September 1, 2015

Guest Column (4/22/10)

Lessons from Sally

April 22, 2010

By Leah Soule

Sally. Ninety-eight years young and still growing. An open history book with thousands of living pages, and a mouth too. Sally was born on the 13th of January in 1912. I was born in 1995; I am merely 15, and she has lived through about everything I have ever studied in school — though her pages hold much more than I could ever get from a normal history book. Her pages are her mind; it may be rusty, but it holds the same amount of determination and purpose as ever before.

Sally and I met this past December when I played holiday songs on the piano at the Converse Home in Burlington. After the songs were over, I saw Sally sitting in the back row, looking unusually happy for someone who was sitting alone. I quickly learned she wasn’t just happy, that was her overall personality. That was just the way she lived: with a smile on her face.

I went over to her and introduced myself. Within a period of about five minutes, Sally managed to fill my brain with pages and pages of her own history book. Leaving shortly after our introductions, I found myself becoming intrigued by this 98-year-old woman who simply sat there in front of me, not even knowing how much impact she had made. There was living history sitting right there before me, and I had to go home to do my own history homework. Sally could have easily given me a day’s worth of school with an answer to any one of my questions, which would only stimulate more questions. Isn’t that what learning is all about, anyway?

We can learn so much from one single voice. I suppose it’s whether we are able to take notice of that one voice that makes all the difference; whether we are all able to accept that voice into our lives. I decided I wanted to hear this voice again. I went back to the Converse Home and met with Sally a second time. Sally greeted me with her lovely smile and content persona that I expected.

I had everything planned out. I proudly created a list of purposeful questions to ask about her 98 years. I had my recorder with me and I was ready to play out the schedule I had prepared. I was like an eager journalist yearning for a good story. Fortunately, as soon as I said hello, Sally immediately jumped into conversation. There was no time to take out the recorder and the list of questions. I say “fortunately” because I know I wouldn’t want to talk to a plastic box if I were on the other end.

I simply sat there and listened as Sally willingly told me everything about her life. I never became bored, that’s for sure. She spoke of everything from the first time she was allowed to vote to the first time she fell in love. Sally explained that when she was only 14 she began to work at an office by day and went to school by night. Sally was even able to complete two years of college.

I felt so honored to be in her presence — the presence of history. That sounds a little dramatic, but Sally really never gave up and she still doesn’t now. She told me she always strived to become better. It was inborn; she never needed an extra push like most people do. She simply wanted to succeed. That is the straightforward answer that got her through life. She pushed herself. She did what most humans wouldn’t: took on the challenge of existence. Now, what would the world look like if we all had a mind like Sally?

Sally. Ninety-eight years young and still growing. Where would we be without our elders? They have the potential to teach us the world. All we have to do is listen. Sally taught me so much within the hour I was with her. As soon as I met Sally, I could tell that she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid of challenges, of growing old, of dying. She was as happy as could be, with a smile glued to her face. Sally was so grateful for her life; she kept on telling me just how lucky she felt with her 98 years. When we shared our goodbyes, Sally enlightened me with a simple phrase that, I may add, has stuck to the bindings of my soul and I believe will stay there forever.

“You have so much ahead of you Leah, you really do. You just need to make the best of it.”

Thank you, Sally.


Leah Soule lives in St. George and is a student at Williston Central School.


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Plans progress for ambulance service (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

Williston’s new ambulance service is on schedule and on budget, according to Town Manager Rick McGuire.

McGuire updated the Selectboard on the progress of the service on Monday night. The ambulance service was included in the town budget for fiscal year 2011, which voters approved on Town Meeting Day last month.

The service is set to start on July 1.

McGuire said a new ambulance has already been ordered. The town still needs to find a second, used ambulance. Williston will likely hire South Burlington as a bill collection agency for the ambulance service, McGuire said.

“All of the pieces are falling into place as we move forward,” McGuire said.

The town currently uses St. Michael’s Rescue as its primary emergency responder.


— Greg Duggan, Observer staff


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Governor signs electronics recycling bill (4/22/10)

A bill designed to boost recycling of computers and other electronics is now law in Vermont.

Gov. Jim Douglas traveled to the Chittenden Solid Waste District in Williston on Monday to sign a bill calling for recycling of electronics that would be free for consumers and paid for by manufacturers.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Gov. Jim Douglas addresses a crowd at the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s Williston Drop-Off Center on Monday. Douglas visited Williston to sign legislation that will make it free for consumers to recycle electronics.

Many Vermonters have old computers and other similar items piled up in basements and attics while they await annual free disposal events. The new law is aimed at making that recycling effort easier.

“This is a program whose time has come,” Douglas said.

The governor characterized the bill as the result of a cooperative effort between the private sector, the Legislature and his administration.

CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau, a waste district commissioner and Chittenden County Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Williston, also spoke at the bill-signing ceremony and praised the passage of the new law.

“This is one of those issues where we’re looking at a new era of waste management,” Lyons said.


— The Associated Press and Greg Duggan, Observer staff


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Childcare expansion projects seek permits (4/22/10)

Board OKs one expansion, tables another

April 22, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer correspondent

The Development Review Board last week considered a pair of projects that could ease Williston’s child care shortage.

The board, at its April 13 session, approved an expansion for one childcare facility but delayed action on a second proposal amid parking concerns.

Nadeau’s Playschool received a permit to enlarge its Marshall Avenue facility, making room for about 20 more children.

Ken Belliveau, Williston planning director, said the board unanimously approved the project. Conditions of approval included a requirement to move storage trailers in the child care’s parking lot.

Judy Bergeron, director of Nadeau’s, said that the facility now has about 7,000 square feet and can accommodate about 75 children. The 1,760-square-foot addition will help the facility cope with a long waiting list.

“Oh yes, there is a demand,” Bergeron said, noting that the wait is more than a year for openings for the youngest children. Approximately 25 to 30 families are on the waiting list.

The facility, which accepts children ranging from 6 weeks old to 10 years old, largely serves parents who work in Williston but live elsewhere, Bergeron said.

The expansion is expected to be completed by late summer.

The board delayed action on another project that would double the capacity of a childcare facility at Sports & Fitness Edge, located on Wellness Drive off Marshall Avenue.

The expansion involves converting an existing ball field used for tennis, basketball and other sports at the fitness center’s field house into additional child care space, according to plans filed with the town.

But parking concerns stalled a vote on the project. Belliveau said some board members have children at the facility and think parking is inadequate to accommodate the comings and goings of parents.

A majority of the board must vote for a project, regardless of how many members are actually present, for it to gain approval. Just four of the board’s seven members attended last week’s session, meaning the project would have needed a unanimous yes vote to receive a permit.

Belliveau said a Sports & Fitness Edge representative requested that the vote be delayed until a future meeting, reasoning that with more board members present the project might win approval.

Town planning staff had recommended that some of the 188 total parking spots at the fitness center be set aside solely for the childcare facility. Belliveau said some board members might want to go further, perhaps by mandating the parking lot be expanded.

The project would expand Sports & Fitness Edge’s childcare facility by 12,000 square feet and increase the number of kids it can accommodate to 160, according to club manager Laurie Adams. The preschool now has about 80 children ranging from infants to 5-year-olds.

The facility has a waiting list for child care, but Adams did not know how many families were on the list.

The board is tentatively scheduled to further discuss the Sports & Fitness Edge project at its May 11 meeting.


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Police officers announce departures (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The Williston Police Department, already considered understaffed, is losing two more officers.

Officers Greg Shelley and Jamin Whitehead submitted letters of resignation earlier this month.

Whitehead’s final day with the department was Wednesday. Shelley will work through May 7.

“I am leaving the police department to pursue other endeavors and continue my education,” Shelley wrote in his letter of resignation.

Whitehead accepted a position as a law enforcement specialist with Homeland Security in Williston. He said in his letter that he starts the new job on Sunday.

Town Manager Rick McGuire informed the Selectboard of the resignations on Monday evening. He said Shelley had been with the department for four years, and Whitehead had served for six years.

The town recently eliminated a police officer position from the municipal budget. The department will also lose a full-time officer for several months in August when he attends the police academy for training.

McGuire and Detective Mike Lavoie, who serves as president of the Williston Police Officers Association, have said in recent months that the department is understaffed.

Acting Chief Doug Hoyt, who joined the police department this month, agreed. Hoyt said the latest resignations were expected. He had started to review staffing levels when he came to Williston, and has posted job openings online.

“I’m totally confident we’ll see any number of good applications, but it is a long process,” Hoyt said.

He encouraged anyone interested in becoming a police officer to check the town Web site,, and the Williston Police Web site,, for more information.

Until new officers are hired, however, Hoyt plans to explore several options for ensuring police coverage throughout Williston. Options include hiring part-time officers and modifying shift assignments. McGuire cited changes in the flow of casework and temporary regional support as other options.

“I think by the end of the month we’ll have something that works for us,” Hoyt said.

Turnover in the police department has been an ongoing problem. The department has positions for 14 full-time officers, Hoyt said. McGuire estimated the turnover rate at 20 percent or 25 percent annually, typically among the officer level.

McGuire said that in a smaller department like Williston, officers have limited options to advance and therefore seek higher level positions with other organizations. Furthermore, the department has not had a full-time chief since former Chief Jim Dimmick suffered a stroke in 2008. McGuire hopes that finding a permanent chief will create more stability for the police force.

A hiring committee conducted interviews last week, and has narrowed the number of potential candidates to three. The town wants to have a chief in place by July 1.

“I think there’s a number of steps we can take when we get a permanent chief in that would lead to a lowering of the turnover rate,” McGuire said.

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Crews help restore impaired Allen Brook (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Standing on the shore of the Allen Brook last week, Jessica Andreoletti pointed to a sloped bank at a spot upstream, where freshly planted young shrubs sat in the earth. The bank stood in stark contrast to a 5-foot cliff just downstream at a bend in the brook.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Cliff DesMarais, a school instructor for a Vermont Youth Conservation Corps group, plants a silky dogwood shrub on a bank of the Allen Brook last week. The VYCC crew spent a week working on the brook as part of an ongoing effort to reduce erosion.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Crews from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps worked on the banks of the Allen Brook last week, planting trees and shrubs in an effort to prevent erosion.

Andreoletti, who works for Williston as a town planner, said the Allen Brook was long ago channelized to create good farmland. As the brook wends its way through Williston, it flows up against the steep banks, carving out sediment that chokes fish and bug habitat.

“The river is now trying to reestablish its floodplain,” Andreoletti said.

The town is trying to help, which is why it is overseeing efforts to level the banks of the stream. Erosion and the subsequent degradation of fish and insect habitat have landed the Allen Brook on a state list of impaired waterways.

Past efforts to improve and monitor the brook have included plantings along the shores and surveys of fish populations.

Last week, a crew of two instructors and five students from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, or VYCC, continued the restoration efforts by planting shrubs and trees along a southern bank of the Allen Brook. Richmond-based Grzywna Construction had created graded slopes at a section of the brook near the intersection of South Ridge Road and U.S. 2. By planting trees and shrubs, as well as spreading grass seed and laying down a biodegradable mat of hay, the VYCC crew hoped to hold the soil in place.

Andreoletti said the spot was chosen for restoration work based on a stream assessment that determined the area to be a high priority site.

The VYCC was brought in with a $2,530 grant from the state. The Southridge Neighborhood Association, which lies to the north of that section of the Allen Brook, donated additional funds. Gryzwna Construction also contributed by doing some of its work without pay, Andreoletti said. The Snyder Group, which owns the land on the south side of the brook, allowed the crews to work on the property.

The VYCC works with high school students from the state, allowing them to obtain credit through public and school partnerships. The organization has worked with Williston in the past.

A different VYCC crew did an initial planting last summer on the north side of the Allen Brook. Last Thursday, Andreoletti pointed out areas where the brook had already eroded restored parts of the northern bank, and acknowledged the trial and error nature of the effort.

Despite the learning process of the restoration, Andreoletti noted that the project has become a bit of a community effort: on Saturday, a group of Williston Cub Scouts planted trees and shrubs at the site.

The new plants could improve not only the Allen Brook’s water quality, but also it’s aesthetic quality.

“It looks like if you give it a year or two you’ll want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic,” said Cliff DesMarais, one of the VYCC instructors.

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Final CCTA forum held in Williston (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Williston residents appear to have already had their say on the new Chittenden County Transit Authority bus lines.

CCTA held its last forum Tuesday night, one of five public hearings this month, but no one showed up.

“I don’t think there are too many concerns from Williston residents,” said Meredith Birkett, CCTA planning manager. “It’s all either improved service or extra service.”

A total of 23 people attended this month’s forums, and 62 came to forums held in February. Some Williston residents came to meetings held in other towns earlier in April, CCTA planner Jon Moore said.

Approximately 40 Williston residents responded to an online survey seeking input on the bus line’s schedule.

Birkett said CCTA officials plan to schedule the first morning trip approximately 10 minutes earlier than they planned, based on survey responses.

The new bus line will be a direct link between Williston and Burlington.

The existing route runs between Taft Corners and the University Mall in South Burlington. At the University Mall, passengers heading west have to transfer to another line to get to Burlington. The new line will go down U.S. 2 to Burlington.

During peak hours, a bus will leave every 15 minutes from downtown Burlington to Taft Corners. Service will also extend to approximately 11:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and buses will run on Sundays.

The new route will also extend to Williston Village, including Mountain View Drive and North Williston Road. CCTA officials are working to set up a park and ride for commuters in the village.

The new bus lines will cost approximately $675,000 more than the current routes, but Birkett said CCTA expects a 20 percent increase in ridership.

The CCTA Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the implementation of the new service on April 28; the exact schedule, routes and stops would be finalized by early May. The new service is scheduled to start June 14.

Birkett said many Williston residents have said they wish the new service could start sooner.

“Some people are pretty anxious for it,” she said.

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Waiting for the gift of life (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Matthew Yakubik needs a kidney.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Matthew Yakubik plays lacrosse outside his house in North Williston.

Nine years old, Matthew suffers from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. A disease that usually appears in children and teens, FSGS brings about scarring on the kidneys’ filtering system, which causes protein to leak into the urine and prevents the organs from functioning at their full filtering capacity.

For Matthew, on a daily basis, that means taking five pills in the morning, three in the evening and having a growth hormone shot each night. It means having another injection, of a chemical that tells the body to produce red blood cells, every two weeks. It means drinking lots of water and constantly being aware of dietary restrictions. It means sleeping a lot, because he tires easily. And most importantly, it means that he needs a new kidney.

Matthew’s parents, Ellen and Will Yakubik, said his kidneys operate at 36 percent of their full capacity. That’s down from about 70 percent in November. When that figure hits 20 percent or so, Matthew will need to go on dialysis.

“He took a bit of a jump down, but he had been gradually progressing down for some time,” said Dr. Ann Guillot, the pediatric transplantation/nephrology doctor at Fletcher Allen Health Care who works with Matthew. “He got to the point where we said it’s time to start to prepare for a kidney transplant.”

Matthew’s family hopes to have found a donor by the time he needs to go on dialysis. Otherwise, he’ll need to join a waiting list for a transplant.

“We do kidney transplants not to avoid dialysis, but because you live longer and do better,” said Dr. Antonio Di Carlo, director of transplantation at Fletcher Allen.

Doctors say a transplant from a living donor, often called the “gift of life,” typically results in a more successful outcome than a kidney from a deceased donor and makes it easier to plan the surgery.

Oftentimes, family members have the best chance of providing a match to donate a kidney, but for various reasons that hasn’t been the case with the Yakubiks. So in the past two months, the Yakubiks turned to family, friends and the community.

Ellen Yakubik, marketing director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, and Will Yakubik, a quality management systems consultant, have spread the word among their professional contacts. The family has also reached out to fellow parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston, to families of Cub Scouts — Matthew belongs to Pack 692 — and to the school community. Bulletins have appeared in recent issues of the School Bell, Williston School District’s weekly newsletter.

The Yakubiks said a few dozen people have inquired about donating a kidney. Not all fit the requirements of being between the ages of 18 and 50, with blood type O and good health. Only a handful have advanced through the initial round of screening, the Yakubiks said, and there’s no guarantee any of those potential donors will meet all the criteria for a transplant.

“We’ve networked with hundreds of thousands of people, it seems like,” Will Yakubik said. “We’ve gotten a good response, but it’s a numbers game, unfortunately.”

Living with FSGS

Matthew, a brown-haired boy with blue eyes, was diagnosed with FSGS when he was 3, his parents said, following a urine analysis conducted as part of a routine physical.

Sitting in their North Williston home last week, Ellen and Will Yakubik explained the challenges of living with FSGS. Outside, Matthew joined his brother and neighbors, their shouts indicating a flurry of youthful activity as they played soccer and tag.

“Some days there are bags under his eyes, he’s lethargic. Other days he’s out playing with his brother,” Will Yakubik said. “It’s a good thing to hear him outside, running around, having fun.”

Matthew said he can usually tell by his energy level when he wakes up in the morning whether he’ll have a good day. He stays active when he has energy, playing on a Williston Little League team and practicing taekwondo twice a week.

Though the Yakubiks said they try to let Matthew and his 12-year-old brother, William, pursue a normal lifestyle, FSGS requires certain commitments. In addition to countless hours spent searching for a donor, Ellen and Will Yakubik help Matthew with his shots and pills.

William sometimes helps his brother with a daily log of medications and assists with monitoring food intake. He admits that he worries about his brother’s health.

“It’s scary for me. I don’t know how it feels to have a disease like Matthew,” William said.

Finding a donor

Since the end of February, Matthew has been preparing for his transplant. He’s going through a litany of medical tests to measure his health status. After a donor is found and the date of surgery approaches, Dr. Guillot said, the medical team will develop a sequence of procedures for the operation.

As doctors run tests on Matthew, Fletcher Allen is also working with potential donors. The hospital cannot solicit for donors on Matthew’s behalf, but it screens anyone who comes forward.

Guillot said the hospital conducts about 40 kidney transplants each year.

“We always encourage everyone to think about the process of donation,” Guillot said.

One Williston resident advocated for people to consider donations.

“I wish more people would be willing to consider donating an organ, because it can save someone’s life,” said Michelle Pierce, who donated a kidney to a friend almost two years ago.

Pierce reached out to the Yakubiks after reading about Matthew in the School Bell, and offered to speak with any potential donors. She has no regrets about providing her friend with a kidney, and encourages others to make the same gift.

“I feel the same as I did prior to donating the kidney,” Pierce said. “I continue to run, bike. I’m very active. If anything, it has been an amazing, positive experience.”

Matthew’s preparation

In recent months, Matthew has met with doctors to learn about a kidney transplant. He’s also gathered information about the process from Max Thayer, a 22-year-old from East Wallingford who received a kidney at Fletcher Allen earlier this month. Guillot put Matthew in contact with Thayer about seven months ago.

“We hit it off, and I have been seeing him on occasion and talking to him ever since,” Thayer said of his relationship with Matthew. “I like to talk to him about school, the things he’s doing and going through.”

Thayer suffered a damaged kidney as an infant, when internal bleeding scarred the organ. For the past two years, until his surgery on April 4, he had been on dialysis. Like Matthew, he often found himself exhausted, sleeping 10 or 12 hours each night. But with a new kidney, Thayer now sleeps eight hours a night, and said, “One of the immediate things I’ve noticed is, I have more energy in the morning and at night.”

Though Thayer will need to take immunosuppressive drugs through the life of his new kidney — Matthew will have to do the same — he expects his quality of life to improve dramatically.

Matthew visited Thayer in the hospital after the surgery, bringing a few gifts and asking about the operation.

“He said it didn’t hurt at all,” Matthew said.

Yet the Yakubiks realize that the hardest part is yet to come. As Will Yakubik acknowledged, the family can solicit as many potential donors as possible. Beyond that, however, they have no control over finding a compatible donor or guaranteeing a successful transplant.

“It’s hard to see your child go through this,” Will Yakubik said. “We’re doing everything we humanly can to find a living donor for him.”


If interested in learning more about donating a kidney to Matthew Yakubik, contact Kate Devine, Fletcher Allen Health Care’s Pediatric Transplantation coordinator, at 802-847-4291.

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Warm weather accelerates spring blooms

    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
John Adams, one of the owners of Adams Apple Orchard & Farm Market in Williston, points out the buds on one of his apple trees on Tuesday afternoon. Record high temperatures early in the month have accelerated the budding process for many plants. See story below.

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Sports Notes (4/15/10)

April 15, 2010


Girls lacrosse team hopes to rebound in home opener

It was a rude beginning to the new season Saturday for the Champlain Valley Union High girls lacrosse team, when it journeyed to Bennington and ran into a 17-2 bopping by 3-0 Mount Anthony Union High.

The Redhawks returned south to Rutland High on Wednesday, hoping for a better outcome before Monday’s 4:30 p.m. home opener, when Mount Anthony comes north for the second of the home-and-home clashes.

Next Wednesday, a strong Essex High team will tangle with the Redhawks at their Hinesburg nest.

Amanda Kinneston and Lucy Halvorson knocked in the goals for CVU at Mount Anthony, while net minder Sophia Steinhoff came up with 18 saves.

A pair of Alyssas, Porter and Amos, garnered four goals each for the Patriots.

Assistant coach Beth Beldock has temporarily been at the helm of the Redhawks while head coach Julie Sloan recovers from an injury.

Sloan could be back on the sidelines by Monday’s game.


Hornets, Rebels next for CVU boys tennis team

After locking up their first victory of the season Monday, coach Frank Babbott and his Champlain Valley Union High boys tennis team will invade 1-0 Essex High Thursday and then travel to South Burlington Monday. Both matches have 3:30 p.m. starting times.

The Redhawks hiked their season mark to 1-1 this past Monday with a 6-1 road triumph over Mount Mansfield Union High.

Singles victories went to Tabor deGroot, Corey Dawson, Will Hall, Brice Guerriere and Liam Kelley, while the doubles combination of Jared Keyes and Brad Barth also triumphed.

On Friday, the Redhawks bowed 4-3 to 2-0 Rice Memorial. Singles wins went to Hall and Guerriere while Josh Huber and Evan Cohen teamed up for a doubles success.


Hurricanes wrestle in state finals

The Hurricanes Wrestling Club competed in the kindergarten through sixth grade State Finals, held at Essex High School over the weekend.

The finals drew 25 teams and more than 400 wrestlers from around Vermont, according to Hurricanes coach Wayne Ring.

Ring said the Hurricanes had eight wrestlers advance to the finals, with five taking home state titles, as the team finished in the top 10 in Vermont.

Williston residents Riley Brown, a first grader, sixth grader Cody Huestis and second grader Dillion Schlogl all won state titles in their weight classes.

Third grade students Lucas Brown and Ty Schlogl finished fourth in their divisions, as did sixth graders Aaron Meacham and Jerett Legg.

In addition to Williston, the Hurricanes have wrestlers from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and St. George.

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