July 20, 2019

Recipe Corner

Cheese dishes

Jan. 27, 2011

By Ginger Isham

By the time children are 2 years old, one of their favorite foods is the grilled cheese sandwich.

For adults, it can be more healthy if the bread is toasted first. Place the cheese of your choice (cheddar is the best) on one slice of toast and put it in microwave to melt. Remove and place the second slice of toast on top and you have a toasted cheese sandwich with little fuss or mess. You can do about the same thing by putting the sandwich in the oven.

Quick and easy cousins to the grilled cheese are the old recipes known as Welsh Rarebit and a similar version known as RinkTum Tiddy.

Welsh Rarebit

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

pinch of salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup milk

1/2 cup beer or medium white wine (put the rest of the beer in your next chili recipe)

2 cups (8 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded

4 to 6 slices toast

Melt butter in pan and add flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly. Remove from stove and stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring all the while. Boil for 1 minute. Add beer gradually. Stir in the cheese. On low heat, stir until cheese is melted. Serve over toast. You could garnish with a slice of crisp bacon or tomato slices. Some recipes call for a full can of beer and less milk.

Rinktum Tiddy

(There are various reasons for the name of this recipe, one of which is the following: a belly flop on an ice skating rink)

Melt 1/2 pound of cheese over low heat (or in microwave), add pinch of salt and 2 to 3 drops of hot pepper sauce. Stir and add 1 can (10 ounces) of condensed tomato soup and 3 tablespoons water.

Serve on toast or crackers.

Soufflé in a Pot

I learned to make a quick soufflé by putting approximately 1/4 cup of water in a quart saucepan, bringing it to a boil over high heat and then turning it down to medium heat. Next, whip 2 or 3 eggs and stir in chopped onion, dash of pepper and salt and/or herbs, shredded cheddar cheese or another cheese of your choice. You can also add cubes of cream cheese. Pour into the hot water and cover the pan with a lid. Turn to medium-low heat. Let this cook slowly for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. I like a few drops of hot sauce sprinkled on top and no other seasonings.

Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.

Right to the Point

What happened to compromise?

Jan. 27, 2011

By Kayla Purvis

The House Republicans did not vote to repeal the health care bill because they thought it would pass in the Senate. They did it because it is a symbolic gesture. Many Democrats play it like the Republicans really thought the vastly Democratic Senate would vote in accordance.

It is symbolic on both sides. The Democrats knew the Republicans would immediately try to knock “Obamacare” off the table and, equally, the Republicans knew that the Democrats would shoot it down.

So, why are both parties scoffing at the other? This is not a new thing — it’s hard-headed American politics. Politicians on each side want to show their constituents that they are doing what they believe they were elected to do. The Republicans believe, based on the November elections, that they have a duty to cut spending. On the other hand, the Democrats believe that they had a duty to the American people to provide health care services.

What I would like to know is why Congress insists on the back-and-forth party rivalry. We will get absolutely nowhere because both sides — Republicans and Democrats — cannot let go of the competition. Neither party wants to compromise on the issue. That is our biggest downfall. We will not do anything constructive if we cannot remember what it means to compromise, to come to a place where we can agree on something. Neither party is willing to give something up.

The House Republicans, led by John Boehner, have attempted to bridge the party gap, at least a little bit, with things like Tuesday’s State of the Union seating chart. They have also tried mixing up “politics as usual” by reading the Constitution (in its entirety) in session. This shows at least an honest effort by Congress to end the trend of ignoring the American people.

I have addressed the issues with our current party system before: “There is this idea that it is possible to pacify every group, while simultaneously our party system is driving the country in two,” I wrote in this space on Sept. 30, 2010. In school, it seems like we are always trying to find out what someone’s political beliefs are, because somehow it matters.

Young people are taught more and more to be less open to the statements that come out of the mouths of the other party. Obama recently referred to Republicans as “enemies.” Congress is supposed to be a collaboration. Of both parties! Yes, when there is a majority, it will lean more to that side. But we need to stop automatically rejecting what comes off the other party’s table.

The government is not supposed to be a competition between opposing viewpoints. Yes, that will happen. But I am saying that that is not the purpose of the government. The bare bones purpose of the government is to provide safety, write laws and enforce laws — to do what’s right for the country. The Republicans and the Democrats in Congress both represent the ideas and beliefs and desires of the American people. So when the president says something about Republicans being the enemy, how do you think that makes that U.S. citizens feel? How about when Republicans accuse liberals of a socialist agenda? All this is doing is aiding the growth of our faulty political system.

Congress is not supposed to be a gathering of representatives and senators that bash each other’s ideas. It is supposed to be a meeting of the minds during which discussions and debates take place to improve the welfare of the American people. When is the last time that happened?

So no, the vote to repeal the health care was not about the stupid Republicans or the power-hungry Democrats. It was a call to change. It was the House saying, hey, we would like to make some changes to this. It was symbolic because it meant that the Republicans are doing what they said they would do, and the Democrats are doing what they said they would do. Has anything really changed?

And I believe that both parties need to listen and be willing to work toward something they can both agree on. Sacrifice, people. It’s called sacrifice. Ask the Greatest Generation what that means if you can’t remember.

We’re taught from a young age that if you can’t resolve a conflict, you compromise. It kind of seems like Congress skipped kindergarten.

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

Liberally Speaking

Consequences of repealing the health care law

Jan. 27, 2011

By Steve Mount

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known in some circles as “Obamacare.” The repeal vote, which passed on a party line vote (except for three Democrats who broke ranks), has largely been reported as symbolic for two important reasons.

First, the Senate, which is still (though just barely) held by the Democrats, will likely never even take up the repeal bill, let alone pass it.

Second, should the impossible happen and the repeal bill pass the Senate, the President would undoubtedly veto it. Given that, it would take an even more impossible two-thirds vote of Congress to override the veto.

So why even bother? Republicans have said it is because they made a promise to do so in their 2010 congressional campaigns, and the people had given them a mandate: repeal the health care law.

While I agree that the Republican sweep of the House was a message from the people, I don’t think it had a thing to do with the health care law. The law, in fact, contains many provisions that people are either very happy about or would be if they thought about the bill as more than “Obamacare.” The repeal effort is little more than a Republican gift to its real base — and that base is certainly not the people of the United States.

There are several key provisions that have not even gone into effect yet, but with repeal, the following important, existing features would disappear:

• Beginning almost immediately after the law took effect, children of covered persons could remain on their parents’ policy until age 26, unless covered by their own policy. Previous insurance company rules dropped children at the age of 19, or when they graduated from college. This requirement is now insuring an estimated 1.2 million people.

• Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. Being a Type 1 diabetic, this is of particular interest to me, and to 3 million others like me. And that’s just diabetes — there are scores of other conditions and diseases that can exclude a person from individual coverage. I’m fortunate to be covered by a corporate policy, but many others are not so lucky, and they are now protected.

• Lifetime limits are eliminated, meaning that if you have a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment, you need not worry about running your benefit out. Annual limits are still legal, but they are being phased out over the next three years.

• In the law, breastfeeding mothers must be given time to either breastfeed or pump breast milk during the workday. Loss of this provision would force some mothers to make a tough choice between working and staying home; between using breast milk and formula, a choice that can cost money not only immediately (in the form of savings on formula) but also in the long-run (in the form of health benefits to babies whose mothers are able to breastfeed).

• The law aims the soften the financial blow of the so-called Medicare Part D “Donut Hole.” Prior to the new health care law, seniors paid a coinsurance for drugs up to $2,840. After that, and up to $4,550, prescriptions were completely uncovered. The new law provides for a 50 percent discount for drugs purchased while in the $2,840 to $4,550 range, which can add up to considerable savings for those on a fixed income.

Different polls show different levels of support for repeal — but numbers that mean a “mandate?” A recent AP-GfK poll puts support for repeal at just 41 percent, with opposition to repeal at 40 percent. This 1-percent edge is hardly a mandate.

The “mandate” disappears when the details are examined. In the same poll, for example, support for a ban on the pre-existing existing condition exclusion stands at 50 percent, with 34 percent opposing such a ban (though the 34 percent who oppose make me muse at the respondents’ misanthropy).

Repealing the health care law, even if it could be done, would be a bad idea. What Democrats have done and need to continue to do is highlight how important this law is to so many people. As more and more of its provisions take effect, more and more people will be affected by it. By increasing coverage, we will increase the overall health of Americans and, in doing so, provide a stronger, healthier workforce to help America meet the challenges that face us in the evolving global economy.

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 steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.

Guest Column

Hot soup for cold winter nights

Jan. 27, 2011

By Dianne Lamb

Cold winds and snow, winter darkness and hungry bellies all tell us one thing: “Feed me soup!”

Soup is a satisfying choice for lunch or supper this time of year as it is a hot food that is quick and easy to prepare. It can be made quickly in large quantities so extras can be frozen or used for another meal, which definitely puts the time-saving practice of cook once and eat twice (or more) in motion. In fact, most soups taste better on the second day or for the second meal as the flavors have time to intensify.

Soup also can be prepared in a slow cooker and be ready at dinner time if you put the soup together in the morning before leaving for the day. Perhaps you have a woodstove that has a surface that can be used to cook soup. Or if you have a pressure saucepan, you can make soup quickly using that appliance.

What’s nice about soup is that you can utilize leftovers in the refrigerator such as meat, poultry or fish, dried beans, vegetables and rice or pasta. Or if you prefer to follow a recipe, you’ll find an abundance of soup recipes online and in cookbooks. Or make your family favorites.

Check out the wide variety of canned soups available at your local market. You can heat up canned soups, adding more ingredients if you want, for a healthy meal in no time.

Be sure to read the nutrition facts on the food labels, as canned soups are generally very high in sodium — although most also are now available in a lower-sodium variety. Before preparing, check to see if the canned soup is meant to have liquid added or eaten as is. To increase the nutritional value of canned soups, add low-fat milk instead of water.

When I was a child, my mother always made canned tomato soup with milk. She called the soup “pink soup” and we loved it. This was her way to get us to drink our milk.

Soup as the center of a meal can be simple, quick and filling on a cold, winter day. A hearty soup that contains meat, fish, poultry or dried beans and plenty of vegetables is good to go with the addition of wholegrain bread or crackers and fruit for dessert. Depending on the content of the soup, including protein sources and vegetables, you might serve fresh vegetables and dip, hummus or cottage cheese to augment the meal.

When making soup that will not be served immediately, remember to follow basic food safety principles. The first principle is DO NOT put the large pot of hot soup directly into the refrigerator to cool. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it takes an 8-inch diameter pot of chicken soup 24 hours to cool to a safe temperature (40 degrees Fahrenheit) in your refrigerator.

Before refrigerating soup, transfer it to shallow containers no more than 2 inches deep. The soup can be loosely covered while still warm in the refrigerator. Once the soup has cooled, cover it tightly.

If soup is not going to be eaten within two days, label the container with the name of its contents, date the package and put into freezer. Be sure to leave some headroom so as the soup freezes, it does not pop the lid off the container.

Soup should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are considered the danger zone, an ideal temperature range for rapid growth of bacteria and pathogens that could result in food-borne illness. Heat soup to 165 degrees before serving.

Soup is a wonderful way to use some of those root vegetables such as carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips or potatoes that may be in storage in your cellar or refrigerator. Or visit your local market for soup ingredients. Then take the chill off your dining experience by serving hot soup to warm you and your family up on a cold winter’s night.

Dianne Lamb is the Extension Nutrition and Food specialist at the University of Vermont.

Around Town

Jan. 27, 2011

Senior and baby boomers expo on Saturday

Vermont’s seniors and baby boomers have an event geared entirely to them this weekend.

The 16th annual Vermont 50-Plus and Baby Boomers EXPO takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel and Conference Center. The EXPO is presented by Vermont Maturity Magazine, which is owned by Williston Publishing and Promotions LLC, the same company that owns the Observer.

The event targets people 46 and older, but is open to all ages. More than 80 exhibitors will offer goods and services in the areas of health and wellness, arts and entertainment, finance and more. Entertainment will include performances by the Lyric Theatre Co. and a concert by Jon Gailmor, as well as a dance party. The EXPO also features seminars, a silent auction and a Man Cave.

Tickets are $5 at the door or $4 in advance when purchased at the University Mall or by calling Vermont Maturity Magazine at 872-9000 x19. A portion of EXPO proceeds benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter.

For more information, visit www.vermontmaturity.com or call Marianne Apfelbaum at 802-872-9000 x18.

Intersection upgrades will wait

Town Manager Rick McGuire told the Selectboard Monday night that proposals for improvements at the intersection of North Williston, Mountain View and Gov. Chittenden roads were more expensive than anticipated.

Town officials had deemed the intersection upgrades a priority, with a roundabout discussed as one possible solution. But with the latest cost estimates, the project has been temporarily put on hold.

McGuire hopes to solicit ideas from the public on whether the intersection needs improvements and what, if any, changes might be best. He said public forums would be held in the coming months to discuss the issue.

CVS wins approval from town

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

After three rejections from the Development Review Board over the past six months, a proposal for a CVS/pharmacy finally won support. On Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved a discretionary permit allowing the national chain to build a store in Taft Corners.

CVS can now pursue state permits, although the pharmacy may wait to see how quickly the town reacts to a separate proposal for an additional street in Williston’s busy commercial center.

Once built, CVS will be located on Vermont 2A at the corner of Wright Avenue, where its main entrance will be. Another access point, primarily for delivery trucks, would be on privately-owned Bishop Avenue, although the design of this road could change drastically in coming months.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is considering a major change to Bishop Avenue, where a portion of its intersection with Vermont 2A would become an entry and exit point for right-turning vehicles only. Bishop Avenue would then connect to a proposed grid street running between Marshall Avenue and Wright Avenue. As Planning Director Ken Belliveau explained to the board, the Town Plan calls for a series of grid streets in Taft Corners.

“This would really be the first leg of a system of streets in that area,” Belliveau said.

The grid street proposal is part of a separate project by property owner Taft Corners Associates to construct a two-building retail space. The board expects to hear more details on the street and development in March or April.

CVS last appeared before the board in October, when company representatives asked for a vote to get the ball rolling on the project. The board voted against issuing a discretionary permit, citing design issues and questions about access roads. CVS has appealed to the state’s Environmental Court, which deals with development disputes. While the case awaits a hearing, CVS opted to present a redesigned plan before the board in hopes for approval.

The redesigned two-story building features a 14,200 square-foot first floor and a 5,600 square-foot second floor. Two separate spaces in the building will be available for retail or business tenants to rent, explained Matt Daly, a Burlington lawyer representing CVS.

Daly said the pharmacy still plans to use the Bishop Avenue access point, but said it prefers the potential redesign grid street option.

“CVS could schedule its construction later in 2011,” Daly said. “It might even prefer to wait for the grid street.”

Despite remaining concerns about large trucks using Bishop Avenue, the road’s owner, Marie St. Amand, also said she supports the grid street option.

Calzone challenge debuts at Ramunto’s

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

David Ploof takes his first bite of calzone in the Ramunto’s Cal-Mungo Challenge on Jan. 21. Anyone who finishes a 5-pound calzone in less than 45 minutes wins a free meal, a T-shirt and a place on the coveted Wall of Fame. Those that fail get their pictures on the Wall of Shame. (Observer photo by Tim Simard)

Sitting back in his chair, eyes growing wider, Nate Lessard nervously inhaled as his challenger approached the table. Grinning apprehensively, Lessard stared down the beast approaching him. How he was going to defeat his adversary, he didn’t know. But fight he would.

Lessard’s opponent? A 5-pound calzone, stuffed with sausage, pepperoni, chicken, pizza sauce and piles of oozing mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.

“Oh my God, look at that thing,” Lessard said before plunging a fork and knife into the calzone’s steaming crust.

Lessard was among the first to attempt a new food competition, known as the Cal-Mungo Challenge, at Ramunto’s Brick Oven Pizza on Friday, Jan. 21. To win the competition and get a picture on Ramunto’s Wall of Fame, eaters have 45 minutes to finish a 5-pound calzone containing at least three ingredients. Successful eaters win a free T-shirt and don’t have to pay for the meal. Competitors who fail must pay for the calzone — and suffer the indignity of having a photo placed on the Wall of Shame.

“I think the key is to eat it fast because once the cheese cools and hardens, it’ll become a lot harder to finish,” said Jeff Paul, Ramunto’s co-owner and Cal-Mungo creator.

The Cal-Mungo Challenge is the latest in a popular line of gastronomic feats sweeping the nation, Paul said. He created the challenge after watching “Man v. Food” on the Travel Channel.

In “Man v. Food,” host Adam Richman travels across the United States attempting mega-burgers competitions, hot chicken wing challenges and more. Richman has not visited Vermont yet, and Paul hopes the Cal-Mungo Challenge will bring the show to the Champlain Valley. Better yet, he hopes Richman visits personally and attempts to eat the 5-pound calzone.

“We’re still trying to establish ourselves more in the (Burlington) market and the Cal-Mungo is already starting to generate buzz,” Paul said.

The first challenge

Lessard attempted the Cal-Mungo Challenge as part of a live radio broadcast for WNMR 107.1 The Game. The sports talk radio station set up a live remote at Ramunto’s as part of a debut for a new show called “José and the Ref,” hosted by José Pino and Lessard.

Lessard wasn’t alone in attempting the challenge: Colchester resident and station contributor David Ploof attacked his veggie calzone with vigor. Ploof believed he held the advantage because the vegetables would prove less heavy and more water-soluble than Lessard’s meat-filled calzone.

“It’s all in the strategy,” Ploof said between mouthfuls. “I think I’ve got a real chance.”

While Ploof and Lessard wolfed down their calzones at a steady pace, Pino provided a play-by-play of sorts and WNMR general manager Rich DeLancey roamed Ramunto’s with a microphone interviewing the crowd. Like many in the packed restaurant, Pino expressed shock at the gargantuan nature of the Cal-Mungo.

“It looks like you could feed a family of five, six, seven people for a week,” Pino said.

Cheered on by friends and diners, Lessard and Ploof ceaselessly consumed their calzones. Ploof decided to pick away at the Cal-Mungo from the left side; Lessard sliced his calzone in two, cutting half of it into bite-size pieces. But the sheer bulk of the Cal-Mungo quickly became a stumbling block for both.

Pale-faced and exhausted, Lessard threw in the towel 20 minutes into the challenge. Paul was there with his digital camera to capture the first face to appear on the Wall of Shame.

“Like Bernie Williams in the outfield, he’s hit the wall,” DeLancey proclaimed from the crowd.

“All that cheese and all that meat I had definitely worked against me,” Lessard said.

Ploof slowed down, but refused to quit. At least not for a few minutes after Lessard lost the challenge. After realizing he had finished half the Cal-Mungo in 30 minutes, Ploof called it a day. He figured it would be impossible to finish in another 15 minutes.

“I’m done, I’ve hit the wall three times already,” Ploof said.

Even though Lessard and Ploof came up short, Paul credited them as “trailblazers” and hoped others would attempt the Cal-Mungo. By the end of the WNMR broadcast, Paul had a third taker: DeLancey pledged that he would return to Ramunto’s, the next time as a competitor.

“I’m going to be like LeBron James and take my talents to Williston,” he said.

Taxes to rise as budget shrinks

School Board OKs budget decrease

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

For the second year in a row, the Williston School Board approved a budget decrease for the school district. Pending voter approval on March 1, Town Meeting Day, next school year’s budget will drop 1.06 percent.

The $16.3 million budget proposal includes the addition of a new science lab at Williston Central School and a substantial increase in new computer purchases. Planned retirements for some teachers and savings in the district’s operating expenses played roles in keeping costs down for next year, Principal Walter Nardelli has explained in meetings throughout the budget planning process.

School Board members attending the Jan. 20 meeting unanimously approved the budget. Chairwoman Holly Rouelle and board member Kevin Mara were not present.

In addition to approving or rejecting the 2011-2012 school budget on Town Meeting Day, residents will vote on a $369,000 bond for the replacement of two heating oil boilers and the installation of energy-saving lighting at Williston Central School. Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s chief operations officer, said the cost of the improvements may be lower than the amount suggested in the bond. If the cost is less than $369,000, the district would only take out a bond for the smaller amount. In addition, Mason said the district should recoup some money in energy efficiency rebates.

The ballot will also include a question for voters on whether to authorize the purchase of a new school bus for $105,000.

Despite the budget reduction, Williston’s property tax rate is expected to increase by 1 percent. That’s because the Vermont Legislature expects to raise the state’s homestead base rate by 1 cent. Homestead base rates and school budgets determine individual town property taxes.

The Champlain Valley Union High School budget figures into Williston’s tax increase as well, Mason said. CVU’s budget for next year is also dropping by a little more than 1 percent, but not enough to minimize projected tax increases.

Mason said the Legislature may approve a homestead base rate hike from 86 cents to 87 cents to help close a statewide budget gap. While this decision is not set in stone, Mason said early indicators from the legislative session seem to point toward a bump in taxes.

“One could attribute the tax increase to what the state did and not what you did,” Mason told the board.

The School Board plans to hold an informational public budget meeting next month, although no date was agreed upon at the meeting.

Selectboard approves budget increase

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard approved a municipal budget proposal Monday night that will increase town spending and raise property taxes by a small amount. The 2011-2012 town budget proposal retains current services and represents no major cuts to Williston’s infrastructure.

Residents will vote on the budgets and bonds on March 1, Town Meeting Day.

The board unanimously supported the $8.06 million budget, along with a capital improvement plan that runs through 2017. The improvement plan lists several town projects that will need attention in the next five years, such as the construction of a recreation park at Allen Brook School and the replacement of older town equipment.

The board also OK’d the water and sewer budget proposals. Both budgets are expected to increase ratepayers’ bills. Sewer fees are expected to climb by nearly $1 per 1,000 gallons of usage, with water usage dues projected to increase by 25 cents per 1,000 gallons.

The $8.06 million budget represents a 4.1 percent increase over the current municipal budget. Town Manager Rick McGuire’s original budget proposal was about $75,000 more than what Selectboard members approved Monday. Board members asked McGuire to reduce the budget to a number that would denote only a half-cent increase in property taxes.

Based on McGuire’s recommendations, the board removed $25,000 for construction on the planned Allen Brook park. McGuire told the board the project would still begin this spring, although on a smaller scale. The Recreation Department already has funds set aside for the first phase of construction, and other funding could come through impact fees, he said.

The board also decided to hold off on $33,000 for a new highway truck. McGuire said the need for the vehicle remains, but can wait until a future fiscal year. McGuire also said $20,000 in additional revenue could be moved from the town’s general fund to offset further tax increases.

The half-cent property tax increase means individuals owning a $200,000 home can expect to see their current taxes of $420 escalate by $10; taxes on a $300,000 home will rise about $15, McGuire said. The half-cent increase is an estimate, as the Selectboard will not set Williston’s tax rate until June, McGuire said after the meeting.

Similarly, the Selectboard will not finalize the water and sewer rates until June. Projections have water rates rising to $3 per 1,000 gallons, up from the current $2.75 per 1,000 gallons. The expected increase is due to growing expenditures in the water department.

An expected upsurge in sewer usage in town and rising costs in capital improvements led to a projected sewer rate of $4.85 per 1,000 gallons. The current rate is $3.86 per 1,000 gallons.

Bond votes

In addition to the municipal budget and separate from the expected sewer fee hikes for ratepayers, residents will vote on a $1.5 million bond to upgrade the town’s sewer system. Many sewer lines are more than 20 years old. The board said the bond money would be used for only “reasonable maintenance.”

Voters will also decide on a resolution to connect the Meadowridge subdivision to Williston’s sewer system. This resolution includes a $600,000 bond to pay for connection costs. Residents in Meadowridge would pay the money back, with interest, over time.

The Selectboard unanimously approved both bond proposals.

In September, Meadowridge residents approached the Selectboard about hooking up to the town’s sewer system. One of the subdivision’s two septic systems kept failing even after costly repair attempts. Deeming the problem a potential public health hazard, the board approved a plan to link Meadowridge’s 60 homes to a South Road sewer line.

If voters approve the resolution, the town will create a special assessment district for Meadowridge. The cost of the project will initially fall to the town, which will recoup the cost from the development’s homeowners, McGuire said.

“I’m sure the Meadowridge folks who have a vested interest in this will be getting the word out to people,” board member Chris Roy said.

Teachers reject contract offer

CSSU could impose contract

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Contract talks between the local teachers union and Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s negotiation team broke down again last week. Both sides called the Jan. 20 meeting frustrating and blamed each other for the inability to agree on a two-year contract.

In the aftermath, CSSU school boards indicated they may impose a one-year contract if no consensus is reached by the end of the month. The teachers union plans to meet with its members about how to proceed, which could include striking.

According to Scott Cameron, CSSU’s chief negotiator and a Montpelier lawyer, the teachers union representatives walked away from the discussion table over disputes regarding step increases and teacher contributions toward health care premiums, among other concerns.

“The teachers got upset and walked out,” Cameron said. “It could have ended better.”

The CSSU team is made up of school board members from supervisory union boards. Teachers from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School make up the Chittenden South Education Association, also known as the CSEA.

Lisa Bisbee, the CSEA’s lead negotiator, said her team became increasingly frustrated when school board negotiators appeared unwilling to listen to teacher concerns.

“I think the (CSSU) boards became entrenched in their own rhetoric,” said Bisbee, who is also a special educator at Williston Central School.

“It’s really fracturing the climate of our negotiations and it doesn’t feel like a respectful process now,” she said.

Contract talks began 15 months ago and continued after the teacher contracts expired at the end of June 2010. A fact finder’s report issued in September found room for both parties to compromise, but no concessions occurred in the three times negotiators met since fact finding.

On Friday, CSSU issued a press release detailing where the parties remain unable to compromise. The CSEA followed that up this week with a letter to school boards disputing some of the details released by CSSU.

CSSU negotiators offered to add 2 percent in salary raises through step increases, along with a one-time, $300 payment to teachers not eligible for step increases in the 2010-2011 school year. For the second contract year, CSSU offered a 3 percent increase, which should favor teachers previously ineligible for step increases.

According to the CSEA, raises in the first contract year would not cover the money appropriated for the new teachers’ retirement system. Instead of offering one-time payments and a 2 percent raise, the CSEA prefers a 3 percent salary increase for all educators.

CSSU stated in its press release that if it approves the 3 percent increase, then school boards would need to revisit school budgets and make appropriate cuts, which could include staff reductions.

In terms of contributions to health care premiums, CSSU wants teachers to increase their payments to 13 percent in the first year and 15 percent the second year. The CSEA favors 13 percent contributions in both years.

Cameron said the school boards offered the best contract they could and does not foresee how they can alter the proposal. While the CSSU negotiators hold “tremendous respect” for the teachers, Cameron said the boards must first consider the taxpayers who ultimately pay for school costs.

“There’s a lot of people hurting out there right now,” Cameron said. “This is not business as usual.”

The CSSU board has given the CSEA until Jan. 31 to accept the CSSU proposal or make a “reasonable counter offer,” Cameron said, noting that the CSSU school boards may decide to impose a one-year contract to complete the process. In doing so, both sides would need to restart the entire negotiation process.

Bisbee said the CSEA will look at a counter proposal, but sees the contract imposition akin to a threat. She said CSEA negotiators will meet this week to discuss the latest developments, adding that a strike will certainly be debated.

“Right now, that’s our nuclear option,” Bisbee said.