July 19, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Thanks to rec coaches

We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the coaches of the Williston 5/6 Girls Rec Basketball Team for a successful season. In a climate where success is often measured by numbers in the win column, this success was based on something much more meaningful.

Due to an unexpected issue at the Recreation Department, the girls were left off the season’s game schedule. After speaking with parents and bearing the brunt of some dissatisfaction, these VOLUNTEER coaches worked on our girls’ behalf to schedule games outside the regular schedule. Because of this extra time and effort, and with help from the Williston Central School physical education teachers and members of the Recreation Department, the girls were able to play every weekend, either against another town or in a team scrimmage format. They separately secured refs for these games, and if they were unable, they officiated the games themselves.

We are most thankful that our Williston 5/6 coaches had the correct focus for this level of play. While teaching the fundamentals of the game and injecting strategy into the practices, they managed to inspire a love of the game amongst these girls. The players not only had fun, but learned to work together as a team. They were able to leave the season with not only their self-esteem intact, but with a deepened understanding of the game and a sparked interest in the sport. Our girls are all well positioned to take these skills to the next level, for hopefully an equally successful season next year.

Thank you Kathleen Ray, Lynn Reagan and Bob Miller. Your dedication to our girls is so very much appreciated.  We are quite lucky to have them on your team.

—Kelly & Matt DeSantos



Proposed budget

After having reviewed the proposed budget this year I have only one thing to say, and that is that spending in the town is out of control. I have far too many questions/issues with this budget than I can detail in this letter, but will be bringing them up at Town Meeting March 3.  In short, I believe that Williston has become very complacent relative to the fiscal process. There appears to be a lack of leadership in the process as the proposed spending increases on material line items range from 3 percent to 17 percent. In case the town bureaucracy isn’t aware we have been dealing with deflationary forces for the past five years, not inflationary pressures.

I sincerely hope that all the voters in Williston turn out on Meeting Day to send a loud message that the proposed budget is unacceptable. I am confident that the cumulative intellect of those that show up can, and will make a difference for the good of all that reside in the wonderful town of Williston.

— Tom Parker


Guest Column: Why we support Green Mountain Care

By Martha Allen

Many people may have been surprised and a little curious about the announcement last week that Vermont-NEA was backing the move toward universal, publicly funded health care. After all, the thinking goes, members of the state’s largest union already have comprehensive and affordable health insurance, so why on earth would they support Vermont’s efforts to become the first U.S. state to go down this road?

The answer, of course, is that the creation of Green Mountain Care is good for Vermonters. A universally available, comprehensive, fair and publicly funded health care package would serve all of us better than the private insurance system we have now. And, besides, my union has been a strong advocate and influential player in the health care reform movement since the 1990s.

We have long endorsed decoupling health coverage from employment, freeing workers and businesses from the burdens imposed by today’s piecemeal, often confusing patchwork of a system. Our history of advocacy and our health care principles demonstrate an abiding commitment to making access to affordable health care a right of every Vermonter.

We know that most of our members are satisfied with the health coverage they get through the Vermont Education Health Initiative, the unique and highly successful program jointly run by Vermont-NEA and the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust. For two decades, it has provided the kind of health care coverage and security that allows our members, their families and retirees to remain healthy and focus on other aspects of their lives.

Green Mountain Care can accomplish the same thing. Indeed, if done correctly, this publicly financed  program can extend quality care to all Vermonters. If done correctly, Green Mountain Care can ensure that all Vermonters, regardless of where they work or what they earn, will have comprehensive health coverage they can afford and never have to worry about losing.

Too often, I and my fellow members see what happens to children whose families are struggling: at low-wage jobs, in substandard housing and in providing enough food to eat. Too often, we see families who don’t have adequate health insurance, and we see children in those families worried about parents and relatives who are sick and lack health care. Too often, these children are struggling to keep up and learn along with their peers.

Vermont-NEA is proud to support Vermont Leads, and we have already pledged more than $100,000 to see that its advocacy for Green Mountain Care is dogged, effective and, ultimately, successful.

In their responses to a poll we commissioned, Vermonters overwhelmingly support the publicly financed health programs that already exist: Medicare, Dr. Dynasaur and Catamount Health. Vermonters also support the creation of Green Mountain Care, especially if it bars denial of service for pre-existing conditions, has reasonable co-payments and deductibles and if there were no annual or lifetime caps on benefits.

Many have said that Vermont can’t do this alone. But isn’t that always what we hear when committed leaders and people set out to change an unjust status quo?

Over the next two years, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something truly revolutionary about health care in Vermont. We understand the skepticism expressed by some, particularly given the rocky start of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. But we also understand that we must not allow momentum toward a universally available, comprehensive, fair and portable health benefit to stall.

Vermont-NEA’s members have been at the forefront of social justice issues for more than a century, and have done great work to ensure that working people and their families are treated fairly, compensated justly and allowed to live with dignity. We pledge to continue that great tradition and will not waver in our commitment to making sure Green Mountain Care brings comprehensive, affordable benefits for all of us.

Martha Allen, of Canaan, is a K-12 school librarian who is president of Vermont-NEA, the union of Vermont educators.


Around Town

Two appointed to town boards

Town boards will have some new blood after the Selectboard appointed two residents to vacant seats recently.

Keri Goldberg has joined the Recreation Committee. A seventh-generation Vermonter, she told the Selectboard on Feb. 3 that she was interested in volunteering and becoming more involved in the town. Her children are active in recreation programs, and she has coached ski, baseball and tennis teams.

On Feb. 18, the Selectboard appointed John Hemmelgarn to a seat on the Development Review Board. John Patzer was also interviewed for the position, and Town Manager Rick McGuire told the Observer the board had “a difficult choice.”

Hemmelgarn has been a Williston resident for 10 years, is an architect partner at Black River Design Architects in Montpelier and has presented projects to the DRB in the past, according to Selectboard meeting notes.

Kindergarten registration open

Local residents with children who will be 5 years old by Sept. 1 can attend Allen Brook School’s kindergarten registration, set for April 1, 2 and 3 at the school. Starting Feb. 20, parents can visit the school district’s website, wsdvt.org, and click on the link to set up an appointment or call 871-6200. Remember to bring a copy of your child’s current immunizations, birth certificate and proof of residency to your appointment.

Real estate market steady, mortgage rates competitive

‘Storm-free’ housing market for 2014

By Matt Sutkoski

Observer Correspondent

No, you didn’t miss your chance to buy a house in Vermont when mortgage interest rates hit rock bottom last year.

And no, you don’t have to scramble in 2014 too quickly to still get a reasonable mortgage, or a decently priced home. Just take a deep breath, say Vermont real estate and lending experts, and embrace the state’s relatively stable real estate market.

[Read more…]

Local couple finalists in military wedding contest

Ric Volp (left) and Williston native Sienna Fontaine are finalists in Vermont Weddings’ ‘Salute to Our Soldiers’ competition. (Observer courtesy photo)

Ric Volp (left) and Williston native Sienna Fontaine are finalists in Vermont Weddings’ ‘Salute to Our Soldiers’ competition. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent

Ric Volp and Sienna Fontaine want to get married.

A wedding can be expensive, but the couple is hoping to get a little bit of help. The pair is one of three finalists in a “Salute to our Soldiers” contest sponsored by Vermont Weddings, an online compendium of wedding planners, venues, caterers and more based in the Mad River Valley.

In 2012, Jackie Watson of Vermont Enchanted Events decided to sponsor a contest for a free wedding for a Vermont military couple. She enlisted the aid of Lorin Holmes, the owner of Vermont Weddings.

“There are so many people in the Guard who give up so much to defend our freedom and our country,” said Holmes. “We need to give them more than just a hug and a thank you for their support.”

In 2013, Vermont Weddings took over the contest, asking their vendors if they would be willing to help out. “Ninety-nine point nine percent said ‘absolutely,’” said Holmes. “The response we got was incredible.”

In 2013, judges sifted through the online submissions and awarded one lucky couple a wedding at the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden. This year, Holmes made some changes to the contest. Although judges winnowed down the 50-plus submissions to three finalists, the winner will be chosen through online voting. The second and third place finishers will also receive prizes. The grand prize winner gets a wedding at the Barn at Boyden Farms in Cambridge with catering from the Essex Resort and Spa while the second and third place winners will receive weekends at the Mountain Top Inn and Jay Peak, respectively.

“These are all stories of love and sacrifice,” said Holmes, noting that applications have been sent from as far as Texas, California and Florida. “It was hard to winnow it down to three.”

Fontaine was born in Williston and grew up on a dairy farm. A graduate of Champlain Valley Union High School, University of Vermont and Goddard College, she and Volp recently moved to Milton, though most of her family still lives in Williston. The couple met in the summer of 2012 when Volp returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He currently serves as a captain in the Vermont Army National Guard while working as a police officer in Burlington. The couple shares custody of Volp’s children from his previous marriage.

Fontaine is also a member of the Guard, having enlisted in 2013. An artist by training, she is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in social work at UVM so she can work with veterans. “I had always entertained the notion of joining the military since high school,” she said. “My parents wanted me to get an education first but I always returned to that option and it got to a point where I realized it was important to me and it was time to do it.”

She spent the summer of 2013 in South Carolina at Officer Candidate School.

Fontaine accepted Volp’s marriage proposal in November of 2013 at the conclusion of a four-hour drive, during which they stopped at all the places that had been meaningful to their relationship. The couple learned about the contest in a Guard newsletter and immediately applied. “It was definitely a joint project,” said Fontaine. “We’re very determined to always have each other’s input no matter what we’re doing.”

Volp found the application to be a good exercise in showing how much the couple has influenced each other. “My being in the military helped her decision to join,” he said “and her being in the military has given me a different perspective and allowed us to connect on a deeper level.”

Fontaine is impressed that so many local businesses have donated their time and services to the competition. “It’s an incredible showing of community support,” she said. She sees the contest as a gift to Volp for his service and the time he has spent away from his family.

Volp said he was amazed by the reactions to their application. “It’s hard for people to realize what an impact the military has on families,” he said “so it’s a good feeling to get that ‘thank you’ back. It’s been incredible to see what kind of support we have from family and friends and people we haven’t even met who read our story and were moved by it.”

Voting is online at vermontweddings.com/contests/2014-salute-to-our-soldiers. The winners will be notified on March 15.

Girls shoot for championship

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

If it’s March, it must be the Champlain Valley Union High and Rice Memorial High version of girls hoop hoedowns.

The two Division 1 powers will meet for the title for a fourth straight year Saturday (2:30 p.m.) at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium.

Coach Ute Otley’s 23-0 Redhawks will be seeking a second straight championship and their 47th straight victory over the past two campaigns. Rice had captured two titles in a row before CVU interrupted with a crowning triumph a year ago.

The two finalists have three days to prepare for the test on Saturday. It’s not as if the players are not familiar with each other.

The Redhawks tripped Rice twice during the regular season. They rapped the Green Knights 52-32 at Bremner Gymnasium in December and then scored a 59-49 victory at Rice in late January after trailing by four points with some three minutes remaining  in the game. It was as close as any team has come to the Redhawks this winter.

The stage for the final was set Tuesday night in the Patrick Gym semifinals, when the Redhawks brushed past a spunky Colchester High squad 62-43 after Rice had taken care of business against Mount Anthony Union High of Bennington, 47-34.

Colchester, which finishes at 18-5 after its second semifinal appearance in three years, gave CVU some tense moments in the third period after the Redhawks had moved out to as much as a 17-point lead, thanks in large part to senior guard Kaelyn Kohlasch’s scorching of the strings (23 points on eight-of-14 shooting, including five treys).

The Lakers were cluttering the inside areas near the CVU basket with their zone defense, but CVU’s patient passing created overshifts and open shots for Kohlasch, who made them pay.

With the Redhawks up by an apparently comfortable 44-29 count, Colchester center Jackie Nagle hit a layup with three minutes and 38 seconds left in the reel. About a minute later, Nagel (16 points, 6 rebounds), drained a trey and the Lakers followers came to life.

A missed CVU shot plus turnovers and Colchester added two more baskets and the Lakers were within a mere six points (44-38) of the frontrunners with their rooters in the stands going bollywonkers.

Otley took a time out with 1:54 remaining in the quarter.

When play resumed, it was Kinneston Time.

The Redhawks veteran senior creator of many things good (and trouble for opponents) immediately stopped the Laker onslaught with a jumper in the key, assist to Sadie Otley. Moments later, after a Colchester turnover, Kinneston passed the ball inside to a free Laurel Jaunich (11 points, 6 rebounds) to restore CVU to a 10-point advantage.

Kinneston then blocked a Colchester rebound shot after a missed three-point try.

For the game, Amazin’ Emily had 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a pair of steals.

The crisis ended when the Redhawks outpointed Colchester 14-5 in the closing stanza.

The tall Nagle was solid for Colchester and sidekick Pearl Abiti pitched in with 12 points and eight rebounds.

“She (Nagle) is big,” said CVU forward Amanda Lougee who came off the bench to add 10 points and five rebounds with starting forward Amanda Beatty (4 points, 5 rebounds) in foul trouble.

It will be the fifth title appearance in seven years for CVU, which is 14-4 in semifinals.



Twice on the road to Patrick Gymnasium and the Division 1 Semifinals, the Champlain Union High girls basketball team knocked off foes for the third time this season.

CVU bumped off neighboring Essex High 55-34 Saturday afternoon after opening the second season with an easy 56-14 bopping of 16th-seeded North Country Union a week ago Wednesday.

Though they had fallen 49-34 and 50-24 in their previous meetings with the Division 1 top seeds, the Hornets did not go quietly even as the Redhawks recovered first from early frostbite of the shooting hands that chilled both teams.

It was more than three minutes into the game that CVU broke a scoreless tie on a layup by Kinneston (11 points, 9 rebounds. 3 steals). The Hawks had bricked their first four shots, but hit four of their next eight for a 10-0 lead at the quarter. Essex went zip-for nine in the stanza.

CVU got its offensive game going in the second reel, Beatty and Kohlasch combining for 11 points, and rolled out to a 38-17 advantage with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

The Hornets then rose from the expired as center Kara Sheftic hit a turn-around shot in the key and forward Mychaela Harton buried a trey and followed with an old fashioned combination layup and free throw to cut CVU’s lead to 13 points and give sudden life to the Essex cause.

Essex, with the Redhawks back on their heels, got within 41-31 with about five minutes left in the game. CVU recovered with a seven-point run to finish it.

Harton and Sheftic had 10 points each to pace the 14-8 Hornets.

CVU’s stat sheets were once again a tale of balance. Center Jaunich had nine points and six assists, Kohlasch had nine points and three rebounds while guard Otley was all active all the time with four points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

Jenna Brassard and Caitlin Grasso each had four points in reserve roles.

Ten players scored for CVU in the win over North Country as the Redhawks rumbled to a 31-3 lead by halftime and cruised the remainder of the way.

Jaunich led with 14 points and seven rebounds while Kinneston tossed in 13 points and Lougee had eight.

Budgets and bonds on ballot

Bill Skiff (center) holds the 250th Williston Town Report, which is dedicated to him and was presented at the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club meeting by Town Manager Rick McGuire and Town Clerk Deb Beckett. In addition to playing Thomas Chittenden and serving as Bicentennial Committee Chair for the 250th celebration last year, Skiff was Williston’s representative to the Lake Iroquois Committee for nine years and a Justice of the Peace for 18 years. He is also a founding member of the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club. (Observer courtesy photo)

Bill Skiff (center) holds the 250th Williston Town Report, which is dedicated to him and was presented at the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club meeting by Town Manager Rick McGuire and Town Clerk Deb Beckett. In addition to playing Thomas Chittenden and serving as Bicentennial Committee Chair for the 250th celebration last year, Skiff was Williston’s representative to the Lake Iroquois Committee for nine years and a Justice of the Peace for 18 years. He is also a founding member of the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club. (Observer courtesy photo)

Observer staff report

Residents can weigh in on town and school budgets Tuesday on Town Meeting Day.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Armory. Early voting and absentee ballots are available at the Town Hall until 4:30 p.m. on March 3.

Residents can also gather information about the budgets and candidates at the annual Town Meeting, set for 7 p.m. at the Williston Central School auditorium.

While the town, Williston School District and Champlain Valley Union High School budgets were pared back from original proposals, all will result in increases to the tax rate.

Voters will be asked to approve a $9.8 million municipal budget, which would result in a projected 2-cent property tax increase. Half of the tax increase comes from payments totaling $400,000 on a new public works facility, approved by voters last March.

The budget would result in a tax rate of 27 cents, meaning the owner of a $300,000 home will pay $810 in municipal taxes.

The Williston School Board on Jan. 16 approved a budget proposal of $17.25 million—approximately the same as last year. The board settled on the figure after approving nearly $300,000 in cuts from its adjusted baseline budget.

The Champlain Valley Union High School Board will ask voters to approve a 2014-2015 budget of $22.4 million, a 1.65 increase over the current budget. The board was initially presented with a 3.56 percent increase in its baseline budget.

Voters will also be asked to approve $140,000 in bonds for paving at Allen Brook and Williston Central schools, as well as $107,000 to purchase one school bus for the Williston School District and $178,000 for two school buses for Champlain Valley Union High School.

Despite the flat Williston budget and trimmed increase in the CVU budget, the property tax rate is still set to increase by approximately 6.8 percent, according to the latest estimate provided by Bob Mason, Chittenden South Supervisory Union chief operations officer. The estimated increase is largely due to a recommended 7-cent increase in the state’s base homestead tax rate.

The total estimated homestead education tax rate, which includes the Williston School District spending and Williston’s portion of the CVU budget, would be $1.56 per $100 of value—up approximately 10 cents from last year’s rate.

That would mean a total estimated tax bill of $1.83 per $100 of value—$5,490 for the owner of a $300,000 home.

The rate is still subject to change—the town sets the municipal tax rate in June and the legislature will decide on the state’s base homestead tax rate in the summer.

Not all taxpayers pay the same rate, however. Homeowners who earn less then $92,000 are eligible for reductions to their property tax bills through the state’s income sensitivity program. Approximately 53 percent of Williston’s parcels receive tax credits, according to Town Clerk Deb Beckett.

Voters will also be asked to authorize the Champlain Water District Board of Commissioners to borrow up to $2.775 million for a 20-year bond to replace and upgrade a regional water storage tank and water line.

Only town water users would see an impact on their water rate, totaling $1.54 per year for the average family.

Along with municipal and school budgets and a Champlain Water District bond, voters will head to the polls on March 4 to elect representatives to several boards and positions.

The following positions will be on the ballot, and all candidates are running unopposed.

Champlain Water, three-year term, incumbent Joe Duncan

First Constable, one-year term, no petition filed

Library Trustee, five-year term, incumbent Karla Karstens

Library Trustee, five-year term, incumbent Kristin Caterer

Lister, three-year term, no petition filed

Selectboard, two-year term, incumbent Chris Roy

Selectboard, three-year term, incumbent Debbie Ingram

Town Clerk, three-year term, incumbent Deb Beckett

Town Treasurer, three-year term, incumbent Deb Beckett

Williston School District Board, three-year term, incumbent Joshua Diamond

Williston School District Board, two-year term, incumbent Giovanna Boggero

CVU School Director, three-year term, incumbent David Rath

Photos: CVU boys hockey

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Photos: Sledding

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Recipe Corner: Easy fish dishes

By Ginger Isham

Fish dishes are quick to prepare, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and yet are low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. If you are looking for new recipes to warm the body, try the following:


Mexican oven-fried haddock with sauce

1 pound skinless haddock fillets 3/4 inch thick—or cod

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 cup fine crushed tortilla chips, plain

Place fillets in well-oiled baking dish, tucking thin edges underneath. Melt butter and add chili powder and brush on top of fillets. Pat crushed chips on top so will stick. Bake in 450-degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Serve with sauce.


Green chili sauce

1 can (14 ounce) sodium free tomatoes, drained

1 can (4 ounce) whole green chili peppers, drained

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 or 3 dashes of hot pepper sauce (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend for about 5 seconds until still chunky. Spoon warmed over fish.


Spicy hot filets

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds haddock, cod or other firm-textured fish

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

Combine first six ingredients and salt and pepper. Dip fish pieces into flour mixture. Melt half of butter and oil in skillet. Add half of fish pieces in single layer and fry over medium heat until golden brown for 5-8 minutes, turning once. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. Add rest of butter and oil and repeat with other fish pieces.


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