May 25, 2018

CVUs Donnelly among basketball honorees (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010

In conjunction with their North-South senior basketball all-star games last Saturday at Windsor High School, the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association also selected a Dream Dozen of underclass players for both boys and girls, based on performances from the past season.

Junior Jake Donnelly, the all-around CVU standout, was named to the boys Dozen.

CVU foes Ben Ferris of Essex High, Evan Tullar of Spaulding High and Nick Swim from Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans were also named.

On the girls’ side, CVU opponents Kari Lavalette and Jamie Panton of Essex, Reagan Jewell from Rice Memorial and Liesl Verderber were honored.


— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


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Debate goes nuclear at WCS (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

While Vermont lawmakers debate the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, a group of Williston Central School students brought the issue to the classroom last week.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
The ‘Green Team’ debaters — (from left) Abby Keim, Arlo Cohen, Chris Mallow and Shana Leonard — plan their strategy of arguing against the re-licensure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Seventh graders from Williston Central School’s Harbor House debated the Vermont Yankee issue last week.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Seventh grade debaters (back to front) Sadie Casale, Matt Faris, Dan Poodiak and Sarah Bergkvist strategize their case to keep Vermont Yankee open.

A team of Harbor House seventh graders presented the two sides of the Vermont Yankee debate before a group of eighth graders on March 11. In two groups of four, the seventh graders made arguments as to why the state should renew Vermont Yankee’s operating license, and why the plant should be shut down due to environmental concerns.

Teacher Deb McConnell said she chose the nuclear power topic because of its timeliness and the fact that the issue would require students to do a lot of research.

“I knew this was a subject they knew little about,” McConnell said.

The nearly 40-year-old nuclear plant, located in Vernon, has been the subject of much concern for state and local officials. In recent months, the plant’s operator, Entergy Corp., made several misleading statements to Vermont officials under oath. Vermont whistleblowers also discovered evidence of tritium leaking from aging pipes into the area’s groundwater. Tritium is a radioactive compound used in nuclear facilities.

The plant’s license with the state expires in March 2012, but the Vermont Senate voted against renewal in February. Entergy, however, continues to plead its case for further legislative review.

One by one, the seventh-grade debaters took to the podium last Thursday to argue their points. Students had learned only a few days earlier, following a random drawing, which side they would be on.

On the side supporting the continuation of plant operations, students cited the effect the closure would have on more than 600 employees, as well as businesses in neighboring communities.

“The ripple effect of taking 1,000 jobs out of the workforce is far greater than the 650 who would lose their jobs,” Sadie Casale said.

But the debaters opposing Vermont Yankee’s re-licensure, calling themselves the “Green Team” and wearing green apparel, said the environmental risks are too great to keep the plant operating. Chris Mallow said the tritium leak is enough of a concern, even if it was localized to the plant’s grounds.

“The tritium didn’t reach the Connecticut River, but what about next time?” Mallow said.

McConnell said part of the assignment required students to interview an adult on the subject to get their opinion. Students also had to delegate topics for each debater and then practice their presentations.

Students also had to argue for solutions. Matt Faris argued that keeping Vermont Yankee running would be cheaper for the future and solve part of the state’s financial crisis.

“This technology is already readily available,” Faris said. “You don’t need hundreds, or thousands or even millions of dollars developing new technology.”

Abby Keim said alternative energy sources are the way to go, stating future Vermonters will reap the benefits of investing now.

“Solar and wind have been known to pay off more in the long run,” Keim said. “So if Vermont wants to live up to its name — the Green Mountain State — we don’t need nuclear energy.”

For many involved in the debates, this was the first time they had to step in front of a class of peers to argue a point. Some became invested in their roles, such as Shana Leonard, who said she learned a lot about wind and solar power.

Dan Poodiak discovered that the more he learned, the more his opinion clashed with the side of the debate he was assigned to argue.

“It was hard to do because I think (Vermont Yankee) should be shut down,” said Poodiak, who argued in class to keep the plant in operation.

In the end, McConnell and the faculty judges ruled in favor of the Green Team, awarding them the win in the debate.


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Everyday Gourmet (3/18/10)

Leek a secret

March 18, 2010

By Kim Dannies

Recently I attended a writers’ conference at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health ( Think holistic hotel, or yoga camp for over-grown kids, and you have the idea: Heaven for some, hell for others.

Little Miss Rib-Eye, I was somewhat anxious about getting enough protein in this wholesome environment. But after my first meal I was so dazzled by the flavors and the beauty of the food that I didn’t want my vegetarian stint to end.

While it’s never a bad thing to have others cook for you, reality hits especially hard on a Monday morning trip to the grocery store — what could I buy to recapture some of the magic of the Kripalu weekend? Because I was cooking a meatless dish, I was inspired to buy leeks (which usually I think are a bit too expensive). Leeks are the secret elite of the onion family, and because they add so much horsepower to a dish I felt the cost would justify my pursuit for perfection. I shopped for freshness, color and low-fat flavor and the resulting recipe is truly a Kripalu-worthy dish.

Pignoli and Leek Linguine

Prep: Discard the dark green top and bottom tip of 3 leeks. Slice the white and light green parts into thin disks; rinse well in a salad spinner. Toast 1 ounce of Pignoli (pine) nuts. Slice a small head of radicchio into thin ribbons, yielding 3 cups. De-stem 6 asparagus spears and cut vegetable into 1-inch pieces. Mince 2 garlic cloves. Measure out 1 cup of white wine; 1/3 cup lemon juice; 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese.

Gremolata: In a small processor combine 1 garlic clove, a large handful of clean Italian parsley leaves and the zest of a small orange. Pulse to a rough chop.

Cook 6 ounces of whole-wheat linguine in boiling water for 10 minutes. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan and sauté leeks on high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Lower heat; deglaze with a splash of wine. Add asparagus, wine, lemon juice and cooking water. Simmer for 1 minute, season with kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste. Stir in the pasta and half of the Parmesan cheese; turn off the heat and cover. Line 2 pasta bowls with 1 cup each of the radicchio. Portion out the pasta. Top with generous pinches of gremolata, Pignoli nuts, Parmesan and the remaining radicchio. Serves 2.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to


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Little Details (3/18/10)

The stuff of life

March 18, 2010

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

I like the dump. My visits are generally a pleasurable experience. It’s an opportunity to be outside. The staff is friendly. If you have a kid in tow, there’s usually a lollipop in the deal.

I frequently run into acquaintances — folks from around town — as I tip 30-gallon barrels into gaping receptacles or cram recyclables into enormous bins with seemingly small points of entry. Folks chitchat while discarding the stuff of their lives.

The dump provides unique networking opportunities for job seekers. You can easily complement a LinkedIn profile by showing up at these Saturday morning “mixers.” Dress is casual. Fellow dumpers are down to earth — unpretentious in their jeans and mud boots. I’ve spied utility and banking executives giving their family’s trash the heave-ho at this community gathering place. I admire bigwigs unafraid to soil their hands.

Recycling makes me happy. There’s something freeing about exorcising my storage shed’s unnecessary clutter. Yellowed newspapers piled high, empty tins from stewed tomatoes and slender wine bottles from dinner parties past co-mingle, awaiting rebirth at the dump. Buying in bulk minimizes unnecessary packaging but my small family still manages to generate mountains of debris.

A recent Stamper Family cast-off qualified for specialized electronic waste services. Our older, 13-inch monitor — used for watching DVDs — died a slow death. (We ditched broadcast and cable television during the Clinton administration.) Images on screen slowly faded into darkness, “Dark Victory”-style. Any movie we watched appeared enveloped in night.

Online research and a reconnaissance trip to Best Buy yielded a sleek television with an expansive 23-inch screen and built-in DVD player. Brilliant daylight returned to our screenings. This was particularly helpful during a recent viewing of Jack Nicholson’s film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Capturing stark white interior walls and Big Nurse’s impossibly bright, starched uniform reinforced the dreaded monotony of the insane asylum.

Given the age, primitive technology and “dark side” of our 13-inch, it was destined for the electronic graveyard. I paid the $5 fee to recycle it in an environmentally responsible manner at the dump. Who wants lead, mercury or cadmium trickling into groundwater? Southern Vermont already may have a problem with tritium leeks — I mean, tritium leaks. I don’t want cadmium turning up in my locally grown leafy greens.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program gladly accepted our fully operational DVD player. Viewing television and movies can help new Americans with language acquisition.

Did I mention compost? That’s the most aromatic and rewarding part of going to the dump. I dislike stinky trash. Separating out food scraps and recyclables from bona fide trash keeps flies, maggots and four-legged critters away. Composting at the dump transforms fermenting food from my family’s table into fertilizer for somebody’s garden. It’s ecologically satisfying. Decomposing carrots, bread and peas reincarnate into a soil-stimulating elixir. The worms like it, too.

Visiting the dump reminds me that “throwing trash away” is a fallacy. There is no “away.” It’s buried, burned or otherwise aggregated somewhere in someone’s backyard. Minimizing personal trash generation, buying what we need versus what we’re socialized to want, and recycling make sense. When our family nest eventually empties, it’ll make moving to that condo in the city all the easier.


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


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Letters to the Editor (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010


Cleaning up at the Sportsman’s Club

The North Country Sportsman’s Club on Old Creamery Road in Williston has been shooting skeet and trap for the past 37 years. It’s been estimated that over 1 million pounds of lead has been shot and deposited on the land over this time.

The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that lead is a toxic substance to humans and animals, leading to permanent neurological damage. Lead has been determined to be a major health risk and has been banned from lead fishing sinkers, waterfowl shotgun shells, gasoline, paint and even limited in brass plumbing fixtures.

The NCSC must sign a yearly agreement with the town of Williston. This agreement is to be signed by April 30. I believe the town should sign a three-month temporary agreement with the NCSC to allow the town to have a public meeting and study this further. As part of the agreement I believe the following conditions should be met:

> The EPA has developed guidelines for outdoor shooting ranges that should be followed before another agreement should be signed by the town.

> The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has grant money available to gun clubs for lead mitigation and other improvements. The NCSC should apply for this money and, if accepted, the money must be used for lead reclamation.

Being a resident of Williston, I am concerned about our watershed into the Sucker Brook and the cleanup of our land of toxic material. Private water tests downstream from the club have proven high levels of lead far above threshold limits set by the state as being toxic to humans and livestock.

As long as the NCSC is located at their present site, they are responsible for cleanup. If they decide tomorrow or sometime in the future to leave Williston, myself and other residents would become responsible for the expensive toxic site cleanup.

Mike Isham, Isham Family Farm, Williston


Implementing the ambulance service

Congratulations to the Williston Fire and EMS Department, our town manager and Selectboard and all those who work to make improvements to our town services.

Thank you also to those who listened to my concerns. I was so happy to hear from our Selectboard members that they will be keeping a close eye on this new Williston ambulance service. Please join with me in asking for a monthly report presented at the Selectboard meetings when this starts in July for both fire and rescue regarding call volume, response times, manning, transports, non-transports, times we have needed mutual aid, billables and collectibles.

I also implore you, Chief Morton, to think about presenting a manning document to the Selectboard for response to phases at the airport, as well as fire and EMS per shift to ensure there is coverage for both EMS calls and fire calls and to alleviate any concerns the airport might have over Williston’s ability to respond to phases at the airport.

Please consider revising your decision of having only two staff per ambulance. Because it is a minimum by state law doesn’t mean it is best practice. As you well know, there is a lot for EMTs to do on the way to the hospital and when it is a critical case, having more hands is necessary.

Kristine Benevento, Williston


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Guest Column (3/18/10)

Let the sun shine in (on government)

March 18, 2010

By Tom Kearney

This is Sunshine Week in America, a press-organized annual observance to stress the importance of openness in government.

Lord knows Sunshine Week, which runs March 14-20, deserves some notice here in Vermont.

How Vermont’s laws on public meetings and public records got so messed up is a mystery, but there’s no question they’re messed up. The man who wrote the law, a former attorney general and state senator, put 27 exemptions in the law for the usual stuff — personnel matters, land acquisition, legal strategy in a lawsuit, that kind of thing.

Now, a couple of decades later, there are 230 exemptions. And they’re not easy to find; they’re scattered throughout the statutes, and aren’t cross-referenced to the public-records law. Nobody can say how all 230 exemptions got there, or whether they still make sense — if they ever did. They got into law without any clear analysis of their worth. Many “magically appeared” in conference committees, when House and Senate ironed out differing versions of the same bill, says a state senator.

Part of the problem is that Vermont’s so small; people do business on a handshake. Someone you’ve never met will fix your leaky pipe, and when you try to write him a check, he’ll say no, I’ll just send you a bill. Farm stands sell their produce on the honor system. People trust one another.

All that is delightful, but there’s no consensus on where trust should end and verification begin. For instance, the state’s chief utility regulator had a Christmas party, and invited the head of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to drop by for some eggnog. He did. Confronted by a reporter, the regulator dissembled for a while, then conceded that the nuclear guy was on the guest list, but, you know, that doesn’t mean anything. The nuclear critics went bonkers, but the governor sided with the utility guy. It’s too small a state, people run into one another all the time, you can have a relationship and still be professional, nobody worries about that stuff.

It’s the same with closed-door meetings. If the press doesn’t protest, nobody will. It’s just the Vermont way.

Earlier this year, that nuclear guy got fired for telling state officials there were no underground pipes at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Turns out that there were underground pipes, and now they’re leaking radioactive tritium into the groundwater. Turns out the fox got invited into the henhouse.

And, since there are no real penalties for violating the laws on public records and public meetings, governments are running roughshod over the law and the taxpayers. There are scores of recent examples in Vermont, but here are a few:

• Burlington City Hall took $17 million from a taxpayer fund to pay bills for its new utility, Burlington Telecom, and failed to reimburse the account in violation of the city charter and state license. The city wound up more than $50 million in the hole, and has put the entire city government’s financial stability in doubt.

• The Montpelier City Council mistakenly overpaid a contractor by $462,000 in 2004, and kept that a secret for five years. When the Times Argus planned to break the story, the City bought a full-page ad — at taxpayer expense — to provide its spin on the case. The contractor is now bankrupt.

• Rutland Police allowed an officer to stay on the job for six months while he was under criminal investigation for possible child porn on a city computer.

• Peoples Academy fired a soccer coach, but gave no details. When he appealed, he demanded a public hearing as provided by Vermont law. The School Board rejected the request and went into closed-door session. He was rehired, but why he was fired and what changes were made to his contract have never been revealed.

• The Colchester School Board fired a hockey coach after hearing only from school administrators behind closed doors. The board did hold a “public hearing” later when the coach appealed, but affirmed the firing without comment. During the public hearing the School District admitted it had not provided to the coach all the public records from the investigation.

• The University of Vermont, the state colleges and the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. asked the Legislature this year to add one more public records exemption — anonymity for donors. When a public uproar developed over whether big money might exert too much influence on state schools, the legislative leaders appeared ready to kill the fast-moving bill.

• Swanton library trustees admitted they violated the open meeting law for over a year and fired the staff, but no state prosecutor would file criminal charges.

• In Waterbury, town committees studying proposals for two new fire stations ($3.3 million bond) failed repeatedly to warn their meetings or keep minutes. And, for the 20 or so years before the weekly Waterbury Record was founded in 2007, town officials admit they seldom provided agendas for their upcoming meetings, even though Vermont law requires them to post them.

• In Randolph, the Selectboard met in an executive session to discuss a three-year contract extension for the town manager, just before town meeting elections where some selectmen faced opposition. The vote for the manager, who still had 14 months left on his contract, was later affirmed in public session, but left people wondering why the secrecy and why the rush.

• In Milton, selectmen voted in December not to retain the town manager, but because of mounting opposition and town meeting approaching, the board reversed itself and voted to “reopen” negotiations. Two selectmen lost their re-election bids. It remains a mystery why the manager was let go.

In some ways, our cracker-barrel approach to politics is quaint, charming and refreshing. Problem is, it’s wide-open for abuse, and despite agreement that public means public, there’s no champion for the public’s right to know here in the Republic of Vermont. Both the Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law appear to be the only Vermont statutes that do not have a state office responsible for enforcing. That is distressing to not only the Vermont Press Association but to readers of our member papers. Newsrooms respond to calls, letters and e-mails from readers complaining about being shut out of meetings or denied public records.

If government wants our trust, it must tell us what it’s doing. It must comply with its own laws.


Tom Kearney, a native Vermonter, is the managing editor of the award-winning Stowe Reporter. He is the winner of the Yankee Quill Award, New England’s top journalism award, and is chairman of the First Amendment Committee for the Vermont Press Association, which represents the interests of the 10 daily and four-dozen non-daily newspapers circulating in the state. Kearney can be reached at


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Correction (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010

The Observer provided the incorrect charge and wrong date of a scheduled court appearance for a person named in last week’s Police Notes. Patrick Aiken was cited on a charge of illegal possession by a minor, according to police. He is due in court on April 5.


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Williston students analyze health survey (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After analyzing results from a youth risk survey taken last year, a team of seventh and eighth grade Williston students is ready to share its thoughts with the community.

Approximately 15 Williston Central School students will discuss their findings with parents and community members during a forum on March 25. The Thursday meeting will take place at the school from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The event is hosted by Vermont Kids Against Tobacco and is part of that group’s annual Dialogue Night.

Sarah Klionsky, a student assistance program counselor at Williston Central, said she hopes the meeting will entice many parents to discuss steps they might take to address certain concerns.

Over the winter, students in Vermont Kids Against Tobacco, also known as VKAT, investigated results from the state’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey is handed out by the Vermont Department of Health every year to students across the state in grades eight through 12. The optional and confidential survey asks students about personal usage of tobacco, drugs and alcohol, and contains questions regarding sex and sexuality.

As part of the survey analysis, the Vermont Department of Education awarded Williston Central with a $350 grant. Students with VKAT attended an analysis session in Montpelier in February as part of the grant. Klionsky said Williston Central is the first middle school to earn a grant through the Department of Education.

Klionsky said the survey results, broken down by school district, reveal that parents and the school community are doing a lot to stop students from smoking and participating in other risky behavior. For instance, 96 percent of Williston eighth graders surveyed last year said their parents believe it’s “wrong or very wrong” for them to smoke cigarettes.

The VKAT students found that result to be major strength from the survey. They also determined other strengths: 91 percent of those surveyed participated in a physical activity class once a week, 85 percent ate a meal with family members three or more days a week, and 79 percent always wear a seatbelt while in a vehicle.

“The students were very pleased to learn these results,” Klionsky said.

But there were other results the VKAT group felt needed further attention, Klionsky said. For instance, 6 percent of students surveyed said they experienced their first sexual activity prior to age 13. That’s up three percentage points from a 2007 survey.

VKAT member and eighth grader Izzy Rose said some of the results shocked her and the group wanted to find ways to help fellow students.

“(There) were some percentages that i thought we needed to try and do things about and we have been brainstorming ideas on how to change or help that percentage go down,” Rose wrote in an e-mail to the Observer.

As part of the survey analysis, students also developed potential actions the school and community could take to curb the negative results. VKAT said the school should host an evening talk for parents about dealing with their children’s growing sexual awareness. As a result, a May meeting will feature Dr. Barbara Frankowski, a local pediatrician, discussing ways for parents to talk with their kids about sex.

Student also suggested the school might create a separate eighth grade health curriculum instead of combining classes with seventh graders.

Other results prompted the VKAT group to suggest that the school train eighth graders in guidance classes to be “peer listeners” in order to help their classmates. Students were worried to learn that 10 percent of those surveyed purposefully cut or burned themselves to inflict self-harm over the past year, Klionsky said.

The VKAT group also found other areas of concern: 9 percent of those surveyed said they tried marijuana and 12 percent said they tried inhalants.

Also, only 58 percent felt they mattered to people in the community. Klionsky said the students wanted to see that percentage climb.

“I think they were a little surprised by that one,” Klionsky said.


The Vermont Kids Against Tobacco “Dialogue Night” will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 25 at Williston Central School.

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Survey seeks opinions on village bus service (3/18/10)

Route times, stops yet to be determined

March 18, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Chittenden County Transit Authority wants residents’ opinion on the schedule for a new bus line to Williston Village. And it is still seeking public comment about a redesigned route that will serve the rest of town.


    Courtesy image
This map shows the Williston, South Burlington and Burlington route changes as originally proposed by the Chittenden County Transit Authority. Routing and schedules could be altered based on public input received via an online survey and during a series of public hearings next month.

CCTA is conducting an online survey to gather input on a new route that will for the first time bring bus service to the village. Go to to fill out the survey.

Catering to commuters, the line will have two morning and two afternoon runs from the village. The express service will make limited stops on its way to the Cherry Street terminal in downtown Burlington, said Meredith Birkett, CCTA planning manager.

The survey gives respondents a choice of three arrival and departure times for each of the morning and afternoon runs on the village route. Birkett said CCTA would be willing to consider other scheduling scenarios based on the public’s input.

“We think any of these times will probably work for Williston,” she said. “But if there is a really strong feeling in the community that people want to get to Cherry Street by, say 7:15, then we’d listen.”

The locations of stops in the village have yet to be determined. Birkett said one would likely be at Williston Town Hall and a second could be located further west, perhaps near Old Stage Road.

Residents who want to provide additional input beyond filling out the survey can send e-mail to

CCTA is also seeking more public comment on a proposal to replace the existing Williston and South Burlington routes with new and streamlined service.

The existing Taft Corners route runs only to the University Mall in South Burlington, where passengers must transfer if they wish to reach the Cherry Street terminal in Burlington.

Last year, CCTA proposed a more direct link between Williston and Burlington. The revised route would still circle Taft Corners, stopping at Wal-Mart and Maple Tree Place. But instead of ending at the University Mall, it will now continue down U.S. 2 to Burlington.

Last month, CCTA held a series of public hearings on the changes. About 65 people attended the sessions held in Williston and other Chittenden County locations. The input was used to shape proposed route changes and produce a plan that will be presented during five hearings next month.

Meetings will be held in Williston, South Burlington, Essex Junction and Burlington. The Williston session is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 6 p.m. at Williston Town Hall. The one weekend hearing takes place at CCTA’s administrative offices on Industrial Parkway in Burlington on Saturday, April 10 at 11 a.m.

Routing rather than scheduling was the most-discussed issue during the first set of hearings, Birkett said. CCTA also conducted an online survey to gather input. In all, about 65 people attended the hearings and there were about 150 survey responses.

Some expressed concern about the proposal to eliminate stops on Industrial Avenue in Williston, an area with many businesses and hundreds of employees, Birkett said. Others questioned changes to the Williston-Essex bus line.

That route stays intact in the current proposal, albeit with a condensed schedule that has more frequent runs during commute hours, according to Birkett.

Depending on public input at the upcoming hearings, Birkett said CCTA may restore stops that have been eliminated or make other changes.

The CCTA Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the final route plan by the end of April. The revised service could start by early summer.


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Kolibas trial to begin next week (3/18/10)

March 18, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The trial of a Williston man accused of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl is set to begin next week.

Jury drawing is slated for Monday, March 22, with the trial starting on Tuesday in Vermont District Court in Burlington. Barring a last minute plea deal, the trial is expected to last one week and end March 30.

Robert Kolibas, 51, is charged with five felonies in the case: lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, giving a drug to a minor, unlawful restraint and two counts of aggravated assault by administering a drug. If convicted on all counts, Kolibas could face a prison sentence of up to 35 years.

Prosecutors say Kolibas gave the then 13-year-old girl and one of his daughters a sedative-laced “smoothie” drink during a sleepover at his home in May 2009. He then allegedly molested the girl while she slept next to his daughter.

After alerting her mother, the alleged victim told authorities about the encounter. Police then began an investigation, but Kolibas fled to Maine before police filed any charges. Maine authorities arrested Kolibas on a warrant a few days after the alleged incident. In June, Kolibas was returned to Vermont, where he was arraigned.

Witnesses in the upcoming trial will include experts on sedatives and Fletcher Allen Health Care professionals who dealt with the alleged victim and police during the investigation. Kolibas’ wife and daughter, as well as the alleged victim, are due to testify. It’s unclear whether Kolibas will take the stand in his defense.

On Wednesday morning, Kolibas appeared in court with his public defenders for a pre-trial conference. Prosecutors and the defense ironed out testimonies that could be included in trial, as well as a few other details.

Of note, Kolibas’ lawyers expressed concern over the prosecution’s plans to put on the stand six witnesses who claim to have felt dizzy and sleepy after drinking smoothies during previous sleepovers at the Kolibas home. Prosecutors want to bring the witnesses in to show the jury there were “prior bad acts” committed by Kolibas.

Kolibas’ lawyers asked Judge Michael Kupersmith not to allow the testimony, saying the statements were made in retrospect and there is no proof the witnesses, all female minors, were ever drugged.

“This just could have been mass hysteria brought on by these charges,” said Margaret Jansch, one of Kolibas’ attorneys.

Deputy State’s Attorney Susan Hardin said the inclusion of the six witnesses shows Kolibas proved intent in drugging the alleged victim and he made no mistake in accidently giving the girl a drug-laced smoothie, as he contended in a letter to his wife.

“It is critical that witnesses are going to come in and say, “It happened to me, it happened to me, it happened to me,” Hardin said.

After hearing from both sides, Kupersmith said he would allow the six witnesses to take the stand next week.

Kupersmith also set a cut-off date for any potential plea deal. Kolibas can plead guilty to the charges, but he must do so by March 19. Hardin told the judge there is a deal on the table but, so far, Kolibas has not accepted it.

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