February 14, 2016

Right to the Point

Sustaining Vermont

May 19, 2011

By Kayla Purvis

In my Current Issues class at Champlain Valley Union High School, we have been looking at sustainability. We watched the movie “Earth 2100,” a supposedly scientific prediction of Earth’s future if we continue living the way we do. Despite my thoughts on that claim and on global warming itself, one thing in that movie got me thinking. The movie mentions the town of Greensburg, Kan., a town that was hit by an EF-5 tornado in 2007. In “Earth 2100,” the town is completely self-sustaining. The town of Greensburg’s “sustainable master plan” can be found on its website, www.greensburgks.org.

So, I started wondering how hard and/or easy it would be to make my own future house completely or nearly completely self-sustaining. Between wind, solar, and hydropower, how hard could it be? Then I got to wondering, if Vermont were its own country, could it manage self-sustainability?

Vermont is No. 1 on Greenopia’s list of greenest states! We have earned the following to achieve that ranking: air quality, recycling rate, renewable energy usage, LEED buildings, per capita emissions, per capita energy consumption, and per capita waste generation (www.greenopia.com). We also ranked No. 1 on “Huffington Post’s” list.

According to vermontyankee.com, Vermont Yankee puts out 650 megawatts of power, which they claim is about 80 percent of Vermont’s total energy demand. They also provide about one-third of our total electricity demand. So, if the plant is closed in 2012, I think the only sane solution is to use strictly renewable energy resources to replace all that power.

General Electric makes a common 1.5-megawatt wind turbine model. Most turbines only put out 15 to 30 percent of their total capacity because of variability in weather conditions. So, let’s assume that a 1.5MW turbine puts out 30 percent of its capacity … that’s .5MW, or 500,000 watts. Vermont Yankee’s 650MW was about 80 percent of our power, so we would at least need to match that. At 500,000 watts per one turbine, we would need 1,300 1.5MW turbines operating at a consistent 30 percent capacity in order to match the power we would lose from Vermont Yankee.

I had a bit of trouble finding the cost of one of these turbines, so I asked (Observer Liberally Speaking columnist) Steve (Mount) if he knew. One rate that he found was about $2/megawatt. Going with that, one 1.5MW turbine would be about $3 million. One thousand and three hundred of those would be, assuming no discounts, $3.9 billion. Aside from the sheer cost alone, tourism would be another hurdle. Vermont’s landscapes, views, foliage, and skiing are our major tourism attractions. How much would 1,300-or-more turbines affect that? Personally, I think wind farms are fascinating; you really don’t realize how big they are until you go past them. I don’t think that wind farms would hurt our tourism very much.

Another option would be hydropower. I did a little research and found that two gallons per minute is a pretty standard water flow to require for decent hydropower. Lake Champlain’s average rate of flow into the St. Lawrence River is 12,000 cubic feet per second, or 5,373,134 gallons per minute. To find out how many watts we could get out of that rate of flow, I converted gallons per minute to horsepower, and then horsepower to watts. One horsepower (hp) is 3,960 gpm. One horsepower also equals about 750 watts. The number I got was 1,017,639 watts. So, in theory, Lake Champlain could give us more than one million watts of electricity in one single minute. In one day, that is 1.44 billion watts.

Wind and waterpower would be great alternatives to Vermont Yankee, but they would also be expensive. I found an estimate that put the cost at about $20,000 for a hydro pump that can power a handful of modern homes. Nuclear power is clean, but can be risky. We also have to factor in whether or not it’s worth it to lose all the jobs that are provided to Vermonters from the power plant. I think it would be really cool if Vermont could find a way to get most of its power from renewable energy sources that have minimal threats and risks.

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


Liberally Speaking

One step closer to a national popular vote

May 19, 2011

By Steve Mount

The Electoral College is a unique feature of our system of electing a national leader. After two centuries, though, is it time to do away with the College?

The Electoral College is the body that actually elects the President and Vice President. When we, the people, vote for a presidential candidate, we are not actually voting for a single person. We are, instead, voting for a slate of electors. The chosen electors meet on Elector Day, sometime in December following the general election, and cast their votes for the two offices.

Each state has a number of electors equal to its congressional representation. With one seat in the House and two seats in the Senate, Vermont has three electors. Each party fielding a presidential candidate selects electors. The electors are typically party loyalists, pledged to cast their vote for the party’s choice for President and Vice President.

The Electoral College was designed, in 1787, for an entirely different America. Time, however, revealed some fatal flaws in the Electoral College system, and though the most egregious flaws were fixed long ago, it may be time to take another serious look.

Originally, each elector cast two votes for President. The person with the most votes became President, and the runner-up became Vice President. This system would have worked fine if people did not begin to divide themselves into parties — but they did, almost immediately.

In the election of 1800, the Democratic-Republican party ran Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr against Federalists John Adams and Thomas Pinckney. Each dutiful Democratic-Republican elector cast his votes, toeing the party line: one for Jefferson and one for Burr. In the end, Jefferson and Burr got 73 votes, even though the plan had been to elect Jefferson. Someone forgot to tell at least one Democratic-Republican elector to vote for someone other than Burr. The resulting fray, where the election was decided in the House by a Federalist majority, lead to the 12th Amendment, that specified separate ballots for the two executive positions.

The 1876 election of Rutherford Hayes was a partisan mess. Hayes’s opponent, Samuel Tilden, won a narrow majority of the popular vote, but when it came time to count the electoral votes, the results were not quite so clear. Hayes and Tilden were both close to the needed majority, but many electoral votes were challenged. It took a congressional commission, and the end of military occupation in the post-war South, to assign enough votes to Hayes.

Most of us remember the controversy between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000. Gore had a narrow lead over Bush in the popular vote, beating Bush by just over half a percentage point. After much controversy in several states, and Florida in particular, the electoral vote went to Bush, 271-266.

The National Popular Vote movement, which aims to make the winner of the popular vote the President without concern for these electoral college vagaries, got a boost this year when the Vermont legislature threw its support behind the plan. The NPV movement looks not to amend the Constitution, but to work within its confines.

It seeks to create a compact of sorts, accumulating support one state at a time, until at least enough states to make up the majority of 270 electoral votes sign on. In states where the NPV is enacted, the state’s law would change to direct its electors to cast their votes for whichever candidate won the national popular vote, without regard to the candidate’s vote tally in that state.

Including Vermont’s three, the NPV now has 77 electoral votes from eight states to its name.

I’m a fan of working within the system, and would like to see the NPV plan come to fruition. I am dubious that electors could be punished for not voting with the national popular vote (the Constitution gives the electors wide latitude in their votes), but it would not be difficult to avoid faithless electors with proper vetting.

I do think that losing the Electoral College would be a sad thing. It is quirky, uniquely American, and an avenue into learning more about where we came from as a nation. But despite the value of these things, having a simple, straightforward, and predictable system, based on the popular vote, seems like the best way forward for our democracy. Hopefully, Vermont’s support for the compact will nudge other states to support the NPV, too.

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.


Letters to the Editor

May 19, 2011

Acknowledging teacher appreciation week

Do you remember the name of your first grade teacher? Perhaps it’s your third grade teacher? I have vivid memories of Mr. Villemaire, my seventh grade social studies teacher, who made us memorize every major Civil War battle. He even brought an authentic Civil War musket into class, with bayonet attached, and let us practice on a cardboard box set up on a stool. I stabbed the stool, and was pronounced ‘unfit for duty.’  After many holes were punched in that box, the class was brought back to reality when Mr. Villemaire explained that many Civil War soldiers lied about their age and enlisted at age 14, and never came home from the war. Quite the lesson taught to a class of 13-year-old students.

This week, our community, parents and students are taking time to thank the staff and educators of the Williston School District for their hard work and dedication to our children’s education. Our district has excellent teachers who work every day to make a positive difference in our children’s lives and prepare them for an uncertain future. Our support staff and administration deserve our appreciation, too. Their dedication and professionalism provide our students clean and safe class rooms, healthy lunches, access to the latest technology, excellent leadership and so much more.

To each of you: thank you for what you do. You make a difference every day. Thank you for taking those few extra minutes to help a student in need. Thank you for the versatility, creativity and sensitivity you bring to the classroom every day. Most of all, thank you for being an educator, and making a difference for our students.

Kevin Mara, On behalf of the WSD School Board

Guest Column

Teenagers need more sleep

May 19, 2011

By Dustin Peters

You are up until 11:30 p.m. studying for an important math test the next morning. When you finally decide you’re ready for the test, you get into bed. You then are up past midnight worrying about the test.

Beep! Beep! Its 6:45 a.m. and your alarm clock goes off. Half awake, you struggle to wake up. You groggily take a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast, or maybe you have to skip breakfast, in order to make it to the bus on time. You get on the bus, and half an hour later you are at school, simultaneously trying to learn and stay awake.

It sounds unreal the way millions of teens start their days, but this is true. And to think, this is how they are supposed to get a good education. It has been claimed by many medical organizations that teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, and most teens don’t get this much. Teens are also one of the biggest worrying groups of people there are: they worry about things like school (go figure), and this keeps them up.  It has also been discovered that teenagers’ brains produce a brain hormone called melatonin later at night, which makes it hard for teens to fall asleep at night.

There is a simple solution to these problems – start school at 9 a.m.!

Because of things like homework, or just because they can’t fall asleep, most teens get much less than the required nine hours of sleep. I took a survey of 15 students and asked when they went to bed. One went to bed at 10 p.m., six people went to bed at 10:30 p.m., three people went to bed at 11 p.m., four people went to bed at 11:30 p.m., and one fell asleep after midnight. All of them said they fell asleep later. Out of the 15 people, 13 said that they think they would do better in school if they weren’t as tired.

The bottom line is that teens need nine hours of sleep, and out of the 15 kids only one of them was really getting that much. They wake up in the morning very tired, and then have to go to school.

“The eyes are open but the brain is asleep,” said Dr. Mary Carskadon, director of Chronobiology at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I., in a March 17 article in “The ConVal Current” (www.convalcurrent.com).

Another issue teens have with getting up early is that they worry a lot. They worry about things like school, sports, homework, and their physical appearance. This is a huge factor in their sleep troubles. Because they are busy worrying, they don’t fall asleep. Everyone has had one of those nights where they toss and turn, and no matter what you do you just can’t fall asleep. Maybe it’s because you have a big event in the morning, or maybe it’s for no reason at all — you just can’t get to sleep.

Teens’ internal clocks are messed up because a brain hormone called melatonin is produced for them later at night, making it harder to fall alseep. Teens are given a bad rap for going to bed late and waking up late but scientists have discovered that this hormone is a big reason for keeping teens up. If teens are up all night because of this, then they need extra hours of sleep in the morning. If they are waking up early in the morning for school, they aren’t able to do this. High school students are woken up even earlier than other students, and they need the most sleep! Wouldn’t it make sense for the little kindergarten students who wake up at 6:30 a.m. anyway to go to school earlier?

Of course there is another side to the story. A problem with school starting later would be that after-school activities would have to be moved forward an hour. Things like soccer in the fall might still be going when it’s dark out. A possible solution to this is moving some fall sports indoors, or placing lights in the fields. Also, if kids are tired, they won’t be awake for sports, either.

Another problem is that many parents’ work schedules would be messed up if school started at 9 a.m. I think parents should just learn to change their schedules to accommodate the change in schedule because their kids need sleep. But, if they won’t do that, they can always teach their kids to get ready on their own for school. Some of them would have to start taking the bus. The result will be that teens would be much more rested.

Teenagers need more sleep. There is no way around it. If a kid sleeps through high school, they sure aren’t going to be getting any scholarships. If a kid sleeps through middle school, they sure aren’t going to be ready for high school.


Dustin Peters is an eighth grade student at Williston Central School.


Williston Workwear adds uniqueness to marketplace

May 19, 2011

By Steven Frank
Observer staff

Williston Workwear opened on Harvest Lane in Williston, near the U.S. 2 intersection, on March 10. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

Adorned with reflective, yellow, waterproof attire on one end of a wall and white chef’s clothing hung on the other, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Williston Workwear is not a typical outfitting store.

Personal service and attention from owner Matt Cohen, which sometimes extends to his pet dog and in-store companion, Apollo, offer another unique element.

From consumers of overalls to chef uniforms to work shoes, Williston Workwear owner Matt Cohen plans to grow his new business ‘one customer at a time.’ (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

And that’s just the way Cohen wants it.

“We do not want to give any secrets away, but we want to treat our customers the way we’d like to be treated when we go shopping,” said Cohen, 57. “In an electronic world where so many interactive functions have now become minimized by new technology, we hope that our old fashioned customer service and comfortable shopping environment is what the area is looking for.”

Williston Workwear opened on March 10 on Harvest Lane in Williston, between Buttered Noodles and Harvest Equipment. Since that day, Cohen has been working long hours to grow the business “one customer at a time.”

Merchandise, which Cohen said will continue to grow little by little, features a little something for everyone but focuses on clothing for non-office employees. Items include hospital scrubs, construction apparel, work boots, slip-resistant shoes for those who work in kitchens, and Army/Navy apparel.

“The Williston Fire Department has bought boots from us. (Williston) Public Works knows about us, we had someone from there come in, so the word is starting to get out there,” said Cohen, who lives in Fairfax.

Cohen doesn’t brag about his store’s condition – one time even referring to it as a “mess” – but the former owner of Phil’s Trading Post in Essex Junction who spent the last five years as an outside sales representative promotes the quality of his merchandise.

He doesn’t carry items by Carhartt, which he said is the name brand for much of the merchandise he sells, but stressed that his pants and footwear are durable and comfortable.

“Look at the riveted pockets – that helps prevent tearing. It’s a lot of pant for $38,” Cohen said.

Some of the brands Cohen carries include Dickies, Thorogood, and Big Bill, which is based in Canada but has a distribution center in Newport.

“We are a premiere dealer for Big Bill products. They are a great company, and at this time their focus is on industrial work clothes and flame resistant apparel for all types of industries,” Cohen said.

Cohen, who didn’t want to comment on his store’s competition and even stated at one point that he “doesn’t have any competition,” pointed to a pair of Dickies canvas pants that he sells for $29.99. Cohen said a consumer could easily pay between $15-20 more in another store for a pant of less quality.

“People pay for the name but (Dickies and Thorogood) make great stuff,” Cohen said.

Looking ahead, Cohen plans to add more work boots from Thorogood and items for women. He also plans to add more protective apparel, such as flame-resistant clothing for electrical and utility employees.

Cohen and Stephanie Thompson, who works for F.W. Webb in Williston during the day and assists Cohen in the evening and on weekends, agree that business could be busier. The duo believe the store’s location near the Harvest Lane-U.S. 2 intersection in Williston is ideal, but that business has been slow because of poor weather and a lack of promotion on their part. Thompson said they plan to have a grand opening that could occur at the end of the month.

“The customers that we’ve had so far seem excited. We have a good atmosphere to come into,” Thompson said. “A lot of people remember Matt (from Phil’s Trading Post). People missed that store.”

Thompson, who does the customer’s books and rearranged much of the store last weekend to accommodate the additions of nurse scrubs and chef uniforms, believes Williston Workwear’s dynamics will eventually lead to increased popularity.

“We live in a world where it’s self serve – get in and get out,” Thompson said. “Matt measured a guy for shoes. He was a B-width, which is unusual for a guy. Matt called, ordered it, and he got it in a few days. Now that guy has shoes that will be comfortable, and help his feet and knees. Where else are you going to get that? That’s our whole concept.”


Home-field advantage

Family provides foundation for Tomasi’s athletic success

May 19, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Tallon Tomasi, shown here playing for the Champlain Valley Union girls soccer team last fall, has learned the importance of teamwork on and off the field. (Observer photo by Shane Bufano)

As she has risen through the ranks of student athletics at Champlain Valley Union High School, Tallon Tomasi has taken advantage of some exceptional coaching – and not just from the skippers of her Redhawk teams.

She has received pointers on kicking a soccer ball from the guy who scored the state championship-winning goal for the CVU boys in 2009. She has practiced defense with another male classmate who captured All-State honors in boys soccer as a sophomore. She has gone on training runs for track with a former Redhawk multi-sport star who went on to compete for the University of Vermont Catamounts.

And all of that top-shelf tutelage has originated right at her own front door, thanks to a squad of siblings with athletic success in their blood.

“A lot of people in my family play sports,” said Williston’s Tomasi, who is currently wrapping up her junior year at CVU. “We all support each other, go to each other’s games, cheer each other on – and help each other get better.”

The Tomasi family is well known in Williston. The matriarch, Theresa, adopted her first child in 1962 and has since taken in 25 additional kids. There are currently 11 Tomasi siblings inhabiting their home on Horseshoe Drive, and they look out for one another on a daily basis.

“I help the little kids get ready for school in the morning,” Talon Tomasi said. “We all work together.”

That unified effort toward a common goal can help provide a solid foundation for participation in team athletics, according to a local sports psychology consultant. Williston’s Pam Gundlach runs a consulting service, Head Coach, which helps athletes harness their full potential through mental and emotional training.

“The Tomasis are a great example of how effective teamwork can be at home,” Gundlach said. “There is no question that they have developed a successful team there.”

The Tomasi’s impact on the local sports scene is significant. CVU senior Tino helped deliver the Redhawk boys soccer team its 2009 Vermont crown by tallying the decisive goal against Burr and Burton Academy in the Division II finals. He and younger brother Tanner made the All-State team this past fall.

Their sister, Tova, excelled at soccer and track at CVU before moving on to UVM, where she is now “the glue of the women’s sprint group” according to Brett Wilmott, associate head coach of the Catamounts. She placed second in the 400-meter race and third in the 200 at this year’s Middlebury Invitational, as a junior.

“Tova has quite a large group to work with, including freshmen and seniors,” Wilmott said. “The freshmen look up to her, while the seniors know that Tova is there to push them in workouts as she continues to improve herself.”

Though Tallon Tomasi plays an active leadership role among some of the younger children in her household, she is more apt to let her play do the talking on the soccer field.

“Tallon is very quiet and prefers to stay in the background around team settings, but once on the field she is more comfortable and excels in her soccer prowess,” CVU girls head coach Brad Parker said. “She sets a very good example by her work ethic and sincere efforts in listening to her coach.”

Gundlach said that while the ability to function as a component of a team is likely to be influenced by a student-athlete’s home setting, vocal leadership typically comes from within.

“Some kids are just going to be followers, and others are going to be leaders,” Gundlach said. “It’s something they’re born with; it’s more state than trait.”

And while athletes at all different levels the world over describe their teams as “like a family,” Williston’s Tomasis have learned that togetherness really is best when it is homemade.

“Our mom loves us playing sports, and is really supportive,” Tallon Tomasi said. “We couldn’t do it without her.”

A new breed of athlete in Williston

State-of-the-art dog training facility opens in town

May 19, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Cassy Lamothe (left) and owner Amy Haskell of Show Me The Biscuit are enjoying their new state-of-the-art training facility in Williston, after enduring two previous seasons in an unheated barn in Milton. (Observer photo by Adam White)

There is just something noticeably different about a champion athlete. The way he maintains his focus forward as he weaves between poles on an obstacle course. The way he tenses his powerful leg muscles before leaping over a hurdle.

The way he licks his master’s face after gobbling down a treat as a reward for his performance.

Elmo, a 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, leaps over an obstacle on the agility-training course at Show Me The Biscuit in Williston on Monday. Elmo has won numerous titles in agility competitions, thanks in part to more than four years of training during which he has indeed been shown the biscuit. (Observer photo by Adam White)

Elmo, a 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who has won more than his share of agility competitions, is a star pupil at Show Me The Biscuit – a dog training company with a new, state-of-the-art indoor facility on Zephyr Rd. at Guy’s Farm & Yard. Elmo’s owner, John Marcus of Jericho – who admittedly represents the “highly-addicted end of the spectrum” when it comes to competitive agility training for dogs – is thrilled with the new facility.

“Nobody else in the state has equipment that is this new, and this safe,” Marcus said. “It is very important to me that my dogs don’t get injured, because I run them hard. This type of floor and equipment is exactly what is being used at all of the biggest competitions.”

Show Me The Biscuit moved to the new facility after spending several years in Milton, where the company was forced to conduct several seasons of indoor training inside an unheated barn. Trainer Cassy Lamothe was forced to cancel training sessions when the temperature dipped below 20 degrees, largely to protect those who didn’t have natural fur coats.

“That was actually harder on the people than it was on the dogs,” Lamothe said. “Dogs take everything in stride.”

The new facility in Williston opened last month, and boasts approximately 4,000 square feet of space in which Lamothe and owner Amy Haskell have assembled a colorful array of ramps, tunnels, hoops and other obstacles to help hone canine agility.

“We’ve been very busy,” Haskell said. “We’re more centrally located here, and we’ve had a lot of new clients.  People really like the new space.”

The curriculum runs from puppy training through good manners classes to a good citizenship course, of which a dog can earn a certificate that its owner can use to impress a potential landlord. Show Me The Biscuit also offers therapy dog classes, for animals that will later visit people in hospitals and nursing homes.

Though Elmo’s agility training has translated into trophies and medals, Lamothe said that even non-competitive canines could benefit from working out at the new facility.

“One of our biggest goals is to help people communicate with their dogs,” Lamothe said. “Problem dogs typically don’t know what they’re supposed to do; a lot of time people think they are training their dogs to do one thing, but the dog is actually learning to do the opposite.”

That heightened level of communication is often the key to behavioral issues, particularly with dogs in new living situations.

“We see a lot of rescue dogs that don’t have a lot of confidence, and training helps make them better,” Lamothe said. “In fact, a lot of dog problems – like being too hyper or food-driven – can be turned into positive behavior through training.”

Show Me The Biscuit will host a Fun Day on Saturday, May 21, to help introduce the public to its new facility in Williston. For more information, call 879-3130 or visit www.showmethebiscuit.com.


Center of attention

Williston is epicenter of commerce in Vt.

May 19, 2011

By Steven Frank
Observer staff

A.C. Moore, an arts and crafts retailer, had long lines at its grand opening in March. The Williston store is its first in Vermont. (File photo)

Tires have a hub.

Airlines have a hub.

Vermont businesses have a hub – Williston.

Over the last two decades, headlined by Wal-Mart’s arrival in early 1997, Williston has become a hotbed for business development. Companies have targeted the town when considering a location to expand or relocate.

“(Williston) is an attractive physical location, it’s the envy of other communities,” said Ken Horseman, economic development specialist for the Vermont Department of Economic Development, referring to the town’s position along Interstate 89, Vermont 2A, U.S. 2, and proximity to Burlington International Airport. “The Planning Department has also done a great job of laying the groundwork and being accommodating of this development.”

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters expanded its operation into Williston. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

Williston Director of Planning Ken Belliveau reported that in conversations with longtime residents, attention on commercial development first increased with the opening of I-89 in the 1960s, and particularly heated up with a population spike in the 1980s.

“The town came to the realization that we have these two important highways that crisscross and here is this interchange – there will be a lot of growth pressure,” Belliveau said. “What happened was the town drew a line in the sand and said, ‘Here is the area where you can have commercial development.’ We’re very supportive of a strong business environment but also on preserving open space. If companies can work within our parameters, there is a lot you can do here.”

That philosophy led to what Williston is today, with commercial development, such as Taft Corners and Maple Tree Place, concentrated close to Williston’s two major roads and exit (12) off I-89. Williston’s residential and open space alter ego is located a few miles away in all directions with the village area situated along U.S. 2 to the east towards Richmond.

NBT Bank, based in Norwich, N.Y., opened its first Vermont branch in Burlington two years ago. It didn’t take long for the bank to focus on Williston for its second location, despite the town already housing a large number of banks and credit unions, including Citizen’s Bank, Northfield Savings Bank, and KeyBank.

NBT opened at the Taft Corners Shopping Center in January.

“The whole truth for NBT is that we looked at this location and quickly realized that it didn’t need another bank,” said NBT Bank Williston branch manager Jean Lynch, “but Williston is the hub of community banking and we wanted to be a part of it. It’s the fastest growing market. This is the place everyone drives into.”

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ trucks drive in – and out – of Williston, too. The Waterbury-based coffee company expanded into E-Commerce Park off Marshall Avenue in 2009. Ken Jensen, GMCR’s Vermont Operations Distribution Manager, said the approximately 200,000-square foot facility is primarily used for the inventory storage of raw materials and e-commerce – orders via GMCR’s website go through Williston.

In addition to the size of the building, Jensen said the Williston site is convenient because it’s located between the company’s manufacturing facilities in Waterbury and Essex.

“It’s also a good market for labor,” Jensen added.

Depending on the season, Jensen said the 24-hour a day, seven day a week, Williston facility employs between 110 to 130 people.

“It’s been working out well,” Jensen said.

The retail market is also expanding. A.C. Moore, an arts and crafts retailer based in Berlin, N.J., opened its first Vermont store in Williston in March. The 27,500-square foot store – formerly occupied by Circuit City – is one of the chain’s largest.

“It’s been a great town and we’re happy with the results so far,” said Susan Stoga, A.C. Moore spokesperson. “The Burlington-Williston area has a great heritage in the arts. We feel we can provide the resources for pros and those getting started.”

Old Navy, a subsidiary of Gap Inc., relocated from the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington to part of the space once occupied by Linens ‘n Things in Maple Tree Place in March. Calls to Old Navy’s corporate office were not returned by press deadline but according to an Observer article written last November, part of the reason the retailer decided to leave Burlington was to have a smaller location.

Target, a popular retailer based in Minneapolis, Minn., operates 1,755 stores in 49 states. Vermont is the lone state without a Target, with the closest one located across Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y. That begs the question – will Target come to Vermont and, if so, will it be in Williston?

“It’s my understanding that (Target) wants exposure, near an interstate, and access to automobiles. To me, that narrows it down to Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, and Colchester,” said Belliveau, who hasn’t spoken to any representatives from Target about coming to Williston. “If Target is willing to meet our development standards, we’d welcome them. If not, they are free to go elsewhere … life will go on.”

He noted that there haven’t been any new commercial development buildings since Moe’s Southwest Grill opened in 2009.

CVS/pharmacy, however, has been approved by the Williston Development Review Board to build in Taft Corners. That project is contingent, however, on another one by Taft Corners Associates to build 30,000 square feet of retail space near Ponderosa Steakhouse, according to Belliveau. If the project’s current obstacles — better access for motorists and pedestrians — are met, Belliveau said he hopes groundbreaking can occur this fall and completed by spring 2012.

“Williston has a lot for businesses to leverage,” Horseman said. “Williston has a great future.”

CVU student’s benefit concert for Japan slated for Sunday

May 19, 2011

By Luke Baynes
Observer correspondent

Grace Heard (Photo courtesy of Bill Reed)

On May 22, the angelic voices of Vermont’s youth will resonate with the embattled citizens of northeastern Japan, when teenage members of the Bill Reed Voice Studio host a cabaret concert to benefit victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that left thousands dead and thousands more without food or shelter.

The concert is the brainchild of Grace Heard, a junior at Champlain Valley Union High School, who heard the news of Japan’s tragedy while riding in the car with her mother, Laura Lomas. She immediately knew she had to do something to help.

“I thought, ‘I’m just one person and there’s not much I can do to benefit (the earthquake victims),’” said Heard. “So I thought it would be a great idea to put on a performance for our community to benefit their community.”

Heard will be one of 22 high school performers who will appear Sunday at Spotlight On Dance’s Studio Three, located at 50 San Remo Drive in South Burlington. The Broadway-style program of songs will begin at 5 p.m., with an encore performance at 7 p.m.

The young singers will come from various area high schools, but share the experience of honing their vocal skills under the tutelage of Reed, a Manhattan native who was one of the founders of the musical theater program at New York’s acclaimed Circle in the Square Theatre School.

Reed, who has a doctorate in vocal music education from Columbia University, started his Vermont studio in 1986. He noted that many Vermonters, such as Liana Hunt and Kate Wetherhead, have gone on to have successful Broadway careers and that his current crop of students is bursting with talent.

“These are experienced kids. They are some of the best high school voices in the area,” said Reed, who had particular praise for Heard, calling her “a top singer.”

Heard, accompanied by pianist Tim Guiles of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, will perform the song “Out Here on My Own” from the musical “Fame” at the concert. She chose the song because of its symbolic relevance to the plight of the Japanese earthquake victims.

“I thought there was a connection, because they really are out there on their own and are reaching out for help now,” Heard said.

Reed encouraged people to come to the show because it will help the needy and bolster the budding careers of his students.

“It’s a community activity that brings a number of towns together,” said Reed. “It’s a chance for the kids to show their talents for a good cause, so it will be social, it will be musical and fun and it will support the kids and their work to become performing artists.”

Tickets are available at the door and via www.StudioThreeVT.com. There is no charge for tickets, but donations are requested. All proceeds will go to Second Harvest Japan, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing food to those in need.

Soggy spring brings flood of business

May 19, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Josh Bruce (left) is handed a piece of air moving equipment by fellow Puroclean technician Bryan Smith during the loading of one of the company’s trucks on Monday. A flood of residential groundwater emergencies this spring has translated into a busy season for the Williston company. (Courtesy photo by Darrel Depot)

When a failed sump pump led to groundwater seepage in the basement of her Kirby Lane home, Williston’s Carolyn DeFrancesco became the latest victim of a nightmare spring for homeowners. She called a local company that bills its technicians as “the paramedics of property damage.”

“They came over the next day, and got everything squared away quickly,” DeFrancesco said.

Williston-based Puroclean has been kept busy by this spring’s widespread groundwater issues resulting from excessive snow melt-off and heavy rains. Darrel Depot, owner and general manager of Puroclean, said that his company has responded to a flood of calls in Williston, mostly resulting from groundwater issues around the footings of foundations.

“As soon as the heavy rains started, the calls started coming in,” Depot said.

As if invading water weren’t bad enough, homeowners have seen their finances take a serious hit from the soggy spring. Depot estimated that on past calls, 75 percent of his customers had insurance protection that helped offset remediation costs – but the steady stream of emergencies in the last few months have been a different story.

“Our business has really flip-flopped,” Depot said. “I would say that 80 percent of the jobs we’ve visited have not been covered by insurance. For the majority of these people, it’s a self-pay situation.”

The problem is that insurance coverage against such situations is far from a cut-and-dry issue. A groundwater emergency only qualifies as a “flood” if it affects more than one dwelling congruently, and even then it is not addressed under most homeowners’ policies.

“Outside of Lloyd’s of London, it is almost impossible to get flood insurance unless you buy it from the federal government,” said Matt Boulanger, senior planner for the town of Williston. Boulanger said that such protection – under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program – is only available to homes within certain risk zones delineated on special rate maps.

The resulting lack of coverage has forced Puroclean to alter its approach to doing business.

“Most of the time now, we assume that there is no [insurance] coverage when we respond to a call,” Depot said. “We do a lot more working backward from budgets. We provide a lot of consultation, and allow people to make educated decisions on what they want to do, and can afford to do.”

Depot acknowledged that even though it is “hard to walk away from those situations,” the costs of equipment and overhead for flood remediation make it impossible for Puroclean to give its services away. Walking through a storage area in his company’s headquarters, he pointed to a row of dehumidifiers that cost close to $3,000 each, and a water extraction system with a price tag of $6,000.

“We’re not talking about some mom-and-pop Shop Vac system,” Depot said. “I’m going into someone’s house with over $25,000 worth of equipment.”

All the same, Depot recognizes that his company has a larger duty to the town it has called home since 2007. He said that Puroclean has basically thrown its usual service rates out the window in order to help elderly customers, families of active military members and homeowners who can’t afford basic remediation in the event of a water emergency.

“That’s a lot of the direction we want to go in as a company,” Depot said. “We’re part of a community here in Williston, and we recognize that we have social responsibilities because of that.”

DeFrancesco was one of the fortunate few with insurance coverage against water damage to her home, thanks to the contractor who installed a drainage system when he built it back in 1986.

“He said that if I ever got more than a teacup of water in my basement, he’d come over and drink it,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s a good thing, because I see what so many other people are going through right now.

“It’s an act of God, and it’s god-awful.”