July 28, 2014

S.D. Ireland looks to build off tournament

Share

American Legion squad prepares for league contests

June 23, 2011

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

With a slew of weekend games behind it, including the annual wooden bat wars, the S.D. Ireland American Legion baseball team has a relatively light league schedule in the immediate future starting Thursday with a visit to Essex.

That will be followed by a Sunday road encounter with the Knights of Columbus South Burlington, and a return tilt with Essex at the Champlain Valley Union High School home field Tuesday.

Last week’s heavy schedule may have played a role Tuesday when the Irelands got nailed, 16-6, by Addison County in Middlebury. The Irelands popped Addison, 5-1, on June 16 in Hinesburg.

Drew Nick (four hits) helped the Irelands (4-4, 2-2) grab an early 6-0 lead. But Addison unloaded for 13 runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take command.

On Monday, the Clover Boys handed the Colchester Cannons their first league defeat of the young season, 10-9, at the CVU ball yard. The rumble almost got away from the Irelands when the Cannons struck for six runs in the top of the seventh and final innings, turning a laugher into a Maalox moment for the victors.

With a 10-3 advantage and needing just three outs, the Irelands saw the pesky Cannons parlayed a series of hits into six runs.

Relief pitcher Nicky Elderton, who was greeted with two singles, got a whiff to retire the side.

Ireland struck early and often with the long ball to build the big edge, with help from starter Sean Rugg’s effective pitching.

Rugg was touched up for three singles in a scoreless first inning but then settled down, allowing just an additional single as he twirled into the sixth. He then gave way to Dan French with two out and two runners on, the result of a hit batter and Rugg’s third walk.
The right-hander said his curve was “inconsistent” but was changing speeds better in the late innings – he struck out three of his four whiff victims in the fifth and sixth innings.

Offensively, the Irelands were in a slugging mood. They cranked out 14 hits, three of which were mighty muscular four-base mashes – two by Larry “The Launcher” Halvorson and one from Elderton.

Halvorson rocketed a three-run smash over the fence in dead center in the first inning for a 4-0 Irelands lead. The right fielder uncorked a two-run belt in the fourth, which followed Elderton’s two-run clout. The fireworks put the home guys up, 10-2.

Third baseman Curt Echo (three singles), Rugg (two hits), Shane DeLaBreure (two hits) and Drew Nick (RBI single and sacrifice fly) also paced the offense.

Ryan Crowley had three hits and two RBIs for the Cannons.

The Irelands went 2-2 in the wooden bat tournament: defeating South Glens Falls, N.Y., 7-2, on June 17 and, 7-0, on June 18; losing, 12-1, to Saratoga, N.Y. and to Lachine, Quebec, 7-2, on June 17.

Dylan Ireland hurled five innings of three-hit ball for the win against South Glens Falls. In the other win, Will Conroy pitched six scoreless innings and smashed an RBI double.

S.D. Ireland Legion Baseball Schedule

Thursday: at Essex (Essex High School) 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: at K of C South Burlington, noon
Tuesday: ESSEX, 5:30 p.m.

HOME GAMES (at Champlain Valley Union High School) IN CAPS
Schedule subject to change

Local teen’s voice is heard

Share

Williston’s Harris earns state-level appointment

June 23, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School junior Laura Harris, 16, has been appointed to a two-year term as a student representative on Vermont’s State Board of Education. A former legislative page at the Vermont State House, Harris was chosen from a pool of 29 applicants. (Observer photo by Adam White)

Laura Harris knows how powerful a single voice can be.

The 16-year-old from Williston played a part in shaping the current curriculum at Champlain Valley Union High School, where she is entering her junior year.

“For the last two years, I have taken Chinese classes at CVU,” Harris said. “This year they weren’t going to offer Chinese III, so I wrote letters to the administration pushing to get the class offered – and now it will be.

“That made me realize that students do have a voice in the education system.”

Harris’s voice will now formally become part of that system. She was recently appointed to the Vermont Board of Education as one of its two student representatives. Harris will serve a two-year term in the seat vacated by Robert Kelly of Otter Valley Union High School, as a non-voting member in her first year and a voting member in her second.

“It should be really interesting to see how policies get made, and where the ideas come from,” Harris said.

Despite her age, Harris is no stranger to politics. In fact, she has already experienced the inner machinations behind the scenes at the state level – and it had whetted her appetite to get more involved.

“In eighth grade, I was a legislative page and got to work in the State House every day,” Harris said. “It is one thing to read about politics in the newspaper; it’s another thing to see it happen right in front of you.”

The Board “develops the state’s strategic plan” for education, according to Jill Remick, communications director for the Vermont Department of Education. When it came time to fill Kelly’s position, a statewide call was put out and the initial pool measured 29 applicants.

“We tried to cast as wide a net as possible,” said Susan Spaulding, Vermont’s director of appointments to boards and commissions.

A selection committee whittled the number of applicants down to three, and conducted interviews with the finalists. Harris received a phone call a few days later, from an assistant to Gov. Peter Shumlin.

“I was asked to come in and meet with the Governor,” Harris said. “I had met him a few times before, so I was familiar with him – but I was still really nervous.”

Those butterflies abated as the two talked shop, and realized they shared some similar views.

“He explained to me his positions on education, and the direction he wants to see the education system go in,” Harris said. “One thing that he and I both agreed on was having a more individualized approach to education, catered toward students’ interests and learning styles, rather than things like standardized tests.”

Before receiving any outright confirmation from Gov. Shumlin, Harris picked up on some verbal clues indicating that she had been chosen for the Board.

“He kept saying ‘when you are on the Board,’ and that kind of spoiled it,” Harris said with a laugh. “At that point, I was pretty sure I had gotten (the appointment).”

Harris will miss the newly configured Board’s first meeting while she travels to Serbia, but will begin attending monthly meetings in September along with the other student representative, Liz Strano from Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington. Remick said that the inclusion of the students on the Board is mutually beneficial.

“It’s invaluable to have student voices at the table, to participate, ask questions and provide a perspective that the other board members don’t have,” Remick said. “It’s great for the students as well, to have that kind of input at the state level.”

Harris views the experience as a new chapter in a story she has already begun to explore.
“I’m a part of the education system every day, in the role of student,” Harris said. “I think any student can bring a valuable perspective to the Board.”

VTC campus expanding to keep pace with enrollment

Share

June 23, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Construction workers hang sheetrock in the newly expanded library at Vermont Technical College’s Williston campus on Monday. The renovation will virtually double the size of the library, and add a row of individual study areas. (Observer photo by Adam White)

Ten times as many students are expected to attend Vermont Technical College this fall as there were in 2004. According to school officials, VTC’s Williston campus needs to expand to meet the needs of that booming population.

John Daniels, dean of administration for Vermont Technical College, outlined development plans for a parking area and new academic building at the Williston campus to the town’s Development Review Board at a meeting earlier this month. Meanwhile, construction is already underway to double the size of both the college’s library and its on-campus housing in Williston Hall.

“As we grow, we need to provide more services and better services,” Daniels said. “Our growth of students is up to 10 percent a year, and we need space for equipment, labs, classrooms and offices.

“Without space, we’re trapped. So we’re trying to be proactive.”

Enrollment at VTC’s Williston campus stood at approximately 50 students when the Randolph-based institution purchased a number of buildings it had been leasing in the vicinity of Taft Corners seven years ago. That number is expected to reach upward of 500 this fall, a number in line with VTC’s master plan of enrolling 800 students by the 2015-16 academic year.

“We’re very pleased with the growth we’ve experienced,” Daniels said.

The Williston Hall renovation – occurring on the second floor of the three-story, 18,000-square-foot building – will double its current housing capacity of 22 students. Though VTC is primarily a commuter school, Jean-Marie Clark, assistant to the dean at the Williston campus, said that fluctuation in fuel prices in recent years has led to increased interest in on-campus housing.

“Earlier this spring, when gas prices kept going up, I was worried that we weren’t going to have enough space for everybody,” Clark said.

Clark said that on-campus housing is also an attractive option to students in VTC’s dental hygiene program, which often necessitates a 7 a.m. start time.

“It’s a nice fit for them, because they don’t have to make such an early commute,” Clark said. “Plus, they can add it into their financial aid package.”

The expansion of the library – which Daniels admitted was previously “a little cubby hole” – is aimed in part at commuters who do not have a dorm room in which to study between classes. The renovation includes four enclosed work areas that will each contain a computer.

“Part of our job is to make this campus as comfortable as we can for students,” Clark said. “This will give students, especially commuters, a good place to get work done.”

Parking is a perpetual problem at VTC. Due to the high rate of commuters and the fact that facilities like the dental hygiene center offer services to the general public, the college’s current parking areas often overflow.

“There are certain days and times when parking gets pushed to the limit,” Clark said. “Helena Drive ends up getting used very frequently for parking.”

The new lot that Daniels proposed to the DRB would consist of 71 additional spaces, five handicapped spaces and the capacity for 14 bicycles. Michael Burke, an engineer working on the project, said that the required number of spaces for resident students increased from 22 to 46 in the past year, and the proposed expansion lot would accommodate VTC’s projected need of 264 spaces by the 2013-14 academic year.

“It is probably not wise to build right out to the last (available) parking space until you have somewhere else to go,” Burke said.

The proposed expansion would also include an additional building, approximately the same size as Williston Hall, which Daniels said could serve a number of purposes.

“It could be a residence hall, but it is more likely to be an academic building,” Daniels said. “It will depend on what we need the most at the time that it is completed.”

Daniels estimated that the proposed parking area could be completed within the next year or two, and the new building would be constructed afterward.

Little Details

Share

Natural high

June 23, 2011

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

There was an empty seat in my daughter’s advisory at Champlain Valley Union High School these last few weeks. A friendly, gregarious sophomore went missing following news of a drug bust on campus. Amid the swirling rumors, my daughter’s teacher was careful to point out that even good people sometimes make very bad mistakes.

The arrests of two CVU students for alleged possession of marijuana with intent to distribute prompts reason to pause as we stand on the precipice of another Vermont summer. Whether or not these students are convicted of felony charges, their lives are changed. Two seemingly promising student athletes have been “disappeared,” whisked away in a shroud of suspicion. Youth, presumed resources, and a criminal justice system geared towards restorative practices indicate they will likely emerge intact but not unscathed. I’m reminded how, sadly, high school sports are all too often intertwined with a culture of illicit substance use.

A Memorial Day weekend party hosted in Elmore by James Casey, 51, of Morristown, N.J., resulted in a series of citations related to underage drinking. Casey hosted the gathering to celebrate his daughter’s graduation from Deerfield Academy, an elite private school in Massachusetts. Casey is charged with furnishing alcohol to an estimated 150 teenagers in attendance. Private buses were chartered to bring the students to Elmore (population 849). Did Casey feel the locals wouldn’t pick up on the partying vibe?
I had my own recent brush with drugs. In downtown Burlington, not far from where toddlers downed drippy ice cream cones and revelers swayed to the rhythms of open-air jazz, a woman passed a carefully packed freezer bag to a young man’s eager hand, overflowing with $20 bills.

“He’s open 24-hours,” she said with a smile as the exchange — cash for drugs — was completed.

I paused in a sort of, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” and moved on.

These events prompt introspection and conversation. As a teen, I was decidedly outside the partying culture of my high school. I wasn’t invited to parties, but I heard about them in homeroom on Monday mornings. Weekend work in a restaurant may have actually had a protective effect. I was literally surrounded by booze — adult customers downing martinis and scotch and sodas — but didn’t feel drawn to the stuff. I think I drank six beers my first semester in college before asking myself, “Why am I doing this? I don’t even like beer.” Marijuana never made it onto my radar screen or into my lungs. Call me a geek — a happy one.

As the parent of a teen, recent events prompted dinner table conversations about drug and alcohol use. No family is immune. Any one of our kids might choose to imbibe. All we can do is encourage alternative, more healthful behaviors. We can and should model moderation in our use of regulated substances. If marijuana use is eventually decriminalized, I feel moderation is still the name of the game.

Researchers who know far more than me wrangle with the intricacies of why some young people choose to use illicit substances and why others do not. For some, it’s a way to “fit in,” to gain social confidence as natural inhibitions are chemically altered. Others self-medicate, treating with great inaccuracy underlying chemical imbalances and perhaps, hidden mental illness. Others, in despair from real or imagined trauma, seek escape, however temporary.

I once interviewed a former prostitute and recovering heroin addict. She told me, “You never recapture your very first high.” She pointed out that individuals fall deeper and deeper into addiction, chasing an elusive nirvana.

With summer’s approach, I am reminded of Vermont’s plentiful opportunities to acquire free or highly affordable natural highs.

Climb one of our magnificent Green Mountains and take in the view.

Catch a free concert.

Ride your bike along the Stowe Bike Path and dip your toes into one of its rushing streams.

Walk along Lake Champlain where sunlight dances on crystalline water.

Plunge into one of numerous swimming holes.

Sit on your porch or stoop to watch fireflies light up the night.

Read a book or explore a handcraft for sheer pleasure.

My daughter interns in Montpelier this summer, following up on a burgeoning interest in public service. Her application required a full and complete background check. It was an opportunity to remind her that the choices she makes have consequences.

As we look toward summer with its promise of warm, sun-filled days, I invite you to pursue the natural highs that come from filling our lungs with fresh air while surrounding ourselves with positive people who seek wonder in the world. Happy summer.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at [email protected] or [email protected]

Places I’ve Played

Share

The Hen House

June 23, 2011

By Bill Skiff

When I was a teenager in Cambridge, the Hen House was the only place to be on Saturday night. I would do anything to get there: wash dishes, fill the wood box, empty the trash, and even clean calf pens. At that point in my life I would rather dance than eat — and the Hen House was where the action was.

The Hen House was located in Underhill Center. It was a two-story building with a storage area in the basement and a top floor serving as the dance hall. The back had a parking lot and a set of steep stairs that led to the dance floor.

The story goes that the owner built it as a chicken house. He planned to raise chickens and sell their eggs. A friend suggested that before he bought his first batch of chicks that he hold a dance to pick up a little cash. He did, and the rest is history.

The dance floor was hardwood (with a little corn meal thrown around you could glide over it like Fred Astaire). The bandleader, and trumpet player, was Al Cole; his band was a swing band typical of the era. Al could play Sugar Blues just like Clyde McCoy. I asked him to play it every time I went.

My mother hated the Hen House and called it “a den of iniquity.”

“All they do there is drink and fight,” she said.

What could I say, other than, “Mom they also dance?” I think I was 25 before she let me go (well not quite, I was 17). I felt like I had broken out of prison.

The real saying about the Hen House was that it had “three rounds, two squares and a fight a minute.” The band would play three slow dances followed by two squares. The fights generally occurred during intermission, accompanied by the consumption of various liquids.

The slow dances were a wonderful opportunity to get your belt buckle polished; especially when the “Canadian girls” came down from Montreal. Their perfume smelled so good that it could make a boy from Lamoille County give up farming. On slow dances, they placed their bodies real close to you.

Your buckle became so polished it would glow in the dark. In truth, I was intimidated by them and only danced when my buckle became tarnished.

The squares were fun, too: duck for the oyster, duck for the clam, Wabash cannonball, and kiss her in the moonlight. In that dance, there came a time when you and your girl would swing into the center of the ring. At a given point, the lights would go out, and the caller would yell, “kiss her if you dare.” I always dared, but was not always successful.
Intermission was a program by itself. Between drinking, fighting and affairs of the heart, there was never a dull moment. I was too small to fight and had a body that couldn’t tolerate alcohol. I was left with only one option — I made out as best I could.

There were other places where you could go on Saturday night — Harts Barn, Desco’s, Jake’s Barn or the Little Club. But for me, it was the Hen House. Even today, when I hear dance music, I think of those good times. Sometimes, when the summer air is just right, I can even smell the perfume of those fine Canadian ladies.

I think I’ll go check my belt buckle.

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at [email protected]

Obituaries

Share

Kimberly A. (Boutin) Lewis

Kimberly Anne (Boutin) Lewis passed away peacefully on June 8, 2011, with her loving husband by her side in Fletcher Allen Health Care following a complication after surgery. Born on May 21, 1968, Kim grew up on her family’s farm in Williston and graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in 1986. She was the loving wife of husband, Harold “Huey” Lewis, and an amazing mother of three children, Tony, Dillon and Tara, as well as a stepmother to Hal, Tonya and Arron Lewis. She was a lifetime member of the Women’s Auxilary VFW, Post 6689. For the past 11 years she had been part of the Gadue’s Dry Cleaners family. Kim always went through life with her head held high, always knowing who she was and where she came from. She had wonderful roots that kept her close to those she loved and a special passion for her Native American heritage that she held deep in her soul. She will forever be held in the hearts of all who loved her. Kim was predeceased by her father, Leo Boutin Jr.; grandparents, Leo Sr. and Winifred (Tarrier) Boutin; grandfather, Howard Beaupre; and brother, Steven Boutin. She leaves behind maternal grandmother, Loretta (Gratton) Beaupre; devoted mother, Mary Boutin; husband, Harold; and three children, Tony, Dillon and Tara. The youngest daughter in a family of nine children, she is also survived by her siblings and their spouses, Kevin and Alba Boutin, Leo III and Mona Boutin, Monica Boutin, Michael Boutin, Tina and Dean Gallison, Loretta Lynch, and a very special younger brother, Gary Boutin and his companion, Julie; as well as many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews who loved her very much. Calling hours were held Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at Gifford Funeral Home, 22 Depot Street in Richmond from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A celebration of life for Kim was held Thursday, June 16, 2011, at 11 a.m. in the Old Round Church in Richmond.

Louise Whitcher

A service of celebration of the life of Louise Whitcher will be held at the Williston Federated Church in Williston on Saturday, June 25, 2011, at 11 a.m. Friends are invited to join her family in remembering Louise at the memorial service. Louise passed away on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, in the Green Mountain Nursing Home of Colchester.

Guest Column

Share

Protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare

June 23, 2011

By Greg Marchildon

There are proposals being considered by U.S. Congress right now that would make harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills. These proposals would place arbitrary limits on federal spending requiring cuts that could dramatically increase health care costs for today’s seniors (55 and over), threaten their access to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, and reduce the benefit checks they rely on to pay their bills.

We’re not just talking about budget numbers here. We’re talking about action by Congress that will have a disastrous effect on real people. Here’s something else that’s straightforward: American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) will do everything in our power to prevent Congress from making these harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

What lawmakers need to do is start making the right decisions about our nation’s future priorities. At the top of these priorities must be the health and financial security of older Americans.

There’s a better way to reduce the deficit: Congress should cut wasteful government spending and close special interest tax breaks for companies that make billions of dollars in profits – but pay little or no taxes – before considering harmful cuts to programs that are a lifeline to millions of older Americans. Tax breaks and loopholes cost the federal government an estimated $1 trillion each year.

And, perhaps most important, we need to tackle ever-rising health care costs. If we really want to reduce health care costs, Medicare should not be singled out. We need to improve the way we deliver health care in Medicare and throughout the entire system – including a greater focus on prevention, better care coordination for people with chronic illnesses, and incentives that reward doctors and hospitals for providing high quality care instead of ones who see the most patients or run the most test.

Vermont has taken some important steps in this direction and leads the nation in addressing both health care cost control and access for all. Other steps we can take to reduce Medicare costs are cracking down on costly hospital readmissions, overbilling by providers, and standing up to the drug companies, who are costing Medicare billions of dollars in high priced drugs and by preventing less costly generic drugs from hitting the market.

And, let’s be clear: Social Security did not cause our nation’s budget problem, and Social Security should not be weakened to fix it. There is no immediate crisis. Social Security can pay 100 percent of benefits for the next 25 years. In fact, the only “crisis” on the horizon is what Congress may do to Medicare and Social Security benefits as they attempt to reach a deal to pay the nation’s debts.

AARP’s members have worked their entire lives to earn their Medicare and Social Security benefits. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting to stop Congress from making a deal to pay the nation’s bills that includes harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Greg Marchildon is the state director for AARP Vermont.

Sweet music marks transition for WCS graduates

Share

Longtime teacher Mahony says good-bye

June 23, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Williston Central School physical education teacher Jennifer Oakes presents the class of 2011. More than 130 eighth-graders graduated from WCS on June 16. (Observer photo by Kayla Walters)

This year’s eighth-grade class at Williston Central School graduated on a high note last week, as one student celebrated with a ceremonial guitar solo and a longtime teacher retired to spend more time playing her violin.

Upward of 500 people packed the WCS gymnasium on June 16 for this year’s graduation ceremony, during which 133 students marked their transition from eighth grade to high school along with teachers and faculty members, relatives and friends.

The occasion was particularly bittersweet for the 77 students who had attended school within the Williston district since kindergarten.

“There is no high school in Williston, so once they graduate from eighth grade they are leaving the district,” said Moe Provost of Derby, who came to watch his grandson, Henri, graduate. “He’s the oldest of nine grandchildren, so we’re going to be doing this a lot.”
WCS principal Jacqueline Parks gave a welcome address in which she praised this year’s eighth-graders for being “good people, good citizens (and) good learners.”

“They have matured, and they are ready to tackle their lifelong journey in education,” Parks said, before turning to face the students who were seated behind her. “Take your goodness and become a role model for others.”

Leah Sargent and Meghan O’Day then gave addresses on behalf of the Class of 2011. Sargent – one of those 77 students who started at Williston in kindergarten – pointed out that she had been at the school “for almost half of (her) life.”

“Even though the school has changed, one thing has stayed the same: the joyful atmosphere,” Sargent said.

O’Day reflected on the worries that young students face at a new school, and how overcoming those challenges helps shape them as people.

“High school won’t even start for a few months … that gives us time to celebrate this huge accomplishment – before it is, once again, time to worry,” O’Day said.

Fellow students Sarah Bergkvist and Renee Benoit dedicated the 2011 school yearbook to Carmen Portelli, who left WCS in April to take a job at an area veterinary clinic.  Portelli worked at the school since 2006 as a para-educator, and in 2007 moved to the school’s front office receptionist position and “did an outstanding job” in the words of Parks.
“[Portelli] was known for her cheery, positive attitude and had very strong relationships with students and faculty,” Parks said.

Also saying goodbye to WCS were guidance counselor Beth Sumner and Susan Mahony, who retired after 25 years as a classroom teacher at the school. Mahony taught grades four though eight in a variety of multi-age teams, and taught all subjects while specializing in language arts, math and social studies. She said she hopes to spend her retirement becoming more involved with music and playing the violin.

“I feel very lucky to have taught in such a positive and forward-looking school,” Mahony said. “I am proud to have been in a place that integrates the arts and educates the whole child. A teaching career offers steady opportunities for your own growth and exploration; it is very enriching. It is a career worth doing.”

WCS eighth-grader Dustin Peters marked the midway point of the graduation ceremony by playing an original, instrumental song on his Epiphone SG electric guitar, against a backdrop of vocal encouragement from his classmates.

The second half of the ceremony saw numerous awards handed out to graduating students. The Gordon Jones Memorial Award went to Chris Mallow, while Alec Collin took home the Allen S. Myers Spirit of Williston Award. The Al Myers Spirit of History Award was bestowed upon Amari Boyd, Mallow, Mikaela Rather, Greg Goldman and Shea Ingham.

EMTs: Ambulance service a success

Share

June 23, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Williston call EMT Ben Burdet checks a ZOLL cardiac monitor on the No. 1 ambulance on Tuesday. The state-of-the-art monitor features Bluetooth capability that allows technicians to send a patient’s EKG readouts to the hospital ahead of the arriving ambulance. (Observer photo by Adam White)

It didn’t take long for the Williston ambulance service to be put to the ultimate test.
Less than 90 days after the service first went into operation last summer, a call came in from the town’s retail district: a middle-aged man was suffering cardiac arrest at the Christmas Tree Shops in Maple Tree Place. With two of their own ambulances ready to go, Williston EMTs were able to deliver the patient to Fletcher Allen Health Care within 14 minutes of receiving the call.

“When we reached the scene, he was clinically dead,” shift officer Sean Soper said. “And later, he ended up walking out of the hospital. The response time we saved very well could have been the difference.”

With its one-year anniversary approaching on July 1, the Williston ambulance service is regarded by those operating it as a hands-down success. Over the first five months of 2011, the service responded to 342 calls – putting it on pace for 839 calls over its first year in operation.

“The service has been very well received,” Fire Chief Ken Morton said. “We’ve gotten a number of ‘you saved my life’ letters, from people who are very thankful to have an ambulance five minutes away instead of 25 or 30.”

More often than not, time is the most critical factor in emergency medical services. Prior to implementing its own ambulance program, Williston relied on service from neighboring communities – despite the fact that it ranked fourth in call volume among towns in Chittenden County, behind only Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski.
“Before last July, we were the only (town) in the top 11 for call volume that didn’t have an ambulance in our community,” Morton said.

That not only increased response times to Williston emergencies; it also stretched the capabilities of neighboring departments. Starting July 1, the town will be in a position to start paying some of those neighbors back.

“In year two of our service, we will become part of the mutual aid matrix,” Morton said. “We will be available to go to Hinesburg, St. George, Richmond and other communities as a second ambulance when needed.”

Williston’s extensive emergency medical capabilities stem from two things: the decision to purchase two ambulances last year – a new model and a six-year-old used one – and staffing. Morton estimated that the department, on 98 percent of calls, retains a capable backup crew in-house after the first ambulance goes out.

“Our ambulances have never been out of service here, and that’s unique,” call EMT Ben Burdet said.

Morton added that on approximately 30 occasions this year, the department has dispatched both ambulances simultaneously.

“I think that is a huge compliment to the people we have,” Morton said. “We’re capable and we’re fast – if a call comes in for EMS, we will have an ambulance out the door in 30 seconds.”

But in every emergency, response time is only part of the equation. Burdet recalled the automobile crash that took the life of Williston’s Dylan Peters on April 7, and how the ambulance crew being on the scene in mere minutes was not enough to save the teenager’s life.

“Realistically, you can’t save everyone,” Burdet said. “But an EMT’s definition of saving a life is getting them to the hospital as quickly as you can.”

By that definition, Williston’s ambulance service has been a success. But using another popular definition – that of dollars – the service hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.
Collections over the first year of service have fallen well short of projections, leading town manager Rick McGuire to warn the Selectboard about a potential $50,000 deficit by the end of this fiscal year. Morton said that conservative spending and some reallocation of funds have ensured that the department will come in under its budget, and that Williston may simply need to accept that such a service is going to cost money.

“In most places, ambulance is seen as an essential service that the community pays for,” Morton said. “We tried to set ours up to be revenue producing, so it could support itself – but in the first year, we didn’t see the revenue from it that we were expecting.

“The numbers can be painted in a really horrible light … but the reality is that we’ve succeeded in providing an essential service to the community.”

Some financial streamlining may also help the bottom line. Morton said that in the past, the town would employ first-response efforts – involving training, equipment and medical supplies – on local calls. But he added that the ambulance that eventually delivered the patient to the hospital would be the only party able to collect on the incident. Williston will now be able to bill for every one of its EMT calls in town, as well as any calls it responds to as part of the mutual aid matrix.

Morton and his subordinates hope that the collection issue stabilizes a bit in the service’s second year, especially considering that the department has reached a level of stability in which no major purchases or additions are on the horizon. But even with the ledger-sheet headaches, the town’s ambulances are considered well worth it.

“Even if we haven’t met all of our financial goals, the value to the community has gone far beyond that,” Soper said.

‘Opening new doors to life’

Share

Loud and clear messages sent to, by 2011 CVU graduates

June 23, 2011

By Steven Frank
Observer staff

Matt Rich of Williston gets some last-minute help with his tie before the CVU graduation ceremony. (Observer photo by Stephen Mease)

They saw the election of the first African-American U.S. President.

They saw the worst oil spill in history ravage the Gulf of Mexico.

They saw U.S. Navy SEALs find and kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

On June 17, more than 330 Champlain Valley Union High School seniors saw their high school careers culminate with diplomas.

“I’m really happy for everyone in our class. I think we really pulled together,” said CVU 2011 graduate Rosemary Moore, a Williston resident.

The class of 2011 experienced a lot of historical and personal events since it first entered CVU’s hallways in the fall of 2007. The graduation ceremony, which took place inside the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, touched on those experiences with messages for the class to remember and use toward the future.

CVU seniors Molly Howard and Anna Shelley kicked off the commencement exercises by leading the packed audience of more than 3,000 into a tribute to Dylan Peters, a fellow member of the CVU class of 2011 who died following a car accident on April 7. Instead of the usual moment of silence, the crowd erupted into an echoing activity more befitting Peters – a moment of loudness that featured nearly 30 seconds of cheers and cries of “we love you Dylan.”

“We had talked about wanting to honor (Peters) in some way and balance that with the celebration of the entire community,” said CVU principal Sean McMannon, who announced the name of each graduate during the diploma presentation. “The loud piece of it certainly honors Dylan’s personality. He was such a vibrant, lively, big personality. He was a friend to all.”

The ceremony’s first student speaker, Williston resident Julie Ho, spoke about changes in society over the class’ four years at CVU and how each member can make an impact on future ones.

“We’re closing the doors to high school but opening new doors to life,” she said. “We all have the ability to change society and change the world.”

Class of 2011 members Carlee Evans, Jameson Hurd and Katherine Meyer also spoke.

Evans, a basketball player coached at CVU by her father, Jeff, made references to the school’s athletic accomplishments including its recent boys lacrosse and golf state titles. Hurd mentioned the scholars’ bowl team’s success – it earned a trip to the national championships in Atlanta, Ga. – and Meyer said that she wants members of the class to get up each day “doing what they love to do.”

Former Williston resident Morgan Page, a 1999 CVU graduate, was guest speaker. Page, a musician and producer living in Los Angeles, Calif., has mixed more than 110 songs by artists including Madonna, Coldplay and the B-52s. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical earlier this year.

At last Friday’s graduation, he told the class that it took him awhile to find his niche. He encouraged graduates to be patient and not let life pass them by without pursuing their passion.

“High school was hard, I wasn’t kidding. I wasn’t the most popular kid, it took a long time to find myself,” Page said after the ceremony. “I just wanted to get that message out to follow their gut.”

Ryan Stearns, a Williston resident who wrestled at CVU, will follow his. He plans to attend Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. on a wrestling scholarship.

“It’s finally here,” Stearns said of his graduation. “I’m going to miss wrestling, miss my team … I’m not going to miss reading and schoolwork.”

Moore pointed out that graduation represents the end of an era.

“I hope that I can still see people but I know for a lot of us, this is good-bye,” said Moore, who will attend Bishops University in Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada.

Simon Quayle, a Williston resident who plans to attend Purchase College, State University of New York, also said that it’s hard to say good-bye to a group he spent four years with and that he is nervous about college. But he is also confident that CVU has prepared him for the journey.

“CVU has taught me to be an independent person. I think for myself now and am ready to tackle whatever is thrown at me,” he said.