February 11, 2016

Letters to the Editor

Dugouts for softball field

Hello, my name is Isabel Geffken and I am an eighth grader at Williston Central School. I have been very active in my elementary school for as far back as I can remember and, in particular, I have played softball on the girls Williston Central team since sixth grade and as part of the Williston Little League since I was 7 years old. I was an all-star for the past four years for the Williston All-Star 9-10 and 11-12 teams! In particular, I played first base (my favorite position) and third base. In all the years I have played at Williston, there has been a discrepancy that has always bothered me. The girls’ softball field does not have dugouts. All of the boys’ fields at Williston, the Majors and Babe Ruth have dugouts, but the girls softball field just has metal temporary benches.

The reason I am writing this letter is in optimism that I can find others in our wonderful Williston community to help rectify this unfortunate situation. I would like to build dugouts for the girls softball field with your help, whether it is with materials, volunteers or donations! This has been a dream of mine for the past four years! I am using this opportunity as my eighth grade challenge and part of my Girl Scout Silver Star Award to bring awareness to everyone of this need. I would so appreciate your assistance in helping the future of girls softball players have the appropriate, fair and equitable dugouts in our proud town of Williston. If you are interested in making this dream a reality, please contact me at 879-0489 or via email, cfgeffken@hotmail.com. Thank you for your consideration and support in advance of the Williston girls softball program.

Isabel Geffken


Praise for okonomiyaki

Thank to Kim Dannies for the wonderful okonomiyaki recipe in last week’s paper. As she promised, they were simple, fun to make, with healthy ingredients and an Asian flavor that my whole family loved. It also brought back a great memory of a fantastic restaurant that I went to in Japan, where you choose your favorite ingredients, and then grill up your own okonomiyaki at your table.

Keep the great recipes coming!

Deborah Miuccio


Syrup grading thoughts

I guess I am in my own Vermont world when it comes to maple syrup. Until recently, I did not realize that our neighbors in Maine and New Hampshire had a different yet similar grading system. I did some research into how these three states’ grading systems differ, and it helped me decide how I would vote.

I was disappointed to learn that Maine does not sell a Grade B maple syrup. I do like its system, and New Hampshire’s, calling maple syrup Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B. In Vermont we use terms Fancy, Medium Amber, Dark Amber, Grade B and Grade C. Adding the letter A in the light, medium and dark grades seems appropriate, as it describes a superior product, no matter what color the syrup is.

The Grade C, made at the end of our sugaring season, is very dark and strong tasting. This happens because a certain amount of bacteria grows in sap as it is collected and cooked. Maple syrup made early in the season has a good grade of sugar called sucrose. Syrup made later in the season that is darker in color may have sugar that is more like fructose and glucose. The season’s beginning temperatures—20 degrees at night and 45 degrees in the daytime—make the lightest syrup. As the season progresses and temperatures get warmer, the grades change.

I would vote that the Vermont and all of the U.S. use one grading system: Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber (like Maine and New Hampshire) and allow all states to sell a Grade B and a Grade C.

Since Canada is another country, let them use their own grading system. Here in the U.S. we need to distinguish our product from another country’s.

Ginger Isham


School Board seeks input for budget

The Williston School Board met on March 13 and began planning for a revised budget. There will be a community forum on Wednesday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m.  at Williston Central School. This is an opportunity for community members to voice concerns, share thoughts and ask questions. The board will reconvene on April 2 to adopt the revised budget and a second budget vote will be held in early May.

Board members may also be contacted via phone or email. Contact information is listed in the Williston Observer (page 6) and on the cssu.org website. We welcome your suggestions as we work to provide a quality education for our students at a cost the community can support.

We would like to welcome Kevin Brochu to the board. He is serving a three-year term.

Williston School Board members Kevin Mara, Giovanna Boggero, Josh Diamond, Kevin Brochu and Deb Baker-Moody


The real cost of the 1-to-1 iPad proposal

Our Williston School Board as part of the budget proposal for next year has included the so-called 1-to-1 iPad initiative to provide every child in grades 5 and 6 (260 students) with their own personal iPads. It is the intention to expand that program next year to include grades 7 and 8 (another 260 students).

The administration stated that the first year cost of this initiative would be $93,000, however, after a needed $70,000 from the current year budget surplus, the actual cost is $163,000. This same amount would be required next year to implement the program in grades 7 and 8. When further pressured, the administration conceded that these iPads would need to be replaced every three years to keep them current.

The administration stated that the objective was for these iPads to have Internet access 24-7. The item which was not identified was the cost of the necessary data package. The cost of a minimum data package would be projected to be around $30 per month or $360 per year per iPad.

If one does the math, the first ten-year cost for this program would be $2,919,400 ($1,141,000 for the iPads, $1,778,400 for the data plan). This does not include the cost of the insurance to cover lost and damaged units, the cost of special software required for each unit or the cost of a staff member who would be required to support these 520 iPads.

With this kind of deceptive presentation from the administration, one has to wonder what else there is in the proposed budget that might be misleading. I urge the voters to resoundingly reject this budget until this initiative is removed and further significant cuts are made.

Gil Rodes


Death with dignity

At Town Meeting, several people asked me about the status of the Death With Dignity legislation. I share with you what I know. I was pleased that we finally got to a full discussion of the issue in the Vermont Senate (S.77). It is a major step forward to have the bill be passed by that part of the Legislature. I am less than jubilant however, over the fact that the amended bill, which was passed and sent on to the House, omitted safeguards that I have long felt important and have worked so diligently to include in a Vermont bill.

The bill as passed by the Senate is not fashioned after the safe and successful practices that have been followed in Oregon for 15 years. I am hopeful that the House will take up the amended bill in committee. I encourage you to ask your representatives, Macaig and McCullough, to work for the bill and restoration of the protective measures gutted from the bill by the Senate.

It is important that a Vermont bill afford true end-of-life choices to patients, as well as provide appropriate legal guidelines and protections.

Safeguards are essential to patients, medical practitioners and families. I continue to believe that a restored Death With Dignity bill will serve as an instrument that strengthens and improves medical care for all seriously ill persons. Patient Choices Vermont is a strong advocate for a bill with these essential features. Visit www.patientchoices.org for more information.

Robert Ullrich


GUEST COLUMN: Rx important for all, critical for chronically ill patients

By Michael O’Connor


Vermont’s patients aren’t “one size fits all,” and their choices in prescription medicine shouldn’t be, either. A single prescription drug formulary structure has been proposed for Vermont, but it just doesn’t make sense for patients and the state. Inefficient for patients, financially ineffectual and administratively burdensome, a single formulary system makes it harder for patients to receive the care they deserve at a cost that makes sense.

As background explanation, a prescription benefit management (PBM) plan makes contracts to lower the price of drugs purchased for the state, but they can also limit a patient’s options for treatment, especially when there are several kinds of medications available to treat the same condition. Those limitations, or formularies, can make it harder for patients to receive the right medication at the right time, or remove the best available medication from the management plan.

If cost savings are the premise for such dire risks to patient health, then let’s take a hard look at the facts. Spending on innovative medicines makes up only about 3.5 percent of all federal spending in Medicaid. Professional services, hospital care, administration, home health, nursing facilities and residential care make up the remainder.

Patients may have a trial and error process when they fill a prescription, which may lead to non-adherence with a prescribed treatment plan. For instance, under a single formulary, a patient takes his prescription to be filled by a pharmacist, only to be told that the medication is not covered. Leaving the pharmacy without their medication can derail a therapeutic plan, and in the end cost the patient and the state more.

We understand the state’s need to try to reduce costs associated with health care, but there are other ways to achieve those ends. Adding another layer of bureaucracy could make it harder for physicians to do their jobs and ultimately could have a negative effect on patient care.

Medicines aren’t always interchangeable, and the limitations of a single formulary and substitutions that would be required can have a dire effect not just on patient choice, but on their overall health. As a 2009 Health Affairs article (http://m.content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/5/w832.full) cited, in addition to projected cost savings due to a single formulary being murky (at best), limitation on a patient’s drug formulary can have clearly negative therapeutic effects.

The treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and its side effects requires a delicate balance of prescription medications. Substituting less expensive or generic drugs, or not being able to obtain the correct combination, can often undermine progress made over a long period of time, which makes having the right choice of prescription drug plans absolutely critical for these individuals.

Vermonters who have prescription drug plan options available through Medicare Part D are able to make educated, informed choices about which plan provides them with the best, most affordable coverage. But a single formulary will eliminate this choice and would impact low-income Medicare beneficiaries the most.

Shutting out patients from a physician’s primary treatment decision isn’t the right answer for Vermont. Let’s rethink our approach. It’s not just about how we approach costs; a single formulary is also relevant in thinking about how we pay for value and care for our patients.

Michael O’Connor is the president of the Vermont Chapter American Parkinson’s Disease Association, Inc. and a resident of Williston.


Academic Honors

McCormick inducted into honorary society

Williston resident Elena McCormick was selected for membership in the St. Lawrence University chapter of Psi Chi, the national psychology honorary society. McCormick, a Champlain Valley Union High School graduate, is a member of the Class of 2013 at St. Lawrence and is majoring in neuroscience.

To be eligible for membership, students must have an overall average of at least 3.3, a psychology average of at least 3.4 (based on a minimum of four psychology courses completed at St. Lawrence), and be in the top 35 percent of their class.


Students named to deans’ lists

The following students were named to their college or university deans’ lists.

Benjamin Adams, Syracuse University

Kelsey Caminiti, Syracuse University

Stashu Polewacyk, Berklee College of Music

Anna Lee Ring, Syracuse University

Caelin C. Weiss, Colby College

Education Briefs

Williston student competes in spelling bee

Williston Central School student Natalie Durieux was among 43 students across Vermont to compete in the Vermont State Individual Spelling Bee on March 13 at St. Michael’s College.

Elementary and middle school students under the age of 16 were eligible to participate in this competition.

Durieux qualified for the state meet after winning Williston Central School’s SCRIPPS spelling qualifying test in February.


Student wins essay contest

Williston resident and Williston Central School student Jackson Guernsey took top honors among 10- to 13-year-olds in “The Road Not Taken” essay contest, held in conjunction with the Vermont Flower Show earlier this month.

A total of 66 essays were submitted by students from throughout the state.

Youths, ages 6 to 18, were invited to describe a personal road not chosen and where it might lead or end in a 250-word essay. Entries were judged on uniqueness, creativity, use of descriptive language and passion for the topic.


Applications accepted for student awards

Applications are being accepted for the 2013 Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award, given to one Vermont student in grades 3 through 6 who has distinguished himself or herself in academics, leadership or the arts.

The winner will receive a prize from The Vermont Council for Gifted Education and free admission to a future On the Road Enrichment program.

Application packets—which require an essay and letter of recommendation—may be requested from Alice Maurer at maurer@gmavt.net. Completed applications must be postmarked by March 31. The winner will be announced in April 15.

Around Town

Kindergarten Registration

Williston residents with children who will be 5 years old by Sept. 1, can attend Allen Brook School’s kindergarten registration, held April 2, 3 and 4 at the school. Parents can go to the school’s website, wsdvt.org, and click on the link to chose an appointment time, or call 879-5806.


New Williston Alzheimer’s support group

A new group to provide emotional, educational and social support for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will begin meeting at 5 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter in Williston. For more information, call 272-3900 or visit alz.org/Vermont.


Williston Fire Department pancake breakfast March 24

The Williston Fire Department will hold its annual community pancake breakfast on March 24, serving pancakes, eggs, hash browns, sausage, fruit and beverages from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Residents can meet members of the Williston Fire Department and support Williston’s Emergency Services. The breakfast is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children ages 2-12. Parking is available along Talcott Road and at Allen Brook School.


Dog licenses due April 1 

Dogs in Williston and across the state must be registered and licensed by April 1. Licenses are good for one year.

Not only is registering and licensing dogs required by state statute, it helps locate lost dogs and reunite them with owners, as well as providing rabies information that can be critical in case of a dog bite. Tags also assist the Williston Police Department, which handles animal control problems. Money from dog licenses helps fund garbage cans and pet waste bags along the town’s recreation paths.


Remove bird feeders to avoid tempting bears

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is urging people to take down their bird feeders to avoid attracting bears that are emerging from their winter dens and looking for food.

“It is best to remove food sources before hungry bears locate them,” said Fish & Wildlife’s Col. David LeCours in a press release. “We highly recommend taking down bird feeders and not feeding birds until December 1.”

LeCours also advised residents not to leave pet food outside, wash down grills and secure garbage containers.

“And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears,” LeCours said. “Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for them. Help keep bears wild. 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 birdseed. The fine for doing so can be as high as $1,000.

Upgrades underway at library

Building Energy workers have begun a two-month project to fix the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library roof and improve its insulation and energy efficiency. (Observer courtesy photo)

Building Energy workers have begun a two-month project to fix the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library roof and improve its insulation and energy efficiency. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

The departure of winter this year should mark the end of roof leaks, high fuel bills and frozen toilets at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library.

Work to fix the deteriorating library roof and improve insulation and energy efficiency began earlier this month, after voters approved a $200,000 bond in 2012.

When temperatures dipped this winter, library staff had to contend with hot water shortages, cold indoor temperatures and frozen bathrooms. In one case, Librarian Marti Fiske said, all three bathrooms were frozen at once, and one of the toilets didn’t thaw out for two days. Ice dams in the roof caused leaks, and the shingles were in poor condition, she said.

Bryan Bergeron of Williston-based Building Energy, which is handling the project, estimated that the library will save $2,500 annually in heating costs. The estimate is based on current fuel prices and what he called a conservative formula from Efficiency Vermont.

“The bigger aspect is (the repairs are) creating longevity for the building itself,” he said. “It’s extending the life of the building.”

Bergeron added that the upgrades will reduce the library’s carbon footprint by 20,500 pounds per year—roughly the equivalent of taking two cars off the roads for a year.

“They’re making a great investment in the future of the town for everyone,” Bergeron said.

On Monday, a cluster of workers perched on the library’s roof, nailing down new shingles and blowing insulation into the attic.

Workers are currently tackling the section of roof by the children’s collection. Library staff have pulled out some of the books, and can access the rest of the collection by request, Fiske said.

After work is completed in the children’s section, workers will move to the adult section and over the circulation desk, which will be temporarily moved to one of the library’s window nooks.

Fiske said the library will be a little chilly and parking will be somewhat affected during the two-month project, but there shouldn’t be any major disruptions for library patrons. Fiske and Bergeron expect work to be wrapped up by mid- to late May.

“Bear with us, it’s going to be totally worth it,” Fiske said.

An artist with a floral flair

Pierrette Roy created a silk arrangement for local business Argento Laraine Fine Jewelry. (Observer photo by Jayson Argento)

Pierrette Roy created a silk arrangement for local business Argento Laraine Fine Jewelry. (Observer photo by Jayson Argento)

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent

Visitors to Taft Farms Senior Living in Williston will always know what holiday is coming up. That’s because long-time resident Pierrette Roy creates floral arrangements for the lobby, hallways and dining area out of real and silk flowers reflecting the seasons. The building is currently filled with leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and other St. Patrick’s Day motifs, courtesy of the 89-year-old artist.

Roy was 2 years old when she first fell in love with flowers. Five years later, a neighbor invited her to make an arrangement from the flowers in her garden. Her first attempt failed when she took off all the leaves, but she quickly acquired a knack for the art. Roy moved to Vermont in 1951 and worked at three different flower shops. These days, she doesn’t charge for her work, preferring to donate arrangements to friends and charitable institutions. Her offerings include a life-sized flower mannequin for the Shelburne Museum’s Lilac Festival, arrangements for the Tea Tent at the Flynn’s Garden Tour and flowers for the lobby of St. Michael’s Playhouse. The last is clearly a labor of love, since the theater lover has missed precious few of the Playhouse’s openings.

In addition to decorating her place of residence and donating to nonprofit organizations, Roy helps out the people she cares about. She became friends with Jayson Argento after taking an acting class with him, and when he and his wife opened Argento Laraine Fine Jewelry just up the road from her, Roy decided to help them decorate. The result is a silk floral arrangement resembling an oversized wedding bouquet, which Argento happily displays at the store’s front desk.

Argento admitted that before receiving the arrangement, he and his wife had not been fans of fake flowers.

“The bouquet completely changed our perception,” he said. “Now we realize the arranger is more important than the materials. Customers frequently comment on how beautiful the arrangement is.”

Lately, creating her works of art hasn’t been easy. Roy had a stroke in June of 2012, which renders one arm useless and requires her to use a walker. She worried she wouldn’t be able to continue with her art, but if others are willing to hold a vase in place, she has no problem doing the arrangements with her good hand. Recently, she recovered some movement in her fingers and hopes she may be able to regain full use of her arm.

One positive side effect of the stroke is that Roy has begun writing poetry.

“I wake up in the middle of the night,” she said “and think of something rhyming and next thing you know I’m up and writing it all down. I’ve already written 70 poems. Sometimes things come to us at a late age.”

Although Roy is largely self-taught, in 2003 she began going to lectures and demonstrations called Art in Bloom at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. During the last week in April, garden designers create arrangements that match the museum’s artifacts; a technique Roy also used in her lobby, where one bouquet mimics the colors in the painting hanging behind it. Roy attends Art in Bloom almost every year and has taken workshops from Nancy Clarke, the former head floral designer for the White House, and Shane Connolly of Ireland, who did the flower arrangements for Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.

Roy has four storage rooms at Taft Farms. Most have plastic containers filled with raw materials, but one contains finished products which are cleaned, revised and revitalized for different occasions. A quick look in that locker is an exercise in picking out the seasons, with arrangements that are clearly designed for spring, summer, fall and winter. Roy loves working with real flowers, but is happy to work with silk when real flowers aren’t practical. Her work is so realistic that people often stop to sniff the silk flowers, assuming they are the real thing.

Roy’s stroke may have temporarily slowed her down, but she’s clearly bouncing back and hasn’t lost her creative spirit. At 89, she’s still going strong.

Pierrette Roy creates flower arrangements that reflect the seasons, like this design in the lobby of Taft Farms Senior Living, where she lives. (Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck)

Pierrette Roy creates flower arrangements that reflect the seasons, like this design in the lobby of Taft Farms Senior Living, where she lives. (Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck)

Board seeks resident input on new school budget

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

After voters narrowly rejected the Williston School District 2013-2014 budget on Town Meeting Day, the Williston School Board is hoping the community will tell it what went wrong.

A new configuration of the board—former chairwoman Holly Rouelle stepped down after seven years and resident Kevin Brochu joined the board—sat down March 13 to tackle the budget at its first meeting since the vote.

Hoping to take in as much community input as possible before it begins formulating a new budget, the board scheduled a community forum for March 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Williston Central School.

On March 5, residents defeated the school district’s 2013-14 budget 602-629. The proposed $17.5 million budget was a 5.1 percent increase from the 2012-13 budget. The board struggled with a 4.18 percent increase in the baseline budget—the amount of money required to offer the same services as in the previous year—mainly due to increased health care costs and scheduled salary increases.

At the polls and at Town Meeting, several residents questioned the school’s 1-to-1 iPad initiative, a $95,500 line item in the budget. The initiative would have provided iPads for fifth and sixth grade students, and eventually all middle schoolers.

“I think the elephant in the room is that … enough of the portion of the community didn’t like the iPad initiative,” said Kevin Mara, the board’s new chairman, on March 13. “How much do we believe in the iPad initiative, and if we believe, what do we think we can do to convince the community that it’s worth their money?”

Mara also said he didn’t believe that 629 residents voted against the budget purely because of the iPad initiative.

Board member Giovanna Boggero agreed.

“I don’t think people are necessarily against it,” Boggero said. “I do believe people don’t understand it and I think we have an obligation to make it clear to them.”

“As a new board member and as a voter and fairly educated citizen, I didn’t really know or hear a whole lot about the iPad initiative,” Brochu said. He added that he was “surprised” when he heard about the cost, and while it didn’t sway his vote, he could see how it might tip the scales for a voter without children in the school system.

Although the board held several community forums and informational sessions regarding the budget, board members agreed they’d have to step up their efforts if they choose to stick with the iPad initiative.

“It’s church dinner and pancake breakfast time,” Mara said.

Board members said they did not pull the iPad out of the budget as a separate ballot item because they did not intend it to be funded as a bond and because the board wanted to build it into the program.

Mara noted that even if the board removed the iPads, it would amount to half a percent decrease in the budget.

“It’s not a fiscal changer, it’s a lightning rod issue,” he said.

Board member Josh Diamond said that the fact that the proposed budget is a 5.1 percent increase from last year’s budget compounds any residents’ issues with the iPad initiative.

Although he made clear he wasn’t advocating a drastic reduction, Diamond said he would like to see what the board would have to cut to hold the budget increase at the inflation rate of 3.5 percent.

If the board has to stand by an increase, he said, it should be able to tell the community exactly what the school system would be losing if the budget is further reduced.

“I feel confident that we can get a budget that we feel good about, that we support, that doesn’t harm our children and that we can pass,” Diamond said.

“We need to make tangible to people what we are giving away,” Boggero agreed. “When they understand the impact it will have on the quality of education they have, I think that’s going to be a wakeup call.”

After the board’s March 27 forum, it will meet again on April 2. The board discussed a tentative revote date of May 7, and plans to have at least one more community forum before the vote.

Schools have until July 1 to send an approved budget to the state.


iPads in the school budget

Williston School District’s proposed 1-to-1 iPad initiative would be funded by a $95,500 addition to the technology budget. The total cost of the initiative’s first year is $165,500, but $70,000 from the district’s current budget would be put toward the cost.

The expenditure would provide iPads to students in fifth and sixth grades, with the goal of eventually providing iPads to students in grades 5-8. In subsequent years, $95,500 would remain in the technology budget and be used to buy iPads for another grade level. Once all middle schoolers have an iPad, the money would go toward replacing units as they age.

Williston School Board Chair Kevin Mara said the cost estimates include money for teacher training. The school’s technology budget already includes funds for wireless Internet and software. The district does not intend to purchase data plans for the iPads, Mara said. Outside of school, students would use home or public networks to get online, though many of the programs the school hopes to use do not require Internet access, Mara said.

Students would be able to take the iPads home, but Mara said families would not be held responsible if a child breaks or loses an iPad. Families may be asked to pay an insurance premium—though he noted that the details have not been worked out yet.

The Williston School Board has not yet decided whether to keep or remove the initiative.


New Williston wind tunnel leads industry

SOH Wind Engineering owner Svend Ole Hansen (left) shows the 125-horsepower fan at the end of the Williston company’s wind tunnel to Gov. Peter Shumlin Monday. The fan can create winds up to 65 miles per hour. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

SOH Wind Engineering owner Svend Ole Hansen (left) shows the 125-horsepower fan at the end of the Williston company’s wind tunnel to Gov. Peter Shumlin Monday. The fan can create winds up to 65 miles per hour. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

A wind industry giant has begun blowing in Williston.

Monday marked the grand opening of the world’s largest calibration wind tunnels, housed in a nondescript industrial building on Leroy Road.

Massive fans at the end of two 125-foot long tunnels, 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall, mimic natural wind conditions, testing the effect of wind on large structures like bridges, buildings and offshore drilling platforms. The Williston wind tunnels also test the accuracy of wind sensors, known as anemometers, used to measure wind speed.

Hinesburg-based renewable energy company NRG Systems provides the bulk of the wind tunnels’ business, sending approximately 100 anemometers to be tested each day.

SOH Wind Engineering owner Svend Ole Hansen—a Denmark native who also owns wind engineering company Svend Ole Hansen ApS in Copenhagen—unveiled the wind tunnels Monday, leading visitors including Gov. Peter Shumlin on a tour of the facility.

Bigger is better when it comes to accurate calibration, Hansen said. SOH can build larger models on which to test the wind’s effects, and there is more space between the item being tested and the walls, meaning less interference. Most calibration wind tunnels in the industry are roughly 3 by 3 feet.

“The large size is very important in order to have an accurate reading,” Hansen said, standing next to an anemometer spinning lazily in the 5 mph breeze.

As Hansen led the tour into the adjacent wind tunnel, a seemingly small increase in wind speed to 15 mph revealed a steadily whirling anemometer—disheveling hair and sending ties flapping in the process.

“This is our first in Vermont, so it’s a big deal,” Shumlin said of the tunnel.

Aside from providing jobs and the opportunity to train students in cutting edge technology, the wind tunnels help address one of the “the biggest challenges we face as a state and as a species … climate change,” he said.

SOH decided on Williston because of its close working partnership with NRG Systems and its proximity to the University of Vermont, Hansen said.

Two mechanical engineering students from UVM are currently working at SOH. Aside from the students, five people are employed at the Williston facility, and the company expects to hire two to three more employees this year.

Before the Williston tunnels opened, NRG sent its anemometers to be calibrated in a lab in California and SOH’s sister company in Copenhagen.

When owners of the lab in California told NRG of its impending closure, NRG sent out a request for a facility that could take over the calibration work. Hansen decided to build a facility in Vermont, funded in part by a $150,000 grant under the Vermont Economic Growth Initiative.

Using the Williston facility will save NRG $600,000 to $700,000 annually, said NRG Purchasing Manager John Kerr.

Sending the technology over one town, rather than across the county or the Atlantic Ocean, also reduces NRG’s environmental impact, which NRG CEO John Norton said is part of the company’s mission.

“We’re very excited to be a part of this celebration,” Norton said at the grand opening Monday. “Svend is a recognized leader in wind energy.”

SOH Wind Engineering currently works with a total of four companies—though general manager Rob Stewart said demand increases by the week.

Currently, the wind tunnels run 18 hours a day during the week and 12 hours on the weekends. They calibrate approximately 100 anemometers per day. Each one must be tested individually, which takes about 20 minutes.

Stewart said the facility has the capacity to run 24 hours a day as demand increases.

It took SOH Wind Engineering approximately one year to turn on the wind in the first two tunnels. The company expects to complete two more wind tunnels next winter. The inner walls of the four tunnels will be removable, allowing for one massive wind tunnel.

“We’re very happy about the progress,” Hansen said.

For more information, visit www.sohwind.com.

EVERYDAY GOURMET: What’s in a name?

 By Kim Dannies

Many cultures have wonderful names for things that we simply don’t enjoy in English. For example, my favorite Arabic word is “taraadin,” which implies a happy solution for everyone: I win, you win. The Spanish have the delightful “duende” which blends the thrill of passion, energy, and artistic excellence together. The German “korinthenkacker” literally means raisin-pooper; it’s their humorous moniker for a pencil-pushing control freak. While English shares the word “aware,” the Japanese use it to convey an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. “Aware” is that poignant sensation that time is passing and the cycle of life is inevitable, especially as the season changes.

I also love the Japanese word “okonomiyaki” (oh-ko-no-mi-yaki). Say that three times fast! These are crepe-style pancakes, studded with shrimp or chicken, and ribbons of scallion and cabbage. They are fun to say, fun to make and fun to eat. The name is derived from “okonomi” meaning “as you like it” and “yaki” which means grilled or cooked. Sometimes called Japanese pizza, the pancakes are soothing and hearty—the perfect springtime comfort food. My version is not necessarily authentic, possible combinations are as varied as what’s leftover in your fridge. Simply make it as you like it.


Spicy sauce

Whisk together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce (or to taste). Reserve. Pan toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden brown. Reserve separately.


Okonomiyaki  (Japanese Pancakes)

Whisk together: 5 eggs; 1 teaspoon soy sauce; 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/3 cup flour. Stir in 2 cups thinly chopped cabbage; 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced; 3/4 cup cooked, chopped shrimp.

In a large non-stick skillet, on medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons canola oil until it glistens. Ladle the batter in batches just like you would for small pancakes. Cook each side three minutes until golden brown. Repeat the process, adding more oil if needed. Reserve the cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter, covered in a 200-degree oven, until all the pancakes are cooked. Scatter sesame seeds over the platter of okonomiyaki, and serve with the spicy sauce. Makes approximately 12 pancakes.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters. Archived Everyday Gourmet columns are at kimdannies.com. Kim@kimdannies.com.