Chester Select Board revisits Andover MOU; ice cream truck permit will have to wait

By Cynthia Prairie
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The ongoing negotiations with the Town of Andover over a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the cost of providing emergency fire and ambulance service to that town of 500 is looking more like a duel with paper swords.

Since the 2007 budget, Chester has charged Andover $9,300 (up from $8,280 in 2006) for fire service alone. “It’s our fault,” said Chester Select Board member Tom Bock during a December 2014 meeting. “We let this slide for 10 years or more. It’s on us.” At that time, the Select Board considered raising the annual fee for fire coverage for Andover from $9,300 to $20,000, but wondered whether Andover could pay the assessment. The board had said that it should have raised the rate incrementally.

Chester then crafted and sent an MOU to Andover. That original MOU, which faced many objections from the March 2015 Andover Select Board, outlined charges for fire, ambulance and communications services totaling $18,300 that would rise to $23,485 in 2015. The increases were $4,700 for fire and $485 as a share of the capital cost for upgrading the emergency communications equipment. Going forward, the MOU stated that the Town of Chester will determine the fee for emergency services each year as part of the budgeting process,that Chester could not guarantee 100% response by ambulance and fire, and that Chester would not be liable for instances when it was unable to respond and that Chester would not change the annual service fee based instances when it was unable to respond.

After much discussion at its Select Board meeting, the Andover Select Board returned Chester’s original proposal with changes. Andover Select Board member Jean Peters apparently was going to attend last Wednesday’s meeting but was unable to.

Just as Chester’s original MOU upset Andover board members, the revised MOU from Andover did not sit well with Chester board members.

Just as Chester’s original MOU upset Andover board members, the revised MOU from Andover did not sit well with Chester board members.

The revised MOU seeks a detailed accounting of all services provided not only by Chester emergency services but by the mutual aid. It also rejects the notion of paying for capital expenses and claims no liability on the part of the Town of Andover for Chester’s failure to provide service. Unlike the Chester version, the Andover MOU was limited to its 2015-16 fiscal year.

Bock called the tone of Andover’s revised MOU “kind of litigious, kind of lawyerly. We’ve had a good neighbor relation with Andover.”

Chester Select Board member Bill Lindsay said, “We should have an administrative fee if they want the accounting from not only Chester but from mutual aid.”

“We’re providing a service for a cost,” said board member Arne Jonynas. “I think we should just get to a cost and offer it and they can take it or leave it. We think it’s fair. They’ve gotten a good deal over many years.”

Select Board chair John DeBenedetti said he was concerned about Andover claiming to have no liability.

DeBenedetti added that Chester has capital costs, including improvements to the Pinnacle tower for emergency services. Board member Heather Chase agreed, saying, “Our taxpayers are paying more for fire and ambulance. There are other costs besides just operating.”

Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson spoke to the board, saying, “I have no problem with providing a report. But breaking it down to what it costs for XYZ, I don’t think we should. … There aren’t a lot of other towns that provide contract services and offer major breakdowns (in accounting).”

Wilson added, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday was the biggest forest fire I’ve dealt with in 20 years. This is insurance for them (Andover). I may never use my car insurance. But it is there if I need it.”

In the end, it was decided that Chester Town Manager David Pisha would draw up another MOU for Andover, with a “good neighborly” spirit, as Bock put it. It will likely come before the Select Board at its next meeting.

Screaming for ice cream

Sending sighs of disappointment through the ice cream loving community, a vendor who hopes to sell ice cream from his truck did not make the Select Board meeting. Brad Nash, a volunteer firefighter from Walpole, N.H., is seeking a vending permit to allow him to sell novelty ice creams from his ice cream truck.

He would sell under the names “Mr. Ding A Ling,” which is a nationwide vendor, as well as under his own is company, Penguin Paradise Ice Cream LLC.

Nash currently sells in Walpole, North Walpole and Drewsville, N.H., as well as the Vermont towns of Bellows Falls, Westminster, Saxtons River, Springfield and North Springfield. Besides Chester, he is seeking to add Windsor, VT, and Charlestown, N.H., to his service area, according to the Penquin Paradise Ice Cream Cart Facebook page.

Since Nash did not make the meeting, the Select Board decided to postpone a vote on his vendor permit until it hears from him.

Todd Hindinger, representing the Dalio property owners, speaks with the DRB Monday night. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Todd Hindinger, representing the Dalio property owners, speaks with the DRB Monday night. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

When a road is
really a driveway

Todd Hindinger, who was representing the owners of the Dalio property off Route 11, who are seeking to construct camp buildings, asked the Select Board for advice in following town road requirements as the owners begin to build an 18-foot wide private road on the land.

The project was before the Development Review Board, which suggested that Hindinger go to the Select Board to resolve the question of whether the project could accommodate an 18-foot wide drive as opposed to one 24 feet wide, since the terrain cannot accommodate that 6 extra feet. The property already has about 1,400 feet of paved road and the owner is seeking to add another 2,000 feet.

Select Board member Tom Bock said, “I don’t think the town road specs were ever supposed to address roads on private property. If, in the future, someone wanted to subdivide the property, we might require that all specifications be met.”

Select Board chair John DeBenedetti agreed, saying “I view this as a driveway as well. But emergency situations might be different.”

Fire Chief Wilson said that he had suggested that the driveway be 20 feet wide with multiple pulloffs that would allow room for tankers. “There is no water source and no way to pump water up there, so you’ll have numerous tanker trucks coming up there in case of fire,” he said, adding, “but if it’s 18 (feet wide), we’ll make it work.”

Bock urged Hindinger to make the property owner aware of the fire concerns expressed by both the Fire Department and the Select Board.

On Monday, May 11, Hindinger returned to the DRB with the Select Board’s clarification in hand along with a proposal to run a dry pipe from an area where tankers can turn around to the project site for the fire department’s use. The DRB has 45 days to render its decision.

In other action:

  •  Velco contractors have agreed to begin an assessment of the Pinnacle cell tower, which already contains equipment from a number of companies, including U.S. Cellular and AT&T. The town is concerned that the load capacity of the tower is reaching its peak and, with companies seeking space or upgrades, it wants to make sure the tower can handle the additions. Board member Jonynas said changes have already been made to the equipment on the tower without anyone in the town being aware of it. He added that he has spotted new guy-wires on the tower.
  • Town Manager Pisha has sought and received one quote for the cost of a public address system to be used during Select Board and other meetings in Town Hall. The cost of about $2,500 would include installation and rewiring as well as equipment including a podium mic, three mics on the Select Board table with multi-directional pickups, a mixer to feed to amplifiers for the audience and to SAPA-TV’s camera. Pisha also is seeking a 10-foot motorized screen to help with his PowerPoint presentations. Select board member Heather Chase, who has been pushing the project, said, “This is higher than I thought. But we have an aging population and we need this.” Chester resident Suzy Forlie suggested that the town consider adding a looping system for those with hearing aids, much like the one installed at the Whiting Library.
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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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