Fire truck vote set; 4th solar firm presents farm plan

By Karen Zuppinger

After addressing the issue at Town Meeting, the Select Board at its meeting on Wednesday, March 6, said it is moving forward with leasing a new fire truck.
Town Manager David Pisha will send the contract to town attorney James Carroll for review. Barring any setbacks, the Select Board will vote on the contract at its March 20th meeting to meet a deadline to get the discounted price.  That deadline had been moved  from March 14 to March 21.
The three-year agreement, with an interest rate of 2.59 percent, will cost $87,000 per year. The truck lease will become part of the town capital budget and will be voted on at Town Meeting for each of those three years.
Resident Heather Chase asked if the town received multiple bids before deciding to go with one company over another.
Chester Police Det. Matt Wilson, a volunteer firefighter who has just been named fire chief, told Chase that he submitted his budget and specifications to as many as 12 companies, of which six responded.  The current bid was the best offer for a mid-range fire truck that fit the town’s needs and budget, he said.

As fire chief, Wilson, who keeps his full-time police job, will receive $2,600 a year, plus $15.20 an hour when on fire calls and for drills.

4th solar firm presents proposal

Town solar farms were again front and center for the Select Board. Michael Whigham from Integrated Solar of Brattleboro made a pitch to put up a 500 kilowatt solar array farm on town-owned land on Route 103 near the water pump stationing.  It is the fourth such company to do so. Integrated Solar

Whigham said that Integrated Solar stands apart from its three competitors because it has about $8.3 million available within a $25 million fund through Green Lantern Development, in partnership with Green Mountain Power and National Life Insurance. The fund is designed to bring solar to towns, schools and municipalities. It has already completed projects in Rutland, Williston and Middlebury College, among others.

Integrated Solar stands apart from its three competitors because it has about $8.3 million available within a $25 million fund through Green Lantern Development, in partnership with Green Mountain Power and National Life Insurance.

Michael Whigham
Integrated Solar

According to the select board, the other solar proposals require the town enter into a contract before the developers will begin to raise money to get their project off the ground. The Integrated Solar project already has its funding in place.

Chester resident Bob Parker said he was concerned that if the town committed to Integrated Solar, the fund could be gone by the time Chester signed a contract. But Whigham said Green Lantern plans to keep the fund going for several more years.
The terms of the agreement are similar to the ones outlined at the February meeting: a 25-year term limit,  leasing of town land, sharing of profits. Where it differs is that the town would be able to buy out the lease at seven, 15 or 20 years, Whigham said.  He added that his group is working  with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to put in place a vetting system to screen future developers.
Whigham added that to get the project finished by the end of the year he’d like the board’s decision no later than Aug. 1.
This would be Integrated Solar’s first project of its kind in Southern Vermont, Whigham said.
As it has done with the other solar firms, the Select Board asked Whigham to stay around for an executive session to further hash out details of its proposal.

Tax benefits of a designated Village Center

As the Select Board considers whether Chester will become a Designated Village Center, Caitlin Corkins of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation discussed the federal and state tax benefits of historic preservation and establishing Chester as a Designated Village Center.
Corkins explained that the tax credits are a dollar for dollar reduction in what is owed in taxes. For example if your tax bill was $10,000 and you received a $10,000 tax credit, your tax liability would be zero. The tax credit at the state level is 10 to 50 percent and could be combined with the federal credit of 20 percent.

Some of the requirements for receiving the federal tax credits are:

  • Substantial rehabilitation — at least $5,000.  Federal credits may require greater value of rehabilitation.
  • must be income producing (municipal buildings and non-profit organizations are exempt)
  • must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (for Federal credits) or within the designated Village Center (roughly Lovers Lane to Maple Street) for state credits.
  • must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for historic preservation.

Unlike federal tax credits, which cover historical boundaries, state tax credits are made available to promote designated village centers.  Corkins said that the state credits are currently capped at $1.7 million annually, applications are competitive and projects must be located within the designated village center.
The state credit differs from the federal credit in other substantial ways; while the federal tax credit is capped at 20 percent of the rehabilitation cost, the state offers additional credits between 10 and 50 percent. This includes a 25 percent façade credit for projects that do not meet the federal substantial rehabilitation guidelines. There are also up to 50 percent building code credits for elevators, lifts, sprinkler systems and other requirements.  Any unused tax credits can be sold at discounts to banks and insurance companies or used to get favorable loan terms.
More information can be found at accd.vermont.gov. Or by contacting Caitlin Corkins, 802-828-3047
The deadline for submitting state applications is July 1.

Public input sought on website grant

The Select Board is seeking public input on a grant it will be applying for to build or upgrade its website.  The Vermont Council on Rural Development and the Vermont Digital Economy Project are offering the 100 percent grant through the Office of Rural Development for the 25 towns most impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. Besides building or upgrading town websites, the grant provides customized workshop, consultation and training for small businesses, farms and forestry, Internet interns in public libraries, establishes Wi-Fi hot spots and sets up community-based calendars.

The on-going cost to a town would be maintaining the website once it is up and running. You can contact town manager David Pisha at 875-2173. The grant deadline is March 15.

These appointments were made by the Select Board

Assistant Fire Chief
Robert “Red” MacAllister
Animal Control Officer Police Chief Richard Cloud
Cemetery Sexton Jeffrey Sheldon
Connecticut River Transit Authority Bruce Parks
Council on AgingLinda Stowell
Emergency Management chairDavid Pisha
Fence Viewer Frank Balch
J. Leon Spaulding
Tony Weinberger
First ConstableJeffrey Holden
Green Up Day chairman Frank Kelly
Health Officer
Leslie Thorsen
Inspector of Lumber, Shingles and Wood Tony Weinberger
Planning Commission members for 3-year term Harry Goodell
Vacancy
Pound KeeperRichard Cloud
Regional Planning alternateDerek Suursoo
Regional Planning Commission representative
Tom Bock
Solid Waste District representativeDerek Suursoo
Town Service Officer David Pisha
Tree WardenJoseph Epler
Weigher of CoalTony Weinberger
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About the Author: Karen Zuppinger in a freelance writer and Chester resident. Her work has appeared in Vermont Magazine and Assisi's Online Journal of Arts and Letters. She is a winner of America's Best Short Fiction Award.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Hi Philip, The last article that Karen wrote on the proposal gave some indication of the benefit to the town.
    It is in the second section of the article:
    http://www.chestertelegraph.org/2013/02/27/two-solar-farms-slated-for-chester/

  2. Philip Bravin says:

    Regarding the solar farm — those of us in Chester need to better understand the benefits the town would accrue from this.

    Would the financial benefits be shared with the taxpayers?

    Another concern is the aesthetic look of solar farms. It’s like those wind farms that do not fit with the character of Vermont. If we go down I-91 near Putney, the view of a solar farm there isn’t appealing at all. It could very well be screened with shrubs and hedges on the border.

    I intend to make this aesthetic view of solar farms an issue until we are assured it will not change the Vermont we know and love.