August 23, 2014

Letters to the Editor

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Applaud student’s courage

Harking back to the days of Jesus, and more recently the Constitution, free speech is an unalienable right. Perhaps the unanimous decision by the eight-member board “Trinity Baptist School”… Observer, March 22) doesn’t understand that which is written… I applaud Master Oblak’s courage and recommend a good attorney.

Brian M McConnell

Williston

Hope Oblak family sues

I was appalled by the article “Trinity Baptist School suspends student for essay.” While I don’t have all the facts, if the tone of the essay is consistent with the excerpt cited in the article, it is hard to believe that in this day and age there could exist an educational institution that is so narrow-minded. I hope the Oblak family sues. Some things are so wrong, you have to have the conviction to fight it.

Pamela Cowan

Williston

Dogs off leash

In the spirit of balance in opinion, I want to add my perspective on dogs off leash. I have walked, run, biked, cross-country skied and roller bladed on the rec path since the beginning of the path. I am on the path more days of the year than not. I have yet to see an irresponsible, inconsiderate owner of a dog off leash. I understand a person apprehensive about dogs, especially large ones, is made nervous being approached by a dog off leash, but we should not tether all dogs for a few people’s fears. Dogs ON leashes present risks, as well. Anyone on a bike, or roller blades, approaching the back of a person with a dog on a leash, have feared the dog leash acting like a trip line.

I am thrilled with all the use the rec path gets from an eclectic population. The enjoyment of the path takes on many forms and tolerance is in order.

Sharon Gutwin

Williston

 

Around Town

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SEARCH FOR NEW POLICE CHIEF CONTINUES

As the search continues for a permanent replacement for retired Police Chief Roy Nelson, Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire said interest in the position has been high.

“There have been well over 50 applications I received,” McGuire told the Williston Selectboard at its March 19 meeting. “I’m going to start the interview process next month.”

McGuire said he plans to assemble an interview panel that will include one Selectboard member, one staff member and at least one police professional who works outside the town of Williston. McGuire previously solicited public comment through a questionnaire posted on the town Web site that asked respondents to rank desired core competencies of the new chief in order of importance.

The salary range for the police chief position is $54,410-$78,168. McGuire said he hopes to have the position filled by June 1.

Acting Police Chief Doug Hoyt, who is currently in the midst of a five-week vacation, will continue to serve in an interim capacity until a replacement is found.

Sgt. Justin Huizenga has been placed in charge of the department in Hoyt’s absence.

KIDS Summer food program guidelines

The Vermont Department of Education has announced the availability of funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the 2012 Summer Food Service Program for Children (SFSP). This program is intended to assure that children who rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year continue to have access to nutritious meals during the summer.

Schools, private non-profit organizations, government entities and non-profit residential camps are eligible to sponsor the program at one or more sites.

Children 18 and under who are members of food stamp households, receive Reach Up benefits or meet income guidelines are automatically eligible to receive free meal benefits.

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program contact the Vermont Department of Education at (802) 828-5155.

Green Up Day

Williston’s Senior Planner Jessica Andreoletti is preparing for the town’s annual Green Up Day, set for May 5.The Town will have a booth at Williston Community Park with trash bags and refreshments. “It would be good to get teams of folks to walk the Allen Brook to collect trash, as well as along the roads and in our neighborhoods and parks. I am looking for food/beverage donations from local restaurants/coffee shops/grocery stores,” Andreoletti wrote in an email to the Observer.

Residents may sign up early and pick up their bags at the Planning Office in April, or may show up on Green Up Day at the concession stand at the Community Park starting at 8 a.m. to enjoy refreshments, pick up trash bags and select an area to “green up.”

Questions should be addressed to Andreoletti at 878-6704 x 4 or by email [email protected]

 

KINDERGARTEN PRE-REGISTRATION

Pre-registration for fall kindergarten has begun. If your child will be 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2012, visit the Williston School District’s website (wsdvt.org) or call 879-5806 to start the process. Kindergarten registration will be held April 4-6. Appointments can be scheduled via phone or online.

 

Guest Column

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Benefits of health care reform

By Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch

In the two years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, Americans are seeing the benefits. Nearly 86 million Americans have received free preventive services such as routine check-ups and cancer screenings. Over 105 million Americans no longer have lifetime limits on their insurance coverage. Two and a half million young adults up to the age of 26 now have affordable insurance through their parents’ health plan. And 360,000 small businesses have taken advantage of tax credits to help them provide health insurance for two million workers.

In Vermont, as a result of the law:

  •  4,300 young adults up to age 26 now have health insurance through their parents’ plans
  •   24,000 children and 120,000 adults have health insurance that provides free preventive services
  •  82,000 seniors have received Medicare preventative services free of charge
  •   6,800 seniors have saved $4.8 million on prescription drug costs, an average savings of $710 per senior
  •  700 small businesses received tax credits to maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees
  •   $37.9 million in public health care grants have been awarded to community health centers, hospitals, doctors and other health care professionals to improve health outcomes

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act has limited the amount of money health insurers can spend on expenses unrelated to health care and required justification for rate increases of 10 percent or more.

Starting in September, the law will also require health insurers to provide Vermonters with clear and consistent information so they can easily compare health care options.

 

Lot 30, Finney Crossing projects on track

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New retail building on Route 2A to break ground in May

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Two projects that will change the landscape of Williston’s growth center received final approval at Tuesday’s Development Review Board meeting, while a third project that will improve the connectivity of the town’s system of hiking trails also got a green light.

Jeff Nick, president of J.L. Davis Realty, appeared before the DRB to present final plans for a development known as the “Lot 30 project.” Nick previously received discretionary permit approval for the project on Aug. 23, 2011 – subject to final conditions of approval, such as improved landscaping.

Lot 30 will involve the construction of an approximately 29,000-square-foot mixed-use retail building on Vermont 2A, adjacent to the Ponderosa Steakhouse. Verizon Wireless and Panera Bread both plan to locate stores in the development.

The project also calls for the extension of the eastern entrance road of Hannaford supermarket, plus the replacement of Bishop Avenue with a grid street more equidistant from Marshall and Wright avenues that will contain traffic-friendly curb cuts.

The DRB unanimously voted to approve the Lot 30 final plans, with one board member abstaining.

“You did a great job,” DRB Vice Chairman John Bendzunas told Nick.

Nick said his company plans to break ground on the project in May.

FINNEY CROSSING

Phase 1-B of Finney Crossing – a mixed-use residential and commercial subdivision that will be located on the 107-acre former horse farm north of Maple Tree Place – also received the DRB’s stamp of approval.

The building stage involves the construction of eight row houses, 22 townhouses and 18 single-family homes.

Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger told the Observer on Wednesday that the varied forms of housing of the latest phase of the project will give developer Snyder Homes the flexibility to attract different kinds of tenants.

“It means they can respond to demands and market conditions and be a little more flexible,” said Boulanger.

Construction is already underway on Phase 1-A of the project, which involves the erection of a 43-unit apartment complex east of The Hamlet development and an extension of Zephyr Road to provide access to the building.

SUCKER BROOK ‘CROSSING’

The final item on the evening’s agenda saw the approval of a different type of crossing – a 50-foot-long, 3-foot-wide pedestrian footbridge over the Sucker Brook and its associated floodplain off Vermont 2A, between Butternut and Old Creamery roads.

Boulanger said the bridge will provide access from Vermont 2A to trails that run toward Sunset Hill.

“It provides a trailhead and an access on 2A that we don’t have right now,” said Boulanger.

Trinity Baptist high school closing doors

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The high school segment of Trinity Baptist School in Williston will shut its doors at the end of the school year due to lack of enrollment, although the K-8 portion of the school and the Little Lambs Preschool will remain in operation.

Pastor Darrin Forehand confirmed the news in an email to the Observer.

“The school board decided to temporarily suspend the high school (9-12),” wrote Forehand. “Our preschool and K-8 is planning on remaining in operation.”

The announcement came less than two weeks after the school board decided on a different form of suspension, when it ruled on March 11 that 17-year-old junior Jonathan Oblak be suspended for the remainder of the school year following an essay he wrote for an English class assignment that criticized the school’s dress and conduct codes.

Prior to learning about TBS’ decision to close the high school, Oblak said he would not attend the school for his senior year.

“I do know that I don’t want to go back to Trinity,” Oblak said. “It would just be awkward.”

Oblak’s mother, Sylvia, said affected parents who also attend Trinity Baptist Church were informed of the school board’s decision on March 21. Parents who send their children to the school but aren’t members of the church were told the news on March 22.

“This came out of the blue,” she said. “It’s a shock to everyone that has students in the high school.”

TBS Administrator Randy Krystowiak told the Observer that he wasn’t part of the decision making process because he isn’t a member of the school board.

“I really don’t have a say in what the school will look like next year – I just work with whatever I am handed,” Krystowiak wrote in an email.

Forehand was unable to confirm how many students will be affected by the school’s closing.

“I’m not sure the exact count of high school students right now,” Forehand stated.

Tips on collaborating with your tween on bedroom design

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Sharon Naylor

Creators.com

 

Give your tween’s room a makeover by working together and setting firm ground rules in advance. ( Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids)

When your child says she doesn’t want a “kiddie room” anymore, it might tug on your heartstrings to realize that your baby is growing up. But it can also kick-start a rewarding new project that you can share with your preteen son or daughter. At this milestone age, kids are discovering their personalities and want their personal spaces to reflect that. Your tween wants — and should have — a great amount of creative choice in room styling.

Of course, as the parent, you’ll determine the budget for this decor redo, so take the opportunity to make the creative process an important financial lesson for your child. Together, search for budget-friendly finds, coupons and sales, and establish a smart method, such as your tween performing extra chores for greater allowance with which to buy some indulgences. It’s also wise to set firm ground rules at this point, such as no television in the bedroom.

With your rules set and your child excited to work with you in redesigning his or her bedroom, here are some smart tips for the room makeover project ahead of you.

Don’t expect a theme. Tweens are far more into colors. “Painting is one of the quickest ways to freshen up a room,” say Scott Sicari and Jordin Ruderman, hosts of “Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls.” “Try two or three different colors on walls,” says the duo -— one blue wall, one purple wall and one blue-and-purple striped wall, for instance.

Together, visit http://www.BenjaminMoore.com to upload a photo of the room, which is then used to try out different paint colors on walls, ceilings and trim. The interactive site provides color names and numbers, as well as a calculator the tween can use to figure the amount of paint needed.

Assess the tween’s bed and dressers. Obviously, a race car bed will need to be upgraded to a twin- or full-size bed, which is often a pricy purchase. A tween girl may want a canopy bed. Ask your friends and relatives if they’re planning to upgrade their teens’ bedrooms and if you might purchase their furniture from them. A new-to-you bedroom set can still thrill the tween, especially if he or she idolizes an older cousin who owned it first. You also might re-finish or paint bedroom furniture to give it new life. Visit http://www.DIYNetwork.com for video lessons on refinishing wood furniture.

Clear everything out of the room, taking every book and toy off the shelves, and have your tween sort belongings into plastic bins marked “keep,” “donate” or “sort later.” Artwork and other items you wish to keep could go into your own plastic bin for keepsakes.

Professionally clean or steam-clean carpets to give them a like-new appearance.

Experiment with moving furniture around, perhaps placing the bed against a different wall or moving the computer desk to a different corner. Even if furniture is not new, simple repositioning may create a new style for the room.

Tweens love to pick out new bedding and pillow covers, so use coupons and store discounts to purchase fresh, new linens. Reversible comforters give your tween the opportunity to flip the look of the room on a whim.

Give windows a makeover. Sicari and Ruderman say, “With a few yards of fabric, you can create a new window treatment by draping fabric around the window frame.”

Give lights a makeover. New lamps might be in your budget, or you can simply replace lampshades with a funky, colorful new choice.

Choose artwork. Tweens love to display photos of themselves with their friends, so an oversized corkboard with colorful pushpins can suit their wall personalization wishes for under $15. Inexpensive poster frames are available for less than $10 in craft stores — perfect for hanging posters of favorite celebrities or sports heroes.

Create an organizing system. Closets and bookshelves can hold plastic or canvas bins in which your tween could store essentials, and desktops can get new organizing trays and penholders.

Add extra details. Vinyl-cling decorations affix easily to walls and can be removed without damage to paint. Your tween can also choose new metal hardware, such as light-switch plates and dresser-drawer pulls, both very inexpensive at Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Add a social space. Sicari and Ruderman say, “Game areas where the tween spends time with friends can also be injected with personal style.”

Remove bird feeders to avoid tempting bears

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It’s time to take down bird feeders to help keep bears out of trouble, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. (Courtesy photo)

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says it is receiving reports of black bears emerging from their winter dens and looking for food. As a result, the department is urging people to take down their bird feeders to prevent the bears from getting into trouble.

“We are receiving reports of bears getting into bird feeders,” said Fish and Wildlife’s Col. David LeCours. “People can help now by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears. That includes taking down bird feeders and not feeding birds until December 1.”

“Also, don’t leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues after using them, and secure your garbage containers,” he added.  “And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears. Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for them.”
“Help keep bears wild,” said LeCours. “We care about these bears as much as anyone. Having to destroy one that has become a threat to human safety is not a pleasant experience, and we know that moving them to another location doesn’t change their behavior.  They continue to seek food near people because they have learned that it works.”

Vermont law prohibits a person from killing a bear that has been attracted to any artificial bait or food such as bird seed. The fine for doing so can be as high as $1,000.

Bears often eat seeds in the wild, so a birdfeeder chock full of high-energy seed is a concentrated source of what a bear considers natural food. And they are smart. Once bears learn to obtain food around people’s homes, they will be back for more.
To learn about black bears, go to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) and look in the Library section for the Black Bear Factsheet.

‘Dialogue night’ at WCS to discuss risky behavior

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Williston Central School fifth-grader Madison Trutor, a member of the WCS Leave Us Clean Air club, participated in the school’s anti-tobacco ‘Kick Butts Day’ on March 21. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Klionsky)

The Vermont Kids Against Tobacco leadership group will hold a “dialogue night” April 11 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Williston Central School dining room to discuss the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an initiative co-sponsored by the Vermont departments of Health and Education.

The results of the spring 2011 survey are available for the Chittenden South Supervisory Union level on the Vermont Department of Health’s website, but will be discussed specific to WCS on April 11.

In addition to tobacco use, the anonymous survey asked students about alcohol and drug use, sexual activity and other potentially risky behaviors.

The introduction to the biennial survey states: “The YRBS can indicate what students are doing. It can also suggest which groups of students are more likely to engage in these behaviors. However, the survey does not answer the most important question: Why are they doing it?”

The whys of risky youth behavior will be part of the dialogue night at WCS, which will ask parents and their children to sit at different tables “in order to enrich these conversations about adolescent issues.”

While VKAT comprises just seventh and eighth grade students, Sarah Klionsky, a student assistance program counselor at WCS, said the school also created a fifth and sixth grade tobacco prevention group called Leave Us Clean Air, or LUCA.

“WCS Leave Us Clean Air club collected 211 postcards signed by students last week to send a message to movie companies to ‘stop product placement of cigarettes in G, PG and PG-13 movies,’” Klionsky wrote in an email to the Observer.

Town releases 2012 recreation guide

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Williston Central School fifth-grader Arianna LaStrada prepares to return a serve against her Connecting Youth mentor Giovanna Boggero at the WCS tennis courts on March 19. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Although the weather has cooled down from last week’s record highs, the town of Williston set its sights on summer when it released its annual recreation guide Tuesday.

Perennial favorites such as the youth golf, tennis and baseball camps will be returning, as well as the Challenger British soccer camp, which features coaches from the United Kingdom who live with Williston host families while instructing youths aged 4-15.

Williston Director of Parks and Recreation Kevin Finnegan said it is often a challenge to juggle the scheduling of Williston’s myriad outdoor sports, because the town currently has just two operational playing fields behind Williston Central School. Although two additional fields have been built adjacent to Allen Brook School, Finnegan said they won’t be used until next year to allow time for the grass to establish itself.

“These two big fields will pretty much take care of our outdoor needs,” Finnegan said. “It will really ease things up.”

New to the town’s recreational offerings are two painting classes. One will focus on nature painting, with particular emphasis on the works of Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, while the other will have students trying their hands at abstract expressionism, as exemplified by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. The painting classes will be in addition to the town’s annual art camp.

Also new this year is a “biz-movie camp.” Taught by WCS instructor Tara Weegar, the camp focuses on creating a collaborative animated movie using online software.

“It’s really to teach kids what goes into forming a company and making a profit,” Weegar said.

The recreation guide also includes information about the town’s annual Independence Day celebration, whose theme will be “Homegrown Heroes.” The celebration will honor Parade Grand Marshall Lynwood Osborne and his 60 years of service with the Williston Fire Department.

The 2012 Williston recreation guide is available in the Parks & Recreation section of the town website (town.williston.vt.us).

Target rumor misfires

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Contrary to a report published March 23 on the Vermont Business Magazine website (vermontbiz.com), Target Corp. is still targeting the former driving range property on Williston Road as a potential store location.

Although the Vermont Business  Magazine story paraphrased Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau as saying that Target’s plans fell through because the Minneapolis-based retail giant was unwilling to lease land from J.L. Davis Realty and would only buy land outright, Belliveau told the Observer on Monday that he was misquoted and that J.L. Davis doesn’t own the former driving range property – it is in fact owned by Al Senecal of Omega Realty.

The Observer’s calls to Omega Realty for comment were not returned.

Belliveau added that he hasn’t talked to representatives from Target since their Jan. 3 meeting with the Williston Planning Commission.

“I have not spoken to anybody concerning this from the Target Corporation or from the ownership of the former driving range property,” Belliveau said. “We have no new information.”

Jeff Nick, president of J.L. Davis, said that comments attributed to Greg Dirmaier, J.L. Davis vice president, were misconstrued, due to the fact that his company doesn’t own the former driving range parcel. He said that while he previously engaged in conversations with Target officials about potentially buying or leasing J.L. Davis-owned land west of Vermont 2A, those discussions were not recent.

The Vermont Business Magazine story has since been removed from its website and has been replaced with a corrected report.