Bock sees hope in enterprise economy, influx of baby boomers

By Cynthia Prairie

To add to Chester’s tax base, Tom Bock sees hope in the baby boom generation, those with money who wish to retire to quiet, small town Vermont. To add to the job base, Bock, who is running for his fourth consecutive year on the Select Board, believes that light manufacturing – an example would be the Simon Pearce glass company in Windsor – is the way to go.

Tom Bock

Tom Bock

Bock, a longtime Chester resident, has served six one-year terms on the Select Board over three decades and is seeking a 7th.

“I would like to encourage baby boomers to set up their homes in Chester,” Bock said during a recent interview in his Main Street Victorian home.

So how do you get baby boomers to move to Chester? “You have to tell baby boomers that we’re here and we’re nice and peaceful by using the Internet and print media,” he says, adding that the town needs to set aside funds to promote itself. It would be good too, he says, to bring in young families as well to help support the schools.

As for pumping up the tourism sector, which many local businesses depend upon, “We don’t have a lake, a mountain,” Bock says. Tourists, he said, can spend a nice weekend at a local inn and go antiquing. Other than that, “retirees are our best hope. … Chester is easy to come to. Young people want more to do.” Still, he added, “tourism is something but I’m not sure how to go after that.”

Bock, who had owned Vermont T’s on Elm Street for 22 years, and his wife, Mariette, raised three children here.

Compared to when when they first moved to Chester in 1970, Bock says, “things look better, not as shabby. But we’ve lost some significant employers.” He cited Putney Pasta, which moved to Brattleboro, Vineyard Brands wine distributors, which moved to Alabama, Green Mountain Gringo, now in North Carolina, and the National Survey, the map making company that was sold to a larger company. “Newsbank,” he adds “is employing a lot more people. So that’s taking up some of the slack” in job loss. “The union kind of jobs just aren’t there anymore.”

“We’ll get the truck traffic, but we won’t get the tax benefit of the biomass plant.”

Tom Bock

“You can only hope that the enterprise economy will make up for some of the job loss,” he says. In an enterprise economy, people are willing to take risks when investing their money or starting a new business. Bock says that the Select Board has talked about creating an economic development plan.

In the long term for Chester, Bock sees traffic along Route 103 as a major problem, one that will only worsen once two proposed major developments are realized. One, in Killington, is for 2,200 housing units and 200,000-square feet of retail space, the other is at Okemo for 220 to 240 housing units. Add to that the proposed biomass plant and further growth at the North Springfield Industrial Park.

The traffic, he says, benefits some. “But the homeowners continually complain. … We’re (also) not getting any tax benefit from the traffic. We’ll get the truck traffic, but we won’t get the tax benefit of the biomass plant.”

Mundane work mixed with creativity

Bock has also served eight years on the Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, of which he says, “I like to think I look out for Chester’s interests there.”

He adds that he has enjoyed serving on the Select Board. But, he says, “Being on the Select Board takes some time. We do a lot of reading. … there are the boilerplate issues, the mundane things (such as) signing liquor licenses, accepting cemetery funds.” But there are more creative aspects such as “creating visions for systems such as the Capital Plan, the Road Surface Management Plan in which you are dealing with problems (beforehand) instead of waiting for a crisis to occur.”

The most important issue for the current board members, Bock says, is “to take the town on a sound financial future. Everything is predicated on that fact. We’re tight spenders.”

“There’s just a sliver in me – this Select Board form of government was founded 400 years ago in England — to be part of that, this little sliver of history is important to me.” In light of that, he says, “more people should get on the (town) boards, to run for Select Board, school board, budget committees. …”

 

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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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