November 28, 2014

Football coach hangs up clipboard


By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent
When the Champlain Valley Union High football team opens the 2015 season, there will be a new coach in charge for the fourth time in the program’s 10-year history.
Jim Provost recently announced that he is putting away his clipboard and whistle after seven years as the chieftain of the gridiron Redhawks and, before that, 20 seasons at Rice Memorial High.
“I had been thinking about it (leaving the position) for a while so I can devote more time to my business (Moonlight Entertainment) and family,” Provost said Friday.
CVU athletic director Kevin Riell said last week the search is on for a replacement and he would like to have the new skipper aboard soon. Applicants are asked to contact Riell at the high school.
Provost’s departure caught CVU football booster chairman Chris Farrington unawares. Farrington is also giving up his post after a few years.
“To be honest, I was surprised when I heard he (Provost) was out,” Farrington said via e-mail.
“There was a group of parents that were disgruntled this season (CVU 3-6 record) and several had spoken to me about it,” Farrington wrote. “CVU Boosters have nothing to do with coach selection (or replacement).”
He added that Riell might have been presented with a petition calling for Provost’s removal.
Riell was away this week and not available for comment.
Provost did not comment on the alleged petition.
“I did not know much about that at all,” he said Monday. “None of that was shared with me.”
“I hope CVU finds a replacement as enthusiastic and passionate about coaching as Jim is,” Farrington said. He noted that under Provost, the Redhawks have become one of the largest programs in the state and have done well in Division 1.
Provost said in looking back he is proud of the numbers of CVU players who have made the state’s North-South game and the Vermont Shrine team.
He also said the growth of the program from Division 3 and no playoff in his first year, then the rise through Division 2 and Division 1 and playoffs six straight seasons is a highlight.
“We didn’t want to become an automatic win for others,” he said of the rise to the top division.
Provost added that a growing difficulty in the sport is finding qualified assistant coaches.
“There is a lot more involved than many people think,” he said, adding that the coaches have to be ready for 3 p.m. practices every weekday, with additional hours for film work and strategy sessions beyond that.
“It is harder to find people to do the work,” he said.
Provost believes he is leaving the program “in good shape’” and the 2015 edition will be a team to contend with, especially if players do their off-season training.
He said that continuing the annual summer football camp for youthful players will be up to his successor.
The program got its start 10 years ago under Jay Michaud, who led the cause to establish varsity football at CVU. After two year at the club level, the varsity program hit the gridiron in 2005 in Division 4 and made the playoffs.
Michaud coached again in 2006 and then left. He was replaced by Charlie Burnett, who departed after one year—and a playoff—to take over at Essex High, where he teaches. Provost was the new man after Burnett.

Budget season begins for Williston schools


By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
The Williston School Board got its first look at its baseline budget for the 2015-16 school year during a Nov. 20 budget meeting.
Following the numbers this year is a little tricky.
According to state law, special education services—typically a major chunk of school spending, but also a source of revenue—have been consolidated at the supervisory union level. Costs are then allocated to schools under the Chittenden South Supervisory Union umbrella. Although the expenditures have moved to a different spot in the budget, they remain similar to last year’s costs.
The baseline budget—the amount required to open the doors for the next school year, with no changes in staffing or programs—is projected to increase by approximately $123,000, or 0.71 percent, to $17,376,728. But that number is misleading, since the special education consolidation means federal special education revenue will go to the supervisory union rather than Williston, said Bob Mason, chief operations officer for Chittenden South Supervisory Union. That leaves Williston with approximately $100,000 less in estimated revenue than in the 2014-15 school year.
At its Nov. 20 meeting, the board ran through a preliminary look at the numbers—getting its community member helpers, known as budget buddies, up to speed on the process. It will get into the real work of crafting a budget in December and January before finalizing a proposal in mid-January. Residents will vote on the budget on Town Meeting Day in March.
“It’s one of the primary reasons we exist as a board, to craft a budget we feel gives our kids the best possible education that we as group feel we can afford and the voters will approve,” School Board Chairman Kevin Mara said.
Most of the increases come from jumps in salaries and benefits, typically part of scheduled raises built into contracts.
“There’s not a lot of significant changes, other than the salary and benefits,” Mason said.
In the 2015-2016 school year, salaries are contractually set to increase by 3.25 percent, and health care benefits by between 5 and 10 percent.
On Nov. 20, Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli gave the board and budget buddies a picture of what Williston schools offer students.
“It is very hard to capture everything that Williston offers,” he said,
Nardelli described some of the newer programs the school district has implemented, many of which aim to provide opportunities for students of lower socio-economic backgrounds—16 percent of students at the school.
He also presented some preliminary ideas for the next school year, though all the numbers presented to the board are extremely early and likely to change.
Enrollment estimates predict a bump in kindergarteners coming to Allen Brook School next year, and the school administration is looking at reconfiguring staff to have an additional kindergarten teacher next year.
It is unlikely the school will hire a new kindergarten teacher, though, Nardelli said.
“We move resources. That’s what we do, we move people around to take care of the numbers if we can,” he said. “We’re looking at class size all the time.”
The board is set to meet to discuss the budget again on Dec. 11.

Marauding insects headed for Williston

Experts expect the emerald ash borer to arrive in Vermont in the next several years, devastating the state’s ash trees.

Experts expect the emerald ash borer to arrive in Vermont in the next several years, devastating the state’s ash trees.

Emerald ash borer could kill half of street trees
By Greg Elias
Observer correspondent
Aliens are coming to Williston.
Metallic-green beetles will arrive from out of state, perhaps on a truck full of firewood. They will find home in the town’s many ash trees, munching leaves and mating. Females will lay eggs in the bark.
When larvae hatch, the destruction begins. They feed on tissue that carries water and nutrients, killing the tree from the top down. Then the grown beetles chew D-shaped holes through the bark and fly away, renewing the circle of insect life and tree death.
Emerald ash borers originated in Asia, not outer space. But their destructive power over the millions of ash trees that line streets and carpet forests in the U.S. is akin to flying saucers filled with hostile aliens.
The coming infestation will hit Williston hard. Nearly half of street trees are ash, according to a town survey conducted last summer. In some neighborhoods, more than 90 percent are ash.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive species that has no natural predators in this country. It was first discovered in 2002 in Michigan and has since spread to 21 states and Canada. The insect has killed as many as 200 million ash trees in the U.S.
Forestry experts say it is only a matter of when, not if, the insect arrives in Vermont. The state is surrounded: The beetle has been found in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Quebec.
“We are actively looking but we have not found them yet,” said Danielle Fitzko, manager of the state’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. “We expect them to come to Vermont in the next couple of years.”
The Williston Selectboard learned how the infestation would impact the town during its Nov. 17 meeting. Gary Hawley of the town’s Conservation Commission outlined the scope of potential damage and suggested ways to cope with the problem.
The survey conducted for the Planning and Zoning Department found that of about 1,000 street trees in Williston, 43 percent were ash. Of particular concern is the land around the library, where the six largest ash trees in town grow.
More alarming, some neighborhoods have much heavier concentrations of the tree. For example, the survey found that 99 percent of Wildflower Circle’s 100-plus trees are ash. Harvest Lane is lined with 134 ash trees, 93 percent of its total.
Even Maple Tree Place has 39 ash trees, almost half of the total at the shopping center. By comparison, ash comprises 7-10 percent of all trees in Vermont.
“Williston is a classic example” of why it is a bad idea to plant too many of one type of tree, Fitzko said, noting developers favor ashes because they are normally a hardy species.
“But they have learned their lesson,” she said. Williston in 2008 banned the planting of new ash trees.
Expensive battle looms
Hawley told the Selectboard that there was little the town could do to prevent the infestation. He instead recommended a plan to cope with the damage.
“Because we don’t want to find all of a sudden 50 percent of our street trees are dead. It’ll look terrible, particularly in those neighborhoods where 90 percent of the trees are ash.”
Williston should devise a plan that covers at least 15 years, Hawley said. A committee could be formed to guide planning.
The town could elect to proactively cut down ash trees, but he said it should wait until the insect is evident. A better approach would be to start planting new trees between ash trees in areas with high concentrations of the species.
“If we could develop a plan where we could plant smaller trees earlier and let them grow up before we cut down the ash trees, it would be cheaper,” Hawley said. Pesticides, though expensive, could be used selectively, perhaps to preserve the library’s ash trees.
He also told the Selectboard about efforts to combat the ash borer in other states. Many things have been tried, he said, including wasps that prey on the larvae and clear-cutting forests to create buffer zones. But he said each of those methods has side effects or limited effectiveness.
Cutting down a tenth of the ash trees in Williston could cost the town around $10,000 each year for more than a decade, he said. It could then run well into six figures to replant all those trees.
Hawley suggested the town budget money in the coming fiscal year to pay for planning and possibly begin planting. He said Williston should remove a percentage of the ash trees each year over a decade or more.
Preparing for invasion
The state has enlisted about 150 volunteers to be on the lookout for the emerald ash borer and launched a website that solicits reports from citizens.
Fitzko said the beetle is not easy to spot. Aside from the tough-to-find exit holes and the beetles themselves, which are about a half-inch long, the other telltale signs are woodpeckers massing around a tree or the loss of leaves.
The insect is capable of flying up to a half-mile, but it mainly spreads by either hitching rides on logs or in nursery stock. The federal government has imposed quarantines on affected states.
Vermont has over the past few years used thousands of purple traps to detect the emerald ash borer. Fitzko said the state now has shifted to monitoring “trash trees” that are damaged or in decline, which the insect prefers to inhabit.
So Vermont awaits the insect. The emerald ash borer’s arrival and the subsequent death of many of the state’s estimated 160 million ash trees may be inevitable, but Fitzko said there’s still a chance to minimize the damage
She said there might be a way to slow the infestation long enough for trees to develop a resistance or for researchers to discover a way to eradicate the beetle.
“We haven’t lost hope yet,” she said.
For more information on the emerald ash borer and other invasive pests, or to report a suspected sighting of the beetle, visit

POPCORN: “Interstellar” Relatively Far Out



Relatively Far Out

3 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer


I contemplated the critiquing task that lay ahead with trepidation. Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” taking us once more into the breach of apocalyptic rumination and adventure, boasted a daunting length of 169 minutes. That’s 2.81 human hours. I feared I’d be an old man when I exited…the world will have changed; no one would know me, nor I them. But then this is what I signed up for when I took the hypocritical oath at Olde Ivy Film Criticism College. Maybe I’d bring hot dogs, Sterno, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes. [Read more...]

PHOTOS: First snow in Williston



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Recipe Corner: New recipes for Thanksgiving


By Ginger Isham

This is a special year for our family. We have much to be thankful for, as everyone has good health. I would love to hug all the doctors who perform miracles on the human body so we can have our loved ones with us. To new life and new recipes I have yet to make for my family.

Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie
1 baked gingersnap pie crust for 9 inch pie (or other kind)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
8 ounces soft cream cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
Pulse sugar and ginger in food processor until chopped fine, add cream cheese and pulse until smooth. Add eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg and salt and pulse just until combined. Save 2/3 cup.
Whisk together remaining cheese mixture and pumpkin. Pour this mixture into pie crust. Stir the reserved cream cheese mix and drizzle decoratively over top of that in pie dish. Swirl with back of spoon. Place on baking sheet and put in 350-degree oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
May cool two hours, chill at least four hours. Cover loosely with foil. Can be chilled up to 3 days. [Read more...]

Savvy Senior: Help quitting smoking


By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can Medicare help me quit smoking? I just turned 65 and would like to quit but need some help.
—Coughing Connie

Dear Connie,
Yes, Medicare actually covers up to eight face-to-face counseling sessions a year to help beneficiaries quit smoking. And, if you have a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, certain smoking-cessation medications are covered, too. Here are some other tips that can help you kick the habit. [Read more...]

HUB Happenings


The Coburn Agency celebrates new leadership

Michael Coburn

Michael Coburn

Michael Coburn
Allstate Insurance Company announced that Michael Coburn has assumed ownership of The Coburn Agency of Williston. Coburn, son of original agency owner, John Coburn, has been working in the agency for more than eight years.
“The agency is owned and operated by a familyand customers tell us that we make them feel like family, too,” Coburn said.
Nicole Malon Joins KW Vermont Realty
Nicole Malon, who has more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience, recently joined KW Vermont Realty.
An active member of the Williston community, Malon currently serves as a physician outreach volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and she volunteers for the Williston Food Shelf. [Read more...]

Nominations sought for Vt. small business awards


The Small Business Administration Vermont District Office is accepting nominations for its annual small business awards. Previous Vermont winners include Ben and Jerry’s, Switchback Brewing Company and Vermont Teddy Bear Company. The categories are as follows:
Small Business Person of the Year
Individual or partners who own a small business which has increased sales, profits and employees and been in business for three years.
Exporting Small Business of the Year
Small business which has increased sales, profits and/or employees due to exporting and been in business for three years.
Family-Owned Small Business of the Year
Small business must be family-owned for at least 15 years and ownership has transitioned to another generation.
Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year
Small business at least 51 percent owned by a veteran of U.S. armed forces, which has been in business for three years.
Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year
Small business at least 51 percent owned by a woman, which has been in business for three years.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Individual or partners who own a small business, are under 35 and have been in business for three years.
Microenterprise of the Year
Individual or partners who own a microenterprise with five or less employees, received SBA assistance and have been in business for three years.
The nomination deadline is Dec. 9.
To nominate a Vermont small business, email [email protected] the company’s name, owner’s name and award category. Businesses may self-nominate.

For more information, email [email protected] or call 828-4422.

WageWorks opens Williston office


Observer staff report
Dozens of employees have finished moving into their new office space in Maple Tree Place this week.
WageWorks, Inc., which administers consumer-directed benefits, relocated its Choice Strategies division from Waterbury Center to Williston. The company was set to host a ribbon cutting ceremony and luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the new office, located at 28 Walnut Street, Suite 250. [Read more...]