Chester Select Board OKs Fall Festival, finalizes warning, capital bond plan

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In addition to approving the Chester Rotary Club’s plans to use the Chester Green for its Fall Festival in September, the Chester Select Board, at its Jan. 20 meeting, put the final touches on its Town Meeting warning and capital bond plan.

Chester Rotary Club member Malcolm Summers explains what permissions the club needs to put on the Fall Festival.

Chester Rotary Club member Malcolm Summers explains what permissions the club needs to put on the Fall Festival. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Town Manager David Pisha distributed a new set of spreadsheets to answer questions that had arisen about his plan to use bonds to spread out capital expenses and not spike the tax rate in any given year. The Town Meeting warning lists two bonds – one for $269,000 for nine capital purchases including fire hoses, sewer pumps and new decking surrounding the town pool. A second $220,000 bond will go toward paving.

With low interest rates and petroleum prices (for asphalt), Pisha told the board that this is a good time to catch up on some of Chester’s crumbling roads.

The capital bond plan handouts anticipate future bonds – for more paving and a new pumper for the Fire Department – but these are not on the ballot this year. Board member Arne Jonynas wondered what would happen if interest rates go up.

“Then you don’t have to bond,” Pisha said of future borrowing. “But you are locked into what you’ve already borrowed.”

“At the same interest rates,” asked Jonynas.

“Yes,” said Pisha.

Three properties seek tax exemption

Among other articles are requests for exemption from property tax from the Chester Rod & Gun Club, the Green Mountain Softball League and the Olive Branch Lodge as well as 11 articles from social service organizations and the annual appropriation for the Springfield Regional Development Corp.

Rotary members Malcolm Summers, Nancy Rugg and Dan Cote asked the board for permission to use The Green, close Common Street and prohibit parking along Route 11 at The Green for the 2016 Fall Festival. In addition, they asked to use the lawn of the Academy Building for music and children’s activities. DeBenedetti told Summers that the town has a lease with the Chester Historical Society for the building and its grounds and that the use of the property would have to be agreed to by the society.

“Talk with the historical society,” said Bock.

Tom Hildreth (left) and Frank Kelly give the board a progress report on a celebration marking the town's 1766 charter.

Tom Hildreth,  left, and Frank Kelley give the board a progress report on a celebration marking the town’s 1766 New York charter.

The board approved the Rotary request with the exception of the use of the Academy Building lawn.

Frank Kelley and Tom Hildreth reported that a number of people had come to the first meeting of a group to plan a celebration of the 250 anniversary of the New York Charter of 1766. The group brainstormed activities that could be part of the celebration including a parade, a town barbeque, tours, games and speakers. The next meeting of the group will be held at the Chester-Andover Elementary library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27. All are welcome and Kelley noted that they are also looking at using Google Docs so people who could not make the meeting could participate by computer.

Town auditor Jack Cable told the board that he had contemplated stepping down, but has decided he will continue on the job. He noted however that Phyllis Jewitt is not running for another term and hoped that someone would run for that spot. Auditors meet in April, July and October to review the town’s bills and bank statements and then again in January when they work on putting out the town’s annual report. Auditors are paid by the hour, with the usual time commitment of 120 hours a years meeting quarterly.

Executive Assistant Julie Hance told the board that the town had closed on the O’Neil property, which was purchased as a site for a 330 thousand gallon water tank that is part of the upgrade to the town water system approved by voters on Sept. 29, 2015.

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  1. Tim Roper says:

    With regard to the Chester Rod & Gun Club’s request for tax exempt status, I’d like to know that the facility will be open for public use if exemption is granted. That was always my understanding of how the town benefits from not collecting property tax on that sizable piece of land. By allowing the public to use the shooting ranges there, we provide a safe location for folks to go shooting as opposed to forcing people to set up a makeshift range elsewhere, where there might not be adequate backstops. That seems like a fair trade to me.

    So, is the facility open to the public under this proposal, or is it restricted to use by members only?

  2. Bob says:

    Just applied for the Act 250 permit for the water project on 1/25/16 and already closed on the land?! If the permit doesn’t come through, we own it anyway and I propose we name it Pisha Park.

    For those drooling over the gravel, here’s the link to the permit denial that made the very successful O’Neils decide that it wasn’t worth their trouble:

  3. Mary Jane Miles says:

    I want to know how the in and out of funds to/from the water sewer department is not going to get entangled so that non-users are not paying for anything in regard to this with the many expenses coming up and the movement of funds.