January 24, 2018

Good News Garage seeks December donations

Erika Paine said having a car was the last piece of the puzzle for her to feel like an ‘independent, contributing member of society.’ (Observer courtesy photo)

Erika Paine said having a car was the last piece of the puzzle for her to feel like an ‘independent, contributing member of society.’ (Observer courtesy photo)

Williston drop-off site Dec. 29-31
Good News Garage is looking for car donations during the last few days of December. All vehicle donations to Good News Garage are tax deductible, up to fair market value if the vehicle is awarded to a family. All donations made by Dec. 31 are eligible for tax year 2015, and Good News Garage will accept any vehicle – running or not.
Good News Garage has set a December donation challenge of receiving 275 vehicles by Dec. 31. That’s a 7 percent increase over last year. All donations directly benefit local families who are working to move towards economic independence. In 2014, Good News Garage awarded 214 vehicles to those in need; people like Erika Paine who received a 2003 Subaru Forester in October.
“Having my own car has made such a difference for me and my daughter,” Paine said. “I’m getting a promotion at work because I was able to drive to training in Boston. Now I’m able to work 40 hours a week, because I don’t have to rely on public transportation or friends or family for rides. I hope people realize how much their unwanted car helps. Having my own car is the last piece of the puzzle for me to feel like an independent, contributing member of society.”
In addition to accepting vehicles at its office at 331 North Winooski Avenue in Burlington, Good News Garage will also be accepting vehicles at Hirchak’s Auction House at 298 James Brown Drive in Williston Tuesday, Dec. 29 through Thursday, Dec. 31. On Dec. 29 and 30, Good News Garage will be open extended hours for people to drop off their vehicles.
“This is a busy time of year for everyone. We wanted to make it even easier for folks to donate and to support Good News Garage,” said Bob Buckley, GNG director of operations. “Setting up right at the auction house means that individuals can just drive up and drop off their vehicles.”
Drop-off Days hours at Hirchak’s will be Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 29 and 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Drop-off hours at the Burlington office, which is located at 331 North Winooski Avenue, will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 29 and 30. Drop-off hours for Thursday, Dec. 31 will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at both locations. Snacks and drinks will be available, and all donors will be entered in a raffle to win prizes including a repair package gift certificate from the Good News Garage, and gift certificates to restaurants, including Bluebird Barbeque, and other retailers.
Vehicle donations can also be made online at www.goodnewsgarage.org or by calling toll-free 877-GIVE-AUTO (877-448-3288). Good News Garage accepts all vehicles—any make, model and age—running or not including cars, trucks, van, luxury vehicles, campers and RVs, boats and jet skis (with trailers), motorcycles and mopeds, golf carts and scooters, riding lawnmowers and antique and specialty vehicles. Donated luxury and specialty vehicles or cars that are too costly to repair are sold at auction with the proceeds funding repairs on other more suitable cars.

Library Notes

All programs are free. Call 878-4918 for information or to register. Children ages 8 and younger must be accompanied by an adult while at the library. You can find more information at williston.lib.vt.us.

Youth News
Snowflake Suncatchers
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 3:30 p.m. Make a sparkling window decoration. K & up. Pre-register.
Food For Thought Library Volunteers
Thursday, Jan. 7, 4-5 p.m. Gr. 7-12 Teen Advisory Group. Pizza, discussion, and library projects for teens. New members welcome.
Toy Hacking
Monday, Jan. 11, 3 p.m. Take apart electronic toys and make something new! Gr. 3-8. Pre-register. New members welcome.
Pajama Story Time
Monday, Jan. 11, 6:30 p.m. Bring kids in PJs with their favorite stuffed animal for stories with Abby Klein, a craft and a bedtime snack. Presented by Building Bright Futures. Free.
Read to Van Gogh the Cat
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Call 878-4918 to pre-register for 10 minute reading sessions. All ages.
Read to a Dog
Tuesdays, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Starts Jan. 19. Bring a book and read to one of our Therapy Dogs of Vermont. All ages. Call 878-4918 to pre-register for individual sessions.
Preschool Music
Mondays, 11 a.m. with Peter Alsen & Thursdays,10:30 a.m. with Marcie Hernandez (except Jan. 18 – Library closed). For children up to age 5 with a caregiver. No pre-registration. Limit one session per week per family.
Thursday Playtime
Thursdays, 11 a.m. -12 noon. Children birth to age 5 and their caregivers are invited for an informal play time following our Preschool Music program. Sponsored by Building Bright Futures.
Story Time
Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Starts Jan. 5. Preschoolers are introduced to a variety of books and authors while gaining early literacy skills. Includes a simple craft activity.
Spanish Musical Playgroup
Saturday, Jan. 16, 10:30 a.m. Spanish rhymes, books, and songs with Constancia. For children birth to age 5. Includes a craft activity and snack. Non Spanish-speakers welcome. Includes playtime and snack. Sponsored by Building Bright Futures.
Preschool Yoga with Danielle
Friday, Jan. 22, 10:30 a.m. Simple yoga poses, stories and songs for children birth to age 5 and their caregivers. No pre-registration.
Make It! Kinetic Sand
Monday, Jan. 25, 3:30 p.m. Find out how to make reusable sand for sculpting and creating. Presented by Food for Thought Teen Group. Gr. K & up. Pre-register at 878-4918.
Adult News
Shape and Share Life Stories
Monday, Jan. 11, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Learn to craft stories from life experiences. Led by Recille Hamrell.
Gentle Yoga with Jill Lang
Wednesdays, Dec. 23 and 30, and Monday, Dec. 28 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Bring your own mat.
Brown Bag Book Club
Friday, Jan. 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Meet others who love to discuss books. This month we will discuss “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. Books available at the front desk. Beverages and dessert provided.

New in Adult Fiction
“Secret Sisters” by Jayne Ann Krentz. New York Times bestselling author Krentz returns with the tale of two girls who were as close as sisters and the decades-old secret that has come back to haunt them.

New in Adult Non-Fiction
“Historic Crimes and Justice in Burlington, Vermont” by Jeffrey Beerworth. Burlington police officer Beerworth delves into the history of the city’s police force and takes a behind-the-scenes look at some of its most notorious crimes.

New in Adult Series
on DVD
“Indian Summers”
“Mad Men,” the final season, part 2
The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library is located at 21 Library Lane in Williston, and can be reached at 878-4918. All events are free. www.williston.lib.vt.us

Letter to the Editor

Senate update
Last month I spoke with Vivian Lee, a woman with a movie star name and rock star performance. The CEO of University of Utah Health Care, her accomplishments should serve as a model for Vermont.
When Dr. Lee became CEO, she asked her executive team a basic question: do we know what it actually costs to provide services? This simple question elicited shrugs from her staff. The “sticker price” for medical procedures in Utah, like in Vermont, bore virtually no relationship to the actual costs to perform them.
Dr. Lee articulated a simple directive to her staff: determine the true costs of everything we do. Rolling up their sleeves in what she described as “the Utah way,” her staff sifted through the swamp of medical costs and emerged five months later with the true expenditures for every procedure at their medical center.
Was it worth it? Boy was it! Armed with true costs, physicians were, for the first time, able to see who the high spenders were and why. Actual expenditures were matched up to patient outcomes, reforming the way many physicians treated patients, improving public health while saving money.
Importantly, Dr. Lee was motivated by pressures just like those Vermont’s facing. Limited Medicaid funding, coupled with a move away from “fee-for-service,” required transparent cost data in order to smartly manage her hospital budget moving forward.
Here in Vermont, we’re rightly nurturing payment reforms to move us away from fee-for-service. But unless we know the true costs throughout the system, our hospital leaders will fly blindly as they make decisions on where and how to restrain spending. It’s my goal in the coming year to ensure payment reform and transparent pricing work in tandem to lower costs for Vermonters. Perhaps this once, as goes Utah, so should go Vermont!
State Senator Tim Ashe
Chittenden County

GUEST COLUMN: Vermont Stage hosts family photo competition

By Emily Ferro
In anticipation of its upcoming production of “Mothers and Sons,” Vermont Stage will host a photo competition.
“Mothers and Sons” is a Tony Award-nominated play written by Terrence McNally. It is a gripping drama that addresses change, reconciliation and what it means to be family. Cal and his husband Will have built a happy life together with their 7-year-old son. When the mother of Andre, Cal’s former lover, makes a surprise visit 20 years after her son’s untimely death, the past casts a shadow on their idyllic life. [Read more…]

Finishing first in film

heltz1

(From left) VCAM Executive Director Seth Mobley and the creative team behind the film ‘I am in here.’—Filmmaker/Director/Editor Jim Heltz of Green Mountain Video, Inc., Mark Utter and Producer and Co-Director Emily Anderson—met up at the VCAM studio in Burlington Dec. 10 to share in an award for the film. Heltz traveled to Connecticut Nov. 21 for the Alliance for Community Media-Northeast Region’s 17th Annual Video Festival, where he accepted the first place award in the Arts and Theater category for the film, a fictional account of a day in the life of Mark Utter. Utter was born with a form of autism that leaves him unable to say what he wants. ‘I am in here.’ highlights Utter’s communication challenges throughout a typical day. (Observer courtesy photo by Shaunese Crawford)

Playwriting and props hand in hand for Mease

A Williston native working in theater in New York City is getting recognized.
Noah Mease was recently profiled in American Theatre magazine in a section called “Role Call: People to Watch,” which Mease said features those in the less-visible roles.
Mease drew attention for his work with props.
Mease, who studied playwriting while at Middlebury College and moved to New York in 2011, said prop design and playwriting seem connected to him.
“A lot of the skills of playwriting are the same as prop design,” he said. “You do a lot of research into a period and the characters…. Looking at a shelf full of weird objects and deciding which ones the character would own feels a lot like writing. It’s the same as trying to think of what they would say.”
Mease fell into prop design while working with a theater group he admired called the Debate Society. He asked if they needed an intern. They didn’t, but they did need a prop manager.
“I sort of dove in headfirst,” he said.
Mease just finished working as associate scenic designer on the play “Natasha, Pierre and the Comet of 1812,” which just opened at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. Next, he will begin work on a new show in New York, which opens Jan. 5.
Mease said he’s been lucky to work on prop design for shows in larger venues, and he is currently writing two plays. One of the plays involves a conversation between two people about a fictional comic book. During the play, the characters write and draw an issue of the comic book, which the audience then reads.
“It’s the idea of going to the theater and the idea of reading a book, and what’s different about those,” he said.
As his career moves forward, Mease said he hopes to be involved in both writing and set design.
“I’m hoping for a future that includes both of those things in a big way,” he said.
—Stephanie Choate,
Observer staff

Two cited after last week’s CVU bomb threat

Two Champlain Valley Union High students are facing court dates after a bomb threat caused an evacuation of the school last week.
A 17-year-old from Williston and a 14-year-old from Hinesburg have been given juvenile citations for raising a false public alarm, according to Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss.
Koss said the citation could bring a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and the  students will have to appear court. [Read more…]

Vermont Health Connect lets consumers compare out-of-pocket costs

By Erin Mansfield
For Vermont Digger
Vermont Health Connect has launched a tool that will allow Vermonters to compare how much different health care plans cost in a given year depending on how healthy they are.
The plan comparison tool is on VermontHealthConnect.gov and can be found by clicking “Try Our Decision Tools” on the bottom left-hand side of the website.
Customers can enter demographic information and find out how much a health care plan will cost them in a given year. The tool allows Vermonters to compare all out-of-pocket health care costs—including premiums, copays, co-insurance and deductibles. Most previous tools only allowed Vermonters to compare premium prices.
Users can also use the plan comparison tool for a dozen major medical procedures, such as childbirth, hysterectomy or spinal fusion surgery. The tool is designed to help consumers determine how much  money they might need to spend on health care in 2016.
“We are working to ensure that Vermonters have the information they need to find the right health plan,” Steven Costantino, the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said in a news release.
Costantino called the new rollout “a robust online tool for those who want to understand financial help and possible out-of-pockets costs from the comfort of their own living room or local library.”
Vermont is currently about halfway through open enrollment, which started Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. This is the annual period when anyone without insurance can buy a plan or anyone with insurance can make a change to an existing policy.
If Vermonters sign up for insurance between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15, people who buy insurance through Vermont Health Connect will be covered starting Feb. 1, 2016. If they sign up between Jan. 16 and Jan. 31, they will be covered starting March 1, 2016.

Culinary art meets nutrition in new e-book

cover art jpgBy Karen Sturtevant
Observer correspondent
Those battling life-threatening diseases like breast cancer have a new tool in their defensive lineup.
Registered dietitians and co-owners of Whole Health Nutrition Kimberly Evans, Abby Wadsworth and Leslie Langevin have collaborated with Chef Curtiss Hemm, owner of Pink Ribbon Cooking, to create new e-book “Breast Cancer Superfoods.” The book was designed for anyone fighting or working to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer through nutrition. Evans, a practicing dietitian for 27 years, views nutrition as “an upstream health intervention that speaks to the heart of preventive medicine.”
Working with diverse clients like those as young as 6, high level executives looking to fight fatigue and support cognitive function, athletes wanting to improve their sports performance and those managing chronic illness, Evans and her team found there was a gap between delivering good, solid nutritional information and getting it to the plate. Chef Curtiss Hemm, whose wife is a breast cancer survivor, brought his expertise to the project.
“Breast Cancer Superfoods” was created to help those touched by breast cancer to nurture their bodies though antioxidant-rich foods by making it easy and enjoyable to get cancer fighting foods on the plate and to the table.
“Curtiss was providing culinary resources. We were providing nutritional information, and together we created the bridge that gapped the chasm,” Evans said.
Peanut entrusted chicken, baked coconut shrimp with honey soy dipping sauce and cherry and almond granola with honey and sea salt are three of the more than 50 mouth-watering recipes found in the colorful 180 page e-book, published in November.
“We as dietitians said these are the foods where there is good clinic-supported research and these foods have a role in breast cancer survivorship, prevention management,” she said. “Curtiss designed the recipes around the foods we asked him to.
The e-book is organized by color, with in-depth information on the power of the nutritional profile and strengths of each superfood.
“There are some videos of culinary demonstrations with Chef Curtiss making things and Leslie and I interjecting why we chose certain foods and why they compliment each other,” Evans said. Key terms including phytonutrients, free radicals and cell mediated immunity are explained and quotes like, “Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food” and “Good food doesn’t have to be delivered on a silver spoon,” are peppered throughout the virtual pages.
Evans said nutrition is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, but she wanted to make sure the recipes were family-friendly.
“We wanted to use food the whole family would eat,” Evans said. “We didn’t want it to be clinical, but nurturing for the whole family.”
One of every eight women (about 12 percent) will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according the American Cancer Society, and it estimates that approximately 40,290 people will have died from breast cancer in 2015.
“It’s easy to see how this is a diagnosis that touches everyone or another, whether we’re managing our own risk for breast cancer based on genetics or concerned for a loved one, partner, a friend, a mother,” Evans said. “Unfortunately this is something I feel like most have been touched by in some way.”
For more information, visit www.breastcancersuperfoods.com.

Deep cuts ahead for schools

Tough budget decisions pending
By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
Williston school officials are facing sobering numbers as they work to put together a budget for the 2016-17 school year.
Due to state requirements, the Williston School Board must make deep cuts into its budget this year. The Board is considering everything from cutting teacher and support staff positions to eliminating busing for students who live close to the schools.
Act 46, an education law passed this summer intended to contain costs and equalize opportunity for students statewide, assigns spending limits to schools for this budget cycle. Part of the same act requires school districts to consider consolidation.
The Agency of Education determines an “allowable growth percentage” for each district, which the district must meet. If it doesn’t, tax penalties are levied.
Williston’s allowable growth percentage is 2.31 percent.
Since the Board last met, the figures have gotten worse. In order to meet its allowable growth percentage, Williston School District must cut $745,526 from its baseline budget—a 4.1 percent decrease.
Williston School Board Chairman Kevin Mara said Williston School District Principal Gregory Marino presented a list of recommendations for reducing the budget during the Board’s Monday night meeting.
“I think Greg has done a good job including as much of the team, really including teachers, in making these recommendations,” Mara said. “They’re not easy recommendations to make.”
The proposals include: eliminating one full-time elementary school teacher position; reducing physical education staff hours; reducing art teacher hours; eliminating the fifth grade world language program; reduction of technology equipment purchases; reducing support staff by a total of 4.4 full-time positions; reducing custodial staff and summer hours of office staff. Proposals also include a CSSU-level reduction of four full-time special education paraeducator positions in Williston schools and applying $152,000 from the fund balance as revenue.
More than 20 community members attended Monday’s meeting, and Mara said many of them were adamant that the fifth grade world language program remain.
“One thing we heard loud and clear from the majority of board members and community members is they really do not want to see world languages cut,” he said.
The program carries a cost of $38,000.
Mara said many of the cuts would make sense in a typical budget process, since Williston’s enrollment numbers are going down, and are projected to continue declining.
But some of the deeper cuts recommended in order to meet the state-mandated figure made Board members uncomfortable, he said, most notably the recommended application of $152,000 from the fund balance. While the Board typically uses some money from the fund balance each year to keep the tax rate down, Mara said that amount is “really cutting in.”
The transfer would leave fund balance at $328,000—lower than usual.
“We’re really worried about taking $152,000 out of our fund balance,” Mara said. “The risk to the community is higher for unforeseen circumstances.”
In addition, using money from the fund balance cuts into next year’s budget.
“It’s a great thing to do this year, but next year we start $152,000 in the hole in our baseline,” he said. “We’ll be in a worse position because we used a Band Aid to solve a problem.”
The Board is also looking at the possibility of eliminating busing for families living within 1.5 miles of the schools, reducing three bus runs and saving $84,000. While it wasn’t one of Marino’s recommendations, Mara said the board is not discounting the information.
“We don’t want to do it, but we’re keeping it on the table,” he said.
MOVING FORWARD
The mandated cuts would result in a substantial decrease to the town’s tax rate. While some of the figures are still in flux, a budget that meets the state’s allowable growth percentage requirements would mean a 3.78 percent decrease in Williston’s portion of the education tax rate.
Mara said that while the legislature may provide some relief when it convenes in January, the Board isn’t counting on it. It will work to meet the “line in the sand” drawn by the state, he said.
However, there may be another option. If schools don’t meet the required percentage, towns receive a tax penalty. But it’s possible that, even with a penalty, the district could propose a budget that results in a flat tax rate and makes fewer cuts.
“Maybe it makes some sense to not cut so deep,” he said. “The community might be willing to stay at a flat tax rate in order to keep some programs.”
Mara said the board does not have any reliable figures for that possibility yet. Once it has more information, it can decide whether that makes sense to propose to the community.
The Board’s next meeting is set for Jan. 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the school. During that meeting, the board is set to take action and vote on a budget proposal.
“Between now and then, there will be a lot of soul searching and talking with the community,” Mara said.
For more information, visit cssu.org/domain/71