Borrowing plan put forth as capital needs in Chester double annual set-aside

Barry Goodrich of the wastewater treatment plant explains the problems with the pumping station. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Barry Goodrich of the pumping station explains the problems with the system. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
©2015-Telegraph Publishing LLC

With budgeting season approaching quickly, Town Manager David Pisha gave the Chester Select Board a draft budget at its Wednesday, Oct. 21 meeting. He also introduced a plan that he believes will even out the impact of the town’s capital expenditures over the next five years.

Pisha told the board that the large number of capital requests exceed by more than $400,000 the $330,000 set aside annually from the general fund.

The town’s current capital needs would cost around $763,000, which, Pisha said, could be provided through a low-interest, five-year bond averaging 1.83 percent through the Vermont Bond Bank.

According to Pisha’s plan, the payback would average about $160,000 per year or about half of the annual capital fund transfer. The idea is to get the long-lasting items purchased while avoiding a rise in the capital fund transfer that would increase the budget and raise tax rates.

Board member Tom Bock airs concern about the borrowing plan.

Board member Tom Bock airs concern about the borrowing plan.

Select Board member Tom Bock said he was bothered by the plan noting that taking out this bond would be a decision that another select board would have to live with. “It violates our tradition and I’ve got to think about it,” said Bock. “On the other hand, it’s the right time to do it and the interest rates are low.”

Board member Arne Jonynas also expressed qualms, asking whether the items requested were needs or wants. “It’s nice to always get everything you want, but that’s not always the case,” said Jonynas.

“It’s not just wants,” said Pisha. “Matt (Fire Chief Wilson) will tell you he needs new hoses, Barry (Goodrich) will tell you his pump station needs rebuilding.”

“It still comes down to making a decision on whether it’s absolutely necessary,” said Jonynas

“For us to make a decision, I think we need to hear from the department heads,” said board member Bill Lindsay.

Goodrich, who operates the wastewater treatment plant, took the mic to tell the board that the Pleasant Brook pumping station was in need of a rebuild and that delaying it would make the work more difficult and more expensive. The station serves the Pleasant Brook Apartments and several buildings along Pleasant Street. The cost of the work is estimated to be $100,000.

Water and Sewer Department capital spending is separate from other town capital expenditures so while the work on the pumping station would be part of the proposed bond, that portion would be paid for by the users of the sewer district.

99 percent of the Chester Fire Department hoses are deemed unusable and need to be replaced at a cost of $40,000.
Matt Wilson
Fire chief

The Fire Department’s ongoing effort to bring its equipment up to date and into compliance with new standards continues, Wilson told the board. As an example, he said that those new standards, set down by National Fire Protection Association, dictate that any hose made before 1987 must be taken out of service due to the danger of blowouts that can injure or kill firefighters. That means 99 percent of the town’s fire hoses are unusable and need to replaced at a cost of $40,000.

Fire Chief Matt Wilson explains the need for replacement equipment.

Fire Chief Matt Wilson explains the need for replacement equipment.

In addition, Wilson told the board, the department is requesting a commercial washing machine and dryer since it can no longer wash its turnout gear at the laundromat since the clothing contains contaminants after a fire. Among items that are no long working well are: an air compressor to fill air packs, pagers to alert department members of an alarm and a thermal camera that not only helps firefighters see a fire more clearly, but is used to track missing persons.

Also included in the capital requests are a mower for the cemeteries, a dump truck, an excavator, a police cruiser, repairs to the Town Hall second floor, a new fence at Cobleigh Field, replacement of the non-slip surface surrounding the swimming pool, renovation of the basketball court and $135,000 in paving.

Inventory at Yosemite Firehouse

Pisha told the board that he plans to gather a number of people knowledgeable about the history of the Yosemite Firehouse on Thursday, Oct. 29 to make an inventory of items still in the building.

A month ago, The Chester Telegraph questioned the Chester Select Board about inventorying the contents after it learned that some items had been moved from the building, some of which have been sold and some of which have been taken to the Academy Building, which the Chester Historical Society rents from the town.

In addition to Matt Wilson, Pisha is expecting former fire chief Harry Goodell and others to join him.

Jonynas asked if the historical society would be participating and Pisha noted that as both the former fire chief and a historical society member, Harry Goodell would be.

Pisha issued an invitation for those with knowledge of the contents to contact him about attending, but made it clear that this would not be a tour or sightseeing opportunity.

Lindsay added that he was told that some of the contents were placed in the building by other towns “as a storage unit” to be preserved, but he did not say what things those were.

Budgeting and Town Plan get under way

At its Nov. 4 meeting, the board will begin the budget process in earnest. According to Pisha, the board will be hearing from department heads regarding their plans and funding requests.  During the budget process last year, copies of the budget under discussion were provided so those attending the meeting could follow along and ask questions.

According to Executive Assistant Julie Hance, budget copies will be available during this year’s meetings as well.

Speaking as chair of the Planning Commission, Bock told  the board that its work on sign regulations and on additions and corrections to the Unified Development Bylaws was winding down. He added that with the Monday, Nov. 16 meeting, the work of updating the Town Plan would get under way.  Bock said this would begin with a joint meeting of the commission, the Select Board and the Development Review Board. This would also be a meeting where the commission would welcome public input.

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