Chester board hears culvert detour concerns, reviews 2018 budget

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

One slide of the presentation showing the culvert and a list of deficiencies. Courtesy VHB

In a special hearing before the Dec. 6 Chester Select Board meeting, Popple Dungeon residents expressed their concerns about detours that would occur during replacement of a failed culvert that was insufficient to handle the water from Tropical Storm Irene.

Aaron Guyette and Jason Keener of the engineering firm VHB brought a power point presentation on the scoping, design and construction process, noting that the type of replacement for the failed culvert just west of Zezza Road has not been determined and that the engineers are still looking at alternatives.

But whether the decision is for a bridge or a culvert, the replacement work – currently envisioned for 2019 – will involve a detour that could last between one month and “the construction season.”

A detour map presented by VHB

The detours would mean that people west of the culvert would need to go out to Route 11 at the west end of Popple Dungeon and take either Route 11 or Route 121 to go east. According to Keener, these would add 20 to 30 minutes to trips into Chester.

Residents east of the culvert who normally use Popple Dungeon to go west would have to travel into Chester to Route 11.

Board member and Deputy Fire Chief Ben Whalen said he was worried about emergency response to residents west of the culvert. “Our mutual aid partners will help out, but 20 to 30 minutes is a prolonged response time.”

“The house would be down in that time,” said Nudist Camp Road resident Penny Benelli referring to response time in a fire.

A still from a video at the culvert on the day after Tropical Storm Irene. The culvert became blocked and the river cut a new channel and eroded Popple Dungeon Road. Telegraph video.

The engineers were told that Route 11 won’t be a perfect solution either since the state is scheduled to take it down to the road bed and re-build it in the summer of 2019 and delays can be expected there as well.

Guyette noted that there were ways to accelerate the construction including the use of precast elements that would be brought in and erected on site.

Board member Lee Gustafson asked if that would involve working around the clock and, if so, how would the contractors handle noise. Guyette said a decibel limitation could be put on the work for a portion of the day.

The work will be done with a state grant of federal funds. The state will pay $300,000 with the town adding a $100,000 match. The engineers said they would be looking for the most economical option that also fulfills the need. Executive Assistant Julie Hance said the cost above $400,000 would be the responsibility of the town, although there is a grant available and that one does not require a match.

VHB expects to be able to report back on the alternatives early in 2018.

Budgeting continues

Pisha takes the board through the capital budget

Following the culvert hearing, the board held its regularly scheduled meeting taking another look at the proposed 2017 budget and the proposed capital and bond plans.   The discussion was brief compared to previous years, focusing on a problem with establishing the correct number for the budget surplus from 2017.

Former board member Derek Suursoo noted that a rebate from a defunct solid waste district is shown as income in two years and that might have something to do with the disagreeing surplus numbers.

The board also noted that the contribution for the Springfield Regional Development Corp. was being raised to $10,000 from $8,649 and brought into the budget rather than being voted on from the floor. Pisha suggested that SRDC Executive Director Bob Flint has been very helpful to the town and there is a good working relationship with his organization. Past boards have put the appropriation into the voted articles — like charitable and social service groups.

While noting that the budget would be more accurate and valuable if the actual revenue and expense from 2017 was shown and not just the budget number, Suursoo nevertheless had praise for the effort. “This is a pretty nice package, very readable and professionally prepared,” said Suursoo. “Well done on that.”

Legislative agenda and possible road name change

Pisha told the board that Karen Horn of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns had asked if the board would be hearing from Chester’s representatives in the Vermont legislature on what they would be working on in the next session, which begins in January.

If that was case, Horn said that VLCT would try to send someone to that meeting. The board issued an invitation for Rep. Tom Bock and the three Windsor County senators to come to its Dec. 20 meeting.  By the time of publication, Bock, Sen. Dick McCormick and Sen. Alice Nitka have said they would attend.

Meghan Currier asks the board to change the name of Stoodley Rd.

Linda Crowson and her daughter Meghan Currier appeared before the board to ask that the town change the name of their road from Stoodley Road to Fern Brook Lane. Describing it as a tiny horseshoe of a road on which hers is one of two houses, Currier said that she grew up reading Anne of Green Gables and always wanted to have a romantic, poetic road name. The road is adjacent to a brook that has a lot of ferns and thus the proposed name.

Hance told the board that it can change the name of a Class 3 road with a motion, but members were cautious. Pisha said that according to Ron Patch, Stoodley is an old family name in the area. Jonynas said he thought there should be  good reason to change the historical names of roads. Hance said that the other family on the road is in Florida and while they have been notified of the request, may not have had enough time to do that. It was suggested that the question come up again at the Dec. 20 meeting by which time there may be comments.

Saying that he had no opinion on the request, Frank Bidwell cautioned the board that changing the name of one road would lead to a host of people wanting to change the names on their roads.

In other business

The two towers

The board approved the Chester Snowmobile Club’s annual request to use portions of town roads as links between trails:

  • After the fifth bridge on Smokeshire Road north, west to the new snowmobile bridge
  • Marcs Drive from Bonneville’s to the far end of the road
  • Blue Hill Road for 100 yards to cross the bridge
  • Ethan Allen Road for 100 yards along road to Malfunction Junction
  • About 200 feet of Nudist Camp Road at the intersection of Williams Road
  • All of Williams Road
  • Cemetery Road

Jonynas asked where the expansion of the Brookside Cemetery stood. Pisha said that there was some talk of a design competition for the work and Chester landscape architect Scott Wunderle had told him of a person who specializes in cemetery design.

And Jonynas also raised the question of when the new cell tower would be completed as there are now two of them standing on the Pinnacle, but the antennas are not being moved from the old one to the new one. Pisha said that he would look into it.

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