May 20, 2018

Girls hockey loses opener

Dec. 15, 2011

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent


The Champlain Valley Union girls hockey team has been getting an idea of Santa Claus’ road schedule.

Following their lone pre-Christmas home game Wednesday (after Observer press deadline) against South Burlington, the Redhawks are scheduled to go back into foes’ rinks Saturday at Rutland (7:30 p.m.) and Wednesday at Northfield (5 p.m.). Coach Ben Psaros and his jolly crew are hoping not to bestow gifts during their visits.

Psaros was philosophical in the wake of the ‘Hawks season lid-opening 6-3 loss to Colchester Saturday (Dec. 10) at Leddy Arena in Burlington.

“We have things to work on but we did some things well,” the first year head coach said after the game.

The beginning went well — CVU led 2-0 after the opening 15-minute period. Sophomore Kristina Ushakova scored on a 10-foot shot with just more than two minutes into the game.

Junior defender Randi-Lynn Katon got loose on a breakaway and potted the second CVU tally with 1:26 left in the stanza.

The Redhawks took the two-goal lead into the second period thanks to some goal mouth acrobatics by senior net minder Nicole Sisk, who came up with 14 stops in the reel — using pads, an educated mitt and her 5-foot-3 frame.

But Colchester’s edge in team quickness paid off in the middle period when it struck early and often, putting up five scores — three by Erin Turner, one which came off a rebound.

CVU got within 5-3 early in the third period; Ushakova getting her second score with an assist from senior Rowan Hayes with 12:43 remaining.

Moments later Hayes was stopped on a break away by Lakers goalie Stephanie Landry. Colchester potted an insurance goal at 9:05 when Kellie Lockerby slapped home a rebound.

Sisk finished with a busy afternoon’s work of 41 saves as the Lakers held a formidable 47-17 advantage in shots on net.

CVU boys hoopsters open with win

‘Hawks top MVU

Dec. 15, 2011

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent


With the season’s victorious opening night behind it, the Champlain Valley Union boys basketball team will journey to Vergennes Friday (7:15 p.m.) to test the 2-0 Commodores, who have several players back from the team that popped the Hawks at CVU early last season.

While CVU held on late to bump off invading Missisquoi Valley Union 54-51 Tuesday night, Vergennes laid a 67-62 bopping on South Burlington.

“We will have to play better Friday night,” Bliss said following some late game anxiety in Tuesday’s narrow triumph.

Despite a slew of pluses — a 21-point sniping by point guard Tucker Kohlasch, a muscular 14-point, eight-rebound inside job by Ryan Beaudry, steady floor play and 11 boards by Brad Bissonette and an overwhelming 42-26 edge in rebounding — the Redhawks were hard pressed (pun intended) to hang on through the chaotic closing minutes.

Primary antagonist in the hairy final reel was veteran Missisquoi star Matt St. Amour, who single-handedly brought the Thunderbirds from a 12-point deficit early in the quarter to within 52-51 with 39 seconds left. In that stretch St. Amour scored 12 points, hauled down seven rebounds and handed off two assists. A three-point try for a tie with three seconds left clanged off the rim and into the hands of Kohlasch.

CVU defenders Anders Gilstedt, Ryan Brogna and others had limited St. Amour to a single hoop, two assists and four rebounds through three periods.

With Kohlasch nailing four consecutive treys in the opening quarter and Brad Bissonette pacing solid team rebounding, the Redhawks jumped to an 18-12 lead by the end of the first quarter. They might have put the game away before halftime if seven second-period turnovers didn’t derailed the offense. Meanwhile, the defense limited the Thunderbirds to 2-for-11 shooting.

With Kohlasch, Brad Bissonette and Scott Bissonette nailing third-quarter 3s, CVU steadied the offense and piled up a 41-30 lead by the start of the final quarter. The advantage went to 45-32 before St. Amour took charge.

A steady hand for youthful Missisquoi (four starters gone from last season’s victory in Hinesburg) was Craig Laroche with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting — including a quartet of treys.

Vexing to Bliss was the Redhawks’ difficulty at the charity stripe, where they went 9-for-24 and blanked on their first eight tries before Kohlasch swished one early in the fourth period. CVU was also a chilly 19-for-53 from the floor.

But then again, it was opening night.




CVU 54, Missisquoi 51

Missisquoi Valley Union (51)

St, Amour, 5 12-16 22; Kosac, 0 0-0 0; Laroche, 7 0-4 17; Larose, 2 0-0 4; Dabrowski, 1 0-0 3; Cooper, 2 0-0 4; Lumsden, 0 0-3 0; Lashure, 0 0-0 0.

Totals: 17 12-23 51


CVU (54)

B. Bissonette, 2 1-4 6; Aube, 1 0-0 2; Beaudry, 5 4-7 14; Gilstedt, 1 0-0 2; Kohlasch, 6 4-9 21; Chavaliler, 1 0-0 2; Whitbeck, 0 0-0 0, S. Bissonette, 2 0-4 5; Brogna, 1 0-0 2.

Totals: 19 9-24 54


MVU     12 11  7 21  – 51

CVU      18  8 15 13 –  54

Around Town

Dec. 15, 2011



The parking ban in Williston began Dec. 1 and remains in effect until April 1, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. During those hours, vehicles cannot be parked on any town street or highway. The penalty for a violation is a $25 fine. The penalty for committing another parking violation within 30 days is $50.



Water and sewer bills from the town of Williston have been mailed and are due Dec. 30.

Methods of payment are check or cash, in-person, at the town clerk’s office at 7900 Williston Road. Checks can also be mailed, or left in the drop box located behind the clerk’s office.



Author and Willistonian Molly Stevens will be at Chef’s Corner Café Bakery in Williston on Saturday, Dec. 17 to sign copies of her new book, “All About Roasting,” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The book will be on sale for $35 (plus tax). For each sale, Stevens will donate $6 to the Williston Community Food Shelf and buyers receive a $6 Chef’s Corner gift certificate.


Police budget examined

Library budget discussed

Dec. 15, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


The Williston Selectboard took a road trip Tuesday evening, holding session at the Williston Woods Activity Center before a room of attentive neighborhood residents.

On the docket were the budget specifics of two town institutions: the library and the police department.

Dorothy Alling Memorial Library Director Marti Fiske kicked things off, outlining the budgetary needs of a library in need of restoration.

“The roof shingles are in very poor condition. We have had multiple leaks over the last year and a half, caused by ice dams which have then leaked inside the building,” Fiske said. “We have a $200,000 request to do the library roof and improve insulation.”

The $200,000 capital expenditure would likely require the issuance of a municipal bond by the town, which would need to be approved by residents on Town Meeting Day in March.

Fiske’s requests pertaining to the operating budget side of the equation were comparatively modest, but she emphasized that even a small decrease in funding has a large effect on the quality of services and programs the library is able to offer.

“We are not able to offer the range of programs that we had when we had 12 percent more money (in fiscal year 2009), and the quality of the programs has changed, too,” Fiske said. “In the whole realm of things, (the requested special programs budget increase) is small — $500 — but we hope that you’ll let us have it.”


Williston’s finest are in need of another able body.

Although Interim Police Chief Douglas Hoyt’s original request for two additional police officers was cut to one by the town manager’s office, Hoyt pointed out that even one additional full-time officer would take pressure off the department and reduce the need for part-time staffing.

“I think the vision a long time ago was to have a part-time officer who would come in and help you with parades and events and things like that — and that made a lot of sense,” Hoyt said, “but having an officer who only works a couple hours a week or a couple hours a month being the first officer on the scene to a major domestic abuse situation is not the best situation for that officer, or the department, or the community.”

Hoyt said additional staff would leave open the possibility of creating a dedicated school resource officer position.

“A properly selected person can have a major impact on the well-being and safe feeling that a child has when they’re in the school system,” said Hoyt. “A good school resource officer is worth their weight in gold.”

Selectboard member Chris Roy suggested that compared to previous budget seasons, there now exists a need and demand for increased police staffing.

“One difference here than in prior years is we were always a bit hesitant to increase staffing levels because we chronically had positions open,” Roy said. “But now, we’re at a point, it sounds like, where we have filled those spots — there’s certainly a need and if we were to authorize one or two more positions, then there’s some expectation that in truth those will be filled with bodies and we’ll have more officers on the beat.”

THE HUB: ‘Simplicity is beauty’

Williston teen launches photography business

Dec. 15, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


High school sophomore Eli Thurston (above) started his own photography business in September. The Williston-based Thurston Photography offers a wide range of services, including family portraits, baby photos and senior class pictures. (Courtesy photo)

“In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little human detail can become a leitmotif,” French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote in the 1952 book, “The Decisive Moment.”

Fifteen-year-old Williston photographer Eli Thurston is at a young age seeking great subjects in little human details, eschewing outdoor landscape photography for the landscapes of the human face.

“I definitely like taking pictures of people more than landscapes,” said Thurston, a homeschooled high school sophomore. “(With) people you get so many expressions, and a story almost.”

Thurston’s newly founded photography business, simply called Thurston Photography, takes as its slogan: “Simplicity is beauty.”

It’s a phrase that applies to his photography aesthetic. Although he has a studio in his home, he prefers shooting his subjects in natural light, believing they behave more naturally.

“It’s definitely more restricted in the studio than outdoors,” Thurston said. “In a studio, it’s more like a strict pose.”

Thurston got his first camera when he was 10 and honed his chops by using his brother and sister as models.

“They probably hated it,” he acknowledged, “but it helped.”

It wasn’t until a friend and aspiring model requested that he photograph her that Thurston considered starting his own business.

“I had taken pictures of her at camp,” he recalled, “and then when I got home I put some on Facebook. People were really impressed and said I should start my own photography business, so a week afterward I decided to and from then it has sort of just taken off.”

Thurston added that Facebook has been vital to his self-promotion campaign.

“For advertising, Facebook has been amazing,” he said. “I’m very persistent. I don’t really charge my friends, but I ask them to share (photos on Facebook).”

Thurston has never taken a formal photography class; instead, he learns by trial and error.

“Some of the poses when you’re actually doing them feel very strange and awkward, and then in the picture it turns out awesome, so it’s a lot of experimenting with poses,” he said.

Thurston’s services range from family portraits to baby photos and senior class pictures. He averages two photo shoots a week — a work schedule he credits to his status as a homeschooler.

“I think homeschooling gives you more creativity and flexibility,” Thurston said. “I can do a lot more than I would in public school.”

Still, he isn’t satisfied with his current photographic offerings and hopes to expand into other services, such as wedding photography.

“I’m trying to broaden my horizons,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

For more information about Thurston Photography, including rates, visit

THE HUB: Following The Leaders

A chat with Arlo Cota, owner of Imported Car Center Auto Sport

Dec. 15, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff


Imported Car Center Auto Sport in Williston stocks between 30-50 vehicles, mostly European. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

The year was 1976. America was celebrating its bicentennial.

Gerald Ford was president.

“Rocky” was released in theaters.

And Arlo Cota moved his Imported Car Center Auto Sport business to Vermont 2A in Williston.

Thirty-five years and several surrounding commercial developments later, Cota’s auto repair shop and dealership still runs on plenty of fuel. Cota, 63, started the business in South Burlington in 1972 as an understated gas station and two-bay repair garage. Today, Cota employs a staff of 17 — including his 27-year-old son, Nickolas — that specializes in the sale and repair of European vehicles. Cota, a former endurance racecar driver, has an inventory featuring pre-owned Audis, Jaguars, BMWs and Mercedes.

A certified master technician often found in the shop with his black and white poodles by his side, Cota recently sat down with the Observer to talk about his automotive center.

Williston Observer: In 1976, there was not a lot of commerce in Williston. What brought you here?

Arlo Cota: I speculated that this was the area for future growth because of the interstate being right here. Also, the Pyramid Mall was supposed to come in here around 1980. I didn’t realize it would take 30 years (for business growth) but it eventually happened.

WO: Even though it took longer than expected, when you look back, are you happy you moved here?

Cota: The best decision I made in my life was to buy this property — I bought it for practically nothing. The property is very valuable now.

WO: With all the businesses you now see in Williston, are you surprised there aren’t more automobile places here?

Cota: (Williston Planning and) Zoning came in quite a few years ago and decided there could be no car places on (Vermont) 2A. You have to be where Berlin City is (Marshall Avenue). So we’re the only ones allowed to be here. That’s been a benefit.

WO: What led you to the automotive industry?

Cota: I’ve always been interested in cars. Living on a farm in Hinesburg, I liked to fix the tractors. We didn’t have a lot of money in those days… I was in the Army for three years (during the Vietnam War)… When I got out, in 1969, I landed a great job at General Electric. A wildcat strike led to me getting laid off…I then went to work for Almartin (Motors in South Burlington) as a British car mechanic. They were doing MGs and Austin-Healeys at that time. I worked there for about nine months and then decided to go to Vermont Technical College. I was really accepted by the faculty because I fixed all of their cars. That’s when I started thinking about starting my own business. I then went back to Almartin and eventually started my own business.

WO: What were things like at the beginning?

Cota: I started in the middle of 1972. I used a gas station on Dorset Street (in South Burlington). It was a two-bay garage with four mechanics. We outgrew that so we moved to another place (3060 Williston Road) that we made into a four-bay shop. We had six mechanics. We were there for three years before we moved here.

WO: Tell me about some of the bumps in the road.

Cota: Since I’ve been in business I’ve had Phillips (66) petroleum move out on me (eliminating gasoline sales). I’ve had Fiat (Italian auto manufacturer) move out on me — I bought that franchise in 1979 and they left the country in ’83. I then became the second-largest Peugeot (French auto manufacturer) dealer in the country, and they moved out on me in August 1991.

WO: What did you do?

Cota: I took on a partner, and added a Mitsubishi franchise (on Shelburne Road). So I had two locations. The partnership situation didn’t work out for me financially so I went back to just this one place.

WO: Tell me about Imported Car Center Auto Sport today?

Cota: We’re very heavy on European. I’ve been doing those cars all my life. Audi is 60 percent of my business. We also do a lot of Jaguars, Porches, Volkswagens, Volvos and Saabs.

WO: How many cars do you sell?

Cota: We sell anywhere from 250-300 a year. We have sold as much as 1,000 cars in a year… We sell just used cars and stock anywhere from 30-50. The inventory comes from all over; I usually buy on the computer (in online auctions). I buy mostly European cars but I’m also heavy into Subarus.

WO: What do you enjoy about this business?

Cota: I’m a people person, so is everyone who works here. We like people, and the automobile has always been a part of people’s lives. I’ve always been enthusiastic about making them go fast — even the tractors and lawn mowers when I lived on a farm. Between the enthusiasm for doing that and getting along with people, it gave me an advantage. My best friends have been customers who have patronized me for 20, 30 years. Now that I’m in my 60s, I realize how valuable that is.

WO: Why should someone come here, either to buy a car or get one fixed?

Cota: Because of the personal care and having a place to trust — where you won’t get sold things you don’t need. The average employee has been here around 20 years. We are a seasoned group. My youngest mechanic is 45 and most guys are in the their 50s. They are in good shape, though. They are the most-fit mechanics you will ever meet.

WO: What does the future hold?

Cota: Unfortunately, with the way Williston does business and the way the tax base is set up, it’s the type of thing where it’s best off to stay in business. This real estate investment was my retirement. I’m getting old. At one point, I wanted to sell it, but not anymore. I want to keep it.

If there’s a business owner that you’d like to see featured in “Following The Leaders,” let the Observer know by contacting editor Steven Frank at 872-9000 x17 or


Afterschool ski registration now open

Popular program begins Jan. 13

Dec. 15, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond has been the home of the Williston school district’s afterschool ski-and-ride program since the 1970s. The 2012 program begins on Jan. 13 and runs through mid-March. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

It’s no secret that Friday afternoon is the least productive time of the week.

It’s the home stretch of the five-day rat race, when the week’s travails fade from memory and the promise of a two-day furlough dangles like a morsel of cheese; rendering any attempt at productivity futile.

The Williston School District and the town’s Parks and Recreation Department recognize this fact of life. So each year, during the proverbial dead of winter, they provide respite to the Friday afternoon malaise by way of an afterschool ski-and-ride program at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond.

Marilyn Cochran, the current proprietor of the facility founded by her family in 1961, said the Williston ski and snowboarding program is a clear standout among area school districts.

“Williston has always been the best organized (town),” Cochran said. “They have a lot of involvement from the community in trying to teach the kids.”

Former Williston physical education instructor Dick Farrell founded the program in the mid-1970s, but he said it took time before it gained traction.

“When it really took off was when I started accumulating a supply of equipment and I started loaning out equipment for free to kids that didn’t have it,” said Farrell, who retired four years ago and moved to New Hampshire. “Then when I went into snowboarding (in the early 1990s), it experienced another huge jump.”

Another key component to the program’s continued viability was Farrell’s decision to use eighth-graders as ski and snowboarding instructors.

“As far as eighth-graders teaching, that’s something that I started also,” Farrell said. “(As the program grew) the availability of adult instructors was going the other direction because people were working longer hours … so I went to eighth graders, and that’s one of the best moves I ever made. They are just incredible instructors if you get the right ones.”

Today, physical education teachers, college students and parents, along with seventh and eighth grade students, teach the program.

As part of her Williston Central School eighth grade challenge, 13-year-old Natalie Casson will teach telemark skiing, or “tele skiing,” which differs from traditional downhill skiing in that ones’ heels aren’t attached to the skis and turns are executed by bending a knee.

“I had taught (downhill skiing) in the program before, and I thought it would be fun to get other kids interested in tele skiing,” Casson said. “That’s why I thought it would be nice to incorporate that into my eighth grade challenge and teach other kids.”

Williston PE teacher Lynn McClintock, who took over the program when Farrell retired, echoed her predecessor’s comments about the value of student instructors.

“It empowers those students that have been involved with the program that really are great role models,” McClintock said.

The program is open to students at Williston Central and Allen Brook schools, and is divided into eight skill levels.

“If students obtain a certain level by the end of the year — if they make it to level 5 — we actually have an all-day ski trip where we take them to one of the big mountains,” said McClintock. “The thing that’s nice is sometimes this is the only chance some kids get to see what a big ski area looks like, and we’re able to get discounted prices.”

John Colt, a Williston resident who began teaching as a level 3 instructor when his son was in kindergarten, praised the program.

“The program is designed to be more or less open to any skill level, it’s extremely affordable, it’s a community effort and the Cochran people bend over backward to accommodate the various school programs,” Colt said.

Colt encouraged more parents to volunteer as “a way of giving something back to the community,” and said the program would suffer without parental support.

“I don’t think this program would be as good as it is and as comprehensive as it is, or as affordable as it is, if it wasn’t a grassroots, community-based thing,” he said.

McClintock added that skiing aptitude is not a prerequisite for volunteering.

“If parents don’t feel like they know how to ski, that’s not important,” she said. “We need parents for helping out with getting the kids organized in different groups … and just making sure kids feel safe there.”

The 2012 Williston afterschool ski-and-ride program begins on Jan. 13 and runs through mid-March. Registration began on Dec. 1 and continues until Dec. 22, at a cost of $55 per participant. Late registrations are subject to an additional $10 fee. Bus transportation is available at a cost of $10 per participant. The cost of equipment rental is $25 for the season. Registration forms are available under the Parks & Recreation section of the Williston town website. For questions, contact Kevin Finnegan at or by calling 878-1239.

Food Shelf seeks post-Irene donations

Dec. 15, 2011

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent


Anita Blau (left) has been chosen as the Williston Community Food Shelf’s volunteer of the year. Blau has helped the food shelf save money by keeping an eye open for sales, deals and coupons that are provided to its clients. The food shelf names its volunteer of the year each November, in celebration of its opening in 2008. Also pictured is Cathy Michaels, Williston Community Food Shelf President. The food shelf looks to raise $15,000 by the end of the year. (Courtesy photo)

Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc on huge swaths of the state of Vermont, but what many people don’t realize is the storm affected people well beyond the river valleys.

Generous Vermonters have opened their checkbooks to help those who lost homes and valuables to the raging waters, but the downside to that generosity is that other charities have suffered. Jeanne Jensen, treasurer of the Williston Community Food Shelf, said individual donations were down by more than half during the two months after the storm: resulting in $4,000 less than it usually receives in donations during that time frame.

At the same time, the need for donations has increased. The food shelf, now in its third year, served 219 families and 565 individuals in November — including 22 new families.

“Every month we think we’ve seen the highest family visits only to have the number broken the next month,” said Cathy Michaels, president of the Williston Community Food Shelf. “The need has gone up,” she continued, “and we have more people coming in but donations haven’t risen at the same rate they usually do.”

Still, Michaels was quick to praise the food shelf’s score of volunteers, individual donors, the Essex Alliance Church and local businesses.

“There are so many generous people that give to the food shelf that it’s just incredible,” she said.

For his eighth-grade challenge project, Williston Central School student Samuel G. Thurston is collecting items for the food shelf. He set up a bin at Rite Aid on Cornerstone Drive, but is also willing to pick up donations. In an e-mail to the Observer, Thurston wrote that he will deliver the food to the food shelf once he’s received approximately 70 donated items.

Other good news for the food shelf is that it will receive some funds from the Vermont Food Bank, thanks to federal disaster relief donations. In addition, it has approximately 80 turkeys left over from Thanksgiving to hand out for Christmas.

The organization needs a variety of winter staples, however, such as soup, canned protein, tuna fish, ravioli and chili. The food shelf can also use donations of cereal, canned fruit, pasta and rice,

“We need hearty food with winter proteins,” said Michaels. “The need never stops. It just goes round and round.”

The food shelf has just begun its holiday fundraising with which they hope to bring in $25,000. Although $10,000 has already come in, it only has a short period of time to raise the additional $15,000. State Rep. and Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig, a long time supporter of the food shelf, is offering to match up to $1,000 worth of donations from first-time donors. Donations must be received by Dec. 31 to qualify for the matching grant.

“So many of us are so fortunate here in Williston,” said Jensen, “that it’s hard to believe we have neighbors who worry about how to put food on the table — but we do. These are working families whose children go to school with our children, retired couples and the elderly who have to choose between food, medicine and heat. The food shelf is here because Williston believes it’s not OK to let our neighbors go hungry.”

The Williston Community Food Shelf is open Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Located at 300 Cornerstone Drive, and can be reached by phone at 735-6303 or through its website at


Food shelf statistics


• Largest month in three-year history: 219 family visits, representing 565 people, and 22 new families.

Year to date (as of Dec. 1)

• Served 1,901 family visits, representing 4,891 people.

• 69 percent of families are 1-3 people, 29 percent are 4-5 and 2 percent are families of 6 or more.

• The Essex Alliance Church has donated 53 rolling bins and 481 boxes of food.

CVU Madrigal Singers to perform at Old Brick Church on Friday

Dec. 15, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


The Champlain Valley Union High School Madrigal Singers, shown during a recent performance at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, will appear as part of the Brick Church Music Series in Williston on Friday night. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

The Champlain Valley Union High School Madrigal Singers are giving gifts this holiday season — just not the kind you wrap and put under the tree.

As the holiday season winds down, the CVU Madrigal Singers — an all-female vocal group composed of 14 juniors and seniors — will donate a few hours of their time when they appear at the Old Brick Church in Williston on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. as part of the Brick Church Music Series.

“Every connection they make with every person in the community is a gift,” said Carl Recchia, who is in his 24th year as choral director of the group. “These guys dedicate a lot of their time to give to the community.”

Despite the difficulties of balancing a demanding singing schedule with the rigors of schoolwork, CVU junior Gracey Delisle said it’s more than worth it.

“It’s really hard. I can almost guarantee that all of us get behind on our homework,” Delisle said. “It is hard to catch up, but for something like this, it’s worth it.”

CVU senior Ashley Strong had similar observations.

“It gets really intense at the end,” she said. “But it’s definitely worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

In addition to concert appearances at various venues around Chittenden County, the Madrigal Singers visit nursing homes and senior communities — spreading youthful holiday cheer to the sick and aged.

Alicia Phelps, a senior at CVU, said singing for the elderly is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of her work with the Madrigal Singers.

“I love it. Not just singing, but the people you get to sing with and how you can share the holidays with other people,” Phelps said. “That’s what the songs really do.”

Phelps added that while senior citizens are often moved to tears by their songs, the emotions run both ways.

“I know I’m equally as moved,” she said. “I get choked up all the time. I’m a sap.”

Delisle equated the communal nature of choral music with the familial warmth that permeates the holidays.

“There’s a lot of different things that people like, and don’t like, about Christmas, but I really like the sense of family and how music brings people together,” said Delisle. “It can be really stressful, especially when our season picks up, but we reach so many people and everyone seems like they always enjoy having us — so it’s fun to bring that feeling to people.”

To achieve their finely honed harmonies, the Madrigal Singers begin rehearsals in September — long before the snowflakes start to fly.

But that’s just fine with Delisle.

“I get called crazy for singing Christmas music in October,” she said with a smile. “But I love it.”

Tickets for the CVU Madrigal Singers’ Dec. 16 performance at the Old Brick Church in Williston can be purchased at the door, at the Williston Town Clerk’s Office or online through the Williston town website ( Ticket prices are $8 in advance or $10 at the door, with discounts available for seniors and children 12 and under.

Junkyard wars

Local scrap metal companies clash over permit approval

Dec. 15, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Thirteen Williston residents — including Mark Burnett, co-owner of the Hinesburg-based Burnett Scrap Metals LLC (left) — have appealed the town’s decision to grant a permit to All Metals Recycling Inc. (right), located on Dorset Lane. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Things are getting scrappy between two local scrap metal companies.

A group of 13 Williston residents — led by Mark Burnett, co-owner of the Hinesburg-based Burnett Scrap Metals LLC — has appealed the Oct. 25 decision by the Williston Development Review Board to grant a discretionary permit to All Metals Recycling Inc. for the establishment of an outdoor storage area, scale and scale house at its Dorset Lane facility.

As part of the appeal process, Hobart Popick, an attorney with Langrock, Sperry & Wool LLP, filed a Statement of Questions on behalf of the 13 appellants with the environmental division of Vermont Superior Court on Dec. 8.

Among the nine questions posed by the legal document: “Does any Applicant’s engagement in one or more of the Activities on the subject property fail to satisfy the definition of ‘Waste Management and Remediation Services’ thereby making such Activity or Activities a prohibited use in the Gateway Zoning District North that is ineligible for a Discretionary Permit under the Bylaw?”

It is Williston Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau’s belief in the case of All Metals that the answer is yes. Belliveau provided a staff report to the Development Review Board prior to its Oct. 25 decision that the scrap metal recycling business conducted by All Metals fits into the permissible uses of its zoning district.

“In the table of uses for the Gateway Zoning District North, there’s a category called ‘waste management and remediation services,” said Belliveau. “That category is broadly defined. We saw the use that they have going on there as fitting under this category.”

Jim Burnett, the brother and business partner of Mark Burnett, disagrees with the town’s assessment.

“Right now, they’re running an illegal salvage yard on town property — there’s absolutely no doubt about that,” said Jim Burnett. “Where we’re arguing with them is that it’s not zoned for a salvage yard. It’s zoned for waste, not for scrap. It’s a junkyard because the state of Vermont says it’s a junkyard.”

John Brabant, a coordinator with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Salvage Yard Permitting and Compliance Program, wrote in an e-mail dated Sept. 14 to the Burnetts that the All Metals facility does meet the definition of a salvage yard.

“I have inspected it,” the e-mail states. “The operation does constitute a salvage yard under Vermont statute. The town will need to issue them a certificate of approved location before the state can license the operation.”

But Brabant — whose department took over the jurisdiction of salvage yards from the Department of Transportation in 2009 — told the Observer that his office has taken a lenient approach with All Metals and other similar operations because unlicensed salvage yards are a chronic statewide problem.

“Because we inherited kind of a messed-up situation, we want to get the folks that want to fly right legal and give them the opportunity to stay in business until they get legal,” Brabant said. “There are like 250 illegal yards, so we kind of have to do it this way.”

The town of Williston has taken a similar approach, approving All Metals’ discretionary permit application and allowing it to stay in business as long as it cooperates and works on meeting the permit’s conditions of approval. That includes such measures as increased landscaping and fencing requirements to screen the site from public view.

Mark Burnett took exception with the notion that All Metals has been cooperative.

“I feel like (the town is) just bending over backwards for this operation for some reason,” he said. “I don’t feel like (All Metals has) been cooperative at all. It’s only because we’ve pushed the issue that they’ve done anything. I think we really had to push the issue to get the town of Williston to look at this place at all.”

Robbin Towns, co-owner of All Metals, said his company plans to fully comply with the town’s requests.

“Every time we’ve dealt with the town of Williston, they’ve been more than reasonable with us and more than fair with us,” Towns said. “We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to meet their requirements, and we will meet their requirements.”

Jim Burnett, who doesn’t live in Williston and isn’t listed among the appellants, said his brother and the other Williston residents are appealing the permit because a portion of All Metals’ business operations is located on town land.

“They’re all taxpayers and they’re all at risk for lawsuits should someone get hurt or killed or if they should have environmental problems up there,” Jim Burnett said.

Despite the fact that there are 13 appellants involved in the appeal process, Towns believes that the lawsuit is motivated by the competition All Metals provides to Burnett Scrap Metals.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Mark Burnett probably doesn’t want us in business in Williston because we’re going to affect his business,” Towns said. “They were one of the only games in town, and now there’s another option. I’m sure Mr. Burnett and his company don’t like it. I wouldn’t like it either.”

Jim Burnett said competition doesn’t bother him — as long as the playing field is level.

“I don’t mind competition. I just don’t want my competition to have all the breaks,” he said.