October 5, 2015

Fire department looks for voter support for ambulance (2/18/10)

Feb. 18, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In an emergency situation, timing can be critical. If an individual suffers a life-threatening injury or medical incident, every second counts in transporting them to a hospital. If Williston voters agree to this year’s municipal budget, which includes a line item for a new ambulance service, emergency response times will drastically decrease, according to Williston firefighters and rescue personnel.

“Twenty-one minutes I waited for an ambulance for a person who was unresponsive, and the hospital was only six minutes away,” Firefighter Sean Soper told a group of Williston residents at a public forum last week.

While Soper’s example is considered extreme, long wait times for out-of-town ambulances compromise the health and safety of Williston residents, said Fire Department Chief Ken Morton.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, the Williston Fire Department held its first of three public forums geared toward dispelling myths and convincing voters an ambulance service is crucial in improving safety. Along with the forums, town officials organized neighborhood meetings and wrote letters in the Observer in recent weeks, hoping to gain support for the controversial budget line item. 

The department conducted a second meeting on Saturday, Feb. 13. The third and last forum is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Williston Fire Station.

Morton told the audience of about 10 residents there are many negative perceptions floating around town in regards to the proposed service. At issue is the Selectboard choosing to list the service under the municipal budget and not giving voters a say through a separate ballot item.

“I’m only here to present good data and good numbers,” Morton said. “I want people to understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”

But the way it could be accomplished irks some residents. Resident Michael Mauss told Morton, Town Manager Rick McGuire, and Selectboard member Judy Sassorossi that it should have been a ballot item like the last ambulance service request in 2007. Voters turned down a service at that time.

“It should have been done in an open fashion,” Mauss said. “Since you made a precedent of voting on it before, you should have held to that precedent.”

Much of the data presented centered around ambulance response times and the number of emergency calls Williston averages each year. Morton said Williston averages 751 such calls annually, which he noted is one of the highest averages in Chittenden County.

Williston’s primary ambulance service comes from St. Michael’s College in Colchester. Morton said the squad averages an 11- to 12-minute response time. But as firefighters pointed out, rush hours create longer rescue responses. The figure does not take into account the additional six to seven minutes it takes to reach Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

In his presentation, Morton noted that Williston’s ambulance service would be the the sixth busiest of eight in Chittenden County.

Response times to medical calls would decrease to under five minutes, he added.

“We can trim seven minutes off the response time,” Morton said. “That’s huge.”

While residents in attendance appeared supportive of quicker response times, they remained concerned over cost. Morton said the ambulance service would cost nearly $232,000, while earning a little more than $260,000 in revenue. Morton based his revenue numbers on a “conservative assumption” of 750 emergency calls per year.

Mauss disputed Morton’s numbers, saying with health insurance costs rising, more Vermonters are losing their coverage. A lack of insurance means a smaller collection rate for the service. Morton believes Williston would receive fees from 80 percent of all ambulance calls, while Mauss figured it closer to 50 percent.

Vehicle costs also remain an issue. Morton said the department plans to sell two older fire trucks to pay for a used ambulance, while opting for a $39,000 bond to pay for a second. Depending on revenue generated, the department would hire one EMT in July, with a possible second responder in January 2011. Morton said the figures represent efforts to keep costs down.

“We look at the budget as a budget, not a spending account,” he said.

Morton hoped Thursdays forum would convince people to support the ambulance service and, as a result, approve the municipal budget. A few attendees expressed their support upon hearing Morton’s presentation. Sue Powers said she’s heard a lot of backing from town residents who believe the service will greatly improve safety in Williston.

“I think people are saying we need to have this,” Powers said. “My perception is that (the budget) will pass.”

[Read more…]

Contract talks reach stalemate between CSSU, teachers (2/18/10)

CSSU team seeks teacher pay freeze

Feb. 18, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Contract talks between Chittenden South educators and board members broke down this week after both parties could not reach a settlement. On Tuesday, the Chittenden South Supervisory Union Board Negotiation Team announced it reached a negotiation impasse with the local teachers union.

While both sides agreed to a one-year contract, disputes regarding salary and benefits caused the impasse, according to CSSU board negotiator and Charlotte School Board Chairwoman Patrice Machavern. School Board members from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School make up the CSSU Board Negotiation Team.

“Obviously, we’re not in the same ballpark,” Machavern said, referring to the salary and benefits issue.

Lisa Bisbee, lead negotiator with the Chittenden South Education Association, said she was “not surprised” by the CSSU board’s decision. “I’m just a little disappointed, that’s all,” she said.

The Chittenden South Education Association represents teachers across the CSSU district. Bisbee is a special educator at Williston Central School.

Both sides will now proceed to the next stage of negotiations – mediation. The negotiation teams are currently looking for a third party to help in the debates.

When negotiations began in January, the CSSU board asked teachers to forego salary increases in the next school year, as well as pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. In the current contract, due to expire at the end of June, teachers pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums. Pay increases in the last contract hovered around 3.5 percent to 4 percent per year.

Williston School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth, also on the CSSU negotiation board, said the board proposal reflects the current economic climate and voter concerns stated in numerous School Board meetings. A salary freeze for one year is a fair option, she said.

“We’re hoping our own finances look better in the next year or 18 months,” Worth said.

The CSSU Board Negotiation Team announced the impasse in a press release Tuesday morning. Bisbee said on Wednesday that  the teachers are looking for a salary increase comparable to what educators have received in other local districts. Teachers also want to keep intact their 12 percent contribution to health insurance premiums, she said.

Members of the CSSU Negotiation Team would not comment on the association’s proposals.

According to CSSU board lead negotiator Scott Cameron, the talks ended abruptly during Monday evening’s meeting.

“I think the teachers were disappointed we declared an impasse,” Cameron said.

Cameron is a Montpelier-based lawyer with the firm Zalinger, Cameron and Lambek, P.C. This is Cameron’s third negotiation working with CSSU, he said. Cameron said this contract year differs from past experiences because of the economic downturn. The fact the economy may be in transition is creating a stalemate with both teams, he said.

“The (CSSU) board is convinced times are bad right now,” Cameron said. “I’m not sure the teachers believe that.”

Bisbee said the association looks forward to meeting with the mediator. “We do understand these are crazy economic times we’re living in,” she said.

Teacher contract breakdowns are not uncommon. During CSSU’s last negotiation period during the 2006-2007 school year, both sides did not agree upon a new contract until three months after the old one expired. Since a one-year deal is on the table, the CSSU board hopes to reach a settlement before the June 30 expiration date, Cameron said.

Now that talks have reached a mediation phase, the teams will meet with a third party to iron out differences. If that proves unsuccessful, the negotiations will move to the fact-finding stage, where a third party researches information based on what both sides want. If talks continue too long, the CSSU board could impose a one-year contract. Teachers then have the option of striking, Cameron said.

“The (school) boards are really hoping to avoid that,” Cameron said.

Before mediation begins, meeting times remain scheduled in March between the CSSU board and teachers’ association. Worth said the CSSU board is willing to continue meeting before mediation if the teachers agree.

Cameron said the CSSU boards felt it necessary to release information during the contract phase to keep voters updated. He said the board understands residents’ concerns during the economic recession.

Worth agrees.

“This is good information to have out there before Town Meeting,” Worth said.

[Read more…]

Budget approval may hinge on ambulance issue

    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Fire Chief Ken Morton shows how vehicles would be rearranged to make room for new ambulances. The controversial service will be the subject of public forums to be held over the next week. See story below.

[Read more…]

Sports Notes (2/11/10)

Feb. 11, 2010


Redhawk wrestlers await state meet

With a pair of strong performances in last weekend’s Jason Lowell Memorial Tournament at Mount Mansfield Union High, Champlain Valley Union High wrestlers turned up for the end-of-the-month State Meet with a trip to Essex on Wednesday evening.

At Mount Mansfield, Sam Fortin continued his standout season with a victory in the 171-pound class. Teammate Ryan Stearns secured third place in the 135-pound division.

The Redhawks scored a 47-24 victory at Enosburg High on Monday. CVU winners were Ryan Stearns (135 pounds), Tucker Stearns (152), Ryan Fleming (160), Fortin (171) and James Dattilio (285).


CVU ice men seek strong finish

In the wake of Monday’s 4-1 loss in Barre to 12-4-2 Spaulding High, the 10-6-2 Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team was eyeing two opportunities to regain its winning stride before playoff time.

The Redhawks were home to North Country Union High on Wednesday night before ending the regular season at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday against Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans, a team they bopped 6-2 early in the season.

Goals came with regularity last Wednesday, a 9-1 victory over Rice Memorial. Kyle Logan notched his second consecutive hat trick and Robbie Dobrowski added a pair of scores.

On Friday, the Redhawks rolled out of Rutand after bagging a 4-1 triumph over the Red Raiders. Dobrowski fired a pair of goals (22 for the season), while Logan and Nate Lacroix each accounted for a goal and assist.

But on Monday, Spaulding net minder Chris Pelkey stopped 25 Redhawk shots, allowing only a Derek Goodwin counter. Mark Albertson had 26 stops for CVU. Spaulding got two tallies from Zach Dessereau.


[Read more…]

BFA, playoffs up next for girls hoopsters (2/11/10)

Feb. 11, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The 15-4 Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team will close out the regular campaign Thursday night in St. Albans against the rebuilding 7-12 Comets. Then the Redhawks will await the Vermont Principals Association’s Division 1 playoff pairings.

The Redhawks helped themselves last Thursday and Monday nights with wins over a young but resilient 7-12 St. Johnsbury Academy team at home and a reloading 8-11 Hornet aggregation at Essex.

Coach Stan Williams said Monday night that a fourth seed (home playoffs) is possible for his team.

CVU got a big game from senior center Allison Gannon (23 points, 11 rebounds) in a 55-41 victory over Essex that, despite the 14-point margin, was not decided until the final two minutes.

With five minutes to go, Shae Hulbert snapped a 39-39 tie with an inside hoop followed by Carlee Evans’ (9 points) critical three-point bomb (Amanda Kinneston assist) that put CVU in the driver’s seat, 44-39.

The Hornets’ Katie Greene hit a layup to pull Essex within 45-41 with two minutes remaining, but Evans then canned two charity shots and CVU went on a 10-point roll to finish the scoring.

CVU had a decent night from the line, swishing 19-of-27, led by Evans’ perfect six-for-six, Hulbert’s three-for-three and Kinneston’s two-for-two.

The Hornets did get on target in the second reel and twice opened five-point leads before the Redhawks came back, helped by Hulbert and Evans’ free throws (two each), to take a 23-22 advantage at halftime.

St. Johnsbury, which had nipped CVU earlier in the season in the Northeast Kingdom, hung around and hung around before Hulbert led a late explosion that snapped a 41-41 deadlock with 1:26 left and secured the important win.

Hulbert, the junior inside operator, had a fourth quarter for the ages, scoring 13 of her 15 points on four-for-four shooting from the floor and five-of-six at the line. She also found time to pass off for two assists, come up with a steal and block one of the five shots she rejected during the contest.

She gave CVU the lead for good at 54.6 with a put back, popped two free throws at 16.8 after a big Gannon defensive rebound, and then blocked a Hilltopper shot and grabbed the ball to then return to the line. Her two free flips that closed out the scoring.

Gannon, despite drawing a crowd of Green jerseys, contributed two hoops and two rebounds in the critical final quarter.

Hulbert paced the scorers with 15 points while Kinneston had 13.


CVU           10            13            14            18   –   55

Essex            8            14            12            7     –   41


CVU (15-4)

Kohlasch 0-6 5-9 5, Hulbert 3-6 3-3 9, Gannon 10-16 3-7 23, Evans 1-3 6-6 9, Kinneston 1-4 2-2 4, Giles 0-0 0-0 0, Bayer-Pacht 1-5 0-0 2, Donnelly 0-2 0-0 0, Riordan 1-4 0-0 3, Hawley 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-49 19-27 55.

Essex (8-11)

Lavalette 1-4 0-0 2, Visker 2-9 0-0 6, Greene 7-15 0-1 15, Hetling 1-4 0-2 2, J. Panton 2-8 0-0 4, Barry 2-5 0-0 4, Miles 1-2 0-0 3, Wells 2-6 0-0 5, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-56 0-3 41.



ST. J                      10            2            12            17   –   41

CVU                        8            18            4            17   –   47


St. Johnsbury Academy (6-12)

Calkins 1-4 0-0 2, Moran 4-9 1-1 12, Kay 1-12 2-4 4, Rowe 1-5 2-2 4, Lane 5-9 3-4 15, E. Bruckner 1-1 0-0 2, A. Bruckner 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Driscoll 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 14-43 8-11 41.

CVU (14-4)

Kohlasch 2-10 0-0 5, Hulbert 5-8 5-6 15, Gannon 2-4 4-4 8, Evans 0-3 2-2 2, Kinneston 6-10 0-0 13, Bayer-Pacht 1-1 0-0 2, Giles 0-2 0-2 0, Hawley 0-0 0-0 0, Donnelly 1-1 0-0 2, Riordan 0-0 0-0 0, Schenk 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-40 11-14 47.

[Read more…]

Clutch goals sustain hockey win streak (2/11/10)

Feb. 11, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Just call her Magical Molly.

That’s Molly Howard, the leading goal scorer for Champlain Valley Union High’s girls hockey team. Howard enabled the 14-3-1 Redhawks to extend their victory string to six games with dramatic, late-game scores that provided home wins over Missisquoi Valley Union last Wednesday and Essex High on Saturday afternoon.

Howard and her teammates were scheduled to have their final regular season home game Wednesday night against Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans before closing out the campaign at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday against a strong, 14-1 Spaulding High squad in Barre.

Against Essex, the clock in the overtime 4-4 tie was clicking down to the final seconds and the Redhawks were shorthanded. But when the aggressive Howard somehow got control of the puck against the right side boards and edged ahead of a desperate defender to swoop in on the Essex net and deposit the game winner, the red light came on with just eight seconds left.

It was the CVU sharpshooter’s second goal of the game and her 28th of the season.

In Wednesday night’s magic show, Howard had gotten loose on a breakaway and scored with 5:02 left to play to snap a 2-2 tie and give the Hawks a 3-2 triumph over the Thunderbirds, who had trimmed CVU 7-3 in Highgate earlier in the season.

In nudging 11-5-2 Essex for the second time this season, the Redhawks had to come from a 4-2 deficit with under four minutes remaining in regulation to force the additional five-minute session.

Alyx Rivard gave CVU hope by knocking in a rebound from her own shot at 3:39. Rivard, who had a monster game on defense, had soared into Essex territory on one of her blistering charges up the ice.

“Alyx has been great for us all year,” coach Tom Ryan said after the game.

At 2:41, KK Logan scored from out of a crowd in front of the Essex net, assisted by Howard. It was Logan’s 18th tally.

With the score deadlocked, CVU got penalized with nine seconds to go in regulation and then again in overtime after the first penalty expired. Goalie Nicole Sisk came up big in the clutch, making five of her 19 stops.

CVU opened the game in fine fashion, Howard scoring on a breakaway and Amanda Armell unloading a hard slap shot from the top of the circle for her fifth score in five games and 12th of the season.

But the Hornets got back within 2-1 by the end of the period. With star forward Julie Pearl scoring twice and threatening on numerous other occasions, Essex took control of the game to lead by two until the Redhawks put together their late game bash.

Logan and Armell also scored in the victory over Missisquoi while Sisk made 24 saves.

CVU was without second leading scorer Sophia Steinhoff (20 goals), who was sitting out the first of a two-game suspension due to an on-ice infraction in the Missisquoi contest. Also missing with an injury was defender Amanda Lacaillade.


[Read more…]

Win streak at five for boys hoops (2/11/10)

Feb. 11, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team, now 13-4, went two-for-two in four nights against foes that had shot down the Redhawks earlier this season at Bremner Gymnasium. And these latest games were on foreign floors.

Tuesday night, CVU motored to Rice Memorial High and out-defended the defensive-minded 6-11 Green Knights 37-27 in a gritty struggle.

The Redhawks return home Friday to meet Colchester High at 6:30 p.m.

“They are tough on defense,” CVU point guard Chris Beaton said of Rice.

Unlike their ready-to-fire-at-first-chance approach in the earlier game, a 51-49 loss, the Redhawks were patient with the ball and kicked it up a couple of notches on defense, holding Rice to 9-of-38 (24 percent) from the floor. The Knights got a mere nine points in the first half (3-for-18) as CVU snapped a 2-2 tie on a Jake Donnelly (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) trey with 4:30 left in the opening round, and held the lead the rest of the game.

The Redhawks’ advantage stayed between nine and five points the rest of the way, enough to keep the situation tense with coaches Scott Bliss of CVU and Paul Pecor of Rice offering heartfelt advice to the officials from time to time as the floor play was physical but clean.

Robert Russ paced the winners with 16 points. Will Hurd grabbed eight rebounds, while Chris Nigh had six boards in a solid role.


CVU stuns Essex

If the Redhawks had reasonable trepidations going into Friday’s rematch with Essex High, it did not show, even though the once-beaten Blue and Gold had whupped up on the Blissmen 65-49 at Bremner Gymnasium in early January and were on a 13-game victory streak.

But as Bruce Springsteen has been known to sing, it was time to “rise up;” CVU’s chief riser turned out to be Hurd, who turned in his game of the season by climbing the boards for 17 rebounds and knocking down 21 points for a super-sized double-double.

Hurd began seriously stinging the Hornets late in the second period when he unloaded a trey (assist from Donnelly) and followed with a rebound before the halftime buzzer to bring the Hawks from five points down into a 22-22 deadlock.

In the third quarter, Hurd took control of the glass, hauling in eight rebounds and scoring five points in leading CVU to a 36-30 lead going into the final stanza.

Maintaining patience at the offensive end, the Redhawks got three driving layups from Russ (13 points), big rebounds and seven points from Hurd and a pair of free throws and rebounds from Donnelly to open a 51-41 lead with 3:02 left in the game.

But Essex was not finished. Led by hard-driving Demir Smajovic (game high 27 points), Ben Ferris (17 points) and a pair of inopportune CVU turnovers, the Hornets got to within 53-51 and had the ball with 1:27 left.

The Redhawks’ snappy guard Beaton (4 points, 4 steals, 2 assists) made a crucial theft of an Essex penetration pass and Nigh hit one of two free throws at the other end.

At 1:03, Beaton nailed two charity tosses for a five-point lead. Donnelly (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Russ closed it out with single free flips.

Making CVU nerves tingle in the closing minutes was a charity line late period drought of two-for-12, which followed seven-for-nine happy minutes early in the final reel as Essex had to foul in efforts to slow down the surging Hawks.


CVU                        13            4            10            10   –   37

Rice                           3            6            12            6     –   27


CVU (13-4)

Donnelly 3-11 3-4 10, Nigh 0-1 0-0 0, Hurd 1-2 0-0 3, Russ 8-14 0-0 16, Beaton 3-7 2-3 8, Clayton 0-1 0-0 0, Karnes 0-0 0-2 0, Rensch 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-36 5-9 37.

Rice (6-11)

Hayes 1-4 0-0 3, Reiss 0-4 2-2 2, Maynard 1-3 2-2 5, Willingham 6-11 1-4 13, McCormick 0-8 2-2 2, Tipson 0-6 0-0 0, Ratta 0-1 0-0 0, Rensch 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 9-38 7-10 27.



CVU              10            12          14          22   –   58

Essex            13            9            8            24   –   54


CVU (12-4)

Donnelly 4-10 6-10 15, Nigh 0-0 3-4 3, Hurd 6-10 7-13 21, Russ 6-9 1-2 13, Beaton 1-2 2-5 4, Hart 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton 0-2 0-0 0, Karnes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-34 19-34 58.

Essex High (14-2)

Smajovic 10-15 6-8 27, Valley 2-6 0-1 4, Begin 0-3 0-0 0, Stewart 1-7 0-0 2, Ferris 4-11 9-14 17, Bogue 1-5 0-0 2, Salerno 1-1 0-0 2, Zane 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-48 15-23 54.


[Read more…]

Giant slalom success leads CVU to skiing victory (2/11/10)

With district and state meets coming up soon, the Champlain Valley Union High alpine ski team scored a combined victory in the 11-team (plus independents), two-day Essex High Carnival last weekend at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville.


    Courtesy photo by Kathy Bresee
Taylor Spillane races downhill during the Essex High Carnival over the weekend. Spillane won the giant slalom, helping lead Champlain Valley Union High’s alpine ski team to a combined victory at the carnival. For more pictures, see the ‘Web Exclusive Photos.’

Taylor Spillane led a solid team effort by winning the giant slalom. Mates Abby Owen (7th) plus Erika (8th) and Miki Gobeille (9th) joined Spillane among the top 10 finishers.

Cody Putre took second in the boys’ giant slalom, less than a second behind winner Ian Anderson of Stowe High.

Warren Colomb was 10th in GS while Colden Golann took fifth in the slalom and Putre was ninth.

CVU finished with 162 team points to 178 for runner-up St. Johnsbury Academy.


—Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


[Read more…]

Recipe Corner (2/11/10)

The two Bill recipes

Feb. 11, 2010

By Ginger Isham

I have a special friend whom I have known for a long time. His name is Bill and a little while ago he gave me his aunt’s cookbook, entitled, “The Rumford Complete Cookbook” by Lily Haxworth Wallace, dated 1932. She graduated from a cooking school in London, England. I believe the book relates to the Rumford Baking Powder you can still purchase today. It has many recipes cut from newspapers and pasted on blank pages.

One of these recipes is for a new winter dessert using canned peaches.


Baked Peaches

Pour the entire contents of a can of peach halves (cut side up) into a shallow baking dish. Put a little piece of butter in the center of each peach half and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until the fruit begins to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and cool slightly and serve on top of a toasted slice of sponge cake or hot buttered toast. Garnish with whipped cream lightly sprinkled with nutmeg.

My other special friend whom I have known a short time is also named Bill. He lives part-time in Williston in an historic home. Recently he shared some of his life story with me. He had lived in England at one time and also went to school in Massachusetts as a boy in the 1940s. His teacher there was persuaded to teach the boys in his class how to cook. His teacher was someone many of us remember living here in North Williston, Louise Hannah Whitcher.

Louise is now being cared for in a home in the area. I came to know Louise when I came to live in Williston in the early 1960s. What a surprise it was to find Bill and I had a mutual friend! He loaned me his notebook of handwritten recipes from that cooking class. In the notebook was the following sponge cake recipe that surprisingly I connected with the one in the Rumford Cookbook.

It is easy and delicious and would make a great dessert for Valentine’s Day. Serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit.


Sponge Cake

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until all the sugar has been added and the grains of sugar have disappeared. Add lemon juice. Beat egg whites stiff, fold into the yolk mixture. Sift dry ingredients three times and carefully fold into the mixture. Bake in a greased pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

(My notes: Eggs should be at room temperature; use only fresh squeezed lemon juice; no need to sift flour and salt; grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan; bake about 25 minutes, remove from oven and loosen edges of pan with a knife and turn out onto rack to cool)


Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.


[Read more…]

Right to the Point (2/11/10)

Seeking input for Vermont’s Legislature

Feb. 11, 2010

By Mike Benevento

Do you feel that elected officials properly represent you in Montpelier? Do you believe that state legislators fully understand your positions and advocate on your behalf? If not, you should send them a message.

While legislators do their best, unless we speak up, it may be difficult for them to wholly represent our interests. Keeping in touch with the people’s pulse is hard to do without feedback. Therefore, I encourage you to contact your senators and representatives to give them your comments and suggestions.

Jim McCullough ([email protected]) and Terry Macaig ([email protected]) represent Williston residents at the Vermont House, while Joan Lenes ([email protected]) represents St. George/Shelburne.

Meanwhile, six state senators — Tim Ashe ([email protected]), Ed Flanagan ([email protected]), Ginny Lyons ([email protected]), Hinda Miller ([email protected]), Doug Racine ([email protected]) and Diane Snelling ([email protected]) — serve Chittenden County residents.

If you do not mind sharing, please copy me ([email protected]) on your e-mails to our state legislators. I can present your ideas for making Vermont a better place in a future column — inspiring others.

Right now, the media has drawn attention to balancing the state’s budget, Vermont Yankee’s fate, delaying the start of school and outlawing texting while driving. Let’s take a quick peek at these issues.

Because Vermont’s economic health relates to it, the state budget is a big concern. Currently, the Legislature is searching for ways to climb out of the huge $150 million deficit hole it helped dig. Because they previously failed to enact cost-cutting measures, legislators now face difficult choices. Due to serious revenue shortfalls, deep cuts must be made throughout state government.

Vermont’s budget needs to be reduced before it spins out of control. Large spending increases in human services, pensions, education and welfare programs have exacerbated budget woes. During these hard economic times, besides level-funding basic necessary programs, we need to find ways to reduce or eliminate any non-essential ones.

Your suggestions to protect citizens, grow the economy, reduce the size of government and prevent tax increases are most welcome.

Besides the budget, one of the most contentious issues facing our state in 2010 is Vermont Yankee. In recent years, problems associated with the aging nuclear power plant located in Vernon have been a source of anxiety for Vermonters.

The operating license for the controversial plant expires in 2012. Entergy Corporation seeks a 20-year extension. The company needs legislative permission to do so — along with the Public Service Board’s approval.

As it stands, the power plant provides about a third of Vermont’s electricity. Yankee’s supporters argue that it is a source of relatively cheap and clean energy. On the other hand, detractors cite safety concerns and believe Yankee can be replaced by other energy sources, including wind power.

While in theory it sounds great, in reality implementing wind power in Vermont has proven problematic. Noise and vibrations affect humans and wildlife. In addition, large wind turbines detract from Vermont’s aesthetics. Tourism will suffer if the state becomes littered with wind towers. Experience has shown that these drawbacks have reduced Vermonters’ desire to generate energy by harnessing the wind.

In my opinion, the best solution to Vermont Yankee is eventually replacing it with a new nuclear power plant. Based on more than 35 years of technological growth, modern plants are by far safer and more efficient than those built in the early 1970s.

This is where the Legislature can use your help, as legislators are not nuclear power experts. What happens after Vermont Yankee closes, whether it is in two years or 22? How will Vermonters replace the lost energy? What are our alternatives? What do you think?

Reforming education and its funding is always under consideration. Sen. Ginny Lyons recently introduced a bill prohibiting school districts from starting the academic year before Labor Day. Opposed by Vermont’s Department of Education, the legislation aims to reduce business disruptions and protect family vacations by delaying the end of summer break. A good idea — or not? You make the call. Afterwards, let people know.

Lawmakers are considering banning texting while driving in order to make roadways safer. So far, there is widespread support for this measure. Multi-tasking while driving is dangerous — even for the tech-savvy. Reducing distracted driving, especially for our least experienced drivers, is a good idea. Do you agree?

Please contact your state legislators and help them better represent your interests. We are facing difficult times. Vermont needs to consider all options and explore potential alternatives. You may have the appropriate solution. If so, now is the time to bring it to everyone’s attention.


Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.


[Read more…]