June 23, 2018

Letters to the Editor (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010


Clean up the lead

The recent litany of citizen comments in your newspaper concerning the known lead contamination on the Boutin property located on Old Creamery Road in Williston prompts a response.

Lead contamination has long been a recognized public health problem and it would appear that the magnitude of the lead deposit is sufficient to cause the state of Vermont to take action. The issue should be addressed forthwith by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, though it has been my personal experience that this may not be likely. I have personally observed the uneven (even comical) treatment by the same agency in connection with various environmental issues over the past 24 years.

Consultants retained by us have documented facts leading to a conclusion that the Agency of Natural Resources demonstrates a lack of consistency in addressing contamination issues in different parts of Vermont and may in fact be less diligent than neighboring states in this regard. Further deposits of lead in this watershed area where my own well is located must be stopped immediately. The tons of lead already deposited must be reclaimed, the groundwater professionally tested and the contamination remediated.

Peter Judge, Williston


‘Missing the point’

After reading Mike Benevento’s column last week, I am convinced it should be called “Missing the Point.”

Even if we cannot agree on causes or solutions to global warming, it is undeniable that our addiction to the big, cheap, over-packaged and processed is polluting the entire planet and our own bodies. Even animals are smart enough not to foul their own nests. For an interesting visual, take a trip to the library and check out “What the World Eats.” It’s sobering to see pictures of families from around the world with all the food they would eat in a week.

The idea that individuals cannot have an impact or shouldn’t be burdened with making lifestyle changes is what the conservative spin machine wants everyone to believe because powerful lobbies have a stake in making sure we all stick with the status quo. In reality, my working-class family has made quite a few changes that have a positive impact on the planet and the pocketbook.

To think that shooting sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere is the magic answer is truly missing the point, Mike. The fact is, our lifestyle here in the United States is built like a house of cards with cheap energy, cheap goods, cheap labor and little regard for anything but the bottom line, but the piper will have to be paid, eventually.

We U.S. citizens have been given so much it is not only our duty but our obligation to take responsibility for the impact of our lifestyle on the planet and all the billions of other people on it besides ourselves.

While the rest of us do what we can, you go ahead and dig in your heels, Mike. Drive a tank. Eat a Big Mac every day. Buy a pet elephant before they go extinct!

Rachel Kring, Williston


Checking up on ‘experts’

Once again Mike Benevento has come up with an article citing “experts” that have been exposed as bogus to support his views.

I bit my tongue when he ranted about the ills of “socialized medicine,” wondering if he was receiving medical benefits from his military service as he demonized those benefits for the rest of us.

Now he rants about climate change and opines it is “less about preventing warming and more about controlling people.” Wow. Don’t believe climate change, it is only governments trying to control you!

I encourage you to research his experts. He cites author and geologist Ian Plimer.

From prwatch.org: “All together, Plimer earns a very tidy sum as a director of the three mining companies.

Plimer has argued that the introduction of a cap-and-trade system in Australia could have a major impact on the mining industry, and even “probably destroy it totally” (www.abc.net.au/lateline/business/items/200811/s2416977.htm).

He has also argued that his mining directorships don’t affect his views on climate science (www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25555783-5018662,00.html).

But it would still be better if media outlets covering his opinions at least disclosed the magnitude of his interests in the industry.

There is a lot of negative information about Plimer on the Web. It makes me wonder how anyone could use him as a source unless they had not taken the time to check him out or did not expect the readers to do so. He also cites authors Dubner and Levitt of “Freakonomics.” Once again, Google exposes the inconsistencies in their chapter on global warming.

Philip Beliveau, St. George


Blame Fox News?

The amount of political polarization here is shocking. I think coming to the defense of the likes of the DHS boss Janet is a losing proposition. Saying mistakes were made requires culpability unless we are utilizing the Rodney King “can’t we all just get along” method.

Not identifying the cause and possible solutions for exploding airplanes, buildings, warships, embassies and shooting rampages is an excellent method for facilitating ineffective solutions. Why are Vermont National Guard members walking around in Afghanistan? (Hint: It is not for the exercise.)

A young Muslim male on the terrorist watch list trained in Yemen by jihadists traveling on a one-way ticket bought with cash and carrying explosives constitutes an act of terror, no matter what the Janet, AP and CBS News call it.

Shelley Palmer, Williston


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Guest Column (1/21/10)

Mad! — It’s America’s favorite mood

Jan. 21, 2010

By Edwin Cooney

I can’t prove this, but it seems to me that, more than ever before in our entire history, we Americans are an angry people. If such is not the case, then all of the media advertising and the persuasiveness of our professional opinion makers are in vain.

Here are some of the things Americans have been urged to be “outraged” about over just the past couple of months:

> There’s no single payer health plan in the proposed health care reform bill — Liberals are irate; there’s too much regulation in the bill that’s likely to pass.

Meanwhile, Conservatives are furious;

> The inability of our intelligence agencies to stop underwear bombers. Everyone wonders why President Obama was with his family in Hawaii on Christmas day instead of rushing back to guard us from the White House Situation Room;

> Whether we should wish one another “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” — everyone’s unsettled over that controversy;

> What the current Senate Majority Leader observed about President Obama’s race nearly two years ago as opposed to what another Senate Majority Leader said about someone else over seven years ago — the GOP is madder about that than Al Sharpton;

> Whether the trial in Federal Court over the legitimacy of California’s Proposition 8 (the 2008 California anti-Gay marriage proposition) should be televised —Hollywood’s gotta be worried about the fate of the movie industry during the trial;

> The way Tiger Woods treated his trophy wife — feminists are really riled about that one;

> Whether Mark McGwire should be forgiven for having taken steroids and human growth hormone in the 1990s;

> The fact that the Pro Bowl is being played ahead of the Super Bowl …

It goes on and on.

Now, America has never been a peaceful realm of serenity or even — in my view — “a city on a hill.” Seldom, however, have the American people been so bombarded by articulate professionals insisting that the problems we face are so formidable that only ideologists of purity can solve them.

When I was growing up, commercials were about things like which soap or detergent would best clean your clothes or kitchen, which foods were most nutritious, which gasoline would enable you to drive your car the furthest and, oh, yes, which beer or cigarettes our sports heroes and cowboys preferred.

Now consider the following. All of those appeals were solutions to everyday problems brought on by everyday living. We all had laundry to do, kitchens to clean, growing children and each other to feed, and automobiles that needed to be operated efficiently. Everyone accepted the idea that as unhealthy as they were, cigarettes and beer were an effective way to relax and ease tension. Advertising, like the news stories we’re supposed to worry about today, tell the story of human error or, even worse, deliberate neglect.

Turn on your radio or television, boot up your computer, and these are just some of the problems that the products and services being peddled today will solve: Entrepreneurs clamor to get you out of debt that was brought on by unscrupulous credit card companies; law firms and tax experts promise to save you from your government; someone wants to sell you gold in exchange for increasingly useless dollars so you’ll have something to spend when Uncle Sam goes broke due to those useless dollars being demanded by those same gold sellers; bankers and life insurance companies want you to know that even if your mother-in-law is against you, the companies are on your side. Toothpastes, cleaning products and herbal remedies are being sold on the grounds that more traditionally manufactured products deliberately pollute.

Many years ago, I heard Secretary of State Dean Rusk assert, “America is too powerful a nation to be infuriated.” Mr. Rusk was, of course, referring to our nuclear capability if sufficiently humiliated by a potential foreign foe.

Perhaps the angriest nation in recent history was Germany after the Treaty of Versailles. We all know what Germany took us through until she was forced to get over her mad by the American, British and Russian armies. America’s woes may be more numerous, but Germany’s chip on the shoulder insofar as the treatment she received due to the Versailles treaty was far more debilitating than anything we’re suffering from today.

What’s rather scary is that Americans think their anger is justified by their sophistication, “common sense,” patriotism and even their religious faith.

Even more frightening is the following analogy: Germany’s mad in the 1930s caused that nation to strike out at the world. America’s mad in the 21st Century, principled, well-documented and righteous as it may be, has its own citizens in its angry sights. Hence, our deadliest enemy invariably is us!


Edwin Cooney is a national political and historical columnist.


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Observer celebrates 25 years (1/21/10)

Twenty-five years ago, a group of five women launched a community newspaper called the Williston Whistle. Today, that paper’s name has changed to the Williston Observer, but the paper still brings news to the people of Williston.


    File photos
The above headline and photos appeared in the Jan. 30, 1997 edition of the Williston Whistle. Wal-Mart had opened the previous day.

This year, in addition to the Observer’s news coverage, the paper will feature a monthly anniversary section. The section will appear throughout 2010, and will feature old photographs and news tidbits from years past.

The Observer would also like to publish a monthly column about various aspects of Williston’s history over the past 25 years, and is seeking volunteers from the community to write columns. The columns will be approximately 500 words. Topics may include, but are not limited to, schools, traffic, business and retail growth or other development issues.

If you would like to write a column, please contact Editor Greg Duggan at editor@willistonobserver.com to share your idea. Proposals should be cogent and well thought-out.

We look forward to hearing from you!



> In January 1988, the Williston Whistle reported that the Williston Central School Board and the Teachers Association had reached a contract agreement on Dec. 30, 1987. The agreement cancelled a strike that teachers had planned for Jan. 27. The three-year contract was retroactive to September 1987, and gave teachers an average salary increase of 8.75 percent annually.

> Planning Commission Chairman George Gerecke presented Williston’s new Comprehensive Town Plan to the Regional Planning Commission on Jan. 22, 1990. When the plan was approved, Williston became the first community in the state to enact a town plan in accordance with new regional planning regulations.

> In the Jan. 24, 1992 edition of the Whistle, the paper reported that Champlain Valley Union High School was launching a pilot program called Graduation Challenge. The program, available as an elective to seniors, allowed the students to “complete independent research on a topic of their choice,” according to the article. Graduation Challenge still exists at the school, and is now a requirement for graduation.

> The Whistle reported on Jan. 12, 1995 that Williston police officer Bart Chamberlain had been promoted to the rank of sergeant after two years with the department. Chamberlain remains with the force, and currently serves as acting chief.

> In January 1997, 420 students and 50 teachers moved from Williston Central School into the new Allen Brook School.

> On Jan. 31, 2002, the Whistle reported that a petition called for a vote on a 1 percent local sales tax, which would help fund municipal services. Voters overwhelmingly approved the sales tax in March.


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Fire damages Oak Hill Road home (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Even though Warren Glore lost much of he and his family’s possessions — including a pet cat — during an afternoon house fire last week, the Williston resident considers himself fortunate.

“I think the lucky thing was that the fire happened in the afternoon and nobody was there,” Glore said on Tuesday. “I’m thankful for that.”

The fire occurred at the Glore home on Oak Hill Road sometime on Thursday afternoon. Glore said a passerby noticed smoke coming from the one-story house and called the Williston Fire Department. Fire crews responded to the call just after 4 p.m.

“I came home that afternoon and found fire trucks in my driveway,” Glore said.

Williston Fire Capt. Tim Gerry said he believes the fire smoldered within the home for three to four hours before the call went out. Gerry said upon entering the house, firefighters encountered thick, black smoke with zero visibility. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to view areas obscured by smoke.

Crews discovered the fire had burned through the first floor and into the basement, leaving a 6-by-10-foot hole in the floor, Gerry said.

“Through some of our good training and entry techniques, we luckily had no one fall through,” Gerry said.

Since the fire was located away from available hydrants, the Williston Fire Department called in several neighboring departments equipped with water tanker trucks. Crews responded from Essex, Hinesburg, Richmond, South Burlington, Shelburne, Colchester Center, Underhill and Bolton, along with a crew from the Vermont National Guard.

Thanks to the quick response, firefighters had the scene under control in roughly 15 minutes, Gerry said. He said the house’s structure is sound, but the interior sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

Gerry said fire investigators aren’t certain of the cause, but it may have started when leftover ash ignited firewood or flooring near the home’s fireplace.

“At this point, (the fire) is ruled accidental,” Gerry said.

While no people were home at the time of the fire, Glore said a pet cat died. He said he’s relied on the charity of friends and the Red Cross told him it is available if necessary.

Glore is working with his insurance company to determine what is salvageable. He’s found shelter with friends and his children are staying at their mother’s house. As for now, Glore said he’s “fine.”

“I’d just like to thank the fire departments,” Glore said.


To make a donation for the fire victims, contact the Red Cross – Northern Vermont Chapter at 29 Mansfield Ave., Burlington, Vt. 05401 or call 660-9130.

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Antique clock to remain in Williston (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The fate of a 150-year-old grandfather clock, a distinctive timepiece designed and built in Williston during the Civil War, has been settled.


    File photo
The Williston Historical Society has reached an agreement to purchase a clock pictured above, built in the town during the Civil War.

The Williston Historical Society is in the process of purchasing the clock from its owner and the group plans to make it an important part of its collection.

Historical Society President Terry Macaig made the announcement of the purchase during the group’s annual meeting Monday night.

“We will take possession of the clock legally in the next few weeks,” he told the group of 15 society members.

Last fall, the Historical Society seemed split on whether it should buy the clock. Some believed the timing wasn’t right for such a purchase and felt the society did not have adequate space to display it for the public. Still, other members said the clock’s historical importance to Williston superseded any concerns.

Macaig said one of the society’s board members, Gilbert Myers, began negotiating with the clock owner’s guardians late last year and has made headway in the purchase. The Historical Society will pay $15,000 over several years to owner George Munson, who is in his late 80s. Instead of drawing from the group’s endowment, payment will come from interest accrued on the endowment and from donations, Macaig said. He estimated the group would pay Munson $1,300 a year, plus interest.

Macaig told the Observer the Historical Society will purchase the clock for less than the appraised value of $18,000, stating that Munson and his guardians decided to give the group something of a hometown discount.

Bob DiFerdinando, Munson’s legal guardian, said he and Munson are pleased the clock will remain in the town where it was built.

“It’s where it belongs, in Williston and in Vermont,” DiFerdinando said.

The Munson clock has a long a storied history, beginning in 1859. Constructed over an eight-year period by George Munson’s great-grandfather, Russell D. Munson, it stands 8 feet, 6 inches tall. Built during the Civil War, Russell Munson dedicated it to the United States’ survival following the war. Etchings found on the clock’s glass window pay tribute to the country’s reunification.

The clock has a number of unique design quirks, including a music box that plays a different Civil War-era song each day of the week.

The clock stayed in the Munson family up until last year. When George Munson moved from his Williston home into assisted living, Historical Society member Ginger Isham took temporary possession of the clock to ensure its safety.

While the clock remains in good shape considering it’s age, it still requires a thorough restoration. The wood is worn in many spots and the clock’s mechanics need tuning, especially the music box. The estimates for restoration are around $7,000 and Macaig said the society will decide what work needs the most pressing attention.

As for a permanent home, the clock will likely be housed in the Historical Society’s Vermont Room at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. Macaig said he’s also been in contact with the Vermont Statehouse’s historical curator to see about displaying the clock in Montpelier during a planned 2011 Civil War commemoration.

“It would give even more Vermonters a chance to see the clock,” Macaig said.

After the purchase is official, the Historical Society will hold an afternoon luncheon or tea in celebration. DiFerdinando said he hopes George Munson will be part of the event and tell his stories about the clock and Williston’s past. Even though Munson is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he is aware the clock will remain in town, DiFerdinando said.

“He’s happy to see it done because it’s such a piece of history,” DiFerdinando said.

[Read more…]

Lawyers seek to dismiss charges (1/21/10)

Molestation suspect ‘tired of fighting courts’

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Public defenders for a man accused of drugging and fondling a 13-year-old girl are asking a judge to throw out two felony charges against the suspect and suppress a key piece of evidence.

Robert Kolibas, 50, appeared in Vermont District Court in Burlington Wednesday morning to hear his attorneys’ dismissal motions. The defense asked Judge Michael Kupersmith to drop the charges of second-degree unlawful restraint and one count of aggravated assault by administering a drug. Kolibas’ defenders also asked the judge to dismiss as evidence a letter that Kolibas wrote to his wife this summer.

Kolibas faces five felony charges related to the case: lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, second degree unlawful restraint, giving a drug to a minor and two counts of aggravated assault by administering a drug. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Police say Kolibas drugged his daughter and the alleged victim by giving them sedative-laced smoothie drinks last May during a sleepover at his home. While drugged, the girl alleges Kolibas fondled her. Urine samples from the alleged victim showed evidence of sedatives in her system.

Furthermore, prosecutors believe Kolibas drugged up to seven other girls beginning in the summer of 2008. Investigators also discovered more than 16,000 images of child erotica on a computer seized from the Kolibas home during the May investigation.

Prosecutors have not filed charges in conjunction with the erotica or other suspected drugging incidents, but hope the evidence will be admissible in trial as “prior bad acts.”

Prior to Wednesday’s motion hearing, Kolibas filed a motion with the court to dismiss his public defenders, Margaret Jansch and Leroy Yoder. Kupersmith gave Kolibas a chance to continue with the dismissal on Wednesday, but Kolibas just shook his head.

“To me, this whole thing is a fiasco and a circus for the media,” Kolibas said.

“Do whatever you want, judge. I’m tired of fighting these courts,” he added soon after.

Kolibas argued in papers filed this month that his defenders have not done enough to help him prove his innocence. According to Kolibas’ motion, the defenders believe his version of what happened the night of the alleged molestation is not “believable” and they have “utterly failed” in keeping him informed on the status of his case.

“(The public defenders) believe that the Defendant is guilty as charged despite his continued arguments to the contrary,” states the court document that requests the dismissal of Kolibas’ attorneys.

For much of the hour-long motion hearing, Kolibas hung his head and did not make eye contact with the judge or his attorneys.

Jansch and Yoder argued before the judge that the charge of unlawful restraint does not apply to what’s in the police affidavit. Court documents state Kolibas held the legs of the alleged victim during the incident so she would not wake his daughter, who was sleeping in the same bed.

Kupersmith appeared to agree with the defense’s take on the unlawful restraint charge. Deputy State’s Attorney Susan Hardin argued the charge is consistent with restricting the girl’s movements.

“Drugging her is a far better argument, but that’s not what’s in the affidavit in relation to unlawful restraint,” Kupersmith said. “But I’ll look at all the evidence.”

Kolibas’ attorneys also asked the judge that a letter Kolibas wrote to his wife — the two are in divorce proceedings, according to Jansch — be dismissed. Jansch argued the letter was of a personal nature and should not be considered evidence. One of the two charges of aggravated assault by administering a drug, specifically in reference to his daughter, stemmed from the letter; Kolibas’ attorneys argued that count should also be dismissed. Jansch also said urine samples from the daughter did not show any drugs in her system.

In the letter, Kolibas tells his wife the drug-laced smoothie drink was meant to calm the woman after an argument. He said he accidently put the sedatives in all the smoothies that night and unintentionally drugged the girls. He also denies fondling the girl. According to court documents, the wife gave the letter to investigators after receiving it over the summer.

Kupersmith will make a final decision on the defense’s arguments at a future court date. Before the end of the hearing, the judge ruled that Kolibas could have no further contact with the three of his four children who are under the age of 18. According to Hardin, Kolibas has written letters to his daughters even though doing so violates his divorce conditions in family court.

“It’s bordering on obstruction of justice,” Hardin said. “When he writes these letters, it’s very disturbing to them. They’ve asked that he stop doing this.”

Kolibas remains held without bail at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington.


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Contest encourages trashy creations (1/21/10)

Students vie for best use of discarded items

Jan. 21, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School student Kyala Schenck realized during her photography class that discarded negatives could make a stylish dress.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Kyala Schenck, a senior at CVU, used discarded film strips and negatives from her photography class to create a dress that she said could actually be worn, albeit probably only by a petite woman. For more pictures click on the link at the top of the page for Web Exclusive Photos.

Schenck, a 17-year-old senior, asked her teacher if she could have the leftover negatives and test strips that gauge the exposure of photographic prints. Using glue and a sewing machine, she assembled the materials, producing a silver- and smoke-colored garment she named “Stripped Elegance.”

“I thought it was really cool that I could take paper that can’t be recycled because of the chemicals you use and actually make something nice out of it,” she said. “I took something used in one art form and made it into a different art form.”

Her piece is among 75 entries by area high school students in the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s 14th annual Creative ReUse Showcase. The contest prompts students to consider what their families discard and then dream up ways to convert refuse into useful or artful creations.

Entries were divided into categories that included “Awesome Art,” “Perfectly Practical,” “Techno Totems,” “True Trash,” “Fabulous Fashion” and “Jammin’ Junk.” Winners in each receive prizes valued at $100. Prizes will also be awarded for most original entry and for the best in show.

“It’s really all about looking at how much waste we generate and teaching people to think, ‘Do I really need all this stuff?’” said Michele Morris, one of CSWD’s waste reduction coordinators.

Morris and fellow employee Jessica Sankey were busy on Friday arranging each entry at Adams Farm Market in Williston. The items made for a crazy-quilt exhibit: an electric guitar molded from household trash; a cardboard tower with geometric shapes decorating the exterior; a faceless sculpture comprised of plastic bags, soda bottles and rags.

Students get extra points for using materials that can’t be recycled, Morris said. But she noted that finding non-recyclable items is tougher these days.

“In its purest form, entries would use materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill,” Morris said. “And it’s a good thing that is getting harder and harder to do.”

Aside from its educational purpose, Morris said, the contest allows students to have fun and show off their creative side. Inventiveness was evident in the entries.

CVU sophomore Quinn Kropf, for example, used cardboard boxes, a yogurt carton, pie plates and a hot chocolate mix container to form a drum set. Metal skewers were used for drum sticks and the entire project was spray-painted a metallic color.

Kropf said he assembled the project during an art class. Like others students, he found that injecting junk with imagination can give it a second life.

“I guess I learned how creative I was and what I could do with what I had around the house,” he said.

Maya Grevatt, a CVU junior, fashioned a trivet out of beer bottle caps and wire. It took her a few hours to string the caps together with the wire, which formed an intricate design.

Grevatt settled on her creation using trial and error. She started by trying to form a bag out of the bottle caps. But when that didn’t work, she noticed in her kitchen a trivet, which is used to protect surfaces from hot pots and pans, and decided to try to make that instead.

Schenck said she had a similar learn-as-you-go experience. As she worked on her dress, she found that piecing the photographic test strips together into squares, then sewing the squares together, worked best. Discovering the skirt was too short, she added negatives to the bottom.

“When I started my project, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said. “So it was kind of improvisation.”

Contest entries will be on display during an open house on Saturday, Jan. 23 from noon to 3 p.m. at Adams Farm Market, located at the intersection of Old Stage and Mountain View roads.

The winner and other selected entries then will be exhibited at Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17.

By boosting students’ environmental awareness, the contest could help CSWD in its ongoing effort to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill. But Morris said it could even encourage a mindset that produces the next great green product.

“These students are going to be the entrepreneurial thinkers of the future,” Morris said.


[Read more…]

Balloting rejected for major issues (1/21/10)

Board axes town-wide votes on roundabout, ambulance

Jan. 21, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Two of the most controversial issues facing Williston — starting a homegrown ambulance service and building a roundabout — apparently won’t be on the ballot this March.

The Selectboard last week tentatively decided to fund the new ambulance service through the annual operating budget and to relegate the much-debated roundabout to Town Meeting. The board is scheduled to vote on both issues Monday.

The ambulance service reprises a proposal first made three years ago. Voters in 2007 rejected funding for a pair of ambulances and six new employees. The new proposal also calls for purchasing two ambulances but includes only one or two new employees.

The roundabout, which would be located at the intersection where U.S. 2 meets North Williston and Oak Hill roads, was approved by the Selectboard last year. The decision prompted a petition signed by 456 residents seeking a town-wide vote on the proposal.

Opponents argue that the roundabout is unneeded and unwanted, asserting that it would hurt the historic character of the village while failing to make the sometimes congested and accident-prone intersection safer.

The Selectboard last week debated how to handle each issue. The ambulance discussion provoked a rare testy exchange between board members, according to a recording of the Jan. 14 meeting.

Judy Sassorossi said she wanted to include as part of the 2010-11 operating budget $231,915 for the ambulance service. She and other board members felt the arrangement, which could include a lease-purchase for the ambulances, would give the town a way to back out should revenue fall short of expenses.

“I’m going to say that is 100 percent against my recommendation in feeling what is upfront and honest,” Fehrs said.

“I’m really sorry you feel this is dishonest, I really am,” Sassorossi responded.

“Dishonest may not be the right word,” Fehrs said.

“But it’s what you just said,” Sassorossi retorted.

“I take that back and I apologize,” Fehrs said. “But it’s not upfront.”

“But it is upfront, Jeff, it’s in the budget,” Sassorossi said. “It’s a public document.”

Fehrs asserted that putting a new service in the budget rather than seeking voter approval represented a “major shift” in how the town does business by cutting residents out of the decision.

Majority favors lease

Fire Chief Ken Morton had urged board members to include the ambulance service in the budget instead of seeking voter approval. He projected that revenue from the service will cover expenses, including payments on the ambulances. Each patient would be charged $450 or $550 depending on the level of medical care.

Board member Ted Kenney, while acknowledging Fehrs’ point about being forthright with voters, said the ambulance proposal did not represent an entirely new service. Replacing services now provided by out-of-town rescue squads, it would be run out of the fire station and use existing full-time and on-call personnel to round out staffing.

“It’s not in my mind equivalent to creating a police department, creating a fire department from whole cloth,” Kenney said. “I don’t consider this to be a radically different thing.”

The other board members, Chris Roy and Terry Macaig, said last week that they favored putting the ambulance service on the ballot. But they changed course after learning that a lease-purchase agreement could include a cancellation clause.

“If the lease option was simply being used to hide an expenditure, I would have a real problem with it,” Roy said.

Roy concluded after reviewing information on the lease that it was “the more prudent option.”

Macaig said during the meeting that leasing had a “better feel.” In an interview Monday, he also said he changed his mind after looking closely at how leasing would work.

But what about voters, who had a direct say on the issue in 2007? Macaig said the ambulance service this time “is a totally different proposal” that pays for itself.

Roundabout headed to Town Meeting?

Voters will apparently get a direct say in the roundabout, but based on past history far fewer will weigh in because the decision will be made at Town Meeting instead of by Australian ballot.

Last March, with just 15 percent of registered voters going to the polls, a total of 1,114 ballots were cast. Only about 75 people attended Town Meeting, which each year is held the day before balloting and usually draws no more than 100 or so residents.

The board only briefly considered the roundabout question. The matter was apparently settled with a legal opinion from Hinesburg attorney Joe Fallon.

He advised the town to place the question before voters at Town Meeting rather than through Australian balloting. State laws classify such an issue as a non-binding “public question,” Fallon wrote in an e-mail to Town Manager Rick McGuire. Because Williston’s town charter does not specifically state that such questions should be settled with an Australian ballot, he wrote, the issue should instead be decided at Town Meeting.

Board members murmured their assent of that opinion at last week’s meeting.

The Selectboard could in fact ignore the petition and refuse to place the issue before voters at all. State law gives the board the final word on non-budget issues. And even then, state and federal highway officials have the last say because it is a federally funded project on a state highway.

Williston resident Ginger Isham said she and others who organized the petition drive wanted a town-wide vote on the roundabout.

“I’m disappointed the Selectboard is not going to put the vote on the Australian ballot,” she said. “I think they know that was our intention.”


The Selectboard is scheduled to make a final decision about what will be on the ballot and on the Town Meeting agenda at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 25. The session is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Williston Town Hall.


[Read more…]

Schools offer help to Haiti (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Working quickly but carefully, Calliope House student Joe Warren took a red ribbon and curled it into a bow before affixing it with a safety pin. Sitting on a beanbag in the corner of his classroom on Tuesday afternoon, Warren said the ribbon designs that he and his classmates diligently worked on were going toward a good cause.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Third and fourth grade students in Calliope House at Allen Brook School hold up ribbons they made to support Haitian earthquake victims. The ribbons sell for $1 and all proceeds will go toward earthquake relief in Haiti. For more pictures click on the link at the top of the page for Web Exclusive Photos.

Beginning this week, Calliope House students and others across Allen Brook School will be selling blue and red ribbons for $1 apiece to raise money for the victims of last week’s earthquake in Haiti. World Language students at Williston Central School will take part in a similar effort next week.

Warren said he hopes as many people as possible buy the ribbons. The more the students sell, the more money goes to help those affected by last week’s earthquake.

“We’re trying to make as many ribbons as we can and get people to buy as many as we can,” Warren said.

By the end of the school day Tuesday, Calliope House students had completed more than 500 ribbons and planned to make more throughout the week. Teacher Kathy Dodge said the money will go to organizations that send money directly to Haiti, such as the Red Cross.

“Once you let kids know there’s a need, they take off with great ideas,” Dodge said.

On Jan. 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. The natural disaster leveled the French-speaking country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Government officials in Haiti estimated the death toll at 200,000.

Allen Brook has a special connection to Haiti. In 2006, a group of farmers from Haiti and the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic stopped by the school to learn better ways to teach students about sustainability. Specifically, the contingent from Hispaniola Island looked at Allen Brook’s outdoor garden — the Garden of Life — and how it teaches students about farming practices.

During the visit, organizers set up a sister school program between Allen Brook and Ecole Baptiste de Juchereau in northeast Haiti. Former kindergarten teacher Diane DiGennaro helped start the program, and she said students have sent seeds and farming tools, along with letters to Haitian students, in the past few years.

Allen Brook’s sister school escaped much of the earthquake’s destruction since it’s located far from the epicenter. But DiGennaro and Dodge said it is expected many refugees will find their way to the school to escape the desperate conditions in the capital.

“Just about everyone there knows someone or has a relative that works or lives in Port-au-Prince,” Dodge said. “This earthquake has affected everyone.”

While Allen Brook raises money with the ribbons, Williston Central will do something similar on Tuesday, according to World Language teacher Ginny Memoe. Students in the school’s World Language program will make ribbons on Jan. 26 and sell them that day to students and teachers for $1. Students across the school will also be encouraged to wear clothing consistent with Haiti’s national colors of blue and red.

Memoe said the money raised at Williston Central will go to Save the Children, an international nonprofit organization that is helping children affected by the earthquake.

While many upper house World Language students are familiar with Haiti through class work, lower house students at Allen Brook are learning firsthand about the country through the news. Dodge said many students have asked about the country and are sharing their views on seeing the destruction on television.

Calliope House student Rachel Leete said the images on television have been “scary.”

“A couple nights ago, I was watching it on TV and I said, ‘I can’t watch it anymore,’” Leete said while drawing a poster advertising the ribbons for sale.

But while she feels saddened watching the aftermath of the earthquake on television, she knows the money she raises from the ribbons will make a difference.

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Sports Notes (1/14/10)

Nordic skiers heading to E. Montpelier on Saturday

The Champlain Valley Union High Nordic ski team will eye another weekend of success Saturday when it puts skiers to snow at the U-32 course in East Montpelier. The start is slated for 10 a.m.

On Wednesday, after press deadline, the Redhawks were in competition at Colchester High School.

Last Saturday, the CVU snow steppers showed the value of finishing in packs as the girls and boys teams took victories at Sleepy Hollow in an event that attracted seven schools.

Kylie deGroot gave the CVU girls an individual top finish in their division, beating out Aleksandra Zakzrewska of South Burlington by 14 seconds with a time of 21 minutes, 57 seconds.

Redhawks then bunched up for five of the next six places, led by Annie Jackson (3), Sierra Frisbie (4), Abby Stoner (5), Sienna Searles (7) and Johanna Fehrs (8).

The girls team easily won the team title with just 13 points to 75 for runner-up South Burlington.

The boys nipped Burlington for the team victory, 29-33. It was a pack of three finishers that boosted the boys as Andrew Childs, Sam Epstein and Jake Marston finished fifth through seventh.


Home match vs. Burlington for boys hockey squad

The only team to shut them out this season, Burlington High, awaits the Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday at Cairns Arena.

CVU took a 7-3 mark into Wednesday night’s CSB Cup contest against South Burlington High, also at Cairns.

The Redhawks had some additional incentive going into the Wednesday test, coming off a 3-2 loss Saturday to Colchester High at Leddy Park in Burlington. The loss snapped a six-game win string.

The Lakers’ Jon Sawtelle’s second score of the game came 2 minutes, 24 seconds into overtime, hiking Colchester’s record to 5-6-1.

Robbie Dobrowski and Nate LaCroix scored for the Hawks. It was Dobrowski’s 15th lamp lighter of the campaign. Kyle Logan and Mayson Kropf garnered assists and goalie Jason O’Brien had 21 stops to 31 for the Lakers’ Chris Furlani.

Last Wednesday, Dobrowski scored twice, including the game winner with 16 seconds left to give CVU a 3-2 triumph over visiting Burr and Burton of Manchester. Derek Goodwin also scored while Logan (Mr. Helper with at least eight assists) had two set-ups for mates. LaCroix, Quinn Kropf and J.P. Benoit also had assists.

CVU outshot the Bulldogs 35-26. Mark Albertson had 24 saves.


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