June 16, 2019

Guest Column (2/25/10)

The miracle of the market

Feb. 25, 2010

By Jacob G. Hornberger

In preparation for two recent back-to-back blizzards, residents in the Washington, D.C. area emptied the shelves of neighborhood grocery stores. Notwithstanding the pre-blizzard panic buying, what’s interesting is that no one was freaking out about whether the stores would be adequately stocked after the blizzards.

Now think about this: There is absolutely no government planning that goes into what is stocked in grocery stores. No federal Department of Food. No local or state planning commission. No grocery boards. No bureaucrats or bureaucracies. No laws requiring grocery stores to be well stocked. No rules and regulations dictating how much of each food item, including bread, milk and chicken, needs to appear on the shelves.

So how in the world do grocery stores get stocked without government planning or direction? How is it that so much food appears, almost by magic, within a day or two after most of the shelves have been emptied? Indeed, how do grocery stores manage to have more than enough food for people throughout the year, given that no government department or agency is doing the planning and issuing food directives?

Let’s look at the situation another way. Suppose that in 1900 it was decided that food was just too important an item to be left to the free market. To ensure that there would always be enough food for people, state and local governments took over the grocery-store industry, just as they took over the education industry. To provide support for grocery stores, the U.S. government established the federal Department of Food to provide grants and set standards for the grocery stores, just as the U.S. Department of Education does for state and local public schools.

Now imagine that we’re here in 2010, having lived under a system of government-run grocery stores for more than 100 years. Wouldn’t people be incessantly complaining about the shoddy quality of products and services, as they constantly do with the state-run schools?

Along come libertarians and say the same thing about the grocery business that they say about the education business. Get government out of the grocery business, at all levels — local, state and federal. Abolish the federal Department of Food. Sell off all the grocery stores. Abolish all the taxes needed to run the grocery stores. Separate food and state, just as our ancestors separated church and state. Let the free market reign in the grocery-store industry.

How would today’s statists respond? Wouldn’t they say the same things they say when libertarians call for the same solution in education? “Where would the poor get their food? There would only be grocery stores for the rich. How could we count on the free market to make sure that there was the right amount of food for each grocery store? What if some grocery stores went empty while others were plentiful? How could we be sure that each grocery store received the correct quantities of each item? You libertarians are dreamers. Do you honestly believe that you could leave something as important as grocery stores to the free market?”

Yet today, no one gives a free market in food a second thought. Every day, people have a wide range of grocery stores from which to choose, each one vying for his business. Practically every day — blizzards being a possible exception — every one of those grocery stores is packed with food, all with a dizzying array of choices.

And it’s all accomplished through the miracle of the market, with no government planning or direction. And no one gets freaked out about the fact that it all happens without government intervention. People just take it for granted.

Now, while we’re on the subject of a free market in grocery stores and food, may we talk about the same thing in the context of public schools and education?


Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va.


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News from past Februarys in Williston history (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

Staff report

· In February 1986, the Williston Whistle reported on a proposed expansion at Trinity Baptist Church on Mountain View Road. Plans for the expansion called for an auditorium complex, classrooms, administrative offices, a conference room and a high school building.

· The paper reported in February 1991 that Arlene and Waldo Siple had in January announced a decision to sell the development rights of their 243-acre farm on South Road to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the town of Williston, the Vermont Department of Agriculture and the Land Trust. The Siples sold the property for $394,000.

· Rick McGuire became Williston’s town manager in February 1998, the Whistle reported in its Feb. 19 issue of that year. McGuire was hired in December 1997 to replace former Town Manager Bill Dugan, who left the position in October 1997. McGuire was chosen from a pool of 30 candidates.

· The Williston Central School’s “A” team Bobcats finished off the basketball season in February 2004 with a perfect record. The Bobcats averaged a 22-point margin of victory in their 16-0 record.

· In the first week of February 2005, thieves stole a life-sized Gumby statue from the home of Barb Giardi and Norm Reuss. The couple soon received a ransom letter with a set of demands, including the ouster of former President George W. Bush and the legalization of marijuana.

· On Feb. 11, 2008, the Vermont Commission of Family Recognition and Protection took public testimony on whether Vermont lawmakers should pass legislation allowing gay marriage. An overwhelming majority spoke in favor of gay marriage during the forum at Williston Central School. More than a year later in April 2009, Vermont lawmakers passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.


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Government building seeks LEED certification (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A new government building on Harvest Lane could be certified as one of Williston’s “greenest” buildings, according to a local architectural firm.


    Courtesy photo
The new U.S. government General Services Administration building on Harvest Lane, pictured above, will likely receive an environmental certification. The facility was designed by Colchester-based Wiemann Lamphere Architects.

Steve Roy, an architect with Colchester-based Wiemann Lamphere Architects, anticipates the office building will earn an environmental certification within the year.

Roy believes the design and implementation of the environmentally-sound building practices will continue in future projects across Vermont.

“What went into the design are things we should always be thinking about,” Roy said.

The U.S. government’s General Services Administration moved into the 27,000 square-foot space in January after it was completed late last year. When brought before the town in its early planning stages in April 2008, plans indicated staff from the United States Citizen and Immigration Services department might also work within the new building.

A government official could not be reached as of press deadline to confirm which departments work in the building.

There are a number of government offices within Williston, including a large workplace across from the new structure, as well as offices within the White Cap Business Park on Industrial Avenue.

Roy said the building should earn a silver certification for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, better known as LEED. The U.S. Green Building Council confirms structures as LEED certified.

Roy, along with architect Gary Lavigne, designed the building to save more than 25 percent in energy costs and use 42 percent less water than similar office complexes. Many of the materials used in construction came from local companies, Roy said. Williston-based DEW Construction spent much of 2009 constructing the government building.

In the original plans, the building was to include a large, glass etching of the Statue of Liberty at the front entrance.

“In the end, they decided not to put that up there after all,” Roy said.


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CVU express buses leaving from Allen Brook (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The third time’s a charm for the Champlain Valley Union High School express bus.

After changing departure spots twice in less than a week, the Champlain Valley Union High School express bus will now leave from Allen Brook School instead of Town Hall. It’s the newest location officials settled upon after voluntarily leaving Town Hall and discovering that a lot on North Williston Road would not work.

The change occurred Feb. 18. The two express buses will continue to leave by 7:45 a.m. each school day morning.

Originally, buses picked up CVU students at town offices in Williston Village. Vehicles lined up along the Town Hall Annex, in the parking lot next to the Williston Armory. But concerns over traffic backups onto U.S. 2 created concerns with town officials.

Town Manager Rick McGuire asked CVU transportation officials to move the student pick-up from the Annex to behind Town Hall. He said he was surprised to discover the express buses found a new pickup stop altogether.

“I clearly did not ask for (the buses) to be moved,” McGuire said. “Actually, I thought I had a good location picked out.”

Bob Mason, chief operations officer for Chittenden South Supervisory Union, said he “misunderstood” town officials and decided to seek a pickup location away from Town Hall.

On Monday, Feb. 15, CVU express buses collected students at the Williston Recreation Path parking lot, behind Korner Kwik Stop and across from Williston Federated Church.

That lasted three days.

According to Mason, the traffic at the church’s parking lot entrance created a bottleneck of sorts, especially with commuters near the busy intersection of U.S. 2 and North Williston and Oak Hill roads. Also, the Federated Church hosts Rotary Club of Williston-Richmond meetings Thursday mornings at roughly the same time as student pick-up.

“It just became obvious this wasn’t going to work,” Mason said.

Mason said parents can now drop their students off around 7:30 a.m. for bus pickup at Allen Brook. The CVU buses will leave the elementary school before its students arrive for the day, Mason said, therefore avoiding further traffic issues.

“This gets us to a location where we’re not inconveniencing anyone,” he said.

CVU instituted an express bus pilot program in January 2009. The buses became so popular, the high school added a second 84-passenger vehicle to the run. Shelburne also has an express bus and officials are working on a route for Charlotte. Students who do not have classes during the early block generally take the express buses, Mason said.

Initially, buses traveled 20 minutes via Oak Hill Road to CVU when leaving from Town Hall. Now, buses will follow Vermont 2A to Hinesburg. Mason said the busing times should remain the same.

Mason said he heard from a few parents and school officials concerned about the change in pickup locations, but he remains confident that Allen Brook will be the best spot for the long term.

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Local biotech firm lays off 35 employees (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston-based biotech company Triosyn laid off 35 workers last week, many of them temporary employees, according to a company spokeswoman.

Christie Huff, vice president of marketing for Triosyn’s parent company, San Diego-based Safe Life Corp., said the layoffs occurred because of a decrease in demand regarding the business’s signature product. Triosyn manufactures filter respirators, known as N95 respirators, used by health professionals during the recent H1N1 pandemic.

The N95 respirators filter airborne microbes, which carry diseases, much better than the standard facemask, Huff said. Initially, Triosyn developed the respirators for the military to protect soldiers during biological warfare attacks.

On Thursday and Friday, Triosyn laid off 27 temporary workers and 12 full-time employees, while promoting four temporary workers to full-time status. Huff said the net loss was 35 employees. Those who were laid off worked mainly in N95 respirator production, she added.

“Demand for the N95 can be cyclical and demand was uncharacteristically high during the H1N1 pandemic,” Huff said.

At the height of the pandemic, Triosyn officials said the company planned on doubling its employee base to keep up with demand for the masks. But with an earlier end than anticipated to the H1N1 virus outbreak, demand dropped for the N95 respirators and the company no longer needed a larger workforce, Huff said.

Initially, it was believed the pandemic would run through April, but cases across the United States dropped off dramatically in January, Huff said.

Huff said Triosyn hired workers with the idea that many would be temporary employees.

“It was very intentional that we hire (employees) this way,” Huff said.

Huff added the pandemic could ramp up again in the fall, as some health officials believe. If that’s the case, Triosyn is set to hire its workers back, she said.


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New president at Williston Food Shelf (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston Community Food Shelf has a new president.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Cathy Michaels, the new president of the Williston Community Food Shelf, organizes food on Tuesday evening.

Williston resident Cathy Michaels accepted the leadership role after former President Deb Beckett stepped down this month. The Food Shelf’s board of directors elected Michaels at a meeting last week.

Since the early stages of the Food Shelf, Michaels volunteered in a number of capacities, including directing operations and scheduling volunteers. As president, Michaels said she wants to ensure that the Food Shelf remains an integral part of Williston.

“There is a definitely a need in this community for the Food Shelf,” Michaels said.

The Williston Community Food Shelf opened in November 2008 in Maple Tree Place. After more than a year at the shopping center, the Food Shelf moved to the Taft Farm Village Center on Cornerstone Drive, in the same building as Artists’ Mediums and Oasis Day Spa.

The Food Shelf provides monthly assistance to economically disadvantaged families in Williston, Essex and St. George. People from outside those communities can receive a pre-packaged bag of goods, but cannot shop for items.

Beckett said Michaels has been a key volunteer with the Food Shelf.

“She works tirelessly and brings a lot of organizational experience to the president position,” Beckett said.

Due to an upcoming National Guard deployment to Iraq, Beckett, a guard member, stepped down from her role. She is also the Williston town clerk.

Michaels will be the third Food Shelf president; founder Jill Lang ended her tenure as president in 2009.

Michaels said her biggest challenge as president will be handling the influx of families needing assistance as the economy continues to struggle. From October through December 2009, the Food Shelf aided 160 families per month in need of food — it’s largest number to date.

At its new location on Cornerstone Drive, the Food Shelf has seen fewer families, but Michaels doesn’t expect that to last.

“I think some people are having trouble finding us, but through word-of-mouth, that’s slowly climbing up,” she said.

In an effort to improve the new location’s visibility, Michaels said the Food Shelf’s Web site, www.willistonfoodshelf.com, will be updated with information and pictures. Ben Viau, a Champlain College student, is donating his time to rework the site, she said.

The Food Shelf may change its Tuesday operating hours, as well. Currently, the Food Shelf remains open from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Most people arrive earlier in the evening, so new hours could change to 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Along with Tuesday evenings, the Food Shelf is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Michaels said the organization always needs funds to continue operating and she plans to organize several fund-raising events throughout 2010.

One local business took up its own fundraising initiative this month. Schenck Chiropractic, located in the Taft Farm Village Center, held its customer appreciation day on Feb. 18. Dr. Bill Schenck offered his services for free during the day if patients donated money or food for the Food Shelf. The theme for the customer appreciation day was “superheroes and villains,” with the office staff dressing up in appropriate attire, according to practice manager Brad Krompf.

Krompf said the business raised $525 and “lots of food.” After making donations to the earthquake relief effort in Haiti, Krompf said the chiropractic practice decided to help a Williston charity.

“We wanted to bring our efforts back home and do something local,” he said.


For more information on donations, contact the Williston Community Food Shelf at 735-6303.

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School districts face contract questions (2/25/10)

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The teacher contract impasse between Chittenden South Supervisory Union officials and the local educators association is another in a long line of similar quandaries occurring across Vermont. School districts across the state are looking at tough solutions to deal with rising budget costs during contract years.

At issue in CSSU is whether teachers should accept a salary freeze for the next school year and pay more into their health insurance premiums. The CSSU Board Negotiation Team asked teachers in recent meetings to forego a pay increase in a one-year contract beginning next school year. In the current three-year contract, due to expire in June, teachers received yearly raises of 3.5 percent to 4 percent or more.

The board also asked educators to cover 20 percent of their health insurance co-pays instead of the current 12 percent. When CSSU negotiators could not reach an agreement with the Chittenden South Education Association — the teachers’ union — they declared an impasse last week and moved negotiations on to the mediator phase. A neutral third party will now work with both sides to iron out a deal.

But CSSU isn’t the only district dealing with such circumstances. School districts from the Connecticut River to Lake Champlain are wrestling with the same challenges.

“To be fiscally prudent about school spending, you have to look at employee costs,” said John Nelson, executive director for the Vermont School Boards Association.

Across the state, education costs continue rising amid the country’s worst economic slump in decades. And while taxpayers are feeling the pinch, so are teachers, said Darren Allen, communications director with the Vermont branch of the National Education Association.

“All educators are working people who feel the same costs and pressures everybody else does,” Allen said. “Our members are dealing with all the same issues.”

Besides CSSU, other school districts are looking to cut or freeze teacher salaries for one year. The South Burlington School District is set to enter negotiations with teachers this month. School Board members decided to inform the community about their intentions before talks even began, according to South Burlington School Board Chairman Rich Cassidy.

“We had to announce our intentions early,” Cassidy said. “Our entire (school) budget is based on getting an agreement with all our unions.”

Cassidy said the board looked at budgeting for a 2.5 percent pay increase for teachers, staff and administrators, which all have separate union representation. When the numbers appeared too high for voters to approve, they budgeted for a zero percent increase.

Like CSSU and many other schools, South Burlington School Board negotiators support a one-year contract with the hope that the economy will improve next year. School Board members in Burlington, on the other hand, don’t foresee much improvement in the economy. As a result, they’ve asked teachers to take a 5 percent pay cut.

School spending remains a problem in Burlington, which has seen budgets increase by more than 9 percent in recent years. Board Chairman Fred Lane said teacher salaries account for more than 80 percent of the district’s budget and taxpayers can’t afford more skyrocketing costs.

In past budget seasons, “we didn’t appreciate how bad the downturn would be,” Lane said. “Now that we do, we need to deal with that.”

The Stowe School District dealt with the uncertain economy by asking teachers to forego a 5.25 percent pay raise next school year. While it’s not a contract year for Stowe, School Board Chairwoman Cameron Page said if teachers didn’t agree to a pay freeze, board members faced cutting significant numbers of staff.

“We had to appeal to the idea of the greater good,” Page said. “We’re talking about people’s livelihoods here.”

With salary freezes and insurance hikes continually discussed, teachers are facing financial strain themselves, Allen said. Furthermore, teachers now need to pay between $500 and $600 more per year for pension benefits, which is estimated to save Vermont taxpayers $15 million each year. Increasing insurance costs would be yet another burden, he said.

“This is a significant contribution and our members realize these are not normal times,” Allen said.

Allen and Nelson agreed that there are rarely easy solutions during contract negotiations. And negotiating teams for boards and educators will need to make tough decisions as the economy shows little hint of improvement, they said.

“I think the conditions that we’re living in will apply pressure on both sides to agree,” Nelson said. “These settlements have to reflect the community.”

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Molestation suspect arraigned on another charge (2/25/10)

Kolibas deemed competent to stand trial

Feb. 25, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston man accused of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl was arraigned Tuesday on another charge in the case.


    Courtesy photo by Glenn Russell
Robert Kolibas walks into court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors charged Robert Kolibas, 51, with a felony count of unlawful restraint against the alleged victim. A judge tossed out a previous charge of unlawful restraint last month.

Kolibas appeared in Vermont District Court in Burlington on Tuesday morning and entered a plea of not guilty. The arraignment was twice delayed this month due to Kolibas’ hospitalization for self-inflicted wounds.

Kolibas is also facing four other felony charges, including lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, giving a drug to a minor and two counts of aggravated assault by administering a drug. Prosecutors allege Kolibas drugged his daughter and her friend by giving them sedative-laced “smoothie” drinks before molesting the friend during a sleepover at his home in May 2009.

In the new charge, prosecutors allege Kolibas restrained the then 13-year-old girl by giving her sedative medications without her consent, specifically Diazepam and Ambien. If convicted of the new charge, Kolibas faces five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. He’s already facing a possible 30-year sentence if convicted of the other felonies.

The previous unlawful restraint charge alleged that Kolibas, during the molestation, held down the alleged victim’s legs so she wouldn’t wake his daughter sleeping in the same bed. Judge Michael Kupersmith dismissed the count after Kolibas’ lawyers challenged the charge.

In his decision, Kupersmith said Kolibas’ alleged restricting of the girl’s legs did not meet the legal definition of unlawful restraint. In regards to the new charge, one of Kolibas’ lawyers, Leroy Yoder, said the defense plans to file another motion to dismiss sometime this week. A hearing will likely be scheduled in the future for the dismissal motion.

Also Tuesday, Kolibas’ public defenders decided not to challenge the results of his competency evaluation. At a previous court hearing on Feb. 18, prosecutors released the results of a psychiatric evaluation, which found Kolibas competent to stand trial.

Earlier this month, Kolibas was hospitalized and briefly spent time at the state’s inmate hospital in Springfield, where he underwent the evaluation.

Yoder said Tuesday he did not agree with all statements in the full report, but agreed with the conclusion.

“So you believe (Kolibas) is competent to stand trial?” Kupersmith asked.

“That is correct,” Yoder replied.

Kupersmith sealed the results of the competency evaluation, performed Dr. Robert Linder.

A trial, expected to last one week, is still scheduled to begin March 23. Deputy State’s Attorney Susan Hardin said the alleged victim, Kolibas’ daughter and his wife are expected to testify. Hardin remained uncertain as to whether a plea deal could be reached beforehand.

“You’re guess is as good as mine,” Hardin said.

[Read more…]

Town mulls method to reanimate Town Meeting (2/25/10)

Could representative meeting boost pallid participation?

Feb. 25, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Williston’s Town Meeting next week will likely follow a familiar script: A few dozen residents sit in a mostly empty school auditorium, listening to budget presentations and asking questions.


    File photo
Selectboard members sit through Town Meeting last year.

There will be little debate and no decisions on anything substantial. Residents decided years ago to move voting on budgets and other spending measures to Australian balloting, held the day after Town Meeting. But participation is still dismal: Only 15 percent of registered voters cast ballots last March.

Could a move to a representative town meeting cure what ails local democracy? Williston officials are exploring the issue.

Though there are variations, in general representative town meetings function through the use of elected representatives, sometimes selected within districts or neighborhoods.

Each representative stands in for a predetermined number of citizens — typically 100 or more — and votes on budgets and other matters of civic importance. The idea is to maintain participation and allow citizens to deliberate budgets and other matters before voting yes or no, something that is lost with Australian balloting.

Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett said she supports the idea, which facilitates a vibrant meeting filled with citizens who care about and understand the issues.

Because important civic business in Williston is decided by Australian ballot, she said, there is little incentive for residents to attend Town Meeting.

“They are really not voting on anything, so it’s really hard to justify spending a night at the meeting,” Beckett said.

Her point is echoed in “All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community,” a book by University of Vermont political science professor Frank Bryan and educator Susan Clark.

The book says that though Australian ballots simplify voting, they make town meetings irrelevant.

“In a way, the Australian ballot is worse than deadly, because it doesn’t kill town meeting quickly,” the authors write. “And the execution is dishonest. We are told it will save town meeting, while the reality is that it poisons it and lets it die slowly, sparing the executioner the moment of death and the acceptance of responsibility.”

Traditional town meetings lose effectiveness in municipalities with more than 5,000 residents, the book acknowledges. In bigger towns such as Williston, moving to representative meetings can reanimate the personal give-and-take at the heart of town meetings.

Brattleboro, population roughly 12,000, is the only Vermont town that currently uses representative town meeting, although many municipalities in Massachusetts and other New England states have it.

“I think it works pretty well,” said Annette Cappy, Brattleboro’s town clerk. “You’ll find some who say it doesn’t. But the majority say it works pretty well.”

Last year’s meeting had a total of 129 voting representatives elected from multiple districts, Cappy said.

Each representative serves a three-year term. Terms are staggered, so roughly a third of representatives face re-election each year. All residents are welcome to attend town meetings, but only representatives vote.

Issues are decided by voice vote, Cappy said. The meeting, held annually in late March, a couple of weeks after town officers are elected, starts in the morning and usually lasts all day.

If a decision made at the meeting displeases residents, they have a right to petition for a revote, Cappy said.

A bill now being considered by the Vermont Legislature could encourage other towns to follow Brattleboro’s example.

The state Senate passed a bill earlier this month that would permit towns with 5,000 or more residents to hold representative town meetings. The bill is now awaiting action by the House Government Operations Committee.

The issue of improving Williston’s Town Meeting was raised in 2008 during a two-day community meeting. The group formed out of the session, called Williston Into the Next Generation, or WING, sponsored a talk by Clark last March about representative town meetings as they are conducted in Switzerland.

The Selectboard on Monday briefly talked about representative town meeting at the suggestion of board member Ted Kenney. Board members asked for more information and may resume the discussion next month.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he hopes to track down a video recording of Brattleboro’s Town Meeting for the Selectboard to watch. If the board remains interested in representative town meeting, then McGuire said a study group could be formed to further consider the idea.

A change in the town charter, approved by both residents and the Vermont Legislature, would be required before Williston could shift to representative town meeting.

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Vote might not end roundabout, ambulance debate (2/25/10)

Board unsure about reaction results of balloting

Feb. 25, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The biggest issues facing Williston voters — a roundabout and a new ambulance service — may not be settled at the ballot box.

Selectboard members say they don’t know what they will do if voters say no to the roundabout, which is planned for the intersection where U.S. 2 meets North Williston and Oak Hill roads. They are also noncommittal about the fate of the new ambulance service if voters reject the budget that funds it.

Asked what he would do if the roundabout was defeated, Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs’ response summed up the board’s ambiguity on the issue.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t really have a good answer to it.”

The Observer asked each Selectboard member how they would react to a rejection of the roundabout or the budget. Ted Kenney was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Board Chairman Terry Macaig said if the roundabout is defeated he would seek more information about what residents want at the intersection, perhaps by holding more public forums on the issue.

Chris Roy said his willingness to reverse his previous roundabout support could be influenced by the vote tally. A close vote would make it harder to decide, but if there was a lopsided no vote then he wouldn’t keep pushing for a roundabout.

Judy Sassorossi warned that the alternative might be an intrusive traffic light and a new turn lane. But she, too, said she wasn’t sure what she would do if the voters rejected the roundabout.

“I haven’t made up my mind, absolutely,” Sassorossi said.

On the budget vote, which may end up being a referendum on the ambulance service rather than a decision on spending, Selectboard members also said they were undecided.

“If the budget is voted down, we would have to have a long conversation and a lot of research,” Fehrs said.

Macaig said it would be logical to first consider deleting the ambulance service. But he and other board members noted that budget defeat leaves open the question of what voters want. A no vote, they said, could simply show voters are unhappy with spending or property taxes.

Indeed, each issue comes with subtleties that make the results of Tuesday’s balloting less than definitive.

Roundabout foes circulated a petition to put the issue on the ballot. The Selectboard reluctantly agreed to the vote despite the fact that it would not be binding.

State law says that issues that don’t involve municipal spending are solely the responsibility of municipal governing boards. The roundabout is ranked as one of the 50 most hazardous intersections in the state, making the project eligible for federal funding.

Sassorossi and other board members assert that the Vermont Agency of Transportation has the final say on the roundabout because it is on a state highway. Agency spokesman John Zicconi said last week that it was the town’s decision.

“They say that, but ultimately it’s the state’s call,” Sassorossi said, noting that if accidents continue to plague the intersection the agency is bound to insist on changes.

It is unclear if federal funding will be available by the time the roundabout, which is projected to cost nearly $1 million, is ready to be built. It is expected to take years to secure rights-of-way and permits for the project.

Board members also note that the wording of the ballot item leaves open the question of what traffic improvement voters want if they reject the roundabout.

The ambulance service is expected to pay for itself by charging fees to patients’ health insurers, with revenue projected to exceed expenses by $28,445. Because of that, board members note that other services would have to be cut or taxes raised if the ambulance service is taken out of the budget.

The quandary on the ambulance service that a budget defeat would present only emphasizes the need to place new services on the ballot, said Fehrs, the only board member who voted against including it in the budget.

“Why is it that we are afraid of what voters feel on this issue?” he said. “It didn’t feel right to me that we didn’t seek voter input on this issue.”



Voting on March 2 takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Williston Armory. Those who can’t go to the polls can pick up absentee or early voting ballots at Town Hall. Items on the ballot:

· Adopt a $7.7 million municipal budget. The budget represents a 2.4 percent increase in spending and would boost the property tax rate by a penny to 21 cents.

· Should the town replace a four-way stop sign at the intersection of U.S. 2, Oak Hill Road and North Williston Road with a roundabout?

· Elect incumbent Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs to a three-year term. Fehrs, like all other candidates on the ballot, is running unopposed.

· Elect incumbent Selectboard member Chris Roy to another two-year term.

· Elect Bo Tur to a five-year term as Dorothy Alling Memorial Library trustee. She will replace longtime trustee Ann Hazelrigg.

· Elect Jerry Huetz to another three-year term on the Board of Listers.

· Elect Kermit LaClair to another one-year term as town constable.

· Elect incumbent Williston School Board member Holly Rouelle to a three-year term.

· Elect incumbent Williston School Board member Keith Roy to a two-year term.

· Elect Polly Malik to a three-year term on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board. Malik will replace Meg Hart-Smith, who is stepping down after six years.

· Elect incumbent Champlain Valley Union High School Board member Jeanne Jensen to a three-year term.

· Adopt a $16.5 million budget for the Williston School District. The budget represents a 1 percent increase in spending.

· Adopt a $21.4 million Champlain Valley Union High School Budget. The budget represents a 1.5 percent increase.

· Allocate $225,000 in fund balance for CVU to use in the school’s budget.

· Borrow $86,000 to purchase a school bus.

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