Solar contract decision still hanging; VAST gets OK for trail through town forest

The Chester Select Board last Wednesday expected a presentation from Green Lantern  Capital regarding financial details of its proposed solar farm on town land on Route 103 at Trebo Road. But Luke Schullenberger, the company’s founder and managing partner, was taken ill.

Instead, Mike Wigham of Integrated Solar, which would be contracted to build the farm, made a slide presentation showing where the array could be sited and how the solar energy credit could be used. Board member Derek Suursoo pointed out that the presentation showed that the credit could be applied to the cost of street lights that are not metered and said that according to previous presentations, the board was under the impression that the net-metering credit could only be used on “metered usage.”

Wigham said that in other instances, and in this case as far as he knows, the credit can be used for anything on the town’s electric bill. Once again the question was whether a drop in electric rates (below the floor of $0.147 per kilowatt/hour) in 10 years would put taxpayers on the hook for larger than necessary electric bills. Wigham pointed to the last 40 years of inflation data to say that such a scenario was unlikely, while board member Tom Bock said, “Energy is going through a revolution…” pointing out that natural gas is making nuclear power less competitive. Bock said he is wary of making such long-term commitments on behalf of taxpayers.

The Green Lantern contract is under review by town attorney Jim Carroll, whose fees in the matter were characterized as “approaching” $5,000. Board member Bill Lindsay requested that the board hold an executive session following the meeting to discuss contract issues. Following other discussion, the board moved to enter executive session to discuss the solar farm contract at 9:59 p.m.

VAST trail to cut through town forest

Former select board member Dick Jewett appeared on behalf of VAST and the Chester Snowmobile Club to request permission to extend the current snowmobile trail through the town forest. This would take traffic off the portions of Lovers Lane and Reservoir Road that used to be unplowed. The 12-foot wide trail would cross approximately 1 mile of forest land and would be available as a hiking trail in other seasons and facilitate access by the town’s forester as well.

The select board asked that the trails be posted where cross country skiers would cross them and confirmed that VAST held the liability insurance for the trail. A motion to allow the new trail passed 5-0.

  • In other action, Suzanne Swanson of IPG Employee Benefits – the current insurance broker for the town – made a presentation on the town’s options for continuing to use a broker under the new health-care regime. Advantages include assisting with the selection of health-care plans, educating employees and working with insurance companies to iron out issues that arise from claims. The cost of having the broker work for the town in the coming year is $3,120. Suursoo suggested that the board put the decision in the hands of the town manager.
  • Ron Patch of the Chester Historical Society, asked the board for permission to conduct an ice cutting demonstration on the town reservoir during Chester’s Winter Carnival. Patch said his group would harvest six to eight blocks of ice using period saws and other equipment, then pack the ice in sawdust to be used in the summer.

While the board liked the idea, several members expressed concerns about safety. Patch said that the ice would need to be at least 81” thick for the demonstration to take place. Suursoo and Bock suggested that areas where the ice might be thinner should be roped off and spectators should be kept on land, not on the ice.

The board gave the group permission conduct the ice harvesting demonstration – scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2014. Patch said that all they needed from the town was some plowing for parking.

  • Also, state Rep. Leigh Dakin reported that she has a DVD on the life and history of Windsor County produced by students from Johnson State College. SAPA TV has made a copy and will be broadcasting it. Bill Lindsay suggested that a copy should be made and given to the library.
  •  The Missing Link bridge contract has been signed and Cold River Bridges has received permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to work past the October cut-off. If the weather cooperates, the bridge could be complete in early January.

 — Shawn Cunningham

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