Chester among Windsor towns to vote on County Courthouse renovations

One issue that Chester voters will address on Tuesday, March 5 is whether to support a $2 million bond issue to upgrade the historic Windsor County Courthouse in Woodstock.

The Windsor County Courthouse today. Proposed upgrades would add an elevator and staircase tower to the back of the building. Photos courtesy of the Woodstock Historical Society.

The Windsor County Courthouse today. Proposed upgrades would add an elevator and staircase tower to the back of the building. Photos courtesy of the Woodstock Historical Society.

Assistant Judges David Singer and Jack Anderson presented the issue before the Chester Select Board on Thursday evening, detailing the need for the renovations of the 1855 building. They are in the process of presenting the issue to the 24 town governments within Windsor County, including Chester’s, and will be holding public information meetings prior to the vote.

Anderson said the renovations would help with historic preservation, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and add security and fire safety. Judge Singer said that the building is out of compliance with all of them.

Assistant judges, Anderson said, carry judicial, legislative and executive roles. The latter means that they are in charge of two county buildings, the former County Jail on Pleasant Street and the courthouse on the Green, both in Woodstock. They also oversee personnel.

The upgrades to the Windsor County Courthouse will include the rear addition of an elevator and stair tower. Currently, “we are totally inaccessible to wheelchairs,” Anderson said. Downstairs renovations will include a metal detector and more security features.

“We really need these renovations,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure every citizen can have accessibility.”

The Windsor County Courthouse was built in 1855. This photo dates to 1870.

The Windsor County Courthouse was built in 1855. This photo dates to 1870.

The cost of the bond is spread out on a prorated rate to all the property taxpayers of Windsor County. For Chester homeowners with a $250,000 home, that would mean $6.24 more a year for 10 years on their tax bill.

DRB appointments

Also on Thursday, the Chester Select Board appointed John Robinson to fill out the five-member Development Review Board and made Ken Barrett an alternate. Both terms expire in June of this year. Apparently there has also been some talk of restructuring the DRB. Following the votes and without further explanation, Select Board member Derek Suursoo said, “When we reappoint in June, we need to restructure.”

— Cynthia Prairie

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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