October 26, 2014

Letters to the Editor

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Sept. 30, 2010

ELECTION LETTERS POLICY

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Please note the Observer will not run any Letters to the Editor pertaining to the vote on Oct. 28, the edition prior to the election.

All Letters to the Editor written in regards to the election MUST be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 18, and will appear in the Observer on Oct. 21.

Please be aware that normal guidelines will apply, including a 300-word limit for all letters.

E-mail letters to [email protected]

Questioning McCullough’s record

State Rep. Jim McCullough’s ad in last week’s Observer states that he “balances business’ and communities’ needs” and that he is a voice for business and landowners. His record, however, defies his claims.

In the 2009 session he voted to increase taxes by $28 million, including taxes on clothing and satellite television (H. 441), an additional $55 million, including the income tax (H. 442) and an increase in gas and diesel fuel taxes (H. 438).

Mr. McCullough favored passing the cost of decommissioning Vermont Yankee to Vermonters in the form of higher electricity costs in the future (H. 436). He opposed the effort to require the state to consider the impact of all legislation on our jobs (H. 313).

These votes are crippling young families, two income households and retired persons. It’s time for a change in Montpelier. Let’s elect Jay Michaud and Mike Benevento to the Legislature and get our state on the path to sensible government and prosperity.

Bret P. Powell, Williston

First and goal, plenty of time

Under beautiful fall skies this past Saturday we witnessed the match-up between the Champlain Valley Union High Redhawks and the Mount Mansfield Union High Cougars.

Near the end of the game the score was 21-3 in CVU’s favor. The Redhawks had the ball. It was first and goal with plenty of time to score again. The ball was snapped. What did the young men do? They took a knee — twice!

Instead of running the score up to 28-3 and sending the Cougars home with their tail tucked far between their legs (which they deserved, in my humble opinion) they let ‘em off easy.

Coach Jim Provost and the Redhawks: you are a class act! Congratulations on the outcome of Saturday’s game and good luck with the rest of the season.

Tim Platt, Williston

Support for Chief Nelson

I am writing to show my support for Police Chief Roy Nelson. After the cloud of misinformation clears I hope people will see clearly that Nelson’s blood alcohol was well below the legal limit and probably lower than the majority of drivers leaving the parking lot of any of our local restaurants that serve alcohol (“Chief ‘well below the legal limit’ in DUI case,” Observer, Sept. 23). He was not drinking on shift, but rather he was called back into a potentially violent situation. I believe if he had ignored the call and the situation had escalated there would be a lot more public outcry.

I do believe the trooper who asked Nelson to take the test and Nelson himself for submitting to the test acted properly and in the public’s best interest. However, I think the continued investigation and the “back relation analysis” is nothing more than a waste of time, taxpayer money and tantamount to a witch hunt. Rather than rake our police officers over the coals we should thank them for protecting us while we sleep.

Kevin Stephens, Williston

Dissatisfied with NECAP scores

I am writing to express concern regarding Williston’s abysmal 8th grade Science NECAP test results (http://www.education.vermont.gov/new/pdfdoc/pgm_assessment/data/NECAP/NECAP_school_summary_05-10.pdf).

Only 26 percent of Williston’s eighth graders achieved proficiency on this test this past spring. This is alarmingly below the state average of 29 percent and a 10 percent drop from last year and a 20 percent drop from 2008 results! This is unconscionable for one of the wealthiest towns in the entire state. When I think about what all our kids have missed, and will never recover, my heart aches and my blood boils.

Below are indefensible comparisons of other Vermont eighth grades. (The only grossly comparable schools were Burlington’s Hunt Middle School and Milton Jr./Sr. High, which have nearly triple and double the percentage of students on Free and Reduced Lunch.)

It’s time to implore the Williston School District Board to address this science tragedy, and the unacceptable fact that our schools are also in state ”Corrective Action” for our fifth year of not making Annual Yearly Progress in Reading and Math. It’s time to examine true accountability for these problems and what must be done to turn our academic performance around. We cannot afford to “wait and see” any longer.

I sincerely hope this may inspires others to contact the School Board at [email protected] (or attend the next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 at Champlain Valley Union High) for the future of our children. Let’s stop this downward spiral and get Williston performing at the top, where it belongs!

Ann Smith, Williston
Town/School Percent proficient Percent with free & reduced lunch
Crossett Brook Middle 59 22
Charlotte Central 59 11
Albert D. Lawton 54 22
Frederick H. Tuttle 54 18
Camels Hump Middle 54 21
Essex Middle 53 14
Edmunds Middle 46 39
Shelburne Central 42 8
Hinesburg Community 41 18
Colchester Middle 32 21
Lyman C. Hunt Middle 26 47
Milton Jr. Sr. High 26 23
Williston 26 12

Guest Column

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Don’t let health insurance fears deter entrepreneurship

Sept. 30, 2010

By Rachel Carter

When I set out to start my own business in Vermont, the number one roadblock for me was health insurance. What happens if I get sick? How can I afford such high prices through an association such as a Chamber of Commerce when I can barely make ends meet as it is? There are so many fears associated with starting a business, but I wanted to do it so badly I was prepared to overlook my health for the time being because I felt so strongly (and still do!) that creating my own path and manifesting my own future was only possible by taking control of my career by starting a business.

The fear of health insurance was soon thwarted when another small business owner told me about Green Mountain Care. I had heard of it and didn’t think it would apply to me; I hadn’t lost my job — I left to start my own company. But that is not the case with Green Mountain Care — eligibility is much broader than I thought and I now want to help let others know that they should explore opportunities themselves instead of just believing the first thing they hear.

Green Mountain Care is a family of health care plans for uninsured Vermonters. Eligibility and application details are online at www.GreenMountainCare.org.

I quickly began the application process and, while it took some time because I was self-employed, it was very useful in actually getting my finances organized. The process also led me to set up a Quickbooks program for my business, which has been one of the best investments I could have made. I learned I was eligible for the Vermont Health Access Plan — one of the Green Mountain Care plans — and was also able to keep my same primary care physician from when I was employed.

The monthly premium to start was free and as my business started to grow, my premium went up, but was still something I could make work in my budget. As my business grew and my tax returns showed my income levels rising, I was no longer eligible for the Vermont Health Access Plan. But instead of getting kicked off for making a living as I feared, I was shifted into Catamount Health, with Premium Assistance, which I chose to have administered through Blue Cross Blue Shield — all while keeping my same primary care physician and still with costs that I can work into my budget.

I often hear other budding entrepreneurs say the main reason they don’t want to go out on their own is the fear of not having health insurance, and I tell them what someone told me when I was getting started: check out Green Mountain Care, which includes Catamount Health, Vermont Health Access Plan, Dr. Dynasaur, Medicaid and premium assistance for either Catamount Health or Employer-Sponsored Insurance.

And to those who want to say Green Mountain Care is simply a state program for freeloaders — there are a lot of hardworking 20- and 30-somethings trying to make an honest living here in Vermont. And since there is growing concern over the high number of younger professionals moving out of state for better work opportunities, what is wrong with the state of Vermont offering help to the very people who are needed to make Vermont a more viable economic community? Not to mention that as a group, entrepreneurs pay in more than they pay out.

And as for peace of mind — I am glad I have insurance for when I really need it.

Rachel Carter owns Rachel Carter PR, a public relations, social media and grassroots marketing firm located in Charlotte and at www.RachelCarterPR.com.

Williston’s Septembers to remember

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Sept. 30, 2010

The Williston Observer is celebrating its 25th year providing news to the community. Here are some stories from past months of September:

♦ The Williston Whistle reported in September 1987 that the paper would become a “Newspaper of Record.” The distinction meant the paper would “have a permanent place in the files of the Law & Document Unit of the Dept. of the Libraries in Montpelier,” according to the article.

♦ Williston welcomed its first town manager in September 1988. Paul D. McGinley of East Barre began at the position on Sept. 6 that year, after serving as the town manager of Barre from 1972 to 1986. McGinley’s tenure was short-lived, as he resigned a year later.

“For the manager to do his statute duties, the departments will be required to work together and through the manager to the Selectboard. The manager must have the backing of the Selectboard,” McGinley said in September 1989.

♦ Wal-Mart broke ground in Williston on Sept. 18, 1995, with Selectman Herb Goodrich pushing the first shovel into the earth. The 115,000-square-foot store had mixed support from residents, the Whistle reported in its Sept. 21 edition.

♦ The Williston Selectboard in September 1997 passed an “ordinance prohibiting all but shotgun fire in most of Williston north of Interstate 89,” the Whistle reported in its Sept. 18, 1997 edition. The decision allowed the use of other firearms — including rifles, pistols and revolvers — in a section of forest and farmland north of Gov. Chittenden Road and east of North Williston Road.

♦ Construction equipment broke ground for Maple Tree Place in September 2000, the Whistle reported in its Sept. 7 issue.

♦ In the Sept. 28, 2000 edition of the Whistle, the paper reported that Chittenden County Transit Authority buses would begin serving Williston on Oct. 2. The bus service was set to run from the University Mall in South Burlington to the Amtrak station in Essex Junction. Fares were $1 for adults and 50 cents for children.

♦ A Burlington man died on Sept. 24, 2001 after being shot by police officers, the Whistle reported in the Sept. 27 paper. One Williston police officer and two state troopers opened fire on 43-year-old Elisei Borlovan near the corner of Vermont 2A and Industrial Avenue. Borlovan allegedly pointed a rifle at the officers after what appeared to be a botched break-in at a local gun store.

♦ Williston police officers reached an agreement with the town in September 2002 for an 11 percent pay raise over three years. The Selectboard approved the contract, which ran from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2005, on Sept. 12.

♦ The Selectboard banned smoking in Williston restaurants in September 2004, the paper reported on Sept. 23. Chili’s Grill & Bar was the only restaurant in town affected by the ban.

♦ The Observer reported on Sept. 20, 2004 that The Haunted Forest, an annual Halloween-time event with spooky skits, had signed a 15-year lease with the Catamount Family Center.

♦ Williston welcomed 12 victims of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, a story reported in the Sept .15 issue of the paper. The people had family and friends in Williston. Some stayed in a local motel, while others moved in with friends and family.

♦ The Old Brick Café in Williston Village closed in September 2007, the Observer reported on Sept. 13. The restaurant had opened in March 2005. Monty’s Old Brick Tavern now occupies the space.

Meadowridge to connect to town sewer

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Sept. 30, 2010

A failing septic system in the Meadowridge subdivision prompted a request from the neighborhood association to permanently tap into the town’s sewer system.

Meadowridge representatives asked the Selectboard on Sept. 13 to join the town sewer system, and the board granted the request at a second meeting on Sept. 27.

Sixty homes in Meadowridge use two septic systems. One of those systems has experienced ongoing problems, despite costly attempts to fix the failures and repeated septic tank pumping. At the Sept. 13 meeting, several people — including an engineer hired by Meadowridge — made the point that individual homeowners can pay $3,500 to $30,000 to replace a septic system; the range covers what Meadowridge residents would have paid to build a new system.

Yet the Selectboard ultimately decided that the failing system posed a public health hazard, particularly if problems persist years down the road.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said designing, permitting and constructing the sewer tie-in could take at least a year. Meadowridge will pay for the process.

— Greg Duggan, Observer staff

Eating out for an important cause

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Sept. 30, 2010

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

Three Tomatoes Trattoria and Natural Provisions Market are participating in the annual Share the Harvest fund-raiser next week. (Observer photos by Stephanie Choate)

Next Thursday, Williston diners can go to two local eateries while raising money for low-income Vermont families.

Three Tomatoes Trattoria and Natural Provisions Market are participating in the 16th annual Share The Harvest fund-raising event, set for Oct. 7.

“It’s such an easy way to support those less fortunate than us and at the same time support local agriculture and small farms and a sense of community,” said Becca Weiss, program coordinator at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, or NOFA-VT, which runs the event.

Three Tomatoes Trattoria and Natural Provisions Market are participating in the annual Share the Harvest fund-raiser next week. (Observer photos by Stephanie Choate)

More than 80 restaurants, markets and cooperatives have partnered with NOFA-VT for the event, donating a part of their sales that day to NOFA-VT’s Farm Share program. Businesses normally give between 5 percent and 15 percent of their sales, or a flat donation. The money raised will help low-income families buy a share in local Community Supported Agriculture farms, giving them 22 weeks of fresh produce.

This is the third year Natural Provisions Market has participated. It has joined every year it has been in Williston, and its St. Johnsbury location has been involved for longer.

“It’s such a terrific cause,” General Manager Peter Lafferty said. “I think that it embodies so many things that we, on some scale, try to promote and believe in and really are working towards in our own store.”

Lafferty was not sure how much Natural Provisions would donate, since the owners normally determine the rate. Three Tomatoes owners could not be reached before press deadline.

The event is the main fund-raising source for the Farm Share program. NOFA-VT subsidizes half of the cost for the CSA share, and the farm pitches in a quarter or more of the cost.

“It’s a really tiny fee to be included in a CSA,” Weiss said.

The program helps everyone involved, Weiss said. It gives low-income Vermonters access to fresh farm produce, rather than forcing them to rely on government subsidies. It also helps CSAs, since NOFA-VT gives them the money for the shares in the winter, a slow time for the farms. Sales at participating outlets are often boosted on that day, as well.

“It’s really a win-win-win program,” Weiss said.

Both locations have already participated in the event.

Last year, they raised approximately $12,000 through participating businesses and individual donations, and helped more than 130 families, Weiss said. There was a waiting list, however, and they were not able to help approximately 20 applicants.

“I have continued to be really impressed, given the recession and the economy, that restaurant owners and food store owners are willing to support this,” Weiss said.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit www.nofavt.org.

FOOD PRODUCTION TALK SET FOR MONDAY

Dorothy Alling Memorial Library is hosting a talk about the state of the country’s food production next week.

Vermont Public Radio commentator, author and farmer Ron Krupp will lead the discussion, called “Lifting The Yoke: Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis.” Krupp will talk about current food production methods, what can be done about it, and potential solutions in Vermont and the Williston area.

Librarian Marti Fiske has also invited local farmers, farm agencies, food shelf officials and school food directors.

The event is set for Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the library.

— Stephanie Choate, Observer staff

Town to post public land

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Selectboard will revisit firearms ordinance

Sept. 30, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The Selectboard has decided to post no hunting signs on two pieces of town property, and left open the possibility of expanding Williston’s firearms ordinance in the near future.

The board has in recent weeks reviewed recommendations from the Conservation Commission of where to prohibit hunting in Williston. At its regular meeting on Monday evening, the Selectboard unanimously voted 5-0 to ban hunting at Mud Pond Country Park and Mud Pond Conservation Area. The town will also continue to post no hunting signs at Five Tree Hill Country Park, which it began doing last fall.

The Conservation Commission, in a memo from Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti, suggested the board “prohibit hunting on town-owned lands that are popular hiking and mountain biking locations including Mud Pond Country Park and Five Tree Hill Country Park.”

The memo also carried a recommendation to “prohibit hunting at the Mud Pond Conservation Area to preserve the spirit of conservation and assure that no hunting occurs within the deed restricted 8-acre ‘island.’” The conservation area includes 8 acres in a swampy area that, when donated, carried a directive to remain free from hunting.

The Selectboard agreed with those recommendations, though board member Chris Roy noted responsible hunting need not exclude conservationism.

The board refrained from expanding the Restricted Firearms District Area to Brownell Mountain, the Burnett Property and the Hill Property, as the Conservation Commission recommended. Expanding the discharge area south of Interstate 89 would have prohibited hunters from using rifles, pistols, revolvers or single projectiles from shotguns in the aforementioned areas.

Board members Jeff Fehrs and Judy Sassorossi brought up the possibility of posting Brownell Mountain, as many area residents have complained about illegal shooting in the area. Yet the board ultimately decided that residents were more concerned about unlawful weapons discharges than with hunting.

Board members worried about the expense and enforceability of posting no hunting signs around all pieces of town-owned land. And if the board opted to broaden the firearms discharge ordinance to all town-owned land without posting signs, members questioned if people spending time in the woods — hikers as well as hunters — would know when they had crossed between private and public property.

“It’s hard to know exactly where you are in the woods,” Sassorossi said.

The discussion caused the board to narrow the focus of where to prohibit hunting, and led to the decision to post the two Mud Pond areas.

“I think the priorities should be where we have town-owned infrastructure,” Roy said, referring to the areas with established trail systems.

Yet Williston may still see changes to its hunting and firearms policies. The board directed town staff to explore the possibility of expanding the town firearms ordinance.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said staff would draft proposed changes for the ordinance. Once the Selectboard reviews those changes, it may decide to schedule a public hearing on the issue.

No charges filed after DUI investigation of chief

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Nelson violated policy for Williston officers

Sept. 30, 2010

By Marianne Apfelbaum
Observer staff

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Thomas J. Donovan concluded his investigation of Williston Police Chief Roy Nelson late last week and no criminal charges will be filed, according to a press release.

At or around midnight on Sept. 13, Nelson received a phone call at his home regarding an allegedly intoxicated man with a rifle, according to Town Manager Rick McGuire. Nelson drove to the scene, where a Vermont State police officer subsequently detected the odor of alcohol on the chief’s breath. He was brought to the Vermont State Police barracks in Williston, where his blood alcohol concentration was determined to be .031, according to Donovan’s statement and confirmed by Nelson’s lawyer, Brooks McArthur, last week.

As part of the state’s attorney’s investigation, a state chemist performed a “relation back calculation” and determined that Nelson’s blood alcohol concentration at the time he was driving was .061. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08.

Late Wednesday morning, a confidential copy of the full report from Donovan was hand-delivered to McGuire. Donovan’s press statement referred to Nelson’s behavior as a “lapse in judgment.”

“The bottom line is that no law was broken,” McGuire said after reviewing the report.

But McGuire acknowledged that Nelson violated a rule from the police department’s policy handbook that states, “Members will not appear for duty or carry a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance to any degree or with an odor of intoxicants on their breath.” McGuire noted that this is a “very, very high standard.”

From an employer’s standpoint, the town has a variety of actions it can take with regard to the incident.

“The range of actions goes from doing nothing to terminating the chief,” McGuire said. Referring to any potential action as a “personnel matter,” McGuire said, “I can say that I am in the process of taking appropriate action. It does not involve firing the chief.”

Asked what officers should do if they’ve had a drink with dinner and are faced with a call in the middle of the night, McGuire said, “I recommend that they follow the policy.”

Nelson referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return phone calls prior to press deadline.

Mixed science results for Williston students

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Sept. 30, 2010

By Stephanie Choate and Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The latest NECAP test scores for science show Williston eighth graders performing far below their peers in neighboring school districts, and even scoring below the state average in proficiency levels.

Williston fourth grade students also took the science portion of the New England Common Assessment Program test, as did 11th graders at Champlain Valley Union High School. Scores for those two groups came in above the state average.

This was the third year students were administered the science version of the standardized tests, known as the NECAP exams.

Students in grades four, eight and 11 in Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine take the exams. Students took the tests in May, and results were released last week by the Vermont Department of Education.

NECAP scores are split into four levels: proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient and substantially below proficient.

Statewide, students performed better than they did last year, but officials still said there is plenty of room for improvement.

“While our scores continue to increase slightly each year, we obviously have a long way to go regarding how well our students acquire science skills and knowledge,” Commissioner Armando Vilaseca said in a press release.

Troubling trend at Williston Central

In Williston, 66 percent of fourth grade students scored proficient or higher, compared to the state average of 54 percent. Williston’s fourth grade scores also signify a slight bump from last year, when 64 percent of students scored proficient or higher.

Eighth grade scores for Williston, however, dropped 10 percentage points from 2009. This year, 26 percent of Williston students scored proficient or higher — a number less than the state average of 29 percent. The scores mark the second straight year Williston has seen a decline in eighth grade science proficiency: 46 percent of students scored proficient or higher in 2008; 36 percent did so last year.

“We are very pleased with the 4th grade scores and commend our K-4 teachers for their great work,” School Board Chairwoman Holly Rouelle wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “Our long term goal is to continue to improve on our current scores.”

As for the eighth grade scores, Rouelle wrote she is “VERY disappointed and surprised. While we know that there is typically a gap between our 4th and 8th grade scores, I never expected that we would do so poorly at the 8th grade level. We have some major work to do at the middle school level.”

Rouelle noted that board members have not yet met to discuss the scores. She and District Principal Walter Nardelli said a task force from Chittenden South Supervisory Union is studying science instruction in CSSU.

Nardelli was otherwise unable to comment on the scores prior to press deadline.

“I will get back to you later in the week. We are working on the analysis right now,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Observer.

The task force, a group of science teachers and administrators that formed in 2009, works to improve science instruction. It developed a three-year work plan, including goals for professional development and student performance. The task force will be meeting to discuss details of the exam and determine what can be done to improve scores.

Rouelle said part of the task force’s assignment is to look at Charlotte’s model for science instruction. Students at Charlotte Central School consistently perform better than their peers in neighboring districts; this year, 80 percent of Charlotte fourth graders and 59 percent of eighth graders scored proficient or higher on the NECAP science exams.

Asked if Williston would consider changing teachers or the science curriculum, Rouelle responded, “Without a doubt, we need to look at professional development in the area of science for our middle school teachers.”

She said the board had added $10,000 for science supplies to the school budget for this school year.

As in past years, Williston experienced a drop in scores for low-income and special education students.

The School Board is scheduled to hear a science NECAP presentation at its meeting in November, Rouelle said.

CVU exceeds state average

At CVU, scores were about the same as last year.

Forty-two percent of students scored proficient or higher, the same as last year, compared with 28 percent statewide. Twenty percent scored substantially below proficient, up from 18 percent last year.

In high schools comparable to CVU, 27 percent of students in South Burlington High School scored proficient or higher, 55 percent of Essex High School students scored percent proficient or higher and 36 percent of Mount Mansfield Union High School students scored percent proficient or higher.

CVU Principal Sean McMannon could not be reached before press deadline.

Students will begin taking NECAP reading, writing and math assessments next week. Grades three through eight and grade 11 take the reading and math exam, and grades five, eight and 11 take the writing portion.

Vt. Guard teaches disaster management

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Senegalese visit Williston through Partnership Program

Sept. 30, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Lt. Col. Bamba Diao (right) presents (from left) Town Manager Rick McGuire, Police Chief Roy Nelson and officer Travis Trybulski with a wooden carving of a woman, a symbol of unity. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

Senegal Army Lt. Col. Bamba Diao and Maj. Canar Diop looked into the Spartan holding cell at the Williston Police Station and declared it a comfortable looking space. Though the cell typically holds one or two prisoners at a time, the two men said a similar-sized space in Senegal will fit 10 to 15 men.

Diao and Diop were visiting Vermont to observe a catastrophic exercise training drill and learn about crisis management from the Vermont National Guard. They received a tour of the Williston police and fire stations on Monday.

After arriving last Wednesday, the Senegalese participated in a Vermont catastrophic exercise that ran from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon. The Vermont National Guard has a State Partnership Program with Senegal, and the training exercise allowed the foreigners to learn about crisis management.

A press release from Vermont Emergency Management called the event “the largest emergency preparedness exercise in Vermont history.”

The exercise spanned 25 locations in the state and included 750 emergency responders, government employees, private businesses and community volunteers. Participants dealt with a natural disaster scenario that brought mass casualties, power outages and flooding.

Flooding, in particular, can affect Senegal. Diao explained that the rainy season hits the west African country from July through October, and the country often experiences flooding, particularly in populated low-lying areas.

“I’m sure that this trip will help us to get more insight,” Diao said, adding that the time to prepare for a disaster is during a period of peace.

He said watching the training exercise imparted the importance of repeatedly practicing for natural disasters in order to prepare for a real event. The exercise also highlighted the necessity of cooperation and integration of various departments.

“It’s difficult to achieve, but very important,” Diao said.

Guard partners with foreign nations

National Guards partner with other countries as a way of building international relations and sharing ideas. The Vermont Guard pairs with Macedonia as well as Senegal.

Information from the National Guard website says the partnerships are meant to “improve bilateral relations with the U.S. These partnerships are designed to improve military relations, to assist with the development of democratic institutions, foster open market economies to help develop stability, and project and represent U.S. humanitarian values.”

Maj. John Geno, who heads the State Partnership Program for the Vermont National Guard, could not be reached for additional comment.

The program creates an active partnership between Vermont and the two foreign countries. Chief Warrant Officer Pete Chiaravalle of the Vermont Guard, who toured the Williston Police Station with the Senegalese on Monday, said three doctors from Macedonia had recently visited Fletcher Allen Health Care through the Partnership Program.

The program provided Diao and Diop the opportunity to tour the Williston police and fire stations before returning to Senegal on Tuesday.

“I think this community is very calm,” Diop said at one point on the tour of the police station.

Officer Travis Trybulski, leading the tour, concurred, estimating that 9 of 10 calls are relatively low-key matters.

Trybulski used the tour to explain the town’s police ethic and show off technology used by the department. Diao asked about the benefits of policing by bicycle, and was also thrilled by police cars and their video and GPS technology. Climbing into the front seat of a cruiser, he joked he wanted to have picture taken so he could tell his wife he had bought a new car.

Diao said he learned a lot about disaster management on the trip, and also said he believes the visit will strengthen relations between his country and the United States.

Residents may help restore Allen Brook

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Sept. 30, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer correspondent

In an effort to continue restoring Williston’s Allen Brook, classified by the state as an impaired stream, town officials are asking residents to help. Williston planners hope residents with land directly abutting the polluted brook will allow for further restorative efforts and possibly grant conservation easements on their land.

Planner Jessica Andreoletti says continued improvements to the Allen Brook benefit all Williston residents. She hopes the 158 landowners whose property directly abuts the brook and its tributaries, which are on a state list of impaired waterways, will be receptive to the ideas she’s presented.

“This is a community effort,” Andreoletti said. “We’re all going to have to work together to get this stream off that list.

Andreoletti made her first presentation to the public on Sept. 23. Approximately 20 residents turned up at a meeting at the Williston Fire Department to learn what the restorative project could mean for their properties. Andreoletti also sent letters to about 60 landowners with the largest tracts of properties along the brooks. She plans to contact more property owners in coming weeks.

One Williston resident, whose neighborhood borders the Allen Brook, said the town’s proposals are reasonable and will go a long way in removing stormwater and pollutants commonly found in the stream.

“I can’t see any negatives to it,” said Jude Hersey, who lives in the Heritage Meadows neighborhood and is a member of the Conservation Commission.

In the letter, Andreoletti asks the property owners two questions. The first is if they’d be willing to allow trees and shrubs to be planted on their property on a 50-foot or 150-foot buffer extending back from the Allen Brook or its tributaries.

The second piece asks if landowners would be interested in providing the town with a conservation easement on the newly planted buffer, and allowing town officials to monitor the easement from time to time.

“(Landowners) aren’t going to lose access to their property,” she said. “They’re not going to be able to do anything less than they can do right now.”

Williston’s development bylaw already limits landowners from developing within the Allen Brook buffer zones.

“It’s not like they’re losing their land, it’s just that there will be some restrictions,” she said.

Andreoletti said people can donate their land; however, there are funds available for property owners who might want to sell their land to the town as part of the easement. She hopes citizens would be more inclined to donate. With limited grant money that expires at the end of 2011, Andreoletti said she would like the bulk of the funds to go to restorative measures.

The restoration project will have several benefits for the town, Andreoletti said. Besides the benefits of a less polluted Allen Brook, town taxes would decrease if the stream is removed from the state’s impaired waterway list. Also, more improvements to the brook mean more stormwater offset credits the town might see for future development.

“There are a lot of pluses here,” she said.

Developers who build in Williston must have a detailed stormwater management plan and purchase offset credits to help the town deal with increased sediment in the waterways. The town’s development has brought sediment, stormwater and other pollutants into the Allen Brook in recent years. But there have been improvements.

Led by Andreoletti, the town has planted trees and shrubs in different parts of the brook’s floodplain, including behind the fire station and near the entrance to the Southridge neighborhood. Also at Southridge, the town cut back part of a steep bank to allow the brook better access to its floodplain. It’s that restorative work that Andreoletti wants to see completed all along the brook.

So does Hersey. She suggested inviting Andreoletti to speak before the Heritage Meadows Homeowners Association’s board of directors. She hopes the board and neighborhood residents will be receptive to a conservation easement on their common land.

“I’d be interested to walk along the brook down there and see the status of the banks and the wetland area,” Hersey said.

Since the Allen Brook is located wholly within Williston, the town has a “unique opportunity” to help restore the Winooski River watershed and, in turn, improve Lake Champlain, Andreoletti said.

Andreoletti intends to conduct more meetings with residents and neighborhood associations in the coming months. For more information, contact the Williston Planning and Zoning Office at 878-6704.