January 29, 2015

How to take care of your kidneys

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Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about kidney disease? My mother died from kidney failure a few years ago at age 76, and I’m curious what my risks are and what I can do to protect myself.

—Kidney Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Anyone who has a family history of kidney disease, or who has high blood pressure or diabetes is at risk and needs to have their kidneys tested. Here’s what you should know and some tips to help you take care of your kidneys.

Kidney Disease

More than 26 million Americans currently have chronic kidney disease (when the kidneys can’t properly do their job of cleaning toxins and wastes from the blood), and millions more are at risk of developing it, yet most people don’t realize it. That’s because kidney disease develops very slowly over many years before any symptoms arise. But left untreated, the disease can eventually require people to spend hours hooked up to a dialysis machine or get a kidney transplant. Even mild kidney problems can double a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as cause anemia and bone disease.

The reason kidney disease has become so widespread today is because of the rise of obesity, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which all strain the kidneys.

Another factor is the increasing number of people who take multiple medications, which can overtax the organs. People over age 60 are especially vulnerable both because they tend to take more drugs, and because kidney function normally declines somewhat with age.

To help you rate your risk of kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation has a quick, online quiz you can take at kidney.org.

Get Tested

Because kidney disease has no early symptoms, the only way to catch it before it advances is to have a simple blood and urine test by your doctor. So, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, a family history of kidney disease, or are age 60 or older you need to get tested. African, Hispanic, Asian and Indian Americans, along with Pacific Islanders are also at increased risk.

If you’re diagnosed with kidney disease you need to know that there’s no cure, but there are steps you can take to help contain the damage, including:

Control your blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, get it under 130/80. If you need medication to do it, ACE inhibitors and ARBs are good choices because of their proven ability to protect the kidneys.

Control your diabetes: If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.

Change your diet: This usually means reducing the amount of protein and phosphorus you eat, and cutting back on sodium and possibly potassium. Your doctor can help you determine an appropriate eating plan, or you may want to talk to a dietitian. Also see myfoodcoach.kidney.org where you’ll find lots of kidney- friendly recipes and nutrition tips.

Watch your meds: Dozens of commonly used drugs can damage the kidneys, especially when taken in high doses over long periods—most notably NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and generic) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn and generic). Herbal supplements can also be very dangerous. Talk to your doctor about all the prescription, over-the-counter and herbal products you take to identify potential problems and find alternatives.

Exercise and lose weight: If you’re overweight and inactive, start an aerobic fitness routine (walk, swim, cycle, etc.) that gets your heart pumping. This will help lower your blood pressure, control diabetes and help you lose excess weight, all of which will help your kidneys.

Quit smoking: If you smoke, quit. Heart disease becomes a much greater risk to the kidneys if you smoke. Smoking also doubles the rate of progression to end-stage renal failure.

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

Garden grants for small businesses

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Deadline Jan. 30

The Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Community Garden Network are offering grants for small businesses to establish workplace food gardens.

The Green Thumbs at Work grants are open to any Vermont business or organization with fewer than 50 employees. The total grant award is $1,750, which includes $500 for materials, a $250 Gardener’s Supply gift certificate and $1,000 of garden planning support and technical assistance from horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi and the Vermont Community Garden Network. Eight grants are available in 2015.

The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 30.

For more information and to apply, go to http://vcgn.org/green-thumbs-at-work/ or call 861-4769.

Living Green: Nominations sought for environmental award

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Observer staff report

Green Mountain Power is seeking nominations for the 2015 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award, named for famed osprey advocate Meeri Zetterstrom. The GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award is presented annually to the person, business, group or non-profit who has made a significant and lasting contribution to Vermont’s environment. The recipient is also awarded a $2,500 donation to the environmental cause of their choice.

 “The Zetterstrom Award has recognized some of Vermont’s leading environmental stewards and innovators,” GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. “Its purpose is to recognize those who make a substantial and unique contribution to our environment, and to honor our friend Meeri’s legacy of vision and leadership.”

Zetterstrom, known to many Vermonters as Grandma Osprey, inspired a statewide public-private collaboration that restored ospreys in Vermont and ultimately led to the birds’ removal from the endangered species list.

Past Zetterstrom Award recipients include Sally Laughlin, a leading wildlife advocate and scientist whose work was instrumental in restoring three species of endangered birds in Vermont; Michael Smith, the founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led Vermont’s peregrine falcon restoration program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; and Kelly Stettner, who founded the Black River Action Team in southern Vermont.

Nominations for the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award are accepted through March 15, and the winner will be announced in the spring. The winner is chosen by a panel of GMP employees with responsibilities related to land management, resource protection, community relations and education, and environmental compliance.

The award is intended to support environmental protection and inspire Vermonters to continue the good work that is being done all across Vermont to protect our natural environment. Vermonters of any age may be nominated. For a nomination application and more information, visit www.greenmountainpower.com.

Grants help bookmobile effort

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Five recent grants ranging from $200 to $5,000 have helped Dorothy Alling Memorial Library secure $11,200 toward the cost of a new bookmobile. The library has raised $64,303—80 percent of the total amount needed. The remaining $20,000 required is included in the town’s budget proposal, on which residents will vote in March.

The majority of donations have come from 273 Williston residents and businesses donating amounts from $1 to $5,000. The library has been especially grateful to receive modest gifts from children and seniors, said Library Director Marti Fiske.

Local artists Will Workman, Nini Crane and Gil Meyers each donated a painting to benefit the fundraising efforts. All donors giving $50 or more will be entered into a raffle to win one of the paintings. In addition, Workman and Crane have donated notecard sales.

The library is also searching for a vehicle to run temporary bookmobile service to neighborhoods this summer. If a resident or business makes a summer loan or low cost rental of a van or small box truck (10-16 feet), summer service could run from mid-June through August. 

Around Town

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Bottle drive

Eighth graders from Harbor House at Williston Central School will be collecting bottles from 9-11 a.m. to fund a class trip to Washington, D.C. Place bottles in a bag labeled “Harbor House” at the end of your driveway. Bottles will be collected in the following neighborhoods: Sunrise; Southridge; Brennan Woods; Turtle Pond Road; Pleasant Acres; Wildflower Circle; Southfield Drive; Chamberlin Drive; Ledgewood; Lamplite Lane.

If you have any questions or would like to request pick-up at a different location, contact Jess Haskins at [email protected]

Williston blood drives in February

The American Red Cross is hosting two blood drives in Williston during the month of February. The first is set for Feb. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at 7415 Williston Road. The second is Feb. 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at DEW Construction, located at 277 Blair Park Road.

To learn more about donating blood and to see more opportunities to donate, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

‘Acatamy Awards’ seeking submissions

The Humane Society of Chittenden County is seeking submissions for its second annual juried cat film festival, PLANET CAT: the aCATemy Awards, set for April 12 at the Majestic 10 theater in Williston. Organizers are accepting cat memes and short videos in three categories: 6 seconds; 15-30 seconds; and 1-2 minutes. 

Submissions are accepted through March 14 and are $5 for a video and $2 for a meme. To submit, visit www.chittendenhumane.org/get-involved/planet-cat 

Public input sought

House Speaker Shap Smith is asking Vermonters, employers, policymakers and stakeholders to submit proposals for economic development and job growth strategies for consideration in the legislative biennium.

“Vermonters want a business environment that fosters sustainable, good-paying jobs that reward employers and workers alike,” Smith said in a press release. “I have instructed the Commerce Committee to explore policies that support and nourish Vermont businesses. It is my hope that public input will supplement their work and drive the agenda forward.” 

The Speaker’s Office has asked that all respondents reply by Feb. 3. Proposals may be submitted to [email protected] or mailed to: Speaker’s Office, 115 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05633.

Williston School Board approves modest budget hike

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Provisions for math assistance, students in crisis and infrastructure issues bumped up the budget proposal for the Williston School District.

The Williston School Board last week settled on its budget for fiscal year 2015-16 of $17, 319, 491. That’s a 0.38 increase over last year’s budget and a 0.56 increase in per pupil spending. 

“I feel really good about it,” Board Chairman Kevin Mara said of the budget. “A lot of hard work went into this one in order to keep it as close to flatlined as possible. We think it’s a good budget and we hope the town supports it.”

Though board members and budget buddies—members of the community who provide input to the board—expressed pleasure at the tight budget and modest increase, some members also were cautious about adding staff positions and programs. 

“Time after time (the school administration) puts forth budgets that are below the inflationary rate as well as mindful of the job we need to do, which is to educate our kids,” Board member Josh Diamond said. “I’m comfortable but with a skeptical eye going forward. I think we need to evaluate the success of these new programs. We can’t assume that because we create them they are giving us our money’s worth.”

Diamond said a 0.38 percent total increase is more impressive when you consider that faculty and staff contracted compensation—the largest segment in the budget—is going up 3.25 percent and health care costs are going up 4.5 percent. 

The proposed budget includes five additions to the budget, known as decision packets. 

The first is a $44,838 expenditure for a half-time math intervention specialist for students in kindergarten through second grade. Previously, the administration requested a full-time position. The school currently has one full time math specialist, which it said is not adequate, leaving students who need help without it. 

The largest decision packet is $96,246 for a K-4 Success Program—trimmed down from an earlier proposal—intended to help students who are not learning and disrupting class due to trauma experienced outside of school.

 “What we’re trying to do is protect the education of all kids by making sure we take care of these kids,” Nardelli said.

Nardelli said the children who would be helped by this program need a different approach than students who are misbehaving or struggling to keep up with the material.

“Something has happened in their life that is overriding everything and making them not available to be a student. It’s about how to work with them so they are ready to read and do and move forward.”

The board also opted to add $88,000 to the operations and maintenance budget. That portion of the budget has been flat or decreased for years as the board tried to keep a tight budget, meaning there is consistently not enough money to keep up with building issues. 

“For me, something we cannot take our eyesight away from is operations and maintenance,” Board member Giovanna Boggero said. 

The board also added $5,000 for classroom libraries. 

The final decision packet was $3,120 for the Brainology program, intended to help students develop a “growth mindset,” taking some of the focus off whether students are “smart” or not.

“It’s a very successful program and it’s backed across the county,” Nardelli said, adding that fifth grade is a transition year, where students need help with organization and perseverance. 

50-plus EXPO celebrates 20 years

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Vermont’s largest event for seniors and baby boomers is celebrating its 20th year.

The Vermont 50-Plus & Baby Boomers EXPO will be held Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel & Conference Center from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Baby Boomers, seniors and all ages are invited to enjoy a day of fun and learning featuring 100 exhibit booths, seminars and workshops covering a variety of topics, AcroYoga and acupuncture demos, giveaways, Lyric Theatre Musical Revue, dance party with DJ Charlie Rice, Elvis Tribute Concert, silent auction and raffle to benefit Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, art demos and more.

The event is hosted by Williston Publishing & Promotions, the company that owns the Observer. 

The Elvis Tribute Concert will be held from 12-1 p.m., featuring professional Elvis impersonator Dana Z. He has performed at theaters, casinos, festivals and special events across the country.

A new addition to the EXPO this year is the Tech Pavilion. BoomerTECH Adventures will host a technology help desk all day, providing answers to tech questions. They will also offer a variety of tech workshops during the event.

Tickets are $5 at the door, $4 in advance. The event is handicap accessible and includes free parking.

For more information, visit www.vermontmaturity.com/expo or call 872-9000, ext. 18, or email [email protected]

Board proposes $9.8 million town budget 

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Tax rate would increase by 1.5 cents

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

The Selectboard passed a trimmed-down version of the town’s 2015-16 municipal budget this week, but the tax rate is still projected to rise by a penny and a half. 

The Selectboard on Monday approved an operating budget of $9,843,940, approximately $34,000 more than last year, a 0.35 percent increase. The budget would result in an estimated tax rate of 28.5 cents, meaning the owner of a $300,000 house would pay $855 in municipal property taxes. 

Though the increase is modest compared to other years, Selectboard members expressed some wariness, since residents will also be faced with a new expenditure this year—a stormwater fee costing most homeowners $51 a year. Residents will see their first bill next month.

During its Jan. 20 budget meeting, the board asked Town Manager Richard McGuire to suggest cuts that would shave half a cent off the tax rate increase. 

“We have really been very frugal with our budget over the years,” Board member Chris Roy said during a Jan. 20 meeting, as recorded by CCTV. “You have to look long and hard. There isn’t a lot of stuff that’s just hanging around out there that’s easy to knock off. Each year, the opportunities for low hanging fruit are diminishing significantly.”

On Monday, the board approved a budget that trimmed nearly $46,000 from the original proposal. 

Among the measures was a $10,000 decrease to the budget for improvements to Rossignol Park. McGuire told the board during its Jan. 20 meeting that planned improvements to the park are winding down, and he thinks they can be accomplished on the reduced budget. 

The board also decided not to increase the town’s contribution to the Environmental Reserve Fund by $10,000. The annual contribution will remain at $30,000, as it has for several years.

However, the budget also includes a onetime contribution of $110,000 to the fund, from the revenue received from the sale of municipal land to Vermont Gas. The addition is intended to replenish the fund after it was used to fund several recent conservation projects.

“We had a onetime unanticipated revenue from the sale of land to Vermont Gas,” McGuire said. “The idea was, it makes sense, since we acquired that additional money from the sale of land, that we put it back into the Environmental Reserve Fund to acquire additional land eventually.”

The Selectboard also reduced the budget for repairs to the Town Hall by $8,000. 

It also saved $25,000 by opting not to establish a fund for a new highway truck down the road, putting the decision off until the new truck is actually needed. Rather than saving ahead of time, the truck would likely be acquired through a lease purchase, McGuire said.

The board also opted to add a onetime $20,000 expenditure to the budget—taken out of the town’s fund balance—to go toward the cost of a new library bookmobile. The library has already raised 80 percent of the funds required through donations and grants. 

The board has been working on the budget since the beginning of December. Since the budget process began, the Selectboard heard from representatives from all town departments. 

Residents will vote on the municipal budget on March 3. The Selectboard will present information on its budget during Town Meeting, set for Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at Williston Central School.

Races begin for town, school board seats

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Willistonians will have plenty of candidates to choose from when they go to the polls in March. 

“It’s the first time in a long time there are actually some races,” Town Clerk Deb Beckett said. “There’s a good resurgence of people that want to get active and involved.”

This year, there are multiple candidates vying for three positions—two Selectboard seats and one Williston School Board position.

Monday was the filing deadline for candidates. 

SELECTBOARD

Candidates for three positions on the Williston Selectboard will come before the town this March.

Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig, who is completing his 13th year on the board, is running uncontested for another three-year term. 

Jeff Fehrs, who has been on the board for 15 years, is running for another two-year term. Newcomer Anthony O’Rourke is also running for the two-year term on the board.

Selectboard member Jay Michaud resigned last year and moved to North Carolina, leaving the remaining year of his term open. 

Three Williston residents are hoping to fill his seat—Melissa Ham-Ellis, Ted Kenney and Joy Limoge.

SCHOOL BOARDS

Terms for two positions on the Williston School Board are expiring in March. 

Chairman Kevin Mara, who has been on the board for five years, is running uncontested for another two-year term. 

Deb Baker-Moody, who served for nine years on the board, is not seeking reelection. 

Two Williston residents are running to fill the position—Karen F. Maklad and Michael Wayman. Both served as budget buddies this year, providing input to the board on its fiscal year 2015-16 budget proposal. 

Two positions for Williston residents are also available on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board. 

Gene McCue is running for a two-year term, uncontested. McCue joined the board last May, completing the remainder of former board member David Rath’s term. Rath resigned from the board and moved to Dubai last year. 

CVU Board member Jonathan Milne is not seeking reelection to his three-year term. No one came forward to fill his seat on the board. 

Beckett said residents could still run as write-in candidates, which has happened in the past. A write-in candidate would need at least 30 votes to be elected.

If a resident wants to join the board after elections, Beckett said the CVU Board can opt to appoint a candidate to fill the vacancy, but only until the next March election.

OTHER POSITIONS

Several other candidates will be on the March 3 ballot, none of them with opposition. Jude S. Hersey is running for another five-year term as library trustee, Charles S. Coney and Linda Levitt for positions on the board of listers. 

A one-year term on the board of listers and the perennially empty position of first constable are vacant.