October 31, 2014

Drowsy driving: the forgotten impairment

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By Dave Reville

AARP Vermont

Most drivers know drowsy driving is risky, yet too many still do it. Of course, we cannot always get enough sleep as easily as we can avoid alcohol and drugs, but we must try, because drowsiness can be every bit as dangerous. It causes more than 100,000 crashes nationally every year, killing more than 1,500 people and injuring at least 40,000 more. And those are conservative estimates, because drowsiness is so difficult to quantify and track. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research, 28 percent of motorists reported struggling to keep their eyes open while driving in the previous month, more than a third have fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once and more than one in 10 has done so in the past year.

Drivers who are most at risk are those who are sleep-deprived for a variety of reasons, such as parents of young children, young males, shift workers, commercial drivers and others who work long hours, those who suffer from sleep disorders or medical conditions that require sedating medication and anyone who must drive at night. These safety strategies can help.

Before you hit the road:

Be awake, alert and well-rested; get enough sleep (7-9 hours for adults, 9-10 for teens)

If you cannot stay awake and alert, don’t drive

Seek treatment for any sleep disorders

Don’t eat a heavy meal, drink alcohol or take sedating medication

Take along a driving partner to share the driving and keep you awake

On the road, watch out for these warning signs:

Trouble focusing, daydreaming

Yawning, blinking and nodding, bleary eyes

Forgetting the past few miles

Missing exits or traffic signs

Drifting from the lane, hitting rumble strips, or accidental tailgating

And use these countermeasures:

Never ignore signs of drowsiness and keep driving

Pull over in a safe area for a stretch and fresh air (do this at least every 100 miles or two hours)

Take a 15-20 minute nap (more than 20 minutes can cause grogginess)

Have coffee or other caffeine before your nap, so the boost will kick in as you wake up

Recent crashes in the news where drowsy driving is the suspected cause are timely reminders that driving drowsy is not harmless. It’s a very real danger that we all should take more seriously. 

Blue Cross hosts First Wednesday Wellness Flu Shot event

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Observer staff report

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont’s First Wednesday Wellness for the month of November will take place on Nov. 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. BCBSVT will host the free event at its Information and Wellness Center, located in the Blue Mall at 150 Dorset Street in South Burlington.

 BCBSVT will provide free flu vaccinations in place of the normally provided biometric screenings offered at its First Wednesday Wellness events. The flu shots are free for all participants 18 and older, regardless of their insurance status. Those without health insurance are welcome.

Flu season runs from October through May. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot every year for people 50 or older. Statistics show us that approximately 40,000 Americans die each year due to pneumococcal infections, with seniors representing the largest group of fatalities, according to AARP Vermont

 “I encourage you to make time in your busy schedule to get a flu vaccination this autumn,” said Dr. Robert Wheeler, vice president and chief medical officer of BCBSVT. “Every year, thousands of adults and children become seriously ill with influenza. Vaccination helps protect you and also helps reduce the spread of the flu virus to your coworkers, family and community,”

You must make an appointment  at 764-4828.

How Medicare covers outpatient mental health services

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Dear Savvy Senior,

Does Medicare cover outpatient counseling or therapy sessions for seniors? Since retiring, my husband has really struggled with depression and needs to get some help. What can you tell us?

—Inquiring Senior

Dear Inquiring,

Yes, Medicare recently upgraded its coverage of outpatient mental health services to help beneficiaries with depression and other needs. Here’s how it works.

If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will pay 80 percent (after you’ve met your $147 Part B deductible) for a variety of counseling and therapy services that are provided outside a hospital, like individual and group therapy, family counseling and more. They also cover services for treatment of beneficiaries who struggle with inappropriate alcohol and drug use.

You or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the remaining 20 percent coinsurance.

Medicare also gives your husband the option of getting treatment through a variety of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.

It’s also important to understand that if your husband decides to see a non-medical doctor (such as psychologists or a clinical social worker), you’ll need to make sure that he or she is Medicare-certified and takes assignment, which means they accept Medicare’s approved amount as full payment. If they don’t, Medicare will not pay for the services.

Medicare will, however, pay for the services of Medicare-certified medical doctors (such as psychiatrists) who do not take assignment, but these doctors can charge you up to 15 percent above Medicare’s approved amount in addition to the 20 percent coinsurance, which you will be responsible for.

To locate a mental health care professional in your area that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Just go to medicare.gov/physiciancompare and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type in the type of profession you want locate, like “psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the “What are you searching for?” box. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Medicare Advantage

If you and your husband get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they too must cover the same services as original Medicare but they will likely require him to see an in-network provider. You’ll need to contact your plan directly for the details.

Additional Coverage

In addition to the outpatient mental health services, you should also know that Medicare covers yearly depression screenings that must be done in a primary care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annual depression screenings are covered 100 percent.

Medicare will also cover almost all medications used to treat mental health conditions under the Part D prescription drug benefit. If your husband is prescribed an antidepressant or some other medication for his condition, and he has a Part D plan, you should call his plan to confirm coverage or you can search the plans formulary (the list of medications they cover) on their website.

For more detailed information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication #10184 “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or you can read it online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10184.pdf.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Looking back at past Halloween traditions

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A Halloween prank from years past involved pushing over and rolling away the bandstand, seen above.

A Halloween prank from years past involved pushing over and rolling away the bandstand, seen above.

Observer staff report

On Friday, legions of spooky trick-or-treaters will hit the streets of Williston, scaring residents and coming away with sugary rewards. Years ago, residents recall a little less treating and a lot more tricking. 

In Richard Allen’s book, “North Williston: Down Depot Hill,” he describes two “North Williston boys, Charles Irish and Bob Chapman, along with some friends” who set their sights on the bandstand that used to stand at the intersection of Depot Road and Williston Road.

“It seems as a Halloween prank they would move the bandstand by tipping it on its side and rolling it out of sight,” Allen wrote. “When asked if he ever got in trouble for this, Charles Irish replied, ‘No, I wouldn’t say I really got in trouble. Didn’t get caught. That’s a good way to put it.’”

Several members of the Williston Historical Society shared their remembrances of Halloweens past.

Parties and pranks

The 4-H club for years had a big party in Jean Ankeney’s barn (on Butternut Lane)—that was in the late ‘70s early ‘80s. We would have a costume parade with prizes, games and supper (hotdogs) cooked over the fire in her big fireplace. Halloween was not as big a deal when I was young. We would dress up in homemade costumes and drive to a few acquaintances’ homes. There might be a small gathering at friends’ houses. 

When I was growing up, it was Cabbage Night that was big with pranksters. It was quite dangerous, but a couple young men, whom I won’t name, used to hang a tire from the old iron bridge in North Williston and set it on fire. I’ve also heard the story from my folks about how two young men held onto an “invisible rope” stretched across Route 2 by the brick house on the corner of Oak Hill Road, causing cars to come to a screeching halt.

—Brenda Perkins

Tire fires

In our early days here, on Cabbage Night, there were always tire fires, usually on Chapman Lane. They went on for many years!

—Ginger Morton

Treats (and a talk) 

In our early years living on one of Williston’s more rural routes, Governor Chittenden Road, we would prepare to greet goblins and superheroes, princesses and pirates, at our front door with a bowl of candy for treats, or alternative “tricks” in envelopes that might contain cash or “Tricked you!” notes inside. Farm families would pile their costumed kids into trucks and vans in the early evening of Halloween and make the rounds to the other agricultural homesteads in the area, giving the event an extended family feel to the pilgrimage. Although not among that vocational circle, (I was one of the two dentists in Williston at the time), our proximity to the Clark Farm ensured that we were included in that circuit for candy beggars. For about eight years, we answered the door to greet toddlers to teens from the Fontaine, Johnson, Conant and Clark farms. For a while, the numbers swelled, with new infants arriving, eventually chaperoned in later years by sisters who were old enough to drive, but too old to dress up in costumes. Everyone got candy, some scored some cash, and even the kids who poorly chose the “Trick” envelopes got second and third tries until they succeeded in getting it right. Of course, everyone left with a new toothbrush, a move that was expected, since I was nearly everyone’s dentist, and the hypocrisy of sinful candy dispensing was balanced by a brief lecture on oral hygiene.

The autumnal visitors slowly diminished over the years, and at some point stopped altogether, although we continued to decorate our porch with (increasing) numbers of grizzly tableaus, moaning dummies, rubber rats, flying bats and jaw-clacking skulls. I know that my wife, Marlene, felt sorry for me as I packed away the ghoulish props for another year, but I’d like to think that at least our beagle got a kick out of my efforts. I still keep a couple of masks, bowl of candy and toothbrushes handy on the hall table in the event that an errant zombie knocks on our door on the 31st. And with good reason for hope, as within the last three years, on our road alone, several mothers, some of whom presented their masked faces at this door decades ago, have been blessed with baby goblins of their own! I can’t wait to greet them back with: “Trick or Treat! And don’t forget to brush your teeth!”

—Jack Price

Mr. Pumpkin

I immediately thought of “Mr. Pumpkin” with my Dad, Howard Carpenter. He had such fun on Halloween, being Mr. Pumpkin for the neighborhood children (and adults).  

He would put together “Mr. Pumpkin” using hay-stuffed coveralls and a pumpkin for a head. He would place one part of the intercom inside the body of Mr. Pumpkin and discreetly hide the wiring to the other part so it went inside our house. 

On Halloween, “Mr. Pumpkin” would sit there on the front porch and as the children came up onto the porch, he would say (in a very “Mr. Pumpkin”-like voice) “Hello. My name is Mr. Pumpkin. Would you like a trick or a treat?”

When the child answered, “a treat,” Mr. Pumpkin would say, “Then you need to ring the doorbell.” Invariably, the child would turn off the light (we had an old-fashioned doorbell that you had to pull. But the light switch was a button that looked like a doorbell).

 So Mr. Pumpkin would say, “Oh no, no, no, I am afraid of the dark. You have to ring the doorbell!” So then they would ring the doorbell and my Mom would answer the door with a bowl of candy.

It was the same speech every single time and never seemed to get old. It was always such fun and Mr. Pumpkin had many, many friends that kept coming back year after year—generations, too!

—Karen Reed 

Around Town

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Food drive

The Williston Community Food Shelf will hold a food drive on Election Day, Nov. 4, at the Williston Armory. Residents can drop of monetary donations and non-perishable food items at a table that will be set up while the polls are open.

Dottie off the road

Dottie the Bookmobile, the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library’s latest bookmobile, has been retired and will not return to the streets of Williston, said Marti Fiske, library director.

“Dottie just became too run down and rusted out to continue service,” Fiske said.

Dottie, a retired 1991 diesel school bus, would have required major work to be safe and pass inspection. The bookmobile has extensive undercarriage rust, the rear axle is leaking, two pairs of rear tires need replacing and brake lines need to be replaced, among other issues.

“If we can purchase a new, slightly larger vehicle, this is an excellent opportunity for improved bookmobile service and will make outreach to seniors more efficient,” Fiske said.

A new bookmobile would cost $78,000, and the library is hoping to raise some of the amount through donations.

A new bookmobile could save staff hours by using a permanent adult collection on roll-out book carts. Currently, a staff member spends about four hours a week pulling 100 books from the collection, bagging them, taking them to seniors, re-bagging them and re-shelving them.

The library could also have books available for the parents while the bookmobile visits neighborhoods in the summer.

The library could also expand bookmobile service to Williston daycare centers year round.

“We figure that we could reach up to 425 children a month with visits,” Fiske said. “Daycares could check out books for in-house use while the children’s librarian provides a reading activity to the children.”

The new bookmobile would also have a wheelchair lift. The library has children on its current routes who need to be lifted out of their chairs and carried onto the bus for service. The wheelchair lift could also be used by seniors during the summer months and would allow library staff to roll carts into the senior communities during all seasons.

To learn more or make a donation toward a new bookmobile, contact the library at 878-4918 or visit www.williston.lib.vt.us

Election Day is Nov. 4

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Williston voting will take place in the Williston Armory from 7am to 7pm.

Williston voting will take place in the Williston Armory from 7am to 7pm.

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Williston voters will have an array of choices for county and state seats on Election Day, which falls on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Voting will be held at the Williston Armory, located in the Historic Village next to the Town Hall Annex, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Those who can’t make it to the polls on Nov. 4 can vote early by stopping at the town clerk’s office or requesting that a ballot be mailed. To request a ballot, call 878-5121.

On the ballot

The options facing Williston voters include the following:

REPRESENTATIVE TO CONGRESS

Matthew Andrews, Plainfield, Liberty Union

Mark Donka, Hartford, Republican

Chris Ericson, Chester, Independent

Randall Meyer, Marshfield, Independent

Jerry Trudell, Energy Independence

Peter Welch, Norwich, Democratic

GOVERNOR

Pete Diamondstone, Brattleboro, Liberty Union

Chris Ericson, Chester, Independent

Dan Feliciano, Essex, Libertarian

Scott Milne, Pomfret, Republican

Bernard Peters, Irasburg, Independent

Emily Peyton, Putney, Independent

Peter Shumlin, East Montpelier, Democratic

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Marina Brown, Charleston, Liberty Union

Dean Corren, Burlington, Progressive/Democratic

Phil Scott, Berlin, Republican

STATE SENATOR

(Choose up to six)

Tim Ashe, Burlington, Democratic/Progressive

Phil Baruth, Burlington, Democratic

John Cisar, Essex, Libertarian

Christopher Coolidge, South Burlington, Libertarian

Dawn Ellis, Burlington, Democratic

Joy Limoge, Williston, Republican

Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, Williston, Democratic

Ben Mayer, Burlington, Libertarian

Michael Sirotkin, South Burlington, Democratic

Diane B. Snelling, Hinesburg, Republican

Travis Spencer, Milton, Libertarian

Paul Washburn, South Burlington, Libertarian

Glyn Wilkinson, Burlington, Libertarian

David Zuckerman, Hinesburg, Progressive/Democratic

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

(Choose two)

Terry Macaig, Williston, Democratic

Jim McCullough, Williston, Democratic

In addition to the above candidates, Williston voters can select candidates for the positions of state treasurer, secretary of state, auditor of accounts, attorney general, probate judge, assistant judge, state’s attorney, sheriff, high bailiff and justice of the peace.

For more information, visit the Vermont Secretary of State’s election website, www.sec.state.vt.us/elections.aspx

Salt shed work resumes, questions remain

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Despite the collapse of the under-construction salt shed in August, work on the main building of the new public works facility is progressing smoothly. The  building construction is on schedule, with the department staff slated to move into the new building at the end of December.

Despite the collapse of the under-construction salt shed in August, work on the main building of the new public works facility is progressing smoothly. The building construction is on schedule, with the department staff slated to move into the new building at the end of December.

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Work resumed this week on the salt shed at the new Williston Public Works facility after the under-construction shed collapsed in August.

Construction is moving swiftly on the main building of the new facility, and town staff expects the department to be able to move into the building on schedule at the end of December. 

Still, a big question remains unanswered—who will pay for the added expenses.

A state investigation concluded that flawed temporary bracing and faulty design caused the roof of the salt shed to collapse while workers were on top of the structure, injuring four of them. 

The Department of Public Safety investigation also found that a licensed engineer was not used to design the temporary bracing, as required by building code.

The Vermont Department of Labor is also investigating the accident. Steve Monahan, the department’s director of workers’ compensation and safety, said he hopes the investigation will be completed “soon.”

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the contract with Neagley & Chase Construction Co. of South Burlington—which the town hired to both design and build the facility—stipulates that work proceed if issues arise. 

McGuire said it’s unclear whether the town’s insurance company or Neagley & Chase will cover the cost of cleanup and rebuilding after the collapse, since each thinks the other should pay. 

“And therein lies the stuff of wonderful legal battles,” McGuire said.

Once the project is completed, the town will likely be involved in mediation and arbitration, McGuire told the Selectboard on Oct. 20. 

The town’s insurance company has agreed to defend the town’s interests and cover losses if the town is required to pay, according to McGuire

Even with the collapse, the project remains on budget and mostly on schedule, McGuire said. 

“We had hoped originally to have the salt shed done long before the main building was done so we could move our salt and sand supplies into that building before moving into the main building,” McGuire said. “That will not happen, obviously.”

The town has also hired a separate engineering firm to check the structural soundness of the new salt shed once it is completed, a normally unnecessary precaution, but at least a reasonably priced one at less than $1,000.

“Normally we don’t have to do that sort of thing,” McGuire said. “In light of this, we decided we’d have our own structural engineer look at it.”

Observer recipe columnist publishes first book

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Kim Dannies cooks in the 'nerve center' of her kitchen. Dannies' first book, 'Everyday Gourmet' is available on Amazon.com

Kim Dannies cooks in the ‘nerve center’ of her kitchen. Dannies’ first book, ‘Everyday Gourmet’ is available on Amazon.com.

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

After a decade crafting adventurous and accessible food—and chronicling her family life—in her Everyday Gourmet recipe column, Kim Dannies is ready to head in a new direction.

The La Varenne-trained food writer has recently published her first book, “Everyday Gourmet,” a collection of her most-loved columns from her years writing for the Observer.

As a collection, the book falls between a cookbook and a memoir.

“I wanted to put something down for my daughters, something physical for them to hold in their hands,” Dannies said.

Now 24, 26 and 28, her daughters Kate, Tuckie and Quinn popped up frequently in the column, especially the earlier ones.

“The goal was to document my kids’ childhood,” Dannies said. “This seemed like a really good timeframe to do it… I basically have their childhood in this spectrum of columns.”

Dannies pointed to the description on the back of the book to sum up the soul of her column and resulting book.

“The columns chronicle Kim’s busy family life as she keeps the kitchen pots bubbling while parenting three spirited daughters,” it reads. “The recipes are satisfyingly delicious and they celebrate Kim’s practice of eating well—and living well—everyday.”

The book took a little more than a year to put together, and includes roughly half of Dannies’ columns.

“It’s a real process but it’s been a really, really fun process,” she said.

Dannies selected more story-driven columns.

“I wanted to have narrative that was a little more substantial,” she said.

She partnered with Williston designer Elliot Schneider, a Champlain College student who is currently studying abroad in London.

“A large part of designing incorporates communication,” Schneider told the Observer via email. “Ultimately, the goal is

to communicate the message clearly, creatively and visually appealingly.”

Schneider said he and Dannies met weekly to make sure they were on the same page.

“We worked together to ensure her vision was executed in a way that was not only easily digestible and enjoyable to read but to also have a different look and feel than the other books that people may be used to today,” he wrote. “She gave me the content and her goals and let me have some fun with it. It was great.”

Currently in his third year at Champlain—which he said has given him the tools and freedom to work on real projects in his field while studying—Schneider said he never expected to be part of creating a book between his second and third years of college.

This week also marks Dannies’ last Everyday Gourmet column, as she turns her attention to some other projects.

“I’m grateful to the Observer for providing me the opportunity to have a platform for my writing,” she said. “I’m really happy I had that opportunity to share my story with my community. Hopefully, they have benefitted from learning about cooking as well.”

Dannies also has two more books in the works.

She is now working on a book called “Everyday Essentials,” more of a classic cookbook and sister book to “Everyday Gourmet.”

 “It’s my greatest hits,” Dannies said. “The things I am just always looking for and always go to—the company casserole, the coffee cake at Christmas.”

Dannies said she also plans to include some blank pages within the book, so people can paste in their own go-to favorites.

She’s also putting together a book called “Bumper Sticker Parenting,” a collection of the top parenting advice she’s gleaned in 25 years working with Chittenden County parents while running children’s enrichment center PrimeTime.

Dannies encouraged any other Williston residents who feel like they have “a book in them, and we all feel like we have a book in us,” to go for it. CVU teaches courses in layout software InDesign, and self-publishing can be a fun process.

“You’ve got to stick with it,” she said.

Editors note: The Observer is grateful to Kim for all the wonderful recipes, insights and professional work she has provided over the years. She has an expert eye for the simple luxuries, and her recipes and prose represent her passion for food and life. We wish her the best on her new ventures!

Town hires new rec director

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

After sifting through more than 100 applications, Williston town staff has chosen a new recreation director.

Todd Goodwin, currently South Burlington’s recreation director, will begin Dec. 1.

Goodwin began in South Burlington in 1980 and has held various positions within the Recreation and Parks Department. He has held the director position for the past year, and was the assistant director for 10 years.

“It seemed like Williston was looking to build their program base for their department,” Goodwin. “My heart has always been in programming. It’s kind of my passion and strength. I just saw it as way of being able to be a director but also have my hand in the programming aspect. We’ve done a lot here in South Burlington and I hope to bring a lot to Williston.”

Goodwin said he plans to spend time in the community, getting to know what works and where he can grow programs.

Goodwin’s selection follows a nationwide search after former director Kevin Finnegan resigned from the position in July. Finnegan had served for 16 years.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said town staff interviewed eight candidates, and selected four for a second round of interviews. McGuire said Goodwin most closely matched the profile of the position developed after gathering input from a town survey and staff interviews.

“We were looking for someone that had a strong background in recreational programming, and Mr. Goodwin definitely has that,” McGuire said. “He has an excellent reputation and he seemed like a good fit for what we were looking for.”

Approximately 100 residents took a survey over the summer about the recreation department, McGuire said.

“In general, people seemed to be pretty satisfied with the facilities that we have to offer, but there was some interest in improving the recreation programs that we have to offer,” McGuire said.

At the beginning of the search, the town opted to reshuffle the duties, creating a standalone Parks and Recreation Department. The town’s Recreation Department had previously been a sub-department of the Public Works Department.

That means Goodwin will be a department head, reporting directly to McGuire. It also means a higher pay range. Goodwin was hired at an annual salary of $62,200.

McGuire said residents can expect an increase in program offerings, which means more expenditures but also more money brought in as revenue.

“The public will see a renewed emphasis on programming, and a whole set of new programs,” McGuire said. “We’ll be trying to fund a lot of these new programs out of the revenues we receive. That fits in with what we’re getting from survey results and Mr. Goodwin’s expertise.”