May 25, 2018

Right to the Point (3/11/10)

Life after Vermont Yankee

March 11, 2010

By Mike Benevento

Last month, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly voted to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Following their cohorts’ lead, the House is considering a similar vote to decline the plant’s re-licensing in 2012.

Recently, leaking radioactive tritium and misleading information from Entergy Corp. raised doubts about the plant’s safety and management. Even still, questions about corporate restructuring, decommissioning funds and the cost of power were reasons Senate President Peter Shumlin gave for not supporting the plant’s further operation — not safety.

Closing Vermont Yankee is yet another nail in the coffin for the private sector in Vermont. By shutting the reactor down, legislators risk long-term damage to the state’s economy. Losing 650 good-paying jobs at the plant will hurt — especially in southern Vermont where employment is scarce. The job losses will also negatively affect Vermont’s tax revenue, resulting in the state providing less service for its inhabitants.

One thing is for sure: Vermont life will become more expensive. Your electric bill will increase significantly. Higher utility rates will handicap businesses, which will pass along the added costs to consumers. The impact on IBM and other power-intensive Vermont companies may be the final straw that chases them out of state.

Eventually, Montpelier’s legislators must develop a plan to keep the lights on throughout Vermont for a reasonable price. Yankee’s license expires in two years. In the meantime, lawmakers need to find other energy resources. Because Vermont Yankee currently supplies approximately one-third of the electricity the state consumes, replacing its contribution may prove difficult.

The Senate wouldn’t have made the move to shutter the reactor without forethought, right? Since it pulled the plug on Vermont Yankee, what are the Legislature’s solutions to replacing a third of our electricity? Vermonters need to know now, since families and businesses only have two short years to prepare for the transition.

The fact of the matter is that reliable and cost-effective nuclear power has quietly powered the state’s environmental success since the early 1970s. Nuclear energy allows Vermont’s carbon footprint to be the nation’s smallest.

John McClaughry, vice president of the nonpartisan Ethan Allen Institute, wrote, “By late 2012 the cheapest and most reliable third of Vermont’s electricity will disappear. There is zero possibility that it can be replaced by any believable combination of conservation, wind turbines, solar panels, cow power, and landfill methane.”

Reduced consumption, increasing energy efficiencies and energy conservation will be part of the solution. Wind, solar and methane will help, but they cannot come close to replacing Yankee’s energy production. Additionally, wind and solar sources provide electricity at many times the cost of nuclear power — making them difficult to implement in hard financial times.

McClaughry wrote, “We might be able to double the power purchased from Hydro-Québec — if its management has forgiven Vermont for its ill-advised lawsuit aimed at breaking its supply contract after the ice storm of 1998. But that would leave Vermont with 2/3 of its power from a single supplier, not a good idea.”

According to McClaughry, most likely Vermont will ask the New England electric grid operator to send the energy we need from wherever they can find it — mainly coal burning plants — an expensive proposition.

In a serious blow to controlling global warming, McClaughry notes that closing the plant will defeat our self-imposed goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions back to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2028. Without Vermont Yankee, more fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas will be burned — none of which are as clean as nuclear energy.

There is little doubt that existing solutions inadequately offset the electricity lost by closing Vermont Yankee. While solar, wind and hydropower help, I am convinced the best long-term solution to Vermont’s energy needs is nuclear. Thus, I recommend keeping Vermont Yankee running while building a new nuclear power plant at the Vernon site. I am not alone.

Ironically, nuclear power advocates have a new ally. To help create clean energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, earlier this year President Barack Obama proposed America start constructing new nuclear power plants.

With this in mind, 34 Republican legislators introduced Joint Resolution H. 41. The bill calls for the Legislature to start planning for a new nuclear power plant at the Vernon site to replace Vermont Yankee.

The legislation was referred to the committee on Natural Resources and Energy last month. While alternative energy sources may replace a portion of Yankee’s lost power, only a nuclear power plant can replace all of it. J.R.H. 41 may be our state’s best hope.


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.


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Liberally Speaking (3/11/10)

Vermont must seek new energy

March 11, 2010

By Steve Mount

Though the plant is not dead yet, Vermont Yankee is getting close. The state Senate voted, by a wide margin, not to recommend the Public Service Board look into renewing Vermont’s only nuclear power plant’s license for 20 years past its 2012 license term.

Though next year’s Senate could change its mind, a reversal seems unlikely. Vermont Yankee currently supplies one-third of Vermont’s power — what will replace that power once it is gone?

One suggestion is to reuse the Vernon site: As the current reactor is taken down, a new, modern one would be built alongside it. Given the political climate in this state, this solution seems unlikely. No new plants have been built in the United States since 1996, and though Washington has plans to push new plants along, no one has seriously pushed Vernon as the site for a new reactor.

Today, with the green revolution in full effect, many are pushing for Vermont to take a bold step into that revolution, creating power using the latest green technologies.

The key to these technologies is the harvesting of energy that is already there, but which is being effectively wasted. Nature provides us with energy in many forms, including the sun, the wind, even gravity itself.

Solar is a technology with a long history, and from the local Hannaford to Hinesburg’s NRG Systems, solar arrays are popping up everywhere. But is solar ready to provide power for one-third of the state?

Briefly, no. Vermont is notoriously cloudy, and though solar can generate power without direct sunlight, its ability to do so is greatly reduced. Without great advances in the technology, solar will not be our solution.

We have been using gravity, in the form of water flowing downhill, to supply power for more than 100 years. Hydropower has great potential, but it also can do some serious damage. One-third of Vermont’s power comes from hydro, but the will to build more dams in the state does not seem to be there.

Fortunately, Hydro-Quebec harnesses the power of Quebec’s northern rivers. Vermont currently contracts with Hydro-Quebec for one-quarter of our power, and it seems likely that these contracts will not only be renewed but expanded. With Hydro-Quebec’s recent forays into harnessing wind power, these contracts could fit nicely into our power portfolio.

Wind power recently got a boost from the town of Lowell, which approved a project at its recent Town Meeting. While government maps of Vermont show no part of the state as being suitable for solar power generation, the vast majority of the state is suitable for wind power generation. The biggest hurdle is getting towns to buy into the plans.

The best wind is atop our mountain ranges, a fact that is hard for some residents to swallow. Wind turbines can reach skyward hundreds of feet, marring the picturesque views. Many, however, would find a skyline interrupted by wind turbines to be even more picturesque. What wind needs is the will of the next generation. Though pretty views are important, power is, too.

There is one other, very intriguing possibility for our power needs. Relatively unique today, the concept of on-site generation is slowly gaining traction. This is what NRG Systems hopes to do — produce enough of its own power that it need draw none from the grid.

Small-scale, on-site generation could be where the future lies, using the grid only as a backup. The Observer reported just last week about the small wind turbine that will soon be installed at Allen Brook School, part of AllEarth Renewables’ push into the important residential market.

Also recently in the news is the BloomBox, a pair of tiny cubes made of advanced materials that can reportedly power the average American home. The BloomBox uses an emissions-free reaction between natural gas (or any other combustible gas, like waste methane) and oxygen to produce electricity. Enormous data centers for Google and eBay are already using large-scale BloomBox installations to produce energy quietly, cleanly and with a very small footprint. Could a BloomBox be in your future?

The most likely answer is that a combination of these technologies, and others not even invented yet, will be the future of Vermont’s power. What seems pretty clear, though, is that we need to be planning for that future right now. While we will be able to live without Yankee, we won’t be able to live without the power it provides.


Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at


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Letters to the Editor (3/11/10)

March 11, 2010


Looking for local

How it is that Mr. Hornberger, the founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., had a guest column in our local paper (“The miracle of the market,” Feb. 25)? The Williston Observer would be better served by guest columns written by our own citizens.

The column states, “Every day, people have a wide range of grocery stores from which to choose, each one vying for his business.”

Perhaps that is the case in Fairfax and Williston, but it isn’t the case in many urban and rural areas known as food deserts. Wikipidia says, “A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants. Food deserts are a public health threat for many, and reveal that the market is not always a miracle for us all.

Lynn Blevins, Williston


Editor’s note: The Observer welcomes and encourages residents to submit guest columns for consideration. When the paper does not have any locally-produced columns to choose from, however, the editor must pick a column from a variety of submissions that come from regional or national sources. Guest column submissions should be 750 words or less, and can be e-mailed to


Roy on Town Meeting

I want to thank the voters of Williston for reelecting me to serve as a member of your Selectboard. It is an honor and a privilege to serve, and I appreciate your support.

As we know, the ambulance service and proposed roundabout were two big issues on Town Meeting Day. For your information, this is how I intend to approach these issues going forward.

Regarding the ambulance service, I understand that this new service was adopted on the basis of projected expenditures and revenues that would not increase the financial burden on taxpayers. Rest assured, I will be vigilant in tracking actual expenses and income to gauge whether the projections are borne out by reality.

As for the roundabout, it was clearly demonstrated that Williston voters do not currently support a roundabout solution at the intersection of U.S. 2, North Williston Road and Oak Hill Road. While I personally supported the roundabout option, I will not pursue that approach in light of the voters’ clear preference. Instead, I urge interested community members to get involved in the town plan rewrite process that has just begun. Village character and transportation issues, including a long-term solution for this troublesome intersection, can then be considered as part of a public process and the Williston community can articulate its shared vision for the village.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve.

Chris Roy, Williston Selectboard


Health care for all

I would like to thank Dr. Gerald F. Joseph Jr. for his guest column, “Helping those without insurance,” in the March 4 edition of the Williston Observer. Dr. Joseph, who is president of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, illuminates the grim statistics of our brutal free market health care system.

“An uninsured American” Dr. Joseph wrote, “dies every 24 minutes because he or she could not get the necessary care,” and “More than 45 percent of all uninsured people in the United States are women, including 13 percent of all pregnant women.”

What do these statistics say about the values of our nation, our state? If we pride ourselves as a moral nation, why do we continue to commit the daily immorality of an American dying “every 24 minutes” while health insurance company profits suffer no qualms of conscious, jumping up by huge percents whenever they see a chance?

Dr. Joseph does a great service by listing the resources where the uninsured can get help at the end of his column. Yet, the true way to help those without insurance is to finally find the courage within ourselves to treat health care as a right of all of our citizens and not a product to be bought and sold in the marketplace. It is time to urge our legislators to pass health care for all rather than just for a few.

Walter Carpenter, Montpelier


Supporting troops and their families

I’d like to thank the Williston residents for their generous support of the bake sale held during voting at the Armory on March 2.

Your donations will be used to benefit the families of the soldiers of Vermont National Guard Unit HHC Williston.

Thank you also for your kind words of appreciation and support for our soldiers and their families.

Peter Moreman, Williston


Cap & Trade

Next week, the U.S. Senate will start debate on the new “Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade” tax proposed in the Lieberman-Warner bill.

The reasoning behind this bill is to tax Americans into poverty by rationing energy for dairy farmers, ski hills, schools and low-cost housing in a futile effort to reduce dangerous global warming (or is it climate change these days? I find it hard to keep up with the latest catastrophic prognostications) while giving everybody else in the world cheaper and more plentiful energy.

The estimated $50 billion to $300 billion a year tax will be paid disproportionately by lower income earners while an Enron-style carbon exchange will be set up in Chicago to sell off the carbon “credits” of failing businesses. Gee, I wonder if those hard-working carbon traders will also be getting gigantic Wall Street sized bonuses?

There are provisions for tax kickbacks in the tens of billions of dollars so voters can support the continued policy of thinking some other American will pay their fair share (the hallmark of the current administration) while “special” companies can be exempt from the same scam. No increased taxes for anyone earning under $250,000 is turning out like the famous “read my lips, no new taxes” in the George 41 pledge.

As India, China and others continue to out-produce us in carbon dioxide, we can enjoy the benefits of $6 per gallon gasoline, $7.50 diesel fuel and $7 heating oil while producing no detectable effect on the supposed menace of global warming. If Congress gets their way, the shaft the consumer corporate welfare parade will be coming to a town near you … real soon.

Shelley Palmer, Williston


School Board update

Thank you, Williston School District voters.

On behalf of 1,113 students and 207 staff, your Williston School Board members wish to express gratitude to Williston voters for supporting the district school budget. Passage of this fiscally responsible budget allows us to maintain the outstanding programs, increase student access to technology, provide intensive training for math teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade and purchase new science materials as we continue to evaluate our science program to improve instruction.

The school district’s elected officials, appointed officials and Budget Buddies considered many factors when setting the fiscal year 2010 budget for operations. The factors included slightly declining enrollment, the state of the economy and the overall impact budget increases would have on the local tax rate.

Moving forward, the board and administration will continue to focus on monitoring student achievement data with the goal of reducing the achievement gap between subgroups and improving academic achievement of all students in science, mathematics and literacy on state and local assessments. We will continue to promote 21st century learning and technology integration from kindergarten through eighth grade. Finally, work continues to support student/parental options of two- and four-year learning communities at grades five through eight through reconfiguration and to improve communications and equity in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The School Board wishes to express our sincere appreciation to a dedicated and hardworking faculty, staff and administration and a supportive community. We are all focused on the best possible education for all our children.

Finally, if you are an online member of Facebook, please join our Williston School Board Facebook Fan Page.

Chairwoman Holly Rouelle, Vice Chairwoman Deb Baker-Moody, Clerk Laura Gigliotti, Keith Roy, Darlene Worth, Williston School Board


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Guest Column (3/11/10)

The free market isn’t always the answer

March 11, 2010

By William Workman

In his guest column in the Observer on Feb. 25, Jacob G. Hornberger praises the free market system that allowed Washington D.C. grocery stores to restock their shelves quickly after two snowstorms.

Thanks to the “miracle of the market,” food appears “almost by magic,” packing stores with a “dizzying array of choices.” He compares this to the shoddy quality we could expect if the government ran the grocery business — one imagines long lines of sad-eyed people, waiting in the cold to trade state-issued coupons for cans of gray Comrade Chow.

But like many free market cheerleaders, Hornberger doesn’t know his history. “Suppose,” he asks ominously “that in 1900 it was decided that food was just too important to be left to the free market?” But of course, that’s exactly what happened, give or take a few years.

President Lincoln established the Bureau of Chemistry (predecessor of the FDA) way back in 1862. This was in response to a number of food scares, such as the Swill Milk Scandal, in which putrid milk was made sellable by adding flour or plaster of Paris, killing about 8,000 children.

In 1906 Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act, compelled by the horrors of the Chicago meat packing industry exposed in the landmark Neill-Reynolds Report. President Theodore Roosevelt had commissioned the report to discredit the claims in Upton Sinclair’s socialist novel “The Jungle,” but the reporters found conditions even more appalling than Sinclair described.

The next year saw the Certified Color Regulations, which prevents known toxins from being used as food coloring. From 1910 to 1912, many infants were killed by Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for teething and colicky babies, which was unlabeled but contained morphine. The Shirley Amendment prohibiting false therapeutic claims followed in 1912.

There have been hundreds of food scares and scandals since, and Congress has passed hundreds of food and drug laws in response. The result is that we now enjoy unprecedented food quality, quantity and safety. Thanks to the “heavy hand” of government, we take for granted that a 16-ounce bottle of ketchup really contains 16 ounces, that smoked ham is really smoked (and really ham, not horse), that Vermont maple syrup is really from Vermont.

And no, Mr. Hornberger, that food doesn’t appear by magic; it travels via roads, rails and airports our government had a hand in building.

Of course, the real target of Mr. Hornberger’s essay is our public education system. He would like to see the government get out of the education business and turn it over to the free market, just like our food. So let’s turn his “what if?” around. What if our children’s education was in the hands of the same laissez faire capitalists who gave us swill milk, putrid meat and quack medicines, before the government intervened?


William Workman is a Williston resident.


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Around Town (3/11/10)

March 11, 2010


Kindergarten registration approaching

The Williston School District has announced the upcoming dates for kindergarten registration.

Parents of children who live in Williston or St. George and will be 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2010 can register their kids for kindergarten at the Williston Central School dining room. Registration will take place April 6-8 at the Williston Central School dining room.

The school district recommends making an appointment for a registration time. Appointments can be made online at the school’s Web site, registration, or by calling 879-5806.

Passport Day in Williston

Williston is preparing for Passport Day in the USA 2010, which takes place on March 27.

Passport Day is a national passport acceptance and outreach event. Williston will take part by hosting a Passport Day Fair at the town clerk’s office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 27.

Information on the cost and how to apply for a U.S. passport is available online at U.S. citizens may also obtain passport information by phone by calling the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 877-487-2778.

For more information about Williston’s Passport Day, contact Town Clerk Deb Beckett at 878-5121.

Bills due

The water and sewer bills for the town of Williston have been mailed and are due March 30, 2010. Kimberly Richburg of the town’s Public Works and Recreation departments made the announcement in an e-mail to the Observer.

Recognition for waste district

The Chittenden Solid Waste District has received an award for its participation in the Vermont League of Cities and Town’s Leader Program.

The program encourages and rewards municipalities for their wellness activities. The CSWD is one of 251 municipalities and local government organizations that belong to the VLCT Health Trust.

Late last year, the CSWD won a Leader Program award for earning the highest score for a medium-sized municipality.


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Local company up for national Defense award (3/11/10)

March 11, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Department of Defense recently nominated a Williston company for an award honoring its commitment to National Guard employees.

Control Technologies Inc. is one of seven Vermont employers up for the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award — a national honor.

The award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to companies and organizations for support of National Guard and Reserve employees. Guard employees nominate companies they believe offer the best support during times of deployment. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an agency within the Department of Defense, awards the honor each year.

Terry Reynolds, vice president of business development and an ownership partner with Control Technologies, said he was surprised and honored by the nomination. He said the company has always supported guard members when duty calls.

“We’ve had a lot of employees in the Guard that have been deployed,” Reynolds said, adding he and his partners are veterans of various military branches.

Control Technologies, which started in Vermont in 1986, develops control systems for energy-related products, such as building power management and HVAC units. The multi-million dollar company employs 200 workers in six states, many of them engineers.

Reynolds said the company’s employees in the National Guard have vast experience in their fields and are welcomed back once they complete their missions. While the deployment of an employee can strain resources, the company believes in supporting its workforce.

“We’ll all fill in for each other,” Reynolds said. “Our employees completely support it.”

The 15 national award winners will be announced in the summer. Reynolds said if Control Technologies wins, company representatives would be treated to a black-tie gala in Washington D.C. with President Barack Obama. While Reynolds doesn’t expect to win, he’s proud Control Technologies earned recognition.

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Eco Car Wash unveils designs (3/11/10)

March 11, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Plans for a proposed environmentally friendly car wash moved forward Tuesday night during a Development Review Board meeting. The board granted a pre-application permit to Eco Car Wash based on the design presented by the project’s owner.

Colchester businessman Aaron Vincelette wants to build the car wash on 2.2 acres at the corner of Vermont 2A and James Brown Drive. He said patrons using his facility would experience the “greenest” possible cleaning experience. Vincelette already owns an Eco Car Wash in Milton.

Vincelette said cars would enter a 150-foot tunnel, where the cleaning process will use eco-friendly soaps and less water than standard car washes. He said only 25 to 30 gallons would be used per vehicle.

“When people wash their cars at home, they use about 100 gallons (on average),” Vincelette told the board. “And all those phosphates in the soaps soak into the ground and into our ground water.”

The structure’s roof would be built to allow the sun to light the interior, therefore reducing electricity usage. The roof would also collect rainwater for recycling. Also, Vincelette said he plans to install up to 11 solar panels on the property. He’s looking into the AllSun Trackers, solar panels built by Williston’s AllEarth Renewables Inc.

“I’ll start out with just one, primarily because of the cost,” Vincelette said.

Immediately adjacent to the car wash will be another tunnel for vehicle interior detailing. Workers would clean the inside of a car while the driver waits in a small lobby, Vincelette said.

Another addition to the site would be a display area for Vincelette’s other business, Vermont Eco Cottage. He said he plans to put seven or eight of the garden sheds on a green space next to the car wash.

This addition came as a surprise to Williston Planning Director Ken Belliveau, who said he had not been apprised of the display area in Vincelette’s plans.

“That was the first I’d heard of it,” Belliveau said.

A few neighboring business owners and residents turned out at the meeting to hear about the project’s details. Gary Malle, owner of Champlain Self Storage, expressed concerns about the solar trackers. He said the devices would block the visibility of his business from Vermont 2A. The trackers might reduce a storage renter’s ability to self-monitor the site.

Malle also said the addition of Eco Car Wash could make the traffic situation at James Brown Drive even more difficult. Vincelette admitted to that possibility, but also pointed out that the town hopes to build a traffic light, turning lane and crosswalk at the busy intersection. Since it’s a state highway, the final say comes from the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Vincelette said officials told him a lack of funds at this time prevents any intersection improvements.

For now, the traffic bottleneck the intersection frequently creates will be considered in any future plans, board members said.

“We’re going to be asking for a traffic study between now and the next meeting,” board chairman Kevin McDermott said.


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Selectboard sidesteps roundabout vote (3/11/10)

Issue rolled into Comprehensive Plan process

March 11, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Selectboard on Monday diverted the debate over a controversial roundabout to town planners.

Last week, Williston voters overwhelmingly rejected a roundabout at the intersection where U.S. 2 meets North Williston and Oak Hill roads. The non-binding vote was the most lopsided in years, with 82 percent casting ballots against the traffic circle.

The Selectboard agenda this week included a motion to rescind previous support of the roundabout. But instead of voting on the motion, the board decided to have the Planning Commission take up the matter as part of the process of revising Williston’s Comprehensive Plan, said Town Manager Rick McGuire.

He said the board also directed town staff to send a letter to the Vermont Agency of Transportation stating that the board previously voted to recommend a roundabout at the intersection but residents voted against it, so now the matter will be considered as part of the town plan process.

Board members said in interviews Tuesday that last week’s balloting obviously indicated that voters oppose a roundabout, but it did not indicate what they wanted done about the accident-plagued intersection. They hope the Planning Commission, which is currently working on revisions to the Comprehensive Plan, can gather further citizen input and then provide direction.

“The (ballot) question told us not to pursue a roundabout,” board member Chris Roy said. “So we’re not pursuing a roundabout. … For the time being we’re not recommending anything other than the status quo. If we ever recommend anything else, it will be after the town plan rewrite process.”

“We’re in a holding pattern,” Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig said. “Let’s listen to what folks say and see what the Planning Commission does.”

Roy and Macaig emphasized that ultimately any town decision is only a recommendation to the state, which they assert ultimately has the final say on what, if any, improvements are made at the intersection. Town and state officials also note that any project would not occur for several years.

The Selectboard’s decision on Monday ensures a yearlong debate will continue. After learning the intersection was placed on a list of the state’s most crash-prone locations and thus was eligible for federally funded improvements, the board in March 2009 chose a roundabout rather than a traffic signal to improve traffic flow and safety. The intersection is now controlled by a four-way stop sign.

Opposition to the roundabout soon emerged. Foes argued that the roundabout was unwanted and unnecessary. They said it would hurt the historic character of the village and negatively impact Williston Federated Church and the Korner Kwik Stop, which both abut the intersection.

A petition aimed at getting the issue on the ballot was circulated. Hundreds signed it, convincing the Selectboard to put the roundabout on the March 2 ballot even though under state statute the result was not binding.

The tally — 370 for the roundabout, 1,651 against — was the most one-sided vote in the past decade, a review of town records shows. The next most decisive vote occurred in 2004, when 73 percent of voters approved the continuation of a 1 percent local sales tax.

“I think everybody realizes that voters sent a clear message that they didn’t want the roundabout,” Macaig said.

The Planning Commission is at the beginning stages of revising the 2006 Comprehensive Plan, which under state law must be updated every five years.

The current plan acknowledges problems at the intersection but does not specify a solution beyond saying, “A roundabout or a signal will soon be needed.”

“Whatever improvements are made should be consistent with the historic character of Williston Village,” the plan states.

The commission will work on the Comprehensive Plan revision throughout this year, and its work could be completed by early 2011.

“We’re happy to let that process go and let folks other than the Selectboard become painfully familiar with roundabouts,” Roy said with a chuckle.


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Essex Alliance Church one step closer to reality (3/11/10)

March 11, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Development Review Board granted a discretionary permit at its meeting Tuesday night for what will be Vermont’s largest church. Essex Alliance Church, which plans to build a 119,000-square-foot facility off Vermont 2A near Taft Corners, can now move forward with the state permitting process.

Church officials on Tuesday expressed their desire to begin the project soon, citing growing church membership. Currently, worshippers attend the church on Old Stage Road in Essex or watch a simulcast feed at the Essex Cinemas.

“We’d like to build within a year,” church representative Jeff Kolok said. “We want our final plans done as soon as possible.”

Tuesday’s discussion was the second part of the church’s presentation to the board. Officials described much of the project at a Jan. 26 meeting.

Plans call for a 1,200-seat worship center, along with children and adult ministry centers, administrative offices, an extensive lobby and a café. Also on the 54-acre site will be recreation fields, multi-use paths and parking for nearly 700 vehicles.

As part of its design, the church looks to build at a height of 52 feet, which exceeds the limit allowed within the Taft Corners Zoning District. To obtain an exception to the height limit, the church must build eight housing units, six of which will be considered perpetually affordable.

Williston bylaws state that builders only need to construct at least four units, with three being affordable. The Development Review Board at previous meetings, however, asked the church to build more units due to the size of the project.

Before it can build to the desired height, the church must first construct the homes, which are planned as duplexes located off Beaudry Lane near the site’s main entrance. But Kolok said the church believed, according to the bylaws, it only needed to build three affordable housing units — not six — before receiving its height permit. He disagreed with Williston planners’ recommendations.

“It sounds like we should have stayed with building just the four units and not done the good thing and gone with eight units,” Kolok said. “This puts a burden on us.”

Williston Planning Director Ken Belliveau called the issue one of fairness. Since part of the project deals with housing, the church must be treated like any developer.

“We have to have some assurance that they’re going to do what they said they’re going to do,” Belliveau said after the meeting. “It’s not that I feel suspicious or untrusting of the church or anything like that, it’s just the way you do business.”

Church representatives also discussed the board’s concerns around traffic and parking. Officials said traffic would reach its peak during Sunday morning church services. To help with the congestion, a police officer would be hired during peak hours to direct traffic. A southbound turning lane off Vermont 2A would also need to be built.

Board chairman Kevin McDermott said any changes to the highway are a state issue. If Vermont Agency of Transportation officials reject the proposed turning lane, the church would need to go before the board to present a new traffic plan.

Now that Essex Alliance Church has its discretionary permit, it will go before the state for its environmental certification, known as an Act 250 permit. Following that process, the church will then return to the Development Review Board to present its final plans.

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Officials ponder next steps for ambulance (3/11/10)

Williston must obtain license, acquire vehicles

March 11, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

With funding secured, Williston officials now face the complexities of rolling out a new ambulance service.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
A sign in front of the Williston Fire Department’s station expresses appreciation for voter approval of the municipal budget that included funding for a new ambulance service.

Voters last week approved a municipal budget for the fiscal year starting in July that includes $231,910 for the ambulance service. Fire Chief Ken Morton expects the ambulance will pay for itself by charging fees to patients’ insurers.

The town must now lease or purchase ambulances, equip the vehicles, hire new employees, negotiate a dispatching arrangement and navigate the state licensing process.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he planned to meet with Morton this week to discuss the service and plan its launch. Morton, who just returned from vacation in Florida, was unavailable for comment on Monday.

On Tuesday, Morton told the Observer he “worked feverishly” the previous day to develop an outline for the ambulance service, and believes it will be ready on July 1.

Williston is currently served by out-of-town ambulance services, primarily St. Michael’s Rescue. First responders in Williston are dispatched when a 911 call is made, then an ambulance arrives separately and takes the patient to the hospital.

Adding an ambulance service based at the fire station on U.S. 2 in Williston will consolidate emergency responses. The town plans to lease a new ambulance and buy a second used vehicle outright. One employee will be hired, and a second staffer may be added later in the fiscal year.

Officials familiar with starting an ambulance service said while the process is involved, it can be accomplished fairly quickly if not easily.

Douglas Brent, chief of fire and emergency medical services in South Burlington, said voters approved funding for that city’s service in May 2004. By August, ambulances were responding to calls.

“The licensing went through without a hitch,” Brent said. “There were other things that did not go as smoothly.”

Among the hurdles in starting the South Burlington service was having people trained and ready to go in time for the launch, Brent said. Funding started in July, so new employees could not be hired until then. But then they needed to learn local streets and procedures, which took a few weeks.

It also took a while to locate and outfit a dependable used ambulance that could be used as a backup for the new ambulance. Brent said the used vehicle, located in Florida, had to be brought to Vermont and prepared for use.

“There are lots of moving parts,” Brent said of the process of starting an ambulance service. “Honestly, getting voters to approve funding was the easiest part.”

Though there are differences, Williston’s situation parallels South Burlington in one important way: Both had a first responder program in place before starting an ambulance service.

Williston already has a number of on-call personnel and some full-time firefighters trained as emergency medical technicians.

McGuire said adding an ambulance is really more of an expansion than a new service.

“In one sense, it’s not that much different than what we are already doing,” he said.

The Essex Police Department, which dispatches fire calls for Williston, has declined to dispatch for the new ambulance service. Williston is negotiating with another entity to provide combined fire and ambulance dispatching service. McGuire declined to provide specifics because publicity could affect the talks.

Dan Manz, chief of emergency medical services for the Vermont Health Department, said there is “nothing particularly complicated” about licensing a new ambulance service but it does involve a few legally mandated steps.

Williston will be required to run a legal notice of a public comment period and provide information about staffing, vehicles and communication facilities. An emergency medical services district board will review Williston’s license application.

The town could realistically expect to obtain a license by July 1 if it promptly files an application, Manz said.

McGuire said the town has already taken steps to fulfill the public notice requirement. McGuire said he will sit down with Morton to develop a flow chart showing all the tasks to be completed.

Can the town realistically hire a new employee, acquire two ambulances and get a license by July?

“Yes, but,” McGuire said, pausing several seconds before continuing. “Will you give me 10 days leeway?”


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