May 25, 2018

Improvements planned at deadly intersection (1/28/10)

Jan. 28, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Like most summer weekdays, Sept. 17, 2009 brought brisk lunch hour business to Tim’s Snack Shack at the intersection of U.S. 2 and Industrial Avenue. Customers ordered food and sat outside at picnic tables enjoying the sunny day.


    File photo
A truck sits on an embankment off U.S. 2 after crashing into Tim’s Snack Shack in September. The town has pressured the state, which owns land along U.S. 2, to improve safety at the site.

But around 1:45 p.m., normality disappeared. A pickup truck jumped a curb, plowing into two diners and the shack. Four people sustained injuries and one woman died from her wounds.

Now under pressure from town officials, the state is looking to improve safety at the intersection. While Tim’s Snack Shack, currently closed for the winter, sits approximately 35 feet back from the intersection on land owned by Shelburne businessman William Andrus, the state owns the ground adjacent to the road. The wide, state-owned property offers vehicles extended access to the Snack Shack.

Safety improvement plans call for limiting access to the property where the eatery is located. But for one town official, these improvements are coming too late.

“That corner should have been blocked off a number of years ago,” Williston’s Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau told the Observer last week. “I’m going to say it every time I get the chance to — somebody got killed there.”


A fateful day

Snack Shack owner Tim Leggett will never forget that Thursday afternoon in September.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it,” Leggett said.

Leggett’s friend, 68-year-old Barbara Gregory, died several days later from injuries sustained in the accident. Another victim suffered severe injuries, but is recovering.

Attempts to contact Gregory’s family and the other victim were unsuccessful.

After the accident, a police investigation determined that the pickup truck’s driver passed out before driving off U.S. 2. Police said that before the accident occurred, the driver had hit his head at a construction site and decided to head home, complaining of headaches. Police did not file charges against the driver.

The accident shut down Tim’s Snack Shack for the season and raised concerns about safety at the intersection. Belliveau wondered if the severity of the accident might have been diminished had the Vermont Agency of Transportation, also known as VTrans, improved safety at the busy intersection, such as limiting access to the Snack Shack.

But Andrus, the property owner who leases space to Tim’s Snack Shack, said the accident was just that — an accident. Had access been blocked, the truck driver still would have passed out and driven toward the property.

“The accident had nothing to do with traffic,” Andrus said.

Ken Robie, a project manager with VTrans, agreed.

“Obviously, the reason for the crash really didn’t have to do with traffic,” Robie said. “Whether or not having a barrier there would have had a different outcome, I can’t say.”


Limiting access

VTrans acquired the property from Andrus in 2001. Robie said the state bought the land — nearly half an acre — with expectations of improving the intersection. He said VTrans drafted plans on how to best reconstruct the junction, such as widening the intersection.

But various obstacles stalled the project, including conflicts with utility and sewer lines. The project stayed on the backburner as a result, Robie said.

All the while, the state allowed vehicles to access the property around the intersection’s traffic light. Belliveau said VTrans never applied for access permits as it legally should have starting in 2001.

“The access piece came as a surprise to me,” Belliveau said.

Belliveau said the only legal access to much of the property is near a small office building west of the traffic lights. A driveway enters the property and can reach Tim’s Snack Shack. Andrus said the paving trucks of Rox Asphalt that park on his property use the entrance.

Robie has communicated with town officials and expects to block access to the state-owned land. He said VTrans plans to install tightly spaced delineator posts — generally 3-foot high, flexible posts  — along the roadside in the spring. Other improvements are also in the works. While the delineators won’t stop a runaway vehicle from crossing onto the property, they will alert people not to drive where they used to, Belliveau said.

“Hopefully you’ll be seeing some progress on this project in the near future,” Robie said.


New home for Snack Shack

Leggett wants to move his business elsewhere now that access will make it difficult for customers to visit. He toyed with the possibility of selling the Snack Shack, but opted against the idea.

“I have a lot of faithful customers in Williston and I’d like to stay (in town),” Leggett said. “It’s been rough the past couple months, but we’ll pull through.”


[Read more…]

Police stump to retain officer (1/28/10)

Position eliminated in town budget

Jan. 28, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Members of the Williston Police Department find themselves at odds with town officials and Selectboard members over an officer position cut from the town’s operating budget.

The Selectboard believes the position, currently unfilled, should be sacrificed to minimize costs in the struggling economy. Cutting the position would save $70,000, according to Town Manager Rick McGuire. The board voted 3-2 Monday night to approve a Town Meeting warning that omitted police staffing as a separate vote by Australian ballot.

Police personnel say the department needs the position to ensure that safety and security isn’t compromised in town.

“It boggles me that the town manager and Selectboard have chosen to neglect the police department for so long,” Detective Mike Lavoie Lavoie told the Observer. “I’m disappointed and frustrated.”

Lavoie said the department is already understaffed, a statement with which McGuire agrees. Town officials are searching for a police chief. Sgt. Bart Chamberlain has served as acting chief since former Chief Jim Dimmick suffered a stroke in 2008.

But now is not the time to consider adding personnel when residents are struggling in a stagnant economy, McGuire said.

“I think we can use more officers,” McGuire told the Observer. “It’s something we’re going to have to look at when the economic outlook improves.”

But police don’t want to wait for a better economy. Lavoie, the president of the Williston Police Officers Association, ramped up efforts in recent weeks to gather public support for keeping the officer position in the budget. He penned a guest column that appeared in the Observer on Jan. 14 — the Selectboard authored a rebuttal in this week’s Observer (see page 6) — and mailed an informational pamphlet to every address in town.

In the pamphlet, Lavoie states that Williston has one of the highest arrest records in Chittenden County, despite having one of the smaller departments. With 12 full-time officers, Williston made 525 arrests in 2009.

By comparison, South Burlington, a town with a larger population and similar commercial presence, employs 39 full-time officers and made 706 arrests in 2009, according to Daniel Greaves, administration assistant to South Burlington’s chief of police. Essex employs 26 full-time and four part-time officers and made “around 380” arrests, according to Rob Lagrow, support service manager for the town’s police department. Shelburne has 12 full-time officers and six part-time officers. They made 246 arrests in 2009, said Patricia Vincent, senior dispatcher for Shelburne.

Lavoie attributes Williston’s high arrest record to vigilant officers who maintain a strong presence. But the lack of staff can make for challenging situations. For instance, when police are called to a domestic disturbance in the overnight hours, two of the three officers on duty must report. The third officer needs to stay behind for dispatch, and if another call comes in, Williston must request support from state troopers or another police department, Lavoie said.

“We’ve been really lucky that we’ve done the job we’ve done and no one has gotten seriously hurt,” Lavoie said.


Funding the position

McGuire said the department could have retained the officer position if the police union had agreed to a pay increase of 2 percent next year. By contract, officers in Williston receive an annual wage increase of 3 percent, and some earn up to 5 percent depending on experience and rank. The 3 percent raise is on par or higher than raises in neighboring departments.

Because Williston police declined the 2 percent option, McGuire said he had little choice but to cut the position.

“I was given a mandate by the Selectboard to come up with a budget with no added expenditures,” McGuire said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of options.”

Resident Sue Powers urged the board to reconsider the reduction. At Monday’s meeting, Powers held up a small stack of petitions she said was signed by almost 200 people. The petitions either asked for police funding to be kept at its current level or sought to put the issue on the ballot.

“We’d like to see how taxpayers feel,” she said.

Lavoie said before the meeting the department considered a petition of its own, but learned it wouldn’t have enough time to gather the needed signatures.

Board Chairman Terry Macaig said he preferred to put the staffing reduction on the ballot for voters to decide. But board member Judy Sassorossi said those types of expenditures have always been part of the operating budget, arguing it would be impractical to give voters a say on each item.

Resident Mike Isham expressed ambivalence on the issue. He said voting separately on an expenditure that is usually part of the operating budget could set a bad precedent. But he also wanted to know that there are enough officers on duty to maintain public safety.

“We all like to feel safe in our houses,” he said. “I just assume there is someone on call. But maybe there isn’t.”

Observer reporter Greg Elias contributed to this article.

[Read more…]

Contest encourages trashy creations

    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Michele Morris of the Chittenden Solid Waste District demonstrates one of the entries in the Creative ReUse Showcase, which encourages students to use discarded items in inventive ways. ‘Trash-o-Guitar’ was made by Champlain Valley Union High School sophomore Garrett Brown with a body molded from household trash and a real guitar’s neck and pickups. See story below.

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Sports Notes (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 1010


Bulldogs, Rebels up next for CVU hockey girls

Before last Saturday night’s contest with Colchester High at Burlington’s Leddy Park, Champlain Valley Union High girls hockey coach Tom Ryan wished for “a few goals.”

His Redhawks, 8-3-1 going into the game, were coming off home losses to Spaulding High of Barre and Hartford High in which they scored once and gave up 11 goals.

Message received!

Amanda Armell scored twice and Molly Howard and Sophia Steinhoff added singletons as the Hawks downed the 2-9-1 Lakers 4-2 to get back to their winning ways.

CVU will return to the home Cairns Arena on Friday for a 5:40 p.m. match against visiting Burr and Burton Academy of Manchester. The Redhawks tamed the Bulldogs 10-2 in mid-December.

On Wednesday, the Hawks will test South Burlington High at Cairns for the second time this season (5:40 p.m.). CVU nipped the Rebs 5-4 early last month.


Skiers take to Jericho course on Friday

An afternoon in Jericho Center is in the offing this week for the Champlain Valley Union High Nordic ski team, which will start the trek on the Jericho range course at 4 p.m. on Friday. Mount Mansfield Union High is the host school.

The Redhawks are coming off a 12-team meet last Saturday at U-32 in East Montpelier in which the girls placed second to Mount Anthony Union High and the boys were fourth, behind Windsor High, Mount Anthony and U-32 in that order.

Kylie deGroot was the lone Redhawk in the girls top 10, taking third place. Sam Epstein led the boys with a 10th place finish.

A week ago Wednesday, the girls rolled over Colchester High and Burlington High in a Colchester meet, taking eight of the top 10 spots, led by winner Johanna Fehrs.

The boys were second to Burlington, with Epstein the leading Hawk with fourth place.


CVU wrestlers set for annual Essex Invitational

Redhawk grapplers will return to action Friday and Saturday in the annual Essex High Invitational at Essex High. Competition opens Friday afternoon at 3:00 and continues Saturday morning at 10:00.

The Hawks’ most recent muscling on the mats was a week ago Wednesday when Middlebury Union and Milton High wrestlers came to Hinesburg.

CVU topped Milton 39 to 18 with Tucker Austin scoring a victory in the 160-pound class.

Middlebury outpointed CVU 47-34 in team standings. Redhawks Austin, Sam Fortin (171-pound) and James Datillio (285-pound) scored wins, Datillio moving up 20 pounds to compete in the behemoth category.


[Read more…]

Boys hoopsters return to action Monday (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With more than a week to ponder last Friday’s nudging by a better-than-its-record (3-8), youthful, Rice Memorial High squad, coach Scott Bliss and his 8-4 Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team will launch their post-exams playoff position drive Monday night. The Redhawks tip off at 7 p.m. at Mount Mansfield Union High in Jericho Center.

The two teams have already met in Hinesburg, with CVU rolling to a 56-42 win in the season opener for both teams. The Cougars took a 5-6 mark into this week.

The Redhawks had a few days off to study for exams and also ponder lessons from Friday’s final seconds, 51-49 loss to the Knights.

What in the first period appeared to be a blooming blowout for the Hawks turned into a Knight-scapade into the fourth period, when CVU rallied from an 11-point deficit. The Redhawks tied the score at 49 on a Chris Beaton layup from a Jake Donnelly feed with 33 seconds showing.

Rice junior Chris McCormick, an adept ball handler, took the throw-in and roamed the length of the floor, getting a pick at the top of the key and rolling to the hoop to sink a pressure layup for the win. It was McCormick’s only bucket.

The CVU view: Ouch!

Rice, the defending Division 1 champions, started two freshmen and a sophomore and played just one senior for limited time. The Knights looked very young indeed during the opening reel, as CVU broke out to a 13-4 edge, creating seven turnovers and limiting the visitors to a single hoop in five tries. Chris Nigh and Robert Russ nailed treys to pace the Hawks’ offense.

But the second quarter turned into an ice palace for CVU, which chilled to one swisher in 10 shots. Thanks to four free throws, the Hawks trailed the now settled Knights by only 23-19 at intermission.

Casey Tipson, a mobile freshman guard for Rice, hit 8 of his team-high 15 points in the period, including a threebie.

The game stayed close through the third period until Rice used a seven-point run early in the fourth reel to open a 44-33 edge.

But Donnelly (15 points, 5 rebounds, at least 3 assists and 4 steals), Beaton (6 points, 4 assists) and Will Hurd, with clutch rebounding and a big trey with 1:16 remaining, sparked a CVU comeback that forged the late deadlock.

McCormick then went coast-to-coast for the winners who, according to a staffer, have played well this season against the better competition.


Rice-CVU, Score

Rice                                    4                  19                  13                  15 – 51

CVU                                    13                  6                  12                  18 – 49


Rice Memorial (3-8)

Hayes 1-4 1-2 4, Willingham 2-2 0-0 4, Maynard 2-5 4-4 9, Poland 3-8 1-2 7, Tipson 5-13 3-5 15, Ratta 2-5 0-0 4, Rensch 3-4 0-0 6, McCormick 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 19-43 9-13 51.


CVU (8-4)

Donnelly 4-12 7-11 15, Nigh 2-6 0-0 6, Hurd 2-5 3-6 9, Russ 5-9 0-0 11, Beaton 2-7 2-2 6, Clayton 1-2 0-0 2, Karnes 0-0 0-0 0, Rensch 0-2 0-0 0, Leckerling 0-2 0-0 0, Gale 0-0 0-0 0, Hart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 12-19 49.


[Read more…]

Redhawks riding win streak (1/21/10)

Girls to host North Country on Friday

Jan. 21, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Having turned the heat way up after a disappointing, 42-39, home defeat at the hands of Rice Memorial High on Jan. 5, coach Stan Williams and his Champlain Valley Union High girls hoop combine will take a three-game winning streak into Friday night’s meeting with North Country Union High.

The game is set tip off at 6:30 p.m. on the home court at Bremner Gymnasium. CVU popped the Falcons 49-27 early in the season in Newport.

The red-hot Redhawks are averaging 67 points during their recent string of victories.

Senior center Allison Gannon uncorked a season-high, 31-point barrage to lead the Redhawks to their latest triumph, a 67-45 bopping of 4-9 Vergennes Union High Monday at the Commodores’ port.

In hiking its season mark to 11-2, CVU took control in the second half, breaking out from a halftime, five-point edge.

Last Thursday night in Hinesburg, it was perennial Division 1 final four participant Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans that got run over by the CVU hoop-a-lanche.

Gannon again led the swish-making with 22 points. She was busy in other areas as well, grabbing 11 rebounds, passing off for three assists and picking BFA pockets for six steals.

Frontcourt mate Kendal Kohlasch was also busy with 10 points, seven assists, five steals and three rebounds. Guard Amanda Kinneston fired in nine points and joined the Klepto Gang with four steals, making it 15 thefts for the trio — of which Jesse James would have been in awe.

All 11 Redhawks played, and nine scored.


BFA-CVU, Score

BFA                  7                  14                  8                  8      –   37

CVU                  22                  11                  16                  12   –   61


                  BFA (5-7)

                  Labarge 3-7 1-2 7, Abbott 1-5 1-2 3, Vanderber 5-6 5-7 15, Hunt 0-2 0-0 0, Gagne 0-1 1-2 1, Esenler 1-4 2-2 5, Lumbra 1-6 2-4 4, King 1-1 0-0 2, Cole 0-0 0-0 0, Callan 0-1 0-0 0, Branon 0-0 0-0 0, Barrette 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-33 12-19 37.


                  CVU (10-2)

                  Kohlasch 3-5 3-3 10, Hulbert 0-4 0-0 0, Gannon 8-16 5-5 22, Evans 1-4 0-2 2, Kinneston 4-14 1-2 9, Giles 0-2 0-0 0, Donnelly 1-6 0-0 2, Riordan 2-3 0-0 6, Bayer-Pacht 2-7 0-0 4, Schenk 2-4 0-0 4, Hawley 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 24-68 9-12 61.


[Read more…]

CVU earns hockey deadlock with BHS (1/21/10)

Boys face high noon rematch with Essex

Jan. 21, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Union High boys hockey team will try to make it two-for-two over rival Essex High on Saturday, when the two Division 1 finalists the past two seasons clash at Cairns Arena at 12:10 p.m.


    Courtesy photo by David Yandell
Brady Griffin (16) of Champlain Valley Union High carries the puck against Burlington High on Saturday. The Redhawks battled back from a 4-1 deficit to capture a 4-4 tie. For more photos.

The 8-3-1 Redhawks prevailed over the 11-2-1 Hornets, 3-1, on Dec. 30 at the Essex Arena.

Both teams played to deadlocks this past Saturday. Coach Doug Hopper’s Hawks staged a mighty third period comeback to tie Burlington High 4-4 at Cairns, while Essex knotted Harwood Union High 1-1 in a home match.

Burlington High, which blanked CVU, 2-0, in early December’s Burchard Tournament title game, appeared to have another win wrapped up after going up 3-0 in the first period and taking a 4-1 advantage into the final reel.

Enter Robbie Dobrowski and some equally fired-up teammates.

Held without a goal through two periods, the Redhawks’ top point popper opened the comeback by unleashing a point blank goal with 8:36 left in regulation, getting a sharp pass from Mr. Helper Kyle Logan, who had four assists.

Nate LaCroix got CVU within 4-3 with 4:53 remaining after Logan (naturally) got the puck down the left side of the rink with a perilous rush through a crowd of defenders. Dobrowki later tied the game at 4 with 1:12 left on a power play with assists going to defenseman Cully Millikin and Logan.

It was the junior sharpshooter’s 19th goal of the campaign.

BHS’ tough defense had kept CVU off the scoreboard in the first period for the fourth straight stanza this season and led 3-0 after taking an aggressive, hard-skating game right at the Redhawks.

Logan and Derek Goodwin took care of that string of zips. With 13:10 left in the middle period, the junior eluded blue-shirted defenders and skated deep into BHS territory before passing the puck to a smartly positioned Goodwin, who fired an 8-foot lifter past Burlington net minder Nathaniel Young.

Young and his defenders kept CVU from any sustained offensive efforts the rest of the period. Burlington made it 4-1 with 55 seconds left with a power play goal by Kevin Tetreault over a fallen CVU goalie Mark Albertson, who had 17 saves. Young finished with 16 stops.

Among those with solid defensive moments for the Redhawks was junior Erick Maclean. Forward Jamie Thayer provided some effective grunt work along the boards (elbow land) on several occasions, prying the puck loose from groups of Seahorses.

It was Dobrowski’s second straight two-goal game, as he potted a pair last Wednesday in the Redhawks’ 4-0 annual CSB (Chittenden South Burlington) Cup victory over south Burlington High.

Logan notched a goal and two assists while Albertson came up with 28 saves for the shutout, CVU’s second of the season.


[Read more…]

Administration unveils new teaching teams (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The look of the Williston School District reconfiguration became clearer last week when the administration unveiled the new teaching teams for next school year. Nearly every team, or academic house, will experience staffing changes, according to the information released.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said administrators interviewed every teacher twice to gather input on how next year’s teams would be shaped. Teachers indicated their preferences on everything from whom they wanted to work with to which grade levels they wanted to teach.

“We tried to give every teacher something they hoped for and something they could look forward to,” Nardelli said.

Nardelli believes the new teams are more balanced in terms of teacher strengths, which will create better equity across the district.

In an e-mail sent to parents last week, Nardelli outlined what each team would look like starting next year. Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade will be housed at Allen Brook School, with three first and second grade houses.

Each house will have four teachers. Two of those houses will feature multi-age classrooms; another will have straight-grade looping, where one grade is taught for two years by the same teacher. Nardelli said this gives an option to parents who favor grade looping over multi-age classrooms, or vice versa.

The third and fourth graders at Williston Central School will have a similar house setup, with two houses featuring multi-age classrooms and another with looping classrooms.

In the upper houses of grades five through eight, there will be two two-year teams and three four-year teams. The two-year houses will be comprised of grades five and six, and grades seven and eight.

Nardelli said the middle school teams of Voyager and Full House are avoiding any major structural or personnel changes. That’s because those houses already went through a dramatic shift last school year, he said.

Nardelli said parents have expressed support for the changes, but many are withholding judgment until they see where their children will be placed. The next step for the administration will be figuring out where students will end up. Some students could follow their current teacher to a new house, or classes of students will stay together while their teacher changes.

“It depends on what the parents want,” Nardelli said.

As that work continues, teachers will look toward the 2010-2011 school year and start forging new identities as teams, Nardelli said.



Below is the breakdown of teachers and their new teams.


Allen Brook School – First & Second Grades

LOOPING                                     MULTIAGE                                     MULTIAGE

Julie Roger                                     Margaret Munt                                 Alison Schwartz

Caitlin Bianchi                               Erin Crowley                                    Kim Rodliff

Becky Martell                               Terry Thyng                                       David Bolger

Kate McLaughin                           Anthony Popoli                                Donna Powers


Williston Central School – Third & Fourth Grades

LOOPING                                     MULTIAGE                                     MULTIAGE

Dave Bouchard                             Susan Stewart                                    Marybeth Morrissey

Cara Medved                                Karin Ward                                        Michael Willis

Elizabeth Steele                            MJ Wirsing                                       Michael Kellogg

Beth Dusablon                              Sarah Schoolcraft                             Suzy Haas


Williston Central School – Fifth – Eighth Grades

GRADES 5-6 (2 years)                  GRADES 7-8 (2 years)

Jared Bailey                                     Debra McConnell

Mindy Conry                                     Jessica Contois

Martha Quatt                                     Deborah Taylor

Joy Peterson                                     Dominique St. Arnaud


GRADES 5-8 (4 years)                   GRADES 5-8 (4 years)                   GRADES 5-8 (4 years)

Julie Longchamp                              Nick Brooks                                     Tracey D’Amato

Amy Skapof                                     Aron Merrill                                     Tad Dippel

Amanda Johnson                              Maria Dailey                                     Al Fletcher

Susan Mahoney                                Amy Durant                                     Kathy Rossier

Rick McCraw

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Everyday Gourmet (1/21/10)

Rube Goldberg recipes

Jan. 21, 2010

By Kim Dannies

Take a complex set of instructions and make it simple; by virtue of space allotment, that’s my job every column. Since I cannot properly follow a real recipe, my creations are safe from the copyright police, yet there are always ethics and etiquette to consider when adapting a recipe. The guidelines of the International Association of Culinary Professionals focus on giving proper attribution to recipes that are published or taught. Using the words “adapted from” or “based on,” depending on how much a recipe has been revised, is protocol.

The only time a recipe should be printed without attribution is when it has been changed so substantially that it no longer resembles its source. In culinary school we learned that if three elements of the recipe are changed, then it has evolved to a new recipe. Because cooking is as much invention as art, universal participation dictates that recipes are always evolving. It is the sum of a cook’s knowledge, preference for technique, adaptability and quality of ingredients.

Reader Nancy Suarez shared this recipe. Not only is it a delicious soup, but an excellent example of an evolved recipe. Nancy wrote, “My husband, Joe, found this many years ago in Bon Appetit, we have modified it to be vegetarian.”

Looking at the first version, their adaptation is truly a simpler original recipe.

Wild Rice Soup Suarez

On medium-low, heat a soup pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté 1 chopped onion, 3 stalks of chopped celery, 2 chopped carrots, 5 sliced Crimini mushrooms and 1 teaspoon chopped garlic until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 1/3 cups of wild rice or a blend; stir to coat. Add 7 cups of water with 3 Knorr vegetable bouillon cubes (double size/strength) and 1 bay leaf.

Simmer, with pot partially covered, until rice is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Remove bay leaf. Puree 2 cups of the soup batch in a processor and return it to the pot; or use a stick/immersion blender for 30 seconds. To finish, gently reheat soup, stirring in 1/2 cup of whipping cream or half & half; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.


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


[Read more…]

Little Details (1/21/10)

And justice for all

Jan. 21, 2010

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

“Hello, may I please speak with David*?” I asked.


“This … this is David’s father,” a voice, resonating with pain, responded. “We buried him this morning. His mother and I are cleaning out his apartment.”

My hand trembled. The phone suddenly assumed enormous weight. I stumbled through an unprepared, inadequate expression of condolence.

“Who is this?” the father asked.

I explained I was the investigator assigned to David’s civil rights case against his former employer. David was fired shortly after disclosing to his supervisor he had AIDS. I invited the father to call me back if he wanted me to pursue the case.

Conversation ended, I walked unsteadily to my boss’ office. Charlie could be counted on for supportive, thoughtful advice.

The son of a Pittsburgh cop, Charlie was a true Pittsburgher. His manner was “casual folksy” — a far cry from the more “direct” Boston culture I grew up with. I marveled at how he cared for his wife, suffering from a chronic illness, and still made it to his kids’ games. I remember a story he told of a Thanksgiving “picnic” his family enjoyed when his wife was too fatigued and he was too busy to prepare a traditional turkey dinner. The family packed simple sandwiches and a thermos of something warm to enjoy on bleachers at a park.

Charlie remembered when steel reigned supreme. Young men passed on college, heading straight to the mills — Homestead, J&L, U.S. Steel — where their fathers, uncles and grandfathers worked. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Eastern Europe slogged side-by-side filling insatiable coke ovens, harnessing blast furnaces dispensing their fire-hot, molten elixir. Strong unions insured generous wages, vacation time, “Cadillac” health insurance and pensions.

“My dad, when he made detective, would sometimes ask me to wash his car when he came home for lunch,” Charlie mused. “Within an hour it’d be caked with dust (from the mills) and I’d write messages on it.”

The U.S. steel industry, unable to compete with cheaper foreign sources, collapsed in the 1970s. Pittsburgh’s population sliced in half as unemployed workers abandoned Pennsylvania to find jobs elsewhere. This daughter of a Teamster wonders if the unions asked for a little too much.

Sitting in Charlie’s office, his desk piled with cases, I explained the call and the sinking sense I handled it poorly. Charlie encouraged me to not be so hard on myself — it was a tough call.

Our office investigated alleged civil rights abuses in employment, housing and public accommodations. We monitored local hate group activity, including Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. I remember an image — a silhouette of a black man dangling from a tree — sitting on my colleague’s desk. It was one of many posters hung surreptitiously on telephone poles and at bus stops. Naïveté slipped away upon learning such hatred existed, percolating just below the surface in certain corners of my adoptive city.

Most of my colleagues were black, relegating me to “minority” status. I worked hard to earn the respect of my co-workers and the trust of my clients — most of whom were also black.

Discrimination is hard to prove. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, perhaps in the form of detailed comparisons of salary, promotion and personnel records. “Sandwich tests” determined if landlords discriminated against black would-be tenants. Drawing on drama skills, I played “the white apartment seeker” — no make-up required — using theater to seek justice. Witness testimony, hard to extract but potent, could turn a case. It took a courageous secretary at a prominent Pittsburgh law firm to bring down a lawyer who repeatedly harassed a co-worker with sexually suggestive comments.

I interviewed all sorts of folks. Some of my hardest conversations occurred when, after reviewing facts, it became evident a firing was justified due to excessive absences, gross misconduct, etc. I heard tales of nuanced sexual harassment that, to this day, make me believe Anita Hill. One man broke down in tears as he spoke of his inability to find work, due — he felt —to obesity.

I re-read David’s file. He worked as a waiter at the Westin William Penn Hotel for 13 years. His tenure and increasing responsibility implied competence.

As a gay man diagnosed with AIDS, he felt obligated to tell his employer although the law did not require him to do so. He was fired shortly thereafter for a seemingly minor infraction.

David’s father never called me back. I wish he had. Just months before, President George H. W. Bush signed the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, a law designed to protect people like David. He died without insurance, a “benefit” of his employment.


* Name changed


Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or


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