May 23, 2018

CVU boys hockey slumping

Jan. 19, 2012

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent


BFA-St. Albans will roll into Cairns Arena Saturday morning to pose the next test for a Champlain Valley Union boys hockey team sorely in need of a victory.

After the noontime session, the 4-6 Redhawks — losers in six of their last seven contests — will travel to Jay Peak Wednesday for a game with North Country.

Last Saturday (Jan. 14) at Cairns, Rutland nipped the Hawks 2-1 despite CVU’s hefty 27-18 advantage in shots on net. Coach Mike Murray’s Redhawks rapped the Red Raiders 4-1 in Rutland back in mid-December.

CVU unloaded 23 shots on RHS goalie Casey Greene in the first two periods, but only Jeremy Lerner’s power play blast with five minutes and 11 seconds to go in the second period got past Greene. Max Hopper set up Lerner’s quick shot from 10 feet out with a nifty pass.

The tally tied the game at 1, but Rutland went ahead just three minutes later when defenseman Max Major slammed a 15-footer past CVU goalie Greg Talbert (17 stops) after the Hawks had trouble clearing the puck from their defensive zone.

Rutland’s first goal came with 4:08 remaining in the first period when Nick Roy poked in a shot from a scrum by the CVU cage.

Kaleb Godbout, Kirk Fontana and Pat Keelan were among victims of Greene saves, while Lerner had a point-blank effort to knot the score turned aside in the game’s final minute.

Sports shorts


The 3-2-2 BFA-St. Albans girls hockey team will be the next foe for the 0-8 CVU girls Friday evening (5:20 p.m.) at Cairns Arena.

Coach Ben Psaros and his Redhawks got bounced, 12-2, by a solid

Spaulding squad in Barre Saturday (Jan. 14). Psaros said the Crimson Tide

was “the best team” he has seen so far this season.



The two-day Essex Classic tournament looms this weekend for the CVU wrestling team. Action opens Friday afternoon.

Coach Rahn Fleming’s Redhawks warmed up with a narrow, 30-28, nipping at home by Spaulding last Wednesday (Jan. 11).

CVU winners were Liam Bowley (106 pounds), Patrick Shea (145), Grant Poston (160) and Clark Poston (182).



Champlain Valley Union High alpine skiiers got in some competitive runs last Thursday (Jan. 12) in the Cochran’s Cougar Cup Challenge at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond. Host Mount Mansfield Union won the combined boys and girls slalom event with MMU’s Ali Chivers and David Polson the girls and boys individual victors. Champlain Valley Union skiers took second place in the team standings. Abby Owens led CVU girls with a sixth place.

Mark Deslauriers (sixth) and Bennett Hadley (10th) paced the boys.



Champlain Valley Union boys basketball player Brad Bissonette goes up for a contested shot against Rice Memorial during the Redhawks’ 66-36 loss on Jan. 13.

CVU’s Tucker Kohlasch looks to pass during the game against Rice. (Observer photos by Shane Bufano)

Two 5-4 boys basketball teams will collide Saturday afternoon at Champlain Valley Union High School’s Bremner Gymnasium.

The Essex Hornets, coming off a 65-32 Friday (Jan. 13) loss at Rutland, go against a CVU Redhawks squad that was dinged by 7-1 Rice Memorial, 66-36, on the same day.

Rice led by four points after the first quarter, by 12 at halftime, and then blew the game open, according to CVU’s Tucker Kohlasch.

Scott Bissonette led the Redhawks with 10 points while the defending Division I champion Green Knights had four players in double figures – led by Tim Rensch with 16.



Nordic Skiing — CVU girls placed five skiers in the top 10 Saturday (Jan. 14) in a multi-school Nordic event at Jericho Center. Sienna Searles led the Redhawk charge with a second-place finish. Taylor Spillane (fourth), Cally Braun (fifth), Kathryn Maitland (sixth) and Emma Hamilton (10th) followed. On the boys side, CVU’s Sean Delaney finished second and Emmett Peterson was eighth.

Gymnastics — Sarah Kinsley pulled off a gymnastics grand slam last Wednesday (Jan. 12) when the Redhawks earned a 119.1-100.3 win at Randolph. Kinsley won the vault, bars, balance beam and floor exercise events to easily claim the all around title.


—Mal Boright


CVU girls hoops top BFA, stay unbeaten

Jan. 19, 2012

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent


There were grins all around Monday afternoon at Champlain Valley Union High School’s Bremner Gymnasium following the CVU girls’ 49-38 basketball victory over previously once-beaten BFA-St. Albans.

“That was a good win,” said Redhawks coach Ute Otley, before noting that her 7-0 team makes its annual trek to St. Johnsbury Friday night for an engagement with the St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers, historically a very tough road test.

CVU returns to the home floor Tuesday when Burlington pops in.

In sending BFA back north with a 6-2 record, the Redhawks outshot (37 to 32 percent) and outrebounded the Comets (37-19).

BFA hung around, thanks in part to four treys, but never seriously threatened after CVU had an 11-point run at the end of the first quarter and in the early moments of the second reel to grab a nine-point lead.

Senior forward Lazriin Schenck sparked the explosion, coming off the bench five minutes into the game to bury two deucers, grab a rebound, assist a Sofia Lozon hoop and make a steal.

CVU led 18-11 after the initial stanza and 25-17 at intermission.

The Redhawks’ lead ballooned to 17 points early in the fourth period after Schenck laid her second three-point bomb on the Comets.

In just her second outing after recovering from a foot injury and thus playing limited time, Shenck nailed 4 of 7 shots in her 11 points. She also hauled in six rebounds, passed for two assists and blocked a BFA shot.

“(Schenck) can play both inside and outside,” said Otley.

CVU center Remi Donnelly led the rebounders with nine and scored eight points. Sophomores Emily Kinneston (eight points, five rebounds) and Kaelyn Kohlasch (four points, three rebounds) led a Redhawks’ trapping defense that forced 18 BFA turnovers, messing up the Comets’ offensive continuity.

Senior Elana Bayer-Pacht had a boffo all-around game with eight rebounds and five takeaways to go with five points and deft ball handling.

Guard Chelsea Hunt led the Bobwhites with 11 points, including a trio of threebies. Center Allie Doe had seven points and four rebounds, but missed a lot of time because of early foul trouble.

The jayvee contest went to 7-1 BFA, 42-40, on a last second shot. CVU is 5-2.



CVU 49, BFA-St. Albans 38 (Jan. 16)

BFA (6-2)

Abbott, 1 1-1 3; Clark, 3 0-2 7; Doe, 3 1-2 7; Esenler, 0 2-2 2; Hunt, 4 0-0 11; Barrette, 1 0-0 2; Lawton, 1 0-0 2; Ka. Howrigan, 1 0-0 2; Ki. Howrigan, 0 2-2 2; Dillon, 0 0-0 0.

Totals: 14 6-9 38


CVU (7-0)

Lozon, 2 2-2 6; Bayer-Pacht, 1 3-6 5; Donnelly, 2 4-8 8; Kohlasch, 2 0-0 4; Kinneston, 4 0-0 8; Whiteside, 0 0-0 0; Schenck, 4 1-2 11; Krupp, 2 0-1 4; Leach, 1 0-0 3.

Totals: 18 10-19 49


BFA      11   6   7  14  – 38

CVU      18   7 13  11  – 49

Solar energy proposal scaled back

Potential 20-year savings down to nearly $200K

By Steven Frank

Observer staff


A proverb, coined by 17th century French author François de la Rochefoucauld, reads: “The only thing constant in life is change.”

The Williston Selectboard got a large dose of that at its meeting Tuesday when Williston Energy Initiative representative Kevin Batson delivered the news that a proposal once made by AllEarth Renewables Inc. to install 27 solar trackers that could save the town nearly $1 million over the next 20-25 years has changed dramatically.

Batson, who outlined the plan at a Selectboard meeting just a week earlier (Jan. 9), conveyed details of a new proposal featuring 10 trackers and a possible savings of close to $200,000 over 20 years. That amount assumes a 3-percent annual increase in electric rates and the town purchasing the trackers at the end of a five-year leasing period for $109,980.

Batson and the other three representatives from the town’s energy initiative in attendance were unsure why the proposal changed.

“(AllEarth) pulled the rug out from under us,” said Dennis Bates, one of the energy initiative reps.

Andrew Savage, director of communications and public affairs for Williston-based AllEarth, told the Observer on Wednesday that his company presented the original proposal (a 150-kilowatt project) last spring. Since then, a state rebate decrease to AllEarth only makes the current one (60 kilowatts) feasible.

“(The change) is a reflection of the state rebate that is necessary to make the project work financially,” said Savage, who added that All-Earth is “very eager” to work with the town and that 60-kilowatt projects have been “successful” in Hinesburg and Starksboro.

If the Selectboard votes to include the project in the FY13 municipal budget, the town and AllEarth would enter into a five-year power purchase agreement. Instead of the town getting its electricity directly from Green Mountain Power, it would pay AllEarth a $7,332 upfront fee and a fixed rate of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The town would have a choice at the end of the five years: purchase the 10 trackers for $109,980 or enter into another power purchase agreement. Board members leaned toward purchasing the trackers, which would come at a depreciated value and save on equipment costs over the 20-year estimate Batson outlined.

Several Board members, however, indicated that any decision should not be made in haste.

“I think we should negotiate,” said Board member Jeff Fehrs, “and look at other green energy companies.”

Town Manager Rick McGuire agreed.

“The point is we need to do our homework,” he told the Observer on Wednesday. “Just because we’re talking to one company doesn’t mean that’s what we’re going to do… who knows how things will look in five years? Things are always changing.”

McGuire mentioned the possibility of using fixed solar panels, which are freestanding — thus generating less power than trackers that can follow the sun’s position — and cost less.

The Board unanimously agreed via a straw vote (non-binding) to study the proposal further. An official vote on whether to include it in the municipal budget could occur at the Board’s next meeting on Jan. 23.

THE HUB: Following the Leaders

Jan. 19, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Jennifer Mignano, owner of K-9 Day Camp

It was just about a year ago that Jennifer Mignano’s career went to the dogs — and she couldn’t be happier about it.

Last February, Mignano founded K-9 Day Camp, a Williston-based business that provides respite from the boredom of an empty house by taking canines on adventure hikes while their masters are at work.

Accompanied by her faithful assistant Gina, a 3-year-old black lab, the 47-year-old Montpelier native and her dog pack romp the countryside and forests of Vermont five days a week.

The 2008 recipient of The Marshall Legacy Institute’s Leader of the Year award for her work conducting the Williston Girl Scout troop’s efforts to raise $20,000 to sponsor a land mine detection dog, Mignano has also been a caregiver for the elderly for the past 15 years.

Mignano (and Gina) sat down with the Observer last week to discuss the doggedly adventurous K-9 Day Camp.

WO: Why did you decide to start a camp for dogs?

Mignano: I’d been working for 15 years as a caregiver, and was starting to get a little burnt out, and (Gina and I) were walking out back and I was like, “Wow, this would be great if I had some more dogs out here, and wouldn’t it be great if I got paid for this.”

WO: How does the program work?

Mignano: I pick the dogs up at their houses, and I’ll round up three or four dogs and we’ll go find a place to hike for the day. … My whole goal is I want to pull in the driveway and I want the dogs to be excited. And they are — they go insane. So I try to time it so that after I bring the dog back home, they’re there for about two hours before the owners come so they’re not bouncing off the walls.

WO: How long do you spend outside with the dogs?

Mignano: If it’s rainy and cold out, my minimum that I guarantee people is two hours, so we’re out anywhere from two to four hours a day.

WO: How many clients do you currently have?

Mignano: I have eight clients right now. My goal in the next six months is to get that up to 12. But I only take one (new dog) on at a time.

WO: Do you find that Williston is a good place to have this type of business?

Mignano: I’ve actually been surprised that I don’t have more Williston clients. I have three out in St. George and my others are in South Burlington and Burlington.

WO: Do you have any competition?

Mignano: What’s been so nice about it is it’s really an industry where people want to help each other — not fight each other for clients — because there’s plenty of clients. You can only cover a certain territory and be efficient with your gas and your time.

WO: Are there ever any personality conflicts between the dogs?

Mignano: I haven’t had any problems with dogs not really getting along. My very first dog I realized right away wasn’t going to work — too aggressive — so I had to let my very first client go. But other than that, every dog has gotten along with each other and I’ve been amazed at how they totally get the routine within a day.

WO: How do you decide if you’re willing to take on a particular dog?

Mignano: I go to the house first — for two reasons. One, I want to meet the dog and the owners want to meet me; but I also want the dog to see me at their home first before I show up and say, “Hey, let’s go in this strange car.”

WO: How do you gain a dog’s trust?

Mignano: One of my dogs was very nervous about the car. So I would get there and I would leave the car doors open and we would play at his house for a while. The first couple times, I would get him close to the car and then I would have to catch him and put him in. By the third time, he was jumping right in.

WO: Can you talk about the project you were involved with to sponsor a land mine detection dog?

Mignano: Back in 2008, I was a Girl Scout leader, and we got involved with a group in (Washington) D.C. that raises awareness for land mine detection. My Girl Scouts that year said, “let’s do something with dogs.” … Before we knew it, we were heavily involved in it and ended up raising $20,000. … Our dog was born and trained in Bosnia, and now works in Lebanon.

WO: What does the future hold for you?

Mignano: I would love to have maybe four to five more dogs in my camp. I’m not looking to franchise; I’m not looking to hire people. … My (youngest) daughter got her (driver’s) license this week, so my lifestyle is changing this week dramatically. That’s a huge change. … (My husband and I) are at an age where the possibilities seem endless.

Rates for K-9 Day Camp are $20 for a two-hour session and $35 for a four-hour session. For more information, visit


THE HUB: Burger bash

Five Guys gives Al’s French Frys a run for its money

Jan. 19, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Al’s French Frys (top), a Williston Road fixture since 1946, faces new competition with the arrival of Vermont’s first Five Guys Burgers and Fries (bottom), which opened in South Burlington’s Gateway Shopping Center on Jan. 9 to large demand. (Observer photos by Luke Baynes)

The British are nuts about their tea, Italians are the authority on pasta, but Americans are the experts when it comes to burgers.

Apple pie and ice cream aside, is there anything more American than burgers and fries?

Throw in a Coca-Cola and you have the All-American trifecta.

So it came as no surprise that the opening of a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the greater Burlington area on Jan. 9 was a gala occasion for Chittenden County residents.

Five Guys, a Virginia-headquartered fast casual chain, has developed a cult following since expanding from a family-run business to a franchise in 2002. Although it has branched out to the West Coast and now has a presence in more than 40 states, Five Guys is predominantly an East Coast phenomenon — the Atlantic equivalent of the California-based In-N-Out Burger, which was immortalized by the cult classic movie “The Big Lebowski.”

The newest Five Guys, located in South Burlington’s Gateway Shopping Center on Shelburne Road (U.S. 7), is the franchise’s first store in Vermont.

“There isn’t a Five Guys within 100 miles of here, so there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Greg Vasey, owner of the South Burlington Five Guys and the Vermont franchise holder for the chain.

On Jan. 9, a Monday, the lunch hour lines were backed up to the door of Vasey’s newly christened store. Patient patrons chewed on complementary peanuts as they waited — some anticipating their first taste of Five Guys; others familiar with the burgers via airport layovers.

“I get my haircut next door (at Supercuts), so I was excited to see this open up,” said Aaron Reiter, a South Burlington resident. “I think they’re going to do well, with all the commuters coming off of (Interstate) 189.”

Vasey noted that the South Burlington location will likely be the first of several locations in Vermont, which could include Williston.

“We’ve looked in Williston, and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Vasey. “We’re looking around the Taft Corners area, probably, but we’ll eventually want to be close to the highway if not on the highway. We want to be close to the big box shopping center draw, but certainly not in their parking lot, either.”

But Vasey added that any expansion into Williston would be secondary to locating a store in downtown Burlington.

“I would expect Church Street to be our next move,” he said.


For some locals, there’s one — and only one — burger and fries joint: Al’s French Frys, a Vermont staple since the 1940s.

“Definitely Al’s — it’s a local tradition,” said Georgia resident Steve Minor, when asked if he prefers Al’s or Five Guys. “I think people come here because it’s good value for the money, and it’s a tradition, too.”

Hingham, Mass. native Maggie Ryan, a senior at the University of Vermont, dined at Five Guys in high school, but said she prefers Al’s, located on Williston Road in South Burlington.

“Al’s isn’t a chain,” Ryan said. “I like that — especially in Vermont.”

A cash-only establishment with a sound system that croons doo-wop oldies, Al’s is definitively “old school,” maintaining a loyal customer base that spans generations.

Yet for some burger connoisseurs, quality trumps tradition.

“Al’s is a landmark, but the burger here (at Five Guys) beats any burger I’ve ever had,” said South Burlington resident Evan Nolting.

Jason Burachowski of Richmond agrees.

“It’s a similar atmosphere to Al’s, but I think the food is better (at Five Guys),” Burachowski said.

Al’s co-owner Bill Bissonette conceded that Five Guys is likely to cut into his business to a certain extent.

“They’ll grab some sales — there’s no question. They do a good job at what they do,” Bissonette said of Five Guys. “But I guess you have to remember that we’re next door to the biggest food empire in the world with McDonald’s, and you know what? We’ve been plugging right along just fine.”

Vasey, who owns several Five Guys stores on the North Shore of Massachusetts, downplayed the burger rivalry with Al’s.

“Actually, I’ve eaten at Al’s 10 times or more,” Vasey said. “We don’t see ourselves as any sort of a challenge to Al’s. We think that we can both drive business together. If people start talking about Five Guys and Al’s — if they want to have that conversation — at least they’re talking about the both of us.”

Although Bissonette referred to Five Guys as “kind of like a knockoff of Al’s at the end of the day,” he also had positive things to say about the new guys in town.

“You know, I’m happy to just be put in the same page as (Five Guys),” said Bissonette. “They’re a national chain, they do really well, and hey, it’s nice to be even compared to them.”

Staying alive

WCS student provides CPR training

Jan. 19, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Fourteen-year-old Tommy Watson (above), an eighth-grader at Williston Central School, testified before the Vermont Senate Education Committee on Jan. 11 in support of a proposed bill that would make completion of CPR and automated external defibrillator training a secondary school graduation requirement. (Observer photos by Luke Baynes)

If your heart ever stops, you want Tommy Watson nearby.

Watson, an eighth-grader at Williston Central School, chose hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as his eighth-grade challenge topic.

On Jan. 11, Watson appeared at the Vermont State House in Montpelier to testify before the Senate Education Committee in support of a proposed bill that would make successful completion of CPR and automated external defibrillator training a mandatory condition of secondary school graduation. Iowa is currently the only state with such a law on the books.

“The reason I chose (hands-only CPR as) my topic was because I witnessed a heart attack,” Watson told the group of five senators, including Ginny Lyons (D-Williston). “It was in early October and it was an old man who fell to the ground having a cardiac arrest. There were about 100 adults there, and (only) one adult was comfortable doing CPR on him — and he was a nurse.

“So I thought if (the public is) not going to reach out to (organizations to learn CPR), I might as well reach out to the community and teach them hands-only CPR,” Watson said.

Although he was dressed in a dark sports coat and blue tie, a polyester leisure suit might have been more appropriate for Watson’s demonstration of proper chest compression technique. As he rhythmically pressed the chest of a blow-up mannequin, he explained that correct compression frequency can be obtained by mimicking the disco beat of the fittingly titled Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive.”

“This topic is really important to me,” Watson said. “Of 800,000 (cardiac arrests) last year, 1 percent survived. That was just astonishing numbers to me, and the biggest reason was that people weren’t doing CPR on them.”

Tommy Watson

Several other people appeared before the Senate committee in support of the legislation, including Chris Bell, director of the Vermont Office of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Medical Services.

“The national numbers say that if no one starts CPR for the first 10 minutes (after cardiac arrest), the survival rate is approximately zero,” Bell said.

He explained that there is still enough oxygen circulating in the blood during the first several minutes of cardiac arrest to make hands-only CPR an effective — and sanitary — technique.

“Some people reported hesitancy to put their mouth on a stranger, but they’re certainly more willing to just do the chest compressions,” said Bell.

Lyons said she expects there to be a vote on the proposed legislation in “a couple weeks,” and said she believes the bill can be effectively enforced at the local level.

“If you put it into the rules, it tells the School Board to write a policy and to make it happen, and that’s how you know it’s being enforced,” Lyons said. “This is the kind of bill I love.”

As the proposed bill is currently written, secondary schools would be required to provide CPR training no later than the 2013-2014 academic year. The graduation requirement would apply to students graduating in 2015 or later.

Watson, whom Lyons referred to as “a really effective teacher,” had already trained 52 people in CPR by the time he appeared at the State House — and planned to train 40 to 50 Boy Scouts later that evening in the WCS cafeteria.

He said his determination to train as many people as possible stems from the cardiac arrest victim he witnessed, who didn’t survive.

“Even though the man didn’t survive, at least (the responder) gave him a chance of survival, which is the main goal,” Watson said. “So everyone has a chance if they have a heart attack — that’s the main goal of this entire project.”

Thinking outside the (big) box

Planning Commission mulls Target proposal

Jan. 19, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau (far left) reviews a town map with (left to right) Senior Planner Matt Boulanger and Planning Commission members Michael Alvanos, Meghan Cope and Shannon Hiltner. Target Corporation’s interest in building a store in Williston was the primary focus of Tuesday’s meeting. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

After hearing a general overview on Jan. 3 from Target Corporation officials about the Minneapolis-based retailer’s interest in building a store in Williston, the Planning Commission got down to specifics Tuesday.

Specifically, discussion focused on the town’s plan process and what substantial benefit Target could bring to the town besides another venue to buy discount merchandise.

“If it were to go to vote today, based on what I heard and what they presented, they’re not giving me enough to sway me to go outside of our current Town Plan,” said Planning Commission member Shannon Hiltner, “and (the Target proposal) is very much outside the current Town Plan, as I read it.”

The proposed site for the Target store — the former driving range property at 6180 Williston Road (U.S. 2) — is in an area designated by the Town Plan as mixed-use residential. Chapter 9 of the town’s Unified Development Bylaw states that a specific plan can be adopted to deviate from the permitted uses of a zoning district if it is determined that “a substantial benefit to the town could result.”

“The key here is what are the substantial benefits, and how can (Target) go above and beyond,” said Commission member Meghan Cope.

Although Target Senior Development Manager Katie Rivard noted at the Jan. 3 meeting that Target would bring 150-200 jobs to the area, retailers are not considered a “basic industry” under the terms of the town’s bylaw, meaning that job creation isn’t considered a substantial public benefit.

While Target Regional Real Estate Manager Tom Carrico indicated on Jan. 3 that affordable housing was one of the public benefit criteria his company would be open to providing, he didn’t specify how many units of affordable housing would be built.

“(Affordable housing) would be something I would look at pretty heavily,” said Commission member Michael Alvanos. “One of our big things in the Town Plan … is how do we start getting these affordable housing units (in Williston)? That’s what I was hoping that Target was going to bring to the table.”

Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger stressed the substantial benefit component of the specific plan process, reminding the Commission that public benefit would be the first consideration if Target decided to submit an application to the town.

“The first vote of the Planning Commission is a vote as to whether to proceed with an application because you think that there might be potential for substantial public benefit,” Boulanger said. “Then you enter into reviewing, and then much, much further down the line of that process actually voting on moving something to the Selectboard.”

Chairman Jake Mathon suggested that the Commission take a wait-and-see attitude and reassess the situation if and when Target submits a formal application to the town.

“I’m not for or against Target,” Mathon said. “We have to see more details.”

Alvanos, an architect by trade, said the preliminary design options presented by Target at the Jan. 3 meeting were very basic and didn’t reflect the unique character of the town.

“I thought the three designs were indistinguishable,” Alvanos said. “I need to see a sensitivity to the area in architectural design and how it plays into the greater role of the (town). …They need to come with something outside the box.”

Guest column

Way off Target

Jan. 19, 2012

By Fred “Chico” Lager


Folks who occasionally — and only — come to Williston to shop may find it amusing or ironic that there are residents opposed to a Target department store coming to town because the proposed location isn’t the right place to put a big-box store.

But those of us who live here and are familiar with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, zoning ordinances, the history of development at Taft Corners and the capacity of our roads, know that the site Target has chosen is completely inappropriate for what would be the largest retail store in our community.

You have to start with the fact that the property is located in a mixed-use residential zone, which requires development that is predominantly residential and pedestrian-friendly. Target’s three-acre monolithic single-story structure fails on all counts, and is exactly the opposite of what the plan envisions for a parcel of land that is intended to provide a transition between the intensive commercial development at Taft Corners and the residential neighborhoods and historic village to the east.

One of the most significant impacts of Target would be traffic, particularly the cars and trucks diverted through the village.  The rush-hour congestion at the North Williston Road/U.S. 2 intersection is well documented. Residents also know that left turns onto Williston Rd. (U.S. 2) from the Central School, Old Stage Rd., Tower Lane, Southridge, and Timothy Way are an increasing challenge and safety risk. Traffic in and around Taft Corners is also an issue. An October 2006 study confirmed that the Marshall Ave./Vermont 2A intersection was a “high accident location” that fails during peak travel periods. In the last five years, it has only gotten worse. That intersection, and others, require reconfiguration to handle existing traffic and pending projects such as Finney Crossing and the Essex Alliance Church.

But even if key intersections are improved, there is still no way to accommodate the increased traffic from Target without the Circumferential Highway and revamping Interstate 89’s Exit 12 with dedicated turning lanes on 2A. In our post-Irene reality, however, those projects are effectively dead because the State’s highway funding priorities are appropriately focused elsewhere.

It is self evident that Williston has already accommodated a significant amount of commercial development. Some, including those infatuated with Target’s mystique as a retailer, have begun to argue that the town is already a lost cause and there is no harm in adding another big-box store. But the view that most Williston residents have of our community is very different from those who never get beyond Taft Corners. As you drive east on U.S. 2, the terrain quickly changes to feature distant views of the Green Mountains, tree-lined suburban neighborhoods, working farms, open space and a historic village.

Maintaining a clear demarcation between Taft Corners and the village has been a focal point of Williston’s Town Plan for more than 30 years, going back to a time when mostly hay fields surrounded what was then the town’s singular traffic light. The importance of protecting the historic village from encroaching development was the one thing that everyone who sat through years of hearings on Pyramid Mall and Wal-Mart readily agreed upon.

The affordable housing on the eastern edge of Maple Tree Place already provides the beginning of a transition to less intensive, mostly residential uses. Allowing regional retail sprawl to jump past those residents and move further east would be a huge mistake that would adversely impact the quality of life of most of the town’s residents. If we say yes to Target now, how much longer before the next adjacent open parcel of land succumbs to the same argument?

The clearly defined line as to where the core commercial district ends was reaffirmed just last year when our town’s Comprehensive Plan was updated and approved. It should not take two years of hearings to reach the undeniable conclusion that the location Target has proposed is not appropriate. We would all be well served if the Planning Commission and Selectboard communicated that clearly and directly to Target now, so we can all move on to more productive matters.


Fred “Chico” Lager has lived in Williston for more than 30 years.


Letters to the Editor

Jan. 19, 2012


Solar energy needs further study

I am writing in reference to last week’s article (Observer, “Solar spotlight,” Jan. 12, 2012). Although solar and/or windpower may be the best solution to both Vermont and Williston’s energy needs, I think that the proposal needs to be examined more carefully.

I was, however, appalled by the solution that the voters be bypassed yet again. The suggested course of action reminds me of the ambulance issue, which as you might recall, reversed a decision by the taxpayers by slipping that item into the town budget. Let us not reinforce a questionable precedent in the affairs of our town by once again taking a path that would circumvent the voters (our taxpayers), even if the cause is laudable.

Mike Mauss



Attend the school budget public hearing

There’s foliage season, the holiday season, mud season and if you are a School Board member, budget season!

Your Williston School Board members, administrators, and community budget buddies have been working since October to create a school budget that provides the best education for our children with the least amount of tax dollars — no easy task given the current economic challenges in our town, state and nation. Continuing the same budget as last year would have resulted in more than a 3-percent monetary increase, which would have increased the tax rate beyond what the Board felt was reasonable to ask of the community. As we prepare for the community budget hearing on Jan. 26, we are putting forth a budget that continues excellent programs — such as the school wide enrichment program and Connecting Youth mentoring program. In addition, this year’s budget includes a summer skills program, a summer camp for our increasing English Language Learners population and an extended day program to serve those students who need additional academic time.

Our administrative team was able to make cost-saving decisions that only slightly increase our school budget (less than 2 percent), resulting in less than a 3 percent increase in school taxes.

The School Board would like to thank Darlene Worth, Keith Roy, Marsha Drake and Thomas Hark for serving as budget buddies. Their feedback and insights were instrumental in helping create a budget that is reflective of our students’ and community’s needs. We invite you to join us, along with some of the Champlain Valley Union High School Board representatives from Williston, on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. in the Williston Central School dining room for our annual budget hearing to hear more details regarding next year’s Williston and CVU school budgets.

Holly Rouelle, chair; Deb Baker Moody, vice chair, Giovanna

Boggero, Joshua Diamond

and Kevin Mara.

Williston School Board


Retail competition is good, traffic is not

This is the Wal-Mart fight all over again. Everyone is/was anti Wal-Mart, but yet everyone shops at department stores (vs. mom and pop or small shops) because of the prices. Target will merely offer competition and a choice other than Wal-Mart. If Kmart would actually invest in their local store(s), they could also compete — but they choose not to. For Target to compete, it needs adequate (i.e. equal) space like Wal-Mart.

I, and many others, agree on the traffic concern. But the traffic issue is not Target’s problem; it is a local (town, county, and state) planning issue. Collectively, these planning boards, entities and protesters have screwed this up. All these “alternatives” are not going to fix this traffic mess. Most of the opposing comments cite the existing traffic problems, and don’t want to make it worse. Lets fix this Circumferential Highway once and for all so Sen. Robert Stafford can rest in peace.

Mike Mullin



Ritchie’s charitable work stretches beyond article

Your article saluting Brigitte Ritchie (“Salient survivor,” Observer, Jan. 12, 2012) mentioned many reasons to respect her and her charitable work on behalf of Citizens Bank. I’d like to add one more. For six years, Brigitte has connected Citizens Bank to the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival. The festival, with the generous support of Citizens Bank, has donated over $550,000 to local cancer-related causes including Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, The Cancer Patient Support Fund, and most recently, Survivorship NOW — whose goal is to offer wellness programs to bridge the gap in support for cancer survivors between treatment and recovery.

Each summer, Brigitte’s spirit and determination permeates the festival. A tribute to Brigitte is incomplete without mention of her work with Dragonheart Vermont and the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival.

Debra McConnell



Sign petition to reverse U.S. Supreme Court decision

The year 2010 was a watershed year in American history, as it was the year that the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court’s 5-4 split decision effectively affords the same First Amendment rights granted to every American citizen to corporations.

The practical effect of this decision permits corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to sway the results of elections without disclosing the source of funding. Citizens of the United States, wishing to know the agenda of a virtually unlimited barrage of advertising, will have no way of knowing who is behind the ads and what their agenda is.

To reverse this decision, the only recourse of the people is to work toward an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that explicitly denies corporations the rights of personhood. We are working locally to get a resolution on the warning for Williston’s Town Meeting that will allow us to express the fact that corporations are not persons. We still need signatures from Williston voters, ideally by Jan. 20, to get this resolution on the ballot. I would highly encourage Williston voters to join your neighbors, who have already signed, to get your names on the petition. Please email

Seth Maciejowski