Carter said a number of factors influenced the decision to close the retail store. She said being in Maple Tree Place proved a challenge with a high number of stores coming and going. She said while her location is close to busy establishments, including Mexicali Grill & Cantina and the Majestic 10 Cinemas, many people didn’t venture toward the pedestrian walkways where Keeping Good Company and other stores are located.

Carter also blamed the economy, saying, “That’s been one of the main reasons. People have changed their shopping habits.”

The retail portion of the store sold high-end furniture and other home goods. Store items are now on sale for 50 to 75 percent off.

“There’s lots of opportunity for people to find some beautiful things at a good price,” Carter said.


Earth Turbines changes name

The Williston-based alternative energy company formerly known as Earth Turbines has changed its name. The company now goes by AllEarth Renewables Inc. and will continue its focus as a Vermont leader in “green technologies,” CEO and president David Blittersdorf said in a statement last week.

“Our company is dedicated to developing new wind and solar technologies,” Blittersdorf said. “We want to be sure that our corporate name reflects this larger focus for the future.”

The company — an offshoot of NRG Systems in Hinesburg — started by developing only wind turbines. The company created its wind turbine, known as the Earth Turbine 2500, to generate electricity for residential and commercial use. The turbines will be ready for the market this year. Allen Brook School is working with the company to install one of its new turbines in an effort to reduce electricity costs and teach students about sustainable living.

As the company worked on turbines, it also developed a dual-axis solar panel system. Called the AllSun Tracker, the device follows the sun’s journey across the sky each day, maximizing solar output. The company installed one if its first trackers at The Bellwether School in Williston last spring. There are also 36 AllSun Trackers located at Green Acres Farm in Hinesburg.

AllEarth Renewables is located off Harvest Lane.


Residents complete business course

Williston has two budding entrepreneurs in its midst.

Two of the town’s residents recently graduated from the Women’s Small Business Program Start Up. Grace Ross and Laurinda Poirier-Solomon completed the program offered at Mercy Connections in Burlington in December. They were among 13 graduates from Chittenden County.

Ross plans to open Living Green with Grace within six to eight months. The business will operate out of a bus that runs on biodiesel fuel. Ross plans to sell green living products and educate the public about sustainable living.

Students who take the 15-week course gain tools to become successful entrepreneurs. More than 1,000 women have graduated from the program since it began at Trinity College in 1989.

“I realized that for me it takes a community to make my dream of owning and running a business to come true and I found that community through the program,” Poirier-Solomon said in a press release. She could not be reached for further comment.


[Read more…]

Williston Publishing hosts senior expo (1/28/10)

Jan. 28, 2010

The Observer’s parent company, Williston Publishing and Promotions LLC, is reaching out to Vermont’s seniors this weekend.

The state’s largest event for baby boomers and seniors, the Vermont 50 Plus and Baby Boomers EXPO, will be held at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The 15th annual event is designed for those 50 and older, but all ages are welcome.

The EXPO will include a fashion show, an afternoon dance party, art demos and more than 75 exhibitors offering goods and services in the areas of health and wellness, housing, travel and more. Seminars will take place throughout the day to inform attendees on topics including finance, retirement, home remodeling and dating.

Tickets are $5 at the door or $4 in advance when purchased at the University Mall customer service desk in South Burlington or by calling Vermont Maturity Magazine at 872-9000 x19.

A portion of proceeds will benefit the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging.


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Developer disputes growth management expirations (1/28/10)

Jan. 28, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A local developer argued before the Development Review Board on Tuesday night that inconsistencies exist within the town’s growth management allocation system.

Rene Thibault, who is currently developing Churchview Estates in Williston Village, challenged a decision by town planners to not renew building allocation for the senior housing subdivision.

In the town’s growth management system, developers compete annually to build a limited number of units within Williston. They have a limited amount of time to pull the permits necessary to begin construction. Builders can get four-year extensions on their allocation if they file the correct paperwork before the expiration date.

According to Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau, allocation for 10 units in Churchview Estates expired in 2007 and 2008. Thibault and planners learned of the expiration in December. At that time, Thibault asked for an extension, but Belliveau denied the request.

Along with his lawyer, Guy Babb, Thibault argued the town’s bylaws contradicted the allocation expiration listed on his permits. Some allocation permits expire within a year, even though town bylaws state that builders get four years to pull building permits after receiving units in growth management, Babb said.

“We’re not technically asking for an extension because we feel we don’t need one,” Babb told the board. “We’re asking you to enforce the statute as written.”

Board members considered the testimony of Babb and Thibault before tabling any actions until the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9.

If the board denies an extension, Thibault would need to re-enter the growth management allocation process in 2011 for a chance to earn back his 10 units, Belliveau said.

The Development Review Board already ruled against two property owners with expired allocations in a meeting last year.


[Read more…]

Residents comment on Town Plan (1/28/10)

Jan. 28, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Williston residents took their first steps toward a new Town Plan last week during two public meetings. According to Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau, both events allowed for informative discussion on the future of Williston.

“I think, in the case of both meetings, we had a good turnout with folks who brought a lot of good ideas and viewpoints,” Belliveau said.

Planners looked to the public last week for input on an updated Town Plan, as well as ideas on the future of the town. During the first meeting on Jan. 20, 30 residents worked in small groups to share their visions. Members of town staff and town boards, such as the Selectboard and Planning Commission, also attended.

Opinions centered on improving traffic patterns, building a more sustainable town and reexamining the town’s growth management system. Belliveau said he heard similar themes during the Jan. 23 meeting.

“There was a tremendous amount of overlap from both meetings,” he said.

In accordance with state law, Williston must update its Town Plan, also known as the Comprehensive Plan of Development, every five years. The Selectboard last ratified a Williston Town Plan in 2006, which was a substantial rewrite of past plans. The 2006 plan detailed visions for Williston and acted as a “blueprint of land use” for town governing officials, Belliveau said at the Wednesday meeting.

“Like any good plan, it should be looking into the future beyond the five years,” Belliveau said.

For many who spoke in the small groups Wednesday, a timely update seemed to be in order rather than a full rewrite. Some said parts of the current Town Plan are still relevant, while other sections need more focus or a different direction.

Resident Mike Isham spoke about the growing awareness of sustainable living and how some people are making a concerted effort to lead a “greener” lifestyle. Translating green living into a town-wide initiative should be a priority for the next five years and beyond, he said.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘How does the town want to handle green initiatives?’” Isham said.

Another oft-discussed topic centered around growth management and whether the system really works. A few people stated changes might need to be made, such as increased growth possibilities away from Taft Corners and a loosening of the town’s strict development laws. Still others appeared interested in keeping new development around Taft Corners and within Williston’s Growth Center to mitigate sprawl.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs, speaking in a small group, said the town’s growth issues and growth management could prove a challenge in future Town Plan meetings. The topic is “very subjective,” he said.

“You might look at (Williston) and say we haven’t grown fast enough, and I might say we’ve grown too fast,” Fehrs said. “The reason we live here is the quality of life, but how do we measure that?”

Other topics frequently brought up included a reexamination of potential lead contamination at the North Country Sportsman’s Club, the creation of a park-and-ride facility after years of talk, and the conservation of more open space.

As Belliveau told attendees, last week’s meetings were only the beginning. Task forces will soon form to research topics further and Belliveau said anyone interested could join once the groups are established.

The task forces will work for one to two months and present findings to the Planning Commission in the spring. The commission will then write a Town Plan draft during the summer, and hold public comment meetings in the fall. The Selectboard will conduct its hearings in December and next January before taking a final vote by February 2011.


For information about the Town Plan or joining a Town Plan task force, contact the Williston Planning Department at 878-6704.

[Read more…]

School budget to increase less than 1% (1/28/10)

Taxes could rise by 6 percent

Jan. 28, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Despite a late addition that increased costs, the Williston School Board approved a budget that increases less than 1 percent. The total budget for fiscal year 2010-11, which voters will approve or reject on Town Meeting Day in March, comes to $16.47 million, a 0.95 percent increase over the current budget.

Property taxes for next year, however, are expected to climb more than 6 percent — a 2-cent increase on the property tax rate. Using estimates provided by the Vermont Tax Commissioner, taxes would escalate even if the school budget did not increase at all, according to Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union chief operations officer.

The board unanimously approved the budget during its final budget meeting on Jan. 21. The board previously told administration officials of its hope that a budget increase would remain at less than 1 percent. District Principal Walter Nardelli said at previous meetings that this would be the case. But at Thursday’s meeting, Nardelli said assessment changes in a preschool payment program created a 1.32 percent increase in the budget.

Nardelli told the board the school’s Early Learning Program costs will increase by $126,000 in the next school year. Vermont requires school districts to help cover tuition and other costs for students attending state-approved preschools. Mason told the board the district receives revenue from the program, but it’s not reflected in any budget until the 2011-2012 school year.

“It’s actually a good thing,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, you get the benefit two years after you incur the cost.”

Board members stated their unhappiness with the news and asked Nardelli to find $61,000 to cut to keep the budget increase at less than 1 percent. Board members expressed their concern about the current economic times and the fact that taxes are likely to increase.

“The only way people can say they’re frustrated is by going to the polls,” board Vice Chairwoman Holly Rouelle said. “I want to pass (the budget) the first time. I don’t want to come back and have to cut more.”

Nardelli said he would reexamine next year’s budget and find $61,000 that could be removed. He said the cuts could come from a number of places. For instance, the outcome of the contract negotiations between CSSU and the Chittenden South Education Association may lower costs for next school year if there are changes in teacher raises or health benefits.

Another possibility would be to cut back on increases in technology equipment, science supplies and other areas the board already approved, Nardelli said. He added grants could come through for math teaching training and the school’s mentoring program, which would cover the $61,000 in cuts he needs to make.

As for the mentoring program, Nardelli said it will be funded next year regardless of whether a grant comes through. The board approved $30,000 for the program, although the administration initially asked for $40,000. Nardelli said $30,000 would keep the program functional without cutting services.

“We’re going to support the mentoring program, no matter what happens,” Nardelli said after the meeting.


Tax implications

Mason detailed to the board that no matter how small the district’s budget increase would be next school year, property taxes for Williston homeowners would likely increase. While nothing is finalized, taxpayers may see taxes increase by 6.08 percent. That number includes budget implications from Champlain Valley Union High School.

Mason said the state’s tax formula makes it hard on schools that have declining or steady enrollments. Even before the School Board worked on the budget, taxes would have increased by 2.5 percent, he said.

Residents who own a $300,000 home could expect an increase of $236 on their tax bills, which would cover the Williston and CVU school budgets. Residents who apply for Income Sensitivity will get a significant break, Mason said. People who make $90,000 or less and own a home receive a tax increase cap. Mason said 55 percent of Williston residents participate in the program.

Mason said his numbers are only estimates. The Vermont Legislature may change tax rates in the next few months. In his budget address in Montpelier two weeks ago, Gov. Jim Douglas urged lawmakers to set the state tax rate at current levels. Mason said that would significantly reduce a resident’s tax burden.

[Read more…]

Selectboard OKs operating budget (1/28/10)

Some proposed service cuts restored

Jan. 28, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Selectboard on Monday approved a $7.7 million operating budget that slices some expenditures but avoids cutting popular services.

The spending plan for fiscal year 2010-11 still produces a tax increase. If approved by voters, it would hike the property tax rate by 1 cent, costing the owner of a $300,000 home an additional $30 a year.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said formulating a frugal budget that balances the need to keep taxes down in a rough economy and the desire to maintain services was one of the toughest tasks he’s faced in his dozen years on the board.

“It wasn’t easy and sometimes it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “But with perseverance and sometimes humor we developed I think a very defensible budget.”

Town Manager Rick McGuire proposed a budget in December that set the starting point for board deliberations. His spending plan cut several services, including the after-school recreation program and the annual Independence Day fireworks display. It also reduced funding for road maintenance and turned off some streetlights to save money.

Board members over the last several weeks reshaped McGuire’s proposal. On Monday, they approved a final spending plan that restored some cuts while keeping others.

The biggest single savings was produced by cutting one police officer position, shaving $70,000 from the budget (see story on page 1).

Also cut was the annual $60,000 contribution to the environmental reserve fund, money set aside for purchasing development rights for land to be used for open space or recreation. Funding was reduced for streetlights, extinguishing some that aren’t needed for safety reasons.

The board, however, restored money for the fireworks display and road maintenance. The after-school program was saved after town staff concluded that it could operate it without a director, meaning it could be funded entirely by user fees.

In a last-minute move that he acknowledged was symbolic because of its small impact, board member Ted Kenney proposed a 25 percent pay cut for the Selectboard. Each of the five board members receives slightly more than $1,000 annually. The cut was unanimously approved, saving $1,325.

The changes still left a gap between expenditures and revenue. That was filled by using almost $300,000 in fund balance, budget reserves used for unexpected expenses. Fund balance is now at just under 10 percent of the total operating budget, the minimum threshold set by board policy.

In fact, the declining fund balance is the main reason taxes still rise despite the spending cuts, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. The board last year used $500,000 in fund balance and similar amounts in previous years. He said that trend simply wasn’t sustainable.

The board unanimously approved the budget. Voters will decide whether to approve the spending plan when they go to the polls on March 2.


Item                                                Amount            Cut?

After-school program                        $8,000            No*

Environmental reserve fund            $60,000            Yes

Fireworks display                             $8,000             No

Police officer                                   $70,000            Yes

Road maintenance                          $11,500             No

Streetlights                                     $10,000             Yes

* Funding partially reduced by cutting program director; service will continue at reduced level by using existing town staff.

[Read more…]

March ballot offers no contests (1/28/10)

Most incumbents seeking re-election

Jan. 28, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Newcomers will fill seats vacated by retiring incumbents, but there will be no contested races on the March ballot.

Monday was the filing deadline for local elected offices. Though terms expire for nine members of Williston’s town and school boards, no race emerged. All but two of the incumbents will seek re-election.

On the Selectboard, Jeff Fehrs and Chris Roy are running again. Fehrs, who has been on the Selectboard since 1998, filed for a three-year term. Roy seeks a second two-year term.

On the Williston School Board, incumbent Holly Rouelle is seeking a three-year term. Keith Roy is running for a two-year term.

Terms expire for two of Williston’s representatives on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board. Only one will seek re-election.

Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen will run for another three-year term. But Meg Hart-Smith, who has served on the CVU board for six years, is stepping down. She said last week that she wanted to give someone else a chance now that her children have graduated.

Polly Malik, a self-described “professional volunteer,” will run for Hart-Smith’s three-year seat. She said she learned of the opening through the Front Porch Forum, a Internet community bulletin board, and thought the School Board would be a logical extension of her involvement with the Williston School District.

“Partly, it’s because my (12-year-old) daughter will be over there in a couple of years,” she said. “I’ve always been involved with education. I volunteer whenever the school needs someone.”

Malik said she has for the past few years served as a “budget buddy” helping formulate the Williston School District’s annual spending plan. She also serves on the homeowner association board for the Meadow Ridge subdivision and on the Williston Federated Church board.

Another newcomer stepped forward to fill an opening on Dorothy Alling Memorial Library’s governing board. Ann Hazelrigg, a plant pathologist with the University of Vermont Extension, is retiring after 21 years to free up time to further her education.

Bo Tur is running uncontested for a five-year term as library trustee. Tur, a stay-at-home mom and former sales assistant at Morgan Stanley in New York City, moved to Williston four years ago. She has been attending library programs with her 17-month-old child and was approached to serve as a trustee.

“I just wanted to do something at the town level,” Tur said. “I’m not working right now and I wanted to get more involved.”

The remaining elected positions will be filled by longtime incumbents. Jerry Huetz will seek a third three-year term on the three-member Board of Listers, which oversees property appraisals. Kermit LaClair, who for many years has been town constable, will run for another one-year term.

Voters go to the polls on Tuesday, March 2. Balloting takes place at the Williston Armory.


Selectboard, three-year term

Jeff Fehrs

Selectboard, two-year term

Chris Roy

Williston School Board, three-year term

Holly Rouelle

Williston School Board, two-year term

Keith Roy

CVU High School Board, three-year term

Jeanne Jensen

CVU High School Board, three-year term

Polly Malik

Library Trustee, five-year term

Bo Tur

Lister, three-year term

Jerry Huetz

Town Constable, one-year term

Kermit LaClair


[Read more…]

Roundabout approved for March ballot (1/28/10)

Board rejects vote on new ambulance service

Jan. 28, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Residents will get to vote on a proposed roundabout but not on a new ambulance service.

A divided Selectboard on Monday decided to put the much-debated roundabout, planned for the intersection where U.S. 2 meets North Williston and Oak Hill roads, on the March ballot. Board members ruled out including the ambulance service on the ballot, opting instead to place the expenditure — and projected offsetting revenue — in the annual operating budget.

About a dozen residents attended Monday’s meeting. Several expressed pointed opinions on the roundabout and ambulance issues.

Luz Muller said a large number of voters signed a petition asking for the roundabout to be put on the ballot.

“What I’ve got to believe is you are choosing to ignore this and I want to know why,” he said.

Board Chairman Terry Macaig said an attorney advised the town to debate the roundabout at Town Meeting rather than decide it by Australian ballot. The roundabout would be funded with federal dollars, and state and federal officials have the final say on its construction.

Because any local vote would be strictly advisory, law suggests the roundabout issue must be decided at Town Meeting, Macaig said. Doing otherwise could invite a lawsuit, although he noted that the attorney said legal action was unlikely because the vote would be non-binding.

On the ambulance issue, some residents wondered why the expenditure was in the budget this time when the proposal was previously on the ballot. Voters rejected bonds to pay for new ambulances in 2007.

But Williston Woods resident Mary Carlson said the board should budget for the ambulance service. She said it would speed emergency responses and pay for itself with fees paid by insurance companies.

A majority of the board favored including the ambulance service in the operating budget. Board member Ted Kenney said leasing rather than bonding for the ambulances would allow the town to cancel the service should it prove too costly.

“If it doesn’t work out in two years, we can get out of it,” he said.

But Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs dissented, asserting voters should have a say.

“It’s a new service, we’re buying equipment, we’re hiring staff,” he said. “It can and should grow with time. I just think voters need to weigh in on that.”


[Read more…]

Clerk may be deployed to Iraq (1/28/10)

Departure date uncertain for Deb Beckett

Jan. 28, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett has received notice that she will deploy to Iraq with a Vermont Army National Guard air ambulance unit.

The timing of the deployment remains murky and a Guard spokesman emphasized that plans to send the unit to Iraq could change. It would be Beckett’s second overseas assignment. She was sent to Kuwait in 2004.

Beckett said she was initially told that she would leave in January 2011. That was later changed to August of this year, and Beckett notified town officials and staff this month that she would step down as clerk in April when she goes on active duty status.

But last week, Beckett said she was told the deployment schedule would change yet again. She did not know when she would leave but hoped to have more information next month.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow declined to provide further details other than to say roughly 50 members of the unit are set to be deployed at some unspecified date.

“I’m not in a position to announce or confirm anything,” he said, adding that the unit’s deployment schedule has already changed multiple times since soldiers were first notified months ago.

Goodrow urged the Observer to delay publishing a story about the deployment until an official announcement was made. He said the deployment’s timing could change or even be cancelled because of evolving military plans.

The Observer in fact did delay publishing a story for months after learning of the deployment.

But over the past month, Beckett’s pending deployment has been noted in another newspaper’s account of legislation that would change primary dates to ensure overseas soldiers’ ballots are counted. She has notified her staff of the deployment. Town Manager Rick McGuire told the Selectboard, making information about Beckett’s deployment part of the public record, available to anyone reviewing meeting minutes.

Goodrow said guard members are encouraged to inform employers about deployments. Despite Beckett’s position as a public official, he said it was not appropriate for her to release information to the media about the military assignment.

“One of her roles is not discussing it with the news media,” Goodrow said.

Any deployment over the next year likely would last through the end of her three-year term as town clerk, which expires in March 2011. Beckett said she would seek another term.

“I would like to run again even if I’m deployed,” she said. “I’ve got to figure out how to do that.”

More immediately, Beckett said she has arranged to have her duties covered by other employees. Kathy Boyden, a longtime assistant clerk, would serve as acting town clerk.

Beckett is also president of the Williston Community Food Shelf. She said she plans to step down in February when her term ends, but she will stay involved with the organization.

The air ambulance unit Beckett is assigned to, based at Burlington International Airport, transports wounded soldiers using Blackhawk helicopters.

Beckett said she would have an administrative role with the unit, keeping records and other duties.

Beckett has been Williston’s town clerk since 1999. She first enlisted in the Vermont Army National Guard in 1981 and has been a member for most of the time since except for a few years in the mid-’80s and a more recent stint on inactive duty.

The new deployment would be easier to handle than her tour of duty in Kuwait, Beckett said. Her children, Sean and Ellie, are now grown and have gone off to college. Though leaving her husband Dave behind won’t be easy, Beckett said the previous deployment at least makes the situation more familiar.

“Pretty much every Vermont Guard member has done a second or third deployment,” she said. “If we’ll be doing something useful, I’m happy to do it.”

[Read more…]