November 22, 2014

Right to the Point

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Obama rating

Nov. 24, 2010

By Kayla Purvis

I’m sitting in the kitchen of an old New Hampshire farmhouse. On the counter next to me is an almost-empty jug of apple cider, a porcelain coffee cup, quilted place mats and multiple newspapers from the surrounding area. Underneath these things I find a pile of newsletters showing livestock for sale, a regional milk price stabilization meeting flyer, an advertisement for New England Holstein breeders and a chart of the soon-to-be-declining milk prices.

Saturday night, I spent the evening admiring calves and helping to clean the box stall of a very old (and very big) cow called “22.” I watched as two farmers milked their dairy cows. They are beginning the process of switching from dairy farming to beef farming because it turns a better profit in today’s economy. Their farm currently does not turn a profit, but instead breaks even.

It is these sort of situations that are keeping President Barack Obama’s approval and job ratings down. RealClearPolitics.com’s current polls give him 46 percent job approval and a 48 percent disapproval. His failed stimulus, expensive health care reform and lack of promised change is what has some Americans regretting their 2008 vote.

In a recent appearance on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart called Obama out on the reasons for this feeling. He pointed out the messianic appearance that Obama had, the idea that he was going to be the savior of our country’s tanking economy. To my surprise, Stewart told Obama that it was his own fault that he hasn’t lived up to his campaign slogan: change. Or, to be more accurate, positive change. Perhaps the president’s reply is what will hurt him most: “We have done things that some folks don’t even know about.”

Right now, the voting trend has a pattern. Americans get irritated when the party in power doesn’t make speedy changes that automatically fix all the country’s problems. So when elections come around, they vote for the opposite party. Except, they are not really voting for that party so much as voting against the current party. If Obama wants to buck this trend, he has two options.

The first is to remain as far to the left as he is, try to refocus the main issue surrounding the elections and fight hard for reelection in 2012 — like FDR in the 1930s. The other is to move more to the center and ride the winds of the boosted economy, like Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s — except that Obama doesn’t have those winds.

Robert Reich, a writer for RealClearPolitics.com, said that the economy is growing at 2 percent a year. This rate is not enough to shrink the percentage of jobless Americans and give our economy the big shove it needs for Obama to have a good shot at pulling off either of these options. Both former presidents grabbed hold of strong economic-recovery winds by the end of their first terms, and Obama won’t have that.

Based on the way he puts off the complaints of Americans and the states themselves regarding his health care plan, I would say the president is in a bit of denial. He doesn’t want to agree that his plan isn’t right and needs revisions. This will hurt him; Americans feel ignored. And the states are losing money fast. So his best bet is to try to make the main issue of the 2012 election something other than the economy. Because if the situations of Americans like these New Hampshire farmers don’t get better, he will likely not have a chance of winning a second term on the basis of the U.S. economy.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Liberally Speaking

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Campaign spending 2010

Nov. 24, 2010

By Steve Mount

In January, the Supreme Court, in its Citizens United ruling, forbade the government from restricting corporate spending on candidate elections. Some pundits mocked the ruling, as it continued the Court’s practice of treating corporations as individuals, this time in terms of free political speech rights. Others worried that elections would now be flooded with money as corporate donors attempted to “buy votes.”

Now that the election is over, a valid and important question is, did anyone try to buy votes? Or was this just a red herring? Before we can answer that question, we need to know how much money was spent in the 2010 election season. The number, actually, is astounding.

The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that almost $4 billion (with a “B”) was spent on the various races in the 2010 election — the most ever.

In races for the House, $972 million was raised and $845 million was spent. Republicans out-raised Democrats $502 million to $465 million. The race that raised the most money was in Minnesota, where Republican incumbent and eventual winner Michele Bachmann raised over $11 million, more than doubling the $4.2 million raised by her Democratic challenger Tarryl Clark.

In races for the Senate, $668 million was raised and $609 million was spent. Republicans also out-raised Democrats, $356 million to $294 million. The top race was in Connecticut, where Democrat Richard Blumenthal raised $7.6 million to hold on to Democratic stalwart Chris Dodd’s former seat. He was able to overcome Republican challenger Linda McMahon, who raised a whopping $47 million, almost all of it coming from her own personal accounts.

Does it really take over $15 million to run a race for a House seat and $55 million to run a race for a Senate seat? Fortunately not — at least not yet.

In Vermont, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy raised $4.6 million, and spent just over $3 million, to defeat Republican Len Britton. Britton’s numbers pale in comparison to Leahy’s, with just under $200,000 raised and $144,000 spent.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch raised $974,000 and spent $573,000 to retain his seat; Republican challenger Paul Beaudry raised just over $30,000 and spent $23,000 of that.

But what about all that unrestricted corporate spending? The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that this outside spending amounted to $282 million in the 2010 election — $90 million in support of liberal candidates and $184 million in support of conservative candidates.

It is hard to say, however, how much of an effect on elections this money had in 2010. It seems clear that impatience with the pace of economic improvement played a big part in Republican gains in 2010. Even if spending on conservative candidates had not almost doubled that of liberal candidates, it’s unlikely that the outcome would have been much different.

So why all the hullabaloo about Citizens United and all the unrestricted and unreported corporate spending if it is likely that the result in 2010 would have been the same anyway? The problem is that the next election may not be so stilted to one side, and any small weight could tip the scales. Plus, with the presidency on the line, the temptation to spend even more money in 2012 will be hard to resist.

The regulation of political spending is a minefield of conflicting principles and interests. Most would agree that it is getting out of hand, if it has not already. The big question is, though, what can be done about it? I don’t think the issue is a threat to our democracy just yet, but it can become one.

It should be a priority to work out the issues surrounding campaign financing. It must be possible to come to agreement on what can be accomplished relative to the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court (or to propose amendments to the Constitution if these limits are too restrictive). We must have and enforce reasonable reporting requirements. And we must expect the government and the press to make sure that the public knows all it has a right to, in a timely manner, so we can decide for ourselves if someone is trying to buy our vote.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at [email protected] or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.

Letters to the Editor

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Nov. 24, 2010

Why we should support local farmers’ markets

If you’ve never been to a farmers’ market, imagine tables brimming with fresh vegetables and fruit and local products like maple syrup, cheese, hummus and fresh-baked bread.

The food at farmers’ markets travels a shorter distance to get to your kitchen than the food on your grocery store’s shelves, which significantly reduces its carbon footprint. By supporting local agriculture, you’re pumping money into your local economy. And by eating locally available foods, you’re also eating seasonally, which is not only sustainable, but healthy, too.

You can find a variety of fresh organic produce at more affordable prices than in a supermarket. There are also many farmers that carry products that are not technically “organic,” but have many low-priced foods that are pesticide and herbicide free. The advantage at a farmers’ market is that you can actually talk to the farmer, learn about their methods and then decide for yourself. Your belly will remember the farmer’s smile as they handed you that juicy tomato. Supermarkets offer food that is picked before it has ripened, decreasing the vitality.

Food from your local farmers’ market is generally safer. Remember the outbreaks of E. coli in bagged spinach? These things happen mostly in large industrial farms, where businessmen work to mass produce food, preserve it and bag it in mass amounts. The food from your local farmers’ market is, quite frankly, fresher. Because it was grown locally, there is a good chance that the tomato you buy from the farmer was picked a few days ago. This is virtually impossible in a big supermarket.

There’s just no way around it, eating fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies are great for you. But most of all, farmers’ markets are just plain fun for the whole family. Meeting your local community is an excellent way to feel connected to the world around you, increasing health for body, mind and spirit.

Lisa Boutin, Boutin Family Farm, Williston

Successful bottle drive

Williston Junior Girl Scout Troop 30303 would like to thank all the families and neighbors that donated towards our bottle drive — it was a success in many ways. We had the kindness of our community, lots of help from scout parents, fourth grade scouts in the drizzly cold learning how a bottle drive works and great support from a local business.

The girls are excited about the plans they are making for community service projects and other activities.

Donna Nixon and Wendy Bliss, Troop leaders, Williston

State Senate race was a privilege

It was a privilege to run the race to serve as state senator from Chittenden County. Although I didn’t win, the last five months have been rewarding — full of challenges, new experiences and hard work. I learned a lot about new social media, about the issues and about your concerns for the future. The high points included the Williston parade on July 4th and a terrific candidate forum hosted by the Williston middle school.

To the hundreds of people who helped and contributed to my campaign, and the thousands who voted for me, thanks for your incredible support.

Last, but not least, congratulations to the six Chittenden County Senate winners. It was a good race. I wish you the best with the big challenges that lie ahead. We all worked hard and honorably I congratulate you on your opportunity to serve.

Charlie Smith, Candidate for Chittenden County Senate, Burlington

Guest Column

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Talk to your teen once a month? How?

Nov. 24, 2010

By Christine Lloyd-Newberry

CY – Connecting Youth is reaching out to parents as the leading influencer over teen decision-making around alcohol use. Last fall, CY worked to help parents understand that they do make a difference in their teens’ decision-making. Pre- and post-survey research conducted by CY included more than 500 parents in our community and found that attitudes, perceptions and knowledge of the above rose strongly over the year. This is great news!

There is, however, still work to be done. While 97 percent of parents in Chittenden South Supervisory Union — which includes Charlotte — believe they can influence teen choices about alcohol, only 56 percent actually talk to their teens about alcohol over the course of a month.

Let’s close this gap! Our research found that the number one reason parents do not talk to their teens regularly about alcohol use is because they don’t know how. Let us help.

A group of CY teens and parents recently created these tips:

• Try to avoid lecturing. Really listen to your teen’s casual comments and build upon those. Conversations need to happen naturally when your teen is open and that means you need to be ready to put other things aside and talk when it’s convenient for them.

• Find teachable moments to talk about underage drinking — scenes from television or movies, YouTube clips, current events, etc.

• Share information by leading with a question — ask them what they think about an issue or a news item.

• Read and have background materials and information available for when conversations come up — make conversations a part of normal, day-to-day activities.

• If teens use “third party examples” focus on the conversation, not finding out who the third party is or making sure your teen doesn’t hang out with them. Remember, they could be talking about themselves and are testing the waters about what they may be willing to share with you. But don’t assume they are talking about themselves!

• Set a date each month to talk to your teen about alcohol and other drugs. Share things you have learned, dialogue about issues and avoid lecturing. Family meetings or dinners are perfect for this.

Be a source of credible information so you can have meaningful conversations with your teen and know the consequences associated with underage drinking. It’s more than just an issue of drinking and driving. Alcohol use can have a major impact on teen brain development and is associated with many other risky behaviors.

You also need to know the laws around underage drinking. It is illegal to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, even your own child in your own home. Penalties can include fines, imprisonment or both. There are also “social host” laws in Vermont that hold adults liable for incidents that occur as a result of furnishing alcohol to minors. In other words, there is no such thing as responsible drinking if you are under 21.

Research shows that parents are the number one influence on teen decision-making around alcohol. Take steps to influence those decisions. Our advice? Talk with your teen on a regular, ongoing basis and create a dialogue about alcohol use. As a parent you can lead by example, developing clear no-use policies and understanding the potential risks and consequences of underage drinking. By incorporating actions and knowledge into teachable moments, you can be the best defense against underage drinking.

Still unsure? To read about the most recent research and trends in prevention, visit CY online at www.seewhy.info or www.facebook.com/ConnectingYouth. The CY underage drinking prevention work is happening in concert with the statewide Parent Up Campaign; www.parentupvt.org is also a source of great information.

Christine Lloyd-Newberry is the Program Director of CY – Connecting Youth, a community-based organization dedicated to creating a safe and healthy environment for young people in the communities of Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston.

Around Town

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Nov. 24, 2010

Allen Brook trailers leaving Williston

The Allen Brook School modular classrooms are heading south to Addison County.

As of press deadline on Tuesday, the six trailers were due to be removed, three at a time, beginning Monday morning, Allen Brook Principal John Terko said.

The Addison County Community Trust purchased the former classrooms over the summer and plans to convert them into affordable housing. The trust bought the trailers from the Williston School District for $1 and will pay for much of the removal process. Initially, the trust planned on moving the classrooms by mid-October, but plans had to be pushed back, Terko said.

In 2002, the district bought the temporary rooms to accomodate Williston’s expanding enrollment. Issues between the school and the town over extended temporary building permits caused the district to find alternatives. The classrooms became unnecessary after the district underwent reconfiguration last summer.

Police dept. consolidation scrapped

The Richmond Selectboard has decided not to pursue a police department consolidation with Williston.

The Observer reported earlier this fall that Richmond wanted to explore the consolidation option due to the pending retirement of longtime Richmond Police Chief William “Joe” Miller. If Richmond had become more serious about consolidation, Williston may have held a public forum on the possibility.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire said Richmond has expressed interest in paying to have Williston police provide some service to the town.

Observer anniversary – November News

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November a time for elections, new staff

Nov. 24, 2010

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

• The Whistle provided an update on the Circumferential Highway in its November 1986 edition, with information based on discussions from an Oct. 14 Board of Selectmen meeting. The highlights included the following: the federal government would pay for approximately 90 percent of the project; 3 miles of the 16-mile Circ would be in Williston; the “limited access” highway would have minimal exits and entrances.

Nearly 25 years later, Williston’s portion of the Circ has yet to be built, though the Vermont Agency of Transportation hopes to begin construction by 2013.

• In November 1987, the Whistle reported on the Vermont Nature Conservancy’s purchase of 295 acres, including the 30-acre Mud Pond. The Whistle reprinted an article about the purchase that originally appeared in The Oak Log, the Nature Conservancy’s newsletter. The article called Mud Pond “an area of importance to local wildlife, as well as an ecological research area used by the University of Vermont.”

Vice President George H.W. Bush visits Williston in 1988 while campaigning to become president of the United States. (File photo)

• Vice President George H. W. Bush visited Williston shortly before Election Day in 1988, the Whistle reported in its November issue of that year. Three thousand ticket holders lined a parade route along U.S. 2, with another 500 gathered in the firehouse, the Whistle reported. Bush’s visit, made during his campaign to become president of the United States, lasted approximately one hour.

• The front page of the November 1991 Whistle contained a mysterious headline: “Who Shot Ward Johnson’s Cow?” The article beneath the headline detailed how a 3-year-old “prize milker … was discovered lying in the field. She had been shot by four arrows, two on the right side and two on the left.” The cow bled to death from its wounds. Johnson was the Town Moderator at the time, with a long family history in Williston. Police had not made any arrests when the paper went to print.

John Tymecki (from left), Ken Morton and Gary Keefe pose in front of a Williston fire truck in 1993. Morton was appointed to become chief of the fire department in 1994, with Tymecki and Keefe becoming assistant chiefs. (File photo)

• On Nov. 24, 1993, the Whistle reported that the town had appointed three people to leadership positions in the Williston Volunteer Fire Department. Ken Morton would become chief on Jan. 1, 1994, replacing Howard Lunderville. John Tymecki and Gary Keefe were appointed as assistant chiefs. All three men had a long history with the fire department; Morton, Tymecki and Keefe had been with the department for 11, 14 and 22 years, respectively. Morton still serves as chief of the Williston Fire Department.

• The Williston Planning Commission gave conceptual approval to the shopping center Maple Tree Place on Nov. 2, 1994, the Whistle reported in its Nov. 10 issue that year.

Williston Central School students break ground on a new school, which would become Allen Brook School, on Nov. 17, 1995. (File photo)

• The Nov. 22, 1995 issue of the Whistle featured a picture of Williston Central School students breaking ground on Nov. 17 for a future school on Talcott Road — the new school became Allen Brook.

• On Nov. 5, 1998, the Whistle reported on “a pipe bomb (being) left — apparently to explode — in a Williston driveway” on Old Stage Road the evening of Oct. 30. The bomb was disarmed on Old Stage Road, but local, state and federal officials participated in the investigation.

• Allen Brook School was honored in November 2000 for placing first in the America Recycles Day contest, the Whistle reported in its Nov. 16 issue that year. The contest was sponsored by the Chittenden Solid Waste District. The school had encouraged recycling efforts by having students collect bottles and compost food scraps, as well as take tours of local recycling facilities. CSWD said the school recycled 50 percent of its waste.

• Williston Police reached a new contract agreement with the town in November 2000. The Whistle reported on Nov. 23, 2000 that the contract would increase police officer pay by 6.5 percent over two years — 3.5 percent in the first year of the contract, and 3 percent in the second year. The agreement came after months of negotiations.

• Voters in Williston and other Chittenden South Supervisory Union towns rejected a school bond proposal on Election Day in 2001. The $27.5 million bond would have been used to renovate and expand Champlain Valley Union High School, the Whistle reported on Nov. 8, 2001. Between Williston, Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne, 61 percent of voters said no to the bond proposal.

• The Whistle reported on Nov. 28, 2002 that the town would no longer list the names of delinquent taxpayers in its annual report. Town Manager Rick McGuire said the act of humiliating those who did not pay their taxes in any given year served no constructive purpose. The report also stopped listing the year’s births, deaths and marriages.

• As reported in the Observer on Nov. 17, 2005, Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Brian O’Regan announced his intention to step down from his position at the end of the school year. O’Regan was hired in July 2000 and helped centralize operations at CSSU. He was replaced the following year by current Superintendent Elaine Pinckney.

• On Nov. 22, 2005, a small plane crashed near Oak Hill Road, killing the Connecticut-based pilot, according to the Dec. 1, 2005 issue of the Observer. The plane, flying low into the Burlington International Airport, narrowly missed houses on Partridge Hill. Nearly a year later, as described in the Nov. 9, 2006 copy of the Observer, a report by the National Transportation Safety Board cited pilot and air traffic control errors as contributing factors in the crash.

• An historic presidential election occurred in 2008, with large numbers of voters turning out across the country. Williston was no exception, with 71 percent of registered voters casting their ballot on Nov. 4, 2008. Sixty-seven percent of Williston voters backed a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

Locally, incumbents ruled the day, including Gov. Jim Douglas, who earned himself a fourth term.

• On Nov. 16, 2009, the town Selectboard banned hunting at the 57-acre Five Tree Hill Country Park. Nearby residents cited safety concerns over hunting at the town-owned land. Those who turned out at various Selectboard meetings expressed fear that continued hunting in the area could lead to a deadly accident with hikers. The Five Tree Hill ban began a town-wide study of other municipal parcels in Williston where hunting may be forbidden. The Conservation Commission has been making suggestions on the matter.

Shelburne Meat Market opens Williston branch

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Nov. 24, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Rex Ready (left), manager of the Shelburne Meat Market at Williston, works with an employee and customer on Monday. (Observer photo by Tim Simard)

Thick cuts of prime steak, fresh Atlantic haddock and chicken wings marinating in a homemade buffalo sauce — local butcher Rex Ready showed a passion for all of them on Monday afternoon while touring his new store, the Shelburne Meat Market at Williston.

On only the third day since it opened, the new market appeared to have a loyal following, Ready said. He pointed to a group of returning customers walking through the door heading directly for the counter. Ready correctly guessed that all six customers came for the market’s gourmet sandwiches.

“They really are delicious,” Ready said with a laugh.

The Shelburne Meat Market, which opened its first store in Shelburne in 2007, has now brought its choice cuts of meat, chicken and fish to the Taft Corners Shopping Center. It’s located next to Once Upon A Child.

Ready said he hopes the Shelburne Meat Market at Williston becomes a local success, much like the original location.

“We’ve built a huge following in Shelburne and I know we can do that here,” Ready said. “Williston’s the place to be.”

Ready’s mother, Kim Ready, owns both markets, with Rex managing the Williston location. The Taft Corners store opened its doors for the first time on Nov. 20, becoming Williston’s second meat market to open in November. Vermont Meat & Seafood Market opened earlier this month on Cornerstone Drive.

At Shelburne Meat Market at Williston, brightly lit display cases presented the variety of meats the market features on a daily basis. Prime cuts of beef sat above marinating steaks and chicken breasts. Steak tips soaking in homemade teriyaki sauces and chicken thighs drenched with barbeque sauce drew the gaze of more than one customer Monday.

“Those marinades — that’s what keeps people coming back again and again,” Ready said.

Ready also mentioned the stuffed chicken selections and the wide assortment of meat and vegetable kabobs as other popular items.

The meat market also sells a variety of seafood catches, much of which come directly from New England’s cold Atlantic Ocean waters. Ready said he has a buyer who scours the Boston Fish Market for the best it has to offer. Ready pointed out a plate of fresh ahi tuna steaks, which he said were sushi quality.

Much like the original Shelburne Meat Market, Williston’s location features many local cheeses, fruits and vegetables, some of which come from various Champlain Valley farms. In the center of the store, wine racks offer everything from local reds to international pinot grigios. Large refrigerators hold several brands of beer, including numerous Vermont brews.

What sets the Williston market apart is its in-house deli — something the Shelburne store does not have. As a result, Ready and his staff can make any combination of deli sandwiches fresh to order. Currently, the Williston crew is developing a menu that will carry gourmet sandwiches, paninis, salads and soups. Ready said the menu will be available in a few weeks.

Ready said he hopes Williston residents will check out his store and discover the high quality and selection of meats on hand.

“This is so much better and fresher than what you’ll find in a supermarket,” Ready said.

The Shelburne Meat Market at Williston, located in the Taft Corners Shopping Center, is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Town obtains money for stormwater plan

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Nov. 24, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The town of Williston has obtained a grant meant to help develop a comprehensive stormwater management plan as the community grows.

The $49,000 from the Vermont Center for Clean and Clear Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program, along with a $2,000 in-kind match from Williston, will pay for the first phase of a two-part project. Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti said Williston will work with Essex Junction-based Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc. to compose a stormwater plan. The ultimate goal for the town is to ensure that development in the growth center area around Taft Corners does not occur at the expense of two sensitive waterways — Muddy Brook and Allen Brook.

“We need to come up with a plan now or improve the plan we have,” Andreoletti said. “We want a plan to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.”

Andreoletti said Williston began its stormwater management plan in 2003, and updated it in 2008.

“This project will better define Williston’s stormwater management plan,” Andreoletti said.

A timeline submitted with Williston’s grant application outlined the first phase of the project, which will take place through June 2011. Next month, work will revolve around gathering existing data and reviewing existing plans. In January, the project will compile a list of problem areas and begin developing watershed models. April will be spent visiting problem areas and collecting field data. In June, the project will wrap up its watershed modeling and produce a draft of the stormwater master plan.

Andreoletti said the town will have to apply next year for funding for the second phase of the project. Phase 2 will include the modeling of problem areas and developing solutions and costs, as well as issuing the final version of the stormwater plan.

“The idea is to get a comprehensive look at water quality and stream health in town,” said Jim Pease of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Clean and Clear section. Pease has worked with Williston as the town’s contact for the grant. “Hopefully it will lead to a better approach for the town in resolving these issues.”

Pease said Williston was one of 20 applicants chosen from a pool of 60 to receive grant funding. The Clean and Clear grant program had approximately $600,000 available, Pease said. Andreoletti said Williston submitted its application in October, and received word this month that it would receive a grant.

Williston’s stormwater management plan will likely focus on Muddy and Allen Brooks. The state already lists Allen Brook as an impaired waterway, though Williston has been making progress toward taking the stream off that list.

Pease explained that the grant will help the town take more steps toward reducing sediment pollution in the Allen Brook and controlling the flow of water through the stream.

While Muddy Brook is not impaired, Andreoletti and Pease noted that it flows through a heavily developed portion of Williston. A stormwater management plan would help guide future development to protect the brook.

Protecting the streams will benefit the broader ecosystem, as well. The brooks connect with the Winooski River, which eventually flows into Lake Champlain. Limiting pollution in Williston’s streams would reduce the amount of phosphorous, sediment and other pollutants that reach Champlain.

“Hopefully we’ll jumpstart the discussion of how to deal with all these problems,” Pease said.

Williston sees decrease in school budget

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Nov. 24, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer Staff

The Williston School Board continued its budget season on a positive note. The board learned that next year’s 2011-2012 baseline budget is actually 1.35 percent less than this year’s budget. The news comes during a year where the state has urged boards to significantly reduce school spending costs.

The baseline decrease elicited positive responses from the School Board and those in attendance at its Thursday meeting.

“This is perfect timing,” board member Darlene Worth said.

If the district opened its doors next school year with the same level of services and staff as this year, its budget would be nearly $222,000 lower than it is now, totaling roughly $16.25 million. This school year, the district is budgeted to spend $16.32 million. Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s chief operations officer, provided the numbers to the board.

Mason said there were two reasons for the budget reduction, one being that the school district is expecting an approximately $260,000 decrease in special education spending.

“That number is dependent on the children and the needs of these children and it varies year to year,” Mason said.

The district also finished a 20-year bond payoff for Williston Central School’s east wing and auditorium completed in 1991. The school will no longer need to pay $358,000 per year for the bond.

Despite  the decreases, Williston saw a $118,000 increase in transportation costs. Since CSSU rearranged how its districts pay for transportation costs, Williston is picking up a larger share of the charges since it requires more bus runs than other towns.

“Basically, you are a larger owner in the (CSSU) transportation pool,” Mason told the board.

While board members were pleased at the initial budget numbers, some expressed concern over the budget cuts proposed by the Vermont Department of Education. The department is strongly encouraging school districts to cut net spending by 2 percent for next year under a legislative program called Challenges for Change. The state hopes to cut $23.5 million in education spending across Vermont.

Mason said he was unsure how much money, if any, Williston would need to cut from next year’s baseline budget to meet the challenge. He said he needed to estimate what next year’s revenues might add up to since net spending is what the district would need to cut.

At a previous budget forum, Mason said the board should aim for a reduction figure of $265,780. Williston has to inform the Department of Education by Dec. 15 if it plans to meet the Challenges for Change.

Board members are also considering what possible budget additions they might need to make for next year, including improvements to the district’s science curriculum as well as needed upgrades in building maintenance.

The board is scheduled to hold its next budget meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Williston Central School.

PHOTOS: Lyric Theatre Company’s ‘Peter Pan’

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Nov. 18, 2010

Courtesy photos by Stephen Mease (www.stevemease.com)

Lyric Theatre Company’s production of ‘Peter Pan’ ran at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington from Nov. 11 to 14. The show featured several cast and crew members from Williston.