October 21, 2014

Around Town

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Oct. 21, 2010

Williston student part of Young Writers Project

A Williston student has a piece of work featured in a Young Writers Project anthology, representing the best writing and photography of students across the state.

Anna Rutenbeck is one of more than 100 students whose work was included. The anthology, the Young Writers Project’s second, was released last weekend.

The Young Writers Project, founded in 2006, publishes students’ best work online and in newspapers.

Williston has two ‘Rising Stars’

Vermont Business Magazine’s inaugural list of Rising Stars included two people with Williston-based businesses.

The list of Rising Star Award winners is made up of 40 winners under the age of 40.

Williston’s stars are Erika Keith, volunteer coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and Joe Sinagra, executive officer of the Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of Vermont.

“Award recipients were selected by a panel of judges for their commitment to business growth, professional excellence and involvement in their communities,” according to a press release.

The award winners will be honored at the Rising Stars Award dinner on Nov. 4, and will be featured in the November issue of Vermont Business Magazine.

FairPoint jobs permanent in Maine, N.H., Vt.

FairPoint Communications and its major union have agreed on making 90 temporary call center employees permanent, and the union is celebrating the change.

Officials with Local 1400 of the Communication Workers of America say the change comes after an 18-month battle with management, and will mean both better job security for the workers and better service for customers.

The change affects temporary workers at FairPoint facilities in Portland and Bangor, Maine, Manchester, N.H. and Burlington.

— The Associated Press

Election 2010: Six Democrats running for Senate

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Oct. 21, 2010

Six Democratic candidates are vying for Chittenden County’s six seats in the Vermont House, running against six Republicans and four independent party candidates. The Observer provided each candidate with a brief questionnaire; responses appear below.

Responses from Republicans and independents appeared in last week’s issue of the Observer. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Tim Ashe

(Editor’s note: Ashe identifies himself as a Democrat/Progressive)

City/Town of residence: Burlington

Profession: Project manager at Cathedral Square, an affordable senior housing organization. I’ve managed construction projects creating or renovating 290 affordable apartments with combined budgets totaling more than $20 million.

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 16

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Providing long-term, affordable health insurance and energy to residents and businesses.

Last year, Vermont hospitals sought budget increases of $112 million, MVP proposed a 31 percent Catamount premium increase and BC/BS proposed a 12 percent Catamount increase. The health care industry is out of touch with Vermont’s economic reality. I’ll pursue reforms that provide health insurance to every Vermonter and lower costs for small businesses by taking a firm stance against these increases.

The discovery of tritium in a drinking water well is the latest nail in the coffin for Vermont Yankee. I’ll work to develop a plan to replace VY’s share of Vermont’s base energy load with local, renewable energy and to increase investments in efficiency and weatherization programs to save private and public dollars.

Philip Baruth

City/Town of residence: Burlington

Profession: Teacher/Writer

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 18

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

“Restoring prosperity” — growing jobs, increasing wages, incubating small businesses. And the number two issue is that we’re badly positioned right now to compete in a fierce global economy.

But the solution is the same. By aggressively pursuing Vermont’s share of the boom in the renewable energy sector — and building out the state’s information infrastructure — we can spur short-term job growth and lift all boats in the long term. Let’s continue the Clean Energy Development Fund, streamline permitting and target tax cuts at firms developing solar, biomass and small wind technologies. I hope to work hand in glove with Sen. Ginny Lyons on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, helping this county prosper. That’s also how we’ll keep our next generation home in Vermont.

Sally Fox

City/Town of residence: South Burlington

Profession: Attorney

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 34

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

The most important problem facing Chittenden County is the condition of the economy. We have an unacceptable rate of unemployment and underemployment and people are struggling with the high costs of everything from energy to health insurance.

The Legislature and the administration must work together with the business, education and non-profit sectors to strengthen our infrastructure, provide access to capital, institute a predictable and progressive tax policy and make a more responsive government in order to create and retain jobs in Vermont.

I support

• Effective and consistent regulation — predictable and transparent permitting

• Equitable taxation system

• Higher education

• Universal health insurance

• Green jobs

• Maintenance of the social safety net to prevent homelessness, incarceration and fractured families.

Virginia ‘Ginny’ Lyons

City/Town of residence: Williston

Profession: College professor

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 39

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

Economic challenges. Revitalizing Vermont’s economic plan is important as is improving our taxation system. Investment in renewable energy, creative economy, small business, working landscape and 21st century jobs will build our future. We must ensure agriculture and working lands are in Chittenden County’s future. Improvement of municipal and state environmental regulations, including storm water utilities, is important.

Vermont continues to benefit from my leadership in energy, the environment and health care. Economic downturn and poverty hurt many in our county. Continued support for Reach Up, affordable housing and Workforce Development Programs is key for change. Core services for mentally ill, disabled and senior citizens will maintain our system of care. The consultant’s report will help reduce business health care costs and improve accessibility for more residents.

Hinda Miller

City/Town of residence: Burlington

Profession: Business consultant, Vermont state senator (hindaforsenate.com)

Number of years living in Chittenden County: over 30 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

My hopes for the upcoming session are thoughtful reform in health care and taxation. Expert commissions are studying these complicated issues to give legislators a road map for decision-making. Overall taxation must be radically addressed, especially escalating property taxes and reengineering education funding and school reorganization. Health care reforms to reduce premiums and costs within the system as well as continuous improvement and access are an absolute necessity. There is no silver bullet; in both cases, those who can supposedly afford it pay for those who cannot, which no longer works because of skyrocketing costs. Which brings me to the last issue. Government must create conditions so businesses can create jobs, which will result in more tax revenues to pay for above expenses.

Andy Montroll

City/Town of residence: Burlington

Profession: Attorney with my own practice, the Law Office of Andrew Montroll; formerly an optical engineer

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 20

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue?

The most important issue facing Chittenden County is the same that’s facing Vermont and the country — jobs and the economy. Because many people choose to live and start businesses in Vermont for its high quality of life, enhancing our quality of life is crucial. We should also promote the economy through tax incentives for businesses that create new jobs; ensuring everyone has access to affordable health care; promoting a green energy future; and ensuring we have excellent, affordable schools. As an attorney with an engineering background, and with nearly 20 years of public service, including my current service as vice chairman of the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization and as past president of the Burlington City Council, I’m ready to tackle these challenges in Montpelier.

ELECTION:Michaud up for the challenge of job creation

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Oct. 21, 2010

By Mariana Lamaison Sears
Observer correspondent

Jay Michaud

When Jay Michaud drives down Burlington’s Main Street toward Lake Champlain, he can see the legacy of his work. Fifteen years ago, the landscaping company he had founded as an entrepreneurship experiment won the bid to plant the trees that still grow along the city’s major access road.

“We planted over 500 trees. I’m very proud of that,” Michaud said.

A FedEx ground contractor, Michaud said he likes to leave a legacy in everything he does, and he is now looking to Montpelier to leave his next one. He would not plant trees there, but advance change as a state representative.

Michaud is running for his first legislative term in the upcoming November election. He said that when he delivers packages he gets to hear people’s concerns about the state of the economy and the fears of losing jobs.

“I am compelled to do something,” he said.

Self-described as a “political rookie” and a “workaholic,” Michaud said he is up to the challenge because he is passionate about everything he does. Case in point: American football.

In 2003, Michaud started the Champlain Valley Union High School football program and a year later the Chittenden South Supervisory Union youth football program for fifth through eighth graders.

“The first year we had 33 kids in the high school and 16 in the youth program,” he said. “There are over 400 kids now in these programs.”

Michaud said he recruited players, approached the school board, fund-raised and acted as head coach.

“The kids needed some guidance,” said Michaud, a father of two. “I am passionate about the sport at the youth, high school and professional level.”

Michaud would apply that same determination if elected to the Legislature. He would promote job creation and retention in Williston.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Michaud said, adding that the Legislature should pay for projects it requires the town to complete. “We can’t afford any unfunded mandate from Montpelier.”

Growing jobs, managing fiscal responsibility and promoting small businesses are the most important issues Michaud said Vermont faces. The state needs to work out a way to balance the $112 million deficit and, as with creating jobs, there’s no single solution for that, he said. Promoting small businesses and allowing them access to capital to buy equipment or hire an employee would be his approach, Michaud said.

Every county has an economic development office; Michaud said they should be out making sure no businesses leave the state and attracting prospective ones.

“We should be going 90 miles north. I believe there are opportunities there,” he said, referring to Canadian businesses. “Look at Plattsburgh. They are doing very well.”

Continuing to develop the green industry is also important to Michaud. It would attract engineers, technicians and other workers, he said.

“The industry is booming. If we can understand it and share it with the rest of the country, there’s another opportunity,” he said.

On the issue of energy, Michaud said he has lost faith in Entergy Corp., owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, but would be open to dialogue to address problems if it’s decided the plant is safe.

“I don’t see a future energy plan without them. They generate a third of our power. What’s going to replace it? The green technology is not there yet,” he said.

If Vermont Yankee is not safe to operate, however, it has to go, Michaud said. He wants to leave that decision to the experts: the Vermont Public Service Board and the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We should be guided by them,” Michaud said.

He would also like to hear what townspeople have to say because it’s an important issue.

“I would have a meeting in the school to hear what people would want me to do. Tell me what to do and I’ll represent you in Montpelier,” he said.

Born and raised in South Burlington, Michaud said he moved to Williston for the first time in 1973, later moved, and returned to stay in 1988. Before opening his first business, Witness Tree Landscaping and Property Management, he worked for Koffee Kup Bakery Inc. and for Reprographics of New England, where as a general manager he said he learned all aspects of the business. That’s how he got the idea of becoming an entrepreneur.

“I can do that,” he said.

Michaud’s days are busy with delivering packages and returning home to do administrative work and campaigning. He said he goes out for two hours every night with the goal of knocking on 100 doors. If he gets elected, he will hire a driver and an assistant to run his business and then he will be a workaholic in Montpelier, he jokes.

“Nobody will out work me. I don’t do things for fun but because I’m passionate,” he concluded.

ELECTION: Benevento wants to lower taxes

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Oct. 21, 2010

By Mariana Lamaison Sears
Observer correspondent

Mike Benevento

After being involved in the community for many years in diverse activities, Mike Benevento is ready to take his service and commitment to the next level: the Vermont House of Representatives.

“I’ve been helping out with the community all along. Montpelier will mean a greater impact,” Benevento said.

Benevento is running in the Nov. 2 election for his first legislative term. A Williston resident for 12 years and a former right wing columnist for the Observer, Benevento believes he has a personality suitable for the job.

“I’m a doer. I usually end up as the one in charge,” he said.

That is what Benevento said happened years ago when his boys, now 26 and 17, were young and he got involved with the Williston Little League. He ended up coordinating efforts to start the Babe Ruth league and continued to serve on the board of directors as umpires’ coordinator and Babe Ruth coordinator even though his children are no longer in the program.

“I spent three hours in a meeting last night,” Benevento said during last week’s interview with the Observer.

A former fighter jet navigation officer who served 16 years in the Air Force, Benevento also volunteers with the Vermont State Guard. The state guards help in civil emergencies if the Vermont National Guard is deployed to active duty. They train in catastrophe response, assist in military ceremonies and support families of deployed national guards, Benevento said.

“We do a lot of the little things that aren’t glamorous, but it helps the Guards because they don’t have to do it,” he said.

Glamorous and excessive government expenditures, on the other hand, are some of the cuts Benevento believes are needed to bring the state budget back to balance. If elected to the Legislature, he will look into the many government-funded programs to find out which ones are essential, he said.

“It’ll be nice to have a fancy sports car, but a Toyota Corolla or a Ford Explorer will take you there,” he said. “Nice-to-have programs may need to be eliminated.”

These are times of economic uncertainty and Vermonters can’t afford a fiscally irresponsible budget, Benevento said. The economy and the need to grow jobs are, in his opinion, the biggest issues facing Vermont and Williston.

“During these difficult times, many families live paycheck to paycheck. Many have experienced pay cuts, been laid off and have to work two jobs just to make ends meet,” Benevento said.

Benevento added that he his family experienced all that after he was laid off in 2004. Now he works full time as a supervisor for South Burlington-based EPS Inc., a service bureau for the subsidized housing industry.

To foster job growth, help the economy recover and balance the budget, Benevento believes in an old philosophy that he’ll try to apply in Montpelier: cutting taxes. Families and businesses will benefit from such a measure, he said.

“For families, fewer taxes mean they have more money to spend. Consumer spending can help drive the recovery and create more jobs,” he said.

“For businesses, less tax means they have more resources available to expand, to start taking risks, and to hire more employees.”

When asked about the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Benevento said risks should not be taken in terms of safety. The plant should only operate if it’s safe, but that has yet to be determined by the Vermont Public Service Board, he said. Entergy Corp. has not had the best record of being honest, but the board still has not released an official statement saying the plant is unsafe, he said.

Benevento said that thanks to the nuclear plant, Vermont holds the title of being the greenest state in the nation. Vermont Yankee is also essential in keeping the electricity rate low; without it, studies show electricity will cost between 19 percent and 39 percent more, he said.

Renewable sources, including solar and wind, are needed parts of the energy picture, too, Benevento said. The technology should continue to develop until it can generate energy to replace nuclear power, he said.

“But that is not the case now and it will not be the case in two years,” Benevento said.

Benevento sees himself as a typical Vermonter, someone born and raised here who has to think of the bill of heating fuel he just got delivered at the old farmhouse he rents.

“I’m not a professional politician, I’m like everyone else,” he said.

He plans to use his everyday experience in combination with the research skills he gained after two years of writing his newspaper column to tackle problems at the state level.

“Some people say we pay high taxes because Vermont is beautiful. I say we don’t have to, we can do things better,” he concluded.

Haunting for 30 years

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Oct. 21, 2010

By Jess Sanders
Observer correspondent

Volunteers wear costumes used in The Haunted Forest. The annual Halloween-themed outdoor theater, held at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (Courtesy photo)

The power of community is the reason The Haunted Forest is celebrating its 30th year in business this fall. The annual event has become an integral part of Vermont’s Halloween season.

“It’s a theatrical event that happens in the woods at Catamount (Outdoor) Family Center. We transform the trails in the woods into a Halloween themed outdoor theater. We line all the trails with lit jack-o-lanterns,” said Michelle Gates, the managing director of The Haunted Forest.

The Haunted Forest came into being 30 years ago in Huntington, at the Green Mountain Audubon Center.

For its 30th year, The Haunted Forest is incorporating what Gates calls “classics” with new skits.

“We’re doing some of the classic favorites with a twist. One of the favorites is a wax museum setting but (this year) it’s a different story,” Gates said. “Another classic favorite is about the jack-o-lantern and how he came to be.”

The event has become so popular that it needs 400 to 500 volunteers to help. The Haunted Forest puts on a series of volunteer events to prepare for the final performances.

“The Haunted Forest is piling up a thousand pumpkins for the community to come out and carve into jack-o-lanterns. The finished works of art will be on display at the 30th Annual Haunted Forest,” a recent press release said.

Despite the size The Haunted Forest has grown into, the event originated on a much smaller scale.

“Executive director David Bailey decided to start a small haunted forest and have it be a fund-raiser for Green Mountain Audubon. Back then it was folklore and some Halloween stories that brought the environment in with Halloween,” said David Melincoff, president of The Haunted Forest board of directors.

Melincoff said Bailey was expecting a couple hundred people in the first year, and after time it started bringing in thousands.

Then, nine years ago, the Green Mountain Audubon Center became a part of the National Audubon Society, leaving The Haunted Forest to be a miniscule part of its budget.

“They (the Audubon) felt it was taking time away in the fall for doing education and things of that nature,” Melincoff said.

Soon after the Audubon Society took over, Melincoff, who had been volunteering at The Haunted Forest for 13 years, received a call.

“The president of Green Mountain Audubon called me up and said if you want to get a group of volunteers together who have been doing it for a while, and create a nonprofit so you can keep it alive because the Audubon is not doing it anymore,” Melincoff said.

It was then that he and four other volunteers brought The Haunted Forest to the Catamount Outdoor Family Center. Melincoff was glad to keep the spirit of The Haunted Forest alive for many reasons.

“One was obviously the tradition of the forest and I love Halloween and the whole going and watching the show,” Melincoff said. “But the other part that was important, the volunteers part, I was always taken aback by the outreach of the community, getting together to volunteer to make that event happen.”

The success of The Haunted Forest can be attributed to the many volunteers who have come back year after year to create the annual spectacle.

“We have a group of volunteers called the scare force. Nothing really scary, we’re definitely family friendly,” Gates said.

A sense of community has evolved, which is one thing Melincoff has come to love about the event.

“There are people that I only know from The Haunted Forest. They were single and now are married, and have kids and are volunteering with their kids,” Melincoff said.

Melincoff said the event raises about $6,000 to $8,000 each year for Catamount and an equal amount for The Haunted Forest, which is also a non-profit organization.

The Haunted Forest runs from Oct. 21-30 at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston. Show times are listed online at www.thehauntedforest.org. Tickets are $8.50 for matinees and $12.50 for evening shows.

CSSU looks at school district consolidation

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Oct. 21, 2010

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

Chittenden South Supervisory Union representatives are looking into the voluntary school district consolidation provisions put forward by the Vermont Legislature.

CSSU Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said the investigations are preliminary, and supervisory union officials are working on finding out everything they can about a possible merger.

“How would it impact us? What would be the benefit for kids?” she said. “What are the challenges? Why might we want to do this and why might we not want to do this? That’s what we’re doing right now.”

Act 153, passed by the Vermont Legislature in the spring, lays out incentives for school districts that consolidate voluntarily. It is meant to increase educational opportunities and school efficiency, as well as reduce schools’ budgets.

Pinckney said a merger could help CSSU be more efficient. She said many things are already centralized, but “there are many things we do six times over in CSSU … it’s not always as smooth as it could be.”

The law

Act 153 has two mandatory aspects.

By Dec. 1, supervisory union boards must consider whether they want to explore a merger within the supervisory union or with other districts, or both. Pinckney said the CSSU Board has already discussed the issue, and decided it is something it wants to seriously look into.

By Oct. 1, 2012, each supervisory union board has to vote on whether it wants to perform a more comprehensive analysis.

If school districts opt to merge, they would form a Regional Education District, or RED. Each RED must oversee kindergarten through 12th grade education and include at least 1,250 students.

The RED would be governed by one board, though the law doesn’t dictate who would be on that board. RED officials could opt to close smaller schools, though not within the first four years.

Schools that form an operating RED by 2017 would receive tax incentives.

RED schools would see a reduced homestead tax rate for four years. The first year, the rate would be reduced by 8 cents, 6 cents the second year, 4 cents the third year and 2 cents the fourth year. Tax rate increases or decreases would also be capped at 5 percent a year.

Supervisory unions would also receive up to $20,000 in reimbursements for merger planning.

Any mergers must be approved by voters in each district.

Applying Act 153 to CSSU

Pinckney said if all the current schools in CSSU formed a RED, it would look pretty similar to the way things are now, except there would be just one school board.

Pinckney said the RED board would be similar to the current Champlain Valley Union High School Board.

“The CVU Board is made up of representatives from each of our towns,” she said. “The conversations aren’t about, ‘what does this do for Williston kids or Shelburne kids,’ it’s ‘what does it do for all our kids.’”

There are still many questions about how different scenarios would play out, though, such as what would happen if a school declined to join the RED.

Pinckney said she is working on setting up a discussion with Mark Oettinger, general legal counsel at the Vermont Department of Education.

“I want to sit down with him and outline some scenarios for his reading of the legislation and whether one thing or another would be allowed,” Pinckney said.

Next month, Pinckney said she plans to ask each school board whether it wants to take part in a study. Joining the study does not obligate a school to join a RED.

CVU Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen said she is in favor of consolidation “in concept.”

“I think particularly from a high school point of view it would be really beneficial to have more coordination among the (kindergarten through eighth grade schools) and have kids come to CVU with a more uniform set of skills,” Jensen said.

Jensen added, however, that there are still questions that need to be answered before she could make up her mind. She said she would like to see specific financial data, as well as methods for maintaining local communication in each town.

“I’m withholding judgment a little bit until we do a study,” she said.

Volunteers

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The listings below are a small sample of needs from more than 200 agencies, available by going online to www.unitedwaycc.org and clicking on “Volunteer.” If you do not have computer access, or would like more information about the volunteer opportunities, call 860-1677 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

WINOOSKI CHILDREN ARE WAITING

The Foster Grandparent Program needs caring adult volunteers (55 and older) to show kids in Winooski that we care. If you can volunteer 15 hours a week, encouraging and praising kids to do their best, this is your chance to make a difference. The program will match volunteers with a classroom teacher or child care teacher who will provide direction and supervision. The program will pay volunteers for their time and it won’t take away any other benefits they might already be receiving. Volunteers will also receive paid vacation and sick time, ongoing training, assistance with transportation and much more. Volunteers will smile every day, knowing that because of them many children are happier and have a better chance to succeed. The application process includes references and background checks.

HOLIDAY ORGANIZERS NEEDED

Two local groups are looking for volunteers to help organize their holiday season donation programs.

Vermont Children’s Aid – Outreach to business and community groups to request donations of holiday gifts for moms and dads in the criminal justice system to give to their children. Tasks include organizing family requests and donations and assisting with holiday events at the North West State Women’s Correctional Facility and in the community. Flexible scheduling, through December.

Women Helping Battered Women – A highly-organized volunteer is needed to help coordinate the collecting, organizing and distributing of holiday gifts for mothers and their children. Flexible weekday scheduling.

HAIR STYLIST

The Committee on Temporary Shelter in Burlington is looking for a talented volunteer hair stylist and/or barber to donate time and skills at family and individual COTS shelters. A new haircut can prepare clients for job interviews and inspire confidence and self-esteem. Flexible weekday and evening scheduling, about two hours per week. Background check required.

TUTOR! TUTOR!

ReSOURCE is in need of a volunteer to tutor a motivated young man in the YouthBuild classroom. Volunteers will explain assignments, answer questions and assist the young man’s progression through assignments until they are complete. Classroom schedule is Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with a lunch break), every other week. Volunteer must be able to commit to four-hour blocks at least one to two times per week. Teacher support provided. Background check required.

LET’S DO LUNCH!

Lund Family Center is seeking volunteers to help prepare lunch for the organization’s childcare center. Volunteers will work with children and teachers to prepare a creative, healthy meal together. Background check required. Monday through Friday schedule between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

ON THE BOARD

Burlington Dismas House has openings on its Board of Directors for volunteers with skills in finance, fund-raising, outreach/marketing, police/legal and human resources. The board meets on the second Monday of the month, 7 p.m., in Burlington or Winooski. Resume and interview required.

CLEAN AND NEAT

Northern Lights is looking for volunteer housekeepers to help keep the organization’s women’s residence organized and clean.

Northern Lights is also looking for “office angels” with computer skills to help create a data tracking system and/or enter data into an organized database. Flexible Tuesday through Sunday scheduling for both positions.

EDUCATION PROJECT

The Center on Aging at the University of Vermont is looking for a volunteer to head an education project for First Responders on how to communicate with persons with dementia. Volunteers will be trained to use a program designed by the Alzheimer’s Association and will assist in presenting and coordinating presentations throughout Vermont. Flexible scheduling, about 10 hours per month.

Road Watch

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Burlington

Road construction will reduce traffic to one lane at times or allow local traffic only on the following Burlington streets:

• Prospect Hill

• Colchester Avenue

• Pomeroy Street

• Colonial Street

• Loomis Street

• Weston Street

• St. Louis Street

• Van Patten Street

• Temple Street

• Spruce Street

• Venus Street

• North Avenue

• Sunset Street

• Loaldo Street

Work on the South Winooski Avenue repaving project this week will involve sidewalk work on South Winooski Avenue within the five-way intersection at the south end of the project.

Colchester

Work on Holy Cross Road will continue until the end of October. Traffic control will be present when required.

There may be paving on Water Tower Circle and Upper Mountain View Drive on Oct. 21 and 22 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Traffic control will be present.

Essex

Construction to install traffic signals at the Ethan Allen Avenue intersection with Route 15 in Fort Ethan Allen will impact traffic in that area. Ethan Allen Avenue will be closed to traffic exiting the Fort. All traffic will be detoured to exit via Barnes Avenue at the other end of the Fort. Motorists should be aware of construction work on Ethan Allen Avenue during the week. Work will be done between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and this project will continue through mid-November.

Essex Junction

South Summit Street is CLOSED from Pearl Street to Cherry Street from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for road construction. Traffic will be detoured, and traffic control will be present. To accommodate school traffic, South Summit Street will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. This project is expected to be completed by Oct. 22.

On Oct. 22, from 8 a.m. until completion, there will be major traffic delays on Pearl Street (Route 15) from the shopping center west to McDonald’s due to paving and line striping. Traffic control will be present. Two-way travel should be maintained, but traffic may have to be reduced to one lane occasionally. Motorists are urged to use alternate routes if possible or allow for extra travel time. The paving rain date is Oct. 25.

Interstate 89

There will be lane and shoulder closures at various places between exits 10 and 16 northbound and southbound through Oct. 30.

Drivers should be aware of construction activity near the exit 14W northbound and southbound ramps.

Southbound traffic approaching exit 15 should stay in the left lane due to work painting the bridge over the Winooski River and to shorten the Exit 15 on-ramp. The speed limit is reduced to 50 mph in this area. This project will continue through the end of October.

Work to improve the exit 15 northbound ramp on Interstate 89 in Winooski may cause minimal traffic delays.

Richmond

Utility companies working in the area of the Checker House Bridge on U.S. 2 and on the north side of U.S. 2 from French Hill to the Winooski River Bridge may reduce traffic to one lane at times for the next several months.

South Burlington

No parking is allowed on Airport Drive in front of the airport until Nov. 19 to accommodate the delivery of large construction materials.

Westford

Weather permitting, there will be work on driveways throughout the project limits on Route 128 north of the Westford Village to Fairfax during the week.

Winooski

The installation of traffic signal poles on Route 15 near exit 15 will cause various lane closures throughout the week.

County-wide

Motorists should be alert for bridge washing and mowing along all county roads. Minor traffic delays should be expected.

For additional information, contact Administrative Advantage at 802-872-9757. More information on current activities at the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization is available online at www.ccmpo.org.

This Week’s Popcorn – ‘Secretariat’

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‘Secretariat’ appeals to optimists over naysayers by a nose

2 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

Sweet of soul and ennobling of the human spirit, director Randall Wallace’s uplifting “Secretariat” is “Seabiscuit” (2003) with money. While the owners of both famed equines were rather well-heeled, the Depression era background of the latter tale went a long way to pulling our heartstrings. Here, the accompanying human saga is strictly upper crust.

Indeed, Penny Chenery, the Colorado housewife who takes a hiatus from her tax expert spouse and Brady Bunch-like moppets to save the old Virginia horse farm after Mom dies, has her monetary moments. But never is there a time when a sale of the beauteous estate that spawns the title horse couldn’t keep even these Brahmins in clover for eons.

All the same, credit must be given whenever a true story engenders as engaging an anxiety in its viewers. And the altruistic messages espoused, perfect for discussion between Dad and offspring in an après film, hot dogs and fries bonding, far outweigh any satisfaction the critic may gain by pointing out the movie’s lack of avant-garde artistry.

Look around. Red state or blue state, this is definitely a time for Disney … specifically, this kind of old Disney. Even if we can’t summon complete sympathy for the woes of the primarily privileged class depicted herein, there is a social wisdom to be gained from the values promoted. A stellar cast further ameliorates the dearth of cutting edge sensibilities.

Pretty as the hibernating firebrand champing at the bit to self-actualize and have a run at the roses, Diane Lane’s Penny Chenery strikes a blow for all the ladies who missed the news about Women’s Lib. Starring as Lucien Laurin, her famously eccentric trainer, John Malkovich delivers comedy relief via a loose rein doubtlessly adopted to spur hamming.

Less invigorating but important for the stereotypes they represent, Margo Martindale is effusively sweet as Miss Ham, the loyal family retainer; Dylan Walsh is the buttoned-down husband who believes women should stay home and chair the local charities; and Dylan Baker is the economics prof brother afraid the family fortune will be squandered.

Perhaps played down because it’d kill the underdog angle is the opulent and genteel beauty of the 2,798 acre Meadow Farm where Penny’s dad, portrayed in declining health by Scott Glenn, raised several big winners. Too bad. Speaking personally, I vicariously benefit from such surroundings with the joy of an inner city kid who’s been sent to camp.

However, now that all conciliations have been politely noted, be aware this is dark horse tale #101, its time-honored stencil whisked from the shelf and dusted off for one more romp around the track. Only the names of the pony and its owner are routinely changed to protect the innocent cliché. Mike Rich’s screenplay does little to dispel that notion.

Similarly, the director shuns any risky embellishments. Like good honest meatloaf compared to drizzled this or reduction of that, it is what is. And though it isn’t the best variation on a hackneyed theme, that’s the card he plays. But with no pretense also come no surprises. You plunk your money down and get what you paid for … for the most part.

While the action scenes dutifully impart the requisite tension and excitement as Big Red challenges the field across America’s storied racetracks, they are decidedly economical. Good editing helps belie a less than adventurous blend of filmed and CGI frames. Only the costumes, a smart evocation of early ’70s garb, add a unique flair to the doings.

But Mr. Malkovich’s fancy duds, a rotating, screaming amalgam of Boca Raton mogul and vaudeville clown, are so their own era that they practically serve as the subplot the movie lacks. Kids attending with grandparents are likely to be informed that once upon a time there was an actress, Loretta Young, who changed outfits with equal enthusiasm.

If there is any notable zeal here it comes from the nag that plays the four-legged lead. Thanks to patience and skill, the cinematographer whimsically supports the popular joke around the stable that Secretariat was a shameless showoff who loved mugging for the press. My wife, Joanne, bemoaned that there is no Oscar for best animal in a leading role.

To outline the plot would be superfluous. Yet in case you just got back from K-PAX, this is the “little” horse that could … again. Harnessed to a whole bunch of nice people and high ideals, its modicum of semi-villains will nary spook the little ones. Still, your best bet is to scratch “Secretariat” until you can claim him cheap at the video rental store.

“Secretariat,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures release directed by Randall Wallace and stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Margo Martindale. Running time: 116 minutes.

PHOTOS: Full House studies ecology

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Oct. 14, 2010

Courtesy photos

Seventh and eighth grade students in Williston Central School’s Full House have spent the past few weeks studying ecology. The work has taken students from Lake Champlain and the University of Vermont’s research vessel, the Melosira, to the Allen Brook in Williston.