Chester Select Board adopts junk ordinance Hopes for neighborly proding instead of enforcement

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Agreeing that it was better to get something on the books and “tweak it later,” the Chester Select Board adopted a wide ranging ordinance to control the accumulation of junk on properties throughout the town. Although the ordinance was approved on a unanimous vote, many expressed concerns about enforcement and the possibility that it could be abused in neighborhood feuds.

Town attorney Jim Carroll discusses the junk ordinance with the board and audience. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

“This is so all encompassing,” said resident Derek Suursoo, “and so lots of us have junk. I have junk, am I not allowed to store it without a permit?”

Town attorney Jim Carroll explained that while the ordinance can be enforced by the town in response to a complaint, “There’s no mandatory duty to act, it’s just another arrow in your quiver.”

Other members hoped that the first attempt at enforcement would be a letter or a phone call.

Board member Heather Chase, who is also the town Health Officer, said she hoped that the first contact would be along the lines of “How can we help?”

“We don’t want to beat people with a stick,” said board chair Arne Jonynas. “I’m just concerned with safety.”

Board member Lee Gustafson questioned how much flexibility there is in taking action.

“I think that less regulation is better, but sometimes we have to add one for health and safety problems,” said Gustafson, who added that people should take personal responsibility for their stuff and that neighbors should talk with one another about problems rather than calling the police. “Unfortunately that’s pie in the sky, I wish we didn’t have to adopt this.” Gustafson then made the motion to adopt the ordinance.

Proposed event for Columbus Day

Lee Whiting explains the Wheels in the Field event he is organizing for Columbus Day

Lee Whiting and Stuart Morton asked the Select Board for permission to use parking on the Green and the Pinnacle for an event on Columbus Day weekend. Whiting said that the main event – called Wheels in the Field – would take place in the field next to the American Legion on Rt. 103 south and feature Porsche automobiles and BMW motorcycles. His idea is to get people past the turn toward Ludlow on Route 103 to explore the rest of town.

The plan is to have a Porsche show on the Green on Saturday, Oct. 6, with a “Scottish trials” at the Pinnacle on Sunday, Oct. 7. Whiting said the weekend would have an Octoberfest theme that many of the merchants and restaurants have welcomed.  He expects the event will have a positive economic impact and he wanted to get an approval early enough to advertise and attract clubs.

The board approved of the idea and will look into putting some money into advertising to make a larger event.

CAES Structure to be replaced by fall

A rendering of the central component of the new playground. Provided

Chris Meyer, president of Pennies for the Playground, which has been raising money to replace the 26-year-old “Structure” at Chester-Andover Elementary School, told the board that in addition to fundraising, his group has received confirmation of a grant for $150,000. He added that on or after June 25, the Structure will be dismantled and the new playground equipment will be installed in August.

The Structure has been deteriorating over the years and accounts for a lot of large slivers among children who play there. Meyer said the organization would continue raising funds and has a large grant pending for more equipment to complement the central piece.

On Friday June, 15, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. CAES will hold a year end picnic and say “goodbye” to the structure. Food trucks will provide dinner for sale.

Church Street walking path study

Executive Assistant Julie Hance asked the board to approve her application for a $40,000 grant for a study to see if a walking path – not a sidewalk – could be built along Church Street. The grant would require an $8,000 match, which Hance said was available from the grant fund. The board approved the application.

In other action

The board approved a request to vend on town property from Laurie Scott and Stephanie Bouvier, who are doing business as “On a Roll” food truck. With the truck passing its Department of Motor Vehicles and Health Department inspections, they are ready to go and want to bring good food to Recreation Department events including practices.

Bouvier said that parents don’t get home before 7:30 from such events and providing good affordable food would make things easier on them. The board approved the request.

Board member Heather Chase recounts the meeting she and Arne Jonynas had with Springfield Medical Systems.

Chase and Jonynas told the board that they met with representatives of Springfield Medical Care Systems to express their displeasure that the public was not consulted in the process that lead to medical services being removed from the Ellsworth Clinic and a larger dental practice being moved in. Chase said that the hospital felt that the presence of Chester residents Sarah Vail and Mae Webb on the hospital board was sufficient representation.

“They were receptive to us, but nothing we said was going to change things,” said Chase.

NOTE ON MEETINGS: There will be no Chester Select Board meetings on June 20 or July 4. The next Select Board meeting will be on held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday July 3 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

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  1. C Anderson says:

    When your child needs to go to the ER for a “sliver” then you know it’s time for the structure to go. (I don’t care to add more details about the size or location of said sliver). It’s time for our kids to play on something modern, clean, safe and fun!

  2. Michele B. says:

    A comment on the Columbus Day weekend event … As a business owner on The Green I really appreciate the idea of drawing more visitors past the Route 103 turn. But, if all the parking on The Green (which is already limited) is taken up by show cars, where are all the visitors who want to shop, eat, etc. going to park?

    Columbus Day Saturday is one of the biggest days for us as businesses. A car show draws a limited audience and has not been successful for the businesses in the past. I hope the town will rethink this and realize this may not be the best for businesses.

  3. Chris Meyer says:

    About the CAES Playground Structure:

    I just wanted to take some time to reply to the comments about the changes coming to the structure at Chester-Andover Elementary. These changes have not been entered into lightly, and the process to repair or replace the structure began nearly six years ago. The state inspector had noted concerns with the structure years ago, and the insurer for the school has had issues with much of the play equipment at CAES for some time now.

    This created pressure to repair and replace, with a countdown to the time when many of the play elements at the school would just have to be removed or taped off. The CAES PTG along with a committee of parents, educators and community members assembled to address the concerns and options, and to begin fund raising. Quotes were obtained for rehabbing the existing structure, or finding replacements. Of the quotes that were obtained, the most expensive by far was the rehabbing of the structure by the original designer.

    Additionally, while rehabbing it would add much life and safety to the structure, it would still have a date down the road where this whole process would start again. Based on the funds that have been raised so far, as well as a grant that the school was able to get, the funds available for structure replacement capped out about $94,000 just for equipment.

    Other funds raised by the PTG will go to site prep, new woodchips, and other construction based costs. We all know that funding is hard to come by for schools, and the playground replacement was not going to be a line item for the CAES budget for a long time. These funds have been raised by volunteers, and volunteers did much of the legwork for the grant and it is really only the grant money that is letting us make this health and safety upgrade to the school playground at this time. We could have been waiting a long time otherwise, and the structure spot may well have had to become an empty place on the playground for insurance and safety reasons.

    My father worked on the structure every day, so I am very much aware of the emotional connection that our community has to this playground. Under the circumstances, a tremendous effort by a handful of people has made this possible. In addition to a new structure, there will be a pavilion constructed this summer as well as a full rehab of the Grateful Garden.

    Additionally, more play elements will be added to the grounds to make the play experience at CAES even better. As always, we welcome volunteers to help with this process. Please contact the school if you have an interest in participating.

    Hope to see you at the playground party on Friday 5-7 at the Structure.

    Kind regards,

    Chris Meyer

  4. Melody Reed says:

    I’m sorry the kids get slivers from the old playground, it really was the best playground I ever saw. My grandkids enjoyed playing there when they came to visit. What’s happening with the old structures? I mean, what’s a kid’s life without a sliver or two? Maybe install the structure up by the skate park and pool?

  5. G. Donohue says:

    I agree about the playground- that is a loss of uniqueness for the town!
    Also, I cannot believe the Chester select board would unanimously pass a junk ordinance that so many members had reservations on. The town attorney was quoted as saying “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” and that it would be very difficult to enforce. Hopes and wishes? Select board members, it is not what you say but the action you take that counts. How can select board members justify wasting town resources to specifically target one property owner?

  6. c mulligan says:

    Plastic modern playground equipment is SO boring. For the price, why not build a new similar wooden castle structure? My kids think the existing structure is the coolest playground ever. They see those dumb plastic things everywhere.

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