After decision hiccup, town agrees to seek grant, loan for exterior repairs to Whiting Library

By Cynthia Prairie

The Chester Select Board last Wednesday, July 17, walked back on earlier suggestions that the Whiting Library Board of Trustees come up with more than the original $10,000 it had pledged toward major repairs of the library building.

It instead agreed to apply for a federal grant and loan and put in the $10,000 that had been approved by voters in March to help pay for $115,000 in architectural work and major and minor repairs to the exterior of the building.

Since 2000, the trustees of the Whiting Library have raised more than $202,000 to support library operations and their “current fundraising activities cover most of the acquisitions, programs and services” the library provides.

Bruce Parks, chair
Whiting Library Board of Trustees

At its meeting three weeks ago, some members of the Select Board had expressed concern that grants came with a price — matching funds had to be secured — and asked the library board to put up $25,000 more to help fund repairs. Library trustee chair Bruce Parks balked at the request, calling it “in bad taste” since “the library is a town building.” But, Parks agreed to take the suggestion to the trustees and return with their answer.

Whiting Library board of trustees chair Bruce Parks reads a letter to the Select Board. Select Board member Arne Jonynas is in background./ Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Whiting Library board of trustees chair Bruce Parks reads a letter to the Select Board. Select Board member Arne Jonynas is in background. ON THE COVER: From left, Barre Pinske, Bruce Parks, Select Board members Arne Jonynas, Bill Lindsay, Tom Bock and John DeBenedetti and town manager David Pisha.
Photos by Cynthia Prairie

According to library trustee Suzy Forlie, the exterior of the library needs extensive work, including repointing brick and stone masonry, repairing wooden cornices, the chimney and trim, as well as sash conservation, window recaulking, refinishing the front door and painting the trim.

Last Wednesday, Parks returned with the most of the library trustees and a letter outlining the contributions that the library has made to the town, including purchasing, for $5,000, land behind the library and spending $15,000 to computerize the library and automate the circulation system.

The letter also stated that, since 2000, the trustees have raised more than $202,000 to support library operations and their “current fundraising activities cover most of the acquisitions, programs and services” the library provides. “Adding a capital campaign would reduce the current contributions we receive,” the letter stated. It then urged the Select Board to return to the original proposal of matching its $10,000 contribution, applying for a grant to provide 35 percent of the work and making up the difference with a loan.

The four Select Board members in attendance — Derek Suursoo was absent — appeared willing, if not eager, to return to the original agreement.

Said Select Board member Tom Bock, who was not at the meeting where the agreement change was discussed, “We talked about this at budget time. We had an agreement. … The USDA has the money. I think we should take advantage of it. … It’s our building. What’s going to happen if we don’t fix it? There’s a lot of anxiety about all these matches for grants coming at the same time. But Julie (executive assistant Hance) and David (Pisha, town manager) can manage that risk.”

Board member Arne Jonynas said, “If we don’t do something about this, the low (repair) priorities will turn into high priorities. We need to get this out of the way.”

“The cost isn’t going to get any less,” said member Bill Lindsay. And board chair John DeBenedetti said, “At the end of the day, this is our building. We have to maintain our building. I understand why certain board members asked for an additional contribution. ….  we are always trying to find ways to ease the tax burden as best we can. I understand why certain individuals, certain board members may want to do that, but at the end of the day, it is our building.”

 With that, the four members unanimously OK’d the original agreement, including seeking the USDA grant.

Draft audit of Police Department

The Select Board also began discussing a draft audit of the Chester Police Department conducted by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. The board had asked for the audit after Police Chief Rick Cloud sought funding for an added officer. There are currently four full-time officers in the Chester PD, one of whom is on medical leave following an accident.

During the meeting, Cloud raised objections to the draft audit, saying that 50 percent of the recommendations in the report had already been done.

“Policies have been updated on use of force, on pursuit,” Cloud said, adding that the report “says we don’t have a good relationship with the schools but the author never talked with the school principals, superintendent. So who did he talk with?”

The audit is currently being revisited by its authors to fill in perceived errors and discrepancies. A final draft is expected within a week.

Biomass MOU, business loan request

In other news, member Tom Bock, who also sits on the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, said that the commission and the applicant for the Springfield biomass plant, Winstanley Corp., created and ratified a memorandum of understanding.

“After significant discussion,” said Bock, “I came to support the MOU, which doesn’t mean I support the project as a whole. For the first three years, stakeholders (including Chester) will be able to review what is going on concerning the applicant and traffic. … I think we are better with the MOU than without it.”

The traffic also will be divided among three major exits off Interstate 91– Exits 6, 7 and 8, Bock said. He added that he is concerned that if the steam loop goes through, in time, the project “will encourage a lot more truck traffic and I’m very concerned.”

Also, Chester carver Barre Pinske asked for a $10,000 economic development loan to help purchase and install a milling machine that will help his Depot Street business make more small bears faster. The board decided to go into executive session to speak with Pinske and no decision was made afterward, according to Pisha.

ON THE COVER: From left, Barre Pinske, Bruce Parks,  Select Board members Arne Jonynas, Bill Lindsay, Tom Bock and John DeBenedetti and town manager David Pisha.

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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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