August 29, 2015

The Hub: PULSE Cycling/Studio opens in Blair Park

Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck Nicole and Hans Dyhrman recently opened PULSE Cycling / Studio in Blair Park. The studio aims to bring motivational and fun cyling classes to riders of all levels of experience.

Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck
Nicole and Hans Dyhrman recently opened PULSE Cycling / Studio in Blair Park. The studio aims to bring motivational and fun cyling classes to riders of all levels of experience.

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent

There’s a new way to get in shape in Williston. The husband-wife team of Hans and Nicole Dyhrman have just opened PULSE Cycling / Studio in Blair Park.

They are both avid athletes. Nicole Dyhrman, a native Vermonter, attended the Green Mountain Valley School and was a Division I ski racer for Colby College. Hans Dyhrman, a Seattle native, is a former bicycle racer and ski instructor. The two Williston residents are hoping their passion for athletics will be passed on to those who visit their studio.

Opening a new business is a leap of faith, but for Nicole Dyhrman, it’s more exciting than frightening.

“We have such passion that it’s really exciting to be able to do this,” she said. “There are always risks to be had but I feel strongly that there are enough people who will love what we have to offer.”

The pair bring business backgrounds to the table. A mother of two, Nicole Dyhrman’s background includes both for profit and non-profit businesses. After starting her career in the ski industry, she worked with Special Olympics Vermont and then spent more than five years in the marketing department for Keurig Green Mountain Coffee. Hans Dyhrman has an MBA from the University of Vermont and has also worked in the ski industry. He is the founder of a management and consulting firm and currently works at Keurig Green Mountain Coffee.

Nicole Dyhrman recognizes that there are a number of physical fitness facilities in Vermont which offer spinning, but she is confident she and her husband will be able to attract some local clientele to the studio.

“We focus on a quality experience for riders with instructors who are certified,” she said. “You can work out without having to drive downtown.” She added that she believes the Vermont localvore instinct will extend to PULSE.

PULSE Cycling / Studio opened on July 18, and Nicole Dyhrman said they are right on target in terms of attendance. They expected the summer months to be slow because people are spending more time outside and because the studio is located in a large office building with no major road frontage. To help bring in more people, they are currently offering a free first class to newcomers who register online.

The studio currently offers 13 weekly classes with a mix of times ranging from early mornings to lunchtime and evenings. The Dyhrmans expect to expand to 30 classes as word gets out about the studio and as the weather changes and people begin to seek indoor activities.

“What we’ve done so far is choose a variety of days and times that we think will work for a bulk of people,” Nicole Dyhrman said, “and we’ll adjust based on what we learn from others who are interested. We’ll be flexible.” At this juncture, Nicole and Hans Dyhrman are the only instructors, but more will be added if the studio expands its hours.

Most classes run 45 or 55 minutes, but there is a 35-minute introductory class that spends more time upfront getting riders comfortable on their bikes and introducing them to the moves. Background music is generally upbeat and motivating, but Nicole Dyhrman hopes to add some themed classes that feature a particular era or genre of music.

Dyhrman said biking is great exercise for everyone.

“Biking is one of the few fitness opportunities that is low-impact,” said Nicole Dyhrman. “People of all fitness levels and experiences can be on a bike. An experienced athlete can be in the same class as someone who hasn’t worked out much because the bike is in your control. It’s fun for people to know that the pressure is off and they can go at their own speed.”

PULSE Cycling / Studio is located at 600 Blair Park, Suite 120 in Williston. For more information, visit www.PulseCyclingStudio.com.

Williston takes team win in golf tournament

Observer staff report

Players from the Williston Golf Club took the top team spot in the Vermont State Women’s Golf Association State Amateur Championship.

The three-day tournament wrapped up Aug. 13.

Williston won the Paquet Cup, awarded to the team with the lowest score.

The individual winner was Madison Corley of Stowe Country Club, a one-time Essex High player. She won by 14 strokes with a total of 224, 8 over par. It was her third consecutive win.

The second place finisher was Tiffany Maurycy of Williston with 238. Jeanne Morrissey of Williston tied for fourth with 241. Andrea Brown of Champlain was third at 239.

CVU tennis stars help lead Vt. team to regional victory

Observer courtesy photo The eight-member 802 Tennis Academy Vermont team recently won the New England 18 and Under Advanced Championship. Players on the team include (back rowm from left) Trent Newman, Gabe Katz, Evan Greer, Coach Chris Martel, Preston Gordon, (front row, from left) Jordan Walsh, Kathy Joseph, Paige Haukeye, Megan Collins, Stephanie Joseph and Coach Tammy Azur.

Observer staff report

Two CVU tennis stars helped lead the 802 Tennis Academy team to victory in the 2015 New England 18 and Under Advanced Championship.

CVU’s Kathy and Stephanie Joseph were on the eight-player team from Vermont, which won the regional title over teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. The tournament was played at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on Aug. 12.

“I am so proud of every player on this team,” Coach Tammy Azur wrote in an email to players after the event. “It was a true team effort with every player contributing points to our game total. When you win by a total of 3 games, you really understand that every game counts. Every comeback when we were down in a game or a set or a match made the difference in winning or losing this tournament. Thanks to all the players who played their hearts out and to all the parents who made this happen for their children. It was an amazing victory and truly a pleasure to coach this team.”

The team will go to the Junior Team Tennis Nationals in South Carolina Oct. 22-25.

On the front lines of child protection system, social workers bear brunt of frustration

Ken Schatz

Photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger                                              Ken Schatz, the commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, and Gov. Peter Shumlin speak about the shooting of Lara Sobel, a state worker, at a press conference at the Barre Police Department on Aug. 8.

By Elizabeth Hewitt

For Vermont Digger

The shooting of veteran social worker Lara Sobel as she left work just over a week ago prompted an outpouring of blog posts and online comments.

Many commenters expressed grief for Sobel, solidarity with social workers and support for state employees. But other comments ranged from sympathetic to hateful. Some likened the Department for Children and Families to a “Nazi style agency.”

DCF officials and advocates say that child protection requires shared understanding and cooperation between child protective service providers, families and a broader community. However, a dearth of support structures can leave parents involved with the child protection system feeling lonely, confused and inadequately represented.

For the full story, visit vtdigger.org

Vermont Gas giving neighbors indigestion

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate Evan Litwin, with his dog, Maya, looks over the Vermont Gas pipeline staging area from the strip of grass between it and the parking lot of his apartment complex, Maple Tree Housing. Litwin said the noisy activity during the early morning and on Saturday at the staging area are affecting the quality of life for residents of the development.

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate
Evan Litwin, with his dog, Maya, looks over the Vermont Gas pipeline staging area from the strip of grass between it and the parking lot of his apartment complex, Maple Tree Housing. Litwin said the noisy activity during the early morning and on Saturday at the staging area are affecting the quality of life for residents of the development.

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Evan Litwin never sets his alarm clock.

Every morning, he said, he is awakened by the grinding noises of construction preparation at the Vermont Gas staging area next to his Maple Tree Housing apartment.

“I wish you could hear the sound these front loaders make,” he said. “It’s the worst thing to wake up to…. It’s like metal nails on a metal chalkboard.”

Litwin said he has spent the last 13 months trying to reach out to Vermont Gas to see if they can reduce noise and hours of operation.

His greatest concern, though, is that a group of vulnerable residents—Maple Tree Housing is designated as affordable housing units for low-income residents—were left out of the process, he said. Maple Tree Housing residents were not notified in advance about the staging area plans. Champlain Housing Trust, which owns the property, was not included as an abutter of the project, Litwin said, meaning it did not have the opportunity to apply for party status to the project plans, and residents were not involved in the planning process.

“Part of why I’m doing this is so this doesn’t happen to other marginalized, low-income, racially and socially diverse communities,” Litwin said. “Some of Williston’s most vulnerable residents did not have an opportunity to be aware of what was being planned next to their community and provide feedback.”

As Chittenden County grows and more public infrastructure projects are built, Litwin said he wants to make sure all residents are represented.

“We were removed from our own supposedly democratic processes… If you’re not transparent with the public, then you don’t have a diversity of minds at the table,” he said. “What broke down in the process that kept us out of the loop?”

Litwin—who stressed that he is speaking only for himself, not for his development, and that he has no opinion on the pipeline itself—brought some of his complaints to the Selectboard.

The town sent a filing to the Public Service Board in mid-July outlining some concerns with the project, and requesting that the board require Vermont Gas to meet several conditions.

“Vermont Gas created a large staging area in Williston without advising the Town in advance of their plans,” the letter states. “This staging area is next to a residential development known as Maple Tree (Housing) consisting of 50 apartments. Noise and dust from the activities on-site have negatively impacted this neighborhood and have affected the residents’ quality of life.”

The town made three requests.

First, that Vermont Gas arrange to have grass mowed along the chain link fence near the development, which the town said is “unsightly and harbors ticks.”

The town also requested that Vermont Gas send quarterly reports of its timeline and plans.

Finally, it asked the board to require that work hours be limited to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays with no activity on Saturdays, or that the staging area be moved farther from the apartments.

In a July 31 response, Vermont Gas said it planned to directly address Williston’s concerns, and requested that the Public Service Board not issue a ruling on the town’s letter.

While Vermont Gas readily agreed to comply with the first two requests—and has already done so—the third one was a sticking point.

According to Vermont Gas, there is not “adequate space” for its activities if it moved them 250 feet from the boundary with Maple Tree Housing. In addition, due to its tight schedule, Vermont Gas said it cannot restrict its hours of operation.

“Such a restriction would have a significant, adverse impact on the Project’s construction schedule and would result in higher Project costs,” the Vermont Gas letter states. “While it is critical that Vermont Gas maintain the flexibility to use the Williston staging area in a manner consistent with the (Certificate of Public Good), Vermont Gas will attempt to keep as much of this work as possible on the side of the staging area farthest from Maple Tree Place.”

Vermont Gas Spokeswoman Beth Parent said the project is an important one, and that Vermont Gas is “committed to being a good neighbor.”

“This is a really important clean energy project for Vermont,” Parent said. “When finished, it will be underground, quiet and safely delivering affordable natural gas to more families and businesses.”

Parent said Vermont Gas crews are working to keep staging area activities as minimally disruptive as possible.

“We designed the yard to prevent and reduce these temporary impacts on the folks who live nearby,” she said. “Our goal is to keep activity as contained and as quiet as reasonably possible.”

NEIGHBORS SHARE EXPERIENCES

Litwin said this summer has been better than last summer, but that Vermont Gas told residents it expects work to continue through the fall of 2016.

Kyle Lawrence, who has a four-year-old, said neighborhood children used to be able to play in the field—though they were aware that Champlain Housing Trust did not own it and it may become unavailable.

One of the biggest hardships is the hours and the noise, and he said it has “absolutely” affected his quality of life.

“It’s early in the morning and on weekends,” he said. “If there’s any way they could eliminate some of the noise, that would be spectacular.”

Tammy Wetmore agreed.

“I don’t care for the looks of it,” she said. “They start early, and we have kids, so it’s kind of tough.”

Lawrence said he thinks they may have received more opportunities to be involved, and Vermont Gas might be more receptive to complaints, if they weren’t in affordable apartments.

“If this was a house or if these were $100,000 condos, I don’t think they would be as apt to do some of the things they’ve been doing,” he said.

But not all neighbors have a problem.

Joanne Martel said the noise doesn’t bother her.

“People living here make more noise,” she said.

Another man, who did not give his name, said he works long hours and is not there when there is activity at the staging area.

MOVING FORWARD

Selectboard member Debbie Ingram, who has met with Litwin and Vermont Gas officials, said she is encouraged that Vermont Gas seems to be responsive to the residents’ needs.

“It’s one of those situations where it’s regrettable what happened in the past due to a lack of communication, but I do see Vermont Gas as being responsive,” she said.

Ingram added that the town may need to advocate on behalf of the residents of Maple Tree Housing, many of whom, she said, may be less likely than other residents to pick up the phone and get involved with Vermont Gas directly.

“Many of them don’t want to make waves because they are afraid they’ll lose their housing,” she said. “We need to be sensitive to their particular issues and do what we’re supposed to do, which is represent them as residents of Williston.”

Ingram added that there is some confusion as to what happened—Vermont Gas said it filed the appropriate paperwork regarding the staging area and that the town, which has legal party status, should have received it, but it never made it to the attention of the Selectboard or town officials.

Parent said she couldn’t speak to the specifics of why residents weren’t notified in advance, but said Vermont Gas has the proper permits.

“We have permits in place to be there,” she said, “And we really are committed to being good neighbors.”

Vermont Gas also said it is working on better communication with the residents of Maple Tree Housing.

“We are working really, really hard to maintain good communication,” she said. “We really want to work with them and listen to their concerns and we certainly understand.”

Vermont Gas sent a letter to residents July 20. In the letter, Right of Way Manager Karen Kotecki outlined the work planned at the Williston staging area.

According to the letter, crews may be on site between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. However, crews “will attempt to keep as much of this work as possible on the side of the staging area farthest away from your residence.”

The letter also stated that operations are likely to continue through the fall and resume again in the spring.

But Litwin said not much has changed, and he would like to see significant efforts to avoid disruption to the lives of the tenants.

“It feels like they won’t do anything, but they keep saying they want to hear from us,” he said.

“I’m grateful the town has stepped up now,” he said. “It is a meaningful first step to a solution, but it’s only a first step.”

Library Notes

Bookmobile Schedule Through August 27

The bookmobile is in a U-Haul van for the summer. Listen for the horn!

Tuesday: Wildflower Circle, 5 p.m.; South Ridge Pool, 5:20 p.m.; Pinecrest Village 5:40 p.m.; St. George Villa, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Brennan Woods Pool, 5 p.m.; Hanon Drive, 5:15 p.m.; Casey Lane, 5:25 p.m.; Indian Ridge Pool, 5:45 p.m.; Finney Crossing, 6 p.m.; Chelsea Commons, 6:15 p.m.; Maple Tree Place, 6:45 p.m.

Thursday: Pleasant Acres, 5 p.m.; Golf Links, 5:20 p.m.; Lefebrve Lane 5:45 p.m.; Oak Knoll 6:15 p.m.; Porterwood, 6:45 p.m.

Youth News

Congratulations, Summer Readers

We broke the record this year! Altogether, 342 children and teens read for a grand total of more than 400,000 minutes. If you missed the end of summer celebration, you may stop by the library to pick up your reading record.

Read and Win a Day at the Fair 2015

Children in grades K-8 who have read three books this summer may stop by the library to pick up a ribbon for free admission to the Champlain Valley Fair on Kids’ Day, Monday, Aug. 31. The ribbon will also entitle the bearer to a free ice cream cone at the Dairy Bar. Coupons will be available on Kid’s Day at the Administration Building at the Fairgrounds. Don’t forget to wear your ribbon.

Music for Preschoolers

Mondays at 11 a.m. with Peter Alsen and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. with Marcie Hernandez. Up to age 5 with a caregiver. No pre-registration.

Bookmobile

Bookmobile service in our U-Haul van will continue to run through Aug. 27. If you miss the last week, remember that you can return bookmobile books to the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library or to the school libraries at Allen Brook and WCS.

Adult News

Sustainable Williston: Alternative Transportation

Monday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. A panel of alternative transportation experts shares news and answers your questions at Sustainable Williston’s Sustainable Energy Series. Learn about bike routes, carpooling opportunities, electric cars, Williston’s new bus schedule, and other hidden opportunities for climate-friendly, money-saving, community-building transportation. Light refreshments will be served.

New in Adult Fiction

“Dexter is Dead” by Jeff Lindsay. Lindsay wraps up his hit series, which inspired a series on Showtime, with Dexter imprisoned for multiple homicides he didn’t commit. Only his homicidal maniac brother can help him.

New in Adult Nonfiction

“The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West.” Forced to flee the Russian Revolution as a teen, Devi became an actress in Indian cinema. One of the first non-Indian women trained in yoga, she would bring it to the western hemisphere by teaching the rich and famous.

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

Letters to the Editor

‘Affordable housing’

The  Aug. 6 issue of the Observer included an article (“Bridging the gap to affordable housing”) about the dismal prospects for affordable housing in Williston. In spite of a lot of ground work and good intentions, there seems to be no hope for progress, and even the creation of another study committee is “in limbo.” What’s the problem? Economic conditions, i.e. poor people can’t afford housing that’s built with the right to a good profit margin for the relatively affluent developers and financiers. The relatively poor have no rights to affordable housing.

John E. Pierce
Williston

How I did on my SBACs

By Scott A. Giles

Nobody likes to take tests, myself included.

So it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I accepted Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe’s invitation to take the new Smarter Balanced Assessments in April. My anxiety increased when I entered Montpelier High to discover we would be taking the 11th grade math assessments. Three of us had accepted the challenge and each suppressed visions of impending public humiliation like that reserved for adult contestants on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”   

So why did we agree to do this?

Vermont, like many states, is raising its educational standards to ensure that our children have the knowledge and skills to be active citizens and compete in the 21st century global economy. Our goal is to ensure that every child graduates from high school with the tools they need to successfully pursue education, training and career.

This year we introduced new assessments aligned to these standards. The SBACs, as they are called, use computer-based adaptive testing to assess proficiency in Common Core standards for English/language arts and mathematics. Many people have opinions about the value and quality of testing—but few actually take the assessments themselves. I wanted the opportunity to learn firsthand what we are asking of Vermont students.

Let me start by saying the SBAC isn’t the multiple-choice, bubble test from my high school days.

The computer adaptive testing “personalizes” the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment, based on student responses. When I answered a question correctly, my next question was harder. If I was wrong, my next question was easier.  Each student will be challenged to the top of their ability and no students will receive the exact same test.

There was also an interactive assessment led by a teacher that was fun, relevant to the interests of students, and required the application of all the same concepts, reasoning and problem-solving skills measured by the earlier assessment.

This test is hard. I have multiple advanced degrees and left sure that I had not performed well (I was pleasantly surprised by my score—and tried unsuccessfully to get cred with my kids). That said, I recognized every question as something that I once knew and as something that was important that our students be able to reason through and apply.

This is a significant and important change. Students and teachers will have more accurate and realistic measurements of knowledge levels and student progress. The results will help refine curriculum and teaching, where and when needed. Students will have a snapshot of what they have achieved and know where they need to focus their efforts. Importantly, it will give us a window into a whole range of equity issues.

No test is perfect but I think this is a move in the right direction. Vermont’s first test results —which will be sent by local schools to parents soon—will probably require a retooling of our collective perspective as educators, parents and students about what it means to be proficient. The scores are different and they may alarm some who will view them as proof that Vermont’s K-12 system isn’t working or that the test is too difficult.

I disagree.

VSAC’s own research has shown repeatedly that students who are more academically prepared are much more likely to go on to more education—regardless of family income or parents’ educational levels.

We have raised our expectations to ensure that all students develop the knowledge and problem-solving skills they need to succeed.  These scores will likely show us that we must work to achieve these higher standards. The real test will be how we use what we learn.

Scott Giles is president and CEO of Vermont Student Assistance Corp. and chairman of the Vermont PreK-16 Council.

Around Town

Police, Firefighters run for cause

The Williston Professional Firefighters and Williston Police Officers Association will host the Fit for Duty 5K on Friday, Aug. 28 from 6-8 p.m. at Champlain Valley Crossfit in Williston. All proceeds benefit the Vermont Special Olympics. Participation is $25 for adults and $10 for those 12 and under.

Last year, a similar event brought out 100 runners, according to firefighter Prescott Nadeau. This year, organizers are hoping to rally more participants.

For more information or to sign up, visit www.specialolympicsvermont.org/fundraising-events/law-enforcement-torch-run/fit-for-duty-5k/

GMP, BED alert customers to phone scam

The Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power are warning customers about an ongoing bill payment phone scam that threatens customers with disconnection if they do not pay immediately. Customers received calls claiming to be from GMP and giving the customer a fake toll-free number to call, which is answered by a recording claiming to be Green Mountain Power.

These calls are not from BED or GMP, and customers should call only the legitimate, listed phone number from their utility, not the number left on the message. The authorized phone number for GMP customers is 888-TEL-GMPC (888-835-4672) and for BED is 802-865-7300.

Further, customers receiving such a call are encouraged to report this scam by contacting the Vermont Attorney General’s Office Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 (in-state only) or 802-656-3183 (from out of state numbers) or by visiting www.uvm.edu/consumer.

Advocates skeptical of EPA pollution targets for lake

By Elizabeth Hewitt

For Vermont Digger

The Environmental Protection Agency set ambitious goals in Vermont for phosphorus reduction in Lake Champlain in a document released last week, leaving some advocates questioning whether the state will be able to meet the new standards.

The federal agency set targets for the state to reduce overall phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain by 33.8 percent.

Phosphorus pollution has been an ongoing issue in Vermont for years, with algae blooms extending throughout much of the northern part of the lake. Lawmakers attempted to rein in runoff into the lake with Act 64, passed earlier this year. Williston is part of Lake Champlain’s Watershed—all water in the town eventually reaches Lake Champlain.

Full the full story, visit vtdigger.org.