October 21, 2014

Letters to the Editor

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A huge thank you to
Mike and Heather Detch

As a local business owner, I understand how truly important great relationships are. We are so blessed to have a wonderful community full of customers, as well as wonderful partnerships and friendships with other local businesses around this amazing community. One of the proudest and fondest relationships we have is with Mike and Heather Detch. This past Sunday Dec. 15, they ventured out on a very snowy evening, to provide an amazing night of entertainment at our staff holiday party. They did this because of the kindness they have in their collective hearts, as well as the love they have for this wonderful town and the local businesses that reside here. I want to say thank you for not only what you donated Sunday night at our party, but for the amazing work you do for our Williston community. During this time of giving, I’m not sure if there is a greater Santa Claus than Mike Detch, his wife Heather and their staff. Thanks you guys for making our event the special evening it was. I am so proud to call you my friends.

Jeff Paul
Williston 

Concerned about growing budget

I am writing about the deep concern of our growing town budget(s).

I moved to this town for the location, the community and the relatively reasonable taxes. The rising budgets and increasing full-time staffing positions are worrisome. The full-time EMS/ambulance proposal was soundly rejected in 2007. Avoiding a second vote, and against the will of the people, it was added by executive decision, and it was billed that it would pay for itself (with fees). Here we are six years later, and we are already trying to add additional full-time personnel and also discovering the fees are not covering the service. This effort needs to be stopped in its tracks before it just continues to grow (without voter approval). To pay for this and other programs, the town wants a 10 percent increase. The state is indicating that education property taxes may increase, and the upcoming state budget may have as much as a $60-$70 million deficit. My taxes are already over $5,000 a year. And as you may have heard, there are many other programs and initiatives that are looking for additional funding, which may follow. I worked with public safety for many years, volunteered as an EMT some years ago, and have the greatest respect for all they do. But we have to take a serious look at our expenditures and make some hard decisions. And we have to resist the temptation to accept those TEMPORARY federally funded positions, only to be stuck with the residual bill. I heard the arguments about response times without additional full-time staff, but most Vermont towns are staffed with volunteers. And although every town would love to have full-time staff, it is not within their budgetary constraints.

I love this town, and sincerely support our state and town employees. But this community and state are becoming completely unaffordable to live in, causing people to leave. Please think about this when you cast your vote.

Mike Mullin
Williston

 

Guest Column: Communities work together to improve water quality

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By Lisa Sheltra

 

For more than ten years, several Chittenden County communities, including Williston, have worked together to create and operate the Regional Stormwater Education Program (RSEP). This organization is a collaborative effort of nine municipalities, the University of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Burlington International Airport. The central mission of RSEP is to educate the public on how stormwater affects our streams and Lake Champlain and the simple things we all can do to improve overall water quality. Together, we have been able to do much more than we would if efforts were town by town.

Our efforts have included extensive community outreach and education to residents on key behaviors that anyone could do: picking up pet waste; reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides; testing soils to determine if fertilizers are even needed and greener practices for car washing.

We are happy to report that progress is being made and the overall results are promising. In 2013, we surveyed more than 400 residents of the nine RSEP member towns. More than 80 percent of those surveyed now pick up pet waste compared to only 62 percent in 2003. Pet waste can be a significant source of bacterial contamination to our streams and Lake Champlain. Similarly, only 29 percent of the citizens surveyed use fertilizers on their lawn, down from 50 percent. We also saw an increase in soil testing to determine whether fertilizers are even needed. Testing soil for fertilizer need saves money, and also prevents unnecessary pollutants from entering our local waters.

Your efforts have resulted in significant progress. Additionally, Williston has partnered with a number of private landowners to plant over 4,000 trees along the Allen Brook and its tributaries in an effort to improve the stream buffer that helps keep surface waters clean. Williston also works with local volunteers to organize stream clean-up events and to mark our storm drains to make everyone aware that what goes down the storm drain directly impacts our local streams. The town also spent a half day at local schools teaching students about how important it is to prevent stormwater pollution and protect our streams.  We applaud your ongoing commitment to improving our water resources, and remain committed to working with you to advance these common goals

To that end, in 2014 and beyond, we will be providing you more information on how you can further protect waterways by using rain gardens, rain barrels and reducing impermeable surfaces on your property. As spring and summer rainstorms become more intense, these actions can “Slow the Flow” of stormwater so our local waterways don’t become excessively eroded and/or clogged with silt and other trash.

We would like to thank the people of Williston for your stewardship of our streams and Lake Champlain. We encourage anyone who wants to learn more about what you can do to keep our Town’s streams and Lake Champlain clean to please visit www.smartwaterways.org.

Lisa Sheltra is a Regional Stormwater Education Program Steering Committee member and Williston’s assistant director of public works.

 

Around Town

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Christmas tree pickup

Williston Boy Scout Troop #692 will be conducting its annual Christmas tree pick-up on Jan. 4. Scouts will pick up trees in the South Ridge, Brennan Woods, Wildflower Circle, Ledgewood, Pleasant Acres, Turtle Pond and Indian Ridge neighborhoods. Trees should be placed curbside by 8 a.m.

The tree pick-up is the Scout’s biggest fundraiser for the year. A suggested $10 donation can be placed in an envelope tied to the tree. Money collected goes to sustain various troop activities and community service. The trees are recycled and used for fuel or composting based on the needs of Chittenden Solid Waste District. For more information, contact Pete Watson at 363-1031.

Business course for farmers

A business course for new farmers interested in learning financial management skills will be offered this February.

The University of Vermont Extension New Farmer Project will offer the course at the UVM Extension office in South Burlington and the Vital Communities office in White River Junction on Feb. 5, 12 and 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. Snow date is Feb. 26.

The registration fee is $80 if received by Jan. 5, or $120 from then until Jan. 20.

To register or for scholarship information, go to www.uvm.edu/newfarmer and click on “Classes.”

Salaries and benefits cause largest hike in town budget

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Proposed police spending includes new officer

By Greg Elias

Observer correspondent

The price of policing and planning would rise by modest amounts under budgets each department presented to the Selectboard on Monday.

Police Chief Todd Shepard and Town Planner Ken Belliveau each outlined their spending proposals during the session held at Williston Woods clubhouse.

The Police Department’s budget is set to rise 5.6 percent. Planning and Zoning Department spending would increase by 3.2 percent. Meanwhile, driven in part by bond payments on the new public works facility, overall municipal spending soars by 10.5 percent.

Shepard explained that higher expenditures in his department’s $2,038,850 budget are driven mainly by rising salaries and benefits. Roughly three-quarters of the budget hike comes from payroll costs.

The budget adds a new officer using a federal community policing grant. The grant requires the town to fund 25 percent of the position in the first year, with the local match increasing to 100 percent by the fourth year.

The Selectboard in the past has been wary of such grants because they eventually leave the town with ongoing personnel costs funded entirely by property taxes. Board member Jeff Fehrs echoed that concern.
“The benefit of grants is they help you pay for a new officer,” he said. “The liability of grants is after the fourth year, we’ve accepted that as a full-time position and we need to budget for it.”

Shepard said the new position would allow the department to increase police presence in the community and step up traffic patrols.

Belliveau gave a low-key presentation of the Planning and Zoning Department’s $400,720 budget, which as proposed increases spending by just over $12,000.

The budget mostly stays the course, he explained, with increases mainly for things outside the department’s control, such as health insurance premiums.

Most line items remain flat and only a handful of line items rise. The department will buy a new computer and boost pay for its intern program. Staff salaries do not increase. Higher benefit costs account for more than three-quarters of new spending.

The police and planning budget presentations were part of the annual ritual of developing a municipal spending plan. Budgets for the library, fire and rescue and town clerk’s office were presented the previous week. Remaining departments will present their budgets to the Selectboard in January.

The draft $9.9 million municipal budget boosts spending by $940,630 over the current fiscal year that ends July 1. As proposed, the budget would require a 3-cent jump in the property tax rate. That translates into a $90 increase in the annual tax bill for a $300,000 home.

But the big budget hike presents a misleading picture of spending and the resulting tax impact because it fails to account for revenue and other factors.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said in an email that $196,310 of the increased spending is related to a new stormwater management system. A proposed stormwater fee charged to property owners, however, would offset all of that additional expense. (See story p.1)

Then there’s payments on the new, voter-approved public works facility. Budgeted principal and interest total about $400,000. But after accounting for interest paid in the current budget year and future revenue from water and sewer fees, the net cost in the proposed budget is $201,410.

Most years, the Selectboard slices expenditures in the initial budget proposal.

In an interview, Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig did not say if this year’s draft budget should by cut. But he noted that with much of the increase related to the public works facility, the board has less room to maneuver.

“Yeah, it’s (up by) a little over 10 percent total, but that’s a little deceiving,” Macaig said.

Stormwater work planned at Oneida Acres

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Observer staff report

Construction on a grant-funded project intended to address erosion and stream water quality issues caused by stormwater at Oneida Acres is set to begin in the spring.

The engineering work and designs are currently underway for a combination of bioswales—similar to depressed rain gardens—and check dams to slow, treat and redirect stormwater away from the section of the neighborhood near Sharon Drive, where there is active erosion.

Town staff is currently looking for $15,000 in funding for Phase II of the project, which involves working “with landowners in other parts of the neighborhood to implement green stormwater infrastructure practices to help slow and reduce stormwater runoff from their roofs and driveways,” said Jessica Demar, senior environmental planner for the town of Williston.

Earlier this year, Williston received a $75,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Ecosystem Restoration Program to complete a town-wide Watershed Improvement Plan. The town contracted with Stone Environmental, which identified and assessed more than 100 water quality “problem areas” across Williston, evaluating each and allowing for comparison.

Part of the plan involved developing a prioritization matrix, intended to help town staff direct resources to high priority projects. The matrix ranked areas based on constructability, ease of operation, anticipated pollutant abatement and environmental priority—impact on the nearest receiving water, how realistic it is to fix the problem, whether environmental issues besides water quality were impacted and more.

The matrix identified the top 30 problem areas. From those problem areas, town staff and the Selectboard selected the Oneida Acres project—which ranked at number six in the prioritization matrix—as the project that best met the goals of the grant.

The grant’s goals included addressing active erosion often caused by excess stormwater and identifying stormwater treatment practices and retrofits that will reduce sediment loads delivered to Williston’s streams, resulting in improved stream quality.

The final report from the Watershed Improvement Plan is available online at http://tinyurl.com/m2hed4s. For more information, email [email protected]

Infant’s eye cancer detected through Facebook photos

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Aayla Gonyar’s uncle noticed a white glow in her left eye in some Facebook photos posted by her parents,like the one above, leading to a diagnosis of retinoblastoma. (Observer courtesy photo)

Aayla Gonyar’s uncle noticed a white glow in her left eye in some Facebook photos posted by her parents,like the one above, leading to a diagnosis of retinoblastoma. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Facebook took on an unlikely role for a local family—lifesaver.

Williston resident Alice Gonyar said her five-month-old granddaughter, Aayla, was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer based on a symptom spotted in Facebook photos of the baby.

When she was two months old, the infant’s uncle, a medical student, noticed a distinctive white glow on her left eye in several Facebook photos posted by her parents and recognized them as a possible symptom of retinoblastoma, the leading eye cancer in infants and children.

Aayla’s father, Chris Gonyar, said her eyes—especially the left eye—had already awakened a parental instinct.

“Even with this being our first child, it’s amazing how you have innate instincts,” he said.

Both parents had noticed that Aayla seemed to look past them and have trouble focusing and making eye contact. Her left eye, in particular, seemed to be out of sync. Though they were assured that babies often go cross-eyed, they still had a feeling something wasn’t quite right.

So when Aayla’s uncle alerted them to the possibility of retinoblastoma, they took immediate action.

The Gonyars, who now live in North Carolina, took Aayla to the emergency room. A doctor happened to be working whose daughter had undergone several prior eye surgeries. He was able to get them in to see a specialist within days.

“I can’t say again how lucky we were in finding it when we did, because who knows what another month or six weeks, particularly for that left eye, would have meant,” Chris Gonyar said.

Approximately 250-300 children are diagnosed with the pediatric cancer each year in the U.S. According to information compiled on the website of the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia—which treats approximately half of the children in the United States diagnosed with retinoblastoma—retinoblastoma is a cancer that “presents itself very quietly.” Children have no pain or complaints. Most often, retinoblastoma is diagnosed when parents notice a white or yellow glow in their child’s eye. “Early diagnosis and treatment is important for preventing metastasis and death of the child and additionally preserving the eye and vision,” according to the Wills retinoblastoma website.

Like red-eye, the white glow shows up in photos taken with a flash, when light is reflected out of the eye.

Parents who suspect a child may have retinoblastoma should see their pediatrician or ophthalmologist, who can look into the back of the eye to see if there is cancer. Children who are diagnosed will be sent to one of the major treatment centers, such as Wills.

Doctors found tumors in both of Aayla eyes, with a larger one in her left eye, and diagnosed her with a bilateral retinoblastoma, a genetic and more rare form. Within days from the first visit to the ER, she was finishing the first round of chemotherapy.

“I cannot tell you the nightmare,” Alice Gonyar said. “At the time there was the question of will she even live?”

Aayla is responding well to treatment—the tumors in both eyes are shrinking and calcifying, and doctors think she will have “intermediate” vision in her left eye and normal vision in the right eye.

“Everything is going well and the doctors are really happy with her progress,” Chris Gonyar said.

“She’s got both eyeballs and her life,” Alice Gonyar said.

Still, Chris Gonyar said, Aayla is not out of the woods yet.

Aayla has so far had one MRI—which was clean—to make sure she does not have the most serious form of the disease, trilateral retinoblastoma. Trilateral retinoblastoma is where tumors form in the brain, and it can exhibit itself up until age 5. She is also at a higher risk for secondary cancers like soft tissue, blood and bone cancers.

“Obviously, it’s something that we’ll have to monitor and look at for the rest of her life,” he said.

Aayla has two rounds of chemotherapy left. After that, she will need monthly eye exams and biannual MRIs to monitor the retinoblastoma.

“It flipped our world upside down,” Chris Gonyar said. “We’re trying to take things day by day right now. She’s doing great right now, so that’s what were leaning on.”

Chris Gonyar said parents who notice an odd reflection in one photo don’t necessarily need to race to the emergency room, but he did advise parents to trust their instincts.

If parents have noticed the reflection or something odd with their child’s eyes, it’s not a bad idea to push for a test, he said.

“Since it is so important to catch it early, I think it would be absolutely fair at a first checkup with your pediatrician to ask them to take a deeper look,” he said.

Selectboard readies spigot for stormwater fees

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Ordinance to set levies for homeowners and businesses

By Greg Elias

Observer correspondent

Williston will draft an ordinance that establishes fees to fund a multi-million-dollar effort to reduce stormwater runoff that pollutes river and streams.

The Selectboard on Monday voted to direct town staff to write rules that would govern fees. The idea is to defray the cost of complying with state and federal mandates aimed at restoring waterways such as Allen Brook in Williston.

Michael Schramm of the Burlington consulting firm Hoyle, Tanner & Associates presented a report that recommended the town charge $4 to $4.50 a month for single-family homes. Commercial properties and all other landowners would pay fees based on the amount of impervious surface — parking lots and roads, for example — that precipitation can’t penetrate.

Schramm’s presentation revolved around the complexities of the fee calculation and how much revenue it would generate. In all, roughly $8 million must be spent to bring the town and private developments into compliance.

Williston Public Works Director Bruce Hoar outlined the town’s regulatory obligations. First, the town must spend an estimated $1.1 million on stream restoration projects, he said. Then it must undertake watershed improvements aimed at preventing future pollution that will cost $2 million to $3 million.

Meanwhile, private residential developments around Williston that currently do not comply with regulations face daunting costs to fix their stormwater problems totaling roughly $4.9 million.

Threaded through the 90-minute stormwater presentation were questions and comments from residents of the Meadow Run condominium development.

The proposed fee structure places condominiums into the non-single-family-home category, along with commercial properties. Fees for that category would be determined using a complex calculation that factors impervious surface as a percentage of total acreage.

Meadow Run resident Carl Fowler said his development not only has a different fee structure but also faces the crippling cost of privately paying to fix its own stormwater problems. He wondered if the town would help and asked how soon repairs must be made.
“I’m not here to try to evade the issue,” Fowler said, noting he supported environmental protections. “But obviously, I’m not a rich man. If my pocket is going to be tapped extensively, I should prefer it to be tapped over a much longer period of time as opposed to in two years.”

The town has two years to submit plans for curbing stormwater runoff. But Hoar said it is unclear how long the town and its private developments have to comply with regulations. He said the town’s compliance plan could extend to as long as 20 years, but progress has to be made over that time.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the town could help homeowners’ associations with zero-interest loans for stormwater improvements. He said the town plans to assist out-of-compliance neighborhoods with administrative tasks.

But McGuire and Hoar also offered tough love. Hoar noted that some neighborhoods failed to act on long-standing stormwater problems. McGuire said some developments have maintained their stormwater systems better than others.

As for the town’s stormwater fees, Schramm said his firm’s analysis found that individual condominium owners actually do better with the impervious surface calculation than the flat fee paid by homeowners.

Stormwater comes from falling rain or melting snow streaming off impervious surfaces. It transports sediment and pollutants into streams and rivers that flow into lakes and oceans.

Williston is among 13 Vermont municipalities required under the federal Clean Water Act to improve stormwater controls. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labeled those towns and cities as MS4, short for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.

Updated MS4 permits were issued in December 2012. Under its new permit, Williston is required by 2016 to submit plans for controlling stormwater pollution.

The stepped-up regulations leave Williston little choice but to spend money on stormwater controls. The Selectboard had previously indicated that it preferred a fee to a property tax hike.

But that may make residents shrug because no matter the label, it’s a new bill to pay.

Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig in an interview acknowledged that reality, but said a fee would be more equitable because it would be based on the amount of stormwater runoff generated rather than property value and require even tax-exempt organizations and government properties to pay their share.

“A fee by any other name, is it a tax?” Macaig said. “Well, yes, except it is more fairly distributed, I believe. You’re going to hit everybody rather than just select taxpayers.”

Cold weather helps Williston skating rink open early

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Scott Bushweller unravels the hose to fill the Williston community ice rink last week. The rink, located in the Williston Community Park behind Williston Central School, is now open to skaters. (Observer photo by Matt Sutkoski)

Scott Bushweller unravels the hose to fill the Williston community ice rink last week. The rink, located in the Williston Community Park behind Williston Central School, is now open to skaters. (Observer photo by Matt Sutkoski)

Volunteers needed for ice rink, skates

By Matt Sutkoski

Observer correspondent

It’s safe to say Scott Bushweller is among the very few Vermonters who goes out this time of year, aiming a water hose outside in subzero cold to make something grow.

In this case, it’s not gardening Bushweller is after. He’s trying to grow the ice on the skate park in back of Williston Central School to turn it into a skating rink, in the hopes of growing plenty of smiles among kids wanting to glide on the ice, or play a little hockey.

Unlike most recent Decembers in Vermont, this one has been cold, which has people begging for some ice time. The only problem is it was almost too cold to make ice in the first place.

Last Thursday, after some of the first near-zero temperatures of the season, Bushweller attached a hose to a hydrant at the skate park to make ice. He tried to turn the valve to turn on the water. Nothing. It seemed to be frozen solid. No water from the hose, no fresh ice for the skating rink. It looked like the skating season wouldn’t get off to a fast start after all.

So, not long after donning layer upon layer of clothes, trudging out to the rink, unfurling the hose for some ice manufacturing, Bushweller reluctantly called it a day.

But it was just a momentary setback. Bushweller said the Williston Public Works department came to the rescue the next day and repaired a faulty valve. Since then, Bushweller has been flooding the rink and watching it freeze for winter skating.

So why does Bushweller spend so many frigid hours in the dark after work, standing there with a hose, flooding the patch of pavement behind the Williston Central School to create the annual skating rink?

“The kids just love it,” Bushweller said.

Skating and hockey are in a lot of Vermonters’ DNA. As Bushweller struggled with the frozen water supply last Thursday, people at a house in an adjacent neighborhood were creating their own backyard hockey rink. Bushweller played hockey as a kid. His two daughters are in the Chittenden South Burlington Youth Hockey program now.

And as Bushweller notes, almost everyone just likes to take a spin on skates, just for the sake of getting outside to enjoy winter. “My wife is learning how to skate,” he said.

Just to keep some control and responsibility over the hydrant that feeds Bushweller’s hose, only Bushweller is allowed to flood the rink. But he’s looking for help, and needs plenty of it.

He’s looking for volunteers who could help clear snow from the rink after a snowfall. He also needs people to repair nicks and holes in the ice that inevitably pop up after a day of heavy use.

That job is easy, he said, akin to repairing potholes in a street, but without all the smelly asphalt. You just pack snow into the hole in the ice, sprinkle it with water, maybe from a plastic bottle, smooth over the slush, then wait for it to freeze. The next day, the hole is gone and the ice surface is as good as new, Bushweller said.

The skating rink volunteer gig has turned Bushweller into something of a winter freeze meteorology expert. He doesn’t like to go out and make new ice if snow is the forecast. You end up with a crusty mess instead of smooth ice, he says. Temperatures barely below freezing don’t work, either. It takes too long for the ice to harden. A clear, cold, calm night is best, he said.

A rainstorm isn’t necessarily the end of the world, either. As long as it doesn’t snow before things re-freeze, rain just adds more water, which turns into smooth ice if it gets cold enough after the downpours end.

At Williston Central School, Athletic Director Jennifer Oakes said the students appreciate the skating rink, though she’s also looking for volunteers. The school has about 50 pairs of skates students use, but the blades on many of the skates are dull. People have been trying to sharpen them, but Oakes said she’d more than welcome offers of help. Would-be volunteers can call 871-6194.

By Tuesday, the rink was ready. Subzero weather helped get the rink off to a somewhat earlier than usual start this year, Bushweller said.

The lights were turned on Monday night, allowing skaters to enjoy the rink until about 9 p.m., Bushweller said. About half the rink was still snow covered from the storm Sunday. It was too cold to shovel it Monday night, he said. The unfinished shoveling job highlights the need for volunteers to help him maintain the rink, Bushweller said.

Anyone who wants to help maintain the rink can call him at 802-922-4642, Bushweller said.

Meanwhile, forecasts of more wintry weather mean skaters in Williston can strap on their blades and test Bushweller’s handiwork.

Popcorn: “Dallas Buyers Club” Will Sell You

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3_popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

“Well, that was uplifting.” Thus spake disparagingly a woman who looked like Sarah Silverman in about twenty years as she exited from a showing of “Dallas Buyers Club.” The picture stars Matthew McConaughey as an AIDS victim, circa 1985, who finesses an entrepreneurial way to battle the affliction. Too bad she and her moviegoing contingent didn’t wait to read my review. I might have saved them a buck.

 

The arrogant me, thankfully programmed for good boy mode, resisted running up to her and yelling, “Well, what’d you expect? Didn’t you at least read a synopsis, let alone a critique?”

 

If she had, rather than just traipsing into any old movie house and seeing whatever film happened to be showing, the elder Mrs. Silverman would have known that director Jean-Marc Valée’s filmic adaptation based on a true story is a serious and edgy docudrama.   While obviously not our Sarah’s idea of uplifting, in its own context it is a heartening delve into the human condition. Alas, only a few yards away in each direction at the multiplex numerous comedies were just waiting to elevate our disgruntled patron of the arts. Better luck next time, ma’am, but here’s what you missed.

 

Striving for his first Oscar aided and abetted by a staggering, fifty-pound weight loss to give him that Stanislavski look and feel, Mr. McConaughey is stellar as Ron Woodroof, electrician and part-time rodeo cowboy. Hard-living, devil-may-care, homophobic and the poster fool for unprotected sex, his lifestyle inevitably lands him in the hospital and provides for a rude awakening. Says the doc, ‘You’ve got thirty days.’

 

At first in complete denial, his smarts and common sense heretofore clouded by Bacchanalian imprudence soon spool-up for a last ditch attempt at survival. He proves quite a resourceful dude, and we can imagine a 2nd grade teacher lamentingly telling his parents, “If only Ronnie would apply himself.”

 

He quickly learns that AZT is being touted as the panacea. But that means getting into a trial at the hospital, and being lucky enough to avoid the placebo group. He goes the black market route.

 

So welcome to the world of modern medicine: sometimes well-intentioned, misconceived, brilliant, humanitarian, profit-motivated, charitable, greedy, and currently hamstrung by its unholy alliance with Big Pharma and anyone with enough money to open a health insurance company. Taking a crash course in the shameful morass, Ron becomes an Alice in Quackery Land as he researches with the indefatigable zeal of an Edison.

 

Be apprised, I’m always flabbergasted when someone opines that, of course, there is a cure for cancer, just as there is a motor that runs on water. Yeah, they killed the inventors and are keeping it a secret so as to prolong the Golden Goose’s life. Folks prefer almost anything to the horrible truth.

 

Fact is, as “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly so keenly observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Indeed, it is the conflicting goals of humans and societies that prevent us from the altruism we fantasize would make Nirvana possible.

 

People, both naughty and nice, in attempting to get by, don’t always do it with the sort of panache that might make their mothers proud. All of which sets the stage — whether on the medical front, politics, etc. — for the perennial battle between the forces of good and evil.

 

Bear in mind, 25 years since Ron’s travail, we still live in a country where no discernible majority believes health care is a right. Yep, many favor the EMH (Every Man for Himself) solution.

 

Of course it’s not all black and white, and so, with the clock ticking, Ron must navigate through the gray area that surrounds this latest commercial opportunity born of crisis and human suffering. Next stop, Mexico, where Dr. Vas (Griffin Dunne) — well, he was a doctor — has developed his own protocol. Neither the medical establishment nor the FDA is going to like this.

 

Telling you any more of the plot would ruin the atmospherically recollective landscape and how it intertwines with the discoveries Ron makes whilst struggling for his life. Suffice it to note, while still not forsaking his trashy behavior and bigoted beliefs, he does experience an epiphany or two. Particularly fascinating is his unlikely business partnership/friendship with Rayon, Jared Leto’s nomination-worthy gay transvestite.

 

The result is a moving and historically educative experience. Despite what one might personally think about Woodroof, we must heartily cheer this determined explorer. Awash in the dark seas of ignorance that prevailed as the AIDS epidemic first reared its ugly, perplexing horrors, he fights the good fight.

 

Therefore, begging to differ with the older Mrs. Silverman, it’s precisely this sort of unconventional ode to the human spirit that makes “Dallas Buyers Club” a smart and, yes, uplifting movie purchase.

“Dallas Buyers Club,” rated R, is a Focus Features release directed by Jean-Marc Valée and stars Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. Running time: 117 minutes

 

Photos: CVU/SB girls hockey

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Photos by Al Frey

Photos by Al Frey

CVU Women's_119 Hockey 12-4-13 CVU Women's_121 Hockey 12-4-13 CVU Women's_139 Hockey 12-4-13 CVU Women's_140 Hockey 12-4-13 CVU Women's_166 Hockey 12-4-13 CVU Women's_173 Hockey 12-4-13