VTel responds to Big Pole controversy in Chester; Andover-Chester MOUs still in play

By Cynthia Prairie
©2015 – Telegraph Publishing LLC

Following two executive sessions to discuss legal issues with town attorney Jim Carroll, the Chester Select Board reconvened its public session after almost a 90 minutes on Thursday, May 21.

After the first executive session, the board authorized Town Manager David Pisha to sign an amendment to a contract with Green Lantern Solar energy services, which is to build a town solar farm off Route 103 North and it took no action after the second executive session concerning a civil suit –  Rebecca Loomis vs Eugene Dean vs Chester etal. Docket No. 203-3-13 Wrev.

Concerning the tennis game that is the Chester-Andover Memorandum of Understanding covering Chester’s provision of emergency services to Andover, the Select Board was expecting to read Chester’s latest iteration penned by Pisha before voting to send it on to Andover. However the MOU was not in the Select Board packet and Pisha promised to get the MOU to the members.  This will be just the latest volley over the cost and terms of service for Chester to provide ambulance and fire service to Andover.

The Big Pole, left, stands about 4 feet above neighboring telephone poles. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

The Big Pole, left, stands about 4 feet above neighboring telephone poles. Click to enlarge. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Discussion then turned to what has become known as The Big Pole. More than two weeks ago, The Big Pole appeared at the corner of River Street and Waldo Road much to the consternation of  neighborhood residents and most anyone who happened to drive by it.

The 49-foot monster out-girthed and towered above nearby telephone poles. And neighbors said they couldn’t get a straight answer from the contractor who placed the pole or from VTel about its purpose and why that particular site had been chosen. After much complaining to Town Hall, which had not been informed of the placement either, The Big Pole was taken town as quickly as it went up — but with much less ease. It smacked into the mirror on the truck that was loading it, according to neighbors who watched.

To ease community ire and attempt to find an alternative site, VTel sent two representatives to the Select Board meeting — engineer Judy Paton and Chief Technology Officer Justin Robinson. Neither could explain why a subcontractor erected the pole in the first place, and both seemed chagrined by the kerfuffle.

But Paton and Robinson said that VTel needed a pole that large — it is actually 60 feet high, with 11 feet underground — to accommodate wireless service and that VTel had actually wanted a Main Street site.

Board chair John DeBenedetti said he recalled that VTel originally wanted to put an antenna in the Town Hall cupola but an engineer found the cupola insufficient structurally, so they were looking at Main Street — in the state right of way at Zachary’s Pizza House — and at the Town Garage property on Depot Street.

Paton said Town Garage property abuts the railroad tracks and, according to state requirements, the pole would have to be set back 33 feet from the right of way. Pisha suggested that VTel look further on town property to “get far enough from the tracks and in an area no one would care about.”

Neighborhood resident Kathy Estep, on whose property The Big Pole was planted, said that VTel didn’t research her property before placing it. If they had, she said, they would have discovered that the pole “really close to an old foundation and a sewer line. It wouldn’t have been cool if an augur went through the sewer line. You’d have more problems than you have now.” She also expressed concern about property values dropping and the possibility of the electronics hanging from the pole causing cancer.

Board member Tom Bock asked the VTel representatives if they had looked at other sites. “The town has other parcels,” he said. “Can you work with David (Pisha) to find a better place on town land? We want to be conciliatory but we don’t want Kathy Estep and a whole army of people in here raising hell.”

Paton agreed that VTel will work with the town to find a more suitable site.

Yosemite fund-raising for Fire Department recognized

Also, the Select Board formally thanked the Yosemite Engine Company for its fund-raising efforts for the Chester Fire Department. In a letter signed by members of the Select Board, the outlined the fruits of their efforts including:

  • more than 40 uniforms costing more than $24,000
  • a rescue trailer and ATV costing more than $25,000
  • Swift Board Rescue suits worth $10,000
  • a rescue boat, motor and trailer valued at more than $12,000 and
  • a contribution of one-third the cost of the proposed emergency services property.

The letter continued: “Equipping (the Fire Department) to come to the aid of people in our area, to save lives and property and to do so essentially behind the scenes is a true measure of your devotion to help your neighbors.”

IN OTHER NEWS: Select Board member Arne Jonynas is working on an assessment of the 23 Class 4 roads in Chester in an effort to preserve them, if possible. He added that a Class 4 road could be kept as Class 4, turned into a trail or abandoned. Jonynas has suggested notifying landowners on such roads to give them input.

Also, Leslie Thorsen was reappointed the town health officer. And Jiffy Mart has already paid for the water and sewer connection for its proposed site at Route 103 and Pleasant Street, even though the approval process has just begun.

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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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  1. Charlea Baker says:

    As I understand it, there are 507 households on the town water/sewer system who will be required to shoulder the entire burden of the cost. Yet the decision to move forward was given to everyone in the town. Perhaps those of us who live on a paved town roads should be allowed to vote to require those who live on dirt roads to pay for grading and flood damage themselves. Please let me know when that vote will be held.

  2. Charlea Baker says:

    Is anyone else wondering about the ethics of having an engineer making recommendations and drawing up plans to site the water project on her own sister’s property? Something smells in Chester and it is not the sewer system.