Editorial: Targeting cultural and economic growth

 

Cynthia Prairie

Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the desire of many area residents and interested parties to see a concerted push for economic vitality in the town of Chester, whether it is for a fairgrounds and kiosk, an observatory or a new business. We’ve read it many times in The Telegraph Polls, which we periodically post to take the pulse of the area.

And in the comments made on both our Facebook page and in The Telegraph’s comments sections — including Letters to the editor, it is obvious that — although you don’t always agree with one another — you care and think deeply about the issues.

Soon after we launched The Chester Telegraph in January of 2012, we took a Telegraph Poll asking if you thought a Dollar General store was “a good fit” for Chester. At the time, we received 51 votes. One person had no opinion, 11 said yes and 39 said no.

Three months later, it was obvious that readers had been thinking more about the issue when we took our next poll. We delved deeper, assuming that a Dollar General would be built in Chester. We asked if you would shop at it, and we offered an array of answers to choose from.

Out of an astounding 166 responses, 22 said yes, they would shop at the Dollar General at least once a week; 15 said yes, at least once a month; and 11 said yes, occasionally, for a grand total of 48 people who would shop at a Chester Dollar General.

Six gave “other” as an answer and expounded on why they wouldn’t or would shop, while 18 comments became a lively discussion on the merits and drawbacks of a Dollar General.

But the surprising number was that 112 of you said no, never. That’s two and a third times the number of those who said they would shop there, even if only occasionally.

Many were concerned about the impact on Lisai’s Chester Market, its employees and, with the money going out of town, on the local economy. Obviously, you believe that not all businesses are beneficial economically to a community.

Still, whether respondents were “for it or agin it,” they believe that adding economic growth to the town is important.

Looking to the stars

Cultural growth — developing an environment that nurtures the mind and spirit — is also important to our residents. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of putting an observatory on public land, a private proposal that became so hogtied by Select Board hemming and hawing that the organization that put it forth finally pulled out.

Of 90 respondents to that Telegraph Poll, 84 wanted the observatory on public lands. Of those 84, 60 believed it should be a public-private partnership; 17 believed it should completely private and 7 wanted to see complete public funding for it.

That proposal would have put the privately owned observatory at the Pinnacle, managed by the organization – the Southern Vermont Astronomy Group, which would have opened it up for free observing and education to schools and the general public including tourists.

What Chester has – among its residents at least — is plenty of will and desire to move forward on smart, well-thought-out economic and cultural improvements for the benefit of the town overall, a desire to see our storefronts rented, our houses filled with people and our schools burbling over with kids who are eager to learn and grow up here.

What Chester doesn’t have is an overarching and articulate vision and a solid, real-world, step-by-step plan with deliverables and deadlines that would move a process forward.

Next up: How to get there

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Filed Under: CommentaryDollar GeneralTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has 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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  1. tina stocker says:

    I believe a Dollar General will benefit Chester as the elderly have nothing unless they travel.