To the editor: Chester needs to step up for Yosemite Firehouse

Clearly there are issues of ownership, asset or liability, unwillingness to take ownership and or responsibility for Chester’s historic Yosemite Firehouse.

I am really tired of our Select Board not wanting to step up and make things happen. It seems every issue, large or small, is a hot potato. I realize everything has budget consequences – and its easy to be a sideline coach – but obviously placing the building where there is parking and having it open to the public with historic equipment to view would be good for the building, tourism and our local economy.

There is a huge amount of money driving through our town and it could generate a lot of revenue. But for some reason there isn’t the desire for us to be more of a tourist destination. History and architecture are part of what makes us unique. People want to experience that and many, many towns benefit greatly by making the most of their assets. Why not Chester?

Maybe embracing “Flatlanders” would put some more meat on the bone for us so when issues like the Yosemite Firehouse come up people in the private sector can step up and make it happen. Our town is a little like this year’s Red Sox. They have talent but desperately need good pitching. Please, let’s get this one figured out and hit a home run. Why not ask our friends at Dollar General and Jiffy Mart to work together and put it between them they have the money and will be getting much more? It would help balance out the old with the new.

Barre Pinske
Chester

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  1. Nancy says:

    I think it is too bad that there is such a debate over the Yosemite Firehouse. It is quite the landmark and has quite a history over the years. Historical in all ways. Historical is the key word here, and for the Historical Society to put it up for sale is disturbing. An insurance bill of $1200 a year seems a poor excuse to sell it. I remember a few years ago I donated to the “save the fire house” fund. What happened to the money that was collected? I cannot help but think about all the money spent on fighting the Dollar Store had been spent on the old fire house it would be in great shape, and the goal to preserve the looks of the town.

  2. John Grady says:

    Sam,
    Ever stop and think the studies might be biased or flat out propaganda by special interest groups?

    I’ll stick with common sense. The retail stores buy supplies from corporate warehouses, some stores have managers and others owners. A truck from a corporate warehouse brings inventory and they sell it, store manager or owner, it isn’t much different.

    The grocery store and hardware store have how much local product? Would the word irrelevant sum it up?

    It’s like saying use FEDEX instead of UPS because the FEDEX ground drivers are independent contractors and believing it has some benefit to the local economy while the trucks and fuel come from out of state.
    The difference is W-2 labor or 1099 labor.

    What about local banking? We have two chain banks in town. Lawyers? How often does a small business need a lawyer and what economic impact on the town would one more lawyer make or the ones already here hiring one more part time clerk have?

    How about supplies for the Inn. Is the bedding made in China? Do they buy at Wal-Mart or online?

    The real sucking sound in this town is OPEC and big oil making out great as people drive to Springfield or Claremont to go shopping or pay convenience store prices at the local stores.

    Are there any studies by experts on how much it costs to shop at a local market compared to a super market chain?

    Lots of people don’t practice what they preach. They drive cars made by foreign car companies while shopping at big box stores. At the Claremont Wal-Mart, foreign car with Vermont plates and shop local bumper stickers. And a Vermont state representative at Home Depot. New Hampshire makes out great. They get the property taxes from the stores and the jobs.

    http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/ArtWeb/39AB6C1B9DD7C8FF852572260050D967?OpenDocument

    More experts and studies.

    The real discussion should be why did the American consumer become so price sensitive that they went to the bargain stores? Evidently many upper middle class people don’t understand the economic plight of the middle class in today’s economy or they might understand few people have disposable income after being played off against third world labor for 50 years because of the invention of the shipping container in the late 1950’s.

  3. Sam Comstock says:

    John,

    One of the main differences between a chain store and a local business is where the initial money spent goes to. A number of studies suggest that a chain store sends 87% of the receipts out of town, with only about 13% of the money churning in the local economy. A local business, on the other hand, spends considerably more of their receipts locally (studies suggest 40-45%). This difference is called the local multiplier effect. Think of the chain store as sticking a straw into our town’s economy and sucking hard – that is their sole reason for coming here, and they are incredibly efficient at it.

    The local inn is much more likely to bank locally than the chain store. They are more likely to buy supplies locally. I haven’t seen the numbers, but would bet on the aggregate that they pay considerably more in local taxes. They will use a local accountant, lawyer, hardware store, and auto repair. They actively support our schools, they give our children scholarships when it is time for college, and they assist local families in need.

    Any net positive impact of the chain store is dwarfed by local multiplier effect of our tourism-related businesses in monetary terms, and twice so in cultural aspects.

    Loss of visual iconic historical structures and additions of chain stores feel like big steps in the wrong direction for the community.

  4. John Grady says:

    http://www.state.vt.us/tax/statisticsm&rmult.shtml

    Chester inns had $1 million in room revenue in 2014. The owner of the Market said his revenue is $2.5 Million at one of the dollar general hearings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kshaP3E05sk

    The revenue of the market dwarfs the hotel revenues.

    The economic impact to the town tourist industry which is largely tied to skiing isn’t going to change much, if any at all based on the Firehouse one way or the other or two new retail buildings being built.

    If both new retail buildings where stopped what would the benefit to the town’s character be? Would irrelevant sum it up considering what lines the road and the number of blighted properties on top of already built stuff that would never fly today?

    The money spent over something so irrelevant is probably up near $500,000

    “Windsor County Regional Planning Commission offered two alternatives during the continuation of the Act 250 hearing last Thursday. Click to view Alternative A and Alternative B.
    http://www.chestertelegraph.org/2013/01/23/alternative-plans-spark-strong-objections-from-dollar-general-developer-engineer/

    The County Planning Commission spent how much getting involved? Than the town spent tons of money including the cost of a voting day. The state environmental efforts under act-250 along with how many court hearings cost the state how much ?

    People drove tons of miles and spent tons of hours over 2 little retail establishments that are rubber stamped within reason 20 miles away in NH.

    The Red Tape crowd made a bunch of money over issues that would have almost no impact on the town either way and under trickle down economics the little people will pay.
    The Firehouse is a real Classic but a huge money pit so if nobody wants to pay, have a funeral for it and move on.

    Right now the Firehouse is standing and the 2 retail places haven’t been built so if the theories about what is good for the town tourist industry held water the towns tourist industry would be doing great and the town would be doing great.

    The number of real jobs in town tied to the tourist industry is ? Real jobs doesn’t include people who have a hobby and make a few dollars, if that. Drew’s has jobs and the payroll is ?

    People let their emotions get the best of them and make mistakes. Learn from them and try harder to take rational looks at issues and make logical decisions in the future.
    Most people can look back and say “I should have” about something they wish they had done different.

    It’s evident nobody is sending in 4 and 5 figure checks or todays story would be the save the firehouse committee has raised a bunch of the money needed so keep it coming.

  5. Michaeline Curtis says:

    Barre is right — this is a perfect opportunity to showcase Chester and its history while simultaneously attracting new tourism in town. Grants from national companies is a great idea. Also consider applying to the Vermont Firefighters Association. They have a “Historians Committee” and might be in a position to offer support.

  6. Ron Patch says:

    It amazes me reading all of these posts. Not one of those who posted have ever donated a nickel to the Chester Historical Society. None of you know the facts about ownership and here you are moving a building you don’t own.
    It’s unfortunate that the telegraph reported that ownership of Yosemite is not clear. They know who owns it, CHS.
    There is a procedure and CHS is following that process. How many of you that have posted have ever seen our deed? Or know that it is a reversionary Deed?
    After the way the telegraph has beat up Dollar General and now starting on Jiffy Mart it is absurd to think those companies would help. Pure fantasy.
    No one has come forward and offered us a penny. Instead move it here or move it there. Can I move your house to a location that I like?

  7. Kathy says:

    Reading of the stir which is surrounding the Yosemite Firehouse, I was reminded of a preservation effort I had been actively involved in. It would be a win for everyone if such an effort could be successfully implemented in Chester.

    I was involved with a local preservation group (outside of Vermont) to preserve 3 buildings which had historic ties to the community within which they were situated. They started out as factory housing for the (then) nearby rubber factory and became rentals once the old factory burned to the ground. A century of use and a slew of residents later, they were vacated. Mother Nature and vandals next saw them fall into a state of disrepair.

    The property changed hands and the new owners, the local fire district whose fire house abutted the subject property, decided they would raze these houses in order to expand their facility. Three decrepit little houses — which had been moved at least once to save them for use — were teetering on the brink of extinction.

    A group of concerned residents who had formed a Trust learned of the fire district’s plan and set out to save the rubber factory houses. Negotiations commenced with the fire district and a deal was struck — the little houses had until a certain date to be moved to a new location. Racing against the clock, the Trust sought out donations from local people, businesses, and grants from the state.

    My own business donated countless man hours helping clean the old site and new site, clean out and secure the houses, and prep the houses for a move to a new location. Many other businesses chipped in; excavators dug the foundation holes, concrete companies supplied new foundations, you name it. Services and materials were either discounted or donated free and clear.

    Fundraising was grass roots and people were of a few different mindsets. Fortunately, many people recognized the value of preserving our past and the dividends it would pay in the future.

    My ‘flatlander’ community is rooted in early American history. If you’ve watched any of AMC’s program, TURN, you might have heard of Setauket. Our past is part of the allure and draw of the area. Whether the home was used by Washington’s spies, had an Underground Railroad hiding spot, or was an early 20th century summer cottage, we tend to them with the knowledge that we are stewards of our community’s future. I see so much of that same pride in Chester.

    Here in Setauket, the local historical society offers walking tours, and other seasonal tours, in addition to holiday house tours in order to raise money to help fund programs and pay for their facilities. There are plenty of stops in Chester that would make for a wonderful historic walking tour. Tie it in with leaf-peeping season and the $1,200 I saw quoted for insurance in one article would be recouped in the season, if not sooner.

    Barre Pinske makes a good point that the two corporations looking to profit off of Chester should perhaps invest themselves in helping preserve Chester’s historic structures. According to Dollar General’s corporate giving web page, they utilize an acronym, CARES under which defines their giving policy. Under the letter ‘R’ one finds this: “R: Region: Preserve and increase access to the region’s unique assets.”

    Please allow that to sink in: PRESERVE AND INCREASE ACCESS…

    Champlain Oil (Jiffy Mart) has donated to local groups in the past for such items as youth playgrounds. Given that Champlain Oil’s proposed location (and subsequent abandonment of the other) will leave a pronounced scar upon Chester, a donation should be requested from them to help re-situate the Yosemite Firehouse to a new site with better community and tourist access.

    Chester has a significant number of beautiful, re-purposed structures which celebrate the past and have transitioned well into the present day. The Yosemite Firehouse is a wonderful piece of Chester’s story and should be moved and preserved for future.

    We are the stewards of Chester’s past who must make a sound investment in its future.

  8. Ken says:

    The Yosemite Firehouse would look right at home next to a modern Emergency Services building for our overworked and under-appreciated firefighters/EMT Ambulance crews and Police Dept.

  9. Melody Reed says:

    I would like to see the Yosemite Fire Station as a historic tourist attraction, great idea Barre Pinske! I’d be willing to be part of a group that helps make this happen. Not sure I like the idea of it being near the Dollar General though. Surely there’s a better location on Route 103, perhaps near the Stone House Antique Center & American Legion building?