By Greg Duggan
Williston will soon age 18 years.
At least, it will appear to do so as the Department of Public Works changes the date of the town’s charter on welcoming signs at town borders. The signs give the founding date of Williston as 1781, but the town was actually established in 1763. The mistake has slipped past residents and town officials since the installation of the signs more than 10 years ago.
On Tuesday, DPW employees visited the four affected signs to scrape off the vinyl stickers marking the date. DPW worker Truman Isham said it could take at least two weeks to have new numbers ordered and made.
Town Clerk and Treasurer Deb Beckett first noticed the mistake almost a month ago on sweatshirts being sold by Families as Partners to raise money for the school system. She soon traced the source back to the signs.
“We wanted to put the date the town was chartered on the sweatshirts,” said Bethe Ogle, a Families as Partners parent who helped print the shirts. “I did research on the town Web site, and saw 1763. Driving into Williston from all three points, the signs say 1781. I thought if the signs say 1781, that must be what it is. When Deb Beckett came to the farmers market, and saw 1781, she said, ‘That doesn’t look right.’”
The Williston Business and Professional Association, a now-defunct group, installed the signs, Beckett said. Neither Beckett nor DPW Director Neil Boyden remembered the exact date of the installation, but put the timeframe at a minimum of 10 to 15 years ago. Beckett, who belonged to the association, could not recall why the date 1781 appeared on the signs.
“I went through the town records, and nothing even big was happening in 1781,” Beckett said.
Though Beckett had heard that Richmond may have been established in 1781, Richmond Town Clerk Linda Parent put the charter date at 1794.
Another former member of the Business and Professional Association named by Beckett, who now lives in Essex Junction, did not return phone calls by press deadline.
Families as Partners had only printed a handful of shirts to use as samples before Beckett caught the error. Ogle said the new shirts have the correct date, as well as the tag line “Old town charm, new town spirit.”
The sweatshirts have a faded look. Ogle said Families as Partners wanted a way to raise money for the schools without asking parents to organize another fundraiser, and decided that sweatshirts could go to everyone from grandparents to tourists.
The sweatshirts will be available at the next two farmers markets, and Ogle expects the schools to send home order forms with students.