Master Plan moves to implementation phase; Okemo Chamber seeks Chester board help

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Without final financial numbers for 2017 to finish its work on the budget, the regular meeting of the Chester Select Board handled a number of housekeeping items and heard a plea for help from the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Mark Kane of SE Group presents the final Village Master Plan in Sept. 2016. Telegraph photo

Executive Assistant Julie Hance told the board that the purpose of the Master Planning Steering Committee has been fulfilled with the completion and publication of the Village Center Master Plan.

Hance said that it was time to disband the steering committee, but suggested that members of the committee would like to continue on as an “implementation” committee to help with the work of doing the projects spelled out in the plan.

The board went ahead with disbanding the first committee, but when it came to appointing a new one, the question of terms and the length of terms arose. Steering committee member Kelly Arrison said that they had not discussed terms. The board asked that the prospective members decide who would be on the committee with overlapping terms so they would not lose continuity.

Hance said the committee would meet unofficially and come back with that information.

A call for help

Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marji Graf told the board that she needs help. Graf said that the deadline for the chamber’s annual guidebook is Jan. 10 and she needs photos and copy about Chester for the publication. Graf also noted that the chamber has a calendar that is open to all but that few take advantage of it. “It’s all Ludlow,” said Graf.

Okemo Valley Chamber Executive Director Marji Graf asks the Chester Select Board for help with her marketing efforts. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

“I need your help, I want to represent Chester the best way I can,” said Graf pointing to the chamber website. “I want to add all the new links, the MeetChester or whatever.”

“It’s OK to have your own little website and brochure,” said Graf. “But you have to be part of the bigger engine.”

Graf gave the board a rundown on what the chamber does but confessed that she is discouraged because so few people participate. Graf said that her website is linked to the state’s tourism site and so events posted there get a wider audience.

Graf told the board that the chamber is holding a number of educational events at the NewsBank Conference Center in Chester. The next one – on cyber security – will be at noon on Wednesday, Jan 10. Graf invited anyone who wants to attend to come and bring a lunch. She also lamented the lack of participation in a number of events and services that the chamber offers.

“You mean even though they are members of the chamber, they don’t take advantage of them?” asked board chair Arne Jonynas.

“That’s right,” said Graf.

Graf also said she would be happy to act as a clearinghouse for events, noting that the Chester’s Victorian Christmas Cookie Tour, was held on one of the two days that the Inndulgence Tour of 10 area inns in eight communities was held. The cookie tour of nine of the Victorian houses on Main Street in Chester was the Sunday feature of the 42nd Annual Overture to Christmas weekend, which is an all-volunteer effort. The proceeds from cookie tour ticket sales go toward supporting next year’s Overture. Graf did not say how she would have reconciled the conflict.

Barb Westine of Chester Townscape waters flowers at the information booth owned by the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2016. Telegraph file photo

Jonynas asked Graf about the status of the information booth, which sits on town-owned land near the Academy Building. According to Graf, the chamber pays the property taxes on the building and stocks it with brochures while the Chester Economic Development Committee keeps it open and stocked with bathroom supplies. The Town of Chester has also contributed money to pumping out the building’s 300 gallon septic tank.

“Would there be any advantage to giving it back to the town?” asked Jonynas.

“I have no problem with it, but it is a board decision,” said Graf noting that it would save the chamber money.

Jonynas said that the town had considered connecting it to the municipal sewer rather than the current septic tank, but that it was not to the town’s advantage if the town doesn’t own it. The board discussed the advantages to having a public toilet on the Green.

Legal issues

Yosemite Fire House. Telegraph staff photo.

Pisha told the board that town attorney Jim Carroll had said that in the next week or so he would file papers with the court and once those were signed, the Yosemite Fire House would belong to the town.

Pisha also said that Carroll had looked into the question of a junk ordinance and noted that there are a number of pitfalls in this and that it would be best for him to explain the situation to the board in person. Pisha said that Carroll would come to the Feb. 7 meeting.

While there has been some interest in reviving the budget committee, some legal questions exist. In the past, the budget committee has been both elected by voters and appointed by the Select Board. According to Hance, the committee serves an advisory function and such committees must be appointed rather than elected. The board asked that Carroll give them guidance on how to proceed at the Feb. 7 meeting.

During the public comment section of the agenda The Chester Telegraph told the board that a bill before the legislature would make it clear that municipalities can use web-based news media to post legal notices. The Telegraph noted that the board had leaned this way when appointing a paper of record the past and asked them to consider letting legislators know that they would like to have this option. The board will consider the request at its next regular meeting on Jan. 17.

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