May 26, 2018

Lack of funding jeopardizes flower displays

Williston In Bloom holding Town Meeting fundraiser

Feb. 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Williston’s colorful flower arrangements found throughout Taft Corners and the Village during the warm seasons might be a thing of the past unless a local organization can raise enough funds.

Williston In Bloom, a nonprofit group that buys and plants flower beds in key locations around town, learned last month that its annual funding contribution would not happen this year. Due to budget constraints, Williston’s Public Works Department decided to remove the $7,000 it generally gives to Williston In Bloom in order to reduce spending, coordinator June Jones said.

With almost no funds currently available to the organization, Williston In Bloom plans to hold a fundraiser on Town Meeting night, Feb. 28. Jones and her organizers plan to set up a booth an hour before Town Meeting begins, with a group member possibly speaking about the fundraising effort during the meeting.

The group hopes to solicit donations from those in attendance, as well as sell seeds to benefit the program, Jones said. Donated seeds from the National Gardening Association will be available for purchase, with all proceeds benefiting Williston In Bloom.

While she understands the town’s difficulties to keep costs reasonable in an uncertain economy, Jones said she’s saddened that Williston may receive fewer flowers this spring, summer and fall.

“Without any contributions from the town this year, we’re definitely in a pinch,” Jones said.

Each year, Williston In Bloom plants flower around the bandstand in the Village, town office flower boxes, and creates the elaborate Williston welcome arrangement off the Interstate 89 Exit 12 ramp. The organization also pays for professional growers to plant flower beds in intersections around Taft Corners and Mountain View Road.

Jones said the group still hopes to decorate the Village, as well as the off ramp flower beds, with the help of private and business donations. Williston In Bloom would need roughly $3,000 to complete those projects. Seeds and bulbs donated by Williston-based American Meadows helped lessen the financial strain, Jones said.

It would take a total of $10,000 to fund the planting of the intersections, and “unless someone comes through with a lot of money, that’s probably not going to happen this year,” she added.

Lack of funding also puts Williston In Bloom’s other programs in jeopardy. Along with the Williston Observer, Williston In Bloom helps manage the community garden for Plant-A-Row for the Hungry, a program that provides fresh vegetables for families utilizing the Williston Community Food Shelf. Williston In Bloom also aids local homeowners associations with flower arrangements.

CSSU, teachers union reach tentative agreement

Sixteen-month process likely over

Feb. 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

The nearly 16-month teacher contract negotiation process with Chittenden South Supervisory Union appears to be almost over. Last week, teachers union representatives and negotiators with CSSU reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract, according to a joint press release issued Tuesday.

In recent weeks, both sides inched closer to agreement over salary increases, health insurance premium payments, and step raises for eligible teachers during contract negotiations. Negotiators initially discussed a two-year contract, but it appears a third year was added in the final meeting. The negotiations ended on Thursday, Feb. 17, before CSSU school districts took winter break.

No details were immediately released regarding the settlement. At first, union representatives and CSSU negotiators said both sides had to ratify the contract before releasing details. After CSSU administrators received a public record request, Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said all contract information would be released Thursday.

“We really wanted to wait until everything was official, but we don’t have anything to hide,” Pinckney said.

In the meantime, both sides said they’re relieved the lengthy, and sometimes contentious, negotiations concluded amicably. Lisa Bisbee, chief negotiator for the Chittenden South Education Association, said she’s pleased the negotiations reached a conclusion.

“Nobody got everything they wanted, but I think we’re all happy this is done,” said Bisbee, who is also a special educator at Williston Central School.

Educators from the Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School districts make up the Chittenden South Education Association, also known as the CSEA.

Darlene Worth, a Williston School Board member and chairwoman of the CSSU School Board and negotiating team, said she’s pleased the negotiations ended on a good note.

“There were some times when neither side thought we could get it done,” Worth said.

Both sides expressed hope that a settlement was imminent after a CSSU board meeting on Feb. 1, where more than 200 teachers turned out to support a contract. During the meeting, the board weighed a possible contract imposition, but instead favored returning to the negotiating table.

Also at that meeting, the CSEA proposed a counter offer to an earlier CSSU proposal put forth in January. In return, the CSSU board delivered its own counter offer.

“I have to give the board, and especially Darlene Worth, a lot of credit,” Bisbee said. “They wanted to keep negotiating and that made all the difference.”

Negotiations began in late 2009 and continued past the contract expiration date of June 30, 2010. Having reached a stalemate, a fact finder was called in to find consensus. After the fact finder issued a report in September, negotiations continued. At times, CSSU and CSEA negotiators publicly expressed frustration with each other as the months dragged on.

From the beginning, negotiators struggled to reach a compromise on step increases and health care premium payments. CSSU recently asked teachers to agree to a 2 percent increase in salary raises for the first year of a contract, with 3 percent in raises for the second year. The board also asked teachers to increase their health care premium payments from 13 percent in the first contract year to 15 percent in the second.

Another major stumbling block revolved around automatic step increases for eligible teachers during the negotiations process. The CSSU board, at first, said it did not support paying teachers the raises in the midst of negotiations, but changed its stance earlier this month. Worth believes the board’s concession to the automatic raises helped end negotiations last week.

Worth said the process, while lengthy, was a negotiation in the truest sense of the word; both sides had to make compromises they weren’t happy about. But she also said she’s pleased CSSU and the CSEA agreed without resorting to a contract imposition and impending strike.

Bisbee echoed Worth’s sentiment and looks forward to both sides continuing a strong relationship.

“We both got something that we can live with and works for both of us,” Bisbee said.

The Chittenden South Supervisory Union and Chittenden South Education Association are expected to release contract details this Thursday after the Observer goes to press. Once the paper receives the information, it will be posted on the Observer’s website,

BREAKING NEWS: CSSU releases information on teacher contract settlement

Officials at Chittenden South Supervisory Union released detailed information Wednesday night regarding the tentative three-year teacher contract settlement. According to the information provided, eligible teachers would receive a 2 percent salary increase for the current 2010-2011 school year. Raises would then increase by 3 percent in the 2011-2012 school year, and another 3 percent in the 2012-2013 school year.

While salaries will increase over the next three school years, teachers will pay more for their health insurance premiums. Each year, teachers will increase their payments from 13 percent to 15 percent by the end of the three-year contract.
Check out this week’s article, “CSSU, teachers union reach tentative agreement,” for background of the nearly 16-month negotiation process, and look for more information in next week’s Observer.

PHOTOS: CVU wrestling versus Essex

Feb. 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

The Champlain Valley Union wrestling squad grappled against Essex on Feb. 9 Match winners included Tucker Austin, Chris Roy, Alex Craige, and Ryan Fleming.

PHOTOS: CVU girls hockey versus SBHS

Feb. 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

The Champlain Valley Union girls hockey team upended South Burlington, 5-3, on Feb. 9. Sophia Steinhoff had a hat trick and Molly Howard scored twice.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey versus Colchester

Feb, 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

Champlain Valley Union scored four unanswered goals to down Colchester on Feb. 9, 4-3. Freshman goalie Zack Weimer had 21 saves.

CVU Sports Schedule

No events scheduled

Friday: ESSEX, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: RICE MEMORIAL, 7 p.m.

Thursday: ST. JOHNSBURY, 6:30 p.m.
Monday: ESSEX, 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: State Meet at Essex, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: at Harwood (Washington Ice Center), 7 p.m.

Saturday: ESSEX, 6 p.m.
Tuesday: BFA-ST. ALBANS, 3 p.m.

Saturday: vs Bellows Free Academy and Burlington, site to
be announced, 10 a.m.
Monday: at BFA-Fairfax, 10 a.m.

Saturday: Junior Varsity State meet at Spaulding (Barre), 10 a.m.

This Week’s Popcorn – “Sanctum”

“Sanctum” — Subterranean stereotypical blues

2 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to The Observer

Alister Grierson’s “Sanctum,” a 3D adventure yarn about cave exploration which should first be avoided by claustrophobics, and then by anyone who values their movie time, brought back memories of a kid in my dorm: The Mole. Save for jogging that recollection and some fairly good FX, there is little to recommend this standard survival gambit.

The Mole, on the other hand, was anything but standard. Perennially appearing as if he had just returned from a death-defying escapade in some dank, dark grotto, he was rarely out of costume, his outfit capped by a miner’s hat, built-in lantern and all. Where exactly the caves were near our Iowa campus, I never discovered. But I did learn a new word.

Spelunking is the study of caves. Thus, The Mole and the two or three lesser gnomes always at his side, though never achieving celebrity or title like their champion, were spelunkers. I assume they accompanied him on his delves. I don’t recall ever seeing any of them in a class. Such characters are part of the enriching experience that is college.

Unfortunately, the characters in director Grierson’s feature length drop down the rabbit hole can’t hold a miner’s candle to The Mole. They comprise the typical assemblage of risk taking globetrotters, put before us so that we may guess who, if any, will endure the derring-do about to be perpetrated. The undisputed leader is Richard Roxburgh’s Frank.

Only the venue changes for the Franks of this genre. But it’s always something life-and-death dangerous. Rarely do you see a film about a famous accountant, admired by his fellow accountants, but estranged from his coming-of-age son and wife. Alas, he left them to handle the suburban home and hearth on their own. The CPA wanderlust called.

And then, to the background of the Tsunami of all tax seasons, sonny boy is tossed into the scenario. Dad’s pals try to convince the young man that he just doesn’t understand the old man…that he’s not such a bad guy at all, but merely driven by the forces of his great number crunching. But the kid, who has super accounting skills despite himself, is angry.

We can only hope that the harrowing mess of 1040 forms they’re about to challenge will prove the crucible that makes father and son realize the importance of making peace and bonding. Now, transfer said stereotype to where the stalagmites and stalactites grow, and there you have “Sanctum’s” plot. Remember, the stalagmites come up from the floor.

Yet to be more precise, the tale isn’t just about perusing caves. Making it even tougher for particularly emotive viewers, Frank and company specialize in mapping the paths of waterways that stream through said caverns. That means scuba gear, bubbles, divers gesturing by hand and lots of talk about the bends. Oy, thinking about it, I can’t breathe.

Of course it’s no small accomplishment to effect such discomfort. Thus, it occurs that a documentary detailing the fine engineering and art direction that went into making “Sanctum” would easily trump this otherwise trite affair. Combining CGI magic with tricks dating back to Edison’s Black Maria, technically this is pretty good filmmaking.

Unfortunately, the script by John Garvin and Andrew Wight doesn’t rise above the usual boilerplate. There’s a special art to the screenplay in close quarters, evidenced best by the biting dialogue so magnificently articulated in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” (1944). But then that was the handiwork of no less than Ben Hecht, John Steinbeck and Jo Swerling.

Here, fed the usual fodder and son enmity via Mr. Roxburgh’s disappointing dad and Rhys Wakefield’s reluctant chip off the old block, our minds tend to wander. Gosh, confined and bored. If only there were some good cave drawings to at least take up the slack. The equally clichéd supporting players do little to assuage the unease and ennui.

While we learn a bit more about the holes in our landscape than we knew going in, the filmmakers miss a chance to complement the action with truly intriguing facts. If only they had dug up the Mole. I’m sure he could have shed some informative light on the subject. As it stands, viewers determined to avoid “Sanctum” are advised not to cave.

“Sanctum,” rated R, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Alister Grierson and stars Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield and Ioan Gruffudd. Running time: 109 minutes.

Exercise safety in snowstorms

Feb. 17, 2011

Vermont Emergency Management, the Vermont State Police, Vermont Fire Safety, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and Vermont Department of Health would like everyone to heed the following safety tips during snowstorms.

Excessive snow shoveling can cause a range of health problems, from back injuries to heart attack, if not done in moderation; take frequent breaks from shoveling.

Check snow pack on roofs and remove snow if necessary and if it can be done safely to avoid a collapse. This includes barn roofs; many agricultural buildings in Vermont are designed for “total” roof load of 50 pounds per square foot.  Call a contractor if you need assistance.

Vermonters who are able to check on and help elderly neighbors and others who need assistance in removing snow are encouraged to do so.

It is critical as snow piles up to ensure all outside heating vents are clear of snow. A blocked vent can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) buildup in the home and CO poisoning. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to flu, but without the fever and may include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.  If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately and call the fire department.

If power is lost and you run a generator, run it outdoors; an improperly vented generator can lead to CO poisoning.

Ensure your generator is installed according to manufacturers’ standards; an improperly installed generator can feed back onto power lines, creating a hazard to line workers.

If while traveling you get stuck in deep snow, do NOT let your engine idle if your exhaust pipe is buried. Idling with a buried exhaust pipe also risks carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other tips for the road

Check road and weather conditions before leaving.  You can call 511 or visit for more information on roads.

Avoid traveling unless necessary and always allow yourself extra time to get to your destination.

Watch for and expect changing road conditions. Black ice, blowing snow, high winds or whiteout conditions can appear when you least expect them to.

Drive at a speed that matches road conditions. The posted speed limits are for dry, clear conditions only.

Be sure to leave yourself plenty of extra room, extend the following distance from other vehicles ahead.

Carry a cell phone and use 911 in case of an emergency, but do not become over dependent on a cell phone.

Sports Notes

Feb. 17, 2011


Champlain Valley Union High School’s indoor track club returned from Saturday’s Vermont State Indoor Championships at Norwich University in Northfield with three titles in hand.

The winners were senior Summer Spillane in the girls’ 100 meter run, Dale Conger, a senior, in the shot put, and the four-girl 800 relay team.

In addition, six more athletes qualified for the New England Indoor Championships in March.

“We had 20 CVU athletes competing this year where in 2010 we had four,” said club coach James Donegan.

Spillane was in on two of the crowning achievements, adding a position on the winning relay team along with juniors Claire Trotter, Adrienne DeVita and freshman Carly Caswell.

Haliana Burhams, another freshman, qualified for the New Englands with a fourth in the 35-meter dash. She was also a member of the qualifying 200 relay team that included freshman Eliza Giles and sophomores Abby Eddy and Claire Mathon.

Junior Claire Tucker qualified with a fifth in the 1,600-meter run while DeVita was sixth.


After day one Monday of the Northern Vermont Athletic Council district alpine races, Champlain Valley Union High School’s Taylor Spillane had a slalom victory and both boys and girls teams were in title contention.

The slalom competition ended at Burke Mountain with the CVU girls (66 points) in second place to Mount Mansfield Union (40 points). Spillane posted a six-second victory over runner-up Aniken Palola of Mount Mansfield.

CVU’s boys were sixth with 65 points with Harwood Union (40 points) in the lead.
The districts resumed Wednesday with a giant slalom on Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush Resort.


Several Champlain Valley Union High Nordic racers have qualified for Eastern regional events next month after doing well in qualifying events Sunday in Craftsbury.

According to CVU Nordic ski coach Sarah Strack, five girls and three boys earned their way to the J2 (ages 14 and 15) regional competition in Gunstock, N.H. March 11-13. They will be racing against individuals from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York.

The girls include Cally Braun, Emma Hamilton, Autumn Eastman. Kayla Servin, and Leah Epstein, who is an alternate.

Thomas Clayton, Sam Longenbach and Emmett Peterson were the boys named.
Named to the Elite class were Sienna Searles of the girls team. Boys were Hans Fredrik Fahle, Sam Epstein, Jake Marston and Kilian Muller.

The elites will meet their counterparts from the other eastern states March 18-20 at Rumford, Maine.

The Redhawks will get ready for the upcoming state meets this weekend when they go against BFA-St. Albans and Burlington Saturday in St. Albans at a site to be determined.
On Tuesday, they will travel to BFA-Fairfax.


Buoyed by a hard-earned two game win string, the CVU boys hockey team took a 13-2-1 record into Wednesday night’s contest against Spaulding in Barre.

The Redhawks nudged the Crimson Tide 3-2 at Cairns Arena in early January. Coach Mike Murray’s skaters return home Saturday for their first meeting of the season against Missisquoi Valley Union (6:40 p.m.).

The Redhawks rode the Dobrowski Express for two victories last week, culminating in an overtime 4-3 triumph over the tough 11-4 BFA Bobwhites Saturday in St. Albans.

Dobrowski netted the winning goal with 2:20 left in the five-minute overtime period. The senior whiz had slammed home two others earlier. He now has 29 goals for the season.
Linemate Kyle Logan nailed the other CVU score.

Redhawk freshman goalie Zack Weimer had 21 saves in his second win of the week.
Last Wednesday, CVU found itself trailing Colchester 3-0 after the first period. It was time to go to work and it paid off.

Dobrowski scored twice and set up teammate Jeffrey Thompson for the winning goal in the third period.

Logan also notched a tally. Derek Goodwin and J.P. Benoit picked up two assists.
Weimer slammed the door on the Lakers after the first period, notching 12 stops.


The CVU girls hockey team took an 11-5 season record on the road to Highgate and the Missisquoi Valley Union Thunderbirds Wednesday night, their last bus trip of the regular season.

Next up for coach Tom Ryan and his Redhawks is a set of three home games starting with a visit from Essex on Saturday at 6 p.m. BFA-St. Albans then comes to Cairns Arena on Tuesday at 3 p.m. following a rescheduling as a result of recent snows.

Powerful Spaulding then blows into the Redhawks’ home rink Feb. 26, the regular season finale.

CVU traveled to Manchester Monday in the makeup of a previously postponed trip and delivered a 4-2 licking to the Burr and Burton Bulldogs.

It was the second straight victory for CVU, which outlasted South Burlington 5-3 last Wednesday, its second win of the season over the Rebels.

Junior Sophia Steinhoff who began the season as a forward and is now playing defense as a result of an injury-depleted defense corps, turned in a hat trick with three scores while Molly Howard and Alyx Rivard each tallied once. CVU overcame an early 2-0 deficit. CVU goalie Nicole Sisk made 19 saves.


The Williston Recreation Department is taking registrations for spring lacrosse, for grades third through eighth, Town Clerk’s office. Registrations will be taken on a first come first served basis until closed. 878-1239.