Biomass plant switches to air-cooled; fiber optic coming on line

By Shawn Cunningham

In a remarkably short meeting on Wednesday, July 18, the Chester Select Board covered a wide variety of topics in just under 90 minutes, including updates on the Springfield biomass plant and VTel’s federally funded project to replace existing telephone wires with fiber optic cable.

Board members had a number of questions about the status of the biomass plant proposal, especially in light of the change from a water-cooled to an air-cooled design. The board wanted more information about the proposal and process but was reluctant to consult the attorney who has been watching the situation on Chester’s behalf because it would involve more legal and copying fees.

It was suggested that the information might be online, but board chairman John DeBenedetti cautioned that the Public Service Board’s website was elaborate and it wasn’t possible to zip right to the information. DeBenedetti suggested that the town call the PSB. (The filings and proceedings of the PSB regarding the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project – Docket #7388 can be found here.)

VTel work awaits contract signatures

Bill Hinckley, senior project controls manager for VTel, briefed the board on the progress of the federally funded replacement of copper telephone wire with fiber optic cable and wireless service.

Currently the contract is in the hands of the Rural Utility Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and construction can begin as soon as the approvals are signed. Select Board member Derek Suursoo said that his home is at the end of a spur line, and wondered, “When are we going to get it at the house?”

“They just have to sign off on it,” said Keith Ratteree, a VTel engineer, “sometime next summer. Chester is so big, it’s busted up into two areas … but they’ll be building concurrently.” Hinckley said that there is a deadline crunch so everything is being prepared for a quick build-out. “All of the cable for Chester is in Proctorsville.”

When the project is done, everyone in the VTel service area will have access to super-high speed internet connections along with high speed wireless data as well. This will make it possible for VTel to offer 500 channels of cable television.

The board moved on to updates of the town’s financial situation (click here for the report).

Proposed unified development bylaws

The board also discussed the meeting that the planning commission will hold on Aug. 20th to receive public comment on the new zoning, subdivision and flood hazard regulations. (Click here for the new regulations. The Telegraph will begin a two-part series on the many changes next week.)

The select board also wondered if it would be a good idea to move that meeting from town hall to an air conditioned venue. The town has recently accepted a bid of $32,000 to upgrade heating and add air conditioning for the second floor of Town Hall, but that construction will happen later.

Town Manager David Pisha also announced that the excavation and rewiring of the Green is complete and that, in the process, a large circular stone cistern was found underground in front of The Fullerton Inn. Pisha noted that Public Works director Graham Kennedy said it was beautiful stone work. To avoid disturbing the structure, crews dug and laid conduit around it.

Pisha also reported that the project to replace street lights with LED fixtures has been delayed, but that the town should know, within a few days, when the work will begin. He also stated that an economic development proposal from the South Carolina firm of Arnett Muldrow would be forthcoming. It was also announced that the town would advertise for a secretary for the Development Board of Review. This will be a part-time position that will be responsible for recording and transcribing meetings and working with the board on writing findings.

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  1. Chris says:

    You don’t have to buy it or watch it. We’ve lived in Vermont for more than 10 years (with) cable and TV free. Those who like it will sign on. Those who do not have cable now probably won’t get on board once it’s expanded. However, high speed fiber optic internet and better cell phone service is welcomed and will be a net benefit to the entire “small town” community.

  2. Tom Hildreth says:

    “…..possible for VTel to offer 500 channels of cable television.”
    Based on what I am presently able to view on 50 or so channels, this is not something that’s likely to help preserve the small-town nature of Chester, so highly prized and defended lately.