February 6, 2016

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 (http://town.williston.vt.us/). 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.

Letter to the Editor

Dec. 15, 2011


Attend concert series, help eradicate polio

Every year the Williston/Richmond Rotary Club has a fundraiser for Polio-Plus, a longstanding campaign of all Rotary clubs around the world with the sole purpose of eradicating polio worldwide. With matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ultimate goal is to raise $555,000. And we are almost there!

Each year, we are the beneficiary of proceeds from one of the Old Brick Church concerts in Williston. We are also supported by the generous contributions of different area businesses.

This year, we raised more than $1,400 from ticket sales, donations at our refreshment stand and sponsorships. We’d like to thank those who attended the concert for supporting our efforts.

I’d also like to put in a plug for the Brick Church Concert series. Go to the Williston Town website for the list of concerts for this season. You can’t beat the price, the music is as good as it gets and it all benefits local charities.

The motto of Rotary is “service above self” but that goes with the help of good citizens in our community and wonderful local businesses.


Dave Ericson

Williston/Richmond Rotary Polio-Plus Chairman

Guest column: When worlds collide

Customer experience matters

Dec. 15, 2011

By Mitch Lieberman


I am over 40 years old, but very much the socially connected type. I do not subscribe to Front Porch Forum because I do not appreciate someone else defining the boundaries of my neighborhood, my network or the topic of discussion.

When “The Farmhouse Tap and Grill” (a restaurant in Burlington) did not live up to expectations, I shared my experience with neighbors. The neighbors I speak of are not tied to demographics or a physical location; it is the collisions of online and offline.

With the growing population of patrons who own smart phones, we share, share and share some more. Experience starts before I get to an establishment and ends well after I leave.

In the days before social media, the number of people with whom I shared an experience was limited to in-person contacts. Fast-forward to 2011, and my experiences reach multiple social networks: FourSquare, Yelp, Twitter and Facebook.

When I notice something that needs more attention, I also blog about it. The number of people who read my blog is not huge, but is still between 20- to 100-times larger than pre-social media. There is another element, something I tell my kids when they post anything online: “Google never forgets.” My blog and review are searchable and last longer than in-person conversations.

When The Farm House Tap and Grill opened, I had high hopes. I ended up disappointed. What was, and continues to be more disappointing is the delayed response through e-mail and Twitter. In fairness, I did not try to call.

Eventually, I received the following e-mail response:

“We realize that we did indeed go way past our quote times, that is our fault. I have been in the restaurant business for 12 years now and I too value a good customer service experience, which is what we strive for. I encourage you to come try us again, particularly not on UVM parents weekend when we clearly were overran.”

While there was recognition of an issue, there was no attempt to make it right. I was expecting a little more — maybe an offer of an appetizer on them or something else to show that they care.

On Dec. 5, after posting a review of the restaurant on my blog, I received another response from the restaurant — a very nice one. They offered to send a gift certificate and invited me to speak with them about the use of Twitter.

I still think it should not have taken this long and wonder if the note would have been sent had I not written the post (I will be sure to ask). Social moves fast.

If someone has a bad experience, do what you can to make it right. These things are just so easy. The future is about shared experiences with your neighbor — down the road or across the world.

Mitch Lieberman is a Williston resident and the vice president for Market Strategy.


Recipe corner

Christmas meals

Dec. 15, 2011

By Ginger Isham


On Dec. 24, 1877 a farm wife wrote: “I am baking today for Christmas  — I am going to have chicken and oysters, mince pie and custard pie, frosted cake and pickles, stockings all filled and I am going to bed.”

How different our meals were 100 years later. Years ago, I sang for 12 years in the church choir and at the Christmas Eve candlelight service — where all the choirs sang “O Holy Night.” It was very emotional. When I arrived home I thought of the smell of our cows in a warm barn and this made me think of the manger in Bethlehem. Our meal before the service had to be easy and simple. It was fish chowder, jell-o fruit salad and bar cookies.



2 or 3 slices bacon

2 chopped onions

2 or 3 peeled and cut-up potatoes

1 cup evaporated milk

2 cups hot milk

1 1/2 pounds of haddock

a pinch of salt, pepper and parsley.

Cook the bacon in a kettle. Remove and save for garnish. Add onions and potatoes to bacon fat and enough hot water to cover them. Put lid on kettle and cook veggies until soft. Cut fish into chunks and put on top of veggies, cover and cook a few minutes more until fish is tender. Add evaporated milk, hot milk, parsley and salt, pepper to taste. Serve with crackers or hot biscuits.



1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup mincemeat (I made mine out of green tomatoes with no suet)

1/2 cup crushed pineapple undrained (or unsweetened applesauce)

2 beaten eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

Cream sugar, eggs and shortening. Stir in mincemeat and pineapple. Blend dry ingredients and mix in until smooth. Spread batter into a 9-by-13-inch greased baking dish. Bake on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. When cool, frost with confectioners sugar icing flavored with vanilla or lemon. May bake in jellyroll pan for 15 minutes.



1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg; 2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped nuts, optional.

Cream sugar, butter and add egg. Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with applesauce. Mix well and stir in raisins and nuts. Bake for about 25 minutes in greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish at 375 degrees. Can also frost with confectioners sugar icing or dust with sugar. I like a penuche or maple icing for this recipe. Also can bake in jellyroll pan for fewer minutes.


Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.

Life in Williston

Political correctness season

Dec. 15, 2011

By Neel Tandan


Around this time last year, while leaving an elementary school that I worked at in Burlington, I said to a fellow employee, “happy holidays,” upon departing. He responded, not so cordially, “It’s Merry Christmas. None of that happy holiday (expletive).” I walked away feeling slightly uncomfortable, but also wanting to just get home.

It took a little while before I was able to digest the brief happening: a public employee working at a very large and diverse elementary school was at odds with the more or less designated and neutral holiday lingo that was typically used to describe this time of year. I was also trying to reconcile two apparently opposing ideas: the man struck me as someone who seemed to display a genuine love for his country, a patriot, if you will, but was also at odds with at least a section of its founding document: The First Amendment of the United States Constitution and a part of the Bill of Rights, which starts by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Recently, another blurb of news crossed my path that is relevant to this conversation. In Rhode Island, with one of the highest Roman Catholic populations in the country, Gov. Lincoln Chafee unveiled, in his words, a “holiday tree” in the statehouse that caused an uproar. The nomenclature he used was obviously deliberate and he cited religious tolerance and equanimity, as well as following the example of previous governors as his reasoning. As expected, Christians en masse, the Roman Catholic Church and others within and outside of the state were outraged. Another tree was actually placed in the Statehouse hallway by Republican lawmaker Doreen Costa as a counterpoint and a blatant act of disapproval. The governor has been criticized for taking political correctness too far, but Chafee stands by his decision.

This duel goes back centuries, often times between Christians alike.

Today, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union fight for a completely secular system, wielding the First Amendment as their weapon of choice. Christians, meanwhile, are fighting back with the same document — and in some cases succeeding. In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court in Lynch vs. Donnelly ruled that the town of Pawtucket, R.I. could use town property to display Christmas decorations.

In Williston, many retailers have slowly eliminated certain religious words from their advertising to have greater mass appeal to consumers. As a result, some Christian groups have actually called for boycotts of these companies’ merchandise and refuse to shop there while others just don’t care.

Neel Tandan is a lifelong Williston resident who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2010.


Little Details

Peaceful tidings

Dec. 15, 2011

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Chimes on my back porch jangle a wintry dance. Sweet, mellifluous tones follow a score set to the rhythm of the wind.

White birches, bare branches shimmering in afternoon sun, stand as sentries protecting the delicate ecosystem of fields at their feet. Mount Mansfield teases through my window. Regal peaks capped with snow poke through trees; stretching upward to touch a clear blue sky. I especially appreciate sunshine this time of year when days grow short.

With Christmas approaching, I’ve unearthed my collection of holiday books from hiding for their annual reading: “A Christmas Carol,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Seven Stories of Christmas Love” are featured prominently among my holiday stack. We’ll read O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of Magi,” even if it makes me tear up. A more recent holiday treasure, discovered two Christmases ago, is the story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. This short story inspired the film, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

My kitchen is warm and aromatic as I prepare holiday offerings to send to family. Cinnamon-infused gingerbread, homemade caramel corn and peppermint bark jockey for position on my counter. Pan Forte, an Italian fruitcake of honey, dried fruits, nuts, cocoa and spices, seasons as it waits to emerge in full flavor on Christmas Eve. Each confection awaits a still uncertain destination. Some will be sent to Idaho, others to Ohio or Connecticut. A heartier package travels to Fribourg, Switzerland, where our daughter is spending her sophomore year of high school. We, too, expect our own edible gifts to arrive. We just might score some high quality Swiss Chocolate.

I love this time of year for the music, literature, lights and fellowship with good people. Gatherings with family and friends, a Christmas Eve candlelight service and picnics by our decorated tree as the fireplace warms and flickers form treasured memories.

The holidays are a lovely — and sometimes — frenzied time. I work hard to try to not get caught up in the stress of the season. Grand expectations of expensive gifts no longer invade my expectations for Christmas Day. Homemade coffee cake, a few thoughtful presents under the tree and time spent in nature are my priorities for the 25th of December. Other days are intentionally left

As our lives become so busy, I’m reminded how important it is to just have time to be. Our daughter’s experience of attending a high school in Europe has opened her eyes to lives lived at a slower pace. Although engaged in both academic and extracurricular activities, she notes a distinct cultural value: family time really matters. Weekends are largely off-limits to extracurricular programming. Sports and Christmas are a little less commercial.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanza or Solstice, I wish you health, happiness and peacefulness in a time of fun… and, yes, reflection.


Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at Editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com


PHOTOS: Williston tree lighting

Observer photos by Kayla Walters (www.kaylaphoto.weebly.com)

The Williston Girl Scouts sponsored the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony in Williston, held Sunday (Dec. 4) at the town gazebo.

PHOTOS: CVU girls hockey

Observer photos by Shane Bufano (www.shanebufano.com)

The Champlain Valley Union girls hockey team, shown in a recent practice at Cairns Arena in South Burlington, open the season at Colchester on Saturday (Dec. 10). For more photos, visit the Web Extras section at www.willistonobserver.com.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey

Observer photos by Shane Bufano (www.shanebufano.com)

The CVU boys hockey team scrimmaged on Dec. 3. The ‘Hawks open the regular season Friday (Dec. 9) against North Country.