April 24, 2018

Town considers improvements at North Williston Road intersection

Options include roundabout

Dec. 16, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Changes may be on the table next year for a key Williston intersection. Town officials are looking at ways to modify the intersection at North Williston Road and Mountain View and Gov. Chittenden roads.

Proposals include a roundabout, an idea previously suggested for the U.S. 2, North Williston Road and Oak Hill Road intersection. The roundabout was meant to improve safety, but the suggestion prompted negative reactions from many residents who feared such a change would diminish the historic nature of the intersection. At Town Meeting in March, voters used an advisory motion to show their displeasure for the roundabout. Stop signs on both sides of the U.S. 2 portions of the intersection are now outfitted with flashing red lights.

Increased traffic along narrow North Williston, Mountain View and Gov. Chittenden roads compelled the town to take a closer look at ways to improve traffic flow and safety at the intersection, Town Manager Rick McGuire said. Wait times along Mountain View Road can be lengthy, especially during the evening commute, he added.

The town is accepting engineering proposals for the intersection project until Jan. 5. The Selectboard will then review the proposals and hold public hearings, possibly as soon as late February, McGuire said.

McGuire said improvements at the intersection have been in the Town Plan since a traffic study in 2005 found that an average of more than 4,000 vehicles travel through the area on any given day.

“Improvements at that intersection have been on the capital budget for years and years and years,” McGuire said.

There’s currently a $190,000 placeholder in next year’s capital budget for construction, although that number could drastically change depending on whether the town accepts any of the engineering proposals, McGuire said. He also said the intersection improvements are actually listed as a roundabout within the budget.

Federal funds could help pay for the majority of any project. Since the intersection involves only town roads, McGuire said officials haven’t worked with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

The Town Plan identifies a roundabout as a top improvement for the intersection, though McGuire said engineering proposals may suggest a four-way stop or widening of the roads.

McGuire said recent reports that a roundabout would be the only way to improve the North Williston Road intersection aren’t quite accurate.

“I think it’s very unfortunate for it to be labeled as a roundabout,” he said. “The key point is we’d like to figure out a way to make that intersection safer.”

According to Williston Fire Department statistics, the North Williston-Mountain View Road intersection had 12 accidents over a five-year period. Some were fender benders, while others were more serious, according to firefighter Sean Soper.

“It’s about average with just about every intersection in town,” Soper said. “I’ve been on (the fire department) for almost five years now and I can remember only a few bad accidents there.”

Soper said the intersection sometimes poses a safety problem if emergency vehicles get stuck in traffic responding to an accident on narrow Mountain View Road. A roundabout might ease the traffic there, he said, although it might create new issues — especially if it’s built too small.

“We have some pretty large vehicles and if we can’t do a complete 180 around the roundabout, then we’d have some problems,” he said.

Easing vehicle backups at the intersection would also go a long way toward fixing traffic problems around Williston Village, McGuire said. While the Circumferential Highway remains in the permit phase, McGuire said North Williston Road improvements could in the meantime ease congestion.

Despite delays, Finney Crossing still on target

Construction on development could start next year

Dec. 16, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

At times Tuesday evening, local developer Chris Snyder appeared apprehensive sitting before the Development Review Board. He expressed concerns that his mixed use project in Taft Corners — Finney Crossing — needed to go back to the drawing board after building permits for some housing units expired over the summer.

The wording in Williston’s relatively new bylaws made it seem like that could be the case, Snyder argued. In fact, because part of Snyder’s housing allocation expired, all of Finney Crossing had to reapply for a project pre-application permit. This means the Development Review Board and other town committees could completely reshape the project.

“It’s just this uncertainty piece that brings us to the concern level we have,” Snyder told the board.

In the end, he needn’t have worried. The Development Review Board unanimously agreed to allow Snyder to reapply for 32 housing units, whose building permits had expired in July, during next year’s annual growth management allocation. The decision gave Finney Crossing its pre-application permit.

“I don’t think there’s anybody on this board who wants to redesign your project,” Board Chairman Scott Rieley said. “I think we all understand you’re trying to minimize your risk.”

The history of the proposed mixed-use development in Taft Corners dates back to 2001, when Snyder, of Essex Junction-based Snyder Homes, approached the town. Along with Jeff Davis of J.L. Davis Realty, Snyder planned to build 356 residential units and 180,000 square feet of office and commercial space in the large, empty field north of Maple Tree Place.

It was the first project of its kind for Williston and influenced the rewriting of the bylaws that began in 2008. The revised bylaws give more direction to the construction of mixed-use developments in and around Taft Corners. Finney Crossing gained final approval with the town in 2007, with construction phases extended over several years. The project was also approved before town planners finished writing the bylaws, meaning that any new changes to the development cannot be vested in the old bylaws.

Just when Finney Crossing prepared to start its infrastructure construction, the economy and housing market tanked. Everything stalled.

Snyder approached town planners nearly a year ago to inform them it was unlikely he’d be able to gain bank financing for the project before permits for 32 units expired in July. But before the board on Tuesday, he said he feels confident about finding financing before next summer, when 36 other housing unit permits expire. An improving economy could allow construction to begin sometime next year, Snyder said.

As Snyder made his case, it became clear that not only did board members continue to support Finney Crossing, but so did town planning staff. Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the project has staff support, but the board must still follow bylaw rules.

“I feel pretty confident that (Finney Crossing) … should be able to meet the full spirit and intent of the bylaw,” Belliveau said. “I think the board is obligated to go through this exercise with the bylaws, however.”

Much of the board’s comments seemed to put Snyder at ease, who said several times he’s looking forward to working with the town and the board when the project breaks ground.

“I just want to say that it feels like this is much ado about nothing,” board member Cathy O’Brien said about Snyder’s pre-application concerns. “The board really likes this project. I don’t think that’s changed.”

Snyder will go before the Development Review Board in March for the annual growth management allocation meeting. The board will then determine whether Snyder will re-earn the permits for 32 units. Since there are no other projects in Taft Corners competing for building allocation, Finney Crossing should be fine, Belliveau said.

Snyder will also appear before the board at the March meeting for five other housing units that had yet to undergo growth management allocation.

Concussion awareness yields cautionary responses

Dec. 16, 2010

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Champlain Valley Union High soccer player Emma Eddy dribbles the ball during a game in September 2009. Eddy suffered a concussion early in the soccer season this fall. (File photo)

The growing awareness of the dangers of concussions in youth sports has brought a quick response from individual schools including Champlain Valley Union High, as well as the Vermont Principals Association.

Within the past two years, partly as a result of long-term effects of numerous head injuries to National Football League players, new information has brought new attitudes and responses when high school athletes are thought to have suffered concussions in games, practices or even off the playing fields.

The old days, when a player with a head injury was thought to have had his “bell rung” and returned to the game as soon as he could count to three — or failing that, two — are long gone.

“Now, a player has to be symptom-free for 24 hours before slowly returning to practice and remain symptom-free for seven days before being eligible to play in games,” CVU athletic director Kevin Riell said in a recent interview.

Riell also pointed out that symptoms are “not always immediate,” meaning additional caution is required before a return to athletic activity.

Certified trainer Tony Lora attends all Redhawks home contests and makes judgments related to medical issues.

Medical studies as described in The New York Times and other publications have revealed that frequent concussions can lead to serious brain impairment and even dementia.

Athlete experiences

CVU soccer player Emma Eddy found herself with a concussion after colliding with an opposing player in an early season game at the Redhawks’ home field.

“We had the collision and I fell to the ground and hit my head front and back,” Eddy recalled. “I went black for a few seconds. I got up but I felt a little shaken up and knew I needed to come off.

“I told Tony (Lora) that I should feel better and be able to go back in, but he said no, absolutely not.”

In Eddy’s case, symptoms did not fully emerge until the following day.

“I woke up the next day and lights seemed really bright and it was really hard to focus,” she said. “That is when I knew I had a concussion.”

She said it took about two weeks for the symptoms to finally go away and then another week for a slow return to full soccer play.

Another cautionary story is that of CVU senior Amanda Kinneston. During a 2009 late season soccer game, she was hit in the jaw by a soccer ball but did not realize for some time that she had suffered a concussion.

After the season was over she said she “was not my usual, cheerful self and I was having headaches.”

A visit to a physician and consultation with Lora followed. It was determined that Kinneston had concussion symptoms.

“There was no running or athletic activity,” she said.

It was not until seven days after the last headache that she could slowly resume training for basketball. She missed the first two weeks of the schedule.

Kinneston has fully recovered and had an All-State soccer season and is a starter on the basketball squad, but she says she is still being monitored by her parents and coaches.

Eddy acknowledged that for a competitive athlete, the sitting out goes against the grain, but is important.

“My advice for anyone hit in the head is to immediately come out of the game and sit,” she concluded.

Growing awareness

The Vermont Principals Association, or VPA, has ruled that all coaches of high school winter sports had to complete a National High School Federation online course on concussions by the end of November. The course takes about 20 minutes to complete.

CVU has a course at its website, www.cvuhs.org, which can be accessed by clicking on athletic links after getting into student activities.

VPA Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson says research on concussions is changing almost on a monthly basis.

“This is very serious,” Johnson emphasized.

Nationally, there are at least two bills before Congress where House committees have held hearings.

In Vermont, a bill failed to make it out of the Legislature last spring but new legislation is expected to get attention in the session that begins in January.

Johnson said the VPA has a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee that is dealing with concussion issues and has recently issued a list of licensed health care professionals who can clear athletes thought to have suffered concussions to return to competition.

The list includes medical doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified athletic trainers such as Lora.

“I am comfortable with the list the committee has come up with,” Johnson said.

Committee member Dr. James Slauterbeck of the University of Vermont College of Medicine noted during a recent telephone interview that the familiar system of grading concussions as mild, moderate and severe is now a thing of the past, partly because symptoms are not always present immediately after the injury.

“Symptoms such as headache or memory loss may not appear until the following day,” Slauterbeck said, noting the difficulty of immediately detecting symptoms. Plus, the culture of high school kids is to want to keep playing.

He is adamant that when athletes exhibit symptoms they must be held out of games and practices under guidelines that provide for a slow return to full participation in the particular sports only after all symptoms are gone.

As for advice for athletes and parents, Slauterbeck had a few points of emphasis.

“Repetitive concussions can lead to major problems later in life,” he warned.

He reiterated the necessity of a slow return of “build up” back into the sport and even holding the athlete out of school for a day or two to allow for “cognitive rest.”

A recent New York Times article noted that concussions are a growing concern for just about all youth sports.

Quoting figures from the medical journal Pediatrics, the Times noted that individual reported concussion rates among 12- to 17-year-olds are highest in ice hockey. The reported number was 29 cases per 10,000 participants. It was also pointed out that these reports were primarily for emergency room treatment and not necessarily for visits to physicians’ offices or other treatment centers.

Football was next, with 27 per 10,000, followed by soccer, basketball and baseball with 8, 4, and 3 cases per 10,000.

Lora has seen concussions in most sports over the years and developed a cautionary rule for immediate response once a concussion is thought possible.

“When in doubt, sit them out,” he said Monday.


Fletcher Allen Health Care describes a concussion as a brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the way the brain normally works. Even a “ding” or bump on the head can be serious.

Symptoms reported by athletes include the following:

• Headache

• Nausea

• Balance problems or dizziness

• Sensitivity to light or noise

• Feeling sluggish

• Feeling foggy or groggy

• Concentration or memory problems

• Confusion

CVU Board rejects Challenges for Change budget

Dec. 16, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

The Champlain Valley Union High School Board voted unanimously on Monday to not cut its budget based on a suggestion by the state Legislature’s Challenges for Change campaign. The board would need to eliminate $720,000 from the baseline budget to meet the challenge — a figure that board members said would be far too drastic for CVU.

Instead, the board agreed to look at level funding the school’s 2011-2012 budget to match this year’s $21.35 million budget.

“If we do that, we have a good chance of maintaining a good, quality program,” board member David Rath said.

The CVU Board said in previous meetings that finding a budget that upholds services while remaining acceptable to the public has become increasingly difficult in regards to uncertain economic and state pressures.

The Vermont Legislature’s Challenges for Change bill, passed in the spring, strongly urges school districts to cut net spending by 2 percent with a goal of minimizing tax increases. The bill asked the state’s education commission to identify $23.5 million to cut from school budgets statewide; the education commissioner in turn gave reduction goals to each school and supervisory union. CVU’s reduction goal came in at approximately $720,000.

The CVU board must also consider the unresolved teacher contract dispute (see story on page 17). CVU Principal Sean McMannon likened this year’s budget challenges to “working on an airplane while it’s in the air.”

“This really is our first experience with significant reductions,” McMannon said.

The CVU School Board is not the only one in Chittenden South Supervisory Union to reject the state’s Challenges for Change recommendations, according to CSSU Superintendent Elaine Pinckney. Charlotte and Williston indicated they will not meet the challenge, while Hinesburg and Shelburne plan to heed the suggested cuts, Pinckney said.

Where cuts could come

Last month, the CVU Board learned its 2011-2012 baseline budget — the cost of current services if they are carried into the following year — would see a 1.04 percent increase over the current budget. Next year’s school budget would then be $21.57 million.

During Monday’s meeting, McMannon explained how certain budget cuts would affect the high school. To cut the $720,000 necessary to meet the Challenges for Change, the school would need to scratch a number of support positions. Music, world languages, art and driver’s education were among the many departments lined up for possible reductions in hours or outright layoffs. Other positions facing cuts include support professionals in the learning center, library and special education department.

Athletics, school supplies and other equipment would also see “problematic” cutbacks to meet the Challenges for Change, McMannon said.

“This dramatically decreases how we can serve our kids,” McMannon said.

If the School Board agrees to level fund the 2011-2012 budget, roughly $220,000 would be cut from the baseline. McMannon said there would still be some reductions in staff, albeit minor ones compared to the cuts proposed under Challenges for Change. The school may need to reduce a paraprofessional position and decrease the number of days some administrators work per year. Athletics, school supplies and professional training would also require reductions.

“I believe this is something we’d be able to live with,” board member Jeff Parker said in regards to level funding the budget.

Some board members believed the board should consider further reductions from a level-funded budget, but not cuts that would meet the $720,000 required for Challenges for Change. Board Chairwoman Jeanne Jensen suggested “meeting in the middle.”

“I feel we need to dip into this, but I just don’t know how deep the board will want to dip,” Jensen said.

She asked McMannon to prepare a presentation prioritizing reductions beyond what’s needed for level funding.

The CVU School Board is scheduled to meet at the high school for another budget meeting on Jan. 3.

PHOTOS: Storm damage – by Guy Page

Dec. 9, 2010

Courtesy photo by Guy Page

A storm blew through Williston the afternoon of Dec. 1, uprooting this tree outside Dorothy Alling Memorial Library.

PHOTOS: Storm damage — by Stephen Mease

Dec. 9, 2010

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

A storm blew through Williston the afternoon of Dec. 1, uprooting trees, downing power lines, knocking out electricity and causing other damage. Some residents were without power for several days.

PHOTOS: Storm damage — by Greg Duggan

Dec. 9, 2010

Observer photos by Greg Duggan

A storm blew through Williston the afternoon of Dec. 1, uprooting trees, downing power lines, knocking out electricity and causing other damage. Some residents were without power for several days.

Sports Notes

Dec. 9, 2010

CVU’s Provost to coach Vt. Shrine football team

When, as anticipated, a few Champlain Valley Union High football players report to training camp next summer for the Vermont team in the annual Vermont-New Hampshire Shrine football game, there will be a familiar figure with the whistle and clipboard.

CVU head coach Jim Provost has been named to head the Green Mountain team’s entry for the annual contest between graduated senior stars.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity,” Provost said by phone.

It is the second time Provost has been named to the Vermont team’s helm, having also led the stars in 1990 when he was head coach at Rice Memorial High.

He will be assisted by members of his current CVU staff including Kevin McCarthy, Tim Halvorson, Al Gobeille, Brendan McCarthy and Tyler Provost.

All-Conference honors for former CVU soccer star

After playing at Champlain Valley Union High and graduating in 2008, former Redhawks goalkeeper Abbie Senesac has taken on a starring role for the Vermont Technical College women’s soccer team.

In her junior season this fall, Senesac was named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics all-conference squad after posting 159 saves in Tech’s 14 games. The number of stops put Senesac third among the nation’s NAIA keepers.

Her average was 11.36 saves per outing.

In addition, Senesac was also named to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National All-Academic group.

Several CVU soccer players earn honors

Dec. 9, 2010

Kyle Logan (3) pushes the ball up the field during Champlain Valley Union High’s playoff soccer game against Harwood Union High in October. Logan, named to the All-State soccer team, was one of several CVU players to earn postseason honors. (File photo)

Soccer coaches have named five players from the Champlain Valley Union High girls team and four from the boys team to their All-State first teams.

Named to the girls All-States were defender Lindsay Hawley, goalkeeper Emily Sackett, midfielders Talon Tomasi and Amanda Kinneston, and forward Sophia Steinhoff.

Hawley, Sackett and Kinneston are seniors while Steinhoff and Tomasi are juniors.

In addition, Hawley and Kinneston were named to the Burlington Free Press All-State first team while Steinhoff, Tomasi and Sackett made the second team.

Hawley, Sackett, Tomasi and Kinneston were selected to the All-Metro first team.

Steinhoff and senior midfielder Emma Eddy made the second team, with honorable mentions going to senior defender Lauren Barth along with juniors Sarah Lewis on defense and forward Shelby Hanlon.

The Division 1 boys coaches chose three CVU seniors and one sophomore for their All-State team. The seniors were midfielders Kyle Logan and Tino Tomasi along with defender Chris Sulva. The sophomore was forward Tanner Tomasi.

Logan and senior defender Ryan Boland were first team Free Press All-Staters while Tanner Tomasi and Sulva were named to the second team. Tino Tomasi drew an honorable mention.

The Tomasi brothers, Logan and Sulva made the All-Metro first team. Boland was a second team choice while honorable mentions went to senior defender Erick MacLean and senior midfielder Mac Edgerton.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

Costly collision in cross country race

Dec. 9, 2010

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

“It was an amazing experience,” said Scott Bliss, longtime Champlain Valley Union High cross country coach, after members of his team returned Sunday from their appearance in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.

Bliss, prevented by National Interscholastic Federation rules from coaching his CVU team in the event, nevertheless accompanied the team as an observer while parents did the coaching. The team ran as a Champlain Valley Club.

According to Bliss, a 20-racer pileup some 300 meters into the event at Portland Meadows involved three of the Vermont team’s leading racers and was a big reason the team finished 21st out of 22 competing teams.

“Otherwise we would have finished in the teens,” Bliss said.

Taylor Spillane led the Champlain Valley team with an 88th (of 199 runners) place finish in 20 minutes and 32.1 seconds over a muddy track. She was some 2:14 off the winning time.

“Taylor was phenomenal,” Bliss said. “She would have been in the top 60 had the collision not happened.”

Cousin Summer Spillane, usually within a second or two one side or the other of Taylor, was 143rd in 21:12. Aleksey Jordick (146), Adrienne Devita (149), Julienne Devita (151), Sophie Hess (186) and Claire Trotter (197) followed.

The team earned its way to the nationals with a second place finish in the Northeast sectional the previous weekend in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.