May 28, 2018

CVU girls basketball makes the grade with ‘D’

March 24, 2011

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

They started out with three defeats in their first five games, but by the end of season the Champlain Valley Union girls basketball team challenged hard for the Division I state crown before falling to Rice Memorial High, 45-36, in the championship game before a huge and loud crowd of supporters at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium on March 10.

Head coach Jeff Evans cited teamwork and willingness to play defense as the vital parts in the girls’ march to an overall 17-7 record and the title contest.

“I loved this season and for many reasons,” Evans told The Citizen via e-mail. ‘Perhaps the biggest one being that we were truly a team.”

But it was a slow start to the campaign.

After knocking off Mount Mansfield Union in the home opener, the Redhawks got nipped by a point at South Burlington before winning at Vergennes.

Two straight losses followed: at home to Rice followed by a Klondike shooting night and 32-23 dinging in St. Johnsbury.

But through it all, Evans played at least 11 players per game and things quickly turned around.

A narrow 37-35 win at Mount Mansfield ignited a six-game wining streak that included victories over former tormentors South Burlington and Rice. The Redhawks were finally on the wing.

Playing time for all started paying off. Evans pointed out that contributions were coming from all players at different times.

“We won games with our bench, our bigs and our guards,” Evans said. “We were diverse enough to win games in a variety of ways. The kids did everything asked of them, particularly in the area of out-thinking opponents.”

The defense soon became the Redhawks raison d’etre, an element that Evans said was considered critical in preseason planning.

Pointing to the graduation losses of top scorers Allison Gannon and Kendal Kohlasch, Evans said a ton of offense was gone but replaced with some great defenders.
“Defense was a necessity,” he said. “We were not going to win shootouts. To take pressure off the offense we had to hold teams to low numbers.”

And those numbers went very low. The Hawks averaged 31 points allowed per game. That’s an A – pardon, Big D – in any grading system.

“The kids bought in on their own,” Evans said. “They were willing to defend the way we asked them to in our system.”

Evans felt that overall the team exceeded preseason expectations.

And for some there will be more. Evans said three senior captains; Shae Hulbert, Amanda Kinneston and Carlee Evans have been selected for the North team in the annual North-South girls’ all-star contest.

Right to the Point

Fuel for thought

March 24, 2011

By Kayla Purvis

Since the Libyan crisis started last month, Americans have seen quite a jump in gas prices. They seemed to go up a few cents every week. There was one particular gas station I went to that had gas for $3.39 a gallon, so I quickly stopped there to fill my tank. The next day or so I drove by and they were up to $3.59. Some gas stations in Williston offer five cents off on Sundays, so that is when I have filled my tank.

I noticed that the prices stopped climbing approximately 10 days ago. I think we can safely say that that is mostly due to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, followed by the further destruction caused by aftershocks.

Japan, according to the CIA World Factbook, is the third-largest importer of oil in the world, coming in at 5,033,000 barrels per day. The United States imports 11,310,000 barrels per day.

I doubt that Japan is importing five million barrels of oil per day right now. That is bound to affect our gas prices. If you think about it, the demand has gone down quite a bit. Supply has also gone down, given the situation in Libya. So, since our supply (or rather access) and demand have gone down, the relative standstill in our gas prices makes sense.
It was predicted that prices could get as high as $5 a barrel by Memorial Day. I think they are pretty settled around $3.70 in Chittenden county, or at least Williston. I was in Winooski the other day and saw gas for $3.39. I couldn’t believe it!

With Muammar Qaddafi gaining more ground over the rebels, I am curious how the situation in Libya will end. I am really sorry for the Libyan people because they deserve a new leader if that is what they want.

The rising conflict over the Abyei region in Sudan may also affect our prices at the pump, as the very oil-rich region is being argued over by North and South Sudan. Both sides claim ownership of Abyei, and the region is dealing with large amounts of conflict and violence. If it becomes compromised or a standstill, we will see prices go up again. It may be by a little or it may be by a lot – it depends on how much of our oil comes from Sudan.

It is interesting to see how events halfway across the globe from each other interconnect and affect one another.

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

Liberally Speaking

Nuclear power—a second look

March 24, 2011

By Steve Mount

Recent events in Japan have forced me to reevaluate a position that I have extolled in this space several times over the past years: my support for nuclear power.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 left in their wake, as of this writing, over 10,000 casualties and almost 13,000 missing. The earthquake itself was the seventh largest in recorded history, but even that dubious honor may be too low considering that scientists are still poring over data.

The tsunami swept away cars, trains, and entire villages. Its effects were felt as far away as California, where it was predicted that millions of dollars in damage was done.

And right in the middle of both natural disasters are the sites of 14 of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors. The reactors at the Tokai and Ongawa sites did have issues and there were shutdowns, but the damage was relatively minor.

Some of the ten reactors at the Fukushima sites, however, were heavily damaged and are causing concern not only in Japan, but also across the world.

There is an international nuclear event scale, which tries to put nuclear accidents into some perspective, according to the effects of the incident both on-and off-site. The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 is noted as a level 5 accident. An incident in the Soviet Union in 1957 is the only recorded level 6 accident. And the Chernobyl accident, in 1986, is the only one rated at the highest level – 7.

Where the Fukushima incident will land on this scale is unknown. Certainly it will be a level 5 incident and may already be a level 6. Everyone is hoping, and some are certain, that it will not become a level 7.

With the ongoing issues at Vermont Yankee, and the shock of a minor earthquake, centered near Montreal, coming so soon after the Japanese disaster, many are wondering if what happened there could happen here. And even if reasonable people think that it cannot, can we take the risk? Should Vermont Yankee be completely shut down?

Should any nuclear power plant built along a major fault line, like several have been in California, be allowed to operate further? Should nuclear power be allowed to continue at all?

At times like these, with disaster so fresh in the media and the consequences still rubbing raw in our minds, it is reasonable to ask these questions. But because everything is so fresh, we must not jump to hasty conclusions.

Nuclear power, until we have more viable options in terms of safety, sustainability, low-impact, and absolute power output, is the best way for us to produce the energy that we need. The safety record of U.S. nuclear power plants is very good – issues at Vermont Yankee and incidents like Three Mile Island notwithstanding. The footprint of nuclear power plants is small compared to one needed to have a reasonable wind farm. The nuclear power plant generates electricity 24 hour hours a day, regardless of wind, tides, or sunlight, and without any carbon emissions. We cannot sustain our economy as we do now without them.

This is not to say that I accept nuclear without reservation. The issue of waste is a real and pressing one. I think we could solve much of it with reasonable and common sense recycling of nuclear material, but even that will not solve the waste issue completely.
Reactors the age of those at Vermont Yankee can continue to run safely past their design parameters. But even given that, the issues Yankee has had with leaks show that even if the reactor can continue, the infrastructure supporting it may not be able to.

President Barack Obama has announced his administration’s intention to continue to fund and support nuclear power, incorporating all the latest advances into new plants that are safer and more efficient than ever. Scientists continue to look for ways to make fission reactors more and more safe, always with an eye to the Holy Grail, the fusion reactor.

We must take lessons away from the Japanese disaster, build these lessons into new designs and close or retrofit old plants where necessary. What we cannot afford to do is abandon nuclear power completely – not now, and not in the foreseeable future.

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 or read his blog at

Guest Column

The never-ending work of defending the public’s right to know

March 24, 2011

By Patrick Leahy

This is the sixth anniversary of Sunshine Week, a time to take stock of the public’s right to know and to celebrate victories in making our government more open and transparent.

It was more than 40 years ago that Congress enacted the landmark Freedom of Information Act.  This watershed law ushered in a new and unprecedented era of transparency in government.  More than four decades later, the public and the press continue to draw on the FOIA to better understand what the government is doing.

Without the sunlight the FOIA provides, government officials make decisions in the shadows, and face little accountability for their actions.  The FOIA provides that window into what the government is doing in the name of the American people.

We have succeeded in recent years in strengthening the Act.  I was proud when the OPEN Government Act was signed into law a few years ago, after years of thoughtful debate in Congress.  That law marked the first significant reforms to the FOIA in more than a decade, and was the result of bipartisan work in both the Senate and House.  I was pleased to work on that important law with my longtime partner on FOIA issues, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.  We have continued that partnership, and last Congress, we teamed up again and introduced the OPEN FOIA Act, a new law that requires Congress to explicitly and clearly state its intention to provide for a statutory exemption to the FOIA in new legislative proposals.  I look forward to continuing that productive partnership with Senator Cornyn, as we work together this year to enact the Faster FOIA Act, a bill that charters a bipartisan commission to assess and help improve FOIA implementation.  I have set a hearing for this week to get the ball rolling.

The digital age opens new opportunities for the public to access information about their government with greater ease and wider availability.  More and more, Vermonters and all Americans are turning to the Internet for information and news.  Traditional media sources are finding new ways to deliver information online, and social media is connecting readers and viewers in ways never seen before.

Technology has made information much easier to gather, share and store.  The social media revolution is riding this wave, carrying us along.  This is also a time when security and safety concerns motivate governments to build or hire databanks that hoard vast bits of information about each of us.  At a time when our government knows more and more about us, we need the FOIA to learn what our government is doing.

And while government must be accountable to the people it represents, so too must the people empower their government to provide for the safety and security of its citizens.  There are difficult questions that must be asked – and answered – about the responsible disclosure of government information.  Like many Americans, I remain deeply troubled by the unauthorized release of classified government information.  Safeguarding information about our national security and demonstrating our commitment to open government are equally important priorities.  Our national policy on handling information must balance both of these important interests.

Information is a freedom, but information also is a right and a requirement for effective self-government.  Information is a pillar of our democracy.  Without it, citizens are kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives.  Without open government, citizens cannot make informed choices at the ballot box.  Once eroded, these rights are hard to win back.

Keeping the FOIA effective takes a constant vigil.  Recent headlines on FOIA-related issues range from a major Supreme Court case to compliance levels at individual agencies.  Making and keeping the FOIA effective requires attention to process, policymaking, and priorities.  Today’s generations of Americans can be proud of keeping the FOIA flame burning brightly on our watch, amid an endless array of challenges and threats.

A government of the people, by the people and for the people must be accountable to the people.

Sunshine Week invites us to recommit ourselves to promoting an open and transparent government, accessible to the people.  It is a commitment we make not just for the people of today, but for the generations of Americans to come.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was installed in the Freedom Of Information Act Hall of Fame in 1996 and won the Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award in 2009.

Around Town

March 24, 2011

Kindergarten registration
If your child will be 5 by September 1 and will enter kindergarten this fall, please go to the Williston School District website at to schedule a registration appointment beginning March 24. You may also call 879-5806.

Dog Registration Notice
All dogs must be licensed annually on or before April 1. Proof of current rabies, spayed, or neutered certificate required.

Artists wanted
The community room at the Williston Police Department recently installed a gallery hanging system and is interested in working with local artists in need of a space to show their work. Group shows are also welcome.  Numerous community groups frequently use the room. If interested, contact Millie Whitcomb at 802-764-1152 or email

Youth hockey team captures state crown
The Chittenden South Burlington Hawks Bantam A/B youth hockey team defeated St. Albans, 4-2, to win the state championship last month. The squad had two players from Williston: Dustin Desany and Brandon Murakami.

Local mentors celebrate Mobius’ community science night at ECHO
On March 10, Mobius celebrated community science night, a special event for local youth mentoring pairs hosted by the ECHO Aquarium/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington. More than 60 mentors and mentees attended the event, which featured free science exhibits, live animal demonstrations, and local dinner provided by Sugar Snap.
Williston resident Danielle O’Brien, a mentor through HowardCenter’s Community Friends Mentoring, was excited to share a new experience with her 14-year-old mentee Amy.

“It’s so neat to see your mentee happy just from spending time with you,” said O’Brien. “I rarely leave Amy without feeling personally satisfied, so it really is a win-win relationship for both of us. Being able to spend time with her at ECHO was wonderful and I’m so appreciative that opportunities like this are made available to us.”
The event was part of Mobius’ ongoing efforts to develop a culture of mentoring in Chittenden County communities.

Emergency conservation program sign-up extended for Chittenden County
The Chittenden/Washington County Farm Service Agency Committee has extended the sign-up period for the Emergency Conservation Program. Applications will now be accepted until the close of business on April 6.

ECP is designed to help producers in Chittenden County recover from damage caused by the Dec. 1 windstorm. Funds are available to help with the costs associated with debris clean up in maple sugar orchards, pastures, and cropland; repair of damaged livestock fences; and repairs or replacement of maple sap taps and tubing. Under the ECP, participants are generally reimbursed up to 75 percent of the costs, not to exceed an amount determined by the local FSA County Committee, to repair or restore damaged property to pre-disaster condition.  Participants must have sustained a minimum of $1,000 of eligible damages to qualify and an on-site inspection by an FSA employee must be performed.

Generally, applicants must wait to begin restoration work until they have filed an ECP application. However, there are waiver provisions available for those who have already started, or even finished, clean up and have not filed an application. Participants must document expenses, labor, and equipment use to be eligible for reimbursement. Other program provisions apply.

Special Olympics Vermont names new President and CEO
Lisa DeNatale has recently been appointed by Special Olympics Vermont Board of Directors to serve as the organization’s President and CEO. As Special Olympics Vermont President and CEO, DeNatale will be responsible to ensure the ongoing success of the organization.

DeNatale comes to Special Olympics Vermont with a wealth of brand development and management experience, most recently serving in a variety of global leadership roles at Ben and Jerry’s.  Prior to her employment with Ben and Jerry’s, DeNatale worked with top sports organizations in various marketing capacities, including Nike and Reebok.
Special Olympics Vermont, based in Williston, is part of an unprecedented global movement that improves the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through quality sports training and competition, empowering people with intellectual disabilities to develop their skills and realize their full potential.

Local participants needed to rally for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS
An estimated 20,000 participants will shoot free throws this year to raise awareness and funds for children severely affected by the HIV and AIDS virus in Africa.  Started in 2004 by now 16-year old Austin Gutwein, Hoops of Hope encourages kids, teens and adults to shoot 1000 free throws to represent the 1,000 kids orphaned every four hours by HIV/AIDS.

Participants will spend their day at the free-throw line shooting baskets in honor of these children.

Local Hoops of Hope competitions will take place on April 2 at Williston Central School, Essex Middle School, Milton Elementary School, and Christ the King Elementary School in Burlington. For more information, visit

MicroStrain’s Arms wins award
MicroStrain President and CEO, Steve Arms, was presented with the Best Paper Award at the 7th annual DSTO International Conference on Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS), taking place in conjunction with the Australian International Air Show at the Fourteenth Australian International Aerospace Congress.

Arms’s paper, “Flight Testing of Wireless Sensing Networks for Rotorcraft Structural HUMS,” describes MicroStrain’s work with the U.S.Navy to flight test an advanced, next generation sensing system for structural loads monitoring of the critical rotating components on a Sikorsky MH-60S helicopter.  This represents the first successful system demonstration in flight of a wireless data acquisition system, capable of autonomous self-configuration and data aggregation. MicroStrain is based in Williston.

Specialized veterinary practice to open next month

March 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Veterinary Drs. Lynn Walker, Marielle Goossens, and Kurt Schulz stand within the new Peak Veterinary Referral Center in Williston. Currently under construction, the referral center will be the largest of its kind in Vermont and service specialty cases for Champlain Valley pet owners. (Observer by Tim Simard)

Starting in mid-April, Champlain Valley pet owners will have a new veterinary referral facility to take their pets in need of specialized medicine.

Peak Veterinary Referral Center is set to open on April 11 and will become Vermont’s largest multi-specialist practice. With veterinarians specializing in radiology, cardiology and oncology, to name a few, Peak Veterinary doctors believe the new referral center will draw pet owners from around Vermont and northern New York.

Creating a new referral space and combining many forms of specialized veterinary medicine will be a necessary resource for the state and the Champlain Valley.

“We’ve found the owners of animals here are the most dedicated we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Lynn Walker, a radiologist and one of four partners in the veterinary enterprise.

Located off Hurricane Lane in the building once occupied by Fletcher Allen Health Care’s spine institute in Williston, Peak Veterinary is still under construction as workers completely renovate the former medical center. But even as builders installed doors, layed down flooring and painted walls, the design of the referral center was already becoming clear. A wide-open reception area leads into a large examination room, with adjoining surgery and studies spaces. The center’s expansive kennel for overnight stays, and a small room for owners to visit their pets during extended treatments, is also under construction.

Within the 14,000 square-foot center, about 10,000 square feet are being renovated in this first phase of construction. Walker said the center will have some of the best and newest equipment in the field of veterinary medicine. The center also includes a state-of-the art air purification system to avoid the smell sometimes common at animal practices.

Along with Walker, three other veterinarians have partnered in the new facility: Dr. Mark Saunders, a radiologist; Dr. Kurt Schulz, a surgeon; and Dr. Marielle Goossens, an internist. Each worked at the Burlington Emergency & Veterinary Specialists facility on Commerce Avenue before moving on to this new venture. Walker said the partners, who all leased their services through the 24-hour emergency practice, wanted to start their own center and hire veterinarians in a wide-range of specialties.

“As specialists, we thought it was best to be all in one place,” Walker said.

Along with the four owners, there are seven other specialized veterinarians on staff, including experts in physical therapy, behavior, and ophthalmology. These experts will soon offer services including chemotherapy, spinal surgery and arthroscopy.

Since the center is for referrals only, there won’t be primary practice veterinarians on site. For example, if a pet owner’s regular vet finds cancer in a dog or cat, he or she will likely refer the case to Peak Veterinary, explained Schulz. Since all the specialists will be under one roof, the doctors can confer together on the case and give the best possible diagnosis and treatment, he added.

“We have separate specialties, but we all work together in this building,” Schulz said.

Goossens added: “We’re a group of people that really get along exceedingly well.”

With April 11 fast approaching, the veterinarians look forward to seeing the referral center in action. Clients are also anxious for opening day, Walker said.

“This will be biggest of its kind in Vermont and the Champlain Valley,” Walker said. “I think there might be some buzz out there.”

Sanders discusses national and world issues with CVU students

March 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to a classroom of government and history students at CVU Tuesday morning. Sanders visited the high school, engaging in spirited discussions with students on many current topics affecting the world. (Observer photo by Tim Simard)

The future of education, burgeoning budget deficits, nuclear fears, and the United States’ recent involvement in Libya are complicated subjects on the minds of many government and history students at Champlain Valley Union High School.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders spent roughly an hour explaining these issues, answering questions and engaging in a dialogue during a visit to the school Tuesday morning.
During the special class, Sanders asked many questions of the juniors and seniors on hand, frequently asking them to further explain their positions. In return, he received several queries back about his positions on national and foreign issues.

“I’m going to be hard on you guys,” said Sanders, with the hint of a smile. “I’m a tough teacher.”

Sanders visited CVU to recognize several students’ efforts in last December’s State of the Union essay contest he sponsored for high school students. The contest asked students to write their own State of the Union address and focus on national policies, but do so in a limited number of words. Five of the 11 top finalists were from CVU, prompting Sanders’ stopover.

“I visit high schools often and I want these kids to know they live in a democracy while others don’t,” Sanders said after the meeting. “These kids have a right to ask their elected officials questions.”

Many students posed questions related to recent world events, with some openly disagreeing with Vermont’s Independent senator in the areas of balancing the federal budget and how to proceed on Vermont Yankee’s potential relicensing.

While Sanders and the students touched on a number of topics, one that drew much discussion centered on how the country pays for health care. He explained how, in Europe, taxpayers pay into government health plans ensuring all citizens are covered. The other side of this issue is that Europeans pay far more taxes, he said.

But even as Americans are taxed less, “our health care system is the most expensive in the world, by far,” Sanders said.

Some students advocated that the United States has a duty as a society to help others in need. Others stated the American system should allow for more competition to drive costs down. This discussion merged into one about the country’s tax structure and how best the U.S. can close its more than trillion dollar budget deficit.

A few students questioned recent proposals in Congress, including statements made by Sanders, to tax millionaires as a way to close budget gaps.

“I don’t think it’s conscionable to take that money away from people just because they make a lot,” said student Paul Danyow.

Sanders, admitting he’s doing “what Paul doesn’t want me to do,” explained his idea for a surtax on families earning more than $1 million a year, and to close loopholes that exist for other top wage earners. He said he opposes Republican lawmakers’ efforts to cut social services and other programs.

Another topic that drew spirited discussion focused on Nuclear Energy. With Japan’s nuclear program facing serious problems as a result of the recent earthquake and tsunami, along with the ongoing debate on Vermont Yankee, a few students spoke in favor of finding renewable energy sources immediately.

“We’re not thinking 50 to 100 years into the future like we should be,” said student Kate Meyer.

Sanders said, while nuclear energy might be considered clean as it does not dispense dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere, its radioactive risks outweigh its necessity.
At the end of the talk, as the CVU class buzzer sounded, Sanders said he enjoyed his discussion with the students and appreciated their varied viewpoints. He also urged students to pay attention to world and national issues that affect them.

“You live in a democratic society,” Sanders said. “Be actively involved.”

Meadowridge sewer project clears hurdle

March 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Homeowners in the Meadowridge subdivision, who won overwhelming voter approval to connect their homes to Williston’s sewer system, cleared one final hurdle this week before the Development Review Board. At a meeting Tuesday evening, the board approved an amendment to an older development permit, allowing the roughly $600,000 project to move forward.

The subdivision needed an amendment to its original building permit that would allow access to the sewer infrastructure. When Meadowridge went through its initial development stages in the late 1980s, its building permit stated that the subdivision would develop its own sewer system and not connect to the town.

In recent years, the development’s sewer pumps broke down frequently, causing serious problems for the 60 homes in Meadowridge. The homeowners association felt one of the only ways to solve their problem would be to join the town’s sewer system. After approaching the Selectboard last fall, the board decided to take the issue to Williston voters. On Town Meeting Day, voters supported a $600,000 bond for the sewer connection – the stipulation being all Meadowridge homeowners would pay the town back the full cost of the bond over time.

Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau told the Development Review Board that Meadowridge’s sewer piping would connect with the town’s system in the Village, using a facility off Oak Hill Road as a pump station.

“This is, as much as anything, a technical issue,” Belliveau said.

Board members expressed support for the project, but also raised a few concerns. They wanted to ensure the sewer piping didn’t affect any nearby wetlands, as well as the Allen Brook. The board also questioned homeowners association representatives about what would happen if someone built another home in Meadowridge and how that might affect the sewer system.

“It is my opinion that we’ve developed all available lots,” said Dennis Johnson, a member of the homeowners association.

“This is obviously a critical issue to our existence,” he added.

Now that the project received Development Review Board approval, the subdivision can move forward on construction. Meadowridge representatives said the project should take about eight to 10 weeks, with a starting date sometime in June.

Finney receives housing allocation again

A planned mixed-use development earned back 32 housing units this week after building permits for the project expired. Finney Crossing, which will add hundreds of residential units and commercial space within Taft Corners when completed, lost building allocation for the units last June and had to reapply with the town in order to build them in the future.

Finney Crossing developers received the units again from the Development Review Board during its annual growth management review on Tuesday night. The board also granted five other housing units that had not received allocation in the past.

During the growth management review, developers compete before the board for limited housing spaces in Williston. While there are generally many projects on the table during the process, Finney Crossing was the only development to go before the board this year.
According to plans, Finney Crossing will feature 356 residential units and 180,000 square feet of office and commercial space in the large, empty field north of Maple Tree Place.

Finney Crossing has been in the works since 2001. Construction was set to begin in 2008, but the deteriorating economy put everything on hold. Williston’s Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau said construction could begin as soon as this summer.

Selectboard agrees to improvement study for busy intersection

Mountain View, North Williston and Gov. Chittenden roads deemed a priority

March 24, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Safety upgrades could occur at the intersection of Mountain View, North Williston, and Gov. Chittenden roads. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

A study on how Williston might best improve a problematic intersection is due to take place this spring and summer. In a unanimous decision at its March 14 meeting, the Selectboard agreed to a study of possible enhancements at the busy intersection of  Mountain View, North Williston, and Gov. Chittenden roads.

The intersection, which routinely sees backups on Mountain View Road during rush hour, has been listed as a priority to fix within Williston’s capital plan. The capital plan is an improvement proposal the town hopes to implement by 2017.

Recent accidents at the junction prompted the town to investigate potential safety upgrades, Town Manager Rick McGuire explained to the board.

In December, the town solicited proposals for upgrades from regional contractors, but the costs of the project exceeded what Williston originally budgeted, McGuire said.
The study will give the town and regional planners guidance on how to proceed with intersection improvements, McGuire said. As approved by the Selectboard, the Burlington-based RSG Inc., a planning and transportation firm, will conduct the study at a cost of $35,000. Much of the study’s cost will be paid for by the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, with Williston funding 20 percent of the project, or about $7,000.

According to the capital plan, a roundabout would be the best way to improve the intersection. McGuire said while it might be labeled a roundabout in the plan, that doesn’t mean that type of upgrade is best for Mountain View, North Williston and Gov. Chittenden roads.

In 2009 and 2010, the town debated installing a roundabout at the U.S. 2, North Williston, and Oak Hill roads intersection in the Village. Voters soundly defeated a resolution to build a roundabout during 2010’s Town Meeting Day. Vehicles must proceed through a four-way stop at that intersection, with blinking red lights warning drivers as they approach from the east and west.

Public Works Director Bruce Hoar said the study could determine that a similar four-way stop is best for the Mountain View, North Williston and Gov. Chittenden roads intersection, among other options.

“It could be all sorts of possibilities, and a roundabout would still be on the table,” Hoar said.

Public comment and open meetings would follow the initial phase of the study before it reaches its conclusion, McGuire said.

Selectboard members appeared in agreement that some sort of change should occur at the intersection. Board member Jeff Fehrs, who drives through the intersection every day, said he experiences the traffic backups frequently.

“I know how it feels going out there in the morning—it feels dangerous,” Fehrs said.

PHOTOS: Music with Raphael

March 17, 2011

Photos by Steve Mease

The Music with Raphael event at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library drew plenty of toddlers on March 12. The program is typically held on Mondays and Thursdays.