Jonynas sees benefit to police review board, promoting Chester

By Cynthia Prairie

Arne Jonynas calls on his experience in both public and private sectors to inform his views on town government and his duties on the Select Board. Jonynas is seeking a third one-year term.

Arne Jonynas

Arne Jonynas

In a recent interview, Jonynas, who owns Chester Plumbing, recalls working at the Town of Windsor Windham Highway Department. “I was second in command. But,” he begins to laugh, “there were only two people” working there. Even so, that work, he says, helps him to understand the “grueling” work of Chester’s own Highway Department, which he calls “excellent.”

This former patrolman, who served 10 years with the New Haven, CT, Police Department, would like to begin a discussion on whether the Chester department needs a fifth full-time officer, as has been proposed. He says he’s spoken with quite a number of Chester residents who do not “think we need another one.” But before a decision is made, “I’d like to … see the numbers, the statistics, gather a lot of information before we hire another one.” To that end, the town has hired someone to do an outside review.

Also, Jonynas suggests setting up a citizens group to look into any public complaints about the Police Department. “It’s hard for the police to police themselves,” he says. “You should be able to … feel comfortable to complain.” He believes “it would help the Police Department as well to have a process to address issues.”

In the private sector, Jonynas and his wife Sharon moved to Chester 28 years ago and raised their four children.  They had owned Motel in the Meadow, which they sold in 2000. He recalls the large number of inns in the town and the organizations that helped support them, such as the Innkeepers Association and the Chester Chamber of Commerce, which he would like to see revived since Chester has a unique set of challenges when it comes to economic growth.

“Spending money is sometimes what you have to do. … (town government) money spent on promotion would come back to the town.”

Arne Jonynas

Business growth is important to both the town economy and its tax base, he says, pointing to the Elm Street corridor as a good area for commercial and light industry expansion.

Jonynas does see the need to promote the town to the outside world. At times, he says, the Select Board can be “a little too frugal. … Spending money is sometimes what you have to do. … money spent on promotion would come back to the town.”

He would like to see a reallocation of town funds to aid in that effort, touting its “top notch school system, the library, the Historical Society, the Recreation Center … outdoor activities in general. That would bring businesses in here and new residents. … Most people who spend anytime here have a positive experience. … And for tourists (Chester is) a place to stay while exploring the area and everything Vermont has.”

Dark skies and solar farms

Jonynas also believes that Chester’s lack of light pollution – its “dark sky” – is an asset that can be taken advantage of. Referring to the success of Stellafane, the annual retreat in Springfield that attracts telescope makers from around the world, Jonynas says that a recent proposal by the Southern Vermont Astronomy Group, based in Chester, to house a telescope for public use has real potential. “I would love to see it up there,” he says, looking out his den window at the Pinnacle hillside. He cited benefits to the schools as well as tourism. It’s a public-private partnership that can work once the rights and responsibilities are ironed out, he says.

And he expresses excitement about a potential solar farm on 5 acres of town-owned land on Route 103 North. A solar company would lease the land and erect 250 to 500 solar panels, offering cheaper electricity for town government, cleaner energy and, it “might help keep taxes from going up as quickly.” “I’m all for it,” he says. “That’s a great project.” Another proposal – a larger and private one – is also suggested across the street from this on Trebo Road.

One of the biggest problems Chester faces, Jonynas says, is traffic, especially truck traffic since Chester is in the middle of a major east-west corridor. Main Street at 103, near the Catholic Church, he says, is a terrible intersection, with tractor-trailers that turn north overrunning the sidewalk. That area, he says, has been on the agenda of the transportation advisory committee of the Windsor County Regional Planning Commission for quite a while.

Jonynas will be not be running for re-election to the Green Mountain Union High School Board when his term ends next year. But he is considering seeking a three-year term on the Select Board.

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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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