April 21, 2014

HUB Happenings

Share

April 17th, 2014

Vermont State Colleges trustees appoint interim president
The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees recently appointed Dan Smith as interim president at Vermont Technical College. Smith was appointed through June 30, 2015 as the college seeks to recover sound financial footing in the coming year prior to any search for a permanent president.
Smith has been serving as acting president of the college since Nov. 15. Smith previously served as the director of community relations and public policy for the Vermont State Colleges system. A native of Middlesex, Smith has served as the director of community relations and public policy at the Vermont State Colleges since October 2010.

Michael Januszczyk

Michael Januszczyk

Januszczyk a partner at Rose Computers
David Rose, president of Rose Computers, announced that Michal Januszczyk has become a partner in the business. Januszczyk becomes executive vice president and CTO, while Rose remains president and CEO. Januszczyk has been with the firm for over four years as service delivery manager and, most recently, chief engineer.
Prior to joining Rose Computers, Januszczyk held various IT positions at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Harley Davidson and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions.
“I am very pleased to have Michal as a partner in the firm,” Rose said, “He is a fantastic engineer with great work ethic, and a wonderful human being.”

Parker joins LORD
LORD Corporation announced the recent addition of Collin Parker as marketing communications specialist on the LORD MicroStrain Sensing Systems team. Parker brings more than 20 years of marketing and communications expertise to LORD MicroStrain.
Prior to joining LORD Corporation, Parker spent five years as marketing director at Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, after starting his career as a broadcast journalist. He also served several years as a public relations coordinator at Fletcher Allen Health Care, the region’s largest hospital.

 Vermont unemployment 3.7 percent in February
The Vermont Department of Labor announced March 28 that the seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for February 2014 was 3.7 percent. This represents a decrease of three-tenths of a percent from the January rate of 4.0 percent. The comparative national average was 6.7 percent, which was up one-tenth of a percent from January. February 2014 data represents the fifth consecutive reported monthly decrease to the statewide unemployment rate in Vermont. As of the prior month’s initial data, Vermont’s unemployment rate was the fifth lowest in the country.

VSECU engages members in charitable giving
Vermont credit union VSECU recently donated $23,000 to Vermont charities through the We Care 2 Program. More than 7,000 credit union members cast votes to help direct this portion of VSECU’s charitable contributions.
This year’s We Care 2 Program received 49 applications from charities from across the state of Vermont for consideration. The five finalists selected by VSECU’s Community Contributions Committee were NCSS Youth in Transition, Rutland Community Cupboard, Southern Vermont Natural History Museum, Therapy Dogs of Vermont and Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
A check for $10,000 was awarded to each of the two winners, NCSS Youth in Transition and Therapy Dogs of Vermont. NCSS Youth in Transition will use the funds for emergency care packages for homeless and at risk youth. The donation to Therapy Dogs will enable the organization to add two locations for training, testing and certification of qualified teams that offer comfort and enrich lives of Vermonters of all ages. The three runners-up were each presented with a $1,000 donation.

David Hurwitt

David Hurwitt

Renewable NRG Systems hires VP of global marketing

Renewable NRG Systems, a designer and manufacturer of decision support tools for the global renewable energy industry, has named David Hurwitt vice president of global marketing and product development.
Hurwitt has served in leadership roles at multinational companies including GE Energy, Whirlpool, Diamond Brands, and Pillsbury, and he was the executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Optiwind. Prior to joining Renewable NRG Systems, he was the principal at Kenilworth Development Group, a growth consulting practice based in Canton, Conn.

Vermont official honored with EPA Clean Air Excellence Award
Richard A. Valentinetti of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources was honored earlier this month by EPA with a national “2014 Clean Air Excellence Award” for “Outstanding Individual Achievement.”
Valentinetti is the longest-serving state air director in the country. During his lengthy career, he has demonstrated a lasting commitment to improving air quality in Vermont and within New England. His award was the only one for an individual, and was announced along with recognition for nine projects from across the United States for work on clean air and climate initiatives that protect Americans’ health and the environment, educate the public, serve their communities and stimulate the economy.

John Michael Hall

John Michael Hall

Hall to Lead CVAA
Champlain Valley Agency on Aging announced last week that John Michael Hall will be its new executive director, beginning in July. Hall is currently the senior director for the National Association of States United for Aging & Disabilities. Previously, he was the director of integrated health systems at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services and served as secretary of the Department of Aging and Office of Long-Term Living in Pennsylvania.
Kathi Monteith, CVAA Board President, led the national search for a replacement for retiring Executive Director John Barbour. “Mike Hall is the ideal person to lead CVAA in new directions in programs and services for seniors in Vermont. The board, staff and volunteers welcome Mike as the leader to take the organization into the future.”

Efficiency Vermont Named 2014 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year
Efficiency Vermont has been named a 2014 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The award honors Efficiency Vermont’s Efficient Products program for its achievements in cutting energy use and associated pollution. Efficiency Vermont was one of only eight utilities nationwide to receive the Partner of the Year designation.
Efficiency Vermont will be recognized in Washington, D.C. at a ceremony on April 29.

People’s United awards $12,000
The People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, announced recently that it has awarded $12,000 to Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity to support its Growing Money Program.
With free financial classes and coaching, the Growing Money Program helps low- and moderate-income participants reach their financial goals, improve their credit scores and identify areas for saving. Individuals learn to manage spending, create a budget, access banking products and services, how to work with creditors and avoid predatory lending. Last year, the program served more than 650 participants.
CVOEO addresses fundamental issues of economic, social and racial justice and works with people to achieve economic independence.

THE HUB: New Texas Roadhouse owners settle in

Share

April 17th, 2014

By Matt Sutkoski
Observer correspondent
Eric and Lila Bourgeois said they saw an opportunity suddenly crop up as winter prepared to settle into Vermont.
The couple lived in the Saratoga, N.Y. area and Eric Bourgeois worked at the local Texas Roadhouse restaurant. He’d helped open several of them in recent years.
The Texas Roadhouse in Williston had gone up for sale. It was time to try actually owning a restaurant.
“It became available, we looked into it and we decided to take it. That’s it,” Lila Bourgeois said.
With financial backing from the Louisville, Ky.-based Texas Roadhouse corporate offices, Eric Bourgeois, 43, bought the Williston restaurant and the couple has settled nicely into the town’s business community, said Lila Bourgeois, who works as the Williston Texas Roadhouse marketing director and sort of Jill of All Trades.
“It’s been great,” she said.
The roughly 240-seat restaurant has 90 to 100 employees, many of them full time, though several work part time, as they are college students trying to earn some extra cash.
The couple made no major changes to the Williston Texas Roadhouse when they took it over, but kept the lively atmosphere and menu common in the restaurant’s roughly 425 locations across the nation.
Lila Bourgeois, 44, said the couple are attracted to Texas Roadhouse because the fare isn’t cookie-cutter, pre-packaged food common in some chain restaurants. She said meat is butchered on site every day, and the bread is baked daily as well. “All of our sides are made from scratch,” she said.
And, she said, it’s economical. She also said the restaurant has a fun, lively, family-friendly vibe, which Bourgeois said makes it a great place to work. According to Glassdoor, a career-search website, Texas Roadhouse is among the 50 best places in America to work.
A staple of Texas Roadhouse restaurants, including the one in Williston, is the occasional moment when employees break out into line dancing.
Bourgeois said another perk of having her husband own the restaurant is that she can participate in many community events.
The restaurant donates food and services to charities such as local churches, schools and non-profits including Relay For Life.

THE HUB: Free summer classes open to area businesses at CCV

Share

The Community College of Vermont is offering several 3-credit, undergraduate courses at select center locations this summer to businesses at no-cost. Funding for these courses is provided through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program.
Principles of Supervision is geared toward supervisors, managers and employees who are ready for leadership positions according to their employers. Topics covered in this course include communication, goal setting, delegation, time and stress management, performance appraisal, the hiring process, motivation and responses to technology.
Principles of Supervision is offered at the following times and locations:
Montpelier
Thursdays, 5 – 7 p.m., May 22 – July 31Tuesdays, 5:30 – 9 p.m. June 3 – Aug. 19

Middlebury
Tuesdays, 5 – 8:15 p.m., May 21 – Aug. 5

Winooski
Wednesdays, 6 – 9 p.m., May 21-Aug. 20

In addition, two free online classes are open to the public, Professional Financial Literacy and Introduction to Internet Marketing, and are being offered May 20 – Aug. 5.
Classes are filling quickly. To enroll, contact [email protected]

THE HUB: Williston company climbing to the highest peaks

Share
Caroline George (left) sports a pair of Julbo glasses during a mountaineering expedition.

Caroline George (left) sports a pair of Julbo glasses during a mountaineering expedition.

April 17th, 2014

By Phyl Newbeck
Observer correspondent
When you watch freeride skiing pioneer Glen Plake, the first question that probably comes to mind is how does he keep his trademark Mohawk so high. We can’t answer that one, but we can answer any question you might have about his eyewear.
Plake wears goggles made by a company called Julbo, whose U.S. office is based right here in Williston. Plake isn’t the only famous athlete to sport Julbos. High-altitude mountaineer Ed Viesturs, who recently became the first American to climb all 14 of the world’s highest mountains without supplemental oxygen, wears its mountaineering glasses.
Julbo is a third generation French optical company that started in the 1850s making shades for crystal hunters in the Alps who were searching for gems to bring down the mountain to the tourists. The company’s headquarters is in Europe, but in 1974, Climb High of Shelburne began distributing Julbo’s products in the U.S. In 2002, Nick Yardley set up shop in Williston to create Julbo USA, the exclusive distributor of Julbo eyewear in this country. The Williston location serves as an office and warehouse distribution center. All the company’s domestic shipping is done from its Avenue D location.
Yardley said the company’s biggest impact has been in the mountaineering market, creating glasses for those summiting major peaks like Mount Everest. Three years ago, Julbo began to manufacture ski goggles and now it also carries performance sunglasses for runners, mountain bikers and other athletes, as well as prescription glasses. The company has also added a line of high quality children’s sunglasses. Yardley noted that while adults are aware of the need to protect their eyes from harmful rays, they often neglect to protect their children, whose eyes are significantly more sensitive.
Yardley said the company’s biggest strength is its photochromatic lenses, which change from light to dark depending on the UV light.
“There has been a strong emphasis on interchangeable lenses in the sports world,” he said “but that’s very dysfunctional because you don’t have time to change lenses when you’re cycling from a field into a forest or skiing from bright light into fog.”
Previously, photochromatic lenses were made with a coating, which fades over time, but Julbo’s product has the dye within the lens so it can’t scratch, burn off or fade. Yardley used the example of a ski patroller who starts his or her morning with trail checks in dim light and then skis through the day under bright sunlight before ending his or her shift with a sweep run which might be in the dark.
“They can use these goggles all day long in white-out and bluebird bright skies,” he said. “It becomes a very versatile tool for the serious outdoor user.”
Locally, Julbo products can be purchased at Outdoor Gear Exchange, EMS and the Optical Center on Church Street. The latter specializes in children’s eyewear and prescription products. Julbo USA is involved in a variety of local events, including the summer trail running series at Catamount Family Center. This year, they will also sponsor a new event called the Catamount Ultra, a 50-kilometer trail run at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.
Serena Wilcox of Burlington, the first woman to cross the finish line at the annual 100-mile trail run in Windsor in 2011, is a believer. She wears a wide assortment of Julbo products including “everyday glasses” and ones designed for hiking, running and biking.
“I love the way they change from darker to lighter depending on the light I am in,” she said. “The glasses fit my face well, are lightweight and are great for trail running and biking.”
Andrea Charest, owner of Petra Cliffs in Burlington, also swears by Julbo sunglasses for rock and ice climbing and ski touring.
“The way they change color is perfect for every condition in the mountains,” she said.
One of New England’s top alpine climbers, Kevin Mahoney of New Hampshire, agrees.
“Julbo has been great for me for the simple reason of laziness,” he said. “I like putting on my sunglasses in the morning and leaving them on all day. Simplicity and performance is the best combination.”

One of Julbo’s biggest advantages, says U.S. distributor Nick Yardley, is its photochromatic lenses, which change from light to dark depending on the UV light.

One of Julbo’s biggest advantages, says U.S. distributor Nick Yardley, is its photochromatic lenses, which change from light to dark depending on the UV light.

Public hearing Monday for new stormwater fee

Share

April 17th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
After working to develop an ordinance and fee structure for required stormwater system upgrades, the town plans to hold a public hearing on the issue.
The hearing is set for April 21 at 8 p.m. at the Town Hall, during the regular Selectboard meeting. It is intended to gather public comment on the proposed stormwater ordinance, which will establish rules, regulations and fees for stormwater services in Williston.
Almost all landowners in Williston would be charged the fee, which would be used to pay for state and federally mandated upgrades to Williston’s stormwater system—part of an effort to address water pollution from runoff and avoid flooding. Undeveloped properties—those with less than 500 square feet of impervious surface—would be exempt.
If approved, the fee would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
The ordinance and fee structure is based on other stormwater utilities across the country, Bruce Hoar told the Selectboard.The user fee—charged to all landowners in Williston—would be based on Equivalent Residential Units, or ERUs. An ERU represents the median amount of impervious service on a single-family residence. Impervious surfaces include roofs, paved or gravel driveways, patios, decks and parking lots. Rain and snowmelt runs off these impervious surfaces, carrying sediment and pollutants into streams.
Most single-family homes would equate to one ERU. Single-family homeowners whose property has an impervious surface area in the top 10th percentile of all Williston properties will be billed for two ERUs.
Non-single family residences—such as businesses and town- or state-owned property—will be charged based on the amount of impervious surface on the property using a tier system.
The ordinance also includes a credit system. Credits could be awarded for significant stormwater systems, facilities, activities and services, though credits would not be available for single-family residences.
Stormwater user fees would be billed quarterly.
Town Manager Rick McGuire estimates that the town will need to spend a total of $6 million to bring the town’s stormwater systems up to date. Approximately $2 million of that is required for townwide capital projects and administrative costs to develop a plan to control polluted runoff into waterways, then implement that plan within 20 years. Williston’s Allen Brook is on the state’s list of waterways impaired by stormwater.
Williston also has 31 holders of expired stormwater discharge permits—26 of which are housing or commercial developments, two are schools, two are VTrans properties and one is the town—which will need to spend an estimated $4 million to bring their systems into compliance. The town is working on ways to help those permit-holders.
Copies of the ordinance are available at the town manager’s office in the Town Hall or online at town.williston.vt.us. Click the General Information tab, then select Legal Notices.

Traffic snarls after man steals car, leads police on chase

Share

April 17th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
A Burlington man was cited on seven charges after leading police on a car and foot chase and crashing into several vehicles, blocking traffic on U.S. Route 2A for nearly four hours.
Police say Anthony Grasso, 49, raced down Route 2A Monday afternoon, crashing into three cars. He then leapt over the bridge into the Allen Brook before police caught him.
Williston Police cited Grasso on charges of driving with a suspended license, attempting to elude, gross negligent operation, excessive speed, leaving the scene of an accident with injury, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.
South Burlington Police put out an area-wide alert at 4:31 p.m. on Monday, advising that Grasso had stolen a car from a South Burlington business. A minute later, Sgt. Keith Gonyeau said, they updated the alert, saying that there was a box cutter in the vehicle and Grasso was on “escape status” with the Vermont Department of Corrections.
Six minutes later, a Williston Police officer on patrol spotted the vehicle on Route 2A at Taft Corners.
“What we had at this time was a stolen vehicle where the person could possibly be armed and was wanted on escape status,” Gonyeau said. “That obviously caused us to want to attempt to initiate a traffic stop.”
From there, Gonyeau said, things happened very fast.
The officer attempted to stop the vehicle at 4:38 p.m.
“A brief chase of less than a mile ensued, with speeds reaching over 70 miles per hour on Essex Road,” Gonyeau said.
At 4:39 p.m., the officer—whose name has not yet been released—called in saying a crash had occurred.
Grasso had collided with two vehicles, causing the car he was driving to spin. Grasso hit a third car before coming to a stop. The driver of one of the cars was injured.
“After the crash, Grasso climbed out of the driver’s window and jumped off the bridge into the Allen Brook,” Gonyeau said.
After a brief chase on foot, Williston Police officers apprehended Grasso, with the help of South Burlington Police officers. Vermont State Police were called in to investigate the crash.
Route 2A was closed between Blair Park and Industrial Avenue for approximately four hours, snarling rush hour traffic.
Grasso was lodged at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
According to previous police reports, Grasso was arrested in 2008 and cited on charges of assault and robbery after an incident at Clark’s Sunoco in Williston in 2007.

Iditarod adventure a cool topic at Williston Central

Share
Iditarod outfit

Gwenn Bogart (right), the first Vermont woman to qualify for the Iditarod, dresses sixth grader Olivia O’Neal in the gear she will wear for the famed Alaskan race. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

April 17th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
Spring is finally bringing warmer temperatures to Vermont—for the most part—but the climate was far chillier in Williston Central School last week, to the tune of 40 below zero.
Students who have been studying the Iditarod—the grueling long-distance sled dog race in Alaska—met with Gwenn Bogart, the first woman from Vermont to qualify for the overland race.
A group of eight students had been studying the Iditarod for more than a month. Before the race started in March, each student chose a musher to follow, closely tracking his or her progress, obstacles, strategy and ultimate finish or scratch.
“To them, this was like meeting a real life celebrity,” said Special Education Teacher Andrea Griffin, who led the project. “They went home and talked to their parents about it. They’re still talking about.”
Mushers and teams of 16 sled dogs race from Anchorage to Nome, more than 1,000 miles, usually in 9 to 15 days. Mushers face blizzards, debilitating wind chill, desolate landscapes, disorienting whiteouts, utter exhaustion and whatever else the brutal conditions of the Great White North throw at them.
Bogart showed students her gear, described her dogs and training, and detailed her experiences in distances races. The students were riveted for the hour and a half presentation, throwing out musher names and statistics and answering Bogart’s questions, as well as asking her questions of their own.
The students were studying the race as part of their language arts curriculum. Griffin said each student reads various articles and websites about the Iditarod, researches mushers, studies grammar and writes about their research.
“When students are engaged in the content, they’re willing to do the work,” she said. “I have a lot of students who reading isn’t easy for, but when you get them a topic they’re interested in, it’s amazing to see what they’re willing to do.”
Principal Jackie Parks said interest and engagement can motivate students to study and learn, and other topics can be integrated into the lessons, including social studies, science and math.
“I think the more integration and the more connections we help students make between the disciplines, the more they benefit,” she said. “That’s really what the real world experience is like. We don’t go out into the world and say, ‘Now I am going to do language arts….’ It’s a good way to show kids how to wrap around a project.”

‘THE LAST GREAT RACE’
Bogart—who now lives in Wasilla, Alaska—is set to compete in the 2015 Iditarod, though her path to the start line isn’t quite certain yet.
Bogart has completed the notoriously tough Copper Basin 300 and the Sheep Mountain 200. To qualify, rookies must complete 750 race miles, including two races of 300 miles or more.
Typically, mushers can’t compete in qualifying races the same year they are set to be in the Iditarod, but a lack of snow in Alaska meant several qualifying races were canceled. So, Bogart must complete one of the two 300-mile races she is signed up for in January.
More than 60 mushers enter the race each year—the vast majority of them Alaskans.
Iditarod competitors carry everything they need with them and stash the extra food and equipment at checkpoints. They can have no two-way communication with the outside world apart from handlers at checkpoints, and can’t receive anything from anyone.
That makes it a solitary effort—just the musher and their dogs against the elements.
Bogart is working on training 20 dogs. She’ll narrow that down to a team of 16 for the Iditarod.
When the dogs are training, they burn 10,000 calories a day, she said.
“How many Big Macs is that?” she asked, to the great enjoyment of the students.
Aside from dry dog food, the sled dogs consume large quantities of raw meat—ground beef, fish, chicken, pure fat doled out with an ice cream scooper and studded with vitamins, and moose and beaver when she can get it.
Bogart also showed the students what she would wear to face the brutal Alaskan conditions, and dressed one lucky, soon-overheated student in the full getup.
First, on went the custom-made snowpants, which Bogart would typically wear over down pants. Then, a fur-lined parka, which would go over two down jackets. Then, a baseball hat to keep a headlamp from slipping down, and a large fur hat. Small, cotton gloves slide on under massive beaver skin mittens. With the parka’s hood up, the student was obscured by fur and layers of technical waterproofing gear.
“Fur in Alaska is the name of the game,” she said. “It really keeps you warm. It’s very insulating and wind-proofing, and those things are really important. And the long hairs catch frost and keep it off your face.”
Bogart also passed around her boots—space-age looking monstrosities with a down liner and several layers of insulating foam liners.
She also has coats and little booties and blankets for her dogs.
“They’re all dressed up,” she said.
Bogart said she has no illusions that she’ll be in the front of the pack, and said her goal is to finish the race.
She said the weather and obstacles mushers face are always unpredictable. In the 2014 Iditarod, warm conditions on one end of the trail caused sleds to break apart and crash. At the other end of the trail, a brutal white-out blizzard on the banks of the Bering Sea caused veteran racer and four-time winner Jeff King to accept help, getting himself and his dogs to safety.
“It’s incredibly hard,” she said. “I just got a taste of it in the 300 mile race.”

CVU School Board member to step down

Share

April 17th. 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

Williston resident sought to fill position
David Rath, Williston representative to the Champlain Valley Union High School Board and former chair, is stepping down from his position at the end of the school year, trading mountains and maple syrup for sand and the Burj Al Arab.
The Rath family is moving to Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, for two years. Michelle Rath, director of guidance at Essex High School, obtained a two-year position as a guidance counselor at the American School of Dubai. Their daughter, Mikaela, will attend the school for her senior year of high school.
Rath has been on the CVU board for six years, two of them as chairman.
“It’s been tremendous,” he said of his experience on the board. “CVU is a great school. The board represents a range of talents and perspectives and is very good at working collaboratively. There are, of course, differences of opinion but the board members are very conscientious about trying to work out differences of opinion and focusing on what’s best for the children at CVU.”
Following state statute, the Williston School Board will appoint a Williston resident to fill the position Rath is vacating. Interested residents should submit a letter of interest to Kevin Mara at [email protected] by May 2. The Williston board will interview applicants during the week of May 5 and make an appointment at its May 14 meeting.
“Interested applicants should possess a strong commitment to work with other board members towards the goal of providing the best possible education for students in Chittenden South Supervisory Union,” according to the board’s description.
Anyone with questions should contact CVU or Williston board members. Contact information is listed on page 6 of the Observer every week.
Located less than a mile from both the Palm Jumeira and Burj Al Arab, The American School of Dubai is an independent, not for profit American school offering elementary through high school education.
“This is going to be a great adventure,” Rath said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what the cultural differences are and taking a look at Dubai, which we understand is a pretty amazing place. The government is working very, very hard at taking their oil money and transforming Dubai into an international finance and business center and destination.”
Michelle Rath recently completed a Fulbright scholarship in Israel, and her family members spent some time with her there, but the Raths have never been to Dubai.
“We’ve never been there, but we’ve heard from a variety of people that it is just a fascinating place,” Rath said.
The Raths head for the Middle East at the start of the 2014 academic year.
“We’re delighted that we’re going on this adventure,” Rath said. “We remain Williston residents and we come back in the summer between the academic years… The great part is we get to come back for the Vermont summer.”

Harmony Spa landlord to pay fine, keep property

Share
Harmony Health Spa

Thomas Booska, who owns the property formerly occupied by Harmony Spa, has agreed to pay $100,000 instead of forfeiting the property.

April 17th, 2014

 

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

The landlord of the Williston massage parlor that closed last summer after allegations of prostitution has settled a forfeiture claim with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Instead of forfeiting the Williston property where Harmony Spa was located, owner Thomas Booska agreed to pay $100,000 to the federal government. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office sent out on Friday, Booska intends to sell the property to “individuals who have previously run a hair and nail salon in Colchester.”
“In a complaint filed on June 28, 2013, the United States alleged that the Williston property owned by Thomas Booska, age 68, of Burlington, Vermont, was forfeitable to the government because it was used to house individuals who were induced or encouraged to come to Vermont from out of state for purposes of engaging in prostitution or other commercial sex acts,” according to the press release. “While admitting that he is the owner of the Williston property and that Harmony Spa had been located at the Williston property, Booska generally denied the allegations of the complaint.”
The property has a history of problems surrounding alleged prostitution.
The complaint alleges that in May 2011, law enforcement officials told Booska that they had received reports of “sex acts taking place at the Harmony Spa,” according to the press release. Booska was also informed that if the acts continued, the property would be subject to forfeiture.
“The complaint further alleged that despite this warning, in the Fall of 2012 and thereafter, Booska was providing housing and transportation to Asian females, who he knew had traveled from out of state to Vermont with the intent of engaging in sexual acts for pay as part of their services at Harmony Spa,” the press release states.
On June 12, 2013, police gathered information from clients leaving Harmony Spa that they had just “received sexual services from employees and provided payment to them,” according to police. Employees at the spa were reportedly also living in the building, which is a violation of local zoning ordinances. The employees were offered “available victim services,” as officials determined that they were “likely victims of a larger scale criminal issue,” according to police.
Booska was cited on charges of “prohibited acts” in mid-June.
A Notice of Verified Complaint of Forfeiture was submitted to U.S. District Court in Vermont by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Ross last July.
Problems at the spa date back to at least 2004, when it was known as Ginza Health Spa. In 2006, a woman was arrested at the property, by then known as Harmony Spa, after she offered sexual services to a man who was an undercover Williston Police officer.